Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Memo to Myself

Introduction

Well, another semester down! Woohoo! I don’t know how much you enjoyed summer breaks as a kid going to school, but I LOVED it! Of course, that time of life is long gone now (over twenty years since I graduated high school!?!). But, I have come to the end of my penultimate semester of my Master’s of Divinity Studies. This semester has been very tough. I usually have some extra weekend times and take a day or two off work, but even taking two days this last week doesn’t seem like enough. Like Bob and Larry would always chat about after episodes of Veggietales, I want to take a moment to write a memo to my future self about what I have learned this semester. So what have I learned in my Research, Writing, and Ministry Preparation (RTCH500) class?

Textbooks

We had three texts to read and learn from this semester: Kaiser, Walter C., Jr., and Silva, Mois├ęs. Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics: The Search for Meaning; Lowe, Stephen D. and Mary E. Lowe. Ecologies of Faith in a Digital Age; excerpts from (same authors) Orienting Adults to Learning in Graduate Theological Education; and Zacharias, H. Daniel and Benjamin K. Forrest. Surviving and Thriving in Seminary: An Academic and Spiritual Handbook. All the texts were very helpful, interesting, and useful. They will be particularly useful in the future for research purposes. I have a love-hate relationship with how Liberty University does textbooks though … First off, they are wonderful when it comes to price/value! They provide almost every textbook I need as a part of the tuition! I do not (usually) need to buy textbooks in addition to paying for tuition. Also, I love that they are predominantly available and provided in digital format. They use the Logos Bible App to provide digital textbooks. That is incredibly useful and I can access these books anywhere from any device, even just online. However, this is probably my mistake, I dislike the textbooks because it seems like some are not permanent. I will be honest, I don’t read the whole text when we have a textbook assigned for a class. There is just too much to read and the important points from the text can be found with ‘ctrl-F’ or similar searching features on digital textbooks. I do the same with physical textbooks, though I have to use a couple different tools (books.google.com is one and of course, if the book has an index or the like). The point is that I love textbooks (most of my bookshelves have what could be used as a textbook). But, I don’t have time to read the whole book(s), but I don’t always have access to those books after the class. When I have completed this class and have completed my degree in full, I would like to go back and reread these texts in full. Unfortunately, for some, I cannot. I’d have to buy them for myself. For some I certainly will be interested in doing that, for others, they will likely just fall by the wayside. Lastly, I do not like the Logos Bible App that much. It has some useful tools (like searching all books, open books, or just the current book, and other sermon-writing tools), but in general I find it somewhat unwieldy. I like the OliveTree Bible App much better though it has fewer tools. It is easier to navigate and access my books. For example, I really cannot read more than one or two books at one time and really only need to access one or two references at one time. Logos allows for dozens of different books to be open at the same time, but that is distracting and really unhelpful. The OliveTree Bible App links tools so that you can access them quickly to reference them, but you can really only have two things open at any one time. It helps with focus and ease of navigation.

The Elephant in the Sylabus

What do I mean by that? Well, one of the biggest focal points for this class was digital learning. I’ve written a lot about my views on digital learning and this class has made me at least rethink those views. I haven’t really changed my mind though … I hope that’s not a disappointment to my professor or the writer of the textbooks (Lowe and Lowe). I love online tools for learning. I’ve already talked about using apps. I love those tools! I use them constantly! I haven’t taken my physical Bible to church in a long time because I take notes in my (aforementioned) Bible app. I have those notes forever now. If I want to reference a sermon that I know I’ve taken note of in the past, I can just search through my notes and find it! Every time I read through my Bible I see little icons (they can be turned off) of notes that I have taken previously. These can be simple interpretive notes or full sermons/notes that I have taken previously. Technology is a wonderful tool, if you doubt but have any interest in biblical languages check out https://biblehub.com/ sometime (or similar ones like https://www.blueletterbible.org/). These tools link the exact words of the original biblical texts with dictionaries and lexicons to do incredibly in-depth word studies, all for free! It’s not a complete substitute for Hebrew or Greek scholarship, but it grants even the casual learner access to the best scholarship on the original languages, for free online. There are other great online tools like Bible apps that come with a social aspect, digital joint prayer groups, study groups, etc. are all available for free online. We live in an age of digital access undreamed of by previous generations. So, in a sense, I don’t disagree with the notion that we can grow spiritually using these technologies. However, and maybe this is just me being an old fuddy-duddy, there’s still something missing in purely online relationships. I’ve made some friends online that I’ve never met in person and would love to someday. I’ve also made some friends online then subsequently met them in person and loved it. But, like the thought-experiment of Mary, the colorblind neuroscientist, there is something to be learned by experience and there is something to be felt in in-person relationships that is lacking in purely online relationships. To sum this up, let’s use these digital tools, but let’s still view them as tools, not the end-all of spiritual growth and interactions.

Conclusions

Where do I go from here? Well, as I said, this is my penultimate semester (minus an internship class). That means only two classes and an internship and I’ll have my MDiv in Christian Apologetics! I want to apply for a chaplaincy in the U.S. Air Force, but I’m not holding my breath there. I think God could use me there. I would love to have a career/job where my goal is to go in every day and make some Airman’s life better and help him or her with spiritual needs. How wonderful would it be to have that as a job!? Think about how you answer the question about what you do for a living. I currently answer, “I’m an intelligence analyst for the Air Force.” What does that really mean? Well, I go in every day and analyze/collect intelligence. That’s rather nebulous isn’t it? Well, if I can become a chaplain, my answer will be “Air Force chaplain, where I try to help people with spiritual troubles.” Talk about job satisfaction. I hope that works out. If it doesn’t, I’ll retire in a few years and seek to start a small church (or take over a church) and build a small homestead (probably in rural Tennessee or maybe western Michigan). When I retire and live off that pension and whatever part-time job I can get in Small-town-rural-Midwest, I’ll have a slower, less hectic lifestyle and work more and more in full-time ministry. I am looking forward to that day more and more every day.


Thursday, May 4, 2023

Spiritual Formation - Blogging Assignment

Introduction

I know I have mentioned this before, but I am taking online seminary courses with the goal of becoming a military chaplain someday (soon I hope). Honestly, I need to review old posts more often … I noticed that I used the same picture twice in different blog entries! I’ll go back and fix that someday. But, as part of one of my classes this semester we have been reading Ecologies of Faith in a Digital Age by Stephen and Mary Lowe. Our assignment this week was to write 1,000 words on that book and my own experiences as if it were for an online blog. Well, as I have a blog that I run and write for occasionally I figured I’d just write it here for you to read and share.

There are three different point for this post: 1) Two concepts about spiritual formation that I’ve found in the textbook that I need to incorporate into my life and ministry. 2) An outline of a plan of action to implement those areas into my life and ministry. And 3) a piece of advice from the other text Surviving and Thriving in Seminary for other seminary students to help them continue to grow in the faith while enrolled in seminary. As I have a fairly established format of informality I’ll continue that and of course I will share one of my favorite photos (hopefully not a duplicate this time) as I always do.

Ecologies of Faith Points

1) Two points from Ecologies of Faith in a Digital Age that I need in my life: Well, one of the saddest points that I feel is missing from many ministries today is the lack of seeing ourselves as the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:27; Eph 4:16; chapter four from the book). Why are we so independent (particularly here in the US)? I know it’s very much a cultural thing. I’ve studied some intercultural communication and one of the ideas that stood out to me is how independent people of the West tend to be. Even hinting at communal living and relating can lead to one being labeled a communist (which is worse, in the US, than being a heretic, or maybe the same). The fact is the church as described in Acts is described as very communal (Acts 4:32). This verse (and others) don’t seem very capitalistic! We seem to have been infected with the disease of self-sufficiency, but in reality we’re all reliant on God and in many ways, others, to live and do anything. Why do we seem to only care about ourselves both in our day-to-day lives and in our church lives? This is not Paul’s image (or the image from the textbook). We are a body. Sure, we don’t have to have all the parts, but imagine saying, “nah, I’m good, I don’t need both my eyes today,” and going about as if we don’t need others in our church or we ourselves are needed in our churches. Everyone is important and everyone needs to play a part; there should be no Pareto Principle in our churches!

