Are You Witnesses of All This?

 

Over the last several posts I’ve written about philosophers (Epicurus in particular and Protagoras) and philosophies (Epicureanism and Stoicism). Taken together they state, among other things I described earlier, that this life is all there is. There would be no hereafter in that way of thinking. During the first century the Apostle Paul, the “the apostle of the Gentiles”, encountered those worldviews on the streets where he sold his tents and in the early churches where he taught.

Writing to those in the Corinthian church whose Gentile members denied a resurrection of the dead, Paul responded in a rather taunting manner to their philosophical take on death as final. The gospel he proclaimed – Jesus is Lord, forgiveness of sins, new creation, the kingdom of God on earth has been launched – all hinged on the resurrection of Jesus.

And if the Messiah wasn’t raised, your faith is pointless, and you are still in your sins. 1 Cor. 15:7

After addressing and closing the dead are raised issue with an eye witness defense (1 Cor. 15: 3-8), Paul responds to the heart of the Corinthian objection to resurrection: the nature of future bodies. He mocks their materialist objections using an analogy from nature:

But someone is now going to say, “How are the dead raised? What sort of body will they have when they come back? Stupid! What you sow doesn’t come back to life unless it dies. 1 Cor. 15: 35

No doubt, Paul also heard that Jesus responded in a similar fashion when he rebuked the Sadducees who denied the resurrection (as recorded in Luke 20:38 and below, in Mark 12:

“Where you are going wrong,” replied Jesus, “is that you don’t know the scriptures, or God’s power. When people rise from the dead, they don’t marry, nor do people give them in marriage. They are like angels in heaven.

However, to show that the dead are indeed raised, surely you’ve read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, what God says to Moses? ‘I am Abraham’s God, Isaac’s God, and Jacob’s God’? He isn’t the God of the dead, but of the living. You are completely mistaken.”

In the same letter (1 Cor.15:19), agitated Paul, in talking about people’s motivations in light of their position on the resurrection, recommends Epicurean self-pity if the dead are not raised.

If it’s only in this present life that we have hope in the Messiah, we are the most pitiable members of the human race.

He later quotes a popular Epicurean saying that embraces self-pity and self-indulgence in light off…

…If the dead are not raised,

“Let us eat and drink,

for tomorrow we die.”

1 Cor. 15:32

What was Paul’s background that offered him insight into Greek philosophies? We learn from Acts 21: 37 -39 as he defends himself against highly agitated Jews who clamored for his arrest.  He is brought before a Roman tribune:

“Am I allowed to say something to you??” he asked.

“Well!” replied the tribune. “So you know some Greek, do you? Aren’t you the Egyptian who raised a revolt some while back and led those four thousand ‘assassins’ into the desert?”

“Actually, replied Paul. “I am a Jew! I am from Tarsus in Cilica. That’s not an insignificant place to be a citizen of. Please let me speak to the people.”

Inferring his Roman citizenship, Paul goes on to defend his Jewish background in the face of his Jewish accusers:

“I am a Jew, he continued, “and born in Tarsus in Cilicia. I received my education here in this city, and I studied at the feet of Gamaliel. I was trained in the strictest interpretations of our ancestral laws and became zealous for God, just as all of you today.”

Paul had significant first-hand knowledge of Greek, Roman and Jewish worldviews. Paul was more than able to respond to the Epicurean context of the Gentiles. Paul was more than able to present the gospel in the context of the Jewish worldview, a worldview of monotheism, the Temple, eschatology and …resurrection.

The narrative of the resurrection and an eschatology of the age to come took on great import during the Second Temple Judaism. Other than the words of Moses and some metaphorical allusions to resurrection by Isaiah (Isaiah 26:19) and Ezekiel (37), there isn’t mention of the resurrection in the Old Testament. Those allusions were applied during the Babylonian exile. They refer to the restoration of Israel as a nation and the reoccurring theme of exodus from bondage. The scribe Daniel is the first to mention the resurrection in non-metaphorical terms when he describes the “wise”, the Jewish resistance to Antiochus, not dying in vain (Daniel 11).

It was during the intertestamental period that scribes began writing about the resurrection of the dead, among many other topics of concern during late Second Temple Judaism. The Qumran community kept these writings in clay jars within caves in case the community was taken out by the Romans.

