iSoul In the beginning is reality

From history to nature

Over the centuries the various sciences have developed from a focus on history to a focus on nature, that is from a temporal or diachronic focus to a spatial or synchronic one. Saussure saw this in linguistics and reoriented it from a focus on historical language change to language as a system. Both have their place but historic study finds few natures, i.e., invariants, whereas the study of natures discovers many invariants.

For example, astronomy and physics in ancient times focused on cycles and the “harmony of the spheres” but in modern times focuses on a four dimensional continuum. Chemistry has developed from an alchemical focus on transmutation to a modern focus on the periodic table and compounds. Biology still focuses on temporality with its concentration on origins and history; to further develop it will need to focus on the nature of biological kinds. Geology has a similar focus on temporality so it will need to focus more on the nature of geological features.

Both History and Nature have been used by atheists as substitutes for God — in the 18th century Newton’s system was seen as Nature in control, then in the 19th & 20th centuries Darwin’s evolution was seen as History in control. So both approaches can be carried to extremes and will be by some.

Biology — whether evolutionary or creationary — needs to move from defining species or created kinds in terms of descent from original organisms to defining them in terms of their nature, e.g., as either having something in common (an essence) or a some type of interconnectivity (a topological definition).

Gentile Old Testaments

It is remarkable how the Apostles denied that Gentiles needed to follow the law of Moses, and put only a few restrictions on Gentile believers (Acts 15:28-29):

28 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.

In short, there was no need to follow the law of Moses but four practices would go a long way to smoothing relations between Jewish and Gentile believers. In the West we don’t think of the first three but the fourth is affirmed. So much for the rest of the Old Testament.

Certainly the Apostles weren’t jettisoning the Old Testament. But they weren’t affirming it much either. The Judaizers had it wrong: the Gentiles can become Christians right where they are. There’s no need to accept the Old Testament with its law of Moses, circumcision, rituals, and 613 commandments (according to Orthodox tradition).

When pagans converted to Christianity their pagan practices were reinterpreted as much as possible rather than banned outright. Yes, much behind Christmas is pagan — but it has been given new Christian meaning. The same is true with Easter. Even the pontifex maximus was transformed into the pope.

There is certainly a danger here that Christianity may be influenced by paganism rather than the other way around. But the alternative is a return to the law of Moses, and that has been ruled out. But then what is the tutor or guardian “to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith” if not the law of Moses? The best that paganism had to offer.

When the early Christians approached the pagans, they argued from the Bible but also from the greatest writings of the pagans. What were these? In Europe they were the classics, especially the writings of Plato and Aristotle. These writings, correctly understood, point to Christ in their own way.

Modern pagans today have their classic writings, and Christians need to show the from them why Christianity makes sense. As the Old Testament is not always clear on what it means, so Gentile classics do not always show a clear connection to the Gospel so it’s up to Christians to make it for them.

Secular science

The word “secular” can mean simply non-religious but really means more than that; according to the Online Etymological Dictionary, secular means

“worldly, pertaining to a generation or age,” from Latin saecularis “of an age, occurring once in an age,” from saeculum “age, span of time, generation.”

The basic distinction is between matters that pertain to the age and world in which we live and those matters which are beyond it — life after death, unseen spiritual reality, etc.

Modern science has always focused on the secular in this sense, and abstained from investigating metaphysical and spiritual matters — but that should include “deep time,” too. By definition “deep time” refers to ages of time before this present age, this age of human life. No human being ever lived in deep time. Human experience does not include deep time. A scientific organization (or a government) cannot promote belief in deep time and remain secular.

Secular science should exclude everything that is not part of the age and world in which humanity lives. That means secular science must remain within recorded history, the period of time covered by written sources. This may be extended slightly by the study of artifacts for societies without writing.

Since scientific creationism stays within recorded history, it is more secular than any deep time theory.


One-sentence summaries

One could use the common one-sentence summary of the Muslim faith to describe other monotheistic faiths and monistic ideologies; for example:

There is no God but Yahweh and Moses is his legislator.

There is no God but Yahweh and David is his psalmist.

There is no God but Deus and the Pope is his bishop.

There is no God but Gott and Luther is his reformer.

