Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The world-view of "Critical Theory"

I commented on his section on 'world views':

His piece comparing 'world views' at 21:00 misses some important points. CT has a creation theory: it is evolutionary naturalism. From this, it is impossible for it to coherently develop a meta-ethical theory that doesn't get axed by Hume's Guillotine. It is stymied at every turn and paradoxically ends up as seeking hegemonic power over those with whom it disagrees. Hoist on its own petard. From this, it does develop an ethical view. Its theoretical corner is relativism (the priority of 'lived experience' over a rationally examinable shared world) and from there everything is up for grabs.

The functional ethic of CT is power by the imposition of the powerful. The rhetoric of oppression is a ruse to transfer power non-democratically. The elevation of 'lived experience' to an epistemic is a ruse to avoid rational scrutiny. This is the Trotsky-Lenin-Stalin approach to gaining and maintaining power.

After Shenvi 2020
The materialistic creation means that person-ness is an emergent property of matter, but we know that reality is not like that; nor do we so experience it. We know that God's person is prior to created reality and interpenetrates, circumscribes, and denominates it. Matter results from God's word (his eternal wisdom: Pv 3:19-20); to say that 'word' emanates from matter is to worship the creature in lieu of the creator.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Boys and Girls

Watching a video on Christian relationships, I recalled this particularly bizarre question.

The video was about the rude, hurtful, thoughtless, indeed cruel things that Christians say, thinking they are being 'open', 'honest', 'caring' or some other cloak for their gossip hacking.

I attended a Christians' party with a mate of mine, we were both in our early thirties, both single.

I overheard my pal being asked by a professional acquaintance (I mean we both practiced the same profession) of mine "why aren't you married yet?"

My friend replied that he'd not met the right person.

I knew the real story, and that it hurt, because he left early, ashamed.

He'd had a very bad experience with a Christian woman and had lost all confidence with women. He was just coming alive again to his desire for a female companion and this stupid, intrusive, rude, thoughtless question dashed his confidence and made him feel unwelcome, particularly because his questioner was married, and 'flaunted' his relationship to all and sundry.

Don't ask prying questions. Don't ask questions that dig into people's deep personal life unless you've earned the right by being first as open as you expect the other to be.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Just forgive everyone!

I seem to recall a statement by Dick Dawkins (of The God Delusion fame) asking why didn't God just forgive everyone.

I expect he doesn't believe God exists, and is suggesting a flaw in Christian theology by his question.

It seems to me that Dawkins, like most people, including Christians, alas, have no clue about God's 'mission' in creation, who God is and what it means to sin, that is to be wholly turned against God and his gift of life.

Dawkins' question-challenge betrays a view of God being separate from his own nature, and that our need to be forgiven arises from our innocuous breaches of some third-party laws. Like asking a policeperson to overlook a parking breach in a local shopping centre carpark when yours is the only car there.

But not so. Our sin is that we have rejected God and in our own nature, do not want to be forgiven. We like being cut off from God and don't want to surrender life in the hell-hole of being enslaved by sin.

God doesn't just forgive us because we don't want to be forgive; and God has made us with our own self-determining ability to chose our relationships, so wouldn't seek to overturn that component in us of his image. In fact, having given the gift to us of his 'image-ness', he possibly cannot over turn it.

It's like a man asking a woman to marry him, but wants no part of her life. Doesn't even want to be intimate with  her, but just wants to live without her while calling her his wife: a relationship that denies itself and is without meaning in any sense.

There would be no point to God just forgiving us when the real forgiveness he extends works itself out in our regeneration and new life in his family...for ever.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Unspeakable Ethics

The atheist's ruse is amplified by Leff in the Duke Law Journal:

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

But what about earthquakes?

I've discussed the atheist and human depravity: all our thoughts are evil all the time (Bible ref), but how does that make earthquakes?

When A&E chose idolatry over their relationship with God; as custodians of the material cosmos, they effectively ejected God from their lives and the place God created as the setting for fellowship.

Kick the builder off your land, tear up the contract for your new house, repudiate the warranty, and don't complain when he doesn't turn up to repair the leaks, the shifting footings, the sagging roof beams, the de-bonding tiles in the bathroom. Heck, he won't even come back to fix the dripping tap.

Once one thing in a perfect cosmos is imperfect, the whole cosmos is imperfect. God's curse is his custodial separation from his creation because his creature-in-his-image has separated from him.

Further to that, most of our experience of 'natural' brokenness can be put down to our own mistaken cupidity: there is no boon here, but as we misplace our efforts, misjudge our environment and invest in it foolishly, we get bad results: we build cities on fault lines, we build houses in flood plains, you get the picture. And it goes on. We invest in weapons rather than medical research...we have to...but that's the choice we make.

We decide DDT is bad for bird eggs, so we let countless millions in Africa die of malaria. Our doing, not Gods.

