Showing posts with label Miscellanea. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Miscellanea. Show all posts

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Image, Likeness, and Nature








Recently I was involved in a discussion about social justice at an eastern catholic monastery. That discussion was immensely fruitful, filling in the void of many things I've considered over the years, as well as revitalizing older, more traditional considerations I had abandoned over the years in my quest for truth. One of the new considerations arising out of that discussion involved human nature, what that is exactly, and how it relates to the Gospel of Jesus Christ wherein all things, including human nature, are restored. This post is a result of such considerations.


What is human nature, and how is that "nature" restored according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ? 


Human “nature” is a description of dynamic capacities. Western Christianity has emphasized that humankind is made in the image of God, describing it with a more scientific addendum called “nature,” being classified alongside the “nature” of all other animal species. This, however, is unfortunate because it appears to be almost completely disconnected from its historic usage, especially that contained within the wide stream of Eastern Christianity. 

Within the various expressions of Eastern Christian thought, it can be argued that to speak of human “nature” at all is to describe an abstraction, a potential. Unlike modern scientific categorization, human “nature” is unique precisely because its primary analog is not mammalians, or even any other creature; its primary analog is the incarnate Son of God. Human “nature” consists not only of being made as God’s image (which is technically more accurate than saying man is made “in” the image), but also after God’s likeness, the likeness of heavenly being itself (Gen 1:26; c.f. Gen 5:1,3 where the language is intentionally inverted, showing Adam “fathering a son” as his own likeness, after his image, thus implying his attempt to restore Seth to the image of God through likeness with his fathering). 

Also, to be found within the tradition of Eastern Christianity is discussion about the uniqueness of human “nature” needing to become realized, not only rationally, but holistically in all actions and contemplation through the assent of a willing subject. Human “nature” necessitates a certain capacity for the reception of God, and such capacity is not a mere auxiliary that can be lost, a kind of addendum, but rather is definitive of human “nature” itself. Unless a human being is in communion with God, actively participating in the Divine life, that person can become and remain less than fully human, even though that person remains fully the image of God throughout one’s mortal existence. Human “nature” within Eastern expressions of the faith, therefore, presuppose this image and likeness of God. In other words, there exists an understanding and dialog about all mortal humanity existing immutably as the image of God, yet with a mutable likeness of God. To the degree that human “nature” ceases to actively participate in the Divine life of God, it ceases to develop and mature in God’s likeness as well; it ceases to share in the glory that it was created to become, and therefore disqualifies itself from eternal life. For some—certainly not most, or all—this mortal life will be the best life in which they exist and image their Creator.

Contemplating such a view of human “nature” also presupposes the reality of God’s grace bestowed. Within the Roman Catholic tradition, mankind was created before “the Fall” with a donum superadditum, a gracious gift of capacity “over and added” to the human capacity left to all mankind after “the Fall”, a gracious gift that must be restored throughout one’s life in order to reach God. (The equivalent of this original “gift” from an Eastern perspective is the “likeness” described above.) Unfortunately, such distinctions are not considered to be helpful for Western conceptions of the human constitution, especially those contained within Protestant confessionalism, which rely heavily on image-bearing through forensic appropriation. However, within the stream of Eastern Christianity, human “nature” presupposes that all humanity, pre and post “fall”, have received grace, and all are favored by being made in the image and likeness of the One who made it. All are born “naturally” with the capacity to receive God, but not all choose to appropriate it through likeness with God. Therefore, to become devoid of grace is to become “unnatural,” sub-human. Human life, by design, implies a necessary motion and growth into the appropriation of the life of the Creator, who is both infinite and eternal, thereby allowing participation in life with Him without end or limitation. Human life devoid of God’s graces results in an unfortunate detachment and distancing away from participation in the Divine life, now and forever. In other words, a life devoid of Grace is a reality, and not merely a potential, for Eastern Catholic thought. And although, from an Eastern perspective, it is not preferred to describe man as losing a gift that was added to him before he fell (as in the Western Catholic trajectory of thought), the most important emphasis of such trajectories of language is to note that man, as originally created, was threatened to lose participation in the Divine life of God itself, at that time and for all eternity thereafter. The Gospel of God dotted throughout the landscape of humanity was, of course, the assurance that human “nature” could and would be restored for all eternity. It was assurance of being raised from the dead-ones in Sheol/Hades, and also the end of Death and Hades itself. How that was to occur was eventually revealed with greater clarity, albeit in “shadows” of the coming reality, through the Divine administration given to Israel, i.e. the Old Covenant.

