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Here's my response to this week's challenge:
Posted by Alan Shlemon on May 07, 2015 at 03:00 AM in :Alan Shlemon, Challenge Q&A, Christianity & Culture, Video | Permalink
Initially jmscwss may have captured the actual problem at the bottom of the challenge.
The challenge isn't concerned with the fact that we have fundamental flaws in our nature.
Everybody knows that simply by being alive – and painfully so as our own moral failures, missteps, and outright offenses sum through a lifetime in such a nature as ours in such a world as this. If Immutable Moral Perfection exists – it isn’t in us – and – those of us who have lived for more than about a decade know and perceive such fundamental flaws within the thing called humanity – often painfully so.
Nor is the challenge concerned *only* with how that fact in isolation ties into the Christian's metaphysical statement on reality.
The challenge is concerned rather with the question of God's response to the obvious – with God’s response to the flaws we all perceive in ourselves and in others as such directly impacts the coherence of Christianity’s "Set" of truth claims on both God and reality.
"The distinction is important in this context because we must address the apparent cognitive dissonance revealed by this antitheist, which is irreconcilable by your view. One might ask if God would condemn to eternal suffering a person whose only sin was that he once stole a lollipop when he was nine years old. You would have to say yes, cementing the antitheist’s view that God is unjust, and therefore unworthy of his time or attention."
If in fact God's response to the obvious - to all of us - is that He is 1) being logically coherent in damning said 9 year old (or what have you) - and that 2) He intentionally withholds from us and from said 9 year old (or what have you) the actual perception of and access to *Himself/Christ* (the Immutable, All-Sufficient Means we all ultimately need) - and/or that 3) such withholding is either because He intentionally withholds such from us or because His Reach is just too flimsy – just too weak – to outreach mere Time and Circumstance and/or that - finally - 4) all is well "Because I AM logical in doing so and therefore coherent" then the Atheist has his answer cemented: Christianity is an incoherent set of self-conflicting statements.
Fortunately, while a small sub-set of Christians may assert various flavors of 1 through 4, none of that sums to Christ just as none of that sums to Christianity given that none of that captures Christianity's actual set of truth-claims on the fundamental shape of reality and on God's actual response to the obvious problem of our own fundamentally weak and obviously flawed - sinful - natures which we all (painfully) perceive both in ourselves and in others.
The language of God on the shape of reality and His interface with all of its contours is found throughout the OT in Christ and throughout the NT in Christ.
May 07, 2015 at 03:39 AM
The Skeptic has taken on far too much here and, as we approach his challenge from directions he has not intellectually accounted for, that fact becomes all the more obvious. Bertrand Russell, Gandhi, proper Metaphysics, and proper Theology dissolve the Skeptic's unjustified premises.
In Christ we find the very Some-thing which cannot be withheld from any entity we call Being – and that is the very entity we call Reality, or Truth, or Actuality. It is impossible for real things to not-interface with the fundamental shape of reality.
Bertrand Russell and Gandhi perceive the Truth of all things from two radically different submersions in that singular ocean – the former from within the awareness of the Christianized conscience which makes Abolition intelligible and therefore possible, and the latter from within an ocean of pain inflicted by the Christianized Britain. The curious commentary found there becomes troubling for the Skeptic’s unsound premises, as we’ll see.
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and various Gentiles encounter the very Something called Reality ipso facto distal to Time and distal to Circumstance and their embrace of Christ in such terms can be nothing short of literal as any lesser any-thing literally cannot do the work spoken of.
