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Western Intellectual Tradition

THE WESTERN INTELLECTUAL TRADITION [covering the Modern period of Western thought between the 17th and 20th centuries]

 

(1554) MODERNISM- okay- need to take a break from politics [current!] and news! Let’s do some history/philosophy. Modernism [modernity] refers to the time period between the mid 17th century to the mid 20th century [loosely]. During the scientific revolution, coming off the heels of the Reformation- there were many challenges to past ways of thinking about religion, knowledge, politics and existence in general. Many new thinkers felt the old forms of thought were outdated- and as man advances he needs to ground his existence in rationality as opposed to religion [Descartes’]. Not all thinkers rejected religion- John Locke and Immanuel Kant tried to show that religion could be rational- not all religion had to be ‘blind faith’. Others rejected that idea [David Hume] and said if you wanted society to be rational- you had to reject religion as a foundation for thought. Modern atheists- like Sam Harris- would say the same thing. In Harris’ 2004 book- The End of Faith- he teaches that all true religion is radical in nature- that those who believe you can be moderate in religion are wrong- that the religious texts themselves [Koran- Bible] call for radicalism and violence and therefore the only hope for peace in the world is to eliminate religion. Basically I think Harris should stick to atheism and not delve too deep into Christian philosophy. The Christian ‘religion/ethic’, while possessing scriptures [Old testament] that certainty do advocate violence- yet the central historical event in Christianity is the event of the Cross and the person of Christ- whose message said ‘Moses said- but I say’. Christianity contains within her texts the mandate to reject the old forms of violence and to embrace a new way of love- so Harris missed the boat on this one. But you have had thinkers [past and present] who have said ‘we need to eradicate the world of all traces of religion in order for man to reach his highest good’. The thinker Nietzsche would pronounce ‘God is dead’ in his 1882 book called The Gay Science [I’ll leave it alone]. Both Marx and Freud would join him in their rejection of God in the last half of the 19th century. So many felt the rise of modernism- along with the descent of religion was mans ultimate goal- as man advances he would mature from this ‘psychological’ weakness and accept a world without God. Than in the 20th century you had some major events that questioned whether or not modern man could survive without true religious morality. We had the world wars and the most violent century in our history as ‘moderns’. The election of Jimmy Carter- the first self professed ‘Born Again’ Christian to become president- and the Iranian revolution in 1979- the rise of an Islamic state based on radical interpretations of Islam. These events challenged the ‘hope ‘of those who felt like religion was waning and mans rationality was winning the day. So that’s why you had the rise of the new atheists who began a campaign to revive the ‘death of God’ movement and to advocate for what they felt was necessary for man to advance along the modern path. Today we are actually living in what’s called ‘the Postmodern Era’ but for the purpose of this short note we don’t want to go down that road at this time. Has man advanced- ‘modernized’ to the point where he does not need ‘God’ anymore? Can man simply build a Utopian society without God? All those who advocated for a society without God- ultimately failed in coming up with a rational basis for law and order- for who has the right to ‘make the rules’ in this new society- in essence those who tried the Freudian way could never come up with a system of govt. and law without having to borrow from the Christian world view- man cannot simply govern himself based on some atheistic principle of ‘reason’ apart from God [who decides whose reason is right?]. The atheist’s charge that all religion at its core is radical and dangerous- without reason- has been proven false. True religion can very much be reasonable- that is being rational and religious can go hand in hand- all religious adherents do not have to be ‘Fundamentalists’ as Harris claims- and the Modern experiment has not shown us that mans ultimate destiny is to rise above religious belief and attain some type of society without God and faith- that experiment has been tried- and found wanting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1555] I really want to cover a little more Philosophy/history- but let me mention a few recent news/political developments. This past week Richard Holbrook died. He was our special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan. I actually wrote a post about him a week or so ago. The Wikileaks revealed him to be less than truthful in his dealings with the public. The reason I want to mention him is because after he died the media [both left and right] praised him as a wonderful man- a great humanitarian- on and on. Holbrook was said to have been the highest diplomat in his area of foreign policy who never became secretary of state. If you remember during the presidential campaign many thought he would be picked to take the position if a Democrat won. He was also said to have had a ‘big’ image of himself- he saw himself as a very important figure. I saw an interview he did with Rachel Maddow one day- he simply gave the same justifications for the war in Afghanistan as Bush and Cheney gave- no difference. Holbrook was involved with our actions in East Timor in the late 70’s [Carter administration] and also played a role in our ‘war’ in Yugoslavia. During the 90’s under the Clinton administration we ‘sided’ with the Muslim’s who were fighting the ‘Christians’. Slobodan Milosevic was the president and we backed the Muslims because we claimed the Serbs were practicing Genocide. So the Muslims did the same against the Serbs when it was their turn. Holbrook had a hand in those killings as well. So whatever a person’s political leanings are- we should also be truthful about the history of people. If someone has leaned more heavily towards the justification for U.S. action- and has pushed for the more aggressive role- than let the record show that. When Cheney or Rumsfeld die- I’m sure you will have some who will praise them- and others who won’t. In Holbrook’s case there seemed to be no one telling the other side.

 

Okay- let me quickly cover a few more things. I’m doing a study right now on the Western Intellectual tradition- covering the period between 1600-2000. Some if it gets a little dry- but it’s important for believers to have a basic grasp on this period. Many thinkers went thru a transformation during this time- in the pre-modern era philosophy and theology went hand in hand. But during the enlightenment and scientific revolution many new ideas arose. In the midst of the 17th century [1641] the famous Christian thinker- Rene Descartes’- sent a letter [called the Meditations- it would be released in book form later] to the university of Paris [the leading university of the day- theology and philosophy were the main fields of study] and he challenged the thinkers of the day to ground their arguments for God in Reason as opposed to Revelation [meaning tradition and what God has ‘revealed’ to us thru the bible]. Descartes’ believed that the Christian thinker could argue his case in a more powerful way if he based his argument on reason. Now to be sure this idea was not new- you had men like Thomas Aquinas advocate this in the 13th century- and as far back as 400 years before Christ the philosopher Aristotle used this line when speaking of the ‘prime mover’ [God]. But Descartes is credited with challenging the church of his day to do philosophy on this new ground. John Lock, Immanuel Kant and others would take certain aspects of Descartes ideas and develop them more fully. Some were more skeptical than others- and some rejected the idea that any reason/rationality could ever be combined with religious belief. Later on in the 19th century you had many openly advocate a type of reasoning that would totally exclude God from the picture. But for the most part the earlier thinkers did not go down that road- they thought it foolish to deny the existence of God- all things coming into existence from nothing seemed be a non starter for them- yet many of today’s most famous atheists seem to have no problem espousing a view that is absolutely proven to be false [you can never- ever- ever get something from nothing- which is the most popular view of the big bang theory among many atheists today]. So I think Christians today should be more aware of making the argument for the existence of God through rational/reasonable means- the other day I heard a radio preacher trying to debunk the theory of Evolution- he argued that it can’t be true because the bible says God made everything. Well this argument doesn’t cut it with people who don’t believe the bible! Likewise we need to be able to give a defense for the faith- without always appealing to the articles of the faith while doing it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1556] REALISTS-NOMINALISTS-  Let me do a little more on the development of philosophy and how Christians played a major role in new ways of thinking and ‘knowing’ [epistemology]. I mentioned Rene Descartes the other day- Descartes challenged the Christina thinkers of his day to approach apologetics [arguments for God’s existence] from rational grounds; instead of saying ‘God exists because the bible/tradition teach it’ he showed we can argue from the ground of reason. Descartes was a ‘realist’ that is a thinker who believed in Universal principles- the ancient philosophers [Aristotle, Plato- etc.] taught that there were universal ideas that existed- the example was if you think of a Horse- or a Chair- that in the mind of people we all have this concept of what these things are- but the reality of the universal idea of horse/chair exist outside of us- they are not only thoughts in our minds. The Nominalists rejected this idea- they taught that we interact with our 5 senses with things in the world- and thru this interaction our minds passively receive this knowledge and we come up with ideas- not because these ideas are universal ideas that already exist- but because our minds have ‘discovered’ them thru the senses. These thinkers were also called Empiricists. Men like David Hume would take this approach. Then in the 18th century you had the German philosopher Immanuel Kant challenge the skepticism of the Empiricists and he would become one of the most influential thinkers for our time. You would be hard pressed to find another philosopher who has had more influence on western thought than Kant. Kant too believed that man could not prove God absolutely thru natural means- but he did teach that it was rational/reasonable for man to believe in the existence of God- though he said you can’t totally prove him thru natural means. This was a different approach from the pure Empiricists- they taught that God/religion were irrational. Kant put a twist on Empiricism- he said that man does interact with the world thru his 5 senses, but instead of ideas/knowledge being a product of the mind of man passively receiving this knowledge- mans mind categorizes these interactions and it is thru this function of mans mind that we have knowledge. He carried the idea a little further than Hume. In the end of the day Immanuel Kant believed that not only is it rational to believe in God- but it is necessary. For society to ever function properly man needed to believe that his soul was immortal, that an eternal being existed that would someday judge man [or reward him] for his actions in this life. Though Kant did not accept the Realists view that we could prove God by rational means- yet he did believe in the necessity of man to believe in God. It has been said that Kant kicked God out the front door- but snuck him in thru the back. Okay- know some of this gets dry at times, but I think it is important for Christians to have some idea of the development of thought and philosophy thru the ages- many atheistic philosophers have argued against the existence of God- but many Christian thinkers have made just as strong [if not stronger] arguments on the other side- we need to know both sides.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1559] RATIONALISTS- EMPIRICISTS [Western intellectual tradition] – Okay- for those of you who are following my sporadic teaching on modernity [philosophical period between the 17th 20th centuries] let me overview a little of what we have covered so far. We discussed the Christian thinker- Rene Descartes’- and how in the 17th century he challenged the faculty at the university of Paris [the leading university of the day] to argue for the reasonableness of Christianity thru rational means- he said we can prove the existence of God without having to appeal to church tradition or the bible. The Empiricists [those who challenged the ‘rationalists’] argued that all knowledge comes to us from the senses- so we can never prove God’s existence from reasonable/natural means. In fact they argued that religion in itself is irrational and any attempts to make it rational/reasonable were futile. David Hume and Denis Diderot [one of the first openly professed atheists of the time] would argue from this position. Then in the late 18th century the very influential German thinker- Immanuel Kant- would respond to Hume’s pure skeptical Empiricism and ‘awake out of his dogmatic slumber’ [a term he himself used to describe his reaction to reading Hume] and challenge the skeptics. Kant did accept the Empiricist’s idea that we can’t ‘prove God’ by rational means- thru knowledge obtained thru the 5 senses- yet he taught that it was perfectly ‘reasonable’ to come to the conclusion that God exists. Just because you can’t prove God like Descartes’ said [according to Kant- I personally believe Descartes’ was right] it is still rational to ‘purport’ the necessity of God- in essence we ‘need God’ and natural religion for man to function in society- and it is logical to conclude that there must be an initial cause to all creation-even though we can’t discover him thru natural means. Okay- just a brief overview of what we already covered. I guess at this point I better go ahead and start a separate study under the title ‘The Western Intellectual Tradition’ [on the blog]. Why should Christians [especially preachers/pastors] even be concerned with stuff like this? While I agree it is not necessary for all Christians to study all subjects about all things- yet these historical/cultural movements play a major role in the debate going on today between believers and those who reject God. Just like in the scientific field- if Christians simply give up the fight- that is if we come to the table of ideas- trying to engage society in a coherent way- then we need to have some ability to argue intelligently for our position. To have even a ‘surface’ understanding of some of these cultural movements that have shaped the way we think and know is important when we get into debates with unbelievers who have appealed to the skeptics [Hume] to argue against the existence of God.

 

[1561] PIETISM/ROMANTICISM- As we already covered, the Enlightenment thinkers struggled with the idea that religion and reason/rationalism can go together. The pure Empiricists [David Hume] would reject the idea that religion could be rational- Descartes claimed it could- and Kant drew a middle line; he taught that we cannot know God thru the sense realm, but it was rational to ‘Postulate’ the idea of God [John Locke said reason can accept Revelation- Divine truths that have no Empirical evidence to back them up- Kant simply taught that it was rational for the mind to accept the idea that a first cause must exist, even if we can’t ‘prove’ him thru sense evidence]. Okay- as you can see much of Enlightenment thinking was infused with religion, reason, rationality- etc. Did all thinkers ‘think’ that these ways of approaching religion and reason were profitable? No- many thinkers/philosophers saw too much ‘head knowledge’ in the whole endeavor to make faith reasonable. Many religious leaders rejected the over emphasis on rational religion. Romanticism was a cultural/religious movement that primarily affected the Arts and Literature- but also had strains of religious thinking within it. The Romantics said we do and should experience life and God thru a real-felt type of living. There is much more to life than the rational proofs of things- in fact they felt the very essence of life was about experiencing the beauty of things thru the Arts and the creativity of man- some felt that God himself was revealing who he was thru the artistic creativity of man- the great Christian pieces of music [Bach- etc.] were not these beautiful works of music that transcended the ‘rationality’ of man and caused him to experience the beauty of God/religion thru this form of Art? The same for great literature. Pietism had her roots in the early modern period- and in the 19th century also pushed back against the sterile rationality of the Enlightenment thinkers. Pietism- much like Romanticism- said there was much more to religion than simply knowledge- Pietism challenged the ‘dead faith’ of Orthodoxy and focused on the religious experience of Regeneration- they spent much time answering the question ‘how do we know we are saved’. Romanticism had strains of religious thinkers within her- Pietism was mainly focused on the religious question. Pietism had a major impact on 19-20th century Protestant Christianity- and most Evangelicals today can trace their roots to Pietism’s influence on religious thought. In the 18th century revivals that took place in the American colonies- men like Jonathan Edwards would play a major role in shaping the religious thought of early Protestantism in America. John Wesley- the great Methodist preacher- would also challenge the ‘dead religion’ of the Church of England and eventually launch the Methodist church [though Wesley originally never meant to separate from the Anglican Communion]. So the 19th century saw a strong reaction against the reason/rationalism of Enlightenment thinking- they felt like much true religious experience was indeed meant to be ‘an experience’ that  is something much more than simple knowledge. In Romanticism this challenge was primarily based in the cultural landscape of the day- in Pietism it was religious in nature. You had both Romantic atheists and Pietistic preachers agree on one thing- there is much more to life than the sterile rationality of the Enlightenment period.

