Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Simple Question

With this being the last day to post on the blog and classes officially ending last Wednesday, perhaps as many of you are as checked-out as I am, or feel like. So instead of asking a deeply, philosophically/theologically-penetrating question about the nature/character/conception of God, I figured I would boil down the whole semester's worth of classes into one simple question: What was your favorite reading? Which one stuck with you after reading it? Which one seemed to open up things and made you see things differently? Or, simply, did none of the readings impress you? Of course, it's boiled down to sound like a one-response sort of answer will do, but feel free to expound on your enlightenment.

A few of my favorite readings:

The Dalai Lama's argument for "Interreligious Harmony" - it seemed to me he was able to eloquently craft a response to both pluralism and exclusivism.

John Hick's "Soul-Making Theodicy" - I thought the concept of a type of moral evolution was interesting, considering modern religion's aversion to even the word "evolution."

C. Wade Savage's explanation of the "Paradox of the Stone" - this was probably my favorite discussion in class because I was able to walk away with an "answer" to the paradox, which left me feeling quite philosophically smug.

So, what would your re-cap sound like?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Hurdles for theists

There are many situational facts which may seem incompatible with a 3-O deity. Arguments have been made on either side that we have looked at. My question, which is the greatest problem for the theist to solve in order to dispel non-believers' claims? Personally I believe that evil is the greatest problem; certainly God could conceive of a situation in which the world could function in a way that one may soul-build yet be absent of evil. It seems reasonable that a God would be capable of producing beings without the faculties of choosing/doing wrong. Your problem?

Sunday, November 23, 2008


So I may be jumping ahead, in talking about this article but I wanted to tie this in with our discussion about Karma. When we were discussing the philosophical problems with Karma, I was surprised to note that Karma and its ties to the caste system, and the suffering derived from castes that is ignored because of the concept of Karma was never brought up. To me this seems to be the most damaging argument--that Karma in a way desensitizes people to others suffering. Perhaps this is a branch of the determinism problem, but I think Rushdie's editorial touches on the problem of desensitization in an interesting way. Any thoughts?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


After reading "Karma, Rebirth, and the Problem of Evil", the argument that was presented caused me to believe that maybe Karma doesn't actually offer an explanation for suffering and evil. I have always thought that Karma offered a good explanation for the some people or cultures of why evil and suffering exists, but this article caused me to rethink my ideas. The main point that caught my attention was the idea of the memory problem. In order to learn and progress, we must learn from our mistakes. Since in Karma you do not know what punishments are being given for, whether from a past life mistake, or a recent mistake, there seems to be no way to morally progress. This idea puzzles me because no one would ever know which wrong doing they are being punished for and can't learn. Also the idea of death puzzles me with Karma. Everyone eventually dies which means everyone has done wrong and is being punished, but if someone does everything right, like for example Jesus? Some explanations are given in the reading, but I don't think they totally answer the question.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Okay, I am still hung up on something that maybe someone can help me with. A few weeks ago, we were talking about religious experience; I believe the Julian of Norwich reading. If I recall, the terms "religious" and "spiritual" were being used interchangeably. I said something in class on how I did not think that they mean the same thing. I am still wondering about it. Spirituality to me seems less organized and structured than religion. I looked up 'spiritual' on Merriam-Webster and saw that there are different definitions. Some having to do with religious matters and the one that I think I was hinting at; "of or relating to supernatural beings or phenomena". Its the awe that one feels witnessing a sunset or the feeling when in a place of meaning, such as an ancient ruin or a historically significant location. The first beliefs humankind might have had (as I see it) would have been spiritual. Did religion then grow from a group of people's spiritual beliefs? Does spirituality still exist or has it been replaced by religion? Can someone who is a firm believer in some religion be also spiritual? So I guess I need to find the distinction (if one exists). These seem like petty questions or something that should be obvious, but I have been thinking about them.

