The Preschool Gospel, Take One

Standard

Yesterday my precocious 4-year-old said he wanted to be baptized.  I don’t think he’s ready yet; our church doesn’t baptize kids until they are at least seven.

But, how would I know if he was ready?

What is the minimum someone needs to truly understand in order to authentically embark on a lifelong journey of discipleship?  In short, how should you explain the gospel to preschoolers?

Continue reading

Partially Excerpted Conversation: Levels of Emergence

Standard

This is an expanded excerpt from the emergence discussion from the Partially Examined Life Citizen Commons.  We studied the classic More is Different: Broken Symmetry and the Hierarchical Nature of Science by P.W. Anderson.  Their discussion software butchered my reply, so I figured I should clean it up by reposting it here.
It is difficult to have productive disagreements around “emergence” and “reductionism” because of the vague, confusing, and downright inconsistent way these terms are used. To help clear things up, I propose we talk in terms of the following levels.
Continue reading

Becoming a Whole Christian

Standard

I want to be a Whole Christian.

I want to love the Lord my God with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and all my strength, and be part of a worshipping community with others who do.

I want to love my brothers and sisters the way Christ loves me,
my neighbor as myself,
and my enemies.

Especially my enemies.  For I have discovered that I only see the log in my own eye after I find grace for the speck in someone else’s.

Continue reading

Partially Examined Assumptions from PEL #46: Plato on Ethics & Religion

Standard

Dear Partially Examined Life podcasters,

Like Skepoet, I was very impressed by your recent episode on Plato’s “Euthyphro.”  And yes, Seth, I deeply appreciated your perspective on Judaism. In particular, it helped me realize that modern Christianity in practice actually functions the way you describe Judaism (with decisions made by a small group of authorities revered for their understanding of the text), even if in theory it we claim our theology is a matter of rigorous logical deductions available to all.

That said, my overall reaction was much like the one Socrates had:

But I see plainly that you are not disposed to instruct me-dearly not: elsewhy, when we reached the point, did you turn, aside? Had you only answered me I should have truly learned of you by this time the-nature of piety.

I freely admit I am a philosophical dilettante and undoubtedly biased my religious upbringing.  That is why (like Socrates to Euthyphro :-) I come to you who seem so certain to in hopes of illuminating my ignorance.  Yet just when you seem on the verge of actually addressing the problem I care about, you veer away.  Perhaps you can help me understand why…

Continue reading

Partially Examined Questions

Standard

Dear Mark, Seth, and Wes,

Thanks for the shout out on the The Partially Examined Life blog. First of all, I want to apologize for my snarky and apparently misleading comments on your Facebook page; let me know when I’ve expended $10 worth of annoyance and I’ll make another donation. :-)

Now that I’ve got your attention, though, let me try to articulate my concerns more coherently, to hopefully inspire a more substantive critique.  It is pretty verbose, though, so I’ve posted a reply on my own blog, below.  You can reply either there or on your own post, whichever is more convenient.

Continue reading

TASPOR: Towards a Scientific Perspective on Religion

Standard

One of the most common complaints about religion is that it is “anti-scientific”, or conversely that science has removed the need for religion. To be sure, there is a grain of truth in this critique — especially given the anti-intellectual tendencies of American Fundamentalism, which is what the new wave of militant atheists appear to be reacting against.What amuses (and saddens) me is how few of these critics — despite their vocal praise and defense of science — seem to have a deep understanding of the scientific process, much less a willingness to apply these lauded techniques to create a systematic and comprehensive picture of religion.To that end, I offer the following summary as a starting point for a scientific analysis of religion. It is only a rough first draft; still, one of the goals to the scientific method is supplanting crude theories with more sophisticated ones, that ultimately do a better job of explaining existing data and predicting future results. Hopefully some of my correspondents will rise to the challenge. Continue reading

Devotional Theology, Further On

Standard

As we’ve finished up Doctrine 101, I’ve been thinking even more about what a Devotional Theology could/should look like. At the risk of stretching the alliteration, here’s another round of “C”s. Anything major I’m still missing?

  1. Charity
  2. Childlikeness
  3. Compassion
  4. Community
  5. Church
  6. Counselor
  7. Condemnation
  8. Courage
  9. Comfort
  10. Curse

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,


Continue reading

Towards a Devotional Theology

Standard

[See also: Devotional Theology, Further On]

Two weeks ago we were privileged to have dinner with Barney Coombs, our pastor’s pastor through Salt and Light. He made the beautiful observation that “Theology should always result in Doxology” — that is, worship and praise to God. I suspect that (the lack of) this is the root of my frustration with our current studies (and systematic theology in general): it forces us think “about God” instead of inspiring us to think “of God.”

My dream is to “remix” the many powerful (and valid!) insights of traditional systematic theology into something that is explicitly designed to draw us into worship, and submission to God’s glory. As a side effect, it should also draw us together in mutual humility, rather than being a source of division and judgement — though it still needs to be strong enough for healthy discipline.

