Monthly Archives: April 2017

It Is What It Is!

It is entirely untrue that if we line up all scholars and theologians and have them discuss whether or not the Bible in inerrant and preserved, that there will be an even divide. In fact, there is no divide at all. There is essentially a splinter; much like an elephant realizing he has a freckle on his ass. That’s about the “divide” on the matter! That little dot, there’s the so-called divide.

Even in the most conservative setting — take Dan Wallace of Dallas Theological Seminary, for example — no one genuinely thinks scriptures were preserved. Like Dan, they say the message has irrespectively been preserved, but the text clearly has not.

Consider that either the text has been preserved and resurrection isn’t part of the Gospel because Mark’s version teaches us absolutely nothing about it, or the “long ending” was original to the text (which no scholar believes), or the original ending of Mark has been lost and resurrection was given some kind of theological significance in that lost portion; which is the position of folks like Tom Wright, retired Bishop of Durham and a leading Pauline scholar.

But there’s no need to talk about preservation or inerrancy when the pretence is 1) that there isn’t an overwhelming agreement that the bible is full of errors and contradiction and so on, and 2) that there’s not that same overwhelming agreement that preservation of the text isn’t just doubtful, but just not there; variant texts, missing portions, redaction, additions and so on. The person arguing counter has other motives for disagreeing than because of evidence and diligent argumentation and rigorous study, in every single case I have encountered.

The hypocrisy is utterly amazing because anyone arguing this way does so dishonestly in order to cast doubt on what we are justified to believe about scripture. The irony is that such a person claims to be doing so in order that we can talk about scripture without having doubts. That is insane and a complete effort to make truth relative not to facts, but to put poor psychological need.

Listen, it’s not that what’s true is by what’s believed most; ad populem is a fallacy. What matters though is that the reason scholars and theologians overwhelmingly agree that scripture has not been preserved and that it is errant is because there are overwhelming reasons why no rational person would genuinely think otherwise!

This one isn’t “just a thought”; this one is a clear matter of facts.

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What’s The Agnosis, Doc?

The common use of the term “agnostic” doesn’t make any sense.

No one should be absolutely certain about anything they believe, indeed most aren’t. That’s because certainty has no bearing on something being true, and I’m not arrogant enough to say I’ve nailed something down permanently; save a few experiencial brute facts. Psychology isn’t Epistemology.

So, “agnostic” can only be said to describe the fact that “I’m not absolutely certain”, in which case that word attaches to all my beliefs and as such, describes nothing at all. Saying “I believe” is no different than saying “Though I’m not certain, I believe …”. Even in conversation, we only do that sort of thing when we feel we are certain: “I’m positive that …”, or, “Surely!”, or, “I’m one hundred percent certain that …”. Otherwise, we simply say “I think this is the case”.

Agnosticism is instead the position that nothing can be known about transcendent realities.

An Agnostic Theist is then one who believes there may be or is a God, but admits that he doesn’t and can’t know anything about God.

An Agnostic Atheist would be one who rejects all god-talk as false when asserted, for the fact that such talk has no referent but admits he can’t know if they are otherwise actually true.

An Ignostic is an Agnostic who doesn’t even take the question of transcendent realities seriously for the fact that god-talk can’t have a referent and is then literal nonsense.

A.J. Ayer’s “Language, Truth, And Logic” does a great job of scolding everyone but Ignostics and being forgiving of the position theists are in, though he thinks Theism is bunk too. He outlines the strengths and weaknesses of all. A great read for anyone curious about the logic behind these various sorts of ideas about the existence of the divine.

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Who Am I?

Personal identity cannot be known without a relationship to something outside of one’s self. This is why inquiry is important, science, truth-telling, because if we do not face reality as it is, then we won’t have the clearest understanding of ourselves. This combines a few ideas in Philosophy and a major one in Psychology; Existentialism.

If understood to be true, then our identity is revealed in things we are most drawn to. This puts at the fore three incredibly important ideas to any theology.

First is that we are drawn to others. Second is that while we are drawn away from the good almost as much as we are to it, it is the good we seek; be that in moral goods or simply in aesthetics such as the beauty of art and music, or in the symmetry of maths. Finally, whatever God is, He is what a person would desire naturally. In that case, we cannot say we are drawn to God while claiming humanity is totally derived or by nature, evil, vile. Otherwise, we would desire God for being vile, for being evil, for His supreme depravity.

Instead, there’s no difference that makes a difference between the nature of man and the nature of what God is; no difference between the experience of God and the experience of goodness.