The Jewish religious leaders in Jesus’ time knew these writings, e.g., The Epistle of Enoch and 2 Maccabees. The disciples knew them. Paul knew them. The writings were talked about in the synagogues and on the streets. These writings offered a Messianic hope for the coming day when God would put things right. In the meantime, they stoked courage against the looming threat of Roman authority. It is very likely that Mary and Martha would have known about these writing as well. It appears that Martha had an understanding of them when she confronts Jesus after her brother Lazarus dies.

When Martha heard that Jesus had arrived, she went to meet him. Mary, meanwhile stayed sitting at home.

“Master,” said Martha to Jesus, “if only you’d been here! Then my brother wouldn’t have died! But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask him for.”

“Your brother will rise again,” replied Jesus.

“I know he will rise on the last day.”

(Notice the role reversals from the previous Mary and Martha encounter with Jesus in their home? Martha, the fussbudget homebody, is now interested to hear what Jesus has to say. She goes to meet him. Mary, who doted on Jesus at his feet, stays at home where she grieves and perhaps sulks that Jesus wasn’t there for her brother. She was given another chance at Jesus’ feet.)

Jesus responded to Martha.

“I am the resurrection and the life,” replied Jesus. “Anyone who believes in me will live, even if they die. And anyone who lives and believes in me will never, ever die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes, master,” she said. “This is what I’ve come to believe: that you are the Messiah, the son of God, the one who was to come into the world.”

Jesus responded to Martha’s eschatological understanding with, in effect, “I am revising your understanding with personal present tense knowledge of me”. Jesus then asks for Mary. Proximity to Jesus matters and not only for Mary and Martha’s sake but also for Jesus’ sake. He wants to see for himself the loss, the grief and the pain we feel. He would carry our griefs and sorrows to the cross and then remove the sting of death with his (and then our) resurrection.

When Mary came to where Jesus was, she saw him and fell down at his feet.

“Master!” she said, “If only you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died!”

When Jesus saw her crying, and the Judeans who had come with her crying, he was deeply stirred in his spirit, and very troubled…”

Mary and Martha witnessed the resurrection of their brother Lazarus. The three of them would learn of and perhaps be among the over five-hundred brothers and sisters who saw Jesus alive after his resurrection (1 Cor. 15: 5). All of them were witnesses of the things that came to pass. And what came to pass was not a doctrine or a philosophy or an apparition – a ghost. It was bodily resurrection.

No mere manmade philosophy, ancient or otherwise, could ever revive the dead or comfort the living in their loss with “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” No amount of pleasure reduces the pain we feel. No amount of materialism and its cheerleading proponent Progressivism – a political pandering to self-pity – will provide hope for today. Those philosophical positions are about nursing wounds. Those philosophical positions are ephemera compared to the reality of the bodily Resurrection of Jesus and the new life offered to those who believe.

Only the Resurrection and the Life can reverse the downward spiral of mankind and provide hope that doesn’t pass away with a meal. Live in the present tense Resurrection and Life as Mary and Martha and hundreds of early followers of Jesus did.

Are you witnesses of all this? Of the resurrection? Or, are you witnesses of the Easter bunny? I think that’s what Paul had in mind when he mocked the Corinthians.

Empty tomb

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

The Resurrection is the central theme in every Christian sermon reported in the Acts. The Resurrection, and its consequences were the “gospel” or good news which the Christians brought: what we call the “gospels,” the narratives of Our Lord’s life and death, were composed later for the benefit of those who had already accepted the gospel. They were in no sense the basis of Christianity: they were written for those already converted. The miracle of the Resurrection, and the theology of that miracle, comes first: the biography comes later as a comment on it. Nothing could be more unhistorical than to pick out selected sayings of Christ from the gospels and to regard those as the datum and the rest of the New Testament as a construction upon it. The first fact in the history of Christendom is a number of people who say they have seen the Resurrection.

Miracles, C.S. Lewis

Good Friday and the Problem of Self-Pity

 

Definition of self-pity

: pity for oneself especially: a self-indulgent dwelling on one’s own sorrows or misfortunes

Evening Melancholy I 1896 – by Edvard Munch

The philosophy of Epicureanism posited by the Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 BC) a few centuries before the birth of Christ offered mankind self-pity with license. Per Epicurus, there was no God or the gods were uninvolved with men and there was no life after death. So, mankind had to make the best of the atoms he was dealt. Man was to do so by avoiding pain and seeking pleasure in the company of like-minded friends. Self-pity could be dealt with in intimate and safe surroundings.

