Friday, January 30, 2009

The Question of God's Conduct

I have heard the questions regarding God’s conduct depicted in the Old Testament. I have reviewed various answers people have given regarding this conduct. Some argue that it was required to wipe out a people because of the severity of the sin. Child sacrifice was amongst the injustices being done by these people creating a need for God to command their destruction. Still no matter the levels of injustices it would seem to our modern mind to be an immoral response of a good God. Certainly God could provide a better solution. Of course, maybe in these instances we theorize that He ought to have removed their free will and forced the end of these vile practices. However, these responses have not satisfied me as I am sure they don’t satisfy my atheist’s readers.

I’ve explained that the situation is different before Christ then after, but I haven’t had the words to really communicate this idea properly. I will attempt to do so here, however, bear in mind that this is my first attempt to articulate this at this length and I will not stop giving the subject my attention simply because I have made a post about it.

In the Old Testament, God did not dwell in man. He related to man externally from a place of holy separation for man was contaminated with sin and God being sinless and holy would not be able to have union with man until man was redeemed. The presence of God was actually harmful in a way to man if man is in direct tangible contact with His presence for man was not yet able to bear it. We were created to live lives in union with God, to know His love and truth internally; to share in His holiness. However, sin created a new paradigm where God related truth to man externally through the Law and the Prophets. He in His justice exacted the consequences of sin and rebellion through plagues, warfare, etc. These however, are simply earthly consequences designed to protect those who were in covenant with God for the good of the propitiation of the human race. Moreover, these ways of dealing with man were last resorts; God always gave warning and allowed time for repentance. Scripture doesn’t tell us what the eternal consequences were to these people. It doesn’t tell us that the children of these people are held accountable for their parent’s actions in eternity. I doubt that they would have been. The Bible tells us when Jonah was sent to warn Nineveh that destruction was coming if they did not repent and change their ways, Nineveh repented and God spared them.

When Jesus came a paradigm shift came that all of creation had been building toward. Now redemption is in place and because that changes the situation of man, God relates to man internally. He offers to dwell in us in a love relationship where the relationship is the key to all freedom and life. Obedience to external laws is no longer the key for we don’t need that kind of thing to live a victorious life. We don’t need fear of retribution. We can experience the direct life changing love of God. We can now dwell unabated in the living God and He can now dwell within us. A major shift occurred creating this new way of God relating to man because the condition of man changed. This is why Jesus articulated that greater than any obedience to a law was loving God and loving our neighbor for all the law is fulfilled when we learn to have relationship with God and one another. We don’t need a system of rules to live by, we just need relationship with God which fulfills all that the rules were never sufficient to fulfill.

We can argue that God could have brought this about faster from the beginning, but the story needed to play out as it did for it all to work as it does. God is still the same God, but the condition of humanity has been altered. We can still choose to disregard this grace and we can subject ourselves to external realities refusing the freedom and life in Christ. God will still pursue us with His love time and again giving us ample opportunities to see the gift He has extended to us.

Another paradigm shift is on the horizon when the Lord will return for all of those who dwell in Him to bring all that we wait for into fruition. There remains much to be actualized upon the earth before His return, but it is happening throughout the world more and more as time goes on.

One can argue that none of this is fair. But where do we get our standard of fairness? How do we gage what is fair? One can argue it isn’t just. But where does justice come from? One can argue a good God would never harm anyone for any reason whatsoever, but to what do we appeal as a standard of goodness?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Honor & Grassroots Generosity

My grandfather passed away last March. A memory came to me yesterday of an afternoon he and I went to a local hardware store so that he could purchase an item he needed. The next day, we returned as the item was not what he thought it was. He wasn’t driving any longer being in his late eighties and I was helping him run his errands. We approached the counter to return the item to find that they would not give him a refund because he had paid by check the previous day. Their policy required a ten day waiting period to ensure the check cleared before rendering a refund. We could not exchange it, for they did not carry the item he needed. I was thinking about how this was going to be an inconvenience as we would have to remember and schedule yet another return trip to this store. However, my grandfather was more taken aback at not being trusted than anything else. He told them his check is most certainly good and took it personally that they did not trust his word. While he calmly attempted to procure his refund from the bewildered cashier, I saw the clash of two cultures: one that upheld the honor of one’s word and one that was skeptical of everyone’s words.

Too many have witnessed fraud and deceit to trust a person’s word anymore. There was such a day that there was honor in a man’s word. If he said his account was good for the money, that statement was as good as gold. My grandfather had lived through such an era, but the policy keeping his refund until the check cleared was made in a culture that could not simply accept someone’s word.

