Friday, 29 May 2009

Natural Selection

Some memes survive long enough to be passed on to you.

1. Apparently, the Bible is God, just as much as we know how to identify witches.
2. Perhaps this is radically theocentric Christian atheism, or perhaps it's just Christian. Christianity as strict monotheism is not widely understood or practised.
3. A valid criticism of opposition to Islamic schools in Australia. There appears to be no secular justification to prevent an Islamic building or institution in Australia. This notion that Australia is a Christian country needs to be eradicated.
4. A thought-provoking addition to the issue of homosexuality and Christianity. And by "thought-provoking" I mean that it's an opportunity to think about your opinion on the matter. Like it or not, there are plenty of people who identify as homosexual, sincerely trying to live in fidelity to the gospel.
5. And while you're thinking about (allegedly) clear cut moral situations, be challenged by the consequences of a pro-life position on abortion and crime.
6. Is everything really possible?
7. The least Christian Bible? Not if you're an American Patriot, that is. There's a great review here and here.

Enjoy the read and the think.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Natural Selection

Some things on the web last long enough to be passed on to you.

1. A critique of the critique of critique.
2. Psalm 24 in the hands of older theologians.
3. The problem of evil, a very real problem for Christians, immediately followed by a comment-discussion that covers the usual ground.
4. Is the Terminator situation possible?
5. Heresy of heresies - theosis!

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Keeping faith in the tool box

"So, to be sure, they do have religiousness, but inwardly they have not made up their minds about when it is to be used, what it is, how it is to be used.  They have religiousness, but they are not had by it.  Yet it holds true only in a worldly way, in connection with egotistic self-assertion, that it is correct to say: I have a beloved, but I am not had by her."
- Kierkegaard, The Book on Adler, 107.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

DARPA's physicalism

All the thought experiments in the field of consciousness philosophy of the last several decades are starting to become manifest.  The idea that there could be a silicon-based functional isomorph of the brain, which is equally conscious, has captured the imagination of DARPA.  The project to create consciousness from computers is ambitious, to say the least, and will always have trouble with one of the fundamental problems of consciousness: the problem of other minds.

It's impossible to prove that another human being has consciousness.  All you have to go on is that you are conscious and that you and I look similar enough as objects in experience.  Ergo, I must have consciousness too.  But at the same time, I could just give you the appearance of consciousness, but not actually have consciousness.  I might have no experience of the "I" at all, and you cannot prove it one way or the other.

And if that's difficult from one human to another, it's going to be extra difficult from one human to a machine.  But I completely understand why they're doing it.  Sounds like fun.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Now and Then

"Repent, for the kingdom of God is not right now but will be around after you die!"

Typically, this is not how we read the opening lines of Jesus' life in the gospel of Mark. However, I find that by and large that's how some people live. There is a sense that the promised kingdom of God will not see fullness until the afterlife, and because of this we can just get on with our lives now, living in the assurance that upon death we will be in the kingdom of God.

I see some key problems with this view, all of which can be highlighted by taking a different position: the Now.

First of all, Jesus' proclamation was about the here and now. "The kingdom of God is here," he proclaimed. Repentance was predicated upon the immanence of the kingdom, insisting that the kingdom was here, but always out of reach for the impenitent. "Today you will be with me in paradise," he said to the thief crucified with him. Today. The kingdom, as preached by Jesus, was a kingdom of now. The matter of the kingdom "not yet" I will deal with later.

Secondly, at the heart of the Christian proclamation is that the transcendent God was manifest in the physical and temporal in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. The word was made flesh and lived among us. This is the movement of God to us, not the movement of us to God. The direction of divine self-revelation is from the divine, not towards the divine. That movement, from eternal to temporal, is the movement to the now. Even the language that Jesus uses for the holy spirit is one of sending from God to humanity. The direction is again from the divine, from the eternal to the temporal.

Thirdly, Jesus' teaching is about how to live now. Forgive now. Make peace now. Give now. Love now. Any time that Jesus mentions a final judgement, it is too late for action. The state of play is frozen and complete, just as in death a human life is complete. Nothing more can be added to it. The life of the disciple is in the now.

And lastly (for this brief account), the presentation of the kingdom of God in the now and the not-yet is seen in the tension between the way of the flesh and the way of the spirit, the tension between what is and what ought to be. In enacting the kingdom, each and every Christian is caught between the world as it is (with all its faults and foibles) and the kingdom of God proclaimed by Jesus (with all its hope and answers). The "now" is the act that we make today, and the "not-yet" is the transformed life of the Church which, although universalising, has not yet reached all. It is the not-yet in the sense that the Church will continue to act.

The kingdom of God is now. So why wait until death to do what was commanded? Why wait until the afterlife to manifest God? The command of Christ is to manifest God in the here and now, not paying any heed to the there and then.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Promises to be Ignored

We appropriate from Judaism everything connected with promises, promises for this life; we teach that like a Jew one is to pursue them, and, like a Jew, to see the proof of God's grace in the fact that one is rich, happily married, blessed in an earthly sense.  And if this fails, then we take the other dose - Christianity's promise for eternity.  and this mixture is Christianity!  We complete forget that Christianity's promise of eternity is glowing because it requires such a complete forsaking of temporality, and further, that Christianity teaches specifically that to suffer in the temporal is the very mark of God's grace. We forget that Judaism's conception of eternity was weak because it promised so much in this life. (Kierkegaard, Journals and Papers, 1:843)

Kierkegaard never ceases to challenge.

Monday, 11 May 2009

God Talk and Pressing Issues

Unfortunately, I seem to be turning this blog into a link warehouse. The two on offer today are quite valuable, though, and Christian thinkers need to reflect on these two issues.

God Talk is a lengthy article about Terry Eagleton, a great writer I encountered in my first round of theological studies. The article looks at Eagleton's response to Hitchens and Dawkins, the pop-atheists of our time. Eagleton has some of the most well thought responses to the whole school of thought, and should be read by anyone who has also read Ditchkins, for the sake of good balance.

And the Ten Most Pressing Issues for Evangelical Theology Today is a good read. For those of you who are evangelical, it will tell you what most of the leading evangelical thinkers have on their desks. For those who aren't, it's an opportunity to reflect on these topics and take a position on them.