What happens when Jesus is not the answer?

Doing good cannot be an optional extra for Christians, but must be at the core of our existence.

What happens when Jesus is not the answer?:

Doing good cannot be an optional extra for Christians, but must be at the core of our existence. For our faith is not measured by a list of sound doctrine, but instead by the fruit it produces in doing good.

(Via Red Letter Christians)

Amen. Read the whole post. It’s worth it.

I Have Experienced It to Be True

Nadia Bolz-Weber:

Years ago on a bright Tuesday in March I was driving to seminary and I found myself stuck in traffic on I-25.  Sitting in a dead stop on the interstate I stared up into the clear blue Colorado sky and thought “What in the world  am I doing?  I don’t believe a word of this Jesus stuff. I mean, It’s a fairy tale”.  But then in the very next moment I thought “except…throughout my life…I have experienced it to be true.”  I experience the gospel to be true even when I can’t believe it. And honestly sometimes I believe the gospel even when I don’t experience it.  [emphasis mine] And I suggest to you today that this is why we have and even why we need Word and Sacrament. Because see, we are a forgetful people.

via Sermon for the ordination of Matthew Nickoloff.

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Our guest soloist, Jaime, who usually leads our other choir really tore it down Sunday. We made a joyful noise!

The soloist who usually leads our other choir, Jaime, really tore it down Sunday. We made a joyful noise!

Is It Real Son, Is It Really Real Son

I get a lot of crap on Twitter from atheists who like to assume that they know reality and of course I as a Christian do not. Patent faith assertions and (childish?) attempts to cover up for a distinct and clear lack of evidence for their claims.

Is it real son, is it really real son
Let me know it’s real son, if it’s really real
Something I could feel son, load it up and kill one
Want it raw deal son, if it’s really real.

–Method Man, Bring the Pain

“The senses deceive from time to time, and it is prudent never to trust wholly those who have deceived us even once.”

–Rene Descartes

I get a lot of crap on Twitter from atheists who like to assume that they know reality and of course I as a Christian do not. “Trust your senses.” “You have belief and I have reality.” “Reality doesn’t require faith.” (That one’s my favorite!) And so on and so on, etc., etc. ad nauseum. It’s deeply ironic because they cover up for a distinct and clear lack of evidence for their claims. (I ignore specious “burden of proof” gambits designed to relieve themselves of their burden because opinions stated as fact require evidence. Period.) To illustrate why such a believe is a step out in faith, I quote from Chris Impey, atheist and cosmologist, writing in his wonderful book How It Began.

[Nick] Bostrom [futurist and philosopher] frames a logical argument based on three propositions, at least one of which must be correct. One: Almost all civilizations go extinct or destroy themselves before gaining the capability to create simulated creatures like us. That’s a gloomy option because we’re approaching that stage. Two: Almost all civilizations choose not to create simulated creatures, even though they could. That’s possible, but the $50 billion a year gaming market on this planet indicates a strong desire of humans to create and manipulate artificial entities. Three: Nothing is real, everything is an illusion, and we actually live inside a simulation.

Rebutting the third proposition is surprisingly difficult. Any simulation constructed by a far superior race wouldn’t be glitchy, as it was in the movie The Matrix. There’s no reason we’d know we’re simulated unless the creators wanted us to. Your conviction that you’re made of flesh and blood and free will is part of the simulation. Since it’s easier and cheaper to create computational life-forms than biological organisms, by the Copernican Principle there are many more simulated than real creatures. OK, this argument is more of a provocation than a serious suggestion, but it’s no more unfounded or illogical than the multiverse or hidden space-time dimensions [from theoretical physics and quantum mechanics].

Impey, Chris (2012-03-19). How It Began: A Time-Traveler’s Guide to the Universe (Kindle Locations 5596-5606). Norton. Kindle Edition.

I came to the same extremely disturbing conclusion after watching The Matrix. There would be no way to prove I wasn’t in one myself. Any “evidence” I employed to rebut the possibility could also be used to support the proposition that I am in fact in a power plant somewhere!  It didn’t matter whether we are or aren’t actually in some power plant. What matters is that the standard rules of scientific evidence are powerless to get us out of this quandary. Repeated “physical” demonstrations within a simulation simply reveal the simulation performs as expected.

