Forum Replies Created
Sid (short for Siddhartha?),
I don’t see how Paul’s teaching and the Buddha’s (as quoted by Roberts) can be equated. If anything, they seem to be the exact opposite.
Roberts is contrasting the “no-ego” perspective (destroying the old house of “ego” and building a new house) from the no-self perspective (destroying the old house and not building anything new, but just experiencing existence without a house, so to speak). Paul’s teaching is very much in line with the no-ego, new self perspective rather than the no-ego, no-self one.
Roberts wrote: In the same verse he says, “Again a house thou shall not build,” clearly distinguishing this experience from the falling away of the ego-center, after which a new, transformed self is built around a “true center,” a sturdy, balanced ridgepole.
So Paul is teaching a new, transformed self, which can be clearly distinguished from the Buddha’s “a house thou shall not build” teaching. Our old house is broken down by God’s grace, and the new house is established with Christ as its foundation (by faith). Then, although we are saved, we should attempt to build upon that foundation with righteous works, which will be “tested by fire” to reveal what they truly are. If they are merely superficial works, then we are only saved as one “escaping through the flames”.
OK, well I’m happy to see Roberts say Christian literature does not teach a “no-self” understanding.
In opposition to the Buddha’s saying, we get this from Paul:
1Corinthians3 wrote: By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
We don’t eliminate the “foundation” and “house” that are our lives, but we BUILD upon the foundation that Christ has laid.
gurusid wrote: This actually parallels the economic position of TAE; they are using an experiential account of an economic reality i.e. Predatory Elitism and Deflationary Depression that the Churches of economics have no description of.
I guess you could say that. Although, TAE relies heavily on the academic work of Dr. Keen and his analysis of the debt deflationary theories of Irving Fisher, John Keynes and Hyman Minsky. Sometimes, “experiential accounts” are not enough… and we need to get into the raw hard data.
Well, I called JMG out on his irresponsible caricature of conservative Christians as “anti-science” and his blind dogmatic faith in neo-Darwinian evolution.
He responded by saying I was using “dubious stunts”, then by comparing me to Richard Dawkins (?) and finally banned me for telling him to remember the spirit of Matthew 7:5 (don’t hypocritically judge others). Never once did I get a response from him containing a hint of substance or a genuine desire to dialogue with those who would dare question his arguments.
That forum is the quintessential breeding ground for egotistical groupthink…
gurusid post=7717 wrote: Hi Ashvin,
I was making the point of how ‘Empires’ – that is structures of power and politics (as Ilargi has alluded to above) usurp the ‘spiritual’ impulse (which is internal) to its own ends which is dominion over the external manifest material world and increasingly throughout history the internal world as well. Judaism was not to my knowledge usurped by an Empire as its own doctrine, unless you want to include ‘international banking’ :dry:
Yes, but you implied the formation of empire and “usurpation” occurred around the same time these major spiritual worldviews formed, which also implies there is a connection there. I pointed out that, even if that holds true for other spiritual worldviews (debatable), the Judeo-Christian tradition is unique in this regard. They both formed independently and in stark contrast to the ruling powers of their day. We know that because of another unique aspect of Judeo-Christian theology, it’s heavy reliance on historical reality (more on that below)
Your ‘focus’ on someone called ‘Jesus’ and ‘His’ – ‘His-story’ misses entirely the deeper points about the internal spiritual path. You might as well join Viscount at the ballpark. Don’t get me wrong, I am not questioning your faith, just where it is focused.
I understand, and I am questioning your misguided (IMO) theological perspective of Christianity, in which an artificial congruency with Eastern philosophy/religion is imposed on it. A Christian theology that doesn’t focus on Jesus as a historical human being, what he said and did, his death and Resurrection, is COMPLETELY missing the point. In fact, we are told by Paul that if Jesus has not been raised, the entire faith is meaningless. This is a common theme of both Judaism and Christianity – theological reliance on historical events. The exodus, for ex, is a major point of intersection for the former and the latter. But there are obviously many more examples.
Bernadette Roberts is a modern mystic who IMHO exemplifies the internal path that is the same for all humans, even if it has different ‘histories’ and frameworks:
This is a case in point of how badly we can misconceive Christianity as a worldview when we ignore the person of Jesus and the historical reality surrounding him. Her view is contrary to most of the objective evidence we have about what Jesus taught to his disciples. He was a Jew who came from an orthodox Jewish tradition and claimed to be the Messianic fulfillment of the Jewish prophets and law. He constantly references the clearly monotheistic Old Testament in his discourses, but never once references any Eastern philosophical or religious traditions. He does teach a “no-ego” ethic, as did the Jewish tradition before him, but he never once teaches a “no-self” perspective. Instead, he constantly makes distinctions between people and reinforces the concept of personhood, even WITHIN the Godhead.
I’m no expert, but I’m pretty familiar with mystical perspectives on Christianity, since they are so commonly used as a critique of the historical Christian faith… not a single one stacks up against the objective evidence we have supporting a traditional perspective of Christian theology within the early Church. And, in the modern era, the discovery of new manuscripts, advances in the fields of history, archaeology, science, etc. have only improved the historical reliability of these so-called “myths” or “allegories” found in the Bible.
And her freinds page is interesting too.
The point is that modern economics and finance are so totally removed from any consideration of selflessness and the common good, yet alone the spiritual inner path that it is a joke when members of this ‘caste’ babble on about philanthropy (Gates Foundation anyone? In the future you won’t own your food, just the ‘right to use it’, and ‘we’ will upgrade it without prior notification – aka the Microsoft model writ large). Their whole world revolves around the ‘ego’. Truly it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter into heaven… :dry:
That is true, but it is the historical reality of Jesus that really stresses this point and makes it meaningful in the Christian faith. If his life, ministry, death and Resurrection were just more fanciful stories aimed at making some larger, abstract metaphysical point, we would be justified is dismissing the whole thing as dishonest, misleading and flat out wrong. If not, then we see a powerful and moving example of a real human being who was completely selfless and faithful to moral virtues, and through his love and grace created the potential for all human beings to truly transform the world.
…Christianity which was
But the Christian Bible, written from around 100 CE to 323 CE then further censored and modified by the First Council of Nicaea and subsequent Councils)
This claim is not supported by the evidence. The Council of Nicaea had nothing to do with the Biblical canon, and a lot to do with the nature of the Trinity, i.e. is Jesus co-equal and co-eternal with God the Father or a divine, yet created being?
A number of erroneous views have been stated regarding the council’s role in establishing the biblical canon. In fact, there is no record of any discussion of the biblical canon at the council at all. The development of the biblical canon took centuries, and was nearly complete (with exceptions known as the Antilegomena, written texts whose authenticity or value is disputed) by the time the Muratorian fragment was written.
In terms of when the NT was actually written, we know for sure that John’s gospel, generally considered the latest NT writing, was no later than the early 2nd century, most likely the late 1st century.
Politics in its broadest sense is simply decisions on how relationships of power should be structured and how power should be allocated among people. You can have politics among friends and family, and certainly among a Church or Temple as well.
gurusid wrote: This pseudo-spirituality of some force ‘out there’ or ‘in the future’ (salvation anyone? Heaven? How about growth or ‘better’ living standards?) is a mask all religions use to hide their real raison d’etre which is one of control and subjugation which is but a function of civilisation itself especially in the form of Empire. It is no coincidence that the rise of all major religions coincided with the rise of empire: Brahmanism (Hinduism) with its caste system (the most blatant and open of control systems – your position in society is down to your previous life…) Ashoka, Emperor of the Mauryan Empire who converted to Buddhism (the core teaching amazingly survived); Christianity which was ‘Remodelled’ by Emporer Constantine (it evolved from a cult of Mithras’ that was popular with the ‘military’) and turned the fading secular Empire into the reborn ‘Holy Roman Empire’; and not forgetting Islam, itself the product of the rise of the Arab Nation in the 7th Century as Persia and Rome’s influence declined. – See more at: https://theautomaticearth.com/index.php?option=com_kunena&func=post&do=reply&catid=15&id=7705&Itemid=96#sthash.dDFoT2CN.dpuf
How about Judaism?
This is why I say we cannot separation Christianity from Christ. The term “Christian” itself was a derogatory label placed onto people who confessed absolute loyalty to and worship of Jesus, as they were heavily persecuted by the Empire.
Most scholars agree the entirety of the New Testament canon was complete before the end of the 1st century, and there is solid evidence for even earlier dating than that which is generally accepted. These are the writings which give us our knowledge about Jesus and who he claimed to be (the Christ and, moreover, God himself). They also expound on the theological implications of such a claim arising out of a Jewish context.
Jesus and the early apostles/disciples were smack dab in the middle of a Pharisaical perversion of Judaism on the one hand, and an imperial Caesar cult on the other. Far from being “secular”, the Caesars claimed to have divine authority, with Nero Caesar the most divinely deluded of them all and perhaps the most brutal source of persecution for early Christians. We have to remember these early Christians came from and operated in a Jewish context.
Typical Jewish “revolutionaries” of that time, as in recent times, would be those who organized and used force to fight off the pagan imperial hordes and reestablish dominance in Judea, and God willing, the entire world. The ideal was very much enmeshed in religious justifications for materialistic dominance, just as we have seen in atheistic justifications for similar dominance by “Marxist” or “socialist” revolutionaries. In STARK contrast, Jesus told his disciple Simon Peter to put DOWN his sword when he attempted to attack the Roman soldiers who were there to arrest his Master.
“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” Matthew 26:52
He was counter-cultural, counter-religious and counter-“revolutionary” in so many ways. His early followers very much continued on in that legacy. So like I said earlier, I don’t think it is fair or coherent to lump Christianity, in any meaningful sense of that word, into the camp of all other religions (I prefer the term “spiritual worldviews”). It was only at the end of the 4th century that Roman “Christianity” became the official state religion, under the reign of the last emperor to rule over an undivided Empire.