 

[1567] FRIEDRICH SCHLEIERMACHER [and Hitchens] – Okay, before I get too far behind in our study of Modernity- let’s do another post. F.S. [the guy above- don’t want to keep writing the name] was one of the most influential thinkers/theologians to come at the turn of the 19th century. He too challenged the sterile rationality of Enlightenment thinkers- and tried to craft a way to look at religion that was unique. Instead of religion being this dry approach to the world and existence as mediated thru mans senses [natural religion- Kant, etc.] he said religion was actually meant to be this experience that man has as he interacts with the whole of creation- an ‘intuition- sense’ that is more than something we can dissect and put under the microscope of reason. F.S. was a sort of go between- he was both trained in academia- a true intellectual- and also a ‘man of the cloth’. He knew the arguments that some of the Romantics made against ‘dead religion’ and he challenged their rejection of religion and wrote the famous book ‘On religion- speeches to its cultured despisers’ in 1799. The book was targeted toward his fellow academics in the universities of Germany who scoffed at religion- he appealed to their sense of art and beauty as true Romantics- and made the case that true religion is ‘the sense and taste for the infinite’ that is religion can be an expression [above reason] that seeks to embrace this sense of the infinite, this ‘feeling’ in man that there is more to life than meets the eye- and you can be ‘cultured’ and religious at the same time.

 

Okay- actually this is a good spot to jump into more of my critique of Christopher Hitchens book ‘god is not great’. Hitchens fits in good with the ‘cultured despisers’ that F.S. was writing to. I have found some points of agreement with Hitchens; he sees the Catholic church’s stance on no condom use as dangerous- especially in places like Africa- because condoms can be an effective way to reduce the AIDS virus. As a Protestant, I am not against condom use/contraceptives- but the flaw in Hitchens argument is he presents the case in a way that says ‘see- if it weren’t for the church’s teaching on condoms- Africa would not be in this epidemic’. Point of fact- one of the major ways AIDS is spreading on the continent is thru the vocation of male prostitution and other promiscuous type lifestyles. Would Hitchens have us believe that as the male prostitutes are getting ready to ‘go to work’ that they look in the drawer- see the condom and say ‘geez- I would really like to use a condom- but my strict adherence to Catholic doctrine will not allow me to do it!’ The reality is the church’s teaching on condom use- if practiced in accordance with ALL THE OTHER TEACHINGS of the church- would not increase the spread of aids [the church teaches monogamous only relationships- these relationships are not contributing to the spread of the virus in Africa]. Hitchens also has an entire chapter on pig meat! Yes, I’ve heard Hitchens speak over the years- and for some reason he has this obsession with pig meat! Anyway he defends the poor pig- makes fun of the Jewish Kosher diet- and then proceeds to give his personal view on why pig meat became a ‘no- no’ to kosher Jews. He actually believes [for real!] that pigs taste and act so much like humans [their intelligence- and their screams when being slaughtered] that the Jews associated eating pig with eating humans [and Hitchens even describes the taste of pig meat tasting like human meat- no joke!] he believes this is the secret reason Jews don’t eat pigs. He also defends pig meat as being healthy. Okay- I’m not a pig meat aficionado- but being I am a student of the bible [including the Old Testament] I can assure you that the Jewish dietary laws of the Old Testament are in fact very healthy laws! For hundreds of years people did not know why pigs, shrimp, etc. were forbidden to be eaten by the Jewish people- and over time science has discovered that these meats were indeed unclean. The prohibition against certain sea food- later these types of fish were found out to be scavengers, they are the ‘trash eaters’ that keep the oceans clean- that’s why they are unhealthy. Pigs- Hitchens favorite meat- pig meat is not good for you [in general- I’m a very happy pig eater- on pizza- with eggs- out of a bag with spices on it- pork rinds] because the digestive tract of the pig is very short, what they eat ‘becomes’ part of their flesh/life without going thru a long digestive process- not like the cow who ‘chews the cud’ [multiple processes of digestion]. Basically pigs are in fact a ‘less healthy’ meat than other types of meat. All in all Hitchens- once again- is just misinformed about stuff- lots of stuff. Geez- I wrote this short critique from basic knowledge gained thru out my life- believe me I did not have to Google ‘is pig meat clean’. So once again we see the ‘brilliant mind’ of Hitchens at work. I’m reminded of an article I read a few years back- it was a column by Maureen Dowd [the liberal columnist]. She gave her conservative brother a free shot to use her column to blast liberals. He went at it- in pure tea party fashion. As he went down the list- hitting all the favorite sore spots- he got to a line where he spoke of his senator- obviously a liberal- he simply said ‘Sheldon Whitehouse- you sir- are an idiot’ and that  was that. As I continue to read Hitchens book- this  line comes to mind.

 

[1572] HEGEL [modernity study cont.] Hegel is considered to be one of the most influential thinkers of the modern era [along with Kant]. Hegel’s view of God and religion laid the groundwork [with Kant and a few others] for liberal theology. Hegel taught an idea about God that said in the beginning God was this ‘undifferentiated spirit’ [impersonal] who ‘separated’ himself from himself- in this Divine separating part of him became cosmos, world, man- in the history and development of man, man comes to self consciousness about himself- about God- and in this process- God himself discovers who he is too! Yikes! Obviously Hegel’s view did not sit well with historic Christianity.

 

Hegel was an idealist [like Plato]. If you remember earlier in this study I taught how idealism is the belief that ultimate reality exists in ideas or forms- the reality of horse or chair is first an idea/invisible form- then what we see is sort of a second creation. Many of the early Greek philosophers held to this view [Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, etc.]. Hegel believed that because ‘God’ comes to this self realization of who he is thru the development of human society thru time- therefore he saw the Divine in human community [government]- primarily expressed thru Protestant forms of Christianity- he divinized the state in a way.

 

When we study the various thinkers of the modern period [1700’s-2000] it is hard to separate their strong views of religion and God from their thought- but many modern teachers of philosophy have a tendency to skip over the religious ideas of these men- often in the university setting these thinkers are just looked at as philosophers- and their obvious religious thought is kind of glanced over as ‘a symptom of the times they lived in’. This is a big mistake in my view- while I obviously do not embrace Hegel’s ideas about God [he basically taught a form of Pantheism- a religious belief that says God is the creation- not just the creator] yet it is important to see the role Hegel will play in the influence of the higher critics that arose out of the German universities of the 19th century. Many of the modern religious thinkers were influenced heavily by Hegel [Rudolph Bultman] and his ideas- in various forms- will continue to inform religious thought right up until the 20-21st centuries.

 

I guess a good example to sum up Hegel would be the program I was watching last night on Link T.V. It was a discussion amongst various religious groups about God and how we should strive to know and understand and respect the different beliefs people have [I agree]. Yet as the various people shared their views- it was easy to see the eastern beliefs and how much they differed from traditional Christianity. At one point they gave a quote from a Catholic priest [Those of you who know me realize I consider fellow Catholics Christians and am a student of Catholic as well as Protestant Christianity]. He said there were 3 basic realities; 1- the other [God] 2- we are the other [we are one with the divine] 3- there is no other [double yikes!!]. Obviously this well meaning priest is not in good standing with the teachings of his own church!

 

I don’t share this to be mean- I think in today’s world it is vital for Christians to engage in interfaith discussions- to respect other peoples beliefs and to work with other religions [Islam, Judaism, Hindu- etc.] but we don’t want to confuse people about what the historic Christian faith teaches about God. In Christian teaching [Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox] God is an eternal personal being- not just some ‘undifferentiated spirit’. God is not ‘us’. He made us, and the creation- he reveals himself to man thru creation- his Spirit does indwell those who believe in him and the redemption of Jesus Christ and his Cross- and God knew who he was- long before we knew who we were!

 

So some of the deep thinkers have espoused ideas that do not sit well with Christian tradition- never the less it’s good to study and be familiar with the various thinkers of the modern era and to be able to refute [in a nice way!] their errors and share with them the truth of the gospel. As I study these various thinkers-I’m reminded of a term I learned when first moving to Texas from N.J.  As a Yankee living in the south- I was often told that here in the south we don’t ‘fix it if it aint broken’. And over the years I have learned that there is much truth to this statement- thru trial and error.

 

One time I bought this 1976 datsun 280 ZX. It was a used car- paid around a thousand for it. I liked the car- ran fast and all. So one day I get this bright idea [yes-I am going to fix something that ‘aint broke’] and decide to install a backup oil pressure gauge- you know just in case the original one goes out. So I put the new gauge in [cluster gauge- shows 3 different readings] and every now and then I noticed the gauge would show no pressure! The first time this happened I panicked and pulled over and realized that the pressure was okay- it was the design of the gauge- the tube kept falling off the oil sending unit [the thing the gauge hooks up to]. So one day while driving home- sure enough the gauge reads zero pressure- O well I will fix it when I get home. I never ‘got home’. The tube did fall off- but to my surprise all the oil managed to shoot out of the small tube during the ride- yes- I blew my engine! So as I read Hegel and some of the other thinkers in this study- and some of the theories they came up with- I appreciate their efforts to inform modern thinkers- to give themselves over to the field of philosophy- but in the end I get the sense that they are trying to fix something that ‘aint broke’.

 

[1585] ANOTHER SHAKESPEARE?  As I continue to read thru some of the arguments against Christianity- the pros and cons- one of the common threads that run thru the critics minds is the entire field of what is called ‘the historical method- higher criticism’. I have written extensively on it in the past- and will just hit a few points for today. This method of study developed in the German universities during the late 19th– early 20th centuries. Men like Rudolph Bultmann would popularize it- and before him thinkers like Hegel would play their role in setting the field for a new way of thinking about the bible and Christian truth. During this time many professors/scholars began studying the bible in the original languages [Old testament- Hebrew. New Testament- Greek] and they noticed something interesting- the first 5 books of the bible- commonly attributed to Moses [meaning he wrote them] were found to have used different Hebrew words for God. You also noticed different ways things were phrased in different sections- this lead some thinkers to espouse an idea called ‘the documentary hypothesis’ when I recently critiqued the atheist- Christopher Hitchens- he used this argument in his book- but you could tell he simply read the theory from someone else [a teacher- Bart Erhman] and that he was really not familiar with the entire field. This theory is usually attributed to a thinker named Wellhausen, and it gained popularity among the school of teachers often referred to as liberal theologians [liberal- not politically- but in theology]. Eventually the idea arose that Moses could not have been the writer of the Torah [first 5 books of the bible] but the Torah must have been written after the captivity of Israel [around the 6th century B.C.E.] and the returning Jews to their homeland basically made up the whole thing in order to give a sense of community and purpose to the down trodden Jews. The same idea was developed about the New Testament and the gospels- these same critics said the gospels were really written by later authors- who made up most of the stories in order to give a sense of continuity to the developing nascent church- though these critics thought the New Testament still had ‘religious value’ yet the historical truth is absent [thus the name historical critical method]. Now- what about this John? First- over the years both of these theories- as interesting as they are- were in fact proven to have been not true. How? Well- the story s a little too long for this post- but basically as the field of archaeology and historical studies developed- the critics had less ground to stand on- not more. When I recently read the Popes book- he deals with this subject a lot- and he skillfully and accurately refutes it- I mentioned how at times the Pope was even funny. The Pope outlines the theory [about the gospels being a fabrication- written by some unknown men at a later date] and the Pope asks Bultmann ‘and just how do you explain the idea that these unknown authors wrote the most valuable writings of the day- books that have influenced the entire world- written at a real time with other real historical people living at the time- and yet they were able to carry out this elaborate hoax- while never being detected by anyone who also lived during that time’ in essence [I’m paraphrasing Benedict] the theory actually has no proof- if your going to challenge the historicity of the gospels- writings that do claim historical accuracy- written by men who we know did indeed live in the 1st century- whose historical accuracy has never been seriously challenged for centuries- if you come up with a theory 1900 years after the fact- then you can’t attribute your theory to a bunch of anonymous men- who supposedly lived at the same time- and brilliantly carried out the most elaborate hoax in the history of the world- and no one knows who these geniuses are! Benedict is correct in his critique of the critics. Basically these theories- while adding something to the whole debate- as a whole do not stand the same test of historical examination that they want to apply to the bible. And if the gospels are accurate [which they have been proven to be] Jesus himself speaks about the Torah [the first 5 books] quite a lot- he speaks saying ‘Moses said this’ and attributes the books to Mosaic authorship- talks of ‘Noah’s day’ speaks of God creating man in the beginning [Genesis]- Jesus himself testifies to the historical accuracy of the Old Testament- so if we have proof that the gospels are historically accurate- then according to Jesus- the history of the Old Testament is also historically true- See? When I read Hitchens- he has no depth at all in this debate- he seems to have simply read one side- and dished it out to his readers- giving them old arguments against the faith that have been disproven for years. It’s like the guy who said ‘hey- did you hear the news? We have found out that Shakespeare really didn’t write the tremendous works that are attributed to him’ O really- then who wrote them ‘another guy named Shakespeare’.

