Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Now here's a brilliant piece of work detailing the Dawkins legacy. I almost feel vindicated enough by this presentation to finish reading the claptrap that is The God Delusion.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Default to Real Life

Underlying the very non-mainstream and counter-cultural-seeming decisions that I make is a practice that few others themselves undertake to explore. Because so many issues come up on this blog and in my life where my decisions seem rebellious or unnecessarily difficult to others, I thought it might be helpful to share the philosophical process in short-form that I use to determine my course.

When a question arises, I immediately default to another set of questions which form the foundation for my philosophical examination. These questions are the following:

  1. What is the anthropologically established norm (AEN)?

  2. Does this conform to the anthropologically established norm?

  3. Is it beneficial, as in does it meet authentic needs?

  4. Is it personally beneficial, as in does it meet needs in the way that the person for which this is being considered will appreciate?

  5. Does it improve upon the anthropologically established norm? (I've NEVER seen this occur that something outside of the anthropologically established norm leads to true progress, so it is a theoretical question that I keep for the purpose of allowing for a missed understanding on my part)

Some definitions are probably helpful to others who don't know the particulars of my loaded questions.

'Anthropologically established' means that human beings are observably built for and have predispositions that anticipate the meeting of such needs as are also observable. These needs are not limited to but include aspects of the human being that we would label physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, intellectual, instinctual, creative, expressional, etc... So, it is a wholistic evaluation of the needs and expressions (also evaluated through needs assessment), which is always open to expressed needs according to timing and maturation, circumstances, etc...

It is my macrocosmic view of a microcosmic organism relative to the universe. It is primarily an intuitive and instinctual assessment that I confirm through study, and not the other way around, which would obviously completely defeat the definition if it were reversed that way. Abstract enough? I'll run a test demonstration later in this post.

'Beneficial' means that the decision would yield an affirmation of or realignment of a wayward quality according to the AEN.

'Authentic need' means that the need is established as essential to the well-being and functionality of the human being within context, and that context includes the proper order of the human being- family, community, etc... Human beings have an essential need for community which is demonstrated by the qualities we possess that anticipate response- speech, creative expressions such as music, art and dance, etc...- and the more visceral utter interdependency of the human race for its survival.

'Authentic need' is distinct from 'manufactured/synthetic need' which includes things like weight-lifting shoes, which are not an authentic need, but reflect the synthetic grasping after what would otherwise be the authentic need- to use our bodies for physical work. Case in point: fire-wood collecting in the woods leaves little necessity for weight-lifting exercises at the end of the day. Can you imagine collecting straw and clay and sand all day to make bricks and then thinking, 'well, I better do some weight-lifting or my body will be weak'? So saying, weight-lifting is a synthetic substitute for an authentic situation and need, and so the shoes 'needed' to support the outsides of the feet to prevent ankle roll-overs are also a manufactured or synthetic need. This would not pass my test.

Because Sunday School is becoming and has been for over five years in my life, a hot topic, I thought I would use it as my example of how this works for me. Please understand that this is not comprehensive, so you're going to have to trust that in the past six years of my research and study, contemplation and observation, I may have already come across the accepted and mainstream defences of Sunday School's presumed merit. You'll see at least a portion of why it doesn't pass my test in the following:

What is the anthropologically established norm (AEN)?

Human beings need beneficial education.

Human beings receive beneficial education through common experience with parents first, siblings, family and bonded community members.

Human beings need to worship God.

Human beings learn continuously and are innately equipped to do so in the most efficient and beneficial ways.

Human beings worship spontaneously and are innately equipped to do so .

Does SS conform to the anthropologically established norm?

It does not provide a common experience for the parents, siblings, family and community except in retrospect. It requires the subdivision of the parents from the children and the children from their siblings in most cases and the family from the community.

It does not provide worship; this is a human expression and does not come from anything not specifically human such as a curriculum or program. Worship will happen there; worship happens everywhere and is not limited to location or activity.

It does not connect to or seamlessly coincide with and work within the natural learning rhythms of the human being, given that it is a time set apart and includes outwardly prescribed activities that the participants do not choose and may or may not be (likely not) relevant to the authentic needs of the participants.

