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

Ritual Meet Entropy: A Father’s Story

Andre Dubus

Ritual. During my train rides to and from work, I will read non-fiction on my way in to work and fiction on the way home. That has been my habit for the past seven years.

 For example:  Over the past couple of weeks I have been reading from N.T. Wright’s Kingdom New Testament and Leon Lederman’s & Christopher Hill’s Beyond the God Particle (Higgs boson, particle physics ‘stuff’) during the morning ride into work ~ it is a long haul. I am a ‘morning’ person so I can handle ‘deep thinking’ right out of the gate.

 During the same work days but on the flip side, and breaking with habit, I am reading an autobiography:  Taking the Stand, My Life in the Law, by Alan Dershowitz.  I’m doing this to catch up with all my recent book purchases.  More than this, though, Dershowitz’s life ~ “in the Law” was of special interest to me.  There are a lot of important legal issues being dealt with currently.

 Alan Dershowitz has impacted some of the court’s rulings over the course of his life’s passion ~ freedom of speech.  Much of his knowledge of the law was earned as a law clerk under some ‘heavy-weight’ judges and then later from working with the legal problems of various ‘famous’ or ‘infamous’ clients.

 But getting to the point of this post, ritual and law, the moral Truth of the New Testament and even the constants and space-time events of physics all play a part in a short story I want to recommend to you. The confluence of these interests coming from different directions goaded my desire to share it with you.

  The short story can be found in a compilation of short stories written by Andre Dubus.  The book’s simple and direct title:  Andre Dubus, Selected Stories.

I like the fact that Dubus writes with a definite masculine voice. His is not a macho voice but a male point of view you would get from a down-to-earth kind of guy. 

 On the other side of the aisle, another short story writer and a Nobel Prize winner in literature, Jill Munro, pens stories with a distinctly female voice.  I am reading her Dear Life collection of short stories on the weekends. But let’s get back to Dubus and the short story at hand.

When I read Andre Dubus’ A Father’s Story, I immediately empathized with the narrator, Luke Ripley. 

 Luke is divorced, single, and an empty nester with three sons and a daughter off somewhere else. Viscerally and literally Luke and I have a lot in common.

 His solitary life is lived in a ritual.  We soon learn of Luke’s morning habit of prayer while making his bed and then feeding his horses.  His evening ritual is that of sitting alone in the dark after dinner, smoking cigarettes and listening to operas.

  His morning habits also include seeing a priest ~ Father Paul Leboeuf, his best friend. Most mornings Luke rides one of his horses (he has a riding stable) over to church where Father Paul’s officiates.  There Luke hears the Mass and receives the Eucharist.  During the week the two men get together for a dinner meal.  With Father LeBeoeuf present and a can of beer in hand Luke verbally grieves his despair over losing his wife and his family.

 He talks about living through the difficult days after the divorce and what he believed ritual could have done for his marriage:

 “It is not hard to live through a day, if you can live through a moment.  What creates despair is the imagination, which pretends there is a future, and insists on predicting millions of moments, thousands of days, and so drains you that you cannot live the moment at hand.  That is what Father Paul told me in those first two years, on some bad nights when I believed I could not bear what I had to:  the most painful loss was my children, then the loss of Gloria, whom I still loved despite or maybe because of our long periods of sadness that rendered us helpless, so neither of us could break out of it to give a hand to the other.  Twelve years later I believe ritual would have healed us more quickly than the repetitious talks we had, perhaps even kept us healed. Marriages have lost that, and I wish I had known then what I what I know now, and we had performed certain acts together every day, no matter how we felt, and perhaps then we could have subordinated feeling to action, for surely that is the essence of love.  I know this from my distractions during Mass, and during everything else I do, so that my actions and my feelings are seldom one.  It does happen every day, but in proportion to everything else in the day, it is rare, like joy.

 At one point Luke tell us about the importance of ritual, having already told us that he is basically lazy person:

 “Do not think of me as a spiritual man whose every thought during those twenty-five minutes is at one with the words of the mass.  Each morning I try, each morning I fail, and I know that always I will be a creature who, looking at Father Paul and the altar, and uttering prayers, will be distracted by scrambled eggs, horses, the weather, and memories and daydreams that have nothing to do with the sacrament I am about to receive.  I can receive, though:  the Eucharist, and also, at Mass and at other times, moments and even minutes of contemplation. But I cannot achieve contemplation, as some can; and so, having to face and forgive my own failures, I have learned from them both the necessity and wonder of ritual.  For ritual allows those who cannot will themselves out of the secular to perform the spiritual, as dancing allows the tongue-tied man a ceremony of love.”

