Friday, December 25, 2009
I'm writing this blog on Christmas morning, having already spent Christmas with one side of the family and getting ready to spend it with the other side. One side of the family is Christian and the other is not. One side is conservative and the other side liberal.
But what is most interesting to me is that on both sides, truth has died. There are at least three tests for truth (I get this from Ravi Zacharias (visit www.rzim.org).
For something to be true, it should be:
1. Logically Consistent
2. Empirically Adaquate
3. Existentially Relevant
I'm not going to unpack these points in this morning's blog because my larger point is that there are tests for truth however they don't matter if you don't believe in the very concept of it.
The family time I get around the holidays reminds me of this as I get to see it first hand. On Christmas Eve, we were sitting around watching family videos of Christmases past. In one, my wife is found singing Amazing Grace. One family member says something about her "singing religious music".
Simply calling it "religious music" is a fantastic way to ignore the contents of the message. It's a great way to be the ostrich. I've seen lots of people simply dismiss things as being "religious", which seems to allow them to never question whether or not it may be true. In their minds, religion is simply something you believe in to get through life. It is something that can't be tested, hence the tests above never get applied.
Truth has died in this nonchristian family.
But the same can be said for another side of my family that IS Christian. They will also never use the three tests I listed above (or any test) against their faith. They HAVE the religion that keeps the other side of our family from ever changing their ways.
They have beliefs but don't ask them WHY. They've never taken it that far. I disagree with a significant portion of their denominational interpretations, but because they don't test the truths of their faith critically, they are not open to change, thus the dialog is cut-off.
What is most strange to me is that neither side would apply such thinking to non-religious worldviews. Neither side would for instance, when faced with crossing a busy street corner, simply think that the belief in whether or not a car is crossing their path is simply someone's opinion or experience and should NOT be tested.
You might also say that religion is different in that it makes claims that are not testable. I agree that many religions make such claims, but Christmas should remind us that Christianity goes much farther. This Christmas day presents to us the intersection of God with humanity, the transcendence of God as He crossed the line of the supernatural and traveled into the natural, taking on flesh and being born a human baby, one that could be touched and seen and heard. Will you ignore the baby in the manger?
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Imagine a world where the truth of reality was only that which we liked. In such a world, what would keep us from thinking that we were God? After all, only an omnipotent being can choose what is true based upon His desires.
Perhaps this is why so much of life has truths that are not pleasant to the human mind. What is the most certain truth of life? Is it not death?
And to think that some people claim that perception is reality. Just try and perceive death away. It nags like a mother-in-law's scorn.
We can try to choose our faith and make life conform to our wishes, but there is something about reality that will not bow to anyone else but its maker and we are not He.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Be open minded, not so much that your brains fall out. When it comes to religion, so many so called "open minded" people seem to assume that religions only make claims that can NOT be tested. As a result of such thinking, they don't analyze religious claims, testing them to see if they might be true. Can you get more narrow-minded than that?
Sure, I can't claim every belief proclaimed by every religion is testable. For instance, when Islam claims that that the Koran is its only miracle in that it is divinely inspired, how do you test such a claim?
But on the other hand, when a religious worldview makes a claim on human nature, or makes a specific prediction of an event that has already passed, or on the nature of the universe, where such claims are testable, why should we bury our heads in the sand in the name of being "open-minded"?
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel gave us a system known as the dialectic that can basically be summarized as, postulate a thesis, test it against it's antithesis and come up with a synthesis. An example is in order:
Some worldviews claim that the universe is eternal. This is now testable. The Hubble satellite has found a red shift in the universe that indicates that the space is expanding. This is further confirmed by the fact that the farther we look out in space with a telescope, the closer stars and galaxies are clustered. If space is expanding, then it must have had a beginning.
Before the 1500's, the common worldview was that the heavens were unchanging. In 1572, supernovae were discovered. It would NOT be open-minded to say all worldviews are true therefore both sides of the space is or isn't changing are right. It would not be discerning to ignore the evidence that points in one direction. So why do many people treat religious claims differently?
Occam's razor is validated through the dialectic process. Occam's razor says do not multiply entities unnecessarily. In other words, Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS method). When Copernicus theorized that the celestial bodies were not orbiting around the Earth, it wasn't because of observation, but because of the simplicity of the model.
Later observation has confirmed Copernicus, further validating Occam's razor as a result.
Using the dialectic process, I can't believe in Hinduism because it claims the existence of millions of Deities, thus violating Occam's razor of not multiplying entities (Deities) unnecessarily.
Although, I have the most respect for it, I reject Buddhism because it's answer to man's suffering is to make man essentially numb by prescribing that we rid of ourselves of all attachments. Medical science can do this by medicating someone into a vegetative state. If you think that is too extreme of an example, I have watched a close family member medicated with antipsychotic medications that took away this person's "attachments" and made them lethargic and carefree.
I reject Islam because it says kill infidel. Faith can never be coerced or imposed. BTW, I don't claim every Muslim to be such an extremist, but I would suggest that a moderate Muslim is contradicting the Koran which they try to live by.
However Judeo-Christianity makes some testable claims that I can't find a fault in. It has been saying that the universe is "spread like a tent" in over ten places within the Bible.
Judeo-Christianity teaches that there is one God, although I admit that the concept of the trinity is a threat to complying to Occam's razor.
Despite the historical exceptions where people in the name of Christ have killed others in crusades and inquisitions, the actual teachings of Christ are clear that the Gospel is to be spread through persuasion (preaching) and NEVER through such means.
And what Judeo-Christianity says about human nature is probably most profound and easiest to validate. It claims that man's nature is bent towards selfishness. Among so many other things, it also validates our human right to own possessions thru one of the ten commandments stating "Thou shall not steal."
The success of nations with capitalist economies validates this combination. Capitalism. Unlike other economic systems, which either try to make everyone equal in what they own, or where the Government owns everything, modern history gives us an undeniable truth that an economic system that capitalizes on man's selfishness, turning it into a means for him to serve others for gain, yields the most success. BTW, I don't claim capitalism is perfect.
It has been said that the world would be perfect if it weren't for people. 90% of the evil that occurs in the world is not the result of natural disasters or sickness. Most of the suffering that occurs in the world the result of the selfishness and lack of restraint of others.
This lack of restraint can sometimes only be justified by altruism. Altruism only makes sense if there's a God who is always looking even when others are not. When we CAN get away with committing a selfish act, dishonest gain, etc., the only reason we can come up with to walk the straight and narrow is if there is a God who keeps score.
I've quoted it before, but it bears repeating. Cardinal Emmanuel Suhard once said:
"To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda, nor even in
stirring people up, but in being a living mystery. It means to live in
such a way that one s life would not make sense if God did not exist."
Life without altruistic behavior would be unlivable, so why wouldn't a life lived without God be the same?
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
The latest Adam Lambert controversy at the AMA music awards (see http://www.nydailynews.com/gossip/2009/11/23/2009-11-23__adam_lambert_delivers_raunchy_ama_performance_filled_with_hip_thrusts_crotch_gr.html) gives the illusion of being about censorship, but make no mistake, this is really about purpose and meaning.
After the show, Lambert hailed his shocking performance as freedom of expression. But if one were to ask Lambert if it would have been acceptable to have paraded children in provacative poses, I'm not so sure he would have defended such expression. And I'm certain that if a Christian entertainer would have performed at the awards and made explicit expressions of worship, statements on the sanctity of unborn life, or statements about God making a man for a woman, he wouldn't have defended these in the name of expression.
As I proceed, please don't get me wrong. Except for the expressions of worship, I don't think the Christian entertainer in my hypothetical would be wise in going this route. I'm only pointing out that this is NOT about freedom of expression. This is about what people call "values".
With that said, I don't like to use the term values, because I feel that it is a term that has been hijacked. It is a term that people say without really thinking about what it might mean. I will therefore frame the concept differently.
One more disclaimer. I'm not one of those Christians who acts like homosexuality is underlined and highlighted in Christian teaching as the greatest sin. Furthermore, I believe in treating such people with compassion and would NEVER advocate violence or even a judgmental attitude expressed towards them.