I watch today as my country travails through this economic crisis. Businesses are battening down the hatches laying off employees and reducing the quantity and quality of their products and services while increasing the prices. Many are looking out for themselves and I think this is contributing to more economic troubles than if we worked together generously looking out for each other to make it through these times. What if people upheld their word and honor and worked with their employees to find a way to keep jobs while keeping the business alive. Maybe products that are frivolous need a temporary cessation in production to allow greater quality to those necessity items. Maybe cost can be cut in ways that don’t cheapen the products and services. Maybe schedules can be worked out with employees so that those with the greatest needs are given the most hours and those who have second incomes can cut back their hours. There just seems to be a better way than what I am seeing, a way built on generosity and honor and not on selfishness and fear. I think the way we are going to pull out of this crisis, isn’t going to come from more money from Washington, but a grassroots movement of generosity.

Does anyone have any stories of this kind of generosity they have observed or heard about? Instances where employers and employees are working together to help save a company? Instances where people are volunteering their time to help keep their company afloat? Are we thinking about ways that we can serve in these times, or are we only focused on making sure our needs our met? I think there can be a good deal of creative ideas that come from everyday people that can turn these economic problems around. We just need to see beyond our needs to the greater community and nation.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Book Review

I just completed D’Souza’s book, “What’s So Great About Christianity.” Overall it was a good read. I appreciate his scholarly response to the popular new atheism books. To get a feel for the book from a skeptic’s view point one of the endorsements, Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine reads, “As an unbeliever I passionately disagree with Dinesh D’Souza on some of his positions. But he is a first-rate scholar whom I feel absolutely compelled to read. His thorough research and elegant prose have elevated him to the top ranks of those who champion liberty and individual responsibility. . .”

I must say D’Souza tackled very scholarly subjects and presented them in a readable fashion. I would say his book is by far intellectual enough for those who want to think deeply and basic enough for those who are trying to get a hold of some of these issues for the first time.

I did not agree with all of his positions, but I enjoyed the book immensely. He dived deep into historical, philosophical, and scientific territory to give a viable answer to skeptics. Some of the common questions I hear from atheists were regrettably not addressed or were not addressed as well as I would have liked in his book. But other matters were thoroughly addressed that still have me contemplating his research.

I think his book is certainly worth reading for Christians, theists, skeptics, and atheists alike who want to keep up with the popular debates of culture in our times.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

History in the Making

It is an understatement to declare today a historic day in United States history. It appears to be a historic day world wide. The global support President Obama is receiving is incredible. He campaigned on hope and change. People are full of hope and a change has certainly arrived. It is also refreshing to see popular representatives of the Church rise up to show solidarity and respect for the new President despite differences in political and social issues.

Max Lucado and Natalie Grant are calling for Christians everywhere to pray for Obama. K-Love the popular Christian radio station has joined in calling for Christians to pray for our President regardless of differences. Author and Pastor, Rick Warren, is assisting in the Inauguration ceremony. Everywhere I turn I am hearing Christian leaders speaking out about respecting and praying for our President. I am hearing them denounce the way the Christians spoke regarding former President Bill Clinton. I regret I was one who spoke many unkind things about him when I ought to have respected his leadership regardless of my strong disagreements with him and his policies. I had no right to speak less than respectfully regarding him.

I have heard Church leaders celebrating the election of an African American President in a country once ridden with slavery. We have come far from those days and it is a great accomplishment for our nation to elect someone from a minority group that has undergone such mistreatment from the same country.

I am not ignorant of the things President Obama stands for which conflict with Christian morality and positions on various matters. However, by no means should I or any other Christian channel that disagreement into anger, bitterness, or disrespect for our leader.

Paul wrote that we are to pray for those in authority and respect them. He wrote this when Nero was in power. Nero was bent on killing Christians using them as human torches to light his garden. Paul knew this well when he wrote that God wants us to pray for our leaders and respect them as such. I am glad to see much of the Church taking this to heart and committing themselves to pray and guarding their hearts and words to be respectful and kind.

It is a day of hope and change on many levels. Obama faces many difficult decisions in the coming months regarding international matters and the economic crisis at home. He desperately needs the prayers and support of the people as he takes office and faces these great challenges. Let us remember who we are in Christ and always have the attitude of Him who gives of life.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Origin of the Moral Sense

I have been expending a great deal of thought regarding the common contentions I hear from atheists, agnostics, etc. regarding the matter of the origin of morality. My concern is that when I hear an atheist give the “Christian” reason for the existence of moral understanding it is not really the Christian argument at all. Then they proceed to give response to this and fail to give a response to our real assertion. I would think if we want to further understanding and dialog we really need to understand each others position much better and fully address it adequately.

Many of the apologists I am familiar with often spend time getting to know real people of other beliefs and seeking out the expert representatives of those beliefs to truly understand their position. Moreover, when they write a book they give a copy of their manuscript to said experts to ensure that they have fairly and adequately presented their beliefs. This way they can give the counter response to legitimately held beliefs without setting up an unfair straw man.

When I listened to The God Delusion Debate, Professor Richard Dawkins summed up why God is not needed to explain morality. One point that he made was that we don’t need a holy book to give us the rules of morality for we are able in and of ourselves to realize what things a book tells us are good and what are not good. So there must be something outside of reading of a book by which we use to judge morality. This is a very good point, and I concede the point. There is indeed something beyond reading a book even if that book is the Bible by which we know right from wrong. Someone who has never read the Bible still has the ability to differentiate between right and wrong.

