Tuesday, May 26, 2009

George Bush and the End Times, Next on Fox!

This is scary stuff! I first discovered this on Rod Dreher's Crunchy Con blog. Apparently, all of the paranoid fantasies among those on the left about George Bush's religious beliefs might have some basis in reality. Now, since this story comes from alternet, which is a well known liberal website, it might be easy to dismiss it as typical partisan ranting. But the combination of the accounts from Chirac and academic essay seems to give it some more credibility. But of course, since this account comes from "French" sources, we can automatically discount it. After all, who needs to think, we can always just hate the French! In any case, all I can say is that I am so glad he is not president anymore!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Friday, May 22, 2009

Why the god of the gaps must die

Each time a new scientific discovery is made that had previously been considered the domain of mystery or even miracle, the god of the gaps gets smaller and smaller. Since this particular god is nothing like the God of the Judeo-Christian scriptures, I couldn't be happier to witness its very timely demise.

This god needs to die.

Ironically, at least for those who seem to be most concerned to defend the biblical witness against any encroachment on its authority, the most anti-scientific believers have posited a god that is only the god of the supernatural, the miraculous, and the spiritual, but gets short shrift when anything is found to be just natural. This attitude belies an inherently gnostic impulse that relegates the physical to an inferior status to the spiritual. We see this in popular Christianity, with its various programs that promise miraculous results if you just follow this ten point/seven spiritual laws, etc. secret formula. In other words, if you're truly spiritual, then you'll do this and not do that.

In this plastic Jesus version of spirituality, we have a cosmic bellhop who must answer to our whims because we figured out His formula. This false god, one we've made in our own faulty image; while doing our bidding, quickly shrinks down to our size, unable to ever deal with anything biggier than us. Thus to argue from a god of the gaps perspective is to always fight from a defensive posture. Therefore, to equate Christianity with this particular dogma is to make Christianity a defensive posture always on its heels, always fighting to hold onto less and less of the pie.

However, if the God of Christianity is the one actually described in scripture, then we see there a God who is not just the God of the spiritual, the miraculous and the supernatural; but the God of the entire universe. This God is present in the minute details of genetics as well as the vast distances between galaxies. This God is slowly but surely discovered through the scientific enterprise as we grow in our knowledge of physical processes, whether through discovering the grandeur of evolutionary biology, or the vast reaches stretching over billions of light years across space and time. This vision offers us, at least to my mind, a much more majestic God, a Lord over all creation, Who is seen and unseen, known and unknown, completely sovereign and completely immanent, distinct, yet found whenever we open our eyes and ears and all of our senses.

I need a big God. Scripture gives us that God. The god of the gaps gives us instead an anemic little godling that can't even keep its small piece of the pie from being eaten up by simple human reason. And as I said above, that god needs to die. Or better yet, we need to know that this "god" never really lived to begin with. The sooner we know this, the better off we are.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Christianity and Evolution

Over the years, as a Christian, I've struggled with what it means to be a faithful Christian while also believing that the scientific endeavors as expressed by the disciplines of biology and cosmology are largely accurate in their assessment of the physical reality. Cosmology looks at the "macro" picture and sees an exceedingly ancient (13.7byo) universe, vast and beautiful, born of a big bang that has given rise to everything we now see. Biology, to a large (!) extent, has looked at the "micro" picture, and given us amazing insights to the origin of species through genetics and the somewhat larger (4.3byo) discipline of geology. The more I read, the more I am convinced of the Truth of evolutionary biology and cosmology. Yeah, I used a capital T when I spelled truth. I believe it's that true. Are there areas left that haven't been understood, even investigated? Absolutely! Is it possible that further discoveries may change how we understand our origins as a species? Of course. Is it in any way likely that these forthcoming discoveries will show us to be ontologically distinct (genetically speaking) from all of the creatures that have existed on earth from the beginning of single celled life? Not in the least. Does that have any impact on my faith as a Christian? Not in the least.

Are there tensions in my having accepted this position? Of course there are. The big issue of the historicity of Adam and Eve come up. The issue of when natural death came about also poses problems. But to acknowledge that the view of Theistic Evolution (the "official term" that I espouse) has tensions with the biblical text is not to close the door on its strength as an option. Each view, whether, theistic evolution, or Intelligent Design, or Young Earth Creationism, or Materialist (atheistic) Evolutionism, have their own tensions. Every opponent can point to the weak points in a view and say that this therefore "proves" that their view is false.

