Monday, June 30, 2008
Sunday, June 29, 2008
As a follow-up to what I read in Berlinski, I skimmed through one of Stenger’s books. I was struck by the fact that atheists admit their arguments and “proofs” will be unconvincing to theists. After all, they say, that is what faith is – i.e., believing in the absence of evidence. Berlinski does a far better job than I could ever hope to do hoisting atheism on its own petard in the matter of faith, but I’ll touch on it a little perhaps.
Stenger relates that some of his fellow physicists are devout Christians. He mentions a couple by name and indicates that they have looked at the same phenomena, the same facts, the same evidence, yet retain their faith in a Creator. Although I did not see where Stenger explains this oddity, we can make a pretty good guess that, like his fellow atheists, he attributes the continuing faith of theists to some sort of cultural indoctrination.
On the other hand Stenger puts forth the idea that the laws of physics arose from nothing – you know, there was the universe and things were just floating around and after they floated around a while they sort of randomly formed into patterns and then physicists just superimposed the “laws” on the randomness. That may not be quite fair as I did not read in detail, and I really don’t care. What grabbed my attention is the admission by Stenger that most physicists reject his view.
So here we have an atheistic physicist holding a view in contradiction to the majority of his colleagues. Of course, that doesn’t mean he is wrong, but it does mean, in the face of inconclusive evidence -- really no evidence, he holds to his view.
Similarly, as noted above, there are physicists who are not atheists, whether Christian or of some other religion. So are the atheist physicists more intelligent than the theistic physicists? Or, are the theists more intelligent? The answer is probably neither, because it is a matter of faith – unless you want to call having faith evidence of high spiritual IQ.
In Hebrews 11 the writer says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, for those who come to Him must believe that He is” Faith and free will are intimately related. God could certainly make people believe in Him. In fact, this is one of Stenger’s sophomoric arguments which goes something like “God does not love us because He does not make Himself blatantly known”. I suppose Stenger’s children love him because he so orders them and demands that they love him. And those are equivalent situations. Since God is perfect, and perfectly loving, omnipotent, omniscient, etc., a direct revelation of His complete presence – if a human in the physical state could survive it – would give the person no choice except to love God. The trouble is, it would be sort of spiritual rape and God doesn’t do stuff like that.
Any kind of love is only meaningful when given freely and apart from compulsion. In answer to the question of what kind of universe a loving God would create, we see that it would be one like this one. It is a universe where faith is possible and meaningful, where God can be loved freely by those who chose to trust in Him, and where those who refuse to acknowledge Him or have faith can find reasons to harden their hearts.
Friday, June 27, 2008
This is probably some of the idea behind the noble savage myth. As a primitive man is closer to “nature” than the civilized man, he is less “derived”. The reason the myth fails the test of reality is that it’s not how close to the creation you are that makes you noble, it’s how close you are to the Creator. I have The Journals of Lewis and Clark sitting a few feet away on my bookshelf. Their first hand and generally fair accounts indicate that some American Indian tribes were composed of decent people, while others were a lot closer to the Devil than they were God.
Matthew 13:37-39a He replied, ‘The One who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world; and the good seed – these are the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the Devil ...
Jesus is speaking and explaining the meaning of the parable known traditionally as “The Wheat and the Tares”. Tares were weeds which initially bore a resemblance to the grain in the early stages. It does have a rather dualistic feel to it. Jesus sows His people into the world. The Devil sows his people. They battle is out for space in the field. The angels come in and throw all the bad seed into hell and take the good ones to heaven. Who knew the Devil had his own evil spawn available to for planting next door to me?
This parable is probably less troublesome to Calvinists who think there are a whole bunch of people whose reason for existence is to up the occupancy rate in hell. Why waste all that space? My free-will friends used to try to mitigate it by making the field the Church or the Kingdom. They turned it into a parable about how we should not judge anyone in the Body of Christ and just let God sort it all out in the end. Even if I were to agree that “judge not” means you shouldn’t defrock a pedophile priest, I would be uncomfortable using this parable to justify it. That interpretation does violence to the very words of Jesus when He says “the field is the world.” I get the impression that the Lord generally said what He meant and meant what He said.
While I’m not much of a Calvinist, the idea that some soulless bastards are roaming around definitely would explain some things. It has a certain appeal, though the down side is that just because they are soulless I don’t necessarily get to use them for target practice.
Yesterday, as the lovely QP tells us, the Supreme Court gave us a pretty good decision in Heller but the day before they had struck down the
I think it was late last year, a county or two west of here, a nine-year-old girl disappeared. She was found after a week or so. Her little body had been dumped in a hole that led down to a cave. Her step-father and a friend of his were arrested. They had taken the girl while her mother was at work and, after raping her repeatedly, they strangled her because, as the step-father explained, “she knew who we was.” The death penalty is still applicable in their case, but it just doesn’t seem quite fair.
I’ve been shot, though – must I state it? – not killed. It can hurt a lot, but not lots and lots. A guy who coldly murders a clerk during a liquor store robbery can get the death penalty, and that seems reasonable. I’m all for kill ‘em and let God sort ‘em out when it comes to terrorists. That seems fair, too.
What seems fair in the case of these two worthless grab-bags of guano would be to take them to some nice, rocky, hard-packed bare ground on a very hot, sunny summer day. Strip them naked and stake them out on their backs at high noon. Let them stew for one and one-half to two hours. Next, very carefully and slowly slice open their bellies so their intestines are exposed. Finally, unleash a half-dozen or so very hungry Rottweilers.
I am the Martha Stewart of cruel and unusual punishment. It’s a good thing.