 

[1586] FREUD-NIETZSCHE AND MARX- Today I need to do a little more on our study of Modernity [the thinkers who have influenced Western culture/thought from the 1700’s- 2000’s]. At this time I have 3 separate studies I have started on-line; Classics of literature, Great Christian thinkers of history, and Modernity. As time rolls on- I will gradually post all new studies once a year in a monthly post [most of the time it will be February] and as I update them you can read the most recent ones from the most recent years.

 

Okay- I am skipping a bunch of stuff to jump into the thinkers who represent the most popular forms of atheism- Marx, Nietzsche and Freud. But first we need to take a look at Ludwig Feuerbach. L.F. [Ludwig Feuerbach] laid the groundwork for these other more famous rejecters of God and Christianity. During the enlightenment period it was rare for the critics of religion to hold an outright atheistic view- men like Hume and Voltaire- though true critics of the church- did not come out openly and deny the existence of God. It was also difficult [impossible?] to hold professorships in the universities if you were a doubter of God. Both Hume and Voltaire did not hold positions. F.S. was Hegelian in a way [he followed Hegel’s idea that ‘God’ comes to self consciousness thru the development of humanity] but F.S. was a Materialist- Hegel was an Idealist. Remember- idealism is the philosophical system that sees reality existing in forms/ideas first- then later comes the material thing. The great ancient philosophers- Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were all Idealists. F.S. espoused the idea that reality starts with the material existence of man first- and thru religion man ‘projects’ the idea of God/spirit into society- and as man and Christianity develop [all good things for F.S.] that the ultimate truth that we learn on this journey is that man is really all there is- his ‘phase’ of God and religion were simply necessary stages for man to arrive at this self conscious state in which he finally realizes that man is all there is- God was a ‘crutch’- a needed one- but never the less simply a projection of mans mind until he came to full maturity. For F.S. ‘theology [the study of God] is anthropology’ [the study of man]. So in this sense he follows Hegel- the development of man and society is the development of God- but Hegel starts with spirit projecting ‘himself’ into creation- and F.S. starts with man/matter first- and man projects this idea of God/spirit as a secondary reality. The philosopher Paul Ricoeur describes F.S. and his disciples as holding to a system of belief called ‘the hermeneutics of suspicion’. This meaning that religion and God are not just things that seem to be irrational [according to certain enlightenment critics] but that religion itself is a mask that adds to the suffering of man- that man is under the dominion of false ideas- ideas that have been developed by those who want power over others- and these taskmasters use religion as a tool to oppress the ignorant masses. This idea will come to full bloom in the mind of Marx. Marx referred to religion as a ‘false consciousness’ that kept man in servitude to others who ruled over them- and religion itself was the tool that kept these ignorant masses in check. Nietzsche thought religion had its roots in weakness and sickness- and that the most decadent used it to control those who were actually more moral than the leaders. Freud saw religion as an effect of repression and the actual cause of mental conflict and guilt- he blamed religion for all the psychosis that man is afflicted with in life. The next few posts in this study [whenever I get to them?] I will try and develop all 3 of these famous thinkers ideas- show the errors in their own thinking- and the aftermath of generations who have tried/fleshed out their philosophies- and have found them dreadfully lacking in the end.

 

[1587] OVERVIEW-  Lets over view a little today- in the last post I mentioned how we will be getting into Marx, Freud and Nietzsche in the coming months- yet I have so many things going on at this time that just in case I never get to them I want to lay out some stuff. First, most challenges to the Christian faith/God- have come from the point of view that said ‘yes- we believe that there is some being out there- God- but we challenge the purveyors of religion and how man has used religion to control- manipulate the masses’. It was not until the rise of these men that the popular approach of ‘no God’ would take a foothold in the minds of many unsuspecting ‘masses’. Before we delve into the ideas and contradictions of these men- let me explain why most thinkers of the Enlightenment did not take the atheistic approach- and instead opted for some form of Deism/Theism. The original debate of ‘where did everything come from’ did not start during the Enlightenment- it dates back as far as 4-5 centuries before Christ- the question is obviously older- but you can read the debate taking place in the great minds of the Greek philosophers; Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Though the idea of God in the minds of these Greek thinkers was not the same definition that Christianity would hold to- yet they did believe in some type of being who for the most part was what we would think of as God- they referred to him as The Prime Mover- a term that the great Catholic thinker Thomas Aquinas would use in the 13th century as he too argued for the existence of God. Okay- the Greeks taught that the universe/cosmos always existed- and there was an initiator who started the ball rolling [motion]. Their ideas about how the solar system worked were primitive- the famous idea espoused by Ptolemy had a sort of crystalline sphere surrounding the earth and the stars and planets were ‘stuck’ to this shield and as the sphere rotated- that’s what caused the heavens to change. Obviously the breakthroughs in cosmology that occurred under Copernicus and Galileo would bring us into a more perfect idea of how everything functions- yet the Ptolemaic view prevailed for centuries. Now- over the centuries those who began to challenge the church- they would hold to a view that while it is obvious that some Divine being exists [yes- very obvious- get to it in a moment] – yet they were not sure about the existence of the universe- did it always exist like the Greek philosophers said- or did the universe- and all things- have a beginning point? It is important to realize that those who would later on [18th– 20th centuries] challenge the actual existence of God- these very intelligent atheists [not joking] understood that if modern science ever taught a view that said ‘there was a point in time where nothing existed’ these men realized if this were true- then the gig would be up- if there was a time where nothing existed- not even God- they knew beyond all doubt that you would have nothing today. In my view these atheists were the smartest. Yet the breakthroughs in Physics during the era of Einstein did finally prove- beyond all doubt- that there was a time in the past where Time, Matter, Space- that all things did indeed have a starting point. This scientific fact [not religious fact] is absolute- beyond all doubt- irrefutable proof that God does indeed exist- and that he does possess all the attributes ascribed to him by Christian theology. If there was a time where nothing existed [not even God] then you would have nothing today- that’s fact- not belief. So- this is the way the world has debated about the subject for thousands of years- and for the recent theories to try and go back to the idea that the cosmos always existed- well that’s stone age thinking- that’s a rejection of what is commonly referred to as Big Bang cosmology- and no serious thinker rejects Einstein’s theories any more. So- where does that leave us? As we get into the many ideas people have come up with about God- religion- etc. we want to give the critics their chance to make the case- I have been reading [and refuting] Christopher Hitchens book these last few weeks [God is not great- Hitchens is a famous atheist] and I’m giving him a fair hearing- but not going easy on his blunders as well. A while back I got into a debate on a scientific type site- it was Christian in nature- but as I read the feed I realized there were a bunch of scientists going at it- smart men- some on the side of faith- others against it. I added [hesitantly!] my 2 cents worth. At one point- one of the scientists made a major blunder in logic while making his case that there is no God- I wasn’t too mean [heck- he was mocking Christians- I had to be a little mean] and as I posted my correction- proving him to be wrong- not in my area of faith- but in his area of science- he left the debate and never came back. As I checked the posts the next day- I saw another scientist anonymously posted a comment- agreeing with me, about a scientific fact- and admitting that his friend was indeed wrong. The point? It is too easy in this debate to think ‘surely these men must be right- after all they wouldn’t be so popular if they were wrong’- the fact is- this debate is not new, and yes- there are many popular writers/thinkers who are teaching an atheistic view- and these guys are making major mistakes in logic, fact, even in their own fields- they have been proven wrong- time and time again. So for those who are fans of the thinkers I will be refuting down the road- keep an open mind- don’t assume that these men are beyond fault- major fault in my view- and realize that the most prevalent idea espoused by the atheistic thinkers today- has indeed been proven false. You cannot get something from nothing- if there were a time where nothing existed- then nothing would exist today.

 

[1588] THE JEWISH CONTRIBUTION TO MODERNITY- Before I jump too far ahead in our study of Modernity- let me try and do a few posts on the contribution that Jewish thinkers added to the conversation. Obviously the influence from Christian thinkers [or those who came from a Christian background] played the majority role in forming the boundaries of philosophical and theological thinking in the Modern period- yet there were a few notable Jewish thinkers who also made some good contributions. Moses Mendelssohn interpreted Judaism thru a rational/modern lens and played the role of liberal theologian- much like the liberal Christian scholars who were attempting to emphasize the universality of religion and focusing less on the idea of exclusiveness. The 19th– 20th century thinker- Hermann Cohen- saw Judaism in terms of a universal ethical humanism- later on he returned to a more particularistic view- stressing the concepts of sin and salvation and how universal ethics by themselves were not able to address these issues apart from a particular religious revelation. Certain schools of theologians view  the return of the Jews- spoken about in the Old Testament- to their homeland in the 6th century B.C. as the true beginning of Jewish history and thought- they hold to the liberal view that the Torah was written at this time [as opposed to around 1100 B.C. by Moses] and that this era marked the phase of 2nd temple Judaism. I too view the period from the return from captivity in the 6th century B.C. as a sort of  ‘2nd temple Judaism’ yet I reject the idea that the Torah was written at that time- I hold to the conservative view that Moses wrote most of the first 5 books of the Old Testament. Having said that- after the Jews returned to their homeland [6th century B.C.] they would reinstitute temple worship and eventually Herod [Roman ruler] would rebuild the temple and the 1st century Jews would regulate their lives round the temple and it’s rituals- Priests played a major role in religious/political life. In 66 A.D. the Jews rebelled against Roman dominance- and in A.D. 70 Rome destroyed the temple under Titus [the military commander] and the Jews would lose the central religious location that structured their lives for centuries. Eventually Rabbi’s-the interpreters of the law- would play the major role in shaping the religious thought of the Jewish people. As time progressed, society eventually asked the question- which came to be known as ‘the Jewish question’- how should Jewish people be seen? Those living in France and Germany- were they to be accepted as Jews- with a distinct ethnic/religious culture- or should they be seen as German- French citizens? Recently- a famous female journalist [Helen Thomas] made headlines when a u-tube video came out- she was commenting on the ‘Jewish question’ and said the Jews ‘need to get the hell out of Palestine and return to their home countries’ when asked ‘what home countries’ she said Germany and France- obviously the Jewish question still lives in the minds of certain people. In the 17th century you had the development of a Jewish form of Pietism- called Hasidism. And in the 19th century Judaism would split into 3 distinct groups- Conservative, Reform and Orthodox. In the late 19th century you would have the rise of Zionism [the homeland question once again] and eventually the American Evangelical community would take up the cause of Zionism and it would become a major plank in the Dispensational theology of the American Protestant church. Though Zionism [the right of the Jews to once again posses their homeland] started as a purely political concern- over time it became ‘Christianized’ and would become the cause célèbre for many T.V. evangelists of the current day [John Hagee- just to name one].

 

[1600] YOU SAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION? YOU GOT IT. Okay- history was made yesterday- on the exact anniversary of the Iranian revolution [that didn’t work out so well]. First- I’m glad the people in the square prevailed- I’m on their side and stand in solidarity with them. There are already a few other Facebook pages popping up- DAYS OF RAGE for other countries who are seeking to capitalize on the mood of revolution in the air- it looks like we might really be living in historic times. These events could very well be the defining moment of this century- that which historians will look back on and see as momentous- a defining time. Are there dangers? Yes. There are always dangers when Revolution happens- honest [and dishonest] people on both sides- we [the U.S.] are children of Revolution- if any nation should support these revolts- it should be us! We had dissenters during our season of revolt- some preachers/Christians sided with England- they felt like it was disobeying the bible to ‘Revolt’- there are bible verses that say ‘obey your earthly rulers- listen to the kings and governors- don’t rebel’. Now- that sure does sound problematic if you’re a believer on the revolting side. The apostle Paul wrote this, not under Western Style Democracy- but under Imperial Roman Rule! [ in his letter to the church at ROME!]  So how do we join the spirit of freedom and popular revolution with this? Jesus obviously rejected violent revolt [those who live by the sword will die by it] yet he was not against challenging the authorities of the day- non violently standing up to corrupt leaders- and yes- instituting a new revolutionary kingdom- one that would overthrow the ‘kingdoms of this world’ [ The Kingdom of God]. I mean you can’t escape the imagery of revolt and kingdom and righteous dominion [rule] this is the heart and soul of the Kingdom of God. Problem? Well yes- at times [like in our day] many Christians misunderstand the purpose of the Kingdom of God- they [in my view] place too much emphasis on the geographical area of the Holy Land- they develop scenarios that pit Arab/Muslim nations against Israel- and they read the very real Old Testament prophecies thru a lens that says ‘this is God’s word- this ethnic group [Jewish] should posses this area- and this other ethnic group [Palestinian] should get out’. I think when we see the purpose of God and his kingdom thru this lens- we err. But the reality is the bible and the message of Jesus are one of true revolution- peaceful- but revolution nonetheless. The verses Paul wrote are indeed scripture- and they were real practical advice given to the fledgling church in the 1st century- Paul did not want the nascent church to get a reputation of being political rabble rousers- you had what were called Zealots at the time- Jewish political activists who advocated violent overthrow of Roman rule from the Jewish land- and Paul [and Jesus] rejected this idea. So I think if we read the basic instructions from Paul and see the context of the time- that yes- a political revolt was not what the early church needed. But what we are seeing in our day is a possible major realignment of the nations in the Arab [and Persian] world. We are seeing people who have been oppressed by religious theocracies- these people have every right to rebel- to non violently go to the streets and stand in protest to the dictators who have ruthlessly oppressed them for years- these rebels are not criminals- they are non violent protestors who are speaking truth to power- much like what Jesus did. Now- where next? I think we need to do Iran again- I think the president [Obama] thinks this too. Yesterday as he gave a speech after the historic events in Egypt- he spoke to the leadership of Iran and told them ‘let your people also freely protest in your streets’. Now- that message is saying ‘you guys are also gonna fall’- do you really think the Iranian madman thinks ‘well- maybe if we let the people protest- that’s all the president meant’ c’mon- if we thru Mubarak ‘under the bus’ [I’m glad he’s under the bus] there isn’t a snowballs chance in Hades that The mad man from Iran will get a free pass. So yes- lets support all the days of rage that are popping up- lets be on the side of freedom from tyrants and U.S. puppets- the Arab street is smart- they know much more than we give them credit for- and yes- there will be a danger from radical Islamist elements- we should make a distinction between violent and non violent Muslim groups- but even groups like the Muslim Brotherhood that have rejected violence- we should still be aware of their goal- they do indeed advocate for religious rule and we need to say ‘yes- we honor your principled stance against violence- yet we reject any religious theocracy- whether it be Christian, Jewish, Muslim- we want freedom and rights for all people- regardless of their religion- and we do not support your goal- even if you want to achieve it thru non violence’. Where next? IRAN.

