August 31, 2008

The Great Debate: Does God Exist? : Part II

Dr. Greg Bahnsen versus Dr. Gordon Stein
At the University of California, Irvine, 1985


Apologetics is the process, or art, of defending a particular theological or philosophical stance. Christian apologetics is a time honored tradition, beginning with Justin Martyr, revitalized by CS Lewis, and is maintained in various forms.

Apologetics is done with the utilization of reason. Sometimes it is done through the utilization of the prejudices of the opposing beliefs; other times, it simply stands firm on the assumption of the ultimate legitimacy in Christian tradition; but it almost always relies on reason.

Apologetics can either be done offensively or defensively. Defensive apologetics explains and proclaims the Christian tradition and the gospel. Offensive apologetics, or polemics, undermines and dismantles opposing belief structures. The best apologetic methods accomplish both simultaneously.

My aim in this post is to go through two types of apologetic methods: Evidential and Presuppositional.

Evidential Apologetics

This is the more accessible form. One forms some kind of common ground with the opponent, and then presents evidence that comes from that common ground. The most obvious example of this would be the use of scientific evidence in proving creationism over Darwinism. Science would be the common ground from which both sides are drawing their evidence.

Presuppositional Apologetics

This one operates with a more critical look at one's whole position. It realizes that all logical systems are based upon certain presuppositions. All logic and evidence is translated through these presuppositions. Therefore, in order to truly demonstrate Christianity as superior, one must compare the logical systems by way of the presuppositions.

What makes this approach so interesting is that it addresses the big picture. Instead of merely arguing over the age of the earth, it compares the full system of thought. It compares atheism as a whole against Christianity as a whole. One defeats their opponent by demonstrating that Christianity is a more consistent system of thought. This is the form of argumentation employed by Dr. Bahnsen.

What method should one use?Well, that somewhat depends on yourself, and your opponent. For instance, if one is debating with a committed naturalist, one will have a difficult time using the evidential method to prove Christianity, for any evidence you provide will be given some kind of naturalistic interpretation. Bransen quotes Stien in the debate:

But, Dr. Stein precludes the very possibility of any of this empirical evidence counting as proof for God's existence. He writes, " Supernatural explanations are not allowed in science. The theist is hard put to document his claims for the existence of the supernatural if he is in effect forbidden from evoking the supernatural as a part of his explanation. Of course, this is entirely fair; as it would be begging the question to use what has to be proved as a part of the explanation." As one can see, one would be hard put to argue against a defense like that, where any proof for God is off-handedly rejected since it demonstrates God. In order to get past this kind of obstacle, a presuppositional approach is better.
But, an evidential approach is better for someone that doesn't have a developed system of thought. Some people are just scrambling around, looking for any kind of answer. To speak of presuppositions is over their head. Now, the general principle of exposing false premises can still be employed, but it is in a much more limited sense.

Additionally, a presuppositional approach is impossible unless you, yourself, are thoroughly acquainted with both their system as thought, as well as the idiosyncrasies of your own. Otherwise you simply won't know what you are talking about. It would be like comparing the contents of two boxes, while only seeing the outside. Now, I would encourage everyone to explore the full breath of Christian thought, but don't engage in a presuppositional debate with someone until you have.

click here for the link

post II
post III

August 30, 2008

The Great Debate: Does God Exist? : Part I

This is the first of three posts that I made on a podcast I found. It is the debate between Dr. Greg Bahnsen (Christian) and Dr. Gordon Stein (Atheist) at the University of California, Irvine in 1985. I have links to the other posts at the end. (I cannot include the posts within this blog yet, because the other one's are not posted. I will be updating that as I go along). I posted all three on September 20th, 2005.

Dr. Greg Bahnsen versus Dr. Gordon Stein
At the University of California, Irvine, 1985
OK, I got sent a copy of this really incredible debate between the theist Bahnsen and the atheist Stein. In fact, I feel that it is worthy of several posts. You would expect the first to be some kind of summery of the debate, but I wont do that. Instead I am just going to look at Stein's opening statement.

Stein wishes to state the he is victorious if he has officially discredited all of the arguments for God, since theism has the burden of proof. Ironically, Bahnsen's whole argument will undermine this wish of Stein's. However, for his opening statement, Stein simply goes through all of the classic arguments for God and then refutes them. Ironically, Bahnsen doesn't use a single one of these, so he never comes to their rescue.

This kinda bugged me since I felt that Stein's "refutations" were, in fact, inaccurate. So, I'm just going to go through and refute his refutations.

  1. The First Cause (Cosmological) Argument

    Everything must have a cause, therefore the universe must have a cause, and that cause was God. God was the first or uncaused cause.

    Response: This leads to a real logical bind for the theist, because, if everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If God had a cause, he cannot be the first or uncaused cause. If God did not have a cause, then not everything must have a cause. If not everything needs a cause, then perhaps the universe doesn't need a cause. Thus, there is a logical bind and the proof fails.

    There are two matters of contention with this response.

    1. He doesn't deal with the initial premise: "Everything must have a cause." He doesn't deny the premise, nor does he offer an alternative answer. Thus, he hasn't really refuted the argument.

    2. He actually presented the premise incorrectly. It isn't that "everything" has a cause. It's that all things which are bound by time must have a cause. The universe itself is bound by time, and therefore must have a cause. Therefore, there must be some uncaused cause that exists outside the bounds of time which caused the universe. God fits this description, and is thus a reasonable hypothesis to answer the question.

      The response I usually get from this is "how does one verify that the universe is bound by time." The answer is that all things which have a beginning are bound by time, since the concept of beginning is a temporal concept. Thus, since the universe has a beginning (which has been demonstrated by science), then the universe is bound by time, and must have a cause. The Big Bang theory actually hurts atheists. Atheist scientists are always trying to find a way to make the universe eternal and infinite. It's the only way to make atheism logical, and they know it.

  2. The Design (Teleological) Argument

    The universe is wonderful and exhibits evidence of design and order. These things must have had a designer that was even more wonderful, and that designer was God.

    Response: Surely if the world is wonderfully designed, and God, the designer, is more wonderfully designed, then God must have a designer even more wonderful than He is. If God didn't need a designer, than neither should the relatively less wonderful thing such as the universe have needed one. Again, there is a logical self-contradiction.

    Again, he presents the argument incorrectly. It isn't that "These things must have had a designer that was even more wonderful". It is that these things must have had a designer which was intelligent. Intricate things come from a mind, not necessarily from something intricate. How can one explain teleos (perfection or completion) within the universe without some kind of mind to put it all together. In fact, those philosophers who proposed this argument insisted that God is ontologically simple.

  3. The Argument from Life

    Life cannot originate from the random movement of atoms, and yet life exists. Therefore the existence of a God was necessary to create life.

    Response: Basically, life didn't originate from the random movement of atoms, and no scientist would say so. Because there are limits of a chemical composition and physics of atoms, and they do not move in any possible way, chemicals do not combine in any possible way. That's why when you see these one billion to one kind of odds that people have set for life originating. They're all wet. They haven't considered the possibility that not every reaction can occur. So, it's possible to explain the origins of life without a god and using the principle of parsimony or Occam's Razor, I think we are left with the simpler explanation [which is] the one without the God.

    1. Here the problem is far more conceptual. I, myself, wouldn't use the argument for this very reason. Atheists define life functionally; Theists define life ontologically. (BTW, ontology is the study of being, or existence) In other words, this argument presupposes the human soul. Therefore, even though his response is actually irrelevant to the proposed argument, it is true that this argument will not work against an atheist, for one must first prove the human soul, something that was not in doubt until recently.

    2. It is also important to note, that even if one prescribes to the functional definition of life, his statement: "That's why when you see these one billion to one kind of odds that people have set for life originating. They're all wet. They haven't considered the possibility that not every reaction can occur" demonstrates a perverse ignorance. Yes, there are some... simplistic creationist statements that emphasis that randomness prescribed by atheistic theories of the origin of life cannot produce the complexity of life. However, those "billion to one odds" are founded on more than just the "randomness" criticism. They are scientifically accurate and universally accepted by those in the scientific field.

  4. The Argument from Revealed Theology

    The Bible says that God exists, and the Bible is the inspired word of God, therefore what it says must be true. Therefore God exists.

    Response: Well this is obviously a circular argument. It begs the question. We are trying to show whether God exists; therefore, calling the Bible the word of God is not permitted, because it assumes the existence of the very thing we are trying to prove. So, if the Bible is not the Word of God, then we cannot give any real weight to the fact that it mentions that God exists. Thus, it does not become a proof. In fact, to prove God from the Bible is standing things on its head. First you must prove God, then you may say whether God dictated it or inspired it. But you can't really use the Bible as Dr. Bahnsen seems to want to do as evidence for existence of God, per se.

    This is such a gross oversimplification. Though most who use this argument do use it that way, that is not the power of the argument. This argument presupposes that the realm within which one must investigate to determine God's existence is unreachable. Thus, in order to know whether or not God exists, God must tell us.

    This argument is far more important when discussing God's nature than whether or not God exists, but it still is something not to be overlooked. What right does anyway have to say whether or not God exists? Only God has that right. Thus, an appeal to his revelation is not illogical, though it is admittedly unconvincing to one who doesn't recognize it as revelation.

