Monday, December 26, 2011

Randal Rauser on Darwin and Evangelicalism

Randal Rauser, on the 150th Anniversary of Darwin's publication of "Origin of Species". The actual post is here.
It is an anniversary that not many evangelicals will be celebrating: 150 years since the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species. The hostility is understandable given the widespread assumption that neo-Darwinian evolution is little more than atheism for biologists. This assumption leads to many Christian youth being sheltered from the undisputed, reigning theoretical framework of the biological sciences. It also leads them to read the Genesis creation narrative in a literalistic fashion as if they were reading an article on cosmology magazine rather than an ancient near eastern cosmogonic-theological poetic narrative. (Sadly, in their fervor to respect the Bible’s authority, they undermine it in the same way that the Catholic Church undermined scripture in its dispute with Galileo.) The result is a suspicion of any Christian who would countenance divinely-guided evolution as broaching an unacceptable compromise with liberalism, secularism, methodological naturalism, atheism … pick your poison.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

End of the Semester

It's the end of an amazing semester and I want to write about my thoughts of it.

Spiritual Growth? I've learned so much more than I expected to learn. I've learned that God working powerfully through me is more powerful than the deep recesses of my sinful/being renewed soul pulling down on me all the time, tempting me to give in to despair, shame, worry, dissatisfaction-- things that are not of the truth. I've learned to be a man. I'm more confident in this life that when a challenge comes my way, I'll be able to think through it, feel correctly, and work my way through it. I still have this idea that I can't make any major life decisions or choices like dating/marriage/teaching at a school/parenthood until I'm absolutely perfect, but I've been working on that too.

I think I can safely say that my intellectual growth and spiritual growth were far more than I expected. I'm not the self-pitying, weak, emotional, spaghetti brained girlish-guy I used to be! But you know what? What's amazing is that even if it were, there'd be nothing wrong with it and I'd make due with what I had. I've come to accept who I am, simply because there's no reason not to. I love myself. I'm trying harder to love myself more everyday, but I'm also finding that my friends are teaching me to love myself as well. Something I'm also experiencing for the first time is truly loving my friends apart from feeling like I need them for validation. I've fallen so in love with my friends and I feel I can honestly say I could let them go at any time. Now, that's not to say I still have LOTS more growing to do in that area, but progress is good.

I've also learned that I don't have to make a big deal about the fact that I may end up being a philosopher/apologist in order to actually become one. People don't need to acknowledge what I'm doing in order to make it what I'm doing. I've also found more peace in listening to other people before opening my own big mouth and talking about my own life all the time :)  (though I still have lots more growing to do there)

With regards to dating, I've had crushes, some irrational and maybe one or two rational, but I've also begun to learn that I really do enjoy being single, and I'm going to use this position of my life to learn as much as possible. Furthermore, marriage is a season of life that ends in death, and as excited as I am, I don't think I'm ready for it yet.

I'm using everything in my life I possibly can to pursue the truth. I've been failing all the time, but the more I fight this battle for enlightenment and growth into Christ as he really is, not as the culture tells me, the more I find that there really is hope, power, and satisfaction in living to expend every bit of energy I have for living in accords with reality as I ought to live. "Before I die, I want to burn out bright!", as Switchfoot would have it.

What can I say about my life, but what one lover would say to another?: "There is nothing deficient in you, not a thing is out of place; you are beautiful."


Monday, December 5, 2011

Determinism

If freedom is to be defined as doing something while having been able to do otherwise, then according to our knowledge of the brain/mind there is no free-will.  Determinism is a pretty sound view-point in that all of our desires are caused by past states of our brain, which are caused by past states, which are caused by past states, and so on.  But if we're currently experiencing a brain state which consists of an organization of neurons and chemicals which is causing us to desire and thus act a certain way-- how is it possible that we could be acting in a different way, since the current chemical make-up of our brains has been determined from all moments past? 

There are (I think) two ways you could answer this problem: Redefine free will, or argue against the idea that all of our brain states are caused by the past. Most Christians take the second option, opting for a view called libertarianism, which implies that humans have an immaterial entity attached to their brains which uses a phenomenon called "agent causation" to, just like a divine being, create ex-nihilo (out of nothing), adjustments and fluxes of energy in the brain which break the past-future event causation which determines our brain states. 

My problem with libertarianism is that, though it seems on surface level to solve the problem of free will, it doesn't actually look like it does: if the causal powers which the immaterial entity create do not come from our brains, then there's simply no explanation for them. Here's what I mean: if the special influences in our brain that come from our immaterial mind are not explained by desires and motives which come from physical brain (because if they were, we'd be right back to the same chain of past-future causation), then they must be explained by some immaterial explanation. But what is the explanation for that, and why would it not be caused by past immaterial events? It seems like if we just stop with an immaterial explanation, then there is no explanation at all for why we do what we do-- and if this is true, then how can we be held accountable for our actions, since they don't really ultimately come from anywhere? You'd think that our actions should proceed from our own desires, not an immaterial entity which is out of control! 

Plus, from what my friend Jordan and I have been studying, it doesn't even seem like the Bible teaches that we have immaterial entities attached to our brains. It seems like we're just physical, according to the Bible-- and science definitely corroborates that view (except in the instances of corroborative Near Death experiences.... AHH CONFUSION!!!) 

My proposed way to deal with this is to redefine freedom as acting in a way according to one's desires. That way, humans are always free. I don't buy the idea that you don't act according to your desires when you choose to do something against your desires, because I think a necessary condition for our choices is that we desire to do what we want. Perhaps the only way to do something without wanting to do it is to do something without choosing to do it-- for example, the cases where surgeons have poked a person's brain and caused them to move their arms, etc. 

The problem with compatibilism is that it ends up that we absolutely cannot control our actions (since they're all predetermined), and it seems like a necessary condition for free will is being able to control one's actions.
But some might disagree!  

So, what are all of your thoughts-- I don't care knowledgeable your are or how much you know-- tell me your thoughts on this! I can use all the help possible, plus its good and fun to talk about these things, even though it's existentially destroying me!!


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Resolutions


Realize that there are no true standards or obligations except for moral standards which proceed from obligations from God.

Accept everything that cannot or does not need to be changed (including yourself). Change the things that should not be accepted. In the absence of rejection there ought to be acceptance.

Shift worries about reputation to worries about relationships and obligations.

According to the ideas of Buddhism, desire creates suffering. I think this is perfectly true-- if you stop desiring the attention of girls, a good reputation, and dating relationships, etc, you'll stop seeking after it. Honestly, this is one of the most important things. You can never pursue God and seek after the truth if you care a lot about your reputation (now it is important to maintain reputation to an extent for the sake of friend's consciences, but beyond that, no reason). As John Piper would say, the love of human praise is the root of unbelief. I want to that root to be severed. 

Something I've realized, as soon as I've been learning to give up my desires for reputation: 1) I'm opened up to this whole new beautiful world of possibilities and wonder! 2) I find it much easier to pursue my convictions, and 3) Scarily, I'm beginning to find out who I really am.  Being an INFJ people pleaser, all my life I have acted in accord with the way the group around me thought I should act because I was so afraid of rejection-- now that I'm not afraid of rejection because rejection doesn't truly exist, I don't give a flip what other people think to the extent that it doesn't harm our relationship. I've learned that I'm beginning to show my true self, and also I'm learning to be rude. I know that sounds weird, but for me, being rude is like trying to squeeze toothpaste back into the tube. It's incredibly hard. All someone has to do is trip on the sidewalk and I'll feel this overwhelming gush of compassion and pity and rush to their aid. (imagine how easy it is to feel sorry for myself) How could I possible say a mean thing?? But I'm starting to get over that! The crazy thing that I would never have realized is that this is a result of finally learning to accept myself. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

confession

masturbation
dishonesty by acting
laziness
not following my convictions
going half-way on homework
undressing women in my mind
thinking that being philosophical makes me better than other people
befriending women solely for the purpose of having pretty friends
not praying to God often
not doing devotions
shrinking my faith in God because I don't like the commitment to love other people
lying
feeling intense shame when I am shown to be wrong, disapproved of, or not thought well of, because I buy into the premises that I need these things to have acceptability as a person

those are sins that I shamelessly and sickeningly enjoy periodically right now. 

immoral practices that I used to struggle with:
pornography
theft
lying by acting

I'm getting sick of how dishonest I am by the very nature of the way I act around people. I act like I'm a perfect person around people. But having studied philosophy and a little bit of sociology, I understand now that acting in ways which clearly connote an inner disposition which does not conform to the inner disposition of one's soul is lying as well. It is possible that there are some situations in which lying is Ok, but that's only when the subject being lied to has lost the right to believe the truth. my friends and those who read this blog have not lost that right. 

