Monday, January 25, 2016

Journeyman Christian Philosopher

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Journeyman Christian Philosopher by Steven Yates

Hello, and welcome to my portion of this blog. I’ve been a Christian since high school, although my commitment to Christianity has had its “nights” as well as its “days,” periods of intense doubt from which I eventually recovered. Perhaps this is the nature of the journey of the philosophically inclined, who have come to recognize the necessity of the centrality of God in all things but who have drawn wisdom from a variety of sources — sometimes as lessons learned from bad examples and bad experiences. In any event, I’ll not regale you with the details of my journey except to say that they involved numerous forays both in and out of, and eventual abandonment of, American academia. To say that I am skeptical of much of its product these days is an understatement.

I am now an expatriated U.S. citizen living in Chile. My wife is Chilean. We live in Chile’s capitol city, Santiago. We have no children, just two spoiled cats. She works, while I spend my time writing, working on an online course project I wish to launch in a month or so, and also at learning the preliminaries for an ecommerce project I hope will deliver some income in the foreseeable future. And since Chile is a Spanish speaking country and since I am far from fluent in Spanish, I study the language when I can (my wife’s being a native speaker is a huge benefit). This means going to English-Spanish language exchange events, which are numerous here as many Chileans are constantly working to improve their English skills for business and other purposes. We gringos are available to help; most of us have taught English periodically, and I will do so if asked.

In any event, my portion of this blog will reflect the results of a few of my private (now public) inquiries into the sort of philosophy the Christian worldview and life requires, and how a philosophical temperament conforms itself to the sort of life Christ called upon us to live. Many (including my present pastor) have asked how I fit the two together, the sort of philosophical training that led to a Ph.D. and belief in both God and the divine inspiration of Scripture — especially in light of Colossians 2:8! My answer comes from having studied the secular, non-Christian traditions thoroughly. I know what they say. I know how the advocates of the various non-Christian ethical theories argued their case. And I am as certain as I can be that all these theories fail. While dismissive of Christian "supernaturalism" they invariably invoke demonstrably false premises — premises at variance with history and human experience. They presume our fundamental innocence, which can be restored by various cures such as changing our institutions or bettering public education or something else external to us. If we look at ourselves honestly, we are compelled to acknowledge our sinful nature on empirical grounds alone, quite apart from what Scripture says. Original sin, a concept battled by Freudians, Marxists, and countless other secular schools, looms as the best explanation for our utter inability, historically, to build a society that doesn’t shaft somebody; or allow at some point the temptations of power and privilege (and I am not talking about “white privilege”); or allow our technology to be used to build weapons capable of laying waste to much of the planet. A minority among us is drawn to power, this being the first premise of my approach to political philosophy (hardly new and original, I am aware, but I am more interested in what is true than what is new or original). The rest of us all too often take easy routes of mediocrity rather than hard ones of vigilance and responsibility, leaving ourselves vulnerable to those who would wield power.

The answer to original sin is not liberal democracy, which arguably delivered us into the hands of global oligarchy; nor is it the pure laissez-faire capitalism of libertarians, Ayn-Randians, and Austrian economists (even if they get some things right). We are not suited for complete freedom and autonomy. Total freedom destroys freedom, as it necessarily includes the freedom of bullies and would-be tyrants to destroy the freedoms of the rest of us, whether for the sake of some vision of Utopia or just their own greed. The answer to original sin is not behavior modification; it is not Freudian psychoanalysis; it is not "transhumanism," tinkering with ourselves technologically; nor is it any of the various sorts of pseudo-intellectual escapism available today. The only answer to original sin, i.e., our sins, is Jesus Christ, who paid the price for our sins on the cross. Our Faith in Christ is, thus, a necessary condition for absolution from sin before a perfectly holy God.

Let this be my introduction here. I am an avid devotee of quotes—a “quotoholic,” if you will. In that light, I will share some of my favorites, beginning with the most pivotal and meaningful passages in Scripture, important insights of the great philosophers, and also a few from modern fiction and films, and one from a musician. A science fiction fan since my childhood days, I’ve also tried to draw insight from that. Comments are welcome, as well as suggestions for topics on the borderlands of philosophy, science, and Christian theology. The journey continues.

