—G. K. Chesterton, Heretics
—G. K. Chesterton, Heretics
This is a response to an essay by my friend Josh on his own personal philosophy. To save scrolling, I have broken this response down into three parts. This is the third. I’ve also placed a complete, printable version of the essay on my website.
If all religions base themselves on unverifiable claims of revelation from God (or gods, or enlightenment, or whatever), then arbitrary criteria are the best we can do. We should at least be honest about it. However, I do not believe that Christianity bases itself entirely on unverifiable claims. I will not comment on other religions, since I must admit my ignorance of them, however I will claim to know a little about the faith to which I hold.( Collapse )
This is a response to an essay by my friend Josh on his own personal philosophy. To save scrolling, I have broken this response down into three parts. This is the second. I’ve also placed a complete, printable version of the essay on my website.
What Josh is not saying
I do not think Josh is silly enough to say that all religions are different aspects of the same fundamental truth. Or even that truth manifests itself differently in different cultures. On the surface this sounds very humble and tolerant. It does not condemn everyone who disagrees with me. I would argue however, that this is in fact an arrogant claim pretending at humility. To say that all religions are different aspects of truth when applied to their own context is essentially to say that your understanding is superior to all the religions.
The classic metaphor for this understanding of religions is the story of the blind men and the elephant. To save time, I will quote the short, Wikipedia version:
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In various versions of the tale, a group of blind men (or men in the dark) touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one touches a different part, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then compare notes on what they felt, and learn they are in complete disagreement. The story is used to indicate that reality may be viewed differently depending upon one’s perspective [or context].
This is a response to an essay by my friend Josh on his own personal philosophy. It seems that his essay confused some of his friends (including myself). I think that this is because he was trying to get his thoughts down quickly and failed to make some of his assumptions and reasoning clear. So I will attempt to clarify his argument, and point out where I agree and disagree with what he says.
To save scrolling, I have broken this response down into three parts. This is the first. I’ve also placed a complete, printable version of the essay on my website.
What I think Josh means
Josh starts out by rejecting what he calls relativism. By ‘relativism’, I am assuming he means the denial of absolute truth. That is, the idea that there is no such thing as objective truth and reality is essentially just a construct of our own perceptions. Looking down this road and seeing where it ends, all knowledge becomes meaningless—including the knowledge that there is no truth. If there is no truth, then there is no point in saying anything. I might as well stop my essay here.
On the other hand, claims to complete, 100% objective, literal truth are arrogant and fail to take into account the finite nature of human understanding and language. We cannot make our own reason the arbiter of truth, since our own reason is fallible. Neither can we claim complete understanding of everything by divine revelation, since our understanding is still subject to a finite brain. A judge can only make a certain, correct judgement if they know all the facts. To claim absolute objective certainty about transcendent truth is in essence the same as claiming to have all the facts. In other words, this is claiming omniscience and in some ways is equivalent to claiming to be God.
So, we must discount ‘relativism,’ or knowledge ceases to exist. On the other hand, we must be wary of claims to knowledge of absolute truth. Hence, we acknowledge that absolute truth exists, but must admit that complete and universal understanding of it is impossible for human beings. How then do we proceed? It is at this point that Josh’s argument becomes slightly difficult to decipher (and I do hope he will clarify it for us). As best I understand it, Josh proposes realism, rationalism, pseudo-subjectivism and post-modernism as the way forward. This seems to mean three things:( Collapse )
I borrowed ‘Holiness’ by J. C. Ryle from my friend Dan recently, and have been thoroughly enjoying it. It includes this pearl of a quote on the first page of the Introduction:
Sound Protestant and Evangelical doctrine is useless if it is not accompanied by a holy life. It is worse than useless: it does positive harm. It is despised by keen-sighted and shrewd men of the world, as an unreal and hollow thing, and brings religion into contempt.
Obviously, I think he is right. But it goes deeper than the old ‘faith without works is dead’ chestnut. Everyone would agree that head knowledge that isn’t lived out is a terrible thing. Our Lord was scathingly critical of religious hypocrites. But I fear that my church (and perhaps other evangelical churches) may be in danger of falling into a similar trap, obviously without intending to. I think there is a tendency for holiness to be misrepresented as an energetic feeling that makes you want to be involved in more and more activities without ever growing weary or tired.( Collapse )
Excuse me while I indulge in some gross generalisations
I was thinking about God’s grace this morning, and it struck me as kind of ironic that it is the liberals who complain about the injustice of God’s mercy. “It’s unfair,” they cry, “that God should show favour to some and not others.” But it is the liberals who tend to prefer mercy over justice. On the other hand, the conservatives, who tend to prefer justice over mercy, don’t seem to have a problem with the injustice of grace…
I guess it just shows how determined we are to think that we’re not really that bad. The liberals like to think that everyone’s nice, so God should save everyone. Hence, it’s unfair if he doesn’t. The conservatives, on the other hand, like to think that they’re nice, so God should save them, but it’s entirely right that God should punish the evildoers.
