A brief defense of ID

April 21, 2008

In response to this. The Slashdot community mods down Christian responses, so I figured I’d be better off writing on my own blog where I’m in charge. I haven’t seen the film Expelled, but I have a pretty good idea what it’s about. I’d like to address a couple criticisms I frequently read about the ID movement, usually on Slashdot.

1) “Religion belongs in a religion or philosophy class, not in a science class.”

In general, this should be true. The problem is when religion and philosophy are addressed and commented on in the scientific arena. When your science class teaches, say, naturalism (“there are no miracles, everything that happens has a natural origin, there is no God”) then it has stepped into the realm of philosophy.

2) “Darwinism has been proved over and over, you might as well believe in flat earth”

The evidence for microevolution is reasonably solid (the concept that species adapt to their environment). We can observe this over time as insects adapt to pesticides, etc. Things like macroevolution (the concept that all species were differentiated from a single organism over millions of years) belong in a philosophy class. Why? Because they can never be proven, and they can’t be observed. You cannot sit down and watch a new species formed by macroevolution, neither can you go back in time and observe the development of all species on earth from a common ancestor. I’ve never been presented with solid geological evidence that macroevolution must be the mechanism of initial speciation, and in any case that would be an epistemological question (that is, how much evidence is enough to determine that which cannot be directly observed). It could be true, certainly, but that kind of speculation doesn’t really belong in the realm of observable, testable phenomena.

3) “Peer review and the scientific community ensure objectivity”

Peer review and journal articles etc. don’t enforce truth unless every person involved is infallible. It tends more towards groupthink than towards objectivity in any situation, particularly when there’s a lot at stake. If you poll 1000 Christian theologians, people who have built their careers and lives on Christian theology, and ask them the question: “Is Buddhism a viable alternative to Christianity?” … you haven’t gained objectivity. If you want a better example, here’s one: how many politicians do you trust? If politicians can’t be trusted to be objective, competent, and work for the common good, why would you think that scientists can be?


Mormons vs. Evangelicals vs. Orthodox

April 17, 2008

“You think we’re being uncharitable about the filioque and monophysitism? How? You don’t think that Trinitarian theology and Christology are imporant? Why not just be a Mormon?”

It seems that there is some confusion over the disparity in belief and practice between Mormons, Evangelicals, and Orthodox. Of course, the Mormons aren’t too forthcoming about everything they do and believe, but from my relatively limited knowledge I think I can make a pretty good case against an Apples to Apples comparison here.

Trinity / Godhood:

  • Orthodox: Based on the ecumenical councils. God is triune, eternal, uncreated, etc.
  • Evangelical: Adds filioque. This changes monarchy of the father and tends toward modalism.
  • Mormon: God was once a man like us on another planet. Jesus and Satan were his physical children. Jesus is not of one essence with God. God is not eternal or uncreated. No trinity.

Heaven and Hell:

  • Orthodox: Unrepentant sinners go to hell, as punishment for their sins. Through theosis, Christians become like God and eventually join Him in heaven.
  • Evangelical: Basically the same, with (sometimes) an added dimension of the election of Christians.
  • Mormon: There is no hell, just levels of heaven. Bad people are on the lowest level, and the top level is for Mormons who do everything right and perform the “Temple ordinances”. People at the top level become a God just like Earth’s “God” did. In the original version, only men with three or more wives could reach this exaltation.

The Bible:

  • Orthodox: The canon and deutero-canon, as confirmed around the 5th century by the church. The standard against which doctrine is measured. The canon contains the OT and the works of the apostles, inspired by God, and the deutero-canon contains works of secondary spiritual value. “Patristics”, or interpretation by the Fathers, are important for understanding the Bible.
  • Evangelicals: Don’t know about the deutero-canon, but the canon is virtually identical. Though they don’t follow “patristics”, and have added “sola scriptura”, the attitude towards the Bible is still similar.
  • Mormons: Though they have the Old and New Testaments in their Bible, these are of secondary importance relative to their “Revelations”: the Book of Mormon, an account of the Lost Tribes of Israel in pre-Columbian America delivered on Golden Tablets in a previously unknown ancient language which Smith was mystically able to translate; the Pearl of Great Price, an additional book of doctrine and “history” which Smith claimed to have translated from an ancient set of papyrii he bought; and the Doctrines and Covenants, a list of rules prophetically revealed over time mostly to Joseph Smith, the founder of the LDS church, including the aforementioned requirement of three wives for exaltation.