Yes, it’s cruel and only a sick mind could conjure up such an idea. But if we would do it consistently, it wouldn’t be unusual, and, as Mushroom’s Maxims point out – it’s cruel and unusual, not cruel or unusual. Thank you, George Boole.
Actually I would be quite satisfied if the perpetrators were executed by lethal injection swiftly rather than being allowed to sit on death row, growing old and wasting tax dollars on lunch meat and pointless appeals.
Apparently the Devil’s weeds will always be among us until the Kingdom does come. Most of them will never expose themselves as tares to society at large. They will fit in and become
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Look at that verse. Turn it around in your mind. Imagine if the Apostle had said, “Whatever is false, dishonorable, unjust, filthy, ugly, and despicable – if there’s anything reprobate and if there’s any complaining – dwell on these things.” Who would want to do that? I know there are the usual suspects – the Obamas, Rev. Wright, and Jimmy Carter. But I’m talking about normal people. Why would anyone want to dwell on the dark, nasty aspects of life?
Being happy is just as cheap as being miserable. They do not charge positive, bright-side people any more at that gas station than they charge bitter Obama supporters clinging to their victim status and their government cheese. No, everything does not go my way, but it doesn’t go my way whether I’m fretting, miserable, and angry, or whether I’m happy, upbeat and peaceful. The only difference is that in the latter case I’m happy and in the former I’m unhappy.
Maybe it’s like people used to say: “My future’s so bright I have to wear shades”.
The world can be a difficult place and our place in it can be uncertain. We do not have all the answers. Perhaps shading our eyes with a little pessimism takes some of the harshness and contrast out of what we see. We use negative thinking to moderate our losses and hurts and failures. If the thing that happens is not as bad as what we imagined might happen, it may be easier to take.
I suppose that would be all right except that our shades also moderate what is good. Meditating on all the ugly keeps us from look for and seeing the beautiful. We have a better option. Instead of wearing cheap, black frames of pessimism, we can rest our eyes upon the eternal. Put on the sombrero of salvation and crank the front brim down a little.
With an eternal perspective, the pains of this world ease. We realize our losses are not permanent. We understand that life has a purpose beyond life. The beauty in this life is a foretaste of its ideal manifestation in the Real. It brings us joy here and now because it connects us with the eternal. Paul’s admonition is to meditate on those things that will fill us with the light and perfection of the Divine.
We need not burden ourselves with falsehoods, lies and deceptions. We can turn off the evening news. We can read great books and listen to good music. We can find truth in the Bible certainly, but also in the Upanishads, The Silmarillion, or Treasure Island. There is purity in music.
And, of course, there are John Wayne movies.
If you wanted to teach a child about nobility, loyalty and redemption you could do a lot worse than to show them Stagecoach. Who cannot see the beauty in Red River, The Quiet Man or The Searchers? Where in all the world is moral excellence seen if not in Rio Bravo or The Cowboys? Where is honor if not in True Grit?
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Knowing that every action of such an enlightened one is significant, the seeker watched the teacher closely. "Why do you blow on your hands?"
"To warm myself in the cold."
Later, Nasrudin poured bowls of hot soup for himself and the newcomer, and blew on his own. "Why are you doing that, Master?"
"To cool the soup."
Unable to trust a man who uses the same process to arrive at two different results -- hot and cold -- the disciple departed.
For John did not come eating or drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.
Spiritual truth cannot be received by natural minds. The natural man may see the same things and hear the same things as the spiritually alive, but he does not understand its significance. Logic and reason are useless. The blind cannot be argued into sight. The dead cannot be reasoned to life.
It is not surprising, then, that the flatlander finds fault with the ways and words of those who live in other dimensions. Seeing only in the horizontal he cannot comprehend the motivations or the true being of those inhabiting the vertical. It is rather like my cat watching the neighbor drive by with a stock trailer full of cattle. She recognizes the phenomenon. She’s tracking movement, calculating distance and size, but there’s just a whole lot going on that she can never understand.
It’s not that I have a persecution complex as a Christian, but non-believers tend to judge Christians pretty harshly. I have often thought that George W. Bush’s troubles began when he said that Christ had the greatest influence on him because He had changed his life. The left-wing, mostly godless faction in this country pounced on the statement as indicating that Bush was stupid. Atheists assume that they are smarter than theists. That someone would profess a real Christianity is indicative of moronically low intelligence. Never mind that Bush attended Yale and has an MBA, or that he was fighter pilot, the requirements for which probably include an above average intelligence. He is a Christian so any stick may be used to beat him.
“Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
The older versions read more like:
“Yet wisdom is vindicated by her children.”
Jesus was challenging more than one group when He spoke. He was speaking to the godless, of which there were many in His day, to the activists who believed government was the answer, and to the religious who trusted in the institution of religion. Those who don’t believe in anything they can’t see have always been around. Today they would attribute the miracles of Christ to the power of suggestion. They might try to relate His love, compassion, and self-sacrifice to a mutated gene. I’m not sure how they dealt with it back then but they were just as skeptical and just as cynical. There were zealots even among the Disciples who wanted the Kingdom established through the restoration of Israel. They wanted a son of David to sit on a throne in Jerusalem and they looked to Jesus for that. They hated the Romans and wanted the gentile dogs expelled from their country. Then there were the traditionally religious who loved to look down their noses at sinners thinking they served God while hating their neighbors.
He called the skeptical to consider the changed lives that followed in His wake – the broken are made whole, the blind see, and the dead live. He called the subversives to consider the true nature of the Kingdom – it does not come with observation but it is within you. He called the superstitious to look beyond their dogmas – to see that God dwells not in buildings, that His ultimate temple is the human heart.
