For each of our pregnancies, I wrote sonnets dedicated to our new child. I don't have too much to offer in the way of quilting or woodworking, so creating some sort of functional heirloom isn't an option for me. Instead, I thought I would craft some of the ideas I thought most important for my kids to understand when they grew up, and I decided to do this in sonnet format. While the structure is modeled around childish notions (ABC's, 123's, Colors, etc), the content is about morality, theology, and the like. They are definitely ideas the kids will have to grow into. I hope that one day my children can read my sonnets and reflections and take them into their own hearts as they wrestle with their humanity, with God, and with how they are going to move out in the world. Until they grow into that, I hope these works will be of use to at least one other strange person out there who would take the time to read about epistemology or metaphysics in an archaic, poetic format.
The SLED argument against abortion has been one of the greatest defenses of a child’s right to life. The simple line of reasoning goes a long way in most abortion discussions. The few arguments which the SLED argument can't handle tend to be arguments based on arbitrarily formed definitions of things like “personhood,” and/or basing arguments on degreed properties which lead to inconsistently applied conclusions. A simple reductio ad absurdum reduces most surviving arguments down to positions which either aren't tenable or consistent. For more on this, you can check out what I've written on the issue of abortion here.
However, I have found one newer argument for abortion to be relatively compelling – the argument from bodily autonomy. The argument basically says that as it stands, if we were to prevent abortions, a corpse would then have more rights than women. A corpse may legally donate or withhold organs – even to those in need – whereas under anti-abortion laws, a mother would have no choice in the case but to contribute her organs to sustaining the life of another. We would be requiring her to give up her bodily autonomy for the sake of another. While this “heroism” may be lauded as a great sacrifice if it was a willingly pursued course of action, it is not something we can require of another. Bodily autonomy supersedes the needs of another. Whereas most other arguments have some apparent loopholes, this particular argument initially seemed unassailable to me.
While there are a slew of recurring emotional arguments made against God by popular atheists, I believe that one of the most foundational of these ideas can be seen in the Christopher vs. Peter Hitchens debate. The atheist Christopher Hitchens provides an intuitive "argument" against God, which essentially asserts that if a God existed, he wouldn't be petty enough to dictate morality over things like sexual ethics and such. And if there was a God who dictated such things like that, he would be both petty, and dictatorial. Who would want to worship a god who was petty and sought to dominate even the minutia of your life? Dr. Hitchens ends his tirade to nearly unanimous applause. But while an atheistic argument such as this may push with much emotional force, what one tends to find upon closer examination is that it carries little weight. Soundbites sound great, but are often easily dissected into fallacy or simplicity. They are great for the emotions, terrible for the intellect. While emotions are useful in producing initial action and decision, they are terrible foundations upon which to build a worldview.
Elin: Mommy, I don't want to pray tonight.
Catalina: Why don't you want to pray? We pray every night?
Elin: God doesn't answer my prayers.
Catalina: What do you mean, baby?
Elin: I keep having nightmares. We pray for me to stop having nightmares every night, and God just doesn't answer my prayers.
Our men's group is currently working through the very difficult topic of the trinity. It's a good mental exercise in preparation for the next chapter - predestination. The trinity is a difficult concept to address for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that you're always trying to avoid some form of heresy. Just about any analogy you can come up with for the trinity embraces some false teaching. The trinity is like the forms of water (solid, liquid, gas)? That's modalistic, as we see that this is merely the same substance changing forms. The trinity is like the sun, which produces heat and light? That's arianism (or perhaps hierarchicalism) to claim that the father produces (or supersedes) the other members of the trinity.
While I certainly don't claim to have a great grasp of the trinity, I have found that there is some wonderful wisdom I gleaned when stepping outside of my personal experience of Western Protestant thought. Not only has this been helpful for my understanding of the trinity, but as we work with those from an Eastern background, it helps to connect with them as well. So let me share with you three big insights which have helped me embrace the teaching of the trinity.
John Vanier, co-author of "Living Gently in a Violent World."
For most of my life I found the story of Adam and Eve perplexing for a number of reasons. Beside the talking snake, the seemingly silly command of God not to eat from a tree, or the woman being made out of Adam's rib - one of the most puzzling elements to me was our forebear's first response to sin. The first response wasn't to hide, to repent, or to run. Their response was a recognition of their nakedness. Talk about a weird story. But as I've learned more about the Bible, I have come to recognize that these odd details are often some of the most important details, because they indicate something profound. Such is the case with the nakedness of Adam and Eve.