The historical and eschatological figures known to us in Tradition as “Adam” and “Eve” (narrated symbolically in both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures as “Human Life”) illustrate this much. They were not created to know (in the intimate, holistic sense of knowing) eternal death, the permanent unraveling of and distancing from the Creator into non-being. The path of knowing intended for them was rather voluntary submission to the divine will, developing into a community of harmony with their Creator, thereby ascending further up the ladder of communion with him, an ever increasing appropriation of God-likeness, a perpetual increase in sharing and maturing thorough the uncreated glory of God. Human life was designed to participate forever in this Divine light and life. Therefore, within Eastern thought, to contemplate what it means to become fully human is to contemplate motion toward God, an ascension with God, and in a mystical eschatological sense (both prior to and after the incarnation and resurrection) to anticipate eternal life through the promised life of the Son of God, thereby sharing increasingly in that glory both now and forever. 

We might, however, do better than most Western forensic notions of restoring human “nature” by considering that God identifies our nature as being fully human only when it is penetrated wholly, body and soul, by the glory of the resurrection of Jesus, our savior, who himself was “plan A”, so to speak, and not an addendum to God’s predestined plan for human glory. In other words, it is favorable to perceive that all human life from the very beginning was created with the potential for infinite maturation in likeness with God, and is called to choose that life as freely as God offers it, to make his own life subsist in that deepest reality, and in such choosing, discover the presence of, and enter into communion with his Creator, now and forever.

At this point it may be suggested that this Eastern trajectory of thought is not helpful or accurate to the “facts” of holy Scripture, for human nature is, allegedly, demonstrably “evil.” Evil, within such a presumptuous framework of language, is considered a “thing” attached to or infused with nature, permeating its essence. But from within the variety of Eastern Catholic perspectives, “evil” is not an attribute of nature, or even “natural” per se. “Evil” is the way we humans, made as God’s image and after God’s likeness, describe a product of choice, a choice relating with human life that has the capacity to participate and mature in the Divine life, both now and forever. “Evil” can also be considered sociologically as an inclination of will contrary to the Divine will, an inclination subject toward that which is not, as apposed to God, who is the very ground and source of all being itself (i.e. what “is”). The “evil” which Christians are prone to describe in their daily lives is woven throughout the narratives of holy Scriptures, and is revealed in a variety of ways through creation as well, but especially and dramatically in the Torah as transgression of participation in the Divine life. 

To speak of the world or God’s creation as being evil in an ontological sense is another byproduct of misunderstanding or misusing the language of evil “nature”. Referring to the world as evil, and not merely an evil “age” or generation, is simply mistaken. However, to describe human “nature” as “evil” is even more problematic, for it disregards the various and punctiliar stages of “Adamic” life recorded throughout the Scriptures that have clearly detached from participation in the Divine life, and instead have (unfortunately) co-opted the Scriptural participatory narrative with an overly generalized and all-pervasive “nature” that, after the Fall, could never have received God, nor can still, except by super-added grace. By this historical co-opting, “being evil” (at least, forensically) is assumed to be the truth everywhere and at all times (at least, for those who are not, theoretically, “forensically” united with God). For both Paul and Eastern Catholic Christianity, we find something very different. We find participation in the Divine life as essential to understanding the history of humanity and the gloriously cosmic restoration of human life through the promised incarnation and resurrection. 

All of creation, Paul says, has been subjected unwillingly to the corruption of humanity for whom it had been created, and such was decided by God “in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:20). Such “corruption”, according to Paul, indicates this created capacity of all human beings that we’ve been describing from the beginning. Corruption is as equally holistic in Paul’s thought as glorification is. Corruption, therefore, describes not only the definitive end of this mortal existence, i.e. eternal death and non-being, but also the disordered desires that accompany a mind fixated on the flesh—a mind enveloped within mortal existence in such a way that it is distanced enough from communion with eternal glory, and thereby hostile to God, and because of such cannot submit to God’s instruction and thereby please Him (Rom. 8:6-8). Nevertheless, through the promised incarnation, human “nature” has been, and continues to be, restored holistically.

One might then ask, ‘What are we to do with the statements of Paul and other Scriptures that seem to describe all of humanity fixated on the flesh?’ The answer to that question is actually quite simple: take them seriously, and interpret them within their own limited historical context. Historically, it would have been impossible and counterproductive for Paul to presume omniscience for all, especially the “nature” of all, for his letters clearly reflect a limited knowledge base, which allows for both human free will and Divine intervention. Paul seems, rather, to be interested in describing the generation in which he lived, that generation within the “last days” of the Old Covenant administration. He comments frequently about first century Israel’s antiChristian activities being thoroughly corrupt, so much so that Jesus promised to come and destroy their idolatrous temple to bring about peace for the world and allow salvation for all through such terrible judgments. That generation, according to Paul, was even worse than previous generations of Israel’s history that also had corrupted themselves and been judged by the Lord. But not all generations had become thoroughly corrupt. The Scriptures clearly teach cycles of reform. Not perfect reform, but blessed reform, to be sure; and such reform always necessitated drawing near to the Lord in his holy House, and fixating their minds on the things of God’s Spirit, drawing near to Him who worked miracles and wonders in their midst, Who secured the promise of future resurrection from the dead-ones for them. Such a hope was surely taught, but sadly faded away in numerous generations as the people increasingly fell away again and again into the bondage of fleshly corruption. The Gospel of Jesus Christ, however, reverses such misfortunes, primarily through his actual resurrection from the dead-ones and the subsequent outpouring of his Holy Spirit. After Pentecost, quite literally the whole world began to change. 