So, they crucified Him.
As He hung on the cross, they mocked Him. “If you are the Son of God, then come down from the cross now.”
He died in agony.
“Yet wisdom is vindicated by her children.”
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
“I will go further, Polwarth, and say, I would rather die for evermore believing as Jesus believed, than live for evermore believing as those that deny him.” Thomas Wingfold -- George MacDonald
The context of this statement is that the doubting curate, Wingfold, has been mentored by the dwarf Polwarth (you know this is Victorian literature – there has to be a dwarf). He has dealt to some extent with his doubts about Christianity mainly by studying the Gospels and coming to know about the Christ. Focusing on the four Gospels, especially the Gospel of John, was a favorite theme in MacDonald’s writings. He emphasized knowing Jesus directly and believed the narratives of the Evangelists provided the clearest depiction of the Lord, both in terms of His Person as well as His teachings.
The character is still developing. He does not have the faith that gives him rest. Yet he has seen something that pushes him onward. The life of Christ is a life worth living. Everything else is a shadow, a cheap imitation. While Wingfold does not believe that he possesses that life yet and perhaps does not even know that it is his to possess by faith, he sees that it is real life, true and abundant life. He has seen that, apart from Christ, there is nothing of value.
Jesus asked, “What good is it to a man to gain the entire world, yet lose his own soul?” A soul is worth more than the world. The world is temporary, passing away. The soul is infinite and eternal
Rejection of the world’s value system is a necessity for following Christ. We drop all the accretions of Mammon and take up the Cross. In order to do that one must see the beauty of Christ contrasted with one’s own dark, ugly soul. A traveler must understand that not only is there a wrong road but a right one. Moral teaching is good but alone it is inadequate. A man may treat his neighbor decently yet still possess a twisted soul. We don’t need people who merely act better; we need people who are better.
MacDonald’s curate saw the chasm and he believed there was a Bridge, but he had not yet set his foot upon it to test it.
By contrast there are many who deny that the chasm exists or that it is as wide as claimed. They believe it can be traversed by a mere step or, at worst, a Knievel-like leap. A wise man said long ago, “There is a way that seems right to a man but it ends in death.”
Others admit there is a yawning abyss but have no hope of a bridge. Convinced there is no way to cross, they turn away to find something that will deaden a hopeless existence further.
Wingfold eventually moved forward, tried the Bridge and found it would bear the weight. I was talking to my father a week or two back and he spoke of this same point in his own way. He had come to realize where the road led, saw the promise of Life, but was unsure that it could ever be his. Speaking to his friend and pastor, Dad said, “This will run a man crazy.” The preacher replied wisely, “No. It won’t.” Sunday came and Dad listened to another sermon. A few days later, thinking about some statement the preacher had made, he came to that old Bridge and found it more than adequate for the crossing.
I kind of wonder what the old preacher said. I knew him well myself. Dad can’t remember, but it has been many years. It’s likely that it would not have much meaning for anyone else anyway. Old
Monday, June 23, 2008
There is a component to the scientific argument against God that goes like this: religion has been wrong about so many things, and things that religion claimed have been proven wrong by science. Given that some religious claims have been shown to be false, all religious claims will eventually be shown false as science advances.
The first problem with this claim is that most traditional religious teachings of which I am aware make no particular claims about science. The creation stories are not meant to be scientific explanations of creation but are meant to illustrate truths about man, God and the relationship between them. Particularly in the case of the Judeo-Christian Genesis story, the depiction of the process of creation is meant to help us understand the goodness of God, something about His Divine Nature, and man as a special category of the creation. We are told that man was created good and perfect but fell and that God promised to redeem him because the Creator genuinely cares for man and has a purpose for his existence.
Other than the general and -- within the local frame -- correct observation that everything bears offspring after its kind (which we ultimately learn is also a spiritual truth), what statement does religion make about the natural order of things? We are told that man was created from the dust of the earth, just as was every other creature. The difference is that God breathed a spirit life into man and put him in charge of things. Interpreters of religious revelation have from time to time made statements about science but that is not the revelation itself, which says only “in the beginning God created” all that is. The biblical revelation is primarily concerned with a) revealing man to himself and b) revealing God to man. I would question the idea that science has proven any of that to be untrue.
Secondly the theory of evolution is an explanation of how the organisms on the planet have become so diverse, as
Materialists are not satisfied with this, however. The materialist claims that nothing exists except matter and energy, and that all arose, without any reason from some sort of cosmic singularity. As the universe moves from zero or near zero entropy to near infinite entropy in a cold universe, the increasing entropy brings with it increasing degrees of freedom – up to a point. The universe has become, temporarily, less deterministic. For the moment, quantum theory actually works and this allows the organic to arise from the inorganic.
Of course, the materialist can prove none of this. Cosmology has had to add in the twilight zone concept of dark matter and dark energy to get the equations to balance, meaning that – rather than dark matter and energy being real – the equations are probably faulty. But science is pragmatic and will cling to anything that has any predictive value, no matter how localized. Materialists do not know how life began. They cannot create living organisms from inorganic materials. Not only do they not know whether the cat is alive or dead, they cannot even define what they mean by alive or dead in quantitative terms.
“He’s dead, Jim.”
Naturally, that does not stop them from confidently asserting that the answers to the origin of life will be found and it won’t be God.