Secondly, and this if from the very next chapter, I need to personally open myself up to digital spiritual formation. I have been going to online college for several years now, maybe I’ve grown tired of it? Maybe I’m not involved with the right online communities? It’s been very tough for me lately with this because an important part of my life, the Christian Apologetics Alliance and I have parted ways. I was trying to get the community back on track as being a premier online community of Christian apologists and be more active, but when my leadership was challenged, I decided it wasn’t the place for me. I don’t feel comfortable trying to lead a group that thinks I am not fit to lead them. Maybe it was just one vocal person, maybe I’m overreacting, I don’t know. But, I left what was the most meaningful and important (to me) online social groups for discipleship. I feel like something is missing in online relationships. Maybe it‘s just me being jaded about leaving that group, but I don’t feel any online connection with anyone, well, hardly anyone anymore. I would like to say that I’m using the time I used to spend on online relationships on more in-person engagement but not really. I’ve fallen behind in my classwork, I’ve not really been able to establish any better relationships in-person, and in general I’ve not been having a good last couple months. I pray that I’ll find some way to connect with someone soon and that I can get back into good relationships both in person and online. Right now, I’m in a desert and I don’t really see any way out.

Plan of Action

2) My plan of action! Well, I love the line from the Avengers movie from Iron Man, “I have a plan, attack.” All that to say, well, I don’t have a plan. I guess I need to build one. First off, I think prayer would be the best place to start. I need to pray about better online (and in-person) communication and community. Spiritual formation definitely can take place online, I need to find the right community for it. Secondly, I need to find a better online resource for my spiritual gift(s), teaching. I have an in with a guy that runs an online seminary-level education website and I’ve discussed working with him. Unfortunately, the internship that I have to do as a capstone class will not accept an internship there with him. I have to find a place in a church to intern. Fortunately, as my church has a good relationship with Randy at the Global Pastor Institute, I’m fairly sure that some of my intern work will be in coordination with him as that would support my church and I would be able to support that ministry.

Advice for Seminary Student

3) What advice would I give to someone just getting started in seminary? Well, there’s a variety of things I would like to say to such a person. First off, in the vein of the topic of online Christian discipleship, don’t be like me and my situation right now. Keep a good cloud of witnesses around you (Heb 12:1), both in your church and online. Find a good small group or something similar if your church is too large or impersonal. Another tip would be to read a book like I mentioned above, Surviving and Thriving in Seminary. It gives great tips on getting through seminary, which can be broken down into three main categories (the different sections of the book). Prepare yourself. There are various ways to prepare yourself, but the more you prepare for seminary, the better you’ll be set up for success. Secondly, manage your time and energy well. This can take come preparation, but the better you manage your time and energy the more you’ll succeed. This is particularly important for someone like me who also has a full-time job and family to deal with. Balancing time spent on classes, work, and family can be tough, but is essential for success. One of the tools I use is time off work. Every semester I try to take off a few days near the end of the semester so I can be sure to get everything done. Unfortunately, that means that many times I am late on other assignments throughout the semester, but I make sure that everything gets done so that I don’t have any unfinished tasks by the end. The third tip in the book and the last for this entry is develop study skills. This too can be part of preparation, but don’t neglect this part of your studies. God will help you through this! Many others have gone before you and you can make it through too.

My son’s dog, Shadow, longing to chase squirrels.


Friday, August 12, 2022

Politics and Me, Introduction

 So, I don’t know how you spend your free time, but I like to spend my commute and my running time listening to various audiobooks. I used to listen to podcasts, but I’ve found that I live too close to the office and it’d take several days to get through just one podcast. So, I’ve switched to audiobooks and I’ve added them to my fitness time. I just finished an interesting book on politics and I have another on my docket for next. This book, The Right; The Hundred-Year War for American Conservatism, really made me think about politics/political theory and my views. One of the main things it highlighted for me is that I don’t feel like I fit within any political party and that my political views are not party-focused or in support of any one party or candidate, but rather that I care much more about political philosophy and theory. Another thing that came to mind was how a Christian ought to approach politics. And, more specifically, how a pastor ought to approach politics (if at all).

I struggle with the very idea of being a politician. First, I don’t think anyone would really support me to the extent that I could be an elected official. However, I think such a person would be a good person to support. That is, the person who wants power and political influence is probably not the kind of person who would lead with his/her constituent’s best interests in mind. Another thought about being a politician that makes me fairly sure that I don’t want to be one is my distaste for red-tape/bureaucracy. I deal with just a taste of bureaucratic nonsense in my current job, and I hate it. I am certain that for the politician bureaucracy is a way of life. Maybe they like it, I don’t know nor do I understand such a view. I don’t know if it’s true, but based on my dad’s experience of bureaucracy even in the tiny town he lives and serves as a city councilman in, it must be terrible. I have always seen myself as a servant-leader. I don’t sit on high and tell my subordinates to “get to work.” I get out there with my subordinates and do the work with them. We’re in this together! Yes, when a decision is to be made, I’m the one who has to make it (sometimes), but that’s my burden and I bear the brunt of failed decisions. If I make a bad decision I own it and eat the humble pie. That’s my basic philosophy of leadership. Unfortunately, it seems like that’s not the way politics works! I think maybe this book, The Dictator’s Handbook, and the YouTube video based on that book, have made me jaded when it comes to politicians. To summarize the book and video in just a line or two, all politicians, everywhere really only have one goal in mind, staying in and increasing their power and influence. Servant leadership doesn’t fit with that idea of politics. How do we balance the idea that one ought to serve those they’re meant to lead with trying to maintain and grow one’s power at all cost. This is just one way in which my views don’t really fit with any particular political party.

Politics is such a huge topic I’m going to have to break this topic up into a series. In order to tackle everything I can, I’ve found a long list of political issues from which I can draw topics.

Whew! That’s a lot of topics! To be honest I didn’t read through the whole list before considering it. I do want to write about everything on the list, but of course, some will be shorter answers than others. Most of these will require a lot of thought and more than simple one-word, yes/no answers. That’s part of what I see as wrong with American politics. Politicians are skilled at and are expected to give short, pithy responses to essentially all of these topics at any moment. However, some of them are way too complicated to be boiled down to a one-liner answer. I do look forward to so many options for so much content!

Bike at night in American Village, Okinawa, Japan; Hand-held 150 ISO Film

Monday, April 4, 2022

Vacation and Life Plans - General Update

Northern Lights, taken while visiting Alaska Oct-Nov 2021

Like I said in my I’m trying to get back into blogging more regularly. Something that has been on my mind for a while now is what I have planned for life after the military. Well, I know one thing … I do NOT want to stay in some kind of military-related job after retiring from the military. I joke all the time that I want all my clearances and certifications to expire at twenty years and never do anything military intelligence-related ever again after these years of service. I don’t hate what I do, but I’ve been looking for something of more significance in my life and in the lives of those I interact with. I want to do something more ministry-focused. I don’t know for sure what that will look like and I already do some ministry stuff, but I want to make that my main career, not a side-gig. Michelle (my wife in case you didn’t know) and I have been looking into what we want to do once I retire from the military. Our current plan goes something like this: retire from the military (4.5 years from now), shop around Michigan/Kentucky/West Virginia and maybe Ohio for 15+ acres of land to buy, buy that land and start building a farm/house/homestead, find a part-time or full-time ministry job like pastor for me. Of course, all of that is subject to change. If I finish my seminary degree and can be a military chaplain and I love that work, I might stay longer than twenty years in the military. If we can find an already established small farm/homestead, we’ll buy and renovate rather than buying and building a new house. Our goal is not really 100% self-sufficiency; we just want a nice-sized farm that provides much of our needs. I’ve also considered trying to run a small resort someday and that is still on the table. Essentially, we’d tag it on to the end of that plan and once our little farm is established we’d build a few cabins on the property and post them on AirBnB or have our own website or both. How involved we get with that is totally up in the air. We could make the resort our primary business (hosting camps/retreats for churches, business groups, etc.) or we could just have that as a feature of the farm where all we do is keep the rooms clean for the next set of visitors. We actually visited a camp not unlike what we are thinking of, yesterday after visiting with my parents. It’s called Higher Ground Camp. It is so small and obscure I literally cannot find a website for the camp, that link is to the Google Maps entry for the camp. The photos on Zillow/Realtor.com look lovely, but when we drove around it yesterday it certainly didn’t look as nice as the photos! Also, it was (sorta) on the market for $2.2M!? It’s not worth anywhere near that amount! I was talking with Michelle after our visit and on the drive back to her family’s house (where we stay when visiting family in Ohio). We talked about possibly working some kind of camp like that after I retire as well. The pastor who performed our wedding ceremony, his wife was a director of a camp in Bellefontaine, Ohio. I think that would be a good ministry for our family. I could lead the educational aspects of the camp and be the maintenance guy, Michelle could lead the other activities of the camp. And, if our boys want to be involved with the ministry, they could fit right in with whatever activities their talents lend them to. These are the kinds of things I’ve been thinking about while on vacation/visiting family in Ohio. We have already looked at some properties for sale down in Kentucky and got an idea of where we do NOT want to live. It was annoying because finding the actual properties that were for sale was virtually impossible; they weren’t marked. But, we were able to scope out the region/counties and see that we didn’t like the other properties in the area and ruled out some areas of Kentucky. We also drove up through rural, southern Ohio and love that area, but properties in Ohio are generally over-priced and mostly out of our budget. I would like to check out some areas in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan because I loved visiting Michigan all throughout my youth and think it would make a great place to build such a homestead/farm/resort/camp. Michelle used to work at a Boy Scout camp up in Michigan, so clearly that is an opportunity, though I think our camp wouldn’t be reserved for just Boy Scouts, but rather be open to churches and various other activities. We’ll just have to wait and see what God has planned for us! Until then, I’m going to keep plugging away at that seminary degree and working in military intelligence. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Getting Back into Blogging

