Just as thieves do not lightly attack a place where they see royal weapons prepared against them, so he who has grafted prayer into his heart is not easily robbed by thieves of the mind.
“The Bible is clear here: I am to love my neighbor as myself, in the manner needed, in a practical way, in the midst of the fallen world, at my particular point of history. This is why I am not a pacifist. Pacifism in this poor world in which we live — this lost world — means that we desert the people who need our greatest help.”
― Francis August Schaeffer
Via First Things
“Aquinas inherited from Platonic philosophy the idea that matter is pure potentiality. It has no organizational capacity of its own. Some modern Thomists like Jaques Maritain tried to reconcile Thomas and Darwin by suggesting that Thomas can be interpreted as inscribing a desire for form into matter, but this only confuses Thomism with what is called vitalism. Matter’s potentiality has no appetite for Aquinas; matter itself is not inclined toward self-perfection. Only form actualizes matter, and form is, in the words of Lawrence Dewan, O.P., “something divine in things.” Dewan points out that in Thomas’ day celestial bodies were thought to be a higher form of matter and thus could function as an intermediate cause between primary and secondary causation “Perhaps someday,” he writes, “we will have discovered enough about corporeal reality to provide candidates for such universal causality under God.” The Design Hypothesis is, in a way, such a candidate.”
“People understand me so little that they do not even understand when I complain of being misunderstood.”—Søren Kierkegaard, Journals Feb. 1836″
If you know me, or have skimmed through this blog enough, you will quickly see my love for Soren Kierkegaard as a philosopher and as a foundational thinker within the history of Christian thought. I believe he is misunderstood in many ways, either because those who have read him did not take the time and energy to really understand what he was truly advocating, or those who have been told by others and have done no further investigation into who he was and what he was up against. Mind you, I do not fully endorse all of the thoughts and ideas of the theologians and philosophers I read, Kierkegaard included. Proper understanding and critique of opposing views should always be our goal. Never dismiss and ignore what we do not understand or agree with.
My wife recently purchased me a book (Kierkegaard and Theology by Murray Rae) for my birthday, and it is because she knows me so well, it is a tremendous blessing to finally read some justified understanding of Kierkegaard’s thoughts and words on what it means to be a Christian and how we can live authentically Christian. The book has eight chapters, and within those chapters are detailed in sub sections on Kierkegaard’s thoughts and beliefs on individual subjects such as; grace, atonement, consciousness of the self and many more. The third chapter is called “What it means to Become a Christian” where a few statements hit hard and challenged me to critique my own way of thinking about the faith that I hold.
One of the main reasons I hold such reverence for Kierkegaard is his ability to call out my own inauthentic beliefs. More specifically in recent years, I have become far more rationalistic in my approach to faith and the things of God.
Johannes Climacus was one of the pseudonym’s Kierkegaard wrote under, and he poses the question;
“How can I, Johannes Climacus, share in the happiness Christianity promises?”(1)
We cannot be a Christian by just following the crowd, Christianity is foremost concerned with the individual and their heart. We can look to the the question Jesus posed to the rich young man in Luke 18:18-25. “And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” To which Jesus offered no universal formula, but a challenge addressed to the young man’s point of greatest resistance (2): “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Murray Rae cohesively sums up Climacus’s (Kierkegaard’s) attack upon the methodology of Modernity upon Christianity:
“The first problem, he is well on the way to dealing with; it is the problem of Christendom, that cultural landscape in which it is supposed that everyone is Christian without having to do anything at all. Climacus, however, has discovered that Christianity requires something more of him. But what? Here the second obstacle proves much more difficult to overcome. It is the obstacle posed by the supposition of Modernity that everything must be reasonable, that we cannot commit ourselves to anything about which there is the least bit of reasonable doubt. The difficulty is, in Modernity, that setting aside one’s reason is every bit as scandalous as selling one’s possessions and distributing the money to the poor.” (3)
Following Jesus is what it means to be a Christian. Not to just believe in a set of objective propositions, but to set all of our reason to follow Christ wherever He calls us. Christianity is at war with our whole being, because we are about the “self”. We want to depend on our “autonomous reasoning” and nothing else. To believe with all certainty and no doubt. This is not the call of Christ. Trust Him, when all seems uncertain.
(1) Kierkegaard and Theology, Murray Rae
(2) Kierkegaard and Theology, Murray Rae
(3) Kierkegaard and Theology, Murray Rae
1) We cannot directly observe another creature’s consciousness, and we cannot measure or quantify conscious experiences. If we could describe every physical fact about a bat’s brain in every detail, we would still not have a description of what the bat experiences. There are facts about animals that are not physical facts – facts about “what it is like”. It does not matter how much data we gather, what we imagine or what new concepts we learn. We are forever barred from another animal’s rich world of experience.