There is no God but Dieu and Calvin is his polemicist.

There is no God but Jesus and Wesley is his evangelist.

There is no God but Nature and Newton is his scientist.

There is no God but Evolution and Darwin is his scientist.

There is no God but Matter and Marx is his revolutionary.


I am offended

I am offended by judges who unilaterally decide that unborn children do not have a right to life. I am offended by politicians who defend abortion as “health care”.

I am offended by politicians who ignore problems and by their inaction let them become worse. I am offended by politicians who take advantage of crises to promote power for themselves.

I am offended by public funds subsidizing religions that market themselves as secular. I am offended by state schools promoting their own philosophies and religions.

I am offended by news media who promote anti-Christian or anti-Semitic bigotry and make light of religious liberty. I am offended by mass media who promote hate in the name of love and intolerance in the name of tolerance.

I am offended by activists who cry “racism” as a cover for their intolerance. I am offended by leaders who cave in to activists and mobs rather than challenge them.

I am offended by scientists who use science as a cover for their atheism and materialism. I am offended by leaders who defer to scientists without question.

I am offended by religious leaders who deceive their followers as to their real intentions. I am offended by theologians who deny the faith they purport to represent.

I am offended by cults that masquerade as religions, threatening death to any who would leave their cult. I am offended by people who would kill people in the name of a religion and threaten any who criticize them.

I am offended by judges who unilaterally decide that marriage must be redefined beyond recognition. I am offended by politicians who undermine marriage and families.

I am offended by politicians who put their own interests above that of the electorate. I am offended by politicians who do not solve problems but make them worse.

I give thanks

I give thanks that “God exists and rewards those who seek him (Heb. 11:6).

I give thanks that “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether (Ps 19:9).

I give thanks to God for providing salvation and life everlasting, even for me, who am not worthy nor able to do the least to begin a new life in Christ.

I give thanks for the blessings of this life — for health, for wealth, for a wife. I give thanks for a mind to think, hands to work, and a spirit to worship the Creator, Savior, and Redeemer of mankind.

The General Thanksgiving

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give you most humble and hearty thanks for all your goodness and loving-kindness. We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, for the means of grace and for the hope of glory. And give us, we pray, such a sense of all your mercies that our hearts may be unfeignèdly thankful, and that we show forth your praise, not only with our lips but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to your service, and by walking before you, in holiness and righteousness, all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with you and the Holy Spirit, be all honor and glory, for ever and ever. Amen.


Marriage, social and otherwise

God created marriage, but civil marriage was invented by man. With the French Revolution, religious marriage ceremonies were made secondary to civil marriage. This spread to other countries in the 19th century. Today, outside of the Middle East, civil marriage is the only legal marriage; religiously recognized marriage has no legal status.

With the rise of same-sex marriage, the tables are beginning to turn: civil marriage may not be recognized by some people if it lacks religious authorization. There is no question that the state has a right to recognize whatever marriages it wants for its own purposes. But the question is about what may be called social marriage. What does society recognize as a marriage?

Compare this with driving. The state issues driver’s licenses, which authorize people to drive on public roads. This license does not apply on private roads. For example, the owner or operator of a race track sets the standards for who may race, not the state.

Similarly, the state issues marriage licenses, which authorize people to be married for public purposes. When income taxes are filed, for example, those the state has authorized may file as a married couple. But what about when people enter private property? What about private purposes? That is a different matter.

Society, through religion, custom, and tradition determines who is married for social purposes, not the state. Whether by religious authorization or common-law marriage or whatever custom people follow, society determines who is married for social purposes. Society may follow the state — or not.

A dual biology

Evolutionists argue that, in general, homologous (similar) structures or genes are evidence of common (joint) ancestry between the species. They also argue that vestigial (useless) features show common ancestry between the species and a similar species in which they are functional.

Critics of evolution can equally well argue that, in general, heterologous (dissimilar) structures or genes are evidence of disjoint ancestry between the species. They can also argue either that alleged vestigial features are in fact useful or that our lack of knowledge about their utility does not make them useless.

These two groups could go back and forth ad nauseum, or they could call an armistice and accept that in some cases one of them is right and in other cases the other is right. What would biology look like in that case? Biology would admit a dual explanatory regime.

