Friday, June 29, 2012

Reactoin to Supreme court ruling on "Obama care"

see my report on people's reactions on my political blog Need more Shovels

are health care costs rising due to "Obama care?" Is the bill a big disaster?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Tradition is Relative to Truth.

Rose window, Notre Dame

Lat time I posted a piece entitled "truth is relative to the tradition." Now I say tradition is realities to the truth. Which is it? Both are true, depends upon which you emphasize at the moment. That's what I meant to say last time, the tradition is relative to the truth. So I'm doing a sort retraction. Well it 1987 when I was in that class. Been a long time since read the Knitter book (No Other Name?). He's the one who intruded me to the concept. The tradition is based upon the reality behind it, which it doesn't have 100% exhaustive right, and which other traditions also have partly right. All the traditions are relative to the fixed thought that they only have part of. The truth is not relative to the tradition except in so far as our understanding of it is limited to that of the tradition. From that perspective you can say it the other way.

Like the Rose Window the same sun shines through the window at Notre Dame as shines through the windows of any temple of any faith. It's the glass that changes and that is made of different cultural constructs.

Dave comments again:
Of course there is no pure human language to express such insights. That's why the mystics all say the divine language is silence. And I did mention that from the perspective within a tradition, one would need a focal point as reference (Jesus, Buddha, etc). That doesn't mean the theology of different traditions is one to one, but what they represent and lead to can be. And for some reason, this does lead to some pretty striking parallels.

As for me, I can appreciate this from a non-religious/non-sectarian point of view, so it is no problem to switch between the language and culture of one religion and another and compare them. To go beyond such an academic perspective and truly appreciate the meaning and transformmative aspects requires one to actually be rooted in a specific tradition. ..

I think we should start in a tradition and outgrow it, even if we still honor it and use it's language and symbols.
I don't think we have to outgrow the tradition we are in. Unless of course we think of "the tradition" as the immediate community. So that would mean I had to outgrow the perspective I was raised with but it doesn't mean I have to outgrow Christianity. There are fixed points that don't change. I think less of the importance of written doctrine than I used to but not to the extent of chirruping it completely. I still think the importance of the truths of the Nicene creed are wroth hanging on to. The creed is worth keeping as a creed, and that means a definition of identity.

I ground all of that, doctrine, identity, the fixed nature of the turth behind the tradition in the Historical Jesus. Since Jesus was a man in history, not a myth, he has concrete nature that is not merely a metaphor for something beyond it. That is of course if the Christian take on Jesus is correct, and to that extent, the historical nature is a ground and starting point for that discussion.

Needless to say I think that is the case. The Christian take on Jesus is basically my take on Jesus. In any case the personal relationship, which does not have to be played out in terms of big mystical experiences, is of primary importance in understanding the ground.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Truth is Relative to Religous Tradition part 2


Last time I discussed the relative nature of truth in relation to religious traditions. This produced a torrent of comment form Dave. He singled out three quotes by Professor McFarland that show the problem:

"[McFarland] argues that religious traditions are relative to the truth. No one tradition is the truth because they are all cultural filters for experiences that are had a subliminal level. Some mediate better than others."

"The historical nature of Jesus gives him a concrete identity as a real man and and stands opposed to mythological place holder. The issue is not the tradition, which is just a cultural filter and serves as a guide, not an absolute orbiter of truth, vs. an actual relationship with Jesus which is a mystical reality and transcends any particular religion."

"If Jesus is God then he's there to be known by everyone in every faith and every culture... If one follows the true creator one is following Jesus even if he thinks he's Gautama Siddhartha."

Then he Clarifies he problem:

If the "logos" is the incarnational aspect of the ground of being, then it can be argued that all of existence is a manifestation of the logos. This is something professional theologians have said whether or not one agrees.
If the convectional Evangelical take on the Bible is correct we can see the world as a manifestation of the logos as well. The logos is the rationale of God, the Logos took part in the creation of the world: thus the world is a manifestation of the Logos at lest in the sense of being a manifestation of Logos's power and design. There is no need to see the world as a manfiestaion of the Logos in the sense of deifying the world.

That raises the perennial question of Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus the Christ. The early followers of Jesus argued over this. Is Christ, or the Messiah, a special embodiment of the logos? Are Christ and logos interchangeable? This is valid debate.
Only because one rejects Christian doctrine. The issue was resolved with in the tradition. There's good reason for digging it up but that one wishes to deify someone else.

Also, was Christ-nature awakened in Jesus? Is Christ-nature in all? Can everyone awaken to it? Can we all be "one" in non-dual God-consciousness like Jesus? Can we also be Christ? Again, valid debate and theological speculation.
That assumes Jesus is not the unique incarnation. In speaking of Jesus as the foal of God* (John 3:16 = "only begotten") the New Testament is stating that Jesus has a relation to God shared by no one else. (see PDF by the great Raymond Brown arguing that NT does reference Jesus as "God.")

This raises the question of whether Hellenistic/Jewish cultural and linguistic constructions for the manifesting aspect of the ground of being , i.e. the logos and Christ, are somehow essentially superior to other cultural constructions referring to the different aspects of the ground of being. See this post on my blog for one of many ways Buddhism (since you chose that as a foil) can express a similar idea. It tends to avoid the more formal philosophical Buddhist terms about the nature of reality and the manifestations of existence (such as emptiness, dharmakaya, nirmanakaya, etc.)
Of course that would violate the known canons of linguistic study. We can't say one lanauge is superior to others that would steak out a special "Holy Spirit Greek." It was thought at one time that this is what Koine Greek was, but it then it was proved through archaeological discovery that it was just the language of the common folk. I don't see why this must be raised. The languages used in Biblical reference are the lanagues used. There's nothing we can do about that. There's over arching "true language" that would serve as a guide line. You have to take what we are given try to understand it as best we can given the context, and find equivalents for translation. Let's mot forget most of us reading this blog read the Bible in English, and there guarantee that the English is any better a translation than any other.

If we follow McFarland as you presented his views, then we would say, "No, each construction is relative, and no one construction can be considered the truth, just a different reflection of the underlying truth common to all constructions." Here constructions refers to the cultural and linguistic notions of religion regarding the ground of being.
Yes, that is what he said. He actually did say that to me in private.

This in turn means that if we speak of Christ, we are speaking of a way of understanding this manifesting aspect of the ground of being through a particular cultural lens that isn't automatically privileged over other ways of speaking about it. It means that one could reverse it, and say that to talk about Christ or Christ-nature is to talk about Buddha or Buddha-nature. The Buddha also was a historical manifestation. We can say that the Buddha is Mind, that in fact we are all Mind, and that if we are talking about Mind, the Unborn Self, then Jesus the Christ is also a manifestation of Mind, Jesus is the Buddha.
That's theoretically true but there's a counter problem. While there may not be the kind of understanding in Eastern languages to think of Christ as uninquley divine that still doesn't mean that specially Hebrew concepts necesasry have a 1x1 correspondence with Buddhist or other concepts. Incoranton is not necessarily re-incarnation. Mind of Christ is not necessary Buddha mind. We can't translate Jesus into Buddha. We can't assume Logos is Buddha mind. Although I would inclined to consider that since Justin Martyr considered the Logos of Christ as the Logos of the Greeks. Rather than trying for one-to-one correspondences I think makes more sense to try for equivalency and allow the traditions to speak for themselves. I'm not trying to replace Buddha with Jesus in the minds of Buddhists.

That is, Jesus/Christ could be discussed in Buddhist terms just as Buddha can be discussed in Christian terms. This would involve bringing out many terms and concepts for comparison. That is neither my intention nor my desire here.

That's true and it's only fair. Yet it doesn't have to be a literal one-to-one relationship. when you expect that kind of detail some traditon has to lose out. the constructs do differ. The result is not a clear sharp division bewteen the construct and the mystical reality behind it. This is another problem that Daves seems to forget to make of the mystical. We don't need make those kinds of judgements we can just let the camp speak for itself. The idea is to be positive about the other guys and not see them as threats not to take then over or give up our own thing. It doesn't have to be a contest or a rivalry. The truth stands behind the traditions it can be experienced but it can't be explained clearly. We use metaphors to bridge the gaps not produce idols. Therefore, stay in your tradition. Be nice to the other traditions and remember we are colleagues not competitors. I do have my own beliefs and there is a point where I have to say "gee these guys are wrong about that." What it is.