 We also learn intimate details about Luke’s ethics when he ‘privately’ tells us what he thinks about giving to the church. And then later, even more specifically, we hear him talk to Father Paul about sex with Gloria, about his “actual physical and spiritual plan of practicing rhythm: nights of striking the mattress with a fist…”

 Later, Luke’s only daughter Jennifer is brought into the story.  It is at this point that Luke speaks about coming to terms with change: “It is Jennifer’s womanhood that renders me awkward.” 

 Jennifer has grown up.  He recounts how her ‘change’ affected the ‘ritual’ of memories he kept of her as his sheltered little girl at home. Jennifer has become an ‘unsheltered’ on-her-own twenty-one year old girl with a purse full of adult symbols including a driver’s license.

More change: the story then drives us off the road of ritual and into a deadly serious situation.  Luke, a father of a daughter, has to make a life-altering decision.  After his decision is made we find out if Luke returns to ritual, perhaps a ritual without the peace of mind that ritual had always supplied in the past?

 This is all I will share of A Father’s Story. It is best that you read it for yourself.  The story is here in PDF form so, you can read it on-line or you can print it out and read it…on the train.

***

After reading the story, come back here:

Along with empathizing with Luke on many levels and experiencing some of the same grief and despair that he experienced, I also reflected on the situation ethics that you meet head-on in the story.

 So, as an Anglican who practices ritual every week of my life and as a parent of three sons and a daughter and as a law-abiding citizen, after having read the story I had to ask myself serious questions, questions that you may ask yourself:

 -As a parent what would you do in this situation?

 -Ritual?  Can it lull and mollify us into a state of lethargy, into a ‘safe’ self-righteousness or even become a retreat that we run to from the ‘fear’ of doing what we know is right? Can ritual handle change, reality? Or, can ritual lead us to a higher contemplation of the Sovereign God, of love, of justice, to understand iuris praecepta sunt haec: honeste vivere, alterum non laedere, suum cuique tribuere “(translated: the precepts of law are these: to live honestly, to injure no one, [and] to give to each his own“.)

 -Jennifer:  was it cruel and unjust to everyone involved to let things ‘go on’ by not doing the ‘right thing’?

 -Would the scenario played out be as if were God testing Luke as he tested Abraham about using his son Isaac as a sacrifice?

 -In the end did Luke really just act out of laziness (laziness being the opposite of love) in order to maintain ritual ~ life as he knew it and wanted it to go on being ~ at all costs?

 “Ethics demands an infinite movement, it demands disclosure.  The aesthetic hero, then, can speak but will not.” Soren Kiergaard, Fear and trembling.  (The world of ethics demands disclosure and punishes hiddenness …)

 Please give me your feedback in comment section. Now where did I put that other book…?

God Saw That It Was Good and So Do I

This past week I read an engaging book by scientist Francis S. Collins:  The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.  As someone who works in the engineering field and as a believer in God the book’s discussion of science and faith being compatible piqued my interest.

 Before reading this book I did have the innate understanding that science and faith were compatible and that each discipline reinforced the other with their respective insights and revelations but prior to reading this book I hadn’t seen much credible literature discussing this premise.  Currently there appears to be plenty of antipathy between the church and science. So as one might imagine I was excited to purchase the book and evaluate a scientist’s take on the connection. I was not disappointed.

Francis S. Collins, as the back cover bio reads, headed the Human Genome Project and is one of the world’s leading scientists. “He works at the cutting edge of the study of DNA, the code of life.  Yet he is also a man of unshakable faith in God and Scripture.

Dr. Collins believes that faith in God and faith in science can coexist within a person and be harmonious. In The Language of God he makes his case for God and Science.”

