Saturday, October 27, 2007

Exchange with Loftus

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John W. Loftus said...

Joe, I'll probably have several comments to make here, but let me first say that while it's true that anything that happens does so in human history, there is a difference between considering the past as evidence and present day experience. I've suggested several ways for God to reveal himself better than merely doing so in the past.

(1) That's presumptuous. We have the evidence we have. History is what happened to the people of the past. IF God did reveal himself now people 2000 years from now would be making your argument.

(2) my point was that revelation hasn't stopped. God is always making it all the time.

10/26/2007 09:39:00 PM
John W. Loftus said...

Joe said...It would seem part of the definition of "free thinking" is that everyone must think the same thing. Not so!

then stop harping on differences between Christians.

10/26/2007 09:43:00 PM
John W. Loftus said...

Joe said...This is yet another version of the age old strategy "ancient people are stupid and modern progress is anti-God." Again, not so. One of the biggest chapters in my book is where I argue that ancient people weren't stupid, just superstitious.

if religious people were superstitious that does not prove that religion is superstition. Modern people are superstitious. argument from sign.

10/26/2007 09:46:00 PM
John W. Loftus said...

From my book:

History is written from the perspective of the historian, and it’s unavoidable to do otherwise. The question here is whether or not the perspective of the people in the past is preferable to the perspective of the present day historian. This is where the historian’s values unavoidably enter into the picture.

No that is not the question, to any degree. you are assuming that the persecutive of the author is the point of the text. That is an assumption not in evidence. Understanding the view point of the author helps us to understand the meaning of the text, but it is not necessarily the point of revelation within the text. The revelation is in the catharsis the text evokes, or it can be in the character change of the author. Not all the views of an author are necessarily the point of revleation. Your argument is based upon the "memo from the boss" model of revelation.

D.W. Bebbington (Ph.D., Cambridge) describes the problem of the historian: “The historian’s history is molded by his values, his outlook, and his world-view. It is never the evidence alone that dictates what is written. The attitudes that a historian brings to the evidence form an equally important element in the creation of history. The bias of a historian enters his history. The historian himself is part of the historical process, powerfully influenced by his time and place. The problem of the historian himself nevertheless dictates that two historians presented with the same evidence are likely to reach different conclusions. This is true of people living in the same period; it is more true of people living in different periods. That is why each age writes history that reflects its own concerns.”

Yes but he does not lionize that process. I think you are doing that. you ae assuming that history belongs to the historian. That's like the modernism says the text belongs to the writer. But post modernism tells us the ext belongs to the reader. The historian's inability to grow beyond his own time is not necessarily justification for chronocentrism.

According to E. Schillebeeckx, “Historical objectivity is not a reconstruction of the past in its unrepeatable factuality, it is the truth of the past in the light of the present.”

but that has nothing to do with your position.If it does I don't see it. In my view, revelation is not static, it is not given once and for all in the bible. God is constantly working in all culture and with all people. the gospel is constantly being upgraded, not that it's truths are changing but in application to the context in which it is lived. The Gospel is not words on paper. the bible is not the revelation. The bible is merley a medium, one medium, that gives us the revelation, which is Chrit.

Albert Nolan has argued this point with regard to Jesus: “To imagine that one can have historical objectivity without a perspective is an illusion. One perspective, however, can be better than another, [but] the only perspective open to us is the one given to us by the historical situation in which we find ourselves. If we cannot achieve an unobstructed view of Jesus from the vantage point of our present circumstances, then we cannot achieve an unobstructed view of him at all.”

I agree with him, I can't understand why you think that statement is critical of the truth claims of Christianity. that statement does not negate any truth claims of the faith. All it says that is we can't have truly objective understanding of Jesus in his context. That's hardly a problem since we can't have a truly objective understanding of us in our context.

According to Bebbington, “Our knowledge of the earlier middle ages depends on a tiny number of written sources that can be eked out by such supplementary material as place-names and coinage.” Furthermore, the evidence is not always reliable. According to Bebbington, “forgeries and misrepresentations, whether from good or bad motives, litter the world’s archives. The historian, therefore, develops a skeptical turn of mind. Original documents may themselves mislead; and what books about the past claim is much more likely to be wrong. History demands a critical frame of mind.” Because of these problems Bebbington states the obvious: “Written history cannot correspond precisely with the actual past.” “To write a value-free account of the past is beyond the historian’s power.

you are just multiplying examples. you need to face the fact that historical revelations is not our only clue. Your argument is really geared to fudnies. It doesn't really apply to my view of the faith.

One school of thought headed up by Leopold Von Ranke actually sought to do this. Their goal was to write history “free from prejudices,” and in so doing write the events of the past “as they actually happened.” But most all modern historians think this is impossible to do.


Right, yes I've read Ranke.that whole nineteenth century posativistic thing started by Compte.


Some thinkers like Carl Becker have gone so far as to deny that we can know the past with any objectivity at all—that historical facts only exist in the mind, and they advocate a historical relativism with regard to the events of the past.

In my view there is no objectivity. Objectivity is a pretense. But something happened in the past and in some sense part of it i can have meaning for us now.

10/26/2007 09:51:00 PM
John W. Loftus said...

Joe said...Like most of the NA's that I find Loftus is doing battle with the fundies, while ignoring the direction of Christian theology over the last 500 years.

Caleb Wimble recently at DC described why we have chosen to debunk evangelical Christianity in these words:

Not only is fundamentalist Christianity the greatest threat in the United States to science, tolerance, and social progress, but it is also the most prevalent form of Protestant Christianity to be found in our nation, whether you like it or not. It is the fundamentalist religious right that holds the reigns of the Republican party (which currently controls the nation, in case you didn't realize), and it is this same fundamentalist religious right that lobbies for the teaching of lies in public school and fights against funding for embryonic research that could potentially save the lives of millions.


It suits me fine if you just attack the fundies. But you should qualify your statements instead of habitually speaking as though they are the only Christians. Otherwise your argument just boils down to "we only want the easy targets." Not only are you missing the real direction of Christianity in the modern world, but you are also limiting yourself to the group that is easiest to pick on.

Whether you like it or not, it is this flavor of Christianity that makes the loudest, most obnoxious, most dangerous impact on the world today, giving us plenty of good reason to direct the brunt of our attacks in its vicinity.

that's like saying "I only fight five year olds because they are the loudest and most obnoxious members of the enemy camp"

10/26/2007 10:05:00 PM
John W. Loftus said...

One last thing for now, I am not a New Atheist. Again, I am not a New Atheist. The only thing new about my atheism is that I have adopted that viewpoint about three years ago, prior to the New atheist books.


I see. how do you distinguish what's "old" about your view from the new?

10/26/2007 10:20:00 PM
John W. Loftus said...

As far as C.T. McIntire and Van Harvey's books go, I have read them through and even used them for my M.A. thesis when discussing Barth's distinction between Urgeschichte and Geschichte. But both of these authors are doing theology, not apologetics. That is, from the standpoint of faith here is how to view history. What they do is not unlike what Ronald A. Wells, does in History Through The Eyes of Faith, and what David Bebbington does in Patterns of History.

apologetics, the good kind, should be nothing more than theology pressed into defense of the faith. This stuff is the bedrock of modern Christian thought, or at least some of it. So it has to be dealt with. Sure the fives year olds don't know about it. You go fight the five year olds and I'll fight the men (lol)

The question I raise is why should a person adopt the Christian view of history in the first place. I argue that doing so is circular. For in order to see the Bible as historical one must first adopt a Christian set of assumptions to do so. Where do these assumptions come from except from the Bible itself?

what Christian view of history? You can see from the McIntire book they are all different. The things you say, all the arguments you make are loaded with assumptions about what Christians think and they are assumptions of just one camp. You are begging the question when speak of "fist adopt a Christian set of assumptions..." which Christian set of assumptions?

where do Christian assumptions come from accept the bible? come on now! They come from a modern living tradition. that's what a religious tradition is for, it's a conversation that's been going on over time. The conversation is still going. That's why we pay theologians and why we have seminaries.

The phrase "seeing the Bible as historical" is loaded and your assumptions about that limited to a very prescribed view. We need to discuss that as a topic of its own. do we see the bible as historical? all of it? in what sense? is part of it not historical? what does it mean to be "historical?" If you would like a clue as to what I might say on some of these issues, please see my page on Biblical revelation.

10/26/2007 10:43:00 PM

History is now, Revelation is Now

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I find one thing that is sadly lacking in the New Atheists, while they are bright and engaged and eager to take on the world, they seem a bit myopic.An illustration of what I mean is seen in the works of John Loftus, atheist author and commenter on our blog, is fond of making the statement:
God Chose A Very Poor Medium To Reveal Himself!

