Alvin Plantinga + Autism

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 off Alvin Plantinga’s book, Warranted Christian Belief, and came across an interesting statement that Plantinga 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

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Source: Amazon

It is no part of the [Aquinas/Calvin] model to say that damage to the sensus divinitatis (1) 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 was diagnosed for high spectrum autism disorder when I was very young (2), 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 about it and see if someone with malfunctioning cognitive faculties (i.e. autism, mental retardation, etc.) can consciously choose to believe 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 adds

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 of mankind. The unnatural breaking down of the human body as the world gets older and older. The 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?

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Source: Pulpit & Pen

John Piper of Desiring God (3), 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 special needs. If not for having a family member with special needs, 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.

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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, than we have not received the Gospel like a child and thus are not actually Christian.

We have made up our own God at that point because faith in the kingdom of God is childlike, not complicated and complex. 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 special needs 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
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The Thief and the Cross

In light of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, I wanted to take some time to write about the thief on the cross. Originally, I was planning on writing this much sooner in the year, but was too busy helping my church run our youth group winter camp that I had to push it off. So I figured that publishing it this weekend would be an ideal and relevant time.

By thief on the cross, I am referring to one of the two thieves that were crucified with Jesus. One became a believer, while the other did not. So for now, any references to the thief on the cross are towards the thief that became a believer.

Why Were People Crucified?

Bart-d-ehrman-2012-wikipedia
Bart D. Ehrman, PhD | James A. Gray Distinguished Professor University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

This thief on the cross is an interesting figure in the historical account of the crucifixion of Jesus, but is often overlooked in the grand scheme of things. He most likely would have been a Jewish man due to a number of factors like his belief in one God (1) and his familiarity with the teachings of Jesus about the kingdom of Heaven (2), along with his punishment. Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar, points out the uniqueness of the crucifixion and why only a certain group of people would receive this form of punishment when he writes

Crucifixion was reserved for special cases. But there were lots of special cases. Two of the most common were low-life criminals and enemies of the state. These are two very different matters – they are not the same thing… This was especially the case – I reiterate – for enemies of the state. Rare exceptions might be made for low-life criminals – escaped slaves, horse thieves, general riff-raff who did not matter to anyone in power (3).”

In other words, the two thieves were most likely crucified for either stealing something very valuable like horses as their names would suggest or for being insurgents that were sworn enemies of the state. Regardless of why they were hung in the first place, these two men died alongside Jesus and witnessed His final moments before His death. This will be the bedrock with which the rest of this blog-post will rely on as a foundation moving forward.

Artistic Depictions of Christ’s Crucifixion

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What is also of note is how artists depict where the three are in different works of art. For instance, Peter Paul Rubens and Titian seem to have placed the thief on the cross to the right of Christ, while the proud thief is to His left. This deliberate creative choice of putting the thief on the cross beside the right hand of God is significant.

In both Judaism and Christianity, to be on the right hand of God was a sign of God’s “ruler-ship, authority, sovereignty, blessing, and strength and is significant in Scripture (4).” We can see this in many places in the Bible such as Psalm 110:1b where it says “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” To be fair, there are other works of art like Rembrandt van Rijn’s Christ Crucified between the Two Thieves: The Three Crosses (5) that appears indifferent to where each thief is in the picture and is rightly so focused on Christ Himself.

Likewise, James the brother of Jesus once wrote “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you (6).” It would seem that in the spirit of this passage and the current state of the thief on the cross, that Rubens and Titian visually depicted what was spiritually taking place inside this thief’s soul. That as the thief on the cross was up there next to Jesus, his heart and mind were radically changed. A series of events that brought this man to a point of understanding.

Things like Jesus asking for the forgiveness of His executioners (7), soldiers dividing His garments by way of casting lots, and those passing by railing blasphemous statements towards Christ in a taunting way (8) all occurred before the thief on the cross had a change of heart. In the Gospel of Matthew (9), it even records both thieves mocking Jesus until a certain point where only the proud thief is left to mock Jesus. Sometime between both thieves mutually mocking Jesus and the one thief continuing to mock Him, was there a sharp change in attitude from the thief on the cross.