I can't speak on the specifics of Lambert's worldview, but he obviously doesn't believe that homosexuality is immoral, nor does he seem to hold a high standard for heterosexual expressions.
On the other side, to simply object to Lambert's antics as being immoral fails to get to the heart of the issue. I believe that life has a purpose. That purpose is given by a God. That God has an intention for our relationships. Lust in any form violates that purpose. This is akin to someone desecrating a cemetery (see http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31832393/). Should such actions be defended as freedom of expression?
Why would this appall us? In the story, the employees desecrated the cemetery to free up plots so that they could resell them. They were out to make a $. This is where their "values" lie.
The reason a cemetery desecration appalls us is because inherently, we know that life has a purpose.
I'm not mad at people like Lambert. I feel sorry for them. They live the same purposeless lives we've seen Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, and others live before them. They aren't happy people because they have been willing to sacrifice purpose for their own lusts. They have exchanged the joy of life for a bed. Unfortunately, they will have to lie in it.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Do atheists disbelieve in God because of a lack of evidence, or simply because the evidence suggests a God that doesn't fit within our natural human expectations?
I suspect the latter, more than the former.
I was in awe of the eastern sky this morning. As the sun set low in the sky, it was hidden behind a mist of clouds exuding hues of blues, pinks and yellows. The imagery inspired a sense of mystery and awe.
My scientific mind would expect a God who can be detected, hence placed under a microscope and observed, measured, predicted and reduced to a set of laws.
This world we live in with its suffering and death, coupled with its beauty and order, suggests that if a God exists, God transcends our imaginations...
Are you willing to believe in a God who is outside of your box?
Monday, September 21, 2009
A coworker of mine pulled up www.google.com one morning and noticed today Google had their logo branded as a crop circle. His first reaction was to put up his hands and ask if today was national crop circle day.
Everyone asks questions about life. Why do we ask questions? Is it not because we are driven by coherence? Are we not wired to make sense of the world? Why would this be? Why are we so hungry for meaning and purpose in life?
WHO's purpose are we hungry for? Maybe you've never thought of this question before, but how can purpose exist independent of a being that actually has a will?
We can speak about the purpose of a chair being for people to sit in. As a result, even though practically a chair can function as a table or as a step ladder, we all seem to know that anyone who uses a chair in such a manner is not making the most of the chair's ultimate purpose. This is certainly not the intention of chair designer/manufacturers.
OTOH, some art is created with a different philosophical approach. We've all seen the type of art that causes us to ask, "What is it supposed to be?" The artist's answer can usually be summed up to be "It is what it is. It is supposed to be what you see and nothing more." I believe such artists are trying to escape this questioning process that is inherent within our very human nature. The artist might try this because so many of life's questions are unanswerable. But they won't be able to escape the average observer from asking such questions. Why is this?
Saturday, September 19, 2009
In a post entitled, "The Power Of Volition" borrowing from Ravi Zacharias, I wrote about 4 tests for truth:
1. The establishment of objectivity
2. The test of empirical adequacy
3. The test of logical consistency
4. The test of experiential relevance
An astute animal rights activist can defend vegetarianism and meet all of the above criteria with the same skill that a meat eater can.
The vegetarian, believing that we evolved from monkeys as their presupposition, demonstrates a logically consistent argument in concluding that we shouldn't eat meat as a result. They even draw a sense of higher purpose as a result of practicing vegetarianism.
As for empirical adequacy, they might point to the facts as they interpret them in the forms of fossils, carbon dating, etc...
The meat eater can make just as valid of an argument, also meeting the above criteria. Pointing to the fact that humans have teeth that are naturally designed for tearing out flesh, they can logically conclude that the human species was designed to eat meat. By advocating a form of creationism that concludes that there is a separation between the Creator and creation, they logically conclude that man has been specially set apart from the animals.
They also point to thefacts in the forms of fossils, carbon dating, etc., but interpret them in a way that supports THEIR arguments.
I once heard a young earth creationist state that both an evolutionist and a creationist look at the same facts of the Grand Canyon, one saying, "A lot of time and a little water", while the other says, "A lot of water (Noah's flood) and a little time" formed it.
In the end, life seems to present to us forks in the road. In our scientific age, we seem to believe that all of these forks are answered via the empirical process, however empiricism only answers the surface questions.
The deepest questions of life are never answered, they are chosen. Life forces us to choose. It as if life is testing our hearts.
Why would the universe care? It doesn't? But there is a God behind the universe that does care?
Love is a choice. What do you choose when standing at the crossroads?
The universe is a mystery. We look up at the cosmos and see balls of energy in the form of stars and planets, swirling around in what seems to be ordered chaos (not unlike jazz music).
Many people see this to be evidence that life as we know it came about by random chance processes. In such a world where chaos is natural, why is it that our human nature tries to see the order in life?
"If you are really a product of a materialistic universe, how is it that you don't feel at home there?"
--C.S. Lewis, "Encounter with Light"
If nature has produced us by random processes and chance, then why does this bother us?
Is the universe really silent because we live in a cold and impersonal world, or is it the silence of a library which allows one to best study its contents?
Thursday, September 17, 2009
I have made the case for faith in "The World Screams Faith" as well as other blogs. But this just begs the question, "What shall I have faith in?"
This world that screams faith, imposes faith decisions on us every day. Whenever we get into a car to drive to a destination, do we absolutely know with 100% certainty that we will arrive at our destination safely? I just passed a fatal car accident yesterday where thd driver's van was turned upside down.
Like that driver, we cannot absolutely KNOW anything, much less whether or not we will arrive safely at a destination. Now, would you get in the passenger seat of a car, put your seat belt on and let a totally inebriated driver take the wheel for the next 30 minutes on a busy interstate?
What's the difference between these two scenarios? Is it not found in the probability of you reaching your destination safely? Is it not found in the amount of reasoning you are able to apply given each scenario? Since theoretically your fate could swing either way, your choice is based ultimately on faith.
I advocate a rational faith. A faith that takes in the facts and boldly asks all the possible questions, willing to go wherever those questions might lead.
Someone has said that capitalism is the worst economic system in the world except when compared to all other economic systems in the world.
It is a fantastic leap of faith for me to believe in all that Christianity stands for, but it is a ludicrous leap of faith for me to reject it.
I believe in the testimony of the 40 authors who wrote the 66 books of the Bible, spanning over 1000's of years and crossing many cultural boundaries. I don't hold this faith because I can prove it. I hold this fantastic faith because rejecting it is impossible when considering the facts.
Skeptics who claim that its claims are fictious fail to give an alternative explanation that requires less faith than the Christian faith to which I hold.
The strongest and most common criticism they levy is the claim that the New Testament (N.T.) was written by people in high powers of Government throughout history in order to control the masses, gaining money and power through belief.
We believers stand in awe of common themes that exist between the O.T. and N.T.
My favorite one is to simply compare John 3:16 with Genesis 22:
John 3:16, the most famous verse in the Bible, says, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son so that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life."
This scripture is a one verse summary not only of the Gospels as they unfold their story in the N.T., but also of the O.T. story of Abraham offering His only son Isaac as a sacrifice in Genesis 22.
But the skeptic believes this coherence was manufactured. They believe that the four Gospel writers collaborated and wrote their accounts to purposefully mirror the O.T.
These same skeptics will point out the differences in various Gospel accounts. Yet, if the four Gospels are the result of a collaborative scheme, why would the authors give varying accounts of some stories? Why would they disagree on some details?
And none of this explains the motives and veracity of the O.T.
A plausible alternative explanation has not been offered by the skeptic. It takes great faith to accept Christianity, and a greater faith to reject it.
Given the volitional nature of faith established in previous blog postings in the Pendulum Effect, life (or as I believe God) asks us the question, "What do you WANT to believe?" Such a question tests our heart's desire and tells us what WE are, not what this world is. The telescope that we try to aim outwardly, has turned inward becoming a microscope. What starts out as an attempt to search outer space, becomes a discovery of "inner space".
What were you made for? Does your heart scream "ME, ME, ME!", or does is beg to serve someone greater?
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Expounding on the previous post of "The Experience of Serving Truth", I ask, in the course of man's empirical discovery of the universe, would we ever throw away truth discovered that we might render to be useless?"
