Archive for the ‘ Sharper than… ’ Category

Why Ignorance Isn't Bliss

Found some humdingers asserted by a young man on a friend’s wall recently, that while not really needing a response due to their falsity, are at least helpful to address.

The initial status update states:

People often say, “Trust in yourself, believe in yourself.” Well, God says I’m a fool. Would you trust a fool? I wouldn’t…

The unbelieving young man’s response is to say this:

Would you trust someone who belittles you and says things that are simply falsehoods?

Note a couple things. First, the complete and utter lack of argumentation offered for the assertions. Second, the use of “simply”, as if there isn’t a need for proof to be offered. Why on earth does he imagine that there is no argumentation necessary for a boldfaced denial of the initial statements he is responding to? At very least, I’d hope he would realize that he should have one. Unfortunately, I don’t suspect this to be the case.

My response, due to the incredible unargued assertion, is to ask:

What is “belittling” about the truth?

He responds:

You have lived your own life. Not god. No one else has. Only you. You can choose to follow a religious calling. But at the end of the day the only one who got you to where you are is you. The creator may put things in your path but when all is said and done you must act upon it. Therefore we are not foolish or anything. We simply are presented with life. we must chose how to do it right. You must trust yourself for god to be able to do anything. And any god that considers you a fool, a sheep, or any number of things, is not worthy of my love. It’s a falsehood that we are foolish. There are stupid people, but only foolish mistakes. Not foolish people. Does a mistake make one foolish?

Amazingly, he considers this response sufficient. I think not. First, what reason are we given to consider “living your own life” to be relevant? Second, how are we supposed to connect “therefore”, prior to “we are not foolish or anything” with either “the only one who got you to where you are is you” or “you must act upon it”? What is the “therefore” there for? We aren’t told. Third, we are told that we are “simply” presented with life – we must (choose) how to do it right. Presumably, it seems, also choose what right is? If I recall, that is what Adam and Eve’s initial sin amounts to. Why this is supposedly an objection to the Christian position, we are not told. Fourth, we are told that we *must* trust ourselves in order for god to do anything. A strange sort of “god” that he has in mind, by any accounting. Even more puzzling, however, is that we are told “any” god that considers us a fool, a sheep (or any number of things – does that include ‘a person”, incidentally? I mean, we wouldn’t want to offend this interestingly capricious fiction, now would we?) is – catch this – not worthy of his love. Well, now that we’ve established that humanity gets to decide what is worthy or not, thus turning the concept of “god” utterly on its head, we see what the real issue is, don’t we? He goes further in his redefinition of… well, everything he encounters. It is (why, we aren’t told) falsehood that we are foolish. Really? Says who? There are stupid people (granted), but only foolish mistakes. Forget that he’s directly contradicting the Scriptural witness – it’s just the way he says. Because he says so. At least, we aren’t given any other reason, as far as I can tell. There not any foolish people. Are we told why? he asks, finally, “Does a mistake make one foolish?” Who on earth said that, and why on earth would someone ask such a silly question? It puzzles me.

I responded to him in a comment, but since nothing he said was in any way (even remotely) related to what I said, I’m not going to bother repeating my comment here.

His next reply was as follows – and here’s where it starts going off the rails badly.

Your god is not my Shepard.

Given that there’s no such thing as a “Shepard”, I’d hope not. But more seriously, if he had actually read the Bible cover to cover, like he claims later, he’d know that he is a goat, not a sheep, hence “shepherd” hardly applies to him in any case. Does he think it does? It seems like it.

I am a pagan and I am proud of it.

Pagan comes from the word “paganus” in Latin – it means “rustic”, or “country-dweller”, ironically. It later became a pejorative, but is hardly descriptive of what he is, in either case. Technically, he is someone who acts μωραίνω – foolishly. First, because he is, in fact, ignorant – and proud of his ignorance. Secondly, because he denies what he knows – and Scripture calls that man a fool.

The christian god needs constant unwavering devotion or he will cast you into a lake of fire for all eternity.

Not exactly. He wants moral perfection in all regards, including, and most importantly towards Himself – which is the devotion that is due Him.