[just a note- as I’m presently studying Marx and Freud and other thinkers- Marx himself rejected God because he felt like the religious rulers would use these types of ‘non revolt’ teachings to keep the people suppressed- Marx’s problem with God came thru this economic challenge- the masses were unwilling to revolt against economic oppression because religion was being used as a tool to keep the people under. I think in the beginning Marx meant well- saw the oppression of people and saw how rulers used religion to control people- too bad he couldn’t read this post]

 

[1622] ARE THE JAPANESE DISPROVING FREUD? One of the narratives coming from the Japan disaster is the response of the Japanese people. In contrast to our Katrina tragedy the Japanese are very self reliant. Jack Cafferty [CNN] read an email from some elderly lady who contrasted the 2 responses. She called the Louisiana residents who looted, killed, complained and wined- she said ‘those scumbags’ [ouch!] What are we seeing in the Japanese people? The media are referring to them as Stoic’s- the philosophy [ancient Greek- one of only 2 philosophies mentioned by name in the bible- Acts chapter 17 mentions the Stoic’s and Epicureanism] that said the secret to life is living on an even plane. Don’t get too ‘up’ or too down- just ride the wave of life as moderately as you can. The other side of the coin is Hedonism- the philosophy of men like Freud- who taught that the problem with man is that he is taught to restrain himself [by religion] and that this restraint is itself a product of neurosis. Freud was a strange fellow, the father of modern Psychoanalysis; his ideas were actually quite weird. As a Jew [non practicing] he embraced the higher criticism of his day [a way of interpreting the bible as not being actually true- just good stories] and he sought to come up with an explanation for mans religious bent. So he came up with the idea of the Oedipal Complex- a strange view of man that said the real problems of man are they have this view of love and hate for the father figure- and the ‘real’ story of Moses and the children of Israel was the Jews killed Moses in the wilderness [hatred for the father figure] they then felt guilty about it- and out of this guilt they would eventually develop a ‘religion of the Son’ [Christianity] and Walla- that’s the real story. You would be surprised how many people hear silly stuff like this in life [or college!] and they never give it a second thought. Like Pope Benedict says in ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ [1st book of a trilogy on the life of Christ] he mentions the theories of the critics [men like Bultmann] and he then responds ‘and how do you know this’? Bultmann [one of the famous liberal theologians of the day] would come up with ideas like this- and he would just espouse them. The funny thing about these critics was they were trying to challenge the historical accuracy of the bible- are the gospels true- stuff like that. And in their challenge they would ‘make up’ their own stuff [Oedipal complex] and simply expect everyone to believe it. So Freud taught that we need to free man from this neurosis of religion- this thing in society that says ‘restrain yourself’ and if we teach man to do and be all that he feels like doing- then we will have healed him of this destructive religious belief that developed out of a secret love/hate relationship of father. Wow. I can think of no greater philosophy to not live your life by than that. How did the Freudian experiment turn out? It was/is a disaster- I’m not just saying this as a Christian who rejects Freud’s atheism- but many of his ideas have also been roundly rejected by the psychologists of the modern day. Freud actually taught that when you counsel a person [yes- he was the originator of the idea of the patient lying on the couch while the counselor listens] that the patient is ‘transmitting’ psychic energy from himself to the doctor- and that’s what makes him better. Freud wrote Moses and Monotheism [his fictional account of the origins of Judaism/Christianity] Totem and Taboo- the fictional idea of the primitive religion of man- and Civilization and it’s Discontents, his explanation of the conflict between mans psychic life and the demands of society. The basic view of Freud [Hedonism] is a failed system that does not work in the real world. To live your life based on the philosophy of ‘if it feels good- do it’ does not work in any area of life- for the long term. In food, shopping, family life, marriage, sexual expression- the basic principle of self restraint and discipline [the Japanese response] is in great contrast to the ‘unrestrained’ view of life [as seen in some of the Katrina response- many of the looters and rioters were raised with a welfare mentality- they were dependant on the state/govt. to do things for them. When things went bad- they blamed the govt. for it]. In the end of the day- the society that practices self discipline- that teaches their children to be self reliant- those are the ones who have the most successful lives. Those who practice Hedonism blame stuff on everyone else.

 

[1623] CHRIST CHURCH? A few weeks back I was going to write a post from the words of St. Peter found in the New Testament ‘The time has come that judgment must begin at the house of God [Christ’s church= house of God] and if it starts there- what will the outcome be for the rest of the world?’ [paraphrased it]. Right after the ‘thought’ the major events off the coast of Japan hit and we have this trilogy of disasters to deal with [Earthquake, Tsunami, Nuclear meltdown]. I did find it ‘strange’ that the recent events started with Christ Church New Zealand- and seemed to spread from there. I heard a Geologist the other night- he had previously predicted the earthquake that hit Ca. during the World Series a few years ago. He said the sign of the dead fish recently washing up in Ca. was not a coincidence- he said the fish can sense a change in the earth’s magnetic field [prior to an earthquake] and that in Japan these fish kills are actually called ‘earthquake fish’. Wow. You do hear lots of talking heads during these types of events- yet it would be nice to know the truth on these types of things. The last year or 2 we had earthquakes along the Pacific Rim; Chile, New Zealand and of course Japan. If you look on a map you see the Pacific Ocean and you can draw a circle around the perimeter- the part that affects us is the West coast- so they already have a run on Iodide pills [fear of the radiation crossing the Pacific from Japan] and some are predicting an earthquake. The other night I caught a quick news flash of Saudi Arabia sending troops into Bahrain to fight back against the protestors- as it flashed by quickly- I said ‘geez- this is a major event- and it’s getting lost in the media frenzy’. Then O’Reilly spent 15 minutes on a real important life changing story- a stripper who works with a snake- the snake bit the woman on her breast- the snake died from the silicone from the breast implant. Another news show spent almost the whole hour on sports- even the president did another March madness prediction- at a time when the world has protestors in the streets- who thought we would help them [Libya] and they are actually saying ‘Obama- where are you- where’s Bush?’ Now- whatever your view is on intervening [no fly zone- etc.] the fact is if the feeling around the globe is that we are not taking these things seriously enough- then the image of the president doing March Madness picks does not look good. So what do we make of it all? When Peter said ‘judgment must 1st start at Gods house’ he of course was not directly talking about the city of Christ Church, New Zealand. Yet in a prophetic sort of way- these types of things can be signs of what’s to come. One of the important developments has been the fact that the Arab/Persian nations have indeed chosen to ignore the pleas from the U.S. to go easy on the protestors- and they simply have said ‘screw you- look at what you did to Egypt- we are gonna go the Gadhafi route’ [to a degree]. Saudi Arabia crossing into Bahrain- a small Persian Gulf nation where we have lot of troops stationed [and the 5th fleet docked] is a major development. The markets [both Asian and U.S.] have fallen over the fears that the Nuke disaster is already as bad as Chernobyl- and the unrest in the Middle East and Africa is not getting better. So we pray- we show the world that we don’t just throw our hands up and say ‘the end of the world is here’ but we also recognize it is in mans nature to deny the reality of judgment- the reality that mankind faces times where things build up and the planet suffers for it. In the 19th century there was a movement in Christian theology called ‘Liberal theology’- not liberal in politics- but a whole genre of teaching/thought that challenged a lot of the ‘old time’ beliefs [like original sin] and focused on the ability of modern man to rise above the ignorance of the past [even in religious thought] and man was on the road to a true Utopian society that would never fail. This belief was strong- both in the universities of Germany as well as in the politics of the Western world. Then you had the world wars- 8 million people killed in the first one- and 50 million in the 2nd one. Men like Karl Barth [a Swiss theologian- teacher] would challenge the liberal view of mans ‘inner divinity’ and he would blast the Christian world with his famous ‘the epistle to the Romans’ his commentary on Paul’s famous treatise- released in 1918. Though Barth is what some describe as ‘Neo- Orthodox’ [the strong Reformed teachers don’t appreciate Barth very much] yet he did bring the church back to the biblical doctrines of original sin and mans inability to ‘save himself’. Barth saw the reality of the WW1 and rejected the Utopian belief that man was so advanced that he would reach for the sky- and grab it! Today we see lots of shaking in the world- some are focused on March madness- some find it profitable to do a story on a stripper- we need to keep our eyes [and bibles] open- mankind is in need of God- man has gone thru stages where he thought the ‘old belief’ in God would fall away- to the contrary- the govt’s of man [apart from God] seem to be the thing that’s falling away.

 

www.corpuschristioutreachministries.blogspot.com

 

[1630] EPISTEMOLOGY- Lets do a little more on how we learn- know stuff. The actual ‘study’ of how we know things is called Epistemology. Today’s popular movement is called Post Modernism- a challenge to the classical idea of Modernism. The classical way of looking at knowledge said there are things that are ‘really true’ and things that are not- this is called Objective Truth. The Post Moderns say words are limited [true to a degree] and because words are simply vehicles that transmit ideas that are not really ‘true’ in the classical sense, then it is wrong for one group [like Christians] to say to another group [non- Christians] that Jesus is the Way- Truth and Life [Johns gospel]. So the battle lines are drawn. It should be noted that a growing number of believers are describing themselves as Post Modern and they argue that it is possible to be Christian and Post Modern at the same time. Okay- as more of the classical type- I believe it is possible to get to objective truth- that the pursuit of what’s true is not a vain pursuit- and yes- though we are all limited in our understanding, yet to even have this conversation requires an element of Absolute Truth. If the Post Modernist says ‘words have no objective truth- only relative truth- they only convey what the hearer decides they convey’ then I can  say ‘Oh- so if I take your words to mean there is such a thing as objective truth- that’s okay’? O know you idiot- you’re not hearing what I’m saying! So you see that the Post modernist needs his words to mean something- to convey a specific thing to the hearer- if the hearer can make the words mean whatever he wants- then you can’t even engage in the discussion- got it? So anyway- as I’m thinking about scrapping my Islam course [and just teaching it from stuff I learned myself- in the immortal words of defense secy. Bob Gates ‘on the fly’] I do want to utilize whatever objective truth I can pick up along the way- while at the same time realizing all people have their own biases and we need to listen with a careful skepticism. I ordered a course on Physics a while back- good course- but the instructor- though smart- made a classic mistake in Logic as he taught the course. He often said ‘the universe was created BY CHANCE’. Now- as a purely grammatical- logical argument- this incorrect [a fallacy]. Why? What he really means to say is ‘there are unknown causes in the universe that created the effect of existence- we do not know what these causes are- but we believe that thru a series of actions- which have no particular direction [chance] these unknown causes have caused the effect of the universe’. Okay- I don’t want to be nitpicky- but when I hear an intelligent person say ‘everything was made BY CHANCE’ and for him to get away with this without a rigorous challenge- then the Christian thinker has failed in his task to challenge the skeptic on his own terms- to show that even though the person may be an expert in his field [Physics] yet this does not mean he can get away with fallacious arguments- arguments that are invalid from the get go. So as we progress over the coming weeks/months on the various fields of study- we want to be open to learn from others who have specialized in their particular fields of study- we want to be open minded enough to learn from people who reject the faith- yes atheists can teach us things- there are  areas of knowledge that all people have that can benefit the rest of us. And we want to weigh all things that we hear- we all make mistakes- and are susceptible to error. Just because my Physics ‘teacher’ screwed up in a classic way- a way that most apologists recognize right off the bat- I mean you have to be an amateur ‘arguer’ of truth to make this type of mistake- yet I didn’t reject the entire course- I still learned valuable insights from the man. So I think this is the best approach to take- listen to all sides of a matter- doubt the things that seem a little off- do some research- check into it yourself- and at the end of the day let a variety of sources be your pool of knowledge- don’t just rely on one source. Proverbs says ‘In the multitude of counselors there is safety’. Be sure you’re listening/hearing from the multitude [broad range of thought and learning] because often times single sources can be right in one area- and off in another.