Next Dawkins asserted that the only reason a God based morality is needed is to create a fear of punishment by God if one behaves badly or to provide a system of rewards for good behavior. I can understand his reasoning. To him it is complete lunacy to believe God exist. Thus his argument assumes God’s non-existence. If God didn’t exist and God was an invention of man it would follow that somewhere in the past the powers that be used this myth to make people behave out of fear or hope for rewards. All very logical, expect there is one problem. He hasn’t answered the Biblical Christian argument for the reason for morality.

Before I present it, let me reiterate that Dawkins admits that humanity universally accepts a moral right and wrong. He said, “its common sense.” His brief explanation of its evolution is that it probably began with the hunter-gather tribes that formed a value of good things and sympathized with suffering passing on this value from generation to generation. He cited that attitudes towards women and slavery have changed to support that morality isn’t fixed, it is evolving. Again, he only had a few minutes to give a response to such a matter and I am sure he has or could write entire books on the subject.

Now let’s turn to the Christian argument for the reason for morality for Biblical Christianity does not teach that one ought to be good to avoid punishment or to earn God’s favor. In fact, the Bible teaches that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The Bible further teaches that we cannot earn righteousness by good deeds. Nor can we lose righteousness by bad deeds in and of themselves. Our righteousness comes as a gift from God for those who look to Him for eternal life. I am not seeking to insert a salvation message. I am merely illustrating that Christianity isn’t about doing good for the reasons aforementioned.

The Christian argument as best as I know how to state it is this:

A good God exists. He created us good. In actualizing the good into creation, all that is not good became possible, but not actualized into being in creation. For instance, before there was light there was nothing, but when light came into existence darkness became the absence of light. Similarly, the actualization of the good gave that which is outside of the good a potential of becoming something actualized. Moreover, man had freedom to choose between what is good or leaving the good and entering something unnatural so to speak. When the non-good was chosen over the good the non-good came into existences gaining a reality of evil. Thus, man now knew good and evil. This altered the good. This changed the creation, corrupting it, subjecting it to a foreign contaminant so to speak. Now all mankind had in their nature the understanding of a difference between good and evil. It is common sense, as Dawkins says. It is universal. It is in man’s nature. That is why all men, except a few with physiological problems, internally know right from wrong. A struggle between the two natures exists to this day. The good news is that there is a solution to that struggle and it is not found in human efforts to do good things to please a dictator God. It is found in coming back into alignment with our created nature through redemption. God paid the debt to this corruption of sin for us so that we can step forward into a redeemed nature that doesn’t struggle with the corruption of sin. We grow into becoming people who do what is right because of the righteousness that flows through us as one of the many byproducts of knowing the Lord relationally.

To recap, the reason for our knowledge of good and evil is that there is a good God that created a good creation and when by the choice of human will evil entered the picture that knowledge increased to include awareness of what is not good. The struggle in every human between doing what we know in our hearts and minds as good and what is not good is a direct result of the corruption that entered creation. Yet that is not the end of the story, and the way of redemption was provided by God for all who will enter life through Him and the fullness of the glory of creation will be redeemed as well.

I understand that many religions have their own explanation and science has its. I think we need to take a look at them to see if they logically answer these questions of the origin of morality and the reason we have moral understanding. Compare and contrast the different explanations. Scrutinize the atheists’ argument the same as you would the theists’ argument. The truth can stand up to investigation. Most of all be sure you know the position of the one you discount and have researched it fairly and present a response that actually corresponds to the argument given. Don’t set up a non-good God scenario that is not given by theists. Actually respond to what is given. Thank you for your time.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Review: The God Delusion Debate

I watched the “God Delusion” Debate between Professor Richard Dawkins and Dr. John Lennox both esteemed scientists from Oxford University. The debate touched on six of the main arguments Dawkins gives against the existence of God in his book The God Delusion. I regretted that the debate format did not permit much freedom for back and forth dialog. Instead it focused on concise discussion about certain particulars of the book. While I understand this choice of style for the debate, I agree with Dawkins frustration at not having more time to delve deeper into the very important issues discussed. I was glad to see that the Christian organization hosting the event gave Dawkins the first and last slots in the debate.

I did notice that Dawkins and Lennox agreed on several key assertions of Dawkins. Dawkins raised the point that religion ought to withstand the test of science and not be afraid of scientific investigation. Lennox wholeheartedly agreed that there should not be a division between the two and that Christianity is able to be verified or falsified by historical science. Dawkins and Lennox both agreed that science was birthed out of theism. Dawkins was the first to make that assertion in the debate and then Lennox agreed referring to the Whiteheads Thesis.

