Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Monday, July 28, 2008
Kant asks: how do we know that our human perception of reality corresponds to reality itself? Kant argued that "reality does not come directly to us but is "filtered" through a lens that we ourselves provide." (171) There is a world outside of us, but we do not apprehend it immediately. Rather, the external world gets mediated through categories in our mind.
D'Souza writes: "Kant conceded Berkeley's and Hume's point that it is simply irrational to presume that our experience of reality corresponds to reality itself. There are things in themselves - what Kant called the noumenon - and of them we can know nothing. What we can know is our experience of those things, what Kant called the phenomenon." (171)
For Kant, one can't know the ding an sich, the thing-in-itself. External reality remains permanently hidden to us. "All we have is the experience, and that's all we can ever have... We have no basis for inferring that the two [experience and reality] are even comparable, and when we presume that our experience corresponds to reality, we are making an unjustified leap. We have absolutely no way to know this." (173)
Kant is not against science. Science applies to phenomenal, not noumenal, reality. But who says noumenal reality even exists? That's the Kantian point D'Souza wants to establish. He writes: "For Kant, the noumenon obviously exists becauae it gives rise to the phenomena we experience. In other words, out experience is an experience of something... Kant contends that there are certain facts about the world - such as morality and free will - that cannot be understood without postulating a noumenal realm." (173) There is, therefore, on D'Souza's Kantian interpretation, a "world beyond our senses."
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Monday, July 21, 2008
Saturday, July 19, 2008
As Miller studied these PP churches, he saw worship leaders and pastors and people on their knees before God in prayer and in humility and in brokenness.
Miller the sociologist asked the question: “Is there a connection between this form of worship and the creation of a civil society? What if senators and presidents bowed before God the way these people were doing, confessing their sins, calling on God for help and inspiration to perform their civic duties?”
“Absent from the conversation of the Pentecostals we interviewed was therapeutic rhetoric regarding finding one’s personal path to self-realization and happiness. The notion of fulfillment was framed entirely differently. Tue happiness is to be found in following God’s will. When one’s priorities are aligned with God’s intentions, then worldly signs of success fade from insignificance.” (149)
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
"There are two reasons why people start shouting at their opponents: one is that they think the opponent is so strong that every weapon must be used against him; the other is that they think their own case so weak that it has to be fortified by noise. Both these motives can be observed in the evangelical atheists."
"Dawkins writes as though the theory of the selfish gene puts paid once and for all to the idea of a creator God – we no longer need that hypothesis to explain how we came to be. In a sense that is true. But what about the gene itself: how did that come to be? What about the primordial soup? All these questions are answered, of course, by going one step further down the chain of causation. But at each step we encounter a world with a singular quality: namely that it is a world which, left to itself, will produce conscious beings, able to look for the reason and the meaning of things, and not just for the cause. The astonishing thing about our universe, that it contains consciousness, judgement, the knowledge of right and wrong, and all the other things that make the human condition so singular, is not rendered less astonishing by the hypothesis that this state of affairs emerged over time from other conditions. If true, that merely shows us how astonishing those other conditions were. The gene and the soup cannot be less astonishing than their product."
"The atheists beg the question in their own favour, by assuming that science has all the answers. But science can have all the answers only if it has all the questions; and that assumption is false. There are questions addressed to reason which are not addressed to science, since they are not asking for a causal explanation. One of these is the question of consciousness. This strange universe of black holes and time warps, of event horizons and non-localities, somehow becomes conscious of itself. And it becomes conscious of itself in us. This fact conditions the very structure of science."
"It is this mystery which brings people back to religion... We are distressed by the evangelical atheists, who are stamping on the coffin in which they imagine God’s corpse to lie and telling us to bury it quickly before it begins to smell. These characters have a violent and untidy air: it is very obvious that something is missing from their lives, something which would bring order and completeness in the place of random disgust. And yet we are uncertain how to answer them. Nowhere in our world is the door that we might open, so as to stand again in the breath of God.
Yet human beings have an innate need to conceptualise their world in terms of the transcendental, and to live out the distinction between the sacred and the profane."
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Here’s a quote from Josh himself:
“When I was using [crack], I never dreamed. I’d sleep the dead, dreamless sleep of a stalled brain. When I stopped using, I found my dreams returned. They weren’t always good dreams; most of the ones I remember were haunting and dark. They stayed with me long after I woke up.
Within my first week of sobriety in October 2005 — after I showed up at my grandmother’s house in Raleigh in the middle of the night, coming off a crack binge — I had the most haunting dream. I was fighting the devil, an awful-looking thing. I had a stick or a bat or something, and every time I hit the devil, he’d fall and get back up. Over and over I hit him, until I was exhausted and he was still standing.
I woke up in a sweat, as if I’d been truly fighting, and the terror that gripped me makes that dream feel real to this day. I’d been alone for so long, alone with the fears and emotions I worked so hard to kill. I’m not embarrassed to admit that after I woke up that night, I walked down the hall to my grandmother’s room and crawled under the covers with her. The devil stayed out of my dreams for seven months after that. I stayed clean and worked hard and tried to put my marriage and my life back together. I got word in June 2006 that I’d been reinstated by Major League Baseball, and a few weeks afterward, the devil reappeared.