“In the beginning, God created the heaven and the Earth.” Genesis 1:1.

“In the beginning was the Word [Logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord …” Isaiah 1:18

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me …” Hosea 4:6

“For God so loved the world that He gave his Only Begotten Son, that all that believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

“For by grace are ye saved through faith, that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9.

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints …” Ephesians 6:10-18.

"These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them from afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly, wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city.” Hebrews 11:13-16.

" is an assured truth, and a conclusion of experience, that a little or superficial knowledge of philosophy may incline the mind of men to atheism, but further proceeding therein doth bring the mind back again to religion." Sir Francis Bacon

"Among a people generally corrupt, liberty cannot long exist." Edmund Burke

"Experience has shown, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny." Thomas Jefferson

"[W]e have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." John Adams

"It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds." Samuel Adams

"Let us remember that ‘if we suffer tamely a lawless attack upon our liberty, we encourage it, and involve others in our doom.’ It is a very serious consideration … that millions yet unborn may be the miserable sharers of the event.” Samuel Adams

"History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and it's issuance." James Madison

"A population of sheep will beget a government of wolves." Bernard de Jouvenal

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Lord Acton

"War ... is such a terrible thing, that no man, especially a Christian man, has the right to assume the responsibility of starting it." Leo Tolstoy

"A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another; and as the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the dominant power in the government, whether this be a monarch, an aristocracy, or a majority of the existing generation; in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by a natural tendency to one over the body." John Stuart Mill

"Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both." Frederic Douglass

"Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the Capitalist System was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, government can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some. The sight of this arbitrary rearrangement of riches strikes not only at security, but at confidence in the equity of the existing distribution of wealth. Those to whom the system brings windfalls, beyond their deserts and even beyond their expectations or desires, become 'profiteers,' who are the object of the hatred of the bourgeoisie, whom the inflationism has impoverished, not less than of the proletariat. As the inflation proceeds and the real value of the currency fluctuates wildly from month to month, all permanent relations between debtors and creditors, which form the ultimate foundation of capitalism, become so utterly disordered as to be almost meaningless, and the process of wealth-getting degenerates into a gamble and a lottery.

"Lenin was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer method of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose." John Maynard Keynes

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” ~The Great & Powerful Oz, The Wizard of Oz

“Naturally the common people don’t want war: Neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.” Herman Goering

"Fifty years is ample time in which to change a world & its people almost beyond recognition. All that is required for the task are a sound knowledge of social engineering, a clear sight of the intended goal -- and power." Arthur C. Clarke (Childhood's End)

"The chief problem of American political life for a long time has been how to make the two Congressional parties more national and international. The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead, the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can 'throw the rascals out' at any election without leading to any profound or extensive shifts in policy.... [E]ither party in office becomes in time corrupt, tired, unenterprising, and vigorless. Then it should be possible to replace it, every four years if necessary, by the other party, which will be none of those things but will still pursue, with a new vigor, approximately the same basic policies." Carroll Quigley

"Oh perfect masters / They thrive on disasters / They all look so charming / 'Til they find their way up there." Brian Eno (“Dead Finks Don’t Talk” from lp Here Come the Warm Jets)

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." George Orwell

"Circus dogs jump when the trainer cracks his whip, but the really well-trained dog is the one that turns his somersault when there is no whip." George Orwell

"When trading is done not by consent but by compulsion -- when in order to produce you must obtain permission from men who produce nothing -- when you see that money is flowing to those who deal not in goods but in favors - -when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work and your laws don't protect you against them but protect them against you -- when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice -- you may know that your society is doomed." Ayn Rand (Atlas Shrugged)