Very true. ALL worldviews involve philosophical presupposition, established dogma and faith, whether they are “religious” or “non-religious”, which are terms representing a dualistic mindset that has only recently (relative to human history) started to make any “sense” to even think and talk about.
The Judeo-Christian tradition is rather unique in that it does not attempt to make any artificial distinction between money, politics, etc. and faith, but rather explain how the former is inextricably linked to the latter. Where we put our faith is a question of vital importance in all spheres of human society.
Personally, I think it neither fair nor logically coherent to talk about Christianity in terms of anything other than the teachings of Christ. But that’s what a large segment of Western society does, such as the politicians, bankers, etc. who call themselves Christian and simultaneously promote the Church and grandiose symbols of wealth. In the end analysis, they are simply using the former as a means to embrace the latter, and that is decidedly UN-biblical and ANTI-Christian.
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 6:24
So, assuming this love for our children thing is valid, why is it that we burden the children we apparently love so much with these endless heaps of waste left over from our activities, many of which have nothing to do with our survival as such? At best it’s a strange way of showing our love, at worst it looks more like the exact opposite of love. If mere survival was the goal, we could take it a lot easier, put on an extra sweater, walk to the store, that basic sort of thing, and build our communities to fit that kind of lifestyle.
Humans may be similar to other animals in many ways, but we have a unique capacity for Good and Evil. The latter is clearly seen in the ways we have tortured and exterminated millions of our fellow humans through genocide, but also in the more subtle ways Ilargi has outlined here. It is the kind of selfish Evil that goes beyond any Darwinian biological explanation. At the end of the day, though, we DO have a capacity for selfless love, also unique, and how much of that we can muster to reflect in our lives, families and communities is what will count.
When God Sent Forth His Spirit
Posted on January 10, 2013 by Brother of Sorrow
“This gulf in understanding [life’s origin] is not merely ignorance about certain technical details, it is a major conceptual lacuna” – Paul Davies, Physicist
“It would be a miracle if a strand of RNA ever appeared on the primitive Earth” -Leslie Orgel, OOL Researcher
“Terrestrial explanations [for homochirality] are impotent and nonviable” – William Bonner, Organic Chemist
“But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
or the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish of the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every creature
and the breath of all mankind.”
“O LORD, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom have you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
Here is the sea, great and wide,
which teems with creatures innumerable,
living things both small and great.
There go the ships,
and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.
These all look to you,
to give them their food in due season.
When you give it to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die
and return to their dust.
When you send forth your Spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.”
Since the time of Darwin, many people have replaced what their minds and hearts tell them with what popular culture advertises to them. There is no better venue for Western pop culture then the public school. Darwinian evolution is presented to children as fact instead of theory, complete with cartoons of knuckle-dragging apes becoming upright human beings. Very few people stop to question the dogma of biological evolution, asking whether the increasingly abundant evidence actually supports or undermines the theory. The more we learn about the realm of life, the more enigmas develop for natural explanations of its origin and development.
Many theists (especially Christians) have adopted evolution as God’s method of creation, because they think a) scientific evidence supports evolution and b) it will make the faith more popular and easier to accept. Yet the Bible is clear that the truth is what’s most important, as revealed through scripture. And scripture minces no words when describing God’s direct creation of life on this planet over four progressive ages (days 3-6), resting from creation in our ongoing seventh age. A lot of important theology actually rests on creationism – for example, the concept that humans are unique in kind from the rest of the animal kingdom and created with the imago dei or “image of God”.
Although people have learned to automatically associate a progression of simple-to-complex life on Earth over billions of years with Darwinian evolution, the fact is that this scenario exactly parallels the Biblical accounts of progressive creation by God, and these accounts were constructed thousands of years ago. The existence of all these different living organisms is one of the most powerful testaments to the existence of an intelligent and personal God. If there were no supreme intelligence, or divinity took the form of some impersonal force, we would not expect to observe such methodically and exquisitely crafted beings on this planet, which reflect all the tell-tale signs of creative design that we observe in human civilization.
Only the Church and the Candy Cane
Posted on December 24, 2012 by Brother of Sorrow
An interesting thing happened after I was brought into the Christian faith – I began to view the Christmas holidays with a lot of skepticism. Instead of looking forward to presents, parties, skiing trips, obscenely large meals and festive holiday cheer, like I did when I was agnostic, I began to ask questions about what it is we are actually celebrating. Too many Christians cling onto cultural traditions without critically examining them and making the appropriate sacrifices when those traditions fall short of Christian ideals. We are steeped in the practices of this world and we are afraid of what other people will think about us if we take a few step backs from the world. Yet, as Christians, the only thing that should truly matter is how we appear before God and no one else.
Christmas is allegedly a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. However, there is absolutely nothing in scripture that suggests Jesus was born in Winter, let alone on December 25. Scripture does give us plenty of clues to suggest that Jesus was born in the Fall season, though, most likely during the month of September. Does that mean we should switch Christmas celebrations to a September date? No, not at all. Paul relates to us that Jesus told his disciples to honor his death through communion, signifying God’s new covenant with humanity, not his birth (1 Corinthians 11:23-27). It is important to know Jesus’ birthday in order to destroy the currently ingrained myth of Christmas. Here are some evidences for a September birth:
Posted on December 20, 2012 by Brother of Sorrow
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.” -John Newton
A hallmark of human history, and especially our world today, is people pointing their fingers at other people. No one is immune from it. The democrats point at the republicans, the progressives at the conservatives, the socialists at the capitalists, the debtors at the creditors, the conspiracy theorists at the bankers and governments, the theists at the atheists, and vice versa, so on and so forth. It is an endless cycle of finding some alleged ignoramuses or agitators or elitists or sociopaths to blame. Where does any of that pointing get us? Does it bring us any satisfaction or any closer to the truth of our situation? Any closer to the solutions for our human predicament?
Jesus certainly knew better than that. His teachings revolutionized how people thought about sin, human nature, God and salvation. Instead of people pointing the finger at the sinners “over there”, he showed us that God wants us to help our fellow brothers and sisters by pointing the finger at ourselves. Instead of people toiling away to reach God through their rituals and works, he showed us that God will sacrifice for us out of pure love and bring us to him. Instead of people being redeemed through their legalistic loyalty or obedience to others, he showed us that we are redeemed by his amazing grace and by that grace alone. We find these revolutionary concepts captured brilliantly in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son.December 15, 2012 at 12:57 am in reply to: The Automatic Earth presents a brand new Nicole Foss 4 DVD set #6572
Was the envelope still sealed when you got it?
I remember the batch I sent yours out in, but I can’t imagine I sent out any empty ones.
Anyway, sorry about that, and I will ship you another one promptly.
Posted on December 13, 2012 by Brother of Sorrow
One of my favorite podcasted pastors is Timothy Keller of Presbyterian Redeemer Church in New York City. In his sermon “arguing about politics“, he points out that Jesus not only revolutionized contemporary conceptions of god, sin and salvation, but he also “revolutionized revolutions“. What does that mean? Well, a lot of Christians like to ask “what would Jesus do?”, as in who or what would he support in modern times, but Jesus himself refused to make such simplistic political commitments. We see a brilliant example of this when Jesus is confronted by the disciples of the Pharisees who were sent to trap him into a political quandary.
Absolute Truth and Freedom
Posted on December 4, 2012 by Brother of Sorrow
In Our Lord’s Discipline and Punishment, I talked about Michel Foucault’s theory of disciplinary societies and how there is no escaping some form of discipline and punishment in human civilization. The only thing that must be considered is whether we are coerced into the world’s materialistic disciplinary system, many times unaware that we are even within its grasp, or whether we are voluntarily and knowingly submitting to God’s spiritual discipline and justice. Another aspect of Foucault’s work was his emphasis on the intersection between truth and power or oppression:
“Truth is a thing of this world: it is produced only by virtue of multiple forms of constraint. And it induces regular effects of power. Each society has its regime of truth, its ‘general politics’ of truth: that is, the types of discourse which it accepts and makes function as true; the mechanisms and instances which enable one to distinguish true and false statements, the means by which each is sanctioned; the techniques and procedures accorded value in the acquisition of truth; the status of those who are charged with saying what counts as true” (Foucault, Truth and Power, p.131)
Foucault was a great admirer of Friedrich Nietzsche, from whom he derived many ideas about the nature of truth and power in human society. Nietzsche saw claims to “absolute truth” as being a means for those making the claims to exert control over large groups of people and exploit them for personal gain. He viewed “absolutism” as nothing more than the ideological mechanism through which certain people express their “will to power” at the expense of others.
“What then is truth? A movable host of metaphors, metonymies, and anthropomorphisms: in short, a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred, and embellished, and which, after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical, and binding. Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions — they are metaphors that have become worn out and have been drained of sensuous force, coins which have lost their embossing and are now considered as metal and no longer as coins.” (Nietzsche, On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense)
We also find this theme of truth claims and oppressive power embedded in the teachings of Jesus Christ, as recorded by the Gospel accounts. Jesus repeatedly castigated the Sagisees and Pharisees of his day, who had upheld themselves as the sole arbiters of God’s truth and used their religious traditions as a means of greed and oppression, rather than a means of faithful worship. He told them, “you have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition… thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down… and many such things you do.” (Mark 7:9-13)
In the words of Pastor Tim Keller, “when Foucault, Nietzsche and Jesus all agree on something… it has to be true!”
Is There a Holocaust of the Unborn?
Posted on November 26, 2012 by Brother of Sorrow
I used to be very agnostic about abortion. If someone asked my opinion on that issue, I’d say I was pro-choice and anti-abortion, which, in my mind, meant something along the lines of, “I would prefer not to see abortions happen, but ultimately the mother’s ‘right to privacy’ and her decision should be respected”. More than that, I thought the whole thing was just a convenient political distraction that conservatives could use to rile up their base and keep people from focusing on more important issues, such as the economy or foreign policy. If anyone claimed that abortion was a “holocaust of the unborn”, I would automatically dismiss their views as a form of reckless extremism.