God transcends all our neatly derived categories. The most brilliant theology can never do justice to the reality that stands behind the many symbols. We can't get literal with it because the more literal we get the more we emphasis the language and that means we turn to the contrasts of culture and away form the transcendent reality that can't be pinned down by the language. The only help for it is to seek God. It doesn't work to seek the experience, this is what mystics all over the world tell us. Seek the giver not the gifts. Just seek God and we have to seek God through the tradition that speaks to us.

* this is not a note on Brown's PDF. He uses different arguments. In referring to the "foal" of God (which is not from Brown) I had reference to the term "only begotten son of God" which is used of Jesus.(Jn 3:16). The Greek 'mongenes" means "unqiuely born of" and is translated into the French Catholic traiditon in ways that would be best rendered in English as "unique." The implication is one of a kind it comes from a word that rerefs speciclaly to the foal of a horse. There are those who squabble about weather the word implies literal birth or adoption but it it clearly implies literal birth, weather it could be used of adoption as well I don't know.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Announcing the Re Lunch of Need more Shovels

I am re-luanching my Political blog. analysis of the elections and the fix we are. See the progress of our new nation, the United States of Banckania, as it replaces the old dying American democracy with new ital corporate feudalism.

Others have joined me in the effort. See "Need More Shovels."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Religoius Traditions are Relative to the Truth


One of the silent features of my view point, I think, influenced by the work of Neil McFarland (author of Rush Hour of the Gods, about New Religions of Japan) who was my professor at Perkins, is my acceptance of the validity of other faiths. I conceive of that as acceptance of other faiths but of course not the details of any particular faith in an absolute way; all such details are realitive to the context in which one finds one's self culturally.

I believe that God is speaking to everyone in a sense, and this is beyond conscious level of our understanding. For those who get the barriers out of the way and somehow manage to become aware of it (we call them "mystics") they must filter their experiences through culture in order to talk about them. Thus the same divine reality stands behind all faiths.

Paul said "To those who through persistence seek glory, honor and immortality he will give eternal life.But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the good and follow evil there will be wrath and anger...first for the Jew and then for the gentile; but glory honor and peace for everyone who does good. For God does not show favoritism. All who sin apart from the law will perish apart form the law and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.

Indeed when Gentiles who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirement of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences bearing witness and their hearts now accusing, now even defending them..." (Romans 2:7-15). New American Standard and other translations say "their hearts accusing, now excusing them..." Most Christians are afraid of this conclusion and they down play this verse. Often Evangelicals will come back and say "he makes it clear in the next passage that no one can really follow the law on their hearts." Well, if they can't, than they can't. But if they can, and do, than God will excuse them. God knows the heart, we do not. The verse clearly opens the door to the possibility of salvation (although by Jesus) through a de facto arrangement in which one is seeking the good without knowing the object one is seeking (Jesus). In other words, it is possible that people in other cultures who follow the moral law written on the heart know Jesus de facto even if they don't know him overtly. Paul backs up this conclusion in Acts 17:22 Paul goes to Athens as is asked by the Athenian philosophers to explain his ideas to them.

These were pagan followers of another religion. Paul stood up and said to them, "Men of Athens, I see that in every way you are very religious for as I walked around and observed your objects of worship I even found an alter with this inscription 'TO AN UNKOWN GOD' Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you."He basically says that they are worshiping God, they just don't know who he is. That's why he says "I will make it known to you." He doesn't say "you have the wrong idea completely." Most Evangelicals dismiss this as a neat rhetorical trick. But if we assume that Paul would not lie or distort his beliefs for the sake of cheap tricks, we must consider that he did not say "you are all a bunch of pagans and you are going to hell!" He essentially told them, "God is working in your culture, you do know God, but you don't know who God is. You seek him, without knowing the one you seek. He goes on,(v27)"God did this [created humanity and scattered them into different cultures] so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out and find him though he is not far form each one of us." This implies that God not only wants to work in other cultures, but that it is actually his paln to do things in this way. Perhaps through a diversity of insights we might come to know God better. Perhaps it means that through spreading the Gospel people would come to contemplate better the meaning of God's love.

In any case, it does mean that God is working in other cultures, and that God is in the hearts of all people drawing them to himself. Of their worship of idols, Paul said "in past times God overlooked such ignorance but now he commands all people everywhere to repent" (v30). Now what can this mean? God never overlooks idolatry or paganism, in the OT he's always commanding the Israelite to wipe them out and expressly forbidding idolatry. It means that on an individual basis when God judges the hearts of people, he looks at their desire to seek him, to seek the good. That their status as individuals in a pagan culture does not negate the good they have done, and their ignorance of idolatry does not discount their desire to seek the good or the truth. IT means that they are following Jesus if they live in the moral life, even though they follow him as something unknown to them. IT also means that all of us should come into the truth, we should seek to know God fully, and when we do that we find that it is Jesus all along.

What about "there is no other name given under heaven." I don't believe there is another name. one is not saved becuase one knows some name other Jesus, but if one doesn't know the name Jesus but knows the commands of Jesus and the love of Jesus, why would God exclude this person? Paul seems to think he would not. What about the statment God makes t Isreael al the condemnations of idols and "I am Jealous God." I am not advocating leaving the Christian to go worship other gods. Yet idols are things we put between us and God. For American Christians that's more likely to be money or politics or social status than the name of some dieity in another egregious tradition.

Dave. regular reader of this blog, Raises problems, he sees traces of the old exclusivity and superiority for Christianity in my thinking. In comments he writes:

Do you think you are qualified to judge all of major sacred traditions fairly in regard to their effectiveness, and if not, is you implication of the superiority of Christianity a provisional statement based on your own experience?

Do you think that other traditions could do a better job for other people? If not, on what basis can you make such a claim?
Frank Knitter of Xavier College wrote No Other Name? In which he analysis these issues. We read that book in McFarland's class. He argues that religoius traditions are relative to the truth. No one tradition is the truth becuase they are all cultural filters for experinces that are had a subliminal level. Some mediate better than others. For example the human sacrifice traditions and cargo cults probalby don't mediate as well as the "great world religions."

Neil McFarland was mocked and rescheduled by students for his class on religion in a global perspective They called it "heresy in a global perspective." Even in a liberal seminary like Perkins they had some very conservative students. McFarland had lived in Japan for 30 years. He had photographs of ever single manifestation of Kobo Diashi ever conceived, as Santa Clause, as a basket ball, as a pot holder, and so on. That's the Japanese equivalent of the plastic glow in dark Jesus for the dash board. McFarland once confided in me "these guys think I have forgotten I'm a methodist they think I'm a Buddhist. I haven't forgotten." He just didn't believe the issue is the chruch but Jesus.

The point of Christianity is Jesus. We make the chruch the point of believing in Jesus it's supposed to be the other way around. As Jurgen Moltmann says "Jesus has a mission, and the mission has a chruch." the chruch is just the tool it's not the main point. So being a Christian or Christianity itself is not supirior to anything it's just a tool Jesus is the point. "Christianity" is not Jesus. Of cousre I bleive Jesus is supirior to everything how could I think otherwise? If he's the incarnate logos then he's the turth, he himself embodies the truth in way no one else does. Yet there is a vast distinction between the trappings of religiosity and knowing Jesus as savior. In terms of comparison to other faith Jesus is not a mythological figure, he has a historical identity. Jesus was not a Christian. He was never in a chruch.

If Jesus is God then he's there to be known by everyone in every faith and every culture. In acts 17:21-29 Paul tells them God put people where they live so they might find him. That would only be the case for the tiny segment that live in the middle east if it was the case that people could only be saved by being Jews then Chrsitians. It must mean something else. It must mean something along the lines of God working in all cultures. If one follows the true creator one is following Jesus even if he thinks he's Gautama Siddhartha.

