God as The Beginning: a brief rebuttal against the logical treatment of God’s conception


I love studying philosophy.

Give me a 50-page treatise from pretty much any period before the 21st century and I promise I’ll be content. Ecstatic even. There’s just something deliciously delectable about the documented progression of modern rationality; about deductive reasoning and empirical argumentation…

Even so, my pseudo addiction hasn’t quite convinced me of Reason’s infallibility. I’ve taken note of its entirely unavoidable presence in mathematics, physics, economics, astronomy, sociology and so forth, but I am no closer to believing in its flawlessness than I am to believing in an undeniably real tooth fairy. Aside from the fact that modern rationality seems to have been “constructed” throughout history, support of my denial also takes the form of recent scientific discovery. Philosophers and scientists alike are still having trouble–after almost a decade– explaining how Bose-Einstein condensates can reasonably exist in two places at once. It’s counter-intuitive. And even more shockingly: it’s irrational.

But most of us will contently wave this off as a mere stumbling block in the open, pitted road from inquiry to certainty. They just haven’t found the answer yet, but there’s got to be some logical structure to the way the material world exists in the atomic realm.

However, I wonder how many of us can comfortably entertain the thought that logic just might not be able to account for everything. Maybe there are some things that just aren’t meant to make sense, that aren’t meant to fit into our comfortable little system of hypothesis/premise-to-conclusion relations.

As I entertain such an arguably unconventional thought, I’m reminded of the contenders who have attempted to rationalize God’s conception. Even now, I can hear several proclamations and smug remarks:

So, you really believe God just popped up out of no where?

He HAD to have come from something! The laws of physics say so!

It just isn’t logical to believe that something came from nothing.

I chuckle inside. These spokespersons of science and logic really think they’ve got it all figured out. If it can’t be deduced and explained by empirical evidence, it and anyone that holds it to be true is literally ridiculous.

If God and His conception can’t be deduced and explained by empirical evidence, He and everyone that holds Him to be Truth is ridiculous.

To be arrogant enough to believe that we can really explain how God came to be is just hilarious to me. I liken it to a bunch of ants trying to explain how the heck a group of giant beings with no exoskeletons miraculously ended up making camp next to their miniature hillside. That’d be a rather ambitious endeavor, no?

But if we (and by “we” I mean “those haughty spokespersons of science and logic”) are really determined to even ATTEMPT to explain how God came to be, I’d venture to call our attention to a familiar God-reference: the Alpha, the beginning [Rev 22:13]. I find the subsequent line of reasoning rather simple. If God IS the beginning, He is HIS beginning and, therefore, has no OTHER (separate) beginning or source of inception. He has always been, always is and always will be.

That, of course, doesn’t “make sense”, but it’s what the Word says (…and, yes, I reserve the right to save my justification for believing in the accuracy of an anthropomorphic literary artifact for another blog post).

I’d even go so far as to say that its senselessness only adds to its beauty. Who or what else can attest to being responsible for its own conception? Nothing. And that’s swag and pretty dope. Or …. gangster [is that what the kids are calling it nowadays]?

Needless to say but nonetheless worth saying: I am thoroughly intrigued by and content with how God “came to be”.

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Self-Confrontation to Transformation: uprooting my mistrust in God


I’ve had to start a rather painful self-evaluative thought-process this past month.

And it began with the realization that I’ve been struggling, immensely, with trusting God.

Now, this was only the first step in my kind of internal inventory, but it was the most difficult to get past. The idea of being unable to trust the Sustainer of the universe, my Redeemer, my Provider, was crippling. How on earth did I get to such a place of fear and mistrust? What had caused me to reason against God time and time again- even when He’s proven Himself more frequently that I could ever count?

Luckily, I didn’t get stuck in this place of self-loathing for too long. Yes, my mistrust didn’t make sense in the greater scheme of all I had seen God accomplish through and for me, but there had to be a cause. There had to be a reason.

And that’s when my mind shifted to painful thoughts of my father.

I recalled weeks upon weeks in my youth spent waiting for him to fulfill promises from summers I could no longer remember, waiting for him to make phone calls I subconsciously knew he’d ever make. I recalled the moment when my last bit of respect and trust for my father slipped from the seams of my heart: sitting on the stoop of my home, mouth agape, stunned that he had called me on my thirteenth birthday only to rush me through a phone call that had nothing to do with my special day.

Nothing.

And in the midst of all my recollection, I conquered another pivotal point in my introspective process: I’d personified God to the point of meshing His work in my life with the deeds of my father.

And, of course, this epiphany triggered yet another series of questions. The mistrust I’d generated for my father was fueled by unfulfilled expectations on his part. I’d expected he’d keep his promises, make a phone call or two, but he didn’t. He let me down. So, I had to pause and wonder just what had I expected God to do that He (allegedly) did not do? What expectations had I set for God that He (supposedly) didn’t meet?