Night-time American Village, Okinawa, Japan 35mm film
Well, it's only been almost two years since my last post! I think it's time to get this blogging going again. I used to love blogging. I don't know what happened! So much has happened in the past few years! My last post was back in July 2020, written mostly when I was deployed. One of the biggest changes in my life that I haven't written about before has been the introduction of penpalling. I found a penpal-finding Facebook page. It is a page dedicated to just posting something like: "I'm ____ and I'm looking for a penpal that is ...". In fact, the rules are written such that those are the only kinds of things you're permitted to post. Every once in a while there's a generic post about penpalling, not just looking for penpals. Well, I started writing a couple strangers and my parents. It's been a wonderful experience. Essentially, it's like having a couple new friends from all over the country. Unfortunately, because of various delays it seems like most of my penpals have dropped out of the penpalling hobby. One of them has stuck through the delays (while I was deployed I didn't write much), and I'm glad he has. I think hand-writing letters is a fun pastime that has died off. It makes me sad that people don't put pen to paper much anymore. I don't think it'll matter, but I'd love to think that my letters and my journals might matter to someone someday. I'm reading the book A Severe Mercy and it entails some letters back and forth between the author, Sheldon Vanauken, and C.S. Lewis. I will almost certainly never achieve the level of C.S. Lewis, but I'd like to think that someone might like what I have to say and want to keep them and maybe share them with someone someday. Well, for that to ever happen, I have to actually write things! So, here I am, writing. Hopefully I can keep it up more this time. I only wrote five entries in 2020 and only one in 2019!

One piece of news that I do really think I want to share in this mini update. I sat with our unit's representative chaplain. He works with multiple units but he comes to our squadron three days a week. Well, today I had a chance to sit down with the chaplain and chat. Our chat reaffirmed that I want to finish my seminary degree and become a military (preferably an Air Force chaplain). I did find out an interesting piece of information today. Chaplains, when they gain their commission incur a four-year commitment. That's fine with me. And, if I really like the position I'll want to stay. If I stay over twenty years active duty I'll earn a better retirement. The chaplain I chatted with started his role as chaplain after he had served twenty years. The upside here is that if it doesn't work out for me to become a chaplain I will be able to retire. Hopefully, it's God's plan that I become a chaplain. I feel like that's what I'm called to do. I've wanted this for several years and I enjoy teaching and preaching. I just need to finish my degree and get some experience and then I'll apply.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Hawking and Logic - From the book A Brief History of Time

Designed? Not designed? Can we infer design when we see it?

So, as I wrote before, I'm currently working in the Middle East as part of my job in the military. I have lots of time on my hands and as part of using that time wisely, I've recently been listening to more audiobooks. This is a common practice for me back home, but here I have even more time to kill, which leads to listening to more books. I recently started listening through this work by Stephen Hawking, who I'm sure you've heard of as he was a popular leader in making scientific ideas consumable by the general public. A popular popularizer of science. This book is quite easy to listen to and comprehend and I highly recommend it. He (Hawking) makes clear that he doesn't believe in God, but there are some interesting points that I think he makes that might lead one closer to belief in God. For example, this paragraph from chapter eight (not sure what page):
One possible answer is to say that God chose the initial configuration of the universe for reasons that we cannot hope to understand. This would certainly have been within the power of an omnipotent being, but if he had started it off in such an incomprehensible way, why did he choose to let it evolve according to laws that we could understand? The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they refect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired. It would be only natural to suppose that this order should apply not only to the laws, but also to the conditions at the boundary of space-time that specify the initial state of the universe. There may be a large number of models of the universe with different initial conditions that all obey the laws. There ought to be some principle that picks out one initial state, and hence one model, to represent our universe.
What I read into his writing here is that Hawking would have been more inclined to believe in God if an actual “theory of everything” (TOE) were to be discovered. It’s interesting to me because I have said something akin to that whenever someone talks about a TOE. If such an equation exists, to me that implies, even more so, that there is a Grand Designer. The idea I'm going for is quite simple. Hawking says the idea in reverse: "if [God] had started [the universe] off in such an incomprehensible way, why did [God] choose to let [the universe] evolve according to laws that we could understand?" Or, more simply, we find the universe understandable, so if God made it understandable now, the initial conditions of the universe should also be understandable. I completely agree, and so do many others. What Hawking is hinting at here is what many call "teleological arguments" for God. Put simply, the universe is orderly, orderliness implies design, design implies a designer, the only being capable of such design would be what we call "God." This makes complete sense to me and I feel like a TOE points to design and therefore a Designer.

Another interesting point in that same chapter is later when he talks about multiverse theories and the anthropic principle. I don't have a quote for this (audiobook), but two things stick out to me. He talks about infinity with regard to multiverse theories. I've written some about infinity and how people often misuse or misunderstand the concept herehere, here, here (infinite regress in epistemology), and here (Aquinas' third "way"). Hawking talks about different theories of a multiverse and though he is carefully skeptical of them because of our inability to contact, view, get to, or understand such things, he addresses the idea quite a bit. But, when he talks of them he has a very small view of the word "infinite." As many philosophers have pointed out, an actual infinite creates or contains irreconcilable paradoxes. So, Hawking says that given an infinite number of universes or parts of an infinite set of local universes within a larger infinite space, there would be more universes that are incapable of supporting life. However, this idea illustrates his small view of the word "infinite." If there truly is an infinite number of universes, there would be an infinite number of universes that are capable of sustaining life. In fact, there would be an infinite number of universes identical to our own universe. "Infinite" really is that large of a concept (when used properly). In this same chapter he references the anthropic principle, which to me, is not a threat to theistic belief systems. Within the idea of the anthropic principle are two primary views. The "weak anthropic principle" is counter to the "strong anthropic principle." The weak version basically says that any design in the universe that we infer from the fact that we're here and alive is wrong. We wouldn't be here if the universe weren't this way and we're using survivorship-bias to say that we wouldn't be here if it were any different. The weak version is anti-design, saying that we are assuming design when we shouldn't. It's obvious that we have to be here because we're here and design has no part in it. Like looking at a painting that was made by throwing paint randomly at a canvas and seeing design in it, but in reality there is no design and our assumption of design is found in our bias toward assuming design in things. Honestly, I find the strong version more compelling because it's a version of the teleological argument for God. We're here and that's not surprising. Everything in the universe seems set up with the intention of producing a place where our observation of such things is possible, and we're here.

To summarize my counterpoints. A TOE is one more in a huge number of elements of design in the universe. This book lists 93 just for the formation of the universe, 154 for the formation and growth of life on the Earth, and 10 more for the formation of life as we know it. If there's a TOE then it would make sense that a Grand Designer with intelligence beyond comprehension set up the universe with that as a framework. Also, an actual infinite is paradoxical and nonsensical and should not be a part of our understanding of the universe or multiverse. That idea that there even is a multiverse (either concurrent multiple universes or an infinite series of past and future universes) is taken completely on faith. How can someone who claims to be a scientist, who claims to care about evidence and logic, who asks for evidence for God, who claims there is no evidence for God, believe in something like the multiverse which, by definition, cannot possibly be tested for or evidence gathered for it? This book has it right, it does take more faith to be an atheist.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Day Two Writing - Still deployed and writing some about it

These were the temp buildings we started in, not where we are now.

