The Absurdities of the Deep

Those in the Deep, if they could, would emphatically speak,
They placelessly perish, no marks for their graves;
They misplace their faces-expressionless skulls;
They drink, after drowning, of saltwater doom;
They loved other lovers, now only have fishes for friends-
And their flesh fishes love.
They see the rusted navies, wasted gold, and then it seems
The misplaced hopes of all the nations are but rotted dreams;
They were friends! whose fellowship fractured by Death,
Are scattered and lost like treasure to never be found.
If people are atoms and star stuff, then friendship will die
From galaxies smashing and black holes of nothing,
The Circle of Life will fizzle and die,
And all beauty in life is a transient vapor shimmering,
Issuing from the pit of entropic death.
If one from Davy Jones’ Locker broke free
and speaks in a voice pleasant and mighty,
like the rushing of many waters,
“Come out from the Deep,”
then the corpses obey.

Advertisements

Augustine on Skepticism

Augustine mounted many arguments against skepticism in the 4th and 5th centuries. There may be more, but here are three:

1) How can you say skepticism is wisdom? If you don’t know anything, you don’t know what wisdom is. If you have any shred of an idea of what wisdom is, you have ceased to be a skeptic.

2) In order to doubt, you must exist.

3) If you know you have doubts, you are certain of something, namely that you have doubts.

“Skepticism is wisdom” is too certain of a statement; doubts prove the certainty of our existence; and in order to doubt we must be certain we doubt; therefore, we should flee skepticism.

Education as an Idol

Consider Psychology Today’s article about Dylan Roof’s evil act (can we call it “evil” and admit there is a standard of good and evil?). The article claims his horrible act can be traced to the anti-intellectual attitude of the South and an abandonment of reason. The idea that humanity’s problem is ignorance and can therefore be fixed by education comes probably from Socrates and is extremely influential in much of modern thinking.

But humanity’s problem cannot be ignorance, anti-intellectual culture, or lack of education for at least 4 reasons. 1) Hitler had a college education. 2) Many of the fighters joining ISIS have college degrees from Western universities. Being exposed to the West didn’t automatically remove their prejudices. Tsarnaev, one of the Boston Marathon bombers, was a college student. Osama bin Laden had a bookshelf full of books. 3) Ernest Boyer, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching said, “To have people who are well-informed but not constrained by conscience is, conceivably, the most dangerous outcome of education possible. Indeed, it could be argued that ignorance is better than unguided intelligence, for the most dangerous people are those who have knowledge without a moral framework.” 4) Rape culture is a big deal–on college campuses. The narrative that we can fix humanity with education just doesn’t fit reality. The New York Times is scrambling over these jihadists, many of whom are well-educated and had good economic prospects. They don’t fit the mainstream narrative. Prager University explains it well here.

Education and reason make everyone better? You have to contradict Shakespeare, who made his villains good reasoners. You have to contradict Johnson, who scorned the wickedness of Rousseau and others in his book Intellectuals. (Rousseau called himself “the most loving man who ever lived” and abandoned his children at orphanages where they likely died from disease or malnutrition.) You have to contradict C.S. Lewis, whose villain in The Magician’s Nephew was an intellectual. Education that is naïve about the human heart can’t change the heart, only amplify what’s already there. Knowledge increases a virtuous person’s capacity for good and increases a selfish person’s capacity to live selfishly.

This next part is for Christians. If you are not a Christian, I love you and don’t judge you. Like Paul, what do I have to do with judging those outside the church? Non-Christian, I love you and don’t judge you. Church, I love you and need to speak hard words to us. Christians, if we believe it’s education and not Jesus that will save humanity, we are idolaters who need to repent. Idols are always good things we love too much and trust as false saviors making false promises. Idols are enslaving. Jonah’s neighbors were in a storm because of his idolatry;  Gideon’s deliverance of Israel started by tearing down the altar set up to Baal, not attacking the Midianites; maybe America has massive student loan debts because Christians are publicly bowing down to something that’s not God. Education, money, sex, family, and jobs are good, but they must never dethrone God. We dethrone God if we believe education will save us. Christians, let us repent and trust in Christ as the only one powerful enough to save us. Let us return to God and enjoy His mercy. Education is good. Get educated if that’s your calling. But don’t elevate it to the place of God and commit idolatry. As G.K. Chesterton quipped in his typical whit, “No man who worships education has got the best out of education…Without a gentle contempt for education no man’s education is complete.” You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind, not education. When we fail, let us ask God for mercy and grace.

If ignorance is a false narrative, what is the true narrative? Check out Lecrae’s piece here. “There is a great antagonist, and it does not have black or white skin. It is the brokenness of humanity. May a love that miraculously mends our brokenness be the protagonist.” Let’s rejoice in the way the victims’ families have responded with forgiveness. Christ’s forgiveness is our hope, and we long for His love to heal our broken hearts and broken world.

Thank you for the Correction: An Open Letter to my Postmodern Friend

Writing a letter to a friend with whom we disagree is something suggested by Dr. Jerram Barrs in his apologetics course. I have a few friends who are postmodernists, and I tried to write this with the gentleness and respect I would have talking to them face-to-face.

My dear friend,

You have told me you are a postmodernist. I have my truth; you have your truth; but there is no such thing as the Truth.

We had a very interesting conversation the other day. You pointed out an inconsistency in my life. I want to tell you: you were right. I needed to change, and so I did.

Maybe this sounds crazy, but what you did the other day was speak words to me that convicted my soul to change, words of absolute truth. I was sorely tempted to play by the rules of postmodernism and dismiss what you said as “your truth,” but no. You spoke truth that could make a claim on my soul. And because I believe in truth, I have to listen to you when you speak it. If you speak truth, I can’t dismiss you. When you corrected me, I don’t think that was your truth. That was our truth, so I had to say, “You’re right,” even though it meant I was wrong and had to change.

Say we had a third friend, also a postmodernist. Say he’s all about kindness, but he’s being unkind to his wife. If I tried to point out this inconsistency in his life, couldn’t he say, “that’s your truth and you have no basis to correct me”? Don’t you see that, the only way you can correct me is if we both live under the same truth? I don’t want to say there is no truth and you have no right to correct me. I want to say there is truth and you have a right to correct me when I’m wrong.

Is it too bold to say that the moment you corrected me you proclaimed the existence of truth? I think that, because you know you can correct me, deep, deep down you do secretly believe in truth. Correcting someone presupposes a standard of truth toward which he should be corrected.

I really enjoy our conversations together and look forward to more. Both of us are seeking to be examples of love, respect, and civility. I love that we have a close enough relationship where you feel like you can correct me without me bristling like a self-righteous porcupine. Thank you for speaking life-transforming words to me.

Your friend,

John

Francis Schaeffer on Service

‘Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him,” and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”’
~Jesus, Luke 14:7-11

‘Jesus commands Christians to seek consciously the lowest room. All of us–pastors, teachers, professional religious workers and nonprofessional included-are tempted to say, “I will take the larger place because it will give me more influence for Jesus Christ.”…But according to the Scripture this is backwards: we should consciously take the lowest place unless the Lord Himself extrudes us into a greater one.’
~Francis Schaeffer, No Little People, p. 29