It is unclear that we must be anything but silent on the question of the Necessary (Christ) and of the Sufficient (Christ) Means (Christ) as that which is spied, withheld, perceived, by a man such as Gandhi whose entire people, life, nation, and sustenance is pillaged, enslaved, and dehumanized by the thing which he perceives to be – not the Truth of all things – not Christ in any real and true sense – but rather that which he knows to be Christ’s True Body there in the Christianized culture which lords over both that which is himself and that which is his reality. It is utterly miraculous – literally – that such a person as that (Gandhi, not Russell, yet) comes to some juncture in his life where he states of such sightlines that in Christ he beholds the very Something which he himself is aiming for – namely that which even in death loves its enemies even as he simultaneously and just as miraculously – there in his persecution by the Christianized Culture which dehumanizes him – comes to some juncture in his life where he states of such sightlines that where Christ succeeds, Christ’s Body fails – where Christ is found worthy His Body the Church is found unworthy. Of course, Christ, Scripture, G.K. Chesterton, and others affirm such a claim by the man who has his world brutalized by the Body Of Christ. If the question at hand is did Gandhi A) in fact perceive the truth of Christ and also then B) in fact withheld himself from Christ – then we find in Bertrand Russell and Gandhi two peculiar commentaries on such motion within being both towards and away from Christ – both towards and away from that particular Something which justifies the very essence of being itself even as it also justifies the very worth of being itself.
The Atheist Bertrand Russell is a different case than is Gandhi, as we’ll see, in Being’s response to Christ. It is no small fact that Russell attributes Gandhi’s success in Abolition to the fact that Gandhi was appealing to a Christianized conscience. Russell saw, beheld, perceived a certain something – the same something which Gandhi also saw, beheld, perceived, though they perceived such from two different loci of what cannot sum to more than one reality – ultimately the singular A – Z subsuming all vectors. The motions within being therein provide a rather peculiar commentary on the nature of volition and reality as Universalism and Gandhi’s own Pantheism (in his own words as we’ll see) fail to provide access to the necessary Something even as Time and Circumstance quite obviously fail in Scripture to withhold access to that same necessary Something and as Christ provides what Gandhi himself states he cannot find elsewhere.
Such junctures find us in one of two non-static motions:
A) The error made by a small subset of Christianity: God is there in those non-static motions actively in motion Himself in that there – within the stuff of Time and Circumstance – God is Himself withholding from Gandhi’s sight that which is the Necessary (Christ) and Sufficient (Christ) Means (Christ) such that should Gandhi be in Hell we can and do say that it is both Good and Just and it is also God’s intentional – and irresistible – Choice for Gandhi to be in Hell, God Himself withholding His “irresistible pull” (and so on). In this sense Gandhi is in Hell for his nature and not for rejecting Reality – that which just does sum to Christ – for he never could (literally) behold the contours of the True given that God actively withheld from him the necessary means to so motion.
B) We find there in those non-static motions this or that man getting his first glimpses from within is persecution and pain inflicted by what he knows to be the literal ambassadors of Christ – to be Christ’s Body – that which nothing but the peculiar work of God can grant – that which is the stuff of sight’s motion as the Necessary (Christ) and the sufficient (Christ) Means (Christ) finds His contours coming into focus in the eyes of said man (Gandhi) through a lifetime of injustice, pain, and enslavement at the hands of what he (Gandhi) knows to be Christ’s Body (the Church) such that Truth is anything but “withheld” from said man but is instead – in the worst sort of Pain – Pain (real pain) at the hands of those who tell you their God is love – yet beholds the contours of the True – and calls that Something the Cross of Christ – and motions towards said Something even as the followers of that Something (Christians) crush all that is justice, all that is love, all that is good in India’s great persecution.
None of this is very complex – though an incoherent Frame full of too many subtle “exceptions” may generate too many seams and holes to then qualify for the seamlessness of divine simplicity, of Christ’s utter – literal – status of the A Through Z in all that can ever be Man’s perceived reality.
The Skeptic must also make the following case:
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and, it seems, a peculiar set of Gentiles, are in Hell *IF* we define the stuff of Time and Circumstance as that which is demonstrably in scripture just too high for the reach of God, of Christ, of All-Sufficiency. Physical Time, Physical Death, and Physical Circumstance would be – in such an assumption – just too thick for Actuality's reach such that Abraham is (literally) saved by works, by membership within the Law, by something less than Christ. Or, Abraham and Company are in Hell viz. something like this: [Sin + No Physical Interface with Christ within Time and Circumstance = Hell].
But such as those are not in Hell.