Did they have anything to do with those moments I thought I needed Him and He (supposedly) didn’t show; moments like the ones I spent in depression and self-hatred, moments in overwhelming anger, moments in pain? Did they have anything to do with the little things I ‘knew’ He could accomplish but chose not to? Perhaps it was that credit card I lost or maybe that exam I didn’t get a satisfactory grade on? Was it the job I didn’t get? The opportunity that passed me by?

Seems I’ve expected God to achieve plenty in my life-

most of which was probably not in His plan for me

or simply things I could have achieved for myself.

Perhaps I’ve been treating God more like Santa than the Sustainer of the Universe. Perhaps I’ve been rattling off a list of things I’ve wanted Him to do holding declarations of my Love for Him in silent captivity. Or perhaps I should have been more concerned with obeying Him instead of making foot-dragging sacrifices in hopes of getting a reward.

Yet another pivotal point.

It turns out that I’ve been making a tragic error in my conceptualization of God. Aside from fashioning Him into a kind of dream caster and wish machine, I’d forgotten my reasonable retribution for His love for me. I’d forgotten to pray without ceasing, to love my neighbor as I love myself, to stir the Holy Spirit, to give thanks for His goodness, to be joyful, to keep His praises in my mouth at all times. I’d forgotten all of the easy things He’s required of me. All of them.

No wonder I haven’t been able to trust Him. I’ve never been able to truly LOVE Him. This isn’t just apparent in my inability to do what He’s required of me but also in my mental and emotional personification of Him. I’ve been treating God like I’ve treated my father; confused His identity and, therefore, misunderstood His operation in my life. I’d expected God to keep promises I expected Him to keep instead of the ones He actually made. I had expected Him to do things when I wanted Him to instead of when His Will ordained it. I had recreated myself, mentally, as a passive receiver of His gifts and favor instead of actively relating with Him. I had rendered myself helpless and neglected instead of constantly seeking His presence and dwelling there.

Looks like this has been more than an issue of mistrust.

This has been an identity crisis.

***
This journey of introspecting is still in motion and I suspect that it’ll involve some major work and self-confrontation. Now that I’ve evaluated my expectations of God and how He operates in my life, I’ll have to look deeper into what I believe about His power. After all, in treating Him like my father, it seems I’ve made some judgments about His capability and wherewithal when it comes to moving in my life. I’ll have to really study His Word, figure out what His power means and, considering the damage, that’ll be tough.

But what else is worth more than getting to the root of the thing keeping me from reaching my full potential in relationship with Him? What’s worth more than the hard work of self-confrontation ahead?

Nothing.

Let the transformation begin.

Aesthetics: Understanding Expressionism


Albert Gleizes, “Portrait” (Head in Landscape), 1912–13. The Guggenheim Museum, New York.

There is indeed something phenomenal that occurs within the aesthetic experience. As witnessed through the lens of Expressionism, this is an experience that is multilayered and all but simple, an intricate dance of conception upon the tiers of our emotions, performed by artist and audience alike.

While our initial reaction to this phenomenal experience is often limited to marvel and the desire to possess it, the demands of the philosophical journey lure us into a deeper understanding of its nature. We begin with the task of unraveling and describing this experience, labeling concepts and clarifying ideas. We continue by identifying the inherent flaws of these ideas, pinpointing their incertitude and tracking it back to its source. We end with a brief exploration and assessment of this source, a task that will ultimately add to the inceptive wonder and awe summoned by its impression upon us.

As the occasion requires, we must first describe and clarify the aesthetic experience as discerned by the Expressionist. As achieved from the Expressionist’s perspective, engaging with a piece of art involves the internalization of the emotion it possesses and evokes. This notion of the art experience presupposes that art is expressive- not merely imitative. Art, in this sense, is an active portal for the aesthetic experience. It ushers people into feelings of sadness or cheer, experiences of celebration or nostalgia. It connects the audience with the artist via the mutual understanding of these feelings and experiences; materializes them and gives them the capacity to be remembered. This- as understood and enacted by the Expressionist- is the core of the aesthetic experience, the allure of the dance: emotion and experience, originally conceived by the artist, is transferred to and understood by the audience through art.

Upon the surface, this description of the aesthetic experience seems adequate, but there is a bit of incertitude that lurks between its lines. Naturally, one may wonder if this description suggests that literally anything responsible for the arousal of feeling or vicarious experience can be called ‘art’. Could we say then that a thrilling ride at the amusement park is ‘art’ because of the fear and excitement it evokes? What can we say of opiate or hallucinogenic drugs? Are these things ‘art’ because of their capacity to make us feel a certain way?  One may even ask if the author of these creations- the artist- must create these things while consumed by the emotion these things convey in order for their craft to be called ‘art’. Would the audience of or participants in these things be able to conceptualize said emotion if the artist was not feeling it during the creation process? And furthermore, how is it exactly that the audience is even capable of achieving this? How exactly do we know what the artist feels?

