Saturday, March 19, 2011

Eagle's Adam Part II

I woke up this morning and re-read my post from last night. I hope that I didn't sound flippant. I meant what I said in the totally opposite direction. My thinking was that Eagle's questions are serious and should be taken seriously. So, for me to give the textbook answer, the ones we all (including Eagle) knows, then I wouldn't be taking his question seriously. Some people ask questions for reason other than wanting to know the answer (part of a social game). Eagle wants to know answers so I had to take it very seriously and give honest, not the standard, expected answer.

So, within the Christian narrative, there are many things that do not have explanations. Eagle raised the one of original sin. You could continue that path in what (sorry Eagle to bring this up) Campus Crusade would call the "Spiritual Laws." Sin through one goes to everyone. Jesus had to die to take away that sin and we had to accept his death for ourselves to be saved. So at any one of those points, or a thousand others, you can ask why? Isn't God above the law . . . literally?

But I've concluded that these must be lumped under the mystery of God category. This doesn't mean that they have no answers, but simply we don't have the answers and maybe as mortals our brains can't get around the answers. But we often fall into the temptation of trying to give answers anyway. Those answers inevitable appear as from the Mother Goose genre. To give one of those answers is like the well-intended grandmother telling her four year old grand daughter (whose parents are divorcing), "You see, your mommy and daddy love you sooooo much that their love can't fit into one house anymore. So they are going to move into two different houses so they can love you much more."
The non Christians, at this point, would be stroking their beards and smiling. They would think, "Poor fools. So the Christian can't give good answers so they sweep it under the 'mystery of god' rug. Ha!"

But my other point that there is no system of answers that doesn't inevitable run into the same problem. If you were standing at the bottom of a great crater and you decided that you wanted to honestly search for the way out (in other words finding the truth about the meaning of life) each path up the steep bank will run into mystery at some point. The atheists claim to be the only logical ones, but they too must play the same shell game. They can throw in time and chance ad nauseum. But still the origins of the universe makes no logical sense in pure naturalistic framework. Something from nothing. Nothingness, instantaneously splitting into matter and antimatter without an outside force initiating it . . . but honestly spontaneously. But there are other great mysteries of the purely naturalistic approach that I won't mention.

But I'm not saying, as some charismatic friends would say, that the Christian narrative is anti-logical or counterintuitive. I'm just saying that we don't understand now . . . but when it is revealed to us, it will make perfectly logical sense.

I hope if I try to give my views on your other questions that the answers will be less ambiguous.

Footnote: I've been so busy lately trying to get a new medical practice off the ground. I have the bulk of the work done so tomorrow night I leave for a long anticipated vacation. My youngest son, Ramsey, and I are going to Florence, Italy (thank you frequent flyer miles) for 10 days. I became obsessed with the Renaissance as I was writing my manuscript Butterflies in the Belfry. Now I get to go and totally immerse myself into the minds of the Medicis. I will "see you" in two weeks. Mike

Friday, March 18, 2011

Eagle's Adam

Okay, Eagle, I will take on your questions, starting with the easiest to answer (from my perspective).

7. Also in regards to Adam…why is it that Adams’ sin affects and carries down to you? Why am I or anyone held responsible for Adams’ original sin?

The photo was taken in basement of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. I didn't take this photo, but I did visit this spot. This church, as you know, is built around the site that Church history (at least Helena believed) says is where Jesus was crucified. Here in the lower level is a big crack in the bedrock and a skull at the very bottom. Tradition has it (of which I'm quite dubious) that the skull belongs to Adam (The Adam) and the earth cracked so the blood of Christ could drip down and cover Adam's sin, thus the original sin.

Eagle, I was prepared to start some type of long winded explanation using theological terms. That's what I'm sure any theological school graduate would do. However, I think such arguments, or explanations are just a pile of crap. Here is the short of it. It is illogical. Why must one man's sin fall onto all his descendants? There are also answers in the simplistic Sunday school books. But the real answer is that it is a mystery that we don't understand, and to claim to understand it, we are just blowing smoke.

Now, is calling it a mystery a cop-out? Maybe. But if you think freely, and you allow yourself to take any possible path out, in the process of understanding why we are here, you always end up with a illogical roadblock that is a mystery.

For example, if you say this idea of Adam's sin having to fall on us all (and the flip side that Jesus had, with a bold HAD, to died for us) makes no sense, therefore I'm taking another path. Then, for example, you take the naturalistic, atheistic path . . . eventually you will run into the same type of absurdity. You eventually arrive at a point where out of totally nothing, all that is, came spontaneously.

You can pick each of the other possible answers to the problem of why we exist, pantheisms, animism or you name it, and you always end up with these absurd points.

So then the temptation is throw up your hands and become an Existential Nihilist. But what good does that do? There is still an answer but you've given up believing in answers and live miserably. On the other hand, I'm not saying (like a optimistic, humanistic existentialist) that we should just pick a belief system that makes us fulfilled and live with it without caring or giving a hoot if it is true or not.