It is this view that we “supernaturalists” like to call “darwinism”. We use this term specifically to distance the view from legitimate evolutionary theory and natural selection. Darwinism is very much a religious position, though its proponents probably think of themselves as anti-religious. Huxley in his day and Dawkins today see darwinism as a means to usurp God’s place in the universe and replace Him with the impersonal “god of forces” that does not care about man any more than it cares about amoeba. In doing so they attempt to rid themselves of what they perceive as the constraints of religion and moral authority. The anti-God apologists will deny this and claim that we are misrepresenting evolutionary theory. But, again, we are not disputing evolution as such, only the unjustified extrapolations of it.
For this reason we point out the fact that there is much that is unexplained by science and more which will likely never be explained. The materialist, struck at this point, attempts to counter that religion is resorting to a God of the gaps and that science will close the gaps, eventually. For us, of course, there are no gaps. Gaps exist for the materialist looking up, not for the believer viewing things from above. Again, this is why we call it darwinism, for the materialist is actually postulating a “
Saturday, June 21, 2008
“I will deal with them according to their own conduct, and I will judge them by their own standards.” (Ezekiel )
In the last part of that verse the Lord adds, “Then they will know that I am the Lord.”
The Golden Rule is the positive framing of this idea, but neither expression is new. There is something in all of us, unless evil has ground it out, that knows ‘what goes around comes around’. The saints of the New Covenant do not demand justice for we know too well what that means. The Seldom Scene sing, “Oh, Lord, have mercy on my soul. I don’t want to reap what I’ve sown.”
Though man is made in the image and likeness of God, a reflection of the Divine, he is fallen or separated, out of sync with his Creator. There is something in us that is rebellious, that bristles against God. You might not like to call it evil, but it can certainly lead to evil. Samuel told Saul, “Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.”
What is witchcraft? Basically it is manipulation. I’ve met a lot of witches in the pews of churches. We are encouraged to pray for our own needs and to intercede on behalf of others, but prayer is a function of trust and an understanding of God goodness. Religious manipulators seek, as I have said before, to obligate God. Like rebels, religious witches want to enhance their egos and feed the self. They do not realize that self is the wolf that will gnaw their guts in hell.
I wonder if worldly people realize the benefits of living in a western culture shaped by Judeo-Christian values. It is perhaps easier in this age, in this part of the world, to think that people are good and noble, innately kind and generous. Sure, every once in a while we get the wake-up call when some filthy barbarians kill a few thousand of us, but by and large we are lulled by the comfort of our lifestyle into thinking that man is good by nature -- by his animal nature. .
Moral behavior is not innate. It does not arise from the masses to be codified. The great moral principles that govern us come from single points, individual moral geniuses. It almost seems as if they received this insight from somewhere else, and the basic principles are parallel enough that one might think it was from the same place. If the argument is that remote tribe X has a prohibition against murder the same as the Israelites led by Moses, then it is likely that there was a Moses-like leader among the X at some point in their history. In fact the proscription of murder did not come to Moses first but to Noah – or, one might say, to the first murderer, Cain.
The great truths revealed in religious teachings have been incorporated into our culture and we inoculate our children with it. One only has to go to those places in the West infected by some of the more viral strains of Islam to realize how important that vaccination is. But, as a fish does not know it is in water until it is caught, many do not understand that they draw their very lives from the godly values of Western Civilization.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Most of us in the western world live a reasonable comfortable existence. Despite the current fuel prices, we have a great deal of disposable income for new digital cameras, big screen TV’s, cell phones, and mp3 players. For someone sitting in their home theater room or even on their balcony with their favorite beverage a little complacency and self-satisfaction might be understandable.
Material wealth is nice. I’ve been without money and I have had money. Having money is, all other things being equal, better. But often all other things are not equal. How is it that a guy like Hunter Thompson blows his brains out, but some poor old guy in a wheelchair squeaking by on a meager Social Security check toughs it out to the end? How is it that rich men go through women like crap through a goose while some old farmer weeps beside the casket of his wife of sixty years? Why do some people seem at peace with themselves when everything is coming apart around them while others are freaking out or living on Prozac?
Our materialist friends think that this is all there is, and, the more healthy ones at least argue that “this” is enough. The argument is that, qualitatively, there is no difference between the state of mind that is permanently terminated and the state of mind that goes on forever. Eternity is in a moment.
Eternity is in a moment. I have never been comfortable with Pascal’s Wager. I think Pascal was a brilliant man, but possibly he was fooling himself a little with his reasoning. As Lewis says, we need to believe something because it is true. Paul says, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” He was arguing against the idea that the Christ had not been raised from the dead, as some in his day were arguing.
Materialism is hardly a new philosophy. When Jesus walked the earth in His Incarnation, the Sadducees claimed there was no resurrection. Some people only believe in the ephemeral, passing “reality” of this life. When it comes to God and eternity, materialists are Missourians. I think some materialists are honest and really just can’t believe.
What I think many fail to realize is that they do see God.
Consider the world as it was Before Christ.
Consider the world today.
Despite many setbacks and failures, Christ’s promise of a coming kingdom is being fulfilled. God’s revealed moral law has made us better people. The concept of an orderly universe, arising from the mind of the Creator, moved men like
Jesus told His disciples that they would do “greater works” than He had done. He healed the sick, raised the dead, walked on water, and multiplied bread. We often wonder how we would top that -- not realizing that science and technology are God’s gifts to us. Indeed, we speak and mountains move.
Although Christ laid the foundation for the kingdom by reconciling all men to God, He left it for us to advance the kingdom, to expand it. Though we have often misunderstood and gone down wrong roads, the mystic Body of Christ has advanced, almost in spite of ourselves for much of history. The kingdom will be established.
