Tuesday, December 27, 2005

To Speak Or Not To Speak

So, this morning during breakfast, my Italian relatives, my family, and I got into a discussion about morality, faith, and politics. It started out with my father musing (although this particular question is so elementary that it wasn't really musing): "Might is right or Might for right?" The truth is my father is a fairly intelligent guy... and the Italians were here... and like most Europeans, the Italians hate Bush and are against the war, and think that Bush-loving America are arrogant, ignorant, and brainwashed. Furthermore, my Dad also doesn't like Bush and was against the war.

So, Cira (my aunt) said, as any person who is halfway reasonable and decent would, "Might for right." After all, this was an opportunity to make a statement against arrogant, big, powerful America and all Bush-lovers.

So, then I quipped, "Of course, might for right. But what is right? Is it absolute?"

And this launched the discussion.

Cira quickly said, "No. It is subjective. There are no absolute truths." Well, within a few minutes I got her to admit that there are some absolute truths. But the thing is, she was all over the place. First, each individual decides for themselves what is right, then it was the law of the land, then it was society in general. Then, yea, there are some absolutes. But she kept trying to go too fast. For example, when she said that the laws of the land are the standard, I asked, "What if a law is unjust?" Well, she used this to launch into a statement against capital punishment.

I was trying to apply the principle of James - to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. I certainly did this well. But, I wonder if I should have been more aggressive in my approach. See, as far as I could discern, Cira wasn't really listening. She was hearing me, and being polite, but she was really just trying to make a statement. She is a pretty good debater and good at rhetoric. Logic - not so much. Debate skills - excellent. She made her statements loud and clear, and didn't give me much opportunity to make my statements. In the midst of all this, my brother (who is in the Navy) was loudly and persistently making his statements. He wasn't listening to anyone whatsoever. He just wanted to hear himself speak. (He was defending America's involvement in Iraq).

So, my brother and my aunt did most of the talking in this conversation. I said a few things here and there, and I was certainly calm, cool, and collected about it. But the thing is that I am an ambassador of Christ - who is speaking the word of God. I'm not just another guy. My opinion therefore, is the truth - since my opinion is in line with God's word. My brother and my aunt certainly would have done well to stop speaking and to listen to what I had to say because what I had to say was good and true and right, while much of what they had to say (not everything they had to say) was just foolish secular humanism expressed with blind arrogant smugness. I say blind, because they are so sure of the reasonableness of their position, and it hasn't even entered into my Aunt's imagination that she is totally in "left" field. (Get it? pun intended)

So, I am wondering, what I could have done better to handle the situation and where do I go from here?

Perhaps the best thing to do is to simply pray and to look for more opportunities to gently and firmly contend for the truth in love, and let my aunt read Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis). (Nancy and I gave it to her for Christmas, and she said she would read it).

By the way, to give you more of an idea about the kind of person my aunt is, she gave my sister a book by Michael Moore a couple years ago - apparently expecting that after my sister read the book she would "see the light." Such seems to be the mindset of most of Europe. I wonder what percentage of Europeans even know what a syllogism is, and how to tell a valid argument from an invalid argument. What percentage of Europeans know the difference between validity and truth?

Of course, that wouldn't get them any closer to God. Plenty of philosophers know that stuff well, but still, they are blind to their need for Jesus Christ.

So, I am wondering what to do.

Proverbs 26:4 - Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.

Proverbs 26:5 - Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.

It seems to me that modern evangelical Christians (myself included) really get this screwed up. We talk and argue when we should be silent, calm, cool, and collected. We are quick to anger, and we want to hear ourselves speak. But our hearts are far from God. Our thoughts are not God's thoughts. But then, when we should boldly stand up for the truth and speak out with some passion and conviction and courage, we shrink back in fear, complacency, and unbelief. We justify it by pointing to Proverbs 26:4 and the verses in James about being slow to speak and quick to listen. But really, we were just being cowards, or we gave in to some other idolatry - perhaps a love of worldliness - which always seeks to keep the truth from really breaking people. We love the world; we don't really want to see people repent because we hate God. Repentance is no fun. We don't want other people to go through the horrible feelings of brokenness that is repentance. So, we let fools think they are wise in their own eyes. Meanwhile, God's word commands us to hold back those being led away to the slaughter, and to speak out against disobedience, ignorance, and unbelief.

I believe that the anti-Christ will be using these verses to establish his unholy kingdom on the earth. He will whisper the verse that basically says to shut up into the ears of those who should be speaking up. He will whisper the verse that says to speak into the ears of those who should sit down, shut up, and listen. Obviously, he will use this in the churches to propagate false demonic doctrines in the name of Christ himself. Many will buy into the lie, thinking that they are gaining wisdom and growing closer to God - but being totally blinded to the fact that they are really giving worship to Satan.

So, how do we keep from being deceived? We must hold fast to the Word of God. We must be teachable, and we must be attentive to His voice. We must be radical in obedience to God. When the Spirit of God prompts us to speak up, we must. When he tells us to shut up, we must.

Those who know really know Christ won't be confused. But those who are deceived will also be confident in what they affirm - not realizing their own deception.

Let us pray.
Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name. Let your kingdom come; let your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us for our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

30 Comments:

Blogger elvisfromeurope said...