Prior to Epicurus, the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher and sophist[i] Protagoras (490 BC – c. 420 BC) postulated “Man is the measure of all things.” There were no Universal truths for Protagoras. As Epicurus would later teach, everything to be believed was to come through the senses. Protagoras’ atheism adopted moral relativism as a way to give meaning to a life of self-pity: “What’s true for me may not be true for you…”; “Anything goes…If it feels good, do it” until you die.

“Concerning the gods, I have no means of knowing whether they exist or not, nor of what sort they may be, because of the obscurity of the subject, and the brevity of human life.” – Protagoras

The Stoics[ii], around the same time as Epicurus, posited a grim fatalist outlook. Considering themselves cogs in life’s machinery their response was to lead a virtuous life in spite of “it all”. Materialism and passions were of no interest to them. “No Fear” and apathy towards life’s randomness were the attitudes they wore on their shoulder to appear non-self-pitying. They also advocated for suicide, the ultimate self-pity.

I cite these two Greek philosophers and the Stoic philosophy, because, as it seems to me, the ideals posited by them summarize all of the ensuing humanist philosophies: man is the measure of all things; there is nothing transcendent only naturalistic causes; man operates as a product of animal organism within different cultures; man must create his own meaning; man is logos.

Evident today in modern man’s worldview are philosophies espoused centuries ago. Strains or genealogies of man-as-logos thought has been passed down from the Garden through generations. I recognize the dehumanizing philosophies, those that elevate man to be the center of the universe and also entice him to live in servility to his bodily functions. There is no doubt in my mind that modern man is influenced by these self-pitying based philosophies. Our current politics, especially the politics of the Progressive Element, highlight their invasiveness into modern thought. Below, a recent campaign appeal to self-pity for votes (and a humanist version of Jesus’ “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”):

To anyone who has ever felt different or unloved or not good enough-this is a moment to show you that you matter to all of us. Keep believing in yourself, we love you. Change is coming.

@PeteButtigieg

Around the first century Epicureanism and Stoicism were evident in Greek, Roman and Pagan life. These philosophies gave words to what was inherent in man from his days in the Garden. During the first century these philosophies were already fused with pantheism and the zeal to worship pagan deities. Pagan sacrifices were offered to placate the angry gods posited by philosophers and the temple priests. Such offerings to the angry gods were meant to ensure that the self-pity-self-logos applecart was not overturned. Into that self-reflecting age came a Reflection of Heaven.

During the first century the Apostle Paul wrote “when the fulness of time arrived, God sent his son, born of a woman” to redeem those kept in “slavery” under the “elements of the world” Gal (4:3-4). The self-pitying responses to life were given notice.

Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, a church embedded with Epicurean thought, about the Israelite’s desert plight. The Israelites displeased God with their self-pitying Epicurean ways:

The people sat down to eat and drink, and got up to play. – 1 Cor. 10:7

The self-pity (“God doesn’t care.”; ‘We’re all going to die.”) the Israelites had in Egypt they brought with them into the desert. Their self-pity became a pattern of living: idolatry, immorality, testing God and grumbling.

Epicurus taught of a shared life with friends. Paul wrote to the believers in Philippi about a shared life in the King. He taught a different way of thinking, one not of self-pity, but one centered on the Logos and other-centered. Paul taught about a partnership in the spirit, about fixing your mind on the Messiah, about never acting out of selfish ambition and, about looking “after each other’s best interests, not your own”.

Stoics taught a grim fatalist apathy towards life’s hardships, that one must muddle through bravely without hope. Jesus taught “Blessed are the poor in spirit. For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” There was no after life for a stoic. Jesus said, “There is plenty of room to live in my father’s house. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and welcome you into My presence, so that you also may be where I am.

Paul’s epistles explain more: Jesus knew what he had to do to rescue men from self-pity and its consequent self-destruction. He would deny himself and empty himself of all pleasure -glory in the company of his father-and take on the incomprehensible pain of the world. He didn’t blame fate or others for his coming crucifixion. There was no posturing stoicism against unknown odds or self-indulgent dwelling on one’s own sorrows or misfortunes when Jesus asked “My father, if it’s possible –please, please let this cup go away from me! But… not what I want, but what you want.” Love for the father and for his creation was his motivation and his life’s meaning and, his means to bring humankind into the same intimacy he enjoyed with the father.

I have given them the glory which you have given to me, so that they may be one, just as we are one. – John 17: 22

Protagoras taught “Man is the measure of all things.” Paul wrote that King Jesus was the measure of all things.