I continually find that in order to truly be healed of shame and to truly begin living life consistently, I must be honest, and I must stop living for others' approval. I also find that in my pursuit of absolute truth, there is no reason not to disclose my flaws. I listed the things about me which I am most embarrassed for others to find out about. I truly do want to die to other's opinions but I know that there's a lot of sacrifice that has to go into that! I've thought a lot about this, and whether it is a good thing to do to expose all your heinous sins for all to see-- knowing that I have a tendency to act in extremes and absolutes, and I tend to act on ridiculous possibilities. I've always thought that I shouldn't do this, because of this and that reason. But when I actually thought it through, I couldn't think of any reason not to. The things I had to consider were my reputation-- which I honestly do think is important to protect against falsehood-- but not against truth. Also, my own soul: will any rejection I experience for revealing these things hurt me in an unhealthy way? I don't think so-- I've already gone through my testimony with a Bible study and been healed of the self-condemnation that resulted from pornography. The next thing is my friends-- any who read this will likely be surprised and maybe disgusted, but all I can do is ask for your further trust and acceptance! Don't let this affect our friendship in a major way-- but if it does, come talk to me and I would love to work it through. 

So, that being said, this is me and all my mess. I've only got one life to live-- I want to get this right! 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dissolving Shame-- A hard, but Necessary Journey

Here's a really simple, condensed, and simplistic summary of the things needed to deconstruct shame in our lives:

1. Tear down personal and social "Absolutes" and see them simply as the preferences that they really are. No, it's not true that we "must" look attractive to all people-- it's simply a desire (and a ridiculous one that). No, it's not true that we must appear reasonable to all people, it's simply a selfish desire (also, ridiculous). No, it's not true that we must be accepted in every way by everyone. It's just a misinformed desire. If you really think about it, we have a lot of these "wants turn musts", when in fact,the only thing that is a real "must" is our moral obligation. Stop seeking after people's acceptance and approval... it's a want, not a must. And if you care about the truth, you ought to give that desire up anyways!

2. Constantly be accepting things that can't be changed. You have no right to reject your body because of the way it looks. And what standards are you using to judge your body?  Shouldn't you have dropped those standards in the first step? If you're overweight because of a moral problem, perhaps you should judge your addiction to eating food (that's something you can change)-- and maybe you shouldn't even judge that, but the decisions that lead to your addiction that the decisions you continually make to sustain it. Accept everything except immoral acts. Constantly accept your mind, your heart, and your personality-- in fact, fall in love with them. There's no real standards to judge them as deficient, so why not embrace them? Be in awe of your body and heart, as my counseling professor says, but not prideful (because that assumes societal standards which are completely false).

3. Replace the pursuit of the satisfaction of false standards with those of real standards of morality. Honor and serve God; follow his standards. Worship Him! Find satisfaction in him, not your cultural locus of satisfaction!


This is super short, but I have to say, that even though these seem very simple, if you flesh them out they are incredibly effective. In the past few weeks of continually deconstructing my standards and "musts", and then, in the absence of standards which judge me, accepting and being in awe of my mind and heart, I have felt so much condemnation and misery lift from my soul. This is going to sound like a self-help testimony program, but I've begun to actually feel more self-confident and attractive as a person-- but the thing that's so funny is that I don't even care what people think now, nor do I think a person has to look a certain way to be attractive.. I just am who I am, and I accept it.

What I don't accept, however, is sin. I'll write more on this later.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Everything on my Mind

Ok, I want to write, again, a short summary of everything I've been learning and experiencing up at this amazing college. It feels as if every time I write in this blog I have a completely changed, evolved, or stronger mindset about things. Right now I would say that my mindset is all three. Even though I'm experiencing some pain right now I really do feel that a very powerful ideology is forming in my mind, and my heart is being strengthened. 

To start: I realized that my developing philosophy about truth seeking based on the potential existence of obligations isn't quite a sound position. As my friends in the Christian Apologetics Alliance pointed out to me, the mere existence of an epistemic problem (there might be obligations that I don't know about) doesn't create (at least immediately!) an ontological solution (therefore, there are obligations). At the time it was very painful to let go of that philosophy since it had become so basic to who I was (and it happened right before a cross country race, so I was theologically destroyed the whole time!!), but I think it's necessary. I still think that there is potential in that argument, but it takes a sophisticated philosopher to understand it, not a nerdy undergrad like me who thinks he knows a lot when he really doesn't :)  So I fell back on plan B, and simply took advantage of my epistemic situation. I am a person who has things called beliefs, inescapably. The nature of my beliefs is to cause my mind to experience my beliefs as if they were the case. I want to have an accurate experience of reality and to respond to reality in the most epistemically correct way possible, and to not seek all "seekable" truth would be literally lying to myself (I'm surprised how intuitively powerful this is, yet when I wake up in the mornings it feels remarkably boring and weighty!) So, relying upon that, I continue my stubborn pursuit of evidentialism! :) 

Next has been something that has been and will be destroying me and reforming me. Shame. I never thought I would be dealing with it or even encountering it, but here I am! I was reading a book called "The Wounded Heart" by Dan Allender for Crisis Counseling class, and I was trying to think through everything he was saying as critically and imaginatively as I possibly could-- it was a chapter about sexual abuse and shame, and what causes it. At the same time, I had been thinking about friendship (because I was trying to understand how friendship fit into my worldview and how friendship could best be used to cause the most goods to occur, and thus had begun to try and define what friendship is as a contract), and suddenly the two subjects which had originally be completely separate in my head starting dancing around together like they were made for each other!! Contracts, friendships, rejection, shame, etc. are all inter-related! It's so amazing! Oh, Lord I'm going through such a painful dry period right now, but how I can't wait to praise you on the other side!!! :)
Anyways, I have been studying this Shame subject and realizing SO MUCH about myself. I never realized it, but I as an individual seem to have struggled with a very large amount of shame all of my life. Whether it was due to the environment or because of my very fragile INFJ personality type, I have become a person who has harshly rejected and condemned every part of myself possible because of my intense desires for acceptance and feeling like I was loved and worth something. Before anyone reading this begins to feel sorry for me, don't-- because I think shame is just as much sin as feeling prideful is-- it's just a lot easier to fall into. Shame is the rejection of one's very soul as illegitimate for failure to meet certain criterion, whether it be failing to meet social standards, failing to have social crowd's approval, or failing to meet one's own preferences (which they have turned into "musts"). Imagine a guy who has placed a large personal value on getting to go with a certain girl to a dance-- if she rejects him he will probably experience shame, because 1) He failed to get a date. (which all men, of course, MUST have or they are inadequate... haha) 2) The girl rejected part of him (however small it was) and he equated that part of him (an invitation to go to the dance) with the whole of his soul, and thus since he felt she had rejected his soul, he rejected his soul and felt shame. Shame is the human illogical by-product of failure. But, look, we humans are so prideful, it makes perfect sense! By the very same premises that we use to feel prideful about ourselves, we feel shame. "If I play trumpet really well, then I am legitimate and of worth." (pride) "I don't play trumpet really well, so I am not legitimate and of worth." (shame) Of course, it's actually a logical fallacy called denying the antecedent, but since when did we humans ever care about logic? In the absence of anything else to make us worth something, we are therefore worthless if we can't play trumpet well.