As the philosophical journey propels us further into the depths of understanding this experience, we are simply unable to logically affirm the notions implied by these inquiries. Even through mundane reasoning, one can certainly figure that thrill rides and drugs are not ‘art’. While ‘art’ does, in fact, conjure up very specific and often intentional emotion (as can be rationally said of thrill rides and drugs), the achievement of this feat and the process it requires is distinct from that of a thrill ride’s conception. It would also be rather dishonest to say that an artist is required to feel what his art conveys in order for his art to do so. Nor must an observer feel what art conveys in order to know what it is conveying. Such notions are the byproduct of a rather distorted understanding of the aesthetic experience itself. The emotions conveyed in art seem to be intimately espoused to the people who experience them. As such, they are internal and personal. They may even seem one-dimensional and restricted to a precise form inception, which lends to the notion that one cannot feel anything other than what’s conveyed in art in order to create it or be knowledgeable of it. While these notions are seemingly legitimate, they are all false and can be traced back to the distortion of one important principle.

The cues leading to the recognition of the emotions conveyed in art are not located solely within the people involved. They are, in fact, fused into the perceptual material of the artwork- into the lines, forms, colors, and shading itself. Understanding this principle unravels and inadvertently clarifies art by disqualifying things like thrill rides and drugs from possessing its specification. It reclaims the autonomy of art, which was subtly pirated by the idea of transferring emotion from artist to audience through art. This reorientation of emotive cues lends to the conventional nature of emotion- a direct parallel to art itself. Emotions may themselves be objective in nature, meaning that they exist in exact and specific form according to their purpose. However, the expression of emotion cannot attest to bearing the same feature. Emotional expression requires a mutual understanding between expresser and observer that this is what this expression means. It requires knowing what the emotion is– not in an objective sense, but as the appropriate convention dictates. If sadness is a droopy face and dark colors, it will likely be expressed this way. If cheer is a brightened, smiling demeanor and vibrant colors, it too will lend itself to this expression and be recognized as such. Understanding this is simply crucial to seeing the aesthetic experience through the Expressionist’s eyes. Without it, the experience remains distorted and, thus, foreign, failing to be fully understood.

Taking this philosophical journey into the aesthetic experience- as witnessed by the Expressionist- only reaffirms its wonder by infusing authenticity into its foundation. It permits us to venture beyond the initial awe of the experience and into the conceptual dissonance it entails until we arrive at the crucial principle it rests upon. Through this process we raise art from a mere portal of emotional conveyance to a conceptual ballroom within which artist and audience whirl and cavort about the conventions they share. Although we are tempted to think otherwise, this journey- our exploration of the inner workings of the mere engagement of art- does not diminish the admiration it invokes. It doesn’t cause us to marvel less at the sensations sparked by its experience or transform it into something less fortunate and worthwhile. In actuality, it rids the aesthetic experience of the mistruths assigned to it in ignorance. It refines its representation. It embellishes it.

The Dissociative Property: a crisis of unity in the church (Part 1)


The spatial relationships within the Christian Community.

I worry about the current state of the Christian community- more specifically the Black Christian Community. We’ve reached a point where the concept of privacy has taken complex form and it’s hurting us more than we often realize.

For example, I’m sure we’re all familiar with the phrase “that’s none of my business…”. There are many variations, but they all seem to point in the same direction: detachment.

“Girl, did you see so-‘n-so earlier? She’s been lookin’ so sad lately…”

“Mm-mm, girl… that’s none of my business.”

***

“Now, I know it’s not THAT dark in here. What’s she doin’ with those big ‘ole glasses on?”

“Girl, I’m not in that… but you notice her husband ain’t been comin’ lately either.”

Declaring whose business it is or where one stands in relation to the subject paints an interesting scene in which interaction becomes a little too ‘spatial’. The speaker is in one area looking on at whatever is goin’ on over there. Completely removed, he/she is free to observe, pass judgment and then pass on by.

This is what I’d like to call the “dissociative property” of our culture. It’s one of the newly installed features of our “Christian Positioning System”. This is the system by which blame and responsibility are often misplaced and accountability becomes scarce. With “every man for himself”, people are expected to deal with their sin and its consequences without aid and under burdensome scrutiny. They aren’t expected to speak openly and genuinely about their problems, which lends to a few other dynamics:

  1. People no longer ask “How are you doing?” and stop to listen in order to reply with authentic compassion.
  2. The ever-infrequent inquiry about one’s status is viewed as intrusive and often rejected by the hearer.
  3. People are left to speculate about one’s true condition…
  4. …and because people are left to speculate, people are prone to gossip.
  5. The resulting tendency to gossip facilitates the distortion of people’s reputations (lies).
  6. Such dishonesty breeds distrust…
  7. …and such distrust ultimately fosters massive discord.
  8. We do not/ cannot confide in one another… in good conscience.
  9. We cannot pray for one another often because we don’t know what to pray for (James 5:13-16)
  10. We fail to encourage and gently correct one another when it’s needed most (Galatians 6:1-5)

The “dissociative property” and the discord that results make it impossible for us to interact the way God intended. We’re falling deeper into a state of purposelessness (that is, the state of not fulfilling our purpose) and aiding Satan further in his cause (that is, to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).

