Be A Window, Not A Wall

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/27/2019

Be a window,

Not a wall.

Some stand tall,

Yet all eventually fall.

Some loom large,

While others seem small.

We’ve all heard the call,

But a few of us are still afraid to fall.

We’ve all failed,

But Christ has prevailed.

Windows let the Son shine through,

Yet walls shield people from seeing the real you.

Windows are open and transparent,

But walls are closed off and hide what sin has bent.

Windows crack and shatter,

While walls pretend to have everything together.

Be more like a beautiful flower,

Than this structurally unsound tower.

Let the light into every area of your life,

Before darkness hurts like an ill-intentioned knife.

If you want to grow,

Then the walls need to go.

There is no guilt or shame,

In the power of Christ’s name.

Be honest above all,

No one expects you to be Saint Paul.

Be a window,

Not a wall.

With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels
Advertisements

The Thorns of Life | March 17th, 2018

Photo Cred: Unsplash| Updated: 5/27/2019

So in the first segment in this series on sermons, I’d like to go back and revisit sermons that I have preached in the past, in order to learn from them through self-reflection. The preparation, the prayer, the delivery, and so on for each sermon that I have given to better not only myself but possibly you as well. By learning from the past we can do better in the future and that includes improving our ability to preach.

I’d like to share a sermon that I preached in mid-March of 2018 and breakdown the process of creating that sermon. It was called The Thorns of Life and dealt with the parable of the sower as told in the Gospel of Luke. My sermon was based on Luke 8:7 and 8:14, which was about the thorn-filled soil.

Getting Started

This sermon was given to about 80 students at StudentLife‘s winter camp (i.e. The Growdown) and it was roughly 25 minutes long. I began to prepare for this sermon on February 26th, which was just over a month out from the Growdown retreat and I was pretty rusty since the last sermon that I taught was 3 years ago. Typically, I can start prepping and praying through a sermon within a week’s time, but because it had been so long I started extremely early. There was also the added pressure of this being our first winter camp as a youth group, so I didn’t want to let the other leaders or the students with a sermon that sucked.

Before I even began to work on my sermon, the four teachers (David Margosian, John Lewis, Andrew Morrison, and myself) for that retreat met up a few times to discuss the theme and pray about what we should teach through for that winter camp. Eventually, we all felt led to teach on the parable of the sower in the Gospel of Luke for various reasons. John had just taught it to his youth group, while Andrew and David did this theme years ago as the original Growdown winter camp. We figured that this year we should go with this theme to keep things simple.

After the theme was decided upon, we went our separate ways to prepare. Since I was rusty, Andrew reviewed my outline over gmail twice to help me stay on track for the retreat. He aided in keeping my sermon the right length for a 20 to 30 minute teaching.

When I actually started, I read the text and prayed a lot about the theme for my teaching. What was going to be the main idea to explore and share with the students? What did they need to hear that afternoon on March 17th, 2018?

The Text, the Title, and the Elevator Pitch

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Anytime I prepare to teach, I always look for three things first: a basic understanding of the text, a title, and an elevator pitch. To determine the basic understanding of the text you need to comprehend the context. To accomplish this, read past the given text.

For this teaching, I wanted to pinpoint the big picture. When it was reported to Jesus that his Mother and Brothers were trying to get to him through the crowd listening to Him teach, He replies that “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it (1).” Elsewhere, we get more clarity from Jesus when He says to His disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments (2).” The basic understanding of this text was identifying the true believer.

If we are true believers in Christ, then we will naturally obey him. David and Paul Watson put it perfectly when they wrote that “it appears that God spells love o-b-e-y (3).” The seed that falls on the good soil is the true believer because they obey God.

From there, I asked the opposite question: who does not obey God and why? The text I was given focused on the thorn-filled soil. What happens when we are pricked by a thorn? We are distracted by the pain. This was the basic crux for my sermon.

For my title, I took that basic understanding and distilled it. Making it brief and to the point. For me, the title has to be the main theme of the teaching. It must be the anchor that I can refer back to over and over in the sermon. So I called it “The Thorns of Life.”

Lastly, an elevator pitch is a one sentence description of a story. My elevator pitch was my basic understanding of the text summarized. That being that the thorns of life are the distractions of life. Next, I got into the bulk of sermon prep. Analogies, cross references, exegesis, research, and all that other good stuff. That’s usually my favorite part of the process.

Once my outline was complete, I moved onto revisions and verbal practice. This was roughly two weeks out from the retreat and I was really afraid it was going to flop. During this time I mostly prayed and would practice maybe a dozen times before finally delivering my sermon. I found that prayer would calm me, so I prayed before I practiced verbally delivering it.

The Day of and the Delivery

When we all left for the Growdown, I barely ate. During that Friday and Saturday I only had two meals. When I get nervous, I can’t eat because I get really sick to my stomach.

Had a long day of winter camp stuff and trying to run everything as a leader, so when it finally came to preaching I had about an hour and a half to get prepped one last time. As worship was closing, my anxiety and nervousness just kept increasing. Prayed a lot of little prayers inwardly. Too afraid I was going to forget something, I poured over my outline making last-minute changes and rehearsed a few more times.

Andrew came down and prayed over me. It helped reassure me that this teaching was put on my heart by God, so I didn’t have to rely on my own ability or talent because the Holy Spirit would guide me. Worship ended and I waited a minute intentionally before heading up. I told Jason Best, the worship pastor, that I wanted there to be an awkward moment of silence before I enter the room to set the tone.

This little stunt played into my theme of being distracted. Also, I wore a pink morph suit and did some goofy stuff to distract the students before telling the story of my best friend Zach’s car accident. This was all in the hopes of using body language, humor, and other visual cues to reinforce the effect that a good distraction can have on someone not paying attention.

The silly sermon illustrations went okay. Some landed, some hit an abrupt thud. As a public speaker, you’ll know when what you did worked or didn’t.

I think of the 25 minutes I spent, 5 to 10 minutes should have been used better. I started strong, but felt I wasted the opportunity for a strong ending. I ended up cutting out the Value of Time segment completely because I knew from practice it probably wouldn’t make the cut. I liked it, but it wasn’t necessary for this audience.

Had some obvious slip-ups and an over reliance on my outline, yet I felt positive about the delivery afterward. The students got a kick out of my ridiculous introduction and the call to action seemed to stick that night during the altar call, which resulted in praying with a student named Abe for almost an hour as we cried our eyes out before God. That was the highlight of the teaching for me: seeing a young man run back to God that night.

Overall, loved the time I spent on this teaching and it gave me confidence to return to preaching. Next time, I’ll share my sermon on Exodus from May 3rd, 2018. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Luke 8:21b
  2. John 14:15
  3. Contagious Disciple Making: Leading Others on a Journey of Discovery, P. 45

 

 

My Political Worldview: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of God

Photo Cred (1) | Updated: 5/27/2019

So I’ve been asked several times by others my opinion on politics and I usually never give them an in-depth answer to those questions. From police brutality to immigration, I’ve been asked what my views are on many political topics. What I usually do is provide possible solutions, but never really say what I believe on a given subject matter. Not that I don’t care about politics, but I’d rather have an opinion after personal research before going public with my view on any given topic.

What I mean by that is I would rather look into an issue on my own before giving my opinion on anything political due to the vitriol reaction that seems to be the only response that anyone can give online. When it comes to subjects that I am not sure where I stand, I’d rather talk it out in-person. When I do have a firm idea of where I stand on an issue, then I’ll usually go about talking on that issue online with no hesitation.

With all that said, I do not side with one of the two binary American political parties (Democrats and Republicans) or any political party for that matter. I believe in voting for individual people, not for a political party. I have no allegiance to any political party and I do not think I ever will.