A Change of Heart

What happened so suddenly that a thief dying on a cross would suddenly have a complete change in how he perceived Jesus? I’d argue it is a combination of moments, but for now we will only focus in on one. What Jesus said and how He acted during this whole ordeal.

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Anatomical Crucifixion Sketch | Jacques Gamelin, 1779 (11)

Just for a little more context, their punishment by way of crucifixion was not so nice. In fact, it was one of, if not the most painful form of torture at that time. According to Maslen and Mitchell’s article written in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (10), crucifixion had many cruel ways of ending one’s life.

Some of those causes of death may have been, but are not limited to acidosis, arrhythmia plus asphyxia, cardiac rupture, hypovolemic shock, and so on. Death by crucifixion was a brutal, yet extremely prolonged way to die. For some, they died in a matter of hours. For others, they died in a matter of days.

I believe of the three events that took place before the thief on the cross had a change of heart, the moment of Jesus forgiving His executioners had the most impact on the thief. Christ’s response showed the thief a direct contrast to the way He lived His own life. A seed of regret was planted.

Jesus forgave those that were killing Him. The two thieves probably hated those that were crucifying them. Jesus was known as an exorcist and a teacher who wanted to help the poor and sick. The two thieves were most likely men that spent the majority of their lives only helping themselves.

As if the name was any indication, these thieves were probably selfish. Christ was selfless. The thieves died for crimes they committed. Jesus died for crimes we committed. For the thief on the cross and from his perspective, this man was different in almost every single way from him and the other thief. They deserved this death, but Jesus didn’t.

This strong distinction between a thief and the giver of eternal life is a drastic black-and-white difference. One died for taking that which was someone else’s, while the other died for giving all that He had for others. This I believe is what changed the thief on the cross from mocking Jesus to defending Him in front of everyone.

By everyone, I mean everyone. Gentiles and Jews. Pharisees and Roman soldiers. Family, friends, neighbors, and so on. Everyone there at the crucifixion knew of or had heard of these three crucified men and were probably shocked watching the thief on the cross have a change of heart. A thief for the first time encountering something he had never seen before: unlimited love in response to unbridled hate. The love of God in reaction to the darkest of human deeds. The Gospel happening before his very eyes.

The short story of the thief on the cross ends in a profound way. Luke chronicles the rest of that story when he writes

But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise (12).””

In response to the thief’s change of heart and his humble demeanor, God gives Him grace. A grace that surpasses all understanding. This is the thief and the cross. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Luke 23:40
  2. Luke 23:42
  3. https://ehrmanblog.org/why-romans-crucified-people/
  4. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christiancrier/2015/06/13/what-does-the-right-hand-symbolize-or-mean-in-the-bible/
  5. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/41.1.31/
  6. James 4:6-8b
  7. Luke 23:34
  8. Luke 23:35-37
  9. Matthew 27:44
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1420788/
  11. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/historicalanatomies/gamelin_home.html
  12. Luke 23:40-43

The Cosmo-Quattro Argument

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, because I’m notorious for posting extremely long comments when in a dialogue online, I have had to write my comments on Google Docs before copying and pasting them into discussions.

I wrote this particular response on Google Docs as well and have just kept it over the years in my Google Drive. Also, I name all of my own arguments and this one I called the Cosmo-Quattro Argument because it sounded really cool at the time. 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 the late and great 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 paints 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 succinctly put, 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 (1). 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. “We love because He first loved us” (2). 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 Judeo-Christianity is to know God, to be known by God, and to make God known. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.”

Footnotes

  1. Genesis 1:26-31
  2. 1 John 4:19
  3. Disclaimer

How Should Christians Talk?

Photo Cred: (1)

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 of 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 of importance 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 (4) and travels there by boat. 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 (i.e. the Pharisees). 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 that we know of as is written in the Christian Scriptures. 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.

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. Nevertheless, 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

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 and this class was taught by Andrew Houston at the time. It 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 English. 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 he truly did intentionally 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 of sorts:

“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 foundational doctrine of belief within Buddhism (1). 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 an idolatrous logical fallacy at best 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 based off of the story they are apart of, 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 seeing 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).