It is the case that God does not intentionally withhold Christ from such as those as Time and Circumstance find Faith in the Old Man in Hebrews chapter 11, inescapably finding Abraham and Company – distal to Time, distal to Circumstance – drinking down the Cup we call Christ. Time has little – perhaps nothing – to do with God’s Peculiar Work and we in error think that our ceilings are His ceilings, that our floors are His floors. The actual perception of and access to Himself/Christ (the Immutable, All-Sufficient Means we all ultimately need) finds no possible barrier but God – yet God in Christ proves Himself to be nothing of the kind, nothing of a Barrier (God is the only One Who could possibly barricade Himself, barricade All-Sufficiency) – but rather He comes in Christ and reconciles the world to Himself and in fact we know that God sums to that which is the only possible Door (God is the only One Who could possibly supply Himself, supply All-Sufficiency) as He reveals in Christ that such withholding is non-entity as He has not (past) and does not (present) and will not (future) intentionally withhold such from us – His Omni-Reach necessarily outreaching Time and Circumstance.
And in fact Scripture testifies of such – on all fronts. The Skeptic’s premises find all sorts of incoherent seams so far. And there’s more.
We’ll simply ignore (here) the assertion of some that God actively withheld Himself from Gandhi such that Gandhi never could have spied his first glimpses of Christ’s true contours, as it is just assumed (here) that that small subset of Christianity has gotten both Christ and what Christ “is” relative to the nature of reality itself all rather terribly, rather tragically, wrong.
If the stuff of Time and Circumstance fail in any single case whatsoever (and they do) – then the physical interface is not actually a barricade in any real sense – and we are back again with God Alone Who is the One Who can ever Withhold/Open such Doors. And if that is the case then we find that a peculiar set or handful of our contours and semantics actually begin to widen – and contrary to the fears of some we find that such “widening” does not widen to some lesser something than Christ – but in fact the widening we observe on the nature of simplicity widens in such a way that Christ begins to subsume first yet more and finally yet all stated topography. And that is just what we expect from reality. Our Trust, our Obedience, our Membership in the Law, or what have you, literally cannot sum to Christ as we know that only All-Sufficiency meets the status of the Necessary and Sufficient, that only Christ then sums to such Means in any single case and in all cases whatsoever.
Time and Circumstance "prior to" (whatever that means) Christ – and Man within it – and, also, Time and Circumstance "after" (whatever that means) Christ – and Man within it – share but one God – Who has but one Reach.
Reality cannot be Non-Real. God cannot be Not-God. It is impossible for real things to not-interface with the fundamental shape of reality.
The inadequacy of Moses, of what the NT terms the Ministry of Death, to sum to the Necessary (Christ) and the Sufficient (Christ) Means (Christ) combined with the inadequacy of Time and Circumstance to withhold His All-Sufficiency and therein – literally – barricade Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and a peculiar set of Gentiles from Christ all sums to a topography that is plain enough – seamless enough – as simplicity emerges.
As for Bertrand Russell – here we find a case that is the inverse of Gandhi – as we find here a man afforded all the benefits of the “flip side of the coin” that is the Christianized Conscience and who himself perceives therein that but for said flip-side of said-coin Gandhi’s perceived contours of the True never would have gotten off the ground – Gandhi’s Abolition movement would have failed but for said Christianized conscience in his audience. If we take it that God does not actively withhold the Necessary (Christ) and the Sufficient (Christ) Means (Christ) from the stuff of Created Being, that is, if we take it that real things are real, then we find in Russell and Gandhi two men in the midst of motions which find us in two non-static volitions of being in relation to perceived reality. Ravi Zacharias, as we’ll see, who is himself from India finds in Gandhi’s movement towards the Cross of Christ the very inverse of the sort of movements which we find in Russell.
It is a peculiar fact that Pantheism finds in it a seam wherein it (Pantheism) begins to disassemble and dissolve the very contours which Gandhi praised – motioned towards – as he beheld Christ from within his suffering at the hands of the Christ’s Body (Christianized Britain/England). It is also a peculiar fact that the thing we call Time and the thing we call Circumstance have never – not once – successfully withheld Christ – the Real – from the thing we call Man’s Being.
If it is the assertion of the Skeptic that God cannot be Good because Gandhi must be in hell because it is the case that Gandhi in fact in some seam somewhere beholds the Dissolution of the Good, of the Real, at the hands of his own Pantheism over there – and Christ’s Contours over here wherein the Cross actualizes said Good, said Real – and that he there willingly chose said Dissolution over said Christ – well the Skeptic then has a real problem as we find in Bertrand Russell and Gandhi quite the opposite reply to the Good, quite the opposite reply to the Real.
