Posts Tagged ‘Philosophy’

From Fear to Love

February 26, 2015

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”  Proverbs 9:10

I have this verse on a poster on the wall in my office at the college.  As a philosophy instructor I consider it to be particularly appropriate since philosophy is made up of two Greek words that together mean ‘the love of wisdom’.  I consider faith in God to be the starting point of my philosophy of life.  Traditionally,when discussing this verse, I emphasize the need to believe in, be in awe of, and to have respect for, the person of God, resulting in obedience to His commands.

The other day I was in a Chi Alpha meeting at the college where I teach.  Chi Alpha is a student club for Christian growth and outreach.  At our campus, it primarily is a weekly meeting for prayer and Bible study.  It is open to all students, faculty, staff, and guests.  One of our regular guests is a retired gentleman who comes to the college library to read.  At this particular meeting one of the students brought up the question of the fear of the Lord.  We discussed it for a while and had agreed upon basically the definition that is stated above.

As we were concluding our discussion, the retired gentleman offered a different perspective.  He pointed out that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  He commented that we start with that attitude, and grow in our love for God.  I have been periodically reflecting on that thought for the last two days.  I John 4:18 says ”  There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. ”  We still believe in, are in awe of, and have respect for God, but it is to be rooted in love, not fear.

One of my concerns is that people will over-emphasis the love of God to the point that they presume upon his mercy.  I have had people tell me that they know that what they are doing is wrong, but that God will forgive them.  That line of thinking is very dangerous.  We are not to “continue in sin that grace might abound.” (Romans 6:1)

However, as I thought about it, I was reminded of I John 5:3 “ For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. ” A healthy maturation of faith will be an increase in love resulting in obedience.  If we truly love God, we will live in obedience to His commandments.

Our obedience to God may begin out of fear, but it is matured in love.

The Morality of “Bodies Revealed”

March 7, 2013

Bodies Revealed is an educational exhibit that is traveling around the United States.   It is a unique display of human bodies in various stages of, I suppose you could say, dissection.  The bodies of people who had donated their remains to science have been disassembled to various degrees, preserved so that they will not decompose or smell, and then posed in various positions.  Some body organs are available for people to handle, so that we can literally hold another person’s heart in our hands.  It is claimed that it demonstrates the workings of the human body in a powerful and unique way.  The hope is that it will inspire a new generation of doctors, scientists, etc.

They are obeying the letter of the law.  The bodies were donated for educational purposes.  The end result may be positive in that it may result in people pursuing careers in the medical field.  It is possible that the driving forces behind the exhibit really do have motives that are more honorable than simply making money.

Even so, it just seems wrong to me.  I recognize that I am primarily relying on an intuition that other people may not share, and so there may not be many who agree that it is wrong.  It is not possible to argue from intuition, all we can really do is see how many other people share our opinion.  We can also challenge some of the claims that provide moral support for the exhibit.

I do not have a problem with the use of human bodies for medical education and research.  However, the  vast majority of people who will be viewing this exhibit will not be  pursuing anything other than a morbid curiosity to see real human bodies.

Yes, people donated their bodies to science, without many restrictions.  I wonder if they would have donated their bodies if they were made aware previously that they would basically become preserved and publicly displayed?  In some regards, they are the subjects of human taxidermy.

Although some will be inspired to pursue medical careers, will some merely have their imaginations further excited?  In a time when we regularly see human bodies in all states of decomposition regularly displayed on our television sets, are there some people who want to see the real thing?  Will this lead some down the right path of medical research?  Will it lead some down a more sinister path?  What will be the true lasting consequences of this morbid display of human remains?

The exhibit has done very well at the places where is has been on display.  I suspect that revenue is up.  That is not a bad thing, our museums do need to meet their operational budgets.  It does make me wonder whether the motivation behind the exhibit is indeed, public education, or does it simply come down to profitability?

Were the scientists/artists who put the exhibit together motivated by a desire to share knowledge, or were they more excited about working with a medium that was taboo throughout most of human history?

