Wise Words on Wednesday: Find Your Posse

Swafford

“There is a posse of men I know who really exemplify the strength and perseverance of living out the Virtue Challenge together. They confided in me that all five of them were fighting addictions to pornography and sexual sin. They got together and talked about it openly and honestly and decided to hold each other accountable. If any one of the guys fell in a moment of weakness, he would send out a group text to all the men in the posse, and from that moment on all five men would fast for twenty-four hours. No one ate. They prayed for each other and sacrificed eating for twenty-four hours”

– Sarah Swafford, Emotional Virtue

The Philosophy Force Five

Okay, this is kind of hilarious… I introduce to you “The Philosophy Force Five”, fighting the forces of illogic and scientism!

Philosophy

Music Monday: Chase

Another song from my current favourite, John Finch. This is “Praise to you”…

For all that You are
And all that You’ve done
We gather in worship
We lift our hands to the One

Praise to You O Lord Jesus Christ
You will reign forever

Your name shakes the mountains
Your voice calms the sea
You’re greater than my failures
For Your grace abounds in me

Holy Spirit come
Let your will be done
Have Your way in me

Your presence fills my heart
You’re throned in majesty
We will glorify Your name
Jesus You are King!

Mere Christianity – Book II – Chapter 3 (“The Shocking Alternative”)

Book 2

Continuing my notes on Book II of “Mere Christianity”…

Notes & Quotes

1. Christians believe that evil exists in the world. So does that mean God wills it?

“If it is [in accordance with God’s will], He is a strange God, you will say: and if it is not, how can anything happen contrary to the will of a being with absolute power?”

(a) Anyone who has held a position of authority can explain this dilemma

“You make a thing voluntary and then half the people do not do it. That is not what you willed, but your will has made it possible”

(b) Free will is the cause for much evil, but it is the only thing which makes love possible

“Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. …free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having”

(c) God seemed to think the trade-off between free will and evil was acceptable and we’re not especially in a position to argument with Him.

“He is the source from which all your reasoning power comes: you could not be right and He wrong any more than a stream can rise higher than its own source….you are arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at all: it is like cutting off the branch you are sitting on”

2. It is because of the greatness given to us by God that we are capable of such great evil and the same is true for Satan.

“A cow cannot be very good or very bad; a dog can be both better and worse; a child better and worse still; an ordinary man, still more so; a man of genius, still more so; a superhuman spirit best – or worst – of all”

(a) Satan’s sin was most likely selfishness and this is what he taught the humanity.

“The moment you have a self at all, there is a possibility of putting yourself first – wanting to be the centre – wanting to be God, in fact. That was the sin of Satan: and that was the sin he taught the human race…[to] invent some sort of happiness for themselves…apart from God”

(b) This is the source of much of the evil in the world.

“…out of that hopeless attempt [for happiness apart from God] has come nearly all that we call human history – money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery – the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy”

3. We fail in our attempt to be happy without God because we were made for Him.

“A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else…God design the human machine to run on Himself… God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself because it is not there…[we] are trying to run it on the wrong juice. That is what Satan has done to us humans.”

How did God respond to all this?

(a) Conscience

“…He left us conscience…and all through history there have been people trying (Some of them very hard) to obey it”

(b) He sent “good dreams”

“…those queer stories scattered all through the heathen religions about a god who dies and comes to life again…”

(c) Formed Israel

“…He selected one particular people and spent several centuries hammering into their heads the sort of God He was – that there was only one of Him and the He cared about right conduct”

(d) Jesus

(i) Claimed to be God

“Among these Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was God… Among Pantheists…there would be nothing very odd about it. But this man, since He was a Jew, could not mean that kind of God. God, in their language, meant the Being outside the world, who had made it and was infinitely different from anything else. And when you have grasped that, you will see that what this man said was, quite simply the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips…”

(ii) Forgave sins and yet claimed to be humble and meek

“[He] told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was… the person chiefly offended in all offenses”

“Christ says that He is ‘humble and meek’ and we believe Him; not noticing that, if He were merely a man, humility and meekness are the very last characteristics we could attribute to some of His sayings”

(iii) This provides us with a trilemma. Jesus was either Lunatic, Liar or Lord.

