Monday, September 28, 2009

On Humanity and Humeanism

Christianity claims that the essence of humanity that separates all mankind from animals stems from the doctrine of the Imago Dei. Namely, that man was made in the Image of God (c.f. Genesis 1:26), and therefore, a supremacy and distinction. This doctrine has many corporate implications. Namely, murder is wrong in that man is created in the Image of God (Genesis 9:6) and that slandering another human is wrong in that they are made int he image of God (James 3:8f).

From a more Aristotelian standpoint, man is unique in that they have reason. From a Thomistic (a far more Christan) reinterpretation of Aristotle, man has reason because he has the Image of God. It seems, however, that David Hume argues from a different standpoint concerning the sentiments of humanity (9.2) and also that there is a natural "infused benevolence". Namely, corporate benevolence is
a defining factor of humanity. I disagree with him. I am not Hobbesean. I am Pauline. Man is made in the image of God. And what makes us fallen is sin and what makes us (fully) Human is Christ. But is humanity defined by infused benevolence?

What is more interesting is Donald Tusk, the Prime Minister of Poland, has made a similar assertion. Namely, the humanity of the individuality would ensure a humane punishment. But, in the case of pedophilia, the perpetrator is inhumane. As a result, according to Tusk, the punishment fits the crime -it's inhumane. Hume states in his
Enquiry Concerning the Principle of Morals (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005):

"I may be esteemed, perhaps, a superfluous task to prove, that the benevolent or softer affections are estimable; and wherever they appear, engage the approbation, and good-will of mankind. The epithets sociable, good-natured, humane, merciful, grateful, friendly, generous, beneficent, or their equivalents, are known in all languages, and universally express the highest merit, which human nature is capable of attaining (2.1.1).

[And] it will be suffice to remark, (what will readily, I believe, be allowed) that in qualities are more entitled to the general good-will and approbation of mankind, than beneficnence and humanity, friendship and gratitude, natural affection and public spirit, or whatever proceeds from a tender sympathy with others, and a generous concern for our kind and species. These, wherever they appear, seem to transfuse themselves, in a manner, into each beholder, and to call forth, in their own behalf, the same favourable and affectionate sentiments, which they exert on all around (2.1.5).

[There is a frequent satisfaction] of seeing knaves, with all their pretended cunning and abilities, betrayed by their own maxims; and while they purpose to cheat with moderation and secrecy, a tempting incident occurs, nature is frail, and they give into the snare; whence they can never extricate themselves, without a total loss of reputation, and the forfeiture of all future trust and confident with mankind (9.2.24).

In terms of Humanity, it seems either Hume is right or, perhaps, the Prime Minister of Poland (Donald Tusk) is Humean.

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland on Friday approved a law making chemical castration mandatory for pedophiles in some cases, sparking criticism from human rights groups. Under the law, sponsored by Poland's center-right government, pedophiles convicted of raping children under the age of 15 years or a close relative would have to undergo chemical therapy on their release from prison. "The purpose of this action is to improve the mental health of the convict, to lower his libido and thereby to reduce the risk of another crime being committed by the same person," the government said in a statement.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk said late last year he wanted obligatory castration for pedophiles, whom he branded 'degenerates'. Tusk said he did not believe "one can use the term 'human' for such individuals, such creatures."Prime Minister Donald Tusk said late last year he wanted obligatory castration for pedophiles, whom he branded 'degenerates'. Tusk said he did not believe "one can use the term 'human' for such individuals, such creatures." "Therefore I don't think protection of human rights should refer to these kind of events," Tusk also said. His remarks drew criticism from human rights groups but he never retracted them.

- Baczynska, Gabriela. "
Poland Okays Forcible Castration for Pedophiles" from Reuters, September 25, 2009.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

On Epistemology and Virtue Ethics

"It is my assertion that the problems in contemporary ethics are essentially the same as those in contemporary epistemology. If Plantinga's approach to epistemology [proper functional epistemology] provides a solution to the theory of knowledge, then proper function should also provide a solution tot he problems in ethics. Proper function should help determine which ethical theory is the right one [namely, Augustinian and Thomistic Virtue Ethics]."
- Craig V. Mitchell, Alvin Plantinga's Proper Functionalism As A Model For Christian Ethics. Ph.D. dissertation, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2005.

Friday, September 25, 2009

On Relationships

Three Important Axioms:
1. Ontology: Each person is a rational creatures with respective dispositions towards reason and experience who deserve to be respected and regarded of as an object of ministry.
2. Teleology: The goal is sanctification rooted in truth. Remember: Jesus is truth.

3. Value Theory: The one flesh union is seen as an organic unity whose value is grounded in complementary roles, harmonization and balance.