Some loving father in heaven if you ask me…

Were you under the impression that He loves you the same as He loves His people? I don’t believe that, and Christianity doesn’t teach that. Deformations of Christianity teach that, but they are heresies of various degrees. Hence, it goes to show that our putative scholar might want to re-examine the level of his Scriptural knowledge.

The only one capable of living your life is you.

While gratifyingly bumper-sticker worthy, and perhaps even worthy of an Ayn Rand cameo, what does this have to do with anything? We aren’t told.

Why trust that to a deity that will throw you into the pit without hesitation?

I’m sorry, aren’t you mixing pronouns? God doesn’t throw his children into the pit at all, let alone without hesitation. You’re the one who needs to worry about that. Nobody expects you to trust Him, after all. You’re a self-professed unbeliever, and self-professedly rebellious towards God, and believe that you determine 1) What is right and wrong 2) Whether God is right or wrong. Remind me again why I should believe I’m under the same condemnation as you are, when the Bible teaches otherwise?

You wouldn’t trust a fool, and I would not trust a lord that will cast me to the devil for questioning.

First, no I wouldn’t. You are right. So why should I trust you? Secondly, where on EARTH do you get the idea that the devil has anything to do with questioning, or of the administration of the lake of fire, as seems to be your implication? Do you get your Christian doctrines from Looney Tunes, or the Bible? If it’s the former, you could say that the devil “reigns” in Hell, but not from the Bible. Hell is where Satan is cast along with every other sinner, per the Bible.

As to god giving you your life and determining every point, that would be contrary to all forms of freewill…

No, just ones that define “freedom” like a toddler does. Where they get to do “whatever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want.” No, the Bible quite clearly states that there is no such thing, nor should there be, in a world with a sovereign Creator. Why this objection is supposed to impress anyone, I haven’t the foggiest. Were you under the impression that “free will” in the sense that most unbelievers affirm was an orthodox Christian doctrine?

That would make you no more than a puppet. A toy to be discarded at the earliest convenience.

A common claim, but with no argument provided – leaving us with yet another unargued assertion. Seemingly no knowledge of the mountains of material written on the subject, either. Just as an assignment – what did Luther claim was the hinge on which the entire Reformation turned? What was the debate between Augustine and Pelagius about? Inquiring minds want to know.

You call me rebellious? I am. I respect and worship the creator, but I do not follow blindly

Yes, you are. No, you neither respect or worship Him, because you refuse to accept Him as He is, and try to usurp His throne at every point. You don’t follow at all, let alone blindly.

After this… interesting… exposition of Christian doctrine, I replied again, as follows:

1) You seem to be under several misapprehensions about basic Christian doctrine. 2) You return to your misapprehensions at every point, thus causing a disconnect with the reality of this position on each and every point. 3) Since this is the case, you are objecting to a straw man – which, although it burns quite merrily, does no damage to the actual position you seek to address.

His reply was this:

Alright tell me specifically, where I am wrong. I’m that obnoxious type of pagan that has read the bible cover to cover. I don’t really object to the ideas or the doctrines. What I have a problem with is people who post a status like this or who try to make converts of all of us. They are so unlike their great teacher. I also would like to address the fact that by worshiping god you are infact guilty of the same thing that he cast lucifer into the pit for. He loved god too much to obey him in his orders to the angels to worship man. If he cast his most beautiful angel in heaven in the lake of fire for insisting upon worshiping him, why wouldn’t he to you.

For someone who has read the Bible “cover to cover”, he didn’t seem to have grasped much of it, if he makes such major errors. It is also hard to imagine that he doesn’t “really object to the ideas or the doctrines” when that seems to have been the entirety of his putative objections thus far. Of course, they are objections to doctrines that only exist in his imagination, for the most part, but it still doesn’t make much sense to say this. What else would you be objecting to, anyway?

I also find it rather amazing that his next sense is an objection to the doctrine of… the Gospel. You know, trying to convert people? By telling them what the Bible says? I mean, it’s sort of hard not to laugh when you see someone contradict themselves so blatantly. Especially when you follow that with the assertion that… this is “unlike their great teacher”. If I didn’t have reason to believe this was serious, I’d be having a good laugh. As it stands, I’m just wondering where he “learned” Christian doctrine from. That’s… not even remotely accurate. Not to mention the fact that he doesn’t say why this is the case. Again.