The Old Covenant had begun to become obsolete, and thereby was ready to vanish away, the promised “end” of which occurred in AD 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, as well as Hades and its power over death, leaving only the New Covenant administration of eternal life in Christ. Under the New Covenant, all nations are being drawn into the hope which is ultimately contained in the resurrected life of Christ alone. Under the new Covenant, all nations are being drawn into the Body of Christ, in which absolute assurance of salvation is found, and participation in the Divine life is manifest. Outside of Christ and his Body there is no absolute assurance, only relative assurance, filled with doubts and plagued with autonomous reasoning. However confident one’s own faith or hope in “afterlife” might be, it is most assuredly subject to scrutiny apart from participation in the embodied life of Christ’s Body. For God did not pour out his Spirit in the first century in order to produce a copy of himself in paperback. Rather, it was to produce living epistles read by all men. The deposit of faith and life in Christ is contained in the pillar and ground of the truth: the Church (1 Tim 3:15). That doesn’t mean that all human beings discovered outside of the Christian Church cannot or will not ultimately be saved by Jesus and granted eternal life. What it means is that all human beings outside of the Church can only be saved by Jesus, for he alone is the first fruit of resurrection, the absolute assurance of which is received through participation in the Divine life of his Body, the Church. Most unfortunate, however, are those generations in which human beings seek the Church for absolute assurance and yet find absolute confusion and corruption. Such is, sadly, a reality as well; and such corruption will be judged by Jesus in history, leaving the many tender mercies of our God to be granted unto those outside, and not inside, such assemblies.

Much more needs to be said about that, but most importantly it must be clearly stated that the Christian Church is the pillar and foundation of God’s truth revealed to mankind. All human beings, even those outside the Church, have the capacity to receive God and become fully human in union with him. However, with that said, it’s a sad and obvious gamble to remain outside the Body of Christ (even when it seems as if every visible and accessible Christian assembly is thoroughly corrupt), for such a description entails fixation upon life in the flesh, including a false, imaginary, and misleading view away from the Divine life, which ends in death, and not toward life in the Spirit of God who raises the dead, or even the Son of God who became man and was raised and vindicated, who sits enthroned in the heavens, thereby securing life eternal for mankind. 


It is through such activity—living with hope and absolute assurance in the Divine Life—that mankind collectively learns to share in the glory of God, and ascend the ladder of Divinity. Through holiness, the light and life of God permeates the darkness of every domain, of every generation. Such was not possible prior to Pentecost, for it is at Pentecost that the light of eternal life—resurrection life—began to penetrate and illumine the pitch-blackness of Israel’s story and the gloomy shadows across the world. Prior to Pentecost there was only hope that somehow, some way, God would grant eternal life with Him. The so-called underworld of Hades, Sheol, etc. was all that was known and anticipated. However, after Pentecost there was absolute assurance of future resurrection and vindication for all who died in Christ, because God had become man, had died, and was raised from the dead-ones for them. Moreover, in AD 70, the resurrection of all the saints from Hades had been fulfilled. After AD 70 the actualization of eternal life in Christ meant that after their mortal bodies had faded away, their participation in the kingdom of God would be secured. The hope that the Christian Church teaches is not that human beings get to escape “this world” into the next, only to magically wake up on some final day along with all the dead-ones of history and finally escape the despair of mortality forever. They do escape upon death, but not this world. They escape this age, this generation, yet they continue to live in and with this world, in this kingdom of God where heaven and earth have already joined under the New Covenant, being active in its continual renewal and reform, assisting all of human life in its motion toward God as it was originally created to be. In Christ the great reversal has begun. The dynamics of human “nature”, including its image and likeness, are being restored in union with God, sharing in the glory that it was created to become, both now and forever. 













Sunday, February 18, 2018

Run to Ruin



I'm told about what today's teens are 
The most informed, the most educated
The most politically involved generation in forever

Color me dubious

I hear that Hilary would have been better than Trump
Cruz is a sleaze and Rand is a quack like his dad
But Bernie or Kasich would have most certainly been rad

Color me unimpressed

They say they can't wait for today's teens to run this country
I can't wait for them to spell 'ruin' correctly
Ignore that Planned Parenthood reps sell baby parts for a Lamborghini

Color me confident

I see marching for women's 'reproductive rights' and LGBT
Free college and healthcare and 'Gender Affirming' surgery
While protesting Trump's conspiracy with Russia to destroy global democracy

Color me confused

So little time, so much to choose
Confederate flag or a first century immigrant Jew?
Wearing all black in solidarity for the Black Panther party too?

