Saturday, July 24, 2010
Friday, July 23, 2010
Science's Idea of Morality
Scientists have shown they can change people's moral judgements by disrupting a specific area of the brain with magnetic pulses.When you get into the specifics - things start to get a little shaky:
The researchers subjected 20 volunteers to a number of tests designed to assess their notions of right and wrong.Let's see here - very small sample, statistical results not cited, very subtle moral distinction and anecdotal as best (one scenario out of "number of tests." I am thinking someone had a point to make here. Of course, the "point" is that morality is a result of brain chemistry and not some super-natural influence. For the reasons I cited above that is not even a valid scientific conclusion from the data presented, but that is not what interests me most.
In one scenario participants were asked how acceptable it was for a man to let his girlfriend walk across a bridge he knew to be unsafe.
After receiving a 500 millisecond magnetic pulse to the scalp, the volunteers delivered verdicts based on outcome rather than moral principle.
If the girlfriend made it across the bridge safely, her boyfriend was not seen as having done anything wrong.
In effect, they were unable to make moral judgments that require an understanding of other people's intentions.
What interests me most is WHAT they presume to be moral judgments. It is not like they were able to induce moral changes in people on big stuff. No one murdered anybody, no one was induced to infidelity. Nope the moral dilemma cited was about something that I am not sure sacred texts in most religions address. Not to mention it is something morally ambiguous.
"Unsafe" is a relative term. Most of us outweigh our significant female others - what is unsafe for me at 200 pounds may be quite safe for her at 120. There is, as described a complete lack of data to determine if morality was even at play here.
And since when is "intent" the measure of morality? It may lessen the penalty for murder, but killing someone is still killing someone.
Science has set itself a very low bar for morality here which it is why it cannot ever replace religion in that area. It has insufficient authority.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
How To Reach Those That Do Not Want To Be Reached
Newsweek religion editor Lisa Miller has two big articles in this week's issue. "The Bad Shepherd" is another piece trashing Pope Benedict over the sex-abuse charges emerging in Europe. But Miller even trashed Jesus Christ as a "typically cranky" religious figure. This came in an excerpt from Miller's new book on Heaven, as she explained how implausible the religious concept of resurrection is:Most of this stuff is just not worth arguing with - it is post conclusion argument. Someone has made up their mind to disagree and nw they are coming up with excuses in the form of argument rather than examining the information and trying to draw a conclusion. In my opinion that is the essence of most apologetics - people justifying a stance rather than trying to reach a decision.
Resurrection presented credibility problems from the outset. Who, the Sadducees taunted Jesus, does the man who married seven wives in succession reside with in heaven? The subtext of their teasing is obvious: if the resurrection is true, as Jesus promised, then in heaven you must have your wife, and all the things that go along with wives: sex, arguments, dinner. Jesus responds in a typically cranky way: "You just don't get it," he says (my paraphrase). "You are wrong," he said in Matthew's Gospel, "because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God."
How do you reach such a person?
Well, there are many pat phrases like, "Love them into the Kingdom," "The Holy Spirit will speak to their heart," "Prayer." However, I have learned from painful experience that some people simply will not be reached. They will not allow themselves to be touched by "the other," whether that is another person or something in the spiritual realms, enough for there to be actual impact. Apologetics may be their defense mechanism, or emotional isolation, or simple aggression does the trick, but whatever it is they will not allow themselves to be touched.
I think that in such situations, God has a lesson for us. It is quite humbling you know - an unsolvable riddle, the sensation of interacting with a wall. To be completely useless and ineffectual is truly humiliating. And I think that is the lesson, the hardest lesson of all.
We need to let God worry about them and take our own lessons.
Related Tags: Illuminated Scripture
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Though we should make every effort to have right theology, and though we should live our lives each day as disciples of Jesus, in the end, our relationship with him comes down to simple trust. "Jesus, remember me," we cry, not unlike the desperate criminal on the cross next to Jesus. And Jesus, both communicating and embodying the mercy of God, says to us, "You will be with me in paradise." We are welcome there not because we have figured out all of the answers, and not because we are living rightly, but because God is merciful and we have put our trust in Jesus, the Savior.Those may be some of the truest words ever written. It makes me think about the state of Christian blogging.
Blogging is an essentially intellectual activity, hence we talk a lot of theology, a lot of apologetics, a lot of philosophy and a lot of politics. But we seem to find it hard to communicate that essential truth that Mark Roberts so readily put his finger on.
For one, the communication of a state like trust is hard to do in non-fiction prose, certainly in the essay. It must be modeled either in the life of the writer or in a story the writer shares from another or makes up.
I know I'd like to hear more stories of faith and trust than discussion of the latest semantic twist on Calvinism v Arminianism. I know - "Facebook" - but Facebook is too short. Intimate stories require more words than Facebook works for - blogging remains a good venue for this.
But then maybe that word "intimate" is the real problem.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Are You Comfortable?
My question is, "Are you comfortable with your salvation?" I hope not. So much discussion of assurance of salvation and I keep thinking a little lack of assurance is a good thing.
See here's what it boils down to. When you don't know for sure, you keep trying. And that does not mean you keep reciting the sinner's prayer like a robot. No, it means that you do whatever you can to make sure you look and act like a Christian. Whether you think those changes are wrought by your salvation, or you think you make those changes to be saved is immaterial - you make them to try and find the assurance you need - and hopefully never quite get to.
Because this I know with a great deal of certainty. If you think you are a good Christian - if you are comfortable with how you feel and act as a Christian - somethings wrong. Remember, we are all sinners called to:
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,Fear and trembling is not comfortable - we need more of it.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Visions and Choices
Whenever I write a post that asks whether we Christians in America have succumbed to some sort of lowest common denominator discipleship, I receive responses from people saying that claiming to believe in Jesus while being a good parent, spouse, neighbor, employee, and so on is enough to ensure fulfillment of the requirements of being a true disciple of Christ.Here is the heart of his struggle:
But I struggle with that answer.
This is why I wonder if being a nice, caring, saved suburbanite who lives, works, and acts exactly like my nice, caring, unsaved, suburbanite neighbors fulfills the greater calling of Jesus.I think, when phrased that way, I can see Dan's concern, but let us bear in mind that "acts exactly like..." can be a somewhat subtle thing.
A saved suburbanite should take to his/her job with a vigor, humility, and cheerfulness than the unsaved would find hard to muster. There should be (though there is anot really) a large difference in the infidelity statistics between saved suburbanite households and those of the unsaved.
The question is, since there is not such a difference - is it my job to make one? Of course, I can and must in my own household - but the question of responsibility for the greater Christian community is not a duty for every Christian - it's a calling. And the question of calling is highly individualized and thorny.
I cannot speak for Dan or any other person feeling a call, I can only speak for myself. But I can say that the sense of call that I once felt to ministry, I couched in terms and scripture much as Dan did. I had grand visions of advancing God's Word and Kingdom. I pushed and shoved my way into the ministerial fold.
Along the way, one person said to me "John how in the hell can someone getting straight effin' A's in chemistry think he is called to ministry?" That person turned out to be a prophet for hard experience and much pain taught me that my dreams, visions and sense of call were born of my need to be accepted. They were born of my desire to be perceived as a leader, when I was not actually gifted as one.
In my opinion, we should fight whatever sense of call we feel with every fiber of our being. If God is indeed calling it will happen in site of ourselves, and we will along the way have learned the requisite humility. But if we boldly stride into it declaring our calling, chances are good we will be the only ones truly sensing it.