There is then no grounds for a theology which paints the nature of God with a different brush, different color, different stroke than the nature of man. Our ultimate identify would be revealed not by the magic and impossibility of knowledge of transcendent beings, inconceivable by definition. It would be through these relationships, through which our nature is revealed and refined through experience. It is then imperative that theology center itself most about human relationships more so than even the pretense that we can actually have relationships with the gods ourselves; we can’t.

Just a thought.

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A Disconnect

If in the United States Of America you do not know why there is such a thing as Black Theology, then you neither know what it means to be black in America, nor what the Gospel itself is. And if you cannot figure out what it means that there is Queer Theology, the same applies. If on the other hand you feel welcomed by the idea of Prosperity Theology, the result is the same: you neither know what it means to be rich, nor do you know what the Gospel itself is. Finally, of the three, if you only find one of these theologies legitimate rather than only one being illegitimate, then I sincerely hope you are not one of the reasons that blacks and LGBTQ resonate so deeply with the core thread of the Gospel; namely, the promise of liberation from oppression.

Just a thought.

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By Faith …

To walk by faith, to live by faith, is not to believe things to be true by hook or crook, or to hope really, really, quite a lot that something is or will be the case.

This is what was lost on Protestantism.

To walk, live, be a person of faith is to admit that each new step one takes is one made in ignorance. It is a step into the complete unknown in order that something new may become known. That next step cannot have the breath of comfort breathed into it from past experience; trust in God here has no other bearing than to say that whatever the next step brings, be it misery, suffering, death, or joy, it will serve some purpose. That ought not bring any measure of ease in actually taking that next step.

To be of faith in any meaningful sense then, isn’t to think wild thoughts and mandate they are true. Instead, it is to have the deliberate, determined thought of doing something wild by venturing into the unknown completely unprepared and ill-equipped, one step at a time. So then to truly understand a person of faith in this way, from the outside, is to start with the question of why they continue to walk by faith.

It’s not really any mystery as to why someone may take an initial step or two in faith. The real mystery would be why they would continue to when it should eventually be obvious it’s not paying off. The moment of pause for the onlooker would be to think that this faithful person isn’t insane but rather just like I am, because that’s more likely the case than not. At that point, any interlocutor must at least by benefit of the doubt or in a principle of charity think something very tangible and meaningful exists in this practice of stepping out into mystery, the kind that often gets named “God” but can only genuinely be known in the relationship between humanity and the world, the good.

Just a thought.

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On Evangelicalism

God is an idea that only finds meaning in those who both have an impression of volition in reality and do not believe their ultimate fulfillment can be found in themselves or in a material world.

It seems this way to the Evangelical too as all their efforts are spent in trying to convince folks that there is a God that you need and can’t live without.

What few consider is that God and where the idea gets its meaning aren’t from facts of the matter and then for so many, is completely artificial and unjustified if accepted​ without both conditions being genuine dispositions.

The fact that anyone can genuinely not have an impression of volition or genuinely feel completely fulfilled in life begs the question of the entire mission of the Evangelist, for he literally convinces no one of these two fundamental requisites.

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Resurrection is an idea that didn’t occur to the Jews until just before 1CE; a clear Hellenization. In the popular view of resurrection, it was a way of showing vindication by God for the suffering of His people. This is perfectly parallel to other earlier ideas of vindication held in Judaism; which by the way, all involve vengeful violence. In all instances, vindication is a response of God’s people in the face of their suffering and God’s complete lack of intervention.

When we come to the Jewish Jesus, the Christ, the expected emancipating warrior prophet, what do we do when he is summarily beaten, stripped, and hung on a cross with his first and only encounter with the forces he was to liberate God’s people from?

Well, if you’re Mark, you may well venerate his life in the same way Dennis McDonald suggests other historically significant contemporaries were; tell Jesus’ story in the fit and literary form of great Greek works such as the Odyssey. If you’re unlike Mark, you vindicate Jesus in expected ways given his completely unexpected and particular demise; you resurrect the man. And fitting the Jewish function of vindication, you put the entire meaning of Christ into his resurrection because your vindication from the shittieness of your life of woes is directly tied to the fact of whether or not God’s eventually going to ever do a damned thing for you at all too.

Both vindication and resurrection are at the bottom of it all, admissions by religious folks that God doesn’t deliver. They stand to say that the world is violent and you are its only cure. If not, the gospels would look a lot more like Mark. That is, that Christ needs no theology of vindication, just an ear to hear Jesus talk about theosis, our resolution to the need of vindicating systems, inclusive of resurrection, through the complete participation in goodness and the complete rejection of all ideas of violence.

To use the resurrection as vindication of the death of Christ is to admit that evil won because God actually did nothing at all. To say the resurrection is the rejection of violence is uninteresting; that’s not much different than the Phoenix; it’s an endless cycle of defeat and death. But to say life is found after we’ve done away with violence is significant. It is a roadmap to the Kingdom.