This is how you should think among yourselves – with the mind that you have because of you belong to the Messiah, Jesus:

Who, though in God’s form, did not

Regard his equality with God

As something to exploit

 

Instead, he emptied himself,

And received the form of a slave,

Being born in the likeness of humans.

And then, having human appearance,

He humbled himself, and became

Obedient even to death,

 

Yes, even the death of the cross.

And so God has greatly exalted him,

And to him in his favor has given

The name which is over all names:

That now at the name of Jesus

That every knee within heaven shall bow—

On earth, too, and under the earth;

And every tongue shall confess

That Jesus, Messiah, is Lord,

To the glory of God, the father.

-Early Christian hymn recorded in Philippians 2

 

 

Both Protagoras and Epicurus taught that death was the end. For them and for many since, there would be no thought of resurrection, only the dust bin of history containing once self-pitying lives lived seeking pleasure and avoiding pain.

Even though first century Judaism (and freaked-out King Herod) was abuzz with talk about the resurrection of the dead, Mary and Martha, (in bouts of self-pity?) appear to have thought that their brother’s death was the end of life as they knew it.

“Master,” said Martha to Jesus, “if only you’d been here! Then my brother wouldn’t have died!

“Master!” Mary said. If only you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died!”

The Resurrection and the Life would have none of this talk. And, he would deal with self-pity.

 