Honestly anyone who is running for political office that is associated with a particular political party means very little to me. This is because during the campaign trail, a candidate will promise lots of great stuff and then when they get into office they only get about a third of it done. Even then, what is actually accomplished is corroded by donors, PACs, Super PACs, and any other special interest group hoping to get their hands on a new bill or law. There are just too many cooks in the kitchen and that affects every branch of American politics.

If I had to summarize my political worldview in one sentence, then I would say that I am for life, liberty, and the pursuit of God. Now let me explain each part of my political worldview in more detail. Let me start with why I am for life.

Life

I am for life in many regards. I am for the protection of endangered species, marine conservation, protecting national parks, and environmentalism in general. The more we do as a species to protect the environment, the better our lives will be for future generations to come.

I am also pro-life, which means that I am against both abortion and euthanasia. The only case where I would be for abortion is when the life of the mother is at stake, then I would say abortion is okay. This sort of situation can occur due to any number of problems like an ectopic pregnancy where internal, life-threatening bleeding could kill the mother.

I am for abortion in these rare situations because the chances of the mother surviving from said problems during the course of a pregnancy are much higher than the chances of the baby. If I had to theoretically choose between an abortion to save the mother’s life or going on endangering the life of the mother and the baby, then I would advocate the abortion option. Saving one life is better than risking the death of two lives.

I am for life in the justice system. For the equal treatment of all types of people whether in arrests, investigations, prosecutions, or any other aspect of the judicial process. All people were created equal and hence all people should be treated equal with the utmost respect for their human dignity.

I want to see prison reform in the sense that the punishment should equal the crime, but that life should be respected at all costs. Measures should be taken for those that are truly done with their life of crime and want to live in society again in a proactive way. Measures such as more community service and less time in prison for crimes that do not deserve a prison sentence. If people are willing to change their ways, then they should be given opportunity on a case-by-case basis to get their life on the right path.

The death penalty, also known as capital punishment, I believe should only be implemented for certain criminals like child molesters, mass shooters, serial killers, and serial rapists. Because they have lost all respect for other life, I believe that these types of people should not live. By taking their life through capital punishment, we can potentially save the lives of countless others.

When it comes to healthcare and UBI (Universal Basic Income), I believe that we as a nation have the capacity to provide the most basic needs free of charge to legal citizens. Not every expense, but the bare necessities. I’m still working through in my own mind how that could work, but I think there is a way that would benefit almost everyone. I do believe in some form of UBI and universal healthcare being implemented in American society. Yet these two beliefs are not as refined as my other beliefs, so grant me grace in that regard.

Liberty

I am for liberty in a lot of ways. Liberty for all to live however they see fit as long as it does not infringe on the liberties of others. For the sake of time I’ll just share two examples: free speech and marriage. Let me start with marriage.

I believe that anyone can marry whoever they want as they are both consenting and adults. I may disagree biblically with who marries who, but that does not mean that said people cannot get married in America. For instance, an LGBT+ couple should have the freedom to get married whenever and however they want, but that does not mean that I agree with their decision to get married.

Likewise, the same can be said of unequally yoked couples. An unequally yoked couple is two people who want to get married, but do not adhere to the same worldview (i.e. a Buddhist and a Muslim getting married). I would disagree with this decision as well on the same logic applied to the LGBT+ couple, in that God doesn’t promote either lifestyle. In the Bible, God promotes either chastity in singleness or commitment to a life-long covenant in marriage. I affirm everyone’s freedom to choose, but not their choices within said freedom. Nevertheless, two consenting adults in America can marry whoever they love.

Then again, I believe that certain social traditions should not be operated by the government like marriage. I do not believe that marriage should be done through the government in any capacity. It’s a decision between two people and the witnesses chosen to uphold that couple’s vows. The government doesn’t need to be involved in marriage.

I am for liberty in the sense of free speech. I believe everyone should have the freedom to express themselves in any verbal way that they wish. Free speech should only be limited when a minor is involved because certain speech can affect their growth as individuals like verbal abuse or mature subject matter that is simply not appropriate for them to hear at their current age. This stance of mine on free speech applies to both in-person and online communication.

Also, the obvious things like yelling “bomb” at an airport or shouting “fire” at a movie theater shouldn’t be said either. Outside of that, let discourse and discussion thrive through the civil expression of ideas. With proper social cues and standard politeness, anything can and should be said.

Without free speech, I wouldn’t even be able to write this blog-post without punishment from the government. Let that sink in the next time you wish certain speech was removed from society. One of the signs of a healthy community is the disagreement between two people on a belief or idea, yet the respect they have for each other as human beings. Freedom must always be greater than fear. If not, we lose everything.

The Pursuit of God

Now of the three pillars of my political worldview, this final pillar does require some explaining. There was a man named John Locke who argued that everyone is entitled to life, liberty, and property (2). In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote that we are “endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Although I do believe that property should be an unalienable right as it is a basic human instinct to have shelter and that happiness can be a good thing, I believe that the pursuit of God matters more. That’s why I have altered this saying to include the pursuit of God instead of either property or happiness into my political worldview.

For it is in the pursuit of God that one can find the greatest joy imaginable: ultimate meaning, purpose, and value. With property, a basic human need is met, but that cannot replace the inner void within those who have not known God. What is the point of having shelter to stay alive, if you do not know why you are alive in the first place? For me, the pursuit of God supersedes the right to property.

Happiness cannot be the answer either because it is completely subjective. It’s a neat idea, but in practice no one and that includes the government can sustain your desire to be happy. For happiness like all other emotions doesn’t last long. I would rather have lifelong joy pursuing God than situational satisfaction rooted in nothing but my current mood. When it comes to politics, I stand firmly for life, liberty, and the pursuit of God.

In conclusion, these are not all of my views within politics. I haven’t even gotten to the economy, gun control, the minimum wage and maximum wage debate, recreational and medical drug use, transgender military participation, or everything else for that matter. But I think this should give some of you a good idea of where I stand on certain issues.

It’s a work in progress and these views are in a constant flux as I learn more each and everyday, so don’t be surprised if they change eventually. In time, all things will work together for those that trust in God for their life and liberty. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. http://oll.libertyfund.org/quotes/497

My Favorite Sci-Fi Films

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/27/2019

So I’ve always wanted to talk about my favorite films of all time, but have never been able to narrow it down to a top ten or even a top fifty films. The more movies I watch over time, the longer my list of favorites grows as my personal taste expands. But I think I have found the best way of approaching this daunting task and that is by writing about my favorite films by genre. Not only the overarching genre, but also the sub categories that reside within the main genre. To start this series off, I’ve decided to talk about possibly my favorite genre of films: sci-fi.

Escapism

For this genre, I’ve broken it down to the following types of films: escapism, guilty pleasures, realism, social commentaries, and the underrated. The rest of the blog-posts in this series will follow a similar format. First, let’s look at my favorite escapism in the sci-fi genre.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For escapism, the most important element is that you get to go from reality and escape to something completely out of this world. Something that is totally distant from our life. Some favorites in this first category are Alien (1979), Back to the Future (1985), Predator (1987), and Terminator 2 (1991). These are all great sci-fi films that take you to places unexpected and are thrilling from start to finish. Whether it’s the 1950s, the 1980s with time-traveling robots, or even going to space to fight a chest-burstin’ alien, these films take you onto great escapes into the unknown. They’ve got action, suspense, and tons of memorable moments.

Yet my favorite sci-fi escapist movie and also my favorite movie of all time is none other than Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980). It’s got everything you need for a killer sci-fi flick and is in my opinion the gold standard of escapist sci-fi films. It’s action-packed, filled to the brim with fun characters, and has a great story that takes you all over a galaxy far, far away. It’s the perfect escape.

