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April 24, 2015

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Some how I missed the other posts on this book, which sounds like something I would like to read. But, with this one, since other worldviews do not hold to the image of God, they must revert to some kind of functionalism to define "person," which allows them to exclude those they find inconvenient based on criteria that is chosen by the majority and largely arbitrary. So, I have not written on this book chapter itself, but I have on functionalism, which is germane: http://a-short-saying.blogspot.com/2013/04/humans-persons-and-context-for.html; and the image of God: http://a-short-saying.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-imago-dei-and-human-dignity.html.

Thank you, Taylor! I hope you'll read the previous posts and join us going forward.

Were it not that so is the sovereign Pleasure of God, the Earth would not bear you one Moment; for you are a Burden to it; the Creation groans with you; the Creation is made Subject to the Bondage of your Corruption, not willingly; the Sun don’t willingly shine upon you to give you Light to serve Sin and Satan; the Earth don’t willingly yield her Increase to satisfy your Lusts; nor is it willingly a Stage for your Wickedness to be acted upon; the Air don’t willing serve you for Breath to maintain the Flame of Life in your Vitals... And the World would spue you out, were it not for the sovereign Hand of him who hath subjected it in Hope.

...

The God that holds you over the Pit of Hell, much as one holds a Spider, or some loathsome Insect, over the Fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his Wrath towards you burns like Fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the Fire; he is of purer Eyes than to bear to have you in his Sight; you are ten thousand Times so abominable in his Eyes as the most hateful venomous Serpent is in ours.

-Jonathan Edwards, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Well, if that's the high view of humanity, I shudder to think what non-Christians think of our pitiful species. But, even though Pearcey says I "will treat people like computers", I have never been disgusted by my computer, and have never longed to destroy it.

After discussing how both Enlightenment and Romantic worldviews devalue our personhood...

The Enlightenment, among other things, is the reason why it is possible for people who think like me to exist in a country dominated by people who think like you. Before the Enlightenment, religious toleration was a radical idea, and complete freedom of expression was unthinkable. Before the Enlightenment, the punishment of heresy and blasphemy were as much legitimate functions of government as the punishment of murder and theft.

Oh, and I also caught this little nugget from the book, which wasn't quoted here:

That just-war doctrine, developed by medieval theologians, did much to bring an end to unlimited slaughter, rape, looting, and enslavement.

Yep. Christian Europe did away with slaughter, rape, looting, and enslavement way back in the Middle Ages. That is, until a New World dawned...

You will never do away with those evil things as long as humanity exists. Evil lies in the hearts of all men. We all sin. It is our nature. You do not have to teach a child to be selfish. Yet, in order to truly love, God has to give us free will and thus the ability to make selfish choices. God does not force us to love because coerced love is not really love. It is like being a robot or a puppet.

That is what Jonathan Edwards was talking about. You did not finish his sermon. You seem angry about injustice. Just imagine how angry God is about injustice because He is perfectly just. He watches as we lie, cheat, steal, hurt each other, or allow others to hurt His creations, etc.

Yet, amazingly, He does not obliterate us. He loves us enough to forestall His wrath to give us a chance to be saved from the punishment we deserve. For while we are wicked and have ruined God's perfect creation with our sin and truly deserve God's wrath, He has loved us enough to pay the price to satisfy His wrath with His own shed blood. He took our punishment upon Himself when He died upon the cross.

That is true love, something the Enlightenment and the Romantics have never correctly explained. The Enlightenment would reduce love to neurons and programmed responses. Romanticism would reduce love to feelings. True love is an act of will, a commitment that does not change based on our fading feelings or circumstances and cannot be explained by survival-of-the-fittest or the rewards and programming of behavioral science.

Religious toleration and freedom of speech are Christian ideals. You do not find them in Muslim nations or in Hindu nations or in Atheist (enlightened) nations. (The secular Khmer Rouge killed people who wore glasses because they believed they could read. Lenin and Stalin killed millions. We kill millions of tiny humans in this nation today because we tell their mothers that they are just masses of cells).

You don't have to like the Christian worldview. I realize Christianity has not been without its humanity, but the precepts of Christianity such as grace and forgiveness seem to me much more appealing than other worldviews. Christians do not force you to go to church or to enjoy Christmas. I do not think I would be happier in a country dominated by secular enlightened scientists like Russia or China.

I am sorry that you have to exist in a country once dominated by those who believed in charity, adoption, healthcare, women's rights, the right to own property, who fight to end slavery--even as it exists today in sex-trafficking, to increase literacy, to provide free public education, who gave us child labor laws, who were abolitionists, who formed the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the YMCA, etc. Take heart because we are no longer the dominate force in America. The President said so. We are no longer a Christian nation. In fact, based on what I see in the media, Christians are being marginalized and demonized for our beliefs.

