Electronic Christianity Three

My most humble apologies to any who may have read my post “Electronic Christianity Two” and thought I was trying to base eChristianity on the Nicene Creed. That was not my purpose at all. What I was trying to accomplish was to show there was something solid at the core of Christianity. What I wanted to point out was that just as there is a reality underlying mathematics, physics, and all other kinds of science so there is a reality to Christianity that cannot be ignored. Please forgive me if I was unclear.

Perhaps I should have used the concept of “mere Christianity” that was used by C.S. Lewis to describe his idea of the root reality of Christianity. In any case, at the heart of our belief is the actual reality of a new life that will endure forever. This is the sure promise and the ultimate certainty yet it is not all there is for us in Christianity. Although most of us have probably had our lives greatly changed through the work of the Godhead in us, what also matters is that we are a part of the body of Christ and the body needs all of us parts to be truly whole. This is why I thought up eChristianity. It is conceived as a way to bring together the many of us who are one-person churches; people who have never found their “fit” in conventional churches and provide us a unity with each other.

I am not sure how eChristianity will work but I think it can use what the Internet has made possible. It is meant to enable the coming together of many parts of the body of Christ so Christianity can better withstand the forces operating to reduce its influence in the world and in people’s lives.

Please let me know what you think.

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Creation: Its Causes, Essence and End

“For myself I wanted to know nature after another fashion in its causes, in its essence, in its end.” (Cited in review of We Have Been Friends Together & Adventures in Grace by Raїssa Maritain, First Things, May 2016, p. 63)

What we call nature is the creation of God but only part of his creative activity. If we are to broaden the six days of creation to six stages, as it takes the complete Bible to tell us, we might say these are: (1) Conception of existence, (2) Physical creation, (3) Creation of minds, (4) Creation of human spirits, (5) Regeneration of our spirits (rebirth) and, (6) Re-creation of human bodies (resurrection). And then God presumably rests from creation for eternity, although there may be room in eternity for types of creation we have not been told about.

Causes of Creation

Creation is a product of both the mind and the power of an infinite being. It is so complex in its six manifestations that it requires not only an infinite deity to accomplish it but one that has three persons. The Father is the source of all creation. The Son is the active agent who serves the purposes of the Father and who both shapes creation and takes into own being a human person. The Holy Spirit accomplishes the spiritual parts of creation in accordance with the purposes of the Father and the Son.

Essence of Creation

The essence of creation is the bringing into existence of something that did not exist before. When we think about physical creation these can be objects as large as the universe or as small as the Higgs boson. We can note that none of these physical entities has either mind or spirit. This fact escapes the minds of the materialists who think their thoughts and everything else can be explained by what is only one part of creation.

Before there was any physical creation there was a planning session in heaven. This brought into being a literally cosmic plan for something that had never existed before. After physical creation came the creation of minds. This, of course, required the coming into existence of something else that was new—life.

There are various opinions about the role of the twenty-four elders described in the book of Revelation. They appear to be rather robotic but one of them does impart wisdom to John during one of his experiences in heaven. My own opinion is that they were created to advise the Trinity on what it is like to be finite. Before the Incarnation none of the Godhead had any experience with the limits of finite being. This may be why there appear to be some “kinks’ in the timeline of creation.

The wisdom of the elders is shown by their continual praise of the Father and Son. This is what our kind of finite beings would be doing if we were wise enough.

Back to our own reality, when our ancestors reached a certain level of physical and mental development they were ready to be given a living soul. This is something that had not existed before. It did not come from physical creation although its existence was part of God’s planning of creation. Since our souls are not part of physical creation they cannot be detected by physical means. This inability to be detected means that belief in their existence requires what is called faith. In other words, an action of our minds not our bodies.

End of Creation

The end of creation is not when the space-time continuum tears and time and space no longer exist. The ultimate end, meaning its defining purpose, is in the vast number of glorified humans who are to live with and praise their Creator forever. The end of creation would have been at the conclusion of a far straighter train of events if God had not introduced contingency and probability into his creative efforts. As it is, all the stages of creation involve vast complexities that continue to challenge the best of our human understanding.