What would this dual biology look like? It would look like a common classification problem to determine for each pair of objects whether they are in the same class or in different classes. The answer is not: all objects are in the same class. Nor is it: each object is in a different class. The correct classification is somewhere in between.

Why is this so difficult for biologists? Perhaps because there are so many organic species that a simplistic answer to their relationship is better than no answer. But in that case it would be best to have both groups compete for the best answer. Don’t give a monopoly to one group (i.e., the evolutionists) but encourage their critics to give a better answer. Ironically, that’s close to where biology was before evolutionists took over.

Unfortunately, the academic world doesn’t do well with competition. So academic science tends toward monopolistic science. The competition takes place outside the academy, in independent research institutes. That’s where the cutting edge of biology is.


Belief and knowledge

Knowledge is conditional. Knowledge starts with an antecedent, which is assumed, and proceeds from there. Its consequences are therefore certain, but relative to the antecedent. “If P, then Q” is the form of knowledge.

Belief is unconditional. Belief is a beginning; it does not begin from something else. “In the beginning God…” is the form of belief. Belief is a commitment; it is not hedged. Belief has no Plan B.

Theology, history, philosophy, science, etc. are all knowledge. Religion, dogma, ideology, way of life, etc. are all belief. Knowledge is accepted conditionally. Beliefs are affirmed unconditionally.

Law is knowledge. Gospel is belief. Biblical knowledge is conditioned on the Bible. Biblical belief is unconditional affirmation of the Bible.

Belief grows through knowledge. Biblical belief grows through knowledge of the Bible. Knowledge matures through belief. Biblical knowledge matures through believing the Bible.

The naive person has beliefs but lacks knowledge. Socrates believed he knew nothing, which is the ground for learning. One who believes they have knowledge but doesn’t cannot learn.

The skeptical person has knowledge but lacks belief. If the skeptic is willing to know their beliefs, they can grow in faith. Otherwise they cannot have faith.

Belief and knowledge should be balanced. If knowledge outstrips belief, skepticism and doubt ensues. If belief outstrips knowledge, naivety and presumption ensues.

To the believer, it is better for belief to outstrip knowledge than the other way around. To the unbeliever, it is better for knowledge to outstrip belief than the other way around.

Constitutional law is conditioned on a constitution. Belief in principles that are seen to underlie a constitution is not constitutional. A constitution is accepted conditionally; it is subject to change.

Secularity is knowledge that beliefs can divide the public, so it is best that the public square should not be committed to any one belief. The secular public square is full of knowledge but lacks belief.

However, if the knowledge that beliefs can divide the public becomes a principle of public belief, it will divide the public. Secularism is the belief that the secular is superior to the non-secular, that the non-secular should be kept private or not tolerated at all. Secularism will divide the public. Secularity will not.

Secularism excludes and denigrates other beliefs. Secularity separates beliefs but does not denigrate them. Beliefs strengthen secularity but threaten secularism.


Catholic, Orthodox, and Evangelical

This post is about the words catholic, orthodox, and evangelical and what they mean. The first question is whether only one branch (denomination) of Christianity can legitimately use any of these words. The answer is No; many churches can use them.

The Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed includes the words “In one holy catholic and apostolic Church”. So any church that accepts this creed has some claim on the word catholic (as well as the word apostolic).

Catholic means universal so any church that identifies with the universal church (whether as part of it or the whole of it is another matter) has a claim on this word. This includes every branch of Christianity, though the Church of Rome has taken it their moniker.

It is similar with the word orthodox. Any church that considers its doctrine to be orthodox Christianity has a claim on this word. That covers every branch of Christianity, although the churches of Eastern Christianity have taken it as their moniker.

The word evangelical simply means “pertaining to the gospel.” Any church which promotes the gospel has a claim on this word. That covers every branch of Christianity, though some Protestant churches (especially revivalist ones) have taken it as their moniker.

We could say that the words catholic, orthodox, and evangelical have generic and specialized meanings. Their specialized uses are usually capitalized. No one branch of Christianity has a monopoly on any of these words, though it sometimes seems so.