Very funny and interesting Dan. I knew Ed would "provoke" a debate.... my sister isn't as good on logic as me. I think you are dishonest, since you have a direct contact with God and you speak directly with God how can any debate be possible and conceivable? How can Cira ever hope to win a debate against God ? Just tell her she doesn't have the same direct contact with God as you and she will not be able to continue to discuss. You have the strongest possible ally in the universe. Anyways, these political debates are mostly useless in the end, everyone stays set in their ideas.

4:14 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Joe,

With all due respect, you are horrible at logic. You contradict yourself all the time, and make sweeping statements in order to hear yourself make a statement that is in line with your ever-shifting and contradictory philosophical and political ideas.

How does having a relationship with the Almighty make me a dishonest person? On the contrary, dishonest people (who persist in their dishonesty) can not have a right relationship with God.

You certainly have met my Father.

People certainly tend to stay set in their ideas. But, I am a believer in the miraculous. I do not give up hope on you and Cira and all of Europe. I do not give up hope on anyone. How can I? God has given me hope! As it is written, "I believe; therefore I speak!" Hope is a wonderful thing, Joe. And the hope that God gives does not disappoint us. Don't entertain thoughts of pessimism.

Cira can win debates. All she has to do is join the winning side. Truth be told, she did bring up some good points. I conceded that there are many arrogant people in America, and that I am dedicating my life to confronting that arrogance.

However, there is just as much, if not more arrogance in Europe. Europeans tend to look at the "Christian right" in America with this attitude of elitist smug arrogance. Meanwhile, we look at Europe and we say, "Don't be so cocky yourself. Find out what the difference is between validity and truth. Study the Bible - if for no other reason - so that you don't make prejudice judgments about us. (Of course, it would also be good for other reasons too - like getting a few important lessons in theology)." Europe sees the Christian right and thinks "Hypocrites! Blind, arrogant fools!" While, admittedly, that does exist here to some degree; we look back at Europe and say, "Do you realize what we do with our resources to be charitable to the world?" Europeans look at the Christian right and think that we have no idea what justice is. But, it is the Europeans for the most part who are constantly contradicting themselves and making silly statements like "There are no absolutes" that are screwing up justice in the world. Of course, Europeans for the most part have no appreciation for the truth that says, "The just shall live by faith."

Hey, in all of this, know this: I have no hostility against you, your sister, or Europe. I really don't. Actually, (and you might find this smug), but I have compassion in my heart for an entire continent that seems to have lost its way. Maybe someday, I'll be a missionary in Europe. I desire good relations between Americans and Europeans, and I will labor and pray for that. But it is true that, as a whole, Europe seriously needs to repent and turn to Christ in faith.

Meanwhile, I will also dedicate myself to doing my part to making Americans humble. It is true that there is a lot of arrogance here in America too. And frankly, that is scary when we are at war.

Conclusion: We all need Jesus. The greatest commands are to love God and to love one another. This is love for God: To obey his commands. We would all do well to put this into practice. Of course, that means that we must believe in Him. But that is reasonable, because He really does reveal Himself to all who seek Him with all their hearts.

4:42 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

I meant father, not Father.

4:46 PM  
Blogger elvisfromeurope said...

Dan, ok. Now just say hi to all, and tell them that I tried to get into the debate too, and say hi and merry christmas and new years to all Nancy, Emily , Michael, Jamie and Sandy, and tell Ed not to "provoke" too much... he knows what I mean (just kidding).

5:02 PM  
Blogger Lindsey said...

Dan,
Strangely I had a similar experience this week as well. I have spent most of the holidays with my friend Elise's family and am much closer to them than my own (extended family). A couple of nights ago, at about 2:00 AM I was also discussing absolute truth with her Aunt and Uncle (from California), her Cousin (extremely brilliant) and her other Uncle (Jim). Jim is a hard core Christian, very zealous, very passionate, very little tact. Anyways, we were all discussing absolute truth and her Aunt and Uncle from California strongly believe that there is no absolute truth (so if you could give me some pointers on how to convince them other wise, besides the "are you absolutely sure about that" question, it would be greatly appreciate). Uncle Jim, goes at this extremely passionately and pretty much takes over the conversation. After about 2 minutes everyone in the room, whether on his side or not, are ready for him to shut up. He is doing a horrible job of convincing anyone and he attemps to tie salvation into every other sentence.
Anyways, my point is this: I have known you for about 2 years now, and you, like Jim, are extremely passionate and zealous. Perhaps the most passionate and zealous Christian I know. I also extremely doubt, especially by this point in your vacation, that any of your family members do not realize who you are and what you stand for. So, in my opinion, and no I was not actually there, I believe you did the right think. Yes I am somewhat biased about this because I have just witnessed a situation where someone talked way to much and it turned his family off, but still I believe you went about things in the right way. Anyways, you need to come home because I went to Barnes and Noble today and now I have like 500 more questions. Last night I specifically prayed for your time with your family and I will continue to do that.

1:36 AM  
Blogger elvisfromeurope said...

Hi Lindsey. I wanted to say that I think the real issue is not "if absolute truth" exists, but rather that each person or group or religion or whatever chooses a give set of absolutes against another competing given set. So if there is or isn't an absolute truth is irrelevant (a good philosopher or mathematician-logic could demonstrate it either way, I remember Godel did something along those lines). So if you talk to a pyschoanalysis expert (Freud) he will have an extended belief system where anything you say can be explained within his system. No matter how hard you try, he can always give a perfectly reasonable and often "demonstrated" proof that all you say has a psychoanalytical explanation. The same situation occurs with a Marxist, and the same with an Evangelical Christian. Bear in mind that the Freud guy studied tons of relevant books for years and really can do an impressive job. The Marxist guy can do quite a job also, so much so that millions of people bought into his ideas all during the 20th century. I personally think they are all mostly wrong , there is some truth in some of the various ideas but most is wrong. I think only hard science can give us some decent help, but can never explain all. It is when people want to explain that extra all that religions and ideologies come about.

