Saturday, September 13, 2014

CSC Phyllis Tickle - 6/5/14





I've read her two books on Emergence and viewed/listened to several of her youtube videos.  This is the best produced video.  Sound is crisp and clear.  Very enjoyable.  The occasion was the Thomas Olbricht Christians Scholars Conference held on the campus of Lipscomb University.  I think that in general outline her observation that Christianity goes through upheaval every 500 years and we are on the cusp of a new one is valid, whether or not the term Emergence continues.  A change in mode of communication changes how people think and act.  The Reformation/Enlightenment followed the printing press and universal literacy.  Our digital era is now changing us.  She talks about some of the changes going on, noting how the younger generations already think differently than us oldsters.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Brian McLaren Interview: We Make the Road by Walking





 I enjoy listening to Brian McLaren when I'm on the road and driving a long distance. Here is one of his latest videos. He speaks with a couple from the Raven Foundation. They seek to explore and apply Rene Girard's mimetic theory of violence. And Brian has been studying that as well.  It is something that I want to learn more about.  Mimetic violence is what killed Jesus.  I see it in action in our contemporary world as well.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

After the Future: Grace in the Wilderness

After the Future: Grace in the Wilderness

Because this is the difference between the Nietzschean and the Christian. For the first, the world is radically open-ended and any human future is a possibility. The Christian would also acknowledge that because humans are no longer fated by the gods and determined by outside forces in the way they were, that a wide range of futures is a possibility, but however it is attained the future has a goal, a telos,  an Omega point.  And the striving toward that endpoint is what gives meaning and significance to what we do now. 

Underlining is my emphasis

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sack cartoon: Climate-change denial | Star Tribune

Sack cartoon: Climate-change denial | Star Tribune




Deviant and Proud

Last night I stopped by the site of George Monbiot, an author who writes for the Guardian in the UK.  I was thinking to myself that I had not been there in a number of months.  He's a thoughtful guy.  I was so glad I did as he provides a critique of what is called neoliberalism in Europe which he interprets as free market fundamentalism.  Below is much but not all of the article.  Please go the site and read the whole thing.  I have never bought the idea that unfettered greed is good.  I admit there is value in competition but can't believe it stands by itself as the key to everything.  

Do you feel left out? Perhaps it’s because you refuse to succumb to the competition, envy and fear neoliberalism  breeds

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 6th August 2014 
To be at peace with a troubled world: this is not a reasonable aim. It can be achieved only through a disavowal of what surrounds you. To be at peace with yourself within a troubled world: that, by contrast, is an honourable aspiration. This column is for those who feel at odds with life. It calls on you not to be ashamed. 
I was prompted to write it by a remarkable book, just published in English, by a Belgian professor of psychoanalysis, Paul Verhaeghe(1). What About Me?: The Struggle for Identity in a Market-Based Society is one of those books that, by making connections between apparently distinct phenomena, permits sudden new insights into what is happening to us and why. 
We are social animals, Verhaeghe argues, and our identity is shaped by the norms and values we absorb from other people. Every society defines and shapes its own normality – and its own abnormality – according to dominant narratives, and seeks either to make people comply or to exclude them if they don’t.
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The same forces afflict those who can’t find work. They must now contend, alongside the other humiliations of unemployment, with a whole new level of snooping and monitoring. All this, Verhaeghe points out, is fundamental to the neoliberal model, which everywhere insists on comparison, evaluation and quantification. We find ourselves technically free but powerless. Whether in work or out of work, we must live by the same rules or perish. All the major political parties promote them, so we have no political power either. In the name of autonomy and freedom we have ended up controlled by a grinding, faceless bureaucracy. 
These shifts have been accompanied, Verhaeghe writes, by a spectacular rise in certain psychiatric conditions: self-harm, eating disorders, depression and personality disorders. Of the personality disorders, the most common are performance anxiety and social phobia; both of which reflect a fear of other people, who are perceived as both evaluators and competitors, the only roles for society that market fundamentalism admits. Depression and loneliness plague us. The infantilising diktats of the workplace destroy our self-respect. Those who end up at the bottom of the pile are assailed by guilt and shame. The self-attribution fallacy cuts both ways(5): just as we congratulate ourselves for our successes,we blame ourselves for our failures, even if we had little to do with it. 
So if you don’t fit in; if you feel at odds with the world; if your identity is troubled and frayed; if you feel lost and ashamed, it could be because you have retained the human values you were supposed to have discarded. You are a deviant. Be proud.
www.monbiot.com 

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Antarctic and Greenland Ice Mass Change

I downloaded data from this NASA site and plotted it up.  I combined the data into one plot as shown below.  Data is from the Grace Satellite and here is the reference.

Quoted from the NASA site:
Data from NASA's Grace satellites show that the land ice sheets in both Antarctica and Greenland are losing mass. The continent of Antarctica ... has been losing more than 100 cubic kilometers (24 cubic miles) of ice per year since 2002.

Along the same lines, here's an article Putting Antarctica Sea Ice Loss Into Perspective.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Creation Has Not Stopped

In recent years I’ve been reading John Haught and Ilia Delio.  They are associated wth Georgetown University and each has written several  books that take seriously the writings of Teilhard du Chardin and seek to interpret and build on what he said.  The first quote is from a John Haught book, Deeper Than Darwin, and the remainder from a compilation of different authors, including John and Delia, titled From Teilhard to Omega: Co-creating an Unfinished Universe.  Of course these are things I’ve highlighted and then downloaded from my Kindle and the Highlight locations are given. I find these writings comforting and exciting.

