Posts Tagged ‘Philosophy’

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Thinking Highly of Faith

February 19, 2020

I read this quote from “The Kierkegaard Collection” by Soren Kierkegaard –

“I do not however mean in any sense to say that faith is something lowly, but on the contrary that it is the highest thing, and that it is dishonest of philosophy to give something else instead of it and to make light of faith. Philosophy cannot and should not give faith, but it should understand itself and know what it has to offer and take nothing away, and least of all should fool people out of something as if it were nothing.”

So often, we tend to apologize for living by faith and not by philosophy.  As if philosophy were the higher of the two alternatives.  Philosophy assumes an understanding of reality’s rules that cannot be realized and therefore must always be in subjugation to Faith based on reality revealed.

Start reading this book for free: http://a.co/eVajECF

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QUOTE (Alexander Graham Bell)

March 7, 2017

God has strewn our paths with wonders and we certainly should not go through life with our eyes shut - Alexander Graham Bell

 

In honor of Alexander Graham Bell, a Scottish-born scientist, inventor, and engineer, who received a patent for the telephone on this day in 1876.

Resources:

This Day in History March 7th

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QUOTE (Alfred Edersheim)

March 16, 2016

Alfred_Edersheim“So true is it that all sin is ultimately against the Lord; so bitter is the root of self; and so terrible the power of evil in its constantly growing strength, till it casts out all fear of God or care for man.”

“The absolutely highest stage of intercourse with God is the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in the New Testament Church, when man’s individuality is not superseded nor suppressed, but transformed, and thus conformed to Him in spiritual fellowship.”
~ Alfred Edersheim

In honor of Alfred Edersheim, an Austrian Biblical scholar and author,  who died on this day in 1889.

Resources:
Today in Christian History
Alfred Edersheim>Quotes

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“BIRDS OF A FEATHER…” – Feb. 29

February 29, 2016

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”  John 10:27

Cowboy_popup-webMy wife and I recently were in a local appliance store.  As we perused our freezer options, a cowboy sauntered in from the back of the store.   I say sauntered because that is exactly how he walked.  His boots making the familiar clack-tap with each step on the hardwood floor.  It seemed like a slow, relaxed echo from a saloon of the old-west.

As I turned, I saw exactly what I expected to see.  The epitome of a cowboy -worn cowboy boots with a little manure clinging to the heel, Wrangler jeans, large belt buckle of rodeo origin, leather vest over a western shirt, a handle-bar mustache, and a dirty black cowboy hat.

I watched him make his transaction and he sounded exactly as I expected.  He talked with the cashier in a slow, western drawl, about the weather, hunting, work to be done, and the superiority of cash to credit cards as he pulled two hundred dollars of twenties from his leather wallet.

“Now, there is a unique individual”, I thought but then I immediately wondered “is he?”  Could he really be my personified ideal of an individual if I knew exactly what he would look and sound like?  He was the epitome of cowboy; that is not unique.

In a society that idealizes the concept of individualism, I see few examples of truly unique individuals.

Consider the labels:   Cowboy Nerd Hipster Poet Biker Goth Academic Artsy Devote Musician

The images associated with these labels that flash through our brains are probably very similar.  There are stereotypes for even those who many consider the most unique of our society.

It seems that there are few truly distinct individuals and I wonder the extent to which any human lives uniquely.  Even the most unique among us still end up in some stereotypical flock.  We often confuse individualism with genius or exceptionalism or independence.  For me, the truly unique individual is the one who lives outside the imposed influence of society in general and his own neighborhood in specific.

Yet, is that even possible?  More importantly, is that a state that should be desired?

I was recently watching some videos on birds flocking.

The mesmerizing movement of these flocks make it seem like an orchestrated control over the mass.  Yet, we know that the actions are the agglomeration of each animal’s individual decisions based upon a local perception of their surrounding.

Science does not know how birds flock without sheer chaos and crashes.  Wayne Potts studied birds flocking in 1984.  He found that the turning of flock can spread from bird to bird three times faster than any individual bird’s reaction time.  This suggests that there is not much thinking occurring within each individual bird as they fly along.  They are most likely responding unconsciously to the actions around them.

