Monday, September 29, 2008
The oral exams will be in Z-272 (La-Z-Boy Center).
The exam questions are:
1. Explain Anselm's Ontological Argument for God's Existence
2. Explain Gaunilo's criticism of Anselm's OA. Explain Plantinga's critique of Gaunilo (no "intrinsic maximum")
3. Explain Kant's criticism of the OA, and Malcom's response to Kant
4. Explain the Kalam Cosmological Argument for God's Existence
5. Explain Paley's Teleological Argument for God's Existence
6. Explain Hume's Criticism of Paley
7. Explain the Fine-Tuning Argument for God's Existence (Collins)
Is Jerusalem especially holy? "Holy" means "set apart for God." A "holy" month would be a month where God especially reveals himself; a "holy" city would be a city where God especially dwells. As 17-year-old Avi Kenig says as she looks up at a clear night sky, “It feels here as if the heavens are open to our prayer. We have been taught that here we are at the center of the world. These are the gates to heaven.”
What's a Christian like me supposed to think of this? My answer is that, in Jesus, the opening of heaven's gates is no longer geographical or temporal. As Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well, a time is coming when there will no longer be worship on your holy mountain (Mount Gerizim) or in Jerusalem (on Mount Zion - the "temple mount"). When we pray "God let your kingdom come, let your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven," we're not asking God to send something special on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. We are asking God to rule and reign, here and now.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Steve Weinberg, in part 2 of his essay "Without God," talks about how to live life in the absence of God. He writes: "I'm not going to say that it's easy to live without God, that science is all you need. For a physicist, it is indeed a great joy to learn how we can use beautiful mathematics to understand the real world. We struggle to understand nature, building a great chain of research institutes, from the Museum of Alexandria and the House of Wisdom of Baghdad to today's CERN and Fermilab. But we know that we will never get to the bottom of things, because whatever theory unifies all observed particles and forces, we will never know why it is that that theory describes the real world and not some other theory.
Worse, the worldview of science is rather chilling. Not only do we not find any point to life laid out for us in nature, no objective basis for our moral principles, no correspondence between what we think is the moral law and the laws of nature, of the sort imagined by philosophers from Anaximander and Plato to Emerson. We even learn that the emotions that we most treasure, our love for our wives and husbands and children, are made possible by chemical processes in our brains that are what they are as a result of natural selection acting on chance mutations over millions of years. And yet we must not sink into nihilism or stifle our emotions. At our best we live on a knife-edge, between wishful thinking on one hand and, on the other, despair."
I think Weinberg is spot-on in these observations:
1. If God is not, then there's no point to life.
2. If God is not, then there are no objective moral values.
3. If there is no super-natural reality, then all that is real is physical. This includes "the emotions we treasure, [and] our love for our wives and children."
On atheism, all these things are correct. So, what's an atheist to do? Weinberg's answer is [I'm not now trying to be funny]: Get humor. Laugh. He writes: "What, then, can we do? One thing that helps is humor, a quality not abundant in Emerson. Just as we laugh with sympathy but not scorn when we see a one-year-old struggling to stay erect when she takes her first steps, we can feel a sympathetic merriment at ourselves, trying to live balanced on a knife-edge. In some of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies, just when the action is about to reach an unbearable climax, the tragic heroes are confronted with some "rude mechanical" offering comic observations: a gravedigger, or a doorkeeper, or a pair of gardeners, or a man with a basket of figs. The tragedy is not lessened, but the humor puts it in perspective."
Now I am smiling. I find this funny. So, Weinberg has helped me already. Honestly, I find this hilarious. Maybe that's just me, but Weinberg has just touched my funny bone.
OK. But now I've got another problem. If all emotions are only the physical activity of the brain, what am I to make of the suggestion that I choose to get funny?