I could probably come up with more … but do you begin to see my point? The Mormon church has many similarities with Christianity, but as far as doctrine is concerned, the differences between the LDS church and any mainstream Christian group (evangelicals, Catholics, Orthodox) will dwarf the differences between these mainstream Christian groups.

More from SK

April 8, 2008

“When Christ came into the world it was difficult to become a Christian, and for this reason one did not become preoccupied with trying to understand it. Now we have almost reached the parody that to become a Christian is nothing at all, but it is a difficult and very involved task to understand it.”

– Soren Kierkegaard

Watch this now

April 4, 2008

I just had one of the most powerful movie-watching experiences of my life. It’s called August Rush. You should watch it right now. I felt like someone had tapped into the deepest desires of my soul, and made it into an amazing, beautiful fable about life. It’s that good.

Why am I interested in Orthodoxy?

April 4, 2008

In response to Danny’s comment on my last post.

A more accurate perspective on Christian History

5 years ago, I knew almost nothing about the middle ages. From Acts to the Reformation was a blank for me, not only as far as the church but also history in general, except for a few things like “Magna Carta – 1215” or etc. Since then, I’ve taken to reading the encyclopedia (and now Wikipedia!) a lot, especially on medieval history. Kings, priests, popes, people groups, what they did, their empires, customs, history, and etc. The Byzantine empire held for me the most interest, because a) I knew almost nothing about it b) what I did know was a really cool story. I remember, in fact, going to an art gallery and seeing “Byzantine art” which piqued my interest enough that I started finding out all I could about Byzantine culture and history, including music. (Though I suppose at that point I had already seen some at the Hagia Sophia). It intrigued me. I had (somewhat unknowingly) also begun an interest in Orthodox liturgical music, simply because of the beauty and Christian significance of it (similar to the mass). A big part of this, too, was wanting to know where we had come from, how the church had gotten to the Reformation. I knew a bit about Augustine and a few others, and I was already starting to get a little disillusioned with the Reformers, but again, I knew very little of what else had happened. I wanted to know, simple as that. I like knowing things.

Their claims make it important to evaluate

They say that they are the only “real” church — and most cults do, too — but they actually have what I consider a few good reasons their claim should be taken seriously where others shouldn’t. Because of the plausibility and seriousness of the claim, I consider it important to evaluate.

Curiosity, and interest in the unknown

Actually, I think I talked about this already, but Orthodoxy piques my curiosity, for many reasons. Unknown, different and yet similar in many ways, a portal to a past age shrouded in mystery.

Family and friends who are Orthodox / or halfway

My mother in law is a chrismated Orthodox parishioner, my wife’s uncle is about halfway there, one of Bonnie’s professors (and probably the sharpest guy at Biola) is Orthodox, etc. Their interest prompted my interest.

(What I perceive as) More “Orthodox” theology

I agree with the Orthodox church on most of the deviations from Reformed theology. They are the ones who called the councils, and in many ways they’re still functioning as they did when those doctrines were set in stone. This is all a little more recent, but the more I read about the filioque, confusion of person and nature, their soteriology and etc., the more I think they’re the ones who are right. The other differences (icons, theotokos, etc.) are not a big deal to me – or rather, I’m willing to say they are right. My only real point of disagreement with them is probably their ecclesiology / “fulness of the faith”, and who’s to say whether that will change. I definitely could not say that about any Protestant doctrinal statement. But, unfortunately, the Orthodox require a lot more agreement in some ways. 🙂

Searching for a more effective way to meet God

We’re all constantly trying to improve our walk with God, aren’t we? (or we should). Part of me is curious as to whether my walk with God wouldn’t improve with a clearer understanding of communion, the discipleship they claim is available through confession and etc., the pictures of God you can get through icons. I’m wondering if this might be the next step God is leading me to.

Depth, otherness, beauty, etc.

I don’t know if you’ve experienced a good Orthodox service, but there are many aspects that I felt helped me to worship better. This might not be the case if I did it every week, but the few times I have have been powerful. If I could replicate that on a regular basis, I’d like to.

What do you think, Danny, does that answer your question?

More on infallibility

April 2, 2008

I was reading St. Photios’ Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit today, which is an interesting read, but is less a theological treatise than a near-constant stream of abuse towards anyone promoting the filioque clause (though he makes some good points). I thought, why don’t I find out more about St. Photios, to see what I think about him.

Well, according to Wikipedia, he was (though very intelligent) less the cleric and more the politician. He was elevated to being Patriarch of Constantinople from the laity, being a soldier in the Imperial guard. It seems that the Emperor’s uncle was having an illicit relationship with his daughter in law. The current Patriarch, Ignatios, disapproved and was banished for it.