Dawkins asserted that children should not be taught faith, but skepticism on the grounds that saying “that’s my faith” removes objective thinking and debate and provides an avenue for extremism. Lennox agreed, as he should, that children ought to be taught to be critical thinkers and that they ought to learn how to think and understand the evidences for what they believe. However, Lennox rightly maintained that Christianity is based on evidences some objective some subjective. Moreover that biblical Christianity does provide a framework for scientific investigation, knowledge, thinking etc.

Dawkins has a list in the beginning of this book The God Delusion of wars and atrocities that would not have occurred, he asserts, if there was no religion. Lennox responds, speaking only on behalf of biblical Christianity, that Christianity does not support this kind of thing in the world and gives a counter argument of Stalin, Mussolini and Mao atheistic beliefs rooted in Marxism. I was surprised that Dawkins granted that these men, if Marxist, were products of atheism, albeit as Lennox granted not the sort of atheists Dawkins and other atheists proponents support. I think that Dawkins was saying that it still had to be proven that they were operating out of their Marxism in committing these atrocities, but if it could be proven to come from their Marxism then he agrees it also stems from atheism. I don’t do their arguments justice in this post, please watch the debate yourself.

Lastly I wanted to touch on the issue of God based morality. Dawkins asserts that one does not need God to be moral. Lennox grants that atheists certainly can be moral without believing in God. Dawkins, however, gives two main arguments of why we don’t need God for morality. One is that we don’t need a holy book to give us morality because he says that we pick and choice what is moral from the text. Two he asserts the only reason to need a God based morality is out of fear of God’s retribution or out of a desire to earn His favor and be divinely rewarded. He then says humanity universally accepts a moral right and wrong. It’s common sense, he claims. He posits the development of morality coming from the relationships of small hunter gatherer groups that valued good and sympathized with suffering and as time evolved this concept was passed on through the generations. He said there seems to be “something in the air” that gives modern consensus of morality. He says that attitudes towards slavery and women have changed, thus morality changes therefore it is not based on a fixed system.

Lennox responds that indeed we have moral understanding, because we were created with it by God. Our behavior can mirror good actions without knowing God, but we cannot support the foundation of what “good” is without God. He quotes from Dawkins previous books that he grants that we are merely products of our DNA in a world with no good and no evil. From there he asks Dawkins how he can then discuss good and evil if there is no such thing. Dawkins said the two don’t contradict; it is true that there is no real good and evil and yet we experience a humanity who has a moral construct.

I will close this post without adding my own thoughts to Dawkins discussion on morality. However, I will write another where I address them. I do wish that such a debate happens again with more time for dialog on these and other issues. I feel it is very profitable to have such discussions.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bible's Treatment of Women

It is stereotypically asserted that all religion usurps the rights of women and makes them second class citizens. Only a gross misinterpretation of Scripture can lend itself to supporting this idea with regards to Christianity.

When God created Adam and Eve and in the Garden of Eden, He vocalized that what He had created was good. Differences in attributes do not equate to differences in equality. Some schools of thought try to equate sameness to gender differences to promote equality. However it is not necessary to stifle diversity to create unity.

(read more)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Jack is Back!

The opening scene of the new 24 season depicts Jack Bauer before a Senate Panel answering questions as to the legalities of the performance of his job. Bauer is known for breaking the laws to do his job when the law encumbers him from his mission. Just the same, Bauer is never cavalier towards the laws of the land. Such a statement seems contradictory. On the one hand, Bauer will break the law and on the other he upholds it with great passion. The reason he is able to do this is that he understands the reason for the laws are to protect individuals and the nation as a whole. However, when the law ceases to serve the purpose by which it was enacted it becomes an encumbrance and no longer a life giving protection. Thus, Bauer obeying a higher law understands that if he follows the law for the sake of the law the reason of the law is unfulfilled. But if he upholds the reason for the law more than the law itself he can do his job and protect the American people.

This idea is captured in National Treasure when Nicholas Cage’s character dialogs with Justin Bartha’s character standing before the Declaration of Independence in the Rotunda. Cage reads the famous line “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” At that moment, Cage realizes he must steal the Declaration of Independence in order to protect it. He was prepared to break the laws of the land in order to protect the history of the land. While it is debatable whether stealing can ever be a good idea, the point of this illustration is that there is something greater than the law of the land to which people appeal. The Founding Fathers presented the Declaration of Independence to the King of England appealing to a higher law of endowed rights by the Creator which were being usurped by the King giving them grounds to fight for their Independence.

I am reminded of when Jesus healed on the Sabbath and the Pharisees rebuked him for breaking the law of the Sabbath by working. The law, in their mind was about the law in and of itself. Jesus knew the law was there to give life not to take it away. Thus when He encountered a person needing healing he did not hesitate to give life for the law of the Sabbath was not really being broken for it was the Pharisees that misunderstood its purpose. It is so like man to corrupt something meant for good and change it to something causing bondage and legalism. Instead of seeing the laws as life giving protections, they saw them as restraints and rules that must be adhered to for their own sake thinking that by doing so it made them righteous. All throughout Scripture it is illustrated time and again that it is our assurance/faith in God that brings righteousness, not obedience to laws. This is why Jesus explained that love fulfills all of the law. For if one truly grasps what it means to love one another from a place of being filled with the Father’s love one is always life giving by nature and has no need to check a list of laws to guide their behavior.