It is like 'school' in all ways and for this reason any defence of SS is also a defence of mass schooling- both being completely outside the anthropologically established norm.

Is SS beneficial, as in does it meet authentic needs?

If it does, it is incidental and in spite of its utter inefficacy to meet the individual and communal needs of the human being. A human being's needs are met through relationship and that within family and community. SS doesn't offer either, and requires the separation of the child from the family and community as they spend their time elsewhere, excepting the 'teacher' who is not an adequate substitute for the richness of relationship that naturally occurs in a family and community. The education received under this circumstance can't be better than utterly inadequate.

Is it personally beneficial, as in does it meet needs in the way that the person for which this is being considered will appreciate?

Not authentically, but most people's manufactured needs are met in this way.

Does it improve upon the anthropologically established norm? (I've NEVER seen this occur that something outside of the anthropologically established norm leads to true progress, so it is a theoretical question that I keep for the purpose of allowing for a missed understanding on my part)

Absolutely not.

The anthropologically established norm is easily observed in the order of the human being. S/he is born from the mother whose body provides his/her nourishment and comfort, temperature regulation and heart rhythm regulation, amongst other hugely important aspects of well-being such as security through emotional and spiritual confidence and openness, etc... The child and mother are meant to be skin-to-skin as much as possible and both experience stress when this is not the norm or it has been stopped even for a few minutes. The father and siblings provide a support and network of interesting and familially/culturally relevant information and acceptance to the child.

As the child grows, s/he chooses to wander in increasing increments from his/her mother's body. The distance that occurs in every way establishes first independence in the child from the body of his mother and her direct control over his/her activities (since they do everything together initially), followed by the mature phase of the human being which is the consciousness of and contribution to interdependence. There is no phase-skipping. If the child is removed from his/her chosen incremental increase in space, the child loses the ability to learn and mature in that phase. A child who is required to separate from his/her mother will not gain independence, but survival coping strategies which are not at all the same thing. This child will not move into an understanding and maturation that is encompassed by the consciousness of interdependence until and unless s/he can pass through the phase of independence first. This doesn't ever happen out-of-order. It may take 12 or 56 or 99 years or never, but the order remains and the human being is meant to have moved through these phases in the opportune time when s/he is primed instinctually for such maturation- as in the earlier years of his/her life.

Any action of society or the surrounding community must reinforce the bond and purpose of the individual family units within its context, and where that doesn't occur, where the importance of marriage and the bonds between parent and child are not recognised as primary for the well-being and survival of the community or society, a break-down of both family and society or the community is inevitable.

What are the mechanisms by which a family is reinforced in its primary role in the nurturing of both its members and the community? Firstly, it is assumed that the family remains as a whole- nourishment, education, skill-building, socialising, creativity, play, all occur as a wholistic and integrated mechanism of the natural outflow of the family dynamic simultaneous to the contribution of the community toward the family. In other words, when the community has a party, everyone is invited, not as special thing, but as a matter of course. Nobody says 'you can bring your children' because there is no opposite, nothing that relates to the separation of children from their parents, not to mention the obvious problem with if the children were left at home, who else would be assumed to be uninvited while looking after them?

Education comes from being in the presence of parents doing real work and building real relationships with the people around them. This means that the children also learn from the other people. The potential for education is then exponential. No school of any sort can provide anything that even merits comparison to this.

Nobody learns anything of true value under constant duress, except how to cope with constant duress. That seems a sad goal for a human being of immeasurable worth and potential for love and expression such as we are. Schooling has nothing better to offer than duress, and it cannot because the essential bonds that provide the security within which the human being learns most effectively and happily are assumed to be absent and strategies for coping with this are abundant, but still woefully lacking in substance since it turns out that there is no true substitute for parents and community.

This topic for me is vast and to really give it the time and justification for the years of my life that I've spent studying it, warrants a book, so I'll leave off with a simplification of the practice that I find so useful and effective in determining the natural course for myself and my family.