Materialist atheists make an ironic choice in faith to believe no simulation or Matrix or Dream exists, and God bless ’em for it! Ironic because they have absolutely no evidence with which to support that belief. And that’s what many such fideisitc atheists can’t admit to: their faith.  And why I always have an impish little smile on my face when I read their quips on Twitter!

Let he who has ears to hear, let him hear…

Objective Certitude

When, indeed, one remembers that the most striking practical application to life of the doctrine of objective certitude has been the conscientious labors of the Holy Office of the Inquisition, one feels less tempted than ever to lend the doctrine a respectful ear.

James, William (2011-03-23). The Will to Believe : and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy (pp. 16-17). Kindle Edition.

Dogmatic Science

The truth of our faith becomes a matter of ridicule among the infidels if any Catholic, not gifted with the necessary scientific learning, presents as dogma what scientific scrutiny shows to be false.

― Thomas Aquinas

Prove It

Evidence is powerful in our society. We live in a postmodern world that nearly practically worships it. We exalt science, where material evidence is the sine qua non, as a major source of truth in our world. It is necessary, more or less, in our American legal justice system to convict a person of a crime. But evidence is not the equivalent of truth. It points to it the truth.

(Version 1.1)

[This post has been updated to reflect how people abuse the idea of “burden of proof” and for clarity.]

Evidence is powerful in our society. We live in a postmodern world that practically worships it. We exalt science, where material evidence is the sine qua non, as a major source of truth in our world. It is necessary, more or less, in our American justice system to convict a person of a crime.  But evidence is not the equivalent of truth. It points to truth.

Continue reading “Prove It”

The Resurrection and the Life

I recently finished up re-reading the book The Resurrection: Myth or Reality? by Episcopalian bishop John Shelby Spong that totally consumed my “free” time over the last couple of weeks. Being that it’s Lent, I wanted to, as I got my ashes on Ash Wednesday, “turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel.” Reading religious books (beyond The Good Book of course) is one way I chose to stop and reflect on my faith and what better book than about The Resurrection of Jesus Christ? Spong has always spoke directly to me and help me put words to a faith I find difficult to describe.

I realized that I never really confronted exactly what I positively believe about the resurrection and afterlife. I tend to dismiss literal interpretations of sacred history recounted in The Bible, but that’s a negative affirmation: what I don’t believe. As a Christian, I believe that Jesus is in fact risen and alive though not as I am. He’s alive in a way I’ve struggled to put in words beyond a vague spiritual description, but Spong does better.

It was as if scales fell from his eyes and Simon saw a realm that is around us at every moment, a realm of life and love, a realm of God from within which Jesus appeared to Simon.

As I expected, Spong confirmed that resurrection is not the sort of thing you film and playback on a DVD much less narrate.

Was it real? Yes, I am convinced it was real. Was it objective? No, I do not think it was objective. Can it be real if it is not objective? Yes, I think it can, for “objective” is a category that measures events inside time and space. Jesus appeared to Simon from the realm of God, and that realm is not within history, it is not bounded by time or space.

Continue reading “The Resurrection and the Life”

‘What Shall I Say to You’ O Guardian of Humanity?

‘What Shall I Say to You?’ | Commonweal magazine: “What did that Latin quotation say to me that afternoon nearly half a century ago? It began, surely, in the notion that God was no mere Big Someone or Something outside of me, the anonymous Ground of Being. Rather, in the words of the great Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, God was a fathomless, transcendent ‘Thou’ with whom, even in my moment of wavering, I was still wrestling. But what of it? What, really, did I hear, in the chanted Latin running through my mind that afternoon, to reverse the bleak intuition of the utter emptiness of myself and the mysterious absence of God?”

(Via Commonweal Magazine.)

I can relate.  I’m reminded of Genesis 32:29 when Jacob wrestles with God.

Then the man said, “You shall no longer be spoken of as Jacob, but as Israel, because you have contended with divine and human beings and have prevailed.”

Doing the God Thing Right

Finished The Case for God by Karen Armstrong. Brilliant book. Though the title is an unfortunate victim of marketing-speak. It’s not an apologetic to convince you of anything except that being convinced means your are doing the God thing wrong. As usual the history she breaks down for the reader is immensely illuminating.

At the end of the day to quest for that Reality some of us call God is quintessentially human with all the attendant good and evil. Faith is more like marriage than some intellectual exercise (or surrender). Religion is work. Some are good at it and some aren’t.

Read it if you dare.