By this he means History as the medium. As a would be historian, and history of ideas man at that, I feel moved to comment. Loftus, a former student of Willian Lane Craig, certainly has a good deal of knowledge in the world letters. Loftus is anythhing but an ignorant man. yet he seems to have left out an understanding of the liberal revisionary tradition of Christian theology, which is what I mean by "myopic."

In a previous blog entry, here, I asked why so many professed Christians disagree with each other when interpreting the Bible.

As a former Christian I had difficulty with why there were so many different ways that professed Christians interpreted the Bible. I could never answer that question. I just put it on the backburner of things I didn't know, and I proceeded to try to come up with what I considered the correct interpretations, because that's all I could do.

It will always puzzle me how these guys can be so anti-diverse. One would think an atheist would understand about diversity and why it's a strength and not a weakness. But these guys seen truly threatened by the fact that there are many views in the church. This is odd because it would antithetical to the definition of "free thinking" that everyone must think the same thing. He goes on:

What I now believe is that history is not a reliable "point of contact" for God to speak with man, assuming God exists.

My first reaction here is what choice do we have? If God declared himself in central park on world wide television tomorrow he would being doing it in history. Anything God does in the temporal realm is done in history, if humans exist at the time. God did not create history, people did. History is a cultural construct. It is not history its time we call it history because we segment it into periods, the time before us the time after us, and us! Whenever God choses to deal with us, he's dealing in history and it needs must be. Ah but there's a method to Loftus' madness. He's going to try and juxtaposed modern understanding of historicism to ancient world understanding of the divine. This is yet another version of the age old strategy "ancient people are stupid and modern progress is anti-God." It is not surprising to me that he would take this tact because the whole of the new atheist movement, so far as I can see, is rooted firmly in the nineteenth century. they try to pass themselves off as cutting edge, but their way of thinking about religion, life, truth, progress, science, the world belongs with the 1939 world's fair. He's going to make is sound more sophisticated but in a sense he's just saying "God should reveal himself now so he can use computers and ware a white lab coat, then I would respect him."

Anyone who studies the philosophy of history knows that history (and historical writings) should be interpreted in light of the historian's present perspective.

Do we know that indeed? I would like to know where John got his idea? All the historians I ever worked with were trying to, or saw themselves as trying to understand the way people who lived in their formers times thought. To do that they had to put themselves in their perspectives. One of the fundamental lessons I learned as a historian is not to expert ancient people to hold the same values that I hold. It's an absurd mistake to assume that people in 700BC should have learned better at Woodstock. I am telling you from experince, that sort of concern is far more in the minds of historians than any abstract notion about understand our perspective.

When it comes time to make the point he waxes obtuse:

Why? Because that's all we can do...we cannot do otherwise. So women gain rights in Christian countries and Biblical historians (theologians?) interpret the Bible to say what they have come to believe on other grounds, and so forth, hell being another doctrine.

hu? Why is he jumping from women's rights to the doctrine of hell? We have to use our own perspective because that's all we can do, so we give women rights (I guess he means in spite of the Bible) and who cares what the bible says? then suddenly, bam! here's hell! So? what's it doing there? Why can we only think about history form our perspective? Why can't we seek to understand the perspectives of the past? It seems to me that's job of a cultural historian at least.

Besides, practically any event in history can be rationally denied, even if that event actually occurred! And this goes for non-miraculous history, so how much more does it apply to purported miraculous claims in history? If God chose to reveal himself in history, then he chose a very poor medium to do so.

So what he seems to be arguing. if I get him, is that we should ditch the bible because it's old fashioned, we are modern and we don't dig old fashioned? But there is no period in which he could manifest himself without this problem. Because anything in time is in history. But the real problem with this argument is its chronocentrism. He's just assuming that our time must be special because it's modern. Modern is good and ancient is bad. Any historian worth his salt would laugh himself silly with this stuff. Shades of Hegel! Forget Hegel, shades of Fukuyama! I remember back in the 80's when capitalism was the end of history, now it's the New Atheism. This is the kind of historical romanticism that most historians have worked since Namier to forget. Serioulsy, this guy is falying in the face of the whole historical acadmey since the advent of the 20th century.

This is not new atheism, this is the sort of old nineteenth century stuff we outgrew with the whigs. I am not surprised Loftus resorts to this, most new atheists I've seen are stuck firmly in the nineteenth century. This is jut another reason why atheism is outmoded. This is really the cherished myth of the whole atheist truth regime: the evil clerics with their cruel tyrannical regimes kept poor defenseless scientists burning because they weighed the same as a duck. Along came the noble liberators, D'Holbach! They freed humanity from evil superstition. Everything modern is good and old is bad. It's pretty clear Loftus is not aware of the flow modern historicism or historiography.

Another major problem I find with this view point is the lack of knowledge he displays concern modern theologians. How can anyone talk about God's relationship to history without discussing books like C.T. McIntire's God, History and Historians? (Oxford, 77). The theology of Wolfheart Pannenberg Revelation as History. (1968. coauthored with Rolf Rendtorff, Trutz Rendtorff, and Ulrich Wilkens. New York: Macmillan. Trans. David Granskow of Offenbarung als Geschichte. G` ttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1963).Or, let us think of Jurgen Moltmann's Theology of Hope? So much as been done on theological historicism, the big meaning of history in relation to theology and we don't seem to get a clue that Loftus has even heard of it even though history is the major theme of an argument he makes constantly. Surely in trying to understand history as a medium of revelation it would behoove us to think about God's revelation in history in relation to a theory of the meaning of history?

That leads to the major problem, the New atheist understanding of revelation, as exemplified by Loftus. OF course the major argument is going to be that we can't trust anything historical which comes from the age before science and historiography.On this misunderstands just about everything that pertains to it.since atheism is to Christianity as anti-communism is to communism, the Dawkinsians can't think of anything but the fundies, the flip side of them, the heads to their tails.

(1) His argument applies to views such as verbal plenary inspiration and completely misses all the ferment of views like Models of Revelation by Avery Dulles.

(2) they assume that revelation is static. It's given one historical period adn that's it. This forces the concept of chronocentrism because it lures them into the argument that surely if God was real he would favor our time.

(3) they see revelation in the memo from the boss model.

All of this forms the underpinning and ground of assumptions for teh major upshot of the argument, if God was going to reveal himself why would he do it back then int he time of superstition when we today (since we are the truly important people) can't trust the historicity of the revelation because its formed in the old bad superstition time. OF course this assumes all of the bad assumptions above, the most important of which is the antiquated model of verbal plenary which even the likes of Carl Henry did not support.

Revelation is not a static thing that was given once from on high and goes int the pages of a book. Like time itself, history is fluid and moving, revelation cannot help but be in history since we are in history. Its' not as though God had a choice to have time bound corporeal creatures and not reveal to them in history. Moreover, revelation is not so much the word from on high as it is the encounter between human and divine. The bible is a collection of wittings that were made without knowledge that they would someday be in the bible. These are of many different kinds, different genres and they speak to us in different ways. What they tell is not the memo from the boss, or the "owner's manual" but they speak of how people encountered God and what happened. God uses narrative because it speaks to people. WE need to know about these encounters so that when we have our own we can have some idea of what to expect. The idea that we are going to prove that some literal event really happened in history because the document in which it is recorded can be trusted as actual history is purely secondary.

Like most of the NA's that I find Loftus is doing battle with the fundies, while ignoring the direction of Christian theology over the last 500 years. For example what he says about historicity and miracles, quoting Lessing:

Miracles, which I see with my own eyes, and which I have opportunity to verify for myself, are one thing; miracles, of which I know only from history that others say they have seen them and verified them, are another.” “But…I live in the 18th century, in which miracles no longer happen. The problem is that reports of miracles are not miracles…[they] have to work through a medium which takes away all their force.” “Or is it invariably the case, that what I read in reputable historians is just as certain for me as what I myself experience?”
But Moltmann in Theology of deals with the problem of the supernatural and the historiographical. He argues that the unique nature of the revelation (resurrection) argues for a rules change. The resurrection is not historical, but history making. By the same token Lessing is wrong. Miracles are not static. They are not merely in the past. We can experince the divine today, now. I have done so. If miracles happen now they could happen then. The argument, while I sympathize with and the admire the philosohpical attempts that went into it, is based upon a too limited understanding of both history and theology.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Rites of passage: Faith, Reason and Coming of Age

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Me, 1999. I'm not this fat now
but I don't have digital camera

Ok listen up deadbeats,

Sunday, October 07, 2007On the Debunking Christianity Blog Caleb Wimble posted an article: "The Greatest Enemy". This is basically an anti-testimony. The atheist community began using this tactic several years ago. I always thought it was a sign that they were intimidated by the dramatic "born again" testimony. The dramatic testimony is the major reason the Jesus and Charismatic movements of the early 70's grew to such great proportions. This article is really a coming of age myth. It's the story of how Wimble grew to manhood and somewhere along the way decided to re think the Christianity he had been raised in, eventually rejecting it. The ultimate "moral" of the tale seems to be the lesson learned, that Christianity is counter to reason. Wimble's seems to have been an initiation into the world of thinking for oneself and thus religion was something that had to be left behind.