I'm going to write more on this later, because I haven't even delved into all that I've been discovering. What I have been doing, however, is beginning to heal shame in my life. I've had to deny all of the ridiculous criterion I've used to try to give myself legitimacy and self-worth and simply realize that I have worth and legitimacy simply by being human made in God's image. After that I have begun to go over every part of my heart and body and accept it (since in the absence of rejection, there is acceptance with regards to this subject). I can't even tell you how much condemnation and sickening pain have been lifted from my heart. On top of this, the Love of Christ covers all of my legitimate failures (sin), and thus there is no condemnation for these things either. Hallelujah! This stuff has deeply affected my friendships, past dating relationships, and the way I look at the world. I didn't realize how much I have been destroying myself. 

Hmm, what else. Dating situation? Non-existent, which is happily right where I want it to be. I still have a while before I consider myself "dateable" by any means for several reasons. 1) I want to be more pure. My thoughts are not completely pure. I'm not shooting for absolute impossible whiteboard perfection, but I know I can do better. 2) I need to work through my issues of shame and rejection completely before I get in a relationship. I have struggled with shame-based jealousy in relationships in the past, and now that I've pin-pointed the source, as I've been desperately trying to do for years, I'm going to absolutely and utterly destroy those false beliefs. (as you can tell, they've given me much grief in this life), and 3) I want to be more set in my views. Honestly, this is one of the main reasons I am not dating right now, the other stuff could be worked through, somewhat, while in a relationship. I am absolutely committed to (or at least trying to) follow the truth with absolute submission and respect. What happens if I get married to a girl and then I find that my seeking truth has lead me to something which isn't Christianity? That would be absolutely horrifying-- it would damage my wife's faith, it would put a huge rut in our marriage, it would be very difficult to raise kids, and ugh, I really just don't want that to happen. Do I think that will happen? I really don't think so, but I have to accept that it is possible. Of course, even if I did become a non-Christian for some truth-seeking reason, the teachings of Christianity are so beautiful and pure that I would basically follow them anyways, though my heart would be broken without Christ. I know I have trust issues with God right now which may be cleared up with my working on shame, so maybe this is slightly irrational, but as of now it is an issue. So, I want to be more set in my views and have studied more. This will probably be more cleared up once I've done my studies in Philosophy of Religion and Metaphysics next semester.

With that, I think that is all that is on my heart. I've got a plan set out to grow more in faith, knowledge, wisdom, and godliness, and to be healed of self-inflicted wounds. Now its time to implement it! Help, Lord! 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Discovering my Nature

Now that I feel at least half-way caught up with homework, I feel somewhat at liberty to write another blog post about stuff I've been learning. The past month has been an amazing period of growth and increase in understanding for me, while at the same time slightly depressing. I suppose I may as well just call myself stupid now, because for the past three years I've looked at who I was a month ago and realized I was stupid. Who's to say it's not going to happen again? and again.. and again.

In the past months that I've been in college, I've worked on trying to understand what I as a human find myself obligated to do. Without assuming the truth of my worldview and starting solely from my knowledge of my own broken humanity, I've come to the conclusion that as a human I have the obligation to seek truth and practice truth. I came to this principle simply by acknowledging the possibility that potential obligations may exist. Now as humans we all know that knowledge binds us. If you know you need to do something and you don't do it, you are performing a subjectively immoral act, and if God exists, then he holds us accountable to our immoral acts. But since we know that knowledge binds, that specific instance of knowledge binds us to seeking more knowledge, for to avoid knowledge is to avoid potential obligations, and to avoid potential obligations is like avoiding reading a book of the Bible because you know if you do, you might have to make changes in your lifestyle: it's immoral. If this is true, then it imprisons me to a life-long and whole-hearted pursuit and practice of truth. I must seek to have the right perspective on things, for having the true and right perspective on things causes one to act most in accord with reality. That being the case, since I know that I do not know many things about this world and thus probably have an off-color perspective, I am obligated to learn and experience and practice the truth in order to have a more right perspective. This pursuit of truth can only end if one becomes omniscient. That's not to say that you should put your worldview on hold. I'm a Christian because I think that Christianity is true and because I am in love with Christ. But since I am a Christian, I have even more of an obligation to pursue truth. This really is a weighty obligation. How careful can you be with the truth?

But what I've found is that as I've tried to figure out the necessary adjustments to my life in order to begin this pursuit (Abstaining from seeking others' approval, abstaining from sexual immorality, abstaining from anything which will prevent me from desiring to perform or performing my obligations, finding deep satisfaction in the good, finding deep satisfaction in God, finding deep satisfaction in the truth, etc.), I've found that I absolutely have NO ability to maintain these rules. I am absolutely helpless. The minute I finally rejoice in that I'm not seeking other's approval in my actions, I begin to get prideful, which messes everything up all over again. The minute I have finally been able to think without sexual thoughts about girls coming into my mind, I find myself having such a strong desire just to be in a relationship that it starts to cause me to seek the attention of girls, which causes me to completely disregard truth and obligation. I am literally worthless when it comes to doing good things. Even when I do good things such as care for people, listen sympathetically, fulfill my obligations as a friend, or anything else of that nature, it seems the larger part of my motivation is to be socially accepted and thought of well. I'm so sick of this. I wish I could say there's an escape hatch or some easy fix, but there's really not. It's the truth, and though I so often fail, my obligation to acknowledge and practice it does not disappear.

So what do I do? I've prayed to God to give me power to do good things, but as of the current moment I honestly cannot say it has helped (because I haven't spent a large amount of time doing it). I have realized, however, that I've not been spending a large amount of time in prayer or in the Bible. I think this is due to 1) laziness and stubborn sinfulness, and 2) the fact that though I believe Christianity is true, I've been so wrong, so many times, about the nature of Christianity that I don't know what to think about the nature of the way Christ helps us and gives us power. I have no idea what to think about Christianity some times. All I know is that it will cost me my life. But what is the nature of that? How much of my own efforts will this take, and how much depending on the power of God will it take? Or is it both?

I've recently had a little bit of break-through in enjoying Christ through the context of the Old Testament. So I'm going to pursue God along those lines. Please pray for my heart!

Other than that, I changed my major to philosophy and am now minoring in counseling, just got back from Kentucky from a Cross Country race, and have been hanging out with my awesome friends from Church! God, I will never understand you fully, but how I love you for the extent of your grace!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Thoughts on Truth and Obligation


This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately. Do we have an obligation to believe the truth? What are obligations and where do they come from?

These are some preliminary thoughts that I hope to refine as I continue thinking and reading about this. I would appreciate any critique, if possible. 


Man perceives that he has an obligation to believe the truth, since he is necessarily a truth driven creature; if he perceived that it were false that he had to believe truth, he would be obligated to believe this; that it is true that it is false that he ought to believe truth-- but that is absurd and contradictory. A person cannot call a thing true without already believing it on some level, and so the question of whether a person should believe truth or not is, in some ways, flawed. But the active pursuit of truth is another thing, and man perceives that he ought to actively pursue truth in light of potential obligations.  Man has an obligation to find and become acquainted with what is, because if he did not, he is aware of the fact that he is ignoring other potential obligations. Since man cannot possibly believe all truths, he must believe all those which will most affect him and those which will most spur him on to believing more truth and being satisfied in it.

Man, since he perceives that he can't do anything unless he desires it, has a duty to desire to perform his obligations to believe truth. He can desire these by finding satisfaction in the truth, in that by knowing what is, he can desire more of what is.  But what if knowing what is deeply wounds man?  Then man must seek to find a way to not be wounded, be satisfied, and continue performing his or her obligation to believe truth. Man must hate falsehood-- and the only reason that could be false is if it were true that it were false, which would be a thing that one would believe and hate the negation of.