I couldn’t personally care less about arguments for resurrection, be it “the fact of” or “the types of” or the literalness or centrality in the Christian tradition. Jesus, it seems to me, needs no vindication and therefore needed no resurrection the Jews had in mind in 1 CE, which was much different than what the Christian has in mind today. I do however care very much about the ways in which we will engage the world and view it once we’ve finally gotten rid of this list vestige of violence known as resurrection where in its place is simply the presence of shalom that we must constantly breathe life into.

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Eat Up!

This Easter, I hope we all realize that sacrifices are food bribes. These have been propitiatory​ in nature, to appease. The Jews only evolved the idea a bit more, and some time just before the common era, sacrifices were also expiatory, purifying.

As you have your wafer and wine this weekend in the evolutionary Christian version of food bribing, realize that for once in history, the absurdity of sacrifice was pronounced; it is you and only you accepting a food bribe — figuratively from God — to satisfy your wrath, and making God acceptable to you once more.

Instead of realizing we’ve always been the only ones needing sacrifice rather than God, we’ll keep thinking God is the object of Jesus’ death; satisfying His bloodthirsty wrath. I’m sure Jesus’ death has nothing to do with God’s mind changing about us. One of these ideas is consistent with love and I’m pretty sure only the mob was bloodthirsty and only to the mob Jesus, as sacrifice, was given.

Just a thought​.

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About Last Night …

The idea that there are a set of beliefs which we must privilege is mistaken. The idea that one set of premises supply warrant to a proposition only if they cannot lead to other conclusions is mistaken as well. The idea that warrant is absent from beliefs about brute facts is mistaken. Here’s why:

If we take “I exist” as a belief that I must take axiomatically, on faith, and that there is no warrant for such a belief, then there are no other warrantable beliefs which arise from it. In other words, as an axiom, all ideas related to it are tautology. Tautology only proves other tautology and certainly we don’t mean by “warrant”, “proof”, because real states of affairs are our concerns rather than simple rational thinking. It may be true that all of the same “reasons to assert” “I exist” can be the same reasons for the idea that I am all that exists, there are no other minds, reality isn’t real, and so on, but the “reasons to assert” are “warrant” and it simply turns out that there are many conclusions that are warranted using the same “reasons to assert”.

So, is the belief that “I exist” taken on faith since I can believe something else? No! Again, you have warrant for the belief and for additional reasons aside from the shared “reasons to assert” something else, you cannot believe alternatives otherwise. They honestly do not seem to be the case. Being convinced, being certain, or some other psychological state has no bearing on the fact that you believe “I exist” is the case. That is to say that I may have doubts, psychologically, when confronted with some other argument against my belief that I exist, but I do not doubt in any genuine epistemological sense that the actual state of affairs is that I exist.

Since doubt and reserving judgment and belief all require warrant, then my belief that “I exist” is immediately a justified, warranted belief because it occurs naturally, uncontrived, and obviously to me more than any other thing I may wish to believe about reality. It cannot be said that this belief lacks justification because I have not deliberated the matter. The fact that I may be wrong about “I exist” isn’t justified grounds for me to doubt “I exist”. There is no place then for faith with respect to my existence. It is from experience that the idea has occurred to me and experience is the reason the belief is justified, as it sustains the belief “I exist” rather than defeats it or casts genuine doubt on it.

This is true of all such primitive “brute facts”; whether or not I have blind faith in my senses, or that my trust in my senses does in fact have warrant; whether it is a matter of faith that the next moment will be consistent with previous moments; whether there are other minds, and so on.

The object of faith is belief. The object of belief is a state of affairs. One need no faith at all in these beliefs about these states of affairs because each has warrant. And, even if we simply assume these propositions without committing to believing them true or false, we still are not acting on faith. We have simply adopted a set of propositions, provisionally, in order to ferret out a full sense of what the implications of them could be.

I personally do not take these things provisionally but as matters of fact that I know as fact and that I have complete justification for in spite of competing ideas. I do not take any of these on faith as my confidence about my belief relies on objective reality, not hope, and empirical experience affirms rather than conflicts with my belief. I need not privilege this belief because it is just as open to revision as any other belief that I have, and all of those are revisable because of the fact that there is an objective reality. How do I know there’s an objective reality? Well, non circularly, I just explained it. The key is, knowledge is not privileged either. It is a collection of justified beliefs. I know there is an objective reality because to doubt there is is to literally pretend for the sake of doubt.

Quite simply, there are no beliefs about any other states of affairs that have more grounding than these which have in this conversation been named “properly basic”. They require no faith to believe. We can accept them provisionally or adopt them and induct them into the realm of human knowledge. Either would be done through, and only through, warrant. However, they are still beliefs and should be given no special privilege, open to the same revision as any and all other beliefs should.