Let’s Hear a Cheer for Metaphysics

The rather immodest aim of metaphysics is the comprehension and unification of all understanding. However, we have passed the point where any one mind or even any one system can encompass all of our expanding knowledge of the wonders surrounding us. Nevertheless, there is something from metaphysics we need to retain and this is its search for the reality underlying all appearances. It was the goal and the hope of the metaphysician to find a unifying concept of reality that would invest all things with value. Today we lack a recognized and agreed upon set of values and therefore we need the return of the metaphysical ideal.

Some time ago metaphysical studies were divided, and by the division reduced, into theology, philosophy and science. Contemporary theology is chaos, and even if it were not most of it is unrecognized and unheeded in a secular world. Philosophy, instead of studying our minds, studies words and what is left of the noble pursuit is mostly historical studies of past philosophers and critiques of their systems. As for science as a guide for humanity, the magic has mostly departed. Few think today that science is the road to peace and prosperity. Science is good with facts but poor about values.

Politics, the art and practice of government, has much to do with facts, but its ultimate choices have to do with values. And it is in making choices that our political system is floundering. A quick contrast can be made between the current politician, who tends to obtain his or her value system from public opinion polls, and the founders of our country.

The politicians then generally believed in a transcendent deity who was the source of political values and human dignity, and who was the judge of their actions. The judge of contemporary politicians is the election. And their highest aim is reelection.

This decay in the political value system is not the entire fault of the politicians. It is the result of a declining metaphysic. Instead of a nation with a common set of shared values, our culture has allowed values to become so privatized that it is impossible to reach anything approaching a consensus on any given issue. In fact, many people would argue against the possibility or even the desirability of a shared value system.

Governing, though, is an exercise in reality. Real choices have real consequences in real lives. Political actions based either on wishful thinking, or arbitrary or non-existent values, will in the end be destructive. What we need is a politics based on reality. And knowledge of reality comes from a search for truth. And the search for truth leads us back to metaphysics. Therefore, let’s hear a cheer for metaphysics.

Reply to the Dancing Professor

The following paragraph is my comment on a post by a person who blogs as The Dancing Professor.

I have thought about how I might help you in your search for the reasons early Christianity endured while other religions did not. These thoughts are not in any particular order since I have no idea how to weight them. They are: mutual sharing of resources, emphasis on the psychological and physical healing of individuals, a realistic view of the human condition, an ethics based on love of God and love of individual people, encouragement of fellow Christians to live up to the ethical standards of Christianity and display a high standard of behavior, support for individuals when they were facing mortal risk, an objective view of physical and cultural reality so as to understand them as neither ultimate or eternal, a hunger for wisdom that led many Christians into a search for truth, and an idea that there was at some level a unity of all Christians. I have not put forth any supernatural reasons for the continuance of Christianity although, of course, most Christians see the whole thing as an outpouring of the purposes of God mediated by the risen Christ and the Holy Spirit. Please let me know if this is helpful.

Frankly, I liked what I wrote and the religion it described. So I thought I would share it with the people who visit my blog.

Self-Actualization or Creation

I think the two choices for explanations of physical reality boil down to self-actualization or creation. The people who argue for self-actualization (and do they argue) assume that the universe contains in itself properties that caused all that has happened in it since its very beginning. This brings us to the initial difficulty.

The initial difficulty is that before the universe came into being it had no existence we can recognize, at least in terms of something observable or measurable, in other words something subject to science. Some people get around the initial difficulty by postulating an oscillating universe, one that expands and contracts but that is nevertheless self-existent. In this view, the Big Bang was the beginning of the current phase of expansion. Again, there is nothing left from past oscillations for scientists to measure or observe.

One argument for self-actualization that was new to me was the suggestion that what we call the positive part of the universe is balanced exactly by the dark energy and matter that exists so the universe is a net nothing. The person who wrote this possibly was unaware that both traditional Jews and Christians believe that the universe was created out of nothing. If in fact this suggestion were shown to be true, it would be a vindication of some religious beliefs, and undoubtedly require a major expansion of astrophysical knowledge.

Before the Big Bang was accepted as the correct explanation for the beginning of the universe, scientists and philosophers all the way back to the early Greeks had thought the universe to be static and self-existent in its attributes. This thinking is still carried over into present-day understandings. For example, one person dodged the issue of the origin of life by stating that it had nothing to do with the validity of the theory of evolution. For that person evolution was an explanation of almost all of life. The trouble with this older mode of thinking is that science has made our knowledge of everything physical far more complex.