Color me benighted

Be sure to get the latest dopamine fix and flu shot
Like and share the peer reviewed studies of spoons making us fat
Science will inevitably make a new vaccine for that

Color me irritated

Prop your feet next to the media hype
Rest our future upon the foundation of sand
Tell yourself that public ignorance and intellectual bullying are on the other hand

Color me contrary

We believe what we're sold through the illusion of choice
Forget about building number seven, or how the second one fell first and at free fall speed neatly within it's own footprint
Just don't buy into all the "thoughts and prayers bullshit"

Color me mulish

Psyops are unheard of, along with truth from Fox News
Guns and racist white nationalists like Milo are the cause of mass shootings, too
But rejoice because we've got a Savior whose Tesla is on its way to mars

Color me amused


Thursday, December 28, 2017

Let Us Be Attentive




Slow down your thoughts, hazed and needy to escape.
Slow down your anxieties, apprehended by the motives of others.
Slow down your ambitions, carrying you off to a place of honor and glory.
Slow down your busyness, distracting you from prayer every hour.
Slow down your feet, swift to walk toward convenience.
Slow down your hands, pointing and prodding in other directions.
Slow down your eyes, zoomed in to what's wrong with the world.
Slow down your ears, tuned into scandal and hearsay.
Slow down your mouth, regurgitating popular dogma.
Slow down bothering with who's wrong and who's right.
Slow down and concern yourself only with what is true or false.
Slow down everything.
Then ask, 'Why is anyone morally obligated to believe or do what is true?'

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Limits of Anti-Metaphysical Empiricism




There is an intriguing philosophical phenomenon which has arisen within the last few centuries: the belief that when human beings (but especially theists) attempt to reason apart from sense experience, that cannot itself provide us with factual knowledge. 

To illustrate such commitments, allow me to illustrate two claims made by David Smalley in his book The Baptized Atheist:
An Atheist rejects all super-natural existence and prefers to live by empiricism, the theory that knowledge can be acquired only through direct observation and experimentation rather than through metaphysics and theology.1

This makes sense on the surface of things, considering David's presuppositional commitment to naturalism, which includes the idea that no gods exist, or that if any of them do exist, he has not personally come to know them through empirical observation or testing. After all, given his admittedly limited investigation into such topics, David is aware that metaphysical statements are about some kind of "supra-sensible" reality which is not directly experienced or verified by "natural" science. But that isn't the only claim which David makes in his book about the limits of knowledge and facts. He continues elsewhere, after a few more pages of illustrations about Christian beliefs that appear to be circular, insisting that:
As I present evidence contrary to any of the above circular reasoning statements, the confirmatory bias of theists has them searching for answers of validity in the very book I am asking them to validate. Simply put, you cannot convert an Atheist to Christianity by citing the very doctrine he or she rejects. Proof must come from outside sources and be logical, reasonable, convincing, and obtained through empiricism. No religious doctrine in history has been proven as absolute; therefore none of them fit that description.2
If I am understanding David correctly, he believes that all informative or factual statements about the objective world must be derived empirically (based on experience, observation, sensation), and therefore, in order for any human being to "obtain" justified true knowledge (i.e. proof), such knowledge cannot transcend particular, physical experience or the appearance of the senses. And because metaphysical claims are not able to be brought to the critical test of sense experience, they are concluded to be illogical, unreasonable, and unconvincing (i.e. nonsense, or senseless).

This, as I see it, is an excellent example of how offensive the field of metaphysics is to the common intellectual outlooks of modern atheism. Metaphysics presumes to tell us something about the objective world which we don't directly know in ordinary experience, and which can't be verified through the methods of "natural" science. Skeptics of theism (and often, Christianity in particular) view metaphysical reasoning as conflicting with empirical science as the one and only way to acquire knowledge. 

All of this, as I have said before, is perfectly reasonable given atheistic pre-commitments to the nature of reality as a whole. But I would like to point out a few important details about David's claims, and thereby the claims of any other who, like him, "prefers to live by empiricism, the theory that knowledge can be acquired only through direct observation and experimentation rather than through metaphysics and theology."

The first detail I want to point out is that such a claim about the limits of knowledge is itself a metaphysical claim. How can David know for certain that "knowledge can be acquired only through direct observation and experimentation..."? Such a dogmatic statement is not found in the objective world of sense experience, and is itself not known as the result of empirical testing and experience. Has David ever sensed that statement in the real world? It is a non-material, mental construct. Has David ever tested or observed all knowledge? Has he even tested or observed all the tests about what has been observed, and thereby known? Indeed, if it were actually true that knowledge can only be acquired through direct observation and experimentation, then--on the basis of David's own anti-metaphysical claim--no one else in the world could ever know that it were objectively true, because that statement is itself not known as the result of empirical testing and experience. It turns out that claims like David's reflect the subjective (and sometimes arrogant) bias of the one pronouncing it.