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 (2).” In short, as odd as it may seem, polytheism and atheism are much closer in relation than one would expect and the same can be said of other pairings like Buddhism alongside materialism.

Both Buddhism and materialism share the fundamental commonality that they both hold to 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.

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 exists solely 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.

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 the moment or in the long run of their life. For instance, a Japanese woman 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 the duration of 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 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. http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/karma.htm
  2. Seven Days That Divide The World, P. 94
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5jr00Hyk54
  4. Disclaimer

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

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*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.*

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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.

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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).

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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 and the surrounding area as a preacher and social activist. 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.

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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 awareness of 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.

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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.

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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.

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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 firmly a Bible 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. 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 and into the light.

In summary, the Bible is the most influential book of all time and Mangalwadi does a pretty good job of showcasing that in this 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

 

To the Bride and Groom

Photo Cred: www.pexels.com

Recently, my friend David got married and it got me thinking about marriage in general. If someone was to tell me something I needed to know before I ever got married, in order for a successful marriage, what would I need to hear? What is something every couple needs to know and have in mind before their wedding day? Well, I would want realistic expectations and some sort of idea of what will happen regardless of what that marriage turns out to be in the future. Something that needs to be known before “just married” becomes “married.”

As I have observed other marriages in my life, I have noticed five things that every marriage faces. Five obstacles that can repair or ruin this intimate relationship. These obstacles are communication, finances, intimacy, society, and worldview. Every couple will face one, if not, all five of these types of obstacles during the duration of their marriage. So for those of you who are either a) going to be married or b) just got married, then this blog-post is for you.

1) Communication

The obstacle of communication revolves around the issue of who matters more in this conversation: me, you, or us. The answer is us, not you or me. It’s called a team effort for a reason: teams communicate well because they have to, in order to win. Likewise, spouses communicate well, in order to maintain their marriage.

In marriage, everything you and your spouse do in life from now on will be communicated one way or the other. There are always going to be two types of marriages: those that communicate well and those that communicate poorly. Which marriage do you want?

By taking the effort to communicate well with your spouse on little things, you won’t have to worry when big situations come up. You will have all of that discipline to not only speak openly, but also to listen actively. All good marriages have a great sense of communication. Does yours? Will yours? If not, say something to your spouse or spouse-to-be and work on being better before it’s too late.

2) Intimacy

The obstacle of intimacy is a matter of understanding love and then living that out practically. Love at its core is sacrificial. Christ was sacrificed because of God’s love for us, even while we were in sin. The husband is commanded to follow this example and sacrificially love his wife.

Likewise, Christ respects His Father in Heaven. The wife is commanded to follow this example and respectfully love her husband. The answer to the obstacle of intimacy in marriage is sacrificially loving your lover with consistency. Better to have loved too much than to have never loved someone enough.

3) Finances

The obstacle of finances is a problem rooted in a combination of faithfulness, honesty, and wisdom. If you are faithful with little, then you can be faithful with much. Whether that be saving, spending, or investing, your faithfulness in finances will translate into honest use of your money as one couple. This faithfulness and honesty will in turn become wisdom in all of your financial endeavors.

I’ve seen countless couples who have a horrible marriage because of the tensions of bad financial decisions. This can lead them to either go broke or divorce. Don’t be them. Prepare ahead of time for the financial emergencies and general costs of marriage before they happen. Save, spend, and invest wisely while you have the advantage at the beginning of your marriage, not after you have already dug your financial ruin like everybody else. Be wise by making financially wise decisions in marriage.

4) Society

When two families join together and become in-laws to one another, this can be both bad and good. The obstacle of society is the social pressures of maintaining the expectations of those closest to you. This could be your in-laws, your family, your friends, or even your “public image” on social media.

First and foremost, live out the expectations for marriage as instructed by God before you ever listen to anyone else. Everyone else’s opinions on your marriage can wait as you listen to the LORD’s instruction. God’s expectations should be your standard for how your marriage should look and be perceived by others.