Guilty Pleasure

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Now like any genre, there are those films that are not so good, but we still watch them because of some obscure reason. These are the guilty pleasures that you know are either straight trash or a mixed bag of a movie, but you still love watching them anyway for who knows why. A few of my favorite sci-fi guilty pleasures are AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004) and Tron: Legacy (2010).

The latter only for its sick Daft Punk soundtrack and the lit special effects. Outside of that, it’s your run-of-the-mill generic sci-fi flick with a pretty bland story. Oh, and why AVP: Alien vs. Predator? Because I literally only watch the aliens and predators fight each other and skip through the rest of the movie. Besides that, it’s the definition of a dumpster fire.

There’s even Terminator Salvation (2009), which should have been great yet still failed to be anything beyond eye-candy with its awesome action scenes and cool sound design. Although, of all of my guilty pleasures in sci-fi, none is a greater guilty pleasure for me than Michael Bay’s The Island (2005).

From its wacky plot about cloning humans to its sun-soaked action scenes, this movie is guilty pleasure sci-fi filmmaking to a tee. There’s also the excessive amount of references to peeing, which is strange in itself throughout the entire movie because it’s somehow integral to the plot. I don’t know. I like it and you might too. It’s not that good, but boy is it a fun sci-fi guilty pleasure to watch!

Realism

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For this subgenre, all of these films take an idea grounded in reality and push it past its logical limits, while trying as hard as possible to maintain some sort of realism. Films such as Limitless (2011), where Bradley Cooper takes a pill that unleashes his brain’s full capacity. It takes a simple premise and uses it to an engaging advantage for what is a pretty good movie.

There’s even the space-driven sci-fi films that aim to replicate what outer space is really like for better or for worse like Gravity (2013) and The Martian (2015). What makes these films so good is the fact that despite how amusing or terrifying the story might be, the stakes feel even higher than usual due to them being much more realistic.

But in my mind, nothing comes close to entertaining and realistic sci-fi quite like Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010). It’s both brilliant and subdued. Rooted in a fascinating idea and then goes to a whole other level as the plot unfolds. As you fall deeper into the levels of dreams, what is and isn’t real becomes a lot harder to discern. It’s bold, intelligent, and is most definitely my favorite realistic sci-fi film.

Social Commentary

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here we find what might be considered the most heady and emotionally tugging sci-fi films. The ones that cause us to feel and think in ways we might not have before. The films that challenge our beliefs and are sometimes a direct mirror of the times we live in as a species.

When it comes to social commentary sci-fi, some of my all-time favorites include movies like Interstellar (2014), Metropolis (1927), and Snowpiercer (2013). Three films dealing with the similar idea of survival. Trying to make it in a world no longer suitable for us humans or at least for those of us that are not so fortunate. With the use of sci-fi elements, these three films take drastically different approaches on how we would react in similar situations. The various social-economic struggles, the philosophical conversations, and even how they choose to visualize this universal desire to adapt in spite of the worst conditions is what makes these types of films stand the test of time.

Likewise, movies like Arrival (2016) and The Matrix (1999) deal with different types of problems within our modern world like the invasion of our privacy, questioning reality, or even how time affects us. In the spirit of all of these big ideas and confronting our societal struggles head-on, none of these films has affected me more than War for the Planet of the Apes (2017). This, along with the entire Planet of the Apes franchise, has always had the unique perspective of directly addressing bigotry, racism, and xenophobia unlike any sci-fi films that I’ve ever seen.

From the warring factions of apes versus mankind to the delicate reflections on what makes us human, this movie delves deep into some of the biggest questions that modern day humanity has to deal with now. With its allusions to socialist regimes of the last century to the harsh treatment of minorities during the early years of America, this film speaks on so many subjects and yet nails every single one of them. It’s a modern masterpiece and is my favorite social commentary sci-fi flick.

Underrated

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Not all heroes wear capes and not all films get the attention that they deserve. These are the underdogs. The odd ones out that for some reason or another, don’t get the credit they deserve. Some of these personal favorites include Minority Report (2002) and The Adjustment Bureau (2011). These are films that while good, never seem to get enough attention, in my opinion.

Another underrated movie that I think is pretty fun is I, Robot (2004) starring Will Smith. A movie that follows a detective (Smith) as he tries to solve the suicide of the founder of U.S. Robotics, but believes that a robot is actually the culprit behind the whole crime. It’s got an uneven tone and the third act is really dumb when compared to the rest of the movie, but it has a heart to it thanks in large part to Smith’s great performance and the fun mystery of solving the crime.

Although, my favorite underrated sci-fi movie is Equilibrium (2002). In a post-Matrix world, this at first glance appears like a cheap rip-off of the whole slo-mo kung fu that would define the next two decades of movies. Yes, it has bland production design, some poorly written dialogue, and uninspired cinematography. But this film works because the story concept is just so fascinating and the acting ensemble sells it as best they can with what they’re given. Speaking of casts, this one is kinda loaded as it stars Christian Bale acting alongside the likes of Emily Watson, Taye Diggs, Angus Macfadyen, Sean Bean, and William Fichtner. It borrows heavily from George Orwell’s 1984 and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 as the film is centered on a world where emotion is illegal, along with all things that provoke said emotions. It’s a gem and I’ve grown up always appreciating it as a diamond in the ruff.

In short, my favorite sci-fi films are as follows by subgenre:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So those are just a few of my favorite sci-fi films. I couldn’t talk about all of them, but this should give you an idea of what sci-fi films interest me most. Next time in this series, I’ll go over my favorite war movies. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

Alvin Plantinga + Autism

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/27/2019

About two years ago in the month of June, I was on a road-trip with my Dad and a few of our friends. On the way to and from our destination, I was finishing Alvin Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief and came across an interesting statement that he makes in his book. In fact, it’s not necessarily apart of the main narrative, but is rather just a footnote at the bottom of a page in the chapter entitled “Sin and Its Cognitive Consequences.” In this footnote, Plantinga writes

71Q6zl3JwEL
Source: Amazon

It is no part of the [Aquinas/Calvin] model to say that damage to the sensus divinitatis (2) on the part of a person is due to sin on the part of the same person. Such damage is like other disease and handicaps: due ultimately to the ravages of sin, but not necessarily sin on the part of the person with the disease. In this connection, see Jesus’ remarks (John 9:1-3) about the man blind from birth (p. 214, fn. 22).

Now as someone who has been diagnosed with high spectrum autism disorder (3), this quote stuck out to me like a sore thumb when I first read it. I’ve always had a curiosity on the subject of those with special needs and their cognitive ability to know God, but this really gave me more of a drive to study it further. To think and see if someone with malfunctioning cognitive faculties (i.e. intellectual disabilities) can consciously choose whether or not to believe in God.

There is a lot packed into this brief footnote, so let’s break it down in context. The footnote is attached to a section of the chapter where Plantinga is describing the worst effect that sin has on us and our sense of God. He writes:

The most serious noetic effects of sin have to do with our knowledge of God. Were it not for sin and its effects, God’s presence and glory would be as obvious and uncontroversial to us all as the presence of other minds, physical objects, and the past. Like any cognitive process, however, the sensus divinitatis can malfunction; as a result of sin, it has indeed been damaged. Our original knowledge of God and his glory is muffled and impaired; it has been replaced (by virtue of sin) by stupidity, dullness, blindness, inability to perceive God or to perceive him in his handiwork (p. 214-215).”