I tried to formulate an illustration of this question, but discovered something else. The very foundations of this question are flawed. Is there even such a thing as useless truth?
Imagine for example that our telescopes, penetrating depths of the universe never before uncovered, reveal unique random flashes of light particles. Despite the subsequent years of research, we can discover these light particles to have no other effect other than our ability to see them and we can find no cause for them.
Just because we haven't discovered something, doesn't mean that it doesn't exist, but leaving this truth aside, wouldn't such knowledge still be useful, if nothing else simply because it would stimulate our curiosity?
So if there is no such thing as useless knowledge, then does this mean that at least the empirically known universe is full of knowledge that is meant to be processed by mankind? If so, then who designed it for such a purpose and why?
Imagine someone living their entire life in a virtual reality. In the future, it may be possible to simply put on a set of glasses that provide a completely alternative sensory experience of sights and sounds. In this new virtual world, the person might experience virtual people that they relate to.... people who practically worship the participant, giving them all their hearts desires, making them the center of this virtual world.
The scenario is not so far-fetched. We already have first person video games that are played in similar ways. Or imagine a person who might choose to medicate their lives away into a virtual reality created by the euphoria of drugs administered via a perpetual IV.
In both of these scenarios, the person has chosen their reality. In both cases, the participants aren't hurting anyone. So what is it about these possibilities that bothers us? Why do we feel like these virtual players are wasting a life that has been given to them? After all, the life they would have lived in this world would have paled in comparison to the life they get fed to them via technology or meds.
What is it about our experiences that demands to serve truth? If God is truth, what does this say about how we might be wired?
Friday, September 11, 2009
I've never heard this taught within Christian circles, but I am convinced that Christianity teaches us that we can think of good as being that which is in our best interest for the longest term (ultimately eternity).
Lust isn't wrong because I might like it. It is wrong because it might give me short-term gain but long-term sorrow. Stealing isn't wrong because it might satisfy a desire for a material thing. It is wrong because it will satisfy that material desire temporarily (not to mention the fact that it harms my neighbor).
Don't get me wrong. There is a deeper definition of good, simply being defined as God's character. His character transcends us. It is not dependent upon us. God doesn't revolve around us. But where His goodness does touch us, we can think of it as I have defined above.
This is why Peter was rebuked by Christ when he spoke against Christ going to the cross. Peter couldn't see far enough into the distance to understand the meaning of Christ's sacrifice and resurrection. His myopia caused him to reject that which is good.
Without an eternal perspective, we'll misjudge goodness as well.
Sometimes God will look evil, especially in light of the suffering and evil we see and experience in this world. He can look evil in the light of the events that happened 8 years on this day (9/11).
It's often hard for me to believe, but Romans 8:28 says, "He works all things out for the good of those who love and Him and are called according to His purpose." At the same time, it is EASY to see how having such a positive attitude will bless my life.
"Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him." - Psalms 34:8
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Outside of my 40 hr IT job, I work 2-3 other jobs.
Those jobs are all in music, where I teach guitar at Cedarville University, teach at McCutcheon Music, and serve as a worship leader at a church.
When you add up the additional time I'm putting into these music professions, I'm probably putting in an additional 20 hrs/week NOT including drive times where my commutes can be up to 45 minutes!
In addition, I write and record music, practice guitar a lot, play gigs and even get to record music for television commercials on occasions.
Why do I do it? I don't do it because of the bill collectors. I don't simply do it to keep my head above water financially.
I'm fueled by passion. I have a passion for God and music that frees me. Such a passion energizes me.
So many religious people try to do the right thing out of a sense of obligation, duty, guilt or even fear. At what ever level they may succeed, they are successful walking zombies, presenting a "Night of the Living Dead" religious faith that is hardly worth the effort.
Perhaps you haven't rejected God. Perhaps you have rejected religious people who in the name of God, only know Him through guilt and fear.
So many people reject Christianity arguing that the Bible presents God as a draconian, fire-breathing, hate filled deity of wrath. Could it be that in the earliest days of God revealing Himself through history, man didn't have enough of His revelation to have the maturity to follow Him through love and passion, therefore being left to stumble in the early morning twilight via fear and judgement?
Sure I believe that there is a heaven to fear and a hell to shun. As I've written in the past, I hate the doctrine of hell, but if my spiritual worldview does not hold any unattractive/undesirable doctrines, I should raise a red flag. That religion is my idol of wishful thinking. Since the things most real in this life (suffering and death) are unattractive, my faith should hold the same resemblance if it is to even possibly be true.
BTW, this is the greatest problem of the liberal mind. If the belief is unattractive, the liberal mind tends to reject it out of hand.
But at the same time, a great leader doesn't lead via deterrence unless He/she absolutely has to. A wise leader leads by incentive whenever possible.
I believe that for the immature, fear is often the only way to lead. The only way we can keep our dogs out of the street is with shock collars, loud intimidating voices and threats of newspaper beatings. A dog doesn't have the maturity to be motivated by all the benefits of staying in the yard; benefits like staying alive and healthy, living a long life with a family that loves them, etc....
The Bible says, "The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom." Let me suggest that the "Love of God is the completion of it."
Passion is contagious. I believe that God wants to energize and fuel our lives by a passion for living out the purpose to which we were made.
"Delight Yourself in the Lord and He will give you your heart's desire". Psalms 37:4
Have you ever noticed how as soon as we name something, it becomes demystified?
Judeo-Christianity tells the story of Noah, building an ark for years and telling people that it was going to rain. The story says that it had never rained on the earth before and that up to this point, the earth was watered with a mist that came up from the ground.
If it had never rained before, I sincerely doubt that a word for "rain" existed in ancient times in any language. It is therefore easy to imagine Noah saying "I'm building this ark because water is going to fall from the sky and flood the world."
When you say it like this, the warning is even more unbelievable. The event becomes veiled in a wording that appears to be mystical and supernatural.
We have words for all sorts of things that otherwise look miraculous when you think about what they really mean:
The miracle of life: "fertilization"
Caterpillar turns into a butterfly: "Metamorphosis"
The rusting process: "oxidation"
The power that keeps us on terra firma: "Gravity"
A force that permeats the universe: "Radiation"
A series of colored lights forming an arc: "Rainbow"
Any repeated connection of events: "Scientific Law"
Lights in the heavens: "Stars"
G.K. Chesterton wrote:
It is the man who talks about “a law”
that he has never seen who is the mystic. Nay, the ordinary scientific man is strictly a sentimentalist.
He is a sentimentalist in this essential sense, that he is soaked and swept away by mere associations.
He has so often seen birds fly and lay eggs that he feels as if there must be some dreamy, tender
connection between the two ideas, whereas there is none. A forlorn lover might be unable to
dissociate the moon from lost love; so the materialist is unable to dissociate the moon from the
tide. In both cases there is no connection, except that one has seen them together. A sentimentalist
might shed tears at the smell of apple-blossom, because, by a dark association of his own, it reminded
him of his boyhood. So the materialist professor (though he conceals his tears) is yet a sentimentalist,
because, by a dark association of his own, apple-blossoms remind him of apples. But the cool
rationalist from fairyland does not see why, in the abstract, the apple tree should not grow crimson
tulips; it sometimes does in his country. - Orthodoxy pg 29
So what is it about our human nature that causes us to think that because we might name something, or even call it a law, that it is less mystical as a result?
As Shakespeare once said, "A rose by another name still smells the same." Is water falling from the sky any less miraculous if it is simply called "rain"? Is a meteriologist's explanation of the conditions which produce rain any different than the fairy godmother's explanation of the existence of Cinderella's glass slippers?
Is a scientist's explanation of why the earth has a gravitational force pulling us down, any less miraculous than the theologian's explanation of why faith in Christ's resurrection will raise us up?
As a Christian, I believe that the Bible is the Word of God. I also agree with Martin Luther who said that the Bible is God's "baby talk" to us. In the course of Him communicating to us in a way that we can understand, the Word is demystified to the degree that it becomes more propositional.
This demystified Word presents Jesus Christ as the son of God, who lived like no man has ever lived before or since, who offered Himself as a sacrifice for mankind, and did the ultimate thing in coming back from the dead. That sacrifice and resurrection gives Christians hope to share in the crucifiction of sin in our lives via grace and the promise of new life in being "born again" here and after our physical deaths.
