Monday, September 18, 2006

Faith and Reason

All of us begin with beliefs that we have accepted from others. Not necessarily our parents, it could be our friends, our teachers, whatever. Everything that we base our lives on are inherantly irrational. If they were not irrational, we couldn't live. We cannot wait to do any action or believe anything until we are sure it is rational!And so if you believe in God or don't believe in God or are agnostic about God--whatever our first decisions about God were-- they were irrational. However, the distinct separation between reason and faith is also irrational. It was begun by thinkers in the enlightenment who wanted to separate religion out of their lives. Yes, they had some good reasons for that, but their conclusion-- that faith is a "leap" that is beyond reason-- has no basis in truth.Of course faith has reasons. Childhood faith might be irrational-- based on what others told us without checking it out ourselves. But as we grow older, we have doubts and questions and we start investigating what we believe. Perhaps not most people, but many. I believed in Jesus at 13. But when I went to Bible school, I found much of what people claimed about Jesus and the Bible to be irrational-- contradictory. So I had to investigate it myself. In the end, I have a faith that is slightly different from others, but it is a faith based upon reason.How can we know God? Not because we have some great power, but because God reveals himself to us personally. This is a personal experience, but you can't say that it isn't based on reason. Just because I saw the movie "Cars" and you didn't, and you haven't seen any ads for it, is it "reasonable" for you to deny that the movie exists? Or even to say, "There is no way for us to say that the movie exists or not" ? Of course not. I have an experience and you can either say "I'm not interested" or you can say "I'm going to check it out to see if it is true." Then you go on the internet and find out that there really IS a movie called "Cars". If someone says they have enough personal proof that God exists, you can either say "I'm not interested" or you can check it out for youself. Of course, you can't just go on the internet. The best way to find out is to pray and see if God answers. But even if you don't get the answer you are looking for, YOU CANNOT DENY THE RATIONALITY OF SOMEONE ELSE'S EXPERIENCE! To deny someone elses experience because you never had the experience, or you don't recognize their proofs for their experience is the height or irrationality. It smacks of pre-school arguments "No you didn't" "Yes I did"-- to argue about experience can never go beyond this. You can examine someone else's experience, if they are willing, to see if their experience might have another explanation than they thought, but it is their experience, and ultimately the rational response is to throw your hands up in the air and say, "I don't know. I wasn't there."Rationality is examining something after you believe it, and changing it if the new facts show something else. Irrationality is looking at facts and holding our hands over our eyes and ears and screaming, "I'm not listening!" And there is pleanty of both of these in the skepical and in the faith camps.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Measure of Success

I feel that it is really easy for the majority population, which is able to flex in our increasingly inflexible society, to demand such flexibility in others who may not be able to bend.

I have one gal that I'm working with. She has placed many interviews, has a lot of energy and is highly motivated to get a job. She's got some low-level skills as well. But her ADHD keeps her distracted, and her background with a felony prevents her from obtaining full-time work.

I have another gal who does great in an interview and is freqently hired. But her social skills over time are so low and her depression is so extreme that she is only able to work in any job-- usually entry level-- for a few months before she quits or is just not put on the schedule any more.

I have another guy who is bi-polar and has a history of drug use. It has taken many years, but he has finally gotten to a place where he won't just suddenly break into a sermon in the middle of any-sized gathering. But he has his good days and his bad. On his good days, he can work for hours. On his bad, he is unable to even listen to instructions.

Some folks can flex with our society to meet their standards. But the people I work with can't. It's not an excuse-- trust me, they have tried programs and jobs and other kinds of work. And it's not a matter of laziness or "getting up early in the morning." To have a job and to maintain minimum standards in our society is an increasingly complex group of tasks. You have to be part accountant, part manager, part slave, part techo-geek.

Yet what is our ancestral occupational background-- for all of us, for about 10, 000 years? Rural farmers. And though most of us have the ability and education to be more than that, some of us were born to be rural farmers. But rural farming isn't an option for us in the West anymore. For any of us. Isn't it interesting that in the U.S. today there are more people in prison than there are farmers? When we lost our farmers, where did they go? When we knocked farming out as an occupation, what happened to all those farmer's sons, who really coudn't do anything but work the land, flexing with nature's ebbs and flows, and dealing with only a few people a day, and taking a day off if they really weren't feeling well? They went on the street, they work in day labor, they became seriously mentally ill because they had the shame of being unproductive on top of being mentally unstable.