In other words, Plantinga argues that our knowledge of God is the most damaged aspect of our sensus divinitatis (sense of divinity). If our sense of God was not impaired, then we would be completely aware of God in everything. But because everyone has been born into sin, we all have a malfunctioning sense of God. Like a broken window, our view of God is distorted before we accept the Gospel. After we accept it, then our sense of God is restored to what it was always meant to be since the beginning.

Yet, we all don’t have malfunctioning cognitive faculties. Is this footnote indicating that some may have a harder time understanding the Gospel because there are more mental roadblocks that may inhibit their path to genuine belief in God? Not to say that our own sin directly causes this malfunction, but that sin itself has caused this malfunction in the cognitive faculties of some.

For example, no one is morally responsible for a person being born with a heart defect, but rather this defect is directly related to the natural consequences of the Fall. The unnatural breaking down of the human body as the world ages away. Original sin is the root of these malfunctions for the most part, not the individual sins of others. For more on that, let’s turn to the Gospel of John.

The passage of Scripture that Plantinga points out in the already mentioned footnote is John 9:1-3. In this passage, Jesus comes across a blind man who has been blind since birth. Inquiring to know why this man is born blind, the disciples ask Jesus whether it is due to the man’s own sin or that of his parents.

As if to say, whose sin caused this consequence? Who is responsible for this man’s poor condition of being blind from birth? Jesus succinctly replies “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” What does Jesus mean by this exactly?

is-john-piper-happy-viuzi7xj
Source: Pulpit & Pen

John Piper of Desiring God (4), spoke on this very subject and makes an important point. “The explanation of the blindness lies not in the past causes but the future purposes,” says Piper. For this specific case, the blindness from birth was not a sinful consequence, but rather a predetermined act of God. This disability was given, so that God might have the glory in the healing of it. By healing a blind man from birth publicly, Jesus caused others to see things spiritually. Thus, leading to people naturally giving God the glory.

In Genesis 50:20, Joseph speaks about how God can take something evil like our physical ailments or malfunctioning cognitive faculties and turn them into something good. This can be seen when a family is closer to each other when compared to other families because of the attentive care necessary for one of their family members that may have an intellectual disability like autism. If not for having a family member with said disability, there are many families that would probably be more distant to both each other and God. Like usual, God can answer a series of evils with one good thing.

boy-child-country-551576.jpg
Source: Pexels

But that stills leaves our question unanswered: can people with malfunctioning cognitive faculties consciously accept or reject belief in God? Can they ever have a repaired sense of God? To put it simply, of course they can and a good portion of them do have genuine belief in God.

Even though someone may be at a mental state where they are equivalent to that of a small child or may have an IQ lower than normal, they still have the ability to receive the Gospel. In Mark 10:15, Jesus clearly states that “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” If we base our faith in our own intelligence and knowledge, then we have not received the Gospel like a child and are not actually Christian.

We have made up our own God at that point because faith in the kingdom of God is childlike, not complex and complicated. Either we believe that Jesus is Lord and confess that God raised Him from the dead or we don’t. It’s as simple as that and for someone with malfunctioning cognitive faculties, they too have the ability to receive or reject belief in God on these grounds.

One last thing. Like anyone who comes to faith in God, the moment of salvation is completely by the power of the Holy Spirit. We cannot do this on our own. We cannot have our sense of God repaired and our souls redeemed, unless by the working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

So whether someone has an intellectual disability or not, we need the Holy Spirit during this transformation from death to life. From disbelief to genuine belief in the one true, triune God. Without the Holy Spirit, we cannot be born again. But by the power of God the Father in Christ Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit, we can all be born again. We can all be made alive in Christ. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Earlier in this chapter, Plantinga defines sensus divinitatis as “a disposition or set of dispositions to form theistic beliefs in various circumstances, in response to the sorts of conditions or stimuli that trigger the working of this sense of divinity (p. 173).” This sense of divinity or this sense of God is the bedrock for which the A/C Model hinges on and is one of the main themes discussed in Warranted Christian Belief, along with the rest of Plantinga’s Warrant trilogy. The name sensus divinitatis was originally penned by a French theologian named John Calvin.
  2. It is possible that my original diagnosis of high spectrum autism disorder by Stanford University may have been a mistake. As Thomas Sowell argues, a number of cases in the past that were diagnosed as ADD, Autism, and so on could have been just children with what he dubs “Einstein Syndrome.” Also known as late-talkers, Einstein Syndrome is named after Albert Einstein due to a theory that he began to talk at a later age than usual due to certain portions of his brain developing faster than normal. If a child’s parents are extremely gifted in mathematics or music, then the child may be more likely to be a late-talker, according to Sowell. To learn more, click here.
  3. https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/why-was-this-child-born-blind

Don’t Judge Me By The Color Of My Eyes

Updated: 5/27/2019

A while ago, my older brother John wrote a really powerful Facebook post about the state of racism in the world. He considered the matter and concluded that racism is nothing more than a categorical error. The idea that because of a sole variable (i.e. the color of one’s skin), those that share that variable are less than those who do not have that variable (i.e. those of a dissimilar skin color).

Even if both groups shared almost every other variable (i.e. culture, DNA, religion, etc), they were and are still identified by a variable that bears little to no significance when compared to more appropriate labels of identification like one’s birthplace or cultural upbringing. With his permission and in light of the anniversary of Martin Luther King Day, I wanted to share his thoughts with you (1). So, let’s see what he said.

I’ve heard so much talk lately about “black” people and “white” people. Unfortunately, every single post has missed the point entirely. We live in a world where we’ve been taught to categorize by color. A process that if not taught to you since you were born, would make absolutely no sense. In fact, you would find it ridiculous because if you step back and think about it, color does not represent anything.

You would never consider categorizing people by eye color. It would be so stupid to even try. Close your eyes for a second and try to imagine a world where people were categorized by eye color. The whole idea is just stupid, right? Well, open your eyes. This is your reality.

So why don’t you even give it a second thought when someone says “white” or “black” people? The very moment that you define someone by their skin is discriminatory. That is the birth of racism. Allow me to explain.

The deep rooted problem lies in our fundamental thinking process that we all are guilty of being indoctrinated into believing. Somewhere in our messed up ideology we discarded categorizing other people by real connections like culture and heritage. Instead, we have substituted appropriate labels with something more superficial and shallow: the color of our skin.

The way we use the word color itself is ridiculous. Everyone’s a different shade of brown. Have you ever actually seen a person with white or black skin? Me neither.

Also, the word “race” is entirely incorrect in the context that we use it in when talking about people. If there is no biological difference between people of different shades, then there is only one race. I’ll say it again. If there is no biological difference between people of different shades, then there is only one race: the human race.

If you really break it down, there is only one thing that people of the same skin shades have in common: the way society views and treats them. This is the only thing that creates the bond between people who look similar and separates those who look different. But the way society treats you has entirely nothing to do with you.

Now we’re back to agreeing that there is really no difference, except the one that we created in our minds. So I leave you with this: as long as you yourself define people by categories of skin “color,” you are reinforcing racism. If you want to change society, then you must first change the way you think.

Again, I love what John wrote about this issue. Really spoke to me and I hope it speaks to you in light of MLK Day. So what’s the takeaway from this Facebook post written by John?