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell… Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse”

(iv) Which means you can’t just call Him a great moral teacher 

“You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us”

Discussion Questions

1.Why does the presence of evil in the world pose a threat to the belief in a omniscient, omnibenevolent God?

2. In what way does free will go a long way to explaining much of the evil in the world?

3. Jack says he can’t imagine a creature which has free will but no possibility of going wrong. Do you think this is a reasonable statement?

4. Do you find Jack’s argument concerning the illogic of arguing against God comforting at all?

5. How does Jack explain why the great evil of humanity doesn’t show that God made us “out of rotten stuff”?

6. Why do our attempts to find happiness without God fail?

7. What are the different ways in which God has started the process of rectification of the human race?

8. Don’t the “good dreams” of dying and rising gods just prove that Christianity is a fabrication?

9. What evidence is presented for Jesus making divine claims? Why is forgiving the sins incomprehensible if Jesus wasn’t God?

10. Why does Jack say we can’t just say that Christ was a great moral teacher?

C.S. Lewis Doodle

I couldn’t find a Doodle 🙁

Mere Christianity – Book II – Chapter 2 (“The Invasion”)

Book 2

Continuing my notes on Book II of “Mere Christianity”…

Notes & Quotes

1. Jack identifies two philosophies which are “too simple”

(a) Atheism

(b) Christianity-and-water

“…the view which simply says there is a good God in Heaven and everything is all right – leaving out all the difficult and terrible doctrines about sin and hell and the devil, and the redemption”

2. In contrast, Christianity is not simple

(a) That’s because real things are not simple

(i) Looking at a table is complicated

“…The table I am sitting at looks simple: but ask a scientist to tell you what it is really made of – all about the atoms and how the light waves rebound from them and hit my eye and what they do to the optic nerve and what it does to my brain…and…you will find that what we call ‘seeing a table’ lands you in mysteries and complications which you can hardly get to the end of”

(ii) Planet configurations are unexpected

“…when you have grasped that the earth and the other planets all go round the sun, you would naturally expect that all the planets were made to match… In fact, you find no rhyme or reason (that we can see) about either the sizes or the distances; and some of them have one moon, one has four, one has two, some have none, and one has a ring”

(iii) This is actually a motive of credibility for Christianity

“Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed….it has just that queer twist about it that real things have”

(b) You can’t demand for a non-simplistic explanation and then complain about its complication

“If we ask for something more than simplicity, it is silly then to complain that the something more is not simple”

3. We are presented with a problem between the our intuitions about the universe

“What is the problem? A universe that contains much that is obviously bad and apparently meaningless, but containing creatures like ourselves who know that it is bad and meaningless”

There are two possible conclusions we could draw from this:

(a) The Christian View

“…this is a good world that has gone wrong, but still retains the memory of what it ought to have been”

(b) The Dualistic View

“…there are two equal and independent powers at the back of everything, one of them good and the other bad, and that this universe is the battlefield in which they fight out  an endless war…”

What do we mean when we identify one power as “good” and the other “bad”?

(i) Personal opinion, which means we cannot use words like “good” and “bad”

“…merely saying that we happen to prefer the one to the other – like preferring beer to cider…[in which case]…good would not deserve to be called good”

(ii) Objective difference, which points to something greater than both of them

“…one of them is actually wrong… But the moment you say that, you are putting into the universe a third thing in addition to the two Powers…the Being who made this standard is farther back and higher up than either of them, and He will be the real God”

4. Dualism has another problem in that it requires the bad Power to like badness for its own sake…

(a) …but we have no experience of this

“…in real life people are cruel for one of two reasons – either because they are sadists…or else for the sake of something they are going to get out of it…

(a) …badness is contingent on goodness

“The badness consists in pursuing [good things] by the wrong method, or in the wrong way, or too much… Goodness is, so to speak, itself: badness is only spoiled goodness…[the “Bad Power] cannot supply himself either with good things to desire or with good impulses to pervert. He must be getting both from the Good Power. And if so, then he is not independent”