 

~~~~

On my dining room table there is a fragrant pot of lilies. The fragrance….is not the smell of death but of resurrection…

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

[i] The philosophical school of Sophists did not deal in truth, logic, beauty or the transcendent. As Pluralists their teaching was a mix of philosophy, politics, opportunism and entrepreneurship. They were pragmatists who offered their life-counseling services for fee. They were self-help gurus.

 

[ii] Stoics taught that there is no universal truth, that what could be learned was through the senses and experience. The Divinity they believed in was the Logos, or mind. According to the pantheistic Stoics, we all breathed in pneuma, the air of the soul of the universe, the Oversoul. They avoided passion and worldly pleasures and thought the ascetic life ideal. Pleasure was not considered good and pain was not considered evil. Virtue is good and vice evil. Life deals cards, deal with it. Their philosophy can be summed as follows: “Everything happens for the best, and you can usually expect the worst.”; “c’est la vie!”

 

Palm Sunday and the Problem of Evil

 

Just a few centuries before the first Palm Sunday, Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 B.C.) promoted to his followers the notions of another ancient Greek philosopher, Demetrius (c. 460 – c. 370 B.C.). Demetrius’ had proposed the theory of Atomism to account for nature.

The theory in brief: random, unguided ‘atoms’ (as he called them) smash into each other, thereby creating the world and life as we know it. Such a hypothesis turned philosophy by Epicurus gave Epicurus the ‘means’ to do away with a personally involved god (and human accountability to a god). He went on to tweak Demetrius’ theory. He said that atoms do not always go in straight lives but can “swerve”. As such, his philosophy was then able to avoid atomism’s inherent determinism and to allow for man’s free will.

Epicurus also taught that nothing should be believed, except for that which was tested through direct observation and logical deduction – believed via the sensate and reason. He believed that the ‘gods’ were off angry somewhere upstairs. The gods were distant and uninvolved and therefore unrelated to ‘thinking’ and ‘sensing’ man’s life. Man had to make do with the atoms he had been dealt.

“What was most important in Epicurus’ philosophy of nature was the overall conviction that our life on this earth comes with no strings attached; that there is no Maker whose puppets we are; that there is no script for us to follow and be constrained by; that it is up to us to discover the real constraints which our own nature imposes on us.” ― Epicurus, The Epicurus Reader

Since, per Epicurus’s teaching, “that there is no Maker whose puppets we are“, the problem of evil paradox he posited augmented this teaching:

“The gods can either take away evil from the world and will not, or, being willing to do so cannot; or they neither can nor will, or lastly, they are able and willing. If they have the will to remove evil and cannot, then they are not omnipotent. If they can but will not, then they are not benevolent. If they are neither able nor willing, they are neither omnipotent nor benevolent. Lastly, if they are both able and willing to annihilate evil, why does it exist?” ― Epicurus


 

The Epicurean paradox is answered with another paradox: What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? Psalm 8:4

There was nothing ambiguous or theoretical or abstract about the appearance of Son of man. There was direct observation by his followers. In the fullness of time, including Epicurean times, the Lord of the universe put on human flesh – dust fashioned from the created elements including about 18% carbon – to deal with the problem of evil. Philosophers, before and after Epicurus, pronounced judgement on God for all the evil in the world. Jesus entered flesh and blood, space and time, to pronounce judgement on evil. He did so without equivocation. Jesus did not succumb to the Satan’s temptations, Demons were cast out. Hypocrites were denounced and death itself was overturned. Jesus suffered the full force of evil on the cross, an act of redemption from evil’s ransom.

The demand of the loveless and the self-imprisoned that they should be allowed to blackmail the universe: that till they consent to be happy (on their own terms) no one else shall taste joy: that theirs should be the final power; that Hell should be able to veto Heaven. – George MacDonald, C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce

The King of Glory wept over Jerusalem and his people who so often rejected their reveal-to-the-world-the-one-true-God vocation. Palm Sunday. The King of Glory, emptied of his glory, rides a donkey into Jerusalem to meet evil head on and to put the world right. The “Epicurean Paradox” would be addressed and soundly answered. It was not the dénouement of evil.

Jesus is everything you need to know about God and the problem of evil. Let the King of Glory come into your life to deal with the problem of evil.

 

Six Other Degrees of Separation

 

Six blind men live in Metropolis, Illinois. They were born in the eighties and have been blind from birth.  

These six men consider the earth to be round. They came to this understanding during their grade school education which included handling of the classroom globe. Their day-to-day experience told them that the world was flat and with many sharp corners.

From Mrs. Foley, their high school physical science teacher, these six men learned about Ptolemy and Copernicus. They learned that the sun and not the earth is at the center of our universe. Their day-to-day experience taught them that their universe was a big as the darkness in which they lived.

One day in August, as they listened to the news on the radio, these six men heard about a total solar eclipse. To their delight the path of totality, the announcer said, would be through Carbondale, Illinois.

When the morning of the total eclipse came, the six men took a bus to Carbondale. When they arrived the men soon became separated by the rush and noise of the crowds. While sitting on the bus the men had agreed to return on the 6:30pm bus to Metropolis.

One blind man found his way to a corner where there was talk of a shuttle bus to the viewing site. He got on.

The second blind man asked for the directions to where everyone would be for the event. A young couple said, “Follow us”. The blind man held onto the woman’s arm.

The third blind man heard a man with a loud speaker say that people should park “over there and walk to the university.” So, he found his way to the university.

The fourth blind man was hungry. So, he asked anyone who could hear if there was food nearby. An old man stopped and said, “there’s a hot dog stand around the next corner”. The blind said, “Thank you” and found his way to the hot dog stand.

The fifth blind man was tired. The noise and confusion made him tired. He found a bench and sat down. Soon he fell asleep.

The sixth blind man heard some street vendors hawking tee shirts and eclipse glasses. He followed the footsteps.

 

By late afternoon the six men had arrived at the bus station. At 6:10 pm they boarded the bus. The bus headed back to Metropolis at 6:30 pm.

As they rode along the six blind men began to talk about the day’s event.

The first blind man spoke. “The eclipse is of great spiritual value. I heard street people everywhere as I walked. They were offering remembrances and spiritual items like incense candles, crystals, and, and, special glasses to see it with. One kind man told me that no one should look at the great phenomenon without special glasses. But since I am blind, I bought a tee shirt instead. They told me it says, “I survived the 2017 Total Eclipse”.

The second blind man spoke. “No. How can it have any spiritual meaning? It is just a novelty, something unique-‘a Magic Shadow-show’. It only happens once every so many years. People should go to the carnival, have some food and entertainment, enjoy themselves. The eclipse is good times.”

The third blind spoke. “The eclipse is inclusive. It brings people together. I heard a woman say that she heard that all her friends were coming to view the eclipse. So, she had to come to. ‘Everyone was doing it,’ she said.”

“What?” The fourth blind man jumped in. “Not everyone is doing it. Someone told me that the older Navajos will not look at it when it is happening. They fear bad things can happen if you look during the eclipse, like health issues. The eclipse is taboo.”

The fifth blind man spoke. “All I know is that the eclipse is eerie. When I heard the people around me say “It’s happening,” it was like the earth stood still. I suddenly felt a chill like the sun had been unplugged. And the birds even stopped tweeting. The eclipse is scary.”

The last blind man spoke. “It’s worse than you can imagine. Someone next to me said “This is super cool. I’ve never seen anything like this before in my life.” I looked up for a long time but of course I saw nothing. But now, my eyes burn so much I want to tear them out. The eclipse is a deep burning darkness.”

 

 

 

© J. Ann Johnson, 2017, All Rights Reserved

 

