Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Reconciling Paradox

If you want to win, you have to lose. If you want to live, you have to first die. He who seeks to gain his life will lose it for the sake of God.

One definition of a paradox is a truthful statement that appears to contradict itself.

Why would anything that is true appear to contradict itself?

In the book of Ecclesiastes, the wisdom of Solomon continuously uses the phrase "under the sun".

He states that everything under the sun is vanity (the context allows us to interpret this as "meaningless"). When he speaks of everything under the sun, he is speaking of the materialistic worldview, a world where what we see, sense and experience is all that exists.

But there is more to the world than what is "under the sun". Science itself has discovered ancient worlds that have existed before any man ever even observed their light.

Paradoxes only appear to contradict themselves when viewed "under the sun". They are truths that contradict themselves only if one is a materialist. But the belief in God and the supernatural resolves paradoxical truth.

It makes no sense to turn the other cheek in a world under the sun, but it makes absolute sense in a world where there is a creator God who loves and values mankind and cares about how we treat one another.

It makes no sense to say that if you really want to receive, you must give and if you want to lead, you must first serve.

It makes no sense to abstain from lusts if this world that we can touch and feel is the only thing that exists, but it makes absolute sense if there is a God who has given us a deeper purpose of love for those desires.

So I don't see the intelligent advocate for pornography or violence, or other evils as necessarily illogical. I instead question the foundations of their thinking to which they have built their logic.

In a materialist's world, we live and die by the sword. But in God's world, we live and die by faith. This is when paradoxes make sense.

On October 2, 2006, a gunman took hostages and shot 5 school children in a one-room Amish school house. The Amish grandfather of one of the murdered victims, was overheard warning the others to not hate the killer. Many of the Amish attended the funeral of the killer. One representative from the Amish community met with the family of the killer to comfort and extend forgiveness to them. They even set up a charitable fund for the family of the shooter.

Such forgiveness and kindness is a mystery under the sun, but is the logical outworking of a world in which a loving God exists and offers love, compassion and foregiveness to all of us, none of which deserve it.

Science has concluded that everything under the sun is going to come to an end. Our sun has a definite and limited lifespan. Nihilism is the logical conclusion while hope can only be held within the mystery of faith.

To the materialist, this very blog posting is but a mystery.

But a mystery chases us down from thoughtlessness and apathy.

As Socrates once said, "The unexamined life is not worth living."

Are you bold enough to examine your life?

Can you look it straight in the eyes even if that means saying there is no more "I"?

He who seeks to gain his life will lose it, but he who loses it will gain it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What is Freedom?

Recently on the BBC News, I heard a sequence of people all answering the question of "What does freedom mean to you?"

All of the answers presented were framed as "Freedom is being free to do whatever you want, whenever you want."

Of course, this definition, when taken to its logical conclusions, would mean that the slave owner is exercising his freedom by enslaving others. It would also mean that the criminal is free when he/she steals or kills or lies and breaks laws.

Freedom has to have limits. This seems to be a contradiction to the very term unless we think of those limits using another term. That term is purpose.

Freedom is really the idea of being free to live our lives according to our life's purpose. This idea will evade some people, as they attempt to suppress the thought, knowing that if it is faced, they are also forced to stand face to face with a purpose giver.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Transcendent Economics

There is an economy that transcends money and traditional economics. It is an economy that requires an investment in order to reap a reward.

You could call it the law of trade-offs, or Transcendent Economics. Do you want to earn a decent living? It will require an investment in education a skill. Do you want a good relationship? Relationships always require investments of time and emotional resources. If a computer designer wants a computer with a fast processor, it is going to "cost" in terms of research & development. Upon implementation, it will likely cost in terms of heat dissipation. The faster a Nascar driver wants to drive, the more gas the car will consume, the greater the risk of having an accident and the quicker the parts will wear out.

Why does life have this transcendent economic where nothing is gained when nothing is earned?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tired of the K-love Banality!

As a Christian, I'm so frustrated with most of the talk on the radio station known as K-love.

Their only distinction from their secular counterparts is no sexual innuendos and profanity. However, they are JUST as shallow!

I normally don't listen to this station but the local Christian worship station recently went off the air.... This morning K-love's DJs were talking about men's fashion. The wife was giving suggestions as to what the hubby should wear.

Christians should be counterculture. If anything, our stations should be making FUN of such trite banalities! Instead of talking about American Idol (something else they're known to do), they should be commenting on the fact that so many Americans are diverted via entertainment because they are afraid to really live.

I just had to get that off of my chest! Now back to our regularly scheduled Pendulum Effect content!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Purpose Breeds Morality

A chair can be used for many things. It can be used as a footstool, a table to eat off of or to stand candles upon, a step stool....

But we all know that when a chair is used for such things, it is not really being used for its intended purpose. And how do we ultimately know the purpose of a chair? Every chair designer/manufacturer/builder will tell you that a chair is designed for people to sit on.

Purpose ALWAYS comes from a purpose-maker. We can never really say something "ought" to be a certain way without connecting it to a person.

Just like the chair can be USED for things that are not tied to its purpose, human behavior is the same. An obvious example is that a person can love or hate, protect life or kill it.

So the mistake that I hear when people debate controversial social issues like abortion, homosexuality, etc., is that they speak in terms of pragmatism. The argument goes like this.

"Why would anyone have a problem with homosexuality? I don't care what other people do in their bedrooms as long as they are not hurting anyone else."