Monday, November 3, 2008

3-O God and Existence of Evil

I noticed something I believe Matt said right before the end of class today that we didn't get a chance to expand upon, and I believe might have supported the general argument we were debating. Taking for granted that a 3-O god is a creator god, wouldn't it necessarily follow that the creation of evil had to have come from this god? In which case, it seems to me that this would completely negate the omnibenevolent claim. And if we argue that evil is not created by this god, but either has always existed or was created by some other force, wouldn't this negate the omnipotent claim? Basically, this evidence seems to reiterate our stated argument that "Since evil exists... no 3-O god can exist."

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Revelation as Authority

Our discussion about religious experience got me thinking about what actually counts as evidence or authority. It seems to me that there are so many levels of possible deception that make it impossible to determine whether a religious experience is really genuine. There is the possibility that the person is lying, and did not really have the experience. Then there is the possibility that they really did have the experience, but it was a dream or hallucination or from some other natural explanation. Last there is the possibility that they really had the experience, and it really was God or something supernatural communicating with them, but that thing itself is actually deceiving the person. Most people of faith would be uncomfortable with the possibility that their revelation is genuine, but God is actually lying to them, but I bring it up simply as a logical possibility. It is also possible that Satan or whatever other supernatural being is posing as God to give someone a revelation. Deception can enter the picture at any point in this chain, and even if you are the person experiencing the revelation, how can you even determine its validity, let alone convince anyone else of it?

This is important because ultimately all religion comes down to a spiritual experience of some kind. Christians take the Bible as their authority, but what gives it its authority? The revelations given to the prophets and other authors, and later Paul's vision of Jesus are all varieties of revelation, as is the recitation of the Qur'an to Muhammed. Even the canonization process ultimately goes back to asking what authority the compilers of the Bible had to do so, which is connected to apostolic succession and their own religious experiences. What makes one legitimate and not the other, and how do you know? We can't say that all religious experiences are equally legitimate because obviously some are mutually exclusive. So we must have a way to distinguish what is real from what isn't. There seems to be no way to do this besides one's own personal conviction in the strength of their experience, but anyone from any other faith has the same argument and equal convictions of their own.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

In the reading by Julian of Norwich, I thought that the idea that she wanted "to be one of them and suffer with them" was very interesting. She wanted to be one of his friends who witnessed his pain and suffering so that she would feel she was more deeply connected to God. This idea is not one that many I have heard before, but I found it interesting that so often we hear in church about what God did for us, and should devote ourselves to him, but not how we should try to experience what he went through to allow us to see the world more clearly. She desired to be so close to death in order to better allow her to know what Jesus experienced and allow her to have a closer relationship. I thought that she was a good example of someone who had completely dedicated her self to the pursuance of God and heaven.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Morality vs. Reason as Argument for God

In our discussion on Monday, we debated the concept of morality as proof of the existence of God. Basically, I thought the overall argument was very weak, and someone pointed out that where did morality come from, did it just appear at some point in the evolutionary process? I thought about it, and I believe that instead of morality, our sense of reason might make a better argument for God.

First, our morals make us do things that are not at all evolutionarily beneficial. There is nothing beneficial to feeding the poor, or rescuing abused animals. I think that any argument we make for the existence of God must also fit in with our understanding of the evolution process. Reasoning makes more sense in this context, as it has allowed us to grow and adapt as a species. Second, many of us showed support for in our discussion, morality is not one single idea, it is not objective. Morality is a very subjective concept. We can see this in slavery. A thousand years it was widely practiced and generally viewed as acceptable. Nowadays it is virtually banned across the globe, and the majority of humans would agree it is wrong. This shows that morality is contextualized. In contrast, reason is a singular concept. While the conclusions we draw through reasoning can be different, the way it is practiced is not. Since that is a vague way to say it, I compare it to this. 2 painters will use the same brushes and same paint, and end with a very different piece, but the fact that they both "painted" is the idea I'm trying to explain.