When something is presented to me, my question is not 'why shouldn't I?' as is generally asked of me when I deny something mainstream, but 'why would I?' Why would I send my children to Sunday School? Why would I give them antibiotics and flush out their gut flora? Why would I force them to wear shoes? Why would I feed them boxed white flour pasta products with chemical approximations of the flavours of real food? What would the potential benefits be? Why WOULD I?

I presuppose that the human being is equipped to live a human life. I wasn't born with a disposition to receive disconnected instruction or to have my natural gut flora removed, but rather strengthened, so when I ask the same question of the naturally occurring way, I come up with the answers that make sense. I would and do eat microbe-rich foods because they keep me healthy, those microbes being interconnected with my own body within the larger living organism which is our home- earth. I would and do go barefoot because the human foot is our equipment for walking and does so superbly well. I educate my children as we walk along the road, as I go about my work, as I sit with them observing our geese's foraging habits, as we eat free-range organically-raised roasted chicken, etc... They are continually cognizant of the gift that the Lord has given us in whatever we are enjoying, and even suffering.

Default to nature, not to the mainstream. Ask questions that probe to the core, and not just to below the surface. That's not deep enough. Not even close. At least not for me.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Children and Worship (Old Article)

On July 19th, 2008, I published an article concerning children and worship.  I think it bears reviewing since the topic of Sunday School has come up as a specific concern in the article "Bad Christian".

My wife just pointed out, interestingly enough, that the terms 'children and worship' and 'Sunday School' illuminate the giant chasm between what I am concerned about in present day evangelicalism, and what evangelicalism typically offers as an answer to that concern.  And after reading the article (which is still due for its second installment), I hope that anyone interested will have a better understanding of my thoughts on children and worship and the inadequacy of Sunday School as part of the vocation of the church.

I Give Up

I can't read Richard Dawkins's book, The God Delusion. It's just too damned fatuous, and presumptuous. David Berlinski was right: Dawkins is a "crappy philosopher".

This being my third attempt, I thought it would be the charmer (ah, the stupidstition!). Instead, I find myself literally hitting my head against my desk, and tempted for the first time in my life to rip a book apart and put it in the garbagio (my personal term for a fashionable visit to the dump).

I will now move on to Michel Onfray's Atheist Manifesto which has been re-titled for paperback as In Defense of Atheism.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Bad Christian

Overall, I'd say I'm a bad Christian.

Here's the laundry list:

1. I consistently forget to pray.
2. I seldom read Scripture. Though I really enjoy it when I do.
3. I swear.
4. I am a moody, moody man.
5. I can't pay attention to things that don't interest me.
6. I will take long hiatuses from church and not be bothered by it (last one was 2 years).
7. I commune my kids.
8. Much to the anabaptist's chagrin, I baptise my kids.
9. I can't stand evangelical Jesus-is-my-boyfriend lingo, sentiments, or worship.
10. I refuse to buy in to the latest programmatic/formulaic Christian rubrics for successful conversion of unbelievers.
11. I'm not a pacifist.
12. I read anti-Christian literature, and I don't think Harry Potter will damn me.
13. I watch movies that sometimes have violence or nudity in them.
14. I can't stand most “Christian” music (though I do love Handel and Bach).
15. Politically, I'm libertarian.
16. Philosophically, I'm a Christian anarchist (à la Jacques Ellul).
17. I'm an epistemological agnostic – which is to say that I believe all knowing has a limit as to its origin and scope. After that, I hold fast to “the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things unseen” (Heb. 11:1) in combination with seeing through a glass, darkly (1 Cor. 13:12). So, I hang fast to St. Augustine's dictum, “Crede, ut intelligas” (believe in order that you may understand).
18. I refuse to spank my kids despite all traditional misinterpretations of Proverbs 13:24. Here's why.
19. I don't believe that having a talent, or gift automatically, or ipso facto indentures me to using those talents or gifts in front of the assembly every Sunday morning.
20. I think Sunday School, by-and-large, is a fantastic excuse for absolving yourself of the responsibility of guiding your children into a common, family experience with the holy (there are, admittedly, some rare exceptions).
21. I don't smile because Jesus loves me. I love Jesus and sometimes I smile.
22. I spend a lot of money on organic food. Apparently that makes me unconventional, and financially irresponsible. But if you don't have your health...
23. Sometimes when I pray, I get really sarcastic with God, even angry.
24. I don't think two people necessarily have to have the blessings of the church, and the licence of the government to be married. Though it is a well-reasoned assurance, I think it is mostly an insurance policy. Real marriage, I think, takes place between two people who honestly love each other wholeheartedly, and strive to follow through on life-long commitments to each other. Sex consumates that wholehearted commitment, and thusly signifies two as one.
25. I am a semi-convinced theistic evolutionist.
26. I think homeschooling is the only logical choice for people who really want to develop the depths and riches of what a family really is.

