Here's a fun video dealing with Alvin Plantinga's treatment of rational Christian belief.
In the 1600's Sir Isaac Newton posited what we now call Newtonian Mechanics or Newtonian Physics. Newton was able to explain both the movement of things on earth as well as those in the vacuum of space. Many of Newton's conclusions "worked." That is they had considerable explanatory force and scope. Then along came Albert Einstein and his theory of special relativity. Einstein's theory was able to account for the movement of large objects [e.g., footballs and planets] as well as the effects that electricity and magnetism have on these objects. It is not that Newton's theory was "bad." It is simply that Einstein's theory could explain more and was therefore a better theory. In short Einstein was able to account for Newton's observations and then account for other phenomena beyond those observations.
Much of life is this way. We once changed the oil in our car after this or that fashion and now we take it to the Take 5 oil shop. We once washed the dishes in this or that fashion and now we use the dishwasher. We once thought that this or that political party's platform was the most comprehensive and internally consistent. Now we don't. We once understood free will to be of this sort and of these implications and now we think differently. Presumably, in all these cases there is a shift in systems because the old one held less explanatory scope and force compared to the practice or position we currently hold. Consider that these kinds of shifts and explanatory considerations may also happen in a given person's moral landscape.
At one point you may have thought that owning guns was a good thing and now you are of a different persuasion. Perhaps you once thought homosexuality to be base or wicked and now you see such behavior a mere personal preference or biological prewiring. Perhaps you once thought that God kept a moral record of the things you thought, the words you said, the things you did, and the places you went, but now you think there is no God at all to care about such things. I submit to you that just as we adhere to scientific systems and day-to-day systems we also adhere to moral systems. Furthermore, we can both agree that these systems "work" to varying degree and when we find a better system, one more to our liking even, we tend to change from our current system and move to the new and better one.
Lord willing, in the weeks to follow I would like to discuss with you the idea that you and I both have a system of morals and, generally speaking, we believe that our respective systems of moral beliefs are able to account for our moral stances on this or that event or behavior. So how robust do you think your system of moral beliefs is?
A Not So New Year
Happy New Year, 2021! In what sense is the year new?
Perhaps it is new like a new baby. The new year is a year that never has been, still untrammpeled by sin, suffering, and struggle.
But is it so new? The COVID panic continues in full force. If you were unemployed before the New Year you probably still are. For those of us who are still hear, those of us who have not succumbed to COVID or depression and suicide, we’re not exactly “new.”
We’re told by the news that we have a new President, yet he is the oldest ever sworn in and has sat in the seat of power for almost 50 years.
From the perspective of the Christian worldview, things are not so new there either. Sin is still here. The Devil is still a ranging lion looking for another meal. Babies are still being murdered and church doors remained shuttered, some, for good.
I submit to you that there is something, indeed someone who is beyond the gaze of the sun, the source and fountain of all that is new that can never forget or be forgotten.
In sum, Christ who is above all and the Source of all that is new will one day make all things truly new. Christ is going to change the unchangeable.
But is this the end? Should we end here as we embark on our journey into 2021?
Christ has already begun the work of changing the unchangeable.
Christian, He has made you a new creature.
II Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Christian, He has called you to a new mind.
Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Proverbs 23:7 As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
James 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
Non-Christian, according to these verses
What kind of man ought you to be? What kind of man ought you to look for?
II Samuel 23:8ff
These things are written for our admonition
I Corinthians 10:11 – “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”
Mighty Men – Strong, Valorous, Champion, and Hero
Joshua 6:2 - 2And the LORD said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour.
Judges 11:1 - 1Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour
VALOR MEANS COURAGEOUS
Courage – Knowing that trouble is coming and not fleeing that trouble. [Our Lord in the Garden]
Fortitude – Remaining under pressure [Our Lord on the Cross]
What kind of men were they:
I Samuel 22:2 - And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men.
Distress – In a strait – extreme anxiety, sorrow, or pain
In Debt – They owe people money
Discontent – Angry, bitter [At who or what we do not know]
No attempt to sanitize this, but these men were disagreeable to say the least. They had the power to say “No”, to assert their will – sometimes winning and sometimes losing.
I Samuel 23:9-10
I Samuel 23:11
I Samuel 23:20-21
All men fled the Lord in His time of need.
I Samuel 23: 22:23
Honor and Glory and Blessing unto Christ – Revelation 5:13 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”
Proverbs 17:17 - A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
II Samuel 23:24 - Asahel the brother of Joab was one of the thirty; Elhanan the son of Dodo of Bethlehem,
II Samuel 2:32 - And they took up Asahel, and buried him in the sepulchre of his father, which was in Bethlehem. And Joab and his men went all night, and they came to Hebron at break of day.