I meant to take another track, but I am out of time.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
We inhabit what is visibly a three-dimensional space plus time. It is almost impossible for us to think concretely in terms of multiple dimensions. God certainly inhabits a multiplicity of dimensions and is outside, or better, transcends the dimension of time. What seems like paradox in the space-time continuum available to our animal senses is not only possible but perhaps even obvious when viewed “from above” in additional dimensions. (And by the way, I wrote this before I read the comment on the Dawkins post.)
Christ is the Vine and I am a branch. I have grapevines growing in my backyard. I do not think, often, of the vine versus the branch. I look at a vine and see a vine. It is only when I need to do some pruning that a branch takes on separate significance. The vine-branch picture is about as good as we can do for showing the relationship.
While the vine could exist of itself and alone, it would be a rather pointless existence. God, alone, is still God, still whole, complete, and real. Yet, because of His very nature, like the vine, He will not exist alone, un-branched, if you will. As the vine will produce branches, so God will produce sons. Like the branch, we are part of Christ, and, just as the branch draws life from the vine, so we live because of the life of Christ flowing through us.
We are “heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ” because all that we are and have comes through the Vine. We are receiving life, abundant life. But what we receive is not for ourselves any more than the branch draws sap for its own growth. We live in order to be the inheritance of God, in order to blossom and produce the fruit which, in turn, contains the seed. We are sons yet we “father” the fruit that spreads the life of God to others.
Natural life is a reflection of the real life of the spirit. Everything producing after its kind, seed-bearing fruit, is a first principle which is related in the opening lines of Genesis. Replicating Himself is one of the things God does. No wonder the materialist finally stumbles upon the truth found in the gene that wants to reproduce itself. The sage won’t chastise him for being a couple of millennia late.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Over on the Mighty One Cosmos, they have been having a pretty intense debate on ID and God versus brain-dead-darwin-explains-everything.
In the course of that I posted that Richard Dawkins is an idiot preaching a reductionist darwinian "gospel". I fail to see how meaninglessness is good news, but whatever.
Ray Ingles said that I should be specific about what I object to in Dawkins' writings or words.
So, I quote from Dawkins in his own words from his own website -- nothing out of context unless he took it out of context himself --
"Most people, I believe, think that you need a God to explain the existence of the world, and especially the existence of life. They are wrong, but our education system is such that many people don't know it."
Aside from the assertion about not needing God, and by implication, having an explanation for everything, the second statement indicates that Dawkins is at best a second-rate thinker. Nothing is taught in our government schools except darwinism. How is it that people don't know it?
"It's been suggested that if the supernaturalists really had the powers they claim, they'd win the lottery every week. I prefer to point out that they could also win a Nobel Prize for discovering fundamental physical forces hitherto unknown to science."
In the face of such a devastating argument what is a “supernaturalist” to say. Kind of like quoting the great physicist Mark Twain to support your position. It’s rather juvenile and indicative of the shallow thinking of materialistic atheists. Aside from the fact that no one who really knows God gives a rip about the lottery, I would guess that if a person did win who claimed to get the numbers from God, Dawkins would say he was delusional. As far as Nobel prizes, since the physical cosmos is a closed system, what “unknown” forces would those be? Oh, wait, like "gravity waves" maybe? Again, if a “supernaturalist” did discover some truth, where would he or she get it published?
Supernatural is, by definition, above nature. We think nature is a valid subject of study, and we respect those who chose to devote themselves to it. The natural world is derived (as Gagdad Bob said on OC) from the Real. The only reason we can understand it is because humans alone on this planet have a mind in touch with the Creator. We can recognize the patterns that exist in nature. We call them laws.
"Certainly I see the scientific view of the world as incompatible with religion, but that is not what is interesting about it. It is also incompatible with magic, but that also is not worth stressing. What is interesting about the scientific world view is that it is true, inspiring, remarkable and that it unites a whole lot of phenomena under a single heading."
Dawkin’s scientism misrepresents religion. Religion per se does not purport to explain what goes on in the natural world except as it is a metaphor for something God does in the human heart. Science is limited exclusively to the natural world by definition. It deals with God's creation in a reductionist, sometime useful way, but not with God. And, contrary to Dawkins worthless, groundless assertion elsewhere, the existence of God is not a scientific question. I don't need to present an argument to the contrary since any gratuitous assertion can be gratuitously refuted.
"What are all of us but self-reproducing robots? We have been put together by our genes and what we do is roam the world looking for a way to sustain ourselves and ultimately produce another robot child."
But Dawkins, et al, are not reductionists? "We are put together by our genes." Right. That is a very cheap, disingenuous out. Oh, sure, if pressed they would explain that they really meant something else, but they will never specify what that is. In effect, the reductionist removes God and replaces Him with genes. But, of course, the genes do not have a will so it is misleading to say “put together by”. They are really trying to get around the awful chasm of chance and the obvious non-directional nature of randomness.
Dawkins calls us robots. We are all animals -- to put it another way (“we are apes,” he says in another quote) -- living meaningless, pointless lives whose sole purpose is to spread our individual DNA. All the "higher" (I put it in quotes in deference to the reductionists) elements of human life can be explained as enhancements to survival and reproduction.
Then I say, "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die." I suppose the argument is that spreading DNA would be a "meaning", but we all know in a few million years, more or less, the sun is going to flare up and wipe out all higher life and eventually earth will be nothing but a charred ball. Even if we evolved to escape that, there is the inevitable heat death of the whole cosmos. In the end Dawkins' life has counted for nothing, but he will be long dead and senseless, so he doesn't care. In fact, at his age, I would suggest he has nothing further to contribute in terms of DNA so ...