My point of all this is, wouldn't it seem like a better argument to use reason instead of morality as evidence of God?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Free Will in a Physically Governed World

I wanted to bring this up when we were reading about the problems between Free Will and Divine Foreknowledge, as per the obvious subject matter, yet somewhere along the way I got distracted by various other things. And then we started discussing God and the Teleological argument, which led to the Intelligent Design scenario, and somewhere along the way everyone became encapsulated with the Physics of the universe and how they'd apply to God (or not apply). And again, I missed a chance. Here we are now discussing (or at least will be) how morals come about, or more specifically, an objective moral reality; The Moral Argument. Paul Copan digs deeply into the theist perspective (which I concluded to be, as was mentioned several times, very "easy" [read: unproblematic]), and compares (or contrasts, rather) that to the naturalistic perspective. Ah, naturalism. As Copan would put it, the "it just is" scenario. Conditions all just happened to be perfect, and presto: existence -> consciousness -> morality.

Well, so that's that. I don't want to talk about morality. I want to go back to Free Will, but I want to leave the Physics and leave the Naturalist approach to the discussion. Free Will - The idea that you can choose freely what you will or will not do (more or less, work with me). Physics - all those mathematical equations that work out to numbers that actually apply to the way material things work; a governing factor in the way things are, one might say. Naturalism - supports the idea that science is applicable to philosophy in a methodological way. This leads the way for evolution to find its place in the discussion of "why things work the way they do" when it comes to the actions we take.

And after all of that convoluted nonsense, I get to my point. In a universe that's either governed by the laws of God or the laws of physics (which would be responsible for evolution), where does Free Will find itself?

And in case I'm just as horribly bad at making a clear point as I'm sure I think I am, I have this to offer: a scene from the movie Waking Life (which I highly recommend seeing). I am referring to the monologue by David Sosa, Professor of Philosophy at UTexas at Austin (starts at the parenthesis, goes til the three asterisks). Dr. Sosa posits the idea of Free Will in a phyiscal world much more eloquently than I, however it is just that, merely posited. I am curious to hear your thoughts, or to merely stir them.


Education Reform

For some time now I have been troubled by the secondary (high school) and elementary public school systems here in America. I believe that because we live in this American society, which is made up of a melting pot of different cultures, and because of the unprecedented levels of people interacting globally, we here in America must raise the caliber of education in Primary and Secondary education.

Though there are quite a few areas I could point out that need “reworking” in the Public School System in order to give students the best possible education to prepare them for living and working in the 21st century, in this blog I will only investigate and raise questions about one area of the “ideal” curriculum: should religion/culture studies be added to the curriculum of Primary and Secondary education?

I believe that there should be additions to the curriculum of elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools that require students to take a certain amount of hours in Religion/Sociology/Philosophy to prepare them (as much as possible) for the effluvium of peoples, cultures, and ideas that they are likely to encounter in the interconnected world of the 21st century and to teach them how to think openly about said world.

From my research I have found that the majority of the Public Schools previously mentioned, do not offer or require these types of classes.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008


I recently had the opportunity to see the documentary "Religulous," hosted and for the most part produced by the comedian Bill Maher. Bill was born to a Jewish mother, but was brought up in the teachings a Christian faith. During this time, many doubts were brought into Bill's mind about the benefit/ cost aspect of Religions as well as the validity and the absudity of their teachings. My question has to deal with the first inquiry Bill has. Does relgion cause more good than bad? He cites in the movie that Religion has been the motivating factor in much violence over human history. He further postulates that for there to be peace in the future that the Word's population must evolve or progress past these structured beliefs. After watching this movie I was still on the fence. Does Religion cause more harm than good? and For there to be peace in the world do humans need to move past the archaic religious traditions of their ancestors?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I was so intrigued by our "Paradox of the Stone" debate that I mentioned it to my dad one night at dinner, and he made an interesting observation. His argument was that no, God cannot possibly make a stone he cannot lift because God controls gravity. In zero gravity, anything is liftable.

This makes sense, given that we agreed in class that God easily has power over biological and physical phenomena. Since gravity is nothing more than physics, it follows that God can manipulate gravity, thus making anything liftable without compromising the integrity of his omnipotence. While I admit this is not the most ground breaking revelation to the argument, it did provide a little extra illumination for me, so I thought I'd share it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

How well would God do on Jeopardy?