And so we’re left wondering how we fix this, right? What I’ve written here isn’t rocket science and it’s nothing new. You’re observant and smart. You knew most of this already.

In part 2, we’ll discuss how to ameliorate this crisis of ours.


Thoughts on Jesus Camp: “Let the children come…”


‘Jesus Camp’ by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady. “CLICK” TO WATCH.

When the credits started to roll, I found myself temporarily immobilized. Shocked stiff. My eyes were widened and dried, my mouth agape. I was completely stunned. For a little over an hour, I had been submerged in a world I’ve never experienced. A world of weeping, repentant young children and preteens. A world of shouting and speaking in tongues. A world of life-sized, cardboard President Bush cutouts and tiny, plastic fetuses. A world without global warming. A world no older than 6,000 years.

An Evangelical, Charismatic world of kids…

…in Jesus Camp.

I urge you to watch this film. Even if you don’t identify with the Christian Faith, it’s important that you’re informed about this world. If “I am what I am because of who we all are”, as Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee put it, we should ALL be willing to learn more about this world. The success of all progression toward unity depends upon it […another topic for another blog].

Now, to get down to business, ’cause there’s something I’ve been brooding over since watching this documentary:

One of the recurring themes of Becky Fischer’s “Jesus Camp” was that of declaring war against Satan. Scenes accented by loud, shrill ‘victory’ chants, raised arms and contorted, red faces wet with tears are seen throughout the film. This normally wouldn’t bother me considering my varied exposure to ‘church culture’. But the fact that these were the voices, arms, faces and tears of young, impressionable children, that these children were declaring war in a state of intense passion just as they were instructed, sending war cries to the heavens at Fischer’s command, made me a little uneasy.

I’m an advocate of requiring a bit extra of our children. Doing so ensures that they grow up to be responsible and productive adults. But to assume that thousands of 5 to 12-year-olds are capable of fully understanding the true nature of Spiritual Warfare is a bit far-fetched.

They’re still children.

Training them to abandon their innocence for the accountability of warriors can be dangerous and counterproductive. They need time to learn, time to grow, time to gradually understand for themselves what right and wrong, what morality is. If we begin force-feeding the concept of ‘Christian Combat’ before they’ve even fully mastered potty-training and doing their chores, how well can they receive it? How well can they conceptualize being attacked in the Spirit? How well can they defend themselves and lead others to do the same?

I DON’T propose we completely forgo our efforts in Youth Ministry, but I DO urge that we continue training our children with caution and grace. Just because strength has been ordained from the mouths of babes and nursing infants doesn’t mean we should chuck the proverbial Similac and start shoving spiritual meat down our children’s throats [see Psalms 8:1-2, a frequently quoted scripture passage in the film]. We must first enlighten them to the essence of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Without understanding the nature of WHO they’re fighting for, how can they effectively fight?

Let children come to Christ as they are: children. There’s a beautiful scene documented in Matthew. Jesus is “making His rounds”, so to speak, and has landed in Judea to continue his ministry of preaching and teaching his followers. At some point, people began bringing their small children to Jesus so that He could lay hands on them and pray for them. The disciples who had been following Jesus were upset about this and angrily advised the parents to stop bringing their children. Some commentaries have surmised that the disciples were angry because it was improper for not-yet-full-grown persons like children to waste the time of a masterful teacher like Jesus. But here’s what I love about this scene. Jesus turns to the disciples and says, “Let the children come to me.” “The Kingdom of heaven,” He says, “…belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:13-14). When Jesus welcomed those precious, Judean little ones to his feet, he welcomed them as children. He didn’t say, “First, train those little ones to speak in tongues and weep for my Spirit’s divine intervention in spiritual warfare. Then let them come.” No, Jesus was quite fine with children coming to Him galloping innocently and sporadically, unfocused with an awe-filled, darting curiosity, and with the untainted joy and maturing minds of their youth.

And I would even venture to say that He’s still quite fine with this.

The cultural experiences captured in this film are unique and neutral– like all cultural experiences– but I must admit that they’re worrisome. And to those who are open to the concern of an onlooker such as myself, “Your children are indeed strong, intelligent, and creative little people. But it’s okay to let them be children. It’s okay to let them come to Jesus as they are.”