Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Advent 2018

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Advent is literally, “To Come,” in Latin, so to Christians it represents both the upcoming remembrance the of birth of Jesus (probably not in December, I know) and His second coming. Hence, he is coming and we are waiting (with anticipation).

One thing to consider in the narrative of Christ’s birth is that the Israelites were awaiting a savior, a messiah. They were awaiting a king to vanquish their enemies (including the Roman empire who had their boot on them at the time). Instead, He was born in a cave behind a hotel filled with livestock. I love the way Charles Wesley (brother of John Wesley,  the founder of Methodism) put it in his carol, “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus”:

Leaving riches without number, born within a cattle stall;
This the everlasting wonder, Christ was born the Lord of all.

 

I pulled out a great Lucinda Williams album, Essence, the other day and, while the title song is probably about romance or even drugs, she is “Waiting for your essence.” Waiting … advent. I am waiting for God’s essence in my car, at this bar, etc.

 

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C.S. Lewis on Forgiveness

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“Mere Christianity”, Book 3, Chapter 7:

Select quotes:

Every one says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive, as we had during the war. And then, to mention the subject at all is to be greeted with howls of anger. It is not that people think this too high and difficult a virtue: it is that they think it hateful and contemptible. “That sort of talk makes them sick,” they say. And half of you already want to ask me, “I wonder how you’d feel about forgiving the Gestapo if you were a Pole or a Jew?”

So do I. I wonder very much. Just as when Christianity tells me that I must not deny my religion even to save myself from death by torture, I wonder very much what I should do when it came to the point. I am not trying to tell you in this book what I could do—I can do precious little—I am telling you what Christianity is. I did not invent it. And there, right in the middle of it, I find “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those that sin against us.” There is no slightest suggestion that we are offered forgiveness on any other terms. It is made perfectly dear that if we do not forgive we shall not be forgiven. There are no two ways about it. What are we to do?

It is going to be hard enough, anyway, but I think there are two things we can do to make it easier. When you start mathematics you do not begin with the calculus; you begin with simple addition. In the same way, if we really want (but all depends on really wanting) to learn how to forgive, perhaps we had better start with something easier than the Gestapo. One might start with forgiving one’s husband or wife, or parents or children, or the nearest N.C.O., for something they have done or said in the last week. That will probably keep us busy for the moment. And secondly, we might try to understand exactly what loving your neighbour as yourself means. I have to love him as I love myself. Well, how exactly do I love myself?

The real test is this. Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, “Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,” or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker.

If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally, we shall insist on seeing everything—God and our friends and ourselves included—as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.

Now a step further. Does loving your enemy mean not punishing him? No, for loving myself does not mean that I ought not to subject myself to punishment—even to death. If one had committed a murder, the right Christian thing to do would be to give yourself up to the police and be hanged. It is, therefore, in my opinion, perfectly right for a Christian judge to sentence a man to death or a Christian soldier to kill an enemy. I always have thought so, ever since I became a Christian, and long before the war, and I still think so now that we are at peace.

Food for thought, no?

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On the Nature of Hell (Assuming There Is One)

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The concept of hell must be tempting to even atheists. Not necessarily the eternal pitchforks and fire but some kind of justice for things not accounted for here, for example the child molester who lives a life of luxury and is loved by the masses and dies peacefully. Where is the justice there?

So I was intrigued by this article in The Week, “What Christians get wrong about hell“.

He basically starts with:

Jumping off from a handful of Gospel passages in which Jesus Christ speaks about “eternal punishment” for sinners in the afterlife, these believers conjure visions of a cosmic torture chamber in which those who reject God or commit grave sins without repentance are subjected to endless torment as punishment for their transgressions. It is a ghastly analogue to equally crude and comical visions of heaven as a place where the righteous are rewarded with angels’ wings and an eternity of harp lessons.

which he contrasts with:

Which is why the most theologically cogent view of hell found in classical Christianity maintains that it is the state of mind (or soul) of someone who is alienated from God. Living a life that is out of harmony with God is painful, and to die and be confronted so decisively with the error of your ways — to be made to see that you made a wreck of your life by separating yourself from God, and to have to learn to shatter your pride by reforming yourself in his divine presence — is, one imagines, excruciating. But it is intrinsically painful, not externally imposed by torturers in some fire-and-brimstone-filled dungeon.