Since man has a tendency to fall into being satisfied by things which prevent him from fulfilling his obligations, he must avoid these things and be satisfied and fulfilled only by those those things which will spur him on towards fulfilling his obligations. Perhaps being satisfied in the fulfillment of an obligation itself is necessary. Some ways that man can seek to be satisfied by truth are to gain truth by acquaintance. If God exists, he can come to know God; which he is obligated to do if God exists and he can perceive it. This is satisfying to man. But knowing propositions about God are not enough. To know God by acquaintance, he can allow the truths about God to deeply affect him, to perform his obligations to God, and all those ways in which God has told man that man can come to know Him. In fact, humans have a duty to know reality by acquaintance; for one must not only believe truth on a conscious level, but also on a subconscious level. Then one will act in accord with his obligations.   In effect, man can learn more about God by learning about the world God created. The only way for man to desire the end of his obligations is to be satisfied with the end of his obligations. The only way for man to be satisfied with the end of his obligations is to know by acquaintance the goodness which is associated with them.

As humans we will desire higher order things, middle order things, and lower order things; we ought to desire and give top priority to the higher order things, and let them cancel out lower order desires if necessary. We also ought to have higher order desires in that our higher order desires satisfy us. If we are currently not satisfied, we must start with our higher order desires, to have them and be satisfied by them. It is evident that if one desires that God be glorified, he is somehow satisfied by that, mysterious as it is.  Middle order desires such as desires for marriage and for a family are good, yet must give way to higher order desires, and lower order desires  such as desires for food and sex are good, yet must give way to middle and higher order desires. One can, however, fulfill higher order desires through lower order desires, for example, by stewarding one's sexual desires for one's wife such that they flow with one's desire for a healthy marriage, or eating food while giving thanks to God through a higher order desire to glorify God always, or allowing one's sympathies towards people to drive them on towards a higher order desire to help them heal.

Further, man has a tendency to fall into thinking that what other people believe determines the truth about the world, about himself, and what he ought to do. He must realize this is false in his search for truth.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Obligations, Worth, and Acceptance


Things I've been learning:

  • I must make decisions not based on what others think or what I think, but based on what I am obligated to do by the truth- which human perception does not affect.
  • My worth and acceptance is not based on what others think or what I think, but based on what I am worth and how I am accepted in reality-- which human perception does not affect.
  • My worth and acceptance cannot be based, in reality, on performance, skill, temporal possessions, or knowledge.
  • The obligations I have must proceed from a human obligation to believe and practice the truth. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

How to be more Human?

I've got to spill this stuff right now.  There are several things that I'm struggling with right now and I want to list them in public to expose them and ask for prayers from the body of Christ. I have much more to write about things I've learned lately, but that can come when I have more time.

1. I have made so many mistakes in the past year. They have mainly resulted from my not being honest with myself. Please pray for me that I emphasize this honesty in my thoughts and prayers. I struggle, sometimes, with hiding parts of myself from other parts of myself. The lucky thing is that it drives me nuts when I do this, so there is a preventative mechanism in my personality. This mainly relates to my worldview and beliefs. I've pretty much decided that I'm going to be spending the rest of my life in the ministry and philosophy and apologetics. It's just my home. But what if at some point in my life I suspect Christianity is simply not true?  Will I just ignore my doubts and keep on going, or will I be honest with myself and admit my doubts?  I earnestly pray and hope that I will do the latter. Yes, it seems contradictory to pray to Christ that I will admit my doubts about Him if I ever do doubt Christianity seriously. But I'm becoming more and more convinced that he would have me do so; and I resolve to follow the disarming humility and almost appalling commitment to truth embodied by the man, Christ Jesus, no matter where life takes me. I consider this my duty as a human. Why do I mention this? I am actually more convinced than I have been in a long while that Christianity is true, but I think that is what caused this internal conflict to rise. Those moments when I encounter an argument against my faith which seems incredibly intimidating, I want most to shove this issue as far down into my subconscious as possible. So yes, I think and am very much rationally confident that my worldview is true. But I want to be honest, real, and humble about this. I'm still a human who lacks absolute certainty in many things.

2. I want to start living consistently with my worldview. I can spend all day theologizing and thinking about how wonderfully and articulately the Christian worldview intimately reflects what life is really about, how amazingly accurate a tragic/hopeful view of human nature it holds, and how it tempts my heart with it's affirmation of the inherent goodness of the natural world and human desire and the necessity of doing good to all people.  But when it comes to actually doing good to all people, I fail, miserably. Please help me God. I tried to live as if other people's hearts mattered today, and I was horrified out of my comfort zone by the fact other people have struggles too.

3. Oh, Lord, please help me to stop trying to show off to girls. I've got nothing to prove. Just help me be me. You're all I'm fighting for-- or at least all I want to care about fighting for.

4. Oedipus Rex taught me some incredible life lessons about what it means to trust reality inductively. It's hard to explain. I just need help with trusting reality and things I know to be true, yet can't articulate.

5. Prayer. What happened to it? I feel like I treat prayer like a foolish thing that those "silly ignorant Christianity do all the time" but look, how irrational I'm being! Look how ignorant I'm being!  How contradictory! Lord, help!!

6. I want to know what it really means to be human. I want to lose everything for the truth, not because it is inherently good to lose everything; but because there is such a good to be obtained by experiencing the bad of losing things, that it's worth the leap of faith. I trust that I'll find strong arms to take me up on the other side. I want to get rid of my psychological defense mechanisms and just open up. As a Switchfoot song goes, "don't close your eyes; don't close your eyes. this is your life, are you who you want to be?"

what a wonderful savior we have.



Wednesday, September 14, 2011

After three weeks of College

It's been quite a while since I posted in here, due to the business of college and mainly "Syllabus Shock".  But now that I have a few spare minutes, I want to just document some of the things I have been learning. I'll just list them in propositions, but if there's time to expand on them later, I will.

1. "The Fallacy of being paralyzed by objections":  Concluding that an proposition about the world cannot believed simply because there are objections against it is fallacious, because there are objections against every proposition. Thus, to resort to belief in one proposition because it's denial has many objections is fallacious because certainly, there are objections to the very proposition you believed in! It's silly! Yet we do it so often.

2. Everything we do, we ought to desire. It is not wrong to desire. Desires are good. The only reason we do anything is because we desire it. You may object and say, "I did my homework even though I didn't desire to do it". To this I say there are low order desires and higher order desires. Lower order desires are things like comfort, lust, sexual attraction, hunger, physical touch, etc. Higher order desires are things like Justice, Love, Mercy, discipline, striving to do what is right, etc. Just because you do not desire to do your homework in your lower order desires, your higher order desires such as doing what is right caused you to do your homework. So work hard to desire good, noble, and true higher order desires. We were not made to be dissatisfied; we ought to desire the right things.

3. Think critically about everything. Don't hesitate to question your most cherished beliefs. Remember, however, not to continually question something with skepticism when the denial of that belief is incredibly implausible. That's unreasonable (even though I do it all the time).

4. We are inescapably human. We can't look at any topic without bringing our humanity to it. So realize your faults, realize your shortcomings, admit your brokenness, and give up your pride. You and I are not God. Humanity is tragically beautiful. Suffering is our story, but hope and life comes through Christ. Don't ignore the sorrowful history of humanity. Learn about the beauties and the wretchedness of our race, and thus learn more about the God who made them.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

How could You really love me?

my heart begins to beat violently,
I gasp harder for air.
my mind is renewed in an explosion of truth.
the one who is from everlasting to everlasting loves me. LOVES ME.
now cry away the unbelief,
cry away the lies,
cry away the sadness.
cough and sputter out the hate,
let go of the shame,
and breathe again.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Quenched

Once upon a time, there was humanity.
They wanted. They longed, oh how they longed.
They dreamed, they fantasized, they desired.
They craved, they wished, they looked, and searched for the unknown renown.
They wanted something big. They wanted wars. Not just wars. they wanted more. They wanted the world.
They wanted victory, they looked for exalted adventures, they wanted something magnificent.
They yearned legends to bear witness to truth. They weren't satisfied with routine.

But when the opportunity came for reality to merge with their yearnings, they turned away.
Reality, they saw, costs. Reality would hurt. Reality would leave tragic wounds in their souls.
But what they didn't see, is that a soul pierced by wounds of the journey, that continues on,
is a soul quenched of violent thirst.