The historical nature of Jesus gives him a concrete identity as a real man and and stands oppossed to mythological place holder. The issue is not the tradition, which is just a cultural filter and serves as a guide, not an absolute orbiter of truth, vs an actual relationship with Jesus which is a mystical reality and transcends any particular religion.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

America: Best Democracy Money Can Buy


Americans are all dispossessed millionaires. Even if we are unemployed and have no money we are not working class, we are really rich we are just waiting for the money to come. We see ourselves as middle or above we always identify with the interest of the rich. Rather than place the blame for your current depression on those who caused it, the rich, the capitalist, the bankers, we place it on those who tried to stop it, the regulators. We all millionaires just being persecuted and held back by evil liberals who resist wealth by government regulation. We totally forget we just fought two wars and long and costly as Vietnam (tw0 at once) and went thorugh a housng crisis what saw the devastation and theft of most middle class neighborhoods, brought on by unrestrained greed which uses houses as poker chips rather than places families can live, and a bail out of the banks to cover their own greedy mistakes, paid for by tax payers; the then turned around and dictated to us government policy at the cost of down grading our national credit. We have totally forgotten that the republicans refused comprise and almost allowed the government to go under, are trying to destroy social security, while lying about the nature of health care reform. We replace these memories with pretense that all we need is more capitalism, more pandering to greed, get the evil liberals out of the way and let the rich have more profits form our labor and purify the nature of our worship of money and they we will all be millionaires.

Thomas Frank's book Pity the Billionaire is a good reminder of reality, and Bill Moyer's Interview with him is eye opening.

This interview with Moyers was broadcasted last night, June 16, 2012. deals with the supreme court decision on Citizen's united and Thomas Frank's book Pity the Billionaire.

The Frank interview deals with the overall system of "free market" and the grass roots right-wing populism that has sprang up to promote it. Franks argues that in the near economic collapse at the end of the Bush administration and the we saw the failure of the entire system. All the problems can be traced to deregulation. All the things we had been doing for short term profits, blinding ourselves to ethics, opening the field to money, power and influence all goes back to de-regulating. Yet Ameircans have never before been more enamored of the idea that regualition is villian and less government is the answer. The whole problem we face today is the result of not regulating the market, allowing big money to get bigger. The populace has never been fleeced before like they are now. Like goo obedient lemmings they they march off the cliff reciting the mantras of big money and capitalism. Never before have Americans been more willing to believe that if we just take the restraints off free market everything will even out in a God ordained natural economic democracy.,

Pity the Billionaire by Thomas Frank - review

Pity the Billionaire tells of the rebirth of right-wing populism after its submergence in 1996. The Tea Party movement in America today is driven by a vision of utopian capitalism, Frank observes, "at the precise moment when free-market theory has proven itself to be a philosophy of ruination and fraud". The bailouts that Bush began, Obama continued as if no change of plan were necessary with a change of administration and mandate; but "the bailouts were one of those moments that crushes the faith of a nation". The new populism that Frank describes is a feverish reassertion of faith.

There were available remedies for the collapse besides charging the losses to taxpayers. One solution would have been to put the zombie banks into receivership. Another was to bring the financial industry under regulation again (as suggested by Paul Volcker, Obama's leading economic adviser until he became president). The explanation for such steps could have been simple; but instead, Obama in 2009 spoke vaguely of "fundamental change" even as he became the guardian of the financial status quo. Either of those moves alone would have been risky. Their combination was toxic. By using big government to protect the firms that were deemed too big to fail, Obama supplied new grounds for every suspicion that government could not be relied on to help ordinary people.

In addition tot he Frank interview Moyers talked about Money buying elections and the supreme court decision. He also interviewed Mother Jone's editors Carla Jeffery and Monika Bauerkein, who talked about their book Dark Money, "the conspiracy of cash that allows the rich to influence our most fundamental political freedoms. On the show, Bill calls out some of the biggest super PAC donors, revealing how easy it is for the wealthy one percent to sway an election.."

The re-call election of Walker (Wisconsin) saw 14 billionaires outspending the unions by eight times. To ensure that America doesn't become a socialist state ran by unions Texas Oligarch Tom Perry and Billionaire Diane Hendrix gave huge amounts of money. The Court deicsion sets this up, it sets up the possibility of "dark money" campaign expenses that can't be traced. We don't know who is buying influence.

I did a piece on the re-call when the campaign began (March 2011) on my blog Need More Shovels.

Capitalism without failure

“Let’s face it,” the founder of a super PAC recently told Mother Jones magazine. “Politics in this country is coin-operated.” True enough, as evidenced by the billions projected to be spent in this year’s elections — untold amounts of it unleashed by the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision. Even with all that money being cashed in, the busy check-writers and the influence they purchase remain largely hidden, including those who helped Republican Governor Scott Walker dramatically out-fundraise his Democratic challenger to win last week’s recall election.
Don't miss this amazing episode of Moyer's show. This interview is devastating and alarming but it has to be seen by every voter in America. Email it to your friends.

Watch Interview (Pitty The

Frank did a impervious interview with Moyers about how Ameicans had forgotten (by as early as 2010) what things were like before Obama.

Watch The previous Frank Interview

Thursday, June 14, 2012

What is The Nature of Religion?

Persian version of Mithra

While doing my usual message board thing this weekend I notice a lot of atheists making arguments like God is a big man in the sky, and what about all those other faiths and so on. I got in a dispute with atheist about the nature and purpose of religion. There's the old perennial divide and conquer strategy that they are so fond of. "What about all those other religions how do you know yours is right? There's a amalgam of issues I'm trying to get at here I think the way to do it is this one central concept. We must look pat the specifics of individual traditions and look at the abstract nature of what religion is about and what it's meant to do. This is all coming from my old notes at Perkins in Dr. McFarland's class on religion in a global perspective.

Before getting into this some might be confused into thinking that I'm not a Christian, or that I DON"T believe in the unique role of Jesus in salvation. I am a Christian and I do believe that Jesus plays a unique role in salvation (ie no other other name given under heaven by which we can be saved). I'll deal with how I see the role of Jesus and the atonement in this on Wednesday.

All religions seek to do three things:
a) to identify the human problematic,
b) to identify an ultimate transformative experience (UTE) which resolves the problematic, and
c) to mediate between the two.
But not all religions are equal. All are relative to the truth but not all are equal. Some mediate the UTE better than others, or in a more accessible way than others. Given the foregoing, my criteria are that:
1) a religious tradition reflect a human problematic which is meaningful in terms of the what we find in the world.

2) the UTE be found to really resolve the problematic

3) it mediates the UTE in such a way as to be effective and accessible.

4) its putative and crucial historical claims be historically probable given the ontological and epistemological assumptions that are required within the inner logic of that belief system.

5) it be consistent with itself and with the external world in a way that touches these factors.
These mean that I am not interested in piddling Biblical contradictions such as how many women went to the tomb, ect. but in terms of the major claims of the faith as they touch the human problematic and its resolution.

How Does the Bible fulfill these criteria? First, what is the Bible? Is it a rule book? Is it a manual of discipline? Is it a science textbook? A history book? No it is none of these. The Bible, the Canon, the NT in particular, is a means of bestowing Grace. What does that mean? It means first, it is not an epistemology! It is not a method of knowing how we know, nor is it a history book. It is a means of coming into contact with the UTE mentioned above. This means that the primary thing it has to do to demonstrate its veracity is not be accurate historically, although it is that in the main; but rather, its task is to connect one to the depository of truth in the teachings of Jesus such that one is made open to the ultimate transformative experience. Thus the main thing the Bible has to do to fulfill these criteria is to communicate this transformation. This can only be judged phenomenologically. It is not a matter of proving that the events are true, although there are ensconces where that becomes important.

Thus the main problem is not the existence of these piddling so-called contradictions (and my experience is 90% of them stem from not knowing how to read a text), but rather the extent to which the world and life stack up to the picture presented as a fallen world, engaged in the human problematic and transformed by the light of Christ. Now that means that the extent to which the problematic is adequately reflected, that being sin, separation from God, meaninglessness, the wages of sin, the dregs of life, and so forth, vs. the saving power of God's grace to transform life and change the direction in which one lives to face God and to hope and future. This is something that cannot be decided by the historical aspects or by any objective account. It is merely the individual's problem to understand and to experience. That is the nature of what religion does and the extent to which Christianity does it more accessibly and more efficaciously is the extent to which it should be seen as valid.

The efficacy is not an objective issue either, but the fact that only a couple of religions in the world share the concept of Grace should be a clue. No other religion (save Pure Land Buddhism) have this notion. For all the others there is a problem of one's own efforts. The Grace mediates and administrates through Scriptures is experienced in the life of the believer, and can be found also in prayer, in the sacraments and so forth.