This is a question I was pondering over the summer that goes along with what we are currently talking about in class. It seems if one is going to say that "God" (or how ever you wish to call this supreme being) is all knowing, all powerful, and at the same time wholly compassionate and forgiving, you have to give up the ideas of freewill and hell. The reason being is if you live a life that would be considered worthy of going to hell, God would have known this before you even existed, and there would be nothing you could do about this because your liefs course has already been laid out. One could try and argue that God is only wholly compassionate if you ask for forgiveness, but what does this solve if from before you had even existed God knew if you were going to do this or not.

In order to fit our best interests of free will and punishment would we not have to surrender the idea that God knows everything? You can still grant this being with the ability to know much of what will happen in the universe, but if God does not know exactly when you will ask for forgiveness, or even if that is what you will do, it then allows him to act on your actions. There is a problem with this line of thought as well, because it would have to be determined how much God could and could not know to be able to make just decisions about our lives. For example if he knew everything except weather or not you were going to use SPF 30 or 29 on Augusts 27, 2010 at 12:00, it seems he knows to much about what will happen in your life to grant you freewill. The solution to this problem would be to put God on Jeopardy and find out how much he knows... I'm kidding of course.

Another argument seems to be that if God is truly and completely compassionate and forgiving one would not have to ask for forgiveness, but I will let the responders to this blog post fight that one out.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

If a Creator does not exist

Although this is completely unrelated to what we are currently discussing in class, I have been thinking more about religion lately, and some questions have come to mind. All of our readings are discussing ideas behind religion and a supreme creator. I was wondering for those philosophers who do not believe in a Creator, how would they explain the phenomenon of speaking in tongues? I have witnessed this before from a close individual whom had never lest the United States, and would have never known any other language, they spoke in tongues. I know it is off topic, but I thought someone may have some ideas.

Jack London, Medusa-truth and Maya-lie

My Studies in the Novel course is overlapping a bit with this course, and I am currently writing a Paper on Jack London's philosophies and their prevalence in  his novel "Martin Eden". I stumbled across this article and I am using it as the basis of my paper. However, and I hope I'm not jumping ahead of the course, I think this article has some interesting remarks on the a perspective of God/man's reason for life.

It speaks about the medusa truth and maya lie and I was interested to see if any of you recognize this and if so if you could enlighten me more on it's origin. If not, well here is the article and perhaps we will discuss it later either here or in class. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Durkheim and Suicide

From the reading on Durkheim I thought that when he said that the tighter the social ties, the lower the rate of suicide. The idea was that in Protestant countries the people have greater individual freedom and are more on their own before God, and Catholics have a more integrated social community. The Protestant countries tend to be more egoistic and therefore more suicide. I think that this notion is interesting that the more individualistic a group or society is, the more likely they are to be selfish and commit suicide. It seems that the role that religion seems to play in a society can be a very important one. It is strange to think that simply depending upon whether someone is Protestant or Catholic can determine their likelihood to kill themselves.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Elitism, Politics & Religion

The above article is written by author Sam Harris ("The End of Faith", "Letter to a Christian Nation") about the underlying issues within the political arena that have been brought to light by the candidacy of Sarah Palin for Vice President. Putting aside the elements of being a Republican or Democrat (which I admit is difficult given what each party brings to the conversation), the article raised a few questions for me.

Does political elitism equate snobbery? It would not be looked upon negatively to expect our soldiers, doctors, athletes, or pilots to be elite (as Harris points out). But when it comes to the political field, elitism carries the element of snobbery to it. Being knowledgeable about the world; its policies and practices, seeing power and desiring to be the best all of a sudden is looked down upon. I see elements of Nietzsche's master and slave moralities here-we want people to lead that are like us, we want to see compassion, pity, etc.

