Monthly Archives: September 2015

Maybe So

Asking if it’s possible there are gods … obviously, there’s going to be a problem with language here, such as with “exist” and “possible” and so on. “Possible” cannot be akin here to “probable” (Ayer, “Language Truth and Logic”) and “exist” generally put as “manifest in reality”.

So in saying God is possible, we can only mean “logically possible” and to “exist”, I’m not sure we know exactly what we mean other than a “super” natural “reality” (Smith, “Atheism: The Case Against God”) which places God outside of our comprehension but leaves us at least with the idea that whatever that reality is, God is present and known.

In asking the question “Does God exist?”, we can only be saying there is an ineffable reality unknown to us and we’re imagining what the real implications are for us; “real” being about our comprehended world.

The existence of God as the end of our concern can’t possibly matter. The question is a means to an end and that end is found in the questions “Why anything at all?”, “Why this place?” and “Why a place like this?”. If we then take our thoughts on God’s possible existence, the only reason and way they could find meaning is that they somehow apply to these questions.

While I find the question of God’s existence in all ways pointless in itself, should I have an impression of some “Big Other”, what I make of it may matter quit a lot.

The difficulty is that we can take nearly any general absurdity and make coherent statements, and we understand already that logic is in the end, a formalized language descriptive of how folks think, that it proves nothing in actuality, and rational god-talk in terms of moving us in any direction nearer or farther from believing “There are gods” is fairly impotent. One would have to ask about a functional benefit to any single sentence or volume of them that are descriptive of “the present King of France” (Russell, “On Denoting”). And where this leaves the apologist with such proofs of God, presenting them to non believers, is at a loss. The failure there is not understanding that without some real and relatable experience, both God and “the present King of France” are equal and worth the same, which is to say they’re both worthless. These are happy to let the believer find value in these thought-games, but they find none in it themselves; only becoming interested when believers foist their musings onto society as a whole and those musings are negatives within it.

So the only question left seems to be perhaps in asking what way it matters to anyone whether or not there are gods.

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Augustine said the ultimate good for humanity is happiness and peace, says it can only be had through subordination to God. But when God is an idea made into an image that is created and maintained by the Church, then you and God are subordinate to the Church and neither you nor God will know any ultimate good as long as this remains so.

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Divine Teleology

It seems the most reasonable thing to respond with in asking “Why this particular place, this particular way?” is taking circumstance as desired, if there is a God and unless God is whimsical. While it’s hard to say whether or not there is a God, certainly it’s not hard to suggest He isn’t whimsical as long as He is seen as ideally or maxially rational; for the extent of the complexity within His creation, we’d want to say whatever God does, it is literally for the best reasons, rationally and in a moral sense, “for the good”. So, it isn’t that God cannot change His mind, for example, but that it begs the question of his being maxially rational yet thinking He should change His mind for lesser reasons. If God has a will, which we presume He does, then while there may be many possible worlds He could have created in order to accomplish His creating anything at all, naturally and given the above, this must be the only kind of world possible to best meet His reasons for creating.

If God transcends and is then ineffable, we should look at the philosophical principle of “place”; that even our most obscure abstractions are “from” reality, meaning “tied to” history, culture, needs, the concrete experience of reality itself. If we find the principle interesting, then the answer seems fairly clear as to why things are they way they are. In essence and very undramatic, the non-answer of saying “Because that’s the way God did it.” But, we’re actually saying more than that. At this point, we’ve hit a brute fact of reality and what we must realize then is that the only meaning in teleology is accepting things as they are and then asking the only question that could matter: “What are we suppose to get out of this?”

If there exists a hidden God who created a universe which necessarily gives us the idea such a being exists, through the numinous, etc., then all we can do is utter anthropomorphic ideas about God … the conclusion is simply then that our images of the gods push us into the deepest understandings we can have of ourselves. Theologically consistent in the idea of “atonement”, because we imagine we in some way are “like” God in nature.