Where the historical questions should enter into it are where the mediation of the UTE hedges upon these historical aspects. Obviously the existence of Jesus of Nazareth would be one, his death on the cross another. The Resurrection of course, doctrinally is also crucial, but since that cannot be established in an empirical sense, seeing as no historical question can be, we must use historical probability. That is not blunted by the minor discrepancies in the number of women at the tomb or who got there first. That sort of thinking is to think in terms of a video documentary. We expect the NT to have the sort of accuracy we find in a court room because we are moderns and we watch too much television. The number of women and when they got to the tomb etc. does not have a bearing on whether the tomb actually existed, was guarded and was found empty. Nor does it really change the fact that people claimed to have seen Jesus after his death alive and well and ascending into heaven. We can view the different strands of NT witness as separate sources, since they were not written as one book, but by different authors at different times and brought together later.

The historicity of the NT is a logical assumption given the nature of the works. We can expect that the Gospels will be polemical. We do not need to assume, however, that they will be fabricated from whole cloth. They are the product of the communities that redacted them. That is viewed as a fatal weakness in fundamentalist circles, tantamount to saying that they are lies. But that is silly. In reality there is no particular reason why the community cannot be a witness. The differences in the accounts are produced by either the ordering of periscopes to underscore various theological points or the use of witnesses who fanned out through the various communities and whose individual view points make up the variety of the text. This is not to be confused with contradiction simply because it reflects differences in individual's view points and distracts us from the more important points of agreement; the tomb was empty, the Lord was seen risen, there were people who put there hands in his nail prints, etc.

The overall question about Biblical contradiction goes back to the basic nature of the text. What sort of text is it? Is it a Sunday school book? A science text book? A history book? And how does inspiration work? The question about the nature of inspiration is the most crucial. This is because the basic notion of the fundamentalists is that of verbal plenary inspiration. If we assume that this is the only sort of inspiration than we have a problem. One mistake and verbal plenary inspiration is out the window. The assumption that every verse is inspired and every word is true comes not from the Church fathers or from the Christian tradition. It actually starts with Humanists in the Renaissance and finds its final development in the 19th century with people like J. N. Drably and Warfield. (see, Avery Dulles Models of Revelation).

One of my major reasons for rejecting this model of revelation is because it is not true to the nature of transformation. Verbal plenary inspiration assumes that God uses authors like we use pencils or like businessmen use secretaries, to take dictation (that is). But why should we assume that this is the only form of inspiration? Only because we have been conditioned by American Christianity to assume that this must be the case. This comes from the Reformation's tendency to see the Bible as epistemology rather than as a means of bestowing grace (see William Abraham, Canon and Criterion). Why should be approach the text with this kind of baggage? We should approach it, not assuming that Moses et al. were fundamentalist preachers, but that they experienced God in their lives through the transformative power of the Spirit and that their writings and redactions are a reflection of this experience. That is more in keeping with the nature of religion as we find it around the world. That being the case, we should have no problem with finding that mythology of Babylonian and Suzerain cultures are used in Genesis, with the view toward standing them on their heads, or that some passages are idealized history that reflect a nationalistic agenda. But the experiences of God come through in the text in spite of these problems because the text itself, when viewed in dialectical relation between reader and text (Barth/Dulles) does bestow grace and does enable transformation.

After all the Biblical texts were not written as "The Bible" but were complied from a huge voluminous body of works which were accepted as scripture or as "holy books" for quite some time before they were collected and put in a single list and even longer before they were printed as one book: the Bible. Therefore, that this book may contradict itself on some points is of no consequence. Rather than reflecting dictation, or literal writing as though the author was merely a pencil in the hands of God, what they really reflect is the record of people's experiences of God in their lives and the way in which those experiences suggested their choice of material/redaction. In short, inspiration of scripture is a product of the transformation afore mentioned. It is the verbalization of inner-experience which mediates grace, and in turn it mediates grace itself.

The Bible is not the Perfect Revelation of God to humanity. Jesus is that perfect revelation. The Gospels are merely the record of Jesus' teachings, deposited with the communities and encoded for safe keeping in the list chosen through Apostolic backing to assure Christian identity. For that matter the Bible as a whole is a reflection of the experience of transformation and as such, since it was the product of human agents we can expect it to have human flaws. The extent to which those flaws are negligible can be judge the ability of that deposit of truth to adequately promote transformation. Christ authorizes the Apostles, the Apostles authorize the community, the community authorizes the tradition, and the tradition authorizes the canon.

The A priori

God is not given directly in sense data, God transcends the threshold of human understanding, and thus is not given amenable to empirical proof. As I have commented in previous essays (bloodspots) religion is not a scientific question. There are other methodologies that must be used to understand religion, since the topic is essentially inter-subjective (and science thrives upon objective data). We can study religious behavior through empirical means and we can compare all sorts of statistical realizations through comparisons of differing religious experiences, behaviors, and options. But we cannot produce a trace of God in the universe through "objective" scientific means. Here I use the term "trace" in the Derision sense, the "track," "footprint" the thing to follow to put us on the scent. As I have stated in previous essays, what we must do is find the "co-detemrinate," the thing that is left by God like footprints in the snow. The trace of God can be found in God's affects upon the human heart, and that shows up objectively, or inter-subjectvely in changed behavior, changed attitudes, life transformations. This is the basis of the mystical argument that I use, and in a sense it also have a bearing upon my religious instruct argument. But here I wish to present anther view of the trace of God. This could be seen as a co-detmiernate perhaps, more importantly, it frees religion from the structures of having to measure up to a scientific standard of proof: the religious a prori.

Definition of the a priori.

"This notion [Religious a priori] is used by philosophers of religion to express the view that the sense of the Divine is due to a special form of awareness which exists along side the cognitive, moral, and aesthetic forms of awareness and is not explicable by reference to them. The concept of religion as concerned with the awareness of and response to the divine is accordingly a simple notion which cannot be defined by reference other than itself." --David Pailin "Religious a pariori" Westminster Dictionary of Chrisian Theology (498)

The religious a priroi deals with the speicial nature of religion as non-derivative of any other discipline, and especially it's speicial reiigious faculty of understanding which transcends ordinary means of understanding. Since the enlightenment atheist have sought to explain away religion by placing it in relative and discardable terms. The major tactic for accomplishing this strategy was use of the sociological theory of structural functionalism. By this assumption religion was chalked up to some relative and passing social function, such as promoting loyalty to the tribe, or teaching morality for the sake of social cohesion. This way religion was explained naturalistically and it was also set in relative terms because these functions in society, while still viable (since religion is still around) could always pass away. But this viewpoint assumes that religion is derivative of some other discipline; it's primitive failed science, concocted to explain what thunder is for example. Religion is an emotional solace to get people through hard times and make sense of death and destruction (it's a ll sin, fallen world et). But the a priori does away with all that. The a priori says religion is its own thing, it is not failed primitive sincere, nor is it merely a crutch for surviving or making sense of the world (although it can be that) it is also its own discipline; the major impetus for religion is the sense of the numinous, not the need for explanations of the natural world. Anthropologists are coming more and more to discord that nineteenth century approach anyway.

Thomas A Indianopolus
prof of Religion at of Miami U. of Ohio

Cross currents

"It is the experience of the transcendent, including the human response to that experience, that creates faith, or more precisely the life of faith. [Huston] Smith seems to regard human beings as having a propensity for faith, so that one speaks of their faith as "innate." In his analysis, faith and transcendence are more accurate descriptions of the lives of religious human beings than conventional uses of the word, religion. The reason for this has to do with the distinction between participant and observer. This is a fundamental distinction for Smith, separating religious people (the participants) from the detached, so-called objective students of religious people (the observers). Smith's argument is that religious persons do not ordinarily have "a religion." The word, religion, comes into usage not as the participant's word but as the observer's word, one that focuses on observable doctrines, institutions, ceremonies, and other practices. By contrast, faith is about the nonobservable, life-shaping vision of transcendence held by a participant..."

The Skeptic might argue "if religion as this unique form of consciousness that sets it apart form other forms of understanding, why does it have to be taught?" Obviously religious belief is taught through culture, and there is a good reason for that, because religion is a cultural construct. But that does not diminish the reality of God. Culture teaches religion but God is known to people in the heart. This comes through a variety of ways; through direct experience, through miraculous signs, through intuitive sense, or through a sense of the numinous. The Westminster's Dictionary of Christian Theology ..defines Numinous as "the sense of awe in attracting and repelling people to the Holy." Of course the background assumption I make is, as I have said many times, that God is apprehended by us mystically--beyond word, thought, or image--we must encode that understanding by filtering it through our cultural constrcts, which creates religious differences, and religious problems.