What I'm saying is that my population-- the "unproductive", bottom of the barrel folks, the folks who the church has truly ignored and called unspiritual out of ignorance, the truly Anawim-- they are the ones who can work, but need their work ethic recognized as equivalent to that of the Constantinian/Calvinist middle class. And the Christian ones, at least, should be given an opportunity by the church to work as they are able. No, they will not be successful in a capitalistic society built upon the premise of Calvinistic human depravity. They will not obtain a middle class standard of living in an economy that exalts the profit margin above all else. AND WHY SHOULD THEY BE? Why can't the church create a separate economy, one of mutual aid and supportive work, and let people do what they can?

This is my measure of success:
To give people honor because they serve God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, even if they are a social and an economic "failure" in the eyes of the world.
To grant people encouragement to love and good deeds, to sell their possessions and give to the poor, to preach the good news to the needy, to surrender all of their possessions to Jesus, even if that means they end the day bankrupt.
To train people in the way of Jesus, even if it means that they are no economic good to the world.
To encourage people to be educated in their work before the Lord, to build up God's kingdom and to love as if their heart would break, even if they never make a salary.

It is time for a new economy-- the economy of the kingdom of God.
Where people are not honored for their annual income as much as for their sincere, humble work before God.
Where people are given an opportunity to work for God in whatever way they are able, rather than what is economically feasible.
Where the full-time pastors, evangelists and bishops are given a piss-poor salary, so that others can work full time for the church at the same salary, acting in areas of service and hospitality.
Where people stop working for themselves and surrender their whole measure of production-- all their strength-- to the kingdom of God.
Where young people go into ministry because it is what God demands of them, rather than the salary they feel they deserve.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Discussion on Rape

Is it possible to love someone who rapes you?

Hero, why did you bring up this subject? What was your point?
Rape is the strongest way to devour someone. More than murder. It is a very intens topic. Forgivness is stronger than rape though, it lets go of the past and presents us with a new future. A rebirth if you will. This is a Christian group. I wanted to get us to talk about Forgivenss.
Okay, that makes sense.But Alex is not a believer. You can't expect her to forgive, or to want to forgive. And I think that if she tried to force herself to forgive, then she could do herself and others harm. Forgiveness isn't natural, it's a gift from God.Also, Jesus speaks of forgiveness in a couple differnt ways.1. Release from bitternessIf we hold bitterness against an event in the past, it does more damage to us than it does to our enemy. If we make the Christian choice to love our enemies, as Jesus commanded believers to, then releasing the bitterness is a minimum, and it is ultimately healthy. I think that's what you're talking about.2. Restoration of relationshipIf someone has sinned against us, and they repented of their sin, then we are required by Jesus to forgive them-- that is, to restore the relationship. But if they do not repent, or just make excuses for the evil they did, we do NOT have to forgive them, according to Jesus. Luke 17:3-4-- "If a brother sins, rebuke him; if he repents, forgive him." Matthew 18:15-17-- "If a brother sins against you, confront such a one privately. If they listen to you, you have won your brother. If they do not listen to you, bring one or two others... if they still do not listen to you, treat such a one as a tax collector." Basically, if they repent, get friendly again. If they don't, then keep away from them.Also, I have one more question. So Hero, why did you recommend to that kid that he retalliate against those who jumped him if you are all for forgiveness?-Steve
The situation is one that is current. He is still in Danger. So is His girfriend. I still belive in self defense. I mentioned that he should not instigate anything, but rather let God give him the strenghth if confronted. I can fight in a boxing ring without hating my opponent. Even if my opponent hates me.
I am sorry, but I think you need to be like Jesus consistantly, if you are a Christian.Jesus says that to harm another's life IS to hate them, and that this is the opposite of love-- Mark 3:4. And, as Alex described, when you defend yourself, you don't know what permanent damage you can cause. If we love them, the MINIMUM is to not harm them and to help them in their need.I am glad that Jesus chose not to believe in self-defense. And he told us to do the same:"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.""Whoever wants to save his life must lose it.""Love your enemies, do good to those who harm you, pray for those who despitefully use you.""For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed." I Peter 2:20-24If Christians are to be like Jesus, it is specifically in the area of suffering like him and DOING NOTHING IN RETURN but allowing God to enact His justice in His own way.For the non-Christians reading this, Jesus' way is not for you, and I don't expect you to think it makes any sense. But for the Christians, Jesus' way of the cross is what we are all called to live by. Without exception. To live like Jesus in this way is enacting true faith. Anything less is unbelief.-Steve