The Founders understood this principal for they often wrote about the people of America being self-governed according to their faith in God and thereby not needing encumbering laws and legalized morality. Alexis De Tocqueville famously wrote that the strength of America was in her churches and that, America, as it stood then, could never be brought down by outside forces, and that her greatness could only diminish if her goodness found in the hearts of the American people diminished. “American will never cease to be great, unless America ceases to be good,” he wrote. The Founders were resolved that the Bible should never cease being taught in the American schools and they did not give the federal government power over education in America. It was not until the late 50’s and 60’s that all that changed and the federal government entered the school system causing the conflict of church and state.

Bauer stood resolutely before the Senate Panel confidently responding to their questions, his conscious clear for he had time and again protected the nation that now stood against him. However, before the hearing could even get started Bauer was called into action and whisked away by the FBI to enlist his service for his country. As the plot twist, he finds himself once again on the wrong side of the law albeit for the right reasons.

Friday, January 9, 2009

C.S. Lewis Re: God's Love

"There is a kindness in Love: but Love and kindness are not coterminous, and when kindness (in the sense given above) is separated from the other elements of Love, it involves a certain fundamental indifference to its object, and even something like contempt of it. . . Kindness, merely as such, cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering. . . It is for people whom we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any terms: with our friends, our lovers, our children, we are exacting and would rather see them suffer much than be happy in contemptible and estranging modes. If God is Love, He is, by definition, something more than mere kindness. And it appears, from all the records, that though He has often rebuked us and condemned us, He has never regarded us with contempt. He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense."

-C.S. Lewis, from The Problem of Pain

Dorothy Sayers: The Origin of Evil

Excerpt from The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy Sayers written in 1927 on the topic of the existence of evil with regard to the existence of a good God.

Note: As an author of mystery novels and as a playwright she uses analogies of authoring a book or a poem or play in her discussion about the nature of God.

We will also remember that we are not, for the moment, discussing what happens to a bad writer. A bad writer is so clearly the author of the badness in his books that the point scarcely needs making. If the Creator of the world is wicked, then we are not - obliged to think up difficult answers to the question, "Who made the Devil?" The difficulty only arises when we say, "God made everything and God is good: then where did Evil come from?" Is there, then, within the terms of our analogy, any sense in which we can say that a good writer is the creator of artistic evil-or artistic "wrongness"?

It is here that we come up against a bunch of fascinating speculations about the "on kai me on"-being and not-being. It is all very well for Marlowe's Faustus to exclaim impatiently, "Bid oncaymeon farewell"-the inquisitive mind finds it very difficult to bid farewell to this intriguing subject. "Being" we can make a shift to understand, but what is "not-being"? If we propose to ourselves to "think about nothing", we find we have engaged in a very difficult exercise. It does not seem to be quite the same as "not thinking about anything". "Nothing" only seems to remain nothing so long as we refrain from thinking about it; any active thought is apt to turn it into a "sort of a something"-it acquires, in fact, precisely that vague and disquieting sort of reality that we are accustomed to associate with the minus signs in algebra. Professor Eddington has put the essentials of the problem neatly before us in the riddling query: "Is the bung-hole part of the barrel?" It depends, as he says, on what you mean by "part"; it may also depend, to some extent, on what you mean by the "barrel". This is where we get tied into knots over the definition of Evil as the "deprivation of Good"; we have to explain to ourselves why this wholly negative concept takes on the appearance of a very positive and active phenomenon.

"He created the world out of nothing"-nothing existed before it was made; that is, colloquially speaking, easy. It is less easy if it presents itself in the form: Before the creation of anything, nothingness existed. The somethingness of nothingness attains in the minds of some philosophers so convincing an aspect of reality, that they ascribe to it qualities and a mode of existence. _ Berdyaev finds in the nothingness that preceded creation the origin and abode of freedom, including the freedom of will;

'The world and the centre of the world-man, is the creation of God through Wisdom, through Divine Ideas, and at the same time it is the child of meonic untreated freedom, the child of fathomless non-being. The element of freedom does not come from God the Father, for it is prior to being.... Fathomless freedom springing from non-being entered the created world, consenting to the act of creation.'

And he adds:

If we think deeply and consistently we are compelled both to identify evil with non-being and to admit its positive significance. Evil is a return to non-being, a rejection of the world, and at the same time it has a positive significance because it calls forth as a reaction against itself the supreme creative power of the good.' ( Nicholas Berdyaev: The Destiny of Man.)