From our reading on Durkheim, morals cannot be divorced from religion. Is it possible then to have a democracy that is neutral on religion but has moral principles? Or are we forced to have the religion card played time and again? Whose religious morals do we follow or are they the same? I sense pluralism around the corner with this argument. There is talk of wanting God back in the government/classroom (at least there was in the environment I was brought up it) but whose God or view of God?

Sunday, September 14, 2008


This weekend has been one of the craziest weekends i've experienced in a long time. It has really pointed me to the fact that people really are good. Sure they may not always act like it and they slip up, but i think deep down inside us all there is a desire to love, to help and to build one another up.

This past wednesday night, one of my bestfriends/roomate's brother passed away in a car accident. I was woken up thursday morning by his aunt who wanted to get into our apartment to break the news to him. After about an hour or so, he packed up and went with her to Greensboro to be with his family. Needless to say, it was a rough morning.

Thursday night, my roomates and I drove to Greensboro to spend time with our roomate and his family. When we arrived we were welcomed by everyone as if we were part of the family.

This past weekend was filled with tears, laughter and recollections of past memories of my roomate and his brother. It's weird though... in the midst of the tragedy and sadness, I got to see the goodness in people really come out

Friends that had long slipped through the radar suddenly popped back up and came to my roomates side to love him and do whatever they could to help. Flowers were sent in, phone calls were made to encourage and uplift the family, and today at 3pm, almost 1,000 people showed up to share in the celebration of his brothers life and to be there for my roomate and his family.

I personally saw so many people come forth to offer support and love to his family. I think it's cool to see how emotionally trying times can bring the best out of people.

I think this ultimately points to the question of whether people are inherently good or bad. I know that Christianty points to the fact that man is naturally fallen, but i think this viewpoint still expresses the idea that God can still work through the fallen and all the depravity.

I think this weekend i learned that people do want to do good. They want to help, they want to love, and they want to share in life with one another. Sometimes it takes tragedy to remind us that we aren't the center of the universe and escape our pride and self-centeredness.

I dont know how relative this is to the direction the class is facing right now, but to me this was the most important and relative thing of the weekend. I guess it's just something i was thinking about

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Self-defeat in Philosophy

Arguing that a position is self-defeating is a fairly common, and often devastating, form of philosophical argument. It also has a limited aim; it is purely negative. I wanted to give you some examples so you’ll have more context when this comes up in our discussions about religion.

One of the most famous instances of this form of critique killing a philosophical position involves the Verification Theory of Meaning. Roughly, the VTM is

If a sentence can’t be proven true or false through empirical observation or by definition of its terms, it is meaningless.
But of course the VTM itself can’t be proven true or false through empirical observation or by definition of its terms. By its own standards, it’s meaningless. That tells us that this is not a good theory of meaning. (Logically: if P implies not-P, then not-P.) It does not tell us what a good theory would be.

Epistemological skepticism is a ripe field for this kind of argument. The (naïve) skeptic says,
No one has any knowledge
and then immediately has to answer the sly question, How do you know?
Or the skeptic may say
All human thought is weak, biased, and ultimately unprovable; therefore no inferences are sound.
So I guess that one isn’t sound either? Some skepticism amounts to declarations like
I have an excellent argument that no arguments are excellent! Or
My philosophical view is that no philosophical views should be taken seriously
which is hard to take seriously. Such observations tell us that these skeptical positions aren’t correct. But they get us no closer to actually having any particular knowledge.

Hard-core historicism has a similar problem. The hard-core historicist tells us
All philosophical positions are purely products of their time and circumstances,and therefore none has a greater claim on truth than any other.
But since the HCH includes himself here, his views have no special claim on truth, and we ought not pay him any more attention than we do some long-forgotten two-bit sage. You can get the same effect in logic:
Every generalization has exceptions.
No sentence of seven words is true.
All dogmatic assertions should be rejected.
Each of these defeats itself. Richard Rorty is famous for his remark,

Truth is what your peers will let you get away with saying
but his peers did not let him get away with saying this.

