Essay #3

This weekend I had a 600 to 1000 word paper to write: “Explain your position on general metaphysics and the existence of God.  Are you a monist?  A dualist?  A theist, atheist or agnostic?  Why?”

I think I can safely say that this was the first time that I didn’t like the word count because it was too small!

Since I haven’t been writing anything else, I thought I might go ahead and put some of the essay here. This is not all of the essay (I’m totally dropping the monist/dualist argument for now), and it is more than my essay was, because with the 1000 word limit, I had to make short discussions, points and explanations. So I’m taking this chance to explain things more fully (I’ll try not to make it too long for you, though ;). In the green are comments that I added later that don’t really fit into the paper, but I thought I would throw them in to help explain what I was doing. You can skip them and won’t miss anything.

People have speculated about whether there is a God almost as long as humans have existed. Just the fact that so many cultures came up with their own idea of God suggests to me there must be one. Though widespread, the concept of God can be confusing. Several aspects need to be examined, starting with verification that the existence of God is not illogical, then examining who he is and what he is like. Since this would take a LOT of room, I will stick with the three main points that I had in my paper

First, I’m going to define God as a perfect, omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing) being (the Judeo-Christian God). It is impossible to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that God exists, but the idea is not at all illogical. Descartes demonstrated this. After he boiled everything down to what he could absolutely prove, he examined the existence of God. He knew his life was not perfect, nor was any other human’s life (to err is human), so Descartes reasoned that the concept of a perfect being could not come from himself. But we have ideas of things that don’t exist don’t we? Yes, but those ideas come from other ideas. Unicorns and other mystical creatures, for example, do not exist, but we also did not just come up with them out of the blue. People looked at other animals and combined them to make these creatures. So Descartes could not create the idea of God nor could he “mix” other ideas together to get this idea. So Descartes concluded the idea of perfection must come from a perfect being. This also explains why we feel a need to better ourselves: if there was no perfect being as an example, then why would our consciences hold us to such a standard? Descartes was the one who said “I think therefore I am.”

Other evidence pointing to God is the way the universe is ordered. The subjective order problem says we could randomly toss a hundred coins in a bag, then turn the bag upside-down, and, when the coins stop rolling around, see orderly patterns in the resulting scattered coins similar to patterns we see in clouds, stars, and the universe as a whole. But it is not enough to say the universe is ordered, it is the way in which it is ordered that is special. It is made with extreme precision in order to sustain life. A physics professor I had once showed me a website where I could choose the masses of planets and their locations, and then the computer program would figure out their rotation due to gravity. In a short time of playing with only three planets, I managed (accidentally) to run them into each other and blow them all up. If I had been given the almost endless supply of planets in the universe, we would all be dead! That our universe could have exploded into existence without some powerful force directing it, and still be perfectly balanced for life, is harder for me to believe than the existence of an all-powerful God.

But some people argue God cannot be all-powerful: if everything in the universe has a cause, they reason that God must also have a cause, which means he is dependent on something else so he is no longer an all-powerful being. If we try to make God the first cause, then there would be something in the universe that was not caused – God. Some philosophers have speculated God is his own cause in an endless cycle of creating and existing, but that theory has a problem: William of Ockham’s principle says the simpler of two theories is the right one, and to say the universe itself is the self-caused entity would be the simpler theory. On the other hand, if God made everything in the universe, and therefore made the universe, then we should look at him as being outside of the universe and not needing a cause. William of Ockham was a Christian, so he himself would not agree with this use of his principle.

The biggest problem many people have with the Judeo-Christian idea of God is their belief that a perfect being who knows everything should not allow pain. There are a long list of possible answers to this problem, and the truth is probably some combination of these. I strongly disagree with the privation of good theodicy, which says that there is no evil, there is only good and the absence of good, and that God is simply more good. There is no way I can see Hitler as merely an “absence of good.” As for the necessity theodicy, which says that in order to have good things you need bad things (two sides of the same coin), if bad things happening was necessary for good things to happen, then there could not be a perfect God who had no bad in him. I also disagree with the incomprehensibility theodicy, which states that there is no way that we can understand why there is sin in the world. Since the Judeo-Christian God is described as a father figure to humans, he would not let his children suffer without giving them a reason for it. No matter how parents choose to discipline their children (spanking or just verbal scolding and time-outs), the most important thing is that the parents explain to their children why they are getting punished. If God is the perfect being (and therefore the perfect father), he would not let his children suffer without giving a reason. The Satan theodicy and the free will theodicy are, however, both good theories, especially when put together. People wonder why God would give us free will if he knew what we were going to do. Again returning to the parent theory, how many parents would try to control every single thing their child did? Even if parents want to, it is not good for the child to be controlled like that. Sometimes the only way to learn is through the pain of mistakes. Sure, God could do a better job at our lives than we are doing, but then he would have created robots, not children. He did not originally created us to fail: we started out perfect, which is where Satan comes in, tempting us to sin for the first time. Once sin was introduced into the would, it polluted the world, to the point of no one being good. A VERY important point that I need to make here is that God does not do bad things to people, but he sometimes lets bad things happen. He gave us free will, and he has not taken it away from you, me, or the murderers in jail.