The list goes on.

Put a fool in charge and you get fool outcomes. Simple.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

The athiests' ruse

The greatest challenge to the atheist is the 'problem of evil'.

It is so great a challenge to the atheist's construction of the world that he (and if a woman, she) has to use it to attack Christian theism...as they conceive it.

Most Christians seem to fall in to the trap, alas. And a trap it is; but most atheists also fall into it because they can't think of what to do with their own problem of evil: that they can detect objective moral failure in a material world, in a world of evolution where all but the least unfit are annihilated and where random changes in the genome while the putative engine of change, are the source of misfitting, disease, disability and life's existential struggle, in every dimension. That's their world, but they don't seem to find it congenial.

Thus they use it to attack the Christian vision because, they claim, it doesn't solve the 'problem' which in their world cannot exist, because it is a world without objective moral content.

To carry off their attack on the Christian vision, they have to pretend it is other than it is. They have to attack a 'straw' vision.

So they create a straw-god, and then claim he is not doing his job, and fabricate a straw-Christianity, and claim that it is incoherent.

Most Christians seem to also not know their faith very well. Faith is confidence based on knowledge. Our current Christian culture is light on knowledge in too many circles, and lets our detractors define faith as some sort of phantasm.

Here what's they miss out in their straw-manning of God and our faith.

God is all powerful, all knowing and all loving....then they go to town with their God the beneficent puppet-master.

Christianity, they see, is about obeying the rules, about 'cow-towing' to a mean dictator who demands that we set aside our rationality (which he created, don't you know), and 'just believe' despite the 'evidence' as they see it of evil, which has no reality in their own construction of the world.

All pretty amusing in a pathetically forlorn way.

So, how do they 'straw-man' God.

The omit his critical 'attribute' God is holy. The atheist's god is made in the image of the atheist: how the atheist would like God to be: a sort of moralistic-therapeutic-deism with God as the failed absentee sugar-daddy in the sky.Sort of like Stanley Crawford's Gascoyne who elusively runs his show without showing up.

They decline to understand that the faith of Christ is not to join a rule-club, but to join the opposition to evil, to be rescued from it in prospect of the main game, the new creation.

Oh, they also decline to know what evil is. Evil is the denial of God, it is living in 'not-Godness'.

We can only do this not because of some cute 'free-will' as though free will is a triviality, but as those who are able to fellowship with God we are also able to meaningfully dis-fellowship with him. Otherwise it was not fellowship in the first place and WE WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO ENJOY GOD FOREVER if we were not true persons (i.e. in God's image as he is a person).

The atheist's mission is to live in not-Godness while having God prevent us from experiencing living in not-Godness. Not possible. Its like wanting to enjoy marriage by remaining single (married bachelors can line up over there).

Christianity is about our relationship with God as being in his family: to ultimately enjoy him forever, to inherit all he has prepared for us, to rule with Christ for eternity. Rule here as God showed what 'rule' is like in Genesis 1 and then in the incarnation: to do what is very good for others.

It is also about understanding that not-Godness discontents us with life cut-off from him to prevent complacency about our state. Not-Godness started when our first parents (A&E chose the idolatry of seeking knowledge from the tree, and not from God. They wanted to strike out without God, and of course, reject God and you reject his credit line at the same time).

All I ask the atheist is two questions: how is their rejection of God helping to undo evil (the outworking of our rejection of God and absent re-birth), and having rejected God, why would the world want to experience his goodness? After all, everything the world's denizens do is to reject God while usually complaining at the results of that obstinate choice.

But of course, the nail in the coffin of their view: who told them there is evil?

By their construction of the world they should be puzzled that anyone can even notice that there is a disparity between 'good' and 'bad', because there is no value basis in it by which to make such judgements. All they have is relative subjective uncongeniality of circumstances. Big deal, but that's all evolution gets you.

However, there is a point of contact. We do experience a disjuncture between what we think should be and what is. This results from the disjuncture between the world we experience and the base reality of the way of God. We are in a bubble of 'anti-reality'. God is thus merciful to enter into this 'bubble' to preserve this 'bubble' and us in it so that we may turn to him and finally enjoy him forever in a renewed creation.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Don't let them sleep

In my occasional series on 'naffities', I regale you with the bizarre things that Christians have done: to me, in my presence, to my friends or family.

These are things that are usually so odd or merely impolite that they would surprise the village atheist.

The other day I was sorting through my old papers and came across an attainment certificate from the (then) Bush Fire Council of NSW for my attendance at a 5 day residential school on bushfire fighting command. This was in the mid 1970s (I also found a Certificate of Merit  from the Wine Society for a course I completed on the manufacture, serving and appreciation of wine. The practical segments were great!)