But when I say it like this, the story sounds more like a formula than the miracle that it is.
But as I meditate upon these truths, the abstractions that naturally accompany the meditation process seem to melt the propositional nature of this revelation away.
What I'm left with is the story of God reaching down to man in his despair and need, pulling us out with the ultimate expression of love, giving us the freedom that all of us long for, but few find.
I don't believe it is coincidental that Jesus Christ is called the Word of God and is described as being humble.
The irony of this coincidence is that as the Word is humbled, its power increases, the story unfolds and transcends the mind, also reaching the heart.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Nature abhors certainty.
For theists such as myself, if the cosmos were created in such a way as to place the earth at its center, perhaps in a universe where the earth was the only planet in existence, it would be more difficult to be an atheist.
Atheism is no walk in the park either though. The fact that the earth exists at the precise distance from the sun to allow for life as we know it to exist, screams intelligent design. The odds of the earth's precarious position coming about by random processes and chance are astronomical.
As a result, neither theists or atheists can hold on to their worldviews with certainty. BOTH viewpoints require faith.
And as I've stated in a previous blog, faith is volitional. Faith says more about our hearts and what we want the world to be, then it does about how the world might actually be.
This is why two people can look at the same world and interpret it in totally different ways, and both have equally logical and strong arguments to support their positions. Debate victories usually go to the best debater, not necessarily to the person who is right.
It is as if the world was designed to force us to have faith. And if faith is volitional, tied to our wills, then it is as if something, or better yet someone, is testing our hearts, asking us to choose....
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Boldness of thinking is tied to critical thinking. This is why men tend to be more analytical.
I know that I speak with the bias of a man. If you are a female reader, please don't let your bias keep you from seeing things are they are. I promise to try and do the same, starting by exposing the weaknesses of the analytical mind.
Oscar Wilde wrote that a cynic understands the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Analytical people are often cynics. In a purely analytical world, we have the world of Star Trek's Spock, a cold world where things are understood, but not enjoyed. Everything is in a box, but nothing is in our hearts.
The analytical mind can understand, discover and build things. But it takes the visceral/experiential mind (i.e. the heart) to enjoy them.
The heart is our safe place. It is the place we can call home. But don't get too comfortable with that snake in the bed, or those termites eating at your home's foundation. The rhythm of that dripping faucet isn't meant to provide the same comfort as the rhythm of a mother's heart. A person who is lead by their emotions and throws out their mind is blind. Having no discernment and lacking the boldness to ask questions, they have no answers and inevitably fall into a ditch.
There is value in the yin and the yang, the analytical and the visceral, the male and the female.
It is with my mind that I can ask questions and it is with my heart that I can receive their answers no matter what they may be.
Prepare your mind by boldly asking and prepare your heart by boldly receiving.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Let's face it, if God exists, He is silent.
What makes us question better than a mystery?
And what brings an answer better than a question?
And what allows us to think about those answers better than silence?
God's silence asks us to question, telling us a mystery and whispers the questions that are more important than the answers.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Truth requires bold thinking.
How many times have you, or someone you have observed, failed to learn a software program (or computers in general) because it appeared to be too complex? Does it not take a boldness of thinking to ignore such perceptions and to trod on?
As a musician, if I tell someone that a chord is a G7#5b9, the name itself can intimidate many musicians. I've met musicians and songwriters who claim to want to get better at their crafts, but as soon as they hear concepts expressed that sound complex, their tendency is to ignore or downplay them.
But isn't anything that is difficult or complex, merely a concatenation of a bunch of simpler things? When you break down computer codes to their simplest forms, they are merely 1's and 0's.
I'm not in love with the imagery of this aphorism, but it has been said that the way a snake swallows a pig is one inch at a time. I've found that nothing is so complex that it can't be broken down into simpler elements. It takes boldness to do the breakdowns. It takes questioning to make the complex understandable.
Complexity is an illusion. The illusion is shattered by breaking things down. The questioning process breaks the complex down into the "bite sized chunks" we need. Have the boldness to question and a bias towards truth and nothing less. Be willing to surrender all that you believe if the process threatens it. Have the boldness to be willing to surrender it all.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
I see cars with the above bumper sticker all the time. I believe in peaceful coexistence and totally agree with the idea that religions should not let disagreements turn into violence. While the thoughts behind the bumper sticker are well-intentioned, I think some of them are also shallow and disrespectful of the distinct qualities of religion.
First of all, it is as if the person with the bumper sticker thinks that all they have to do is tell religious people to coexist and wha-la, peace will magically happen. And no wonder they believe this. Most people seem to believe that religion is nothing more than a self-imposed delusion meant to help people get through life, feel better about themselves and provide guidance. They see religion as something that serves the religious.
But what the bumper sticker misses is that many religious adherents actually believe their faith conforms to reality. We actually believe that it is TRUE. Imagine that!
There is a funny thing about truth. You can't pick and choose it. Have you ever noticed how the world is probably nothing like you would have designed it? In my foolish logical mind, if I could have designed the world, it would be so utilitarian as to have nothing but 90 degree angles, human beings would have wheels instead of being legs to walk, and the cosmos would not exist in its vast emptiness. The Earth would be flat but never ending and there would be no other planets or worlds beyond it. People wouldn't differ in heights, abilities, or privileges of any kind. I don't think I would have had the creativity or the wisdom to have created beauty, not seeing any practical value in such a thing....
Doesn't this alien world we live in scream "You don't get to choose truth"? Our very genetics reverberate this sentiment.
Then why do we think that when it comes to religion, things are different?
The reason that I'm a Christian is because I have found no better explanation of its stories than the one that says, "they must be true". Believe me, I've tried thinking that it was made up by the authors of the Bible, or by the church, or that Jesus was merely a man who has been mythologized over time, etc.... Every alternative that I've considered took MORE faith than simply believing as a Christian.
I believe Christianity is true, NOT simply MY truth. For instance, when Christianity says that humanity has a fallen nature, I believe that applies to everyone, even non-christians!
The fall of man (and creation itself) might not be absolutely proven, but it still can be tested. I've found no test that disqualifies it but no smoking gun to absolutely prove it 100% without a doubt either. The greatest proof I've found of this and other Christian truths is simply that by living my life as if these claims are true, I have found the best way to live. One popular Christian teacher (Steve Brown of www.stevebrownetc.com) says that Christians are beggars who having found bread, are simply pointing the way for others to do the same.
Good religious people can disagree and argue their points. Not only would I say that the debate needs to continue, but we don't do enough debate. Critical thinking should prevail. We don't talk enough about religion, treating it as a taboo subject. But how can a system of belief that addresses the most fundamental questions of life, such as what is its very purpose and what happens after death, be ignored? Isn't that the height of insanity?
As a Christian, I reject reincarnation. I can't prove that this is the only time we go around any more than the Hindu or Buddhist can prove reincarnation. But I can demonstrate how the Christian belief in only one life on earth causes one's life to be better for it.
I sense that "coexist" means "live and let live" by not even debating or discussing our differences. I see it as affirming relativism when it comes to matters of faith. I have to reject such an affirmation. And anyone proponent who expresses disagreement with me, is certainly no relativist. How can someone who believes all truth is relative and one's perception is truth argue with someone else's perception?
I believe in the dialectics of Hegel. It says that truth is to be found by forming a thesis, an antithesis and a synthesis. In other words, you start with a belief, you test that belief against its opposite and you let that testing process flesh out what is and isn't true until you find the truth.
If your faith is true, it can not be threatened by debate. If it is false, why would you want to nurture and protect it from debate?
Finally, I want to say that the best thing that a "coexist" proponent can do to encourage peace among religious people is to encourage Christians to follow Christ. By truly following Christ, there is no room for imposing my faith through coercion or violence. The same is true of many other religions. Unfortunately, I can't say this is true of every religion....
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Pascal once wrote that belief in God is incomprehensible and disbelief in God is inconceivable.
The same can be said about the infinite/eternal, but I think of it in different wording. Imagining something or someone to not have a beginning is difficult to comprehend, but not as difficult to imagine.