If you change the way you think, then you will naturally change the way you speak. Don’t judge others by the color of their eyes or skin, but instead judge them by the inner condition of their identity. Now before you go, here is some more food for thought from two very important men in history speaking on the same subject:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” – Christ Jesus (NRSV John 7:24)

With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. John also gave me permission to make minor edits that help fit the format of a blog-post, as well as fix any grammatical errors present in his original Facebook post.
  2. For more from John Cribari, here’s his personal training business: https://lessons.com/ca/simi-valley/personal-training/cribari-training
  3. Disclaimer

The Cosmo-Quattro Argument

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/27/2019

Rather than writing on something currently on my mind, I just wanted to upload a response I gave a couple years ago on a Facebook group to someone who posted a meme about theism. The post revolved around how theists cannot provide adequate answers to support their belief in God. I don’t remember which group on Facebook it was, but I think off the top of my head it was either Atheist Beings, Atheism Uncensored, or Atheism United. Either way, I wrote this particular response on Google Docs as well and have just kept it over the years in my Google Drive. So with minor adjustments for clarity and conciseness, here is my response:

Okay I’m back. Sorry for the delay, I had a long day at work and then after work I was busy for quite some time. Finally have a little time to sit down and write back to you all. In a previous comment, I said that I would lay out the Change Argument and William Lane Craig’s Kalam-Cosmological Argument for those who are following this particular thread. First let me start with Dr. Craig’s argument and then proceed with the Change Argument:

The Kalam-Cosmological Argument (Source: On Guard by William Lane Craig)

1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

2) The universe began to exist.

3) Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Now this argument is airtight in its premises. The logic likewise flows as follows and is simple in its presentation. The conclusion is that this universe has a cause. Simple enough. Now let’s take this one step further with the Change Argument:

The Change Argument (Source: www.peterkreeft.com)

1) The material world we know is a world of change.

2) When something comes to be in a certain state, such as mature size, that state cannot bring itself into being.

3) Other things must be involved.

4) Nothing can give itself what it does not have, and the changing thing cannot have now, already, what it will come to have then.

5) Nothing changes itself.

6) No matter how many things there are in the series, each one needs something outside itself to actualize its potentiality for change.

7) The universe is the sum total of all these moving things, however many there are.

8) The whole universe is in the process of change.

9) But change in any being requires an outside force to actualize it.

10) Therefore, there is some force outside (in addition to) the universe, some real being transcendent to the universe. This is one of the things meant by “God.”

11) Briefly, if there is nothing outside the material universe, then there is nothing that can cause the universe to change.

12) But it does change.

13) Therefore there must be something in addition to the material universe.

14) But the universe is the sum total of all matter, space and time. These three things depend on each other.

15) Therefore this being outside the universe is outside matter, space and time. It is not a changing thing; it is the unchanging Source of change.

With Craig’s argument and Plantinga’s argument in mind, we can conclude a series of things:

  1. The universe has a cause.
  2. This cause logically must be immaterial, spaceless, and timeless.
  3. It cannot change because it is the unchanging source of change.
  4. Therefore, the cause of the universe is changeless, immaterial, space-less, and timeless.

Adding these figures together we move onto the next argument that reasonably follows: The Teleological Argument. It is the argument that Christopher Hitchens considered the greatest argument for the existence of God. Even today, many atheists consider it to be the most formidable argument. The argument goes as follows:

The Teleological Argument (Source: On Guard by William Lane Craig)

1) The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.

2) It is not due to physical necessity or chance.

3) Therefore, it is due to design.

Gathering our conclusions together, let’s now attribute factors to this mysterious first-cause. In order for something to be the first-cause it must fit this specific criteria that we have just observed together:

  1. The universe cannot cause itself into existence nor be the first cause (See: The Kalam-Cosmological Argument).
  2. The first-cause of the universe must be immaterial, space-less, and timeless (See: The Change Argument).
  3. The first-cause of the universe must be changeless (See: The Change Argument).
  4. The first-cause of the universe must be the designer of the universe (See: The Teleological Argument).
  5. Thus, the most reasonable and logical explanation based off of the evidence is that this first-cause must be and is God.

Lastly, in the Greater Than Argument I argue that God must be multi-personal due to Him being beyond our limits as the first-cause of the universe. My argument goes like this:

The Greater Than Argument

1) Every human is a single person.

2) God is greater than a human.

3) Since God is greater than a human, He therefore must be multi-personal.

4) The Christian Trinity is the best explanation of His multi-personal nature.

5) Therefore, God is a tri-unity of persons, yet remains one nature.

From this lengthy and exhaustive breakdown, we can also conclude that this first-cause (i.e. God) is indeed personal and is a transcendent creative mind. Just as a painter creates a painting with a specific purpose in mind, God must have personally caused and created the universe with a specific purpose in His mind. What purpose did God have in making the universe?

In the Judeo-Christian worldview, God caused and created the universe for His own glory. In other words, everything was caused and created for the glory of God. In Revelation 4:11, it says “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

Branching off of this, why should we glorify God? Well He made us and that should be enough reason to glorify Him. We are in eternal gratitude that God would want and will for us to exist because He desired for us to glorify Him by tending to the Earth in response to His love towards us (2). It’s a relationship that God desires from us because it’s in that relationship that those who choose to love Him back are glorifying Him to the fullest extent. As the Gospel of John writes, “We love because He first loved us (3)” and that’s why in the Judeo-Christian worldview, we desire to love everyone equally because Christ loved us first.

But before this can take place, everyone must first repent of their sin. The very thing that separated this relationship God and mankind once had together is blemished by our own sin. Yet, God (the Father) so loved the world (humanity) that He gave His only begotten Son (the Christ) that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

To conclude, you must repent and believe in God, so that you can now determine to glorify God in all that you do. The ultimate aim in Christianity is to know God, to be known by God, and to make God known. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels
  2. Genesis 1:26-31
  3. 1 John 4:19
  4. Disclaimer

How Should Christians Talk?

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/27/2019

Within Christian circles, there has been a long and great debate over how we believers should talk. Whether that be with others in social settings, before a congregation at a church, or even by ourselves. There are many sides to this discussion and I think for the sake of brevity, I will outline the more popular sides before giving my two cents on the situation.

Some say that according to such passages of Scripture as Ephesians 4:29-32 and Colossians 3:8, we should not swear or say anything remotely close to “those” words. This is because Paul the Apostle, the author of both Ephesians and Colossians, follows up both passages with a contrast between the old sinful self and the new sanctified self (2). His frequent mention of this spiritual duality puts a special emphasis on outward distinction from how the rest of the world operates. This should presumably include the way we speak.

On the flip side, there are other believers who insist that because the Bible itself and some of its most famous historical figures used swear words (3), like Paul, that we should have the freedom to use them too. Many on this side refer to such passages as 1 Samuel 20:30 and Luke 13:31-32 where people like Jesus seem to use curses towards others as a way of describing them or of telling the truth of a certain situation. They argue that because these heroes of the faith use these sorts of words, that we too should have the freedom to use them as well in the proper context.

Several months ago, I was apart of a great community group at Peace Mennonite Community Church called Thrive and the discussion for one night revolved around “unwholesome” speech. At the time, we were going through the book of Ephesians and this particular night was focused on the latter half of chapter 4. We all gave great and thought-out answers, but today I’ll just share with you my input with the group that night.

There are many passages in the Bible that to me are more profound than other passages because they give insight to who Jesus was during his quieter moments in His 3-year ministry. Moments like that in Mark 10:13-16 where Jesus explains the Kingdom of Heaven to both His disciples and the children that wanted to be there with Him. But the moment that I referenced in this small group was from Matthew 14:13-14.

In this passage of Scripture, Jesus has just received news that one of His dear friends, John the Baptist, has been killed by King Herod. After hearing the awful news, Jesus goes away to a secluded place in Bethsaida and travels there by boat (4). The disciples and apostles went with Him, in order to rest and eat. Not long after arriving there, the crowds showed up and this is the beginning of a more famous part of His ministry where He feeds the 5,000 with loaves of bread and fish.