The next bit is truly weird. He claims to have read the Bible cover to cover.. but then claims that God 1) Has already cast Satan into the pit (He hasn’t) 2) Did so for NOT worshiping MAN (This is.. so unbelievably wrong that it makes my head hurt.) 3) Insists that Satan was cast into Hell for… worshiping God, rather than for trying to… usurp God’s place as the one worshiped, as the Bible says. What Bible did he read? I’m really wondering, now. It’s just crazy. But, of course, what do we know about Christianity? We’re only Christians who study the doctrine and theology of our own Scripture. What could we possibly know?

Truly amazing, the things you read on facebook.

The Possibility of Middle Knowledge

I’m going to include the transcript of a discussion I had (along with several others) with a Middle Knowledge proponent that frequents AOMin’s chat channel. The reason I do so is in order to give an example of how the argument I advanced recently functions in an actual discussion.

The discussion was fairly wide-ranging, but I think demonstrates the ability of a consistent return to the nature of God as the foundation of a reply to the assertions advanced by proponents of MK and other similar philosophical systems, over against the Biblical conception of God’s nature and the modal collapse I feel this outlook necessitates.

Discussion linked below.
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New Year? What about a New Man?

We all like to think that as we start a New Year, everything will be different. We make resolutions, we resolve, in effect, to be “new men”. I think, however, that as we resolve to do things, that if we refuse to set, at the center of these wanted changes, a truly efficacious agent of change, we will fail – and fail miserably.

Let me explain. We make resolutions, right? What is to keep us resolved to carry through with them? Self-discipline? I can’t speak for everyone, but my measure of self-discipline is pitifully small, and not up to the task of keeping me resolved to the type of things we routinely set as goals for ourselves. Not on my own, at least. What else could keep us resolved? Fear of failure? Embarrassment? What else?

Here’s my solution, and see if this makes sense.

This morning, we studied Ephesians 4:17-24, which, in my Bible, is entitled “The New Man”. I think it may have some lessons for us in how to become, in reality, the “New Man” we are supposed to be as followers of Christ.

It reads:

So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

What does that have to tell us about becoming, in truth, a New Man?

Verses 17-19 explains what we should not do. The example used is the “Gentile” – not the physical racial groups known as “Gentiles” (or Non-Jews, which are the vast majority of the people of the world), but the spiritual Gentiles – those who are excluded (alienated in the NKJV) from the life of God, as verse 18 says. In other words, we are to take as examples those who have chosen the path antithetical to our own – and to do otherwise.

First, Paul says very clearly that this is not his message. He says he affirms “together with the Lord”. This is clearly an apostolic (on his authority as an apostle) command, and is directly from God.

Second, it is a directive to REFRAIN from doing the things which following – and, if you are already doing them, to stop. “No longer” is what he says. Interesting, that. That tells me that he is fully aware that all of us, to some degree, are embroiled in the way this other lifestyle does things. He is fully cognizant of this, and directly confronting it.

Thirdly, he explains what lies *behind* this process. The mind. Their minds are futile (devoid of truth and appropriateness – used as “vanity” in 2 Peter 2:18) in their endeavors, because they are missing the knowledge that is critical to supply what is lacking in the pursuits that Solomon calls “Vanity” – meaning, and purpose. A knowledge of God.

Their understanding is darkened” – “darkened” is the word skotoo, which is a metaphor for a blinded mind.

alienated from the life of God” – alienated is the word apallotrioo, which means ” to be shut out from one’s fellowship and intimacy”. Life? This is the same word Christ uses when He promises a life more abundant. That sort of life. The very life of God. How unimaginably heartbreaking – not only that there are those who are apart from that life – but that we choose to imitate them!

the ignorance in them” – ignorance refers especially to ignorance of divine things, or moral blindness. So, they (and we who choose to imitate them) are not only intellectually blind, but morally so!

“hardness of their hearts” – the word means to become “calloused”, to have their perceptions blunted – to be stubborn or obdurant – to become obtuse. In other words – to become dull, and unused to discerning things clearly.