I, however, believe the Christian worldview is the only worldview which gives us hope. I don't know if you see it as some legalistic rule-giving religion, but I believe that every soul, no matter what we believe or have done, is given a chance to receive the forgiveness of God and when we realize He loves us in spite of how much we fail, we have great relief and security. It allows Him to work through us to love others and to show them how much He loves them. That is why I pray that you will find His love and forgiveness.

Christianity has given us many good things including the scientific method-- which when you think about it would not be possible if the world is the result of random chance as proposed by enlightened materialists. You cannot make predictions based on chaos. What would a secular country like Russia do if it had won the space race? I sincerely doubt we would have GPS, plastics, cellular technology, weather prediction, or if they had developed those things, I doubt they would have shared them with the world as the United States has done. What will become of the world when America is no longer ruled by Christian ethics but by evolutionary survival-of-the-fittest ethics? I do not see Russians beating their weapons into plows and bringing utopia with their purely secular worldview.

Christianity paradoxically houses the most complete and most painfully honest high view of Man:


If we take a paradigm to be, say, “A – Z”, then the stopping-points of this or that paradigmatic statement on Man, at "Z", may untie, there at said Z, all that went before it, leaving A through Y forever lost in nonentity.


We can start with two straightforward examples, Atheism and, ironically, the Atheist's favorite - an archaic and minor subset of Christianity which Atheist's love to go and dig up from a box of forgotten error-prone tangents and use to "define Christianity". We'll intentionally leave out Pantheism’s peculiar set of problems and annihilations given the forum at hand.


First:


There is a peculiar, archaic, and minor subset of Christianity's errors from yesteryear in which said stopping-point of Actuality’s full and final Claim on Man goes something like this:


[You are a burden to God – you are a burden to the world – the world should spew you out – God counts you a loathsome insect – and the world does too – God abhors you – God’s hatred for you burns like fire – God looks upon you as worthy of nothing else but hatred – You are ten thousand times more abominable to God as the most hateful and venomous Serpent is to us – God is angry at you – full stop – You ask what and who you are? You are that which God hates – you are God’s object lesson which He leaves, intentionally, inside of a burning crash site to educate other people – you are the child – the tool – the object lesion – which the Father leaves, intentionally withholding His Reach, inside the burning crash site so that He can impress upon those whom He pulls out of that fiery pile that He is capable of great self-sacrifice and great kindness. What are you in and to Final Actuality? Who are you in and to Final Actuality? You are that.]


Well, to be fair, there is a bit of hyperbole there – though – to be fair, we never can get a full and final stopping-point from that peculiar subset to know for sure. We never quite find final worth or final value in Man – no final beloved-ness, no final preciousness, not really, as the only hope for such must land in the lap of God’s final statement, in the lap of Actuality’s final decree. Yet the peculiar subset forever withholds such finality from Man as it declares the complete and completed statement there in the lap of God – on the matter in question – to be a very, very different stopping-point. If Man is precious to God it is in some very real way in his (Man’s) utility in said object lesson such that God – intentionally – withholds His capable Reach from those inside of the burning crash site. That is where the sentence seems to end – at the intentional withholding of love there amid Self/Other, at the intentional withholding of love’s value there amid Self/Other. We say “seems” in order to allow a forceful – and coherent – negation of said stopping point by said peculiar subset.


Second:

There is Atheism’s stopping point:

Deep in the mire of unrecallable eons metaphysical naturalism finds her faceless god named Blind Pitiless Indifference relentlessly falling forward, nurturing and rearing any potpourri of molecular happenstance worthy of yet one more step of genomic multiplication. The hodgepodge arrays of irrationally conditioned reflexes summing into the psychedelic inclinations we call violence across various insect speciations is found ever worthy, highly favored, praised, and therein declared part of god’s fitted kingdom. Kaleidoscopic cascades falling forward ever outward, ever wider across fitted eras carried the kingdom’s self-serving heartlessness into yet other, even more successful species – effervescing into the ever irrationally conditioned psychic phosphorescence within the skulls of a more recent biped arrival. The bipeds immersed in their many and varied conditional and arbitrary delusions each declare with fists raised that their own particular conditioned and arbitrary delusion is the fact of the matter while all others are the “real” delusion. In a world of neurons awash in an ocean of blind molecular reflex antirealism’s ontological pluralism sits at god’s right hand – his expressionless name being Absurdity – the god Pitiless Indifference forever his A and his Z. The bipeds are unaware that these too – these varied notions of trueness – are yet other crafty bits of stealth which god has laced deep into his array of reflexive feedback cascades ever lurking beneath the surface compelling her mechanistic genomic duplications to spit out yet again. She always wins, eventually, across the eons as her beloved psychotics adrift in their ocean of conditioned and arbitrary delusions ever shuffle this way and that way feverishly sprinting beneath the drip of absurdity’s perspiration towards inevitable extinction there in what is the moral landscape of god’s kingdom.