27. I avoid Swiss Chalet on Sunday afternoons because that's where all the Pentecostals are. I eat at Pizza Hut instead because that's where real community happens.
28. I'm not totally into tea 'cause I'm not a teetotaler.
29. Fruit juice during the eucharist doesn't assure me that I'm not going to be an alcoholic, or that I am an alcoholic, or that other people have the same assurance.
30. I like dancing. Sometimes it leads to sex, and I'm okay with that. 'Cause I'm married to the woman I like to dance with.

There must be more to that list, but I really can't think of anything else at the moment. That should be enough to have people mercilessly impugn me, however.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tres Cool

As the title says.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Offering Offense

In the world of debate, people cling passionately to what they believe they know. What they believe they know often becomes the platform for what they believe others should know and believe. But not everyone believes what they know. An atheist doesn't believe in God, even though he may know the traditional articulations for the existence of God. Similarly, a theist doesn't believe in the non-existence of God, even though he may know the premises for the denial of the existence of God.

Both the atheist and the theist have at their disposal a portfolio of arguments eager to defend their respective positions. Neither side considers the other side to have convincing arguments. So both claimants come to the table with fixed, resolute, and irreversible conclusions. In most cases, that places both parties in a position of 'offense' at the other before a word is spoken, or a word written.

Richard Dawkins wants to believe that people of faith have nothing cogent to offer to the cultural conversation on God, thus they can only be relied on for being offended. In fact, he thinks 'offense' is the only thing believers have left to offer.

Is he right?

Saturday, May 9, 2009


Remember the atheist bus ad campaign? Here's a humorous mock-up of the same thing: the Atheist Bust Ad Campaign.

Thanks to the Friendly Atheist for this one!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Prayer: Letters Chiefly From Ed

Ed, at Pilgrim.Not.Wanderer has written an excellent piece on the compulsive nature of prayer.  You can find the article here at his site.

Ed's piece reminds me of the words of C.S. Lewis, who, when he was questioned about his prayers to God after his wife, Joy Gresham died, answered "I don't pray because prayer changes God. I pray because it flows out of me; because I need to pray. It doesn't change God; it changes me" (paraphrase from the movie, Shadowlands).

What Ed has described is a compulsivity to prayer. That is, prayer leaps out of us unbounded, joyful, and sometimes mournful, but always free and unfettered, just like the child who can hardly wait to tell his mother or father some exciting tidbit of information -- he can't wait, he just has to interrupt everything else around him to make his voice heard. That is prayer. That is freedom in Christ. That is the enthusiastic impulse of the Holy Spirit in us driving us toward our loving, doting heavenly Father.

Now, though Ed's article was excellently written and very insightful, I did pose one question to him. I needed some clarification on his last sentence, "
Cold and calculative prayers are hardly worthy of the name."

So I posted the following comment on his site.

"But is it worth the discipline? For example, prescribed prayers often help when ex corde moments leave a person without words (e.g., being overwhelmed by an emotional experience and not able to formalize understanding enough to speak
on the experience). In those instances, the calculative nature of a prescribed prayer is valuable -- and definitely worth it -- because prescriptions help verbalise instinctual movements of the heart.

What are your thoughts?

Also, I'm going to link my readership to your article on prayer because I think it is a wonderful piece that touches very tenderly on the intimacy, and compulsive nature of prayer.
Thank you for your insights, Ed." 

Indeed, Ed. Thank you very much for your warm-hearted understanding on such an important topic.