The second detail I want to point out is in the form of a question: What rational basis, or what rational evidence is there for David's commitment that all knowledge must be empirical in nature (i.e. only through direct observation and experimentation)? I find it ironic that such a dogmatic statement precludes any other type of verification or support other than empirical warrants or evidence. Such an assertion is not a conclusion supported by other reasoning. And the premise3  does not admit of empirical verification since it deals with what is universally or necessarily the case (i.e. not a historical or contingent truth). So it turns out that David holds to his dogmatic conclusion4 in a presuppositional fashion, as something which controls all inquiry, rather than being the result of inquiry. By the way, I think that's fair for him to believe. But I also think it appears capricious for all those like him with anti-metaphysical leanings to prohibit the theist from doing what is allowed for him!

That brings me to my third and final point. When David insists upon the acquiring of knowledge only through empiricism "rather than through metaphysics", that is an admittedly theoretical truth claim. And if that theoretical claim is itself true, then the uniformity of nature cannot be known to be true, in which case the whole enterprise of "natural" science would immediately be undermined. Stop and think about it for a minute. If all knowledge must be empirical in nature, then the uniformity of nature cannot be known to be true. And without the knowledge and assurance that the future will be like the past (e.g. if sugar dissolved in a cup of water today, it will continue to do and not explode in a cup of water tomorrow and the next day, and even next year) we could not draw empirical generalizations and projections at all. Scientists could not arrive at even one dependable, rationally warranted conclusion about future chemical interactions, or anything else. Pick anything: the rotation of the earth, the stability of the chair you're sitting on, or the effects of a pharmaceutical drug. Each and every premise that entered into the scientists reasoning about a particular situation at a particular time and in a particular place would need to be individually confirmed in an empirical fashion. Nothing experienced in the past could become a basis for expectations about how things might happen at present or in the future. Without certain beliefs about the nature of reality and history--beliefs which are supra-empirical and meta-physical in character--the process of empirical learning and reasoning would become impossible. 

Please, please, please learn what the study of metaphysics is before buying into such strange dogmatic claims like "knowledge can be acquired only through direct observation and experimentation rather than through metaphysics." Metaphysics studies such questions or issues as the nature of existence, the sorts of things that exist, the classes of existent things, limits of possibility, the ultimate scheme of things, reality versus appearance, and the comprehensive conceptual framework used to make sense of the world as a whole, and not merely in its parts. 





1. Smalley, David. Baptized Atheist (Kindle Locations 1914-1917). American Atheist Press. Kindle Edition. Emphasis in bold and italics is mine.
2. Ibid. Emphasis is mine, again.
3.  That there cannot be a non-empirical source of knowledge or information about reality
4. That it's illegitimate to draw inferences from what is experienced by the senses to what must lie outside of experience--like the existence of supra-natural beings.




Sunday, December 17, 2017

Circular Reasoning







At approximately 11pm on December 16th, 2017, Mike Danker (who, according to his public Facebook profile, lives in Hudson Ohio) recently made these comments about me (typos and all) on a public atheist Facebook page:
Wonder if he knows the difference between formal and informal fallacies
Almost lost it laughing when he said circular reasoning isnt always fallacious. Its a fomal fallacy, not an informal one.
He talks shit about how the modern common apologists answer these questions meanwhile his response to the problem of evil is the standard C.S. Lewis response by attacking the atheist's views on morality as a redherring instead of responding
Over and over again its like if you were to ask a theorhetical someone how they know dungeons and dragons isnt just a game and they respond by saying "if only you knew the rules on dungeons and dragons clearer youd realize its not just a game" like, the rules arent all that relevant to whether or not its a game
Also "if you dont understand my views because theyre inadequetely explained youre strawmanning me" was annoying

Consider the following post to be my initial response to Mike, even though I doubt he will ever come across this response of mine.

First of all, there is no need to wonder, Mike. I do know the difference between formal and informal fallacies. I also know the difference between the kind of circular reasoning which is fallacious and the kind of circular reasoning which is absolutely necessary for reason itself to exist and be utilized by rational beings. That logical distinction is not one that you seem to be aware of, though. And since you aren’t aware, please allow me to illustrate what I meant at the time I made those claims (which, interestingly, neither time or opportunity was granted to me by David Smalley at the time those comments of mine, which you are criticizing, were made).