This tendency in the current environment gives too much voice to the culture warrior impulse that seems to be the zeitgeist de jour, whether theistic or atheistic. None of us actually engages the strengths of our antagonists arguments. We each look to their weakest point and take advantage of that in order to score easy points; hoping against hope that no one is noticing that we're acting like a magician using sleight of hand in order to distract attention away from the very issues that cause us most concern.

As usual, I'm concerned that we should give each other the benefit of the doubt. We should each allow that we might not have the corner on the truth. We should listen. I mean really listen, to each other. Even if we disagree. Especially if we disagree.

Who knows, we might actually learn something!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

How the left can save capitalism

Regulation. It's actually much simpler than we think. We were a country that thrived after the second world war in part due to the regulation that reined in the worst impulses that would exert themselves if left unchecked. Regulated capitalism is a tremendous engine for growth. Remember the fifties? No, of course not! You're too young. Well, you see, Dwight David Eisenhower was president back then. He was the great WWII hero we elected as president to usher in the American century. He was a Republican (nowadays a RINO). But he also believed in the basic premises of the New Deal, which said that Americans should not have to be subject to the vagaries of the economic cycles unprotected by a social contract overseen by a responsive government. Anyone espousing anything similar to what he took for granted (such as a much more graduated income tax up to 90%) would be called a socialist nowadays. And yet a certain segment of our population looks back to that era as the "good old days" to be restored. Even Richard Nixon would be called a borderline communist now for advocating a nation minimum income; a policy he publicly affirmed in the early seventies. As a conservative Republican! Oh, how times have changed.

If we look to the changes in credit card regulations in the late seventies under Jimmy Carter (sorry to say), we see the beginning of the end of our economic vitality. I use the term "vitality" carefully because we see it as a term that effuses growth and life in itself, and yet vitality is anything but what we've seen in the time since the birth of the modern credit card. We certainly saw an explosion of spending, and the growth that came from that. But to call that vitality is to confuse categories. What we saw were several 'bubbles" popping up over the course of three decades that gave us the appearance of economic growth predicated on money being made on money through an e-economy that would somehow bring magical profits (the 1990's) to an un-real estate economy that presupposed an always increasing property value (the 2008/2009 debacle) to a belief that collateralized debt obligations were a good idea up to the last few months.

In each of these areas, their very existence owes to the power of financial institutions being able to "contribute" to congressional members, and thus able to contribute to the writing of the laws related to financial affairs. And surprise of surprise, investment bankers and their congressional allies brought about sweeping changes from those that had been established during the Great Depression. And what were those regulations that had been established during the Great Depression? The regulations that Roosevelt enacted were established in direct response to the excesses that had brought the depression about. Insider dealing, officials being former bankers, and bankers being former officials. Sound familiar? It should. Lord Acton was right when he said that power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It's true of government. But it's also true of the private interests which seek their own power.

Again, being an augustinian democrat helps me to see that every human institution is effected by our common corruption. Nothing is exempt.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

On the subjectiivity of knowledge

"That which is received is received in the manner in which it is received by the receiver." St. Thomas Aquinas.

Courtesy of a Sally Rogers comment via a Rod Dreher (aka, Crunchy Con) blog entry "Culture and the knowability of truth."

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Biologos

Francis Collins, the author of "the Language of God" has come out with a new venture, a website called Biologos which provides answers to those interested in the intersection of faith and science. I was pleased to see right at the top of his recommended reading list "Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose?" by Denis Alexander. This is, I believe, the best book out there on the topic. Alexander delves into the science deeply enough that it helps to have some scientific know-how, but you don't have to have a PhD to understand it. Other books recently have been written by Christian defenders of evolutionary biology, but many of them, while strong on the science, have been weak on the theology. This is where Alexander stands out. His theology is exceptional. He deals with the thorniest issues in a straight forward way that affirms a very high view of scripture while still being scientifically sound. It's good to see more Christians coming out and declaring that Christianity can indeed be a "reasonable" faith.