Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Wednesday Message To St. Thomas EYC 1/6/2016

It has been a while since we met for Wednesday Night Live. We had a great set of Christmas events, and now I want to invite you to the center of our youth group experience. Wednesday Night is when we learn to speak and see movies, in art, in life, in each other. And today it becomes something even more. We will eat dinner with the entire church at 6:15 PM. Families are invited to join us, moreover encouraged to joy us. Then the junior high age and high school age youth will head over to Tutti-Fruiti Yogurt to enjoy a tasty treat, on us, while doing a fun Bible Study.

This is a great night to invite friends, and it is for this reason your youth leaders asked me to do these first Wednesday events. Come join us, and invite others to do the same. Families, come to dinner with us. It is a covered dish/pot luck. There is homework clinic at 5:15 PM still, too.

Peace & Blessings & Happy Epiphany
Joshua Orsak

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Atheist's Questions, Possible Answers

I probably have too much ego over my theological prowess, but given how bad most people are at it, and how rarely anyone has any grasp of it, it is hard not to believe it must be very difficult. 

Let's move down this list. Here's how God MIGHT answer: 

"I didn't do any of those things, you are confusing people's thoughts ABOUT me with what I really am. I'm not a fundamentalist...why are you?"

"You need to look up the word 'inspire'...inspiration is not control. BTW my book has multiple accounts of Creation and only one says the things you talk about."

"The purpose and function of faith are perfectly explained in the book MYSTERY WITHOUT MAGIC, you should read it. Your own Immanuel Kant answered this pretty well, too...Manny's a great guy."

"My actions resulted in a hell of a supernova yesterday...if that isn't grandiose, I don't know what is. The distinction between the natural and supernatural was invented by humans, and that only recently."

"I think you need to get clear about what metaphysics is all about."

"There are tons of studies that show prayer is very effective at doing what I intend it to do:"

"I wouldn't, I don't, I died on a cross to keep that from ever happening"

"They were chosen for a specific job, not to be better, just set apart."

"I didn't, freedom made evil possible, but without it nothing could exist at all. Creation was a risk. One worth taking, though."

"Because I am as I do, I am the act of creating."

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Reason & Morality

The idea that "reason" gives us unaided access to morality has the potential to lead to as dangerous a fervor as the most fundamentalist religiosity. It gives the air of scientific certainty to what remains a human, fallible process in often murky waters. Any ethical philosophy that fails to admit that we are limited, and morally broken creatures groping in the darkness is bound for disillusionment or destructive ends. Mao and Stalin thought they had discovered the truth of what was good and right, by unaided reason. Do we need religion to have morality? No. But it is not clear to me that irreligious moral philosophy has adequate metaphysical girth to maintain sufficient existential weight. And it seems clear that ANY morality capable of both motivating while also discomforting is going to be no more certain nor free from corruptibility than any religion or religious ethical philosophy.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Annual Pirate's Prayer Post


Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

Francis Drake,an adventurer and essentially a legal pirate (What else is a second son supposed to do to make a living?), wrote this prayer as he departed Portsmouth on the Golden Hind to raid Spanish gold on the west coast of South America. He ventured at least as far north as the non-Spanish parts of California, claiming it as "New Albion" - New England- and returned to his Queen (the long way - via circumnavigation) with loot worth over a half million pounds sterling, and received his Knighthood for it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

An Occasional Post- Meaning & Ethics

Saw this meme with a picture of the cosmos saying "No Life Matters" on an atheist page. The funny thing was the comments, where people stretch to try to still justify being moral. They were not impressive attempts. Look, if life doesn't matter, it doesn't matter. Emotions are judgments of VALUE. In a valueless universe, they mean nothing. Reason is SUPPOSED to keep us from acting crazy. To say on the one hand that persons are no more valuable than rocks and yet we should treat them as if they are of inestimable value is hypocrisy and counseling schizophrenia. You can't have it both ways. A consistent reason in a meaningless universe includes a practical reason based on meaninglessness. Anything else is cowardice and contradiction.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Evidence, Religion & The Paranormal

Well, something else has crossed my desk that demanded response. It was a meme that claimed the "cure" for demonic possession is atheism, as no atheists have ever become possessed. Believing in demons is the cause of possession, according to this bumper-sticker like picture. This claim brings up some interesting theological and philosophical issues worth discussing.