Now what interests me most about this passage is how Jesus responds to the death of a friend during a very busy and exhausting portion of His ministry. He removes Himself, along with His disciples and John’s closest followers to seek rest. When thinking about how the followers of John the Baptist must have felt during this horrible tragedy, I then turned my focus to what Jesus must have been thinking and/or saying about His good friend. That friend being the very one who baptized Jesus and was there at the very beginning of His ministry.

To be more precise, how did Jesus talk to others, to Himself, or even to His Father in Heaven about His deceased friend while He was on that boat headed to Bethsaida? Was He angry and because of that, spoke curses concerning the situation or towards King Herod? What was His attitude and response? How did He handle the situation?

Branching out even further, how does Jesus speak about you when talking to the Father? How would He talk about you? We should talk, whether in social settings or by ourselves like Jesus would talk in social settings or just by Himself. We should talk to one another and when talking to ourselves like Jesus talked when He was on Earth.

It would appear that the thread that links the way Jesus spoke about anything was that it had to be necessarily true. Necessary in that it needed to be said in that moment of time for that specific situation about those certain persons, places, or things. It also had to be true because Christ Himself claims to be the truth (5), so He cannot do otherwise then speak the truth. In more simpler terms, he said it as it is and/or said what needed to be said.

In fact, this seems to be the pattern with every single word Jesus has ever said. He always only said what was necessary and true. Nothing more and nothing less. Sometimes, it would be blessings onto His most faithful followers and other times it would be curses onto those who knew better than the way they lived. Everything that has ever been said by Christ had to be said the way that it was said and it was always true.

But can the same be said of us when we speak? Do we say what is necessary and true or do we find ourselves saying a bit too much and a bit too little? I think we can all agree that we are the latter. We seem to always say too much or too little, but we never seem to tell the truth enough. We never seem to say what needs to be said. So before you ever ask yourself if you should say this or that word and this or that phrase, ask yourself if it is necessarily true.

Just as the tongue has the power to build up and destroy the subject that stands before it, so too do you have the ability to speak the truth or a lie. To speak life or death and praises or curses. Whatever encounter you find yourself in next, pause and ask yourself this question: is what I am about to say necessary and true? With that said, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. Colossians 3:9-11, Ephesians 4:22-24
  3. https://markoftheredpen.wordpress.com/2013/06/02/curse-words-in-the-bible/
  4. Mark 6:14-32, Luke 9:7-11
  5. John 14:6
  6. Disclaimer

Causation, Karma, and Kung Fu: Dragon (2011) | Film Analysis

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/27/2019

This is the third and final film analysis paper that I wrote while I went to the Colorado Film School. The first two were The Dark Knight: A Scene Analysis and Of Monsters and Men: Trollhunter (2010) | Film Analysis. I wrote this third paper for my Contemporary Global Cinema class, which was taught by Andrew Houston at the time. This paper was originally published on December 7th, 2016 and was one of my last assignments at CFS. Since this is a blog-post and not in the original format, I have made minor revisions to this film analysis to make it up to date with the rest of my blog. With all of that in mind, here is my film analysis:

When considering cinema in general, a quintessential part that is often glossed over is the worldviews that the characters on-screen inhabit. Consider this the subconscious factor in a character’s motivations as they make decisions from both an explicit and implicit sense. In particular, a character’s worldview helps us as the audience understand more fully why a character believes what they believe. Now in the West, the worldviews of a cinematic character are rarely elaborated on, in order to appeal to the broadest audience possible by avoiding points of controversy like religion. So instead, we will look at Eastern cinema for a more fleshed-out look at worldviews in film.

When deciding on which film precisely, I have chosen the Hong Kong movie Wǔ xiá (2011) which is translated into Dragon in the English version. I chose this film because it portrays a great difference in thinking in our two main characters who make for quite the odd couple. The film is about a burglary that takes place at a general store where Donnie Yen’s character, Liu Jin-Xi, works and the aftermath case is investigated by Detective Xu Baijiu played by Takeshi Kaneshiro. The film opens with the inciting incident of the burglary, but what coincides thereafter is an investigation to sort out the loose ends of a peculiar crime scene.

At first it seems that Liu Jin-Xi has, in an attempt to protect the general store, accidentally killed both burglars in some sort of brawl. With too many loose ends, Detective Xu Baijiu looks further into the crime scene only to find that Liu Jin-Xi is actually a former martial artist named Tang Long. As a former martial artist, Long used to be apart of the 72 Demons gang led by his own father, The Master, played by Yu Wang who famously portrayed the One-Armed Swordsman in the 1970’s in a series of Chinese films.

Now the main scene that shows this conflict in worldviews between these two characters is right after Detective Baijiu pushes Long off of a bridge to see if his martial artist theory is correct and if Long intentionally did kill the two burglars. Turning the case from a self-defense to a double homicide, but Long simply falls onto a tree before falling into the river below as the theory appears to now hold no water. Once Long is recovered from the river, wet and shaken up, the two have a conversation over a warm campfire as the sun sets behind them. It is here when the themes of karma and materialism clash as the two converse, revealing their innermost beliefs regarding the world they equally share.

Long begins this discourse as he says “If you hadn’t come today, I wouldn’t have fallen. It’s karma.” Detective Baijiu replies sternly with, “It was an accident.” In response, Long says the following monologue that succinctly presents his perspective on human existence:

“No. What I mean to say is: the fabric of existence is composed of a myriad of karmic threads. Nothing exists in and of itself, everything is connected. For example, if I hadn’t come to this village, I wouldn’t have met Ayu. If her husband hadn’t left her, I wouldn’t have married her. If I hadn’t gone to the store, I wouldn’t have seen the criminals, and they wouldn’t have died. Then you wouldn’t have come here… No one truly has free will. When one man sins, we all share his sin. We are all accomplices.”

So with this knowledge in mind, we now know what Long’s viewpoint in life is and even in his current situation of potentially going to prison for murder. There is a lot to unpack here, but first we need to understand Detective Baijiu’s perspective on both the situation at-hand and his perspective of the world as well. Earlier in the film, as he is attempting to solve the case, he is quoted saying the following during a montage:

“Good or bad, it’s determined by our physiology. The Shanzhong Meridian controls our emotions and gives us empathy. My Shanzhong Meridian is overdeveloped. It makes me too empathetic… my rational self appears separately from me, it tells me human emotions can be altered and controlled by manipulating the Meridian. That’s why I use two needles [for acupuncture therapy]. One is inserted in the Shanzhong, to suppress my empathy, the other in the Tientu to control the poison. You can’t trust humanity. Through science, I’ve discovered only physiology and the law don’t lie.”

When compared side by side the two worldviews bear both commonalities and stark differences. For starters, let’s observe the film from an epistemic perspective and see how their differing worldviews compare to one another. Long grew up in a world outside of modern civilization in rural China. 

A common man that was surrounded by the ancient belief in karma that can be found in Buddhism. “Karma is the law of moral causation” and is a core doctrine of belief within Buddhism (2). Put succinctly, karma is the idea that whatever wrongs or rights that are made in the past will directly affect the present as one is rebirthed. This causational link of events is very much attached to a linear concept of time and thus is limited by that conceptual idea.

To contrast, Detective Baijiu has grown up in a more civilized part of China where Western thought has made its greatest impact: in the city. This influence is what pressed upon Detective Baijiu to adopt some form of a materialistic worldview. Where only matter is reality and everything can be answered through the power of scientific inquiry.

Although his faith in science is a classic example of scientism in action and his version of naturalism is quite common in the West. As a detective, Baijiu also sees the world through a much more pessimistic perspective as most likely in his career he has only seen the worst in people. It must be hard for him to see saints when his job is to stop sinners. The world he sees is only functional and right when the law is firmly established in society and everything lines up.