In mathematics, solutions to problems generally begin with a set of initial conditions. It is just these initial conditions that pose more of a problem for science and philosophy than the working out of answers to how physical reality operates. This is because the initial conditions are established by one-time unobservable events. This results in sometimes conflicting ideas. For instance, we are told that all life on earth came from an original biological event. We are also told by some biologists that life will arise in the universe anytime conditions are right. You can probably see the contradiction. Since life has emerged on the earth the conditions are obviously right. So, how come it only happened once in five- billion years.

The space-time continuum is also a great mystery. It would seem to be in a chicken-and-egg relationship with the energy and matter that constitutes the universe. So, did it exist before the Big Bang or was there something in the Big Bang that brought it into existence? And how is it a property of the space-time continuum that it is almost infinitely elastic and that this elasticity produces what we call the force of gravity as a result of the space-time continuum being deformed by matter? The same kind of question applies to the weak force and the strong force. Where were they when no particles existed? Did they exist before particles or were they brought into exist by the formation of particles?

There are more questions for physics, and we have not even reached biology. Where did the properties of quantum mechanics come from? What formed the particular atoms that we arrange into the Periodic Table. Now we can go to biology. Why are there right-handed and left-handed molecules and why are organic molecules shaped in particular ways for specific functions? How did it come about that a genetic code was necessary for life and how did that code come into existence?

The idea of self-actualization becomes even more unlikely as we consider the things that make us uniquely human, such as culture, speech, music, art, abstract thought, technology, agriculture, imagination, conceptualizing and so forth. So why does self-actualization seem very attractive to many people. I think it has to do with two things: ego and rebellion. Our egos are another of our immaterial characteristics. We all seem to have one of either smaller or larger size. It seems to be that people who strongly believe in one of the various forms of self-actualization are people with large egos. I think that one such type, atheists, have egos so large they think they can push God clear out of the universe. That being the case, they typically are sure they are more intelligent than people who believe in creation.

Rebellion comes into the picture as a result of certain temperaments encountering authority figures, normally in their family or in a church where they were taken as children. One way of resistance for such people is to adopt contrary views. When this resistance meets with support in peer groups or educational institutions, it brings ego gratification and a source of identity that is hard to forego. That being the case, it is hard for people in this situation to abandon the idea of self-actualization despite the fact it requires the acceptance of large improbabilities. Self-actualization is in truth a harder belief than faith in creation. This is evidenced by the fact that the vast majority of the human race has always accepted that there was some spiritual entity that brought them and everything else into existence.

People of a Higher Reality

In a previous post I wrote that Christians are a people of a higher reality. I think I need to explain what I meant.

We can start with our physical reality. This we share with everyone. The evolutionists tell us we are physically descended from primates. I prefer to think we are descended from our ancestors and ascended from primates. It seems to clarify our actual situation. In any case, we are told by atheists, materialists, humanists and secularists that our existence and lives can be entirely explained physically. Fortunately, Christians, and most of the rest of the human species, are not deceived by this claim.

Most people think there is a spirit, a soul or something else immaterial in us. We have, it is thought, a ghost in our electro/chemical/mechanical machines. Further, this ghost is thought to be associated with our minds. The federal government has begun a Brain Mapping Project to learn all that can be known about the function of our minds. I suspect that for some people it is also an attempt to exorcize the ghost and thus justify the materialist explanation.

Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again, not physically but spiritually, if he was to understand the things of God. It is this, let me call it, spiritual enhancement that allows Christians to be in more complete communication and relationship with God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. It is not that the Godhead does not speak to non-Christians but that their ability to hear and understand is very limited. This is why unbelievers find it hard to get much out of reading the Bible while people like John Calvin, Thomas Aquinas, Matthew Henry and many others get so much out of it they can write multivolume commentaries.

Malcolm Muggeridge wrote in The End of Christendom, “I am certain that in eternity when we understand, and no longer see through a glass darkly but face to face, we shall find that all our efforts to convey the reality of our existence are just so much children’s scribble in the light of what it really is.” Muggeridge perfectly expressed my problem in conveying to you the higher reality in which we Christians live. Nonetheless I think I must make a stab at it.