Morality offers similar pitfalls, often where skepticism or relativism are concerned. Suppose a cultural relativist offers

Moral principles are only valid for cultures that endorse them.
What is the status of this principle outside a relativist culture? Is the relativist trying to make an (inconsistently) absolute claim, one that applies everywhere? Or are they simply trying to legislate for their own culture, and everyone else has genuinely absolute principles (which, being absolute, also apply to the relativist)? Neither option is attractive. Consider also

Moral principles are never absolute.
Except this one?

No one has the right to say what morality is for everyone.

Except you, Mr. Speaker?
There is no truth about morality

Other than that? And
Everyone has their own opinion about morality, so you can’t trust anyone’s moral reasoning
is an inference that defeats itself, again. We can be sure that these are not truths. We have no way of proceeding from this observation, however, to any positive, substantive moral views.

There are subtler ways to look for self-defeat, too. The empiricist slogan

All knowledge comes from the senses
is unlikely to be justified by appeal to sense experience. You do not look around and observe trees, houses, and knowledge. Foucault used to say things like
Truth-claims are attempts to exercise social power
and this leads you to wonder how to read Foucault’s books. Cautiously, I guess. Hume (and Nagarjuna!) argued that

There is no stable, persisting self.
Sez who? Likewise for
Language never captures reality, and
Conceptual thought always falsifies.
In fairness, Nagarjuna seems clear that even these doctrines will have to be relinquished. They are “true” in the Buddhist sense that they assist in enlightenment, not in the sense that they capture an unfalsified reality. (One wonders what to think, though, about “these doctrines assist in enlightenment.”)

Now with all that background, I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to go back over Keller’s rendition of the religious pluralist’s views:
The content of religious doctrines does not matter
Each religion sees part of spiritual truth, but none sees the whole
Religious belief is too culturally conditioned to be ‘truth’
It is arrogant to insist that your religion is right and to convert others to it
It is ethnocentric to believe that our religious views are superior to others
and see if they are self-defeating, in obvious or subtle ways. Comments welcome.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Reflection on Interreligious Harmony

After reading Interreligious Harmony it made me think about wether this way of living life could be used for everyone. The idea that we should all be accepting and open to other people's religous choices sounds great, but can everyone actually implement this. He discusses the idea of accepting others religous practices while still following your own. Many relgions teach that you should try and convert unbelievers to believers of their religion so it is difficult for me to see how this would follow his ideas. In an ideal world I think everyone would be tolerant of everyone in their religious choices but I think it is unrealistic to think that it could actually occur.

All Ideas are Religions?

The article given in class, I thought, was based a strange assumption. That is that all ideas anyone can have are religions, and unprovable. I think the author assumes this mainly because of his definition of religion

"It is a set of beliefs that explain what life is all about, who we are, and the most important things that human beings should spend their time doing"

What the author leaves out is that religions are based on faith, and not reason. The context in which he gives this definition, (in order to refute secularists), seems to imply that he left that part of religion out on purpose, in order to make a point. If religion were what he defined it as, religion would include all ideas. There are, though, incredibly important differences between religion, and philosophy and science.

Religions are interpretations of the world based on the religion's unchanging premise, that is believed because of faith. The bible, for example can be interpreted in different ways for different denominations, but a religious christian would not question the basic premise: that the bible is true.

Philosophy does not have these basic assumptions. This is mostly true of science too. Ideas in philosophy are proven to the very end. Ideas that are refuted rationally are rejected (or modified), and not interpreted into a fixed premise. The entire idea of philosophy is to actually know things, and not blindly believe anything.

It seems, for the author, abstract ideas are unknowable, and therefore can only be thought about through faith. This, of course, is an abstract concept that he seems to "know" to be true.

Secularists and athietsts do have dogmatic beliefs, as do all people, but dogmatic beliefs are not the only kind of ideas. The author gives the example of a secularist who was questioned about why she thinks human rights exist, until she admitted she couldn't think of why she believed this. The author concludes that because she cannot think of a rational reason why she believes in human rights, there is no objective reason to believe human rights exist. He fails to see the terrible logical leap he made. Human rights can't be proven by rationality, because this one woman failed to prove her beliefs? She simply didn't know the reason behind human rights. She instead believed in human rights blindly.