The most interesting explanation of this phenomenon has come through the attempts to simulate flocking in computer animation.   Craig Reynolds developed three rules that are still the basis of flocking simulations:

  1. Avoid collisions with nearby flockmates
  2. Attempt to match the speed of nearby flockmates; collisions are unlikely if the velocity of the individuals are similar.
  3. Attempt to stay close to the nearby flockmates; there is a stronger influence of nearby neighbors than distant members of the flock.

I wonder, if we could achieve a broader perspective, whether the activities of man would appear more like the random motion of a flock’s unconscious decisions rather than a choreographed pattern of deliberated reason.

How many times have you wondered, “how did I get here”?

Just as a bird may be baffled by how it came to alight in a field miles from its origin, I often feel swept away from principles and priorities to find myself in a cultural landscape far from my origin.  We are all influenced by friends and family.  We are inundated by beliefs and values through education and entertainment.  It seems as if norms are cast aside without much thought or consideration.

I’m baffled by where we often find ourselves.

I wonder if we humans are more influenced by the Reynolds’ rules of flocking than we care to admit.  Soren Kierkegaard referred to it as being lost to the finite, which is mindlessly following social conventions.  It is accepting the current paradigm of expectations without consideration.  Consider the bird in a flock; that bird probably thinks that it is acting as an individual but it is really at the mercy of those around it.  That bird has lost its individuality to the finite influences of the flock.

The scary part is that the bird doesn’t even realize what it has lost
– its individuality.

Let’s use Reynolds’ rules of flocking to evaluate the individuality of our personal decision making:

  1. Are you conflict adverse? Will you go along with ideas or activities that you don’t agree with simply because you don’t want to offend or be excluded?  If your first tendency is to subjugate your actions to those of others, then you might be flocking.
  2. Do you simply accept the ideas of experts? Do you match the actions of those you respect because surely they have thought it through?  If your tendency is to receive thoughts rather than think them, then you might be flocking.
  3. Is your identity associated with affiliations? Do you follow along with the group for fear of being left behind?  If you tend to move with your community even when it is turning away from core beliefs, then you might be flocking.

Every person who has bucked these rules have found themselves outside the flock.  I think that the reason we see so few true individuals is due to the fact that living outside the flock is hard.  In fact, I don’t think that we were ever meant to live outside the flock.

The problem is that we often choose the wrong flock.

I believe that we created flock.  We were created to flock to God.  We were meant to instinctively know and follow God.  The problem arises when we substitute the voice of God with the voice of man.

The truly unique individual is the one following the voice of the Shepherd because only He truly knows each person in the unique personhood.  True self is only found in relationship with God.

Let’s use Reynolds’ rules of flocking to consider what flocking to God might look like:

  1. You avoid collisions with God. You know that sin causes conflict with the Shepherd.  Therefore, you strive toward obedience to the will of God in your life.  If your first tendency is to subjugate your actions to God, then you’re probably flocking to your Shepherd.
  2. You match everything to the Word of God. You don’t simply accept the ideas of others but you examine those ideas to the scriptures to see if they are true.  When you match your beliefs with the Bible, collision with God are unlikely and you’re probably flocking to your Shepherd.
  3. You strive to stay close to the leadings of the Spirit. The Shepherd takes each of us through life with many meandering turns.  If your tendency is to follow even when you don’t understand, then you’re probably flocking to your Shepherd.

The Church should be a conglomeration of truly unique individuals.  It should be a beautiful flow of individuals, each participating from their unique personhood revealed through their relation to the Good Shepherd.

There should be a stereotypes for those who are in Christ – the image of Christ and the Fruit of the Spirit.  Unfortunately, that is often not the stereotype that Christians are known for.  The problem rises from the fact that too many who profess Christ are still lost in the finite and flocking to the mentality of man.

We, as unique individuals in Christ, have the continuous task of keeping our flocking instinct focused on the correct initiator.  The hardest of all tasks is to recognize when we are quietly losing our self to the influences of the world rather than influencing it.

quote-Henry-Ward-Beecher

Living as a unique individual in relation to God is rare because it is hard.