Artwork via Canadian artist Oliver Ray.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Authority and the Church P. V

This is a rather long series, isn't it? Well, it was quite a long debate, to be honest. So here's part V. There will be several more parts to come. Enjoy!

Tim. Christopher.

"What are the reasons for the way Church has become? The traditions of men have nullified the word of God. Matt .15:6-9"

This is only true if a) the Word of God is not being preached, taught, and lived; and b) if those traditions are considered binding without the support of Scripture (indulgences, for example, or disallowing dancing, or prohibiting alcohol).

It is most emphatically not true that voluntary participation in traditions, such as the liturgy, is a hinderance to the faith-life of a Christian and his communication with our Lord.

"They have patterned themselves after the world and not after Christ. Col.2:8"

Who is 'they' in this passage, Tim? Or in other words, in what way are you intending to use this passage of Scripture to back your perspective?

"beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ."

That's all fine and stuff, but it has no real bearing on this conversation unless you can somehow provide some context for your use of this Scripture.

It can very well be argued that the Scripture you cited is an argument against the heretical sects, and pagan religions present at the time Paul wrote, even currently. It could also be a warning against the philosophies of pleasure (hedonism, and epicurianism) rampant amongst the affluent members of society at the time and, again, currently.

How are you using this passage? If you state that you're using this passage against the leadership of conventional churches, then you need to qualify it. Simply throwing Scripture at me doesn't make a defense of your position; it sets up the expectation that I have to intuit your meaning from a hodge-podge of passages, and somehow waive-off the fact that you seemed to have used 'proof-texting' as your method of argumentation.

"They regard the traditions of the world above the scriptures. Celebrating Babylonians feasts such as Easter and Christmas."
Again, who is 'they'?

Now, you've listed two traditions: the celebration of Christmas, and Easter. You've called them 'Babylonian', I'm assuming because of their approximate resemblance to mid-east mithraic customs, and pagan festivities reflecting fertility cycles (winter=death; spring=life). Simple question: do you think that reclaiming certain celebratory ideas for Christ is wrong?

In any case, perhaps you could explain why celebrating the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ is 'Babylonian', or wrong? I'm intensely curious about your point of view on this issue, to be honest.

"Unbiblical hierarchal leadership that takes titles to themselves (Reverend, Pope, His holiness) with top down authority with every one else beneath them. Jesus called this the Nicolaitan doctrine which things he hates. Rev.2:15"

Yeah, titles are a bit of a bore. They certainly don't have any compelling authority in and of themselves, and lots of people disregard them even though they've been given them. Nevertheless, you've incorrectly identified the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, who were to the best of our knowledge a sect of hedonists (people who seek pleasure as the highest good). The Catholic Encyclopedia notes the following from Irenaeus, the single-most influential scholar and early church minister from about AD 120:
Catholic Encyclopedia wrote:
Irenaeus (Adv. haer., I, xxvi, 3; III, xi, I) discusses them but adds nothing to the Apocalypse except that "they lead lives of unrestrained indulgence."
So saying, there is historically nothing to do with the Nicolaitans that has anything to do with top-down authority. In fact, they were a small, short-lived, chaotic group of pleasure seekers with very little authoritarianism except that authority that is pleasure. Your use of Scripture in this instance is misplaced, and doesn't support your premise that the authority excercised by heirarchical church governments is ungodly.

"The people themselves love to have it this way."
Which 'people'?

"(the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so; and what will ye do in the end thereof? Jer.5:31)"

1. You've used this passage out of context. Jeremiah was talking about people belonging to false religions, doing evil deeds, and having prophets and priests to endorse the false religions and evil deeds. That's not on parallel with churches today having a governmental structure where priests, or pastors preach the Word of God regularly, regardless of their ignorance on other matters.

2. I hardly think people being ignorant of different ways of meeting together for fellowship qualifies as false prophesy, or obstinate and purposeful disregard for God's desire that we should fellowship in our homes.

"They would rather have a man stand up front and lead them while they are passive instead of seeking and following the Lord for themselves. This is why this kind of gathering fosters spiritual infants."