7:33 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Lindsey,

I hear you.

Usually, when I am debating with someone on absolute truth, I try to give examples.

Someone denies that there is an absolute truth, then they must be saying that truth is subjective. Usually, people assert that each individual chooses to believe in their absolutes. Many people say that this depends on your culture.

So, then I would say, "If truth is subjective defined by each individual, then I can say 'Rape is not wrong.'"

Well, usually people have strong objections to that - and then I try to point out that the reason why they have strong objections is because rape really is wrong - absolutely. And anyone who doesn't agree is wicked and evil.

I also try to let people know that while truth is absolute, it can be complicated. An action could be the right thing to do in one circumstance, but in another circumstance, that same action could be the wrong thing to do. This does not mean that absolutes do not exist. It does mean that life can get pretty complicated.

C.S. Lewis addresses this very logically in the first few chapters of his book Mere Christianity.

Of course, there is always the "psych prof scenario." A psych prof once said in class, "I see no reason to believe in moral absolute truths." But how would that psych prof respond if some student went up to him and punched him in the face? He would probably object. He would probably be angry, and he would think that he was wronged. But if absolute truth does not exist, then what is "wrong"?

Of course, you can always quote the word of God. The word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. It penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. It will not return void. God's word will convict people. They may not believe it, but faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. So, as you preach the gospel to an unbeliever, you are helping them gain faith.

The reason why people don't fear God is because they have little to no faith in the Scriptures. Ultimately, they need to have divine revelation. It has to be revealed to them that they are lost. In our modern world, many lost people don't know that they are lost, because it hasn't been revealed to them, or because they have suppressed the revelation. See Romans 1.

You can tell lost people that. I have had conversations with people where I have told them, "The reason why you don't believe is because at some point in your life, you rejected God, and he has since given you over to a depraved mind." Obviously, you need to be tactful in how you say this. Let the people know that you care for them and love them. Watch your tone when you say this. But you can say it.

And always always always pray, and never give up. Ask, seek, and knock. He who asks receives. He who seeks finds. And to him who knocks the door will be opened.

The kingdom of God is forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.

Did you get a chance to talk to Uncle Jim alone? If you do get the chance, you should take it. I was not there, but if he was being a bad witness, then he needs to be confronted, rebuked, and encouraged. Matthew 18. If you can't get with him alone, if you could call him or send him an email or something. Don't just let it go. Sometimes it is good to overlook an offense - if that is by faith. If God is leading you to simply overlook this offense, then fine. But if he leads you to gently confront him, be obedient. Have faith. Do not fear. Do not despair. Do not write him off.

Be encouraged friend. See you soon.

8:46 AM  
Blogger Lindsey said...

Uncle Joe,
To life like that would be so depressing...or am I wrong? Not only depressing, but hopeless too. I would certainly feel hopeless believing that nothing I do matters because there is no real standard that I am breaking, there are no ultimate laws and therefore everything goes.

So, I must disagree. I think it most certainly does matter if absolute truth exists. Because if it does not, then why should someone believe that a higher authority exists, or if it even matters if that higher authority exists because we are not required to follow any of his rules.

I'm not sure if I'm making as much sense as I would like...here's an example. My passion has been politics for a long time, and I've wanted to major in it for a number of years. Then, in 2004 I was watching the political debates between John Kerry and that other guy...and was amazed. Both sides, would stand up and debate their a topic-using their "facts". All of these "facts" would be about the same issue, yet completely different from each other!

Right now I am a finance major. I would hate to have a job in politics because I find it hopeless (Dan I know this is a whole other issue). Why do I find it hopeless? Because I believe there is no way one can find what's really true. In the same way, if ultimately, one were to believe there is no absolute truth, or that absolute truth even matters, I must conclude that they too are hopeless.

8:57 AM  
Blogger elvisfromeurope said...

Lindsey, there is nothing hopeless, I say that the truths are valid within a group of people or anthropological context. You can live a good, hopeful life just believing in the civil laws of most western nations which are all very similar since they are based on "good enough" truths (at least for us). There is no need for absolute perfection, just things that are good enough and work well enough.
We all agree robbing and killing is wrong, we know it, we won't do it. End of story, end of problems no need to complicate life with religion. The problem is that there are other groups, nations, cultures like Islam that believe in another set of absolute truths and when they meet Evangelical Christians the only thing they can do is fight phyiscally and get into a physical war. There have been cultures and religions in the world and there still are where rape, torture, killing is justified within a given system of "laws". We western nations are against thee cultures but these cultures see us as declaring a war on them. I guess these competing "extended belief systems" are really irreducibly different. Anyways aother great way to understand things is to study deeply ANTHROPOLOGY and all the cultures that have existed and how they invented various law systems.

Dan, giving concrete examples is a tactic the right wing uses to get people emotionally involved, angry and full of revenge. It gets off the real topics, reduces the abstraction level, confuses people.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Lindsey said...