 Of special interest to me is the fact that Collins (as I do) accepts theistic evolution.  In Chapter Ten he writes: 

 “This view is entirely compatible with everything that science teaches us about the natural world.  It is also entirely compatible with the great monotheistic religions of the world.  The theistic evolution perspective cannot, of course, prove that God is real, as no logical argument can fully achieve that. Belief in God will always require a leap in faith.”

 The book lays out for the reader in very accessible terms how Collins who was not raised in a Christian home came to his belief in God as a budding scientist in his twenties.  The book goes on to discuss why Collins fully accepts theistic evolution as opposed to literal Creationism and Intelligent Design.  Based on his own research Collins says the evidence is overwhelming in favor of natural evolution as God’s creative methodology.  I would agree. 

 He then further encourages the church to endorse scientific research as a resource for understanding God’s creation, therefore offering a better understanding of God.  In concert with his plea I believe every church leader should purchase this book and read its message.  There is, sadly, too much bad information being preached and taught by the Christian Evangelical church regarding creation.  This bad information makes the church look rather foolish.  Remember Galileo’s row with the church? Being raised an Evangelical I was taught that the earth was created about 6-8000 years ago and that the seven days described in Genesis Chapter One were literal days:  Poof, we just showed up on the scene.

 As an adult, though, I became skeptical of the Creationist theology but I clung to it because I had heard of no other plausible evidence to the contrary.  Evolution was routinely discounted in the Evangelical church.  In fact everything I had heard in church told me that evolution was the atheist’s version of the Christian creation. Evolution was also described as a slippery slope which would carry people away from God toward unbelief.  And worse, the church seemed opposed to science and science was something I truly enjoyed being involved with.  I would later look into Intelligent Design (ID) and had wondered if ID might be the catch-all for my belief in God’s creative act. But I was to learn that ID was flawed theory that did not take into account the nature of God.

 My change in thinking occurred a few years ago when I came across the writings of Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga from the University of Notre Dame.  Spending two and a half hours on a train five days a week over the course of several years I had been able to read and research many different science and philosophy topics. And I did this precisely because I wanted to know more about God, the nature of His being and the world around me.  This excited me no end.  I don’t read romance novels.  I find my excitement by romancing the truth.

  Through reading Plantinga’s papers, though sometimes written in difficult philosophical terms, the door of my understanding was opened wide and I accepted theistic evolution as a valid creation methodology.  I would encourage anyone to read Plantinga’s papers.

 The basics of theistic evolution are clearly delineated in Francis Collins’ book and on the Biologos website.  Biologos is the name given to theistic evolution by scientist Collins.  Here are the Biologos premises/beliefs from that website:

 We believe that God created the universe, the earth, and all life over billions of years. God continues to providentially sustain the natural world, and the cosmos continues to declare the glory of God.

  • We believe that all people have sinned against God and are in need of salvation.
  • We believe in the historical incarnation of Jesus Christ as fully God and fully man. We believe in the historical death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, by which we are saved and reconciled to God.
  • We believe that God continues to be directly involved in human history in acts of salvation, personal transformation, and answers to prayer.
  • We believe the Bible is the inspired and authoritative word of God. By the Holy Spirit it is the “living and active” means though which God speaks to the church today, bearing witness to God’s Son, Jesus, as the divine Logos, or Word of God.
  • We believe that God also reveals himself in and through the natural world he created, which displays his glory, eternal power, and divine nature. Properly interpreted, scripture and nature are complementary and faithful witnesses to their common Author.
  • We believe that the methods of science are an important and reliable means to investigate and describe the world God has made. In this, we stand with a long tradition of Christians for whom Christian faith and science are mutually hospitable.
  • We believe that the diversity and interrelation of all life on earth are best explained by the God-ordained process of evolution and common descent. Thus, evolution is not in opposition to God, but a means by which God providentially achieves his purposes.
  • We believe that God created humans in biological continuity with all life on earth, but also as spiritual beings. God established a unique relationship with humanity by endowing us with his image and calling us to an elevated position within the created order.
  • We believe that conversations among Christians about controversial issues of science and faith can and must be conducted with humility, grace, honesty, and compassion as a visible sign of the Spirit’s presence in Christ’s body, the Church.
  • We reject ideologies such as Deism that claim the universe is self-sustaining, that God is no longer active in the natural world, or that God is not active in human history.
  • We reject ideologies such as Darwinism and Evolutionism that claim that evolution is a purposeless process or that evolution replaces God.
  • We reject ideologies such as Materialism and Scientism that claim science is the sole source of knowledge and truth, that science has debunked God and religion, or that the physical world constitutes the whole of reality.