    I would like to add that this is the essential argument when dealing with anyone who states that all religions are just as true. Either one is true, or none are true, because only God knows who God is; only God can describe God; only God can assign proper worship. Thus, without revelation, there is no such thing as an accurate religion.

  5. The Argument from Miracles

    The existence of miracles requires the presence of a supernatural force, or a God. Miracles do occur, and therefore there is a supernatural force or God.

    Response: Again, this is begging the question; it requires that you must believe in a God first, beforehand. Then you say there are such things as miracles, which are acting of a God who creates violations of his own laws. So, it is not evidence, per se, it can serve as supplementary evidence, once you have good evidence in another kind of way for the existence of
    a God - you can use miracles as a additional argument, but in and of itself it doesn't show the existence of a God, because it assumes that which needs to be proven.

    A quote from Thomas Paine about miracles: "When you see an account is given about such a miracle, by a person who says he saw it, it raises a question in the mind that is very easily decided. Is it more probable that nature should go out of her course, or that a man could tell a lie? We have never seen in our time Nature go out of her course, but we have good reason to believe that millions of lies have been told in this same time. It is therefore at least millions to one that the reporter of a miracle tells a lie" I think those are good odds.

    This one's funny. Christianity actually states that miracles are a horrible proof because they can be faked, and demons can also perform them. Thus, given that something is a miracle, it doesn't prove God, only the supernatural. That isn't to say that we don't use it, but only in very precise circumstances, where it has been shown that it was God who worked the miracle, such as the resurrection or the exodus.

    However, let us consider his response: How is this begging the question? Yeesh, if you are going to refute something, at least do it right! This simply demonstrates that naturalist presumptions of the atheist. The argument goes: given that a miracle has happened, there is supernatural forces. This doesn't beg the question. He states later on in the debate that in order to be convinced, he would have to see a miracle. But here he says that quoting a miracle isn't a good argument. What he is really saying is that since there are no miracles, a reference to a miracle is stupid. But instead of phrasing it bluntly, he phrases it stupidly. All he actually does is present a definition of miracle which includes the word "God" (in other words, the mention of God's law). To get around "begging the question", all one has to do is replace God's law, with scientific law, and his argument, "miraculously", vanishes.

    The real problem with the atheist look at this argument is that they actually believe in it. All they have to do to get around its power is to deny anything which is claimed to be a miracle, and given enough imagination, this is always possible. They think by simply proposing a natural explanation, they have explained away the miracle. It is here that we see the true conceitedness of the atheist.

  6. The Ontological Argument

    God is, by definition, perfect. A necessary quality of any perfect object is that it exists. If it did not exist it would not be perfect. If perfection requires existence, then God exists.

    Response: There is a problem with the word exists. In order for something to be perfect, it must first exist. If something didn't exist, the word perfect wouldn't mean anything. First you must have existence, then possibly you may have perfection. So, this again is going backwards; you must first have an existing God, and then you can decide whether He's perfect, if perfection is a quality of a God, then He may be perfect, but He first must exist.

    Again, I would like make two points:

    1. This isn't the ontological argument. The ontological argument is an argument from being, not from perfection, though perfection is used in the argument. It is actually one of the most powerful arguments, and one of the hardest to understand.

      The phrasing of the argument is important. It starts with a definition for God: that with which nothing greater can be conceived. This definition is not saying that God is perfect. It goes far beyond that. It means that in all qualities, the concept of God is unsurpassable. Because of this, the concept of God itself requires that God is unsurpassable in existence, and thus must exist, for otherwise the concept itself cannot exist. Thus, the fact that we can conceive God necessitates his existence.

    2. The difference is subtle, but very important. For instance, it isn't that God must exist because God is perfect. It is that because we have this concept of God, God must exist. This argument is, I think, the strongest case for God, but requires a proper understanding of God in order to even comprehend. I think that is the fun of it. Therefore, it isn't really an apologetic argument, but one that grants confidence to the believer.

      One must remember, when Anselm first proposed the argument, it was him reflecting on this God that has saved him. Reflecting on this God, he realized that this God must exist simply because of what the concept is. However, one must fully know this concept in order to get the argument, yet once one does, the argument forms itself. Its use boils down to this: if you actually think that God doesn't have to exist, then you don't understand what I mean by the word "God." There is its power. It gives its user such a supreme confidence in this God, and creates a form of mystery about God to those who the argument is proposed to. Personally, I think this is quite strong.

  7. The Moral Argument

    All people have moral values. The existence of these values cannot be explained unless they were implanted in people by a God. Therefore, God exists.

    An atheist's problem: There are simpler ways to explain the origin of moral values without requiring the existence of a God to implant them into people. Besides, if moral values did come from a God, then all people should have the same moral values. They don't. People's moral values are a result of an accommodation they have made with their particular environment and have taught to their children as a survival mechanism.

    Well, I somewhat agree with him here. I don't think the moral argument is very strong. However, the belief in morality, and the universality of morality (which does actually exist) requires explanation in a atheistic world view, which he doesn't provide. I'm not going to get into this point, since it will involve Bahnman's actual argument, which I will get into later. However, I would say that the moral argument is a poor argument against atheists.

  8. The Wish Argument

    Without the existence of a God people wouldn't have any reason to live or be good, therefore there has to be a God. Most people believe in a God, therefore there is a God.

    Response: This really isn't a proof, it is just a wish. It's like saying that it would be nice to have a God (which it would), but that doesn't have anything to do with whether there is one or not.

    This argument is strictly liberal or postliberal. It is an unchristian argument, and its stupid. In fact, I usually see it as the atheist explanation as to why there are religions, rather than as an argument for God's existence.

    However, if you pay attention, there is actually two arguments in there. The first one is "well God makes people feel good" which is the stupid one, because it isn't an ontological statement. The second one is "most people believe in a God." This is a good argument in that humans seem designed to worship a God. There are people who were raised atheist, who are now pagans, or what have you. Even atheists worship reason and human progress. It seems impossible for humans not to worship. Why is that? I would argue, by way of Occum's Razor, that us being created to worship is a far more reasonable hypothesis than God being a sociological construction.

  9. The Argument from Faith

    The existence of God cannot be proven by the use of reason, but only by the use of faith. The use of faith shows that there is a God, therefore God exists.

    Response: Reason is a proven way to obtain factual information about the universe. Faith has not been shown to produce true information about the universe because faith is
    believing something is so because you want it to be so, without adequate evidence. Therefore, faith cannot be used to prove the existence of anything.

    In addition, there is the fact that faith often gives you the opposite answer to what is given by reason to the same problem. This also shows that faith does not provide valid answers.

    This isn't really an argument for the existence of God. More or less, it is an explanation for the lack there of. As an explanation, it is quite worthy, though I disagree with its assessment. But as an argument, it doesn't' really prove anything. So, I sorta agree with him here.

  10. The Argument from Religious Experience

    Many people have claimed to have a personal experience or encounter with God, therefore God must exist.

    Response: This is a difficult one to handle, because, first of all, I've never had such an experience, but I'm sure that people have absolutely honestly thought they've had such experiences. But, the feeling of having met God cannot be confused with the fact of having met God. There is a semantic confusion; and also, we cannot use our own feelings as if they were valid
    ways to obtain information about the world. They are feelings that we have inside of us, but we cannot demonstrate them to another person. They cannot be used as an evidence. If everyone had that same experience; like if we all looked around the room and we all agreed that there is a clock over there, then we might say that the vision of a clock is a consensual one, if everyone agreed on it. Other than that, if you saw a clock and no one else did, or if only two or three people did in the room, then you have a bit of a problem.

    Again, I agree with him here. It isn't a very strong argument. However, it is a liberal argument, and more so a postliberal one; not a Christian one. So I have no qualms in disregarding it.

  11. Pascal's Wager

    We have no way of knowing if a God exists or not, and we have no way of finding out, but you have nothing to lose by believing in a God, but on the other hand, you do have a lot to lose by not believing in a God, and it turns out later on that there is one after we're dead,

    Response: This is only true if 1) You are right about a God, and 2) you have picked the right religion, because you might wind up on the Judgment Day and be right about a God, but He says, "What religion were you?" and you say, "I was a believer in Islam." And He says, "Sorry, Catholicism is the right religion. Down you go." So, in addition, you might have a God Who punishes people who have lived virtuous lives, say an atheist who has lived a virtuous life, did wonderful deeds in the world, but just does not believe in a God, if the God punishes him, you have an irrational God who is just as likely to punish the believer as the unbeliever.

    OK, three points:

    1. "This is only true if you are right about a god". Well, that's sort of the point. If we are right, you, as an atheist, are in trouble. Is it really worth the risk?

    2. "This is only true if you have picked up the right religon." So? The way I tend to phrase the Wager in today's pluralistic society is this: you are in a room where there are several doors. One of them may lead out, maybe none of them do. If you pick the wrong one you will starve to death. But choosing a door is still far better than just sitting in the room, complaining about the plethora of options. Me, I chose a door.