I hope you don't take this wrong, but then is it your advice, would it be your advice, to some woman close to you, that if a man tries to rape her, not to try to fight back, to not try to stop him, to just lie there and take it?
-Solo sono una diva

Being a Christian isn't being passive. There is a difference between stopping someone and harming them. In our culture of excessively violent movies and television, we are trained that harming people is the only option available to us. There are other options. A good book on this subject--essays written by many people, including Carly Simon-- is What Would You Do? It talks about alternatives to violence when you are being personally threatened with violence.
Also, this is a perspective that cannot be understood without faith. The way of the cross is to lay down one's rights and life in order to allow God to accomplish His justice. It is what Jesus did-- and it is to a certain degree what MLK did. It does work.
The way of the cross is not looked at as an appropriate response to evil, because our society doesn't think that we should sacrifice ourselves for anything. That somehow, evil should be stopped without sacrifice. The whole point of Christianity is to have a group of people who are willingly sacrificing themselves in order that others might be saved. When- and where-ever Christianity loses that aspect, it is no longer the way of Jesus, but the way of the world.
Steve K.

Preaching and Weakness

Knowing everyone is different, if your belief makes you happy, and makes sense to you, doesn't mean that you are right. Preaching is a sign of religious weakness, and also a lack of faith. If you feel you need to preach your beliefs on other people, you fear they would not know about unless they tell you. Shouldn't "god" be visible to people other than word of mouth?
Actions speaks louder than words, but when there is no action, people can only talk. I believe that people fighting about heaven and hell wouldn't exist if people didn't talk about it. All this carries on because out unquestionable presence on this earth.


First of all, I must confess, I am a preacher.
Nevertheless, I have seen what you mean-- people who are driven to preach at people who are not ready to hear. Frankly, I hate that. Preaching is only good when accomanied by WANTING to hear.
But preaching-- in and of itself-- is not a sign of religious weakness. Rather, I am a preacher despite my natural inclinations. I am frankly nervous to tell people about Jesus unless I am sure that they actually want to hear.
So I started a new church among a new people. This is how I get around your correct complaints:
My church is among the homeless and mentally ill. Our times are at least two and a half hours long. The first half hour to hour is just a meal. We have a meal with every meeting. If people just want to eat and leave, that's fine. But the meal comes first, so no one goes hungry. Then we have the service, which might include singing and might not, but we have a Bible study and prayer. But it is not a monologue. People can interrupt my preaching with comments or questions, if they like. Then people can stay afterwords and talk or hang out. In two of our services, we also offer clothes and showers for those who need them.
In this way, we are a church. And I am preaching. But no one has to listen if they don't want to. And we are not just speaking words, but going out to the people who need help and offering them what we have.
The main reason I preach is because Jesus told me to. He said so in his word and he gave me that calling personally. If I wasn't told to, I wouldn't. It certainly isn't usually culturally appropriate. But what Jesus told me to do is more important than what people tell me not to. This isn't a "religous weakness" on my part. It's religous obedience. And people may not like what I do. But they aren't the ones juding me-- Jesus is.


Nihilism-- the belief that there is no meaning to life and no spirit world-- is the most logical thing to believe in. Religions are contradictory and they all claim to be the one truth. Nihilism makes sense because it denies all of the contradiction. --Someone who's name I can't remember. This is a REALLY paraphrased summary of a pretty long post.