By way of introduction to this theme, Wimble quotes Martin Luther:

“Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but - more frequently than not - struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God."

He then adds

Martin Luther could scarcely have worded it better. For the greater part of my life, I held a faith that I believed was unified with reason. I was a devout Christian in every sense of the word, living a life for Christ and striving to place him (or at least my perception of him) at the center of all my endeavors. I was a regular Apostle Paul in regards to my fiery defense of the Word, taking every opportunity to engage in debate with the skeptic and show him the error of his ways.

Of course I need to bitch at this guy about this. He takes the Luther quote out of context. Luther said that from the stand point of a real thinker who was clearly involved in questioning his tradition and his faith.Anyone who would think that Luther did not question is sadly ignorant. Anyone who thinks that Christianity itself is devoid of reason, knowns nothing about the Western tradition in letters. The lions share of great thinkers in the west have been Christians and only trickle have been atheists.

But he goes on:

Through all this, however, I committed the same crime of reason that nearly all believers are guilty of committing throughout the whole of their walk: I never truly questioned my faith. However deeply I thought through the issues, however strongly I researched and defended my beliefs, the possibility of being wrong was never more than unnoticeable abstract, hidden somewhere within the recesses of my subconscious.
And when the day came that I finally accepted that possibility, my world was rocked to its core.

This is the part I want to talk to you about. He assumes that Christians never question. I quoted my faith at the same age that he did, and with the same result. I became an atheist. I was an atheist for a few years. I was a good atheist a "real" gung ho atheist. I hatred religion and religious people and I took every opportunity to deride and degrade them and to show how much more intelligent I am than they are, like any good little atheist knows he should do. But I went a step further. I began to really seek truth, which of course no atheist will. Through this I began to see that yes it is a coming of age initiation to question your faith. It's independent and intellectually mature to reject the faith of your youth, but it' more intellectual and more responsible to go through that and come out the other side realizing that the fault lay not in God belief but in the proventialism of the fundamentalist camp.

Once I found a theologian who was brilliant and profound, and yet held to the true faith sincerely and in a moving way, I was stunned. That theologian was Burnett Hillman Streeter. The book was The Privative Church (1924). I was researching to disprove the bible. I was going to write a rebuttal to Josh McDowell. This was the late 70s I was a sophomore in college. At first I loved the book because I thought he was the tearing the bible to shreds. I was so ignorant of the liberal theological tradition that I thought his talk about the Q source and so were arguments against the truth of the New Testament. Then I came across a statement where he expressed his actual faith in a deep and moving way. I was stunned. There was a lot more to it than that. This was not my conversion, but tit was a necessary first step. I think it's important here because that "counter testimony" of Wimble's trades upon an old and cherished truism, one that meant a lot to me during my atheist years. That is the myth of intellectual freedom. Of course one who has never experienced intellectual freedom doesn't know what it really is. One who had not delved deeply into the world of thought is easily led astray with the first few amazing outings into the rearified air. It's take familiarity with the world of letters to realize just how deeply indebted is the modern world of thought to Christianity and Christian thinkers. I suspect that many of those on the DC blog are not aware of this because they are, as I was, sequestered into the closed subculture of the fundamentalist. As I learned, there is a whole world of liberal theology out there and once you become aware of it and draw the circle of Christianity bigger the whole complexion of faith changes.

I have a dramatic testimony. Apparently atheists seem to either find them intimidating or they know the power of them them. They seek to counter the technique with their own stories of the loss of faith. I find their "deconversion stories" to be pale imitations. I'm not saying they are not true, but I don't find them moving or exciting I find them a please imitation. It's like they are saying "I can tell stories too." but their stories are not exciting, they don't end in the subject finding great joy that lasts a life time and so forth. Of course they claim they are exciting and that they find joy that lasts a life time. At the same time of course they disparage experiences and live in horror of the dreaded "subjective." With me they have a problem. I experienced the alleged great joy of finding the world of books as an escape hatch from the dreaded religious world. Now I have to admit the have a point. If the religious world from which one is emerging is very oppressive, then discovery of thinking for oneself, and the world of books, is quite joy making. Of course the world of books is a wonderful thing in its own right, but to claim that one cannot discover that and remain a Christian is, of course, silly. The problem is I have experienced this. While I do not claim that my experiences are exactly like all other atheists, I do know what its like to emerge from an oppressive religious environment through the discovery of letters. It was great, it was joyful, but it does not compare to the joy that came with finding Jesus, not to any degree. Moreover, the person who led me to the Lord, a friend of my sister named "Judy" who was an award winning journalist* showed me early on that there is nothing anti-Christian or anti-faith about an intellectual life. Nothing meant more to be than the intellectual life. That was basically my religion. It became even more important to them after finding God, because I found that there is a connection, God is on the other end of all the things I find in art that give me transcendence and prompt me to continue seeking perfection through art.

It seems odd to me that atheists are always so intent upon imposing upon their reality their own experiences as though they think they are so universal. They find faith and reason a burden, they shirk any word from a real person of faith who is also a thinker, as though we, the religious minded thinking people, can' possibly know our own experinces, and ony they, who shirk faith, can understand how impossible it is to have both faith and reason. There are times when those two things have to be reconciled. There are thorny issues that must be resolved, yet I rarely see the issues that seem to baffle atheists and cause them to stumble as anything like a problem. For example, John Loftus seems to think that free will in heaven is a really big deal. I think think its a pseudo problem. It's more like the bread and butter that keeps theologians employed is just really too much for them, but just up our alley. Perhaps that's why we have faith and they don't, and perhaps that's why they should leave the theologizing to us.

I think two things precipitate this problem:

(1) They define faith as "believing things when one has to reason or evidence upon which to place belief." That's the polite way of saying it. I suspect they really define faith as "being stupid."

(2) They insist upon a totally unrealistic version of inerrancy. The atheist notion of inerrancy is more legalistic and unyielding than the most hardshell baptist.Atheists oten make the guys in white button down shirts and crew cuts standing on the corner wailing about hell look like Paul Tillich.

Faith is a complex concept. In the Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology there's over a page of definition there. When boiled down it amounts to a kind of faithfulness like being faithful to someone, and placing confidence in an hypothesis. Hebrews tells us faith "the evidence of things not seen." Faith is a from of evidence in itself own right. It is not believing something without any evidence it is evidence itself. If you recall my blog pieces about the "co-determinate" you can see what I mean.

Something about the skeptical mind that drags one into a abyss of circular reasoning, begging the question and special pleading. Skeptical minds feed off of themselves. The logical end of atheism should be solipsism but for the contradictions inherent in the natural way people build their castles of the air. The skeptical mind is anything but reasonable. It is actually based upon the dictum if there is the slightest room for doubt then I must doubt." OF course no atheist lives up to this or the would go nuts because we can doubt even our own existences. But the natural ability to people to reason inconstantly saves them from this fate by allowing them to manufacture a truth regime and an ideology that glosses over the inconstancies in their own views while dogmatically refusing to ever recognize anything that could count as evidence for faith. This is why it's so totally meaningless for them to disparage faith; because their views is not reason, it's question begging. Nothing can ever count for faith. If religion isn't proven 100% then its' totally false and that makes it irrational, but of course they don't require that that their own or the positions they do hold be 100% proven.

The whole problem can be summed up in saying it's fine to break out of a closed universe and discover the limitless world of the intellect. But there is a danger of creating another closed world and being trapped by one's own pretensions if one doesn't' keep moving intellectually. It's not enough for a basis of a world view to just doubt other people's world views and not seek anything beyond that. When you predetermine that nothing beyond that could possibly be true and that no evidence can ever count for it, then you just seal yourself up again in another limited world.

*she won two national press awards, one for a photo and one for a print story.

cheap skates!


you are all a bunch of mal contents!

No soup for you!

rich Texas Rancher returns home

from a business trip. he is met at the train by his chauffeur. He asks "did anything happen while I was away?"

driver: no, nothing new. O well your dog died.

man: O, rover? no! how did that happen?

Driver: the vet said it was from eating burned horse flesh.

man: where did he get burned horse flesh?

Driver: the barn burned down. I did mean to tell you that, all the horses were killed.

Man: what? how did that happen??!!

Driver: we think it was a spark from the house.

Man: what spark? what do you mean?

Driver: your house burned down too

Man; what???!!!