According to Dawkins, God is completely unnecessary as an explanation. Obviously, then, Dawkins can explain in detail, not only the origins of life, but the origins of the universe, the origins of consciousness and the "software" that runs the brain, and everything else.
Pardon me, but where I come from we have a word for that: bullshit.
To the extent that Dawkins is an expert in his field -- zoology, I respect his insights. Beyond that, it's just idle ramblings. The truth is that science gets itself a lot of good press as it claims to discover the secrets of existence. Science has documented many of patterns and mechanisms in nature. For most of the twentieth century men thought they could create artificial life. They have not. There have certainly been advances in the understanding of genetics and DNA and the techniques for manipulating existing genetic material and there may be more. That is not the same as creating life. They split the atom but they can't control fusion. Drugs have adverse reactions. Artificial Intelligence is still a long way off. Subatomic physics and astrophysics becomes increasingly bizarre -- one might even say meaningless. Climate change is now a joke. Science knows how to market and promote in order to keep the grant money rolling in, but actually producing anything of value is different. Almost every new, highly-touted technology either fails to pan out or creates more problems than it solves. I don't hear "better living through chemistry" much any more. I will go so far as to predict that in ten years (2018), we will have discovered that gene-splicing was probably a bad idea and that cloned humans cannot survive.
There are a number of quotes that denigrate and misrepresent religion and people like me. We are ignorant, uneducated, uncritical in our thinking, etc. A couple of years ago, Dawkins did an interview with salon in which he says that there is evidence suggesting the more intelligent someone is, the more likely they are to be atheist.
Doesn't sound like Gagdad Bob or any of the regular coons on One Cosmos.
For that matter, I am perhaps more intelligent than the average person. I solve difficult, high-level problems for a living. I am also smart enough to know that even Dawkins has to make a living. He does so by popularizing some scientific and more pseudo-scientific theories, and the more controversy and interest he can stir up, the more money he makes. It appears to me that it is Dawkins' own intellect that is fairly narrow. He may be a glib, clever and entertaining writer but that is not the same as having a great mind. Much of his work is simply pandering to the atheist audience in
Monday, June 16, 2008
“In one respect at least the Martians are a happy people; they have no lawyers.” – Edgar Rice Burroughs A Princess of Mars
In Luke 11, Jesus confronted the Pharisees and called them out. He accused them of neglecting the important aspects of life and being concerned with appearances and the praise of men. One of the experts in the Law, likely a Levite, complained that when Jesus attacked the Pharisees on these grounds, He insulted the lawyers as well. The Lord did not apologize. Instead He unleashed a fresh assault: Woe to you experts in the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge! You don’t go in yourselves and you have hindered those who were going in (Luke ).
So what is the “key of knowledge”? First, we know those who were experts in the Law had access to it. We know that by their interpretation of the Law and by their teaching, they had “taken it away”. Further, we know that, though they possessed it, or could have, they had no intention of using it. Then, too, we can surmise that some people did want to enter into knowledge, and they might have been able to do so, except the lawyers hindered them.
I suppose we should first determine what is meant by “knowledge”. It cannot be the simple, factual knowledge of what was written in the Law and the Prophets for Israelites were educated in the written word from childhood. Perhaps we are talking about a deeper, revelation knowledge. In fact, I believe Jesus is referring primarily to Himself, the Logos to Whom the logos points. Hebrews tells us that Jesus it the final and ultimate revelation of God to man. This revelation of Christ is said to be “veiled” in the Old Testament, but the references to a Prophet, a King, and a Servant are there. After the Resurrection, on the road to Emmaus, Jesus “opened to them the Scriptures” and interpreted the Old Testament revelation to His followers.
The teaching of the experts did allow for a new king in the line of David and for a restoration of the
In a sense both the knowledge and the Key to knowledge is Christ. The Incarnation gives us full knowledge of God, the complete revelation, but you can only have that knowledge if you believe in Christ. I think it would be appropriate to say the Key to that full knowledge is faith – believing Jesus is the God-Man, the Second Man, the Last Adam.
It says “In Adam all died, so in Christ all will be made alive.” Yet we are participants, by faith in the death of Christ as well. We have been crucified with Him, buried with Him and raised with Him. We now walk in new life – all by faith. All that was of the First Adam is dead and gone. Now we are the branches and Christ is the Vine. His life flows through us. In a very real sense, He lives through us for it is through us that He touches the material world. Obviously Jesus is alive as a transcendent Being in Heaven, yet He is here, dwelling in the hearts of believers, speaking to them and through them. He still heals the sick and sets the captive free by way of His mystic union with the righteous who live by faith.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day rejected Him, even though they could have known, perhaps even did know in many cases that He was the Messiah. They could have used the key – the Scriptures they so venerated testified of Jesus as the Christ. Yet they, for the most part, refused. They left it for the poor, for sinners and tax-collectors and ultimately the nations, the Gentiles, to enter the kingdom, but even then, they used their knowledge to hinder those who would believe. I sometimes wonder as I wander from church to church, how many churches, ministers, and organizations are opening the door to God and how many are blocking it, or even nailing it shut.
When the Apostle John speaks of the anti-christ in his first Epistle (see 1 John 2:18-23), he says there many antichrists. "Christ" is a transliterated Greek word that has a parallel meaning to the Hebrew word transliterated as "Messiah". It's all about the Anointed One, the Lord's Anointed.
An antichrist is more than just someone who denies Christ, it is one who, we might say, has a fake anointing. In the Old Testament there were false prophets who had all the accoutrements of a true prophet. In the New Testament, Peter warns against the "false teachers" of his day (2 Peter 2:1-3). Whenever there is something real, almost always there will arise a counterfeit -- especially if there is a buck to be made.