Now that our two main characters have been briefly described, let’s see what makes this clash in worldviews so unique. How they actually believe almost the exact same thing in the long run, but have differing definitions for their stances in life. Between the two ideologies, they share three distinct similarities with each other that are fundamental to both worldviews: that there is no god, that there is no soul, and that we are bound by circumstantial causation. We will reflect on all three before going full circle and see why at the beginning of the film Long and Baijiu are at odds, but by the end are allies fighting for the same goal. First, we will start with their shared belief in no god(s).

1) There Is No God(s)

Now when the topic of contrasting different religions and belief systems is brought up, the reality of it all is that most of these faiths bear several similarities across the board. Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University, John C. Lennox, remarks on this similarity when he says that “in particular, ancient Near Eastern accounts [on the origins of the universe] typically contain theogonies, which describe how the gods are generated from primeval matter. These gods are, therefore, mere deifications of nature and its powers. This means that such ancient worldviews stand much closer to modern materialism than might at first appear (3).” As odd as it may seem, polytheism and atheism are much closer in relation than one would expect. The same can be said of other pairings like Buddhism alongside materialism.

Both Buddhism and materialism share the belief in no god(s). For materialism, the existence of a non-material deity and/or force somehow living amidst the material or separate from the material is illogical. This is based on the grounds that only matter and the laws therein that bind matter are all that exists in our universe. The affirmation that neither the spiritual nor the supernatural could possibly co-exist within a universe constructed of only matter. Matter is all that there is and all that there ever could be in our reality, according to materialism.

When it comes to Buddhism and whether or not it is a form of theism is a hot-button topic of debate in religious circles. While there are certain factions of Buddhism like Pure Land Buddhism that some suggest as theistic in nature, the vast majority of scholars and Buddhists affirm that Buddhism is very atheistic on a fundamental level. This is because it is silent on the subject regarding the existence of god(s).

As philosopher Ravi Zacharias would put it, “there is no teaching about god in Buddhism… the goal of the faith is to cease desiring (3).” Hence, Buddhism is rooted in the implicit belief that one can be good enough to get to Nirvana without the assistance or grace of god(s). While modern Buddhism may have theistic themes in certain sects, classical Buddhism is strictly atheistic in its origins and fundamental values.

2) There Is No Soul

In regards to the soul, materialism again has the belief that matter is all there is to life in the universe. The soul in its most basic definition is the essence of who we are as individual persons and what makes us human even after our life is over. Materialists, like Baijiu, believe that time itself is the measure that makes our reality real. To say that there is an existence or a life after our own time ends is preposterous to the materialists because everything that is can only exist in the confines of time. We begin. We live. We end. This is an essential truth for the materialist.

For the Buddhist, like Long, the soul is not real and is a fundamental of Buddhism called Anatta meaning “non-self” or “non-soul” that separates Buddhism from the majority of world religions all together. A Buddhist may believe in the ever-present recurrence of the rebirth cycle, but to have an eternal soul is not supported by any Buddhist writings. The soul happens to be an issue that yet again divides Hindus from Buddhists, respectively. On the other hand, it is a second fundamental similarity between both materialists and Buddhists.

3) Circumstantial Causation

At last, we arrive at one more commonality that both Baijiu and Long share and that is this: they both assert strongly the notion of circumstantial causation. A term that I coined to show the parallel between the two and can be taken in the literal sense. In that everything that is caused is the direct result of the circumstances that one may find themselves in or in the long run of their life. For instance, a Japanese woman living in the 1940s may find herself in an internment camp in the Midwestern United States due to the previous circumstances of her living on the Pacific side of the U.S. during World War II. She is simply where she is based off of circumstances that she cannot control because of the ever long list of circumstances that led to this very moment of her imprisonment.

The materialist would respond to a scenario like this and say that this Japanese woman is apart of a less-developed section of the evolutionary tree that is struggling to survive amidst the presence of a stronger branch of human evolution. The Buddhist would reply with the fact that this is happening due to something awful that the Japanese woman did in a previous rebirth and karma is giving her exactly what she deserves. In this same respect, both materialism and Buddhism carry this idea of circumstantial causation into their own belief systems. The materialist has to logically conclude that all humans can do is fit the most basic evolutionary needs with the use of their cognitive faculties guiding them to reproduction and survival of the species. This conclusion follows because naturalism is the underlying force behind materialism in most cases, especially for Baijiu in the film.

Due to the circumstances of previous members of the evolutionary family tree, the modern human has the sole purpose of surviving long enough to reproduce, in order to pass on their genetic makeup onto the more evolved next generation. This cycle of evolution is interestingly similar to the way karmic rebirth plays out in the mind of a Buddhist. We are born due to circumstantial causation and must perform better in this life to guarantee a better life later down the timeline, according to this Eastern philosophy.

An oddity, but nevertheless a similarity between the two differing viewpoints. In other words, natural selection through the process of evolutionary naturalism within a materialistic worldview is identical with Buddhism because karma through the process of rebirth within a Buddhist worldview has the same exact circumstantial causation. Thus, the two belief systems are almost perfectly aligned in this respect.

So how does this culmination of a case in favor of the similarities between materialism and Buddhism connect with the relational dynamic of both Long and Baijiu? Well in the explicit sense, the two are at odds over their differences, yet by the end set their differences aside to fight the ultimate evil: the Master of the 72 Demons. In the implicit sense, could it be a stretch to argue that subconsciously the two figured out their own similarities in their own worldviews throughout the unfolding of the film’s narrative, which led them to fight alongside one another in the end? For Long, a battle for redemption, honor, and family. For Baijiu, a battle for truth, justice, and the survival of the fittest to make way for the next generation.

The two have differing reasons because of differing worldviews during the whole film and yet they work together to stop this evil threat. Why would they do that exactly? The field of sociology might just have the answer. Within sociology, there is the common idea that there are more differences between two people within the same sub-culture than there are between two people in different sub-cultures. Therefore, these two different people, Baijiu and Long, being from two different sub-cultures fought against the Master because they were more aligned than they thought at first. The Master, who was from the same sub-culture that Long was apart of, in the end viewed the world drastically different than the way Long views it and hence they differed so much leading to this battle.

To summarize, at first Baijiu and Long appear to be on opposite ends of the spectrum of worldviews, that is Buddhism and materialism. As seen previously, the two subconsciously may have recognized some similarities in their thinking (i.e. no god(s), no soul, and circumstantial causation) and this led to their teamwork throughout the final battle in Dragon. Which when the title, Wǔ xiá, is translated into English, it means knight-errant. This word equates to a medieval knight or a warrior searching in the hopes of finding an honorable quest.

So two warriors from two polar opposite worldviews are subconsciously looking for something worth fighting for that is greater than themselves. In this instance, beyond the self, in order to bring about a satisfactory end to their individual quests. Baijiu fights in the hopes of eradicating the outlaw to further the human species and Long fights in the hopes of entering Nirvana by fixing the debts of his past life. Together, by the end of the film, the two are walking on their own quests and both have only a few more steps before reaching the end of their journey. Like an ancient Chinese proverb once said, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Dragon (2011)
  2. http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/karma.htm
  3. Seven Days That Divide The World, P. 94
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5jr00Hyk54
  5. Disclaimer

The Book That Made Your World: Review and Summary Part 2

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/27/2019

*Note: this is the final installment of a 2-part series on The Book That Made Your World by Vishal Mangalwadi. If you have not read Part 1, go here.*

books-reading-series-narnia-159778

Chapters 10 – 11: Language & Literature | Photo Cred: (2)

The Bible also changed the way the West developed both our language and our literature as time went on. For instance, due to the efforts of several key missionaries like William Carey, Joshua Marshman, and William Ward, India finally had a national language, instead of hundreds of languages and their nuances that were dependent on their geographical or demographic state.