Driver: it was the flames from the candles caught the curtains on fire.

Man: what candles?

driver: on your mother in law's coffin

My mother-in-law died???

driver: she had a heart attack when she learned that your wife ran away with your best friend.

Other than that....


a cow girl comes into a bar in Cleveland. she orders three beers and sits down. The bar tender says "say ma'm those would taste better if you ordered them one at a time."

the cowgirl says "I know, but you see I'm from Amarillo Texas,and I have two sisters. We are real close and I miss them so I told them by phone that I will drink beer every evening at this time and order a beer for each of them. they are drinking beers too back home, so that way I'm still drinking beer with them.

the people in the bar thought this was touching. They soon grew to like the cowgirl and cared about her. She was friendly and got on well with everyone.

One day she came in and ordered only two beers. The people in the bar were all alarmed and said, worrying that one of the sister's died, but they were afraid to ask. finally he bar tender said "I can't help but notice that you only ordered two beers, I'm so sorry for your loss."

The woman said "No no, it's ok. everyone is fine. I just promised my mother I'd quite drinking."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I was really counting on you guys

I didn't expect to go to Europe, but not even one dollar. come on man It's worth more than that.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Best Laid Plans

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hospital where I was first treated (Plano, Tx)

I am going to talk about my legs. This is not just about them, so please keep reading.

I have asked for money before, but I hate doing it and try not to make a habit of it. I only did it to save my house so my brother and I would not be homeless. Now we have an equally compelling crisis. I helped a friend get her lights turned back on, now we don't have enough to keep our lights on. Moreover,I can't buy my bandages.

I need bandages everyday because I have problem called Venus ulcer disease. It means that the circulatory system in my legs has packed up and I am not getting blood back up form my ankles to the rest of the body. The consequences is that I have big gaping sores all over my legs and the skin rots and leaks "ouk." That's not a technical term. The technical term is "interstitial mass." But it's ouk. It's gross, my pants and shoes get all messy unless I bandage my legs.

I will spare you the gross picture of legs with this disease this time. Some things have made the problem worse now. I have infections on my legs that wont go away. This is scary because now I've seen news reports on staff infections, I think they are called "super bots" that resist anti-biotic. The problem with VUD is that if you get an infection and you can't get rid of it they have to cut your legs off. this is not a remote possibility that's less likely than a lightning strike. 20,000 people a year die from these super bot things! There is this stuff I am supposed to put on my legs, its' called "Metr0-gel." It costs $136.00 a tube! needless to say I don't use it. But I need it now.

I have also risked these infections with bad hygiene by not changing my bandages every day as I should because I just don't have the money to buy that many bandages. I leave them on for two or three days to stretch it out.

Here's an article about it but the pictures are kind of gross

I have been to churches and ministries and charities,to government social workers, the visiting nurses; there are no structures to pay for his problem. My family can only help me now and then.

Now I hate asking but you know, there areprofessional bloggers who ask their readership to support them entirely so that they are independent and only blog for a living.

I'm asking the regular readers of (that's you!) to become micropatrons of by contributing a moderate sum of money to help enable me to edit/write/design/code the site for one year on a full-time basis. If you find valuable in any way, please consider giving whatever you feel is appropriate.

This is about more than my legs. It's about more than the fact that my brother and I are trying to get back into a house and we have just enough money for that but nothing more. We have been in this apartment since our home was stolen by mortgage crooks over a year ago. I wouldn't mind so much as far as apartments go it's ok, but our dog has no place to run.

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Arnie,aka "Meta pup" needs to run

this is about more than that. I have a vision. I want to start an institute that will do quality apologetics research. for example, the 300 studies I'm always harping on that show that religious experience is so great. I want to get hold of all of those studies and write a book. I want turn Doxa into a book, well, several books. But I have no time to follow up on research. I have to work at a job that is long on hours and short on pay, it took me year to find that.

If you will donate I can buy bandages, sure, and buy food while waiting for the first pay check Otherwise I have to choose between food or lights. But more importantly, if I can use this blog as an income stream (doesn't have to be much)I wont have to look for a job all the time I can work on those books and on making Doxa a better website.

In exchange I make you a promise. I have tried to keep negativity off the blog. I let the frustration of message broads get to me a few times, but no more. I will no longer go on message boards. So I will go back to the positive atmosphere the blog had in it's early days.

I see an institute that can be a major source of publication for the finest quality apologetics research. I have 42 God arguments, I should be able to development into arguments that can be taken seriously by any thinker, and that will spin off theological ideas. I can see an insensitive that will be able to answer any challenge of the future from any atheist movement, and give the Church a clear picture of it's need to interface with people in the world who are groping for an answer to life. I do not want to work real hard for nothing and just trade little petting P-ing contests with atheists on message boards as an outlet.

Please help to build this institute. the first step is having the freedom to publish the materials that will interest thinkers in helping.

Please click on the link to the left side bar under "website links" "save Meta's legs" or go here. This is the link to a button where you can donate through my pay pal account.

Or use the donate button below

If all you can give is two dollars please give it. IF all those who read my blog regularly gave two dollars I could at least not have to worry about bandaging and maybe pay my light bill. Maybe even buy that expensive gel.

from Pub med
Quality of life of people with venous leg ulcers: a comparison of the discriminative and responsive characteristics of two generic and a disease specific instruments.
Iglesias CP, Birks Y, Nelson EA, Scanlon E, Cullum NA.

Department of Health Sciences, University of York, North Yorkshire, UK.

BACKGROUND: Venous leg ulcers are an important source of morbidity in society. Measuring the impact of leg ulcers on quality of life is important within clinical and economic evaluations.

Thank you

Saturday, October 20, 2007

America Comes of Age

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I will get back to the part II of "Can the Resurrection be Historical?" I have been aware of this Barna study on the image of Christianity in America since it came out a few weeks ago, and have been waiting until I had time to do something on it.

New study findings for the Barna group indicate ill portents. Is this a real paradigm shift in culture or hope to sell a book?

A New Generation Expresses its Skepticism and Frustration with Christianity
The Barna Group (website),September 24, 2007

(Ventura, CA) - As the nation’s culture changes in diverse ways, one of the most significant shifts is the declining reputation of Christianity, especially among young Americans. A new study by The Barna Group conducted among 16- to 29-year-olds shows that a new generation is more skeptical of and resistant to Christianity than were people of the same age just a decade ago.
The study of Christianity’s slipping image is explored in a new book, entitled unChristian, by David Kinnaman, the president of The Barna Group. The study is a result of collaboration between Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons of the Fermi Project.
Rising Reactions

The study shows that 16- to 29-year-olds exhibit a greater degree of criticism toward Christianity than did previous generations when they were at the same stage of life. In fact, in just a decade, many of the Barna measures of the Christian image have shifted substantially downward, fueled in part by a growing sense of disengagement and disillusionment among young people. For instance, a decade ago the vast majority of Americans outside the Christian faith, including young people, felt favorably toward Christianity’s role in society. Currently, however, just 16% of non-Christians in their late teens and twenties said they have a "good impression" of Christianity.
One of the groups hit hardest by the criticism is evangelicals. Such believers have always been viewed with skepticism in the broader culture. However, those negative views are crystallizing and intensifying among young non-Christians. The new study shows that only 3% of 16 - to 29-year-old non-Christians express favorable views of evangelicals. This means that today’s young non-Christians are eight times less likely to experience positive associations toward evangelicals than were non-Christians of the Boomer generation (25%).

The research shows that many Christians are innately aware of this shift in people’s perceptions of Christianity: 91% of the nation’s evangelicals believe that "Americans are becoming more hostile and negative toward Christianity." Among senior pastors, half contend that "ministry is more difficult than ever before because people are increasingly hostile and negative toward Christianity."

This is a very alarming finding. It really bodes ill as a major cultural shift away form a positive image for Christianity can only be a prelude to the decline of Christianity as a major cultural force. Christianity as a "cultural force" was a tenuous propagation at best anyway. We never did actually live up to the teachings of Jesus, now Jesus is perceived less as a positive cultural icon.

I had a professor at Perkins who used to say that Christianity is just 'something to leave the grand kids" meaning he had written off his own children as former believers. He felt that the faith would have to skip a generation. This was more than a decade ago. But the thing is, if it skips a generation, how can it even be available to the grandkids?

Least we think our efforts at apologetics are colossal failures, this shit has nothing to do with message boards or the issues we argue on them.It is not the victory fo the atheists and has nothing to do with the "new atheists" or the Dawkinisians. We Christians can take comfort in the fact that we shot ourselves in the foot.