      Now, I would also say that Christianity is also the most logical choice. But one must remember is that Pascal's Wager doesn't promise that making a decision will be easy. It just says that making no decision is stupid, and this remains true. Stein did not settle Pascal's Wager

    3. "you might have a God Who punishes people who have lived virtuous lives, say an atheist who has lived a virtuous life, did wonderful deeds in the world, but just does not believe in a God." I would like to take this time to point out that Stein stated that he wasn't just arguing against the Christian God, yet this argument is only directed against Christianity, and Christianity is the only religion that has an answer for it. In Christianity, the idea of "people who have lived virtuous lives" is an oxymoron. They don't exist. Therefore the idea that God punishes those who lived virtuous lives isn't true.

click here for the link

post II
post III

August 29, 2008

Understanding the Particularity of the Gospel Through the Correction of Liberalism and Reactionism


This is a fun little comparison of liberalism and, basically, fundamentalism, focusing more on its reactionary elements. The comparison isn't perfect, mostly because this statement isn't intended to be very deep. Still, I think the analysis accurate, if not taken to strigantly. I first published this August 31st, 2005. I might add that there in the syllagism section, I've used some formatting that I'm not sure will end up right. It is fine in the editor, but looks off during the preview. Since I am scheduling this post, I may not be edit to fix the error until later. Please forgive me if it looks a little sloppy.

Where do the lines between legitimate Christianity and American culture begin and end. Today, we think this task is easy, due to the "culture war" taking place between the conservative Christians and the secular society. But life isn't as simple as all that, and there is no positive way to determine this.

This post is about accommodation of the gospel to the culture around us. By accommodation, I mean the acceptance of secular axioms which force a reorientation of the Christian faith. In order to come to terms with actual Christianity, we must allow it to define itself, thus rejecting all axioms which run counter-intuitive to the gospel, regardless of whether we like it or not.

Liberalism is best defined in this context as any movement within any culture that attempts to appease the world through a reduction of Christian theology. In other words, a liberal Christian is one who believes in Christ, but also loves the culture in which they live. Thus, they attempt to modify Christianity to make it "relevant" to their culture. This is not the only definition of liberalism, but it is the one we are using here.

Hence, accommodation is the principle activity of the liberal. A liberal Christian would see Christ and his message as light snow, which covers the landscape with a white glistening purity but makes no actual alteration to the landscape. Such a stance is dangerous, especially to the vitality of the Christian message. Alister McGrath said, "A theology grounded in values, whether radical or conservative, drawn solely from the secular world becomes powerless to criticize that world." (A Passion for the Truth)

If Christianity is merely a snow which makes the world look better, but has no effect on that world, then what good is it? I would also like to note that this is not political liberalism, for neither socialism nor capitalism is inherent to the gospel. The gospel is counter-cultural. There exists no culture in man's history or future so perfect that it does not need correction by the holiness of the gospel. It is the Church's responsibility to be something else; something better; "in the world, but not of the world". All the liberals today who see modern culture as having the moral integrity to have a right to be a medium through which we interpret the gospel needs to look through history to other instances where the church has done likewise. For example, let us again look at McGrath:

We criticize the German Christians for obeying Hitler in the 1930s, conveniently choosing to overlook that they were simply submitting themselves to the prevailing cultural norms. We are doing the same today, by allowing ourselves and our churches to follow societal norms and values, irrespective of their origins and goals

This is not to say that simply because something is other than the culture, it must be Christian. Reactionism is also a form of accommodation. Instead of adjusting the gospel to being like the culture, you are adjusting to gospel to be other than the culture.

I would also argue that Reactionism is still adopting axioms from that culture which they are attempting to reject. They tend to externally diverge while internally converge. Let us look at the homosexuality debate and consider two syllogisms:

Homosexuality is bad if and only if homosexuals are innately evil

Some homosexuals aren't bad

Therefore, homosexuality isn't bad
Homosexuality is bad if and only if homosexuals are innately evil

Homosexuality is bad

Therefore, homosexuals are innately evil

One must remember that the world defines who we are by what we do. This is an axiom. Apply this to homosexuality and you get the first premise on each line. However, this axiom is counter-intuitive to the gospel which states that all have fallen short of the glory of God and that all can be saved. If you listen, almost all of the discussion between these two groups involve either the second premise or the conclusion, because that is where they diverge. But where liberalism actually diverges from traditional Christianity is the first premise, and here fundamentalism also diverges. In traditional Christianity it makes sense that some homosexuals are good people, but the homosexual activity which they engage in is bad.

This is what Reactionism tends to be: the acceptance of some sort of undercurrent philosophy, the acceptance of a singular Christian truth, and then a radically errant conclusion.

We must remember that due to the presence of sin, all cultures have evil aspects; and due to the presence of the Spirit of God, all cultures have redemptive aspects. The only sifters we have is God's Spirit and the Bible. Nothing else can be relied on. Whenever entering into any debate, one must first understand all the premises that both sides have, determine which premises are Christian and which are not, and then come to a purely Christian response. Usually a belief that is dependant on something feeling right or sounding rational is based on a cultural axiom. We must be careful of our tendency to accommodate.

August 28, 2008



This is probably the best analysis of a song that I have done. Through this song, I actually made someone a fan of the band Skillet, demonstrating that there was a lot more depth to what they were singing then he had thought. I originally posted this on July 8th, 2005. Enjoy:

There is this one band that I listen to called Skillet. They are a heavy metal Christian band, or more specifically, Industrial Rock. There is one particular song that they have that I thought it would be appropriate to go over.

Music is the most powerful form of human expression I think. Poetry can only go so far. Poetry attempts to take emotion and human experience and put it into words. Music takes them and puts them into sounds. However, songs are the marriage of the two.

This song, Scarecrow, is the description of a single man's walk with life, which is stated in three metaphorical stages. It is my thesis that these stages are normative and are excellent examples of how a Christian will develop.

There are three steps to each stage. Step one is the recognition of the problem, shown by the verse. The second step is the invocation of the Spirit with an appeal to enter into the person's life, which is represented by the bridge. The last step is the solution to the problem, represented by the chorus.:The

Stage 1:The depravity of the human mind

    Hanging on a post
    In my dirty clothes
    Try to concentrate on you
    But I keep forgetting

OK, according to my theory, this represents the first dilemma of the Christian. Now, each verse starts with the idea of hanging on a post. What the post represents is talked about more fully in the bridge. For now it is sufficient to say that the post is our present state of being. The idea of hanging is one of helplessness, inability. Thus, as we are in this state, we cannot change it on our own. We are stuck on the post.

The next thing stated is the reference to dirty clothes. This, of course, is a reference to sin itself. The scarecrow's clothes are dirty, thus so is the scarecrow. But that isn't the thing that's bothering him. Instead, he knows of the great God, and he wants to have faith in this God. But as he is hanging there, he tries to focus his thoughts on this God, but his mind keeps wondering. God is beyond the reach of his thoughts, and because the scarecrow is on the post, there is nothing he can do about it.

    Safe enough to not let go
    Scared enough to not release
    Open up to drink the wind
    You tear me up when you come in.

OK, this is the bridge. It starts with a fuller description of the post. Here, the Scarecrow admits that he is fond of the post, for it represents safety. Yes, it leaves him unable to progress, but it keeps him elevated, secluded, and safe.

However, the recognition of the above depravity makes him realise that he must let go. But instead of simply letting go, he opens himself up to the wind. Wind is synonymous with the Spirit. In fact the Hebrew (Ruach) and Greek (Pneuma) for spirit also mean wind/breath. Thus he invites the Holy Spirit into him, who thus "tears him up". Such violent descriptions to the actions of God are typical of the band who heavily emphasizes God's power and sovereignty (The big reason why I like the band).

    Take me down,
    Shake me out,
    Give me a brain,
    That I may know you better

In each chorus, there is a reference to God removing the scarecrow from the pole, a statement of the thing missing that causes the dilemma in the verse, and the objective of the Scarecrow.

The removal lines remain the same in every chorus: "Take me down, shake me out". Exactly the point of the shaking isn't' clear to me. However, the reference to taking him down is a reference to the post. Obviously he is telling God to remove him from the safe place so he can move forward.

The thing missing was a brain. Whether or not this has anything to do with the Wizard of Oz, I am unsure, but I doubt that the allusion is completely absent. However, what he realized was the reason that he couldn't focus on God, and that he couldn't contemplate God is that his mind itself is depraved, and lacks the ability necessary to know God. Thus the objective is knowing God, an admirable objective indeed. Now, it is my assumption that he receives this brain, enabling him to note the second dilemma

Stage 2: The depravity of the human heart

    Hanging in the sun
    Waiting for the rain
    Saw a field catch on fire
    I caught myself just watching

The Sun here is not something positive. The first two statements are referring to a drought. Rain is the salvation of man, and here he is hanging once again, but this time he understands God and he is waiting for his return. Personally, I think the rain is a reference to the second coming. Whether or not this is a pun referring to reign is unknown, but I would like to think so.

But now that he knows about God, he recognizes that the drought is a bad thing, and he sees pain and suffering in the distance, i.e. fire. However, the reaction is to just stare and watch it. The knowledge of God tells him that this is bad, and yet he doesn't care. He suffers apathy.