Imagining something to not have a beginning or end, might be difficult because of our finite point of reference. Everything we humans observe in this world has a beginning, even the universe (see below). However just because everything we know has a beginning doesn't mean that everything HAS to have one.
Science has confirmed that the universe has a beginning. The logic goes that because of the doppler effect found in cosmic background radiation, we know that space is expanding. If space is expanding, then it must had a starting expansion point.
Science has also confirmed that the universe has an end. Our telescopes find dying stars all the time. Our sun has a very definite lifespan. When the sun goes, life on earth as we know it will cease as well.
This confirmation of the finiteness of the known universe begs the question: "What caused it all?" After all, if the universe were eternal, such a question wouldn't be necessary. But we know that finite things have causes/sources.
I only know of two possibilities. Either an eternal process caused it, or an eternal being.
Belief in an eternal being is a simpler explanation than belief in an eternal process. After all, belief in an eternal being also explains the order found in the universe. Order always comes from intelligence. No exceptions have ever been found.
Something else that Pascal observes is that God has revealed Himself with enough clues in creation to know of His existence, but He also hides Himself enough so that we may sense our unworthiness of Him.
If Creation testifies of this, then this begs the question: What can save us from this condition?
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Have you ever noticed the lack of creativity within the Christian church? Just look at how the average church names itself. Often, they are named after the street name or town/city where they are located.
And I can't tell you how many creative types say that the church has NOT made a home for them. Creative people "think outside the box" and this often makes religious people feel uncomfortable. No wonder the church has a reputation of being boring.
Everything is often so predictable. Even churches that put on a show by adding productional elements, are still so predictable, formulaic and often unimaginative. And please don't get me started on the creativity drought found in Contemporary Christian music.
Why do I suggest that people of faith should value creativity? Is it simply because of my personal bias as a creative type or is there a deeper reason?
Like creativity, doesn't faith require us to use our imaginations and to visualize? A creative sculptor has to visualize what they want to sculpt as they create their art. A musician has to exercise great imagination to create music. When faith tells us that there is a God, a heaven, a hell, does it not require us to do the same?
Secondly, and perhaps a foreign concept to many of us, what is faith if it doesn't challenge us to critical thinking, just like creativity does? No wonder this is a foreign concept. People of faith aren't exactly known for critical thinking. I left a particular Christian denomination years ago because I found that they inherently rejected critical thinking and couldn't provide answers to my questions.
I've watched the church view critical thinking as a threat to core doctrine. But I have always believed that if a doctrine is true, than it can survive all critical thinking as long as our we are objective. I instinctively believe that the truth will withstand all assaults if we are open to it. I don't deny my biases and can't eliminate them, but do everything that I can to minimize them.
Perhaps some of you don't see the connection between critical thinking and creativity. This is best seen via illustration. I teach guitar as an adjunct professor and private instructor. When I give my students a scale, I ask them to question it. I challenge them to ask, "What can possibly be done with this set of notes?" The result of such critical thinking is that they will try ordering the notes of a scale in creative ways that yield all sorts of melodies, phrases and patterns. They end up coming up with things that are new. So, while it is not often said, creativity is directly tied to critical thinking.
A simpler example, that non-musicians can better appreciate, is to take the game of Scrabble. Each player is given seven letters. Success requires the player to question the letters they possess asking, "What words can be formed??" This type of critical thinking will yield the fruits of creativity.
Another reason that everyone, whether religious or not, should value creativity is simply because creativity allows for repetition. I can endure, and even enjoy repetition, if it is done with creativity. I need to remind myself of truths that I have known for years, but if those truths aren't presented to me with the freshness that creativity provides, I'm not going to be able to receive them. A church that can't present old truth creatively, will be challenged to endure boring repetitions and grow stale with traditionalism. The only alternative is for it to find "new truth", which is not exactly an inherent quality within religious faith, and is a back door to heretical teaching.
Something else that is interesting about creativity, is its connection to propositions and systems. In the above two examples, creativity has to be applied to propositions (think black and white). I ask the musician to apply creativity to a scale, which is born out of the system of music theory. The Scrabble player applies creativity to letters to form words.
Christianity echos this truth when it says:
"Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God." Romans 10:17
"The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." John 1:14
Computers are even examples of this connection. The fruits of digital creativity are found in Youtube, Itunes, MySpace, and even at a more rudimentary level in the graphics of the operating system (GUI for you computer geeks). Yet, all of it boils down to the binary propositions of 0's and 1's (black and white, right and wrong).
So I'm not simply advocating that people of faith should make things up. The creativity that is faith is hinged to the propositions that we commonly call theology and Divine revelation.
So given all of the above, why is it that people of faith so often lack creativity and imagination? I would expect people of faith to have the most profound imaginations. Could this be the consequence of centuries of institutional religion that has produced a top down hierarchy of compliance as opposed to the critical thinking process of considering other's perspectives via the dynamics of a true community?
Have you ever noticed how often Jesus engaged people with questions?
Monday, June 1, 2009
Faith is belief in moderation, the opposite of extremes, the antithesis of the "one-ended stick".
It is obvious that faith can't exist without belief. Whenever Jesus encountered someone who struggled with belief, He would commonly ask, "Where is your faith"?
But notice that He also never asked, "Where is your certainty?"
Just as faith is impossible without belief, it is equally impossible without the presence of doubt.
If you are absolutely 100% certain of any belief, it can NOT be defined as faith. No one has FAITH that they are going to die. No one has faith that the sun will come up tomorrow (although it IS possible, but extremely unlikely that it will NOT come up).
If faith is a belief that is the mean between doubt and certainty, than it appears to in the middle between two extremes.
So why is it that people of faith so often find themselves at the fringes of life?
If you do NOT have faith, then what are you left with except to believe only in that which can be proven with certainty (which is very little) or with a perpetual skepticism that leaves your mind unhinged.
"Let beliefs fade fast and frequently, if you wish institutions to remain the same. The more the life of the mind is unhinged, the more the machinery of matter will be left to itself." - G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, pg 60.
Such thinking changes nothing, not even its adherent.
I once heard a local pastor say it this way: "If your faith hasn't changed you, then you need to change your faith."
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Can one really live a life of meaning without God? What is meaning if it is not purpose? If a purpose maker that transcends the boundaries of our individuality does not exist, then how can the attempt to make up meaning without Him be any less than self-deception; an illusion?
I illustrate with an example. Suppose you say that the meaning of your life is to work a particular vocation that you happen to be good at and derive lots of satisfaction out of (BTW, you'd be the exception and not the norm). That vocation could be anything, but let's say it is to be a police officer, just for sake of illustration.
Why is your life purpose to be a police officer, I might ask?. You might reply, "Because I'm good at it and I enjoy it." "Why do are you good at it and why do you enjoy it?" You might tell me how you are a good shot, and are a natural authority figure, love risk, love serving the community, etc. You might also tell me why you enjoy these things. But WHY are you good at these things and WHY do you enjoy them? Without God, do you really have an answer that goes deeper than evolutionary chance? Why would evolution care? Only beings care... Can the very chair you are most likely sitting in right now care? Can a random process have a purpose, a will, for your life?
If you simply believe in meaning without God because you WANT to believe you live in such a world, then stop asking questions. If you ask too many, they inevitably lead you where you don't want to go.
In light of pictures like this, I don't see how there can be any doubt as to whether or not abortion is killing.
Perhaps this smacks you in the face because you had an abortion. I'm not throwing stones. There is forgiveness, but it is a forgiveness that only God can give. I certainly don't condemn the remorseful. How could I when I also have sin that begs the same forgiveness?
Now to those who distract us from the truth by arguing choice, murder is a choice, but do you believe society should permit it? Discrimination and prejudice are choices, do you believe society should permit them?
Friday, May 15, 2009
C.S. Lewis changed the way that I think. To sum it up, he presents our emotions and longings as being "signposts" which point to truth. Prior to Lewis' interpretation, my instinct was to look at emotions only as an outworking to our world.
Lewis once said that the existence of the stomach was evidence that there also existed something in which it could be filled with. What does this truth tell you about the hole in your heart?