If that seems to end abruptly, I’m sorry. My concluding paragraph was one of the things that got chopped.

Hopefully while I was adding and reorganizing, I didn’t cut anything out in an odd way. This is just scratching the tip of the iceberg. I might go further in another article, but it will have to wait — for now I have a Spanish test to work on.

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The Screwtape Letters

On top of having two weeks left before finals, I have been finishing up the work on the flower bed (pics coming as soon as everything blooms), reading through Daniel, watching a sermon series on the Song of Songs, reading The Screwtape Letters, and playing Restaurant City on Facebook. The last being a waste of time that is oddly addicting, but nothing impressive.

Though I’m not sure the feeling I have is that of enjoyment when I read The Screwtape Letters, I would still recommend it. As the author, C.S. Lewis, said:

“The work through which I had to project myself while I spoke though Screwtape was all dust, grit, thirst, and itch. Every trace of beauty, freshness, and geniality had to be excluded. It almost smothered me before I was done. It would have smothered my readers if I had prolonged it.”

The Screwtape Letters are a series of 31 letters that Screwtape — an experienced devil — writes to his nephew — who is working on his first human “patient”. This could, of course, be done in a very good or very bad way. C.S. Lewis said that he had a “grudge” against his book, because he could only show us one side of the picture, and could not write like an angel in order to give us a picture of how we have someone fighting for us on the other side. That being said, I think he did an excellent job (at least in the firsts 11 letters that I have read;)

Reading this book is like learning through studying the enemy’s plans, and though I could spend a post per letter of this book, I will just pull one example out of the second chapter.

“At his present stage, you see, he has an idea of “Christians” in his mind which he supposes to be spiritual but which, in fact, is largely pictorial. His mind is full of togas and sandals and armour and bare legs and the mere fact that the other people in church wear modern clothed is a real — though of course an unconscious — difficulty to him. Never let it come to the surface; never let him ask what he expected them to look like.”

From- (nutmeg)'s photostream

Screwtape is trying to help his nephew “save” his patient, who has just become a Christian and is going to church for perhaps the first time in his life. Though C.S Lewis wrote this book in the 1930s, this topic, if anything, has become more relevant today. Lots of people have odd ideas about what churches and the body of Christ should look like. Through movies and their own imagination, they have created in their mined what a “good church” looks like. And when the people in that church are regular people just like them, it will clash with their idea. Subconsciously this may turn into a mark against that church.

But non-Christians and new Christians are not the only ones whom this might drive away. All of us as Christians need to be careful that we do not judge the person in the next seat over because he has clothes that are a little shaggy making him look uncaring, or too nice making the wearer look arrogant, or if the person is too heavy, or has squeaky shoes.

“Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.” ~Romans 14:1-3

Correct me if I’m wrong, but faith is much more important than appearance.

Church is a place to praise the LORD of Lords and to build faith. Your focus should be on God, not on the person next to you. At the same time, you should not wear clothes that will draw too much attention to yourself and distract other people (that’s simply being polite).

For people visiting church for the first time, know that the people who go there are sinners, just like you and everyone else. We are not more or less spiritual when we dress up nice.

Temptations

“And he said to his disciples, ‘Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.'” ~Luke 17:1-2

All right girls, let’s read this again. What comes to mind when you read the part, “through whom they come”? Well, if you haven’t sold drugs or dared anyone to steal anything from a store, you might think that you’re doing OK. But how many of us look at our closet when we read this?

By Jeff Kubina

We will all experience temptation, and hopefully we choose the right thing during those times. But how often do we check to make sure we aren’t the ones that are doing the tempting?

The most common type of temptation is visual. Whether it’s on a TV screen, a billboard, or what other people are wearing, we are always surrounded by temptation. We should all check our closets occasionally to make sure we’re not part of that list. Boys can be stupid. Agreed? And the last thing they need is the girls around them dressed in ways that tempt them to want more. That is not the way to get a good boyfriend anyway, and, really, who WANTS men to be looking at those places?

A quick sketch-up of some things close to what I have (I'm not sure where those brown shoes came from though).