Now let's put aside the question of whether there HAVE been cases of supposed demonic possession in atheists (there have) and let me establish that though I do believe in something like demons, I do not believe in demonic possession as, say, a Roman Catholic exorcist would understand the term. I will assume here there is no such thing as posession and atheists can't even experience the phenomenon others label possession. Would that be evidence against the RC's proposition that possession actually happens? No, not in the slightest.

That is because demons are assumed to be persons, and persons have motivations, motivations that can be hypothetically explored in plausible ways. It would be very easy for an RC to explain away the "fact" that atheists do not get possessed. Demons would have no reason to possess them. For demonic possession is understood to be the way in which dark powers challenge our belief that God does or even can love us. And an atheist is already lacking such a belief.

This brings up the difficulty when trying to use something like scientific evidence to study ANY religious phenomenon. For God, too, is understood to be a person, with goals and plans and the ability to act on those plans. It is possible to concieve of good reasons WHY God may not want us to be able to absolutely prove His existence, and so it may be impossible to do so. Both Immanuel Kant and Dietrich Bonhoeffer came up with such reasons.

A person can hide. A person is not predictable in the way most natural phenomenon are. Psychology is often a mess of a discipline for just this reason. Drugs that are known to be ineffective become ingrained in the treatment structure of mental disorders because of increased placebo effects. Entire fields of study remain even when they produce no discernible results because, darn it, we have to DO something to help people, and people are hard to help.

A parallel can be found in studies on ESP. I don't believe in it. But the stories and examples that prompt study in it...a mother knows her child is dying many miles away, someone dreams of impending danger, Phillip K Dick's mysterious diagnosis of his child....are examples of extreme stress situations that cannot be reproduced in a lab, not really.

The point is that the scientific method may not be equipped to evaluate these claims, at all. Evidence matters in these cases, but it is weak anecdotal evidence, not the hard knowledge-bringer of scientific study. Evidence matters to theists, too, if it didn't they wouldn't spend so much time trying to defend against the problem of evil. The problem is taken as evidence against their beliefs. But because God is conceived of personally, it is doubtful that the concept can be decided SCIENTIFICALLY.

That doesn't mean atheists have no REASONS for unbelief (nor theists for belief, to my mind). But those reasons are more about interpreting facts than facts themselves. Does order (such as the order we find in nature) require an orderer? Does order imply mind? The answer to this question is intuitive, a matter of rational and internal reflection, and cannot be decided finally on the evidence itself (since evidence is just and example of what is beings studied). In the end the point all sides in these debates have to face is that science has limits. That is why we call it metaphysics...because it is beyond physics.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Popping In For A Post

Life has gotten busy, and so I don't really blog any more. My Facebook page really plays that role for me now. But I suspected that every once in a while something would scream for a larger treatment than I could give on Facebook, and lo and behold it has happened. I read this article today:

This is the most puerile, useless treatment of Genesis I have ever read. It completely misunderstands the nature of religious language, and the nature of the Book of Genesis in particular. First of all, the author assumes from the outset that religious language is like the language of newspaper reporting or science...that the point of religious language is 'how' questions.

Language has different uses. Nobody thinks that when a poet says a cloud is like cotton, that the poet is trying to communicate the exact chemical makeup of clouds. They understand that poetry doesn't seek to communicate a third-party perspective but a first-party perspective...that the language of poetry is the language of explaining WHAT IT IS LIKE to experience a cloud.

Religious language is born, too, out of experience, though I think that religious language serves a purpose different than every day poetry. The point is that religious language has its own purpose, uses, and questions it addresses. For a full treatment on this subject I suggest Russell Pregeant's MYSTERY WITHOUT gives a devastating refutation to Schweitzer's entire approach to scripture.

But moreover, Schweitzer uses ONLY one part of Genesis to talk about the Biblical approach to cosmology. There are, in fact, not one but MANY Creation stories in the Bible, and they are often in commensurable. If we are to take the Genesis 1 account of Creation as a straightforward and all-encompassing cosmology, how do we deal with the fact that a very different cosmology is found one chapter over in Genesis 2? And similarly, how do we deal with the more expansive accounts found in Proverbs 8 and Job?

The point is that the Bible tells not one but many creation stories, some of those stories are more or less congruent with a modern scientific account, but that doesn't really matter. What really matters is that the plurality of accounts points to the fact that the language of the Bible shouldn't be taken to be some kind of scientific account of creation, but rather has some other purpose that a thinking person would be wise to discern before actually making pronouncements on Biblical teachings. It would be a practice Schweitzer would've done well to undertake if he wanted to avoid sounding like a theological ignoramus.