The Culturally constructed nature of religion does not negate the a priori. "Even though the forms by Which religion is expressed are culturally conditioned, religion itself is sui generis .. essentially irreducible to and undeceivable from the non-religious." (Paladin). Nor can the a priori be reduced to some other form of endeavor. It cannot be summed up by the use of ethics or any other field, it cannot be reduced to explanation of the world or to other fields, or physiological counter causality. To propose such scientific analysis, except in terms of measuring or documenting effects upon behavior, would yield fruitless results. Such results might be taken as proof of no validity, but this would be a mistake. No scientific control can ever be established, because any study would only be studying the culturally constructed bits (by definition since language and social sciences are cultural constructs as well) so all the social sciences will wind up doing is merely reifying the phenomena and reducing the experience. In other words, This idea can never be studied in a social sciences sense, all that the social sciences can do is redefine the phenomena until they are no longer discussing the actual experiences of the religious believer, but merely the ideology of the social scientist (see my essay on Thomas S. Kuhn.

The attempt of skeptics to apply counter causality, that is, to show that the a priori phenomena is the result of naturalistic forces and not miraculous or divine, not only misses the boat in its assumptions about the nature of the argument, but it also loses the phenomena by reduction to some other phenomena. It misses the boat because it assumes that the reason for the phenomena is the claim of miraculous origin, “I feel the presence of God because God is miraculously giving me this sense of his presence.” While some may say that, it need not be the believers argument. The real argument is simply that the co-determinates are signs of the trace of God in the universe, not because we cant understand them being produced naturalistically, but because they evoke the sense of numinous and draw us to God. The numinous implies something beyond the natural, but it need not be “a miracle.” The sense of the numinous is actually a natural thing, it is part of our apprehension of the world, but it points to the sublime, which in turn points to transcendence. In other words, the attribution of counter causality does not, in and of itself, destroy the argument, while it is the life transformation through the experience that is truly the argument, not the phenomena itself. Its the affects upon the believer of the sense of Gods presence and not the sense of Gods presence that truly indicates the trance of God.

Moreover, the attempts to reduce the causality to something less than the miraculous also lose the phenomena in reification.William James, The Verieties of Religious Experience (The Gilford Lectures):

"Medical materialism seems indeed a good appellation for the too simple-minded system of thought which we are considering. Medical materialism finishes up Saint Paul by calling his vision on the road to Damascus a discharging lesion of the occipital cortex, he being an epileptic. It snuffs out Saint Teresa as an hysteric, Saint Francis of Assisi as an hereditary degenerate. George Fox's discontent with the shams of his age, and his pining for spiritual veracity, it treats as a symptom of a disordered colon. Carlyle's organ-tones of misery it accounts for by a gastro-duodenal catarrh. All such mental over-tensions, it says, are, when you come to the bottom of the matter, mere affairs of diathesis (auto-intoxications most probably), due to the perverted action of various glands which physiology will yet discover. And medical materialism then thinks that the spiritual authority of all such personages is successfully undermined."

This does not mean that the mere claim of religious experience of God consciousness is proof in and of itself, but it means that it must be taken on its own terms. It clearly answers the question about why God doesn't reveal himself to everyone; He has, or rather, He has made it clear to everyone that he exists, and He has provided everyone with a means of knowing Him. He doesn't get any more explicit because faith is a major requirement for belief. Faith is not an arbitrary requirement, but the rational and logical result of a world made up of moral choices. God reveals himself, but on his own terms. We must seek God on those terms, in the human heart and the basic sense of the numinous and in the nature of religious encounter. There are many aspects and versions of this sense, it is not standardized and can be describes in many ways:

Forms of the A priori.

Schleiermacher's "Feeling of Utter Dependence.

Frederick Schleiermacher, (1768-1834) in On Religion: Speeches to it's Cultured Disposers, and The Christian Faith, sets forth the view that religion is not reducible to knowledge or ethical systems. It is primarily a phenomenological apprehension of God consciousness through means of religious affections. Affections is a term not used much anymore, and it is easily confused with mere emotion. Sometimes Schleiermacher is understood as saying that "I become emotional when I pay and thus there must be an object of my emotional feelings." Though he does vintner close to this position in one form of the argument, this is not exactly what he's saying.

Schleiermacher is saying that there is a special intuitive sense that everyone can grasp of this whole, this unity, being bound up with a higher reality, being dependent upon a higher unity. In other words, the "feeling" can be understood as an intuitive sense of "radical contingency" (int he sense of the above ontological arugments).He goes on to say that the feeling is based upon the ontological principle as its theoretical background, but doesn't' depend on the argument because it proceeds the argument as the pre-given pre-theorectical pre-cognative realization of what Anslem sat down and thought about and turned into a rational argument: why has the fools said in his heart 'there is no God?' Why a fool? Because in the heart we know God. To deny this is to deny the most basic realization about reality.

Rudolph Otto's Sense of the Holy (1868-1937)

The sense of power in the numinous which people find when confronted by the sacred. The special sense of presence or of Holiness which is intuitive and observed in all religious experience around the world.

Paul Tillich's Object of Ultimate Concern.

We are going to die. We cannot avoid this. This is our ultimate concern and sooner or latter we have to confront it. When we do we realize a sense of transformation that gives us a special realization existentially that life is more than material.

see also My article on Toilet's notion of God as the Ground of Being.

Tillich's concept made into God argument.

As Robert R. Williams puts it:

There is a "co-determinate to the Feeling of Utter dependence.

"It is the original pre-theoretical consciousness...Schleiermacher believes that theoretical cognition is founded upon pre-theoretical intersubjective cognition and its life world. The latter cannot be dismissed as non-cognative for if the life world praxis is non-cognative and invalid so is theoretical cognition..S...contends that belief in God is pre-theoretical, it is not the result of proofs and demonstration, but is conditioned soley by the modification of feeling of utter dependence. Belief in God is not acquired through intellectual acts of which the traditional proofs are examples, but rather from the thing itself, the object of religious experience..If as S...says God is given to feeling in an original way this means that the feeling of utter dependence is in some sense an apparition of divine being and reality. This is not meant as an appeal to revelation but rather as a naturalistic eidetic"] or a priori. The feeling of utter dependence is structured by a corrolation with its whence." , Schleiermacher the Theologian, p 4.

The believer is justified in assuming that his/her experinces are experiences of a reality, that is to say, that God is real.

there are certain things I wan to point out here and I want to know if you agree, or disagree, undersatnd or find it interesting.

(1) The major thing it's saying is that religious belief is based upon knowing truth through a phenomenological encounter with truth and not upon reification (meaning, scientific reductionism).

(2) Doing this is a matter of consciousness.

(3) If raising consciousness boardens one's understanding of the world and has the desirable effect one expects to get out of a religious belief system (ie for the Buddhist enlightenment) then why is not not a warrant for belief?

(4) if one understands the nature of religious belief to be the point of religious engagement with a tradition then is being result oriented not the proper mythodology for discussing validation of a religious tradition?

(5) If in some sense hard data is sought, and hard data is obtained in relation to the outcome or the 'payoff' in terms of a transformation that resolves the problematic then why is that not satisfactory for one's demand for empirical data?

(6) empirical data proving that one had transformation effects. if that's the point of region why would that not be the proper sort of empirical data to watch for?

Freedom from the Need to prove.

Schleiermacher came up with his notion of the feeling when wrestling with Kantian Dualism. Kant had said that the world is divided into two aspects of reality the numinous and the phenomenal. The numinous is not experienced through sense data, and sense God is not experienced through sense data, God belongs only to the numinous. The problem is that this robbs us of an object of theological discourse. We can't talk about God because we can't experience God in sense data. Schleiermacher found a way to run an 'end round' and get around the sense data. Experience of God is given directly in the "feeling" apart form sense data.