Obedience to God will result in conflict with people.
You may be hated for your refusal to follow the flow of man.
“…but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world,
therefore the world hates you.”  John 15:19b
But take heart, God has overcome the world!
We will always be secure.

Following the Bible as the inspired Word of God will result in being excluded.
You may be ridiculed for clinging to traditions or supposed doctrines of bygone days.
“Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes?  
There is more hope for a fool than for him.”  Proverbs 26:12
But take heart, we have a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul,
the hope of those who through faith and patience
will inherit the promise – eternal life.

Following the path God has laid before you will result in periods of isolation.
You may find yourself abandoned and alone as others drift after the ideas of man.
“I know your works.  Behold, I have set before you an open door,
which no one is able to shut.  I know that you have but little power,
and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”  Rev. 3:8
But take heart, we are never abandoned or forsaken.  
We are loved!

Living as a truly unique individual, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, will be hard but the promise of the joy set before us will be so worth all that we may have to patiently endure.  Keep your eye on Jesus!  He will never fail you.

PRAYER: Lord, help me to truly follow you and you alone.  Help me to hear you voice.  Show me where I am being influenced by the ideas and opinions of people.  Enable me to resist my inclinations to go along with the flock.  Give me strength to stand alone.  Give me endurance to stay on course to the open door that you have laid before me.  Help me to keep your word.  Father, I want to imitate you.  I want to be a reflection of your loving kindness. I want to embody the hope that you have given me.  Lord, may all I do bring glory to your name.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

“The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss – an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. – is sure to be noticed.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

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QUOTE (Victor Hugo)

February 26, 2016

Victor_Hugo_001“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.” ~Victor Hugo

In honor of Victor Hugo, a French author best known for his novels Les Misérables  and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, who was born on this day in 1802.

Resources:
Victor Hugo
Victor Hugo>Quotes

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QUOTE (Epictetus)

January 29, 2016

Epicteti_Enchiridion_Latinis_versibus_adumbratum_(Oxford_1715)_frontispiece“If anyone tells you that a certain person speaks ill of you, do not make excuses about what is said of you but answer, “He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would not have mentioned these alone.”

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has. ”

“He who laughs at himself never runs out of things to laugh at.”

In honor of Epictetus, a Greek speaking Stoic philosopher, who died in 135.

Resources:

Episode 12 – The Hellenistic Age Pt. 3 – Hallmarks of Stoic Ethics
Epictetus>Quotes

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QUOTE (Francis Schaeffer) – Jan 30

January 30, 2014

Francis Schaeffer

“The reality of living by faith as though we were already dead, of living by faith in open communion with God, and then stepped back into the external world as though we are already raised from the dead, this is not once for all, it is a matter of moment-by-moment faith, and living moment by moment. This morning’s faith will never do for this noon. The faith of this noon will never do for supper time. The faith of supper time will never do for the next morning. Thank God for the reality for which we were created, a moment-by-moment communication with God himself.”
~ Francis August Schaeffer

In honor of Francis Schaeffer, American Evangelical Christian theologian, philosopher, and Presbyterian pastor, who was born on this day in 1912

Resources:
Today in History – January 30
True Spirituality – Page 78

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QUOTE (Thomas Aquinas) – Jan 28

January 28, 2014

The fifth of Thomas Aquinas' proofs of God's e...

“God Himself is the rule and mode of virtue. Our faith is measured by divine truth, our hope by the greatness of His power and faithful affection, our charity by His goodness. His truth, power and goodness outreach any measure of reason. We can certainly never believe, trust or love God more than, or even as much as, we should. Extravagance is impossible. Here is no virtuous moderation, no measurable mean; the more extreme our activity, the better we are.”
~ Thomas Aquinas

In honor of Thomas Aquinas, an immensely influential theologian and philosopher whose Summa Theologica is one of the most influential documents in medieval theology.  He was born on this day in 1225.