 As a follower of Christ and as someone who seeks to bring people to faith in Him I see it as imperative that Evangelical church leaders (John Paul II accepted theistic evolution) come to grips with science (natural science, quantum physics, genetics, etc.) and to avail themselves of all empirical data and evidences coming out of science research.  As I see it the church and science are completely compatible.  Therefore, the church must not seek to restrain the hand of God, an evolved-incarnated hand that was once nailed to a tree, a resurrected hand that now reaches out to all of us.

 For more information about theism and theistic evolution:

 http://biologos.org/

Philosopher Sticks up for God

Alvin Plantinga

*****

Recommended Books about science and faith:

The Language of Faith:  Straight Answers to Genuine Questions by Karl Giberson and Francis Collins, Intervarsity Press, 2011

The Wonder of the Universe:  Hints of God in Our Fine-Tuned World by Karl W. Giberson, Intervarsity Press, 2012

Have it Their Way: Obamacare

Recently, in my reading of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Philosophy: Everything Is Fire, a book included in the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series, I came across the term “McDonaldlization”.

This term, coined by sociologist George Ritzer in his 1993 book The McDonalization of Society, defines how Ritzer sees the dehumanizing affects on society through the use of a fast-food restaurant’s operation methodology in many of our businesses and our institutions.  He tells us that the scientific methods affecting us are efficiency, calculability, predictability (standardization), control and irrational rationality.

“Most specifically, irrationality means that rational systems are unreasonable systems. By that I mean that they deny the basic humanity, the human reason, of the people who work within or are served by them.” (Ritzer 1994:154)

As a process characteristic of doing business, whether as providing a service or a good to someone, McDonaldlization makes sense. But it only makes sense up until the point the customer is served and satisfied by such process.  If the customer is not satisfied the process would need to adapt in order to satisfy the customer or the provider would likely lose his customer.  Within a free market business scenario both the provider and the receiver have choices and they are free to make them. Certainly it is no secret that many people eat at McDonalds or drink Starbucks coffee, receiving the products and service of these companies which embrace process characteristics described above. Others do not seek those products and services. They are free to choose otherwise.

With the Obamacare bureaucratic healthcare franchise coming to a town near you, you the patient will no longer have a choice.  Medical providers will no longer have a choice.  Both the provider and the patient must now provide and receive respectively what is calculated, predictable, rational and efficient. All of this process will be controlled by the Federal Government.  You are being told a lie that things won’t change regarding your health care under Obamacare.  They will change dramatically under this newly created centrally planned institution. You should know that Central Planning Officer (CPO), the health-care computer, will not let you “have it your way.”

In another article in the afore-mentioned book titled Kicking the Hornet’s Nest:  The Hidden “Section” in Every Institution the writer describes how man-made institutions tend to become corrupt to maintain and protect its own power under the banner of providing a benefit to others. Institutions “trumpet rationality” (scientific management), “boast stability” (inertia to change or to adaptation for individual needs) and “pronounce power” (we need power to protect you) and yet as we look at our U.S. Congress we see that “Institutions cannot simply be swept clean of their corrupt elements; rather, they tend toward corruption in their very being.  The injustice of the institution appears necessary for the maintenance of the institution.”  Institutions do not care about democracy. They do not care about your vote.

Institutions tend to serve those in power. When this happens you will be subjugated to the rationality of the institution for the protection of the institution. And, the institution will protect itself. Rationality has nothing to do with how you the patient feels. You will then know the irrational rationality of the institution. Do you understand this?

Now, do you also understand that Obamacare is a loss of choice?  Do you understand it is loss of liberty and, more importantly, of human dignity? Do you understand that you will now become codified just like medical diagnoses and services are now codified? Do you understand Obamacare is a loss of privacy?  And, of protection?

There are people right now who want all of your medical records on tap so as they say “to make things run more efficiently for the doctor/patient relationship.” We are headed to the McDonaldlization of health care via the institution of Obamacare.  Wait till the Obamacare franchise hits town. You will be Big Mac’d in thirty seconds or less.