    Safe enough to not let go
    Scared enough to not release
    Open up to drink the wind
    You tear me up when you come in
    Take me down
    Shake me out
    Give me a heart
    That I may love you better(repeat x2)

OK, the bridge is the same, but the chorus has now changed. Still, there is the request to being taken down and shaken (but not stirred). However, that which was missing was a proper heart. His apathy has now made this apparent.

Note something. The cause of him realizing that he didn't have a heart was his lack of love for his fellow man. However, the objective here is to love God more. Why the difference? Well, it is good to note here that in the Bible, it describes loving God and loving people as the same thing. It is not as if man is God, or any nonsense like that. But if you love someone, you love what is theirs. Thus, if you love God, you would love his creation. To not love his creation, is to not love God.

I would say though that love is a greater existence for a Christian. First he craves understanding, then he craves love, for the understanding points to love.

Stage 3: Depravity of the human life

    Hanging on a post
    Just next to yours
    I want to curse and spit
    I weep aloud at Your mercy

OK, this first part is an obvious allusion to the crucifixion. Whether or not the singer (John Cooper) is identifying himself specifically with the thief on the cross, I don't know. I don't think so, but it is most certainly an allusion to it.

However, the thing he notes is his sin. Deep down, though he now knows God, and loves God, he still desires to curse and spit. He still desires to sin. Now that he has a heart, such a realization causes him to break down, to weep at the utter mercy of God because he now realizes how utterly depraved he not only was, but that he still is.

    Take me down
    Shake me out
    Give me a life
    That I may serve you better (repeat x100000)

I would like to note that John is yelling at this point.

What is interesting is that the bridge isn't' here. It doesn't feel out of place. It is almost as if the need for asking for the Spirit, or the necessity to even wait for the wind isn't' there any more. He is now so overcome that he goes straight to God, prostate. The helper is already there, he doesn't call for him. He is too focused on getting to the feet of the king to even notice the parakletos by his side.

And once at his feet, he yells, he calls out to God for regeneration, for full and complete rebirth, a new life. This isn't because he despises the old one, though he isn't clinging to the post anymore. No, it is because his new mind and his new heart compel him to serve God and this present life is in his way. This is the ultimate expression of Christianity; here we see the fruits of one that is fully walking with Christ. They devote themselves to the service of God, not out of obligation, but out of the love for God that they have, from understanding the work, passion, and resurrection of our Lord, Yeshua, the Messiah.

August 27, 2008

A Proper Perspective on Relativism

Here's some development on my understanding of relativism. If you like, you can compare it to what I said in Rant on Relativism. This post was originally posted on June 8th, 2005. It was about this time that I began taking my blog more seriously. Anyway, enjoy:

The real question that I hope to address here is what is the true difference between absolutism and relativism. One is the belief that there exists a single absolute truth. The other is the belief that all truth is relative to whom believes it.

As an absolutist, let me define some terms. First of all there are beliefs. These are concepts which are considered to be true by a particular individual. There exists working beliefs and concrete beliefs. A working belief is one where the person who believes it is uncertain, and open to correct, but is convinced enough that act on it. A concrete belief is one where the person is wholly convinced of it, and cannot perceive that possibility of its fallacy.

Secondally, there is the term truth. A truth is something which is true, or a concept which correctly describes reality. There are three kinds of these: absolute truth, relative truth, and a nontruth. An absolute truth is actually rather redundant given the above definition. Given that reality itself is concrete and constant, all truths are absolute. However, without that presupposition, absolute truth can be defined as those truths which are describing concrete and constant attributes of reality. The antithesis of this is, of course, relative truth, which are those truths which are describing those shifting attributes of reality, and a point of reference is nessacary to describe them. A non-truth is, of course, not a truth at all, but a description of something in reality that has no true answer (like what is the best color, and what not).

My proposistion is this: the actual difference between an absolutist and a relativist is moot, though substantial. What I have found is that the vast majority of relativists actually define truth with the definition that I gave to concrete belief. To an absolutists, the discussion of truth rules out the discussion of opinion, for a truth is a truth, whether or not anyone has ever thought of it. Most absolutists consider that truth, as I have defined it above, either does not exist (which is rare) or is unobtainable, and not worth discussion.

However, a proper consideration of these different beliefs shows that there exists a varience of perspective. For one, we find that relativism is far more popular among pluralists and atheists. Secondly, we find that absolutism seems to be a constant amoung monotheists. Well why is this?

It has to do with ones consideration of reality. Pluralists hold that reality itself is pliable, and susceptable to change by ones interaction with it. Therefore, all truth becomes relative, since reality itself is relative to the beholder (these would the ones who actually hold to the relative truth as stated above.) An atheists defines reality as he interacts with it. It is defined by science, which is defined by experimentation. Thus a Shroders Cat look at truth is comfortable.

A monotheist, on the the other hand, holds that there exists a single entity who created the universe and all the is within it. Therefore, reality becomes defined as "creation", and its attributes are the rules written by the hand of almighty God.

Here is the difference: relativists are defining reality through the perspective of man, while absolutists are defining it through the perspective of God. Whether what we believe is truth or not, whatever God believes must be truth, since he is objective and has put all things in place. Therefore, if there is one entity, if there is one being, is there is one who is God, there truth must be absolute, for it is a reflection of the one God.

August 26, 2008

The State of the State (archaic)

This is an interesting post I made. It was originally posted May 30th 2005.

A lot of the Christians around me are complaining about the state that the country is, especially about the power that the liberals have. Their response is that ever since the 1960s the "spirit of rebellion" has been prevalent in this nation because of the evil that took place during that time. (mind, it is mostly old people saying this)

However, I have to disagree to some degree. I think if a nation that is founded on Christian ideals, and is dominated by Christianity finds itself in moral corruption, it is the fault of the church. It is the church's responsibility to shape the morality of this nation, and we messed it up. We need to confess it, and repent it.

Here's a couple of things that I know we did wrong. First of all, we were content with surface morality. A true Christian church is one where the vilest sinner should feel comfortable to come to the front of the congregation, openly admit all his sin, and know that the church will help him deal with his sin, and get over any addiction. Also the a true church is one where when a hidden sin is discovered, it is uncovered, and dealt with.

In the 1950s, we were content with sin being present as long as people kept it quiet. THAT IS THE EXACT OPPOSITE! And a lot of churches are still like this. If a man comes before your church, admits that he is a homosexual, and tells you that he wants to repent, you should not kick him out. You are supposed to embrace him, and love him, and help him with his goal.

The other big problem is the poor. This has more to do with why the liberals have so much power. A modern "liberal" believes that it is the government's responsibility to take care of the poor. They gained power, because the poor needed help. I believe, and any Christian should believe, that it is the Church's responsibility to take care of the poor.If the Church was doing its job, then there would have been no stronghold for the modern liberals to take advantage of.

The biggest issue is that this is still a problem. A: The poor don't need your money, they need personal assistance, and the church is the only kind of institution that can provide it. B: We are supposed to love sinners, and our enemies for that matter. The church today is way to reactionary, and has to look at American history objectively, and realize that we screwed up, and we have to make it right by repentance. And by repentance, I mean doing that which we weren't doing in the 1950s.

August 25, 2008

Trinity analogies

I had originally posted this as a debate site called CARM, and then reposted it on my old website on April 30th 2005. I am now reposting here for your pleasure. Enjoy

We trinitarians tend to be over-reliant on analogy. Now analogy is important because we are discussing a topic which is unperceivable. However, we tend to present the analogy saying "Trinity is" instead of "Trinity is like" therefore denoting equivalence instead of similitude. So, here is a list of several analogies of Trinity and how they break down:
  • Apple:An apple is skin, core, and fruit, but one apple.
    The problem is that there is a partition here. In the Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are distinct, but not separate. In other words, there is a sense that the Father is other than the Son, but there is no point where the Father stops and the Son begins, they are united. Furthermore, there is the issue of variance. The Father, Son and Spirit are one being, but also one nature, in that they are all perfect, and do not different in attribute. Skin, core, and fruit are far too different.
  • Stream:You can have a single river that, at a point, spits into three streams, that then come back together (like two parallel islands are in the river). At this point, it is still one river, but exists as three.
    This avoids the variance issue above, however, there is still the problem of partition. Additionally, if presented improperly, it can be used to support a change in God.
  • Water: H2O can exist in the same environment as ice, liquid, and water vapor. However, they all remain water.
    If "in the same environment" isn't mentioned, this alludes to Modalism, and still can be viewed that we if presented improperly. Additionally you have the variance issue.
  • Synonyms: Example: Dual, Double, and Binary are different words, in that they have distinct uses, however they all have the same meaning.
    This both overemphasises the unity and the distinction depending upon presentation. In the overemphasis on unity, there is a sense that the Father, Son, and Spirit are only a titular distinction, and not a substantial one. The distinct use point is presented to counteract this because there are times when the use of double is appropriate and the other two are not, and likewise for the other two.
    The overemphasis on distinction is what is known as alienation. This means you can have one without having the other two. Again, if presented correctly, this is avoided by saying that if something is only appropriately described as binary, there still exists a doubleness and a dualness. But this aspect is still quite weak.