So, yesterday I talked about how I had some experience of being deployed with the military. Well, the main reason I was thinking about that yesterday is something happened here recently where a person on a backup crew complained pretty hardcore. I'm not talking about just whining and complaining just to complain. I'm talking about writing an email to all the leadership and even threatening to go to a higher authority with these complaints. I think what's bothering me is how that backup crew group has this trip even easier than the primary crews have it. Due to the nature of our mission, there's a small group of people here that aren't flying regularly, well, at all really. Their mission is not in high demand, so they're not being tasked to fly. So, they've been doing building-watch. Basically, they come in for about eight hours one or two days a week. Now, I don't want to put down this crew. For the most part, they're doing just fine. They come in, work their shift and that's that. They make it so that the regular ground support team doesn't have to work extra-long shifts and more days out of the week. My knee-jerk reaction was, how could we make it easier for that backup crew? Give them more days off? How do you give someone more time off if they're already not going into work? I suppose they could go home, but that defeats the purpose of having them out here. They're here for a special rare mission and mission support. If we sent them home then we couldn't do the missions that they're here to support. I get it, we're all away from home and that sucks, but really?!

Another thought that hit me as I was out for a run this morning was this. Everyone ought to get the worst possible stuff that their job can give them early in their career. For example, in my own military career. I had only been in for less than two years when my son was due to be born and the military forced me to miss his birth, for training?! What!? That was some crap and an absolutely stupid situation that my leadership had no reason to put me through. At the time I didn't know this, but I did have recourse and I could have appealed to a higher-level authority. If I had done so, I probably would have been able to see my son's birth. Then, not long after finishing all my training, I got sent overseas on a deployment to Afghanistan. It wasn't as bad as other's experiences with that country, but as far as my cushy, flying, intel job, that was about as bad as it gets. I was away from home for training for three months, then in-country for six months. Nine total months away from home. Then, after I got home I was put on another trip. This time one month for training and six months in-country. I left for training after only being home for five months. Technically breaking the rules about 1-to-1 time off deployment because the training trips technically didn't count as deployment time.

I have these tough experiences in my history and they've given me an interesting and I think, good perspective on other things. Like when I heard about what our schedule was to be like here I thought, "Well, I've had much worse!" Or, "It could be much worse!" If you start off with the worst your job can throw at you, the rest is easy.

Apologetics Application Essay; Secular Humanism

Introduction

This paper seeks to analyze the worldview secular humanism and test it to see if it contains the truth about human origins and purpose. In analyzing this worldview, it will be beneficial to compare it with the Christian worldview to see which one better explains the human condition. Because the search for truth is the highest goal, this paper will attempt to compare the truth claims of secular humanism to see if it fits with reality and if it has any explanatory power. To start off, this paper will include a description and summary of the worldview and an overview of its major tenets including: its view of ultimate reality, its source of ultimate authority, its understanding of epistemology, its ontological view of human beings, and lastly its source of morality (if any).[1] After summarizing those tenets an evaluation of the worldview will include an analysis of that worldview including: how well it explains what it ought to explain, the worldview’s logical consistency or lack thereof, coherency of the view, its factual adequacy, its existential viability, and intellectual and cultural benefits (if any). As part of this analysis, this paper will also look at whether the worldview has had to radically change based on newly discovered counter-evidence and whether it provides the simplest yet complete explanation of all the facts.[2] After thoroughly summarizing and analyzing secular humanism in that way, the same evaluative analysis criteria will be applied to Christianity as a worldview in order to compare the two views. The final sections will be a defense of how Christianity and concluding whether or not it is a better worldview.

Summary of the Worldview Secular Humanism

Ultimate Reality

The first step in summarizing any worldview is to look at its understanding of ultimate reality, to understand what that worldview sees as really real. For the secular humanist ultimate reality is purely physical. Secular humanism is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get view of reality. It can be taken one step further, though philosophically minded secular humanists resist this, and can be expressed as only things provable by scientific inquiry are real. For the secular humanist God and anything non-physical does not exist.[3][4] Ultimate reality is nothing more than just physical objects such as sub-atomic particles, protons/neutrons/electrons, and other physical objects. Minds, God, spirits, and anything non-physical does not exist.[5] Carl Sagan is famous for the quote “The Cosmos is all there is, or ever was, or ever will be,”[6] which sums up the secular humanists’ view of ultimate reality quite succinctly. The secular humanist view of reality leads directly to the only available source for ultimate authority, mankind.

Source of Ultimate Authority

For the secular humanist, mankind is the measure of all things. And, for mankind, science is the ultimate authority, including on moral issues.[7] There is no “ultimate authority” in the sense that there is some higher authority. There is only what we can see, feel, taste, touch, sense, test, measure, etc. There is no non-physical realm or authority stemming from such realm. Mankind is the only known intelligent being capable of making rational decisions about anything. And, as such is the only authority in anything, but that authority is not based on mankind’s ontology or by virtue of being human. That authority is merely a product of mankind’s ability to analyze information and apply the scientific method to the data and come to various conclusions. As such, the secular humanist can say that “science” is the ultimate authority. In addition to being secular humanism’s ultimate authority, science is secular humanism’s only source for epistemology.[8]

Understanding of Epistemology

When asked how one can know what is true, the secular humanist must answer, “Science!” This leads to science (whatever that means) is also the answer to the question of what grounds knowledge. For many popular secular humanists, Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse Tyson come to mind, this is the one-word answer to everything but particularly how we know anything. However, this philosophical position, scientism, is rejected by many philosophically-minded secular humanists, but it is still popular with social media atheists and the so-called “New Atheists.”[9] This position, scientism, fails its own test because the statement “Science is the only source for truth,” is not a statement of science. There is no way to scientifically test that statement. But, to continue summarizing secular humanism one must turn to how that worldview understand human beings.

Ontological View of Human Beings

In many ways humans in secular humanism could be compared to God in the Christian worldview. Humans are the source of ultimate authority, science, morality, and the reason to do anything. The litmus test for moral actions is whether or not it will bring well-being for others, particularly humans.[10] Also, under secular humanism humans are merely the product of time, chance, and natural pressures. There is nothing special or unique about humanity and it will someday be supplanted by a better species. Humans are nothing more than somewhat advanced animals with the curious ability to self-reflect and consider their actions with a wide-ranging view of its effects.[11] Since humans are the sole source of authority in the secular humanist worldview it actually makes sense that humans are the source and authority for all moral issues as well.

Source of Morality

In keeping with humans being the sole authority for morality, Harris, as seen in the subtitle of his book The Moral Landscape makes the case that science can give us morality and value.[12] A position, no doubt that Dennett would support as he attempts to derive meaning from evolution.[13] The position of secular humanism is that one is obligated to treat humans well. In many ways secular humanism is a kinder, gentler version of atheism. A version of atheism that says one must be kind to humanity. Harris’ whole moral edifice is built on this idea that human wellbeing is paramount and that the moral thing is to follow one’s biological directive to increase one’s own wellbeing as well as that of the human race.[14]

Summary

In summary, secular humanism is the view that there is nothing but material reality to the universe, that humankind is the ultimate authority, that science is the only source of knowledge, human beings are merely highly evolved animals, and morality is a sort of scientifically derived rules that say to treat humans kindly.

Evaluation of the Worldview

Explains What It Ought to Explain

The first question in evaluating any worldview is whether or not it explains what it ought to explain. Secular humanism as a worldview fails to explain several features of reality that we know and experience all the time. For example, anything non-physical like mental activities, cannot be explained at all through this worldview.[15] Also, as we explore more and more into the quantum realm even physical reality is seeming less and less explicable from a purely physical standpoint.[16] Also, there are numerous features of the physical world that clearly cannot be explained by purely physical responses. For example, the existence of the physical universe itself fails to explain itself. More and more discoveries surrounding Big Bang cosmology are defying scientific explanation.[17] Therefore, secular humanism fails to explain anything with metaphysical concepts at its core. There is no room for the metaphysical in secular humanism.