If someone—whether a theist or an atheist—claims that circular reasoning is always fallacious, and I was to ask why, the response would likely be some kind of appeal to “logic.” No matter what response occurs, as long as "logic" or "laws of logic" are being appealed to, inferred, or implied, that is the only thing needed to proceed. After all, any claim about "fallacious" reasoning presupposes the laws of logic (i.e. thought) in which the information conveyed can be considered "logical" or "illogical" at all. So when it is claimed, as Mike did, that a “fallacy” always occurs when an argument is circular, that is the same thing (logically, at least) as saying that a circular argument is always “invalid.” Let’s break this down though, because, as someone who has taught a course on critical thinking (using Copi’s Symbolic Logic) in the past, I suspect that Mike doesn’t realize that circular reasoning is involved within that very claim of his is, which means that if his claim is true (which I think is a necessary absurdity) then his claim, according to his own arbitrary definition, is itself fallacious. Of course, he wouldn't appreciate that at all, so I will attempt to free him from this embarrassing and unnecessary faux pas.

So then, on one hand, the claim is made that “circular reasoning” is always fallacious. It can only be fallacious if laws of logic (i.e. thought) exist. Once a second claim is made that he (or anyone) can identify circular reasoning in action, then the conclusion can be drawn that laws of logic (i.e. thought) exist. But that very syllogism (which is a formal fallacy, Mike) presupposes laws of logic in order to even claim that they exist and are being used. In every one of such instances where the laws of logic are appealed to, inferred, or implied for an opponent's reasoning to be "fallacious," one cannot help but reason circularly (either formally or informally). 

Circular reasoning is one of those very strange fallacies to be accused of, because it’s the only fallacy which is actually valid. Valid reasoning, according to the laws of logic, is found when a conclusion follows its premise(s). Normally, fallacies are actually not valid. That is because a conclusion normally does not follow from the premise(s), thereby making such reasoning "fallacious." Yet oddly, with circular reasoning the conclusion does follow from the premise precisely because it is a restatement of the premise. Circular reasoning is only fallacious if the premises are demonstrably arbitrary. (And for the record, just saying so doesn't make it so either. It must be demonstrated, not simply dogmatically asserted, as was the case with David Smalley's response to me.) Arbitrary circular reasoning is obviously problematic because anyone who denies the conclusion would also have to deny the premise, because the conclusion is essentially the same as the premise. 

As noted above with the chain of reasoning about utilizing laws of logic, the conclusion (that laws of logic must exist) must be presupposed at the outset by anyone participating in the discussion. As such, the argument is perfectly reasonable, and valid, but is subtly circular. It’s also absolutely unavoidable in this case, even though all parties involved in the discussion have tacitly presupposed they were trying to prove. We must, therefore, use laws of logic to prove anything as valid or invalid, even the existence of laws of logic. 

As a side note to Mike, the argument on display above was also utilizing a variation (although the same general format) of another law of logic, in order to prove that there are laws of logic. That law is known as modus tollens, and it also happens to be one of the first laws one ever learns when studying the laws of logic. You might want to learn the basics of logic if you'd like to interact with me about circular reasoning.


Every time I find someone accused of “fallacious circular reasoning”—whether its by a theist or an atheist—I pause and reflect upon the actual argument being used, attempting to see the actual circularity involved, and to decipher whether or not the premises are arbitrary. For someone to mock me (publicly, by the way) and deflect (public) attention away from what the laws of logic actually teach us, and to simply dismiss what I said about circular reasoning as not always being fallacious (which, in Mike's case, was illustrated with laughter), is an audaciously naive response, and one I hope is recanted before infecting others with one's own arbitrary circular reasoning.

Now comes the million dollar question: Between David Smalley and I (or Mike, I guess, could also be included), which person's view of the world and the nature of reality can justify the existence of universal, unchanging, and immaterial entities such as the laws of logic? 

At this point all I want to do is leave the reader to research a debate in order to begin answering such a vital question. That debate i'm referring to is known as "The Great Debate" between Dr. Greg Bahnsen and Dr. Gordon Stein. The formal title of the debate was originally called "Does God Exist?", but after listening to the audio below it will become obvious as to why it was renamed "The Great Debate." The transcript of that debate can be found here. The audio of that debate can be found here. And a brief web page about that debate can be found here. Enjoy!









A conversation between two gods



What Osiris said to Atum:
What does it mean that I must go to the desert of the kingdom of the dead? It has no water, it has no air, it is so deep, so dark, so endless.
You will live there in peace of mind. 
But no sexual pleasure can be had there. 
I have given transfiguration instead of sexual pleasure, water and air, peace of mind instead of bread and beer.
But how painful it is for me not to see your face. 
I will not allow you to suffer want.
What is the duration of life?
You will have millions of millions. Life there lasts for millions. But I will destroy everything that I have created. This earth will return to the Nun, to the deluge, as in its primal state. 


Here are some thoughts to ponder. A fragment of this Egyptian story is found in two places: the Coffin Texts of the 12th Dynasty and the papyrus of Cha in Turin, 18th Dynasty. It’s final resting place (pun intended) was in the Book of the Dead, as one of its many ‘Sayings.’ But if the average person—papa Joe or granny Smith—was asked what the “meaning” of this fragment is, a wide variety of guesses could be offered. Perhaps it’s about the end of the world, with its destruction of all human life on earth. Or perhaps it’s about life after death, and the preservation of a god in the realm of the underworld. Some might even guess that it’s about existence between two worlds, between an old creation and a new creation. 