Deeper Than Darwin: The Prospect For Religion In The Age Of Evolution (John Haught)
- Highlight Loc. 785-86 | Added on Saturday, May 17, 2014, 06:03 AM 
By our best  reckoning, the universe is a story in the process of being told. Evolutionary  narrative clearly implies that the cosmos is still coming into being.
 From Teilhard to Omega: Co-creating an Unfinished Universe (Ilia Delio)
- Highlight Loc. 184-87 | Added on Wednesday, May 21, 2014, 07:12 AM 
He found the basis for spiritual renewal in the awareness that “creation has never stopped.” “The creative act,” he concluded, “is one huge continual gesture, drawn out over the totality of time. It is still going on; and incessantly even if imperceptibly, the world is constantly emerging a little farther above nothingness” (PU 120–21).
 From Teilhard to Omega: Co-creating an Unfinished Universe (Ilia Delio)
- Highlight Loc. 203-4 | Added on Wednesday, May 21, 2014, 07:17 AM 
With rare exceptions, Christian thought has not yet looked carefully at the dramatic implications of evolutionary biology and astrophysics for our understanding of God and the world.
 From Teilhard to Omega: Co-creating an Unfinished Universe (Ilia Delio)
- Highlight Loc. 272-74 | Added on Thursday, May 22, 2014, 10:34 PM 
Lack of interest by theologians in the new scientific cosmic story only weakens their intellectual opposition to the current academic cult of cosmic pessimism. Cosmic pessimism is the belief that nature has no purpose and that whatever meaning exists in the world is our own human creation. the ancient Hebrew discovery of the future can hardly object.

From Teilhard to Omega: Co-creating an Unfinished Universe (Ilia Delio)
- Highlight Loc. 313-15 | Added on Saturday, May 24, 2014, 07:31 AM
 Those who dwell within a worldview rooted in the motifs of promise and hope will rightly suspect that Platonic, Aristotelian, Thomistic, and most modern philosophies have blunted the futuristic edge and thrust of early Christian life and thought. 
From Teilhard to Omega: Co-creating an Unfinished Universe (Ilia Delio)
- Highlight Loc. 321-23 | Added on Saturday, May 24, 2014, 07:33 AM
 A sense of darkness, a realization that the intelligibility we seek is always partly obscured by shadows, is inevitable in any universe that is still in via. As long as the universe is not yet fully actualized it cannot possibly be fully intelligible to those who journey along with it (CE, 79–86; 131–32).

From Teilhard to Omega: Co-creating an Unfinished Universe (Ilia Delio)
- Highlight Loc. 324-25 | Added on Saturday, May 24, 2014, 07:34 AM
 Like truth, intelligibility is something for which we must wait, since—if it is to be a continuous source of nourishment—we can never possess it.

From Teilhard to Omega: Co-creating an Unfinished Universe (Ilia Delio)
- Highlight Loc. 351-52 | Added on Saturday, May 24, 2014, 07:40 AM
 That is, contemporary physicalism and its attendant cosmic pessimism are based on the uncritical belief that only through breaking things down into their subordinate parts can we finally satisfy the human craving to understand the world.

From Teilhard to Omega: Co-creating an Unfinished Universe (Ilia Delio)
- Highlight Loc. 385-86 | Added on Saturday, May 24, 2014, 08:10 AM
 it leads Christian educators and ministers to ignore both the dramatic, emergent character of the universe and the promissory thrust of biblical faith.

From Teilhard to Omega: Co-creating an Unfinished Universe (Ilia Delio)
- Highlight Loc. 398-99 | Added on Saturday, May 24, 2014, 08:13 AM
 Teilhard’s search for a grounding of solidity and consistency, therefore, led him eventually to claim that the universe leans on the future as its true foundation (AE, 139, 239).

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A New Church

We have been in the Memphis area, Collierville actually, since last September.  This is the longest I've ever gone in my life not affiliated with a particular church.  I have visited 11 churches so far.  Only five have been of the Churches of Christ which is my heritage and where I've been all my life.  It has been interesting seeing how others handle their worship.  We've been to traditional and contemporary.  Conservative and liberal. What I don't like about the contemporary ones is that they are basically concerts and you sit or stand passively.  Some of the time no one or just a few people in the pews will sing along.  When there is congregational singing, often the instrumentation drowns out the singing.   Another thing I noticed is how the services are more complicated.  There may be a march into the auditorium by participants all dressed up, maybe carrying a banner.  There is reading and response by the crowd.  There is more popping up and down than I'm used to.    After all these years reading about mainline Protestant liberal churches, it was a surprise to see how much they talk about their love for God and Jesus and what God has done for them and how Jesus is important.  

I've been wondering about what kind of church I might invent if I could.  Here are some off the cuff thoughts. It would be on Friday or Saturday night so as not to interfere with Sunday churches.

The Mysteries of the Universe Church 
1.  Welcome to everyone and a few announcements.  Background music is played but not loudly.  Instrumental contemporary but not obtrusive.  Something that builds up and leads one to think that something good will be coming along. 5 minutes. 
2.  A short message and video that relates to Art and Beauty.  10 to 15 minutes 
3.  A short message and/or video that will be known as the Science Moment.  5 to 10 minutes.
A break to visit.  5 to 10 minutes 
4.  A message from our Christian and Spiritual Heritage and History.  This may be the closest thing to a sermon.  A Biblical passage may be highlighted or a story from subsequent Christian History.  10 to 15 minutes. 
5.  Practical News and Service.  What has everyone learned this week that we can use.  Some new health tip, recipe, investment advice, shopping recommendation, whatever.  Discussion about how to help others and status of various projects.  5-10 minutes 
6.  Food .  Not sure if to do a meal or snack.  
Need to add music in between segments.  External and participatory.

