A Difficult Time

I have recently contracted a staph infection in my left elbow. It’s not being controlled by oral antibiotics so I started IV antibiotics today. If there’s no improvement by Friday evening, I will need surgery. From working in orthopedics over a decade now, I know this can be life threatening. I admit that I’m scared. Not too much yet, but enough for now. I’ve seen people in their 20s die from these types of infections. I can’t share all of this with my family yet, but I’m sure some of them know. Hopefully, the IV antibiotics will work. It’s just a waiting game now.

Review and Critique of Steven Colborne’s New Book, “God’s Grand Game”

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(Image Courtesy of JESHOOTS.com via UnSplash)

Checkout Steven Colborne’s blog out here: https://perfectchaos.org/

This is the first review/critique I’ve done for a contemporary author. Steven Colborne just released his new book, God’s Grand Game: Divine Sovereignty and the Cosmic Playground and allowed me to read an advanced copy for review. So I would like to thank him for that and direct you all to the book’s website here:
https://geni.us/godsgrandgame

In this book, Colborne argues that the “thing” holding the space-time universe together is God. In fact, the entire book is an outline of how God is the Sustainer of the cosmos. I struggle to categorize his perspective because, I feel, it is incomplete and evolving. However, there are certain elements that come through about his writing that I will touch on: quasi-Berkeleianism, presuppositionalism, evidentialism, and existentialism. Quasi-Berkeleian because, while not denying the existence of material things, he believes that the existence of material things depends upon God (whether through God’s thoughts or simply his permeating, sustaining power – I do not know). He certainly is a theo-constructivist in the least. He also has the basic tenet of Christian Presuppositionalism: God is assumed to exist. However, this is not true Van Tillian presuppositionalism because Colborne proceeds to give his evidentialist reasons for believing God exists. These are better understood as rationalizations. His strongest feature lies in an existentialist approach where God’s existence need not be defended because of the weight of personal experience. Could this be called existential presuppositionalism? I am not qualified to say.

There’s also evidence that he is reacting to certain “new atheist” arguments in the book, particularly on free will, the substance of God/faith, and the problem of evil. Although his short exposition on what exactly determinism and free will are is flawed (to be fair, this is quite common), his position that free will does not exist comes out clearly. For this, he seems to be in line with a number of linear determinists like Sam Harris. His conception of God is too difficult for me to describe. It feels contradictory when the descriptive terms are taken in their traditional sense, but I do not think that is Colborne’s intention. Faith is taken as a given and each faith tradition is blended into a cosmic whole in God’s sandbox (literally think: God playing God in a sandbox video game). What he does well, for what all it sacrifices, is argue against the problem of evil. How? God is both the author of good and evil – every bit of it. Colborne bold asserts it and for the reason that God as Sustainer permeates every single moment, object, and action in the universe. The consequences for the nature of God are huge, but not insurmountable if God is understood to be more of a force than a person.

I find the book to be an exposition of what Colborne believes and likely to be a sounding board for others who are exploring metaphysical questions. It’s also autobiographical in a number of places. The last positive bit I have to say about the book is that Colborne really tries to level the playing field for humanity. All those who believe and disbelieve do so by the will of God and God is made more glorious for it. Not only that, but God will treat each person for their worth in the end since he is responsible for their belief or disbelief. I also appreciate how this also places responsibility back onto God for all sin since He chose to create the world knowing that sin was coming. It’s a more just view of God than the traditional Christian view that those who don’t believe. In the Calvinist view, one can only believe if God lets them believe. Oh but wait, if you don’t believe, then you’re going to hell. So God must have created some people predestined for hell (double-predestination is a logical outcome from the former thought, although people try to deny this). So kudos for this part of Colborne’s theology. He can’t support it be any Scripture of any faith, but he does base it on logic. And since God sustains the universe including logic, then all logic is part of who God is and we can expect his actions to conform to his nature.