Joe,
I still can't agree with you. I don't want to settle for "good enough". There has to be a right and a wrong. There has to be a standard. More importantly than that there has to be a reason behind why things are right and wrong...the Bible. There once was a time in America where children were told "Stealing is wrong because God said not to steal in Exodus 20". Times have changed. The Biblical foundation has been taken away and all that is left is "well Western law says we shouldn't steal...so I guess we shouldn't do it." It's not going to stop here...things will continue to get worse until there is no standard whatsoever. We need a standard!
I don't believe that a person could truly, in being honest to himself, live a hopeful life just going along with western societies laws. If it were me I would constantly be questionsing "what if"? What if those other countries are right? What if western thought is the one that is really screwed up? But, if I compare everything I hear with the Bible that's a different story. The Bible is the infallible word of God, I find no hope when I put my faith in man, hoping they made the right decision.
I just can't buy it, there are to many unanswered questiosn and to much assuming and guessing. I'm not willing to take that chance.

11:46 AM  
Blogger elvisfromeurope said...

You are looking for "absolute" answers that simply don't exist. Perfection does not exist. We live a life that is good enough.
Many people who have suffered ECONOMICALLY will tell you really what hell is, it is on earth and is poverty.
Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland have very low crime are content progressive people. They are really way better off than most of the world, they have various religions but there is no extreme emphasis on it like in the US.
Lindsey, Dan, I was just thinking, could the differences between US and Europe be that Americans need a much stronger "social control" against crime so that they don't just do "anything they want, since there is no God" ? I think the US has a million prisoners against the EUs 300,000 and no capital punishment. Just an interesting note. I mean most people are decent enough not to commit crimes, so why such a strong emphasis on the need of a punishing God to avoid you from doing anything you want ? It is a really strange thing since in Europe people generally feel that the laws are more than enough and have good sense to know that many things you can't do and can't just do anything you want. Just use good sense! Of course there is loads of corruption and things in the EU (especially Italy) but still...

12:13 PM  
Blogger elvisfromeurope said...

The "irreducible" difference of beliefs between me and Dan are exactly due to the fact that I think the people who have "absolute" world views are the dangerous, fanatics who drive planes into the twin towers because of their religion. Absolutes generate absolute enemies and real wars. I prefer those who get by with good enough and avoid "perfection." Absolutes generate violence and are in no way permissive of diversity, hence they generate terrorism.

1:18 PM  
Blogger elvisfromeurope said...

Lindsey, just one more thing, the bible is the "infallible word" of Dan's particular personal interpretation of it. It is very different from the Catholic interpretation and from many other competing interpretations. The interpretations are fallible. You are taking a chance believing that Dan's words are exactly God's words. Are you sure ? If he were the head of his theocracy and decided to nuke some liberal countries, would you trust him ? IF you trust him he would be "supernatural", if you didn't he would be a mere mortal like all of us and wouldn't represent God's words and thoughts. Why don't you trust the Pope in Rome ?

3:38 PM  
Blogger Lindsey said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:45 PM  
Blogger Lindsey said...

I never said that Dan was perfect, or that he equals God. Actually my quote was: "The Bible is the infallible word of God, I find no hope when I put my faith in man" I realize that Dan is man, not God, and we have disagreed on some things. But, I still respect him a great deal. What, may I ask, did I say to lead you to think I consider him infallible?

6:42 PM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

Wow-- I got to spend a week with my family, and by the time I get back, there's all these great posts on here that I want to comment on.

--

Lindsey,

Your christmas conversation experience you shared was unbelievably similar to mine. I have too observations-- one.. boy, that cousin of yours sounds like one smart fella-- i wish I could meet him.

Two. Reguarding "Jim"-- The saddest thing for me when talking to some religious folk is how.. out of touch they are with the effect they are having on their audience. It's heartbreakingly sad to see someone trying to share his thoughts with other and completely alienating them. ANd getting so wrapped up in their zeal that when someone tries to help them out, they get offended and say "Well, I don't think I needed help!"

My father is a very closed-minded atheist who has an incredibly anti-christian attitude. But I know that my cousin, a quiet philosophy major, has made more progress with him (and me!) than entire armies of zealous prostelytizers. "Those who cannot hear an angry shout will strain to hear a whisper".
-----
Dan, I deeply agree that miracles can happen. 90% of the time, these conversations accomplish nothing, but sometimes, on occasion, they do, and it is wonderful. I've learned so much from some of the wonderful people in my life, i'll forever be thankful for some of the chats we've had.
-----
Lindsey, I agree wholeheartedly that the atheistic worldview is so utterly and unbelievably depressing. Some atheists do not find it so-- but I have always found it incredibly depressing. Antidepressants, therefore, are part of the atheist's balanced breakfast. It's a sad, scary, lonely worldview, and i don't wish it on anyone, and I never ever want to 'convert' anyone to this miserable worldview. What I've shared with my cousin, I share because I'm lonely in my deep dark philosophical pit, and I want someone to share the darkness with me, hug me to ease the cold, and maybe even pull my out of the hole.
----
My own thoughts on Absolute Truth, which I didn't get to share, are this: Absolute truth probably exists, but it's way hard to figure out just what exactly the absolute truth is. For example, in chess, there _IS_ a correct first move. There is one or more moves that is the best first move to make. But it would take all the computers in the world working together trillions and trillions of years to ever figure out what that best move is. But that's okay-- even though it's hard to find, we can all agree that such a move exists.