Friday, July 04, 2014

The Point of Writing

I have not been writing enough lately.  Been to London, UK and Raleigh, NC recently.  Lot going on.  Still getting settled with our new life here just outside of Memphis.  Need to get back to this.  Why write?  I took on my trip and read on the plane over the Atlantic Kevin Hart's book titled "Postmodernism".  Originally read it five or so years ago. Here's a nugget.  Kevin is describing what Maurice Blanchot said:

he declared that the point of writing is not self-expression but meeting risks that will change the writer.

and a few sentences later.....

In outline, the claim is not a new one:  St. Augustine testifies in one of his letters that he comes upon new ideas only by writing.

Even in my technical writing, I find this is true.  One takes data and in the act of analyzing and gathering up background and supporting information, one always learns.  I enjoy that exploration.
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I was in London on business but did have time to stop by the British Museum to see the Rosetta Stone and other wonderful ancient things.



Thursday, May 08, 2014

James Joyce Quote

I loved this James Joyce quote that popped up on my screen a few days ago.  

“The spirit which proceeds out of truth and beauty is the holy spirit of joy. These are realities and these alone give and sustain life.”


Hit me at just the right time.  Noticed on David Dark's Facebook post of his article at the web site On Faith.  The article is titled, "Top Ten Reasons We Are Glad a Catholic Colbert is taking over Letterman's Late Show". 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The End of Apologetics Chapter 4 - The Politics of Witness

"We are not going to be able to reason ourselves back to paradise."

That is one of the closing sentences from Penner's book The End of Apologetics.  The book as a whole is a critique of using an over reliance on expert reasoning as the primary means of combating skepticism and atheism in defense Christianity. 
 
"... I cannot use the objective truths of Christianity to tear down others and think that I am thereby communicating the truth of the gospel."

He looks to the prophets for example of effective, fitting and appropriate witness:
"What is also true of prophets, then, is that while they challenge and even speak against their traditions, they are also more deeply committed to them than those who are comfortable in the status quo.  It is precisely because they are so committed to their tradition and believe in its deepest impulses that prophets sometimes attack it.  The prophetic call is always to a deeper fidelity to the founding event of the tradition, but not in such a way that controls it or even tries to make it into a univocal, monochromatic tradition."

And he looks to Paul whose approach is an example for us of what prophetic witness should be. 

"Paul engages believers and unbelivers, Jews and Greeks, men and women, slaves and free, all patiently and carefully in terms of their concrete, particular identities within the context of their actual situations.  He lives with those to whom he preaches.  He eats with them.  He works and worships with them.  Consequently, his theological categories do not blind him to the particularities of those to whom he witnesses - to the point where Paul does not even think of others in terms of a "universal human condition,"  Paul's preaching calls the people of the nations not to be conformed to the theological categories he inherited from Jewish orthodoxy (e.g., "circumcision"), but to faithful confession of Jesus as Lord within their cultural forms, whatever they may be.  It is as if for Paul, as missiologist Andrew Walls observes, Christianity "has no fixed cultural element" and is therefore "infinitely transferable."  For not only can the Christian gospel be translated into new cultural and linguistic thought forms, but given the missionary imperative explicit in Paul's letters (and the entire biblical narrative", there is a sense in which the truth of the gospel requires this kind of translation:  'It is as though Christ himself actually grows through the work of mission.'"

And this, after Penner has initiated the chapter by conveying that the social dimension of Christian witness and states that "edification is taken to be the primary act of witness." 

In closing out my comments about this interesting and, for me, difficult book, I direct your attention below to a page from The Book of Knowledge Encyclopedia 1952 edition.  I grew up with this set and it helped to form me.  This page shows the development of the pen from Roman times to the middle of the last century.  You see that it has changed drastically as the medium upon which it writes has changed.  This is a metaphor for Christian witness and even for Christian belief, in my opinion.  Change will happen and we do not help ourselves if we become obsessed with using exclusively the tools that have outlived their usefulness. 


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Truth Is That Which Edifies


From Chapter 4 "Witness and Truth" of The End of Apologetics, Penner says:

The modern concern with truth marks a sharp departure from the premodern focus on natural substances that make the world what it is and, in turn, make it possible for our words or thoughts about them to be true.  It is because things are already true to themselves that premoderns believe we can perceive, think, or talk about them truly.  Prior to modernity, just as with reason and rationality, it is the cosmos and its being - the it is - that make our thoughts and our words about it possible.  It is because things have forms or essences that are identical to themselves, as it were, that our minds and our words can ever have any thruth in them.  This is not the case, however, for moderns who reject the old-world cosmology.  Modern thinkers tend to believe that our thoughts and statements can be true when the things we speak and think about are self-evidently the same as our words and thoughts.

We are at the beginning of a new era where we are moving beyond this modern way of doing truth.  It seems to work well when trying to do science and technology.  This is the domain of simple inanimate things or simple biological creatures.  When it involves creatures with consciousness then things get sticky.  How we know or think we know truth matters.  Penner suggests we move from a "correspondence" theory of truth, the modern conception, to consider that truth is that which edifies.

When we speak about edification and witness, we are never talking about a purely private relation to anything......There is something of an intrapersonal and public element to truth, and because we are social beings, the edification of an individual person necessarily takes place within a community of other persons wo share (very nearly) the same commitments, values, and vocabularies.  



Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Is Reality Ironic?