4. Action Theory: Intention must play a factor tempered with humility.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

On Dawkins and Non Sequiturs

If one is looking for a case study in non sequiturs just check out Dawkins' text The God Delusion. He gives a summary of his argument in chapter four of his book in the section "An Interlude At Cambridge". In his words, the argument of the book falls or stands on his presentation. Unfortunately, even by conventional rules of logic, his argument doesn't stand at all.

Namely, even if all six points of his argument were true, then it still wouldn't follow that "the God hypothesis is untenable." It should be noted that where he does think Christians are in error, they are still sincere -just in error (pg. 154). So we should do same should we not? Yes. Anyways, when reading at what point do his points, by the laws of logic, dissuade the hypothesis of God's existence?
"This Chapter has contained the central argument of my book, and so, at the risk of sounding repetitive, I shall summarize it as a series of six numbered points.

1. One of the greatest challenges to the human intellect, over the centuries, has been to explain how the complex, improbable appearance of design in the universe arises.

2. The natural temptation is to attribute the appearance of design to actual design itself. In the case of a man-made (sic) artefact such as a watch, the designer really was an intelligent engineer. It is tempting to apply the same logic to an eye or wing, a spider or a person.

3. The temptation is a false one because the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer. The whole problem we started out with was the problem of explaining statistical improbability. It is obviously no solution to postulate something even more improbable. We need a 'crane', not a 'skyhook', for only a crane can do the business of working up gradually and plausibly from simplicity to otherwise improbable complexity.

4. The most ingenious and powerful crane so far discovered is Darwinian evolution by natural selection. Darwin and his successors have shown how living creatures, with their spectacular statistical improbability and appearance of design, has evolved by slow, graduate degrees from simple beginnings. We can now safely say that the illusion of design in living creatures is just that -an illusion.

5. We don't have an equivalent crane for physics. Some kind of multiverse theory could in principle do for physics the same explanatory work as Darwinism does for biology. This kind of explanation is superficially less satisfying than the biological version of Darwinism, because it makes heavier demands on luck. But the anthropic principle entitles us to postulate far more luck than our limited human intuition is comfortable with.

6. We should not give up the hope of a better crane arising in physics, something as powerful as Darwinism is for biology. But even in the absence of a strongly satisfying crane to match the biological one, the relatively weak cranes we have at present are, when abetted by the anthropic principle, self-evidently better than the self-defeating skyhook hypothesis of an intelligent designer.

If the argument of this chapter is accepted, the factual premise of religion -the God hypothesis -is untenable. God almost certainly does not exist."

- Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston: Hougton Mifflin, 2006), 157-158.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

On Rick Warren's Views of Marriage

Rick Warren states:
“I hope you’re praying about your vote. . . . We support Proposition 8, and if you believe what the Bible says about marriage, you need to support Prop 8.”
- Rick Warren, Oct. 23, 2008 [1]

1. “Pastor Rick’s News & Views,” October 23, 2008,

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

On Ontology and Action Theory

The point of Matthew 7:15-20 is that believers know the difference between a false prophet, who are ravenous wolves in sheep's clothing (difficult to tell on a superficial level), by their fruit. This of course implies that false prophets and Christians are different. More specifically, this text argues that different plant produce different fruits. And, going deeper, this text has interesting implications that bring to light the differences between those of God and those not of God.

What exactly can be inferred? Answer: ontology and action theory. Otherwise known as being and ability, Scripture is rather clear concerning the reality that there are (at least) two different plants (vs. 16) and that each plant can only produce fruit in correspondence to its species (vvs. 17-19). Namely, the plant type determines the fruit, the nature determines ability, and ontology determines action. The point that Christians can differentiate between wolves and sheep (Christians and false prophets) seem to hinge on this reality. Conclusively, it's the only way the text makes sense.

15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “So then, you will know them by their fruits.

- Matthew 7:15-20 (NASB)

Before I end, a word of application: what fruit do you produce (action/ability)? What kind of plant does that make you (ontology/being)? May the Holy Spirit convict your soul, and may God draw you to Himself. He who has ears, let him hear.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

On Words, Hell, and Morons

21 “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ 22 “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.

- Matthew 5:21f (NASB)

Jesus' teachings from the Sermon on the Mount are already convicting. After reading it in the Greek I was all the more convicted. Here is what struck me the most. In vs. 22 fiery hell is literally... fiery hell (hies ten geennen tou puros) and fool is the word moros (the word where moron comes from). The summary is, words are not simply noises. With intention and meaning there is eternal ramification. Even with something as mundane and simple as words my soul must submit to Christ. It's something simple but it's a good reminder: indeed, I am great sinner. And thankfully I have a great Savior who appeased the wrath of God, nullified the curse of death, and died in my place for my sins. Indeed, I am justified by faith in Christ alone.