Now for my final critique. Ultimately, what Colborne leaves us with is a non-objective universe and a capricious God. I think that Colborne stays consistent in following his train of thought, however, I am not sure why he must begin with God. If you took his position, removed God and agency words, and then replaced those ideas with “the universe” and “crap happens,” you would get the same outcome. Additionally, by adding back in an objective universe, you could reclaim an objectiveness for morality (among many other things). But, that is from my perspective and you can read my other writings on this blog at some other time.

For those interested in gaining a new perspective or to simply have some trick cards to throw out in debates, I invite you to check out Colborne’s God’s Grand Game. I expect this to be the start of deeper studies for those seeking to defend and refute it.

For Colborne, I would challenger you to read John Loftus’ book Why I Became an Atheist, or at least his “Outsider Test for Faith.” This may help spur your thoughts forward in some way.

Pagan Christianity: My Learning to Doubt

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The image above is the second edition of Frank Viola’s original book, Pagan Christianity, because George Barna, Christian pollster, wanted in on the arguments. It’s a great book for anyone wanting to trace the origins of certain Christian practices, or at least that’s what I thought at the time I read it. Who knows now. It might need to be critically evaluated by someone… and not me right now because I don’t have the time.

But back to my tale, I attribute this book with the first honor of skepticism about Christian practices. I was quite the young fundamentalist (although I did always try to excuse away the chauvinism the epistles to Timothy) and I never thought about whether tithing was biblical or if there should be more than one pastor per church. But Pagan Christianity showed me that there were things that the evangelical “church,” note that I use it loosely here, simply did from tradition rather than the Bible. And I wanted church practices to derive from the truth! I was a six-day creationist, anti-charismatic (not hostile though, for I had several friends who were Pentecostals or charismatics), I aspired to be a leading apologist, etc. etc.

But then I wondered why Viola didn’t criticize the idea of the Trinity just like he did with other practices derived after the first century. I doubt he ever would doubt it from the way he writes.

All of this reminds me that I failed to start at the beginning and should turn there next. Here is the link to check out this book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00APOW7JI/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_awdb_t1_p8WKCb7K393DR

I will have to come back to this book again as I continue my story, but for now, I’ll say that I have a special post coming out the 27th as a review of a new book and that my next in this series involves a fiery 14 year old fighting against the “lie of evolution.”

Thanks all

How Apologetics Leads to Disbelief

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While I can’t say that I started reading my first atheist book exactly on 9/10/05, I definitely did close to it. I still use same day receipts as book marks and I have never taken this one out of Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian. Of course, when I walked out of Books-a-Million that day, I also carried out a Christian book and explained that I was studying to defend against atheism. In fact, I remember the book’s namesake essay and thinking, “I wouldn’t want to be the kind of Christian Russell disliked either.”

This series of articles will document how searching for “the way, the truth, and the life” led to disbelief in one individual. And it’s inspired by a random event that happened tonight as I was skimming through my library. I hope to outline how my apologetics studies began and where my beliefs stand today. I’ll start here in the middle, inspired by this little token of my past.

I went back through Why I Am Not a Christian years later and noted where certain arguments were now “outdated,” especially by arguments posed by William Lane Craig. But now I am reading it through again. And I see such simple power in the article. I think what amazed me then still amazes me now – that Russell though he could sidestep Christianity so easily.

The pages of the book have long been yellow now, but the content is just as fresh as the day I bought it nearly 14 years ago. Back then, everything was different. I was a Christian high school graduate seeking to become an apologist and philosopher, a sexual virgin, a cigarette virgin, alcohol virgin, and one hell of a cocky guy.

But at the same time, I had already bought a book that would change my life forever. And I bought it from Union University’s on-campus Lifeway Bookstore: Frank Viola’s Pagan Christianity….

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Works Cited

Russell, Bertrand. Why I Am Not a Christian: And Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects. Touchstone, 1957.

Wealth and Poverty

“For indeed any city, however small, is in fact divided into two, one the city of the poor, the other of the rich;”

– Plato (via the mouth of Socrates)

a.co/bqIfEoS

If the failed communists experiments taught us anything, it’s that there will always be the “haves” and the “have nots.” What should be the focus of politics is the standards of living for the poorest members of society. Poverty is America is not poverty in Sierra Leone or Columbia or Germany. And I don’t think that it can be measured by finances either. Instead, poverty guidelines should take into consideration life opportunities and freedom from government regulation.