Irony generally involves an incongruity between how we act in, talk about, or think about a situation and the usual expectations for that situation - between what is formally presented in a statement or situation and what is obviously true about it.   
The above is another quote from Chapter 3 of The End of Apologetics by Myron Penner.  For some things irony is the best way to communicate.  Irony is indirect.  Jesus ministry is full of the indirect.  He often uses reverse wisdom like in "the first shall be last".  Have you ever wished that Jesus would just come right out and say it sometimes.  Why did he use parable?  Are you or aren't you?  Speak to us with what we think are words of common sense. Say it like it is?   But he often does not.  He replies with a question or story.  His life was the ultimate irony.  God and Man.

This is the supreme irony, as Kierkegaard would say: that God was a human being and there were people who lived with him, spoke with him, ate with him, and heard him speak, and yet did not realize they were in the presence of God.......God, to put it another way, is a master ironist whose Word comes to us in a form that is not directly identical to the message.

I don't seem to be able to bring anything up inside me so I continue to quote.

The nature of reality, the world, and God himself is such that truthful speech about them - the kind of speech that communicates what is most important - ultimately is ironic.  

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Chapter 3 of The End of Apologetics - How We Believe

Chapter 3 starts out with the author and a professional acquaintance who has lost his faith.  They are having lunch.  Though he has lost his faith, it is with regrets and he realizes he desires a return to it in some manner. He is open to receiving help in this regard.  Along come two young Christian apologists who figuratively bash him over the head and punch him in the gut with their supposedly rational and unyielding arguments.  What do you think happens?  Instant conversion?  Nope.  Did they help?  

No.  According to Myron, belief should not be just rationally coherent but it also must be existentially coherent.  It is not enough or even required that we have an airtight, logical, scientific, philosophically sophisticated up-to-date justification.

Myron next considers the apostles and the prophets.  Do Amos and Jeremiah provide crafty knock'em out arguments?  No, they proclaim a direct message for the specific audience that is what they need to hear, what they need to do, and appeals to what they are doing and acting out.  That is prophetic speech.  Myron says:


"faith is tied to often-unacknowledged background values, assumptions and practices that give shape to our perspectives and meaning to our lives."  
"When I witness, I do not take up a self-centered, asymmetrical stance closed off to the needs, wants, desires, goals, dreams, story, or insights of the person to whom I witness."
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Sidebar:  This brings to my mind one reason it has been so hard for many people to accept the overwhelming evidence that we humans by our actions are affecting the climate and that the buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere and ocean is something to have great concern about.  On the one hand I recognize that climate science is difficult and complex.  It has taken awhile for the story to unfold and there is much more to be learned.  There are legitimate questions on various aspects.  But the above also tells me that no amount of science however good is going to convince those who have a perceived existential investment in it being wrong.  In the long run, I think it is an erroneous perception.
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Myron also asks what is the purpose of belief anyway?  According to him, there is a purpose and that is to build the person up.  It is to edify.  
To put it another way, when we take prophetic speech as the basis for apologetic witness, we move from an abstract epistemology of belief to an ethics of belief.  When I speak of an ethics of belief, I mean a focus not just on what one believes but also on how one believes.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

More Quotes From Chapter Two of the End of Apologetics


Here are some quotes from Chapter Two.

One of the serious problems for modern apologetics is that it treats Christianity as if it were an objective "something" (e.g., a set of propositions or doctrines) that can be explained, proven, and cognitively mastered.
Well, Christianity does seem to have some of that, propositions and doctrines, but I am coming around to a belief that Christianity is not one thing but a moving, shape-shifting, adaptive, progressing, thing that is growing and changing with those who live in it.
Kierkegaard's favorite response is to point out that being a Christian is far less a matter of knowing the truth than that of becoming the truth - that is, of being truly rather than thinking truly
Everyone would agree with this.  It seems that one should be able to figure things out mentally.  The Enlightenment inside me would agree with this.  But this statement does not support that.  One can only know the true if one practices truly. There is something about that which rings true.  I can intuit that but I wish I knew better how to put it in words, coming up with a rational explanation for it.
In order to accommodate this, we will need to shift from an epistemological approach to something like a hermeneutical one.
The next quote expands on this.  We have a text and a tradition that we have received.  It is a reality that is here and now.  Myron says that it is the Word from God.
The pressing issue is not solving an abstract set of theoretical problems but interpreting the symbols and texts of a received tradition in order to understand their meaning and significance in relation to a concrete set of problems and exigencies that we encounter.
This is how many Jewish thinkers have approached the scriptures through the centuries and that now makes a lot more sense to me than it did when I was younger.
Reason is useful to us when employed to understand where and how we live, but is "suspended" (or limited) in this paradigm, as it does not plumb the depths of reality, nor is it capable of functioning as a context-free judge or standard for human belief and action.
Important to the developing narrative in Myron's book is that "reason" is limited.  It has a gaping wound. He says in one place.
We are in some respects, then, caught between the rock of modernity and the hard place of the premodern worldview.  Premodernity, with its hierarchical universe and naive picture of the world, is simply no longer viable, but we are also far too aware of the problems of the modern paradigm to find its program tenable.  A shift to a hermeneutical approach to Christian faith, like the kind I propose, carefully negotiates faith in reference to the texts and traditions out of which we hear the apostles and prohets speak.