I'm straying from your question so I will end this. In my personal opinion, and it is far too difficult to explain here, I believe that Christianity is true for several logical reasons. So, the part of it, which I can't honestly explain, I accept, being supported on the back of the part that does make sense.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Natural Disasters . . . a Monist's Perspective

Okay, while this is the "Christian Monist" blog, I really don't say much . . . at least directly . . . about that perspective. I know I have links on this page to explain what I mean. I do have critics who have no clue as to what I'm talking about. No, I'm not talking about some new sect that doesn't believe in the Trinity. It is not about the Trinity. Simply, like C.S. Lewis, it is a position that stands opposed to Platonic Dualism, which I think has had a powerful influence within the Church over the centuries.

When it comes to natural disasters, I think the contrast is most acute. A Dualist sees this physical earth as some kind of vapor when juxtaposed to the spiritual world, which is the true reality. Pantheists are somewhat on the same page as Christian Dualists when it comes to this metaphysical concept.

A monist believes that this physical world is very, very real and extremely important. God didn't create the physical universe as an accidental belch when He was only interested in the far more important spiritual realm. We certainly do not believe (as some have interpreted what I'm trying to say) in a naturalistic, closed system of the universe's origins. Meaning that the Big Bang happened by a pure accident of physics and everything today is the product of naturalistic cause and effect.

I personally believe that this physical world is not just a temporary (and inferior) situation that will be replaced by us being only spiritual beings for all of eternity as we float on clouds. I believe that the New Heavens and New Earth, that God is going to bring, is a wonderful repair job of the universe and an improvement up to the intended (before the Fall) state of the physical universe.

So the singularity of "monistism" is the believe that the spiritual AND the physical are both created by God and is God-stuff, thus not crap and thus worthy of great valuation. But, we certainly agree with the concept of the Fall, so the physical world is not perfect as God had intended.

So, when it comes to natural disasters, the Dualist must show his/her hand. Since this physical world has little significance (including the laws of physics, plate tectonics and etc.) they must ascribe meaning to the event from the far more important (in their view) spiritual realm. So, as you could hear in thousands of pulpits around the world this Sunday morning, the horrible tsunami in Japan was either, 1) God judging those horrible Buddhists, 2) birth pains of the coming Tribulation or 3) God doing it just to teach patience to some American Evangelical sitting in his hot tub (I pick on hot tubs a lot I know, and it is probably because I enjoy mine so much and I feel kind of decadent) and who was wanting to watch a football on his waterproof HD flat screen but the game was interrupted by breaking news from Japan.

I as a monist do not have to do that. I can sit comfortably at the same table (in this one metaphysical arena) with the pure naturalist. Like how Lewis described Aslan, the earth is good, but it is not safe. The reason the earth is not safe is because of the dynamics of the planet and somehow (different than Aslan) that lack of safety is tied to the fall. So, the tsunami happened because there was a sudden up thrust of the earth's crust. The slip happened because the pressure had build up for a long time according to Newtonian laws of physics. The wave was produced in strict accordance to those same laws (which I believe were created by God) the displacement of a fluid produces waves. I think I've made my point.

I still consider myself a Calvinist on most issues. I don't worry about the salvation of my Children because I believe that is in God's hands. I do what I must to help them, but I'm not in a panic that it totally depends upon me. So my Calvinist friends insist that God has to specifically plan and execute the earthquake, the direction of the tsunami and specifically which little child was torn to bits and which one was safe. "All in his plan." They suggest to say anything else weakens God.

I've said before that I'm certainly not on the same page as Rabi Kushner (Why Bad Things Happen to Good People). As I said a few months ago, I heard an interview with him where he came to a crossroads in his life that he knew that he either had to have a good, loving God or a Omnipotent God . . . but he couldn't have both. So he, willingly, choose the good, loving God. His conclusion was that God, like us, is a victim of the powerful acts of nature. I'm not saying that at all. In my concept of God, He wiggled His nose (okay, this is a pun) and the whole, now 14 billion light-year diameter, universe came into being. Surely then, He could hold together a deep sea fault line or calm down a rouge wave. But, in my view, He created this wonderful physical world with real cause and effect. Somehow the universe was safe under His idea conditions. But now, through the fall, it is not safe. If I jump off a nearby (250 foot) bridge, I will most likely die. I have one patient who survived his attempted suicide off that bridge only because he almost, literally, hit a Coast Guard cutter on the way down. They fished the pieces of his body out of the water and flew him to a trauma center. But physics are real and they are not safe.

Does God intervene? From my reading of scripture it appears that He does. He ask us to pray for protection so it is implied that He does protect. But in my real-life experiences (which also reveal truth) His acts against His laws of physics are rare . . . but we still must pray.