The phrase in all this that is perplexing is, I think, that which asserts that meonic freedom is "prior to being". If God is the ultimate and absolute Being, then the suggestion is-not merely that "nothing is prior to God (which, in the purely negative sense is an orthodox truism), but that this nothingness is a somethingness, with a property of its own, namely Freedom, and a mode of existence of its own, namely Time. For the words "prior to suggest a priority in Time. The conclusion would seem to be that there was a time when God (who is Being) was not. Elsewhere, however, Berdyaev maintains that God exists in the mode of Eternity, which has no connection with Time at all.

Time is so intimately the mode of our own existence that it is equally difficult to conceive of Time apart from Being or of Being apart from Time. Perhaps this means that we ought not to try to conceive of them separately: for scientists frequently warn us that questions which produce meaningless answers usually turn out to have been meaningless questions. It may be more fruitful to consider Time as a part of creation, or perhaps that Time is necessarily associated with Being in Activity-that is, not with God the Father but with God the Son; with the Energy and not with the Idea.

This is where our analogy may be useful to us, by demonstrating the curious association of Not-Being with Being, and the still more curious effect that both exercise upon Time. What I want to suggest is that Being (simply by being) creates Not-Being, not merely contemporaneously in the world of Space, but also in the whole extent of Time behind it. So that though, in the absence of Being, it would be meaningless to say that Not - Being precedes Being; yet, in the presence of Being that proposition becomes both significant and true, because Being has made it so. Or, to use the most familiar of all metaphors, "before" light, there was neither light nor darkness; darkness is not darkness until light has made the concept of darkness possible. Darkness cannot say: "I precede the coming light", but there is a sense in which light can say, "Darkness preceded me".

Shakespeare writes Hamlet. That act of creation enriches the world with a new category of Being, namely: Hamlet. But simultaneously it enriches the world with a new category of Not-Being, namely: Not-Hamlet. Everything other than Hamlet, to the farthest bounds of the universe, acquires in addition to its former characteristics, the characteristic of being Not-Hamlet; the whole of the past immediately and automatically becomes Not- Hamlet.

Now, in a sense, it is true to say that the past was Not - Hamlet before Hamlet was created or thought-of; it is true, but it is meaningless, since apart from Hamlet there is no meaning that we can possibly attach to the term Not-Hamlet. Doubtless there is an event, X, in the future, by reference to which we may say that we are at present in a category of Not-X, but until X occurs, the category of Not-X is without reality. Only X can give reality to Not-X; that is to say, Not-Being depends for its reality upon Being. In this way we may faintly see how the creation of Time may be said automatically to create a time when Time was not, and how the Being of God can be said to create a Not-Being that is not God. The bunghole is as real as the barrel, but its reality is contingent upon the reality of the barrel.

Arguing along these lines, we may make an attempt to tackle the definition of Evil as the deprivation or the negation of the Good. If Evil belongs to the category of Not-Being, then two things follow. First: the reality of Evil is contingent upon the reality of Good; and secondly, the Good, by merely occurring, automatically and inevitably creates its corresponding Evil. In this sense, therefore, God, Creator of all things, creates Evil as well as Good, because the creation of a category of Good necessarily creates a category of Not-Good. From this point of view, those who say that God is "beyond Good and Evil" are perfectly right: He transcends both, because both are included within His Being. But the Evil has no reality except in relation to His Good; and this is what is meant by saying that Evil is negation or deprivation of Good.

But we have not quite finished with our Hamlet example. So long as Not-Being remains negative and inactive, it produces no particular effects, harmful or otherwise. But if Not-Hamlet becomes associated with consciousness and will, we get something which is not merely Not-Hamlet: we get Anti-Hamlet. Some one has. become aware of his Not-Hamletness, and this awareness becomes a centre of will and of activity. The creative will, free and. active like God, is able to will Not-Being into Being, and thus produce an Evil which is no longer negative but positive. ( Theologically: privatio issues in a real depravatio. -Robertson.) This, according to the ancient myth of the Fall, is what happened to Men. They desired to be "as gods, knowing good and evil." God, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, knows Evil "by simple intelligence"-that is, in the category of Not-Being. But men, not being pure intelligences, but created within a spacetime framework, could not "know" Evil as Not-Being - they could only "know" it by experience; that is, by associating their wills with it and so calling it into active Being. Thus the Fall has been described as the "fall into self-consciousness", and also as the "fall into self-will". And we may see why the Manichaeans were to some extent justified in connecting Evil with Matter; not that Matter in itself is Evil, but that it is the medium in which active Evil is experienced.

Once more, our literary analogy may be used to illustrate this distinction between Evil known by pure intelligence and Evil known by experience.

Our perfect writer is in the act of composing a work - let us call it the perfect poem. At a -particular point in this creative act he selects the "right" word for a particular place in the poem. There is only the one word

that is "dead right" in that place for the perfect expression of the Idea. The very act of choosing that one "right" word, automatically and necessarily makes every other word in the dictionary a "wrong" word. The "wrongness" is not inherent in the words themselves - each of them may be a "right" word in another place * -their "wrongness" is contingent upon the "rightness" of the chosen word. It is the poet who has created the "wrongness" in the act of creating the "rightness". In making a good which did not exist before he has simultaneously made an evil which did not exist before. Nor was there any way by which he could possibly make the Good without making the Evil as well. (*Always excepting, of course, words like "sportsdrome" and "normalcy", which are so steeped in sin that no place is "right" for them, except Hell, or a Dictionary of Barbarisms.)