Internal Logical Consistency

With the abandonment of any semblance of metaphysics there is one major logical inconsistency that is clear, ontology in general fails for secular humanism. Ontology is a metaphysical concept; therefore, it is not acceptable in secular humanist thought. Also, the epistemology of secular humanism, without any ontological grounding, is merely science as the only arbiter of truth, but that view cannot be tested by science itself and indeed is borrowing from the ontological ideas of religion to progress at all.[18] If science is the only way to analyze truth, then the foundation of science is philosophical, not scientific and the system collapses without an internal logical consistency. Though it may be logically inconsistent, the next question must be whether it is it livable or existentially viable.

Existential Viability

While at first glance, and by their own insistence, this view is existentially positive in nature, but in reality, they have to steal an important position from the Christian worldview. The secular humanist has to steal the idea that humans are valuable from the Christian worldview.[19] Under secular humanism there is no ultimate reason to treat other humans well. This is merely an assertion that many people have rejected. This completely ad hoc assertion that one must treat other humans well leads to the next criteria in evaluating a worldview.

Radical Ad Hoc Readjustment

One must ask if secular humanism has or needs to offer some radical ad hoc readjustment after new scientific findings have been made. There is at least one point where this view has sought to radically readjust itself. Before Big Bang cosmology was established those who rejected God as creator of the universe could rest comfortably assuming there was no ultimate beginning, which implies a creator. However, since science has fairly firmly concluded that there was an ultimate beginning, scientists have scrambled to find anything that will allow the dismissal of an ultimate beginning (Hawking’s rounded boundary for the universe, multiverse theories, etc.).[20] The multiverse theory is another radical ad hoc readjustment to Big Bang cosmology and the apparent design of the universe. One area where secular humanism claims victory is in simplicity, which is the next and last question in this analysis.

Simpler Explanations Are Better Than Complex Ones

We take this idea for granted and secular humanists definitely tout this as a strength, that simpler explanations are better. Secular humanism claims to have simpler explanations than Christianity in nearly everything because it omits the Creator. However, there are two problems with this. One, just having a simpler explanation is not enough. It has to be a simpler explanation that also sufficiently explains all the facts. Secondly, removing God as an explanation seems like it would simplify things but it does not because it adds needed explanatory factors. Removing a creator means that in order for biological life to be come to exist time, chance, and natural pressures. Those are three (insufficient) explanatory factors, however, with Christianity only one explanatory factor is needed, God.

Summary of Evaluation

In evaluating the worldview of secular humanism, it is clear that it fails every portion of the test. It is not able to explain existence or answer questions about why we are here and what we ought to do now that we are here. It fails to maintain a logical consistency since it has a logically incoherent epistemology and ontology. It is existentially unviable because it has no basis by which one ought to behave well and borrows from other worldviews to build that part of its worldview. It has gone through major turmoil with the discovery of Big Bang cosmology and has sought to redefine that aspect of its views in various ways. And lastly, it is not really simpler or at least not simpler in a satisfactory manner. In many areas it requires outside inputs to move forward and cannot explain anything fully within itself.

Evaluation of Christianity

Explains What It Ought to Explain

In order to fairly judge between secular humanism and Christianity one must subject both to the same evaluative criteria. So, in asking whether or not Christianity explains what it ought to explain we see that Christianity explains the human condition, sinfulness, and its uniqueness being made in the image of God. It also explains the source of all reality, God, and the source of morality, also God. In addition to explaining the human condition of sinfulness, Christianity gives a method of redemption and an explanation of the end of the problem with God making all things anew without the problem of sin. What else can be added to these questions? It seems as if Christianity certainly has the answers necessary here, but one must also ask if it is consistent.

Internal Logical Consistency

Though many have attempted to point out logical inconsistencies with the Bible and with Christianity in general, it has stood the test of time and analysis. All of the supposed biblical inconsistencies are almost always due to an extremely literalistic reading of the biblical narrative. Also, though some have attempted to show a logical incoherence in the existence of God and evil, these attempts have failed.[21] The same is true for attempts to show an inconsistency in the concept of omnipotence, they all fail. Christianity offers logically consistent responses to those arguments as well. Not only is Christianity logically consistent it is certainly existentially viable.

Existential Viability

The Christian life is existentially viable in every way as it is consistently lived out by millions of happy, well-adjusted, thoughtful Christians all around the world in every level of social structure and in every cultural milieu. Not only is it existentially viable, it is existentially preferable. Christianity gives deeper meaning and goal-oriented life to its adherents. It gives a deep and meaningful source for humanity and an ultimate goal of loving God and following God’s guide for proper human living. Christianity is not just logical and preferable, is also is consistent.

Radical Ad Hoc Readjustment

While some have felt the need to radically readjust Christian views (modern, ultra-liberal Christians), there is no need to nor is there any such readjustment in orthodox Christianity.[22] [23] In fact, the very concept of orthodoxy resists any such readjustment. The goal of many thoughtful theologians is how we can incorporate new information into orthodoxy not radically readjust our views. In many ways consistency is what is needed in this troubled world and Christianity can be that answer, but there is one more question to analyze in Christianity.

Simpler Explanations Are Better Than Complex Ones

Is Christianity simpler? Though this may seem like “cheating” the Christian worldview can actually give the simplest explanation of all, “God did it.” However, clearly that answer can be a discussion-killer and need not be used for everything or indeed anything. In fact, this is a common criticism of Christianity, that it relies solely on a God-of-the-gaps explanation for everything. However, this is unnecessary as God has given us enough information and we can coherently combine that information with natural studies to come to logical and coherent views of virtually every facet of human existence. We might not know how God did it, but we can easily infer that God did it and that is the only explanation that can cover all the facts.

Summary of Evaluation

While secular humanism failed in every aspect of evaluation, Christianity has passed and passed with flying colors. As Christ said that He had come that we “may have life, and have it abundantly.” (Jn 10:10, NASB)[24] As part of that abundant life Christians have explanations for all the important facets of life, logical consistency, existential consistency, stability, and simpler explanations that deal with what they must deal with to be worthwhile explanations. There are, of course, arguments against Christianity and it is to those one must turn next.

Defense of Christianity

Problem of Evil

One of the most popular and in some ways difficult to answer criticism of Christianity (and theism in general) is the problem of evil. However, as Craig and others have shown Christianity’s answer to the problem of evil is superior in every way to secular humanism and indeed every other worldview. Although secular humanism gives no account for what it means to be evil at all, and secular humanism must rely on moral relativism which is a self-defeating view of morality, Christianity has no such problem. Under secular humanism nothing is actually right or wrong if there is no objective ontology for moral truth. The secular humanist view is that humans are the sole source for what is evil and the sole judge of what is evil, then what is evil today at one point was not evil at all. What is good today may someday become evil. This inconsistency is particularly clear in the moral problem of evil, but with the natural problem of evil is it also true. For the secular humanist, there is no evil in nature. In fact, without death and disease in nature evolutionary progress is impossible. On the other hand, Christianity has a knock-down argument concerning the existence of evil: “1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist. 2. Evil exists. 3. Therefore, objective moral values exist (some things are evil!). 4. Therefore, God exists.”[25] Christianity takes the so-called problem of evil and makes it an argument for God. That is because if God does not exist, then objective morality and evil would not exist. Therefore, there really is no problem of evil for the Christian. At least not philosophically. There is an existential version of the problem of evil. That version is about degrees of evil. The problem there is in subjectivity. The existential version asks why there is so much evil in the world if there is a good God who could stop it. However, this fails because it is impossible to define how much is too much evil. Also, when exploring how God could eradicate evil without causing evil or removing free will there is no good answer. That is just one argument for God, there are others that one can look to that make the existence of God and the truth of Christianity more secure.

Arguments for the Existence of God

First, the cosmological argument (Craig espouses what he calls the Kalam cosmological argument): “1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause. 2. The universe began to exist. 3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.”[26] Next logically follows concerning the universe and how it is arranged. The teleological argument can be phrased: “1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either law, chance, or design. 2. It is not due to law or chance. 3. Therefore, it is due to design.”[27] These two arguments taken together do not get to the truth of the Christian worldview. However, the absolutely essential argument for the Resurrection of Christ will put the nail in the doubting coffin.[28] There is not space to go through all the parts of the arguments here but the basics are simple. There are no alternative explanations for the Resurrection. The various alternate explanations have been defeated in various ways and in various locations.[29] There is much more to be said about the arguments for God but those three and the turned-on-its-head argument from evil are more than enough to establish the reasonableness of the Christian worldview.