There are a spectrum of belief systems, and nihilism has the Occom's Razor advantage of being the simplist. It wipes away all the questions people have about a spirit world and about God and about the meaning of life in general-- except personally. In all metaphysical areas-- and frankly almost all ethical ones-- there can be no discussion between people. What anyone says about these subjects is ultimately correct for them, personally. Of course, we will have to throw out most science as well, because studies have shown that most studies are ultimately subjective-- including the original studies that showed that.
Nihilism is simple-- but so simple that no one wants to accept it. Nihilism questions all speculative truth, but without speculative truth there would be no law of gravity, no shuttles in space, no cell phones, etc. We gotta start somewhere, science says, so we begin with a theory that seems reasonable and then we go out and either prove or disprove it. Nihilism, as a belief system, has been around a long time-- not the longest, spiritism has that distinction-- and it has been discussed by people for longer than philosophy has been around. This gives it the distinction of being the most rejected belief system that has ever existed.
Why has Nihilism been rejected to such an amazing degree? First of all, because it doesn't meet people's inner need. Athiestic existentialism is simply giving a needed face lift to nihilism, because if people were going to believe in nothing, they still need to believe in SOMETHING, even if that something is only in their own personal experience. But most people aren't ready to deal with such logical hoops, and they need to believe that their life has some meaning. They need to believe that there really is justice, although they don't see it. They need to believe that there is still a chance for inner peace, although they don't experience it now. They need to believe that somehow there will be a time and a place where they will be secure, even though that doesn't exist now in what they currently experience. Frankly, nihilism doesn't meet most people where they are, it doesn't meet their needs.
Secondly, nihilism's simplicity is at first disarming, but after reflection it is simply unsatisfying. Frankly, the universe and our personal experience is more complex than nihilism will admit. There is much that is unexplained, and there is a universe-- possibly multiple universes-- of knowledge that humanity will never grasp. The human brain is finite, and yet nihilism implicitly claims that human knowledge is all that is significant to humans. Because we cannot "prove" God, therefore God must not be significant. Because we cannot fully grasp a spirit world, it must not exist. Because we cannot, as humanity, decide on a single meaning of life, therefore there must not be any.
It's kind of like the people who saw The Wall on LSD. Just because they couldn't understand any meaning, they assume that the writers and director of the Wall were on acid when they made it. Just because a minority of people cannot grasp any meaning, and others disagree on the meaning, it is a leap of logic to determine that there is NO meaning.
I would understand if someone explored a number of belief systems-- really understood and experienced them-- and then determined that there must not be any meaning after that. At least they explored some of the possibilities. But to say, a priori, "there is no meaning" without actually, honestly, exploring the possibilities of meaning is self-deception. This is not the scientific method. It is not critical analysis. It is just another religion. And it is a greater leap of faith than most religions out there. At least most religions are fairly existentialist-- it is based on a personal experience. But most nihilists are anti-existentialist, it is based on NOT having an experience. It may be trite, but it is true that if you look for nothing, you will certainly find what you were looking for.

Three Statments

Hey, Ive just started a philosophy course..and could do with some simulating responses, to these quotes...basically, i just want to know if you agree or disagree with them.'Tranquility is the most beautiful thing in the world''Most men are bad' (refering to mankind..not males)and'learn to obey and you will learn to command'give me any opinions!!! have fun thinking :D

I hope I'm not helping you cheat at school! :) The first statement is the basic Buddhist precept-- that all of our basic needs are met if we have peace within ourselves. Of course, we can have inner peace all we want, but that doesn't do children raped in Darfur any good. From my understanding, the most beautiful thing in the world is a whole complex of needs and desires in a community which is working together, including inner peace, but also meeting the main physical needs of people, security, joy, social interaction, and respect. As far as the second statement, it depends on what it means. If it means that every human is morally evil (like a Calvinist persepective), I disagree. But every human is born with only self-interest at heart. We have to become mature to learn to live according to other's interests, to treat others on the same level of humanity as ourselves. Most people haven't learned to do this. Does that mean that there are people who don't act in self interest? No. Acting in self interest, in my opinion (Kant disagrees) is not morally wrong. But acting ONLY in self interest, doing acts as if others are actually less significant than ourselves is what is evil. Not everyone does that. But in the end, I guess, we would have to determine what is "bad" or morally evil to determine if that statment is true or not. I also disagree with the third statment. Most slaves learn to obey because it is basic survival to do so. But in that obedience they do not learn to command others. However, for one who is good at commanding others, one of the prerequisites is to learn what it means to obey-- if you don't know how to obey, then you will never give good orders. But the way the statment is made, it is a logical fallacy.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Turn The Other Cheek?

As young Christians, we were always taught to "turn the other cheek". It is obvious that that may not have been the best advice. That philosophy has led to the removal of God from our schools, abortions as a method of birth control and the advice of the liberal doctrines. Does anyone else feel that as Christians that we are too passive? Thanks for your input.