The other side might use an argument of, "Homosexuality causes increases in HIV, and is tied to emotional, psychological issues., etc....."

I propose that people start with the subject of purpose on these issues. These issues go back to the very purpose of life.

For instance, is the purpose of sex just for feeling good or is there a deeper purpose tied to it in terms of a committed love relationship?

Is there a purpose for male-female relationships or is the male-female union merely a product of evolutionary chance processes therefore legitimizing homosexual unions as well?

These questions may seem unanswerable.... They are if one ONLY uses logic. But there are answers when one tries to live these philosophies out in life.

One side will be happy and the other will be miserable... One side will be liveable and the other will not....

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Three Sides to Environmentalism

One side says the world is going to hell in a handbasket and there aren't enough handbaskets to go around. Man is an accident, or at least a byproduct of chance, therefore his technology is unnatural and a threat to the environment. In the name of $$, man is emitting harmful amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere and causing the world to burn a blaze.

The other side is one that says that the markets are always right. When left to free market forces, corporations will by nature produce technology that will keep getting cleaner and cleaner to meet a growing enviro-consciousness on the part of the consumer. Some on this side go so far as to say that man-made global warming is a scare tactic for the other side to generate $$.

I do believe it is always wise to follow the $$ on both sides of an issue, but the whole issue of whether or not global warming is occurring or whether or not it might be man-made, is irrelevant to the argument made by the third side.

This third side comes from a Christian worldview. If you and I are a byproduct of chance evolutionary processes that normally take millions of years to affect change, than man's exponential pace of technological advancement is easily outpacing evolutionary forces. We are paving the earth faster than animal and plant life can adapt to the pavement. Urban sprawl is growing faster than the deer's ability to adapt to the shrinkage of surrounding forest.

But if life has a purpose and therefore a purpose-maker, than nothing is a surprise. Everything has been planned for. This Divine purpose-maker isn't surprised by the emergence of technology. He isn't scratching His head in wonder as to how life here on earth is going to adapt to increases in Co2 emissions.

G.K. Chesterton, in his book Orthodoxy, noted the following about life:

“Life is not an illogicality; yet it is a trap for logicians. It looks just a little more mathematical and regular than it is; its exactitude is obvious, but its inexactitude is hidden; its wildness lies in wait.” – Pg 46

The world that we know appears to have a similtude to perfection, an illusory mirage of it, whose shadow always sits one step further than we can go.

Why would this be?

This appears to be true in nature. I've heard Christians in particular focus on how the earth has been made to be so habitable with its regular rain cycles, liveable temperate ranges, oxygen to nitrogen composition in the atmosphere, perfect distance from the sun, etc......

However, have you ever noticed that the earth looks a little more habitable than it is? "Its exactitude is obvious but its inexactitude is hidden, its wildness lies in wait" to borrow again from Chesterton?

In other words, I have noticed that the earth is more or less habitable but not completely. It seems to provide us just enough struggle to cause us to work but not enough to cause us to die.

For instance, I was looking at an unmowed and unkept field near my workplace this summer. I was thinking about the fact that before man began to build roads, he had to walk in wildernesses of such fields, getting his ankles bit by various insects. Why wouldn't God have created the earth with fields paved by nature?

I have an answer and no I'm not on a tangent from the topic at hand....

Viktor Frankl in his book, "Man's Search for Meaning" writes:

"What man needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task."

It appears to me that God has made the earth in this way. It has been designed to be habitable, yet it gives us just enough resistance to justify a life that is defined and even fueled by struggle.

The field that I observed has been designed to be tamed. It has been designed to be tamed by man's blades (sickle, lawn mower, tractor, etc....)

The trees have been designed not only to give us shade, provide fruit, convert CO2 into oxygen but also to give us wood by being chopped down. Imagine a world where one purpose of trees is to be chopped down. Envision a world where grass blades are also meant to be stepped on, a world where the atmosphere might be meant to receive emissions.....

Its really not that hard. After all, our bodies are designed to receive death....

I was told by a wonderful hospice worker that I met when my wife's grandfather was dying that just before the body passes, it goes into a state where it releases a natural chemical that reduces pain.

This begs the question. Why would such a process evolve? Evolution's heart is "*Survival* of the fittest". No, this screams design, not humanistic evolution.

In a world designed by a wise, all-knowing, good creator, nature is meant both to be enjoyed, and consumed, to be preserved yet used.

I am not suggesting a consumeristic pillaging of the earth.

"The Earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof" Psalm 24:1

"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made..." - Romans 1:20

"We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time." - Romans 8:22

I don't believe our car emissions are causing man-made global warming because I believe God foresaw our technological advances in transportation to account for them. But at the same time we should be wise stewards of the environment, always striving to replace resources that we use, to keep the earth as clean as possible to ensure a healthy life for generations to come.

A McDonald's hamburger wrapper isn't simply designed to wrap the food. It is also designed to be thrown away and hopefully recycled...

A balanced approach to environmentalism doesn't worship the earth and thus stifle scientific discovery which has its hands tied as it is prohibited to put god (the earth) under a microscope. Without setting up an idol, it stills calls us to a conservationist mindset of responsibility, fueled not by devotion to the earth (creation) but rather to its Creator.

The devil is in the extremes.

There are three sides to every story. One extreme, its opposite extreme, and the truth.