Despite all of the politics and the abundance of ulterior motives surrounding this controversial abortion issue, the underlying question still remains and must be answered – are we a dealing with a modern holocaust? Such a word cannot be used lightly. I believe the best way to answer this question is to set up a thought experiment. Let’s imagine that the U.S. Constitution was amended and state legislatures began establishing a regulatory system that allowed women the right to justifiably kill their infant children who are less than a week old, under certain circumstances. One such circumstance would be if the child was a result of rape or incest, for example. Another circumstance would be if the child was born with severe mental retardation or another debilitating condition.
I’m sure everyone agrees that this system would be a gross perversion of morality. So the question becomes, is there any reason to assign a different measure of protection to the unborn child than we would to the day or week-old child? In terms of Christian theism, I believe it is very clear that they must be afforded equal protection, as they are both made in the image of God and derive full human status from conception. Scripture repeatedly reminds us of this status for the conceived yet unborn. Job rhetorically asks, “Did not he who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same form us both within our mothers” (Job 31:15). God speaks to the prophet Jeremiah saying, “before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you“.
As we approach the incarnation, an angel of the Lord appears to Zechariah and tells him that his son, John the Baptist, will be “filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15). Elizabeth later tells Mary that “the baby in my womb leaped for joy” at the sound of her greeting (Luke 1:44). Above all, we are reminded that we “do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child” (Ecclesiastes 11:5). Considering all of the above, the scriptures portray the sanctity of the unborn child’s life as being equal to that of a born child, and warns us not to arbitrarily decide when a human soul or spirit is imparted to an unborn child, because that is solely within the purview of our Creator. Yet, we may still ask whether science or philosophical reasoning confirms this perspective of Biblical scripture.
Is their any scientific reason to treat an unborn child as being any less human, or any less deserving of protection, than a day or week-old child? I believe the clear answer to that question is no. It turns out that science supports the Biblical notion that an unborn child becomes a distinct, living and whole human organism from conception. Scott Klusendorf is an outspoken pro-life advocate who presents compelling scientific and philosophical arguments in his book, The Case for Life.
scott post=6163 wrote: ash, thanks for the comment. Reminds me of the fact that chimps and humans share 98% of the same DNA. Seems pretty obvious to me that there is a lot more to being human than DNA.
I’d say there’s a lot more to being a chimp than DNA too. I believe many animals have immaterial souls (mind, will and emotion), but humans have souls and spirits, the latter being what makes us unique and gives us human culture (art, music, language, etc.), ego/pride, existential thinking, religion/spirituality, moral conscience, sin/remorse, deep emotional suffering, etc..
g-minor post=6150 wrote: Neither Freud nor Jung had a clue about how the brain works. Both were steeped in 19th Century romantic notions of individualism, invented theologies of mind and consciousness and tried to pass them off as science inflected with poetry. Psychologists are just coming around now to recognizing the physical, material facts about what goes on in our heads. Freud and Jung were just telling stories. They may have helped to make us aware of the limitations of what we call our conscious minds (sic) but they didn’t understand that our perceptions of ourselves and others don’t necessarily correspond with what is going on there, and that DNA runs the show with a single-minded agenda of its own.
This is just a materialist conclusion, not necessarily supported by modern science. There are many aspects of the mind that are not reducible to physical processes in our biochemical systems. The more we study human history, nature and the mind in both animals and humans, the more we discover that humans are different in kind from other animals, not just by degree of intelligence or emotional capacity. That, to me, suggests that DNA does not in fact run the show.
With regards to optimism, it all depends on what your philosophical assumptions are. There are very sound philosophical foundations for hope in the face of tragic circumstances, if you accept that there is purpose and direction to everything. Even tragedy and suffering has spiritual purpose, and that is something to be optimistic about. However, if you place your faith and trust in philosophical materialism, a world consisting solely of mindless physical processes, with no greater purpose than human pursuits and goals, then there is very little to be optimistic about, even in normal circumstances.
Our Lord’s Discipline & Punishment
Posted on November 15, 2012 by Brother of Sorrow
One of the most famous works of French post-modernist philosopher Michel Foucault was his book, “Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison“. It documents the transition from public displays of state justice in Western monarchies to the modern penal system of Western democratic governments. Foucault primarily viewed this transition as a means for centralized institutions to reinforce discipline and standardization among subject populations, using the great intellectual and technological advances which accompanied the industrial revolution to their benefit. According to Foucault, it was no coincidence that these two historical developments accompanied each other.
Instead of the modern penal system simply being the result of humanitarian concerns, it was primarily a means of exerting state control in a more efficient and powerful way. Foucault pointed out the similarities in physical structure and operation between prisons, factories, schools, hospitals (mental asylums especially) and military barracks. These institutions all employ temporal and spatial restrictions, constant observation, performance evaluations, labeling/classification systems and feedback mechanisms. At a certain point, those subject to these institutions internalize the disciplinary mechanisms and self-regulate their behavior out of desire for social and material rewards or out of fear of similar punishments.
Each disciplinary institution is usually justified by a corresponding academic discipline, such as criminology, psychology, medicine, economics, etc. I have previously written on Foucault’s theories in the context of neoliberal finance, which had experienced an unprecedented explosion since the 1970s and culminated in the global financial crisis of 2007-08. The institutional arbiter of speculative finance can be thought of as the U.S. currency reserve system established in Breton Woods and all associated organizations, such as U.S. multinational banking corporations, the Federal Reserve and the International Monetary Fund. This system was structured to coerce people, households, businesses and nations into taking on debts they could not afford relative to their cash flows, and to alienate or punish those entities which refused to subject themselves to debt servitude.
How to Tame a Proud Human Heart
Posted on November 9, 2012 by Brother of Sorrow
pride – a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.
It is no overstatement to say that pride can be deadly. This is true both physically and spiritually. We are told that God’s most glorious angel fell into rebellion because of his pride (Ezekiel 28:17), and then tempted Eve into sinful rebellion as well. It is not just Eden where pride festered early in human history, but everywhere in the world since then as well. There are many times in the lives of all human beings when we experience just how quickly our proud thoughts and actions can lead us into states of fear, anger and depression. It is no coincidence, then, that the Bible constantly warns against human pride – that “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).
The Bible also constantly reinforces the message that we are utterly dependent on God. It is God who created us, sustains us, provides for us, enlightens us and redeems us from our spiritual depravity. Modern culture, in stark contrast, programs us to believe that we can be self-reliant; that we can enlighten ourselves and govern each other through various institutional mechanisms. Politicians promise us that they will enact the policies and regulations that force human society to run smoothly and efficiently, with little or no reference to God and his word. It is really no surprise that such ambitious minds always fall short of taming the human experience.
The history of human civilization has been one in which we have tamed various animals for purposes of both work and pleasure. The Bible teaches us that all of these birds and mammals were created by God with “nephesh” (soul) of mind, will and emotion, just as humans were (Genesis 1:24, Strong’s Concordance 5315). Nephesh or soulish animals nurture their young, relate to one another and are also capable of relating to and bonding with humans. Our early human ancestors quickly learned that some of these animals were very easy to tame, such as goats and donkeys, and some were very difficult to tame, such as horses, wolves and lions.
It is interesting to note that the animals which are difficult to tame usually develop a much stronger and more pleasurable bond with humans than the ones we can tame with ease. We see that there is a trade-off between this work of taming and pleasure of bonding for human beings. The book of Job teaches us that there exists one of God’s creatures which no human being can possibly tame, though. In this remarkable piece of wisdom literature, God rhetorically asks Job and his friends whether they can tame “Behemoth” and “Leviathan”, most likely the hippopotamus and crocodile, which are notoriously dangerous to humans in the water and nearly impossible to tame (Job 41:15-24; 42:1-2).
(more at link)
Picturing Humanity’s Redemption
Posted on November 2, 2012 by Brother of Sorrow
The Judeo-Christian theme of redemption has been one of the most powerful and influential throughout the history of human civilization, especially over the last millennium. It has impacted everything from society’s art, music, literature and cinema to its executive and judicial processes. When we look at the Pietà sculpture of Michelangelo, we are looking at redemption. When we read Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, we are reading about redemption. When we listen to Handel’s “Messiah“, we are listening to redemption. And when we experience a judicial bankruptcy proceeding, we are experiencing the process of redemption in action.
This latter aspect of redemptive themes is especially relevant to our world today, in which individuals, families, businesses, cities and entire nations are buried under mountains of debt. Our global society has come to typify the idea of humans in need of forgiveness and redemption, as billions of people find themselves with mortgages, student loans, business loans, credit card bills, public taxes, etc. that they cannot possibly satisfy without any external aid. The entire Euro area is a stunning example of nations that can no longer service their debts without massive support from other nations and their taxpayers.
When we look at this monetary predicament in isolation, it’s difficult to imagine any satisfactory resolution for humanity. The whole thing will require great material sacrifices on the part of many people who have grown emotionally attached to their current standards of living. We must remember, though, that our ultimate solace lies in our spiritual redemption through the nearly unimaginable sacrifice made by Jesus Christ on our behalf. That is the power of the Gospel message which became operational throughout all of human history by virtue of Jesus’ work on the Cross and remains extremely relevant to this day.
Indeed, it is the Old Testament which originally provides us with stories about the critical intersection between monetary debts and redemption, as a means of picturing the infinitely more valuable intersection of our spiritual debts and Christ’s redemption. The word “redeem” or “redemption” is used 17 times in Leviticus 25 alone, which describes God’s command to Moses and the Israelites for a year of Jubilee. Of particular interest is Leviticus 25:23-28, which tells us that the Israelites must provide a mechanism through which poor and indebted people can reacquire their land. We are told this redemption can occur through the future prosperity of the person who sold, a near relative of that person a default expulsion of property sales in the fiftieth year of Jubilee.