Resources:
Today in History – January 28
Thomas Aquinas > Quotes > Quotable Quote

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“THINKING ABOUT THINKING” – April 24

April 24, 2013

“For the Lord will not foresake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.” 1 Samuel 12:22

The Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco, CA a...I had a Monday that taints the weekend with an odd color of anticipation. I had a one-day business trip to San Francisco scheduled.  I was to fly into Oakland International Airport in the morning, have my meeting, and fly out that same evening.  I am amazed at how travel has changed.  We left the car rental agency in Oakland without a map or direction.  All we had to help us navigate through an unfamiliar city was a GPS unit that I call Uncle Mel (that is a longer and different story).  I typed the directions in for Fort Mason on the Marin Headlands and Uncle Mel started to tell me where to go.

I had a rather disconcerting feeling of dependence as we were going through the labyrinth of one-way streets in the skyscraper canyons of downtown San Francisco.  I knew that our destination was just on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge and I knew the general direction.  However, I was going to be hard pressed to navigate such an unfamiliar city if Uncle Mel died.

Uncle Mel faithfully guided us right to the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge.  I was very thankful for that beautiful bridge because it carried us across the chasm of water right to our destination with 15 minutes to spare.

I was reflecting on my trip as I listened through some podcasts on my way home.  I listened to a particular podcast called Philosophy for Theologians  that got me to thinking.  Dr. Vern Poythress was on the podcast to discuss his new book, Logic: A God-Centered Approach.  Dr. Poythress challenges the concept that logic is inherent to itself; that logic and rational thought, such as 2+2=4, exists whether God exists or not.  He proposes a distinctly Christian logic based on the reality that even logic is a revelation of a redeeming God.  He works to demonstrate how our ability to think rationally is grounded in the very nature of God himself.  The implications of this Biblical worldview are profound.

I thought about my trip through San Francisco to the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge and how similar I believe that is to our salvation.  I believe that the Spirit guides all who are called through the myriad of life’s one-way streets, imposing intellectual canyons, dangerous neighborhoods; past dead-ends, playgrounds, restaurants, and park benches.  The Spirit guides us along a route where we are completely dependent upon Him.  Often, a traveler doesn’t even realize that they were being guided when they come right to the foot of the cross.

I realize that there is debate among my brothers and sisters in Christ as to the degree and extent that the Spirit draws people to the Father.  I tend to attribute the drawing of a person’s soul to the cross as a complete work of God.  There are some who view it as a complete work of man’s free-will.  There are still others who view it as a combination of a person’s free-will and the Spirit drawing.

As my plane was whisking me home, I rolled this concept of rational thought, as presented by Dr. Poythress, around in my mind; considering the implications to man’s free-will.  The function of man’s free-will is a result of that person’s rational thought.  If rational thought is a revelation of our redeeming God, then even the functioning of a person’s free-will is a reflection, although an often poor and weak reflection, of the very nature of God.

God has given us a rational mind.  He has placed us in a world where 2+2=4.  I cannot comprehend a world where 2+2 does not equal 4 but that does not mean that God could not have created a world where simple logic did not apply.  I am a created creature with a limited mind and understanding, just because I cannot comprehend something does not mean that it is impossible.

The reality is that 2+2 does equal 4 and that is an incredible gift.  It means that we can make decisions; we can think through difficult questions; we can follow directions and we can respond when called.   Therefore, we could never be saved if God did not create us with a rational mind in a world where logic worked.

San Francisco downtown seen from helicopter

San Francisco downtown seen from helicopter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I would have never made it out of San Francisco if I was incapable of rational thought.  If I could not think logically I would not have been able to follow the directions of Uncle Mel.  If Uncle Mel had not worked, I would not have been able to deduce the correct route to the Golden Gate Bridge.  In the same way, no one can come to the cross without God.  Rational thought is a God glorifying gift of God.  No one could ever find God if He did not first give us the ability to seek.

Now, the Bible teaches us that no one can get across the chasm that separates us from God.  We all come to the bank of our lives with the realization that our sin has separated us from the holy and righteous God.  There is nothing that we can do to span the gulf created by our unrighteousness.  That is why God had to give us a bridge.  We are powerless through our own ability to reach our eternal destination.  The free gift of eternal life is by Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross in payment for our sins and that is our only bridge to eternity.

No one can reach God without God.

No one comes to the Father by any other route than through Christ.