I love being a human, and I love participating in the greatest true love story of all time.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Pretense

we humans like to pretend; that we would be happier if things were better.
our alarming and horrifying discontent with life, like a monkey on the back, is always here even when tranquility and harmless perfection rule; but we seek reasons to let him raise his ugly head, even when he knows no reasons.
we pretend that we're slaving away towards truth and obligation when we only want satisfaction.
we act like we're trying to do the right thing, because it's the right thing, because it's the right thing, because we're supposed to do the right thing.. when we really take short cuts to save our souls from pain.
our hearts are needy as a sick orphan with no parents or home,
but even when the neediness is groping desperately with shrieks from her own self-inflicted pain, we shut our mouths and pretend we're satisfied.

why?

a raging passion in our hearts screams out for movement, something real. but when we can't find anything real that requires little of us, we attach ourselves to "things". we attach ourselves to political parties. we attach ourselves to causes for which we have no real passion except that which the soul says to the mind, "if only this, then satisfaction". we attach ourselves to religion.

we need a savior. not only from hell. but from ourselves. because there's a good bit of hell in us yet.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Sacrifice of Praise

I'm am so thankful to God that He teaches me a new lesson about life almost every hour. If I wrote down everything that I learned from just thinking critically about things and allowing the Holy Spirit to bring to the surface deep thoughts in my soul which otherwise my sin would have suppressed, a whole book could be written! Thank you Lord. 


Here is a really important thing that I've realized. I think this will be especially important for me as I continue on in my studies of philosophy of religion and philosophy.


Intellectual performance is not the Most Important Thing to God
If having properly justified and accurate beliefs about all the things of God were most important, Jesus would not have died for sins; he would have come to earth and built a grand universal college for all of us humans to go to in order to rid us of our "evil" ignorance. But that's not what happened. Jesus died and rose for our sins. He died and rose to reverse the morale rebellion that is rampant in our hearts. He died to destroy morale unbelief, not unwitting fallacies in thought. Thus it is evidently not intellectual beliefs which are the most important, but a heart of praise-- for that's what Jesus died to give us.  Even further, this verse has a lot to say about the situation: "You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!" The context of this verse is a teaching from James (maybe) about the necessity of works proving a person's faith to be true, so it is not necessarily talking about intellectual beliefs and praise-- but I think one can derive the same message. If having the right beliefs were the most important things in the eyes of God, then the demons who do have true beliefs would be favored in his eyes instead of us humans who know much less. But they're not. So this is a strong wake up call to those who think that they are any better than other Christians because they are more informed and have more properly warranted beliefs-- including myself. 


So what is it that is most important? 
"For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. 
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." Psalm 51:17


It seems to me that the most important things to God are humility, conviction, service, and love. As Paul says, " If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God." According to Paul, it's not knowledge that matters, but a clean conscience and a heart that loves God. This is what it means to "know" something.

Does that mean that obtaining the right beliefs is not important? Of course not. It simply means that the first and most important thing is to love God with what knowledge one has. In fact, I think that any Christian who is really committed to the Gospel ought to be studying in order to obtain more justified true beliefs all the time. But it's not the detailed doctrinal beliefs that are the most important. It's the basic message of the Gospel: Repentance-- from out-rightly visible sexual sins to the even more disgusting, filthy, and repugnant sin of pride. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Times



I haven't had a favorite song for a long time.

Friday, July 29, 2011

C.S. Lewis and the Meaning of Life

I've been thinking about atheism a lot lately. (don't I always..)  I came upon something interesting in my incredibly selfish introverted thought sessions while I tune everyone else out -- I'm getting a lot better about not doing it, but I still do it..  


I've always thought that if it were found that atheism were true (and I'm of the conviction that atheism can't be known to be true unless one can prove the concept of God as logically contradictory, or if one could say "If God of any kind, then B, not B, therefore no God"), then it would be utterly horrible and that one ought rightly despair if it were found that atheism were true. But now that I think about it more, I'm realizing that Atheism can't even account for our having despair over theism being false (or anything, for that matter!). C.S. Lewis said something similar to it: "Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should have never found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning."
This is incredibly interesting. Lewis, under the assumption that life does have meaning, says that atheism is just too simple in accounting for it. If the ultimate meaning of life is that there is no ultimate meaning, then there is a contradiction there, and atheism is simply false. I agree with this wholeheartedly! But only under the assumption that life has meaning. Yet, if atheism is indeed true, then it's not true that the meaning of life is that life is meaningless. Rather, it's simply that the proposition "atheism is true" corresponds with the ultimate state of affairs. Humans, however, simply cannot live like this-- believing in atheism. We just can't; it's impossible. Human souls devour meaning; we are desperate for some sort of purpose because we simply cannot live without purpose. Yet if atheism were true and we could know it, then we could absolutely not consistently act with despair. That would be irrational. It wouldn't be like crying because you lost your mother; it wouldn't even be like crying because you lost your imaginary friend! It would be like crying because not only did you lose hope and joy, but also because you lost your foundation to identify something as good or bad, or, in other words, crying because there's no reason to cry. It's irrational. Because if atheism were true, it couldn't possibly be bad that atheism were true.  It seems evident that whether atheism is true or not, humans are not designed (whether by the evolutionary process or special creation by God) to be atheistic creatures.   

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Avoiding/healing the wounds of Sexual sin by Confession


I don't remember where I found it, but I recently downloaded a podcast called "Quitting Porn Guy" because it looked like a good group of audio files which would help keep my heart pure from sexual sin while at college. One of the really neat things I found on there was a podcast in which Nate Larkin, one of the guests for an I am Second video, was interviewed about his story of healing from a lifelong addiction to pornography. 


I thought it was an incredible story of healing and God's power through accountability. One of the things that stuck out to me, though, was the fact that guys simply aren't open about their struggles with each other. We're too prideful, or we don't want our sins brought into the light. In James 5 there is an awesome verse that I think needs to be heeded almost religiously: "Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much."

It's inevitable, if you're a guy, that you're going to struggle with intense sexual temptations. But how much more would it help if we formed accountability and prayer groups with each other (especially in college)? I'm definitely planning on doing this at college with my close friends. Our future wives deserve it, God demands it, and our hearts are worth it. Because of this, I want to make a list of reasons why engaging in sexual sin (i.e: pornography, lustful thoughts, sexual activity with someone other than our spouse, etc.) is to be avoided  no matter what the cost. Since I'm a belief driven person, emotions don't seem to have much of a pull on me-- if I'm going to avoid a certain action, there need to be good, solid reasons to avoid it. So here goes: 

1. You're cheating on your future wife every time you look at another girl lustfully.
2. You're taking the enjoyment out of the sexual intimacy you'll enjoy with your wife if you engage in sexual activity before marriage.
3. You can't leave sexual images and memories behind once you get married. They're stuck with you. 
4. Sexual sin prevents you from seeing the truth. It spiritually blinds you. 
5. There is infinite more enjoyment in not being enslaved to sexual sin than the fleeting misery of looking for a new high in an addiction. 
6. If you look at pornography, you're not engaging in sexual intimacy even with the woman on the screen--- you're engaging in intimacy with yourself and your imagination.
7. Sexual sin fills you with shame and self-inhibiting beliefs which prevent you from growing into a whole person.
8. Most miserably, sexual sin prevents you from seeing girls the way they really are: daughters of God who need to be loved for who they really are. 
9. You have a responsibility to build up the hearts of your sisters in Christ (and other girls), and objectifying their bodies will seriously hinder this. So when you think about a girl lustfully in the name of "love" think also about what love really is, and if you're really loving a girl by thinking about her like that. 
10. Sexual sin prevents you from being who you were made to be: free in God's love. 
11. Face it: girls want a guy who is pure, not a pervert. 
12. Sexual sin reveals unmet needs that need to be met by something whole, true, and satisfying. Not porn. Porn will only make you more miserable. 
13. Be a Braveheart. Fight for the hearts of the girls around you. Don't let them get attracted to you, let them get attracted to Jesus who is in you. You need to fight for their hearts-- against mutual lust, against mutual idolatry, against sexual sin. 