2) Neuroscience can describe animals as a system of causal inputs, or representations, that produce certain casual outputs. But this description of the physical system with its inputs and outputs does not describe intrinsic, subjective feelings. We can only describe and understand emotions like fear and anger when we experience them ourselves in the first person – “from the inside”, as it were.
3) Subjects have privileged access to conscious events. Observers could infer that I was in pain from my behaviour. However, I don’t need to infer that I am in pain by observing my behaviour or brain states; I feel it directly. There is nothing more to this mental event than the way it “appears” to me in subjective experience. I am not picking out a physical event which causes or accompanies that experience.
4) Brain states and events have a complex physical structure that phenomenal awareness lacks. Conscious experience does not have a complex spatial structure; it cannot be broken down into various parts. We do not have privileged access to physical states and events; physical states and events can have a complex physical structure. So consciousness cannot be identical to anything in the physical world.
5) If there is more to the world than the physical, scientific materialism is false.
6) In every worldview some phenomena are foundational: they are not explained in terms of any more basic phenomena. On scientific materialism elementary physical entities and the laws which govern them are foundational. But conscious events are nothing like physical parts; there is nothing about the interaction of physical parts that would lead us to predict or enable us to understand the existence of consciousness. Consciousness arrives very late in the history of the universe and late in the history of life as an inexplicable accident. Consciousness does not “fit naturally” into the materialist’s worldview.
7) However, consciousness is foundational on theism, because conscious agency characterises God as understood within theism. Theism has the explanatory resources to account for the existence of finite conscious beings in terms of God’s omniscience and omnipotence.
8) There is a correlation between physical events and mental events; certain events always produce some kind of pain, others always produce pleasure. There is a connection between the physical world and the world of consciousness. But what could connect the two? We must look to some underlying reality which could bring this connection about. The order present suggests that a mind is involved; and so God emerges as a good explanation, both for human consciousness, and for its connection with the physical world.
In my readings of Barth, which is fairly limited, he already has had a big influence over me on how to approach the Christian message and exposition of the Gospel. In the preface to his Epistle to the Romans he states;
“If I have a system it consists in the fact that I keep as consistently as possible before me the negative and positive significance of what Kierkegaard has called the ‘infinite qualitative distinction between time and eternity.’ ‘God is in heaven, and thou on earth.’ The relation of this God to this man, and this man to this God, is for me the theme of the Bible and the sum of philosophy.”
Elsewhere in his Church Dogmatics (I; Revelation)
“The introduction of the term “God” is not an abuse to this name, but meaningful and helpful, if in respect of it we think of what is attested by Holy Scripture concerning God’s speech and action. God is the One whose name and cause are borne by Jesus Christ. Hence, there is no question of divinity in the abstract as suprahuman and supra-cosmic being. Holy Scripture knows nothing of this divinity. To be sure, the God of Holy Scripture is superior to man and the world as the Lord. But He has also bound Himself to man and the world in creating them. God is here introduced to us in the action in which He is engaged, not merely in His superiority over the creature, but also in His relationship to it.”
“To this, every hour of my day has been and is directed.” -Soren Kierkegaard
“Prominent naturalist Jaegwon Kim has observed that “if a whole system of phenomena that are prima facie not among basic physical phenomena resists physical explanation, and especially if we do not even know where or how to begin, it would be time to reexamine one’s physicalist commitments.” For Kim, genuinely nonphysical mental entities are the paradigm case of such a system of phenomena. Kim’s advice to fellow naturalists is that they must simply admit the irreality of the mental and recognize that
naturalism exacts a steep price and cannot be had on the cheap. If feigning anesthesia is the price to be paid to retain naturalism, then the price is too high. Fortunately, the theistic argument from consciousness reminds us that it is a price that does not need to be paid.”
-JP Moreland “The Argument From Consciousness”
If you get a chance to pick this book up, it is a heavy, scholarly read. Moreland is one of the best philosophers alive, and his work on consciousness and mind-body dualism is a great triumph for theism. I owe much to him and William Lane Craig for their work in Philosophy.
Enough with the Kierkegaard excerpts, here is my current reading list, and music I’m jamming as well. I’m going to do some posts on some of the material I’m reading
Summer’s Wet Work is Done- Viul
Sees the Light- La Sera
“But then it is also true that there is rest and happiness in this thought. It is really true that when, wearied with all this human inconstancy, this temporal and earthly immutability, and wearied of your own inconstancy, you might wish to find a place where rest may be found for your weary head, your weary thoughts, your weary spirit, so that you might find rest and find complete repose: Oh, in the changelessness of God there is rest!”