Next to chapter 3

Friday, February 14, 2014

Thoughts on Chapter 2 of The End of Apologetics: Apologetics, Suspicion, and Faith

This was the most difficult chapter to comprehend and summarize.  Here Penner draws from S. Kierkegaard for an insight and critique of our present situation.  In the time before the modern era, that is, before the Reformation, appeal to tradition and supernatural revelation provided the guidance and authority for how things are to be done and life is to be lived.  Kierkegaard observed even in his time, the mid-nineteenth century, that this had changed and this was replaced by something he called "genius" though Penner states that what K is getting at may better for us be described as "expertise".  And K looks to someone different than that, one whom he calls an "apostle", one who is called and who appeals not to reason but to revelation.  To quote Penner

The apostolic message does not have authority because it is demonstrably rational or exceptionally brilliant but because it is a word from God.  God's word does not come to us as the result of human calculation or brilliance and cannot be improved upon, nor will it ever become obsolete.  The truths of revelation are not realities humans will inevitably discover through their research projects, nor will they be able to assimilate them into their collective potential.  

Aside #1.  It is not discussed in this chapter how we know what is revelation and what is not.  That is not the subject here but is a question I had.  I think it is indirectly addressed later.

Aside #2.   I'm thinking that in K's day and even way far back in the mid-twentieth century when I was starting out, there were fewer experts and they were held in higher respect and awe than today.  Right here and now everyone is a specialist in something.  We recognize that we have to call on experts every day for help to fix our car, plan our finances, cure our ailments, buy and sell a house, choose our paint, etc. To keep a job we all have to become experts in something,   For this reason, in our current situation we do not ascribe the same respect that earlier generations of the modern period did to the smart, the intelligent, the expert.  And when we are in our right mind, we do not accept everything the expert tells us without asking questions and making sure we communicate with each other properly and that there are no hidden agendas or misunderstandings.  Life has become so complicated and there are so many possibilities and contingencies that it is best if we partner with the expert and develop a relationship when possible.

Now back to the book, Penner recounts that for Kierkegaard,

the claims of revelation are what Kierkegaard describes as a "paradox" to human reason, because they seemingly eclipse the rational reach of any human epistemic community - yet, as genuine truth claims, they are not utter nonsense to reason either.

Penner states that reason is always conditioned and that it ultimately, because of sin, deteriorates to an ideology because of the spirit of the times, the age, the crowd.  Human reason often turns out to be the product of bias and prejudice and a battle of power relations. That is basically the postmodern critique, that reason has no external reference point, there is no absolutely fair and unbiased location from which to stand and announce the absolute truth.  Penner connects this to nihilism and that others like Nietsche and K saw this coming.

The problem that both Penner and Kierkegaard have with modern apologetics is that it bases apologetics on secular reason and "genius" to ground the faith.  They are on the same page with the new atheists, playing the same game and with the same drawbacks.  It devalues what it is trying to prove.

The paradoxical result of the modern apologetic defense of Christianity, then is that when God's existence is established according to modern secular reason, all that really is demonstrated is the dispensability of anything that resembles belief in God.........so belief must be coaxed and cajoled from the crowd in terms they find acceptable and appealing.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Thoughts on Chapter 1 of The End of Apologetics

Here are some quotes from Chapter One, Apologetic Amnesia of The End of Apologetics by Myron Penner.

Philosophical modernism and the Enlightenment is marked by an attempt to free human thought from its dependence on external sources - such as traditions, assumptions, or other authorities - for the grounds of belief.
...
In the modern philosophical paradigm, then reason forms what I will call the "objective-universal-neutral complex".  ....No longer is reason thought of as the structuring feature of the world external to the human mind, as in the premodern view.  Instead, reason is internal to (and possessed only by) human beings in a way that is universal, objective, and neutral.
...
It is true that postmodern perspectives usually understand human consciousness and rationality as the product of the cultural, social, linguistic, psychological, and other historical forces at work in a person's concrete situation.
.....
For my part, I believe postmodernism functions as a genuine critique of modernity and its atheistic impulses.  This means that postmodernism has a relative value to Christians who are trying to think in different categories than the inherited modern values and assumptions that shape our culture. 

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Postmodernism makes the point which is undeniable to me that we are deeply dependent on our environment and personal history etc.  Up until ten years ago, I still held to the belief that a person could, if they were disciplined and honest enough, be objective and neutral.  I still think that is what a person should try to be.  It is a goal to strive toward.  It seems to me that to a large extent science, engineering and technology are based on it.  To properly practice these one has to do that.  If you design a bridge or a medical device and it does not work properly it could lead to human suffering on the part of others as well as oneself.  Such consequences aid mental honesty and discipline.  When it comes to religion and politics however, one can state just about any thing and there are no direct consequences of this type.  It seems there are financial and personal incentives to do and say almost anything from whichever perspective, however extreme. 

Sunday, February 02, 2014

The End of Apologetics

We are finally settled in to our new home and now I'm ready to resume blogging as a useful form of discipline.  I have been reading "The End of Apologetics;  Christian Witness in a Postmodern World" by Myron Penner.  Gave it to myself for Christmas and am reading it a second time.  When I read books that involve postmodernism I usually think as I go that I comprehend it, or most of it, and am ready for the next one.  But I have always realized that when I'm laying awake at night in my bed and I rehearse the arguments and thinking, I cannot explain it to myself satisfactorily.  The few times I've attempted to communicate to close friends and family, I haven't been able to do it as well as I wanted.  It is my new year's resolution to improve upon this.  Hence my second time through this book I'm underlining important points because it helps me when going back and forth.  I may go through it a 3rd time. 

By the phrase 'the end of apologetics', Penner means that the main approach to apologetics that is advertised, marketed, and conducted through debates and in books is misguided.  To quote:

So it is that many attempts to articulate the reasonableness of Christian faith in our context paradoxically end up doing something different than defending genuine Christianity.