Lewis probably acquired this worldview by G.K. Chesterton. In his book Orthodoxy, he wrote:
The test of all happiness is gratitude; and
I felt grateful, though I hardly knew to whom. Children are grateful when Santa Claus puts in their
stockings gifts of toys or sweets. Could I not be grateful to Santa Claus when he put in my stockings
the gift of two miraculous legs? We thank people for birthday presents of cigars and slippers. Can
I thank no one for the birthday present of birth? Orthdoxy pg 30.
It seems that we have this innate longing to thank, or dare I even say worship, someone outside of ourselves. If this longing goes unfulfilled, we are destined to find life meaningless. This sentiment was acknowledged by OsCar Wilde.
Chesterton writes about this:
Oscar Wilde said that sunsets were not valued because we could not pay for
sunsets. But Oscar Wilde was wrong; we can pay for sunsets. We can pay for them by not being
Oscar Wilde. Orthodoxy pg 32
Like anyone of faith, my doubts sometimes scream at me. But what screams louder is this longing to live for someone bigger than myself.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
When my wife's grandfather was in Hospice, the Hospice workers told us that right before someone dies, there is a chemical that increases in the body which lessens the pain.
This process begs the question, "Why would this process have evolved, given that evolution is driven by SURVIVAL of the FITTEST"?
Monday, May 11, 2009
If a scientist submitted a new theory, published in a scientific journal, it would certainly be subject to testing and analysis.
Yet, I'm astounded at how many skeptics won't perform the same testing process on religious claims. It is because they misunderstand faith. If faith is believing in something that has absolutely no evidence, then no testing is necessary. This is their mindset. But such a mindset not only misunderstands faith, it is a great excuse for the skeptic and non-religious to bury their heads in the sand.
"An unexamined life is not worth living" - Socrates
A belief can be based upon faith but have evidence that supports it. For instance, the probability of my dying in a plane crash is very slim, thus I fly. However, because I can never ultimately know for sure if I'm not on an airplane that will crash, my belief is based upon faith. Even though it is a reasoned belief, reason doesn't obsolve it from being faith.
It is very convenient for the skeptic to divorce faith from reasoning. To do so, gives them a reason to not ask the ultimate question of religion's claims:
"Is it true?"
Before simply dismissing faith as man-made, I ask the skeptic to show me that he/she has examined religion's claims and has a good reason to reject them.
Simply claiming religion is man-made, without demonstrating evidence of such an examination, demonstrates prejudice, not a bold attempt to ask questions no matter where they might lead...
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Is God merely an invention of the human mind to account for death?
This is a fair and common question.
What is the most certain thing that will happen to every living being on this planet and in the known universe?
Is it not death?
What idea is the most uncertain belief held by the greatest number of people in the known universe?
Is it not God?
What is the vehicle to belief in God if it is not faith? And what is faith if it is not a belief that contains no ounce of doubt? Can someone be a person of faith without also embracing the mystery that comes with doubt?
And what does it mean to embrace mystery, if one doesn't also embrace the very questioning process?
Why is it that people who do NOT believe in God go so far out of their way to avoid thinking about this most obvious and certain thing? Why do the skeptics live their lives embracing any distractions that numb their senses to this one universal certainty?
Is it really in our best interests to only embrace certainty, when the most certain thing is death?
Are our distractions inventions of the human mind to avoid God?
Is it not true that the believer is sure about the most certain thing, and the skeptic most doubtful?
Does it not even follow that the believer is most certain about the most important things in life, while the nonbeliever is only certain about the least important?
I close with excerpts of G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy (pages 91-92):
"The sceptic may truly be said to be topsy-turvy; for his feet are dancing upwards in idle ecstacies, while his brain is in the abyss."
"Christianity satisfies suddenly and perfectly man’s ancestral instinct for being the right way up; satisfies it supremely in this; that by its creed joy becomes something gigantic and sadness something special and small."
"Christianity satisfies suddenly and perfectly man’s ancestral instinct for being the right way up; satisfies it supremely in this; that by its creed joy becomes something gigantic and sadness something special and small."
"We can take our own tears more lightly than we could take the tremendous levities of the angels. So we sit perhaps in a starry chamber of silence, while the laughter of the heavens is too loud for us to hear."
"Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian."
Now, what was the question again? :-)
Sunday, April 26, 2009
A road system is a curious thing.
We draw lines on them to order traffic. The order that the lines create appears to be arbitrary. As long as the traffic follows this arbitrary order, it will flow smoothly.
So in life, you can't function properly without order (meaning). A religious worldview gives the most comprehensive worldview. I understand that philosophy also gives a worldview, but it has a difficulty being comprehensive because it limits itself to the natural world. Philosophy can say nothing about the most certain event that happens to all of us, which is death.
Some people believe that man can create his own meaning (order) and that everyone can have a different meaning (relativism). But drawing lane lines in any old fashion would create chaos on the roads. And giving each driver a separate set of traffic rules would cause havoc as well.
The stop light systems start and stop traffic at either timed intervals, or sometimes triggered by events (the presence/absence of cars).
Ecclesiastes 3 states that there is a time for everything. There is even a time for going and stopping. Sometimes we can be joyous, and sometimes we mourn. There is a time to laugh and a time to cry.
"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven" - Ecclesiastes 3:1
Speed limits keep the cars in relative unity. Granted, unity is probably more of an unintended consequence, but it does result from restricting speeds to keep driving safer.
And so in life, living a life of integrity and morality cultivates unity. Living a life of monogamy preserves marriages and families. Living a life of honesty preserves relationships of all kinds. Doing justice and giving to the poor and needy among us, keeps all of life's cars from crashing into each other because of otherwise vastly different speeds.
After all, as the song says, "Life is a highway. I want to ride it all night long."
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Someone very dear to me has schizophrenia. He thinks that he's living the life of the Truman Show. He believes everyone in the world knows who he is and is watching his every move. He has an answer for everything.
I challenged his view one day by telling him that if he did a Google of his name, he'd be hard pressed to find himself even listed. I proposed that in a world where everyone is watching you and knows your name, a Google search was bound to prove this.
His explanation was simply that God could have manipulated the results of the Google search to hide the truth. We could all even be a part of a conspiracy. His answer was expected. "You have an answer for everything", I replied. The problem with his way of thinking is that there's nothing anyone can say or do to prove or disprove his beliefs.
He proves nothing by answering everything.
The brilliant scientist Stephen Hawking is very ill right now. He has spent much of his life working on a theory to unify Einstein's theory of relativity (which deals with physics on a large scale) with quantum theory (physics on a very small scale). His hope is that this unifying theory will explain everything.
I can't help but wonder, in the light of my schizophrenic friend, whether or not Hawking is looking for a system of truth that is just as insane.
Reading the doctrinal statements of some churches and Christian universities, I wonder if I don't see the same sort of insanity. They seem to have everything in life figured out. Is Christ anything if not a paradox? Does not the Christian see life in Christ's death, power in the cross, strength in His display of weakness and hope in His suffering?
I have always been skeptical of skepticism, but I am now becoming skeptical of any theory that claims to explain everything. I am starting to bring my skepticism of the "too good to be true" product that "slices and dices" to my philosophy.
Perhaps the best worldview of life purposefully leaves room for mystery. Perhaps the healthiest dogma is that which includes faith.
And why would the best worldview leave room for mystery if mystery wasn't the door for worship?
Monday, April 20, 2009
Remember when I said that truth is a great book with a bad cover (see "You Can't Judge Truth By Its Cover")? I give you exhibit A:
How shallow have we become to judge things by the outside instead of the inside? How foolish are we to embrace style over substance?
Friday, April 17, 2009
According to the Barna Group, 73% of adults believe that one can earn salvation through good behavior.
Almost half of all born-again Christians believe this as well.
I wish this were the case. I specifically challenge Christians with the following question (for non-christians, this question has too many assumptions).
If all it takes for someone to obtain salvation is to be good, then why would Jesus have bothered dying on a cross? Why wouldn't he have simply come to earth, preached/teached that everyone should be good and then ascended back into heaven?
Thursday, April 2, 2009
“Do not seek the because - in love there is no because, no reason, no explanation, no solutions.” - Anias Nin.