(full post at link)
ashvin post=5980 wrote: [quote=TonyPrep post=5973]I’ve refined the question to whether God’s existence is of relevance to us. As any attributes or actions of God appear to be almost impossible to understand, if they mean anything at all, I tend to think that it comes down to whether we should even consider the existence of God or why our individual or collective actions should be guided by some people’s notions of what God might or might not want. As I’ve already mentioned, the idea of God wanting something seems ridiculous, since he has, indeed is, everything already.
How could it not be of relevance to us who our Creator is and if/how we can establish an eternal relationship with him? The truth should always be relevant, and especially metaphysical truths.
It’s not impossible to comprehend Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, which tells us its impossible for humans to comprehend the exact nature of any given particle. Same logic applies to God.
TonyPrep post=5973 wrote: I’ve refined the question to whether God’s existence is of relevance to us. As any attributes or actions of God appear to be almost impossible to understand, if they mean anything at all, I tend to think that it comes down to whether we should even consider the existence of God or why our individual or collective actions should be guided by some people’s notions of what God might or might not want. As I’ve already mentioned, the idea of God wanting something seems ridiculous, since he has, indeed is, everything already.
How could it not be of relevance to us who our Creator is and if/how we can establish an eternal relationship with him? The truth should always be relevant, and especially metaphysical truths.
It’s not impossible to comprehend Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, which tells us its impossible for humans to comprehend the exact nature of any given particle. Same logic applies to God.
ashvin post=5946 wrote: The “rules” of logic are not laws like gravity. Logic is not something God created, but something that applies to him by his very nature. God cannot be illogical or immoral any more than he can choose not to exist.
TonyPrep post=5958 wrote: Right, so there are limits to God’s power, at least from a human perspective (since you have just stated that there is something God cannot do).
Supergravity post=5972 wrote: Maybe there are things which God cannot do to us, under ethical or contractual obligation [enforced by the holy spirit?], since He would be running an inhabited universe for spiritual profit, it wouldn’t do to suddenly shift elementary logic mid-universe, it would confuse the audience and disenfranchise the participants.
There is no contradiction between a being that cannot be a certain way and that being’s omnipotence. An all-powerful God can be incapable of being illogical or immoral, because logic and morality are a part of his very essence. Unlike the laws of physics, logic and morality are eternal because God is eternal.
This has always been a question in deistic discussions;
1) is everything that God does automatically [defined as] good [by Himself?] simply because God does it;
or 2) does God automatically do good things [and only good things] only because He knows they are [defined as] good? [by someone else?]
The first option defines morality as a function of God, by whatever God would choose to do, and if He chose to do absolute evil [and never good], then evil would be moral. There seems to be no objective distinction between good and evil here, not even under omniscience.
The second option defines God as a function of morality, God would be perfectly moral because He always chooses good things as the best of all possible things, He would be incapable [infinitely unwilling] of action that He knows to be evil and not a function of good [as dictated by the holy spirit?].
The Bible describes God as the ultimate source of morality, i.e. option 1. He is the objective standard of what can be called moral or immoral, and evil is simply the absence of good (not the opposite of good). This option IMO is as objective as you can get. It is the reason why God cannot choose to be immoral (or illogical), because then he would be choosing to be something other than God. Even the incarnate Christ could not choose to be less than fully divine.
Supergravity post=5971 wrote:
I am starting with that premise, since I’m not a true believer, but I think that the moral teachings of scripture are more universally accessible when presented as allegory and not necessarily as gospel truth, so that even the atheists can appreciate the ethical considerations without being forced to make premature leaps of faith.
I agree that the moral content of stories concerning Jesus would become a sham when held as fictitious, and they do seem to be explicitly meant as a historical account of actual events. but not so for many other stories, they could be merely allegory and still contain useful moral content.
Much of the situational ethics in the bible could be fictitious or moral allegory but still useful as a literary or didactic device.
I understand that, but the context of the Bible should dictate how the accounts are treated, just like any other text. If we are dealing with poetic “wisdom” literature, for ex, then we may find more allegory, metaphor, etc. However, even within that genre, there is plenty of historical narrative that is meant to be taken literally.
The one thing we shouldn’t do is treat the accounts however we feel is best based on our modern cultural conceptions. That’s what a lot of people like to do for the OT stories, making most of them less than literal, but there’s no good textual reason for it. Jesus himself believed many of the events actually occurred, and I think it’s safe to say he had a good idea of how the OT is meant to be read. A literal interpretation is also often necessary to understand the actual theology being communicated, because the Bible presents an ongoing and dynamic history of people and events that are all inter-connected.
I’m not looking to bring any atheists to the Bible as a source of moral teachings and nothing else. IMO, the Bible is useless unless it is understood as the true word of God. I wouldn’t want to believe in something that purports to be divinely inspired just because it gives me some wise teachings, especially if it doesn’t reflect the true nature of God and our relationship with him.
The concept of sin really does indicate avoidable suffering, since I cannot conceive of any sin that is necessary and cannot be avoided, sin seems contradictory to necessity [except maybe for that judas incident, that seemed foreordained and inevitable somehow].
If sin exists, and is avoidable at all, it strongly argues in favor of making unnecessary and avoidable suffering a distinct moral category from necessary and unavoidable suffering.
I think it really depends on whether we are taking a metaphysical perspective or a social (practical) perspective. If the former, then we are able to posit that our sins are predestined from the foundation of the Universe, but we still retain free agency to choose not to sin. In terms of human social relations, though, we cannot comprehend the full extent of that predestination, so we practically behave and react to others as free moral agents, just as God intended.
These dimensions must still be causally connected to our plane somehow, so they would be included in a single universal logic, seemingly allowing for a compatibilistic mode of free volition in a deterministic universe, so this would conform to option 3).
The idea of an optimal ammount of suffering for an ultimate purpose is an utilitarian function, uniquely informed by divine omniscience, which may make the measure of suffering justifiable beyond human logic. But as constrained by human logic, any policy towards such an ultimate purpose could never justify itself without accountable perfect foresight. One cannot argue that crime should be tolerated because its part of God’s plan. It may be so, but that would be unknowable to any human system of justice. By default, we would have to judge all victimful crime as causing [or being caused by] unnecessary and avoidable suffering.
The idea of God can easily be proven to exist, as a subjective reality or moral force, more easily than as objective reality, but the very idea of God may lead into possible proofs that the soul exists as a moral agent, that the only way in which God can be understood as an idea is because the soul’s comprehension of good and evil as an objective reality.
If it could be proven that the soul exists in an objective sense, a form of information-processing, then this may provide proof of the objective existence of God in some way. But the soul would probably be seen as subjective reality only.
Yeah, I think this is a powerful argument for the existence of god. The fact that we have moral conscience and the capacity to develop a relationship with the concept of god does not make much sense in terms of philosophical naturalism, but makes great sense in terms of theism.
Many philosophical systems produce the substance of the soul as a moral agent of free volition without incorporating the existence of God, so for questions of moral agency and the meaning of suffering, the possible existence of the soul seems of great importance, even for non-theists.
There is no immediate contradiction between the positive existence of the soul and the unexistence of God, which may allow for the moral agency of the soul as an intransient state of mind without the existence of God, although the logic would be similar.
I wasn’t aware of these systems. How do they explain the existence of the soul/spirit apart from the existence of God? Assuming the soul/spirit is defined as immaterial substances of will, emotion and moral conscience.
Gravity post=5956 wrote: Its positive proof that the idea of God exists, at least as a provocative thought experiment and a moral ideal, if nothing else.
According to Voltaire; “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him”. Voltaire would have meant this as a moral heuristic, that the idea of an omniscient creator could ideally inform moral agency or was a necessary aspect of philosophical consideration.
Even if this idea of God did not describe an objective reality, the faithful belief in this idea would create a subjective reality with similar moral consequences.
I think it goes much further than that, though. When you really get down to it, there is no reason to think that socio biological evolution by itself would ever lead to self-aware beings who are capable of discovering objective truths about reality. Pastor and theologian Douglas Wilson uses the analogy of a Coke and a Pepsi can – if you put them on a stage, shake them up, open them and let them fizz, you can’t say that one is fizzing “better” than the other, i.e. winning a debate.
If we were simply the result of chemical and biological reactions/processes, then all of this dialogue and debate would simply be us fizzing, without any basis for declaring one person’s fizzing to be closer to any objective truth than the others. Basically, the atheists negate their own ability to argue for objective truth by standing on the premises of philosophical naturalism. They have to borrow the theist’s “stage” before they can even engage in meaningful debate. The fact that we DO have meaningful debates means we are all standing on the same stage, regardless of whether we are atheists or theists.
The biblical allegories often pose a moral dillema, where some element of necessary suffering enables moral agency, to avoid a greater suffering.
The weird things is that not all biblical suffering is evil, and sometimes the very attempts to avoid suffering cause greater suffering further on, and are thus revealed as evil by invoking sin. So in this way, the applicable definition of necessary suffering is that it must ultimately be justifiable in some plan of God’s [although the ultimate objectives of this plan mostly remain unrevealed as a test of faith], and that to avoid this suffering has definitive evil consequences, leading to some avoidable sin.
Also, the kind of evil suffering caused by sin is most esthetically displeasing, ugly, whereas necessary suffering is not as ugly and can sometimes even have a quality of beauty.
Sometimes the bible seems to use the juxtaposition between necessary and avoidable suffering as a dialectic tool to lower cognitive discounting rates, while the common confusion of necessary suffering with avoidable suffering is essential to tragedy as a literary style.
I did not make any distinction between natural and moral evil, I figured that the mythical garden of eden had no natural evil, and everything afterwards experienced by humans in nature was influenced by the compounding of original sin.