~~~

 

August 21, 2017 – 1:21p.m. CDT

Palm Sunday and the “Epicurean Paradox” is Solved

 

“The gods can either take away evil from the world and will not, or, being willing to do so cannot; or they neither can nor will, or lastly, they are able and willing. If they have the will to remove evil and cannot, then they are not omnipotent. If they can but will not, then they are not benevolent. If they are neither able nor willing, they are neither omnipotent nor benevolent. Lastly, if they are both able and willing to annihilate evil, why does it exist?” ― Epicurus

 

Just a few centuries before the first Palm Sunday, Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 B.C.) promoted to his followers the notions of another ancient Greek philosopher, Demetrius (c. 460 – c. 370 B.C.). Demetrius’ had proposed the theory of Atomism to account for the change he saw around him.

The theory in brief: random, unguided ‘atoms’ (as he called them) smash into each other, thereby creating the world and life as we know it. Such a hypothesis turned philosophy by Epicurus gave Epicurus the ‘means’ to do away with a personally involved god and remove human accountability. He went on to tweak Demetrius’ theory. He said that atoms do not always go in straight lives but can “swerve”. As such, his philosophy was then able to avoid atomism’s inherent determinism and to allow for man’s free will.

“What was most important in Epicurus’ philosophy of nature was the overall conviction that our life on this earth comes with no strings attached; that there is no Maker whose puppets we are; that there is no script for us to follow and be constrained by; that it is up to us to discover the real constraints which our own nature imposes on us.” ― Epicurus, The Epicurus Reader

Epicurus also taught that nothing should be believed, except for that which was tested through direct observation and logical deduction – believed via the sensate and reason. Hence, the beginning of the fact/value split so prevalent in man’s thinking today. Epicurus formed this dichotomy when he decided that he had to fend for himself.

He taught that the ‘gods’ were off angry somewhere upstairs. The Roman and Greek ‘gods’ were distant and uninvolved and therefore unrelated to ‘thinking’ and ‘sensing’ man’s life. Man had to make do with the atoms he had. So, too, Deism, began to take root.

“It is folly for a man to pray to the gods for that which he has the power to obtain by himself.” –Epicurus

 

Palm Sunday. Enter Jesus. Divine glory is riding on a donkey weeping over Jerusalem and the people who rejected their vocation. He is riding on a donkey to meet evil head on and to put the world right. The “Epicurean Paradox” had been addressed and solved. On Palm Sunday, every theory about God had been proven false. Jesus would be everything you need to know about God.

Epicurus didn’t see this “swerve” coming, but the prophet Zechariah did.

 

 Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!

   Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!

See, your king comes to you,

   righteous and victorious,

lowly and riding on a donkey,

    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

I will take away the chariots from Ephraim

    and the warhorses from Jerusalem,

    and the battle bow will be broken.

He will proclaim peace to the nations.

  His rule will extend from sea to sea

   and from the River to the ends of the earth.

As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you,

   I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.

Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope;

   even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.

Zechariah 9: 9-12

 

Coincidental fact:

“Epicurus’ school, which was based in the garden of his house and thus called “The Garden”, had a small but devoted following in his lifetime.”

 

 

More about Epicurus:  Aren’t You a Bit Epicurious?

On the Brink

 

On the Brink

 

“Why?” the child asks.

“Who says?” the youth asks.

“When can I?” the teenager asks.

“Why not?” the twenty-year old asks.

“Who are you?” the thirty-year old asks.

“Where are you?” the forty-year old asks.

“Who am I?” the fifty-year old asks.

“When can I?” the sixty-year old asks.

“What did you say?” the seventy-year old asks.

“Whatever.” the eighty-year old says.

 

 

 

 

 

 

©Ann Johnson, Kingdom Venturers

Leszek Kolakowski-The Sacred and Profound

“We learn history not in order to know how to behave or how to succeed, but to know who we are.”

– Leszek Kołakowski, Polish philosopher and historian of ideas

HOW to COMMENCE: “Fail Big; Be Grateful, Seek Wisdom, Get On Your Knees…”

Denzel Washington’s remarkable commencement speech points these graduates forward and away from, hopefully, the dead-end route of Marxist black liberation theology.