People who call Obama an antichrist are not far off. He is a counterfeit, anointed with snake-oil. He is too petty and certainly too obvious to be the Anti-Christ, who, depending on one's eschatology, might indeed show up one day.
Truly, politicians are by nature false prophets, not unlike those lamented by Jeremiah in the opening quote. This is because it is considered unwise in the world system to tell your constituency that they are, for example, a brood of vipers, even if your Congressional District includes Madison, Wisconsin.
The Lord explained to the Israelites the Prophet Test. There is one question. Did what the guy say was going to happen actually happen? If it did, he is a True Prophet. If not, stone him. It's an early version of pass/fail grading, no curve. Don't you wish that was still in effect?
Sometimes, though, the prophecies of True Prophets had an escape clause. It generally went like this: your sin is about to cause [insert catastrophic evil event] to happen to you, but if you will repent, you will be spared. Jonah, the original Soggy Bottom Boy, knew about the escape clause when he was called to go to Ninevah, and he did not want to give the Ninevites a chance to exercise it. He wanted to see Ninevah wiped out because he knew that at a point in the future the Assyrians would destroy the northern kingdom of Israel for the sins of Samaria. He speculated that if the Assyrian Empire were to be nipped in the bud then they wouldn't be around to do the job.
For a True Prophet Jonah might have been a little myopic (after all he didn't see how that boat ride would turn out). Surely the Lord could have caused some other nation to rise up and execute His judgment on the wayward. Perhaps Jonah just did not like Ninevah. I mean it could have been like an early proto-Cleveland. Who could blame him if that were case?
So, one of the signs of a True Prophet is revealing person's guilt to him. Nathan did this with David when he proclaimed, "Thou art the man." The prophet reveals guilt, not to gloat, but to show the person or the nation how far they have deviated from truth and righteousness. It is the first step in calling someone to get back to the right path.
Sometimes the only thing we can do is repent, but it is always the first thing we must do.
Restoration is not a big deal with God. First, all sin has already been dealt with on the Cross. We don't need to agonize over it. I don't want to make this too flippant. I once lost my temper and it got me into a lot of trouble. Perhaps I should clarify by saying I have, I regret to admit, lost my temper many times. One time it got me in a lot of trouble. Anyway, I remained angry and (the bad part) unrepentant for months. It began to wear me down. I became depressed and hopeless. In addition to being my usual irritable, smart-ass self, I was miserable. Finally, I broke down, confessed my condition to God and repented. In seconds, in less time than I can tell it, all that was gone. God did not hold it over my head. He did not withhold His presence. He did not accept me with qualifications. He just took it all away right there. Jesus had borne it. Why was I carrying it around? My self-imposed, self-righteous, arrogant, indignant suffering had been for naught.
Even in the Lament of the Weeping Prophet, the Lord reveals that His purpose in bringing us to repentance is our own ultimate good. Would a God with a different agenda have emptied Himself and condescended to come down into this dark world to die for us? He only calls to us to remember who we are and to listen to the voice that says, “This is the way. Walk ye in it.”
Sunday, June 15, 2008
I heard something the other night that just astonished me. Some Christian leaders were talking about abortion, the Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade, etc. The topic of the “right to privacy” came up and these Christians unanimously upheld the idea that not only is there not a right to privacy in the Constitution, but a right to privacy is not even a desirable thing and would have been opposed by the Founding Fathers.
I’m afraid I called bravo sierra on that one. While I agree that the right to privacy is not explicitly enumerated as is freedom of speech, assembly, religion, and the right to possess military weapons, I believe it is a fundamental aspect of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. Further I think the Founders’ assertion of freedom of religion is tantamount to an endorsement of the right to privacy.
Abortion should be opposed on moral and scientific grounds. The beginning of life deserves a scientific definition. It is a biological fact, or should be. Politics should not enter into it. A new, separate individual life begins at conception. Many things may happen along the way to prevent that life from developing fully and completely, but abortion should not be one of those things. The moral argument is simply that once a life has begun, it should be protected. If a woman does not wish to have a baby, there is at least one fool-proof way to avoid it. That’s where “choice” should end. As it is, terminating a human life is a money-maker for abortion clinics. For the careless and imprudent, abortion is last-resort birth control. In any case, it is not up to the federal government to handcuff the states in this matter. If
We’ve had far too many of our rights eroded by do-gooders ignoring that most basic of laws – the law of unintended consequences. Because Bonnie and
Arguing against privacy is a wrong road, especially for the religious. There are way too many government agencies nosing in my business as it is. I don’t want the government to have access to my medical records. I hate the fact that I have to report all my financial information to the IRS. I actually happen to agree with the leftists who oppose further inroads into privacy by bureaucrats, but I won’t take them seriously until they join me in wanting the IRS abolished. If we were to go to a simpler, less-intrusive system like the Fair Tax, it would be a huge boon to privacy. The IRS started it, the War on Drugs exacerbated it, and now the War on Terror threatens to make us all criminals for paying with cash. Believe me, the government would be a lot less interested in “money laundering” if they were getting their revenue off sales rather than income.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Most people attempt to live the Christian life ass-backwards. I should know. That's certainly how I did it. A few years ago Larry Crabb wrote a book called "Inside Out". If someone runs across it, it is not a bad read, but all a person really needs to know is in the title.
Christ always works from the inside out. In the quote above the emphasis is on "thoughts and feelings and judgments" -- all internal processes. If I can get my thoughts in line with God's will, I have made a huge move in the right direction. No alteration of behavior is possible without, at a minimum, the decision to try to do right. That's what the Bible means by repentance -- change your mind: metanoia.