    PS, please refrain from commenting on the numerical nature of the example. It was only used because of the lack of connotational difference.
  • Jar o' Gas:Take three gases (for instance Oxygen, Nitrogen, and Neon) and put them into one jar. Though they are three gases, they are completely unified.
    there of course is still the variance issue (Oxygen and Neon are very different). However, this also introduced what is official called "confusion", but better understood as blending or mixing. this implies such a strong unification, that it becomes impossible to differentiate one from the other. Variance is still the stronger issue, for if you get down to the molecular level, confusion ends. But there is confusion on the Macrocosm.

    If you look at it at the microscopic level to avoid the confusion issue, you end up with the alienation issue, for Oxygen knows nothing of Neon, etc...
  • Lamp: There is a lamp with three lightbulbs. When turned on it produces a single light. (This analogy came from Thomas Oden in his book The Living God.)
    We have two sets of three here, and there are different problems pertaining to what you emphasize. If you focus on three lightbulbs, one lamp (which is incorrect considering the phrasing), you have the partition issue.
    If you focus on the light (one light, three sources) you have the issue of confusion, where you cannot distinguish which photon came from where. If you change it so that each bulb is a different color (ignoring the variance issue this creates) its still doesn't end the confusion, for they merge as one color in the light.
    A more, overarching problem is a reversal of revelation: you have three revealed as one, instead of one revealed as three.
  • Humans:Humans are mind/body/spirit, yet one being
    This one is a favorite primarily because unlike everything else mentioned, it is actually a trinity. You have three distinct substances (hypostasis) yet one essence (being). However, this is still an analogy towards the divine Trininy because, (a) we are not God, and (b) though we are a substantial trinity, we are not a trinity of persons. A person is a substance with a rational nature, and the body does not have this. Mind and spirit divide the rational nature, one having the ability to think, the other containing will. With mind and spirit you have soul, which is your "personhood" so to speak. (I'm not really an expert on anthropology so i remain correctable on these finer points)
    One other difference from the divine Trinity is, once again, variance. Now variance doesn't undo the one being/essence aspect which is necessary for trinity. However, it does contradict the one nature aspect which is necessary for perfection in the divinity, and besides its just incorrect.

Some Trinitarians have been know to overemphasize this analogy (I was guilty of this myself once) by saying that the Father is the mind, Son the body, and Spirit in spirit. This is given credence by the "mind in his image" aspect of humanity. However this limits the personal nature toward each member of the Trinity and is inaccurate.

The point of these analogies are to present elements of the concept of the Trinity, not to create the whole idea for you. A three dimensional example is an impossibility (human except due to our spiritual nature). Therefore, in order to properly understand it, it does take effort on the part of the listener to step beyond the analogy to that which is trying to be expressed.

August 24, 2008


This was a post on the trinity that I made April 8th 2005. I never actually finished it. I intended to include a section listing the biblical evidence. Oh well. I edited out the references to that below. Enjoy.

Through the past couple of months, I have encountered several people who disapprove of the notion of the Trinity. I have also found that not a single one of these people has an accurate perspective as to what the Trinity is. Thus, I felt it necessary to formulate the doctrine in my head. This represents my effort to do so. Additionally this is to serve to help other people who have trouble putting the Trinity into words. Lastly, this is also something to hand to someone else if you want to explain it to them.

So this post will be divided into two categories: Definition and importance.

This, the definition section, is not an attempt to explain the full doctrine of the Trinity with all of its nuances of language and theological implications. Instead, I state here only what is necessary for the common believer to understand and verify as a foundation of faith. Because of this, I intentionally do not use the common theological jargon, as correct as it may be. I instead use terms with less connotation to them, so I can build concepts without the need of breaking others. Example: I will use the term persona here instead of person. This is not because persona is more correct, for it isn't, but because a homonym of person which is used in the vernacular has the implication of separate being which is incorrect. Therefore, I will use persona, and add concepts which the term lacks in definition.

First and foremost, the Trinity is an attempt to describe the anatomy of God. This undertaking alone is difficult, but nonetheless, that is the attempt. There are three aspects of God in the Scripture that seem a bit confusing without the Trinity. They are Monotheism, the deity of Christ, and the clear differentiation of the Father and Son. So, if the Father is God, and the Son is God, and they are different, but there is one God, what can we conclude? Simple, that the Father and the Son are different ways at looking at the same entity.

The Trinity goes on and says that God, Yahweh, is one entity, but has three different personas: Father, Son (Yeshua the Christ), and the Holy Spirit: Yahweh is the name of God in entirety, while Yeshua or Jesus is the name of one person of God: the Son. The Trinity means literally Tri-unity, a word that the church fathers made up. Thus the adjective form is Triune (literally three-one). This is divergent from the Triad, which is a collection of three deities (tritheism) which is heretical.

Now, in the sense of entity or essence, it is meant that there is only one God; all the personas of the Trinity are completely intact and united in a substantial way. By persona, we mean that there is a substantial differentiation between Father, Son, and Spirit. This difference is characterized by the possession of independent thought and action, but not independent being.
They are one entity, one substance. There is no absolute division among them.

As an analogy, just like God is Father, Son, Holy Spirit, a human is mind, body, soul. This is called the human Trinity. Many correlations have been made between these two Trinities, the most common being: Father=mind, Son=body, Holy Spirit=spirit. This correlation though is very simplistic, but does sort of get the idea across. However, it is important to remember that this is an analogy. Though this is a perfect example of a Trinity, it is a much different kind of Trinity than God's.

A second analogy is that of a lamp with three light bulbs. There are three sources of light, but there is one lamp, and the action of all three bulbs merge as one light. There is no division of being, purpose, or achievement, yet all three add to the one light.

Now, the Nicene Counsel defined the Trinity in reference to what it isn't, thus it is accurate to say that orthodoxy was formed as a response to heresy. So, for proper understanding, it behooves one to know the common non-trinity explanations:
  • Tritheism: This is the most common confusion with the Trinity. Tritheism is polytheistic. It is the belief that there are three gods, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. A variation of this is held by the Church of Latter Day Saints Mormons).

  • Monarchianism/Patripassism:This is the other common confusion with the Trinity. It is a denial of the separation within God. Modelism is a unique form of it saying that God was first the Father, then the Son, and then the Holy Spirit, but never simultaneously. Another form is Adoptionism/ Sabellianism, where the spirit of God came down on Christ at the baptism, and before that, he was completely human.
  • Gnosticism:Actually a collection of various Greek based religions, only some of which incorporated Christian thought. Of these, we shall refer to as Christo-gnostic (I am making this word up by the way). Again, there are a collection of these, but all state that the creator of the universe is evil, and not truly God. Thus this is a denial of the Creator-God. (As a side note, The Matrix movies were not based on Christianity, but these Christo-gnostic religions)
  • Arianism: This is the denial of the divinity of Christ. This is what is held by the Jehovah Witnesses, though it is a more developed understanding of it.
  • Ebionism: basically a combination of Adoptionism and Arianism. Basically it was stated that Christ was 100% human, and that the Holy Spirit was just really really strong in him.
  • Macedonism: Not really present any more. This is the denial of the divinity of the Holy Spirit.

The Trinity, therefore, is best understood by saying that Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit are God, and Patripassism and Tritheism are wrong. Whatever you're left with will be some form of the Trinity. That is how the Trinity got defined, they took these concepts that I listed, and put the one concept that remained into words, and named it Trinity.

Ok, this is the end of the definition section. To show that there is a change, I will have a string of hyphens. Enjoy:

The importance of the Trinity falls on the reasons why the other doctrines are discredited. Number one is the Scriptural evidence. However, even those discrediting the Trinity will claim that Scripture is on their side. The second reason is the implications of the rejections towards salvation, or another essential doctrine. Therefore, let us look at each aspect one by one:

  • Monotheism: Monotheism is probably one of the most precious doctrines of all the Hebraic faiths. Any attempt to contradict it will result in diminishing His glory. This is because encapsulated within the doctrine is that He is the Supreme authority, the Ultimate Being, that nothing even comes close to who He is. If there is more than one, the God shares His glory with others, meaning that one can appeal to them if they don’t like how God is doing things.

    Furthermore, it means that His word is not the end all and be all. This is because if there are other entities other than God, than they must be different. If they are different, that means that they do not always agree. If they do not always agree, than at some points one is right, and the other wrong. To claim that God can at times be wrong, is a very bad thing.

  • The Deity of the Father: This is in refutation of Gnosticism. By Father, here, I mean the creator of all things. If the creator isn't God, but is rather an agent of God, then what good is God? Without God as our creator, what good is our loyalty to Him? It is in knowledge of creation that we derive purpose, and worth. It is in knowledge that we were created by His very hands that we come to understand and appreciate His love for us. If someone else created us, then why would the Father care to redeem us?

  • The Deity of Christ: Only God has the ability to defeat sin. Any creature has the power to defeat one sin. If the creature is not perfect, then it can only atone for one of it’s own sin, thereby not being a sacrifice at all, for it died anyway. Even the most perfect man can only defeat a single sin. ONLY an infinite being can atone for all sin. Therefore, if Christ was not divine, he could only defeat a single sin.