Denzel speaks of God-given human desire, of aspirations beyond one’s self, of failing big, of seeking wisdom from above out of a heart of gratefulness and a daily dependence on God. All of these characteristics, he concludes, culminate in a life that makes a difference for the good toward the graduate and to the others he or she may encounter.

Here is something else to ruminate on:

“Today, many people, especially academics, assume that intellectual work takes places in the objective world of the hard sciences, and that the more you move in the direction of the so-called arts, especially things like metaphysics and theology, the more you are simply talking nonsense about nothing. This is the function of Epicurean assumptions, not of the hard sciences themselves; many periods and cultures have developed sophisticated scientific work without assuming that you had to split off from other kinds of knowledge.

Nevertheless, many leading scientists today were brought up on the split-world viewpoint. Some have even, with unintended irony, made it an article of faith that one should not allow articles of faith into the classroom or laboratory….the mistake… of confusing science with scientism, of placing the proper and wise investigation of the natural world within the worldview of Epicureanism, which itself is unproved and indeed unprovable.

So, what’s the alternative? Here, perhaps to the surprise of some, the Christian worldview has a great deal to offer, when you trace it back to its beginnings in ancient Israel, then to Jesus and the writings of the first two or three Christian centuries. The category that emerges again and again in the scriptures and the great teachers of the faith is wisdom, sophia in Greek, Chokma in Hebrew….Wisdom (being) what you need, according to scripture, to become genuinely, fully human. And genuine, fully rounded humanity is what our culture, with its pretense of religion and its variety of unnamed but powerful gods, has been remarkably short of.” (emphasis mine) N.T. Wright, “Surprised by Scripture.”

Our ability to imagine, to intuit and to be wise has been greatly damaged by education that presupposes a fact/value split.

“What renders man an imaginative and moral being is that in society he gives new aims to his life which could not have existed in solitude: the aims of friendship, religion, science, and art.” George Santayana

Regarding “Epicurean assumptions” see my previous posts:

Aren’t You A Bit Epicurious?

Aren’t You a Bit Solipsistic?

Epicurus “High-Horse” Mal-Ware v. 2.015

One Nation Under Epicurus?

***

This post is dedicated to my nephew Joseph (Joe) who has just graduated from high school. The open house is next Saturday. Congrats Joe!

Joe, I know that you already have God-given desires in your heart. May God grant you the desires of your heart. And don’t forget. Enjoy the ride and “Every girl’s crazy about a sharp dressed” grad.

College Trigger Warnings-Nothing New Under the Hard Sun

So one day, as Plato conveyed to me over a glass of ruby-red Greek wine, he goes back into the claustrophobic cave where he once had the courage to flee. He excitedly tells his former neighbors-the self-shackled cave dwellers-that there is brilliant light outside. Everything can be seen clearly. Truth and beauty await them outside the cave.

He tells them that the large fire at the back of the cave is casting the shadowy flickering images on the walls of their cave. This is what is scaring them. He tells them that their understanding of life, their vision is veiled and distorted. “Come and see”, he tells them.

Most of the cave dwellers respond apathetically. Some had tried to read the shapes on the wall and to discern their meaning but to no avail. (The images are the cave dwellers themselves as distorted silhouettes projected onto the walls by the firelight. They cannot figure this out. Besides, they tell themselves, “Truth is what our cave dwelling friends let us get away with saying.”)

After Plato’s pleading the cave dwellers tell him that they do want anyone to stop the picture show. They know what to expect day after day. They look forward to the same known foggy reality.

Plato, my friend, was then denounced as part of a lunatic fringe element for his Ideas. He was ridiculed and banished from the cave. If the cave dwellers had been not shackled they would have killed the ‘prophet’ of a new and illuminated world. Instead they invented trigger warnings to fend off intruders.

The end.

Plato's Cave

Plato’s Cave

The video link at the bottom of this post sheds some light on the scary shadow developed skepticism of many people hunkered down in their trigger warning guarded thought caves.

Tim Keller, introduced in the video, is also a contributor to the Christian-based theistic evolution science blog Biologos.org.

After Keller’s presentation, about 44 minutes into the video, there is a question and answer period.

Several students question Keller including two philosophy students who ramble on trying to form a question that Keller can answer. It is an interesting discourse, to be sure. Kant is brought out and dusted off.

It was Kant and the thinkers of Enlightenment that brought out and dusted off the “Upper” and “Lower” storybooks stashed away on the shelves of philosophy for centuries – basically, the ‘atomistic’ philosophy promoted by the Greek philosopher Epicurus.