That's a mutually enabling relationship, Tim. By that I mean that each one is at fault for his/her own 'spiritual infancy', or laziness. It is an improper model of relationship between believers, for sure, but doesn't qualify either the leaders or the congregants (gatherers) as having evil intent, or being blasphemers, or that they as individuals are in disobedience of God. They may be, but we don't know, and we can't assume that based on the form that they choose for gathering. To do so would be a direct transgression of the 8th Commandment (as I mentioned earlier), "do not bear false witness against your neighbour."
"This nation is a nation that obey not the voice of the Lord their God, nor receiveth correction: truth is perished and is cut off from their mouth. Jer. 7:28"

Again, you've taken Scripture out of context. This passage is in the larger context of Jeremiah being told by God to tell the Hebrews of his generation that they were worse than their fathers who were brought out of Egypt. If you want to apply it to the church today, then give the Scripture some context within your argument. Otherwise, all that's left for me to say is, "okay. So?"

But besides that, how do you reconcile the fact that there are thousands of churches daily applying the Word of God, preaching the Word of God, and giving godly counsel, and that this Scripture is not universally applicable to all believers? 'Cause if it is, my friend, you're guilty of the same thing you're charging others of.

On a different note, Tim, I would like to re-focus this discussion. If you would be willing, it would be a more beneficial use of our time, and conversation if we could agree on a specific topic to look at. Right now, there are several topics at hand: leadership, heirarchy, qualifications to leadership, and contextualization of Scripture to present day. All of these topics are huge in and of themselves, and I'd like to deal with each of them in a more focused manner; that would lend integrity to the topics, which are important to both you, and me.

So my proposal is this: let's discuss what the nature of religious authority actually is. Where is authority derived from? How is it best used? Are Christian leaders vested with specific authority to lead, teach, and make decisions for the betterment of Christians near them? Etc.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Nasty Remark

"Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."  H.L. Mencken

Can I get an 'amen'?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Initiating Conversation

I'd like to take this opportunity to front-page a comment I made to TAG-Photos on another section of this blog. There has been some decent, earnest conversation between us here, and it would be nice to have wider input from the rest of the readership here, too. TAG's comments will be in red, and mine in black.

"Theistic evolution is a theory such as evolution and the big bang. They are all theories in the big picture."
Theistic evolution in one sense is a theory, you're right. However, what 'theory' usually means in the scientific field is 'a non-falsified, repeatable test that confirms a hypothesis' (a loose definition). Given that, evolution is not a 'theory' in the colloquial sense (i.e., a proposed idea); it is a repeatable experiment that confirms a hypothesis.

But just to complicate things a little more, the naturalist philosopher (archaic term for 'scientist'), David Hume, put forward a revolutionary principle that states that an unrestricted general conclusion cannot be the basis for all concluding knowledge on an item of study and experimentation. Which is to say that once you know something from repeated experimentation, that doesn't guarantee that you will arrive at the same conclusion through the same experiment in all circumstances. And as we know from quantum physics and the Uncertainty Principle, testing often biases the results at an elemental level because all measurement interferes with what's being measured. Hence nothing is known with absolute certainty.

At first glance this would seem to agree with your sentiment that "they are all theories in the big picture", but in admitting this it places you squarely in the position of not being able to defend decisive conclusions like, "There are no experiments that we as mere mortals can do to prove or illustrate points of creationism." For if the zero-point is that right belief depends on "the amount of weight you personally put on the given evidence" then we can reliably suggest that more mathematical proofs, such as Kalam's Cosmological Argument, terminate the opportunity to disbelieve: determine a point that doesn't exist, disambiguate an actual nothing, count to one (with all infinite variables between nothing and one).

The point is that science, Scripture, logic, math all assume a starting point for what is based on the fact that something is. Denial of that is absurd. Thus, we can determine an actual point where something had to have been 'created' or somehow initiated into being; it is scientifically and logically impossible to believe otherwise.

With that in mind, we can now calmly disagree together with your original statement that "The only proof of creationism is the bible, that I am aware of. There are no experiments that we as mere mortals can do to prove or illustrate points of creationism."

Anticipating your reply.