Without any sources at hand, I cannot comment further on America’s basic poverty definitions or anywhere else for that matter. But what do you think qualifies for poverty? No specifics needed, just general guidelines and the such.

Graham Harman’s Object-Oriented Ontology: A New Theory of Everything – Part 3: I Was Both Mistaken and Correct

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I have constantly been considering the aspect of OOO that denies physicalism And I realize now that it is correct when one considers objects as Harman does. There are objects of thought and social objects that are not physical (such as imaginary friends, weddings, the election of 1996). However, I still maintain that there must be a physical substance underlying all such things. Can there be thoughts without brains? Weddings without people (at least currently on earth – for all you savage smart-asses 👍🏻)? An election without a means to record results (whether electronic or on paper)?

But now I am on page 161 and Harman directly addresses the New Realism of Ferraris and Gabriel. And he admits to the very complaint that I have against OOO. It claims no knowledge is possible of real objects. But such an absolute claim is it least knowledge of what real objects are not. And digging down into the relationships between objects and people only shows that knowledge is possible. Now if he would simply change his claim but no absolute knowledge is possible, then I would agree. He does say that direct knowing of real objects and real qualities is impossible and I agree, but this is far from no knowledge.

Perhaps I’m reading him wrong on this point. And perhaps he has read the New Realists wrong too. Absolute knowledge about anything is impossible because the relationship between the one attempting to know and the thing being known constantly shifts with the increase of knowledge by the student. I’m not sure how to word it clearly right now, but perhaps it will come to me later on. I’m just hoping I’m misunderstanding him and that he has more to offer in OOO. I feel like he is close to saying something useful but never breaking the dam’s walls to flood my mind.

Stuck in a Corner?

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Last Friday, my wife and I had another couple for a games night which usually consists of a board game and several alcoholic drinks. This time, we never got to any game itself and we went into theological and philosophical discussions. My wife, however, tucked a bottle of wine under her arm and got into it alone (she is terribly bored by these subjects for her own reasons).

The know about the time I declared I didn’t believe in God. That was years ago and they politely challenged me to go over that position again. I’ve been silent for years about it because I work part time at a church. I can’t afford to lose my job either. My family is counting on me. I also can’t be completely honest with myself either because I don’t want to be cornered.

I decided a while ago to be satisfied with being politely quiet on the issue. There’s the contemplative view that allows me to escape directly answering questions like that. It keeps me safe and uncornered. My honest answer is, “I want to believe in God, but claim to be agnostic until I can satisfactorily answer the question publicly.” Well, it is true… to an extent. I actually have an answer, but I will keep it to myself for the time being.

In the meantime, between all the work and school work, I’m going to work on expositing my position for myself and hopefully others.

You Can’t Run for Office! You’re an Atheist!

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Above is a screenshot of North Carolina’a state constitution, article 6. Section 8 flat out says, “You can’t run for office because you’re an atheist!” Section 7 requires the individual to swear, “so help me God.”

And it’s not just North Carolina. The list on thehumanist.com also lists Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas.

Tennessee, my old home state, even stated that an elected official must believe in both God’s existence and a “future state of rewards and punishments.” I seriously doubt that many public figures adhere to believing in eternal punishments these days (but few would say so publicly, even if their public actions say otherwise).

This isn’t fair and it’s completely unreasonable. The assumption appears to be that a public official is more likely to behave if he think’s God is going to hold him accountable after death. But why hasn’t belief in God stopped individuals from cheating on their spouses, commuting tax evasion, shooting their neighbors, or even raping innocent people? You can still believe in God and do terrible things. The same goes for atheists. Both believers and nonbelievers of God have the potential for good and evil.

And any church-going southern evangelical Christian will tell you that it’s not the belief in God that counts, it’s the relationship. But again, that has never completely deterred all sorts of evil.

These constitutions must be amended in this new millennium, in the next decade even. People need justice systems and political systems to be fair in order to respect them.