 

[1672] IN DEFENSE OF LIBERATION THEOLOGY

 

I’ve been wanting to get back to some of our studies- but the news cycle has been hot these last few weeks [not just Weiner!] and I have been sidetracked somewhat. One of the other important news stories was the going away speech by defense secy. Gates.

 

He tore into NATO and raked them over the coals for their willingness to vote Yes on intervention- then letting the U.S. do the majority of the work. There are 28 nations that make up the alliance [North Atlantic Treaty Organization]. Yet in Afghanistan there are a total of around 140 thousand troops. The media constantly report ‘NATO troops were killed- or accidently hit a civilian house’. We get desensitized- we think these are actually troops from NATO- like these other 28 nations are doing this stuff. Out of the 140,000 troops- 100 thousand are U.S. troops. I mean 28 other nations?

 

In Libya- once again the entire alliance voted to go in [or abstain- though ‘going in’ meant different things to different nations] and after a few weeks of ‘going in’ once again we are pulling 70 percent of the load. Gates blasted the alliance- saying with all these nations’ troops- they have a hard time standing up 25-40 thousand troops. These other 27 nations can’t even supply a regular fighting force of 25 thousand troops!

 

Hillary Clinton spoke out [rightfully] against a new resurgence of ‘colonialism’ taking place on the African continent. Colonialism is the abuse of 1st world nations stripping 3rd world nations of their vital natural resources and doing this with the consent of ‘paid off’ higher ups in these ‘stripped’ nations [this definition obviously doesn’t speak about plain colonialism- but in modern public speak that’s what they are talking about].

 

In Africa, China has been doing this now for a number of years- they have been ‘investing’ heavily in buying up the worlds natural resources- and the civilian populace living in these nations are extremely poor. If other nations want to partner in trade and investment with poorer countries- that’s fine. But don’t take the resources from these countries while the people living there are dying from poverty.

 

Around the turn of the 20th century you had the rise of what’s commonly called ‘the social gospel’. This Christian movement concerned itself with the broader mandate of the gospel that deals with bringing justice to the poor and hurting people of the world. Dealing not just with ‘saving souls’ but also with creating a more just society on the planet right now.

 

While this movement had its critics- it did not go as far as the later development of Liberation Theology. Now- once again in our ‘reductionist’ news media- we have managed to simplify our understanding of Liberation theology- and have basically presented it as some satanic movement that simply wishes to implement Marxist ideology into the American experience.

 

Glenn Beck got a hold of a few books [articles?] that showed the church’s criticism of Liberation theology- and it cemented in his mind that all liberation theologians were ‘the enemy’. It did no good to realize that- yes indeed- Obama’s church is a theological offshoot of Liberation theology.

 

Yes- the good ole Reverend Wright is a Black Liberation theologian and darn proud of it! Liberation theology took the concern of the social gospel a step further- it sought to implement social justice policies by mixing Christian teaching in with political structures. In a way it was a form of Marxism- without Marx’s penchant against religion. To the contrary the Liberation adherents saw this approach as a mandate from Jesus himself.

 

Liberation theology arose in the last half of the 20th century primarily as a result of what the Catholic church saw taking place in Latin American nations. Once again a type of Colonialism was taking place in this 3rd world region of the world [though they are obviously doing much better today]. And the Catholic church in the region developed a Liberating theology that would deal with these social injustices through political means.

 

The very influential Catholic bishop of El Salvador- Oscar Romero- would be the lead visionary of the movement at the time. Romero said some very important- and true things at the time. It would be wrong to totally reject all Liberation theologies as ‘satanic’. Romero taught that true theology- true learning and growing in our understanding of God should take place in ‘Base Christian Communities’ as opposed to the ‘institution’. This concept is actually taught in the bible [in my view].

 

His ideas would give birth to what is known as Feminist theology [Catholic female authors like Fiorenza of Germany or Mary Daly from America] these women were writing in what they saw as institutional oppression from the church against women- that in their view the church has historically repressed women- and they drew from the stream of Liberation theology that sought to ‘free people from oppressive regimes’ it’s just the regime they were speaking about was the church itself!

 

And yes- the Black liberation theologians would manage to tweak Liberation theology and make it fit their particular struggle for what they saw as a continued repression of the Black race.

 

All in all liberation theology was a very influential movement- that does indeed have many strains of truth within it.

 

Then why did the Catholic church have to officially distance itself from the movement? Bishop Romero [who would eventually become the arch Bishop of San Salvador] gained so much influence within the Latin American church- that the Vatican had to finally come out and distance itself from the movement.

 

Liberation theology was in fact a strange mixture of Marxist ideas- though they were taken from Jesus and the gospels. In the 20th century- right around the same time of Romero’s great influence- you had another very influential Catholic leader by the name of Pope John Paul the 2nd. John Paul would eventually become one of the greatest and most influential Popes of all time [that is saying a lot].

 

One of John Paul’s great achievements was his vital role in the pulling down of the Soviet Union and his stance against communism- especially seen in his own resistance to communism in his home country of Poland.

 

Now- how could the church be lead by one of the greatest heroes of anti communism of all time- and at the same time have such an influential Arch Bishop operating out of Latin America- who was in fact espousing a form of Communism?

 

So this page has been written in the books and we have what we have.

 

Today I think we all need to take a second look at the things we deem [or have heard] are wrong- or satanic. Though I have many disagreements with our president and this current administration- yet I agree with what Hillary said in her warning about the African continent. I also do not think it right to demonize the president because he did indeed attend a Black Liberation church- many of these congregations fully embrace redemption through Christ- and their ‘zeal’ to extend that redemption through the social justice arm of political govt. is not totally wrong- the bible speaks much about human govt. being a tool for social justice in a just society!

 

But we in America are fixated on more important things- like when the next picture of congressman Weiner will come out- yeah who has time for all this social justice talk anyway.

 

[1679] IS IT MORALLY WRONG TO TEACH MORALS?

 

 

The other night N.Y. passed gay marriage [or marriage equality]. They are not the 1st state to do this- but some in the media hailed it as a great advance for civil rights. I spoke to a Catholic friend who lives in the area- he’s an older brother- and he was really upset about it.

 

I think I caught him off guard by telling him it really didn’t ‘upset’ me- not like I lost a battle [right winger] of some sort. I told him I obviously have a different position than Governor Cuomo- but I’m not real mad about the thing.

 

I understand why some people are- and I also told my friend that my position is basically the same position that his church holds- I think homosexuality is ‘a sin’ [like many other heterosexual sins!] but I think the ‘right versus the left’ approach does no good- it seems to just alienate people

 

A few months ago our local high school made it to CNN because of a debate between some girl who wanted to start a straight/gay club on campus. You had the school say no- even though they did allow a Christian club to meet. The ACLU got involved and before you knew it they were all picketing for/against the club.

 

As I watched the thing on the tube I saw some local preachers standing out there- a few feet away from the kids- holding signs and shouting ‘it’s an abomination’.

 

Then you saw the gay kids- who also had the support of some liberal preachers- they were holding signs that said ‘God loves everyone’. It just seemed ‘non Jesus like’ to see the older men- railing against the young girl [the lesbian girl] and shouting in the streets about her being an abomination.

 

The point being we need to tell people the truth about what is in the bible- and what the church [predominantly] teaches- and then avoid ‘going to war’ with people.

 

As I’m continuing to read different works on philosophy and modernity- I recently came across Daniel Dennet- a contemporary atheist/thinker. Dennet questions the ‘morality’ of teaching morals [religion] to kids. He espouses the question of the whole idea of religious teaching/tradition. Is it ‘right’ to teach ‘what’s right’?

 

Okay- I’m sure he is a smart man [they tell me so] but he of course is falling into the classic mistake of thinking he can argue from a foundation of ‘oughtness’ while claiming we should not have these types of foundations.

 

Basically you can’t argue a moral position [is something right- wrong] if you reject the reality of morality itself. This mistake is easily refuted in the field of apologetics. Sam Harris [another contemporary atheist] makes these same arguments.

 

I found it interesting to hear Governor Cuomo and other supporters of the law- they were oozing with moral language ‘we are proud to be part of the struggle for the rights of all people’ and other language like this. I’m sure these well meaning folk don’t realize they are contradicting their core argument ‘who is society- the church- to say what’s right or wrong!’ And then they say ‘it’s wrong for them to think that way’.

 

Okay- I hope you see the point. Immanuel Kant saw this some 300 years ago when the ‘age of reason’ was just taking off. Many thinkers of his day began questioning the wisdom of having religion/morality as part of the fabric of society. Kant recognized the need for the basic idea of right and wrong [What he called ‘oughtness’ you know what you ought to do] and even though he disagreed with Descartes’- he did not believe you could ultimately prove God through reason- yet he saw the need for ‘God’ to exist in the fabric of human society- in his mind there had to be an ultimate judge who could carry out justice- and there had to exist a basic idea of what you should and should not do.

 

These debates are long and can go on forever.

 

In Matthew 13 Jesus gave us a story about Gods kingdom. He said it’s like a field. A farmer goes out and plants good seed. Then when everyone was sleeping- an enemy went out and planted ‘bad seed’.

 

When the plants came up- his workers asked if they should go out and pull all the bad crop out. The boss said no- just leave them alone- in the final harvest he will deal with them- but it wasn’t their job to go pull them out prematurely.

 

Sometimes we [the church] are like the workers- we see ‘bad seed’ things that we recognize are not healthy for the field- we think ‘let’s go dig them out’. But God says ‘I’ll deal with the bad seed in my time- if you think it’s your job to go around pulling up all the bad weeds- you might hurt some good wheat too’.

 

I in no way ‘rejoice’ over the N.Y. vote- but I feel no urge to go ‘pull the bad seed out’ some of what we think is bad- might turn out to be good in the end.

 

 

www.corpuschristioutreachministries.blogspot.com

 

[1681] THE SMARTEST PEOPLE IN THE ROOM?

 

Okay- the current media obsession is with Bachman- they have covered her misstatements with a fine tooth comb [more like a plow!]. I mean the main news outlets are going at it. Sure- I realize that calling John Addams a founding father is a bit much [more like a founding son] but why the obsession?

 

I remember when Newt got into the race- NBC [not their hack political arm- MSNBC] introduced him like this ‘he has been married 3 times- how successful he’ll be with the religious base- we don’t know’- wow- his intro mind you!

 

What happened to the Chris Matthews rant of no religious test? He went on for months about it- using it- wrongly- to say you can’t question/make your choice of a candidate because you don’t like his particular religious views. Yet the media has recently done polls on ‘would you vote for a Mormon’.

 

They laud the Broadway play ‘the book of Mormon’ which openly mocks Mormons. Can you imagine a play where you had Muhammad being mocked?

 

Yet now their fascinated with Bachman’s revisionist history. Okay- I’ll admit that Christians do run into trouble at times with the whole founding father argument. I often hear preachers say ‘the constitution says- we hold these truths to be self-evident’ and then they will argue their point from the ‘moral law’ theory we find in Paul’s letter to the Romans- chapter 1.

 

The apostle does say ‘all men are without excuse- God has revealed himself to us- he has made his truth known’. See- self evident. Actually the language used in the constitution was the ‘anti-Christian’ strain coming out of the European enlightenment.

 

The Enlightenment [sometimes called the age of reason] came off of the Reformation/Scientific revolutions of the 16-17th centuries. Many of the men I have been studying these last few years were major thinkers in the movement. Right around the 18th century you had a feeling of ‘modern man’ will eventually cast off all these religious restraints and we will enter this new age where the human intellect will rule.

 

Most of these thinkers did not reject a belief in God- they simply rejected the institutional view of religion. They fell into the category of Deism.

 

Now- Deism argued that we do not need Christianity- the church- the bible- to know right and wrong. But that enlightened man knew these truths by nature [that’s where the Romans 1 argument comes in]. But when the deist made this argument- he was in fact approaching it from an anti-Christian viewpoint.

 

Jefferson actually wanted the language to read ‘we hold these truths to be sacred’ but Franklin prided himself in interjecting ‘non-Christian’ [pro deist] language instead- and Walla- we have ‘we hold these truths to be self-evident’.

 

Okay- so you can see we all have a little bit of revisionism in us.

 

I’m not a fan of Bachman- to be honest about it. But it’s too early to be flooding the airwaves with such obvious vitriol against the woman. Geez- cover her ideas.

 

I’m an ex-Navy Corpsman- as a defense of Bachman many right wingers have been showing the infamous speech of the president- where he called the guys ‘corpse men’ around 3 times [you know- that monitor does not sound the words out for you]. And of course the right has to go thru the record and show all the instances where the media actually covers up the faults of their favorite guy.

 

Yes- to be honest- they do stuff like this- all the time. But I wish we could simply debate the various sides- be honest about our view- and then move on from there. The left always accuse the right of being partisan- yet I think they are just as bad- and just as misinformed on many issues, its pride that makes them think they are truly above everyone else.

 

Let me finish with an example. One day I was hanging out with the homeless guys- sure- a few drunks- a few dope heads- the usual crowd. And a new guy shows up. He claims to be an ex professor that taught at Berkeley in the past.