All of these have elements worth serious consideration, but none on their own are entirely accurate. For those of us today who presume that this text has a surface-level “meaning” that’s obvious, let me challenge your presumptions with this fact: This text is an ancient temple text. It’s not about the end of the world. It’s not about the destruction of all human life on this globe we call “earth.” It’s not even ‘about’ existence of gods between two worlds. It was about the destruction of sacred land with it’s central sanctuary where all the gods and their worshipers dwelled at the time, and the destiny of Osiris by Atum in that soon-coming destruction. It was also an ancient lament of ‘Mankind’ about that judgement by Atum, as portrayed through the mouth of the gods they had been worshipping. 


Monday, September 5, 2016

Athletes of Piety







Other writers of historical works have confined themselves to the written tradition of victories in wars, of triumphs over enemies, of the exploits of generals and the valour of soldiers, men stained with blood and with countless murders for the sake of children and country and other possessions; but it is wars most peaceful, waged for the very peace of the soul, and men who therein have been valiant for truth rather than for country, and for piety rather than for their dear ones, that our record of those who order their lives according to God will inscribe on everlasting monuments: it is the struggles of the athletes of piety and their valour which braved so much, trophies won from demons, and victories against unseen adversaries, and the crowns at the end of all, that it will proclaim for everlasting remembrance.1



1. Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica, 5.praef.3-4; cited in Aaron P. Johnson, Eusebius: Understanding Classics (New York, NY: L.B. Taurus & Co. Ltd.; 2014) pp. 100-101

















Monday, May 11, 2015

Where he would start



    To those who are "tired of" all the culture war rhetoric, I have one last point to make. If North America were one vast pagan empire, and the apostle Paul just arrived here, what would he do first? I quite grant that he would not start by circulating petitions against the gladiatorial games. He would start with the foundations, which would be planting churches, establishing worship around the empire, and teaching Christians to live like Christians in their families and congregations. We are going to judge angels, so let's start by learning self-government. If the meek will inherit the earth, you don't start with the inheriting part--you start by learning meekness, which can only be learned through the gospel. So that's where he would start. 
    But if one day we got to the point where there were tens of thousands of churches, and millions of Christians, and the gladiatorial games were still going on merrily, and new stadiums were being built every year, then the only possible conclusion would be that the churches in question were diseased. 
    "Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under the foot of men" (Matt. 5:13). 
- Douglas Wilson (from his blog, dougwils.com)






Friday, February 27, 2015

Our New Gnosticism



Almost every aspect of modern Christianity assumes that the faith is first and foremost a set of ideas to be believed. That's it. Sure, we encourage some marginal action on the side, but that's not truly important, not central. Our worship is primarily about explaining and singing ideas, our schools focus on transferring ideas, our evangelism spreads ideas, our apologetic tries to persuade others of ideas, community means chatting with people who share our ideas, our entry into heaven requires holding the right ideas in our heads. In centuries past, this strange obsession with ideas simply went by the name of Gnosticism--the ancient heresy that ideas and intellect are more important than bodies and people and actually doing something. We even have a safe, approved word to hide our new Gnosticism--"worldview."1


1.  Douglas M. Jones, Dismissing Jesus: How We Evade The Way Of The Cross (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books; 2013), pp. 45-6 






Wednesday, December 17, 2014

After Vain Pretence



When the grape of the night is pressed
Nearly dry, and the trains rest
And roads are empty and the moon low,
Out of my body's breast I go,
Insecure, as a child escaped,
Animula flittering in the night unshaped;
Lacking wings; but I leap so high
It wants but a little more to fly.
Down I swoop with a seven-league stride
From church's spire to river side,
There scarce touching the ground, and then
Up to the elm-tree tops again;
Rising higher each leap and still
Sinking lower again, until
Lured to venture at least too much
I dream of flying indeed--no touch
Of earth between; then, holding breath
I poise on a perilous edge. But faith
All goes out of my soul--too late!
Air is emptiness: man has weight.
Unsupported I drop like lead
To where my body awakes in bed
Screaming-scared--and yet glad, as one
Who, after vain pretence, has done
with keeping company too great 
For his lean purse and low estate.

- C.S. Lewis





Saturday, November 15, 2014

One Thought




God's entire counsel may be reduced to one thought, that in the end of the ages He may have a Church which shall understand His love and return it.
- Abraham Kuyper


Friday, November 7, 2014

Tragic and Comic




There are two things in which all men are manifestly unmistakably equal. They are not equally clever or equally muscular or equally fat, as the sages of the modern reaction perceive. But this is a spiritual certainty, that all men are tragic. And this again, is an equally sublime spiritual certainty, that all men are comic. No special and private sorrow can be so dreadful as the fact of having to die. And no freak or deformity can be so funny as the mere fact of having two legs. Every man is important if he loses his life; and every man is funny if he loses his hat, and has to run after it. And the universal test everywhere of whether a thing is popular, of the people, is whether it employs vigorously these extremes of the tragic and the comic. 