On the other hand, when two families unite through marriage you will inherit newfound responsibilities that you should certainly prepare for now rather than later. These are natural and should be celebrated new changes in your new life together. Nevertheless, marriage is two people married under God and it doesn’t have any wiggle room for control-freak family members, friends, or nosy neighbors to nitpick your every decision. If you follow God first and then listen to others, you’ll be just fine.

5) Worldview

The obstacle of worldview is a problem that deals with how the home will be run. How does your worldview align with your spouse? Do you share the same worldview or do they differ? Are you both Buddhist or Christian? Atheist or Muslim?

You need to be aware of the fact that if you both have differing worldviews, it will be much harder to run the home as a team because of the disagreements that can arise in different ideologies. It is crucial to keep in mind how each other’s worldview will impact the other as you both grow closer together. Your combined worldviews are the foundation for the way your new life together will turn out. If you have no foundation, how can you even begin to build a home? Start with a firm foundation and work from there. Know your spouse and allow yourself to be known by your spouse. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

 

Thank You, Nabeel Qureshi

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Dear Dr. Nabeel Qureshi,

Recently, the world has been at a loss for words on your tragic passing from this life into the better life to come for all who follow Christ. You had a long fight with stomach cancer and now you have entered into eternal rest with our LORD. Those that knew you mourn your loss, but also know that you are in a far greater place than we could ever imagine.

With that said, your recent transition from this earthly life into eternal life has caused me to reflect on your impact on my life. How I was first introduced to you through Dr. David Wood and his ministry on YouTube that uses apologetics to reach the Muslim community. A ministry that might just have the greatest bromance in apologetic history as well. The friendship that you and David had in the LORD was unparalleled. You both displayed what it truly means to have a brother in Christ.

It was these moments and more that you showed all of us how to speak the truth in love in a practical way. Like when you had a formal debate with the famous Muslim apologist, Dr. Shabir Ally (2). A highly respectable figure within academia and a great debater, to say the least. Even then, you stayed civil and Christ-like in spite of the challenge of debating such an accomplished public speaker like Ally.

The greatest lesson you showed me was to always have compassion and love for those who do not know Christ. To build a bridge and reach people where they are at was so inspiring. To love people like Christ did was evidence enough of how much Jesus has changed you to be more and more conformed to His image. I have never met you on this side of eternity, but I can’t wait to meet you on the other side.

In short, thank you. Thank you for being a role model to apologists on how to intellectually engage others in love. Thank you for showing us believers what it truly means to live both a life of conviction concerning the great commission and joy in the grace of our LORD. Thank you for showing non-believers what it means to truly love your enemies as you loved those that hated you for leaving Islam. Thank you, Nabeel Qureshi. You may have lost the battle with cancer, but Christ has won your soul. Rest in peace, Dr. Qureshi. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. David Wood (Facebook)
  2. https://youtu.be/FWpqqqZn7Kg
  3. Disclaimer

The Greater Than Argument

A while back I wrote an argument for the doctrine of the Trinity called The Lovely Trinity Argument (1) and it was okay in retrospect. After further study and improvement in philosophical argumentation, I have a second argument for the doctrine of the Trinity. This new argument is called The Greater Than Argument. The argument goes as follows:

The Greater Than Argument

By Christopher Cribari

  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 God’s multi-personal nature.
  5. Therefore, God is a tri-unity of persons, yet remains one nature.

Now this argument is meant to be presented after belief in God is philosophically proven. This can be done by showing the person that you are talking to any number of arguments for the existence of God. In the spirit of my argument, I think the Kalam-Cosmological Argument (2) makes the most sense as a foundation to then build off of and further understand who God logically must be if they exist. Although, one could just as easily use Norris Clarke’s World as an Interacting Whole Argument (3) or Peter Kreeft’s version of The Change Argument (4) first proposed by Thomas Aquinas in his famous Five Ways collection of philosophical arguments.