Esau despised his birthright, but later wished to inherit the blessing. Speaking of this in Hebrews 12:17, it says, "...he was rejected because he didn't find any opportunity for repentance, though he sought it with tears." In Wuest's expanded translation, he uses the old King James phrase "place of repentance", then puts in brackets, "room to repent". Esau could find no space to turn around. I picture someone crawling through a very tight tunnel. It makes me a little claustrophobic just thinking about it.
But let me change the picture slightly. Now the tunnel is not quite so tight and the only reason the person can't turn around is that he or she is wearing a huge backpack and those long, funky clown shoes. It is obvious to the person that he has taken the wrong turn. To turn around and get to safety, all he has to do is get out from under the backpack and lose the shoes. Simple enough. The shoes are awkward and uncomfortable, and the backpack contains nothing but heavy, worthless junk.
I suspect Esau could have turned around but he was looking for an opening big enough to turn around with his pack. That's what he couldn't find. He wanted to turn around yet retain his bag, though its contents were worthless. He wanted to hang on to his bitterness, resentment and his victim status. He wanted everyone to know how he had been wronged and swindled. He wanted people to tell him what a dirty deal he had gotten.
The reason the road to hell is paved with good intentions rather than self-pity: sooner or later people drop their good intentions but they carry their self-pity all the way.
Conversely, if we are willing to change our thinking around to match God's eventually the externals follow the inner man. We are to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all the external stuff will be added as we go along.
It all starts, really, with a single point of desire. John 7:17 begins, "If anyone wants to do His will, he will understand...". If I just want to do the will of God, understanding and everything else will flow from that point, like a river being born as a tiny spring.
For most of us, that's the very trouble. Many call themselves Christians and fill church buildings regularly who want God to do their will. They do all manner of things they think are "religious" in order to manipulate God, to put Him under obligation to them. If it were not so pathetic it would be laughable. Meanwhile, they remain unchanged in their thinking, feeling and judgment, still trying to crawl through the wrong tunnel with their burdens.
I don't have a "life verse". Speaking strictly for myself I don't get the concept. I suppose if I were forced to pick a single verse from the Bible that sort of epitomizes my view of life, I might pick Romans 12:2 -- "Do not be conformed to this age [world], but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God."
There is a kind of feedback loop to thinking and action. That's why I put more emphasis on the desire to do God's will. The "want to" is the pivot point, the ground for the feedback circuit. Doing right will start you thinking right and thinking right will start you doing right. And the more you do right, the more you think right. And the more you think right, the more right you will do.
It works the same in the negative, but we'll let that alone.
The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy: For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment (2 Timothy 1:7 CSV).
How can I call myself a Christian and harbor fear? Can fear and faith co-exist? While “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” and the Lord knows we could use a little wisdom in this country, fear of anything else is dangerous.
My Pentecostal and Charismatic friends used to spend an inordinate amount of time on the devil. They feared the devil. They would bind him and cast him out and rebuke him. They were always blaming the devil for any bad thing that happened. “My car quit. It’s just that old devil attacking me.”
Maybe it was the fact you hadn’t changed your oil since the Carter Administration.
Truthfully, a Christian should be wary of his adversary, but the enemy works largely by deception, either of the Christian himself or of those with whom we come in contact. There are a whole passel of people out there, many in church every Sunday, who are deluded and blinded by the prince of this world and his system. The deceived are pawns that the enemy uses to sidetrack us, and to create fear in us.
Resist fear. Fear feeds the devil.
“If you don’t stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” (Isaiah 7:9)
If I could offer people one simple thought that will make their lives better, it would be that one: Stand firm in your faith. It doesn’t sound like all that much, but it is a first principle.
Faith is the only refuge against fear. Fear is the natural state, the natural reaction of the natural man. Fear deceives us. It causes us to over-react, to act in haste, to strike preemptively, to hurt someone else before they hurt us. Fear causes us to miss opportunities. Fear causes us to withdraw into ourselves instead of reaching out in love to others.
“Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. Stand therefore...” (Ephesians 6:11-14a)
See, God has given us a spirit of power, love and good judgment. He has, or will if we ask, give us wisdom. We have all we need to overcome and to remain faithful despite all the stuff that comes against us day by day. You don’t believe it?
I am reminded of Yoda – and this is a rough quote from memory, “There is no try. There is only do or not do.”
You don’t try to believe. You don’t try to have faith. You just have faith, or you don’t. You just believe it, or you don’t. Stop letting fear rule your life. Stop living in disobedience to the leading of the Spirit. Stop doing wrong out of fear.
How many times have I told myself that my worry is just a function of being prudent and thoughtful? Wrong. Fretting is sin. It is disbelieving the goodness, the nearness, the truth of God. Worrying and being agitated and fearful inevitably cause harm.
I have this quote but I don’t have it referenced. It sounds like George MacDonald.
“The man who goes to church every Sunday, and yet trembles before Chance, is a Christian in name only, a Christian only because Christ has claimed him. He is not a Christian as having believed in Him.”
That’s a good summation.
You love the Lord and stand in awe of Him (i.e., fear Him) or you fear circumstances and chance, devils and democrats – but I repeat myself.
He ain’t called the ALL Mighty for nothing.
Don’t fear a “lesser god” – whatever name it goes by.
These things you fear are not gods at all. They are, at most, created beings. More often, they are merely the delusions of the darkness. Shine the light of God’s reality and love upon them and they either dissolve entirely or are shown for the minor annoyances that they are.
Fear not. Only believe.