We Christians think we have the Apostle Peter pegged. Of all Jesus's disciples we seem to have the most insight into Peter's thoughts and actions. He was clearly a very eccentric individual, prone to speaking before thinking and prone to ideas of grandeur. He is the disciple who first proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God. He is the disciple who walked on water. He is one of two disciples who raced to Christ's tomb on Easter morning. Peter was always caught up in the action. And while he so apparently loved Jesus, Peter is most well known for his betrayal of our savior during Jesus's greatest hour of need. That act of betrayal seems to fit Peter's character pretty well. He is always so close to good, but ends up falling short. Peter's betrayal was just the last example in a string of near successes, but ultimate failures. Right after being the first disciple to declare Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus told Peter to "get behind me Satan," as Peter tempted Jesus to avoid the cross. Right after being the only disciple to walk on water, he began to sink because he focused on his circumstances rather than Jesus. And right after Peter declared that he would stand by Christ, he denied him three times. Peter's story is largely a story of "almosts." He almost got it right, but always messed things up somehow.
There are many directions I'd like to go with Peter's story. I think it's awfully sad that the disciple who trusted Jesus enough to recognize him as the Messiah and to trust him to walk on water gets such a bad reputation. But what I really want to focus on is how I think the whole denial story paints Peter as something he absolutely wasn't - a coward. I want to make a case for Peter's bravery, but even more than that, I want to make the case that the underlying issue with Peter's betrayal was much deeper than momentary fear. While there may have been some fear involved in Peter's denial of Christ, I think it's fairly clear that fear for his own wellbeing was not Peter's primary problem. So why do most of us think Peter was filled with fear? I think the fear narrative is easy for us to latch on to for a number of reasons, but most of all because if we say Peter's problem was fear, we in the West can subsequently disassociate ourselves from being in Peter's shoes. How often have we felt genuine fear for our lives because of our Christian beliefs? Almost every one of us would have to say "never." And so we never have to identify with a traitorous Peter who feared for his life. But as I will argue, Peter's reason for denying Christ should make us much more introspective about the ways we are constantly tempted to deny Christ in like manner. So let me make my case now for why I don't think Peter was a coward who feared for his life.
There are quite a few characters you can criticize when it comes to the story of Jesus's crucifixion. The disciples were cowards and ran, with Peter even openly denying Christ numerous times. The religious leaders hounded Jesus and held a kangaroo court to convict him. The fickle crowds who were praising Jesus only a week before, now yelled out for his blood. In Luke's account, we even see Satan come into play as he enters Judas and has his hands in the mix. But for as cowardly, evil, or lost as some of these agents were, there is one character we often overlook. Pilate.
I think Pilate gets passed by so often because we can empathize with his position. Whereas the disciples were committed to Jesus and should have been loyal, and whereas the religious leaders were malicious and pursued Christ's blood, Pilate was caught in the middle of something he didn't want to be a part of. He had no loyalty to Jesus, but neither did he hold any malice. He was as impartial a judge as we could hope for in overseeing Jesus's trial. In fact, as we progress through the story, we see Pilate recognize Christ's innocence and attempt to free him using the various means he had at his disposal. To most, it seems like Pilate is a fairly decent guy who is trying to do the right thing, but ends up having to make a difficult decision in order to do his job by maintaining order.
The issue of purpose couldn't be more important than it is today. As much of the Western World shifts away from religion and towards atheism (particularly materialism), they are left with a gaping hole in their lives. Without moral commands or the divine direction that once guided individuals and nations, many irreligious are left searching for that which can infuse their lives with purpose. Most end up landing on some system of self-purpose because it's easy, convenient, and unobtrusive. This system of self-purposing generally means that each individual must figure out or fashion their own purpose in life. Once a purpose is identified, then life can meaningfully be lived.
While self-purposing sounds fantastic (who wouldn't want to just follow their own desires?), there's one problem for materialists. Self-purposing is incoherent on their system. It can't be done. It's absolutely unintelligible. To discover why materialism cannot provide purpose - and especially self-purpose - I'll explore deeper the concept of purpose.
History has always fascinated me. I often try to place myself in the shoes of those who walked in the past. As a guy, that usually meant I frequented ancient battlefields or heroic situations in my mind. And as a hormonal teenager, it meant that I often placed myself in the shoes of someone like a suave Mark Antony who was able to attract beautiful women like Cleopatra.
Those daydreams didn't last too long, however. It was easy to travel back in time and imagine historical figures like Cleopatra or Marilyn Monroe who were often depicted beautifully in movies or in pictures. But those images always chose to capture the beauty of these women in the prime of their lives. What killed my daydreams was when one day, I recognized that I was dreaming about a romantic relationship with an 80 and a 2,000 year old woman - basically a grandma and a mummy. After that realization, I kept my historical fantasies to battlefields and away from romance.