As I encourage the questioning process, do I seek reasons in areas where there are none? Anias Nin, was no Christian, but she had a glimpse into the Christian concept of grace. Grace is NOTHING if it can be stood up on the legs of reason.
8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast" - Ephesians 2:8-9
I've been reading Pascal's Pensees lately. In it, he argues that there are some things that we know to be true that can't be proven via the reasoning process. Believing tomorrow will come is one example that I remember. Love is another.
I've always believed, against the grain, that faith and reason are supplementary as opposed to the common view that they are antithetical to each other. I've written about this in other postings and therefore won't repeat old ground.
However, in light of the nature of love and grace, I have to ask whether or not I go too far.
Perhaps the skeptics who think they have refuted religious faith, are standing on piles of mud that they have mistaken for gold. They think they have refuted faith by showing that there is no reason to hold it, but in doing so, they are really no different than the delusional person who might say that airplanes can't really fly because everything must be supported by the terrestrial. Perhaps their minds are too earthly. Or perhaps mine is too much in the clouds.
If airplanes operate by different rules when set in motion, despite the fact they are physically heavier than air, wouldn't God do the same?
Perhaps all that we call faith is really a test of our volition.
Perhaps what we believe (and even skepticism is belief) is really the naked exposure of our will.... our heart itself.
I was made for another. I am "otherly".
I want to believe...
Sunday, March 29, 2009
If there is a God, have you ever asked “Why would He use faith as the channel to relate to Him?” Why wouldn’t he post a huge sign in the Cosmos that was not ignorable? For those of us on the earth, the Sun is a great example.
Imagine that you are extremely rich and famous. What a great dream! Now, imagine that you are searching for true love. How would you ever know if anyone really loved you for who YOU were vs simply loving all that comes along with your wealth and fame?
One way would be for you to hide who you really are.
You might hide your wealth and fame and search for someone who really loved you for who you were, not for what you have.
Christ hid His fame and fortune and came down to earth in a humble manger.
I often see God as someone who appears to be hiding. But He wants us to find Him. He also wants us to love Him for who He is and not because we have no choice.
If God appeared to us as a giant in the sky, we'd be stupid to not at least act like we loved Him.
So He seems to veil Himself in such a way as to give us a fork in the road. That fork gives us two interpretations of life. One is the materialist's worldview that says man is the arbiter of all things. Such a view might even allow for belief in a god, but he/she/it is impersonal (Deism).
The other option is a God that loves us, a God who cares about how we live our lives and wants those lives to be acts of worship.
I'm not here to tell you that one of the two interpretations makes more sense or is more rational than the other.
I'm asking you "Do you want to believe?"
Saturday, March 28, 2009
I believe very much in rationalism. I believe that it supplements faith in the same way that I could say as a musician, that music theory supplements creativity.
But in music there are musicians who have achieved greatness solely on their creativity and natural talent, devoid of music theory. There are great musicians who are long on creativity but short on musical analysis. Eddie Van Halen is a great example of this.
There is no doubt that the questions that this blog asks are some of the most important questions of life. I ask questions like, "What is this life?", "Why are we here?", "Is there a God?", "Who is God?", "How shall we live?", etc....
This line of questioning inevitably leads us down a complex and intellectual road. Although, we might enjoy this journey if we are intellectually inclined, how do we reconcile the exclusivity of such thought with the universality of these questions?
In other words, if we have discovered that these universal questions many times require more sophisticated, analytical thinking, then what about the exclusion of the simpler minded among us? Have we discovered truth as merely an intellectual, academic exercise?
If knowledge is virtue, than only the highly intelligent among us are virtuous. This is clearly not the case.
If there is a God and this God is a personal, loving God who wants to reveal Himself to us, then it would make sense that He would want to reveal Himself to everyone, regardless of intellectual propensity. How is He doing this?
Perhaps we look with the mind, when we should be looking with our hearts. If our hearts are pure, is there anything we can't see?
Friday, March 27, 2009
Blaise Pascal, in his brilliance as a mathematician, philosopher and scientist, arguably being the forefather of the modern computer, and applying his intellect to his faith as a theologian and Christian, certainly gives us evidence of the nexus between faith and reason that is a constant theme of this blog.
In his Pensees, he states that since our lives here on Earth are clearly transitory and death is eternal, we do ourselves an injustice to be distracted by that which is temporary, failing to focus on eternity.
If this blog is about having the boldness to ask questions, then I would have to add that boldness is necessary to ask questions about eternity. And since, as Pascal has confirmed, death is associated with thoughts on eternity, such questioning is avoided due to a guilt by association.
What are the questions you are afraid to ask?
Sunday, March 15, 2009
In my last blog, I spoke about the existential arguments for God. In this one, I turn to the propositional arguments for God. These arguments point more to WHO God might be.
If we accept the existential arguments for God, then we have to ask who is God? Is God a He, a She or an it? Is God simply everything in the universe or is God separate from creation? (see Why the Earth is Not our Mother)
Is God all powerful and all knowing, or is God limited in some ways? Is God a personal God who cares? Can God be known? Or is God impersonal, more like the force of Star Wars?
Just as technology authenticates science, miracles authenticate prophecy.
E=mc2 was authenticated when the atomic bomb was created.
Knowledge TRULY is power!
I believe in the existence of good and evil. Every axiom can stand when tested against its own claims, so use such a test.
I've read many agnostics/atheists who reject the notion of good and evil. But inevitably, in the same breath even, I find them "preaching" against faith worldviews based on moral grounds. It doesn't take but one Google search to turn up atheists/agnostic/skeptics who reject the existence of evil, claiming that religious worldviews are evil.
Ravi Zacharias (www.rzim.org) tells of a man who held such a view. As Ravi engaged the man in a dialogue following one of his lectures, he asked the man if someone were to take a newborn infant and slice it up, could the man call this act evil. The man replied that he wouldn't like this act, but he could not call it evil.
I would challenge the man to go and find out why he would have such a visceral reaction. Why does such a repulsion exist in our natures and what does it mean?
So if we can agree in the existence of good and evil, then we are left with the question of WHO defines their terms (Does this very posting not demonstrate my aphorism of "Continue to ask "Why?" until you are forced to ask "Who?".)
If man defines the terms, than good and evil are limited by the bounds of a nation's legal system. Exterminating Jews in Nazi Germany was not evil because it was legal. Slavery in antebellum times was legal and therefore not evil or immoral.
In such a world all kinds of atrocities could be justified with the wrong vote.
Good and evil can only transcend the boundaries of nations, cultures and ages if it is defined by God. Only God is transcendent. Everything else dies.
If good and evil are defined by God, then clearly God is good. This is easily established simply by definition. The definition of good is what ought to be. Evil is what ought not to be. In such a world God determines what ought to be.
If good and evil exist and God has declared what ought to be, then this gives us good reason to believe that He is a personal God who actually cares how we treat others. This gives us reason to believe that we are known by Him.
Living in a world of "ought" means we live in a world of purpose. Nothing smells like purpose more than a story. Propositions only tell us what exists, but only a good story tells us why they exist.
Thus I would expect God to be revealing Himself in a story of some kind. Is there any greater story of God's love than the story of Him being born in a manger, living life on earth in the form of a man, teaching, loving, performing miracles, giving His life as a ransom for us all in the name of love and rising again?
But how do I know this story is not a myth? How do I know that men didn't make it up?
This brings us back to authentication. This story was written by multiple authors; Mathew, Mark, Luke & John. If they made these things up, then we are looking at a conspiracy because they share too much agreement. What was their motive?
Was it to sell books, gain money and go on the talk show circuit?
Was it to gain power?
A historical examination of their lives reveals that they suffered and died for their claims.
Why would they willingly give their lives for something they knew not to be true?
While I hear skeptics express their rejections of the Bible, I have never heard one of them explain away what would alternatively have to be nothing less than a miraculous conspiracy.
And in this sense, they have more faith than I do.
This is why I believe....
Saturday, February 14, 2009
In my last blog, I discussed the convergence of faith and reason. If you think the two are mutually exclusive, you will want to read it before proceeding.
The reasons for my Christian faith fall into two categories; existential and propositional.