(i) This is why Christians believe what they do about the Devil

“To be bad, [the Bad Power] must exist and have intelligence and will. But existence, intelligence and will are in themselves good….even to be bad he must borrow or seal from his opponent. And do you now begin to see why Christianity has always said that the devil is a fallen angel? …evil is a parasite, not an original thing”

5. Christianity agrees that the universe is at war, but not between independent powers

“…it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel. …the rightful king has landed…and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening-in to the secret wirelesss from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going”

Discussion Questions

1. What two philosophies does Jack claim are “too simple”?

2. Why should we not expect a “simple” religion?

3. Why is its lack of simplicity actually an argument in favour of Christianity? Have you encountered any other surprising motives for credibility for the Christian faith?

4. How can we explain a “bad” universe which contains creatures like ourselves?

5. What is dualism? Can you name any religions which are dualistic?

6. How does dualism naturally point to a greater Being, over and above to the “good power” and “bad power”?

8. In what way is evil “not an original thing”? How does this undermine dualism.

9. What kind of war does Jack say we are fighting?

C.S. Lewis Doodle

I couldn’t find a Doodle 🙁

Friday Frivolity: Our Lady of Puns

Okay, these are pretty terrible, even by my standards…

Mere Christianity – Book II – Chapter 1 (“Rival Conceptions of God”)

Book 2

We now begin the second Book of “Mere Christianity” which is entitled “What Christian’s Believe”. Previously I had been posting my notes as I read. Here are my notes for the first chapter of Book II:

Notes & Quotes

1. Christians can recognize the elements of truth in other religions

“If you are Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake. If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all those religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth”

2. Christians can still make absolute claims

“As in arithmetic – there is only one right answer to a sum…but some of the wrong answers are much nearer being right than others”

3. Humanity may be divided first into two groups, the majority who believe in some kind of deity and a minority who do not. This group may be further subdivided into the kind of deity in which they believe:

(a) Pantheists

These believe that:

(i) God who is beyond good and evil

“…these people think that long before you got anywhere near the divine point of view the distinction [between good and evil] would have disappeared altogether…[This is] Pantheism. It was held by the great Prussian philosopher Hegel and, as far as I can understand them, by the Hindus.”

(ii) God and the universe almost the same thing

“Pantheists usually believe that God, so to speak, animates the universe as you animate your body: that the universe almost is God, so that if it did not exist He would not exist either, and anything you find in the universe is a part of God”

These two beliefs are connected:

“If you do not take the distinction between good an bad very seriously, then it is easy to say that anything you find in this world is a part of God”

(b) Non-Panthesists

These believe that:

(i) God who is ‘good’

“…a God who takes sides, who loves love and hates hatred, who wants us to behave in one way and not in another…[a view] held by Jews, Mohammadans and Christians”

The word “Mohammadans” is an old word used to describe Muslims (since they were followers of Mohammad).

(ii) God is distinct from His creation

“…God invented and made the universe – like a man making a picture or composing a tune. A painter is not a picture, and he does not die if his picture is destroyed”

These beliefs are connected:

“…if you think some things really bad, and God really good, then you cannot talk like that. You must believe that God is separate from the world and that some of the things we see in it are contrary to His will…a great many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and that God insists, and insists very loudly, on putting them right again”

4. The very question as to why there is evil in the world presupposes God

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line…I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that then my argument against God collapsed too – for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies”

Discussion Questions

1. Why does Jack say that when he became a Christian he adopted the more “liberal” view?

2. Is it possible to affirm the truth of other religions while still holding to the absolute truth claims of Christianity?

3. Can you think of any religion completely devoid of ALL truth?

4. Into what two central conceptions of God does Jack say people hold? Do you think we could divide it up in a different way?

5. In what way do these conceptions of God and our attitudes towards the Moral Law and the Universe relate to each other?

6. Why does the very question of asking about evil in the world presuppose the existence of God?

C.S. Lewis Doodle

(The video does work, honest!)

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