    Jehovah Witnesses agree (I got this from an ex-Jehovah Witness, but I am open for correction here), and say that Christ atoned for Original Sin alone since they believe him to be a mere angel, a created being. Beyond that, one must earn their salvation. Therefore, without the deity of Christ, salvation comes from works. However, this is problematic. Upon the acceptance of the sacrifice, one would be cleansed of Original sin, and thus the innate desire to sin. But, one would still be surrounded by humanity, which stays in sin. Additionally all past sins would still not be atoned for. So, in order for one to be sinless, one must accept the sacrifice in isolation from man. But, the knowledge of the sacrifice was given to man. Therefore, in order to know of the sacrifice, and thereby be cleansed of original sin, one must be in contact with man. So in isolation of man, one is possessed of Original Sin, and with man, one is seduced into sin, therefore, all are still dead in sin, and the sacrifice is in vain.

    There is a second reason for the importance of the Deity of Christ. This isn't as important as the one above, but it is significant. If Christ wasn't God, then God did not save us from our sins, but sent someone else to do it for Him. This is a bit more of a subtlety, but it is a far stronger statement of love that God was willing to humble Himself, in the form of a man, to deal with a people so vile as to spit on His name and deny His very existence, and then, through an act of rejection, take on all of the consequences, and pain, and suffering, and defilement that comes through our wickedness, wrestle with it to the point of its defeat, and then declare Himself to us to be ignored again by many, simply on the grounds that He loves us. I know this, God loves me.

  • The Humanity of Christ: Well, the primary reason has to do with the objective of Christ's mission. His intent was to cleanse mankind by first being a clean and honest man, and then, being pure, cleanse that which He is. If Christ wasn't man, then Christ couldn't heal man, because there is no purity in the parts. It wasn't' just individual man that had to be cleansed, but that which was essentially human! To do that, He must be a pure human in every sense of the word.

    Furthermore, The wages of sin is death, therefore the only cure to sin is death. Therefore, in order for a sacrifice to be viable, it must be able to die. God cant die! A man can!

    Therefore, Christ had to be fully man in order to truly die!Analogy: There was a great warrior who we shall call Josh. He had an apprentice, who we shall call Luke. Josh was greater than Luke in all ways, and out of jealousy, Luke rebelled, and was banished. Now there was also a town called Heere, that never allowed anyone to enter unless they are a citizen of Heere. Luke tricked a guard named Adam, who he subsequently killed, and then started running around Heere killing everyone he could. Now, only Josh had the skill to defeat Luke, but not being a citizen of Heere, could not enter the town. Therefore, he had to become a citizen first, and then he could enter, and defeat Luke.

    The point, only God had the ability to defeat sin and death, but only a human could gain access to it, for God cannot stand the presence of sin, and only a human can die.

  • The Deity of the Holy Spirit: This is similar to the reason stated above. If the Holy Spirit is not God, than it is not God who meets with us when we worship, then it is not God who guides us in our actions, and it is not God who displayed the powers of God through the disciples. This, then, means that we are guided by a lesser being. The effect of believing this is simply that God is unwilling or unable to deal with us directly, and needs gofer. If God is unwilling to deal with us directly, then what was the point of the Passion? If God is unable to deal with us, then what happened at the Passion? For the Passion eradicated sin, that we be in fellowship with Him. Therefore, the Passion shows that He is willing, and the Passion means that He is able.

  • The differentiation within God: This is most easily seen when examining the term Patripassism. The prefix Patri means father, the root pass is the same root as the word passion. Though Monarchianism and Patripassism have the exact same meaning, Monarchianism refers to how it is good (there being one ruler, thus emphasizing Monotheism), while Patripassism refers to why it is bad (that the Father endured the Passion). For those of you who don’t know what I mean by the Passion need to look up recent Mel Gibson movies.

    The basic problem with this is soteriological (that which pertains to salvation), as all things that pertain to the Passion are. The Passion is a sacrifice, and all sacrifices are offered from one who is humble to one who is exalted, signifying humiliation before the exalted one. Therefore, there are three elements to all sacrifices: a giver, a sacrifice, a receiver. In the Passion, humanity was the giver, Christ was the sacrifice, and the Father was the receiver. This is not to say that Christ and the Father are different Gods, but to say that Christ is the part of God that was offered up, and the Father was the part of God that received it. To unify all three, though the giver can remain separate, you combine the sacrifice and the receiver. Thus the sacrifice receives the sacrifice. This does not make any sense. The sacrifice receiving the sacrifice is like paying yourself, nothing really happens. Thus to say that the Father endured the Passion, is to say that the Father was offered to the Father, meaning that debt was not paid, thereby saying that the Passion is void, and we remain in our sin.

August 23, 2008

My Kiersy Results (archaic)

This is my Kiersy results as posted March 15th 2005. After this, I retook it, and fell on the thinking side of the T/F scale, though I was still rather close. So for those who would like to understand my personality better:

Introvert/Extrovert scale: Extrovert (big surprise).
This one I remember getting a six out of ten for extrovert. This doesn't mean shy vs outgoing. A shy extrovert, or an outgoing introvert is possible on this scale, though extroverts tend to be outgoing, and introverts tend to be shy. This is a reference to how one gets energized. An introvert finds energy in isolation and solitary, while extroverts find it in big crowds. For an extrovert, being with people in invigorating and exciting, while being alone drains your energy, and usually bores you. You would find that you can concentrate better in crowds then you can alone, and become easily distracted when you are by yourself.

Intuition (N)/ Sensory (S): Intuitive
This is how one tends to gather information. I remember being fairly balanced at this one too. This deals with how one tends to gather information. Sensory gathers it from the world, and they tend to be very observant. Intutitives tend to think about things indepthly, and derive their knowledge by contemplation. Those who are sensory rarely think for themselves, but those who are intuitive tend to come to conclusions without gaining sufficient data.

Thinking (T)/ Feeling (F): both
I was 50/50 here, so I got an X. this is how one reaches conclusions. Feeling means i come to conclusions based on emotive arguements. These people are sensitive to the people around them, and understand people easily. Drawback is a tendancy to be irrational about issues. Thinking refers to people who come to conclusions based on logic. One can think of a Vulcan, and get a fairly clear picture of the extreme. They tend to be cold towards people, but can get the practical solution to problems. I'm both. I'm sensitive to the needs around people, but I'm not afraid to be practical about a problem. I somewhat have the best of both worlds. However, on issues where emotion and logic conflict, decision making becomes difficult, and I become indecisive.

Judging (J)/ Perceiving (P): Perceiving
This is the one that I was the most extreme on. the first two were balanced, but leaned a certain direction, the third one was dead even. This one, I was like 5% Judging, 95% Percieving. The words dont sound anything like they mean. this is whether you are right or left brained. Judging (left) is someone who sticks to the meticulous details, and tends to be ridgid and organized. this isn't me. I'm perceiving (right), which tends to look at the big picture of things, not good at organization, and perfers to leave things open-ended. Another big difference is that a P is more likely to start projects, while a J is more likely to finish them

August 22, 2008

Baptism (archaic)

Here are some thoughts I had about Baptism at the start of my seminary existence. I don't think that I say anything wrong here, but I don't fully agree with it either. I am currently struggling with my view of baptism, except that I remain passionately a credobaptist. But I wouldn't be able to express this level of certainty as to the nature of baptism today. Anyway, this was originally posted March 8th 2005:

Baptism is one of the fundamental aspects of Christian life. We are dealing with it at the moment in school, so I thought i would write some thoughts on it.

There are some common errors that are attached to it: 1) that it is necessary for salvation, 2) that it is a mere ritual with no substance to it, 3) that it is always attached to the anointing of the Spirit (or Baptism of the Holy Spirit if you are Pentecostal). All of these are incorrect.

Simply put, baptism is the admission or adoption of someone into the family of God. Anyone who is not baptized is not part of the family. This tends to imply the first mistake to most people, but I assure you that it isn't. Salvation is something that happens before you join the church. Salvation is that moment in which your final destination after death becomes Heaven (or the new earth, depending upon your meaning of final) instead of Hell. This happens before baptism. Baptism only affects your life here on earth.

The rite of baptism incorporates two things. First, it is the confession to being saved, for all those in the family must be saved, so this is the validation for your adoption. Second, it is the acquisition of the family obligations. These obligations are not akin to duty, but I recognition that as a family, you must behave as a family. Obey the parent (God), respect the one who the parent puts in charge (the pastor), and support and love each other.

All of this is embedded in the symbolism. The confession is shown with the idea of your death to sin, and the birth of your righteousness (which is still being worked out). The adoption is shown with the concept that one is born into a family, thus one must be born of spirit to be a member of the spiritual family.

To refuse baptism is to say one of two things. Either you are saying that you are, in fact, not saved, or you are refusing to be a member of the body.

The importance of baptism is twofold. First, an actual event happens. Since you have promised something to God, the Spirit then enables you to succeed. At salvation, it is attributed to you to be righteous. But the actualization of that righteousness is a process that starts at that point. Likewise at baptism, one is declared a member of the family, but the actualization of it is a process.

Secondly, after baptism, everyone now has a obligation towards you. You are now an official brother/sister. Therefore, you are treated as such. In the early church, one was not allowed to commune with the church unless one was baptized. One could attend the service. But right after the service, they had communion followed by a full meal (which would be really cool if we got back to that ). If you were not baptized, you had to leave before this, since you weren't part of the family yet.