On the flip side, I also have in addition to the original Greater Than Argument, made an alternative version that is simply called The Alternate Greater Than Argument. This alternate version is more so meant to be used in broader contexts, but still requires a logical building block to be placed upon in order to work correctly in dialogue. The Alternate Greater Than Argument goes as follows:

The Alternate Greater Than Argument

By Christopher Cribari

  1. Every human is a single person.
  2. If God exists, then they would have to be greater than a human.
  3. If real, God would be multi-personal.
  4. The Christian Trinity is the best explanation of both God’s existence and His  multi-personal nature.
  5. Therefore, God is a tri-unity of persons, yet remains one nature.

The basic concept for my Greater Than Argument was inspired by many things, but mostly Alvin Plantinga’s philosophical work in general and a YouTube video from InspiringPhilosophy called “The Trinity Explained” (5). I’d highly recommend those resources, along with James White’s book, The Forgotten Trinity, that you can buy anywhere books are sold (6). Both arguments have the exact same conclusion and start with the same first premise. Where they differ is in their next three premises, in order to get to the same conclusion.

It’s probably not going to become the most groundbreaking development in defense of the doctrine of the Trinity, but I would say it is a vast improvement over my first argument. Not only in its more focused nature, but also for the fact that it is a third of the length of that first argument (i. e. A 15 point argument vs. a 5 point argument). So the use of The Greater Than Argument and/or The Alternate Greater Than Argument in discussion will be far easier to defend in a dialogue, rather than The Lovely Trinity Argument because of those two primary reasons mentioned above. Because the argument is shorter and more to the point, the defending apologist has more time to support their view by focusing on a combination of logic, Scripture, and everything of that sort.

Maybe you may find it useful to use or might figure out a better way of defending the doctrine of the Trinity. Regardless, I hope it helps you out in some way. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. https://chriscribariblog.com/2016/01/
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CulBuMCLg0
  3. http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#8
  4. http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm#1
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0G2S5ziDcO0
  6. https://www.amazon.com/Forgotten-Trinity-James-R-White/dp/1556617259

“Gideon, Get’ Em!” Part II: The Hero’s Journey Begins (Judges 6:11-18)

 

Updated: 11/4/2017 | Photo Cred: (1)

The first installment of “Gideon, Get’ Em!” focused on the general background of the book of Judges and set the stage for God to raise up the next judge of Israel: Gideon. This time, we meet the hero of our series. The chosen one if you will that God appoints to do His will in saving the Israelites from certain death. Without jumping too far ahead, let’s read the text for this portion of the series.

“Then the angel of the LORD came and sat under the oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press in order to save it from the Midianites. The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, “The LORD is with you, O valiant warrior.” Then Gideon said to him, “O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” The LORD looked at him and said, “Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?” He said to Him, “O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.” But the LORD said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man.” So Gideon said to Him, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who speak with me (NASB Judges 6:11-18).””

There is a lot to go over in this passage. Let’s start with the simple stuff, then progress from there. References to “the angel of the LORD” are Christophany moments. A Christophany is an Old Testament appearance of Jesus the Christ and this is when Jesus is physically present in history. This occurs a few times in the Old Testament (2). These are also a foreshadowing of later on in history when the Word became flesh (3) and paid the debt of humanity by atoning for all the sins of mankind.

It’s always awesome to see God interact with His creation in such interesting ways, yet at the same time in ways that the people of that time could relate too. For Joshua, a soldier, God appeared as a soldier. For Jacob (4), He appeared as a man busting Jacob’s hip in a wrestling match. Living under the New Covenant, we too interact with God in ways that on a person-to-person basis, makes sense to us.

When I got saved and came to Christ, I was compelled by the way the Bible was written as a storyteller reading the ultimate story. I was so enthralled by God’s Word when I became a believer that I read the entire book of Genesis the night of my conversion. It was so enthralling! To see the greatest storyteller unveil just a snippet of His master plan was exciting to say the least reading it for the first time.

Although no one living today is apart of the A-Story found in the Bible, we all are apart of the B-Story in history, otherwise known as history or His-Story. The A-Story is a film term referring to the journey the protagonist takes during the duration of a film. The B-Story is the side story that at first, seems unrelated to the A-Story, until it’s tied together at the end of the film with the A-Story. That’s what we are right now. Chugging along through our own B-Stories waiting to enter Heaven and see where our story fits alongside God’s A-Story.