Friday, September 11, 2009

On 9/11 Eight Years Ago

A time to remember:
8 years ago I was a freshman at University of Texas at Austin. While passing Gregory gym Huay-ying Lo asked, "did you hear what happened?" I of course I didn't because I was making a rare and sporadic attendance in my 8am class. I went into Jester west and saw a crowd gawking at the huge TV. By then only the north tower had been hit. A few minutes later, the south tower was hit. I didn't take it seriously until the buildings collapsed. In retrospect, honestly, I couldn't tell if it was a TV show or a movie. And even today I can't believe it really happened.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

On Descartes and Purpose

I've just spent the entire day reading Rules for the Direction of the Mind and Discourse on Method. And, I finished the reading and understand what he is saying. However, I sit here and ask, "so what?"
1. Rene Descartes, Rules for the Direction of the Mind, in The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, vol. 1 trans. John Cottingham, Robert Stoothoff, and Dugald Murdoch (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 7-76.

2. __________, Discourse on Method 4th ed. trans. Donald A. Cress (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1998).

Edit: I quickly have learned that this is superficial, introduction reading. When I can quote philosophical fragments like I can Scripture I will be on par with Dr. Sepper. He passionately claimed that the Medievals are bullshitting us. Aristotelian phantasms were never meant to abstract a form. They were merely the place where we see the forms. Then he practically threw down his book in disgust concerning a Latin translation. Fun class? Indeed.

On School vs. Seminary

This fall I have started graduate school the University of Dallas. As of the first week, there are noticeable differences from my time at Seminary:
1. Where in Seminary I was young for the general student population, at a University I am old -really old.

2. Where in Seminary I was relatively in shape (comparatively speaking), at a University I fail the standard of being a skinny 18 year old kid.

3. Where in Seminary I was smart and people liked it, at a University I am just a nerd.

4. Where in Seminary the material was usually comparatively narrow, Evangelical, and conservative at a University everything goes.

5. Where in Seminary everything you learn seems obviously to be directed towards God's Kingdom, at a University the Kingdom gain of the information you're processing has less obvious fruit -but fruit nonetheless.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

On Truth, Dogma, And Women

In the Preface it is written:
"Supposing that Truth is a woman -what then? Is there not ground for suspecting that all philosophers, in so far as the have been dogmatists, have failed to understand women -that the terrible seriousness and clumsy importunity with which they have usually paid their addresses to to Truth, have been unskilled and unseemly methods for winning a woman? Certainly she has never allowed herself to be won; and at present every kind of dogma stands with sad and discourages mien -if, indeed, it stands at all! For there are scoffers who maintain that it has fallen, that all dogma lies on the ground -nay more, that it is at its last gasp. But to speak seriously, there are good grounds for hoping that all dogmatising in philosophy, whatever solemn, whatever conclusive and decided airs it has assumed, may have been only a noble puerilism and tyronism; and probably the time is at hand when it be once understood what has actually sufficed for the basic of such imposing about absolute philosophical edifices as the dogmatists have hitherto reared: perhaps some popular superstition of immemorial time (such as the soul-superstition, which, in the form of subject -and ego-superstition, has not yet ceased doing mischief); perhaps some play upon words, a deception on the part of grammar, or an audacious (sic) generalisation of very restricted, very personal, very human -all -too-human facts."
Of course, I couldn't disagree more.

- Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1907), 4f.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

On Missions, Marriage, Martyrdom And The Glory Of God

John Piper begins his text This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence (Wheaton, Crossway Books, 2009) with an argument for one flesh union even in death. Namely, in so far as marriage is the symbol of unity and covenant faithfulness on earth, it is fully realized after death of Christ's love and faithfulness for the church. He provides an except for an object lesson; it is simply a powerful read invoking a passion and respect for missions, marriage and martyrdom. And in the end, he argues that this is not tragedy in so far as, in Christ, nothing is lost in death.
"Never was the little one more precious than when they looked their last on her baby sweetness, as they were roughly summoned the next morning an led out to die.... Painfully bound with ropes, their hands behind them, stripped of their outer garments, and John barefooted (he had given Betty his socks to wear), they passed down the street where he was known to many, while the Reds shouted their ridicule and called the people to come and see the execution.

Like their Master, they were led up to a little hill outside the town. There, in a clump of pine trees, the Communists harangued the unwilling onlookers, too terror-stricken to utter protest -But no, one broke the ranks! he doctor of the place and a Christian, he expressed the feelings of many when he fell on his knees and pleaded for the life of his friends. Angrily repulsed by the Reds, he still persisted, until he was dragged away as a prisoner, to suffer death when it appeared that he too was a follow of Christ.

John had turned to the leader of the band, asking mercy for this man. When he was sharply ordered o kneel -and the look on his face, afterwards, told of the unseen Presence with them as his spirit was released -Betty was seen to quiver, but only for a moment. Bound as she was, she fell on her knees beside him. A quick command, the flash of a sword which mercifully she did not see -and they were reunited."

- Mrs. Howard Taylor, The Triumph of John and Betty Stam (Philadelphia: China Inland Mission, 1936), 107f. The Child had been hidden and was found by Christians and saved.