I always argue against whoever I think is winning, so I don't think I said this-- but although we can't agree if there is absolute truth, everyone can agree that the question is important-- and THAT is an absolute truth. Or as your uncle Jim likely pointed out, anyone who says "There are no absolute truths" is contradicting herself.

If there's a god, we get absolute truth for free-- a "get out of postmodernism free" card. If they're not a god, our common genes, our common ways of thinking, or perhaps just pure logic and math can get us an absolutely truth.
---
About politics: I had the EXACT same reaction, Lindsey, to the 2004 debates. They should even call them debates-- they were simultaneous unrelated speeches. I was pissed off immensely at how they could talk for so long and say so little. I sometimes feel like Kerry lost because he had NO backbone-- it was obvious he was just saying what people wanted to hear, while Bush's answer were, to me, often 'wrong' but it seemed he genuinely and sincerely believed them.
---
Joe, I personally think the crime in america is a result of the huge economic disparities in the US which are much less in Europe. I sometimes suspect that a huge huge amount of public education funding could almost completely abolish most crime, but as a society, we don't want low crime as much as we want low taxes.
------
Now, about trying to find an absolute standard. I find the 'sola scriptura' standard of morality to be a very dangerous standard, because the bible is so open to interpretation. Intelligent readers could (and have) read the bible and concluded it endorses murder or rape or genocide.

Rather, I think the best description of a moral standard i've ever heard is "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". Matt 7:12

Now, I don't mean to be contradictory in saying that my ultiate rule is a bible verse. I don't believe the golden rule is true because god (as jesus) said it. Rather, I'm more inclined to believe in Jesus's divinity because his statement is true.

Now, if anyone wants to say "Well, how do you know it's true", I get into big trouble, because I can't entirely explain it (without resorting to utilitarianism, a philosophy I abhor). But hopefully, everyone believe in it, so will me slide.

This is the sort of thing I was thinking about earlier when I spoke about the reasonings behind whether the bible endorses rape.

Sola Scriptura says:
1. Old testament says X is wrong.
2. Therefore, god says X is wrong.
3. Therefore, X is wrong.

I tend to go:
1. X is wrong. (given)
2. If the old testament says X is wrong, then maybe that part of the old testament actually has something to do with god.

But, for christians, I recommend:
1. I know in my heart and my mind that X is wrong.
2. Therefore, I know that the bible must condemn X.
3. Therefore, if someone tells me that god actually endorses X, I know they're wrong.

I hope that's not too convoluted. My point is, even though we don't always do the right thing, I feel like morally we all, somehow, know what the right thing to do is, and it's that we should look to.
---


Whew! lots said. Dan--thanks for the GREAT blog-- I have a blast on this thing.

Marco

3:33 AM  
Blogger elvisfromeurope said...

I find Dan's views interesting and stimulating, but think he has a view of christianity that is too extreme. There are many alternate christian views that are more moderate and less punishing.

He says quote "I am the ambassador of christ...who is speaking the words of God I'm not just another guy. My opinion therefore, is the truth - since my opinion is in line with God's word". In psychology this is called "delusional states".

Some things I find strange about christianity is that it is very obsessed with human behavior and how to punish the bad behavior. It is a very "political" religion and in this sense very "worldly". The other 99% of the universe doesn't exist or is "idolatry". There are other religions - meditations etc. (tao, zen) that are very non-political and very inner directed-spiritual, these are very non-worldly religions. The rest of the universe for christians including science and art is "idolatry". I find this christian view really bleak and hopeless.

If you need a religion or METAPHYISCAL world view to avoid feeling lost there are many alternatives like Tao, Zen , Budda and you can simply invent your own like many have done and be just as happy and full of hope like some "lively and world loving" christians (not Evangelical punishers).

Another thing seems to me is that christians want a real short cut so that they have all the answers ready and don't really want to think about it, so they use the bible. Example: Islam is enemy, kill Islams, end of story , mine is absolute truth.

Many artists and creative types would think the world is hopeless and bleak if God really did exist, they wouldn't have their creative freedom to interpret and manipulate the world. But the christians as usual would think the artists want freedom to rape and murder and not to investigate their creative "idolatry".

5:23 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Wow!
Glad to see that people are engaging in thoughtful discussions. I only have time to respond to a few points right now.
First of all, Lindsey, I think saying that "absolute truth must exist; otherwise, life would be too depressing" is actually not a really good argument. The argument presupposes that life absolutely shouldn't be depressing. While this is a true presupposition; it is also an absolute statement. Thus, the argument is circular.

Regardless of what we feel (depressed or happy, passive or aggressive, scared or determined), there are things that arbe e true. We didn't create these truths, so as to avoid a life of depression. Rather, these truths have, to one degree or another, been revealed to all of us. But it is not as if God thought, "There must be absolutes; otherwise, people will be depressed." Although, it is true, that if we take Jesus' absolute truth and put it into practice, we will be like the wise man who built his house on the rock, and while we may have sorrows, we can still have joy.

You were definately reading my thoughts. Politics is a dirty business. But that's why we need Christians with integrity to get "in the game." As Howard Dean said, (and this is one of the very few points on which Howard Dean and I agree) "Politics is too important to be left to politicians." We have to engage.

That is not to say that you should go into politics. Follow God; He will lead you where you need to go. Just be odedient to God's call, so you don't end up in the belly of a fish.