I hope these are helpful to any of my guy friends, or even some of my girl friends. These things really should be kept in mind. Sexual sin is blinding, conducive to misery, shame, objectification of HUMAN BEINGS, and many more horrible things. I bid myself and others: wait until marriage. It won't be that much longer (seeing as we're all 20 year old farts). I don't want to get married for a long time though! I am far too immature for marriage. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Featured Blog Posts

I recently looked at the infidels.org site and was overwhelmed by how much anti-theistic literature there is on the internet. I don't think they're right, but I do think they need to be responded to. In my experience of dealing with infidel arguments, I have not found many rigorous arguments which deserve too much attention, but at the same time there are many highly emotionally compelling arguments which are strongholds that simply must be torn down by good philosophy. In light of this, I want to start posting more Christian argumentation and featuring some of my apologist friend's blog posts on a weekly (or so) basis. So here goes!

This is it for this week-- I'll be looking for some more!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Bart Ehrman




Today I want to add a link to a blog called the "Ehrman Project". This blog consists of the work of several Biblical scholars who have responded to the popular former Christian, now agnostic, Bart Ehrman's arguments against the reliability of the New Testament.



Here is the site's self-description:

Dr. Bart Ehrman is raising significant questions about the reliability of the Bible. In an engaging way, he is questioning the credibility of Christianity. His arguments are not new, which he readily admits. Numerous Biblical scholars profoundly disagree with his findings. This site provides responses to Dr. Ehrman's provocative conclusions.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Beloved

"love of my life, deep in my eyes; there you will find what you need.."

"for better or worse, forever we'll be. the love that unites us- its a mystery" 

I have no problem with God being my metaphorical husband, or myself being the bride of Christ. It seems so right. I know it sounds weird. If I, however, were the one wearing the pants in this relationship, there would probably be significant problems ;)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Current Task

What I'm doing right now:

1. Looking for a successful Cosmological argument which relies solely on the B theory of time.
2. Figuring out which theory of time is true.
3. Deciding whether I agree that it's impossible that infinite amounts can exist in reality. Right now I completely disagree that they can be added up to or formed in a temporal becoming sense, but I honestly don't understand set-theory enough to say whether I think an Infinite can exist in reality (the other sub-argument within the Kalam, which can also be applied in Cosmological Arguments. It seems absurd, but first-impression intuition can be deceiving.)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Learning!

I want to post an update since all that confusion I went through a week or two ago and wrote about in the post called, "Where am I". For some reason I feel slightly arrogant putting up updates, as if people were really dying to hear my rambling thoughts, but for anyone who is interested (including the future me, trying to track my spiritual growth!), here goes.

As you'd expect me to say, things have gotten better. I have learned so much in the past couple days. And what's funny is that it didn't really come from book learning-- although I've certainly been studying a lot. It came from sitting and thinking alone; letting my soul deal with itself on its own terms. For too long, I've had hyper skeptical atheist personalities living inside my brain. Since I believe strongly in a good sense of self-criticism when it comes to intellectual beliefs, I always thought it would be good to carry the atheist's opinion with me when I form my beliefs. Unfortunately, since I'm such an emotional person, I never learned how to respectfully disagree! (Seriously, I'm not kidding. This was a real issue haha.)

The result of that set of false beliefs was, unfortunately, that every time the real Evan wanted to rejoice in Christ and put my heart's confidence and hope in him all the more deeply, the devil's advocate atheist Evan would rise up and say, "Whoa now! Think about all these other problems you haven't quite worked out yet! Ooooh, and think of how many Christian-antagonist books you haven't dealt with yet! Think of all the skeptical arguments you haven't refuted-- much more, haven't even read!!"

People wonder why I want to read every book on the face of the earth. That's why. (Well, also because I think some of the best heart knowledge one can find is from books) But now that I've sat down and thought -by myself- without a book in front of my face for a while, I'm starting to think that all this really isn't necessary to know Christianity is true. In fact, I've gotten so obsessed with showing that Christianity is true that I've forgotten I already know it's true! It's important, however, to make a qualification. That doesn't mean there won't be confusion, doubts, despair, REALLY BAD doubts, in fact,  horrifying doubts, misery, etc. It doesn't even mean you'll know which details about Christianity are true. But it's this vague, unshakable conviction that no matter how much intellectual criticism you go through, Jesus will always be the one that saved you. I can't stand doubting, I really can't. I can't wait until the soon approaching period of my life where I spend most of my time helping other people out with their problems in stead of studying and studying to solve my own.

In addition, I've been studying Genesis 1 and 2 every waking minute the past four or five days. I love the Bible and I love those chapters of Genesis. (perhaps the most glorious chapters in the Old Testament!) But I'm also becoming fairly convinced that without a study of historical context, we are WAY out of our bounds in assuming Genesis means what our culture thinks it means. I'll leave it at that-- you can read the rest of the posts on my blog to see what else I've been finding out.

Anyways, I must go. Peace to you all!


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Your Grace is Enough


I love this song. God's grace is so beautiful and praiseworthy. And best of all, it is enough.


Great is Your faithfulness oh God
You wrestle with the sinner's heart
You lead us by still waters in to mercy
And nothing can keep us apart

So remember Your people
Remember Your children
Remember Your promise
Oh God

Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough for me

Great is Your love and justice God of Jacob
You use the weak to lead the strong
You lead us in the song of Your salvation
And all Your people sing along

So remember Your people
Remember Your children
Remember Your promise
Oh God

Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough for me

So remember Your people
Remember Your children
Remember Your promise
Oh God

Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough for me

Your grace is enough
Heaven reaching down to us
Your grace is enough for me
God I see your grace is enough
I'm covered in your love
Your grace is enough for me
For me



Genesis as Temple Cosmology

This is going to be a slightly messy post, but I hope it loads well. There are six videos on Youtube which record a lecture by Dr. John Walton, who is a Professor of Old Testament and Wheaton College. He argues in this lecture that our cultural understanding of Genesis needs to be informed by their own culture, not ours. I'm very much persuaded by his arguments (at least that the Jews understood Genesis completely differently than we would have), and I'm still trying to decide whether Genesis can be interpreted in light of assigning functional purpose and not material origins.



Part 1


Part 2


Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6


A Call to the Truth

Back when I was, for the first time, filled with the Spirit in my freshman year of college, it seemed so unmistakably obvious that Christianity were absolutely true. I wondered how anyone could doubt it! I wondered why anyone would ever put their hope in anything but the strong and faithful arms of Christ. Even though I still think it's obvious that Christianity is true, I can understand why so many people are questioning it in America. Why? Because Christians in America have misrepresented Christianity in so many unfathomable ways! Not only in 1) Morale performance, but also 2) Failure to believe the truth.

We have relied on entirely bad arguments for our faith, we have failed to study historical context and find out what the Bible is actually saying, and have refused to believe the truth because it made us uncomfortable. And even within this set of beliefs we've created for ourselves, we don't follow them as if they were true!!  What percent of American Christians today act as if Christianity is actually true? A very small minority.  We have gorged ourselves on false ideologies for the sake of comfort and then become shocked to discover that the majority of our youth are leaving the church. I'm not shocked myself-- at least not anymore! I'm not saying I'm immune to this at all, but I am saying let's all embrace the words of the Prophet Samuel when he said to Israel, "Only fear the LORD and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you."


Let's all link arms and make our hearts strong by the Holy Spirit, being fearless and willing to believe the truth. After all, it is not the culture which is true, but the truth itself.

Mental Health and Apologetics

My friend Jordan and I were recently talking about making lists of things to remember when studying Christianity so we wouldn't be carried away by emotional (plausible, yet unsound) arguments. One has to be careful to maintain mental health, rationality, and stay encouraged while studying worldviews, or face the consequences of burn out or depression. Here's my list:


1. Arguments and comments need to be looked at solely for their logical substance. I have learned the hard way that just because many atheists are terribly confident that they're right does not at all entail that they are-- although this is the way our emotions run. Remember that all people are desire-driven human beings who have desires to be happy-- no one is exempt. A person could easily believe the wrong world-view because it brings them happiness, not because it is true. That is why airs of confidence and emotional certainty of one's worldview simply cannot be considered when it comes to looking at arguments. Realize that objections to your faith are ideas, not people. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." Ephesians 6:12. Our struggle isn't against people, it's against ideas.