From my understanding of the story of original sin and the expulsion form the garden, it seems that nature’s wrath and human mortality were not pre-existent natural evil but a direct consequence of a moral evil committed with eve’s apple and all.
First, you obviously seem to be starting with the premise that the Bible is mostly allegory and myth. That’s not really a good way to investigate the Judeo-Christian philosophy/theology, because it is intimately tied into the historical events. As Paul says, if Jesus was not actually raised from the dead, then we have believed lies and our faith is meaningless.
Second, I think you are making an unnecessary distinction between “avoidable” and “necessary” suffering. Metaphysically speaking, we could say that ALL suffering of human history is unavoidable if we adopt a position in which God predestines everything. The difficulty is reconciling that position with the notion that humans can also increase or decrease suffering for themselves and others through their free agency, but I believe such a reconciliation can be achieved. By operating in extra spatial and temporal dimensions, God predestines that all of our free actions will lead to the optimal amount of suffering for his ultimate purposes.
Natural evil most certainly existed before the first humans sinned. The idea that it didn’t stems from a misinterpretation of the Bible typified by young earth creationists. There is nothing in the Bible that says the Universe and Earth isn’t billions of years old, and that animals weren’t dying before humanity even came on to the scene. The Bible does tell us that the moral evil of humanity will compound natural evil and suffering, though. Adam and Eve were expelled from the relative paradise of Eden, where God provided all that was necessary to survive (but they still had to do work), out into the “real world”, where they mostly had to fend for themselves.
ashvin post=5946 wrote:
This option would conform to hard [theological] determinism, with all causal factors determined by God directly, but it logically eliminates the possibility of moral agency in good and evil and the concept of sin entirely, and God would know this. That there would remain an illusion of moral agency would be cruel and unreasonable, especially if people were sent to hell without cause, or only because of that apple thing.
I find that biblical allegory does treat free will as essential for moral agency, while also assuming that the moral good is always knowable by God’s word. The bible itself seems to strongly disallow for option 1.
Yes, I agree. Calvin was otherwise a good theologian, but I believe he got this very wrong, which is evident from what the scriptures clearly say.
There’s a clear conflict between the absence of free volition and orginal sin; logically, at least this first sin must have been voluntary, and not predetermined, to carry any moral agency and the consequence of reprehension. If not, God and the snake would seem to be on the same side.
The conflict is between free agency and original sin, as you say, but NOT necessarily between free agency and predetermination. God could have allowed Satan into the garden with the predetermined plan of testing their faith, knowing with certainty they would fail, without violating their free agency. I think it’s clear that Satan would not even be in the garden unless God wanted him to be.
Options 2 and 3 are both compatibilist systems. Compatibilism is not an self-contained expanation but a category of logical systems which provide a variety of expanations, mostly framed in [quantum] physical and cosmological configurations, as to how modes of free will may possibly be compatible with determined and immutable causal factors, such as God’s plan.
Only a compatibilist system may allow for option 2 and 3, incompatibilist systems simply disallow for [immutable] causal factors such as God’s plan to exist simultaneously with free volition of any kind.
So the bible really indicates option 2 and 3, and the most solid compatibilist arguments of free volition and causal relations focus on option 3. God’s plan would be a special subset of causally determined factors with an absolute moral dimension, but not always leading to only one possible outcome.
Conversely, some incompatibilist modes of free will require a degree of indeterminism in quantum physics, necessarily not determined by causal factors or God’s plan, to provide a factor of random chance, a kind of random number generator somehow compiled into free volition.
The modes of free volition of the interactionist dualist variety, incompatibilist, also allow for the intergration of the non-material mind or soul as an information processing unit and moral agent, to eliminate causally determined factors of physicality.
I find it challenging to integrate a given mode of free will into a gravitational field, as nothing in gravity is random at all, and the neural correlates of consciousness all seem subject to gravity very much.
So I’m working towards some form of metaphysical libertarianism or interactionist dualism for now, or any coherent incompatibilist mode providing some degree of free volition and moral agency, but I’m not ready to dismiss all possible compatibilist systems, some of those have good arguments too.
If we take a very broad few of the term “compatibilism”, then I guess you’re right. My understanding was that compatibilists typically argue that determinism and free agency can coexist within social relations, but not really at a metaphysical level. I would argue that they can coexist at a metaphysical level as well.
Either way, I think the Bible necessitates some form of compatabilism based on God’s absolute sovereignty over creation and the free agency of his creation. This is one area of metaphysics where I would start with the premise that the Bible is the inspired and inerrant word of God before reaching any firm conclusions. The reason is because there are many different possibilities that are logically coherent, but only one or two that are consistent with the word of God.
TonyPrep post=5941 wrote: This makes absolutely no sense to me. You now seem to be saying that God is subject to some laws or limits, which means that God is not God. If God really is God, then it is all powerful and can do whatever it wants. Mind you, the notion of God having wants is another illogical (to me) notion. Where did these wants (desires) come from?
The “rules” of logic are not laws like gravity. Logic is not something God created, but something that applies to him by his very nature. God cannot be illogical or immoral any more than he can choose not to exist.
Almost every aspect of a creator interventionist God is illogical and impossible for humans (or at least this human) to understand. I’ve thought about these things for decades. The irrationality of it is what caused me to lose my faith, once I actually started to question what I believed.
Interestingly enough, the irrationality of materialist naturalism is what caused me to lose my faith in atheism and deism. Naturalists can’t even explain why our thoughts can be irrational or illogical or immoral, because they have no basis for positing objective standards of rationality, logic or morality. The fact that we can even have this discussion is proof that God exists and we were created in his image.
Now we have the idea that suffering may be necessary, even though we don’t suffer equally and some may not even suffer at all when suffering is measured against the average suffering.
The idea is that there are spiritual purposes for our mental and physical suffering.
I imagine you believe that people suffer chaos and violence for no reason whatsoever, and most of them will never get any sort of restoration or justice, i.e. the Universe just doesn’t care one way or the other. It’s a cold, purposeless Universe…
You may think that’s the rational thing to believe, but it doesn’t add up at all for me when observing and reflecting on the external and internal evidence.
Sorry, it’s all illogical. Faith is something one has or one doesn’t have; it’s not explicable and cannot be objectively rationalised.
Faith is something that everyone has, including you. The only question is what you choose to put your trust in at the end of the day.
Gravity post=5935 wrote:
But actually, I find the possibility of free fate to be as much a profound mystery as the existence of necessary suffering, it seems that one can only be understood in deep relation to the other.
That depends on how emotionally one approaches the free will argument, especially when framing it in the mode of God’s will in creating or permitting suffering and evil, whether He had any choice given the possible parameters of free will applicable to Himself, and given that all things divine must be reasonable.
I agree that God cannot be illogical, i.e. he is not exempt from rules of logic.
The reason I said the free will explanation alone is not adequate to answer the question of evil/suffering is because I believe God has revealed to us that he knew evil and suffering would be a part of our lives and it would further his optimized plan for humanity. So it goes beyond humans causing suffering independent of God’s will.
A very simple analogy – a grad professor gives his students very difficult assignments and examinations to prepare them for future courses and eventually a career. The student confronts him and asks him why such brutal testing is required. The professor can say that it isn’t really that hard and the student is simply making it harder on himself by slacking off, failing to take notes, not putting in the effort, etc. OR he can be honest and say that, despite whatever shortcomings the student has, the material is designed to be extremely hard. Why? Because that’s the optimal way to truly prepare the student.
Similar logic applies to God’s design of the Universe to be a place that will inevitably result in both moral and natural evil (natural disasters, illnesses, etc.). The scriptures are very honest about God’s involvement, and may even logically necessitate such a conclusion, even though a lot of Christians would rather ignore those parts because they feel it weakens their position with skeptics. I say we should be honest, humble and try our best to understand what God has revealed to us.
With regards to reconciling free will and determinism, I see a few positions people can take:
1) God foreknows and predestines everything, and there is no human free will.
2) God foreknows everything, predetermines some things and there is human free will (ex. God knows exactly what will happen if you go somewhere, but that doesn’t mean you are destined to go there; he only predestines the major aspects of his plan, such as Jesus’ death on the cross)
3) God foreknows everything, predestines everything and there is still human free will.
I tend to lean towards #3, but I don’t think we need “compatibilism” to explain how that’s possible. Free will and determinism can be metaphysically compatible if we try to think in terms of extra dimensions. It’s hard (if not impossible) for a 2-d being to truly imagine 3-d structures. Similarly, it may be very hard for us to imagine what kind of “structures” are possible in 4+ dimensions of space and 2+ dimensions of time. A non-physical, eternal God operating outside of our spatial and time dimensions could perhaps establish a physical Universe in which free will exists for his creation, yet he still remains sovereign over everything that happens. Instead of this being a logical contradiction, the apparent incompatibility stems from our limited capacity as beings that operate in a few spatial dimensions and one dimension of time.
We must necessarily distinguish between necessary and avoidable suffering. In biblical terms of moral allegory, basically all avoidable suffering is evil and sinful, and caused by some sin or compounding of sins. Only avoidable suffering can be sinful and subject to reprehension, while all necessary suffering is by definition not sinful or morally accountable except unto God, notwithstanding limited understanding of neccesity.
Yes, I don’t think “natural evil” can be classified as sinful. Moral evil is sinful. Yet I think it’s clear that God planned for both to occur. In fact, it seems apparent that God allowed Satan into Eden as the ultimate test of original humanity’s faith, knowing full well that they would fail the test. So we shouldn’t try to downplay the fact that both forms of evil were a necessary part of God’s optimal plan.
For example, we are increasingly discovering ways in which natural events (hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.) are absolutely essential for the survival of advanced life on Earth, and that there would probably be even more suffering if they weren’t as frequent and powerful as they are. Same thing goes for predator-prey relationships, certain parasites and illnesses. However, I doubt we will ever comprehend the full extent of how/why these things are designed optimally. And there is no doubt that moral evil by humans enhances the effects of natural evil (which may be God’s very clever way of stressing the importance of moral conduct through the laws of physics).