The Set of Perceptions

While Christianity has typically generated an uneven reputation, the research shows that many of the most common critiques are becoming more concentrated. The study explored twenty specific images related to Christianity, including ten favorable and ten unfavorable perceptions. Among young non-Christians, nine out of the top 12 perceptions were negative. Common negative perceptions include that present-day Christianity is judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), old-fashioned (78%), and too involved in politics (75%) - representing large proportions of young outsiders who attach these negative labels to Christians. The most common favorable perceptions were that Christianity teaches the same basic ideas as other religions (82%), has good values and principles (76%), is friendly (71%), and is a faith they respect (55%).
Even among young Christians, many of the negative images generated significant traction. Half of young churchgoers said they perceive Christianity to be judgmental, hypocritical, and too political. One-third said it was old-fashioned and out of touch with reality.

One surprise in the data is the direction taken by positive perception of gays and how that plays out against Christianity:

Interestingly, the study discovered a new image that has steadily grown in prominence over the last decade. Today, the most common perception is that present-day Christianity is "anti-homosexual." Overall, 91% of young non-Christians and 80% of young churchgoers say this phrase describes Christianity. As the research probed this perception, non-Christians and Christians explained that beyond their recognition that Christians oppose homosexuality, they believe that Christians show excessive contempt and unloving attitudes towards gays and lesbians. One of the most frequent criticisms of young Christians was that they believe the church has made homosexuality a "bigger sin" than anything else. Moreover, they claim that the church has not helped them apply the biblical teaching on homosexuality to their friendships with gays and lesbians.

this would never have happened in the America of my childhood. In those days you could on bigotry. It is a shock to me that this has happened.I would never have thought that gayness would be accepted to such an extent that to counter it would be such a huge negative that it would poison the image of even fundamental social institution as Christianity. This causes me to question "is Christianity still a social institution in America?" If not I think I have some surprising analysis as to why it is not. But I will save that of the piece. just suffice to say or now th ti sis indeed an ill portent for an old sociology major.

While the majority of young people still identify Jesus as a positive figure (although I am shocked by what little esteem he is held among atheist ranks) there is less connection with the Church or with Christians as upholders of Jesus' values:

The ‘UnChristian’ Label
When young people were asked to identify their impressions of Christianity, one of the common themes was "Christianity is changed from what it used to be" and "Christianity in today’s society no longer looks like Jesus." These comments were the most frequent unprompted images that young people called to mind, mentioned by one-quarter of both young non-Christians (23%) and born again Christians (22%).
Kinnaman explained, "That’s where the term 'unChristian' came from. Young people are very candid. In our interviews, we kept encountering young people - both those inside the church and outside of it - who said that something was broken in the present-day expression of Christianity. Their perceptions about Christianity were not always accurate, but what surprised me was not only the severity of their frustration with Christians, but also how frequently young born again Christians expressed some of the very same comments as young non-Christians."

yet the most significant finding in the study is demographic. It illustrates clearly that Christianity is over in America. While it will still be around in major strength throughout the next few presidential elections, it will decline more an more until the grand kids of generation y wont even know what it was:

Changing Allegiances

One reason that Christianity’s image is changing is due to the shifting faith allegiances of Americans. Simply put, each new generation has a larger share of people who are not Christians (that is, atheists, agnostics, people associated with another faith, or those who have essentially no faith orientation). The new book refers to this group as "outsiders" because they are describing what Christianity looks like from an outsider’s perspective. Among adults over the age of 40, only about one-quarter qualify as outsiders, while among the 16 to 29 segment, two-fifths are outsiders. This represents a significant migration away from the dominant role that Christianity has had in America.

The Proportion of those "Outside"
Christianity is Growing with Each Generation

Source: The Barna Group, Ltd. 2007

As pointed out in the Barna Update related to atheists and agnostics, this is not a passing fad wherein young people will become "more Christian" as they grow up. While Christianity remains the typical experience and most common faith in America, a fundamental recalibration is occurring within the spiritual allegiance of America’s upcoming generations.
Yet, the research shows that millions of young outsiders have significant experience with Christians and Christian churches. The typical young outsider says they have five friends who are Christians; more than four out of five have attended a Christian church for a period of at least six months in the past; and half have previously considered becoming a Christian.
"Older generations more easily dismiss the criticism of those who are outsiders," Kinnaman said. "But we discovered that young leaders and young Christians are more aware of and concerned about the views of outsiders, because they are more likely to interact closely with such people. Their life is more deeply affected by the negative image of Christianity. For them, what Christianity looks like from an outsider’s perspective has greater relevance, because outsiders are more likely to be schoolmates, colleagues, and friends."

Kinnaman makes his own observations:

Responding to the Research

David Kinnaman, who is a 12-year-veteran of the Barna team, pointed out some of the unexpected findings of the research. "Going into this three-year project, I assumed that people’s perceptions were generally soft, based on misinformation, and would gradually morph into more traditional views. But then, as we probed why young people had come to such conclusions, I was surprised how much their perceptions were rooted in specific stories and personal interactions with Christians and in churches. When they labeled Christians as judgmental this was not merely spiritual defensiveness. It was frequently the result of truly ‘unChristian’ experiences. We discovered that the descriptions that young people offered of Christianity were more thoughtful, nuanced, and experiential than expected."

"Some Christians fear the changing reputation of Christianity and it certainly represents an uncomfortable future. Yet, rather than being defensive or dismissive, we should learn from critics, especially those young Christians who are expressing consternation about the state of faith in America. Jesus told us to expect hostility and negative reactions. That is certainly nothing new. But the issue is what we do with it. Is it a chance to defend yourself and demand your rights? Or is it an opportunity to show people grace and truth? Common ground is becoming more difficult to find between Christians and those outside the faith. When the Apostle Paul advises believers to 'live wisely among those who are not Christians' and to 'let your conversation be gracious and effective,' (Colossians 4:5-6, NLT) he could be writing no better advice to committed Christians in America." The book also includes exclusive perspective from 30 Christian leaders, including Mark Batterson, Chuck Colson, Louie Giglio, Dan Kimball, Brian McLaren, Kevin Palau, John Stott, and Rick Warren. Kinnaman described their contribution as an effort "to make sense of the complex and challenging project - both why the problems exist as well as what Christians ought to do in response to the information. We looked for the biblical space in order to respond to the sharpest criticism. Beyond simply reporting the problems that we discovered among a skeptical generation, my partner Gabe Lyons and I want the book to help Christians find a way forward, to read positive examples and find hope that their life can provide a clearer picture of Jesus to skeptical people around them."

We we should fear the results it' sa total disaster, I am not surprised, however, this shift has been in the making for over a decade. I first realized it would come in the late 80s when reading Bonehoffer's letters and papers from prison. Bonehoeffer says that the attempts of fundamentalists to turn back the clock merely seeded it up. The logic there is the attempt to go back bring to a head conflicts brewing between traditionalists and those of a nostalgic bent, with those who are caught in the train of new styles and fashions. If the conflict occurs too early, before the traditionalists factions are able to deal with the necessary compromises and if the forces of change have gathered momentum, the changes will come and the clock will speed up. I realized this would happen as a result of the Reagan era. Sure enough we had the postmodern boom of the first part of the 90s and the gay lib movement that succeeded to such wild degree that they got 90% of non gays to push their line. It has something to do with treating people fairly or something I don't understand it (yes, atheists that is that "sarcasm stuff").

As the research indicates, this is not the result of political pressure or advertising it has to do with the insular subculture of fundamentalism. If Evangelicals do not learn this now we are doomed. Rather a lot of people are doomed who would otherwise find Jesus, and we will have a much harder time of it in the apologetics racket. We, American evangelicals, because a subculture that was so arrogant and contemptuous of the rest of society that we alienated everyone else and failed to grasp the changes as the happened. I'm extrapolating fr

There are some other trends that I believe have added to the reaction. In Eastern Europe we saw that after the cold war and the fall of communism major trends of secularism set in. Why? People hung on to faith all those years that they were under the gun and when they are free to seek God, they give up and seek consumer goods and discos instead.It's because there is something very alluring about modern autonomy. When they no longer needed faith as a social cohesion to stand oppression, they are free to seek modern autonomy. This exacerbates the trend because no one is more into modern autonomy than Americans. As long as it was confined to consumer products that was ok, America remained predominately Christian, but Christians sought wealth and spent opulently and allowed themselves to become vapid and uneducated. Part of that consumer society came to reflect the idea of sexual preference. People began to understand themselves as "sensual beings" and what had previously been understood as "dark forces of libido" became a basic human right. One that happened you really can't go back. you can't put that back in the bottle and return to the simple days of "the old time Gospel hour." Once you realize that you are sexual being and you have a "preference" and it's your right to explore what that is, you cannot return to the good old days of innocent virtue. This changes the way people see themselves and the way they understand how to be in the world, as long as we haven't grasped that we can't relate to them. The two groups are alien creatures to each other.