That’s a tall order, and I don’t even pretend to have all the answers. But, here’s my starting point. These passages (including their context) represent the essential facets of Christianity I would love to meditate on and wrestle with in the fellowship of my peers in our joint quest to understand (and serve!) God better. The topics are:

  1. Creation
  2. Covenant
  3. Character
  4. Christ
  5. Commandment
  6. Crucifixion
  7. Commission
  8. Call
  9. Conversion
  10. Confession

More details below. Hopefully this strikes a better balance between “true” and “right” than my previous list. As before (hi Bob! :-), comments and improvements welcome; bonus points if they start with the letter “C”!

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,


Continue reading

Seven Verses Worth Dying For

Standard

[Update: kudos to my friend Patrick for taking the idea and running with it!]As we get close to finishing up our Doctrine 101 course, I find myself curiously ambivalent. On the hand, I deeply enjoy wrestling with these timeless theological truths. On the other hand, I can’t shake the feeling that R.C. Sproul et al are still fighting the last war. That is, some of the issues that were life-and-death millennia ago are now gnats, and while we strain them out camels are overrunning our camp.So I asked myself: what is the minimal set of essential truths central to my understanding of who God is; things so foundational to my thinking that I literally can’t imagine life without them. Or, more bluntly, what are the issues I (in my presumption) think we ought to be spending our time studying.Here’s my list. What’s yours? The catch is that you can only pick seven, so if you add one you have to drop another.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Continue reading

DiaBlogue Finale 2: The Halting Problem

Standard

Today’s title refers both the classic problem that recurs computer science, statistics, epistemology, and philosophy — as well as to our difficulty in ending this DiaBlogue! Specifically, Alan and I exchanged several comments after my “last” post that imply there are still some loose threads we ought to tie up. While I don’t want to continue beating a dead horse, I do feel he raised a few questions that merit a response, and I’d rather do so here than in a comment.
Continue reading

DiaBlogue Aside: Open Questions on Desire Utilitarianism

Standard

Though our DiaBlogue is all but over, Alan was kind enough to point me to this Q&A by Alonzo Fyfe, which addresses some of the concerns I had raised earlier. Since I never followed through on my promise (threat? :-) to critique Desire Utilitarianism (DU), I figured I ought to at least summarize my concerns here.

Importantly, this is not an attempt to “prove” that DU is “false.” Far from it; I actually think DU contains many powerful and valid insights. However, I believe the current formulation promulgated by Alonzo Fyfe is incomplete, and in need of substantial improvement. I’ve provided one possible route of improvement myself, but it would be interesting to see if there are others.

[Note: I have written this in the second person as an "open letter" for stylistic reasons; I'm not particularly interested in starting an actual debate with Mr. Fyfe at this time, though I'm not opposed in principle to having such a discussion later.]

Technorati Tags: ,


Continue reading

Diablogue[Chat]: End Game

Standard

Today’s chat (one day early) was a bit more fractured than our first, but at least not as lopsided as the second. It does represent a kind of progress, in that we at least attempted to tackle the second goalpost. Though, the end result may have been more despair than enlightenment, as Alan expressed a desire call it quits. Which may be a wise decision, if sad. Not just because of all the unanswered questions, but the loss of the fairly intense personal connection we developed.

At any rate, we agreed to each write up our Closing Thoughts before calling it quits. Stay tuned for the final (?) chapter.

Full transcript below, as usual. Edited for typos, interruptions, and links.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,


Continue reading

DiaBlogue[Chat]: Agree Locally, Disagree Globally

Standard

Today’s chat started with my response to Alan’s civilized inference, where I claimed:

  1. Successful moral systems must embody some number of valid truths about human nature.
  2. The ontological claims of those moral systems may or may not be counterfactual.
  3. Medieval Western Christianity (MWC) — while far from perfect — has proven to be the most fertile ground for succesful moral innovation of any system yet attempted.
  4. Many of the ontological and ethical presuppositions of MWC (though far from all) are still a vital part of Contemporary Western Civilization (CWC).
  5. Any system that presumes to improve on MWC needs to adequately account for those axioms that are in use by CWC, and ideally provide better explanatory and predictive power.

Alan had some quibbles with my terminology, but seemed willing to agree (given suitable caveats). I then gave an example of (4) in terms of the Global Network of Desires I defined earlier.

  1. That G/NOD is a singular, well-defined entity covering all of humanity.
  2. That the moral rules governing G/NOD are *discovered* more than they are *invented*.
  3. That those rules are in principle discoverable by human beings in the right circumstances
  4. That there is such a thing as virtuous character, which is always better than vicious character.
  5. That it is always rational to do that which is virtuous.

I then claimed that the “moral consensus” around these five assumptions were largely responsible for the success of Western Christendom, and that they followed naturally from my Deistic Hypothesis — but had to be assumed ad hoc by Alonzo Fyfe’s Desire Utilitarianism in order to achieve comparable explanatory power.

We didn’t make much progress beyond that, but hopefully we can pick up from there next week. Full transcript below…

Technorati Tags: , , ,


Continue reading