“Let us now return to our biconditional (T): the assertion that p is true if and only if (really) p. The intuition that this sentence expresses could also be reformulated as such: an assertion is true if and only if it is the case as was asserted. We can now think what ‘place’ such an explanation of the concept of truth can have in our practice of making assertions. This practice is of a ‘normative’ kind: assertions are moves in a language game that are “justified” or “unjustified”. We are entitled to assertions if we have good reasons to assert that p, or if we have convinced ourselves through our perception that p — or also if someone whom we have good reason to trust has said to us that p (i.e., reason for the assumption that this Someone could provide good reasons). What we learn when we learn a language is — among other things — to judge in a reasoned way and to distinguish between justified and unjustified assertions (convictions). This suggests a new interpretation of the biconditional (T), which no longer frames it as an attempt to interpret truth as an agreement between statements and states of affairs, but rather as an attempt to determine the place the word “true” has in our assertive and justificatory praxis. Accordingly, we could now read the biconditional as such: someone is justified in asserting that p is true precisely when he or she is justified in asserting that p. And this could now be further interpreted as saying: to say that an assertion is true is nothing other than to say that the assertion is legitimate (grounded, justified). Truth would then become no more than “warranted assertability” or “rational acceptability.” The concept of truth would consequently be drawn back into justification.”

(Albrecht Wellmer, “The Pragmatic Turn In Philosophy: Contemporary Engagements Between Analytic And Continental Thought”, State University Of New York, 2004, Page 96)

“There is no property of truth intrinsic to the explanation, but only a vast array of explanatory stories of the identical form, none of which need use the predicate (Truth) and none of which, therefore, requires the identification of any mysterious property or relation to which the predicate might supposed to refer.”

(Pederson & Wright, Truth And Pluralism: Current Debates, pg. 264)

“According to model-dependent realism, it is pointless to ask whether a model is real, only whether it agrees with observation. If there are two models that both agree with observation … then one cannot say that one is more real than another. One can use whichever model is more convenient in the situation under consideration.”

(Mlodinow/Hawking, The Grand Design)

“We cannot begin with complete doubt. We must begin with all the prejudices which we actually have when we enter upon the study of philosophy. These prejudices are not to be dispelled by a maxim, for they are things which it does not occur to us can be questioned. Hence this initial skepticism will be a mere self-deception, and not real doubt; and no one who follows the Cartesian method will ever be satisfied until he has formally recovered all those beliefs which in form he has given up. It is, therefore, as useless a preliminary as going to the North Pole would be in order to get to Constantinople by coming down regularly upon a meridian. A person may, it is true, in the course of his studies, find reason to doubt what he began by believing; but in that case he doubts because he has a positive reason for it, and not on account of the Cartesian maxim. Let us not pretend to doubt in philosophy what we do not doubt in our hearts.”

(C.S. Peirce, Some Consequences Of Four Incapacities, Journal of Speculative Philosophy [1868] 2, 140-157)

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Deus Amor Est

God is love, if there is a God at all.

It seems to me that whatever I can obtain isn’t expansive or exhaustive enough to be considered divine in nature; it is human. The problem of evil is then a human problem rather than a divine one. That is because though we always can manage just a bit more depravity, we do and must stop and come to grips with ourselves in that state, exhausted. In that state, we compare it to its opposite. We can say we understand depravity by moving deeper into it, having prior depravity as the bar. But we can’t say, “This was evil, but this evil I do now is much worse”, without first having a basis for recognizing a trajectory at all.

Is our basis of a trajectory neutrality then? Evil? Goodness?

It seems that we fail at being evil, on the whole, and natural ability tends toward naturally accomplishing rather than failing at that which is most familiar. Is evil what is most familiar to you as you encounter others or as you genuinely assess who you are? Is neutrality? At least at first blush, the natural state of man is being inclined toward goodness.

That taken as our basis, we recognize love by love, and evil by love and our departure from it. With love, we have no sense that it has an end, and when experienced, that we could be exhausted in experiencing it. It continues. We do often recognize it as the opponent of evil, but it is an experience which requires no evil in order to know it at all. There is no previous good, in love, that has become evil when we move deeper in love. The previous good stands simply as a marker of a moment in which we less completely understood the depths of love.

To be clear, no person seeking the goodness of God ever did so because God resonated with the evil inside of man. God is not evil. It was the desire for goodness, something which was more familiar, more basic to him than evil, that caused him to seek it out. God is the trajectory of humanity and His experience is love inexhaustible. Love is the revelation then of God, of our humanity, and the bridge between what is infinite and finite.

God is then indeed love, if there is a God at all.

Just a thought.

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