How on this physicalist paradigm can I follow Weinberg's advice? He counsels: "The more we reflect on the pleasures of life, the more we miss the greatest consolation that used to be provided by religious belief: the promise that our lives will continue after death, and that in the afterlife we will meet the people we have loved. As religious belief weakens, more and more of us know that after death there is nothing. This is the thing that makes cowards of us all." What on no-God's green earth am I to do with the exhortation to "reflect on the pleasures of life" given the fact that the act of "reflecting" on anything is right out of Descartes? And the atheistic truth is that after death there is nothing. OK. But this makes "cowards" of us all? Help! I fail to understand this hyper-metaphorical language.
I can see how Weinberg concludes, in the face of atheism, that all we can do is put on a happy face. What else could we do? Now I'm thinking of Bob Marley and Bobbie McFerrin. I used to despise this little song, but now I'm revisiting the lyrics.
Here's a little song i wrote, you might want to sing it note for note
don't worry, be happy
in every life we have some trouble, when you worry you make it double
don't worry, be happy dont worry be happy now dont worry be happy dont worry be happy dont worry be happy dont worry be happy
aint got no place to lay your head, somebody came and took your bed,
don't worry, be happy
the landlord say your rent is late, he may have to litigate,
dont worry (small laugh) be happy
look at me i'm happy, don't worry, be happy
i give you my phone number, when you're worried,
call me, i make you happy don't worry, be happy
aint got no cash, aint got no style, aint got no gal to make you smile
but don't worry, be happy cos when you worry, your face will frown,
and that will bring everybody down, so don't worry, be happy don't worry, be happy now...don't worry, be happy don't worry, be happy don't worry, be happy don't worry, be happy
now there this song i wrote i hope you you learned it note for note
like good little children don't worry be happy
listen to what i say in your life expect some trouble
when you worry you make it double don't worry be happy be happy now don't worry, be happy don't worry, be happy don't worry, be happy don't worry, be happy don't worry don't worry be happy don't worry, don't worry, don't do it, be happy, put a smile on your face, don't bring everybody down like this don't worry,
it will soon pass whatever it is, don't worry, be happy...
I'm not worried
Monday, September 22, 2008
Friday, September 19, 2008
Thursday, September 18, 2008
It’s 6:30 in the morning, and I’m about to drive to Lansing where it will be my privilege to open today’s Michigan State Senate Session with prayer. For me this is a great honor. And it’s a God-opportunity. I’m glad our government still opens their sessions with prayer. Is the opening prayer mere protocol? For me it makes no difference, because I believe in God and I believe that where prayer focuses, power falls. I look forward to blessing our state senators with wisdom and hope and creativity and diacritical ability that can only come from God. They need it, as do I. God is not in some panic room over these difficult economic times, and has direction to give for all who will listen. And when it clesrly comes from God and advances his kingdom the glory will go to him.
I don’t feel that political solutions will ultimately cure the things that lie deep in the human heart. I do believe each of our state senators has a heart that can be transformed into Christlikeless. If and as this happens if will be good for them and us and God. If this happens it would cause the people to rejoice.
In 1 Timothy 2:1-6 Paul instructs young Timothy by saying: “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time.”
I’ll be standing before the Senate at 10 AM and before God asking him for some things and giving thanks.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
#2 - I’m mostly not interested in becoming what the Christian media says I need to be. By this I mean the glitz, hype, fabricated drama, stage-presence, money-taking & money-making stuff I see. Not all Christian media is like this. But some are, and I don’t want to be like that. Of course it’s not for me to judge who’s real and who’s not. But I’ve seen more than enough of “Christian” tele-people whose lives fall apart because of money, power, and sex. Personally, I am asking God to protect me from all of that, because it ends up destroying a lot of people’s faith.
What would I like to become? Just give me Jesus. The Real Jesus. The Real Jesus of Matthew-Mark-Luke-John. Not the American-TV-”jesus.” Just…. Jesus. Give me the Jesus who tells me to watch out for “money” because Money is like a god. Give me the Jesus who, though He could have had all the earthly power He wanted, rejected all of that when He was tempted in the desert and instead chose to serve and give and love and sacrifice. Give me the Jesus who loved prostitutes and delivered them from sex-trafficking and gave them a life of holiness and dignity.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Often, when I meet with someone I don’t know, I ask them the question “Who are you?” It’s interesting to see their responses as they try to think of how to respond!