This is the difference between belief and knowledge. This woman in the example believed human rights existed, but did not know it. It might as well have been a religious belief. This in no way means there isn't a rational objective reason for this idea this woman happens to believe in. She may be wrong objectivly, or right objectivly, but that's not what was being argued. Her dogmatic beliefs were.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

History of Religion

Please visit this site and watch this 90 second clip covering the history of Religion. There are many questions that could be raised from this, feel free to offer your own, but I will offer only a few.

Why have Christianity and Islam seen such widespread propagation when they have only been around 2000 years compared to Hinduism's 5000 year history?
What are so enticing about their "spectacles?"

Saturday, September 6, 2008

"There Can't Be Just One True Religion"

The author of the hand-out seems to lump all Christianity into one group when he speaks at the end in the section 'Christianity Can Save the World'. He does mention "within Christianity-robust, orthodox Christianity-there are rich resources that can make its followers agents for peace on earth". Having grown up in "the Church" I do not share this view. The branch of Christianity that I once ascribed to did not believe in peace on earth made by human hands; the only peace would be when Jesus comes back. Until then, the whole of creation groans for Jesus' return. I acknowledge and agree that historically and even today, members of 'the faith' seek to aid those in need (like the work done by groups such as Mother Theresa's Missionaries of Charity) and others like it. It seems to me that the message of Jesus (caring for those in need, turning the other cheek, loving your enemy, etc.) has been overshadowed by doctrine, creed and belief. I do not know if that is the case; its how I have seen it and I could be off. I guess the question I have is, is it fair to group all forms of Christianity together? And is it fair to say that only within the mentioned "robust, orthodox Christianity" are found the resources to make its followers agents for peace on earth? Is peace on earth a goal for Christianty to be attained by Christians? If so, which branch? The Catholics? The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints? The Seventh-Day Adventists? I think the differences in beliefs between the denominations tare greater han the similarities and these differences can be found in what the goals of each branch are.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Is inequality necessarily wrong?

In line with the discussion on Nietzsche, I am wondering what the thoughts are out there in regards to equality. Is it wrong to say that one person is better than another based on their actions and life? The mastery/slave morality shows that people are not equal. Without carrying it to the extreme (the grouping of people into 'better' and 'worse' categories), can there be people who are truly better according to a societies norms? When I look at someone like Mother Theresa as compared to Hitler, there seems to be little doubt in my mind that she was a much better person than Hitler. I would imagine most would agree. What about on a 'lower' level? What about common people? Say a friend of mine does not drink in excess, does not curse, volunteers their time, etc. and is in every sense of the word is a good person. Another friend drinks like a fish, has a record, shows blatant disregard for their fellow man and is in every sense of the word a bad person. Is it wrong to say that friend A is better than friend B as an individual? That they have more worth? Maybe someone is better than another based on the life they have chosen to lead and the decisions they make on a daily basis. When I look at life around me in nature, I see very few equalities. Why should humans automatically be different? Just some thoughts...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Puzzling Conversation

I would like to share with you a conversation that I had with a Friend several weeks ago. I hope to see what my fellow philosophy students make of this and possibly get some feedback from you who may be more knowledgeable on the subject matter.

My friend is a Roman Catholic and I have a basic knowledge of the religion myself. I asked the question, "Say you are married for several years and your spouse sadly passes away. At the appropriate time you decide to move on and remarry. You realize there is no religious problem with this, after all it is till death do us part. Now at the end of your lives all three of you meet in heaven, who do you spend time with?" This question is actually the small problem, what my friend proposes raises a much larger one.

The response was this, "You stay with your first spouse". Personally I was taken back by the confidence of the answer and the lack of time it took to come up with. Of course I asked "Well wouldn't that bother the second spouse and after all this is heaven were talking about, I didn't think that you were supposed to be heart broken in heaven." Again I was taken back by the response, "God would just make it so you would be happy."