Now, it does not need to be stated that there are other views of Man that are more accurate than those two examples – higher views of Man (and here the Atheist shouts “Foul!” upon reading the word “higher” and charges the Christian paradigm with anthropomorphism) – that is to say there are (obviously) more accurate views of where Man sits within Actuality’s fingerprints as our own interior taste of our own moral failings amalgamated with our own desire for something more – more from ourselves – more from reality – presents a peculiar dichotomy. We at once love, delight in, our Wife, our Child – the Other – such that we shall lay down our life for them – even as we at once push aside and (subtly) sacrifice said Others so that some interior bit of Self may instead cease the day. We are a walking contradiction.


But that is Man in his fragmentation. That is to say, that is the Contingent and Mutable Self (Man) void of the Necessary and Immutable Other (God). We say, then, such is Man void of God and since we speak of Christianity’s God and of Christianity’s stopping-point we can and do say that such is merely Man void of full and final, immutable, love.


Is Man evil?


That's the wrong question.


The question at hand is this: Is Man lacking some contour of immutable love - is Man lacking some contour of God's Image?


We begin to get our first hint of what “evil” turns out to “be”, at least where the Created Self we call “Man” is concerned. It is all sufficiency minus something – ipso facto insufficiency – it is Man minus God, Man void of the only hope he has of actualizing the immutable and ceaseless Self-Other, the only hope he has of uttering that uncanny syntax “Us” anywhere inside of reality. Trinity begins filling all definitions. But what has that have to do with God’s complete and completed statement about Man? It in fact has everything to do with what we do or do not find there in the lap of God’s complete and completed statement on Man at the end of ad infinitum – where all appeals end.


There is a claim which the Triune God makes upon Man.


In Christ we find the seamless convergence of all such vectors such that the reach we find in Him surpasses all lesser – inferior – paradigmatic claims upon Man.


Ravi Zacharias’ ministry has a brief look at the God Who Descends, Who Remains, Who speaks His peculiar Word, the Self Revealing God Who delights in outsiders – all we outside of Him – in those of us who are often frail and often unloving – in mankind-period there in his painful fragmentation void of full and final (immutable) love. All paradigmatic contours converge in Christ’s seamlessness as we find in Him the peculiarly singular, stand-alone concurrence of Hope and Hopelessness, Mercy and Justice, Wholeness and Fragmentation, God and Man, Word and Flesh - and let us add Necessity and Contingency - as Christ alone at once solidifies the subtext beneath our feet even as He engraves the context above our heads with the Face of the God Who intones His peculiar harmonies echoing statements unintelligible in other ages – now clear, distinct, sharp – “Who comes, remains, and reorders the world we know—visually, physically, restoratively, eternally.”

Phillip A,

In the Jonathan Edwards quote it's important to keep his context in mind. Edwards is not giving a discourse on whether humans are inherently valuable and then saying that their inherent value is like a spider or loathsome insect. Rather, Edwards is saying that sinful people deserve punishment and his point in the loathsome insect analogy is that just as one is disposed to kill a loathsome insect, so God is disposed to punish the sinner. This is a point that Edwards makes throughout his writings. For instance, in Religious Affections Edwards states:

"how loathsome and polluted the soul is; soul and body, and every act and word, appearing like rottenness and corruption in that pure and holy light of God’s glory."

Edwards is not talking about humanity per se, but humanity in its sinful condition. Edwards is not talking about the value of the human, but the moral state of the human and its deserts.

And in a sense it is *because* Edwards has a high view of man in his inherent or natural condition that he has a low view of man as a sinner. So it is actually ironic that you point to Edwards disparaging of the human sinner as some kind of indicator that he has a low view of man per se. In fact it is just the opposite. If we did not care about man's moral depravity it would be a sign of us not caring for man as a moral being, something which itself gives man dignity and value above the animals.

To not view sinful man as loathsome is to reduce man to an animal that has no moral dimension. If you love the good in man you will equally hate the corruption of man.

Phillip A,

>>The Enlightenment, among other things, is the reason why it is possible for people who think like me to exist in a country dominated by people who think like you.<<

This is not contradictory to the idea that "the Enlightenment and Romantic worldviews devalue our personhood..." For instance, I could consistently affirm that humans are worth no more than a fly and since I don't think it's worth getting upset over squashed flies I don't think it's worth getting upset over squashed men. And since I don't think it's worth getting upset over squashed men, I don't think it's worth the trouble of trying to catch and punish murderers. Thus, it's now possible for people like murderers to exist in a country dominated by people like me. Does that prove that the prior view of men, which did not tolerate murderers, must be a lower view than my own? Of course not. Likewise, that you would have been put to death in medieval France but are not now put to death in modern day France does not prove that the French now have a higher view of man than they used to.