From this one can see where infant baptism came from. The idea was that they are making the kid part of the family, not saying that the kid was saved (though the Catholics did eventually start saying that). Once they reached a certain age, they had to confirm that they were, in fact saved. If they refused, they are kicked out of the family, and if they are confirmed, the original baptism is "realised". I, being Baptist, think that this is crap. Already being saved is inherit to entry into the family. A baby is neither saved, nor condemned, therefore baptism in inappropriate. I fully support dedication though, where the family, being obligated to the parents of the child, do their utmost to raise the child in the family, thus dedicating themselves to the child.

August 21, 2008

Double Talk of Compatibilism

This was published at SEA today, and I wanted to hear some comments if anyone had any.

Compatibilism is the desperate attempt of Calvinists to have their cake and eat it too. It is the claim that humans are still responsible for their sins because they wanted to commit them, but that God still predetermined their actions because He shaped the person's will by molding the internal motives of that person. This way, God has determined sin without being responsible for it, and humans are responsible without possessing any level of causation.

But this doesn't really work. Let us consider a person. We shall call him Quincy. And let us start with a sin. Let us say that Quincy stole a cookie. Now according to Compatibilism, the sequence of events are as follows:
  1. God had decreed before the foundation of the world that Quincy would steal the cookie.
  2. God shaped Quincy's life up to that moment to build in him a temptation to steal that cookie in that moment.
  3. In that moment, God planted a particular desire in Quincy to steal that cookie that would overpower his other desires.
  4. Quincy then decides to steal the cookie based on his inner desires.
  5. The cookie is stolen.
Now we may say that God isn't really absolved from the actions above since He did so much to cause them, but that's not my point. My point is this: according to Compatibilism, Quincy is 100% responsible for the above action and God is 0% because of the way in which he was motivated to steal.

Now let us consider the moment of salvation.
  1. God had decreed before the foundation of the world that Quincy would come to saving faith of our Lord Jesus.
  2. God shaped Quincy's life up to that moment to build in him a willingness to commit to the Lord.
  3. In that moment, God planted a particular desire in Quincy to accept Jesus Christ that would overpower his other desires.
  4. Quincy then decides to believe.
  5. Quincy accepts Christ has his Lord and Savior.
The important thing to note here is that according to Compatibilism, God is 100% responsible for the above and that Quincy is 0% responsible.

So what is the difference between the two modes of action? NOTHING!!! The only difference is that one resulted in evil and one resulted in good but the process of causation was EXACTLY the same. Which means that all Compatibilism does is it makes God responsible when Calvinists want Him to be, and makes the human responsible when they want him to be. However, it is completely inconsistent and resolves nothing.

August 20, 2008

Essential Doctrine

When I was getting my bachelor's, I had lost my confidence in the ABC as a denomination. As a result I started to attend a non-denominational church, mostly because of the fellowship. During my first year at seminary I made a dreadful discovery: the leadership of this church did not believe in the Trinity. I was shocked, and began a year and a half mission to understand the Trinity to the best of my ability.

One of the issues that I had was whether or not this church was Christian. They had all the marks of a Christian church, yet disbelieved in one of the most central tenets of the Christian faith. This post represents my wrestling with this idea, and forms the rudiments of some distinctions that I will later on develop in more detail.

This was posted February 5th, 2005:

This was part of another post that I am still in the process of writing on the Trinity (which I began writing in November. It will be a very long post once it is done). I took this out, but felt that I still wanted to say this. Additionally, I like what I said and I don't want to waste it. So, on essential doctrine:
  • Primary essential doctrine is doctrine that is necessary for one to be saved. One is saved by excepting Christ as Lord and Savior. Therefore, the primary essential doctrines are that set of doctrine that explain what that means. This includes human depravity, monotheism, Yeshua (Jesus) is the Son of God, the passion and resurrection of Christ etc...
  • Secondary essential doctrine is doctrine that is necessary for a church or Christian to be healthy. This is based upon believing the teachings of the Bible. Therefore, the infallibility of the Word is a secondary essential doctrine, and all doctrine that is directly discussed in Scripture. This includes certain lists of sins, the 10 commandments, the importance of church unity, etc...
  • Nonessential doctrine is self-explanatory, this is doctrine that isn't essential for anything, but is often important for one's own personal understanding of their faith. This includes creationism, post/pre tribulation rapture, once saved always saved, etc...

The point of differentiating essential doctrine is to determine what is heresy (that which cannot be tolerated by the Christian church) from error (that which is wrong but can be tolerated). My hope is ecumenical, as in I want an end to the divisions within the church, and the only way to do that is to determine what is worth fighting about, and what isn't.

August 19, 2008

A Supreme Idea

This is an idea that I've been batting around for a while now. I still think that this could work, but it would take a lot of implement it. This was posted January 21st, which was shortly after I had the initial idea. Any thoughts:

It is my belief that in this country, the Supreme Court has too much power. This is becasue the only way to overturn a Supreme Court decision is with either another Supreme Court decision or with an ammendment to the Constitution. There are three effects of this particular check:

I. This allows things that the Constitution is not supposed to address ending up in the constitution. This includes Prohibition, and anything to do with marrige (marrige belongs to the states anyway). The Constitution is merely supposed to express how the government is supposed to work. Therefore, Supreme Court decisions that are not supposed to be Constitution issues to be made policy simply by the Court inserting the term privacy in an issue.

II. Ammending the Constitution is really hard. Therefore, if the Supreme Court begins to abuse its power, we have basically have to weaken what the Constitution stands for to get any reform.

III. Even if we ammend the Constitution, We have to be so precise in the wording so that they just dont interpret it the way they want. Loose interpretation is their main weapon anyway. It's not a very affective means.

Proposal: Naturally an ammendment to the Constitution in the form of adding a new check. This is my proposal, that any Supreme Court decision can be brought before Congress, and with some vote like 2/3s or something, the Congress can declare the issue to be "beyond jurisdiction". By doing so, they nullify all Supreme Court decisions, as well as any federal laws that have been based upon this issue. Basically they claim this matter to only be a state issue. Furthermore, only the president can, in fact, bring the matter before the Congress.

There are still a couple of matters to be ironed out. For instance, how can such a decision be undone given the initial decision was rash. I had another, but I forgot it now.

August 18, 2008

Bye Bye Miss American Pie

Due to their brevity, I am included two posts today. The first was posted January 5th 2005, and is really just a link that I do not want to lose. It is a fantastic analysis of the song American Pie by Don McClean. The song is a relevant landmark of American culture, being a commentary of the revolutions of the 1960s which our society still has not entirely recovered from, nor are we likely to ever fully recover. Here's the post:

here's something really cool:
The meaning of American Pie!
I throughly enjoyed reading this. Tell me what you think?

Comment topics:
  • McClean's use of symbolism
  • The 60's in general
  • Thoughts on Mic Jagger being synomonous to Satan
  • Personal opinion of the song

Thoughts on Christmas

Appropriately so, this was originally posted Decembor 30th, 2004. Well within my first semestier at Northeastern Seminary, this is my first reflection on my classes. Seminary will go on to strongly influence what I will write in the future, as well as my personality, tone, and voice.

Considering that it is now August, it may be wierd that I will be putting thoughts on Christmas up. However, the celebration of Christmas is something that Christians should hold throughout the year, as well as Easter. (Actually, even more so with Easter IMO). So here are some thoughts I had on Christmas 4 years ago, and I do still agree with them:

What is the most important event in all world history? Some Christians say that is is the death of Christ, some the resurrection of Christ. But if one were to guess by the manner of which Christians celebrate their faith, they would say that it was the birth of faith.

The Bible is clear on the subject: In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Yeshua (Jesus) Christ from the dead (I Peter 1:3b) So then, why do Christians place so much importance on Christmas instead of Easter?

A while back, I remember that a person said that Christmas was just as important as Easter since Christmas had to happen in order for Easter to happen. I remember getting rather upset with him because I know that opinion is based more on the love of the holiday then the siginificance of the event. Christ had to speak his first words in order to be crucified and we dont celebrate that. We dont celebrate Christ's first steps, or Christ's baptism. Therefore the one being nessacary for the occurance of the other is not a sufficient answer to the question. What is the relevance of Christmas.?

Christmas is based upon the incarnation of the Word. The relevance is that God humbled himself enough to come down to the earth in the form of a man. It is that sacrifice that we are celebrating. It is the knowledge that God loved us so much as to get his hands dirty with all of our crud. That is the meaning of Christmas, God's love for us. Everything else is merely a hollow reflection if that isn't at the heart of it.

August 17, 2008

Death of the Socratic Method

This was first published November 6th, 2004:

For all those who don't know what the Socratic method of debate is, it's answering questions only with leading questions to allow your opponent to come to the exact same conclusion you did logically.

Will this method work today? Unfortunately very rarely. It is the best method of debate, ever, for it is based on two concepts: logic and working with the person's vanity. If they arrive to the conclusion themselves, then they have to admit its right. Very powerful style. But it requires that greatest amount of patience on both sides. To use the method, you have to have fully thought out your side, and ask the correct questions based upon your adversary's original question. Second, they have to be willing to endure you asking all the questions and them giving all the answers, which usually requires you to be an authority. Third, it takes a long time, which is unacceptable in today's culture.