In summation it is really Bonehoeffer who proves to be the prophetic force here, and who may be our guide. His idea that modern man had come of age scandalized the Evangelical world. Bonehoeffer said this while in prison waiting to be executed for taking part in the plot to kill Hitler. Many wondered how the heck could he say that this insane frenzied Nazi culture had "come of age?" Because he didn't say it grew up to be a "splendid young person" only that it was old to be kept under the tutor. No German society had grown up dysfunctional but it was still too old for knee paints. This is what has happened in America. We are not the fine young adults we wish we were, he have issues. We have problems, but we are grown. We are no longer willing to be kept under the tutelage of the Church. We are now independent, bearers fo modern autonomy and we are going make our own mistakes.

That is just what we are going to do.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Can the Resurrection be Historical?

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There is something greatly incongruous about making historical statements concerning an event that is based upon the “supernatural.” The whole of modernity is based upon denying the supernatural, and upon creating an entire symbolic universe devoid of that concept. To interject the Resurrection into the modern truth régime is to violate the basic canons of what it means to be modern. Thus, we should never expect to find historians hawking Josh McDowell books. If we find scientists supporting the doctrine, they will only do so by distinguishing between their private matters of taste in personal belief and scientific fact. Is this really an acceptable state of affairs? Fifty years ago it was a fact of life. It was just something that had to be accepted like the weather. But in this age, after the advent f postmodern thought, we need not be so dogmatic. It is not that I expect historians to ever speak of the Resurrection as “historical fact.” I would speak so myself. But I think it is fair to say that the exclusion of such events from scientific parlance is misleading. To doubt an event “unhistorical” is misleading. The unwary are given the impression that such events cannot happen. All I really means to speak of the Resurrection as “unhistorical” is to say “we don’t dare speak of this in that way because it’s not ideologically acceptable.”

While it is true that postmodernism has taken some harsh blows, is no longer the big shocking new academic fashion, and has been relegated to the archaeological strata of the course catalogue, along with “existentialism in Europe 3202” and “John Dewey and the American School of pragmatism, 2710,” it is by no means true that postmodernism is finished. Like most academic trends when they become established, when they reach the phase where Freshman intro courses are developed, postmodernism has seen its heyday, but we can still state certain of its premises seriously. Two of the major premises of postmodernism are: (1) No met narratives; (2) our understanding of reality is merely a construct and not a direct meditation of truth. What this means is we don’t have a clear undeniable proof of the nature of the world, what we get is our understanding of the world. No “Meta narrative” means no more overarching grand explanations of all reality, no more ideology, no more great story that explains it all. While this premise rules out Christian theology (for the most part) it also rules out the scientifically based empiricist who reduces everything to numbers and what cannot be reduced to numbers just isn’t worth knowing. Both of these are “meta narratives.” What postmodernism clearly establishes is that there is no world of facts that can be arranged like little building blocks in such a way as to stack up to a total and undeniable demonstration of all reality. “Our understanding of reality is merely a construct” means we are not engaging the world of “things” directly, what we see is not what we get. What we get is our understanding of what we see, and that is filtered through a perceptual filter that is made up of prior symbolic understanding. Its’ all filtered through glasses tended with the colors of our hopes and dreams. The scientifically minded skeptic is more than ready to admit that this is the case for the religious believer. The scientifically based skeptic is ready to tag the believer as irrational and living out a fantasy with an imaginary friend. But what his septic doesn’t see is that his scientifically based skepticism is no less a fantasy and a simulacra of what is real. To construe reality of devoid of anything beyond the numbers is to merely reduce reality to the sets of building blocks of we stack them.

The Postmodern critique of scientific understanding was shattered in the mid 90’s. This is not the great disaster for postmodernism that a lot of people thought it was at the time. The postmodern critique of science in the 90’s had run wild; it needed to be brought down a peg. The so-called “hard project” was basically on the verge of denying that factual understanding of reality was possible. The knockout blow was delivered in the form of an article by a leading physicists, Sokal, published in a literary journal Lingua Frnaca. In the article, Sokal made statements that were so extreme as to be almost idiotic. Statements such as “we scientists no longer consider the concept of an ‘outside world.’” The postmodernists were just beginning to revel in their victory of common sense when Sokal came back with a follow up article mocking the hell of them and saying, “you really believe this crap?” After that point the postmodern project declined and number crunchers everywhere rejoiced. This blow came only a couple of years after the first major blow to Derridianism. Derridianism was the heavy artillery of the postmodern crowd. When one of Derrida’s major allies, Paul DeMann, turned out to be a collaborator with the Nazis during the German occupation of Belgium, the Derrian ship took a direct torpedo blow that all but put it on the bottom of the ocean of ideas. But in the academy postmodernism retrenched into the world of “women’s studies” and “identity politics” and to this day haunts the classroom in any place where feminism is discussed. Postmodernism wields great power in the academy, at least in the liberal arts end of things, and for the rest of society they are great basket weavers. Nevertheless, this was only the “perspective adjustment” the postmodern critique of science needed to snap out of its malaise. There have been many unfortunate outcomes but basically the major concepts mentioned above are still very viable: (1) No met narratives; (2) our understanding of reality is merely a construct and not a direct meditation of truth. What this means is we don’t have a clear undeniable proof of the nature of the world, what we get is our understanding of the world.

Consider the basic driving metaphor of the “hard project.” The “hard project” was the extreme end of the postmodern critique. This is the perspective that Sokal was aiming to hit. The hard project came close to denying that there is any meaningful concept of “reality” and that all perceptions are hopelessly subjective. Their major metaphor is the night sky; the night sky is an illusion. This is scientifically the case. There is a gravitational sense that warps our visual image, so that stars are not actually where they appear to be. While there is some truth to this, to try and put it into a dictum such that “there is no night sky” is to make another sweeping construct based upon half-truths. We only know about the gravitational lens because we have the instruments, developed by scientific thinking, to demonstrate that this is the case. We only know that the appearance of the stars is an illusion because we can demonstrate where they really are in relation to our visual perceptions. The night sky is a good metaphor for the way appearances fool us about the nature of reality. It is not absolute proof of any sweeping ideology or theory because to construct such a concept is to commit the same fallacious maneuver the metaphor is designed to negate. The upshot of all of this is that we need to critically aware of ideologies that try to claim too much in the way they organize the world for us. But this works as much for scientifically based ideologies, and those that try to hitchhike on the coattails of science, such as modern skepticism. We need to be aware that when we try to limit our understanding of what is possible in life, we will lose the phenomena. When we make grand rules such that “there is nothing beyond material realm” we are making a metaphysical statement, one that we cannot back up. The attempt to back up such a statement often leads to a philosophical reductionism that is merely narrow-minded and all attempts to verify the construct are merely begging the question. Of course rule no one, (no Meta narrative) might be construed as a problem for Christianity. If ever there was a Meta Narrative, Christianity is it. Science is not so much a Meta Narrative as it is a method, but the skeptical monopolization of science is a Mata Narrative. Science is neutral. The function of science is the gathering of data toward the purpose of explaining the workings of the natural world. What we conclude about the purpose and ultimate origin of the natural world is a Meta Narrative and is beyond the scope of science. Science is not the only form of knowledge. To use science in that way is to forge a Mata Narrative of it. Christianity is a Mata Narrative, but that’s fine because we cannot live without them. The slogan “no Meta Narratives” is just that, a slogan. What it should be taken to mean is “be aware of the baggage you take on if you buy into this story.” It should not be taken to mean, “don’t ever construct a story” because to say that is to construct a story. We can’t live without constructs and symbolic universes; this is the method through which we think. We construct our view of reality by stacking up the little bits of data and imposing a meaning upon the patters we see in the whole. We can no more avoid doing this than we can avoid sleep. We need to be aware and we need to be critical. So Christianity as a private metaphor shared by a community of believers, is one thing, Christianity as a “fact” interpreting the world is another. Science as a method for determining facts about the workings of the physical world is one thing, science as the engine of a driving skeptical movement aimed as crushing religious belief is something else.
What I’m advocating is keeping the secular market place secular. But “secular” means neutral not “anti-religion.” This is quite a chore because all forces tend to seek the crowding out of all other forces. Nevertheless this is the only real solution. Secularization was invented in the first place as a means of overcoming the strife of the religious wars of Europe. We need not “demonstrate” that the resurrection is a “historical fact.” This is impossible because it is a tenet of faith. What we can do is to demonstrate that the claim is a viable possibility. Ten we can try to understand the claim as a viable tenet of faith not as a fact to impose upon the world. In short we need to understand the resurrection as a truth claim, not an historical fact. Registering a doctrine as a “truth claim” is not a demotion from the status of “fact.” It is a recognition that the truth claim a guiding principle for the faith community, but not something we impose upon the world, neither is it a fantasy. To do this we have to come to terms with the notion “fact” and the meaning of scientific data in the overall project of construct building. Essentially the materialists have relinquished the possibility of limiting possibilities to “the natural realm.” Now this has been something they did not know they were doing, but they have taken positions that make a strict materialism logically impossible. Modern materialism evolved out of the enlightenment. It bore the baggage of the skeptical crisis of the sixteenth and seventeenth century, it was formed as a reaction to Newton and Boyle who basically made argument form design (the argument for the existence of God) into a necessary part scientific method. Many forces arrayed themselves in such a way as to produce a reaction against Newton’s Christianity, which had once been lauded as the direction of modern science. These forces included the left over issues of the skeptical crisis (which pitted faith against reason) the battle of the books, which pitted scholasticism and classical learning against modern scientific empiricism, and the political struggle against the heavy hand of Richelieu’s church. The hatred of modern scientifically minded philosophes for scholasticism was unbounded. The feeling developed that only that which is empirically proven can be trusted. This was viewed by post Revolution thinkers as the only tonic for the dogmatic authority of the church. When LaPlace presented his scientific theory of the universe to Napoleon, the emperor is said to have asked how it was that the system lacked any reference to God. LaPlace is reputed to have remarked, “I have no need of that hypothesis.” That remark has long been seen as the sounding death knell of the inclusion of God or religious idea in the factual understanding of “reality.” Science became the modern umpire of what can be taken as real, and matters of faith had no place in science.