I’m not doing this as a game. I want to know, really, who they are. I’m open to listening to however much they want to reveal about themself.
Are they, e.g., an “authentic” person. The word “authentic” comes from the Greek word “autos,” which means “self.” We use it in the old word “auto-mobile,” which means, literally, “self-driven.” “Authentic” connotes “real.” Are you authentic? Are you a real person?
The biblical opposite of an authentic person is a “hypocrite.” This Greek word was used to refer to actresses and actors. You could translate “hypocrite” as “someone who wears an actor’s mask.” Hypocrisy has nothing to do with imperfection. We’re all imperfect. Hypocrisy has to do with not being authentic, not being real, like being an abuser in your own home but wearing a mask of politeness out in public.
Hypocrisy in parents produces anger and bitterness and cynicism in children. Authenticity engenders endearment. Hypocrisy is the creation of an illusion about one’s self; authenticity owns one’s self and lives it out before others, especially those who are closest to you. Hypocrisy is acting, authenticity is freedom. Which means it takes a lot of energy to live hypocritically.
When Jesus says “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” part of the freedom includes taking off the heavy mask of one’s false self and letting Christ shine through the real you. You and I are not perfect, but we can be truthful, loving, and real.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s Christian background is in the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal denomination. Some GOP leaders are trying to downplay this. Why? Because Pentecostals believe in things like “speaking in tongues” and divine healing. Horrible things, aren’t they; viz., the idea that God can speak to and communicate through someone who believes in him, and that God both is willing to heal people and has the power to do so.
I’ve met “Christians” who downplay those things, too. Or, rather, who take things like tongues and healing right off the playing field, saying God used to do that kind of stuff but doesn’t do it anymore. Which I find absurd.
In I Corinthians 14:39 Paul instructs Christians to “not forbid speaking in tongues.” Hmmm… sounds like God himself doesn’t want to downplay the gift of tongues.
In James 5:14 we read that if we are sick we should call the leaders of the church, and they will come to us, anoint us with oil, and “the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well.” I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody over a period of 38 years as a pastor who’s been sick who would want me to downplay my praying for them for healing.
Have you ever seen anyone healed as a result of praying for them? I have, many times. And I’ve documented a number of these events in 3000 pages of journal entries over many years. Have I ever prayed for someone who has not gotten healed? Yes. But I refuse to bring the teachings of Jesus down to the level of my personal experience. That is, I cannot “downplay” what Jesus says and does and instructs that we can do in his name.
Palin’s former Pentecostal pastor Tim McGraw says her Pentecostal roots may be being downplayed for a reason: “I think there could be issues of belief that could be misunderstood or played upon by people that don’t know.”
McGraw goes on to say: “Everyone has a way of viewing the world and Sarah does too and hers would be shaped by the common-sense practicality of how she’s been shaped by the Bible — which is basically the world view that says God loves people, people can access him and he’s given us wisdom for living,”
Of course. Everyone has a worldview. No one’s life is uninfluenced by that worldview. There are worldview issues going on here. Having lived in a religious environment that’s closer to practical atheism than living-God-theism, I’m not thrilled about those who want to downplay the latter into the secularism of the former.(I have many Pentecostal friends here in Monroe and am myself indebted to Pentecostal teachings on the Bible. Pentecostalism has helped me in my desire to find the Real Jesus.)
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Here’s an article in Charisma magazine on the violence against Christians in India.
For more news reports on the persecution google "orissa persecution."
Christian leaders called for a day of prayer and fasting for India on Sept. 7.