At the Bush Fire course, held at Camp McKay (now the Merroo Christian Centre) there was a large dormitory in which about 20 of us bunked. Amongst the 20 of us were a few party boys: they had a strong interest in alcohol, (which made them comically merry), and a couple of Christians. I was one.

The other was a man in his 50s or 60s who was part of a Churches of Christ group on the NSW far north coast.

He liked to read his Bible at bedtime, come what may. He probably thought it was his 'witness'.

But his witness inconvenienced all of us. He refused to turn out the lights, which brightly illuminated the whole dorm. We all had to suspend sleep, after a long tiring day of lectures and field work, while he read his Bible, his Scripture Union notes and meditated on the prayer prompts therein.

The rest of us were astonished at his moronic lack of insight into the needs of the rest of us.

It was an anti-witness. It also made him out to be an insensitive dope.

God shows us connection

In the poor writer, I wrote about God showing us who he is.

One of the challenges a god has is to show how the infinite, eternal, ineffable one can have any fellowship, any connection at all with the finite, temporal, limited and contingent one: us.

I haven't read myths for some time, but my recollections give me the impression that the gods of the ancient world, particularly the Greek and Roman pantheon is full of limited gods. God's not big enough. They are in some vague way dependent on a prior cosmos or other dwelling place.

But God comes to man for fellowship.

He doesn't tell us this: just telling would be easy and unconvincing, and as challenging is the problem of particulars and universals in some branches of philosophy.

No, he demonstrates that he fellowship is realistic.

He shows that he is active and effective in our time-space-material domain while not bound by its constraints: he created by his word in six days.

He fellowships with us becuase he made us like him: he breathed life into us. His life, and made us in his image. That is, for commutative fellowship. We can only fellowship with those who are in the same ontological category. We have 'God-image'. Our person-ness is akin to God's person-ness. Both are integrated wholes, both self-conscious, both can consider motivations and make choices that might not be consequential  upon our motivations. Both are without parts. Our person-hood has many modalities, but they are all mixed in some degree and all of the same person. Our awareness of their being 'ours' doesn't vary: affection, emotion, intellect, sensation, motivation...all modes are of the one integral person.

God further shows his personhood and its congruence with ours in Genesis 1:27 and inversely in Genesis 3:8, when it was broken, but A&E choosing 'not-God' as their ontological focus, denying the image they were.

Preeminently, he shows ability to bring the eternal into the sphere of the temporal in the Messiah. God incarnate, and in John 1:1-3, 14.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

The poor writer

Not poor as in impoverished, but poor as in not very good.

One can spot a poor writer easily: they tell you what a character is.

A good writer is not like that. A good writer will show you what a character is, by what he or she says and does, and their effect on other characters. Show, not tell.

God in his relationship with Israel and indeed the rest of us is a 'good writer'.

He shows us who he is and what he is by his actions, but what he does. He doesn't just tell us to worship him because he is God; he tells us that it is because he is our creator (points to Genesis 1-3). He tells Israel to worship him because he is their rescuer in real historical actions; exodus from Egypt, preservation at the Red Sea, sustainment in the wilderness.

This is God at work in the real world; not a mystery god who has to tell us to do things with  no real world salience: the pagan gods, the gods of myth, the dream-time gods.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

What's your story?

Getting the story right is essential to a coherent presentation of the gospel. If we don't get the story right, then the gospel either hangs in mid air, or gets retrofitted into their story.

Most people have some sort of story of reality...or maybe I exaggerate. Maybe most people don't have a coherent story of reality (because if the story is not The story, it won't be coherent).

Today, the implicit story, and sometimes the explicated story of reality is this:

Once upon a time there was material. And here we are.

If we aren't clear on our story; The story. People will try to attach the gospel to their story of Evolution. It won't work.

It will make our story look dumb, or meaningless, or be relegated to a non-reality. Whichever way, not good.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Classic Christian Books

While we are on books, lists of Christian classics:

Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis gave a series of radio talks during the World War II years in which he sought to explain and defend the basic beliefs of historic Christianity. Those radio talks later became Mere Christianity. Lewis superbly articulates these basic tenets in a manner that is instructive for the believer and persuasive for the unbeliever. Mere Christianity is truly unsurpassed as an apologetic for the post-Enlightenment West.

Confessions, by Augustine

Augustine was born in the mid-fourth century in modern-day Algeria to a Christian mother and a pagan father. He spent his early years rebelling against God, wandering to and fro the vast religious landscape of his day. In 386 BC he was converted to Christianity through the influence of Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, and through the reading of Romans 13:13–14. In Confessions, Augustine retraces his life and God’s activity in it, and he does so in the form of a prayer. Not only is this a powerful, reflective book for Christians, it is regarded by many as one of the first autobiographies, placing it among the most historically significant pieces of literature in the world.