LaPlace’s statement was based upon the assumption of naturalistic cause and effect. He had no need of the God hypothesis because naturalistic cause and effect explained everything; all we really needed to know was the workings of the physical world. There was no reason to accept any truth beyond the physical world. Thus modern science developed with the understanding that it’s true domain was the physical world; scientists just ignored the fact that making dictums about what the world included and excluded was a metaphysical ordering beyond the domain of science. Modern skepticism grew up feeding itself upon the delusion that science is its ace card against religion, that it alone is scientific and that science is there to reinforce skepticism.

1) The notion of something from nothing voilates basic assumptions of materialism

a. Materailism based upon cause and effect
Dictonary of Philosphy Anthony Flew, article on "Materialism"

"...the belief that everything that exists is either matter or entirely dependent upon matter for its existence."

Center For Theology and the Natural Sciences Contributed by: Dr. Christopher Southgate: God, Humanity and the Cosmos (T&T Clark, 1999) Is the Big Bang a Moment of Creation?(this source is already linked above)

"...Beyond the Christian community there was even greater unease. One of the fundamental assumptions of modern science is that every physical event can be sufficiently explained solely in terms of preceding physical causes. Quite apart from its possible status as the moment of creation, the Big Bang singularity is an offence to this basic assumption. Thus some philosophers of science have opposed the very idea of the Big Bang as irrational and untestable."

b) Something from nothing contraidicts materialism
Science and The Modern World, Alfred North Whitehead.
NY: free Press, 1925, (1953) p.76

"We are content with superficial orderings form diverse arbitrary starting points. ... sciene which is employed in their deveopment [modern thought] is based upon a philosophy which asserts that physical casation is supreme, and which disjoins the physical cause from the final end. It is not popular to dwell upon the absolute contradiction here involved."[Whitehead was an atheist]

c) Causality was the basis upon which God was expelled from Modern Science

It was La Plase's famous line "I have no need of that Hypothosis" [meaning God] Which turned the scientific world form beliving (along with Newton and assuming that order in nature proved design) to unbelief on the principle that we dont' need God to explain the univrese because we have independent naturalistic cause and effet. [Numbers, God and Nature]
2) Materilism Undermines Itself
a) Big Bang contradicts causality (see quotation above)
b) QM theory seems to contradict cause/effect relationship.
c) Rejection of final cause
3) Probabalistic Justification for assumption of Cause

We still have a huge justification for assuming causes inductively, since nothing in our experince is ever uncaused. The mere fact that we can't see or find a cause isn't a proof that there isn't one.

4) Therefore, we have probabalistic justification for assuming Final cause

Thus, the basis upon which God was dismissed from scientific thought has been abandoned;the door to consideration of God is open again. The reliance upon naturalistic cause and effect in consideration of ultimate origins is shattered, but this does not make it rational to just assume that the universe opoped into existence with no cause. Since we have vast precident for assuming cause and effect, we should continue to do so. But since naturalistic cause and effect seems unnecessary at the cosmic level, we should consider the probablity of an ultimate necessary final cause.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Revolutionary Jesus

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This post comes under the heading of "what I want to tell atheists positively about Jesus." I started it back when I posted that one about Jesus and Dylan. It's based upon my outrage or dismay (I should say) over learning that so many atheists don't admire or respect Jesus as a historical figure.

I have been deeply moved by Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco's (1883-1949) painting of Jesus chopping down his own cross. The Christ of this mural prostrate is drawn in a very primitive style. Christ is not the Pascal lamb but refuses his destiny and will not go to the cross. The painting is disturbing because the first impression is that of blasphemy. Is the artist mocking Christ? Is he rejecting faith at its most sacred level? Rosco is not trying to blaspheme Jesus, nor is he denying the atonement. I find this painting very moving not our any rejection of Christ’s sacrifice or any desire to defame the doctrine of atonement, but because for me it says Jesus would, weather as the suon of God, or if he was only a man in history, refuse to be the poster boy for institutional hypocrisy, Jesus would MOT allow himself to be used as symbol to sanctify the institution as it oppresses the poor and ignores the needs of the people. I believe that the real Jesus of history is both the Son of God and the man of history, and he does refuse this role. The real Jesus was a revolutionary of a most remarkable kind. Often we hear that Jesus is the great ethical teacher, and he claimed to be the Messiah, and savior of the world. We usually understand his ethics as an addendum, something any self respecting son of God would be required to have, but mainly irrelevant to his claims of godhood. Jesus ethics were far from being an addendum, however, they were the weaponry and major battle tactics of his amazing revolution. Politics and religion were intertwined in first century Hebrew society. Jesus’ ethics and his Messianic claims work together to fulfill his ultimate mission of world saving and together they make for one the most unique revolutions in human history.

It is not so strange to think of Jesus as a revolutionary. There were even Priests in Latin America in the 60’s, such as Camillio Tores but joined Che and became gorilla fighters. But Jesus the man of history was a true revolutionary. The region from which Jesus is said to have sprung is known as “the Galilee.” The Galilee was a hot bed of revolution, filled with uprisings and tensions. The Romans regarded it as the seat of Zealotry where the real revolutionaries were based. Just four miles from Jesus’ family farm “Nazareth” is a major metropolis known as Serapes. Just four miles down the road Jesus would have had access to what was then modern sophistication, political unrest and new ideas. Nor did he have to go to India to learn of traditions beyond his native prudential Judaism, the major trade route to India went right by his house,. That route lay on the plain of Megiddo where the end of the world is supposed to take place, the final battle between good and evil. Nazareth overlooks the plain of Megiddo and apparently the battle of Armageddon. All of these influences would have been at work in Jesus upbringing. Not to mention the fact that he was a descendent of David, born in Bethlehem and named as the high priest of Zechariah (Joshua = Jesus) who is linked to the Messiah (Zechariah 4).

Jesus revolution, however, was a bit odd. He did not lead an army nor did he command his followers to fight or pick up weapons. His was a non-violent revolution in the mode of Gandhi and that is where his ethics play a major role in backing his mission. The role of the Messiah in the society of Israel was that of political liberator, but it took on overtones of cosmic proportion. In the book of Isaiah we see the concept of Messiah first begins to be introduced, and is then back read into previous statements such as Moses admonition that “a prophet like me will come” and even God’s word to Eve “I will place enmity between the serpent and your seed.” The Messianic kingdom sketched out at the end of Isaiah is not the millennial kingdom of Christ’s post epochal reign on earth, but Israel after the return from the exile. By the second temple period and the time of Jesus, the concept had grown to almost divine proportions. The Messiah was to stand on the top of the temple and shout “Jerusalem your time at hand” the end of the world would ensue. The Messiah was to rise from the dead all of fallen Israel and for that reason he held the keys of life and death. The Jews did not see the Messiah as world redeemer; they did not see him as atoning sacrifice. These weren't entirely Christian innovations, they were foreshadowed at Qumran. But they weren't mainstream. The Jews certainly did not expect the Messiah to be crucified and raise from the dead.