My solution is: Layers

I of course try to buy jeans that don’t go down in back too far when I sit, and I try to buy long shirts, but there are so many CUTE shirts that don’t fall into that category that it is too long of a list to count :P. So I layer my clothes ;D.

Not only does this make a totally unique and totally cute look, it covers everything up!

**And as cool as that little girl on the side of my blog looks, I leave that bare-belly look to cartoons, manga characters, and computer games.

Standard equipment in my closet includes things like spaghetti-string tank tops (lace on the bottom is always cute) that go down and up far enough to cover both cracks. This time of year, I like to have one or two really thin long-sleeve shirts (grey and stormy blue will go with just about anything). These will fit under most things and keep me warmer than just that totally cute T that I got at half price ;D.

Please, Please, PLEASE wear clothes that are your size!! One of my pet peeves is when girls (or boys) wear clothes that cling to their body like glue and show every curve of their body. *Chokes and sticks tongue out* The weird thing is that it is always the heavier people who seem to be doing that. So PLEASE wear clothes that fit!

If you don’t think you can give up how you dress, then you might want to start shopping for your millstone before Hollywood cleans them all out.

**Edit to say: This no longer referring to the girl that is on the side of my blog, I wrote this when I had the “Girl in Green” theme and the picture that came with that blog. the girl that is now on the side of my blog is more like how I dress.

Pity Party

M.C. Escher's <i>Ascending and Descending</i>

M.C. Escher's Ascending and Descending


“I had to walk uphill both ways for a mile in the middle of an ice storm to go to school!”

I don’t know whether anyone would really claim that or not, but that isn’t the point I was getting at. Show of hands: After reading that, how many people wanted to say “Oh yeah? Well I …” ?

The human race is a selfish group of people. One of the things that we are constantly looking for is other people’s money… Oh, and their pity.

Yeah but I…

Something I hear a lot of (especially at college) is the lack of sleep that people get:
Bob – “I only got about five hours of sleep last night. I…”
John – (cuts Bob off) “Yeah. I only got about three, ‘cuz I had homework due for that stupid English class.”
Bob – “Well, I finally got done with my math, and was about to fall asleep, when my sister started practising her drum for band at 1:30 in the morning.”
John – “My brother’s dog took up half my bed, and then woke me up an hour before my alarm clock went off ‘cuz no one let him out in the morning.”
Bob – “My mom woke me up three hours early to help mow the lawn, when it was freezing outside, and I didn’t look at the clock until it was two minutes till I had to go!”

And on and on and on. I’ve often wanted to ask these people why they hadn’t done their homework earlier, rather than waiting till midnight to start it. And don’t get me wrong, I have heard kids say they didn’t start their homework till real late, then turn around and complain about lack of sleep because of how much of it there was. In all of my classes, I have been given suggestions on how to study. One of the tips that is always near the top is something like: “Look over the work when you get it,” or “Look over the work before you start.” This is so you are not surprised when it takes you an hour or two to do.

I can be just as bad at this as anyone, whether it’s complaining about not getting enough sleep, or about a “Christmas present” of oral surgery scheduled during the holidays.

Words of wisdom

Another show of hands: How many of us use the question “So how have you been?” as an opportunity to share with that person how terrible our lives have been lately?

Sara – “So, what’s been going on?”
Bob – “My sister has decided that the only time she can practice her drum for band is at 1:30 in the morning, and my math teacher is the worst ever!”
Sara – “Awww, I’m sorry.”

Now, think really hard, did your mom ever tell you something like, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”?

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” -Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

Unwholesome = obviously harmful to physical, mental, or moral well-being.

The first thing that pops into my head when reading this verse, or hearing Mom quote that saying, is that they are talking about things that might hurt other people’s feelings or about swear words. But do you think it is helpful to people to hear about your complaints about how you made a bad decision and lost sleep over it? To tell someone that I have to go in for oral surgery might not be complaining at first, but it can quickly become a “feel sorry for me because this isn’t going to be fun” sort of thing. And there is NO reason for them to “feel sorry” because it isn’t their fault!!!

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear it!” How many times have we heard that. But why are they sorry? It’s not like they’re the mean boss that won’t give a vacation, or the math teacher who is way hard.

The positive alternative

Asking someone to pray for you should not turn into a pity party, either! Give them the facts: Math isn’t going so good,” or “My boss and I don’t see eye to eye,” and then ask them to pray. You aren’t going to get anywhere praying for a vacation, but if you pray that you and your boss understand each other, you might discover something you never would have expected. And you can pray for the discipline to work at your math until you understand it.

And then say something good or encouraging: Instead of telling them how bad math things are going, you can tell them how well drama is going. It might just help your attitude, too.

“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.” Philippians 2:14-15 (NIV)