I agree.  I did not find them helpful when I was in college and undergoing a change in my thinking.  In my twenties I read Francis Schaeffer and heard Josh McDowell but did not find in them what I'd hoped.  C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity was the best thing but it was not enough to satisfy my struggles.  

Penner goes back to the mid-19th century Christian writer, Soren Kierkegaard, for guidance and builds upon his insights.  Kierkegaard diagnosed some of the same problems even in his day and time.  An aside here, it is my impression that K is written off by many conservative/evangelical Christians because he is identified as an existentialist and is hence basically wrong.  I was briefly introduced to K in the spring of 1971 when I took a Philosophy of Religion course at Harding University.  We discussed him and I remember the teacher saying that reading him was a boring and good for putting one to sleep.  That colored my thinking about K till the last decade.  I still haven't tackled his writings but his name and influence keep coming up in meaningful and insightful things I'm reading. I keep coming across pithy quotes that capture and convey wonderful insights.  And then he provides inspiration for wonderful books such as this one. 

I'll close this post with another quote from the introduction.

I begin by noting that the goal of traditional apologetics is to justify the objective truth of the propositions of Christian doctrine.  Christianity, the "essentially Christian," is therefore assumed, implicitly or explicitly, to be captured in these propositions.  The Christian truths defended by such modern apologetics are taken to be ahistorical, unsituated, abstract, and universal.  I then use Kierkegaard's concept of truth as subjectivity to launch a critique on apologetic propositionalism and to provide an alternative way to think about Christian truth. 


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Apocatastasis - An Interesting Article

I came across an interesting article titled "Apocatastasis in Patristic Theology" by John R. Sachs, S. J. published in Theological Studies 54(4), 617-640, 1993.  Here is a link to the pdf file.  Apocatastasis is related to the concept of the restoration of all things and is connected to the concept of universal salvation.  He says:
Within the limits of Catholic "orthodoxy" what is encouraged by most is a strong and active hope that all will be saved.
I take this to mean that it is perceived that there is a possibility that this is the case and it is approved to believe in this possibility.
To some, such a change in perspective may seem to be merely another example of modernity's relentless dilution of the gospel, a superficial optimism that refuses to acknowledge the power of evil in our world and our responsibility for it. In fact an ancient Christian instinct or sensibility for the power of divine grace, precisely in the face of the grim reality of human evil, lies at the hear of this "new" attitude.
John gives the examples of Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and two of the Cappadocian fathers and indicates there are others.  He says that 
According to Clement, God's absolute goodness implies that punishment can only have a pedagogical, purifying, and healing function, not only in this life, but after death as well. God does not take vengeance, for that would be simply to return evil for evil. But in loving providence God "chastens with a view to the good" of all, much as a father or teacher disciplines a child.
With regard to Origen, according to Wikipedia, though he has been considered through the ages to have been a proponent of this, recent analysis of his extant writings are not conclusive. Nonetheless, John shows that Origen wrote much that provides support for this outlook.  I suppose he was wrestling with the cruelty of everlasting punishment and his views evolved over his lifetime and that assuming a consistency of thought on his part does not capture the situation. How did Origen engage the usual passages regarding punishment of Hell's fire?  According to John:
Can such a fire really burn eternally? The answer to this question is of central importance for understanding Origen on the subject of apocatastasis. A number of different perspectives emerge in his thought. First, simply with respect to the word and concept of the eternal, Origen often notes the ambiguity of the word "eternal," pointing out that aiôn and aiönios can mean duration without end or simply a very long period of time, an "age" or an "aeon," which would have an end. 
This is a topic I come back to from time to time.  That's it for now.  




Wednesday, October 23, 2013

While Unpacking Books at Our New Home - Thoughts from Hermann Hesse

After six weeks of living with family, we are finally in our home in Collierville, TN and we unpacking and arranging things.  I've kept some of my books for forty years now and am once again wondering about throwing some of them away.  I picked up one by Hermann Hesse just now.  He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1946.  The book is Magister Ludi, which originally I read in 1973. Had not looked at it since then and as it was about to be tossed into the recycle pile I accidentally noticed a few things I'd underlined back when I was 22 years old.  Late in the book the main character describes a man he knew who I think fits with a model human from Hesse's perspective.

Granted there are those among us who are to easily satisfied, who enjoy a sham serenity; but in contrast to them we also have men and generations of men whose serenity is not playful shallowness, but earnest depth.  ..  In the last years of his life this man possessed the virtue of serenity to such a degree that it radiated from him like the light from a star; so much that it was transmitted to all in the form of benevolence, enjoyment of life, good humor, trust and confidence.  It continued to radiate outward from all who received it, all who had absorbed its brightness.... 
Even though whole peoples and languages have attempted to fathom the depths of the universe in myths, cosmogonies, and religions, their supreme, their ultimate attainment has been this cheerfulness.

I think I'll hold onto this book and give it another read.  Don't remember my 22 year old self being impressed with that but I'm glad to have come across it now.  There is something of value there. Previously on this blog I quoted extensively from something Hesse wrote about trees.  That one has stayed with me consciously for all these years.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Month Away from Knoxville

We've been living out of a suitcase for over a month since leaving Knoxville.  We are bouncing around between family members.  Haven't had much time to read.  One more week to go.  Ready to get settled.  Life is different.  How does where you live affect who you are and what you believe?  I've attended several churches recently.  I plan to visit a lot of churches.  There are a zillion here in Memphis with all kinds of cool names like "Truth and Grace" , "Heartsong", "Ram in the Bush", etc.  Churches are changing and life is changing from what it was even in the early 2000's and we often do not realize it.  Personal computers are a thing of the past, they are on the way out.  My tower sitting below me is a fossil now.  And I have less control than I did of my computer.  It decides when and how to upgrade and add "security."  In my smart phone I cannot tell when an application is closed and when it is not.  In its browser I cannot go back and then forward.  Things changing so fast it is hard to keep up.  I've got a Tumblr account.  Just getting started with it and not sure how it works.  I'll try this link:

http://www.tumblr.com/blog/swallison50

Which contains this from the Tumblr microblog by emergentdigitalpractices.