Jesus was such a radical revolutionary, that is a "strange" different, unconventional one, that when his guys made noises about actually installing him on the throne the ran from them. That's because he knew, as everyone from the Galilee knew, the futility of trying to fight the Romans. The slaughter of the innocents in the book of Luke, is not recorded in history. Atheists are always quick to remind us of this. But it does not have to be because that kind of thin happened all the time. Even a gathering as innocent as the sermon on the mount risked attack by Romans even though nothing provocative was being said. When they started talking about making Jesus king he slopped away and ran from them. Not because he lost his nerve, but because that would totally divert the people from his true purpose. Jesus has no intention of leading an armed revolt that was the opposite of what he had in mind. neither did he intend to pacify the people to accept pain and hardship with platitudes about pie in the sky. Was his program escapist? Was it just a personal nirvana with no touch stone in reality or responsibility to the world? It was not this ether. It was a practical and pragmatic system fro changing the nature of the world by changing the way people relate to each other. He accomplished this by taking people out of the world while keeping them in it.

In Jesus' system we live by the dictates of a higher citizenship, a world beyond this one ruled entirely by God. This is echoed in the model prayer he taught the disciples "thy kingdom come thy will be don't on earth, as it is in heaven." The device Jesus used for this trick of living by the rules of world while being physically in another, we the kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God was the essence of Jesus' message:

Mt 3:2
and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."

atheists think Jesus was saying "If you don't believe in me you will go to hell." But he actually never says this. All the action is in the kingdom and the kingdom is the big deal. The coming of the kingdom Jesus makes out to be an immanent, immediate, almost emergency status event that will happen soon, and when it does, man is it a big thing!

Mt 4:17
From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."

Mt 4:23
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.

Mr 1:15 - Show Context
"The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"

He never says the Kingdom is reward becasue you had the good sense to believe on him, but he does speak as though its the answer to all our troubles:

Mt 5:3
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Mt 5:10
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Most revolutionaries come to abolish the standing order, not imposes a kingdom, one kingdom over another.It is within this context that he talks about the ethics and personal relationships and how to relate to people. This is not just some ad on that's in addition to believing the right things, nor is it unrelated, but it is an outgrowth, a logical extension, one is the basis of the other. The Kingdom is coming. It's power is already here. We can be part of it now, because it has two aspects. This is "realized Eschatology" which was developed by the theologian C.H.Dodd; the kingdom has an "already" dimension" and a "not yet" dimension. We live in the kingdom now even as we are in the world. How we treat each other is an integral aspect of the kingdom.

Mt 5:20
For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Mt 7:21 - Show Context
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

Jesus ethical and moral teachings may be the greatest ever recorded, of course that's a biased and culturally bound appraisal. But they are certainly among the greatest, and the leaders and theologians of other world religions laud him for his teachings and many of them try to claim him as their own; the Moslems, The Hindu, and the B'Hai. Yet is was not the originality of his moral thinking that makes him great; the Stoics and others said many of the same things. And yet there are certain factors which do make Jesus' teachings unique and worthy of particular attention above and beyond that of most if not all ethical teachers...

Let's use a crash course in Jesus' ethics as a means of understanding his vlaues:


The "beatitudes" that Jesus speaks in the Sermon on the mount indicate the value system out of which he opp orated. Blessed means "happy" but he is saying more than "happy are the peacemakers." In pronouncing them blessed he is saying basically 'there are the good guys' and indicates a natural Tao working through the divine economy to protect and vindicate those who live by such values. "Blessed are the poor in spirit for their is the kingdom of heaven; blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted;...meek will inherit the earth...those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they will be filled...merciful shown mercy...pure in heart will see God...peacemakers called sons of God...those persecuted for righteousness for theirs is the kingdom of heave." (Matt.5:3-10)

This is the way, this is how to be, these are the values one should hold. This is basically what he is saying. Essentially these qualities are those of a righteous person, they are oriented around God as the primary value and love for the neighbor as the main manifestation of love for God. To mourn probably means repenting for the evil we have done, or at least being able to empathize with other, to care about the pain others. "poor in spirit" refers to real poor people made more explicit in Luke, but the poor in the Bible are the righteous poor who trust in God for their sustenance.

prioritize: Seek Ye first the Kingdom of God...

"Do not be anxious saying 'what shall we eat?' 'what shall we drink?' 'what shall we wear?' The Gentiles seek all fo these things and your heavnly Father knows that you need them all, but seek first his kingdom and his riaghteousness, and all these will be added unto you..." (Matt. 5:28-33)

prime directive: Golden Rule

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." ..Other religions, probably all, have similar injunctions, but I have not found has this qualifyer making it a self-reflexive command.

Self-Reflexive nature

By placing the command in terms of one's own standard of well being, the command becomes an exhortation to "love the neighbor as you love yourself." No higher standard could be given, one does to himself only that which he/she most desires to be done. By placing the command in these terms one cannot refuse to come to the aid of anyone in need. We would all prefur that others come to our aid. If the command were stated negatively, "do not do unto others that which you would not have done to yourself" one could ignore the neighbor in need. If the command stopped at merely loving the enemy or the neighbor one could refuse to help. By placing it in these self reflexive terms it is made active. One must go out of his way to seek out the needy.

b) Categorical Imperative.

Kant's great ethical system the categorical imparative was based on the Golen Rule of Jesus.

3) Love for Enemies

If you love those who love and hate those who hate you even the Gentiles do that, but I say unto you love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you

matt 5-6....

4) Greatest commandment

Matt 22:35. "and one of them, a lawgiver, ask him a question to test him, 'teacher what is the greatest commandment?' ...37 "and he said to him ye shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first command,and the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commands depend the law and the prophets." (RSV).

Note: All legal regulations and striving of law keeping are summed up in love of God and love of neighbor. This shows that Jesus' ethics surpass the rule keeping stage and ascend to the highest level of conceptual morality, that of the ideal stage where actions are motivated by internalized principles. Moreover, by basing the second command upon love for the neighbor, but relating to love for self, it forms it's own second version of the categorical imperative. Note also if we love our neighbor as ourselves we are commanded to love ourselves, to rectify the self image in relation to reciprocal nature with others. At the same time, we cannot get off the hook by loving enemies any less (since even enemies are neighbors). Thus the will for the good of the other is indexed by our own will for our own good.

Psychological Motivations

Great Compassion

The compassion of Jesus can be seen in many of the stories. The woman caught in the act of adultery is taken before him and the mob wants to stone her. She has broken the law, she is worthy of death (accordion to that culture and that time). Jesus stoops and writes in the sand. We don't know what he wrote, but perhaps it was the names of those in the mob who had slept with her (they weren't being accused). He says "let he who is without sin cast the first stone..." There is the compassion he exhibited to the many people who implored him for healing, and he never refused anyone.We forget anyone else would have been running from those lepers and demoniacs that he healed. The demoniacs were dangerous, and the leapers thought contagious. But the also demonstrates a total lack of hypocrisy in being unafraid to associate with those who needed him most. When he was criticized for being in the company of drunkards and prostitutes; he merely made fun of the prudes and said, in affect "well, I didn't come to help those who are so well off (the self righteous people) but those who know they need help" There is no way to capture the greatness of Christ's compassion and moral teachings in one of these sub points, but I urge you to get a Bible and read the Gospels over and over, and with an open heart and you will see no greater compassion than that of Jesus Christ, and that of course is culmenated in his sacrifice on the cross for our sins.

Greatest Sacrifice

He did lay down his life for the sins of the world. "Greater love hath no man than to give up his life for a freind," yet Jesus' died for everyone; and his own understanding of what he was doing was that he laid down his life as a "ransom for many." But it seems unlikely that his followers would enlarge upon his mission to this extent. Perhaps they could have enlarged upon his death o include the mission to Israel and it was Paul who expanded it to the rest of the world. But there is great likelihood that he understood himself to be doing something beneficial for all humanity. After all it was not Pauline Theology but the understanding of the Beloved Disciple of the fourth Gospel who puts into Jesus mouth the statement "for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes on him should not perish but have everlasting life."

Living as though we were in the kingdom now is the most radical move of any revolutionary program. We don't need to hurt anyone, we don't need to fight anyone. ;We just treat people the way God wants us to treat them, out of love. Over time like the mustard seed int he parable he told, the kingdom will grow into a mighty tree that will shade the world. Of course that brings up a sore spot. Some might suggest that has not happened. Others might suggest are still working on it. I think it's worked out much better than skeptical types are willing to admit. Of course the problem is the quasi religious types who think they can manipulate the truth for their devices, and the legalistic types who think they have to kiss up the quasi religious types or they aren't religious enough. While there's a long way to go we need to be cognizant of the fact that Christianity is more than just a social agenda and plan for living. The Kingdom of God is not just a social club or a political program it's a spiritual reality. What Jesus was offering was not just membership in heaven, but a heaven that starts now on earth and is manifested in the way we treat people.