 

As the conversation grew- he began ‘teaching’ the course that he taught at Berkeley. It was a course on ANE myths [ancient near east myths]. He went on to cover the fact that other societies had their own versions of biblical stories. They had flood stories [Noah] creation accounts [Genesis] and stuff like that.

 

Now- I usually do not ‘do theology’ when hanging in the streets- but I couldn’t resist. So- as luck would have it [bad?] I just happened to be familiar with ANE myths- and the apologetic rebuttal to the argument- so I jumped into the fray.

 

I went on to tell the professor that I too was familiar with his course- and I went down the list- point by point- refuting his ideas.

 

I explained that just because these other stories do exist- that in no way means the biblical account is fake- as a matter of fact- if these things did actually occur- you would expect other societies to have their own versions. I gave him a few more basic points like this- and left it alone [you know- when you do street apologetics like this- things can get rough- almost as dangerous as a Wisconsin Supreme court justice meeting].

 

As this enlightened liberal professor sat there- listening to what looked to be his last rung on the ladder being kicked out from under him [lost his home- wife- everything- the only thing left was his superior intellect over the average idiot- one of those types of mindsets].

 

He realized that he was being thoroughly refuted [for the 1st time?] by some homeless bum from Texas [I play the part well]. I mean- a homeless ‘redneck’ no less.

 

He simply stared straight ahead- the smell of alcohol [and various drugs] wafting thru the air- and he looked up and said ‘I am going to leave now- and go put a bullet in my head’ [his head- not mine].

 

Now- whether or not he carried out his mission- I don’t know. But he was the classic example of a person- who seemed educated- who prided himself in not being like the rest of the ‘idiots’ of the world- and it was difficult for him to realize that his view- no matter how sincerely held- was only one view. It is possible in life for us to be wrong- or for us to be as misinformed as the other person.

 

I have no idea how long the current media fascination will last with Bachman- I’m sure they’ll find another thing to fasten upon- of course when their side calls a bunch of servicemen ‘dead men- corpse men’ well- something as egregious as that- that will never make it to the air. But go ahead- another round of the Book of Mormon- watching the clip air- making the ‘Mormon/Christian’ look like an absolute idiot- and saying it openly- well the media has plenty of time for that.

 

 

www.corpuschristioutreachministries.blogspot.com

 

[1736] EINSTEIN WRONG?

 

There’s been much buzz these last few days on an experiment that seems to have proven Einstein wrong. These Physicists shot some sub atomic particles [Neutrinos] underground and supposedly clocked them going faster than the speed of light [by 60 nano seconds]

 

Now- as someone who never went for that ‘book learnin’- yes- in high school I clearly remember telling my guidance counselor- from year 1- that I will never attend college- so just give me the easiest classes to pass [yes- I really did say this- and they seemed to get miffed at me].

 

So- I never took Physics- or Algebra! I mean- not even the basics. One year the counselor said ‘John- even if you don’t go to college- we require you to at least have 1 year of math’.

 

I took ‘shop math’. Mr. Hildebrand- that class was the definition of ‘skate’. So over the years I have had to read up- and even when I took the entrance examines for the Fire Dept. I had to get a few books on Algebra- just to pass the test! [Yet I always scored  high on tests].

 

Okay- why would breaking the speed of light mess up Einstein? In the world of physics you have had 3 main stages. In the ancient world we had ‘ancient physics’- then with the scientific revolution and men like Newton- we entered a stage called classical physics. And in the 20th century we had Einstein.

 

He would launch the field into what we now call Modern physics. He is the father of modern physics.

 

In 1905 he wrote 4 scientific papers- one of them was on Special Relativity.

 

Classical physics dealt with matter, energy- space and time. But what Einstein did was he seemed to breach the gap between these fields.

 

He would show us that these fields are not separate- they actually function and exist together as one fabric that exists in the universe.

 

Now- the formula most of us are familiar with is the famous E=mc2. This formula [not developed in any of the 1905 papers by the way] basically is a conversion factor between mass and energy.

 

All mass/matter has energy contained within it- if you could find ways to convert that mass into energy- then this formula showed you how much energy you would get [if you could convert all the mass in a raisin- into pure energy- you could light the city of N.Y.- on one raisin!]

 

Now- most people equate this formula with Nuclear energy. While this is true- yet this formula applies to all forms of mass into energy conversion.  Coal power plants- gasoline in your car- even the conversion of food into energy in the human body- it is not only a formula for nuclear energy.

 

Okay- what about light speed? The formula actually tells us that the way you calculate the amount of energy in ‘the mass’- is you take the mass- multiply it by ‘c- squared’ and that’s the amount of energy. What’s c? C is simply the letter that represents the speed of light.

 

All of Einstein’s theories work off the theory that nothing can go faster than the speed of light. So- if these guys did prove that these sub atomic particles did indeed break the record- then yes- there will be a lot of changes that will need to be made to one of the most tested- and popular theories of all time.

 

Now- what did Einstein prove by his theories? Why was his first paper on relativity called ‘special relativity’? In the initial calculation- Einstein had a problem- as he continued to grapple with the impact his ideas would have- something he saw did not seem to fit in with the age old belief that the universe is eternal.

 

Carl Sagan used to say the universe is all there ever was- and all there ever will be [he was wrong by the way].

 

What Einstein ‘saw’ was that the universe seemed to be expanding- at a very rapid rate. His calculations also seemed to indicate that this expansion was ongoing- that it has never stopped expanding.

 

How could this be? Well- Einstein could not fully accept his own findings- and he simply fudged the numbers. Yes- he added this cosmological constant- this arbitrary mathematical calculation- that slowed everything down. He ‘made’ his theory say the expansion would stop at a certain point.

 

Later on he would realize [through the discoveries made by the Hubble telescope] that his initial observation was right- the universe is in a nonstop expansion as we speak.

 

He would call this mistake the greatest blunder of his career.

 

So what were the implications? Well we got the Big Bang out of this- the implications were that the universe was not eternal. That time and space and all matter had a beginning point.

 

This is the strongest scientific argument for the existence of God today. If the physical world as we know it- had a starting point- then the only rational explanation is there had to have been some type of ‘first cause’ that initiated the bang.

 

That’s fact- Einstein [nor anyone else] has ever proved that the universe had no initial cause. As a matter of fact- that would contradict the laws of logic and science. The law we refer to as Cause and Effect.

 

Some very brilliant men have stumbled over this. The atheist Bertrand Russell- who grew up as a Christian- said he thought to himself one day ‘if everything has to have a cause- then why not say that the universe is the thing that started it all- why not question whether or not God even had something that caused him’?

 

Sounds right? Or does it. Russell made the tragic mistake of thinking ‘everything has to have had a cause’. Actually- that’s not what the law of cause and effect states.

 

The law says ‘every effect has to have had a cause’. It is not illogical to have some type of being- a ‘first causer’ who by definition- had to be around forever. If you follow all the arguments through- you in fact need a Transcendent being [someone who transcends time and space] in order for this whole system to work.

 

So at the end of the day Einstein gave the church one of the strongest arguments for the existence of God- he showed us that all creation did indeed have a starting point- and he took us no further back than that.

 

Do I think the recent discovery is earth shattering? Well- if it’s correct- then yes- it will be. But I would bet money on the side of Einstein on this one.

 

If the calculations prove accurate- then we will need to make some adjustments to modern physics- but I don’t think it would totally ‘throw him under the bus’.

 

I have found it funny that most of the reporters talking about this- they would say ‘so- does this mean time travel might be real?’

 

You know- the T.V. talking heads have to have something they can say- in a short clip- that they think sounds intelligent.

 

Theoretically- Einstein has already shown us that ‘time travel’ can happen. Will man ever be able to travel at those ‘light speeds’? Doubtful [the speed of light is about 180 thousand miles a second].

 

But it’s good for people to be informed- as much as possible- about these things. I have heard/seen many people make unsound arguments against the existence of God- and lots of times they use Einstein- or modern science- as in if science has somehow showed us that God does not exist.

 

Nothing could be further from the truth.

 

I’ll end with this- the very smart atheist- Anthony Flew- spent years trying to disprove the existence of God. He was at the top of his field [a brilliant scientist] who made Dawkins and Hitchens and Harris [modern popular atheists] look like amateurs.

 

A few years ago – he confessed that he now believes that there has to have been some type of infinite being- God- who started everything.

 

He said the Teleological argument [an apologetic argument that tries to prove the existence of God by design in the creation] finally convinced him. Any sane person- looking out into the sky at night- or studying animals- plants- man.

 

Any person who thinks that all of these things actually came from nothing- he just realized that proposition no longer had any legs to it.

 

No- the universe is not eternal [Einstein showed us that] and if not- it could not have popped into existence from nothing- that simply is not scientifically possible.

 

Thanks Al.

 

Note- our sun burns 400 million tons of matter into energy every second! A stretched rubber band weighs more than one at rest [energy weighs]. A charged battery weighs more than a dead one- the charge [energy] itself adds to the weight.

 

 

 

 

 

www.corpuschristioutreachministries.blogspot.com

 

[1740] THE UNEXAMINED LIFE IS NOT WORTH LIVING- PLATO.

 

I caught a show the other night on Link TV. It was a spin off from this famous Platonic quote- it was called ‘The examined life’.

 

They interviewed some of the most prominent philosophers of our day. Cornell West, Peter Singer- a few others [I think the name is Singer?] I found it interesting that Singer- who specializes in Ethics- tried to make the case that you really don’t need religion/God in order to do ethics- all you need is to work from the basic principle that says ‘try to treat others like you too want to be treated- and then you will have a foundation for morals’.

 

Now- I caught the contradiction right away- do you see it? Who is he quoting? This is the great moral principle- given to us by Jesus himself- called the Golden Rule.

 

This actual principle- in Theology [the study of God] we call Natural/Moral law. The Argument is based on the reality that all people [not animals- Singer- get to it in a moment] have within them this moral compass [Romans 1] and that this in itself is proof that there must be a higher moral being- a transcendent being- who has put it in man.

 

I just found it funny that Singer- who is supposed to be a prominent atheist/agnostic thinker- would fall flat on his face like this.

 

Singer advocates for legal Rights for animals- and has also argued that viability of the new born baby should determine its personhood- he says that we should be able to abort babies up until around the age of 1- because they can’t really survive on their own until that age.

 

Sad.

 

Okay- why do Philosophy- or Physics- or any other of a number of schools of thought?  Because too often Christians abandon these fields- and then when someone from that field says ‘this is why we don’t need God’ we usually have no answer.

 

When we think about philosophy- most of us think about the 3 great big shots- Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. While it is true that these guys were the major guys at right around the 5th century B.C.- yet we actually date the beginning point to the early 6TH Century B.C. to a man by the name of Thales.

 

Thales accurately predicted a solar eclipse in the year 585 B.C. and he gained notoriety because of this. Thales was the first Greek thinker to grapple with the idea that there must be one reality that makes up all things.

 

He would argue that Water was this element- that contained being and Motion and life. Many of these pre Socratic thinkers were obsessed with the idea of motion- where did it come from?

 

Thales observed that streams and rivers- and all types of water sources flow- so to him this was a logical source of motion.

 

This idea- that only one element makes up all reality- is called Monism. Monism is not be confused with Monotheism- the belief in one God- Monism actually leads to another religious view- called Pantheism- the belief that God is everything- and everything is God.

 

This is not the historic Christian view.

 

Now- the pre Socratic guys- Parmenides, Zeno, Heraclitus- these guys would challenge Thales view that water was the main thing.

 

Some said ‘maybe it’s Air’ another said ‘Earth’ and some Fire. These 4 elements [Earth, Air [wind] Fire and Water- are the 4 basic elements of the early Greek philosophers.

 

We see these things in the naming of musical groups [Earth Wind and Fire] as well as the themes in movies [fantastic 4- based on 4 basic elements- powers].

 

Now- one of the thinkers said ‘wait- maybe the reality behind all things is not any one of these elements- maybe there is a 5th dimension [another musical name- and also the famous Bruce Willis flick- called the 5th Element] a Boundless being- outside of time and matter- maybe this 5ht element is the foundation for all things.

 

Of course this view would lead to the more developed view of God that Socrates and his followers would embrace- an early view of God- much like the later Christian view [absent the Trinity].

 

By the way- the view that 2 or more elements make up all reality is called Pluralism- not to be confused with religious Pluralism [that all religions lead to the same God]. The most common form of Pluralism is Dualism [2 realities equally true] but all non Monists who embrace more than one reality are Pluralists.

 

Okay- maybe a bit much with the 10 dollar words- but it might spark the interest of some.

 

The church has debated for centuries on whether or not Philosophy should be taught to Christians. One of the early church fathers- Tertullian- said no- his famous quote is ‘what does Jerusalem have to do with Athens’.

 

Meaning what does Philosophy have in common with Christianity [Athens- Greece was the seat of philosophy in Jesus’ day].

 

For the most part- the early church fathers would embrace the study of philosophy- and try to make arguments for the Christian faith by presenting Christianity as ‘thee’ philosophy that best answers the questions of man.

 

These early Christian thinkers are called Apologists- men like Justin Martyr are in this class.

 

Apologist is a word we use to describe those who defend the faith- it comes from the Apostle Peter’s letter in the N.T. where Peter says ‘give an answer to those who ask you about the faith’. In the Greek language- the original language the N.T. was written in- this phrase is talking about a defense- an ‘apology’ in the sense of ‘making the case’ not in the common sense of apologizing.

