March 2nd, 2014
It’s not a very easy question to answer and if you feel the need to sit in silence and have a drink at the pub or have a cigarette over the question feel free. Would you rather know when and how you will die or would you rather let providence unfold and let your ignorance diminish as time goes on?
We have very little control over when we will die unless we take our own lives or we put ourselves in circumstances that will likely increase death (e.g. dangerous activities like sky diving, drugs, scuba, skiing, etc.). Be honest with yourself and place morbidity aside. I’m going to make a personal pros and cons list that come to mind…
The thought occurred to me when I was thinking about my genes. Yeah, I know it’s a weird thing to think about…
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April 17th, 2013
You have put me in the lowest pit, in the dark places, in the depths. Your wrath has rested upon me, and you have afflicted me with all your waves. Speak up, my ears are growing weary. I’ll sing this song to the end and watch the waves crash over me.
I am shut up and cannot go out. But I, O Lord, have cried out to you for help. And in the morning my prayer comes before you. O Lord, why do you reject my soul? Why do you hide your face from me? I was afflicted and about to die from my youth on; I suffer your terrors; I am overcome. There’s not much to overcome with enough time to turn it all around.
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April 17th, 2013
Now, I know this isn’t a term heard often but the imprecatory psalms are the psalms that make requests or desires known to God that are… well… evil. Here’s a few.
Let death come deceitfully upon them; let them go down alive to Sheol, for evil is in their dwelling, in their midst. Ps. 55.15
O God, shatter their teeth in their mouth… Ps. 58.6
May they be blotted out of the book of life and may they not be recorded with the righteous. Ps. 69.28
Let his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. Ps. 109.9
How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock. Ps. 137.9
I would encourage you to go to these passages and read them yourself. Understand the contexts in which these words and thoughts were expressed. Let’s not be too quick to say, “There’s no wrong in this!”, ”This is the Word of God, these Psalms cannot be evil!” I’m not saying the psalms are evil, I’m saying that aspects of what are being expressed are evil. The psalmist, David for the most part, is desiring justice and vengeance. He wants them to have death be surprised upon them, for them to be buried alive, for their teeth to be knocked out, for them not to receive salvation, and for their children to die in the manner in which his people’s children have been murdered. I’m just guessing but if I had not set up these imprecatory psalms in a biblical context already you would think that they were pretty evil–no?
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April 17th, 2013
April 16 is a significant day for many. Most people think of the recent Virginia Tech massacre. April 16 is different for me and many in my family. On Easter Sunday of 2006 my family got the news that Jessica, my brother’s wife at the time, had unexpectedly died. She was seven months pregnant with my niece, Alyssa. My brother was in Iraq at the time. They flew him back to the States within a day. We never found out how they died, which is hard for closure.
There are several events I’ve experienced that changed my life forever: 1) my wedding, 2) being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, 3) suffering through Crohn’s and a major surgery, and this, 4) the death of Jessica and Alyssa. I was still 18 at the time. Their funeral was, and I still consider it to be, the worst day of my life. That was the first day I experienced pain and suffering on the existential level. Then, my pain wasn’t my own. My pain was for everyone else. My pain was seeing the pain and suffering of my family and that I couldn’t do anything. They were only married for five months. Why hold on to this? It’s family. The experience of pain and suffering isn’t in the immediate present of the event… pain and suffering follows for years afterwards. We all grieve, give respects, honor, and remember those whom we loved and have lost in different ways through different times. Forcing this process to be something other than what it is doesn’t help–it hurts.
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April 16th, 2013
Just because you’ve read the Bible do you think that you know God? You could probably predict what Hebrew word was used for a specific word based on the context… but you’ve never felt the passion behind David’s imprecatory prayers and the prayers of suffering. You can parse every Greek word Paul uses in the book of Romans… but you’ve never felt the riddance and self-betrayal like he felt in chapter seven.
You can tell me how to encourage someone or what to do when counseling a depressed friend… but you can’t put yourself in his mind and ask yourself what it’s like to be him. You equate by analogy. You can tell me how much you love your neighbor… but you condition it. You can tell me how much God loves you… but you can’t understand the death of God and his spiritual and physical anguish as he passed from death to new life with you in mind.
You can quote Scripture, Ephesians 6 and the psalms, describing spiritual warfare and what to do… but you’ve never resisted sin to the point of blood. You can quote theological works that systematically define God and who he is… but you’ve never experienced what it’s like to align planets and create stars, to watch you spit on his creation and cross, the gifts he gave for you for the very reason of your anticipated existence.
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December 15th, 2012
If everything God does is GOOD, and if God controls EVERYTHING, then it would be BAD had one less child been murdered in Newtown, CT.
This is the argument we find particularly among open theists but I would consider it an important existential question. It primarily focuses on the problem of evil and the hiddenness of God. Here’s the argument in a formal depiction:
- If everything God does is Good [and]
- If God controls everything [by weak and strong actualization]
- Then, it would be bad had one less child been murdered in Newtown.