I certainly agree that it is extremely un-Christian to relish envisioning your enemies or others in eternal torment, which is why I’ve always been gripped by the film Jacob’s Ladder, which (spoiler alert) tells the story of a dead person working through his demons before ascending to heaven. So Hitler may be in heaven now, but he had a rough time getting there and has learned the error of his ways. This type of universalism is tempting, and may be accurate, but portions of scripture seem to indicate otherwise. For example:

“And if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the eternal fire,” (Matt. 18:8).1

I’ve tried to get around this by defining eternity as a state of mind, commonly known as impatience, which may be correct, but assuming there is unequivocal eternal damnation, how would a Christian view that? In Mere Christianity (PDF), C.S. Lewis tries to address the issue (page 40 in the PDF):

Again, Christianity asserts that every individual human being is going to live for ever, and this must be either true or false. Now there are a good many things which would not be worth bothering about if I were going to live only seventy years, but which I had better bother about very seriously if I am going to live for ever. Perhaps my bad temper or my jealousy are gradually getting worse —so gradually that the increase in seventy years will not be very noticeable. But it might be absolute hell in a million years: in fact, if Christianity is true, Hell is the precisely correct technical term for what it would be. And immortality makes this other difference, which, by the by, has a connection with the
difference between totalitarianism and democracy.

He also addressed it in The Great Divorce (wikipedia):

The narrator inexplicably finds himself in a grim and joyless city, the “grey town”, which is either hell or purgatory depending on how long one stays there. He eventually finds a bus for those who desire an excursion to some other place (and which eventually turns out to be the foothills of heaven). He enters the bus and converses with his fellow passengers as they travel. When the bus reaches its destination, the passengers on the bus — including the narrator — are gradually revealed to be ghosts. Although the country is the most beautiful they have ever seen, every feature of the landscape (including streams of water and blades of grass) is unyieldingly solid compared to themselves: it causes them immense pain to walk on the grass, and even a single leaf is far too heavy for any to lift.

But my favorite quote (page 48 of the PDF) is:

And that leads on to my second point. People often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, “If you keep a lot of rules I’ll reward you, and if you don’t I’ll do the other thing.” I do not think that is the best way of looking at it. I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself.

Is there eternal damnation? I think there is to those who choose it. Is there some sort of heaven/hell/purgatory/reincarnation karma beyond this mortal coil? I think so, I think it makes sense.

 

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Mere Creationism

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The title of this post is the product of my love for C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity and the recent debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on Creationism versus Evolutionism.

If you’re not familiar with Lewis’s classic, he does his best to offer a thought out reasoning for a Christian perspective (right or wrong). But it’s kind of a lowest common denominator Christianity: Not that it’s not demanding, but it doesn’t get into, say, varying beliefs about baptism. Hence, “Mere” Christianity.

The debate attracted my interest because there is a lot of controversy over this discussion.

How this all ties together is that this was a debate between two extremes, which makes a good debate, but don’t necessarily reflect popular sentiment. I mean, where do deists fall in this debate?

Deism holds that God does not intervene with the functioning of the natural world in any way, allowing it to run according to the laws of nature. For Deists, human beings can only know God via reason and the observation of nature, but not by revelation or supernatural manifestations (such as miracles) – phenomena which Deists regard with caution if not skepticism.

Creator? Yes. Intervention? No.

Sorry, no room for deists. Pick a side. Nye or Ham.

So Mere Creationism doesn’t have space for whether or not some God intervened since creation. Nor does it try to prove itself. It merely states that this world is too incredible to be a random accident.

 

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God Whispers

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A co-worker had a sign above her desk today about God whispering and the world being loud and taking time out from the world, etc. I was trying to find that exact quote, but found this:

god-whispers

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Peter Robinson remembers Christopher Hitchens

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Hard to believe Christopher Hitchens passed away two years ago. A brilliant mind and polemicist, even if I often disagreed with him. Peter Robinson offers this remembrance on his show Uncommon Knowledge.

 

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Dinesh D’Souza to Debate Bill Ayers

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Dartmouth Debate

January 30th, 2014, 7:30pm.

http://www.dineshdsouza.com/archives/news/dsouza-debate-bill-ayers-whats-great-america/

ht/ iOwnTheWorld

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MLK on Civil Disobedience

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Great stuff on MLK Day from the man himself. Such great responses on a complex topic steeped in erudition, history, theology, philosophy, etc.

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Deliberate

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Deliberate this:

  1. When used as an adjective, it is pronounced with a soft ‘a’ and means “done consciously and intentionally.”
  2. When used as a verb, it is pronounced with a long ‘a’ and means, “engage in long and careful consideration.”

Etymologically, they both come from Old French “deliberation” from the Latin, “deliberatrionem”, [ late 14c., Old French deliberation, from Latin deliberationem (nominative deliberatio), noun of action from past participle stem of deliberare “weigh, consider well,” from de- “entirely” (see de-) + -liberare, altered (perhaps by influence of liberare “liberate”) from librare “to balance, weigh,” from libra “scale.” ].

The concepts of “deliberating the best course of action” and “deliberately taking an action” seem worlds apart. To say someone deliberately did something basically means that you believe they had at least some form of rational intention. Sociopaths actions may be deliberate, but they failed to deliberate before choosing a course of action.

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=deliberate

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A Tale of Two Depositions

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2Pac:

Lil Wayne:

 

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