Defense of Objective Truth and Moral Values

Before concluding, a short word should be said about truth with regards to the Christian worldview. Objective truth and moral values can only be found in theistic worldviews and Christianity gives the most coherent version of this. In dualistic worldviews the idea fails because they allow a space for an equivalently-powered being to contradict the “good” version of God in every way. If there are two equally-powered beings, one good and one bad, one could never know if the revelation one is receiving is from the good version of god or the bad. However, Christianity offers a consistent position that God in his ultimate goodness and authority is the sole ontological source for objective truth and moral truths.

Conclusion

Clearly, with the abject failure of secular humanism and the success of the Christian worldview one is only left with one remaining question, “What should you do if Christianity is true?” The only reasonable answer seems to be to embrace Christ. Once one does so, one “in Christ, is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Cor 5:17b) There is new life and as mentioned before, life abundant. If Christianity is true why not embrace it? Truth the ultimate goal of this paper. If one has found “the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6) in Christ, one only has repentance and acceptance remaining to join the family of Christianity.

Footnotes:

[1] Douglas R. Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011), 75.

[2] Ibid., 53-60.

[3] "Definition of Humanism," American Humanist Association, accessed December 14, 2018, https://americanhumanist.org/what-is-humanism/definition-of-humanism/.

[4] Marc Kreidler, "What Is Secular Humanism?" Ingersoll Biography - Council for Secular Humanism, August 16, 2018, accessed December 14, 2018, https://secularhumanism.org/what-is-secular-humanism/.

[5] Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, The Grand Design (Place of Publication Not Identified: Transworld Digital, 2015).

[6] Agarthas888, Cosmos 1 - "The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean,” December 18, 2017, accessed December 14, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfCc7ZJjHiM.

[7] Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values (London: Black Swan, 2012), 2.

[8] Helen Longino, "The Social Dimensions of Scientific Knowledge," Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, April 12, 2002, accessed December 14, 2018, https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/scientific-knowledge-social/.

[9] James E. Taylor, "The New Atheists," Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, accessed December 14, 2018, https://www.iep.utm.edu/n-atheis/. The section of this article entitled “Works About the New Atheism” has a high quality selection of apologetic responses to New Atheists in particular and secular humanism in general.

[10] An interesting side note is that, as Bush states, in the secular world humans are losing their humanness.

[11] L. Russ Bush, The Advancement: Keeping the Faith in an Evolutionary Age (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 33.

[12] Harris, The Moral Landscape 2.

[13] Daniel C. Dennett, Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meaning of Life (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster 1996).

[14] Harris, The Moral Landscape 1.

[15] Also, in many ways these cannot be studied by science, which is secular humanism’s sole arbiter of truth.

[16] Bush, The Advancement 54.

[17] Stephen J. Williams, What Your Atheist Professor Doesn't Know (But Should). (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013), 32.

[18] Frank Turek, Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2015).

[19] Ibid., 92.

[20] S.W Hawking et al., Brief Answers to the Big Questions (London: John Murray, 2018), 47.

[21] William Lane Craig, On Guard Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision (Colorado Springs, Co.: Cook, 2010), Foreword and elsewhere.

[22] John C. Lennox, Seven Days That Divide the World: The Beginning According to Genesis and Science (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 15. This first chapter of Lennox’s book draws an interesting parallel between the Copernican revolution of the moving earth and possible readings/understandings of the “days” of creation in Genesis.

[23] Bush, The Advancement 55.

[24] All Scripture references will be in New American Standard unless otherwise noted.

[25] William Lane Craig, On Guard Chapter 7.

[26] William Lane Craig, On Guard Chapter 4.

[27] Stephen J. Williams, What Your Atheist Professor 123. This text also has the most impressive listing of delicately balanced constants of the universe for life to exist.

[28] Douglas R. Groothuis, Christian Apologetics 529.

[29] Lee Strobel and Jane Vogel, The Case for Christ: A Journalists Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017).

Bibliography

Agarthas888. Cosmos 1 - "The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean.” December 18, 2017. Accessed December 14, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfCc7ZJjHiM.

Beckwith, Francis, and Gregory Koukl. Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-air. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000.

Bush, L. Russ. The Advancement: Keeping the Faith in an Evolutionary Age. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003.

Craig, William Lane. On Guard Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision. Colorado Springs, Co.: Cook, 2010.

Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. London: Black Swan, 2016.

"Definition of Humanism." American Humanist Association. Accessed December 14, 2018. https://americanhumanist.org/what-is-humanism/definition-of-humanism/.

Dennett, Daniel C. Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meaning of Life. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1996.

Dillahunty, Matt. YouTube. October 05, 2016. Accessed December 14, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKlycI9ZKsY.

Grayling, A. C. The Good Book: A Humanist Bible. New York: Walker &, 2014.

Groothuis, Douglas R. Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011.

Harris, Sam. The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values. London: Transworld Publishers, 2012.

________. Waking up a Guide to Spirituality without Religion. London: Black Swan, 2015.

Hawking, S.W, Eddie Redmayne, Kip S. Thorne, and Lucy Hawking. Brief Answers to the Big Questions. London: John Murray, 2018.

Hitchens, Christopher. God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. London: Atlantic Books, 2017.

Kreidler, Marc. "What Is Secular Humanism?" Ingersoll Biography - Council for Secular Humanism. August 16, 2018. Accessed December 14, 2018. https://secularhumanism.org/what-is-secular-humanism/.

Lennox, John C. Seven Days That Divide the World: The Beginning According to Genesis and Science. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011.

Longino, Helen. "The Social Dimensions of Scientific Knowledge." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. April 12, 2002. Accessed December 14, 2018. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/scientific-knowledge-social/.

Plantinga, Alvin. Warranted Christian Belief. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Russell, Bertrand. Why I Am Not a Christian; An Examination of the God-Idea and Christianity. Girard, Kansas: Haldeman-Jullius Company, 1929.

ScienceToday. YouTube. May 21, 2017. Accessed December 14, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=711VklH-4fA.

Strobel, Lee, and Jane Vogel. The Case for Christ: A Journalists Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017.

Taylor, James E. "The New Atheists." Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Accessed December 14, 2018. https://www.iep.utm.edu/n-atheis/.

Turek, Frank. Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2015.

Williams, Stephen J. What Your Atheist Professor Doesn't Know (But Should). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

More Writing - This is still not a deployment blog

I recently copyedited a friend of mine's book (fourth one I've edited for him). Reading his writing has made me want to get into writing more (again). I used to write much more often and it makes me sad that I haven't really written anything other than classwork-related essays for over two years! Also, I'm deployed (fourth time for that) and I have plenty of extra time and I've wasted much of that time and I've decided that it's time to spend some of that time doing something productive.

I've been deployed to the Middle East for almost two months of a three-month trip. It's been an interesting and different experience from the previous three trips. Back in 2010, 11, and 12, I deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, and a second trip to Afghanistan. Those trips were two six-month trips then one three-month trip. In all three of those trips, we were required to wear uniform 100% of the time. On those trips, I flew missions almost every day. And, on days when I didn't fly, I still worked building watch and cleanup. We did get days off but they came few and far between. In fact, generally, I got one day off of work each month. They weren't the worst times of my life and the time flew by even sometimes being fun. Those trips were deployments. This one is, well, not. For example, on this trip, we have a regular schedule that goes something like this: mission planning day (about two hours of work), fly a mission (about a ten-hour day), mission planning day again, fly day, down-day, repeat. Accounting just hours worked that's about twenty-four hours in a five-day cycle. The only downside is that there's no accounting for holidays, weekends or anything like that. So, if a fly day occurs on July Fourth, so be it. There are no weekends or holidays here, just that five-day cycle. On top of that, there's next to no uniform requirement here. Unless actually flying a mission there's no requirement to wear a uniform (more or less). Basically, this is a vacation in a crappy location that I'd never vacation in with a smattering of work thrown in. Not only is the schedule here a piece of cake, my crew is pretty cool. We have tons of fun pretty much every flight. They're chill missions, not much to do. We chat, laugh, and sing pretty throughout pretty much the whole mission. It's been a good trip.