Of course, we’re both wrong, liberals and conservatives. The injustice is that God should save any of us. We think because it takes us so much effort to do good, we deserve a high-distinction grade. But the reality is that even in the odd moments when we manage to get it right, we’re just scraping a pass. The wonderful injustice of it is that God offers to give us a high-distinction, even though we haven’t earned it. He lets us hand in Christ’s exam paper, with our name written on it. He did the work, and we get the good grade.
I’ve done a makeover on the Adventures of Heather. Previously they were ugly. Now they’re still ugly, only deliberately so, in a dark, gothic kind of way. So if you like dripping blood, dark backgrounds and ornate text, then why not take a look?
Many of the ideas from the redesign came from http://www.designmeltdown.com/. It’s a really good resource for anyone who’s into web design kind of stuff. The tutorial on sprays and drips came in particularly handy (as should be obvious if you view the site).
A couple of Sundays ago, my wife and I went to visit The Revival Fellowship, Belconnen: The church of a lovely friend of ours who has since flown off to England to help with a church plant. I was rather looking forward to it at the time, as I hadn't visited a real live Pentecostal church in ages. The service was pleasant, the talk relevant and interesting (even if the preacher did tend to use passages a little out of context), and the people were generally friendly and welcoming. I was even impressed by their practice of only allowing one person to speak in tongues at a time, always with an interpreter, and only two or three in total per service (as per 1 Corinthians 14). So, what's my problem? Why am I angry?
Horatio would like to advise that the following post is rated †. It may express views and opinions that will offend some readers. Horatio recommends reading by Christian audiences.
I love this opening paragraph from a paper entitled ‘The Lost Gospel of Q—Fact or Fantasy?’:
Imagine flying to a non-existent island on an airplane that has not yet been invented. Even if this impossible trip were to take place during the thirteenth month of the year, it would not be as fantastic as the tale, recently christened as scientific certainty by some NT scholars, concerning the so-called lost gospel Q and the earliest Church.
The author goes on to back up her (his?) claim quite rigorously.
From memory (I don’t have the book with me to look it up), the Q document (along with the gospel of Thomas)was one of the ‘gospels’ cited as historical evidence that the New Testament as we have it is historically inaccurate.
Defence of my faith aside, I think the article is rather good simply for the colourful expression and use of language that it uses. I rarely get to read anything of that ilk while researching in engineering and computer science.
This is the article summary from the paper:
The resurgence of religious violence at the start of the twenty-first century has reinforced the myth of secular tolerance—the notion that whereas religious believers are instinctively intolerant, tolerance comes naturally to the secular mind. This paper challenges the myth. It suggests that secular people are not immune from the temptation to persecute and vilify others, and argues that the Christian Gospel fostered the rise of religious toleration.
People are so fond of blaming religion for wars, oppression and violence, particularly in light of 9/11 and the associations between George Bush and Christians in the United States. Certainly, Christians do have a lot to be ashamed of in our history, and much to repent of right now. However, the article quite rightly points out that just because someone doesn’t believe in religion, this doesn’t make them more naturally inclined towards tolerance. The author includes this quote from John Gray:
The role of humanist thought in shaping the past century’s worst regimes is easily demonstrable, but it is passed over, or denied, by those who harp on about the crimes of religion. Yet the mass murders of the 20th century were not perpetrated by some latter-day version of the Spanish Inquisition. They were done by atheist regimes in the service of Enlightenment ideas of progress. Stalin and Mao were not believers in original sin. Even Hitler, who despised Enlightenment values of equality and freedom, shared the Enlightenment faith that a new world could be created by human will. Each of these tyrants imagined that the human condition could be transformed through the use of science.
Perhaps, however, I simply enjoyed the article because I feel like my faith has been under attack recently. Some of my friends have decided to turn their backs on God, and others have serious doubts. I try to remind them of how much God loves them while my heart breaks at what they’re going through, and I feel slightly hypocritical. How can I tell them God loves them when they feel so awful? And yet, I am convinced that the only answers and the only hope are found in Christ. Where else have we to go?
Or perhaps I simply enjoyed the article because I recently started reading The Da Vinci Code, and stumbled across a TV program called something like ‘Who wrote the NT?’. Both question (well, more like poo all over, but that wouldn't be polite to say) the authenticity of the New Testament, which just happens to be the basis for nearly all that I believe about life, the universe and everything. Perhaps it's just nice to read something that supports what I believe, as opposed to stuff which attempts to undermine my faith.