From the sound of it, this was somewhat of a pattern in the Eastern church. How do you reconcile such blatant corruption with the claim of “inerrancy of the church” when the referenced judgments were sometimes made by men such as these, beholden to ungodly politicians?

Follow-up: Still not Orthodox, apparently

April 1, 2008

You might remember I said this.

Ok, now I have totally different reasons for not being Orthodox. I think. I still don’t really have a clear enough idea of what Orthodox doctrine and practice is / can be to know for sure, but here’s the next step in the development of my thought on the subject.

Why I’m still not Orthodox:

1) Fulness of the faith / Divine superiority  / Infallibility

I’m getting there, but the sceptic in me still can’t really accept that the Orthodox church is infallible, at least in the sense I think they mean. I’m still not convinced that it’s really fair, either, for them to consider Protestants / evangelicals as lower in “Christian status” than Oriental Orthodox or Roman Catholics — RCs in particular seem at least as different from EOs as some evangelicals are. To me, this seems like nothing but prejudice, which means it’s probably not “official” — but if there’s anything I know about church, it’s that official or not the way the people in your church think is going to affect you. I think I came a step closer, though, when I read this. I also still don’t really get why (except for the obvious people reasons) Orthodox services couldn’t be more gracefully adapted to American culture. I could accept “infallibility” or “guidance by God” in a more general sense, but not down to things like vestments or particulars of liturgy, etc.

2) Chip on their shoulder

It seems like a lot of Orthodox people on the Internet just have a real problem with Protestants. A lot of contempt, to the point that it feels like some kind of insecurity. I don’t really want to be in a church full of people like that. Most of my friends are Protestant and I’m confident that most of them are in God’s will — maybe they’d be better off as Orthodox, who knows — but I couldn’t say that what they’re doing is meaningless, because it’s obviously not. I’m not going to convert to a church in which the whole parish is going to tell me that no matter how holy their life is, they’re inferior for one reason or another. Maybe I’m not explaining this well, and maybe people just won’t understand, but I just don’t really want to deal with this — and if this kind of attitude (bad attitude) is more prevalent there than in my current church (at which, of course, it isn’t entirely absent), then how can I really believe that “the Orthodox do sanctification better”? Etc.

Thoughts? Maybe I just need to suck it up and start attending an Orthodox church, but I’ve certainly learned the danger of not doing your homework going into a step like that. Things can change pretty fast once you’re in.

Calvinism is a dangerous heresy

March 19, 2008

So I was thinking, and I realized I kind of have three basic components to my personality.

1) Common sense. This is the part of me that shops at craigslist instead of target, and is always looking out for pitfalls, deals, security and wise decisions for now and the future. This part of me also tends to be a little materialistic.

2) Ramblin’ man. This is the part that spends hours on google maps looking for places I haven’t heard of and no one I know is interested in, and makes plans to go there and see what it’s like. This part of me would prefer (if the money was available) to constantly be looking around for new things and exploring and to be outside of society and etc. This part can tend to be introspective to the point of being self-absorbed.

3) Martyr / heretic. This is the part that wanted to be a missionary, and also the part that is always saying dumb stuff to get a reaction. This part of me is willing to give all for an ideal, is driven by a search for meaning, and unfortunately cannot operate in the real world of compromise and realism. This part loses energy and flops when it can’t do the impossible.

There’s some overlap of course. So I started wondering about God — his multiple unified attributes, sometimes people call it “multiple wills”, and although I don’t believe in that so much, I kind of wondered if maybe that was how He felt sometimes. Although I don’t imagine that God feels like the different desires / wills are tearing Him apart … or maybe he does?


March 14, 2008

We were all very sick last week, including Holden’s first trip to the emergency room. We were supposed to go visit Bonnie’s grandpa in San Diego last weekend because he was dying, and he passed on before we got a chance to get down there because of our being sick. He was, unfortunately, not a believer. Holden has totally messed up sleeping patterns now and has taken this week to spending hours nightly screaming and refusing to go to sleep. Now we need to travel down to San Diego and I need to somehow try to work while down there so I can be a support to Bonnie for the mid-week memorial service.

It’s been a rough month.

I started a fiction blog

March 10, 2008

Hey guys, check out a new fiction endeavor I’ve just started. It’s called “Nick Petrescu, Private Eye“. Part 1 of the first story is up there now. Feel free to comment, too.