When it came to literature, the Bible has influenced countless writers varying from William Shakespeare to even the immigrants on the Mayflower that sailed to find home in the New World. This is largely due to it having a ring of truth that other famous works of literature simply lacked. Compared to the Iliad or the many poems of Rabindranath Tagore in his work Gitanjali, the Bible resonates because it stands the test of time as true. The Book of books forever changed the way we communicate through whatever medium we choose to do so. It defined how we tell stories because it is the collection of stories that together tell one, ultimate story. The story of God and His plan to save us from ourselves.

pexels-photo-256262

Chapters 12 – 13: Education & Science | Photo Cred: (3)

In light of this, there was also the profound effect that the Bible had on both the development of the university system and on the scientific method as a whole. As history shows, a good portion of cathedrals and monasteries became universities as Christians at the time believed that we ought to relearn our knowledge of nature. A knowledge that supposedly Adam and Eve had before the Fall as they daily walked with God. Even modern day universities were founded by Christians like Cambridge, Harvard, Oxford, Princeton, and even Yale.

In regards to science, a firm belief in the Bible and God was the very cornerstone of the study in general. John Lennox, professor of mathematics at Oxford University, once said concerning the debate over science and religion that “far from belief in god hindering science, it was the motor that drove it.” At first, science was referred to as natural philosophy and natural history as it branched out from theology. This is because “the scientific perspective flowered in Europe as an outworking of medieval biblical theology nurtured by the Church. Theologians pursued science for biblical reasons” (P. 223).

Francis Oakley has taken the time to observe and validate this claim between the laws of nature (science) and its origin in a Bible-believing culture in his essay entitled Christian Theology and Newtonian Science: The Rise of the Concept of the Laws of Nature (The American Society of Church History, 1961). Later Mangalwadi asserts that “science was born in the university-an institution invented by the church (P. 229).” Some notable founders of science who were also Christians include Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, Nicolaus Copernicus, Robert Boyle, Albertus Magnus, Francis Bacon, and many more as pointed out by Elaine Howard Ecklund in her book Science vs Religion: What Scientists Really Think (2010).

JW_engraving_600

Chapter 14: Morality | Photo Cred: (4)

Morality is another way in which the Bible sculpted the Western way of living, in that there was a return to a more civilized society every time a movement was led by the Holy Spirit and not by the hearsay of men. One notable time that Mangalwadi points out is John Wesley and his impact on England as a socially active preacher. Reminding people that there is a moral law written on the tablet of our hearts. This effect can also be seen when comparing Holland and India in the way the Bible’s influence, or the lack thereof, helped shape these two very different countries.

family-outdoor-happy-happiness-160994

Chapter 15: Family | Photo Cred: (5)

In this day and age, the idea of family is under serious investigation and scrutiny in the West. This is due to the rise in the LGBT+ movement that preaches that all sexual expressions of love are love. That no matter the combination of sexual partners, it still counts as equal to the original idea of what a family looks like.

In the Christian worldview, the monogamous family structure is central to what is directly taught in Scripture. Because of this model of the ideal family structure of one man and one woman in a mutually consensual relationship raising the next generation, the West thrived. As the culture carried on this idea generation by generation, they could rightly live in light of the original intent of God’s grand design. The Bible gave Western society a firm foundation to build a better world and that foundation was a proper understanding of the most functional family structure: the monogamous family.

clasped-hands-comfort-hands-people-45842

Chapter 16: Compassion | Photo Cred: (6)

Shifting his focus, Mangalwadi then pinpoints another key in the difference between those places that are influenced by the Bible and those that are not with the fact that compassion is an essential outpouring of Christian living. Unlike America for example, India has the karmic belief that the needy do not need to be helped because they have received what they sowed. Justice has had its way and the best thing is to let the needy sort out their karmic threads on their own without the aid of the more fortunate.

Yet Christ taught numerously that we ought to love our neighbor as ourselves, to help the poor, to serve the downtrodden, and to not neglect the needs of the weakest links in our own societies. Compassion is a key outpouring of God’s Word penetrating the hearts of humans as they live out what Christ taught. It is for this reason that Christians have made the most homeless shelters, hospitals, and orphanages than any other religious system in history by a long shot.

cyrus-mccormick-1

Chapter 17: Wealth | Photo Cred: (7)

Concerning wealth, Mangalwadi argues that capitalism is a direct result of the Bible’s influence on the West in the economic sense. He believes that because of this influence, it created brilliant inventors like Cyrus McCormick who would go one to revolutionize the way farmers tended to their crops with the invention of horse-driven reapers . Mangalwadi argues that his influences of both growing up in a home that had strong Protestant influences such as John Calvin and his Puritan upbringing made McCormick the man that history knows him as now. Later on in his life, McCormick continued to influence the world by promoting the Bible in the local newspapers and when he changed the name of the Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Chicago to the now McCormick Seminary. True wealth stems from true wisdom and true wisdom is rooted in true worship unto the triune God.

Later on in the chapter, Mangalwadi makes the statement that “ambition is good, but it becomes greed when separated from moral absolutes (P. 321).” The idea of a free market economy and saving wealth for later, instead of either hiding it or throwing it away on quick pleasures was unheard of in these older days. Greed was far more commonplace as the rich would hide their wealth, instead of redistributing it back into the free market. As Ayn Rand would say and Mangalwadi would agree, “happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values.” This specific chapter covers a lot of other ground too like foreign markets and the history of capitalism in the West, but you will have to read the book yourself to find Mangalwadi’s argument on the relation between the Bible and its influence in those areas as well.

Huguenot_Monument

Chapters 18 – 20: Liberty, Missions, & the Future | Photo Cred: (8)

Jumping off of the free market section of the book, Mangalwadi ends by highlighting a few other key places that the Bible has influenced: the idea of liberty, Christian missions, and what lies ahead in the future. On the biblical idea of liberty, Mangalwadi makes the case that only the Bible could drive people like the Huguenots (French Calvinists) to construct the Huguenot monument in South Africa to commemorate their newfound freedom from the Wars of Religion where the strong woman holds a Bible firmly in her left hand. There is a reason Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Politics didn’t stir the hearts of the downtrodden to keep fighting for freedom. Only the Bible could invoke this sense of longing to be free like Adam and Eve once were in the garden of Eden.

On the subject of missions, Mangalwadi tells the story of how the introduction of the Gospel of John revolutionized an extremely remote tribe called the Hmars who lived in the dense forests that rest on the border between Myanmar (Burma) and India. The effect of missions work such as that done for the Hmars tribe is evidence of the effect that the Gospel can radically change even the most primal tribes of people and turn them into much more civilized people with the tools necessary to keep up with an ever changing world.  

Finally, the book ends with where the West is going now that these biblical principles are being abandoned in favor of other more tolerant worldviews. A direction that, if continued, could lead to a social and spiritual decay that we cannot recover from in the near future. Mangalwadi ends with an urgency to remind people of how the West was built in the first place. On the very spine of the Christian Scriptures leading and guiding us from darkness into light.

In summary, the Bible is the most influential book of all time and Mangalwadi does a pretty good job of showcasing that in his book. There is a lot of good information in this book and it’s worth the read for any who are curious on the Bible’s impact on history. Suffice to say, the Bible is the book that made your world. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vishal_Mangalwadi
  2. www.pexels.com
  3. www.pexels.com
  4. https://sites.smu.edu/cdm/bridwell/jwl/
  5. www.pexels.com
  6. www.pexels.com
  7. https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/cyrus-mccormick-6675.php
  8. https://en.wikipedia.org
  9. Disclaimer