Now, the mere fact that the choice of the "right" word is a choice implies that the writer is potentially aware of all the wrong words as well as the right one. In the creative act, his Energy (consciously or unconsciously) passed all the "wrong" possibilities in review as an accompaniment of selecting the right one. He may have seized immediately upon the right word as though by inspiration, or he may actually have toyed with a number of the wrong ones before making the choice. It is immaterial which he did-the Energy has to give out more sweat and passion at some moments than at others. But potentially and contingently, his intelligence "knows" all the wrong words. He is free, if he chooses, to call all or any of those wrong words into active being within his poem-just as God is free, if He likes, to call Evil into active being. But the perfect poet does not do so, because his will is subdued to his Idea, and to associate it with the wrong word would be to run counter to the law of his being. He proceeds with his creation in a perfect unity of will and Idea, and behold! it is very good.

Unfortunately his creation is only safe from the interference of other wills so long as it remains in his head. By materialising his poem-that is, by writing it down and publishing it, he subjects it to the impact of alien wills. These alien wills can, if they like, become actively aware of all the possible wrong words and call them into positive being. They can, for example, misquote, misinterpret, or deliberately alter the poem. This evil is contingent upon the poet's original good: you cannot misquote a poem that is not there, and the poet is (in that sense) responsible for all subsequent misquotations of his work. But one can scarcely hold him guilty of them.

Misquotation, misinterpretation and deliberate distortion produce the same kind of evil in different ways. We may feel that they are quite dissimilar offences. Misquotation arises from carelessness or bad memory; misinterpretation from lack of understanding; deliberate distortion from a perverted intention: we may call them mechanical (or material) defect, intellectual error, and moral wickedness. In fact, however, they have this much in common, that they all arise from the circumstance that the other person is not God and is trying to be "as God". The poet (within the terms of the analogy) is God-the one and only God of that particular creation. He is the only mind that knows its own Idea. If anybody else could be the god of the poem, his Idea would be identical with the poet's Idea, and his Energy would issue in the same "good" creation. But since that is not the case, the new will runs counter to "God's" Idea, and by associating itself with "wrong" words produces active Error.

To be sure, the new will may be full of excellent intentions. The better the intentions, the more strongly does the will associate itself with them, and the more disastrous the results. To say, carelessly, "caviare to the multitude" instead of "caviare to the general" is an error made almost without wilfulness, which does comparatively little harm to Hamlet. It is more harmful to Hamlet to quote:

more honoured in the breach than in the observance

as though it meant "more often honoured" rather than "more properly honoured", because the Idea is more violently distorted, and the loss of Power is greater. But infinitely more damaging than either to the Power of Hamlet is to behave like David Garrick, and re-write Hamlet deliberately for the express purpose of improving it. This kind of grasping at equality with God really does do untold damage. It reduces a noble work of creation to nonsense; and the excuse that Garrick thought he was making it into a better play only aggravates the presumption.

The mind of man has always appreciated this ascending scale of Evil, from the material through the intellectual to the moral. It recognises that the moral Evil is the worst, because it is associated with more will and more self-consciousness, and consequently with more Power. Power can proceed from Evil, so soon as Evil is called into active Being, because it then comes back as it were into touch with God, the ultimate Being and source of Power. For this reason it is said that all activity is of God-even evil activity. Such Power as anti-Hamlet possesses derives originally from the Power that is in Hamlet, without which it could have no Being.

What are we to do with the anti-Hamlets? In this particular case we can, to some extent, check the evil and prevent it from doing harm in the future, though its record of past evil remains. But there is a further thing we can do. We can redeem it. That is to say, it is possible to take its evil Power and turn it into active good. We can, for example, enjoy a good laugh at David Garrick. In so doing we, as it were, absorb the Evil in the anti-Hamlet and transmute it into an entirely new form of Good. This is a creative act, and it is the only kind of act that will actually turn positive Evil into positive Good. Or, we can use the dreadful example of David Garrick for edification, which is what I have tried to do here, in the hope that this will prove to be a good, creative activity.

We can do this, only if we first get back into contact with the original great Idea that was in Hamlet-since we can never see how wrong Garrick was till we realise just how right Shakespeare was. In such ways, we can (while still thinking it a pity that David Garrick ever set pen to paper) enrich the world with more and more varied Goodness than would have been possible without the evil interference of David Garrick. What we must not do is to pretend that there never was a Garrick, or that his activities were not Evil. We must not, that is, try to behave as though the Fall had never occurred nor yet say that the Fall was a Good Thing in itself. But we may redeem the Fall by a creative act.