This frees us form the need to prove the existence of God to others, because we know that God exists in a deep way that cannot be entreated by mere cultural constructs or reductionist data or deified phenomena. This restores the object of theological discourse. Once having regained its object, theological discourse can proceed to make the logical deduction that there must be a CO-determinate to the feeling, and that CO-determinate is God. In that sense Schleiermacher is saying "if I have affections about God must exist as an object of my affections"--not merely because anything there must be an object of all affections, but because of the logic of the co-determinate--there is a sense of radical contingency, there must be an object upon which we are radically contingent.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Fish eye lens: A Parable


A fish scientist who was hired by the high council of Tuna to find the strange substance humans believe in called “water.” The fish had never seen any water so they wanted to know what it is. The fish scientist was told that water collected in depressions in the ground, so he examined every hole and depression he could find but found no water. He eventually concluded that humans are deluded about water because he could find no examples of it. It never occurred to him it was the medium in which he lived, through which he gazed, and from which he took every breath. As a fish empiricist our scale clad investigator was certain that what he was looking for had to be an object that he could see, he forgot to look at the substance he was always looking through. So it is with being, we write it off as “just what is” and go on looking for this “God” who can’t be found because we don’t understand he’s nearer than our inmost being. Such is the pitfall of scientific empiricism.

The point of course is that God is too basic to our being, too much a part of the existence we share that we don't see any indications of presence. We take for granted the aspects of being that indicate God's reality. Some of the those indications might be physical or cosmological, such as fine tuning or modal necessity. Others are experiential. The atheists pointed out that water is physical and can be detected. It's only an analogy and all analogies break down at some point.Analogies are nt proofs anyway. I don't offer this as proof but as a clarification of a cocnept. In so clarifying we find a link to being; the connection bewteen God and Being itself.

Heidegger approaches being in its ready-to-hand aspect. In other words like a carpenter using tools we find being as so inherently part of our experience, so ready-to-hand that we don't notice it. This is the point of the parable; we are too close to being, it's fundamental to what we are to realize that our place in it is to be contingencies based upon the reality of God. God is also "detectable" but of cousre, not in the sense that water is. Given certain assumptions we can understand the correlation between experience of presence and the nature of eternal necessary being. When we experience the reality of God through the presence of holiness we experince the nature of being as eternal and necesary. All we need to do is realize the necessary aspect of being to realize the reality of God. This is why Tillich says:

The name of infinite and inexhaustible depth and ground of our being is God. That depth is what the word God means. And if that word has not much meaning for you, translate it, and speak of the depths of your life, of the source of your being, of your ultimate concern, of what you take seriously without any reservation. Perhaps, in order to do so, you must forget everything traditional that you have learned about God, perhaps even that word itself. For if you know that God means depth, you know much about Him. You cannot then call yourself an atheist or unbeliever. For you cannot think or say: Life has no depth! Life itself is shallow. Being itself is surface only. If you could say this in complete seriousness, you would be an atheist; but otherwise you are not."
"Depth of being" and being itself are synonymous. Depth just means that there's more to being than appears on the surface. The surface is the most obvious aspect, that things exist. The existence of any given thing is the surface level. If we go deeper to probe the nature of being that entails the realization of the eternal necessary aspect of being and thus being has depth. Then we realize our own contingent nature and thus, we are at one and the same time realizing the reality of God (that is after all the basis of the cosmological argument and the ontological argument as well).

This is why God appears to be hidden. It's not that he's hidden. It's not that God is hiding himself. According to Hartshorne, "only God can be so universally important that no subject can ever wholly fail or ever have failed to be aware of him (in however dim or unreflective fashion)." Now the issue of why God doesn't hold a "press conference" has do do with the fact that God does not communicate by violating normal causal principles. In process terms, the "communication" of God must be understood as the prehension of God by human beings. A "prehension" is the response of an occasion to the entire past world (both the contiguous past and the remote past.) As God is in every occasion's past actual world, every occasion must "prehend" or take account of God.

It should be noted that "prehension" is a generic mode of perception that does not necessarily entail consciousness or sensory experience. Impervious postings I explained that there a two modes of pure perception --"perception in the mode of causal efficacy" and "perception in the mode of presentational immediacy." If God is present to us, then it is in the presensory perceptual mode of causal efficacy as opposed to the sensory and conscious perceptual mode of presentational immediacy. That is why God is "invisible", i.e. invisible to sense perception. The foundation for experience of God lies in the nonsesnory non conscious mode of prehension. So now, there is the further question: Why is there variability in our experience of God?. Or, why are some of us atheists, pantheists, theists, etc.? Every prehension has an initial datum derived from God, yet there are a multiplicity of ways in which this datum is prehended from diverse perspectives.

I agreed with Hume that sense perception tells us nothing about efficient causation (or final causation for that matter). Hume was actually presupposing causal efficacy in his attempt to deny it (i.e., in his relating of sense impressions to awareness). Causation could be described as an element of experience, but as Whitehead explains, this experience is not sensory experience. From Hume's own analysis Whitehead derives at least two forms of nonsensory perception: the perception of our own body and the nonsensory perception of one's past.

But this is at an unconscious level. However, in some people, this direct prehension of the "Holy" rises to the level of conscious experience. We generally call theses people "mystics". Now, the reason why a few people are conscious of God is not the result of God violating causal principle; some people are just able to conform to God's initial datum in greater degree than other people can. I don't think that God chooses to make himself consciously known to some and not to others. That would make God an elitist. Now, the question as to why I am a theist as opposed to an atheist does not have to do with me experiencing some exceptional religious or mystical experience. Rather, I believe that these extraordinary experiences of the great religious leaders are genuine and that they do conform to the ultimate nature of things. It's not necessarily a "blind leap" of faith, as my religious beliefs are accepted, in part, on the basis of whether or not they illuminate my experience of reality.

The experience of no one single witness is final the "the proof" but the fact that there are millions of witnesses who, in differing levels from the generally intuitive to the mystical, experience must the same thing in terms of general religious belief the argument is simply that God interacts on a human heart level, and the experiences of those who witness such interaction is strong evidence for that conclusion.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Why Good People Despise Each Other Over Politics

Jonathan Haidt

Yesterday I watched Bill Moyer's Interview with Jonathan Haidt, Author of the Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.

bio on Amazon:

Jonathan Haidt is a professor of social psychology at the University of Virginia, and is currently the Henry Kaufman Visiting Professor of Business Ethics at the NYU-Stern School of Business. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1992 and then did post-doctoral research at the University of Chicago and in Orissa, India.

His research focuses on morality - its emotional foundations, cultural variations, and developmental course. He began his career studying the negative moral emotions, such as disgust, shame, and vengeance, but then moved on to the understudied positive moral emotions, such as admiration, awe, and moral elevation. He is the co-developer of Moral Foundations theory, and of the research site He uses his research to help people understand and respect the moral motives of their enemies (see, and see his 2008 TED talk).

From the interview with Moyers:

Our country is more politically polarized than ever. Is it possible to agree to disagree and still move on to solve our massive problems? Or are the blind leading the blind — over the cliff?

Bill and social psychologist Jonathan Haidt talk about the psychological underpinnings of our contentious culture, why we can’t trust our own opinions, and the demonizing of our adversaries.

“When it gets so that your opponents are not just people you disagree with, but… the mental state in which I am fighting for good, and you are fighting for evil, it’s very difficult to compromise,” Haidt tells Moyers. “Compromise becomes a dirty word.”

On one level what Haidt is telling us is pretty obvious. He presents a study where data was gathered on attitudes about politics and religion. It demonstrates that liberals care most about a public ground of caring and compassion and that's the most important thing. They don't like or trust nation states, they are not concenred with the sacralizing of America. Ceonservatives are concerneed with America as a sacred emblem of God and goodness. Thus liberals don't emphasize concepts such as loyalty and reverense and conservatives do. Haidt finds that the real change in American society has come through the demonizing of the other. Grounds use to sport a healthy competition, but they didn't see each other as evil. They would come together in football games to compete then it's just a game they celebrate together and become one again. Now that doesn't happen. We have purified he two parties to the extent that each sees itself as the righteous standing up against the evil other. When we come to see our opponents as evil we are willing to kill them.

Haidt locates the historical dividing line in the passage of the civil rights act. He's clearly a liberal he's not arguing that we should not have passed the civil rights act, but he is saying that is the think end of the wedge that drove the two sides apart. Moyers tossed in that Johnson told him at the time "we just delivered the south over to the Republicans for the rest of my lie and probably yours too." Moyers was an aid to Johnson during his entire administration. The Republican party worked on purification of its ranks for many decades. The liberal and moderate Republicans (Lowell P. Weicker) were basically kicked out by Nixon in the 72 coronation. The Reagan years brought a conservative purge by ideology. The Democrats purged their party in 72 through the McGovern rules committee and the rules change for delegates and affirmative action. Each party moved further toward it's end of the spectrum, Dems left and Republicans right.