The existential arguments for God appeal to our longings, our human nature, our needs. These arguments views these things as "signposts" pointing to the existence of God. C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton before him provide excellent existential arguments for God.
C.S. Lewis wrote:
"Without the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism." --The Abolition of Man
Check your motives. If you are an emotionally unhealthy person, you are a likely candidate for NOT getting the truth right. Our emotions filter (bias) how we see the world.
Lewis also stated:
"For me, reason is the natural organ of truth, and imagination is the organ of understanding."
The existential arguments for God are broad. They do more to tell us of His existence than who He might be.
The propositional arguments for God are more specific and go farther in that they attempt to tell us WHICH God and WHO he may be. It is at this propositional level that I come to believe in the Christian God.
Today, I will attempt to present some existential arguments for God. In my next blog, I will present the propositional arguments for a Christian God.
There is a song by the band "Extreme" called "Hole Hearted". In it, they speak of the universal longing that we all have when they say, "There's a hole in my heart and it only can be filled by you." The song is likely talking about a romantic relationship. It is interesting that the landscape of music, as well as the rest of the modern arts, is dominated by romantic and sensual longings. Is there anything in this life that really satisfies these desires?
Feminist writer Anias Nin (NOTE: not a traditional religious type) once wrote:
"Ordinary life does not interest me. I seek only the high moments. I am in accord with the surrealists, searching for the marvelous." Winter, 1931-1932 from The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Volume One 1931-1934
She also wrote:
"I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger as reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I can not transform into something marvelous, I let go. Reality doesn't impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls." July 7, 1934 from incest, from a journal of love
Nin expresses what I believe to be a human truth. We all long for something or someone to fill a God shaped hole. Everyone tries to fill it in different ways including romantic relationships, sensuality, drugs and alcohol, hobbies, friendships, family and children, materialism and more...
One of the best illustrations that I remember C.S. Lewis used to illustrate the truths of these "signposts" was regarding the stomach. He observed that just as the stomach's need to be filled with food was evidence that food exists, so the heart's need to be filled is proof that there is something that exists which can fill it.
"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." - C.S. Lewis
Elvis Presley had it all. He had fame, wealth, talent. He once stated that he had lived every dream that he had ever had a thousand times. Yet he died a premature death, addicted to pain killers. What pain was he trying to kill? If HE couldn't fill this hole in his heart, then how can anyone who has less?
Belief in God gives life purpose. The ultimate expression of this purpose is to enjoy God's presence. This is what Christianity calls worship. Worship is the ecstasy that Anias Nin sought. It is the culmination of every romantic desire. It is the thirst that drives us to seek the thrill, once obtained, is gone just as quickly.
"I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation." -- C.S. Lewis in "Reflections on the Psalms"
Lewis calls it Joy. Lewis was a confirmed bachelor (or so he thought). One of the books that he wrote was entitled "Surprised By Joy". Later in his life, he was pleasantly surprised to find that he had fallen in love. He married this woman who just so happened to be named Joy.
" it is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy... Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic... in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again." [Surprised By Joy 17-18]
But Lewis' first encounter with what he calls "Joy" was when he was a little boy. His brother had built a toy garden. When he saw the garden, he wrote: "It made me aware of nature--not, indeed, as a storehouse of forms and colors but as something cool, dewy, fresh, exuberant. . . . As long as I live my imagination of Paradise will retain something of my brother's toy garden."
He went on to say later in his life: "It is difficult to find words strong enough for the sensation which came over me; Milton's 'enormous bliss' of Eden . . . comes somewhere near it,"
Do you find yourself trying to feed a hole in your heart? What do you try to feed "the monster" with? Do you try to feed it with the things the band Extreme wrote about in another song entitled, "Its a Monster"?
"It's on my mind most of the time
That's when you find we all go blind
Then it will start to get in our hearts
It's gone too far, that's who we are
It's a monster
We all have within us
It's a monster
It's a monster
Turns us into sinners
It's a monster"
Augustine called this longing "The God Shaped Hole". If it is God shaped, then only He can fill it. But who is this God that we long for? We'll explore that question in the next posting.
I am finding that a lot of people, religious as well as non-religious, seem to believe that faith and reason do not intersect. But if we just use reason alone, we will find that this assumption breaks down.
Mankind is finite. We are limited in what we know. We are limited in what we CAN know. For instance, there are things so far out in space, that no telescope or device will be able to observe, measure or detect. So reason alone says that there are things that exist outside of the reaches of empiricism.
I do understand that there are some people who have a rare philosophy that says that only that which we can observe and experience is real. Such a philosophy goes so far as to say that when a refrigerator door is shut, its contents cease to exist. There are many arguments against such a philosophy. I shall not expound on them, but only say that I think this philosophy says more about the limits of empiricism, than the limits of reality/truth.
So if we acknowledge that there are things that exist outside of our ability to observe and measure, than we have already seen a glimpse into the validity of faith.
But I can take faith even further. EVERYONE has faith. When you get in a car to go somewhere, can you absolutely 100% KNOW that you will arrive safely at your destination? Of course not. But do you BELIEVE you will arrive safely? If not, I don't think you'd get in the car in the first place. THAT is faith.
What if you were to get into the passenger seat of that car and let a drunk person drive you? That would be crazy wouldn't it? But do you absolutely KNOW that the drunk will have an accident? No, but the odds are against them driving safely. It is reasonable to conclude that you would be unsafe to ride with the drunk. But because you can't KNOW this for sure, you have faith. More specifically, you have a reasoned faith. You have a faith informed by rational thought. Your faith is informed by probability.
I could give many many more analogies that demonstrate this convergence of faith and reason. Every time we plan for the future, we "roll the dice" based on the probability that we will live for that future event. We have no proof so we have faith instead. That faith is backed up by reason. Interviewing for a job requires faith. But you wouldn't do it if you didn't have reason to believe you could get the position.
These examples are different than blind faith. Many religions do seem to advocate a blind faith. For instance, Hinduism and Buddhism claim reincarnation, but outside of some people's deja vu experiences, and subjective interpretations of nature, they don't offer any rational argument to support these claims. Most other religions have the same problem.
This is why I am a Christian. Christianity is different in this regard. Its cornerstone is the claim that Jesus Christ died and rose again. It could just make these claims (blind faith) and offer nothing more. Instead, it presents to us multiple witnesses to these claims who wrote the Gospels. These writers were so convinced of Christ's resurrection that they died for this belief.
Yes, it is true that many religious people die for their beliefs, but if you are thinking this, you have missed the point. These writers weren't just ANY group of religious people. They had the unique ability to validate their claims. All they had to do was go to the grave and see if Christ was there. All the Roman government had to do to stifle Christianity's threat to its empire was to produce Christ's body.
Why didn't this occur?
Yes, I have faith, but it is NOT a blind faith. It is a faith that is supported by reason. While I can't absolutely prove 100% these things, if I could it would NOT be faith. But because my faith is supported by a reasonable argument, it is not a blind faith.
What is your faith? Why do you believe it? If you merely believe in it because it makes you feel good, or out of fear, or because it serves you, you believe for the wrong reasons. And please don't think that I'm pointing a finger at you. These are questions that I ask myself.
There are other reasons that I believe as well. I will discuss those in my next two blogs.
If you've read this far and still do not see the convergence of faith and reason, I point you to Google on the subject of Christian Apologetics. Christian apologetics is an attempt by Christians to defend their faith using reason. If this convergence that I speak of does NOT exist, then neither would the apologist.
In every instance that I have EVER encountered someone who didn't understand this convergence, I have found that the dissenter was not aware of apologetics, or had not listened/read such arguments.
I close with this thought. If I were opposed to Christianity, wouldn't the most effective way for me to prevent its spread be for me to cast it as a faith that throws out the brain?
Socrates once said that the unexamined life is not worth living.
If I wanted to bury my head in the sand when it comes to questions regarding the meaning of life, the existence of God, how I should live my life, etc., would I find any better way to do this than to simply dismiss all religious people as holding to a blind faith?
Which takes MORE blind faith; to examine the reasons for believing or to simply dismiss them all as having blind faith?
Often our rejections of dogma, are dogmatic, our objections to zealotry are zealous, and our abstinence of intolerance is intolerant....