It was the same dream, with an important difference. I would hit him and he would bounce back up, the ugliest and most hideous creature you could imagine. This devil seemed unbeatable; I couldn’t knock him out. But just when I felt like giving up, I felt a presence by my side. I turned my head and saw Jesus, battling alongside me. We kept fighting, and I was filled with strength. The devil didn’t stand a chance.
You can doubt me, but I swear to you I dreamed it. When I woke up, I felt at peace. I wasn’t scared. To me, the lesson was obvious: Alone, I couldn’t win this battle. With Jesus, I couldn’t lose. “
Monday, July 14, 2008
Sunday, July 13, 2008
But that expression also describes a religion that, by appearing to cater more to the needs of the dead than to those of the living, is losing its standing in Japanese society.
“That’s the image of funeral Buddhism: that it doesn’t meet people’s spiritual needs,” said Ryoko Mori, the chief priest at the 700-year-old Zuikoji Temple here in northern Japan. “In Islam or Christianity, they hold sermons on spiritual matters. But in Japan nowadays, very few Buddhist priests do that.”"
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
God led Annie to begin a ministry to them, which she calls a “business-as-mission.” She formed a business that makes jewelry, and hires the former prostitutes to give them an income, restore their dignity, and share with them the truth that God loves and values them all.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
On pp. 209-210 Jones says it's "time to rethink seminary." I say, "Why not?" And, "Of course it is?" Look, I went to seminary, and currently teach at three of them. But we're starting in my church a ministry school, which I believe will grow as the years go by until God tells us "It's time to rethink the Ministry School thing."
Jones has two problems, minimally, with modern seminary education. First, "there's nothing particularly theological about the structure of the seminary education. Instead of reflecting some theological convictions or virtues, seminaries are entirely reflective of secular universities." Yes indeed. Of course they are. For example, a while ago I met with two Presbyterian seminary professors who asked me to consult with them re. the spiritual formation component of their seminary. These professors longed for a real God-encounter at their institution, and described it as a place where God does not really have a place. Please listen to this. They told me that even the word "God" is not fashionable there. This did not surprise me, I've seen it before. Bring God and the Holy Spirit and Jesus (viz., the Trinity) into a seminary discussion and you could really get into trouble if you meant by these words the God who answers prayers and speaks to us and guides us and is powerful as well and loving and merciful.
Problem #2 for Jones: "Most seminaries are residential." For many, "the sacrifice of one's rootedness in community for the temporary "community" of a residential seminary is too high a price." (209)
Jones is intrigued by a monastic apprenticeship model of mentoring leaders who are followers of Jesus. In my church we're doing something a bit like this, with a lot of personal mentoring, prayer assignements, submission of spiritual journals to a spiritual director/coach, and so on.
Sunday, July 06, 2008
Friday, July 04, 2008
Thursday, July 03, 2008
The cover of the new Christianity Today, borrowing from the famous April 8, 1966 Time cover "Is God Dead?," is titled "God Is Not Dead Yet." The lead article is by the brilliant philosopher William Lane Craig. Bill was my first mentor in apologetics, when I was a young philosophy major at Northern Illinois University. He was one of my Campus Crusade for Christ staff leaders.
Here are some of the significant bullet points of Bill's essay:
- There's a rise of theistic philosophers in university philosophy departments. In this regard Bill's friend, atheist philosopher Quentin Smith, laments the "desecularization of academia that evolved in philosophy departments since the late 1960s."
- The vitality of the cosmological argument for the existence of God. Probably no one in the world understands this argument better than Bill. For example, see here.
1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
3. The universe exists.
4. Therefore, the explanation of the universe's existence is God.
- The Kalam Cosmological Argument - this is Bill's expertise. This argument is found in many standard philosophy of religion textbooks. This is THE form of the cosmological argument that atheists must address. Dawkins et. al. don't do this.
1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
- The teleological argument, esp. the fine-tuning argument for God's existence. Many, including myelf, find this a powerful argument for there being a God.
1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due either to physical necessity, chance, or design.
2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance.
3. Therefore, it is due to design.
- The moral argument for there being a God. Personally, I am so glad Bill has pressed this argument. It has always made sense to me, and now even more so because of how Bill has developed it and defends it.
1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.
- Bill adds a section on the infamous ontological argument, as formulated by Alvin Plantinga an others. The argument is:
1. It is possible that a maximally great being (God) exists.
2. If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
5. Therefore, a maximally great being exists in the actual world.
6. Therefore, a maximally great being exists.
7. Therefore, God exists.
I love presenting this argument at the beginning of my Philosophy of Religion classes. Among other things it is an introduction to philosophical thinking and logic.
- Bill then argues that we do not now live in a "postmodern" culture. Evidence for this includes the fully modernist approaches of Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens and their popularity. Bill argues that Western culture is post-Christian, but not postmodern. His analysis here deserves to be studied. I hope he writes more about this in the future.
Finally, Bill attracts a lot of attention from internet atheists who go after him. For the most part, and it seems entirely, he does not engage them. I think he is right in doing this. He's certainly not avoiding anything, because he spends his time dialogueing with and debating the greatest intellectual, academic atheists in the world. There's not an "internet atheist" out there who is on an intellectual level with Bill, who has a deep, phenomenal multidisciplinary grasp of the issues, ranging from quantum mechanics to math to Christology to hermeneutics to logic to philosophy and theology. His life certainly debunks the idea that only ignorant people believe in God and Jesus.