So, the passage goes on to say, that callous leads to a lack of sensitivity – a lack of discernment – which leads to a wanton slide into the practice of sin. Sound familiar, Christians? Or non-Christians, for that matter.

A lack of perception leads to a lack of moral discernment, and a lack of moral discernment leads to increasingly sinful behavior.

But, the passage says – we did learn Christ in this way! We didn’t! We know better. It is a willful ignorance, and a willful slide into this morass.

Paul goes on to tell us that we have been taught the truth – and that truth teaches us that we are to lay aside our former selves, which are being corrupted, and we are to be *renewed* in our minds. We are to put on *new* selves, in the likeness of God (sound familiar? A life of God, mentioned earlier?) which were created in righteousness, in holiness, and in truth.

This is what we are to do.

Romans 12, which was our Sunday School text today, says something very similar.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

New Year’s Resolutions? How about a New Man Resolution, to go with it? Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Of my mind. Of your neighbor’s mind.

So, on that note: Here are my resolutions.

1. I resolve, with the help and sufferance of God, to spend time, daily, in the Study of the Word, and in prayer before Him.

2. I resolve, with the help and sufferance of God, to use my gifts in His service, following His plan to strengthen His Church.

3. I resolve, with the help and sufferance of God, to strive to become the spiritual head of my newly-formed family, and to take seriously the role which God has placed before me.

4. I resolve, with the help and sufferance of God, to place the Glory of God in the place it deserves – the primary place – and to make this the aim of all my endeavors.

5. I resolve, with the help and sufferance of God, to stop neglecting my talents for music, design, and writing, but to use them to the best of my ability for the duration of this year.

That’s it – those are my resolutions for this year. I covet your prayers, your advice, and your accountability.

Perhaps the greatest thing I have taken from Schaeffer is as follows: For a Christian to act like a Christian, towards the world as well as other Christians – they must follow two important principles in their thought life.

1. Take every thought captive to the mind of Christ. This means that every single thought – in every area of our lives – must be in conformance with those of Christ. All too often I have seen this verse be used to castigate our thought life as the deeper motive behind our sinful actions – which is true, to an extent. It usually is linked to the teaching of Jesus that even a sinful thought is sin. This leaves us wondering – how can we escape, then? Well, let me ask you something. Upon what basis are we being re-taught how to think as Christ would think? Are we being taught this? Are we willing to learn this? We see the results of non-Biblical, un-Christlike thinking all around us – and even in our own lives. How is, though, that you retrain your thoughts? God renews our minds – this is one part of it. We must, however, put in the effort to think on topics in accordance with what the Bible says about them. Which means that we must study all topics, at all times, with prayer and meditation, from a Biblical perspective. We must try to think, and actually think – as God would. Will we succeed perfectly? Will we even succeed at all in ourselves? No. I have found, however, that since I have started an earnest study into “God’s thinking”, that I have been thinking better, thinking more clearly, and thinking of things “from the perspective of Biblical truth” much, much, much more often than I would have ever dreamed. It’s extraordinary how God has honored my commitment to study how I should think. When Solomon asked for wisdom – God gave it to him – and praised him for it. Should we do any less?

2. We are not only to learn to think as God would, but we must recognize and confront (lovingly, but firmly) the thinking that is not of God. There are several reasons for this. We must know the “language” (or, better, thought-forms) of our surrounding culture well enough to be able to confront what is there – and not a misrepresentation of what is there – and bear witness to the Truth of God in that culture. (Although this analogy “breaks” in a couple points – it may be useful to some as a general direction.) We must, if we are to instruct others about God and His Truth, be able to recognize and identify the arguments originating from this antithetical, distorted “truth” that confronts us. Once we know how they think, (and we must be able to recognize, identify, and refute futile thinking) we can then show them God’s Truth – and be able to contrast True Truth and distorted truth. We must be grounded – really and truly grounded – in True Truth, in order to counter the distortions of it. So, we must both know Truth, but how to recognize deviations from that Truth. In order to recognize a lie – the Truth must be understood. It must be understood to such a degree that it is not only defended as Truth, but simultaneously used on the offensive against distortions – or lies.

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