 

In the book of Acts- chapter 17- we read the famous sermon of the apostle Paul-  given at Mars Hill. He was in Athens at the time- and he was debating with all the philosophers of the day. He tells them ‘as I was looking around town- I saw that one of your altars is addressed to The Unknown God’.

 

He would go on and declare unto them that this Jesus is the true God- the one raised from the dead.

 

Paul also said ‘in Him we live and MOVE and have our being’. Kind of a popular verse quoted by preacher’s today- but we often overlook the significance of the MOVE part.

 

I mean- why say we MOVE in him too? Paul was a smart guy- he knew these children of Socrates questioned where motion came from [Remember Thales?] So he was basically saying ‘I am declaring to you the one true reality- the true 5th Element- the missing God particle from your system’ and he went on and preached Christ- being raised from the dead.

 

Paul knew that you can’t really do true philosophy- to grapple with the questions of life and being and ‘motion’ without realizing that God is indeed the ultimate answer to all things.

 

Even Peter Singer- who claimed that you don’t need God or religion in order to do Ethics- even he unknowingly quoted Jesus in attempting to give a basis for his Philosophy- yes- he quoted a God- one unknown to him- just like the altar at Athens- but a God never the less.

 

An inescapable 5th element- the missing part to the whole puzzle.

 

 

 

 

 

www.corpuschristioutreachministries.blogspot.com

 

[1741] GO SPARTANS?

 

 

I really have too much to cover for one post- so let’s see what we can squeeze in.

 

I have a catalog sitting here- from the company that I order courses from. A few years ago I got on their mailing list [How- ?] and ever since I have been bombarded with monthly catalogs.

 

I mean every month- a bit much. Then I realized that one month out of the year they put a bunch of courses ‘on sale’ for around 70% off the regular price- and that’s probably where they do their best business [I now only buy from the discounted monthly catalog].

 

Anyway- I read the intro to their course on Dark Matter/Energy- these teachers are really good- they are professors from the premiere universities of the world [Oxford, Harvard, etc.] and to get the courses at this price- well it’s really a bargain.

 

But over the years- studying various disciplines [Theology, Apologetics] it’s easy to see when some smart men- make really bad mistakes.

 

Especially when dealing with the whole ‘proof for/against God’ type stuff.

 

In this short intro to the Dark Matter course [Physics- these courses cover everything- history- science- religion- the whole 9 yards] they start out okay- they explain that according to the standard theory of modern physics- that there is about 95 % [wow- that number has jumped these last few years!] of matter ‘missing’ in the universe.

 

What do they mean by ‘missing’? They go on to explain that the effects that we see in the universe- the gravity and function of the universe- well according to standard theory- there is simply not enough matter to explain how all this is held together- how everything actually works.

 

Okay- so they admit that there are a whole bunch of phenomena- that we see taking place- that modern science has no idea how it’s taking place.

 

Now- as the intro continues- they say in order to ‘fill the gap’ they have come up with the idea of Dark Matter.

 

Dark Matter is simply a name given to nothing- that is nothing that we can detect thru the means of modern science.

 

Okay- by definition- it is a Metaphysical reality- something that science has espoused as a possible cause for the effects we see in the universe- and by their own definition- its invisible- undetectable and unseen- it is metaphysical [just like the argument for the existence of God].

 

So they go on to say ‘we know that this matter exists- because how else could you explain how everything works’- now- to those who get into these debates- the guy who wrote the intro- I’m sure he means well- but his whole argument is a materialistic one.

 

He is saying that there is no chance that some type of ‘non matter’ can be making this happen.

 

So he then says ‘because WE KNOW that there has to be a material explanation for this- no ‘God stuff’ here- therefore its Dark Matter.’

 

Okay- and what is Dark Matter again? O- it’s this non detectable- unseen matter- that just happens to make up 95 % of the universe.

 

Okay- Mr. smart guy- you don’t go for those Intelligent Design guys- the ones who argue that some non material force might be behind this- you rejected their argument because you say they are arguing from a non material realm [called metaphysical].

 

So how again have you proven that your idea- all this missing matter- exists? O- easy- because we see the effects OF IT all around us.

 

Actually- no we don’t. We see the effects of SOMETHING- that is- modern science has this huge gap- there are effects taking place in the known universe- that have no materialistic explanation for- we can’t find a material, observable cause for these effects.

 

The Christian says ‘Okay- I stick God in that gap’ [which many materialists accuse us of doing- they call it the ‘God of the Gaps’ approach].

 

But the materialistic scientist [one who says there can only be a detectable- material cause to things- in order to classify it as science] he then comes up with the whole Dark Matter argument- an argument based on non detectable- unseen- unproven matter.

 

And he then says ‘it must be there- because how else can you explain how everything is functioning?’.

 

The point is- your argument is based just as much on ‘unseen- unproven’ ideas as the Christian. You assume that this matter ‘must be’ simply because you leave no room for a non material explanation.

 

Then you say ‘yeah- but our idea is based on science/matter’ actually it is not- you argument is based on an idea- non proven by your own standards of modern science- and your idea- your Dark Matter- as of today is nowhere to be found.

 

These debates can go on forever- and my point is to simply challenge the believer- and the scientific community- to try to be more honest in the approach of seeking for truth.

 

In the last post I mentioned the pre Socratic philosophers- the 6th century B.C. guys who came before Socrates.

 

In the 5th century B.C. you had Socrates [born around 468 B.C.] and he would become one of the titans of Western thought.

 

He had a famous student by the name of Plato- and Plato would follow in his master’s footsteps. Plato founded a famous school at Athens- the land was donated by a man by the name of Academe- and till this day- that’s where we get the modern term for Academia.

 

Socrates started well- his ideas are not to be confused with Christian belief [he taught that the soul of man always existed- even before he was conceived- not a Christian belief] yet he did have lots of ‘Christianized’ ideas.

 

Socrates was of the school of thought that wanted to seek for absolute truths- to find out the purpose and meaning behind things.

 

Like his student Plato- they were what you would call Idealists- that behind this natural world- there exists Ideas- principles that are ‘more real’ than what we see [he would too laugh at the dark Matter intro I hit on at the top].

 

Socrates lived at a very advanced stage of the city/state of Athens- Greece. For their day- they had quite an advanced society- Jury system- somewhat of a Western style Democratic process- pretty good for the day.

 

But something happened during his lifetime that would change the whole direction of Athens [and Greece]. They would suffer a huge military defeat by another city/state that seemed to be no match for the Athenians.

 

Do you remember their name? Do you Remember the Spartans? Yes- we see these brothers in the famous movie ‘The 300’. The Spartans were indeed a fighting machine- just like depicted in the flick [one of my favorites by the way].

 

They had a famous motto ‘either come back holding your shield high [in victory] or come back lying on it’ [dead- like a stretcher].

 

So when Athens fell at the hands of the Spartans- they went through a sort of depression- a malaise came over them. They began to resent the thinkers who were always searching for ultimate answers to things- and they embraced a new type of philosophy- called Sophism.

 

The Sophists were thinkers who said ‘lets just learn the most pragmatic approach- how to get things to work- and how to win the argument’ and they didn’t really care a whole lot about whether they were ‘right’ or wrong- they just wanted to master the practical side of life.

 

Socrates and his crew thought this approach would ruin Athens and he continued to fight for the search for ultimate truth- the real reasons behind things.

 

He went around town debating the other thinkers- he had a system- called the Socratic method- where he would engage you in a debate- ask you questions- and let you too ask them back- sort of like the Detective Columbo.

 

After a while this got him into trouble with the authorities and they sentenced him to death.

 

He was given his choice of execution- and he chose to drink the Hemlock.

 

We are told that his famous student Plato visited him on the eve of his execution- and he was surprised to see his master relatively at ease with his impending death.

 

Socrates believed that the unseen things- the non material realm- was actually more real than the seen- detectable realm. He did not need some Dark Matter idea to explain how things worked- he believed there existed unseen things- God- Soul- etc. and that these things were more real than his own natural life.

 

Plato would make his teacher famous through his school- and thru his many writings about his teacher. We know these writings as Plato’s Dialogues- he wrote these papers in dialogue form- having Socrates debating the other schools of thought- just like he did in real life.

 

So you never really know who to attribute the famous quotes to- Socrates- or Plato? Was Plato putting his own words in the mouth of his beloved teacher? We don’t always know for sure.

 

Okay-maybe a bit much for today- actually had more I wanted to do- but we’ll call it quits for now. Maybe do a quick search on some of these subjects- see how they affect the contemporary arguments for the existence of God.

 

See how modern science is a noble field- but one in which the Christian does have a say- and how we should challenge the assumptions that are passed down to us.

 

Socrates refused to settle for the purely practical outlook on life- he continued to seek truth till his last day- he dialogued with those who had other ideas- he listened to them and they heard him- and at the end of the day society was better off for it.

 

 

 

 

 

www.corpuschristioutreachministries.blogspot.com

 

[1744] LIVING IN THE REAL WORLD?

 

I read an article the other day- some guy got busted for assault- because of Facebook. It went on to say how he posted a status update when his mom died- and he was waiting for his estranged wife to ‘like’ it.

 

She never responded- so he did what any normal person would- he jumped in the car and drove over to her house. Okay- I’m gonna ad lib here ‘knock knock’ she comes to the door and he says ‘go into that damn computer room right now and Like the status’!

 

One thing lead to another- and he got busted.

 

What’s wrong with this picture? I mean he was talking to her- in the ‘real world’ face to face- yet instead of saying ‘ex- are you sad that mom died’- no- he says ‘go like the post!’

 

Okay- this will be the last post for a while on philosophy- I think I did about 3 or 4 the last week or so-  I used to do one subject and stick with it for around a month.

 

Then at the end of the study [Physics, History, etc.] I would stick them all together on the blog as a single study.

 

But I realized that new friends who are just reading the site- post by post- they might think that’s all I write about- so now I’m trying to just do a few at a time.

 

Okay- we made it all the way to Plato and his famous school that he founded at Athens [Greece]. Though Socrates was his teacher- yet Socrates never founded an actual school.

 

Like I said earlier- Plato had a view of Reality that was a bit strange. He was an Idealist- not in the way we use the term today [mostly] but he believed that Ideas themselves were the real world- and what we see/experience in the material world are not ‘as real’.

 

Plato believed that knowledge was A Priori- which means the actual knowledge about a thing exists before the thing comes into being.

 

The famous example he used was a Chair. He would ask ‘what is that’ pointing to a chair. The student would respond ‘a chair’ Plato would say ‘and how do you know this- how did you obtain that knowledge’ and he argued that in the Idea realm- there is a perfect form of Chairness that exists- and that’s why we can identify ‘the chair’ in the material realm.

 

Now- Plato’s most famous student was a man named Aristotle. He actually respected his teacher a lot- but there was some tension between the 2. Plato was more of a down to earth type guy- liked to wear plain clothes- did lots of his teaching by walking around the classroom- interacting with people.

 

Aristotle was more of a ‘Fancy Pants’ type guy. He had a little bit of the elitist thing going on. He was more of a book worm than Plato- and he would eventually start his own school to compete with Plato’s Academy.

 

Aristotle’s school was named the Lyceum. Aristotle was more of a Realist than an Idealist. He believed that this material world was more than just a copy of the Idea world. He taught that Substance and matter were very real- and that contained within the thing is the actual form and future potential of ‘that thing’.

 

For instance- the Acorn has within it the actual form of the Oak Tree. This form did not come from an Idea world- it came from the thing itself- the Acorn.

 

So matter has within it both the potential of its future form- as well as eventually becoming that thing.

 

For Aristotle- knowledge is more A-Posteriori- that is we obtain knowledge about a thing- from the very thing itself. We see/touch and experience that thing- and by our senses interacting with the substance- we get knowledge- after the fact.

 

Okay- to Aristotle all substance has both Form and Matter. Then what he called substance- had 2 categories as well. The ‘substance’ [actual thing it is] and the Accidens [not accidents- not a typo].

 

The Accidens was simply the outward appearance- what we see on the outside. It might not be what the substance really is- or it might.

 

This teaching would eventually become a major way that our Catholic friends would come to define the doctrine of Transubstantiation- during the 13the century the great thinker Thomas Aquinas would re-discover [and introduce] Aristotle’s teaching back into the church.

 

In his theological works [Summa Theologica] he would use Aristotelian thought to explain how the Bread and Wine become the actual Flesh and Blood of Christ. Thomas explained that the actual substance of the thing was Flesh and Blood- but the Accidens- what you’re seeing on the outside- looks like Bread and Wine.

 

Catholic scholars have debated for centuries on whether or not they should stick to the hard line teaching from Thomas on this. They are not challenging the belief in the Real Presence [that Jesus is really there at the Eucharist] they simply wonder whether or not explaining it this way is right.

 

Finally- after many years of certain Catholic scholars asking this question- in 1965 the Pope [I think it was Paul the 6th?] put out a Papal Encyclical [an official Vatican teaching] and he stated clearly that the way Aquinas taught it is the official doctrine of the church- so that settled that.

 

Okay- Plato was an Idealist [Dualist] and Aristotle was a Realist. That’s the major difference.

 

I will note that Aristotle’s most famous student was Alexander the Great. And during the great conquests of Alexander he took with him a whole team of scientists who brought back all types of specimens of things and he gave them to his famous teacher Aristotle- to advance the cause of learning at the Lyceum school.