That, according to Christian doctrine, is the way that God behaved, and the only way in which we can behave if we want to be "as gods". The Fall had taken place and Evil had been called into active existence; the only way to transmute Evil into Good was to redeem it by creation. But, the Evil having been experienced, it could only be redeemed within the medium of experience-that is, by an incarnation in which experience was fully and freely in accordance with the Idea.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Power of Reconcilliation

This past week I observed a poignant reconciliation between a Native American Chief and a leader of an international ministry representing the Church. The minister invited the Chief to come and receive a much deserved apology from the Church for the injustices incurred against his people in the past. The Chief was honored with gifts and blessings for his people. An offering was taken up and given to him in full for the needs of his people. I saw the Chief wiping tears from his eyes as the two leaders embraced. The Chief said he held no bitterness towards anyone for the crimes committed, but he accepted this apology on behalf of his tribe. Another Native American Chief by the name of Bigpond was there and he spoke about his efforts to bring reconciliation, forgiveness, and restoration to his people. Senator Brownback is working tirelessly to put through legislation which will have the government officially issue and apology to the Native American people for the injustice done to them. Such a mending of relations with the Native Americans will be good for our nation and will help the native people immensely.

I have been to several other reconciliatory exchanges; one in my city and one in Nashville. All have been deeply poignant and meaningful. The Lord says that if my people humble themselves and repent I will hear them and heal their land. Our land is in the middle of a huge economic crisis among other problems. We most certainly need the Lord’s healing of our nation. Notwithstanding, reconciliation is the right thing to do even if it was our ancestors that brought about the injustice.

One of the things discussed at the conference I attended was about how awesome it was that our nation would go from a place of degrading slavery to a place of electing a President from the same race that was once treated thus. This shows a new day has dawned for Americans. Many of us, myself included, may not support the policies of the President elect, but we must treat him with utmost respect in all we say. We must learn how to respect people with great kindness even when we hold political or religious differences.

I also just finished reading an historical fiction book written by Robert Cornuke. It brought to the forefront the mistreatment of the Chinese people in our land that continued well after the Civil War. They were still treated like slaves after slavery was outlawed. They came over in search of good honorable work to send money home to their starving families only to be abused and treated like scum to build our railroad.

I recall the story of the missionary who went to share the gospel with a violent tribe and through a misunderstanding was murdered along with his team by the tribe. The story is recounted in the film The End of the Spear. Years later the wives of the murdered missionaries went back to the tribe to communicate their forgiveness and they were received and the whole tribe became believers of Jesus. The children of the missionaries and the children of the tribe are now good friends.

As Christians we need to be the first to stand for justice and be the first to repent for the sins of our fathers. It doesn’t matter if it was our fault, it was injustice done in our land. The only way for healing is through continual forgiveness and reconciliation. We, as believers, should always have an attitude of reconciliation, restoration, and forgiveness no matter if we were personally responsible or not. I Corinthians 13 tells us that love keeps no records of wrongs. It always trusts, always perseveres, always hopes and never fails.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Random Thoughts

I am still trying to digest all that I have learned this last week. I spent several days at a conference out of state and have so much I want to write about, but am still processing it all. I also got several good books for Christmas and many DVDs, all of which have good content to write about.

One thing that I heard at the conference has been on my mind ever since. I had recently written a post about considering others greater than ourselves; however, I feel my understanding of this verse grew by leaps and bounds at this conference. The speaker was talking about how he used to work as a stock broker many years ago and he got really good at selling the stocks at their height just before the market dropped reaping the highest profit possible and leaving the buyer without a profit. God convicted him that he was not thinking of the buyer and only himself. The speaker began to talk about being fair in our business transactions to be sure that we are looking out for the other person or business and not just our own interests. He spoke of always paying what is due to another in a timely manner. I began to think of how this practically works. How often have I felt I was owed a good deal on merchandise I wanted without thinking of what my deal might cost the seller? I really want to work on keeping this kind of mentality to consider others in all I do—to switch my focus off of “me” to blessing those around me. God will take care of me. I don’t need to worry about making sure I profit the best from a transaction, but that all is done in fairness considering the others needs first.

Another thing that was discussed at the conference was the election of Obama. While many in the Church do not support his policies, it is our duty as followers of Christ to respect all those in authority and to pray for our leaders. When Paul wrote that we ought to respect all in authority, Nero, a great persecutor of Christians was the man in charge. Many Christians are reacting out of fear to the potential changes coming in the Obama administration. We should not be reacting out of fear. We should be praying for his safety and his administration. We should speak respectfully of him. Yes, in this land we have the right to voice disagreements about policies and laws and we can do that and should. But we must do it with respect to the authority of the President. I wasn’t very kind regarding the Clinton administration. I didn’t understand what I do now. I spoke many things I shouldn’t have. But that is not the Lord’s way. I intend to guard my tongue and strive to speak always kindly and respectfully regarding Obama. I want to change my thinking in this. While I still disagree with many of his policies, I will respect him as my President. I will pray for him.

These are the two main things that keep rolling around in my mind since the conference. I have much more to write on in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.