It’s a very interesting time to be in because we look back at the A-Story revealed so far (the Bible, excluding Revelation & the prophecies to be fulfilled, history/the past, etc.) and then look at our own B-Stories, feeling useless in the grand scheme of things. It honestly is really hard sometimes because it’s like we’re on the sidelines learning about “real Christians” like King David and John the Baptist who did incredible things in God’s A-Story. But rest assured, God promises in His Word that all things will be worked together for those that follow Christ (5). Just remain faithful in living out your B-story and one day God will reveal your essential role in His A-Story when we enter His Kingdom.

Something else of note in this passage is how we are introduced to our hero of our story. It’s the perfect example of the humble-beginnings type of hero. Gideon is found serving his household diligently beating his wine-press, in order to hide wheat from the clutches of the Midianites. I like how bible-history.com describes this moment as the following: “Gideon, in order to avoid being seen by the Midianites, beat out his wheat in a wine-press instead of threshing it on the threshing-floor,” which is not usual because in those times someone would thresh the floor, not beat the winepress. In other words, Gideon was scared out of his mind and arguably should be with the life he has being so insignificant in the grand scheme of things from his perspective. The Midianites were going to take all that they could consume, so he tried to hide it from them.

Gideon is the Luke Skywalker of this story: a nobody going nowhere in life. Or so he thought. He was the youngest son in his family (v15), of a family of little to no name in society or Israel for that matter (v15), is most likely tired of living out his B-Story compared to past mighty people of God who had great triumphs (v13), and has doubts when it comes to miracles (v13). It’s understandable that Gideon would complain to the LORD about his B-Story when the A-story looks so awesome.

Little did he know that his B-Story was about to become an essential part of the A-Story. You see in the kingdom of God, the bench-warmers are the starters and the starters are the bench-warmers. God loves to use the foolish in the world’s eyes to shame the wise of this world (6). It’s kind of God’s favorite method: using the broken to fix a broken world. So too, Gideon is our broken protagonist who God has chosen as the centerpiece vessel for His plan of redemption for Israel. What happens next in this encounter is the first few steps in the master plan from the master.

The LORD comes to Gideon in verse 12 and starts the conversation with “The LORD is with you, O valiant warrior.” As if Gideon was some valiant warrior to begin with, which he was not, and the following conversation between the two seems to imply this truth. Just on a side note, it’s always interesting when God will call someone by what they will be one day as if they already are this position or title. Since our timelines are linear and God is outside of time, he can look at our entire timeline, instead of us who only see the pieces of the past or present. So from God’s point of view, Gideon is a valiant warrior. He just does not know it yet.

Back to the text, Gideon responds with basically “God, you left us and now we’re doomed. What happened to all of those promises you said you would keep and the things you did for us in the past” (v13)? At this point in time, Gideon seems quite frustrated and afraid of the future believing the worst is to come for Israel. But God has other plans, so He presses with His proposed plan: “Gideon, you’re the chosen one. I picked you to save Israel. Go as you are to do My will” (v14). Then Gideon wines like a Skywalker about how unprepared he is to do God’s will (v15), so the LORD replies with “Dude, I’m God. They will lose” (v16). Next, Gideon is like “Alright God, if it’s really you, then show me somehow. Please stay, so that I can build you something cool and then show you my cool thing” (v17). The LORD ends the conversation with “Yeah, sure thing Gideon.”

Now that’s my own paraphrase of their conversation, but you get the idea. God wants to use Gideon. Gideon wants to water his dirt farm. God tells him to stop being a dweeb. Gideon listens to God and goes to get some power-converters. You get the jist of it. So Gideon heads out to go and prepare this offering for God, while God stays around for the offering. Come back next time as we observe what happens next in the life of Gideon as his B-Story ends and his A-Story begins. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!

Footnotes

  1. https://glitchup.com/2017/08/30/luke-skywalker-looking-like-true-jedi-knight-newly-released-image/
  2. Genesis 18:1-33, Joshua 5:13-6:5
  3. John 1:1
  4. Genesis 32:22-30
  5. Romans 8:28
  6. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29
  7. Disclaimer