Now we have a situation where one side (Obama) feels it is morally incumbent to compromise and the other side (Republicans) feel it is morally incumbent not to compromise. the really devastating twist is the way each side demonizes the other. All of this is pretty obvious to anyone who knows the history of politics in America and pays attendance to the perennial crisis that is American politics, but what he says that is most worth hearing is that we have to realize both sides are in the same black hole. Both sides think the other is in "La la land" and both sides think the other are crazy. since that is the problem the only solution is to realize that both sides are nuts. Stop thinking of ourselves as "the sane side" that's standing up to evil and start realizing when American politics is a black hole, such as the cold war, all light is absorbed into that black hole. Until and unless we are willing to do that it's going to keep moving toward the prepuces.

I predict it's too late. The recent supreme court decision on Campaign finance will allow for a flood of negative adds and they will get worse than ever and there's no turning back from the edge. The court rejected limit of corporate spending for political money.

NY times
"WASHINGTON — Overruling two important precedents about the First Amendment rights of corporations, a bitterly divided Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections."

The 5-to-4 decision was a vindication, the majority said, of the First Amendment’s most basic free speech principle — that the government has no business regulating political speech. The dissenters said that allowing corporate money to flood the political marketplace would corrupt democracy.

The ruling represented a sharp doctrinal shift, and it will have major political and practical consequences. Specialists in campaign finance law said they expected the decision to reshape the way elections were conducted. Though the decision does not directly address them, its logic also applies to the labor unions that are often at political odds with big business.

The decision will be felt most immediately in the coming midterm elections, given that it comes just two days after Democrats lost a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and as popular discontent over government bailouts and corporate bonuses continues to boil.

President Obama called it “a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”

This is a primary proving ground for the Gospel. If this Christian stuff really means anything this is the time when we have to start using it. If there is wisdom in Jesus' utterances about love, forgiveness, and doing unto other as we would have them do unto us, then this is the time to start doing that.

Moyer's actual interview with Haidt is available on this link..

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The Question of Being: Brute Fact or Deep Structure?


The meaning of the controversy is the difference between Paul Tillich's view of God as being itself, and the atheist understanding that "the universe just is." Tillich said that if we know that being has depth that it's not just "surface only" then we can't be atheists (Shaking of the Foundations, chapter seven). The atheist understanding has long been their answer to arguments like the cosmological argument. When theists divide up mobes of being into necessary and contingent,the atheist merely says "well what if being just is, it has no meaning or reason for being its' just there?" Of course that's a possibility but it doesn't answer the question, and saying it doesn't make the depth we can see in being go away. What is meant by "depth" of being is that there more to being than just the surface fact of things existing. That's what the concept of "the universe just is" tries to convey, the idea of no reason, not no scientific cause necessarily although they do sometimes try to say that too. These are two totally diametrically opposed understandings. The atheist view says being just is, no reason, nothing to consider or worry about, it's just there for no reason, absurdity. The theists seems more to the nature of being than meets the eye from the surface level. There has to be more to it than just the fact of things existing.

The cosmological argument, for example has different versions, but in generally all CA's assert that there must be final cause to account for the existence of the whole of reality. The atheist's often counter this final cause with an infinite series of contingent causes such as the oscillating universe of big bangs and big crunches. This is called an ICR (infinite causal regression). The atheist asserts that the universe just happens to be for no reason and it's made up of a series of little universes that come in and go out of existence. The whole chain, contingent though it may be (some deny validity of the category "contingent") passes on existence to the next version in the form of a big crunch that then expands avian in another big bang. Some argue that the crunch (contraction of gravitational forces) becomes a blog hole and "punches out" the other side as a new big bang. This is not the only mechanism for ICR. They also posit the notion of quantum tunneling and string membranes. The oscillating universe, however, is the most popular form of ICR becuase it's the only one with proven potential, even though the evidence disproves it (scroll down to (2) Cyclical Universe). As ICR for origin of the universe quantum tunneling invovles self causation where the singularity, or some original element or fragment of reality keeps tunneling back to cause itself at another point in time. This would involve being just having no logical origin but causing itself over and over eternally. String membrane in the sense of ICR is more or less the idea of a floating dimension just drifting along, bashing into another floating dimension and causing a third dimension. Since it posits the idea of a dimension just floating for no reason (2 actually) why bother with the mess? Why not say the universe needs no origin?

There's no absolute proof in any of this. If we want to get technical there's no actual proof that we are even living in a state of "reality." We assume the reality of the world, and thus our ability to study it and formulate hypothesis that "explain it" but if we want to start special pleading about explainations we don't like and just asserting the unproved nature of origins to hedge bets on those we do then we cant' be too picky when the other guy calls our bluff and says "now it's the skeptic's burden of proof." Why? Because presumption is on the side of explainations. Science assumes we need them. No one ever hears a scientist say "we don't need to explain that, let's forget it." The problem is atheists fool themselves. They demand science so much when they need to reach back to philosophy (Kant--the question about brute facts begins with Kant) it's reaching beyond science to philosohpy, which most atheists condemn anyway. There's a loss of credibility there. More importantly, they have already promised explainations then special plead and say "we don't need them in this area." Hey, for religious experiences we need them and they must be naturalistic!

The idea of "the universe just is," in philosophical terms is called a "brute fact." It means there is no reason it' just there. The problem with brute facts is that philosophers usually avoid them excusable they are meaningless, they are provoking and they beg the question. They are not satisfying. As stated, the explainable has been established as the proper procedure for dealing with unknowns, yet in this one reach of the metaphysical nature of being they are willing to just let it go. It's a true case of special pleading. The unsatisfying nature of the brute fact is set off against the basic intuitive sense of being meaning one finds in the question of existence. Meaning is part of the depth of being and we sense the depth of being in even asking the question "where did it all come from?" The issue seems like an arbitrary stand off, either there is a reason or not. Either there is meaning or not. We can't really tell why think there is when the only thing that we can be sure of is the blind random existence of what is? The scietnific evidence does suggest bind random accident and evolution.

The problem is the brute fact in terms of ICR or universal origin is just made up of contingent things. The states of bang and crunch that make up the oscillating universe, for example, consist of constituat parts such as space-time, gravitational field, and naturalistic things. Naturalistic things are contingent. To posit the whole totality of all universal meaning, eternal truth, the nature of all that is upon a meaningless happenstance that just happens to be, while everything else about existence requires explaining and implies something greater than itself (such as truth) creates a state of dissatisfaction. If we are disatisfied metpahyically we have the right to question that state. ICR and brute facts don't answer the questions we ask. The atheist is content to lose the phenomena and pretend there is no meaning and no answers but in so doing is no better off or no more intellectually justified than the faithful making excuses about "no one knows the mind of God." There is a deciding factor or two and they are a prori part of the basic fabric of the question. There's an aspect to the nature of the contingent happenstance that makes up the brute fact of existence that suggests depth of being in a greater sense.

The eternal and necessary nature being suggests the distinction between being as a brute fact and being as depth. The very mechanism the atheist seeks to ply aging final cause is the disproof of the brutish nature of fact. To explain this I must explain the difference in my CA and that of others. For example the Kalam argument is a version of the CA. This says anything that beings to exist needs a cause. That argument, therefore, turns upon the nature cause. Thus arguments about Kalam revolve around efficient cause in nature, and thus ICR (if allowed to stand) is a valid answer. ICR contains cause even though it means an endless series of meaningless cause the whole of which cannot be explained, our own particular universe has its cause then in the previous big crutch and it's blowing back out as a big bang. My version of the CA, however, the Argument from Cosmological Necessity doesn't turn upon causes but upon attributes of God. The argument turns upon demonstrating that the attributes that make up the God concept already exist and are known to us as aspects of reality, thus it's just a matter of understanding their relation to being we can see that they spell out something deep inherent meaning in being that disproves brute fact. After all if being has a deep inherent meaning it can't be a brute fact, that is a prori truth. The deciding factor is the eternal nature of being. There is another version of the argument that turns upon the eternal nature of being.

The reason it's not a moot stand off between the two concepts is because the ICR itself has to be eternal. the individual aspects of the regression that move from one universe to another are contingent and temporal, but the whole string in so far as it must stretch back eternally is both eternal and infinite. Both states evoke the sense of the numinous. That means it's a fit object of worship because anything that evokes the sense of the numinous is a fit object of worship since that state is the very reason religion exists in the firs place. That's what worship is, its the nature being moved by the sense that there is something profound and special in being. The atheist protest that "the universe just happens to be" is self negating becuase it's eternal and infinite nature suggest the quality of the numinous and are thus more in and of themselves than they perpetual to be. That in itself is depth of being. In seeking to posit the whole they actually must suggest something that triggers religious devotion and thus prove the depth nature of being.