“I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:
1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”

― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt
(Hat Tip to Lynn Schofield Clark)

And my response is that this has been one of the ongoing themes of my life.  I noticed it while I was young, how older folks had a problem with new things, and promised myself I would not be like that.  Well, I have caught myself reacting as in number 3 from time to time.  I try to recognize it and overcome it.  It is a constant battle.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Equations are like Sonnets

Lifted the paragraph below from Krita Tippet's On Being.  It is about the joy of math.  I recall struggling in the first and second grade with it.  Then mid-way through the 3rd grade we began working on our multiplication tables and I perceived its patterns and rhythms. From then on I've loved it.

=========================
The Joy of Math: Keith Devlin on Learning and What It Means To Be Human
Mathematical equations are like sonnets says Keith Devlin. What most of us learn in school, he says, doesn’t begin to convey what mathematics is. And technology may free more of us to discover the wonder of mathematical thinking — as a reflection of the inner world of our minds.
- See more at: 
http://www.onbeing.org/program/the-joy-of-math-keith-devlin-on-learning-and-what-it-means-to-be-human/5946

Monday, September 02, 2013

On the Way to Memphis

We arrived in the Knoxville-Oak Ridge area of East Tennessee in Dec of 1978.  It is where we have lived for nearly 35 years.  We did take a one year interlude to Charlottesville, VA when I was a visiting research professor at the U of VA in the 89-90 school year. Now, we are headed to the Memphis, TN area.  We will be close to our families.

Haven't been reading much.  All I can do to keep up with my work and pack the house too.  And there have been frequent trips to Memphis.  Downloaded another Richard Rohr book some time ago and what I've read so far is great and a help.  The other book I've read by him is falling upward.  A recent review by Carl McColman is here and a quote from it follows:

I think, especially for those who might be a little uncomfortable with concepts like mysticism or contemplation, Immortal Diamond can be a wonderful introduction to the visionary and optimistic of Richard Rohr’s teaching. Even long-standing fans of his work will enjoy this book, if for no other reason than to see his profoundly spiritual insights presented in a new way. If this is your first book by Rohr. You’re in for a treat. Follow up with either Everything Belongs or The Naked Now (and if you’re over 40 years old, Falling Upward as well).

Friday, August 23, 2013

New Book about Jacques Ellul

Jacques Ellul is one of those writers whose name I've seen here and there through the years.  But the passing references never piqued my curiosity, until now.  He is perceived as anti-technology and that is how I make my living.  I came to consciousness just as he published his 1954 work on the Technological Society.  The 1950's TV shows about space travel and the wonders that were appearing everyday defined my person.  Probably based on the following I'd written him off because I was given a wrong view of him.  Thanks to Len at Next Reformation summarizing and linking to a review over at Cardus.  The book is Understanding Jacques Ellul and it claims that he is misunderstood.  Seems he was perceived as a Luddite.  Perhaps he was patiently working through the implications and diagnosing our present situation. I liked this snippet from the Cardus review:
Thinking a bit more broadly, though, we might also observe that in setting forth ideas over the unexpected scale of several books, Ellul follows in the footsteps of other prominent thinkers, including Socrates/Plato, Jesus, and Kierkegaard, who have each in different ways recognized that pursuing the truth often requires a certain obliqueness in approach. And herein we glimpse an important strategy for doing public theology in this present technological society.
I discussed this indirectness  here in a summary of previous blogs. And a commenter gave the contra case, also very edifying for me.

Great to read the thoughtful comments to the Cardus article, clicked up on each of them.  One of them sent me to the Jesus Radicals web site.  Ummm. Interesting.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Evolution Moves Us to the Hyperpersonal and Ultrahumanity - Ilia Delio and Teilard de Chardin

Downloaded to my Kindle a third book by Ilia Delio, The Unbearable Wholeness of Being:  God, Evolution and the Power of Love.  I'm liking it.  She continues in this book to refer to the writings of Teilhard de Chardin as she did in the others.  I slogged through the Phenomenon of Man by him and it was rough going.  I picked up on some of it and it was profound.  It is a great thing that Ilia has lived with his writings and like John Haught can interpret and show how Teilhard's thinking and ideas are applicable to our times.  Below is from the chapter on Technology and Noogenesis.

She says:
Evolution is progress toward more being and technology is the new means:  "It is not well being but a hunger for more-being which, of psychological necessity, can alone preserve the thinking earth from the taedium vitae."  quotation from The Future of Man 317 (kindle loc 3530)
She gives this quote from The Human Phenomenon p185:
It is a mistake to look for the extension of our being or of the noosphere in the impersonal. The future universal cannot be anything else but the hyperpersonal.
and follows with this:

                                                                     Ultrahumanity
Teilhard’s vision of evolution is not based on personal enhancement (like the transhumanists) but on community and creativity. He sees the convergence of human and machine intelligence as completing the material and cerebral sphere of collective thought. His hopeful vision of transhumanism is a richer and more complex domain through the connectedness of minds joined together, a collective or global mind for the forward movement of cosmic evolution. He imagines psychic energy in a continually more reflective state, giving rise to “ultrahumanity,” by which he means the need for humanity to enter into a new phase of its own evolution. The value of science, according to Teilhard, can only be for the deepening of spirituality, since knowledge increases mind and mind deepens spirit. (kindle loc 3550)
  Long before the internet I was in a Philosophy of Religion class where the concept of the Omega Point and the noosphere were discussed.  At the time it made no sense at all to me.  But now that we are almost 20 years into the internet era and with our smartphones connecting us to each other and soon, via medical technology, to our insides; it is clear that he was a visionary and what he said is coming to us.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Thoughts on "The Marriage of Sense and Soul" by Ken Wilber

The Marriage of Sense and Soul: Integrating Science and ReligionThe Marriage of Sense and Soul: Integrating Science and Religion by Ken Wilber

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 I read this book in the fall of 1999, the first time, and it still holds up. His explanation of the Great Chain of Being and what others call Emergence has been a great help to me in reconciling science (which I live with everyday as a R&D professional and in which I have confidence)and religion (which I also have intimacy with by virtue of family, place, and personality).

We have names for different eras of time such as the Dark Ages, the Medieval Period, etc.  The age from the 18th to the 20th is generally considered to be the Modern Period and also the Age of Enlightenment.  It is the Enlightenment that gave us industrialization, the explosion of science, the movement of societies from religious to secular, and many other things.  But in recent decades there has been a recognition by many that we are at the beginning of the next stage.  Wilber begins by explaining and critiquing the Modern as an age that is emotionally and spiritually a "flatland", an era where enchantment and meaning have been negated.  Wilber also has critiques for critiques of modernism and works to arrive at synthesizing both in an intellectually and emotionally satisfying way.  Some call the new era the Postmodern.  I don't recall if he used that term or not.  But times are definitely different now and we have continued to move and develop into the Postmodern in the 14 years since he wrote the book. 

Another reason this book is important to me is that it prepared me to understand Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christian which I read three years later.  It was then that my inward life turned around and I could finally say I'd found what I'd been looking for since my early twenties.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Manichaens, the World, Beauty and God

Have been enjoying on my Kindle Voices of Gnosticism: Interviews with Elaine Pagels, Marvin Meyer, Bart Ehrman, Bruce Chilton and Other Leading Scholars (Miguel Conner)

Here is an interesting quotation by Jason BeDuhn of Northern Arizona University on the Manichaens.  This is in response to the meme that the Manichaens had a pessimistic, life-denying view of earthly existence.


And so, if you look at the Manichaean hymns, as apparently you have, you’ll see this poetry, a lot of affirmation of the natural world as the manifestation of God. And there’s even the claim in the later Islamic tradition, when it is trying to suppress certain radical forms of Sufism, the claim is made that the Sufis have learnt from the Manichaeans how to meditate on beauty as a form of drawing close to God. And of course that’s everything from meditating on a flower to meditating on the face of a beautiful woman. So, for more conservative Islamic forces, this kind of religious devotion to material forms is antithetical to the values they’re trying to cultivate. But it fits perfectly the Manichaean view that God is tangible in what is beautiful, is tangible in what affects the senses in a positive way. So God smells sweetly and God is light as opposed to darkness. These very sensory ways of talking about the divine which are the very things that Augustine and others criticised as too materialistic are actually ways in which you can see Manichaeans affirming the world as being permeated with divinity in a way that you miss in many other forms of spirituality.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

The Secular Age by Charles Taylor continues to attract attention

It was my Christmas present shortly after it was published.  It takes a long time for him to say things, like so much that philosophers write.  It is densely packed with a lot of interesting information.  Shortly after it was published, the blogging world had a lot to say about it.  But since then, every once in a while, I see reference to it.  That is a testament to its value.  Just came across this interesting article in the NYT by David Brooks.  The comments are just as insightful.  The culture has  moved from an enchanted world in which it was easy and obvious for anyone in the year, say, 1500 to believe in God to the modern world where such is not the case.  Charles Taylor argues, according to Brooks, that it is not a matter of a secular view replacing a religious one, but that there are multiple expressions of the spiritual living along side secularism within the same people.  






Saturday, June 29, 2013

Quotes from "Scarred Faith" by Josh Ross


Lifted by Kindle from “Scarred Faith:  This is a story about how Honesty, Grief, a Cursing Toddler, Risk-Taking, AIDS, Hope, Brokenness, Doubts, and Memphis Ignited Adventurous Faith” by Josh Ross

Deep faith is scarred faith. Faith isn’t something that is downloaded into a brain like antivirus software onto a desktop. It is about lived experiences. Faith doesn’t run deep because one is stuffed with right answers. It is cultivated by asking the right questions. Faith is about journey, experience, movement, and process. It is about adventure. And one thing we know about adventure is that there are moments of pain, regret, wounds, suspense, and questioning. - Highlight Loc. 139-42
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But most of us have a love/hate relationship with adventures. Adventures involve sacrifice, time, and commitment. - Highlight Loc. 169-70
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To strip adventure and risk taking from faith and spirituality causes immense oppression, injustice, and brokenness throughout our world, - Highlight Loc. 180-81
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A storytelling community can’t ignore the scars and wounds that have shaped us. It’s who we are. We can’t hide the grief under the rug. We can’t scrape the baggage from our identity. We can’t remove the unanswered questions we’ve carried for years. So, God, in his infinite wisdom, created community, because stories are meant to bear witness to something. They are meant to link us to all of humanity. - Highlight Loc. 1482-85
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Few people do community better than pain-ridden people. - Highlight Loc. 1371
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May God forgive us for taking better care of our buildings than we do our neighbors. - Highlight Loc. 1510

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