- It would have been good had one less child been murdered in Newtown.
- Therefore, either not everything God does is good or God does not control everything.
- God is good and everything he does is good.
- Therefore, God does not control everything.
It seems like we are posed with interesting dilemma (at least for the Christian who affirms that God’s means of providence is not exclusively causal, but that he controls all things).
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July 20th, 2012
Today, July 20, 2012, marks the first anniversary of my Crohn’s surgery. I have had Crohn’s for eight years and it has won the battle over a few organs. I was in serious pain for just over a month prior to the surgery. I spent my birthday last year, July 18, in pain. The next day I was going to go out with some friends to TGI Friday’s for a Jack Daniel’s steak to celebrate my birthday. I wasn’t feeling well that afternoon and took a nap. I woke up with a 105 degree fever. Leah rushed me to the hospital. I was not a good patient. I was angry. I refused to take the CT scan at first because I knew what they would find. I gave in. I didn’t know what they would find. I was wrong. They found that my colon was perforated and I needed emergency surgery. They let my body rest for the night in the ICU. It was a rough night…
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I remember the nurses pushing my bed into the room where they prepped me for surgery. I was, of course, having fun with all the drugs I was on, but I knew what was going on. My Dad and step-mother drove out from Richmond for my surgery. I’m so glad they did. I saw them before going in thinking, “What if this is the last time I see them?” The staff let Leah back in one more time before I went unconscious. She had to hold on my wedding ring while I was in surgery. I remember asking my surgeon how many times he’s done this surgery and he said that my condition was “pretty bad” but that he has done thousands and this sort of thing was his “bread and butter.” I trusted him. These surgeries happen all the time, so why was I so nervous deep down?
Before Leah came back into the prep area to get my ring, I prayed. Even though I was high as a kite on the dilaudid and Valium it was the most serious prayer I ever made. I prayed for the surgeon and that I’d make it out okay. I felt like I couldn’t even pray for no complications. Even if complications happened I didn’t care, I just wanted to come out on the other side. This was the first time I seriously entertained the thought that I might actually die and these are my last few moments awake. Without the surgery I could have easily died in a short period of time, but I didn’t think that was going to happen. I’ll come back to this in a bit.
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June 14th, 2012
See William Rowe, “The Problem of Evil,” in Philosophy of Religion (Belmont: CA, Wadsworth, 2007), 112-31.
Rowe makes a strong positive case for why atheism is true. He supposes that, as especially in the absence of other arguments, anyone who observes the amount of human and animal suffering in the world and the truth of premise 1 in the evidential argument (that there are probably pointless evils) then this person would be rationally justified in believing atheism to be true. He presents two basic forms of the argument: the logical and the evidential problems of evil. The logical problem of evil argues that the existence of God and the existence of evil are logically contradictory claims. However, these aren’t explicitly contradictory—they are implicit (i.e. a married bachelor is an implicit contradiction and a married non-married person is an explicit contradiction). Rowe recognizes that we must abandon the logical problem of evil because the contradiction has yet to be proved (though he states that just because it has yet to be demonstrated doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t one).
The evidential problem is a probabilistic argument, which argues that given the apparent [pointless] evil it is more probable that God does not exist than if God does exist. He uses the example of a fawn suffering for no apparent reason. Given that God would prevent this from happening and the fact that it does happen then God doesn’t seem to exist. Rowe seems to favor this form of the problem of evil over the logical problem.
Each of the arguments is countered with theistic objections to the problem of evil such as the free will defense and other theodicies. Rowe gives fair attention and representation of the competing explanations. He concedes that there are certainly rational grounds for believing in theism and advocates a form of friendly agnosticism or atheism and discourages any unfriendly forms of agnosticism or atheism.
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May 2nd, 2012
Where is God? Jesus is in heaven. Well, where’s that? We know it’s a physical dimension so it’s just a reality removed from our spatiotemporal world. The doctrine of omnipresence states that God is causally present everywhere. This is merely stating the obvious. What’s the evidence from Scripture concerning God’s presence?
“If the statements it [the Bible] contains concerning matters of history and science can be proven by extra biblical records, by ancient documents recovered through archeological digs, or by the established facts of modern science to be contrary to the truth, then there is grave doubt as to its trustworthiness in matters of religion.” – Gleason Archer
Consider 1 Thess. 5.19-21. How do you test Scripture? Well, test it for internal consistency, like contradictions and dissimilarities. To test Scripture using Scripture to verify that what it is true is fallacious and circular reasoning.
April 27th, 2012
For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is—limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death—he had the honesty and courage to take his own miedicine. Whatever game he is playing with his creation, he has kept his own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that he has not exacted from himself. He has himself gone thorugh the whole of human experience, from the trivial irrtations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death. When he was a man, he played the man. He was born in poverty and died in dsiagrce and thought it well worthwhile.
From Dorothy Sayers, Christian Letters to a Post-Christian World (Eerdmans, 1969), 14.