Similarly, suffering that stems from moral evil by humans is essential for spiritual growth, matured faith and true love, which will all culminate in the conquering of evil. I believe this Universe was established by God for that purpose – to raise his children into spiritual perfection in a fallen world (through faith and love) and conquer the evil that began with Satan (before Adam) once and for all.
It could also be that free evil is a prerequisite function of free volition of any sort, and that it is logically impossible even for God to create free will in the material or spiritual realm without the possibility of evil suffering. This line of reasoning is only as simplistic as the model of free will defined.
Free will must create the possibility of evil, but I don’t think it must always lead to evil. The unfallen angels are examples of that, and I believe human beings will become examples of that as well in the new creation. We will not be stripped of free volition, but we will always be obedient to God.
Form another perspective, a particularly narrow definition of free will, it is free will itself that is inherently evil, and people more easily desire sinful evil of their own accord, so that only submission to the righteousness of divine will is truly sinless but also comparatively unfree.
I don’t really see the contradiction between submission to God and free will. Choosing to be forever faithful does not strip people of their status as free agents made in God’s image.
Also, even without God, but permitting the conditional existence of evil, it is a moral responsibility anyhow to discern avoidable suffering and to avoid it by means of a moral heuristic, to delineate good and evil in the best possible way, and this wisdom pertaining to avoidable suffering seems possible only by the experience of necessary suffering, so that one pain may lessen another by some great mystery of normative utility.
Perhaps, but I find non-theistic explanations of morality (or immorality) to be extremely lacking in reason and logic.
The buddhist conception of suffering is also decent and practical; all existence is defined by suffering, the cause of suffering is desire and attachment, freedom from desire thus lessens suffering. This also appplies when releasing attachment to life itself, yet death is so unpopular.
My main problem with this philosophy is that it really seems to go against our ingrained sense of moral conscience. The Zen Buddhist would say that love is just as evil and contributes to as much suffering as does hate. Both actions or emotions imply a relationship, and all relationships are supposedly evil. Love and peace may sometimes lead to suffering, but I don’t see any way in which they are equal in moral weight to hate and violence.
And why is the existence of joy not a mystery of equal magnitude? Certainly its evermore inexplicable as an experience, but inherently not seen as profoundly unjust or unnatural, so no one ever complains about the equally deficient and unaccountable allocation of joy.
It seems to me that “joy” is a privilege, and one primarily reserved for redeemed and perfected creatures in a new creation. In our current universe, under our current laws of physics, subjected to rampant moral/natural evil, we shouldn’t really expect there to be an over-abundance of joy. In fact, such rampant joy would probably undermine the goals of spiritual growth and maturity through faith and obedience to God.
How do we reconcile all of the evil, pain and suffering that has existed throughout human history with an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God? That is a question that has plagued people for many centuries, skeptics and believers alike. It is one of the most popular criticisms of the Christian God among atheists and agnostics, and it also seems to be one that believers are generally ill-equipped to handle. We frequently fall back on the idea that humans were created with free will, and evil was simply the price God had to pay for giving us such a capacity.
Although there is a lot of truth to that line of reasoning, it is also a simplistic and incomplete argument. Ultimately, the free will argument alone is not a satisfying answer to such a deeply emotional question. Most people in the world have either suffered great tragedies in their lives or have witnessed great tragedies occur around them, and they all deserve an honest answer about God’s involvement. The truth is that God is an omnipresent being who is sovereign over his entire creation, which means that no forms of evil or suffering are outside of his control. So, again, the question is why does God allow his children to suffer?
There is no easy or concise answer to such a question. First and foremost, it requires a humble mindset by the person asking the question – we must understand and accept the fact that we are limited in our understanding of God’s ultimate purposes for humanity. This limitation is a fundamental one that is similar to the uncertainty principle of quantum physics. No matter how much technology we develop or how much knowledge we gain, we will never be able to precisely gauge all of the variables in a given physical system. The same logic applies to all of the variables that determine God’s optimal plan for humanity.
Secondly, we must seek to continually bolster our understanding of God’s redemptive plan, including all of the evil and suffering it entails, by carefully examining the scriptures. That is exactly what Joni Eareckson Tada does in her book, When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty. In this book, she provides a list of 36 purposes that God has for our suffering. It is certainly not an exhaustive list, or one meant to settle the question entirely, but it provides a Biblically sound foundation for understanding the issue and witnessing to others who have major difficulties with it. It is critical to remember the concept contained in the title of Tada’s book – there is a divine purpose to our suffering; our sufferings matter.
The Biblical Testing Method
Posted on October 21, 2012 by Brother of Sorrow
Christianity is unique from every other religion in its ability to rest peripheral and core theology on vast amounts of history and science. It possesses the only set of texts that obligate us to examine everything carefully and confirm the truth for ourselves. In fact, the Bible provides the original basis for the most rigorous testing method conceived – what we now call the “scientific method”. Most people don’t even realize that this method was derived from natural philosophers who examined the Bible carefully during the Reformation era, when such examination was finally encouraged.
They saw that the Bible repeatedly used a specific format for explaining what had happened and why. These accounts typically provide an opening frame of reference and a set of initial conditions, followed by a narrative description of certain physical events. Towards the end of the narrative, the writer provides final conclusions that flow from the previous conditions and descriptions. The Bible also covers the same descriptive material in many different places, allowing one textual passage to complement and inform others. A great example of this chronological format is found in the Genesis creation accounts and the numerous other books that deal with aspects of the creation narrative, such as the Book of Job.
The curious lay theologian trying to figure out exactly what the Bible is teaching must take all of the texts consistently, allowing specific accounts to validate the interpretations of more general ones. All of the Biblical evidence must be considered carefully and reconciled. Since it is imperfect and fallen humans doing the interpreting, our interpretations must remain fluid and subject to revision in light of any new evidence. Using this method, we can determine the truths of the Biblical texts with reasonable and increasing certainty over time. That, of course, is exactly what scientists have been doing for the last few centuries with their models of the Universe, starting most notably with Christians such as Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton and Blaise Pascal.
Gravity post=5749 wrote: Hey, Ash.
This model provides a non-zero positive chance [converging to 100% probabilty over all universes] that sapient life contained in the multiverse will succeed in constructing an infinitely complex energy/information system which is mathematically indistinguishable from God, which would then generate the multiverse [including all possible paradoxes pertaining to self-generating existence].
Gravity, does this model predict that our current Universe creates itself in the past from the future?
More importantly, is there any way to test this multiverse model?
In my last article, The Entire Universe Revolves Around Humanity, I pointed out one of the most fascinating aspects of the known material Universe – the fact that it is finely-tuned for the development of advanced life on planet Earth. This fine-tuning is evident at all scales, from the scale of the entire Universe to that of the Milky Way Galaxy, our solar system and planet Earth. Over time, the scientific trend has clearly progressed towards discovering more and more finely-tuned characteristics of the cosmos and our planetary environment that are required for life.
Many of these characteristics are only necessary for the development of intelligent life and civilization, capable of observing and measuring the Universe (humans), rather than more simple life forms. So we are talking about nearly 14 billion years of cosmic development that has managed to create the extremely rare set of circumstances needed for the existence of one species of life in one tiny portion of the Universe at just the right time. A good way to state this “anthropic principle” is that humanity’s existence places severe constraints on the physical constants, structure, and history of the universe, on the Milky Way Galaxy, the solar system, and Earth and its life.
The most astounding fact about this principle, though, is that life and humanity arrived on the scene at the earliest possible time it could have, and that humanity can only survive in a civilized state for about 20-40,000 years. Given the physics of our Universe, the building blocks of life could not have been engineered in giant star furnaces any sooner than they were, and an advanced species with the capacity for civilization would also require billions of years of organic processes by other life forms before it could sustain itself. On top of that, the accelerating expansion of the Universe will make sure that no life will survive for much longer (in geologic time).
(more at link above)
Sure, no problem.
TonyPrep post=5682 wrote: I’ve heard this line of argument before but I must say that, as someone who has been interested in science for most of his 58 years, and devoutly religious for about a decade of that, I don’t recall such a fight by sceptics. The so-called Big Bang Theory wasn’t, and isn’t, even a theory. What scientists postulate is a phase of (almost) incredibly rapid expansion. The phrase “big bang” is just some way of visualising the “time” before the inflationary period. Research and hypothesising into that unfathomable period continues (I suspect it will continue for ever).
The “big bang” is actually a way of describing how space, time, matter and energy came into existence. There are various models for how it progressed, the “inflationary” model being one of the most popular, but all of them agree that there was a beginning and a continuous accelerating expansion under constant laws of physics.
The big bang is NOT a big “bang” as most lay people would comprehend the term. This expression conjures up images of bomb blasts or exploding dynamite. Such a “bang” would yield disorder and destruction. In truth, this “bang” represents an immensely powerful yet carefully planned and controlled release of matter, energy, space, and time within the strict confines of very carefully fine-tuned physical constants and laws which govern their behavior and interactions.4 The power and care this explosion reveals exceeds human potential for design by multiple orders of magnitude.
Mmm, although I stopped reading much about the fabric of space and time about 5 years ago, I don’t recall anything definitive about their having to have been a begining; such musings are still the subject of much theorizing and research.
No, that’s what I’m saying… it’s not. No serious astronomer/cosmologist denies this. If you are aware of one, I’d like to hear about it.
Almost all scientists are atheist (or, at lease agnostic), but I feel sure that most scientists would agree that matter does spontaneously get created.
I don’t know where you are getting that from, but there are plenty of theist scientists across the world.
What you are talking about is the casmir effect, in which certain types of matter can be shown to generate from a vacuum (under highly controlled circumstances). That is not at all the same thing as space-time, matter and energy coming from nothing at the beginning of the Universe. A vacuum existing in space and time is not “nothing”.