To me this proposed some problems. One, do YOU truly go to heaven or does a new "Godly adjusted form" of you reside there? Two, if this is the case what is the point of not committing sin on earth if God is just going to do what he wants with you in heaven anyway? Third, if you are not changed and your feelings remain relatively the same, can there be sadness in heaven? Fourth, if there can be sadness in heaven does that change the way we need to view heaven?

On "A Brief Overview of the world's major religions" under Christianity we find the goal to be "Salvation is through acceptance of Christ and entails life with God in this world and the next." Nothing is stated here about spouses, sadness, or happiness and what in fact happens to "you" when you are with God. (P.S. I do understand that this is from "A Brief Overview of the world's major religions")

I have thought about these questions for several weeks now and have formed some of my own opinions, but before sharing them I would like to leave this post clear of any personal views so as to leave it open ended for my peers.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Reflections on Hypostasis

I know class hasn't really gotten off and running yet, but lately I have been doing undergraduate research on the Nestorian heresy and the supposed heretic Nestorius and I have certainly been ruminating upon a key question thereof, namely, that of the hypostatic union. The hypostatic union, for those in this class who aren't armchair theologians like myself is the union of Christ's two usia or essences into one prosopon or person. The key question thereof is primarily the question of by what mechanism a human nature and a divine nature may be united into one person. A second question would be on how those natures interact.

To start off with, one must first engage in the study of the philosophy of lanugage, more specifically, the philosophy of its usage by the theologians and Hellenized Christians of the early Church. In their worldview, which is heavily influenced by neo-Platonism each existing animal, object, thing or person including man has their own substance or essence (usia) and from this essence is derived life or existence. The usia, which is invisible, is what the object is in itself, in its innermost being, apart from being perceived. Each usia has a distinct nature, (physis), i.e., the totality of qualities, features, attributes, and peculiarities (both positive and negative) which give it its individual stamp or character. every nature is founded upon its own usia; there is not nature without an usia; and usia without a nature. Thus usia and nature are correlative terms, each of which implies and requires the other. But neither the usia nor the nature is fully present effective without a third equally indispensable element, the prosopon. None of the three can be separated from the other two, nor can the usia and the nature be recognized externally apart from the prosopon which reveals them. No ordinary entity or individual being has more than one each of these three components, nor does any one of the three have more than one each of the other two.

Nestorius stressed the Christological point that God the Word and the human nature of Christ were never mixed. These two were "alien to one another." (as per Nestorius's Bazaar of Heracleides) In the same breathe, he further explained that these two things, the manhood (usia) of Jesus and the usia of God, were joined together in the prosopon (one prosopon of both natures). These concepts are presented in the most explicit terms. Nestorius describes that the union of the two natures are in the one prosopon of Jesus Christ, and denies that it should be described as a union of prosopa. He maintains through out the discussion a firm belief in the God-Man which is a union of the divine Logos and the separate individual man Jesus from the moment of conception.

It is crucial that we understand the concept of prosopon as Nestorius presented it. Prosopon was understood in two senses. The first sense is a more general one. It may be called the external appearance of a thing which has substantive reality and distinct qualities. Prosopon in this sense is another aspect of physis or usia. The second sense which he understood prosopon was in the same way we understand the word "person." When we think of a name we think of a person. When we think of the name Jesus Christ or Joshua the Messiah (Yeshua ha Meshiach) we think of a person. In ordinary usage we do not separate a name from a person. After we have understood these two senses of the term prosopon Nestorius introduces a unifying factor between God the Logos and that person who the disciples saw. He uses a Latin term - communicatio idiomatum - which simply means a transfer of attributes. So God the Logos (understood in the first sense of divine nature) became the prosopon of Jesus Christ's human nature.

Thus is the sum of my research so far and I hope to continue my thoughts and research upon the topic and be able to represent at least a reasonable theory as to how human and divine natures may be combined into the person of Christ.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Testing Testing 1 2 3

This is a test of the Emergency Blog Post System. If this had been a real emergency, this would have been a real post. Also, if this had been a real emergency, you wouldn't be reading this blog.