Once again, you see Joe contradicting himself: "Absolutes generate violence and are in no way permissive of diversity, hence they generate terrorism." This is, of course, an absolute statement. If Joe was in charge, he would absolutely exclude all people who believe in absolutes. So, he would then have to exclude himself.

Terrorism should be defined.

The government is ordained by God to be agents of God's wrath to bring terror to those who do evil. See Romans 13. Criminals must be punished. This is a great way to show love for the vast majority of society. Capital punishment is appropriate when murder has been committed, and there is conclusive evidence of guilt. Even then, we should give the criminal a chance to repent before we kill him. Hopefully, he would, and thus be forgiven in the sight of God, but he must still be held accountable.

Of course, there are exceptions. That's why we need to have a relationship with Jesus, and not a cold religious system. After all, Paul was responsible for the deaths of several Christians before his road to Damascus conversion. But I would say that it is a good thing that he was not put to death for his crimes. It was obviously God's will for him to be an apostle to the Gentiles.

Marco, I recommend to you the book, "The Case for Faith" by Lee Strobel. Also, I recommend the book of Romans (penned by Paul, authored by God).

Staying true to logic, you can't have a high opinion of Jesus Christ, and a low opinion of the Scriptures, because Christ himself said that the Scriptures are inviolable. As you study the gospels (even as historical documents), you see that Christ consistently has the highest respect and belief in the OT.

So, what do you conclude? Well, if Jesus was a liar or a lunatic, then you don't conclude anything. We don't go on the word of liars and lunatics. But, are you ready to dismiss Jesus Christ as a liar or lunatic? If not, then the only other logical option is that He was telling the truth. He is the great "I AM." He is divine. And therefore, the OT Scriptures are God's word. He endorsed them.

Now, you have to study the OT with the utmost care. For wicked and evil men can (and have) misinterpretted the Scriptures and used the Scriptures to justify all kinds of evil and depravity. God forbid that we should ever do that! If we did, may God reprove us!

The greatest of the commands is to love God and to love our neighbor. People can ask, how do you reconcile that with OT (and NT) examples of killing? It is a good question, and one that deserves to be answered. But the answer is complicated. And why shouldn't it be?

I have alreay given some of my thoughts on the answer to that question. "The Case for Faith" has a whole chapter dedicated to answering that question. Check it out.

Joe, I love you. More importantly, God loves you. He died for you. He is ready to forgive you. But you must confess to God, that you are a sinner - absolutely. You must humble yourself, and ask forgiveness. And God will lift you up. This is the word of the Lord.

8:28 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Marco,

It seems to me that ultimately, your faith is in yourself.

You say,

"But, for christians, I recommend:
1. I know in my heart and my mind that X is wrong.
2. Therefore, I know that the bible must condemn X.
3. Therefore, if someone tells me that god actually endorses X, I know they're wrong."

The problem with this is that you are placing your trust in your own ability to discern what is right and wrong in your heart and mind. The problem with this is that you are a fallible human being. Have you ever been wrong? Have you ever observed something, categorize the information, use logic to come to a conclusion, and then later realized that you were completely wrong? You bet you have. So, I hope that this truth would cause you to wake up in a cold sweat one of these days. You are banking everything on yourself! But you are not good enough or smart enough or wise enough for that kind of faith and trust. You need a Savior.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding."

We see small glimpses of the Big Picture. But God sees all. We don't have everything figured out. God does. Therefore, our trust must be in God, and not ourselves.

The good news is that God is real and He is good. It would be very bleak if God was not real, or if he was some sort of cosmic sadist. But He is real. And He really reveals Himself to those who seek Him. He is worthy of our trust.

That doesn't mean to quit thinking or quit asking questions. We are to love God with all our minds, and we are to seek wisdom. But the wise man puts his trust in the Lord, not in himself.

8:37 AM  
Blogger Lindsey said...

Wow, I go to sleep one night and wake up and everything’s different.

Joe, I agree that Mr. H does have an extreme view of Christianity, but that is also why I respect him so much. Why believe in something if you aren’t going to whole heartedly believe in it? His passion and zeal for his faith continually challenges me. As for his quote… “I am the amabassador…”, he is also one of the most confident Christians I know. And while yes, for non Christians this may seem extreme or over confident, I find it comforting. If I was questioning what to believe I would be much for receptive to someone so confident than to someone who isn’t quite sure what he believes, or why he believes it.

I found your view of Christianity a little off, I’m going to think about that one some more and get back to you. One thing I must say is that Christianity is far far from hopeless. To me it is quite the opposite. It provides me with so much hope. Hope that there is something out there greater than myself.
As for those who invent their own religion, I cannot truly believe that they are happy, and maybe even if they are, then they are not content. I just can’t believe that.

And to all… we continue to see this problem with absolute truth don’t we. Everyone has one whether they want to admit it or not. Dan was correct when saying I had circular reasoning, and it was because I went into my argument with the presupposition that life should not be depressing. In the same way, Dan goes into his arguments believing the word of God is infallible, it is impossible to argue something without some sort of standards, which is why this question of absolute truth is so popular to discuss. Obviously therefore, arguing absolute truth is difficult to do.

Those who believe that by God existing they’re own freedom would be taken away are so wrong. Galatians 5:1 says “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” And it is so true. Freedom is found in Christ, not destroyed by him.