Once Darwin came on the scene the thought-value split quickly became the Western mindset. Man, we were told, had evolved out of his unenlightened cave to live in his new cave of Scientism. Religion was dismissed as only flickering sentimental shadows of the past. Truth had been divided into Continental and Analytical thinking, with no middle ground between.

Once I built an ivory tower

so I could worship from above

when I climb down to be set free

she took me in again

from “Hard Sun”, written by Gordon Peterson

Francis Schaeffer, the founder of L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland, used the following diagram to describe modern man’s dualistic thinking to those who studied at L’Abri.

The Two-Story Concept of Truth

Values

Private, subjective, relative

Facts

Public, objective, universal

 

This dichotomy has grown so pervasive that most people do not even recognize they hold it. It has become part of the cultural air we breathe. Consider two prominent examples:

Martin Luther King Jr.: “Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals with mainly values.”

Albert Einstein: “Science yields facts but not “value judgments”; religion expresses values but cannot “speak of facts.”

 

Modern man, hiding behind easily tripped trigger warnings inside his cave, shackled to soulless hand-held materialism denies the existence of the whole outside world, a world brightly illuminated. It was a medievalist poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, who understood the magnitude of the illuminated whole: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”

Once out of the cave, reality for man is the Hard Sun. Yet, Man will see and then, if willing, embrace both Continental and Analytical thinking. He can embrace both nature and grace, both facts and values, both Truth and Beauty.

And Man can also walk in the eternal light of God’s Son, for he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

The Veritas Forum: Belief in an Age of Skepticism?

Added:

If you are skeptical about the reality of the resurrection of Jesus then I have some light for you:  Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony by Richard Bauckham

Epicurus Wins Greek Election or Pain Must Be Shared to Be Fully Enjoyed

My last two posts took you for a ride in the “Wayback Machine”. The ride, with no cost to you and minimal effort on your part, took you back to the time of Epicurus, the Greek philosopher. Then I forwarded the machine to our present time, the age of the Angry Atheists. Today’s post will take you for a ride in the “Lean Forward” Machine.

 The “Lean Forward” Machine is not like the “Wayback Machine”. Whereas the “Wayback Machine” records and regards history in its travels as an annotated time line worthy of informing present decision-making regarding morals, social concerns, spirituality, politics and economics the “Lean Forward” Machine says “phooey with all of that”:

 “Let’s go full steam ahead to the future. “We have the omniscient and omnipresent being-‘perfected’-as-we-speak-with-your-tax-dollars Government (of Titanic proportions mind you) to pilot us (in ad hoc fashion mind you) to the Elysian Fields of the Brave New World.”

 At this point you should know that the “Lean Forward” Machine is regarded by some as a religious temple. Some even call it by the sacred name of its goddess-“Progress”.

 But, before we “Lean Forward” into unreality let us take at quick look at Epicurus’ homeland today to get a reality check on effects of his philosophy:

 

Epicurus' party pic

Epicurus’ party pic

Left-Wing Syriza Party Wins Big as Greece Rejects Austerity

ATHENS — Greece’s left-wing Syriza appeared on course to trounce the ruling conservatives in Sunday’s snap election and could win the absolute majority it wants to fight international creditors’ insistence on painful austerity measures.

Tsipras’ campaign slogan “Hope is coming!” resonated with voters, weary of austerity after six years of constant crisis that has sent unemployment over 25 percent and threatened millions with poverty.

“Hope is coming!” Wait! Where have I heard that before?

 Anyway, Greece, the land of the ancient philosopher Epicurus, has rejected austerity and forsaken posterity!: “My friends, let us make Epicurean lifestyle the epicenter of things! Eat, drink and be merry with impunity! Run up the tab! The gods don’t care. Why should we?”

 There you have it my friends. Sorry to say but it appears that the ticket for the “Lean Forward” Machine return trip would cost you everything. And, if you did go, you would not see your children and grandchildren flourishing. Rather, you would not find them at all, having vanquished in the Farmworkers’ Grape Pickers Camp; having been cast into the great winepress of the wrath of Progress.

 

I’m not going with you to look for my future in the “Lean Forward” Machine. I have not lost the Spirit or my faith in God. I have the Kingdom of God here on earth to tend to whether or not my belly is full. The Kingdom of God is my vocation, my calling, my camp.

 

“Instead, make your top priority God’s kingdom and his way of life, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew’s Gospel 6, verse 33