Monday, September 01, 2008
- "For me, death is the one appalling fact which defines life; unless you are constantly aware of it, you cannot begin to understand what life is about; unless you know and feel that the days of wine and roses are limited, that the wine will madeirize and the roses turn brown in their stinking water before all are thrown out for ever -- including the jug -- there is no context to such pleasures and interests as come your way on the road to the grave. " Now that's some nice writing, and I think it's true. It's the Heideggarian truth that the meaning of death gives the answer to the meaning of life.
- Here's a quote worth looking at in its entirety. "Bumper stickers and fridge magnets remind us that Life Is Not a Rehearsal. We encourage one another towards the secular modern heaven of self-fulfillment: the development of the personality, the relationships which help define us, the status-giving job, the material goods, the ownership of property, the foreign holidays, the acquisition of savings, the accumulation of sexual exploits, the visits to the gym, the consumption of culture. It all adds up to happiness, doesn't it -- doesn't it? This is our chosen myth, and almost as much of a delusion as the myth that insisted on fulfillment and rapture when the last trump sounded and the graves were flung open, when the healed and perfected souls joined in the community of saints and angels. But if life is viewed as a rehearsal, or a preparation, or an anteroom, or whichever metaphor we choose, but at any rate as something contingent, something dependent on a greater reality elsewhere, then it becomes at the same time less valuable and more serious. Those parts of the world where religion has drained away and there is a general acknowledgment that this short stretch of time is all we have, are not, on the whole, more serious places than those where heads are still jerked by the cathedral's bell or the minaret's muezzin. On the whole, they yield to a frenetic materialism; although the ingenious human animal is well capable of constructing civilizations where religion coexists with frenetic materialism (where the former might even be an emetic consequence of the latter): witness America." The salient points here for me are the atheistic insights that: 1) without God, one must create another myth; namely, the myth of frenetic materialism and self-gratification. After all, as the apostle Paul once said, if Christ has not been risen (or if there's no God at all) we might as well eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; 2) "Life Is Not a Rehearsal." Or: there's no meaning to this life on atheism. Which is, of course, true. On atheism one creates an alternative myth.
- Don't view your coming death through the eyes of the very, very, very few who will miss you when you're gone. "Rather," [Barnes] continues, one must see death "from the point of view of those who have never heard of you -- which is, after all, almost everybody. Unknown person dies: not many mourn. That is our certain obituary in the eyes of the rest of the world." He's right about this. Actually, this POV holds for the Christian theist, too. Even for us who believe in God and an afterlife, our earthly demise will go near-entirely unnoticed. The difference, for me, is this: while I will leave no personal legacy, nor should I attempt to (woe to those around me should I attempt to), God can leave his legacy in others through me.
- "While some people on their deathbeds dutifully rage against the dying of the light, Barnes prefers those who simply remain true to themselves, who depart this life with, say, a gesture of quiet courtliness: "A few hours before dying in a Naples hospital," the Flaubert scholar Francis Steegmuller "said (presumably in Italian) to a male nurse who was cranking up his bed, 'You have beautiful hands.' " Barnes calls this "a last, admirable catching at a moment of pleasure in observing the world, even as you are leaving it." Similarly, the poet and classicist "A.E. Housman's last words were to the doctor giving him a final -- and perhaps knowingly sufficient -- morphine injection: 'Beautifully done.' " Au contraire, should I die before Linda my last words will be "See you very soon." The Post review says that, for Barnes, "certainly those gifted with religious faith possess an advantage over those without it: The dying believer will head straight for the door marked Enter, while the rest of us must settle for the one marked Exit." Yes, it's an advantage. And yes, I believe it's true.
- Someone once described Barnes' life as this: "Got up. . . . Wrote book. Went out, bought bottle of wine. Came home, cooked dinner. Drank wine."
Such is the life of an atheist. Were there no God, then life's no more than this. No God = no value, no purpose, no meaning. Barnes serves as a decent example of trying to live this way. And, given his own post-mortem views, his book will become a mostly un-read and forgotten thing itself.