So, in my model of seeing the world, we not only can weep at the loss of life of the Japanese, but it is our God-given occupation to weep with them. We stand shoulder to shoulder with God in the wailing line. Not a weak, impotent God, but a God who knows that there is a reason that He must not intervene. It is our job to curse at death and destruction and to hold hope for the coming new world that will either be safer or us more indestructible.

Once again I had to type on the fly without proofreading, so please forgive me for typos, verb disagreement, wrong words and etc. I do see the light at the end of this business creating tunnel and I hope my work week drops from about 80 hours right now to a more manageable 60 in the coming weeks.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The God-Man War

I'm sure everyone has heard of the Supreme Court ruling this week on the Westboro Baptist's protest at military funerals. While I agree with the principle of the ruling, I, like most people, think what those so-called saints do is hideous. I don't need to waste my time arguing against their insanity, because I would be preaching to the choir. While I am often cynical of Evangelicalism, I'm confident that the majority of Evangelicals find these Baptist disgusting.

But when I saw the signs the little kids were holding up, I felt grief, but I also knew that there was a much bigger, more mainstream debate at stake. What I'm trying to say is deep and translucent and to put it into words is like trying to fence in a fog bank.

Okay, I will try and start. Someone out there can probably say it better. The universal Christian message is that sin entered into the world and tainted everything. It also put distance between us and God. The Garden of Eden story implicates that God is then at war with Satan, but in my opinion does not implicate that God is at war with mankind. We, even the unregenerate us, are not God's enemy. In my concept of God, I don't see Him, stroking his beard and in with a face of both anger and glee, stomping the wretched little humans under His feet like fire ants because we have sinned.

In my concept of God, He is overflowing with grace. Like Jesus looking down on Jerusalem and wanted to pick up the confused, wayward people, like chicks and put them under his wing, that is how I see God seeing us--even when we've failed. In my view, if God ever did get the notion to smite someone, He would smite the TV evangelist and the leaders of this Baptist church who corrupt these innocent ones.

So I think there is an issue closer to home and more practical in our churches. I don't like the part of Amazing Grace where it says "A wretch like me." When I've suggested that to others, they see it as arrogance on my part. I do like the ideal of Amazing Grace and I am in deep need of that grace every minute of every day. But when I call myself, or anyone "garbage," a "wretch," "scumbag" etc (and I've heard all those used in the context of the Church, with people talking about sinners) I am calling God a scumbag, garbage maker. He is not. I look at the earth, the plants, the animals and all humans still carrying that same God-given majesty. It is the same thought as C. S. Lewis had when he talked about the fact that if we really understood how wonderful (or cruel) our fellowman was, we would be tempted to fall down and worship them, or run in terror (in the later case).

Hebrews says that we are made just a little bit lower than the angels, and for just a while (during our earth dwelling). Humans are glorious. Our brains are glorious. Our talents are glorious. There is nothing to be ashamed about making those statements. If I made a clay pot, one of great artistry, and then the pot (think of the animation Beauty and the Beast here) could talk and the first words out of its mouth were, "I'm a wretch!" I would be hurt. Giving glory to ourselves, gives God, the created, the glory.

I'm not at all talking about the comparison game. Where we, in a desire for increased personal worth, push others down to push ourselves up. That usually goes, "Yeah, I made X amount of money last year because I'm so good." I'm talking about a universal praise of creation, including us created beings. It too has nothing to do with being soft on sin.

It came to my mind a couple of weeks ago when we had someone play the piano and sing at church. It was beautiful. Then you could tell that there was a social awkwardness afterwards. A few people clapped. Many didn't. Then the pastor came up to the microphone and said, "Oh please clap," and everyone did. From the Victorian age it was believed that to clap was to give the artist the praise instead of God. My view, to clap is to give God praise because of the gifts he's given us.

I noticed that both in the Islamic culture of Norther Pakistan and the Buddhist area of Nepal, they had the same attitude. The kids who weave the beautiful wool rugs in Pakistan (a small one is beneath my laptop as I type, which I got during my first trip to Pakistan in 1982) or in Nepal when the painters made these incredibly beautiful paintings, they were forced to, a) make an intentional mistake and b) never associate their personal name with their artwork. It is from the same mentality.

I'm reading a book on the Renaissance right now because my son, Ramsey, and I are using frequent flyer miles to go to Florence in two weeks. As I'm working my way through the Renaissance, there was a point (about 1200) when artists started signing their works. Before that, it was deeply frowned upon, as lowly man taking credit and being proud. But eventually the artists took credit for what God had given them.

So, when I talk like this, my Evangelical friends call me a "Humanist." I am not, in the true sense of the word. I don't, for a moment, suggest that we create our god in OUR image, which is the crux of Humanism. Nor do I hold up ourselves, the way we are, as the standard for how we should be.

But I will let this thought rest for a while.

I'm still in the middle of about 70 hour weeks right now, working full time while trying to create a business. I hope to be back here more often in the near future.