We are told in the book of Revelation of millions and millions of Christians surrounding the throne of God and singing praises to him. These are the people the Son has made for the Father and presented to him as a love gift. We who are still on earth are brought by Christ and the Holy Spirit into this saintly multitude and so become members of the family of God. A part of our higher reality is that we have relatives all over the world and throughout the past. These are our spiritual brothers and sisters to whom we are linked by our relationship to Christ.

Another higher reality for Christians is being able to know the truth of things. Truth, which contemporary philosophy denies even exists, allows us to embrace (symbolically) the lovely woman Wisdom. It is evident those who have help in acquiring wisdom have a better chance of understanding the world we live in. Although, I must admit, Christians have not done as well as we should have in this regard.

Since we have access to truth, we are free to know the untruths in human ideologies. Whatever the social or political pressures to conform to the “spirit of the age,” we are internally emancipated and thus cannot be enslaved by the culture around us. We are not citizens of the city of man but those people who live in the city of God. In this we too are people of a higher reality.

Charles Spurgeon wrote concerning the work of the Holy Spirit in his life, “I trust Him to curb my temper, to subdue my will, to enlighten my understanding, to check my passions, to comfort my despondency, to help my weaknesses, and to illuminate my darkness.” Each Christian has his or her own list of the help needed from the Holy Spirit and each of us receive help as we are made able to incorporate it into our individual lives.

If you want to send a humanist into orbit, tell him or her that Christians are better people than non-Christians. The truth is we cannot legitimately make that claim, but we can say with certainty that each of us is a better person than we would have been without the help of the Holy Spirit. That is, other than our personal relationship with the Trinity, perhaps the best aspect of our higher reality. We are better than we could possibly be if we only had our own efforts to aid us.

If there is a reformation of American Christianity, it will be, in part, because many Christians enter and live in this higher reality. This extra-life is one of God’s many gifts that we receive as a result of his grace and love.

Partisanship and Unity

I think I should begin this post by apologizing to my followers and others for my previous post “Selling Citizenship” (which I removed). Flogging both American political parties is not the same as being nonpartisan so I need improvement in my own thinking. There are, though, two things I might raise in my own defense; I was attempting to write something that would be humorous and interesting being inspired by Word Press’ “Snark Bombs, Away!” Also, it seems that partisanship may be innate in human nature. There are some who think it is in our genes. However, note I wrote “innate” not “determined.” We have a choice in the matter and that is what I am going to consider as part of my thinking concerning the reformation of American Christianity.

Partisanship entered Christianity very early in its history. The story is told in Acts 15:1–35. Although the apostles and elders in Jerusalem agreed with Paul and Barnabas that circumcision and the Mosaic law were not required for salvation, the circumcision party remained. They were still active when Paul wrote the letter to the Galatians about the middle of the first century.

Another instance of partisanship shows up in the church of Corinth. Paul (1 Corinthians 3:1–4) takes the people there to task because they were arguing over his teachings and those of Apollos, apparently quite a gifted preacher. As Christianity continued to expand over space and time, there were endless divisions and quite bitter partisanship lasting until the present and presumably continuing. How did that happen?

As in my own case, partisanship, even in the service of nonpartisanship, is a case of losing objectivity and allowing our ego to grow too large to see the other person’s position. This is particularly the case when we think we are on the right side of a “moral” issue. Thus reformation is a cause that could easily lead us into partisanship. However if reformation is to be more than simply the creation of another “church,” it must be as inclusive as possible. People from all different Christian understandings should be welcome to join us in looking up to Christ.

The opposite of partisanship is unity. Just as there is danger for reformation in partisanship, there are also hazards in unity. The cost of unity in a reformation can be the loss of core values. Some churches maintain their institutional unity while losing the respect of the society they are meant to serve.

So where should we who seek a reformation of American Christianity be on the spectrum of partisanship versus unity. It seems we could start by removing from the partisanship those issues that result from our personal preferences. For example, there have probably been more contemporary churches divided over the worship music than over any understanding of the person of Christ. On the unity end of the spectrum, we need to remember that the coming together we seek is spiritual not institutional nor in the manner in which we worship.

A revival of the idea that Christianity is the kingdom of God, a spiritual realm containing all believers, can allow us to see where we should go in our efforts to reform American Christianity. It will free us not only from the attractions of the world, the flesh and the devil but from the temptation to make churches the be all and end all of Christian experience. We are people of a higher reality.