1. "Turn the other cheek"--The context in which Jesus was speaking is in how to respond to authorities who are persecuting you. He is saying that we are to take the extreme passive response, not only accepting the evil persecution (receiving harm for doing right), but also inviting them to do more. Why? So that God would step in and remove the authority. This is what Jesus did in the cross-- he accepted the priest's and Sanhedrin's death sentence without a word so that they would be removed from power, which they were in 70AD. Jesus never said that we had to remain silent in the face of wrong-- just the opposite, actually. 2. God in schools I am personally pleased that teachers are supposedly no longer allowed to lead prayer in school. Students, according to the law, can lead prayer and pray-- never been a law against that. But when I was in school, I had teachers leading me in new age prayer and spiritual meditation. Of course, they still do that because the students often don't realize that it is "prayer." This is why my children are not in public school. Because I don't trust teachers to do religious, moral or social teaching to my children. And since public school is all about moral and social teaching-- thus religious as well-- then I want my kids to know what they believe and be able to defend it before they are attacked by another side. 3. This country This country (The US) is not, nor ever has been, Christian. If it were a "Christian" country then there would only be one God that people could worship, and Jews and Hindus and Buddhists would be marginalized. If it were a "Christian" country then more than 3 of the ten commandments would be enforced by law. It has always been that the majority of this nation has been Christian-- bad ones, but still superficially Christian-- and so that formed the kinds of things the republic enforced. However, it is becoming less Christian every day.And I'm happy about that, really. Only if the church is attacked will we see who are the hypocrites and who are the true faithful in Jesus. Let's make it clear what is secular and what is truly Christian. The bastardization of Christianity with government and military force that has existed for 1700 years should finally be put at an end. Hopefully, this will allow Christians to remember that their focus should be on following Jesus and not on trying to get the rest of their society to follow their cultural biases.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Jesus-Centered New Testament

It seems to me that Jesus is the truth of God, as said in the gospels, while the rest of the New Testament is just commentary on the gospels. --Theophilos
Really, the gospels are just commentary on Jesus as well.-- Mark

My perspective on this is very similar to Th's but a bit nuanced. First, about the gospels. It is a modern perspective to say that the gospels are commentary on Jesus. Certainly, they have different perspectives and emphases, but are they really offering different Jesus'? The gospel writers were not intending to present "commentaries" on Jesus, but Jesus himself through their eyewitness acocunts. Just because a modern perspective sees the lack of objectivity, a post-modern persective understands that there is NO objective point of view. Every time we talk about something, no matter how thorough we try to present it, we are not presenting the thing itself, but our perspective on that thing. Does that mean that we are just providing commentary? If I collect a group of passages from the Bible about a particular subject, then I am inherently interpreting because I am selecting some scriptures, but not others. But am I commenting? No. A collection of tradition is the tradition, not a commentary on the tradition. Yes, the collection is interpreted just by being collected, but that does not make it any less the tradition. The gospels, as Luke says in his introduction, is a collection of traditions about Jesus. The writers, in their own way, were as objective as their culture required. But let's not put labels on the gospels, such as "commentary". So what about the epistles? They are certainly not attempting to make straightforward communication of the tradition of Jesus. The quotes of Jesus are rare, although they do imply dependence on the Jesus tradition quite often. But I think that different epistles are interacting with the Jesus tradition in different ways. Paul, for instance, is frequently interacting with the Jesus tradition-- interestingly enough, the Matthean tradition more often than the others-- but not only that. Paul makes frequent reference to the personal revelation he has received from Jesus as well. Thus, Paul's point of truth-reference is the apostolic Jesus tradition and his personal revelation, that is probably communicated pretty well by Luke in his three presentations of Jesus' appearance before Paul. But what Paul does in his letters is rarely commentary. Some of his most theological parts are placing the Jesus tradition and his personal revelation in his understanding of Old Testament theology. But most of it is simply applying the tradition to the context of the churches. The eschatalogical sections of Thessalonlians are probably him finishing his discipleship teaching that he was chased away from finishing. James, II Peter, and I John are the best examples of commentary on the Jesus tradition. They are actually sermons, but definately based on the Jesus tradition. Revelation has some commentary on Jesus tradition-- for instance, much of the outline of future events is based on the basic outline of Mark 13-- but it is primarily a "revelation" a communication from Jesus in the spirit world to the churches in Asia Minor in the first century. While it might make reference to the Jesus' tradition, it is clearly supposed to go beyond that tradition. It is more than a commentary. Hebrews would be a theological treatise on Jesus fulfilling the themes of the second temple Judaism cult. It is less a commentary on the Jesus tradition as an attempt to show the superiority of Jesus over ancient Judaism. My perspective on the epistles is that they are representatives of the earliest interpretations of Jesus. While there are some differences, the similarities are more striking. They are most significant because they give us windows on how we might interpret and apply Jesus in our context. Jesus is the center, the foundation, the truth and the life-- not Paul or the writer of Hebrews or John. But these first interpreters help us better understand how Jesus might interpret himself in a variety of contexts, and so they are guides to our understanding and application of Jesus.