Ravi Zacharias comments in a few places:
“Mahatma Gandhi made the comment that of all the truths of the Christian faith, the one that stood supreme to him was the Cross of Jesus. He granted that it was without parallel. It was the innocent dying for the guilty, the pure exchange for the impure. This evil cannot be understood through the eyes of the ones who crucified him, but only from eyes of the Crucified One. It is the woman who has been raped and not the rapist who understands what rape is. It is the one who has been slandered who understands what slander is, not the slanderer. It is only the One who died for our sin who can explain to us what evil is, not the skeptics. The cross points the way to a full explanation.” Pantheism finds problems which Gandhi moves away from even as the Cross of Christ finds that peculiar something which Gandhi moves towards – Ravi Zacharias responds, “Right. In fact, even some of the great sages of these other worldviews agree. Mahatma Gandhi, in one of his writings, stated that he wished some aspects of his own belief system could be permanently erased because so much of it was nonsense. Even Gandhian sages will tell you that. Much of what is in one of the early sacred Hindu writings, Veda, is irrational and unacceptable. We would consider some of the behaviors and practices of Mohammad in his own personal life reprehensible if someone practiced them within our culture today. Then compare the whole idea of God in His self-existence and in the very notion of moral rightness………… the questioner must ever remember that raising the question does not disprove the existence of God, it only necessitates the existence of God, because without God, good and evil do not actually exist. And therefore, the answer of God in the Christian faith is very unique. In the Hindu world view, it is sort of karma, inherited, every birth is a rebirth, you pay, you pay, and you pay through millions of incarnations. In the Muslim world view, it's fatalistic -- it's the will of Allah. You go on. There's no real down-to-earth explanation. It's just there. Within the Christian world view, there is a plethora of evidence as to how Jesus defends for us the reality of evil and the reality of good. When you go to the Cross, you see the two converge -- evil in the heart of man, goodness in the heart of God. That convergence in the cross of Jesus Christ is so unique that it even prompted Mahatma Gandhi to say that outside of the Cross he did not know where else something so unique could be given as an answer………. Mahatma Gandhi said it clearly: there were many things in the Vedas he wished he could remove. There were many things about the Christian faith he did not understand, said he, and some he did not like. But, he said, the most powerful truth in the Christian Gospel is unmatched anywhere else: It is the cross of Jesus Christ.”
The Skeptic here has taken on too much: he must assert a sort of pretend god who has a sort of inept reach which is just too flimsy to outreach either Time or Circumstance, and he must assert that Abraham and Company never actually, literally perceived and swallowed the Cup named Christ but were (actually, literally) saved by some lesser means – and thereby speak of some Non-Christian *god*. Even worse he must assert the obviously false premise that where two Non-Christians are found perceiving the very essence of Life’s Value, of Being, and specifically of the Cross of Christ – as all those various lines converge – it is the case that Gandhi’s reply to such sightlines is the same reply which Bertrand Russell gives to such sightlines, that A = B.
But we have obvious evidence to the contrary.
We find on the world stage here three particularities:
1) The Atheist Bertrand Russell enjoys the peculiarities of his own Christianized conscience and perceives in India – not the indentured work of the prison-less, bank-less economic barter found in eons past, and not the “If the indentured worker so much as loses a tooth he goes free” of one peculiar (Hebrew) brand of said economic prison-less, bank-less barter from eons past – but – rather – the Southern Plantation Style of dehumanization pillaging – and he there perceives the peculiar contours of the Christian God as that which actualizes the intelligibility of Abolition – thus making Abolition possible – and – then – from that vantage point – he there motions away from said Reality – away from said God – and thus towards what he knows must end in the pitiless, in the indifferent.