Brother to Christ – Hebrews 2:11-12 11For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.
Friend to Christ – John 15:13-15 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 14“You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15“No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.
Fathers and Sons
II Samuel 23:20 – The things you cultivate now will determine the kinds of men you will raise.
Beniah 23:21 A goodly Man – I Chronicles 11:23 A man of great measure [A Giant]
David – I Samuel 17
Who led them
David Giant killer
King of Israel
Man after God’s own heart
The kind of man one needs to be in order to lead such men – to be a leader of men.
Christ the kind of man to lead us
Holy – Never sinning
Wise in confounding the Pharisees
Faithful in never leaving us or forsaking us
Courageous in enduring the cross and the Father’s judgement
The Messiah Warrior
How lust destroys mighty men – Uriah II Samuel 23:39
How Christ can save you from your sin.
Rousseau, writing in Emile, observes,
"There is much discussion as to the characteristics of a good tutor. My first requirement, and it implies a good many more, is that he should not take up his task for reward. There are callings so great that they cannot be undertaken for money without showing our unfitness for them; such callings are those of the soldier and the teacher.
Plato records the Stranger in Sophist,
Then now, Theaetetus, his art may be traced as a branch of the appropriative, acquisitive daily - which hunts animals, - living - land - tame animals; which hunts man, - privately - for hire, - taking money in exchange - having the semblance of education; and this is termed Sophistry, and is a hunt after young men of wealth and rank - such is the conclusion.
Or as Aristotle recounts in On Sophistical Refutations,
...the art of the sophist is the semblance of wisdom without the reality, and the sophist is one who makes money from an apparent but unreal wisdom.
School is expensive and why wouldn't be seeing the Federal government wants a piece of that pie along with things like finance, healthcare and housing. The government's portfolio is "well diversified" shall we say. Everyone "deserves" a house. In 2007, we found out that probably was not the best piece of worldview advice. In 2020, everyone "deserves" a college education and the quality of the advice hasn't changed, but the cost of college has.
In fact, one observer notes that the cost of college has increased eight times faster than wages. And up and up it goes. In order to sweeten the deal, in this COVID season prices have not gone down though many school have opted for an online learning environment. So while the cost of college goes up, the quality of the service goes down. Sounds like the scheming of Professor McMonkey McBean and his now famous Star-off Machine.
But wait there's more. The schools and universities themselves are, on the point of virtue, voracious dumpster fires. Anthony Esolen writes in Out of the Ashes, "There are two things wrong with our schools - everything our children don't learn in them, and everything they do learn. Public schools are beyond reform; we have to start over." Regarding Universities he writes, "Our universities ares as bad as our schools. A few can be saved, but for the most part, we must build new ones." Think safe spaces, trigger warnings, and micro-aggressions - 21st century sophistry.
Still the price goes up as we make our way to be Starbelly Sneeches.
But what of the relationship between money and education. The Ancients would have us believe something crazy like, education is meant to shape the soul, shape the affect. Nowadays education is all about jobs and how much money you can make with that job. It stands to reason that if money is the goal then perhaps money (i.e student loans) is also the means to that goal. But if education is not about jobs or money, but about the formation of the soul, about the increase of virtue or human excellence, then the focus on money poses something of a problem.
The Scriptures tell us that the love of money is the root of all evil. "Love" here is derived from "fila" which has the connotation of "fondness". Similar language is found in James where he writes that love of the world (fondness of the world) is enmity with God. What is more, don't you find it interesting that of all the things Scripture juxtaposes God and mammon in that no man can serve two masters. To serve money precludes one's inability to serve God.
Education concerns the good, true, and beautiful. Educational institutions which seek the bottom line above or equal to being physicians of the soul corrupt, contaminate, compromise the very nature and quality of that for which they exist - to educate. What is more, given the reputation of money, even if the good, true, and beautiful are dispensed without corruption, the charge clearly remains.
For example, such an arrangement is something akin to bribery. Say some incredulous mobster has some unscrupulous judge on his payroll. The judge is on the take. Say further that on some fateful day the mobster must appear before said judge and on that day, while the judge is on the take he dispenses his verdict and say the verdict goes against the mobster. What does the verdict say about the unscrupulous judge?