Marco,
It seems like we’re all having interesting Christmas conversations. You are correct about Jim too, he has good intentions but comes across all wrong. I will be praying for you Marco, and from what I’ve learned about you so far, from reading these blogs, is that you are incredibly intelligent. Dan claimed that he thought your faith was in yourself and I would agree that that is true to an extent. My guess is that you have tested everything again and again and have reached the point where faith is all you need. My friend, has a cousin who is much like you, and we have discussed this a great deal. You’re so smart and know so much that there is perhaps nothing left out there that can convince you. You are looking for truth and answers, but the only thing that you really need is faith.
I would agree with Dan that you should read the book by Lee Stroble. (but maybe you’ve already read it…:) I also found a book yesterday called Letters from a skeptic which was very good. Anyways, I will be praying for you, and for your father.

This is all so interesting, and I feel like I have little to offer, but thanks Dan…for providing this…and the rest of you for taking part.

11:52 AM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

Reguarding the circular logic-- my 73rd rant involves One piece of logical reasoning I do believe is valid which is what I call "reductio ad miseratum"-- reducing an argument to sheer misery.

There's a movie, Awakenings, where the protagonists theorizes that two dozen patients, who appear to be brain dead, are actually alive, awake, but paralyzed.

The protagonist mentor assures him "The disease destroyed the higher function of the brain."

"How can you be sure?!?" asks the protagonist.

After a beautiful dramatic pause, the mentor replies,"Because the alternative is unthinkable."

By which he meant-- the idea that thesee people were still alive and trapped inside their own bodies is so completely horrible and depressing and miserable that he just can't accept it-- the world just CAN'T be that depressing.

In the movie he turns out to be wrong, but I accept the form of reasoning. Descartes uses "reductio ad miseratum" in his proof of God's existence. Pascal uses it in his wager.

Most logicians would roll over in their graves at my "reductio ad misteratum", but i'm incredibly proud of it. We are emotional creatures, and if an idea makes up so completely and utterly unhappy that it is unthinkable, I think it's entirely valid to decide to think think opposite.

Well, off to socialize. lots more to say, but this litte nugget of glee will have to suffice.

M

12:26 PM  
Blogger ecw said...

Hey you guys! This is Elise. I've been hearing all sorts of good things about this, so I desided to check it out :)

You guy are all so cool :)

Lindsey your so awsome. I was going to bring up the "reductio ad miseratum", but Marco said it first haha. I like that arument alot I use it and I think its cute, but its not really logical. I thinks it shows that humans need to have meaning and purpose even thought they can't explain it.

I echo lindsey, who was agreeing with Dan, when she said to maro:
"My guess is that you have tested everything again and again and have reached the point where faith is all you need. My friend, has a cousin who is much like you, and we have discussed this a great deal. You’re so smart and know so much that there is perhaps nothing left out there that can convince you. You are looking for truth and answers, but the only thing that you really need is faith."

It also reminds me of myself, because I am really bad at having faith and not trusting in myself. When I read this it made me smile and it just touched me really deeply :)

Dan, I also think you did the right thing in the conversation you had. I would recommend listening to the person untill you completely understand there point of view (this may take a long time). After you do this you can understand were they are coming from and respond better. This may also make them more willing to listen to you when you speak. This works well for me, but it may not for you, because you seem to have different ways of doing things then I do. You may also want to pray for compassion for ppl who don't understand. Its really good that you can also be so firm and to the point and I really respect that in you and I could really learn from you in that. Your blog is really cool too:)

2:58 PM  
Blogger elvisfromeurope said...

Just a few things. Dan says I would not let anyone with absolute truths govern so I would eliminate myself. False, I would eliminate from governing those whose absolute truths are Dan's and Christian and Right wing. My absolute truths are the correct ones. I said the game is between "competing" absolutes not "absolutes" in general or in the abstract. Being a christian must be a very horrible and depressing feeling. Now you can say "how do you know" ? well then how do christians assume who isn't is depressed, bleak hopeless ? christianity must be a big prison on the mind and the soul, all terrified of life and god and hell and punishment. I can't imagine a more horrible way to live. Dan is a lost soul, I hope he finds the light one day and throws away all his religious beliefs.

Now that sounds extreme and overconfident, but you all say I can believe only in people who have extreme overconfident views. Now you can all embrace my views 100 % , right ?

I think all these debates at the end are pure political debates between right and left. There are only a handful of issues (abortion, war, capital punishment, welfare etc.) where either side can say anything to justifiy either position, Dan is in the end a pure politician who uses religion to decorate his political views. Talk about worldly and Idolatry!

Sorry the extreme tone, but it seems extremes are cool!

4:44 AM  
Blogger elvisfromeurope said...

Just a few more points. Before you say you have faith in God alone you must have faith in yourself. But to have faith in yourself you must have faith in the fact the you exist, your mind is working properly, that your language is precise etc. You end up with a host of philosophical problems that are very hard to solve. You can just skip it all and say I am not sure of myself but only in my faith in God...very odd situation. What is the entity having faith ? The right wing has a real bonanza in the fact that they can justify anything in the end by saying it is based on God's word. So nuke Sweden because they are sinners and have abortion is completely correct for this kind of extreme religious right. The left can't easily say "this is God's words" but there have been left wing Christians who accept abortion, free love, the dissolution of the traditional family etc. and justified it perfectly with the bible. They are now a small minority but in the 70s there were alot of these kinds of denominations. Most people are simple minded, just accept what the right wing preachers tell them and that is how America got into a war that the rest of the world was completely against.