I’m not sure what science supports creation of life. There is some interesting research about origins of life at the university of Edinburgh (I think) where life becomes almost inevitable on a warm wet rocky planet, though I doubt we’d ever get to test that hypothesis. Supernatural events can’t be supported by natural science, by definition. If it is supernatural, it has no natural explanation. Consequently, supernatural events and God interventions in our world would make natural science impossible to carry out. But we do carry it out so, currently, there is clearly no evidence of supernatural events.
Sorry, you are just completely wrong here. Supernatural aspects of reality can easily interact with natural laws and processes without making “science impossible to carry out”, and hypotheses of supernatural causation can be logically deduced AND scientifically tested (there is a difference between science and “naturalism”). This is exactly what is going on in OOL research, as I showed you. There is no reason to think that a supernatural designer would make the physical Universe fundamentally unpredictable or unstable… in fact, we would expect the exact opposite to be true, and that’s what we find.
ashvin post=5676 wrote: You’ve stated that but we certainly don’t definitely know that. What we do think we know is that what we think of as space and time now may have had changing characteristics in the distant past (e.g. the speed of light may have been different in the distant past).
We know it with just as much certainty as we know that general relativity reliably predicts gravitational behavior. And we also know that the speed of light was not different in the “distant past”… that is the opposite of BBT.
Indeed, time is a mysterious property that science continues to debate deeply (e.g. scientific theories don’t distinguish between time going forward and time going backward). I’m not sure what you mean by the “earliest moments of creation” but astronomers can certainly not directly observe anything beyond cosmic background radiation and very early galaxies (as seen in Hubble Ultra Deep Space photos). They cannot directly observe the “earliest” moments of the rapid inflation phase.
The simplest-to-grasp evidence in support of the big bang comes from pictures. With the help of various imaging devices, one can actually enjoy a kind of time-lapse photo of the big bang. The images show the universe in its various “growing up” stages, much as a time-lapse camera captures the opening of a flower, or as a photo album documents the development of a person from birth onward.
Such an album is made possible by light (or radiation) travel time. Observing a distant galaxy, for example, some 5 billion light-years distant is equivalent to seeing that galaxy 5 billion years ago, when the light now entering an earth-based telescope began its journey through space. In one sense, astronomers can only capture glimpses of the past, not of the present, as they peer out into space.
Thanks to the Keck and Hubble Space Telescopes, astronomers now have a photo history of the universe that covers nearly 14 billion years. It begins when the universe was only about half a billion years old and follows it to “middle age,” where it yet remains. The sequence of images [images not available online] presents highlights from this cosmic photo album.
But if it was completely outside then it can’t operate inside. That is, it could only have created the conditions in which the universe was “created” but not actually have created it. Consequently, it would be impossible to determine that something completely outside of our spatiotemporal dimensions had created the conditions for those dimensions to come into existence.
No, something can be transcendent of something else yet still interact with it and operate within it. That is called “imminence” in philosophy/theology. You may be right that we can’t determine exactly what created the Universe through science… but that is why we need to use other fields of knowledge.
TonyPrep post=5648 wrote: “I’m not sure exactly what you are saying here, but all scientists have concluded that the Universe (matter, energy, space and time) must have had a beginning.” I don’t think scientists “conclude” in some definitive sense but, this universe, yes. Craig, however, claims that skeptics say that the universe has always been here, which is not true (i.e. it’s not what they claim, generally). He then goes on from that to reason that the universe must have had a beginning, i.e. have been created. However, some evolving hypotheses might “conclude” that the universe did not have a beginning but oscillated between collapse and expansion (some calculations show that huge distances are mathematically equivalent to tiny distances, for example).
The skeptics fought big bang cosmology tooth and nail for many decades, because they didn’t want to accept that space, time, matter and energy has a beginning, just as the Bible describes. Some atheists will even admit that was the reason they were so skeptical of BBT. However, in 1992, it basically became impossible to dispute that there was such a beginning. More recently, three astronomers discovered that no model of a Universe with mass and general relativity can get around the need for a transcendent cause to its beginning, including multiverse or oscillatory models (see BGV theorem).
“The most significant implication is that science can no longer rule out supernatural (or miraculous) causes for material events. Something transcendent of matter, energy, space and time that caused all of that to come into existence is, by definition, supernatural.” I doubt any scientist (or hardly any scientist) would agree with that. Science would always rule out supernatural events because such events would make the world not discoverable (i.e. any single supernatural event would invalidate a bunch of scientific theories because they then couldn’t explain that event). Science could not go on in a world of supernatural events. If you’re saying it can’t rule out a supernatural event only for the “begining” of the universe, then you are kind of agreeing that we don’t have an interventionist God, but something like Loop Quantum Gravity is an example of a way to get past the “beginning” event. Science has also shown spontaneous creation of matter in this universe, including spontaneous creation of space as the universe expands.
Plenty of scientists would agree with that… only atheist scientists would still be skeptical. Supernatural events does not mean reality is not discoverable, it simply means that science is limited in its explanatory scope and power, and we must rely on other fields of knowledge to discover a greater extent of reality. However, even supernatural hypotheses can be tested and supported by science. For example, the Biblical hypothesis that life did not originate through natural abiogenesis, but rather it was created very early in Earth’s history in the absence of prebiotics (at just the right time), under relatively hostile conditions, very rapidly and abundantly. If those conditions prove to be true, then the Biblical model gets a lot of support over natural models which have become less and less likely as the scientific evidence mounts.
“the biggest observation of them all, the ENTIRE Universe, was caused by just that“
The creation of the universe has not been observed and it certainly isn’t known that its beginning (if it had a begining in the way you mean) was caused by some being creating it (and even this would raise the question of what caused that being – God – to come into existence, or was that being “always there”, something Craig finds incredulous for the universe?).
Astronomers now have the capability to directly observe the earliest moments of creation by looking out into the Universe. As already stated, we definitely know that space, time, matter and energy came into existence. No one disputes that the Universe could have been eternal, as many naturalists and Eastern theists argued for centuries, it just turns out that it wasn’t. The ultimate cause cannot be a created entity or force, but rather it must be uncreated and eternal. It must be capable of existing completely outside of our spatiotemporal dimensions. The primary question is whether this is some kind of mindless uncreated force, or it is an intelligent designer. I may not get you all the way to the Christian God, but other scientific evidence is capable of doing that (fine-tuning of Universe, origin of life, origin/development of humanity, etc.), and then of course we must look to fields that go beyond scientific reach.
TonyPrep post=5641 wrote: William Lane Craig appears to have debated the existence of God many times. Unfortunately, they are all over two hours and I don’t have time, at present, to check them out. However, I did find an article by him, Does God Exist which I’ve started to read.
He starts off badly, with “three reasons why it makes a big difference whether God exists.”
He clearly states these are 3 reasons why people should even care about the existence of God. Are you arguing that, if the Christian God does exist, it would not make difference to peoples’ lives? If not, then why you are even arguing about this part of his article? Your reasons may be different from his, but you both agree that it DOES make a difference.
Having dealt with the absolute necessity that God must exist (i.e. he starts off with the conclusion he is about to “prove”, in order to prime the reader) he launches into the proof.
Nope, not true. As you already know, he started with reasons why the debate even matters, not reasons why God exists. So he is not starting off with the conclusion he intends to prove.
I’ve only read part of the first point but it is again very weak, starting out with misrepresenting the “typical” atheist position (as if there is an atheist position) about the universe. He argues from incredulity that the universe must have had a beginning (though I would think most atheist probably think this anyway, even if the science doesn’t necessarily match up to that) and goes on to make some odd points (“what is infinity minus infinity”) that aren’t really relevant to the topic.
I’m not sure exactly what you are saying here, but all scientists have concluded that the Universe (matter, energy, space and time) must have had a beginning. In fact, Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose concluded that, if mass exists in the Universe and general relativity reliably predicts gravitational behavior (they do), then the inescapable conclusion is that the dimensions of space and time came into existence at a finite time in the past. I think everyone agrees that this is a radical discovery with radical implications, regardless of whether they are atheists or theists.
The most significant implication is that science can no longer rule out supernatural (or miraculous) causes for material events. Something transcendent of matter, energy, space and time that caused all of that to come into existence is, by definition, supernatural. Therefore, atheists can longer rely on their traditional assumption that scientific, observational evidence in the world can never be explained by supernatural causes, because we know for a fact that the biggest observation of them all, the ENTIRE Universe, was caused by just that.
New post on the remarkable intersection of modern science and Christian faith:
The Entire Universe Revolves Around Humanity
Posted on October 7, 2012 by Brother of Sorrow
One of the most common arguments Christians run into from atheist or agnostic skeptics is what I would call “the problem of God’s perfect plan for humanity“. It is related to “the problem of evil” and other similar concerns about the nature of God, but it is also different in very important ways and encompasses a much more broad philosophical and scientific spectrum. Let me illustrate it with a hypothetical dialogue between a Christian and an atheist:
Christian: God allowed evil into the world because He has a plan for humanity, in which we will experience the shortcomings of the imperfect, material world and the seriousness of sin. Through this process, however, we will also be able to experience the immeasurable grace, love and redemption of God through Jesus Christ, and eventually the faithful will be perfected and return to exist in the presence of God.
Atheist: But if God’s ultimate plan is to perfect humanity in such a manner, then why did He decide to go through the whole trouble of allowing evil and suffering into the world. Surely, an omnipotent God could have just created humanity in a perfected state from the beginning, and saved us all the “blunders” of human civilization in between.
Christian: True, He could have… but the plan was much deeper and more loving than that. He wanted to create humanity in His own Image and allow us the capacity for free will and freely chosen faith, trust and love. Our original ancestors exercised their free will in rebellion to God’s wise commands, and therefore we have inherited their sinful spirits throughout succeeding generations. God correctly values the redemption of humanity from corruption more than he values pure, untested innocence.