It's been a good trip but I'm glad that it's almost over (hopefully).

Faith and Reason in Christianity

Much like the previous entry, I'm sharing some essays I've written for my classes. This is one that I wrote for an apologetics class.

Introduction

The word “faith” has had a difficult run the past few years. What with so-called “New Atheists” and typical internet activist atheists battering and changing the word to mean what they want it to mean, namely, blind faith.[1] Christians need to shake off the anti-intellectualism that has taken root in the Church in order to meet those kinds of challenges.[2] The Christian faith is completely different than what its adversaries make it out to be. Unfortunately, many Christians also struggle to define faith properly, and with an inadequate understanding of faith there is no hope for the anti-intellectual Christian to properly balance faith with reason. Therefore, before discussing the role of reason and the balance of reason with faith in Christianity, one must first understand faith itself. Then, after a thorough understanding of faith then one can proceed to attempt a balance, and lastly, this discussion must turn to applying these ideas in local churches and around the world.

Defining Faith - Introduction

With so many wrong ideas out there on both sides, what really is Christian faith? In some ways trying to nail down a definition of faith, even among Christians, is difficult. What is particularly difficult about this is reading detractors of Christianity. Atheists, particularly Boghossian, and the like want to use one particular definition of faith.[3] Are these valid definitions? Should Christians allow the opponents of Christianity to define faith? The definition of Christian faith includes three facets: a cognitive component, how faith means to believe certain things about God; a relational component, how faith is a type of trust in God based on beliefs; and a behavioral component, the response in faith to God. These three components come together to defy how opponents of Christianity define faith. Though these three together are a much more reasonable understanding of how Christians have and exercise faith, it is the relational component, faith that is more akin to trust, is the most important of the three.

Defining Faith - Cognitive Component

The cognitive component of faith is probably what most non-Christians and non-philosophical Christians think of when they think of faith. It fits with Boghossian’s redefinition somewhat in that this is about epistemology.[4] This idea of faith could also be called the doxastic theory of faith.[5] That theory is defended in many places but do those positions truly represent the Christian faith fairly? Malcom and Scott’s critiques of non-doxastic views of faith, which this paper will support, all seem to fall flat.[6] Their critique of “the argument from doubt” seems to not take the position seriously. Their critique of “the argument from linguistic data” has the same problem. It does matter how people use the word. If one consistently uses the word faith to reference a sincere trust in something for which they have some, little, or no evidence for, does have an important bearing on the meaning of faith. Then when critiquing “the argument from pragmatic faith,” though they describe the idea fairly well, they straw-man the idea, offering a syllogism that seems like one that no supporter of non-doxastic faith views would support:

[1] Pragmatic faith is faith.

[2] Pragmatic faith is not constituted by belief.

[3] So, faith is not constituted by belief.[7]

Clearly, this is a viciously circular argument for pragmatic faith that no proponent of a pragmatic view of faith would support. The next critique offered relies on there being imposter faithful. But, what does the possibility of imposters have to do with those that claim to have faith that is more like trust? The possibility of imposters does not detract from the actual faithful. The possibility of imposters only effects our ability to distinguish truly faithful from the fakes, not the actual existence of faith based on something other than mere belief. Though Malcom and Scott claim to be supporting a “belief-plus” paradigm of faith, they treat every argument for the non-doxastic theory of faith as belief only. Also, the paper even admits that they are only concerned with “faith that” ideas, ignoring “faith in” ideas.[8] Craig uses a different phrasing, but the concept is similar. He uses the difference “. . . between knowing Christianity to be true and showing Christianity to be true.”[9] In knowing Christianity to be true we can trust (used somewhat ironically there) the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, by which, Craig here references but seems to agree with Plantinga that the witness improves upon the sensus divinitatis.[10] What then is the conclusion for this component? The key here is the word, “component.” The Christian faith is multi-faceted and this is only one part and not even the most important part.

Defining Faith - Relational Component

Having looked at the epistemological ideas behind what many think of as faith, it is important to turn to the relational component of faith, which is trusting in God based on what one believes. One thing that sits strongly in favor of the Christian view of faith as “trust” is that the online dictionary lists “belief and trust in and loyalty to God” (emphasis added) as one of the first definitions. In fact, if one consults the dictionary provided automatically (by Google) one sees it as even more supportive of this view, “complete trust or confidence in someone or something” as the first definition given.[11] Though it is encouraging to read articles like Buchak’s “Can it be Rational to Have Faith?” even there she admits too much of the epistemological side of faith, wherein she says that “. . . faith seems to involve going beyond the evidence in some way.”[12] Unlike the Malcom and Scott essay, Buchak at least allows for more than just belief. Also, unlike the Malcom and Scott’s essay where non-doxastic faith was circular and irrational, Buchak’s position is that faith can be rational. Faith, to be rational, must be “based on a large amount of evidence.”[13] To take it one step further down the route toward a non-doxastic view of faith, Katherine Dormandy’s paper presents faith as primarily evidence-seeking.[14] Dormandy’s analysis of the story of Job is particularly interesting because Job is often taken as an example of blind faith. However, Job does seek some support for his faith and he is driven to worship God because he rationally believes that God is good and just.[15] Dormandy’s article expertly dismantles a common theme with Christians as Christianity has gone down the road of anti-intellectualism.[16] More and more Christians are thinking less and feeling more. Seeing faith as seeking evidence is a great way turn the tide against anti-intellectualism. This component of faith, even taken alone, is the closest to seeing faith as a strong synonym to trust, which is really the way Christianity uses the word. It is still one component if it is the most important, so there is one more component to consider before closing.

Defining Faith - Behavioral Component

Faithfulness in one’s response to God is the final component, the behavioral component of faith. Daniel Howard-Snyder’s article about propositional faith defines this well, “Propositional faith is not a proposition, state of affairs, process, or journey; it's an attitude, an attitude that is not to be identified with knowledge or assent; it need not be based on authority or testimony, and it need not involve certainty, eagerness, generation by an act of will, or entrusting one's welfare to someone.”[17] This attitude of propositional faith, the behavioral component, is longstanding. It can face adversity and doubts.[18] Given one’s faith (that is, trust) in God, how does Howard-Snyder’s syllogism end if the proposition is “God exists”? (S = subject) If the subject believes that God exists, then, given the Subject’s goals, aversions, and other cognitive stances, the subject will tend to act in appropriate ways.[19] This component is one of attitude, not belief and not relational in nature. Of course, that does not mean that the Christian faith is one of these components at the expense of the other.

Defining Faith - Conclusions

The worst mistake one can make is pigeon-holing Christian faith into one of the components mentioned in this essay. The Christian faith is all of these components and more. One would do well to take a page out of Hegel’s dialectics and take these seemingly opposing components and synthesize them together.[20] Perhaps it would be easier to say what the Christian faith is not. It is not: the absence of doubt, mere belief (pure doxastic faith), merely relational, or merely behavioral. None of these components are sufficient on their own. They must be put together and lived out. False caricatures of faith like those presented by Boghossian and other opponents of Christianity.[21] This is only one side of the equation, next is reason.

Defining the Christians’ Use of Reason

On the one hand, reason is fairly easily defined as properly applying logic and right thinking.[22] Being reasonable is rightly applying logic and rational thought to various issues. One cannot think rationally without first studying logic and philosophy. The use of reason does not diminish one’s faith. Indeed, as one can see in the behavioral component of defining the Christian faith, faith is closer to trust than the epistemic concept of faith. Christian faith is truly non-doxastic. The Christian faith, is not merely belief, it is trust and obedience to Christ. Therefore, one must exercise one’s reason to have faith. Reason is an exercise that one must practice. It cannot simply be learned; it must be applied. There are many ways to learn and practice one’s reasoning skills. There are online courses available for free that teach the basics of philosophical thought and reason, and the best way to apply the lessons learned is to go out and meet with and dialogue with others about one’s thoughts, beliefs, and ideas.[23] Engaging others in dialogue is another important part of building and exercising one’s reason. That can also be done for free and through numerous online resources. The easiest of which is social media. Particularly, there is the high-quality Christian Apologetics Alliance Facebook page where one can meet with other reason-oriented Christian apologist and discuss defending the faith reasonably.[24] These are just some of the ways one can exercise one’s reason with regards to Christianity, but how does one balance just using reason and faith? That is where this paper turns next.