7:06 AM  
Blogger Lindsey said...

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" - Hebrews 11:1

The Bible is not left wing or right wing. I would suggest you read "God's Politics" by Jim Wallis.

9:11 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Joe,

You say,

"Before you say you have faith in God alone you must have faith in yourself."

On the contrary, it is foolish, arrogant, prideful, and delusional to put your faith in yourself. You are not trustworthy. Human beings are by nature totally depraved. Therefore, we should not put our trust in ourselves. Rather, we must trust in God to change us, to lead us, to guide us, to redeem us, to teach us, to justify us, and to encourage us. Left to ourselves, we will screw ourselves up, and hurt other people along the way. Our capacity for evil is scary.

The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3 that he puts "no confidence in the flesh." He says, "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ - the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead."

The point is that any self-confidence or faith in self that we have is faulty. We are depraved. We need Jesus Christ - our redeemer who paid the price for us. We are incapable of doing anything good without Christ.

We don't need self-esteem and self-confidence. We need God-esteem and God-confidence.

The right wing is pretty scary; I grant you that. It is scary because they are secular, but they have religious overtones. I do not underestimate the evil of which the right wing is capable.

But the left is just a scary. Rejecting God altogether (unless of course, the acknowledgment of God is not truly meaningful), the left says that morality is relative and that evil is subjective. Then, they speak with this smug, elitist attitude that says that those, who believe that evil is real, are small-minded.

So, essentially, you have the left saying that there are no moral absolutes. Then you have the right, which I am afraid incorrectly draws the lines of the antithesis.

And I am a voice crying out in the wilderness.

For the record though, I disassociate myself from the conservative right wing. I consider what they say, and on many issues, I am in agreement with them. But I, for one, am not blindly accepting what they say, but I compare everything everyone says to the Bible with the utmost scrutiny.

So, no, we should not nuke Sweden. Furthermore, I have never heard ANYONE suggest that. You are being totally irrational.

But such is your situation. The only way you can win the debate is to join the winning side. For whatever reason, you haven't done that yet (but I still have lots of hope). I don't suppose it would help to tell you that if/when you do, I will rejoice with you and not gloat. But my point is, for the purpose of the debate, your position is so desperate, that you invent insane ideas like "the right could be advocating the nuclear destruction of Sweden in the name of God." Anyone with any sense is not taking such nonsense seriously.

Joe, I love you man. And you can have my Light, bud.

10:12 AM  
Blogger elvisfromeurope said...

Sweden was just an extreme example like the professor you imagined is punched.

Another interesting point is that Dan does admit that things can be complicated. But that is exactly why a "good enough" solution for human affairs is better than the search for "perfection", that is why a moderate compromising political view is better than an extremist view.

Another thing that comes in mind is that the perfection-absolutes you all seem to be searching exists exactly in physics-mathematics. Funny how these are really the "worldly" things that really exhibit perfection within their own laws as opposed to the "humanly". In this sense I agree with Dan that we are all sinners as we are all extremely imperfect and not like atoms, planets or the laws of physics.

10:37 AM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

Yeah-- faith is a hard thing to come by. I've been lied to so many, many times in my life. I've had people whose existence was certain make promises that were lies. How much harder it is, therefore, to trust in an entity whose existence isn't immediately obvious.

11:26 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Marco,

I'm sorry to hear that you have been hurt and lied to. I think that has happened to all of us at one time or another. It is a terrible thing when people break trust with other people.

But God is good. There is an abundance of evidence with which you can induce that God is good. But the greatest evidence is not inductive. The greatest evidence is the testimony of the Holy Spirit.

Now, I know this sounds like a doosey to a modern scientific person. But the Holy Spirit is real. The Spirit of God truly testifies to my spirit.

I encourage you to read the Scriptures with an open mind and an open heart. Hope is not something that man invented in order to feel good about hopelessness. We were designed by God to hope in Him. I would submit to you the reason why you and I hope is because God has created us in His image to hope for what we do not yet have.

Consider this: We, human beings, exist. I would submit to you that being human is so much more than being an organized and complex clump of matter which is capable of performing complex operations. We have emotions. We have souls. There are things that science can not explain and will never be able to explain. Just look people in the eye. By looking into another human being's eye, you can discern and experience emotions and relationship that science can never fully explain. Sure, biology, chemistry, psychology, and psychiatry can partially explain some of it. But there is something more; something greater. We have been created in God's image. We have been fearfully and wonderfully made. Therefore, unless God is a cosmic sadist, then He has created us to hope in Him.

Combine this with the historical facts concerning the life, teachings, events, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and there is an abundance of evidence that testifies to the truth. Jesus is real. If you hope in Him, you will not be disappointed.

Again, I recommend to you "The Case for Faith" by Lee Strobel.

I'm praying for you.

Dan

9:39 PM  
Blogger Lindsey said...

Marco,
I too am sorry that people have let you down, and I understand not being able to trust in people. But I have a question for you: What do you have to lose? Now, this isn't my version of saving you or convicting you. The thing is, I'm sure you've thought this over, and from what I know about you so far, I'm sure you have, what you consider to be, a legitament answer as to why not to trust in God. There's clearly something that is holding you back and I'm wondering what that something is? Maybe this is too personal, but I was just wondering...

12:12 PM  

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