All posts in Philosophy

  • Christ and Nothing

    Today I stumbled upon a 2003 essay in First Things by David Bentley Hart. It’s 8,400 words on the inevitable nihilism of modernity. This is a topic I find myself thinking about a lot these days. What follows is my severe edit of the essay down to a thousand words that gets at the heart of the matter.

    BZ

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    What is the consequence when Christianity, as a living historical force, recedes? We have no need to speculate, as it happens; modernity speaks for itself: with the withdrawal of Christian culture, all the glories of the ancient world that it baptized and redeemed have perished with it in the general cataclysm. Christianity is the midwife of nihilism, not because it is itself nihilistic, but because it is too powerful in its embrace of the world and all of the world’s mystery and beauty; and so to reject Christianity now is, of necessity, to reject everything except the barren anonymity of spontaneous subjectivity. As Ivan Karamazov’s Grand Inquisitor tells Christ, the freedom that the gospel brings is too terrible to be borne indefinitely. Our sin makes us feeble and craven, and we long to flee from the liberty of the sons of God; but where now can we go? Everything is Christ’s. Read more

  • Saints and Sages

    anthonythegreat

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    This morning I read an op-ed piece by a local freelance journalist entitled “Finding Their Religion”. In the column the journalist writes rather disparagingly about “organized religion,” likening it, as Nietzsche did, to “herd mentality.” The writer tells us how she vowed that her children would never be part of the religious herd. Instead, her children will be left to “find their own path” so that they might possess “beliefs they can wholly claim.”

    Yes, authenticity is the order of the day.

    And tradition, so soundly critiqued by modernity, is passé.

    (Of course it remains to be seen if Enlightenment modernity can survive the trial of postmodernity holding up the mirror and revealing [to its horror!] that it too is a tradition—the tradition of critiquing and rejecting all others traditions. The evidence seems to suggest that modernity cannot not survive this withering self-revelation.)

    In her column our interlocutor writes—

    It’s not necessarily a certain God that I want my children to embrace. I can’t say that I believe in the father figure sold by Christian religions. Or the beautiful, gauzy tales of Hellenic gods and goddesses. But I believe in beauty. I believe in awe. I believe that the world is bigger than the tiny chasm of my existence. I want my children to find spirituality in themselves and their surroundings. The wonder of a brightly colored butterfly and a dip in tepid ocean waters should always be reason to celebrate. The Grand Canyon should make them feel small. The suffering of others should bring tears to their eyes…[But] there are so many people, rushing about spouting off their certainties…My voice should be there. It doesn’t matter that my beliefs don’t come prepackaged in ancient text.

    Well, I believe in beauty too. I’ve written a book on the subject of redemptive beauty and I have been a relentless critic of confusing faith with certitude. But one wonders if this critic of organized religion will take the same approach to her children’s mathematical, literary, and scientific education? Read more

  • Veritas

    Veritas. Truth.

    Your first allegiance must be to truth.

    You must love truth before you love God.

    For without a primary love of truth, how do you know that the God you love is the God that is?

    Without primary allegiance to truth, you may just love your own ideas which you call God.

    If you don’t love truth enough, you will sell it cheap.

    Without a costly commitment to truth, you’ll trade truth for certitude.

    Certitude is a poor substitute for truth.

    If all you want is cheap certitude, that’s easy enough to come by. Just land on some opinion one way or the other, tell yourself you’re certain, and that’s that. No wrestling with doubt, no dark night of the soul, no costly agonizing over the matter, no testing yourself with hard questions. Just accept a secondhand assumption or a majority opinion or a popular sentiment or an inherited tradition as the final word and settle into certainty. You don’t have think about it ever again. Ignorance is bliss. So is certitude.

    But… Read more

  • The Mark of Cain


    Thinking out loud.

    Sitting on my deck thinking. Thinking.

    What am I?

    A human being?

    Yes. But what more can be said?

    A pastor?

    This is what I do, but not really what I am.

    To cease vocation is not to cease being.

    What are you?

    A human too.

    A Christian?

    Perhaps, but that reflects a religious choice.

    Can we come closer to the essence of being?

    Can we be more basic?

    What are you?
    Read more

  • Cows

    Cow

    Cows.

    Eating grass. And all the rest.

    Stupid and content.

    They’re all pretty much headed to the slaughter. They just don’t know it. Thus the contentment of the brute beast.

    I talk to my cats about it all the time. I tell them…

    “This is your existence. But you don’t think about it, do you? That’s because you lack self-awareness. Thus you are not troubled by the meaninglessness that is derived from your lack of immortality. Happy, stupid cat.”
    Read more