Atheist: OK, but even if we are assuming all of that is true, why did God have to wait tens of thousands of years before finally providing humanity the ultimate atonement for sin through the incarnate Christ. Why couldn’t He just do all of that a few generations after the Fall? It seems like an omnipotent God could have concluded this whole business of sin, redemption and perfection many years ago.
Now, this may be the point at which many Christians get stuck. Why did God have to wipe out all human beings except Noah and his family with a flood, and then create the nation of Israel to imperfectly carry out His commands and transmit the promised Messianic seed down the generations? Wasn’t all of that a very roundabout process to achieve the final goal of forgiveness and redemption through Christ? I believe the answer to these questions rest in two primary concepts – 1) the unparalleled importance of humanity in all of the Universe, and 2) the inability of humans to fully grasp God’s perfect wisdom.
(full post at link above)
The Thin Line Between Global Collapse and Faith
Posted on October 3, 2012 by Brother of Sorrow
I am pleased to present my first guest post here on Picturing Christ – an article by reader “JT”. His article focuses on one of the most basic questions that inspired me to start this blog in the first place – how do we truly respond to the systemic trials and tribulations that humanity faces in the upcoming decades? There are many blogs and websites dedicated to documenting these predicaments and offering advice on how to prepare for them.
Some of them even venture into questions of spirituality and faith from time to time. My own writings at The Automatic Earth over the last few months regularly touched on these issues. However, I recently started to feel like the constant divide between our Earthly predicaments and my spirituality was much too forced and arbitrary. I had the sense that there was a fundamental flaw in the process of offering insights and advice when they were artificially divorced from spiritual truths.
So, with that in mind, I was very glad to hear that fellow Christian and reader of PC also felt the same way, and decided to put those concerns into writing. As Christians, we cannot hesitate to rely on the word of God when it comes to all spheres of our lives. The fact that we may be talking about economics, finance, geopolitics, energy and environmental issues, psychology, etc. shouldn’t make a bit of difference. All of these issues are inextricably woven into the underlying philosophies of spirituality and faith, and, specifically, the God of the Bible and His word.
We are now living in a world where the structures that have come to dominate human civilization are crumbling. Financial contagion from the global banking crisis has spread to all regions of the world and is destroying economic growth. Tensions between Western nations and those in both the Near and Far East are growing, with several theaters of war already firmly established. Our total reliance on fossil fuels and industrial processes for global economic activity has destroyed our natural ecosystems and warmed our atmosphere to extremely dangerous levels, while also depleting those resources and creating the potential for systemic environmental, economic, political and social collapse.
So, before getting to JT’s excellent article, I would like to offer my own personal (yet brief) opinion on these grave matters of collapse and faith. The trying circumstances and events that confront all of us in the years ahead are exactly those which require us to remain resolute in the unconditional truth and morality of our faith. Jesus tells us that there will come a time in which “many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another… and because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold“. (Matthew 24:10, 12).
I believe that whether we are actually living in that specific time or not is irrelevant, because the underlying lesson applies to all times of tribulation before the second return of Christ. And there is no doubt in my mind that severe tribulations have already started to descend upon us, and that they will only grow more imminent and threatening to humanity over time. Therefore, we must always remember to be on guard and ensure that we are NOT the ones who are falling away from God’s truth, the ones hating each other or the ones watching our love for our fellow humans grow cold.
If our understanding and fear of systemic collapse ever begins to lead us towards such a mindset, then, regardless of whether we are physically prepared for Earthly concerns or not, we must immediately re-orient ourselves back towards our faith in Christ.
That being said, here is JT:
Picturing God’s Eternal Promise
Posted on October 1, 2012 by Brother of Sorrow
Many Christians believe that God has promised to eventually restore humanity to their original state in the Garden of Eden, before Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command at the behest of Satan. While this is a somewhat reasonable interpretation of the Bible, I believe it is incorrect. Instead, I believe the Bible reveals to us something much greater – a brand new creation that will be perfect and will act as a much greater reward to the faithful in Christ than anything Adam or Eve experienced. The reward for innocent humans in Eden was an Earthly paradise, but the reward for redeemed humans will be a heavenly Utopia.
There are many Biblical reasons to believe that the Garden of Eden was less than “perfect”, in the sense that most Christians use that word. When Adam was created by God, he was tasked with working in the Garden and taking care of it, which implies a good deal of physical effort (Genesis 2:15). After the Fall, we see that God tells Eve and Adam that they will experience more pain and more physical effort, which implies that pain and physical work were already present before the Fall (Genesis 3:16-19). Although the level of these physical burdens were relatively small in the paradise of Eden, they still existed and therefore Eden was less than perfect.
Another way in which we can picture this lack of perfection is through the physical laws of the Universe. All of these laws are intimately related to the second law of thermodynamics, which states that the Universe has been in a continuous state of “decay” from its beginning. We find some Biblical support for this law in the Bible, when Paul talks about how “the creation was subjected to futility… because of him who subjected it [God]” and how “the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (Romans 8:18-22). These statements seem to imply that the Universe was created with its physical laws in place, including thermodynamic decay, as a part of God’s ultimate purpose (the exposure and redemption of humanity from sin)
(full post at link above)
It seems that we often hear Christians talking about God the Father or Jesus Christ, the Son of God, but we hear very little about the third person of the Trinity – the Holy Spirit. We almost get the sense that the Holy Spirit is some impersonal force that extends from the first two persons, and that “it” isn’t very important to Christian theology or that “it” isn’t responsible for doing too much in the world. Nothing could be further from the truth, though, as we have received it from the scriptures.
The Holy Spirit is just as much a distinct person as the Father and the Son, and He is central to the Christian faith, theologically and practically. I suspect there are two basic reasons why He has erroneously been marginalized so much among Christians, and specifically Christians living in Western cultures – 1) It is simply harder for people to think of God in terms of three persons that are in relationship with each other, rather than two persons, and 2) Western Christians are very resistant to the idea that God is still very active in the physical world today (much, if not all, of that activity comes from the Holy Spirit).
Dr. Craig Keener has addressed point #2 with meticulous detail in his two-volume (1200 page) book, The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts. He shows us how hundreds of millions of people living today have claimed to experience miracles around the world, and many of these claims are very well-attested and independently verified. It is truly our cultural values and filters in the West that blind us to the reality of God at work today, intervening daily in the lives of His children. I believe it is also clear that we are really talking about the work of the Holy Spirit when we reference miracles or divine providence.
(full post at link above)
Charles Alban post=5399 wrote: Very interesting that you have identified materialism as the cause of the problem.
The existence and perception of a material reality is not inherently the problem, but rather our innate selfish and egoistic response to that reality.
I am aware of Hindu and Buddhist philosophy that views the “Fall” as our perception of a reality external to ourselves, including all material objects and relationships. This philosophy is a very powerful one, but it ultimately does not satisfy the scientific, historical or philosophical evidence, IMO.
For ex., in terms of pure experience and logic, this philosophical tradition would say that loving others is just as “evil” as hating others, because they both presume external relationships. That doesn’t make any sense to me, and goes against my experience and logic.
People in modern cultures like to separate religion and spirituality from other areas of their lives, personal and professional. That is considered the appropriate thing to do, and in some cases it is the legally required thing to do. We always fall back on the notion of “separation of church and state” to justify this attitude, as if that catch-phrase can override the uncomfortable truth that spirituality is needed in every sphere of life, including state policy. The state obviously shouldn’t coerce people into any spiritual beliefs (which is logically impossible), and it shouldn’t have a clear preference for one spiritual tradition over another.
However, this doesn’t mean that anyone is forbidden from using their spiritual beliefs to inform their decisions, including public officials. I would argue that we should incorporate those beliefs into all aspects of our lives and be completely honest about doing so. For some [selfish] reason, people are put off by the notion that the best policies for human society may have already been given to us by a higher power, rather than cleverly worked out by humans themselves; that we are all like little children in need of clear instruction and guidance from our parents, even when we are fully grown. The truth is, though, that this is exactly what we are – dependent beings/societies that would dissolve into nothingness without the sustaining action of God along with His moral truths and guidance…
(1) The financial, social and psychological well-being of individuals and communities is being drastically curtailed by excessive levels of private and public debt, and the ever-increasing interest burdens on that debt.
(2) Our societies have become infatuated with market-based consumerism and turned every aspect of our lives into commodities defined by monetary values. This has created a level of socioeconomic inequality that only continues to grow larger and cause severe economic, social and psychological effects within these societies.
(3) Developed societies exhibit a level of consumption and waste that is destroying global ecosystems, such as forests and fisheries, and the ability of those who are less fortunate to survive, as well as depleting energy resources that these societies have made themselves dependent on.
(4) Developed and rapidly developing societies have pushed for industrialization and have sacrificed their ecosystems and environments in the process, leaving current and future generations with contaminated soil, polluted water, polluted air, etc.
(5) In tandem with over-consumption by developed populations, many parts of the world also have a problem with over-population, and therefore the resources necessary for a survival have become extremely strained.
(6) In the last century, human civilization has experienced some of the most horrific conflicts and wars in all of its history, many of which were completely unnecessary. After the advent of weaponry capable of mass destruction, any serious conflict carries with it the potential for disproportionately widespread destruction of life.
(7) The human institutions responsible for enacting and implementing policy have become hopelessly corrupt, responding to elite corporate interests rather than the will of the people.
(8) It is a credible argument that our predicaments go beyond the mere corruption of individual humans pursuing narrow goals, but also encompass active conspiracies between humans at the highest levels to pursue very broad, selfish and destructive goals. I would label the ultimate power behind such conspiracies as the spiritual entity known as Satan, but regardless of what you want to call him or it, it is clear that we find relevant warnings and solutions in the Bible.