2. Arguments from "personal preference" (coined by Jordan) don't get you anywhere. "God would have done it like this" needs to be an assertion which is supported by evidence, not baseless intuitions. You could sit around all day, saying "Why did God do it this way?" "Why won't God act according to the way I think he should act?" But in the end, God doesn't act in the ways you think He should act, or do things the way you think He should have done them. This is the difference between an Omniscient being and staggeringly non-omniscient beings (humans). We just don't have enough knowledge to be making these kinds of claims. As Stephen Curtis Chapman says in one of his songs, "God is God and I am man. And I'll never understand it all, for only You are God."


3. Just because an idea has arguments against it doesn't mean it is false. In the realm of philosophy, there is absolutely no topic which is left un-critiqued. People even debate whether anything "exists" or not, or whether "truth" exists. There are arguments for and against everything. If it is true that every idea which has arguments against it is false, then nothing is true! So clearly even if an idea is harshly critiqued and considered false by everyone does not necessitate that it is false. It must be judged by the arguments against it and for it.


4. Keep in mind the fact that scholarly circles, consensus agreements, and available evidences shift. I'm not saying that truth shifts, but the evidence available shifts. Does that mean we should all give up and quit trying to pursue truth since we can never be sure about our conclusions? Of course not! Evidence doesn't shift that much! But we need not get discouraged when we think something is true and yet everyone disagrees with us. We also ought to be careful not to simply trust scholarly majorities out of hand, but rather to look at strong evidence and argumentation for ourselves.


5. Flee temptation. If there's anything which prevents us from seeing the truth, it is sin. It's not worth it. Just stay away from behaviors which can cause you to be spiritually blind.


6. Since humans have this odd tendency to assume philosophical naturalism (non-existence of the supernatural) out of hand, be careful that you're not doing the same thing. I'm convinced that, psychologically speaking, it's a pride issue. Since belief in naturalism is absurdly contradictory, think twice before you assume naturalism on grounds of "being rational".

7. Remember the Witness of the Spirit. Like William Lane Craig said, "It is unmistakable, yet not indubitable." This is so, so true. I always thought he was playing around and making stuff up, but experience has confirmed exactly what he said.


8. Beware of making the illogical assumption that the failure of one argument for God implies the failure of all of them. Richard Dawkins and his lot seem to be of the opinion that since Darwin has come up with a possible explanation of all biological life, Christianity is therefore false. But that is illogical and unwarranted. Seek truth, not emotional comfort.


9. Avoid procrastination and get to the point. Failing to do so leads to emotional doubt. For example, if there's one issue that is causing you to doubt Christianity factually, then go straight to that issue and work on it. Don't mosey around the internet looking for arguments for Christianity which will make you feel better. This causes the factual doubts to fester, eventually forcing them to become emotional doubts, which can later become volitional doubts.


10. You need fellowship. Humans do not have the ability to believe the truth by themselves. You need encouragement from friends to be able to stand to arguments from critics. Don't think you're not susceptible to burnout from lack of fellowship.


11. You need to pray. Often it's the most foolish seeming things, in our eyes, that are the most necessary to do. When you're spiritually blind, prayer seems strikingly unnecessary. But that's when you most need it.


I'll add more as they come to me.



Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"Genesis Unbound" Part 2

In these next posts, I'll be unpacking the Arguments Sailhamer uses for his views on Genesis.

Before the arguments begin, a roadblock to believing this view must be removed. Is this view new? Is it possible that all of church history has just totally missed the point of Genesis and now we're finding out what's going on? 

Sailhamer argues that this is not the case. The reason that he calls his view "Historic Creationism" is because he desires to call attention to the fact that many in the past have held to the central elements of his view. 
He shows that before navigation, transportation, and world travel became prevalent, many held to the view that the creation days in Genesis were limited to a local and specific area and not of the whole earth. Also, many Jewish theologians during the Middle Ages believed that Genesis 1:2ff (and following verses) referred to the promised land, not the entire planet. 

Perman quotes Sailhamer:
"these medieval Jewish commentators were followed by some noted Christian scholars. According to John Lightfoote-a widely read biblical exegete, theologian, and a Christian scholar of considerable standing-the Genesis account of creation describes God's preparation of a specific area of land which he identified as the garden of Eden. Lightfoote held that 1:1 states that God created the universe, but from 1:2 through the end of the chapter, the passage focuses on God's preparation of the land that was to be the garden of Eden. Lightfoote's view was developed further by later Christian scholars (216)." [1]
It seems to me [Evan] that the most controversial part of this view will not be that there is an unspecified amount of time between Genesis 1:1-- that seems obvious--, but the question of how the creation days could refer specifically to the Garden of Eden.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Genesis Unbound" Part 1

I'm going to start a series of posts, taking notes on a synopsis of the book, "Genesis Unbound" by John Sailhamer. It is by a gentleman named Matt Perman from the Desiring God blog. "Desiring God" is a ministry of John Piper. What's really funny is that I had always thought John Piper was a young earth creationist, but recently I watched a video in the "Ask Pastor John" Section of the site which shows that he believes an Old Earth is very likely. John Piper very much favors Sailhamer's position on Genesis, and that's what we're going to be talking about on these posts!

In his book, Sailhamer argues that there is a theme intended by the original author, in the creation accounts of Genesis, that modern interpretations of Genesis completely ignore in their assumption that Genesis is speaking about the Creation of the Universe within the "six days". He says that when one reads Genesis as Moses intended his original audience to understand it, all of the tensions between modern science and Genesis instantly vanish. Just as a side note, I've been discovering this as well. There are plenty of "apparent" tensions between the Bible and evidence from science/history/philosophy, etc. But if you read the books of the Bible in a rational way without assuming that the author wrote the Bible specifically to your own culture and without assuming the book is tailored to your own assumptions about the world, suddenly all of these tensions begin to disappear.

From now on, I'll be unpacking the concepts of the article. So this isn't me talking any more:

Today there are generally three camps when it comes to Genesis:

Creationists: Believe that the Universe and the Earth were created in six literal 24-hour days, and thus the Universe and Earth are very young, since humans, who were created on the sixth day, have only been around for 10-20 thousands years. Creationists believe that Modern Science is essentially mislead, and they attempt to provide "Christian evidence" that the earth is young.

Progressive Creationists: Essentially agree with Modern Science that the Earth and the Universe are very old. They argue that the days presented in Genesis are not literal days, but longer ages in which God created the World.

Theistic Evolutionists: Believe the world is old and that God created the world over a long period of Time, then using evolution from a common ancestor to create all biological life.

Historic Creationism: Sailhamer calls his view "Historic Creationism". His view fully acknowledges the inerrancy of the Bible, the literal historicity of the events in Genesis, and rejects evolution.

The Historic Creationist view denies three assumptions that these other views share:
1) That the primary purpose of the first chapters of Genesis is only to describe how God created the world.
2) That the world was a formless mass which God shaped into what it is today.
3) That the "land" being made in the six days is meant to refer to the whole earth.

English Bibles have long distorted the meaning of Genesis because of these assumptions, so Sailhamer goes to the Hebrew to "Unbound" Genesis, and to let the book speak for itself.

Before making any specific arguments, the view is just laid out in its fullness beforehand:

In Genesis 1, there are two great acts of God. The first is the creation of the cosmos, the earth, the planets, the moons, stars, animals, plants, etc. The second is much more limited in scope and time. It is a period where God prepares the "land" for his chosen people. Perman says,"Beginning with Genesis 1:2, the biblical narrative recounts God's preparation of a land for the man and woman He was to create." [1] According to Perman in his review of this book, this is a stunning truth, because in later parts of Genesis where God plans to lead his people into a promised land so that they can live in God's blessings, it is not the first time God has prepared a place for his people.