Well it says a lot of things, and one of those things is that the judge takes money from criminals for the expressed purpose of subverting the truth. Did the judge subvert the truth in declaring his verdict? Does it matter? Perhaps he took a greater bribe from a different mob boss. Maybe the judge has some axe to grind. Maybe the judge was promised a seat on a higher court in exchange for a miscarriage of justice. The point is, the reputation and declarations of the judge are suspect because he is regularly paid to judge concerning what is true and he is often beholden to his crooked financial handlers.
The same goes for school teachers and professors. At the time of writing this post I count myself among the latter. If we fail students then parents gripe and enrollment goes down. Enrollment is king. At my school I suppose the professors are relatively free to state their convictions and opinions. Still, in other school we know this is not the case. A quick search of the mighty Google and you can easily find professors being fired for all kinds of supposed sins and transgressions.
"You better not use a word that sounds like a forbidden word."
"You better use everyone's preferred pronouns."
"Remember white skinned people are bad, the only purveyors of racism. In fact, nothing is worse than a straight white educated Christian male. I mean, if Satan were real he would be a straight white educated Christian male."
So professors kowtow. They bow the knee, and teach horse crap in the place of what it good, true, and beautiful. They destroy and malform souls for that almighty paycheck whether it pays in prestige, grants, or USD.
For those who don't play the role of surf, their message falls under suspicion. Suppose a successful president of a college goes off the rails and compromising pictures and stories start to surface. The board knows. Faculty knows. They knew before the pictures that the president did not embody the character and mission of the school, but said nothing. Why? I hope it wasn't for that prestige or grant or paycheck. Whether it was or it wasn't the message from the board and faculty now comes under suspicion. What else were they too afraid to tell us?
What if we were free from the oppression and suspicion that comes with being paid in dollars to be truth-tellers? Maybe we shouldn't be paid in dollars to be physicians of the soul. My grandmother once said while looking at the brood of children the Lord blessed me with, "Some people are so poor all they have is money." Maybe the truth-teller's wealth should never be in acquiring grants or tenured paychecks. Rather, might it be that the truth-teller's wealth comes in the formation of souls, in the propagation of the good, true, and beautiful, and the change that such things bring to the world.
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." - Matthew 6:19-21
There are all kinds of ways to be rich. Perhaps it is time the truth-tellers of this world seek their riches in other places than those inhabited by marauding moths and the langolier.
Apocalypse...a revealing. 2020 has not been a zombie apocalypse or a nuclear apocalypse. Rather, 2020 has been an apocalypse, a revealing of humanity and its several institutions: federal government, state government, local government, churches, synagogues, and universities; not to mention high-schools, middle-schools, grocery stores, restaurants, and gyms.
The veil was pulled back and we are seeing more of each other. Not in the come-over-to-my-place-and-watch-the-game kind but rather the soul-ish kind, the unvarnished mirror-mirror-on-the-wall kind. And what did we find? Did you like what you found out about your neighbor or mayor or Facebook friends? How about that stranger who looked at you askance for wearing a mask in the beginning or not wearing one near the end? What did you think about her?
Certainly there is much to say about all the goings on in our several communities whether it be facts fact checked by factual fact checkers or doublespeak parading as news. But perhaps the greatest revealing of them all is our obvious and alarming lack of community. People we thought would behave one way chose, to our shock and awe, a path quite the opposite. Some pastors closed their churches. Who would do such a thing!? Some left them open. Who would do such a thing?!
We don't know each other. Shucks, some of us don't know our own spouses, let alone the machinations of some governor or mayor across the state or across the country. Why don't we? The answer would drown most in a typhoon of words, systems, pundits, books, but I would like to offer two propositions. We in the West have embraced the Fake and have abandoned a common transcendent source of meaning.
We have embraced the Fake. We watch fake news, vote for fake politicians, play in fake worlds, attend fake church, and eat the most delicious fake potatoes. I'm lovin' it. Real is impossible. If I'm real, people will know my house is a mess, that I really don't look that good in person, and worst of all, I can't live up to my own standards. Sinner. Loser. Failure. So we fake it. We fake it 'til the Apocalypse comes, then comes the Mad Max bits.
We have abandoned a common transcendent source of meaning. When the world looks like that of a Javelin- driving, shotgun-wielding Mel Gibson, everyone is on their own - fighting, scraping, clawing for another day of existence. A transcendent source of meaning takes us beyond this world, beyond the immediate, animal, and pedestrian. In a fake world there is little place for such a source. But in a real world, in an apocalyptic world, that place begins to widen and apparent need for that source becomes more urgent.
Our world is an apocalyptic world and the greatest of apocalyptic events came 2,000 years ago at the archetypal Apocalypse, the revealing of God manifest in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the Real. He is the Meaning. He is the Great Apocalypse even with all the Mad Max bits.