"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." Groucho Marx

"Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth." Albert Einstein

"The individual is handicapped by coming face-to-face with a conspiracy so monstrous he cannot believe it exists. The American mind simply has not come to a realization of the evil which has been introduced into our midst. It rejects even the assumption that human creatures could espouse a philosophy which must ultimately destroy all that is good and decent." J. Edgar Hoover

"It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning." Henry Ford

"Political tags-such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth-are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire." Robert A. Heinlein (The Notebooks of Lazarus Long)

"Power attracts the corruptible. Suspect any who seek it." Frank Herbert (Chapterhouse: Dune)

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." Upton Sinclair

"If you favor federal intervention at home, you're a liberal. If you favor federal intervention abroad, you're a conservative. If you favor both, you're a moderate. If you favor neither, you're an extremist." Joseph Sobran

"We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion. The great task in life is to find reality." Iris Murdoch

"When a well-packed web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic." Dresden James

"I am just absolutely convinced that the best formula for giving us peace and preserving the American way of life is freedom, limited government, and minding our own business overseas." Ron Paul

"Ideas are very important to the shaping of society ... more powerful than bombings or armies or guns. And this is because ideas are capable of spreading without limit. They are behind all the choices we make. They can transform the world in a way that governments and armies cannot. Fighting for liberty with ideas makes more sense to me than fighting with guns or politics or political power. With ideas, we can make real change that lasts." Ron Paul

“To understand reality is not the same as to know about outward events. It is to perceive the essential nature of things. The best-informed man is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed there is a danger that precisely in the multiplicity of his knowledge he will lose sight of what is essential. But on the other hand, knowledge of an apparently trivial detail quite often makes it possible to see into the depths of things. And so the wise man will seek to acquire the best possible knowledge about events, but always without becoming dependent upon this knowledge. To recognize the significant in the factual is wisdom.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“You can tell your children of the day when everyone looked up and realized that we were only tenants of this world. We have been given a new lease and a warning from the landlord.” ~Dr. Heywood Floyd, 2010: Odyssey 2

“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” ~Dr. Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park

“I had ... an experience. I can't prove it. I can't explain it. But everything that I know as a human being, everything that I am tells me that it was real! I was given something wonderful, something that changed me forever: a vision of the universe that tells us undeniably how tiny and insignificant and how rare and precious we all are. A vision that tells us that we belong to something that is greater than ourselves, and that we are not — that none of us is alone!” ~Dr. Ellie Arroway, Contact

“As a man of faith, I am bound by a different covenant than Dr. Arroway. But our goal is one and the same: the pursuit of truth. I, for one, believe her.” ~Palmer Joss, Contact

“I assume you read the confidential findings report from the investigating committee.” “I flipped through it.” “I was especially interested in the section on Arroway's video unit. The one that recorded the static?” “Continue.” “The fact that it recorded static isn't what interests me.” “Continue.” “What interests me is that it recorded approximately 18 hours of it.” “That is interesting, isn't it?” ~Rachel Constantine & Michael Kitz, Contact

"I imagine that right now, you’re feeling a little like Alice. Tumbling down the rabbit hole?” “You could say that.” “I see it in your eyes. You have the look of a man who accepts what he sees because he is expecting to wake up. Ironically that’s not far from the truth. Do you believe in fate, Neo?” “No.” “Why not?” “Because I don’t like the idea that I’m not in control of my life.” "I know exactly what you mean. Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain. But you feel it. You've felt it your entire life. That there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me.” “The Matrix?” “Do you want to know what it is?” [Nod from Neo.] “The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us, even now in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.” “What truth?” “That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage, born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison for your mind. Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself. [Morpheus picks up the two pills on the small table between them.] This is your last chance. After this there is no turning back. You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. [Neo swallows the red pill with a glass of water.] “Remember, all I’m offering is the truth, nothing more.” ~Morpheus & Neo, The Matrix

“I didn’t say it would be easy, Neo. I just said it would be the truth.” ~Morpheus, The Matrix

“The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you're inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system, and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.” ~Morpheus, The Matrix

“Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof.” ~V, V for Vendetta

“There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” Warren Buffet

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