2) From the other end of reality (there is only one reality), we find that should a man (unlike Gandhi) outright reject every ounce of Christ and Christianity as Christ’s Ambassadors enslave and persecute and ransack and dehumanize his whole world – well we have there exactly what we would expect – even demand – from any man who values human life, who values the Good – just as we have there more than enough room for God to yet do His Peculiar Work as we know by Scripture’s unavoidable Means and unavoidable Ends that He does such Peculiar Work both within Time and Circumstance and distal to Time, distal to Circumstance, even as we know that no Man can find said Reach withheld from him for God in Christ subsumes all.
3) Lastly, should a man named Gandhi find Christ’s ambassadors pillaging and embezzling his very life, dehumanizing his very world, murder….. injustice…… and there do what can only be called impossible – embrace the very Christ of said ambassadors as the very Something which out-reaches his own Pantheism as he endlessly enquires on the nature of all that sums to Good/Evil – well there we find a strange sort of Sight which only God can grant – and again – as always – in all possible state of affairs – we find more than enough room for God to do His Peculiar Work.
The Skeptic’s problems only get worse:
We have it on sure grounds that God’s Peculiar Work within the entity we call Man is expressed in the very language of God thusly: Christ. The Will of God where Man is concerned is there in its full and final form.
There is no claim upon this man or upon that man or upon Mankind which can sum to less and be taken as anything but error. That which declares a provision and/or that which declares an access for this or that man which speaks of God’s Will in some lesser summation than His complete and completed statement in Christ declares ipso facto some Non-Christian declaration on God’s expressed Will, on God’s expressed Provision of God’s expressed Access to said Will – that being Christ. In Him we behold, perceive, the only complete and completed statement written of God in Man, of Man in God.
Necessity cannot be otherwise – that is to say – real things cannot not-interface with the fundamental shape of reality. An assertion to the contrary would sum to nonsense. God's interface with Man – with all contours of created reality – sums to what just is Man’s A – Z such that we find in a handful of Atheistic errors and a handful of Theological errors that certain sort of something which sums to that which is less than the language of Necessity, less than the language of God levied atop the fundamental shape of any and all potential, any and all actuality. Given that such is the case, we move to the unavoidable language of God – which cannot be otherwise – on the inescapable and manifest shape of the necessary – and of His interface with all possibility therein, that is to say, with all possible contours therein, as all such vectors converge: Christ.
What is God’s Will for all men? Imago Dei – issued by God to the world He loves, as He wills for us His Own Image, as He wills for us – and delivers – His Own Self. We find that as such is etched within Man, upon Man, Man cannot help but find contours 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. The question, “Does God Love this or that person?” finds – in Christ – reality’s unavoidable “Absolute” as Christ alone at once solidifies that very subtext beneath our feet even as He engraves that very context above our heads in the Face of the God Who intones His relentless love for each of us. It is He Alone Who sums to the fundamental and necessary shape of reality and both Scripture and Metaphysics have it on certain grounds that it is impossible for real things to not-interface with the fundamental and necessary shape of reality.
We have only two coherent options by which to reply to the Skeptic’s challenge where Gandhi is concerned:
1) We must remain silent on the status of said soul, as we do not house the wherewithal to make claims on the reach which God’s Reach alone houses.
2) If there is sound enough evidence perhaps we can, at most, “extrapolate” and posit what is, at most, a “guess” and perhaps then compile such evidence and take the “average”, or some other (the flimsy reach of Man) such attempt, and so follow such evidence as to Gandhi’s reply to Christ and to His Cross as Christ’s Ambassadors slaughter and pillage his entire world and as he enquires on the nature of such Good and such Evil viz. his own Pantheism, viz. the very Christ of said Cross.
May 09, 2015 at 05:43 AM
I would say "who decides what is just and fair, God or man?" We have all broken God's law including Gandhi, and that is what sin is. Indeed if God simply forgave sin without a penalty, then He would be unjust. Also, why should God provide any way for us to get to Him?
His great love, not because we deserve it. The Cross is the only way God can legally, without compromising His love or His Justice, allow us into HIS heaven. By Grace through faith, not works, no matter how good they are.
Anthony Barber |
May 09, 2015 at 10:23 AM
You didn't really answer the challenge.
How is it fair that Ghandi (just as billions of people around the world) doesn't get God's pardon only because didn't have a chance to learn about Christianity and Jesus?
Olga B |
May 30, 2015 at 10:51 PM
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