- G.K. Chesterton, Charles Dickens






Saturday, September 20, 2014

Truths are like puppies


Truths are like puppies. There's no point in arguing over whose truth is the best, any more than there is in quarreling about whose puppy is the cuddliest. Truths or puppies, we care about them because we find them delightful, not because we understand them. They appeal more to our sense of humor than to our sense of importance. So if there's even a grain of veritas in that vinous comparison, the most any of us can say is, "I like my truth-doggy better than yours." Anything more pretentious, and we forget that we can keep truth only as a pet. It's fun to have around, even if it wets our floors and chews up our slippers; but we really know very little about the beast. Only God knows the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. We just pat its head, pull its tail, and hope for the best. Only the Father, who holds Truth Itself in his beloved Son, actually owns it.1 






1.  Robert Farrar Capon, Genesis The Movie [Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.; 2003], p. 297





Saturday, August 30, 2014

The miracle She achieved



It is constantly assumed, especially in our Tolstoyan tendencies, that when the lion lies down with the lamb the lion becomes lamb-like. But that is brutal annexation and imperialism on the part of the lamb. That is simply the lamb absorbing the lion instead of the lion eating the lamb. The real problem is----Can the lion lie down with the lamb and still retain his royal ferocity? That is the problem the Church attempted; that is the miracle she achieved.  
-- G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Thanks, Bunyan.




Selfish salvation sees the gospel primarily as a means of satisfying that individual's desires and prayers. It has little to no sense that the gospel is a kingdom of self-denial or really even contains others, and it certainly doesn't "seek first the kingdom of God" (Matt 6:33). Salvation is all about me, me, me. My needs. My heart. My purpose. My prayers. My goals. My personal sins. My place in heaven. It's an exhausting and redundant autobiography. And yet, selfish salvation is the most common expression of Christian faith in our time. Thanks, Bunyan.1



1.  Douglas Jones, Dismissing Jesus: How We Evade The Way Of The Cross [Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2013] p. 116

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Faith as more than simple belief


Faith is more than simple belief because it involves commitment of a kind that is possible only between persons. I can believe that the ground beneath my feet is solid enough to build a house on and then construct one on the basis of that belief, but although I might say that I have "faith" in the ground, there is no relationship between us. For example, it would be unreasonable for me to pray to the ground in the hope that it might protect me from earthquakes. The ground does not have a mind or a will that would justify such behavior on my part, and no reciprocal relationship with it is possible. Faith in God, however, involves two-way communication, which means that there is something present both in us and in God that makes such dialogue meaningful. That something is what we call "personhood," and so it is with the personhood of God that our analysis of how we know and experience him must begin.1 

1.  Gerald Bray, God is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology  [Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012] p. 106






Thursday, May 22, 2014

"The Deceived Belief Must Be Genuine" (more from Greg Bahnsen's doctoral dissertation)


We have maintained that deceived people believe false propositions, and we have elaborated a basic characterization of belief. It will turn out on the analysis being developed here that self-deception actually involves two beliefs which are in conflict. This will be defended in chapter 4. What can be observed here, however, is that the conflict that exists within the self-deceiver can be adequately described as a conflict between two beliefs, and need not be portrayed as a conflict between knowledge and belief. That is, rather than saying that the self-deceiver knows one thing and believes contrary to it, it will be sufficient simply to say that the self-deceiver believes something and yet believes something contrary to it. The contrary belief in either case will be false. However, there is no need to maintain that the other belief to which it is contrary is true and held on good evidence; that is, there is no need to say that it is knowledge (a true belief held on good evidence) to which the false belief is contrary in self-deception. What the self-deceiver takes to be true (i.e., believes) need not actually be true. What is at issue is not whether the self-deceiver holds a false belief in conflict with a true one. It is equally appropriate in self-deception that the conflict be between a false belief and another false belief, for it is the conflict-state that constitutes the condition for self-deception. As long as the self-deceiver actually believes a proposition to be true, it can be objectively false and still serve to set up or generate a conflicting (and similarly false) belief. Our analysis of self-deception need not become complicated, then, with a mixture of knowledge and belief. A person can deceive himself about a belief which he holds whether or not that belief actually has good supporting reasons and turns out to be true or not. Those are extraneous matters here. The important thing is that the self-deceiver believe some proposition and then (falsely) believe something which is incompatible with it.1



1.  Greg L. Bahnsen, A Conditional Resolution of the Apparent Paradox of Self-Deception (USC Doctoral Dissertation [Philosophy], June 1978), p. 147-8. Underlines for emphasis are original.