>>Yep. Christian Europe did away with slaughter, rape, looting, and enslavement way back in the Middle Ages. That is, until a New World dawned...<<

Again, these facts are perfectly consistent with what the author wrote. It can both be true that medieval just war theory helped put an end to pervasive slaughter, rape, looting etc. and that the medieval period experienced more slaughter, rape, looting etc. than we do today. That's because the consequences of ideas take time to unfold.

Semantics betray Atheism as, today at least, it….. drips….. drips…. drips…. is always leaking onto the floor from its cup of A Christianized Conscience:

“Church historian Ian C. Bradley credits the Evangelicals of the nineteenth century with the revival of a high view of morality in Victorian era Britain. He argues that it was the Evangelicals who led the campaign to abolish the slave trade and who tempered the excesses of imperialism in places such as Africa and India. On October 28, 1787, William Wilberforce wrote in his diary, “God almighty has set before me two great objects; the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.” It was not surprising that the “reformation of manners” would be ranked together with the abolition of the slave trade in Wilberforce’s mind. As Bradley writes, “It did not take a Saint to feel that English society stood in need of reform at the end of the eighteenth century….” There can be little doubt that there was something depraved about a society whose favorite country pastimes included hurling stakes at chained cocks and setting dogs on cats thrown into ponds, where townspeople regularly complained of being kept awake by the screams of victims of assault and rape and the cries of prostitutes, and in which an eighth of the deaths in the capital were attributed to excessive drinking. The eighteenth century was probably no more vice-ridden than any other but no other age has ever paraded its weaknesses quite so openly or excessively. Despite the enormity of the task, Wilberforce and others like him succeeded in impacting their nation. So profound was the transformation of British society that Bertrand Russell, one of the most prominent and influential atheists of the last century, could later write, “It is doubtful that the method of Mahatma Gandhi would have succeeded except that he was appealing to the conscience of a Christianized people.” The process of Christianization did not occur by accident but as the result of a careful understanding of the Scriptures and the application of God’s Word to all of life.” (RZIM)

The highest claim upon Man is found here: "In His Image". As the Image of God is written into Man, Imago Dei, as His glorious Self-Sacrifice amid Self/Other motioning ceaselessly within Trinity descends – as such contours revealed most fully in Christ are etched within Man, upon Man, Man cannot help but find some contour of Joy.

The paradigmatic Start/Stop points we find in the Christian claims upon Man are utterly unique, brutally and painfully honest, unavoidably hopeful, and ultimately loving as such foci are unparalleled by all other paradigmatic claims on Man.

Typo correction:


"......our own interior taste of our own moral failings amalgamated with our own desire for something more – more from ourselves – more from reality – presents a peculiar dichotomy. We at once love, delight in, our Wife, our Child – the Other – such that we shall lay down our life for them – even as we at once push aside and (subtly) sacrifice said Others so that some interior bit of Self may instead *seize* the day. We are a walking contradiction....."


Speaking of typos, just what does "seize the day" actually sum to in various paradigmatic claims upon Man?

“The Church never said that wrongs could not or should not be righted; or that commonwealths could not or should not be made happier; or that it was not worthwhile to help them in secular and material things; or that it is not a good thing if manners become milder, or comforts more common, or cruelties more rare. But she did say that we must not count on the certainty even of comforts becoming more common or cruelties more rare; as if this were an inevitable social trend towards a sinless humanity; instead of being as it was a mood of man, and perhaps a better mood, possibly to be followed by a worse one. We must not hate humanity, or despise humanity, or refuse to help humanity; but we must not trust humanity; in the sense of trusting a trend in human nature which cannot turn back to bad things.” (Chesterton)

David Bentley Hart:

“The ethical presuppositions intrinsic to modernity, for instance, are palliated fragments and haunting echoes of Christian moral theology. Even the most ardent secularists among us generally cling to notions of human rights, economic and social justice, providence for the indigent, legal equality, or basic human dignity that pre-Christian Western culture would have found not so much foolish as unintelligible. It is simply the case that we distant children of the pagans would not be able to believe any of these things – they would never have occurred to us – had our ancestors not once believed that God is love, that charity is the foundation of all virtues, that all of us are equal before the eyes of God, that to fail to feed the hungry or care for the suffering is to sin against Christ, and that Christ laid down his life for the least of his brethren……”

Amy,


Given that free will is relevant to these chapters, this may be of some import:

There is a review of a new book that is quite interesting. The book itself is entitled FREE: Why Science Hasn’t Disproven Free Will. The book is reviewed by E. Feser as philosophical and scientific assumptions are pressed. The topic of intentionality and its contradiction in eliminative materialism both have ample material available. Two interesting discussions are intentionality part one and then intentionality part two.

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