That’s not so say something exclusive about religion and human self-realization. It is to say that no matter how one leaves the question “Does God exist?”, be that Theist or Atheist, we accept something about ourselves or reject something we think unfitting of ourselves to believe. Each, in that case, has better understood who they are because it mattered enough to take the question seriously, and accept or reject it because our response matters in some fundamental way.

I’d say the most omnipotent God is exactly the kind that presents a win for everyone regardless of their beliefs with respect to God, but exactly because whatever we do end up believing actually does change everything after all.

Just a thought.

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An Old Jewish Parable …

For some twenty years or more, two Rabbis argued endlessly about the meaning of some law whenever they were together. Back and forth, sometimes talking and sometimes yelling. Mostly, yelling.

Finally, God had had all he could take, and everyone else had too long before.

So in the middle of the latest shouting match, God showed up and said, “Listen, the both of you! You’re both wrong!” God then went on to tell them in no uncertain terms exactly what this particular law of His meant and how to observe it.

Both Rabbis turned red in the face as they looked at each other. One of them turned and looked God square in the eyes and demanded, “Just who in the hell do you think you are coming down here and sorting us out this way!”

It’s to say that what we’re all about here is precisely to sort things out with ourselves and rather pointless to think God should. I’m sure if God exists, then he must be put out with the bickering … but then, I can’t believe that since it continues. It must be that we’re truly on our own because sorting things out is communal, and though messy, which Rabbi would be happy at all if the other hadn’t been there to help?

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A Topography Of The Fall

Until over 200 years after Christ’s death, no one had any concept of an Augustinian “Fall” or an Anselmic need for propitiation. That’s a matter of history. It just isn’t there. That’s read into scripture now of course, but it wasn’t on the minds of early Christians.

The classic, early views of sin, soteriology, and atonement and christology is simply the metaphor of two trees in the center of a garden; a choice in every moment to judge yourself and others, or like God and Christ, love instead.

You can hear this and nearly only this from Irenaeus specifically (the vanquishing, the victory over, death of corruption preventing humanity from being … human), and from Ignatius, Polycarp, and Noetus to name a few.

So no, that it all begins with some idea of a fall and disobedience and a cosmic “righting” of justice between debts owed, man to god … It seems Christians are precisely not obliged in any way to think so, or if they do, that they must start there.

In fact, in the garden, why was God pissed? What was he angry with? What was his first comment?

He was angry at Adam and Eve believing (because now they judged) they were not worthy to be in God’s presence. His only following comment was deducing why they now thought their metaphoric nakedness was shameful (ie insufficiency) … “Ah! You ate from the tree, eh?”

What is shameful in modern Christianity is still buying that lie we tell ourselves. Instead of “just as I am without one plea, I come”, we now bastardize Christ by fashioning him into yet one more set of clothing to cover what God is fine with in the first place; our humanity, all of it, as it is, loved just as it is; and perhaps our image of ourselves restored if we believe Christ telling us so. Life to the full, not to judge you but save you (from it), your own judgment, the message of love even the prodigal did not believe when asking merely to be allowed back as a servant (“Nothing you do can change the fact you’re my son and I love you!”).

Just a thought.

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The Judge

If what we are being saved from is judgment, it seems the obvious solution is to stop.

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The Eyes Have It

Nothing you believe about God will save you, but what you think about God just may; if it brings you into a full revelation of what humanity is and you are at one with it, seeking to become that noble image.

Believer, non believer, it scarcely matters. Literalist or complete Metaphorist, it cannot matter.

If for the Christian hearing this, it causes a wince, I can only ask how it could be otherwise if we are truly icons of God whom scripture tells us it is only the scales of sin covering our eyes from seeing who we are in God’s?

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The Way. Word!

Really, as part of the Enlightenment, we just find it simpleton to read the Bible and that’s that; though some are keen to find that completely sufficient. The rejoinder is scholarship and theologians applying a systematic approach and textual criticism to get at the truth, not shy away from it.