The method can only be used if someone asks you your opinion, and you use the method to present it. It is pleading the case without the other person having a rebuttal. Plus, since it takes forever, most people will just want you to get to the point.

I have developed my own style which isn't as good, but seems more appropriate for our culture. I call it, the endurance method. The subject is presented, and when the other person becomes emotional, which they always do, let them rant. Listen carefully to the rant and find a single chink in the armor, just one. If one is not found, inspire a second rant.

Once one is found, plead their case. This is the most important part of the method, and requires for you to have a full understanding of the argument. List, in detail, the points that you fully agree with to the point where it seems that you must agree with them completely. This will cause them to drop their guard. This is like the Socratic method where it feasts upon the other person's vanity. They become comfortable in hearing how right they are. Then present that single chink in a devastating way. The point is not to win, the point is to create a sense of doubt. After this, walk away, and let the wound fester. They will return asking for your full opinion and then you give it.

I like my method, but it only works if the other person gets emotional. It can work other times too, but it basically requires you to pay attention not to their points, but to the underlying reason why they believe what they believe. You are attacking the foundation, but first you must find it. That takes patience on your part, but none from them.

August 16, 2008

A Costly Lesson in Rhetoric I

This was probably one of the more important posts on my blog because posting it actually impacted me.

When I was growing up, I loved dinosaurs. I thought they were the coolest thing. I passionately studied them and hoped to be a paleontologist when I grew up. I was also a believer in God, but saw them as separate things. When I was in high school, I became fascinated with genetics because of its connection to dinosaurs. If you wanted to classify me theologically, you would have called me a theo-evolutionist.

Then when I went to college I ran into something called Young Earth Creationism. It went contrary to everything that I had heard before, but made a lot of good points. Looking back, I see the foolishness of a lot of them. The first YEC teacher I got a hold of was Kent Hoven, someone who I now see as a nut. However, I became convinced of YEC, and remain a convicted creationist to this day, though far less naive than I was at first.

On July 20th, 2004 I published this piece. It was meant to be a light thing, reflecting on a book I was currently reading. It wasn't anything impressive. However, an old High School friend, who I shall call Lindsey, commented and became angry with the content. I was confused. I clearly stated my opinion, and yet somehow her arguments had nothing to do with what I was saying. So, I just carried on with the conversation, hoping to clarify what my position was. This resulted in a comment to her original one, plus a follow up post two days later.

The result was she wasn't convinced of anything, and has never talked to me since. I learned a lot about why she didn't understand what I was saying, but also about looking beyond someone's words to their heart. My failure to do this lost me a good friend. I figured she just didn't understand, but there was so much more to it than that. When you attack a person's worldview, no matter how rational that person is, no matter whether that worldview be false or fiction, the person feels like you are attacking them. One needs to be sensitive to what one's words do, and listen to what the other is truly saying.

Another important result is that it altered my way of expressing Creationism. Instead of the micro/macroevolution distinction (which didn't help Lindsey at all), I switched to a Evolution/Darwinism distinction. Thus I could say that I was excepting the science but reject the philosophy. I later found that the ID movement used the same distinction, and began to listen to what those scientists were saying.

I've split this into 3 posts, posted first to last, rather than last to first which is typical. This first one is simply the explanation of the event. The second is the original post with Lindsey's and my comments, and the third the followup post with the comments.

A Costly Lesson in Rhetoric II (archaic)

This was posted July 20th, 2004. Please also see commentary and followup.

Original post:

Esther gave me a new book on Creation vs Evolution, that has renewed my interest in the subject. Even after I finished that book, I went out and got another one that is a bit more "science dense".

For those of you who don’t know, and I bet that's very few, I'm a Theo-evolutionist turned Creationist, and I just thought I would put some of my reasons out on the net.

I did not reject evolution because of religious radicalism. I rejected it because it is bad science. Darwin was a incredibly intelligent man who noticed that slight variations within a species can happen so that it can adapt to the environment. This is called Microevolution or inter-species evolution, which is fact. From this he derived what is called Macroevolution or intra-species evolution. This is the theory that given enough times, these small adaptations would lead to a new species. This was a reasonable hypothesis given the information present, and that he stated it was a theory with very little evidence to support it.

Darwin said that in order to prove macroevolution, scientists would need to find the mechanism and a sufficient number of fossils showing the "missing links" from prehistoric animals to present day. Today, neither one of these requirements have been satisfied.

The mechanism that scientists have pointed to is genetics. However when one examines the claim, they find that very bloated defense to be rather empty. The genome has proven to be much to complex to allow organisms to evolve in the clean way that scientists claim. The shear amount of mutation that is required to make a single species jump in a single specimen is nigh impossible. Let alone the millions of specie jumps necessary for the Earth's population and fossil record.

Secondly, no missing links have been found, zero. Lucy has been discovered alive and well in Africa, and the rest of the human evolution was proven wrong decades ago. The evolution of the horse is similar. You combine this with the complexity of the genome, the irreducible complexity of organic systems, and the complications attached to the introduction sexual reproduction, and atheistic evolution becomes impossibility.

But it’s all they have. There exists no other scientific theory short of aliens that exists. So I ask you, and anyone who believes in evolution, why?

Lindsey's comments:
No offense, but are you crazy? As someone with an actual college degree in both biology and chemistry, consider me a credible person. I've read that book for a theology class "Evolution vs Creationism," and as a biologist, I saw it as a complete joke. The guy who wrote it (some last name that began with an M) wasn't even a biologist, we was some kind of an engineer. I've learned all that I know from college professors with actual Ph.D's in the discipline. Unlike the author of that book, they've devoted their lives to learning about the life sciences. Aside from credibility of the source.....

As for evolution, scientists have found numerous missing links. And yes, as someone who has understands genetics and spent hours in the classroom and in the lab learning about it....I know that genetics does prove that evolution exists.

I could write hundreds of things, but I'll only give you a few. If you actually don't believe in evolution, explain to me this:

1) What about allopatric speciation and sympatric speciation? Have you noticed that all examples of this are involved with organisms that can't easily disperse? For example, what about the antelope squirrel that in Grand Canyon? Everyone knows that that's proof of allopatric speciation.

2) To explain harsh genetic mutations.....what about polyploidy? Especially in plants where generations alternate from haploid to diploid? Is has been proven that after meiosis, tetraploids can successfully undergo fertilization with other tetraploids. Not only does the progeny survive, but there becomes a postzygotic barrier between the tetraploids and the original diploids. Not only that, but what about allopolyploids? What if an animal with a balanced polymorphism undergoes assortative mating?

3) Although this is a mundane's always fascinated me. It has to do with the evolutionary progress of phylum chordata, the most advanced and sophisticated. How have scientists been able to identify the bony plates of the primitive ostracaderms and trace their evolution (both through fossil and genetics records) into the tympanic bulla found in eutheria?

4) What about antibiotic resistance? How did those gross mutations occur in such a small time frame? Why is the flu a completely different organism each year?

As for Darwin, his theory may not be completely right, but in the biology community the theory has been refined since he published his book. Read more contemporary literature. Also, I suggest you read literature that has been written by true biologists....not engineers or theologists.

All scientists don't know the answers when they first postulate a theory. For example, Newton's Laws were proven not to be laws in all situations. Einstein proved that at the atomic level, Newton's Laws made no since at all. All great scientists came up with theories that contain mostly truth, but their theories still had to be refined over the years.

Another thing that I noticed confused you was that LUCA (not LUCY) still exists. I don't understand how this proves human evolution wrong. Primitive species can still exist while more advanced species evolve.

I don't know who said the scientists claim that the genome is clean. I've never heard it in all of my years of research involving it at RPI. I guess at the cellular level, the genome is relatively clean because most of the genome is made up of code that has never been used. This is because during evolution, viruses had inserted genetic information into the genomes of their host organisms. Also, in a specific cell, the majority of useful genes are methylated and need to be chemically triggered.

To answer you question involving sexual reproduction, it has been proven to evolve in a similar way the the prokaryotic cell evolved into the eukaryotic cell.

Maybe your ignorance offends me because I'm devoting my Ph.D. research to biochemistry and topics that involve evolution. Just take my advice and only get your information on biological topics from people who actually are biologists. Sorry to write for so long. It's difficult to include years of knowledge into one journal entry.
My reply:

Sorry, I didn't mean to offend you Lindsey. However, I didn't actually read the book you were talking about. The book I read was called "Defeating Darwinism", which is a book about the social implications of Darwinism, and was written by a lawyer. I meant the topic Creation vs Evolution, and I'm sorry for the ambiguity. It's obvious you know more than me, and the book I'm presently reading is by a professional bio-chemist. I intend to study the subject more indepthly, but it isn't a priority right now. Though i am quite curious on your comment involving the prokaryotic cell evolving into the eukaryotic cell. Can you email that to me?

Also, your comment about the genome not being clean. I never said that it was. I said that the process of evolution was stated to be cleaner than it really could be given the knowledge that we do about the genome. I know that there is useless DNA in there, and about the theory of viruses putting it there. Also the information about LUCA and the gradual improvement of Darwin's theory