Balancing Reason and Faith

The issue here is how can one balance reason and faith in one’s worship of God. Unfortunately, this is this not a regular practice and well understood throughout Christianity. It is not common in many Christian churches, at least not in the U.S. Midwest. In a typical church in the U.S. Midwest one will probably not hear anything about apologetics or the use of one’s reason in worship regularly if at all. How many churches recommend reading works like C. S. Lewis’ masterwork, Mere Christianity or Geisler and Turek’s I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist? This is not to say that every member of every church need be educated to the level of a Master’s of Divinity in Christian Apologetics. It is saddening that this kind of introductory apologetic education not a regular part of church education. Pastors and other church leaders do not (typically) discourage reason or apologetics, but there is generally little to no interest in apologetic teaching/learning. Churches can incorporate apologetics into both sermons and general church educational programs. But, so far, this is a huge failure of the Church today; apologetics should be an important part of every church’s educational programs, particularly for young people.

Christ’s admonishes all His followers to, “… love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30, NASB)[25]. This is something that is sorely missing from the typical Western church today. So, not only has the Church failed in loving Christ with their minds and teaching they have failed to heed 1 Peter 3:15 and give a defense for the faith. On the one hand, one might understand some reticence to study or encourage the study of philosophy/apologetics. However, it seems like so many churches have overemphasized a misunderstanding of Colossians 2:8 and overemphasized an emotional response to Christ.

As Wolterstorff mentions the condemnation of Galileo and the Copernican view of the solar system as, “the most famous instance of the Church's scrutiny of the affairs of natural science.”[26] This wording could be improved and made stronger as this is the most infamous example of the Church’s insertion of itself into the affairs of natural science. In many ways the Church has never really recovered from this ignominy. Indeed, the age of the earth debate within the Church is the modern age’s Copernican model debate; Professor John Lennox’s text, Seven Days That Divide the World makes this very point.[27] Because the Church is suffering from anti-intellectualism it seems that the Church has backed itself into a corner over the issue of the age of the earth. People have even gone as far as to make this the only issue in science and philosophy worth engaging. The Church needs to be given an apologetic for learning and teaching apologetics. This can be the first, and most important step in balancing reason and faith. Of course, this is not the only way the Church can balance reason and faith, but it is most certainly the most important first part of a never-ending discussion within the Church about the relationship between faith and reason. Apologetics and philosophical study in general, can give us a way to balance critical thought and faith. It is also through such studies that one can increase in one’s faith because knowing Christianity is true can increase one’s trust in Christ, that is, one’s faith.

Conclusions and Application

How can we apply this balancing act? Well, my personal goal is directly related to how I want to use my MDiv degree. I and my classmates can be the change we want to see in churches everywhere. I personally want to be a chaplain in the armed forces and then a pastor who uses, teaches, preaches, and encourages philosophical inquiry, apologetics, and other ways to love God with our minds. I have started some of this as a layman in the church. To do this I have taught a book study on Koukl’s superb text, Tactics. It is such an important and practical text for Christian apologetics and evangelism that encourages questions and seeking the truth. It is so important that I recommend every church study and teach such a practical text about loving God with your mind and using your mind to reach the lost. There is also a need more books that teach and encourage Christians to use their minds to defend the faith and reach the lost with reason.

Footnotes:

[1] Peter G. Boghossian, A Manual for Creating Atheists (Durham, NC: Pitchstone Publishing, 2013), Chapter 2. Also clearly exhibited by atheist Aron Ra in this debate: The Bible and Beer Consortium, YouTube, June 28, 2019, accessed July 2, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQBFY1z_RvI&t=5882s.

[2] James Porter Moreland, Love Your God with All Your Mind the Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul (United States: Navigators, 2014).

[3] Boghossian defines faith in his own special way as, “Belief without evidence” and “Pretending to know things you don’t know.” Boghossian, A Manual for Creating Atheists, Chapter 2.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Finlay Malcolm and Michael Scott, "Faith, Belief and Fictionalism," Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 98 (2016): , doi:10.1111/papq.12169.

[6] Finlay Malcolm and Michael Scott, "Faith, Belief and Fictionalism."

[7] Ibid., 267.

[8] Ibid., 271. This is in note #1. It seems very odd that they would chose to write and even admit this. Basically the paper ignores what many consider the more important concept of “faith,” that is, faith in something/someone rather that faith that something will happen or someone will do or is such-and-such.

[9] William Lane. Craig, Reasonable Faith - Christian Truth and Apologetics (Intervarsity Press, 2008), 43.

[10] Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith, 42 and James Porter Moreland and William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2017), 141-155. The whole chapter is a study on religious epistemology and includes Plantinga’s use of sensus divinitatis.

[11] "Faith," Merriam-Webster, accessed June 8, 2019, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/faith. And "Faith," Google Search, accessed June 8, 2019, https://www.google.com/search?safe=active&q=Dictionary#dobs=faith.

[12] Lara Buchak, "Can It Be Rational to Have Faith?" Probability in the Philosophy of Religion, 2019, 227, doi:10.1002/9781119420828.ch8.

[13] Ibid., 246.

[14] Katherine Dormandy, "Evidence-Seeking as an Expression of Faith," American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 92, no. 3 (2018): doi:10.5840/acpq2018514154.

[15] Ibid., 416.

[16] James Porter Moreland, Love Your God with All Your Mind the Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul (United States: Navigators, 2014).

[17] Daniel Howard-Snyder, "Propositional Faith: What It Is and What It Is Not," American Philosophical Quarterly 50, no. 4 (2013): 359. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24475353.

[18] Ibid., 358.

[19] Taken from Daniel Howard-Snyder, "Propositional Faith . . .” 359; altered to fit the proposition that God exists.

[20] Julie E. Maybee, "Hegel's Dialectics," Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, June 03, 2016, accessed June 8, 2019, https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hegel-dialectics/.

[21] Boghossian, A Manual for Creating Atheists.

[22] My own definition combined from various places.

[23] Some quality resources would be on https://www.coursera.org/ and numerous philosophical and educational YouTube channels. There are numerous other free resources online, one only need to search for them.

[24] The link to that group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/caalliance/ in order to join one must answer some questions about one’s faith and assent to following the group guidelines.

[25] Unless otherwise noted, Scripture references will be taken from the New American Standard Bible.

[26] Wolterstorff, Nicolas (2018). Reason within the Bounds of Religion (p. 16). Wordsearch. Retrieved from https://app.wordsearchbible.com.

[27] John C. Lennox, Seven Days That Divide the World: The Beginning According to Genesis and Science (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011).

Bibliography

Boghossian, Peter G. A Manual for Creating Atheists. Durham, NC: Pitchstone Publishing, 2013.

Buchak, Lara. “Can It Be Rational to Have Faith?” Probability in the Philosophy of Religion, 2012, doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199604760.003.0012.

Consortium, The Bible and Beer. YouTube. June 28, 2019. Accessed July 2, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQBFY1z_RvI&t=5882s.

Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith - Christian Truth and Apologetics. Intervarsity Press, 2008.

Dormandy, Katherine. "Evidence-Seeking as an Expression of Faith." American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 92, no. 3 (2018): 409-28. doi:10.5840/acpq2018514154.

"Faith." Google Search. Accessed July 2, 2019. https://www.google.com/search?safe=active&q=Dictionary#dobs=faith.

"Faith." Merriam-Webster. Accessed July 2, 2019. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/faith.

Howard-Snyder, Daniel. "Propositional Faith: What It Is and What It Is Not." American Philosophical Quarterly 50, no. 4 (2013): 357-72. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24475353.

Lennox, John C. Seven Days That Divide the World: The Beginning According to Genesis and Science. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011.

Malcolm, Finlay., and Scott, Michael. (2017) Faith, Belief and Fictionalism. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 98: 257– 274. doi: 10.1111/papq.12169.

Maybee, Julie E. "Hegel's Dialectics." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. July 2, 2016. Accessed June 8, 2019. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hegel-dialectics/.

Moreland, J. P. Love Your God with All Your Mind the Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul. United States: Navigators, 2014.

Moreland, J. P., and William Lane Craig. Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2017.

Wolterstorff, Nicholas. Reason within the Bounds of Religion. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub., 2009.