Here's a larger portion of the text from Perman's article that I think would help communicate this:
"In sum, Sailhamer argues that Genesis 1:1 refers to the creation of the entire universe and that God did so over the period ofan unspecified length of time that could have been one year or fifteen billion years. The text just does not say. Genesis 1:2and following, which recount God's acts during the six days, therefore do not refer to the creation of the universe. They speak of a time after the creation of the universe when God prepared a land (which is the same land later promised to Israel) for Adam and Eve whom he was to create on the sixth day. And the reason that God had to prepare the Garden for Adam and Eve was, among other things, because "the earth [promised land] was formless and void [a deserted wilderness],and darkness was over the surface of the deep" (v. 2)."
Ok, this is me [Evan] again. I have to admit, as I'm studying this (I'm studying this article for the first time as I take these notes), that this seems incredibly counter-intuitive and implausible, and even ad hoc. But as Perman says at this point in the article, "This view is very uncommon to us today and so it will take much defending. The remainder of this analysis will therefore consist mainly in an unfolding of the main arguments for historical creationism."

So with that I finish this post. The rest of the posts will consist of unpacking Sailhamer's arguments with Perman. I'll try my best to write clearly about it.


[1] Perman, Matt. "Science, The Bible, and the Promised Land." Desiring God Blog. Desiring God Ministries, 1998. Web. 12 Jul 2011.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Where am I?

I want to be honest. I'm really struggling with some stuff in my life, and it's not healthy. I want to come back to the truth. All I want is to believe and follow the truth. So far, in my experience, the truth is Jesus.

Even though I am a Christian and I practice (for the most part) spiritual disciplines which bring me closer to God, I believe that I am, in some sense, sitting on the fence still. I believe Jesus is my savior (and boy, has he saved me from some things in my life). But since I went through all kinds of horrid doubts and have started studying philosophy, something in me has changed. It's almost as if intellect, inquiry, and studying has stopped serving as a means towards believing the truth, but rather for being able to look academically respectable and able to refute other people. I know this is not the call of the Christ follower, and thus this needs to stop. But it's gotten to a point where it's really, really hard to budge out of this deadlock.

God: Evan, you continually claim that there is a ton of evidence for me, but you still don't believe in me to the point that you have 100 percent obedience. It's time for you to be obedient in full measure.

Evan: Yes.. But. (Insert some academic question here).


Here's the thing. The questions will never end. I know they wont. I'm a question factory. I can come up with 100 skeptical questions for every intuitional truth that the average human would accept without question. But that doesn't mean the truths are wrong.

I'll be honest. I don't like this, but I'm stuck here. I don't want out, but I know I need to run for dear life out of this rut, before I start to have a bitter heart; supposing I don't already.

Lusting over women is a painful struggle. The merciless contradictions involved with objectifying the very people I am most burdened for are so painful to me. Shame, guilt, and despair are hovering over me like a unrelenting rain-cloud that just won't go away.

Pride over just.. being right and viewed as a good and.. academically respectable person. It's making me into someone who seeks man's approval and not God's.

If it were just an evidential problem, then that would be fine; and some of this is evidential problems-- (i.e., realizing that there is an atheistic objection to one of my favorite arguments for theism that I haven't heard of). Yes, this all will be solved in good time. I don't even believe Christianity on the basis of solely arguments, but the witness of the Holy Spirit.

This cannot be a chase after being approved, but rather believing the truth.


So with regards to this, I need prayer. I need your help, if you read this. Pray that my struggles with pride and lust will be overcome by the power of Christ. I covet your support.

---UPDATE-- 7/14/2011
I'm doing much better. I realized I needed to actually read my Bible, pray, and make friends with the Holy Spirit again. Thank you, anyone who prayed for me.

Friday, July 8, 2011

everything will make sense in due time...  until then, this crushing feeling will be my friend.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Really?

It's when I sit here late at night, reading the Word or listening to music. That's when I just get filled with wonder. Is it really true that a man on a cross has bought me freedom and life, and God.. forever? This is beyond words. This is amazing.

Is it really, really true? God, giving me His life?  The creator of all, chosing me for eternal salvation, apart from any and all of my own merit...  wow. Truly, truly this is, as it is called, "such a great salvation".

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Ways are Higher than Yours

I want to quickly right down this thought while it is lucid in my mind:

I wish someone had taught me this earlier, because not realizing it before-hand has caused me a significant amount of emotional pain.

This is going to be a little exercise in epistemology. Let me define terms: Epistemology is the study of what we know. It is a field which asks the questions that not everyone likes to ask, like, "How do we know this, or that?" and, "What does it mean to know something", etc..   A proposition is something which is simply a statement about reality which can be true or false. For example, "There is a dog in my basement." is a proposition. It depends on whether there is a dog in your basement or not if it's a true proposition! Propositions can be replaced by Letters. For example, I could call the earlier mentioned proposition "P" and refer to it as P) from now on.

What we do with propositions is take a stance towards them-- an stance about the truth of the proposition. I can either believe proposition A), I can believe A) is not true, and I can simply withhold belief since both A) and not-A) are equally justified.  One is called belief, the other is called belief in the negation of the formerly mentioned proposition. The last is called agnosticism. By the way, shame on any atheists who claim that atheism is simply a "lack of belief" in God. That's agnosticism.

Anyways. When it comes to believing a certain proposition, there are reasons to believe it and there are reasons not to believe it. If there are more and better reasons to believe a proposition than to believe it is false, then you should believe the proposition. For example, even if Christianity were 51% likely to be true and 49% likely to be false, we would be required to believe it over the contradictory, "Christianity is false."

Now to the main point! If there are good, solid reasons to believe that God exists and that Jesus rose from the dead, then that makes Christianity very likely to be true. Unfortunately it can't positively prove it-- but think about it: you can't even positively prove that the external world exists.

For example, the resurrection.
Either the (Hallucination theory, Disciples stole the body theory, Survival on the Cross theory, Myth/Embellishment theory, or the Resurrection theory) is true. Everything except the resurrection theory is very unlikely.

Now, just because the resurrection is the best historical explanation of the events surrounding the crucifixion and appearance of Jesus after his death doesn't mean that it's been positively proved. The very logical possibility that we could be wrong entails that it's not 100% proved. But it is by far more likely than the resurrection not being true. And even if a supernatural bodily resurrection did happen. Does that necessarily imply that Christianity is true? Much to my aggravation, no, actually! Because it's logically possible that an Evil God raised Jesus from the dead to fool us all! But how likely is that? Very, very unlikely. So the evidence for the resurrection makes Christianity far more likely to be true than anything else. But you could never prove it 100% (nor can you prove anything 100% except your own existence.)

 We should then believe that Christianity is true since it is far more likely to be true than to not be true. But suppose that there are problems with Christianity. Not even problems, really, but things that don't make sense. Like original sin, or hell, or evil, or problems with the Bible which archaeological research has not found an answer to (or shows evidence contrary to).  Does that mean that we should then ditch Christianity as a worldview? Of course not.  I remember so many cases of where the Bible's critics found some sort of historical evidence against the Bible only to be silenced in later years by evidence which was just discovered. There was once a professor who claimed that the New Testament was myth simply because in his studies of antiquity around the time of Jesus crucifixion, the only evidence pointed to the fact that those who were crucified were tied to the cross with ropes, not nailed by their hands and feet like the Bible claims Jesus was.  Only years later, in ancient Jerusalem a family tomb was discovered where the male father had been crucified with his hands and feet nailed to the cross. That objection disappeared.

So, my main point is that simply because there are potential problems or things that don't make sense doesn't mean that we should therefore toss a whole worldview. We must approach our investigations as to what is true taking into consideration how little we truly know about the world as compared to what God knows. If the way God did things seems blatantly unjust or wrong to you, perhaps its because God knows everything and you know next to nothing. 

"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:9

These are a few verses which I've seriously had to consider recently. What problems with Christianity have I been experiencing of late? None, really. I've just been thinking about the nature of justification of beliefs and realized this, whereas I used to take arguments in isolation.