Atheists logically should have to support the concept the universe moving from a state of absolute nothing. This is because the ICR just moves the problem back eternally but never really confronts the issue of origins anyway. Since the atheists affirm the idea of brute fact, meaningless accident, irrational existence, and so on they should actually just take their lumps in abandoning ratinoal explanations. This is not all there, however, the issue is not a done deal. We can't just leap from eternal being triggers the sense of the numinous to "therefore God is real." We have to deal with the other attitudes. Even though they all actually flow out of the eternal nature of being, necessity is the more independent one of the lot. The attrubites I emphasis are:

ground of being
first cause

I am also challenged by atheists constantly to include "consciousness" or "personal being." There is no necessity in theology to assume God is personal. Even though I do assume so that is not a priamry quality because other things are personal as well. I'm concerned with the qualitaties that make God God and that God can't share with anything else. Whatever is eternal is by definition necessary (at least ontologically so) because it's not dependent and can't cease to exist. Nothing else really is necessary in the sense that God is (totally, no nature as the effect of a prior cause), so these are primary qualities. If there is eternal necessary being then by definition it is the ground of being. That would only be logical to assume that it is the first cause since nothing else is on a par with it ti would be the best candidate to assume that all else has it's origin in that which is eternal and necessary.

That brings us to the issue of necessity. This is a very important issue because the whole about ICR includes a large part about necessity vs. contingency. That will be discussed on Monday.

Monday, June 04, 2012

How Can the Ground of Being Be Loving? The Other Ground of Being Theologian, Hans Urs Von Balthasar


Hans Urs Von Balthasar (1905-1988)

This is for my old Friend Rudy, who I knew before there was an Internet. He showed up on my blog the other day after I have not spoken to him in years. He said he couldn't see Being itself as love. So to further illustrate that connection I turn to the other great theologian of Being itself besides Tillich or John Macquarrie; Has Urs Von Balthasar.

Balthasar one of the most interesting and brilliant figures of the twentieth century, yet hardly anyone has heard of him outside the confines of academic theology. Even most theological students in the Proestant world are not very familiar with his works. He was a friend of John Paul II, called “the most cultured man of our time by Henri de Lubac. His achievements are called ‘breathtaking’ my one of the major catholic theologians of the century, Carl Rahner.[1] He wrote over a thousand books and articles. He was born in Lucerne Switzerland, 1905, and Grew up a Catholic, son of a pious mother.[2] He took his doctorate from the Liberal Protestant University of Zurich, having grown up educated by Benedictines and Jesuits. He became a Jesuit priest. He worked as a student Chaplin in the 30s. He became good friends with Protestant theologian Karl Barth, one of the greats of the century.

Balthasar was unable to work as a full fledged Jesuit priest due to the war years and the arrangement the government had between Protestants and Catholics, he was seen as belonging to the area of south Germany. He made a living as a translator and lecturer and editor. He ran publications and started a spiritual community. He spent most of his adult life this way, in association with a woman named Speyr who was never recognized as a mystic by the church. He had miracles and visions but being unrecognized, Balthasar’s community was not accepted and he was unable to gain a post. This situation dominated his life in the 40s,50’s, and 60s. He had to leave the Jesuits. He also lectured in these years on spiritual topics and made a living that way, but his health deteriorated as a result. In the 60s he began to be recognized as a theologian and was given honors and doctorates. In 1988 John Paul II made him a cardinal. That was also the year of his death. His community of st. John was a publishing house and he ran a journal called Communio. These eventually found great success in the 70s and were recognized by the Vatican. The major avenues to his success were his books and his lectures.[3]

Balthasar’s overall theological project centers upon the dualities between human conflict with ourselves and our place in being. Examples of the dualities that fascinate Balthasar include: our own contingency and that of the world around us in contrast to the sense of being itself.[4] Balthasar openly and obviously equates being with God. In his work about Balthasar’s live, David L. Schindler includes a short article by Balthasar himself called “a Resume of my Thought.”[5] He begins this “resume” by talking about the dilemma between human contingency and limitation in contrast to the infinite nature of being. This does not necessitate asserting God up front although he’s not concerned with a “proof.” His thesis is that all human philosophy either explicitly or tacitly concerns itself with this topic and by implication tacitly affirms the infinite and the absolute.[6] He comes to the conclusion that the duality is inescapable. The finite is not the infinite. Even the monism of the east is seen through nuanced dualities. Thus he asks the question “why are we not God?” The basis of the question is that we are aspects of being. We are products of being, yet we are contingent being, Why are we contingent and not necessary? The solutions that he ponders seems to end in one way or another with an indignant God creating a finite world out of need or alienation from his own infinity. He finds that only the God of the Bible offers a satisfactory answer, and that answer is in a sense the opposite of what we would think.

The common human tendency is to think God created because he needed something. Balthasar is hinting, I think, that God creates because its his nature as being to foment more being, in other words, its creative and God is Creative. It is not for God’s need that he creates but for what will become our need once we are created. In other words, God created us so that we can enjoy being, not because he needed us because once a part of being we would need and would be fulfilled in the need by love.

No Philosophy could give a satisfactory response to that question [why did infinte create finite?] St Paul would say to philosophers that God created man so that he would seek the Divine, try to obtain the Divine. That is why all pre Christian philosophy is theological at its summit. But, in fact, the true response to philosophy could only be given by Being himself, revealing himself from himself. Will man be capable of understanding this revelation? The affirmative response will be given only by the God of the Bible. On the one hand this God, creator of the world and of man, knows his creature. “I who have created the eye do not see? I who have created the ear do not hear?” And we add who who have created language, could not speak and make myself heard?” This posits a counterpart: to be able to hear and understand the auto-revelation of God man must in himself be a search for God, a question posed to him. Thus there is Biblical theology without a religious philosophy. Human reason must be open to the infinite.[7]

Notice how he capitalizes “B” in being and refers to being as “himself.” He personifies being and clearly speaks of it as the creator.

Balthasar sees the understanding of the revelation of “being himself” (my phrase based upon his) to humanity as rooted in the most fundamental human relationship. He says, “the infant is brought to consciousness of himself only by love, by the smile of his mother. In that encounter the horizon of all unlimited opens unto him.”[8] What he means by that is it is only through being por soir, for itself, in other words, consciousness, that we are able to comprehend the infinite and that only in contrast to the finite. Before we can do that, however, we have to become aware of ourselves so we can know we are finite. I think he’s making an implication that love is a link to being itself, and that through our encounter with love, the mother, we encounter the father, so to speak—by way of encountering love. We can see this in four truths that Balthasar finds rooted in this encounter:

(1) realizing that he Is other to the mother, the only way the child realizes he loves the mother; (2) love is good, therefore, being is good; (3) love is true, therefore, being is true; (4) love evokes joy therefore being is beautiful.[9] Notice the link between being and love. He is one of the rare theologians to point out this curial link.

The one, the true, the good, the Beautiful, these are what we call the transcendental attributes of being, because they surpass all the limits of essence, and are coextensive with Being. If there is an insurmountable distance between God and his creature, but if there is also an analogy between them which cannot be resolved in any form of identity, there must also exist an analogy between the transcendentals—between those of the creature and those in God.[10]

In this quotation he as much as equates being and God, since he speaks of the attributes of being then connects the understanding of these to the link between God and the creature. There is more to be said about Balthasar based upon this observation and it will figure importantly in two more chapters, including the last one, and the over all conclusion.

Balthasar confirms for me so many things I thought but didn't have the courage to say, or that I "sort of thought" but didn't have the intellect to formulate. I think he boldly and unabashedly resoled the problem of paradox between personal God and being itself. He was the first to show me the link bewteen being and love (although Tillich does mention it but I saw it in Balthasar first). He capitalizes "B" in "Being" and speak of Being a "he." The idea that God created not becasue he "needed to" but becasue his nature is creative.

[1] Joel Graver, “a Short Biography,” website:Hans Urs Von Balthasar, an Internet Archieve. URL sighted: (visited 12/3/10).

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, “overview of Balthasar’s project: URL:

[6] Ibid, 1

[7] Ibid., 3

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.