The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s most famous work, The Cost of Discipleship, originated from his New Testament lectures at the University of Berlin. Bonhoeffer wrestles with the teachings of Jesus, specifically the Sermon on the Mount, and argues that, though grace is the free gift of God, it is not cheap. Grace is costly; in fact, discipleship costs us everything. Bonhoeffer was executed in a Nazi concentration camp on April 8, 1945. His discipleship—that is, his following after Christ—cost him dearly.

The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan

It is widely accepted that The Pilgrim’s Progress is the second best-selling book of all time, behind only the Bible. Written largely while author John Bunyan was in an English prison for preaching without a license, the book is an allegory for the Christian life. Its main character, Christian, travels to the Celestial City with every imaginable help and hindrance that believers face in life.

Humility, by Andrew Murray

Published in 1895, Andrew Murray’s Humility is one of those rare books that applies to every person at every stage of life. The minute someone thinks they have perfected humility, they have found a new place to root their pride. If, as many theologians have argued, the root of all sin is pride, then the root of all holiness is a God-exalting humility. This book will point you toward that God-exalting humility.

A Grief Observed, by C. S. Lewis

Many books have been written in Christian history addressing the problem of suffering and pain. In fact, C. S. Lewis wrote a book addressing that problem—but it isn’t this one. While The Problem of Pain provides a theological and philosophical examination of suffering in the abstract, A Grief Observed is a window into Lewis’ actual suffering after the loss of his wife. Any Christian who has suffered or will suffer desperately needs companions, and one of the best is this book.

Knowing God, by J. I. Packer

J.I. Packer has been one of the most influential theologians in the West in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. His bestselling book, Knowing God, is a basic primer on who God is and what a life of knowing him looks like. It is simultaneously theologically rich and accessible, a great theological introduction for the believer and unbeliever alike.

The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom

One of the most powerful biographical works in the church’s history, Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place tells the story of her life, particularly of her sacrifice to hide and protect Jews in the Netherlands after the Nazi invasion of 1940. Few books have displayed courageous Christian character in a more inspiring and convicting fashion than The Hiding Place.

Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton

Published in 1908 as a companion to his previous book Heretics, Orthodoxy provides a thorough examination of the Apostle’s Creed. One of the last century’s most influential Roman Catholics (though he was Anglican at the time this book was written), Chesterton sees the creed as a profound apologetic, as an answer to the riddle of all our human needs. Orthodoxy is clever and witty, timeless and profound.

The Valley of Vision

The greatest gifts the Puritans left the church were their detailed meditations on the Scriptures and their focused, intentional prayers. The Valley of Vision is a collection of some of those prayers. Countless Christians have read this collection, even adding it to their daily devotional time, and have experienced a new vitality and depth to their prayer life as a result.

Reading great books is a challenge. It would be much easier to turn on Netflix, to read tweets or Facebook posts, or to skim newspaper articles. But none of these are as rewarding as reading classic works—particularly classic Christian literature.

In his masterpiece on reading, Mortimer J. Adler said, “Good books are over your head; they would not be good for you if they were not.” Don’t let the fear of being inferior in your reading, your theology, or your discipleship keep you from conquering these classics. The only way to grow is to be stretched, and one of the best ways for a believer to be stretched is by reading the great books of Christian history.

Other lists that may be of interest, including from people who's theology I disagree with:

Piper's 25

Threlfall's top 10

Qaoud's Kindle cheapies

The full list of seminary books

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Course reading

If Christians were serious about educating people in the faith, they would run seminars, and they would have readings with the seminars.

The Australian Christian Lobby has a commendable program 'GPS'. I don't know if it comes with pre-readings or even readings to accompany each seminar, but either way, if I was running it, my pre-readings list would be this:

Required reading:

Greg Koukl's trilogy: Story of Reality, Relativism, and Tactics (in that order).

Encouraged reading:

Francis Schaeffer's trilogy: The God Who Is There, He is There and Is Not Silent, and Escape from Reason.

Background reading:

Olsen, the Mosaic of Christian Belief.

Recommended reading:

Moreland and Craig: Philosophical Foundations of a Christian Worldview

Geisler: Christian Apologetics

Mittelberg: The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Feast of Bach


We've been treated by ABC Classic to evenings of Bach sacred cantatas.

This evening (Friday)

Magnificat for 5 voices, 5-part chorus, orchestra & continuo in D major, BWV 243 [27'23]
Cantata, BWV 174 "Ich liebe den Höchsten von ganzem Gemüte" [20'50]
Mass in B minor
Cantata, BWV 175, "Er rufet seinen Schafen mit Namen" [15'50]
Cantata, BWV 68 "Also hat Gott die welt geliebt" [13'47]
Cantata, BWV 184, 'Erwünschtes Freudenlight' [21'56]
Cantata, BWV 173 "Erhöhtes Fleisch und Blut" [13'03]
Cantata, BWV 59, "Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten" [11'45]
And so it goes...for ages!