 

It has been said that Alexander’s efforts at collecting and bringing these things back after their victories- that this was probably the most expensive scientific endeavor of all time- right up until the  modern space Era.

 

Note- I try to avoid too many ‘big words’ in these posts. Not because people don’t understand them- but because I forget how to spell them! And in this post- there are around 10 words that my spell check has no idea how to spell- so just a warning- there might be a few misspelled words in this one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.corpuschristioutreachministries.blogspot.com

 

[1756] Philosophy and Politics.

 

 

This last week the media circus has centered around the Herman Cain ‘sex scandal’. Yes- it does seem like good old brother Herman [Christian ‘brother’ to you racially sensitive types] has a little problem with the ladies.

 

Yes- I have heard both sides on the thing- the conservatives [Limbaugh] have used Cain as an example of how the ‘left’ castigates Black conservatives- while they cover up for liberal ones.

 

And the left wing media types- well they sure do like to go thru every detail of the Repub candidates lives [no- the sex harassment issue is a real issue- I’m talking about all the other stuff]. It’s funny [sad?] to see some of the commentary on how Cain’s ‘worst’ mistake was in the way he handled it- that it was his mishandling of the scandal that worries folk.

 

Look- I like good old Bill Clinton- and for those who remember- Bill also had quite a few dalliances with the ladies. Paula Jones even sued Bill- And won!

 

Yes- the pres settled for 800 thousand and paid the girl. How did Clinton deal with his sex scandals? Those who say ‘see- Bill knew how to deal with them’ they seem to forget that his defenders- they ridiculed all the women- Kathleen Wiley [he groped her]- Jones- well- he pulled an Antony Weiner one day when Jones walked into the office- and oh yeah- lest we forget [well- actually I do forget the name] one woman had some very credible claims that Clinton did indeed rape her.

 

And of course- he ‘received’ oral sex from Monica in the oval office- and all these women were described as ‘off balance’ or greedy women seeking a pay day- or these women ‘asked for it’.  Yes- this was the way the Clinton defenders went about it- yet these same media savvy folk [Carville] are saying ‘Clinton knew how to deal with scandal- Cain does not’.

 

Would they be happy if Cain’s people went after all the women? Not only have they not revealed the name of the lady who got a settlement but they have been pretty silent about all the women.

 

Not Clintons people- you know- the ones who handled it ‘right’ oh yeah- they had his ladies looking like a bunch of trailer park bimbo air heads- even a young intern- who worked for the govt.- even she was demonized at first- for engaging in an act that would have called for the firing of any CEO who was caught doing this with any young female staffer- yet in his case- the women were all at fault.

 

So it’s just a sad thing to see this play out. Do I think Cain ‘did it’ of course he did!

 

‘How do you know John’- one statement- from Cain himself. He was asked by Hannity ‘did you ask this girl to come to your hotel room’ his answer ‘I don’t recall’ yeah- if someone says ‘did you string up that Black man in the south 40 years ago’ and if you say ‘I don’t recall’ well that’s a problem.

 

Okay- enough of that.

 

I really want to cover a little bit more on the few Philosophy posts we did last month.

 

If you remember we stopped at the 4th-5th century B.C. and we left off with Aristotle. Now- Aristotle [and Plato and Socrates] ruled the day for hundreds of years- most Western thinkers were shaped by their ideas.

 

So for that reason- lets skip about 800 years forward- to the time of Saint Augustine. Augustine lived in the 4th/5th century [A.D.]. When studying Philosophy you will study this man. But you run into him in the fields of Theology and church history as well- he’s considered by many to be the ‘best’ theologian of the 1st thousand years of Christianity- and to some- the best ever.

 

I have covered Augustine before- so let’s go light right now and hit a few high points.

 

Augustine had early  influences that led him to the philosophy of ‘Neo Platonism’ [an offshoot of Plato’s thought] and he dabbled [well more than dabbled] in a sort of early metaphysical cult called Manichaeism [like a 3rd century type of Christian Science- the movement in our day].

 

As Augustine carried out his traveling teaching ministry [he was a teacher who was skilled in Rhetoric- and these traveling teachers would charge for their services] he eventually converted to Christianity [the Catholic Bishop Ambrose played a major role in Augustine’s conversion] and became the Bishop of Hippo- North Africa.

 

Augustine came to defend the Christian world view against his former belief in Neo Platonism. Platonism taught a Pantheistic view of God and creation. This view teaches that God and creation are one in the same. Many eastern religions still hold to this view in our day.

 

Augustine argued that God was the creator of all things- but that he himself was not created- or a part of the created world.

 

He developed a very sound theology on creation- which most Christian traditions hold to this very day.

 

He had a few theological battles in his day. With Pelagianism and Donatism- these were early Christian movements that broke away from the standard teaching of the church- they derive their names form the Bishops/priests who espoused these ideas.

 

Pelagius denied the doctrine of original sin- and he taught that men were indeed capable of obeying Gods law- out of their own moral integrity- and thus ‘save themselves’. Augustine rejected this view and taught that men were saved only by the grace of God- that men were indeed sinful and corrupt- and if left to their own designs would end up in hell.

 

There were various adherents to Pelagius’ view- and his ideas have carried down thru the centuries to varying degrees- sometimes you will hear [read] the term ‘Semi- Pelagian’ this refers to those who have various ideas about man’s ability to save himself through good works.

 

Some in the Reformed church [the original Protestant belief system that came out from the 16th century Reformation] accuse the Catholic Church of this very thing- yet the Catholic Church has made it clear that they do reject Pelagianism- and they agree with Augustine on the matter.

 

The Donatists taught that the Sacraments were dependent upon the ‘holiness’ of the Priest who ministers them. That if you were in a Parish where the priests were bad- lived in sin- rejected a holy life- then if you were Baptized by these men- that the Baptism didn’t ‘stick’.

 

The Donatists formed there own break away church in the 3rd century- and a few very influential men would join the group. A well respected early church father- Tertullian- eventually joined their ranks.

 

Augustine argued against the Donatists teaching- and taught that Gods grace- and the grace given to believers thru the sacraments were not derived from the holiness of any priest or preacher- but if a believer in good conscience received the sacraments- that that’s what really counted.

 

Saint Augustine is one of the titans of church history- he is loved by Protestants and Catholics alike. He is famous for his belief in the doctrine of Predestination [that those who are saved were chosen by God before they were born] and for this reason he is loved by the original protestant theologians [Luther, Calvin, etc.]

 

He also taught a very ‘Catholic’ form of Ecclesiology [church govt.] and is well loved by many Catholics as well.

 

The Catholic Church refers to him  as the Doctor of Grace- later on in the 13th century we will meet Saint Thomas Aquinas- who the church refers to as the Angelic Doctor.

 

Both of these men played a major role in the development of western thought and Augustine made an effort to distinguish true Christian thought from the philosophy of Neo Platonism which was very strong in his day.

 

When reading Augustine [he wrote a lot] you need to be careful to distinguish some of his earlier writings from his later ones.

 

Early on you still see forms of Platonic thought in Augustine- but as the years rolled by his thinking progressed more and more towards historic Christian  thought.

 

For those of you who are interested- the Confessions of Saint Augustine is considered one the classics of Christianity- you can pick up a short version at most good bookstores- it’s well worth the time to read.

 

 

 

[1760] News and Philosophy

 

 

I want to try and cover a few subjects today- let’s start with some current world news. Yesterday I read an AP story about some cops who poured gas on the tents of the protestors- they then set them on fire.

 

13 protestors died- 100’s were burned severely. The doctors set up outside E.R. areas to treat the wounded. The cops walked in to the areas and shot people- right there.

 

I read a report where one of the doctors said he was shocked- he has never seen this happen before.

 

‘Now John- you shouldn’t make stuff up like this- even for a point!’

 

I’m not making it up- this did happen the past 2 days- in Zuccotti Park? In Oakland? No- in Tahrir square- Egypt.

 

The people who did this- the ruling military generals- are the people we ‘put’ in charge- by demanding the ouster of Mubarak- the former ‘king’.

 

Let’s head directly west on this northern tip of the African continent. Libya.

 

On the same news page- they had a story about the capture of Seif- Gadhaffi’s most famous son. They caught him trying to cross the Libyan border into Niger. The same place Gadhaffi’s wife fled to earlier in the conflict.

 

His wife was about 7 months pregnant and she fled to save her unborn child. The ‘new leaders’ that have our support- they wanted her back in Libya- to stand ‘trial’ for crimes against humanity [they would have killed her!].

 

So the other day they caught the son. The rebel faction that caught him will not turn him over to the ‘transitional government’ in Tripoli [the capitol] because they want to try him themselves [there is absolutely no order in Libya].

 

Now- the son- like the dad- has been indicted on ‘crimes against humanity’ by the world Court in The Hague.

 

These ‘indictments’ are tools the U.S. and other NATO allies use to justify going after one bad guy [and his wife and kids] while installing other bad guys- who are often just as bad- or actually worse!

 

So this puppet court has the kid indicted. The puppet govt. in the capitol of Tripoli has said ‘the world court is a secondary court- we do not recognize you’!

 

So the actual leaders- THE ONES WE BACKED- are saying ‘screw you world court- we will try the kid ourselves’. And the faction that caught the kid is saying ‘screw you leaders in Tripoli- we will try him here- in our region’ and the U.S. [and Fahreed Zakariah- a CNN talking head] have said ‘look how wonderful Obama has handled Libya and Egypt- not like Bush’.

 

Wonderful? Burning protestors to death- ruling Libya like some back water Mexican drug cartel? This thing is sad- and our involvement in it is even sadder.

 

Okay- let’s try and transition a bit.

 

In the last Philosophy post I hit on the 10th-14th century development of modern thought- today I want to jump into the 16th-18th centuries. Like I said in a previous post- after the Renaissance and the Reformation and the great scientific revolution- you had the world in somewhat of a tailspin.

 

What I mean is for hundreds of years people trusted in the old institutions [like the Catholic Church] to tell them what was true or false- then with the development of all these modern movements people began questioning stuff.

 

Was it good to question things? Sure. But some challenged the very foundations of thought and knowing [called Epistemology] and went a bit too far.

 

Some thinkers went  back to the thought of Plato [400 years BC] and said that the mind is the main source of all knowledge- these were the 17th century Rationalists.

 

Rationalism- as a philosophy- was an outgrowth of all the great strides that man was making in all these other areas of life. The Scientific Revolution totally challenged the age old beliefs of many in the church.

 

Math became a sort of new ‘god’. How so? As science invented the Microscope and Telescope- man was able for the first time to peer deeply into the heavens- and to see deeply into the microscopic world.

 

As the great minds [Copernicus] showed us that the Universe was different than what we thought [Heliocentric versus Geocentric] man was able to do mathematical calculations and to say that a specific planet or star [or Comet] would show up at an exact date- or spot- and Walla- it would happen [you could look thru the Telescope and sure enough the math was right- the object that was calculated to be there- was.]

 

These calculations were mathematical formulas- so math began to be seen as the new religion in many ways.

 

There are even some thinkers in the modern day that still say the only ‘real truth’ that exists is mathematical formulas. Yeah- one guy wrote an entire book on the subject- the problem? Well- his book was not written in math- but words.

 

Yes- even the extreme deniers of Objective truth do make mistakes.

 

Now- what’s wrong with rationalism? Of course being rational is okay- but the philosophy itself denied real Objective truth. Truth that corresponds to some other ‘outside’ reality.

 

This form of thinking [rejecting outside reality] is called Relativism/Subjectivism. While there is some truth to all the various fields of thought- yet extreme Relativism denies ‘reality’ as most of us understand the term.  There was a strong resistance to the 17th century rationalists- we call this Philosophy Empiricism.

 

The main thinker in this field was John Locke. Locke lived most of his life in the 17th century- but his thought laid the foundation for the 18th century Empiricist.

 

This philosophy says that the mind does indeed play a major role in the knowledge of things- but this knowledge does not originate in the mind [Plato] but in the ‘thing’ itself [Aristotle- remember when we covered these men? Plato was an idealist- Ideas were more real than matter. Aristotle was a Realist- closer to the thought of Locke].

 

Locke developed a theory called the Correspondence theory- that truth that the Mind discovers corresponds to real things that actually exist apart from the mind.

 

Locke was a practicing doctor- and most of the other thinkers of the day had room to speculate about reality in a way that Locke could not.

 

He lived in a real world with real patients who had real symptoms- in a nutshell Locke had to diagnose his patients based on his findings- he could not deny that there was a real problem- he had to have his ‘feet on the ground’ [based in reality] while engaging with his head up high.

 

Okay- I think we’ll end with this. Maybe you can go back and read some of my previous posts on this subject- just to become a little more familiar with it.

 

As Christians- we are not ‘required’ to know Philosophy- or current events- or science- but it helps us engage the culture when we do educate ourselves in these areas.

 

Go slow in learning [not too slow!] and try and see how the Christian Worldview agrees with- or rejects certain aspects of these different felids of thought.

 

Most Christians would reject Rationalism as a Philosophy- because it denies real objective truth- it says truth is relative- whatever the mind can conceive- or think- can be defined as truth [Unicorns?]

 

Biblical truth is based on real historic events- 1st Corinthians chapter 15 says that if we deny the physical  resurrection of Christ- a real event- then our faith is in vain.

 

Christians base their faith on a real historic event- not simply on a belief system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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