An ignorance comes without it. For instance, a case in point is often found in quoting John about Jesus being the “Word” of God and Jesus being the exclusive “Way” (in which the presumption is ontology rather than teleology). Ignorant of Greek language and culture, many presume something about Jesus that simply isn’t there. It infects theology immensely and damningly. The only coherent view of both is that “Way” in the Greek, ἀλήθεια, ας, ἡ (Strong’s 255), and “Word”, λόγος, ου, ὁ (Strong’s 3056), describe Jesus only as representing the fullness of humanity as God intended us. It does not demonstrate any exclusive “means” to an end (ie heaven/hell, etc.); treating any person as a mere means to an end is immoral anyway. Who Jesus was ontologically is who we are ontologically and the claim in the passage of John is only rationally interpretable as “If you want the fullest life possible, being as I [Jesus] am is the only way you’ll experience it”. More, Jesus is representational of how things were intended. Further, all of John’s writings are theologies, not histories, and Paul’s, never having met Jesus, is a private revelation publicly articulated; both authors clearly influenced by Greek Platonism and exemplifying the ethics of Stoicism, from Cicero to Seneca to Rufus, and how we find Christ’s ethics is then a delicate cultural and textual comparison, or a removal of that Greek ethical stamp to find what’s left; that typically being limited to comments about grace, empowerment, and how to conduct Christian community.

Before rather paltry and shoddy Evangelical thinking, unthoughtful to the very core (a move no more better demonstrated than by its laymen), this was understood, as seen in the first theories of atonement; Recapitulation (which my comments actually begin to articulate along with Irenaeus) and Moral Influence (which are means-descriptive, Jesus’ likeness in understanding and action also beginning to be articulated in the above along with Abelard) looking nothing like the monstrosity of philosophy developed over a thousand years removed from Christ and after the heretical abandonment of the only historic Church in any way linked to Christ, however loosely it may be.

To have the flippant mentality that “It’s right there in plain English, y’all!” and “The Bible says it, so I believe it, and that settles it!” is to be monumentally illiterate. To say that some heresy is afoot because Evangelism has become irrelevant, and to characterize a returning to more traditional Christian philosophies and theologies as anything other than that is to be wholly and literally ignorant of the entire history of Christianity and its development.

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To Whom I’ve Loved

An old man, a good and kind man finally laid his wife to rest. He wondered what kind of man he’d be today had he never met her. He certainly knew the kind of man he had been; harsh, evil in many ways, quick to anger, miserly, contemptuous. In all of that, he wondered why she had loved him at all.

Before their courtship, he tried to talk her out of loving him and confessed he had little to offer her as the man he was. And any time after, when he would ask her, “Why do you love me?”, she would just smile and say, “Do i need a reason? I just do.”

He, however, knew from the beginning why he loved her. She was everything he was not. It was in that tension and contrast that he’d seen in her the person he ought to be, and the kind of person he wanted to become. For him, that something was love.

He imagined what place in that love there was for judgment; she saw him for what he is now but was not when they met. Nothing would have made him anymore the man now he was except that he judged himself; and rather than condemning and loathing himself, he saw what she hoped for. He was moved more by who she was than any kind of introspection of what he was not.

His final thought was remembering that “God so loved the world” and forgot about a hellish salvation and the schemes afoot to fear all toward God. If his wife could love him, if she never needed to see faults, and trusted that love changes everything, why would God need to do anything more on “Judgment Day” other than to show up to say, “Do I need a reason too? I just do.” and see everything change in response, leaving no need to punish the past; seeing all along, the goodness they’d become. What place in deed.

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That We Bear

It is quite something theologically and philosophically to note that Christ said to pick up our crosses, not his, and follow him.

As we do just that, it ought to immediately say even much more that Christ needed help carrying his own.

How are you doing with yours? Do you “got this”? When you don’t, there’s no shame in the game needing help.

Just a thought.

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