We are all travelers on the road to our eternal destination.   It is an amazing work of grace that any person is ever allowed into the presence of the King of kings.  I think that we will all be amazed to the extent of grace that we have been shown in this life.  I think we will learn of so many aspects of this life that we have taken for granted, like rational thought, that are really gifts of mercy and grace from a loving Father calling His children home.

May God be glorified in every breath we take and every thought that we make.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for blessing me and taking care of me in ways that are beyond my comprehension.  Thank you for gifting men like Dr. Poythress to teach us to think deeply about you.  Thank you for the ability to seek you.  Most of all Lord, thank you for allowing yourself to be found.  You truly are great and worthy of all praise.  I praise you and pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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THE ANSWERS ARE UP CLOSE – Jan. 31

January 31, 2013

“And they say, “How can God know?  Is there knowledge in the Most High?”” Psalm 73:11

There is nothing new under the sun.  I was reading through Psalm 73 this morning and was struck by the reality that man does not really change, we just get better toys.  There have been incredible advances in knowledge and technology since the time of the Psalmist.  I love what those advances have brought.  I love that we understand this incredible creation better.  I am a huge proponent of modern medicine, computers, motorized vehicles, infrastructure, etc.

Yet, the philosophical questions about God and the origin of knowledge persist.  We have been unable to answer them.

A short study of the history of philosophy will reveal that these questions have been pondered for centuries.  Theories have been proposed and modified and modified and rejected and re-proposed and modified. I appreciate the honesty of the Psalmist:

“But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task,” (Psalm 73:16)

I think that there are many who ponder these types of questions or have these types of questions thrust upon them do find them wearisome.  The Psalmist is once again of help:

“until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.” (Psalm 73:17)

Those who set themselves apart from God in an attempt to answer these larger philosophical questions of the universe are setting themselves on very unstable ground:

“Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin.” (Psalm 73:18)

“For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;…” (Psalm 73:27)

The problem is that when man sets himself apart from God he is inevitably lost. There are many who arrogantly pride ourselves in their intellectual prowess and our ability to discern what is truth and what is not.  There are many who think that they have the ability to discern between good knowledge and bad knowledge.  There are many who place their confidence in the logical devices of man to dissect the mind of God.

I don’t think any of us fully understands how completely blind we really are.

Cloudy Mountain

Cloudy Mountain (Photo credit: mikey.saltas)

A friend of mine told me a story of a ski experience he and his family had while at Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  They had ridden the gondola to the top of the mountain into a dense cloud bank.  They could not see more than thirty feet and they were on a mountain that they had never skied before.  They proceeded to work their way through the fog by following the natural slope of the mountain.  They came to a yellow barrier and followed the yellow line until they got below the cloud.  The next day the mountain was clear and they went back up to the top.  They realized at that moment the danger that they had actually been in.  The yellow barrier that they had followed was at the edge of a fifty foot cliff.  The day before they had casually followed this barrier but now the proximity to the cliff was actually fear inducing.

Jesus tells us, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” (John 12:46)  Proceeding without Christ is like trying to find your way down a cloud encased mountain.  We need a guide.  We need a light to our path.  We need a yellow barrier that will lead us to safety.  We need the darkness removed.

We are incapable of removing the darkness.  We don’t have the eyes to see clearly.  We need the Light of the world.

That is the folly of seeking the answers of God by separating ourselves from him.  When we do that, we are merely stepping out into the darkness.  The answers lie in getting closer to God.

“Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel and afterward you will receive me to glory.” (Psalm 73:23-24)

We have to draw close to God so that He can take us by the hand and guide us with His counsel, which is the Bible.  It is when we draw close to God that He guides us to glory.  Otherwise, we are left groping in the darkness and will eventually fall over the cliff to our own destruction because we don’t have eyes to see.

I echo the conclusion of the Psalmist:

“But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.” (Psalm 73:28)

Amen!

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for mercifully coming to show me the way.  Thank you reaching out and grasping my hand.  Father, please don’t let go of me.  Pull me in close to your shelter.  I want to be fully in the refuge of you my Lord and my God.  Lord, you know that I am prone to wander away.  You know that I can be arrogant in my own understanding.  Father, keep me close to you; bind my right hand to you and lead me to glory because I cannot find it on my own.     Amen

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