As I said earlier, this might all be a perfectly moral enterprise.  I do not know any of the people involved.  They might all be wonderful people, working from pure motives.

It just seems wrong to me.

What do you think?




Supreme Happiness

March 27, 2012

Rene Descartes is most famous for his line  “I think, therefore I am.”   This semester I am taking a course on his philosophical writings and I read his meditations again.  I wanted to share the concluding comments in the Third Meditation.

…I should like to pause here and spend some time in the contemplation of God; to reflect on his attributes, and to gaze with wonder and adoration on the beauty of this immense light, so far as the eye of my darkened intellect can bear it.  For just as we believe through faith that the supreme happiness of the next life consists solely in the contemplation of the divine majesty, so experience tells us that this same contemplation, albeit much less perfect, enables us to know the greatest joy of which we are capable in this life.

This quote does not make it into introductory philosophy texts.

All I can say to the passage is Amen!

This passage is quoted from:   Cottingham, Stoothoff, and Murdoch; trans : The Philosophical Writings of Descartes”  vol II,  Cambridge University Press 1984  p36

Back to School

January 19, 2012

I had my first day, back in class as a student, yesterday.  It has been almost fifteen years since I graduated with my M.P.S.  I am taking a philosophy course as a non-degree graduate student.  The class will be studying the works of Descartes.

Everyone in the class is younger than me, including the instructor. There are fifteen students in the class.  Only one of them is female.  I don’t think that any of them have seen their thirtieth birthday, most of them are younger than twenty-five.  Not that age matters, but, it does affect the dynamics.

It appears that the class will be primarily discussion oriented.  We will read, and discuss, the works of Descartes.  Yes, there are exams and some papers to write, but primarily, read and discuss.

I think that I am going to enjoy this class.

Flesh and Spirit

January 10, 2012

In the beginning, God made Adam from the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life.  (See Genesis 2:7)  The exact nature of the relationship of our flesh and our spirit has been puzzled over ever since by many people.

Then in the New Testament, another dimension is added.  The Holy Spirit comes within the believer as well.  (See John 3) So now, we have the flesh, our spirit, and the Holy Spirit.

What role does each of these components play in our lives?  How does the maintenance, or abuse, of my flesh; affect my spirit?  What role does my will play in what I do?  How does the Holy Spirit guide our decisions?  How doe we distinguish between our own thoughts, the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and if I dare add yet another dimension, the voice of demonic spirits?

I am sorry, but today I have more questions than answers.

I do believe that God is with us always.  That the Holy Spirit will guide us.  That in the end God will prevail in those who seek to serve Him.  However, in the day-to-day living of our lives there is some confusion, at least in my own thoughts.

It’s a good thing that I place my trust in God, not in my own ability to understand.

Philosophy and Religious Faith

November 22, 2011

I was asked by a student the other day whether or not I had problems being both a pastor and a philosophy instructor.  I told the student that, actually, for me, they work together very well.  They both address similar questions.  When studying philosophy we examine alternative approaches and answers to questions.  This enhances the understanding of the complexity and range of the issues that are addressed.  As a pastor I propose answers to those questions.  This can provide a solid foundation from which to deal with the complex questions of life.  A solid foundation, with a breadth of understanding, is a good thing.  I have greatly enjoyed being both a pastor and a philosophy instructor and believe that I will continue to expand my knowledge and understanding in the years to come.

Desire, Reason and Will

March 31, 2011

As human beings it is natural for us to desire things.  Perhaps we desire a degree, a better job, a spouse, children,  a nice home or car; perhaps we want to have more friends, or to be closer to God,  and so on.  The list of things that we might desire could be a long list.

Reason can be employed to achieve the fulfillment of those desires.  Sometimes, when we apply reason, we realize that certain desires should be discarded as unworthy or unreasonable.  Other times, it may be difficult to craft a plan by which we may successfully attain our desires.  Other times, we will be able to conceive a plan that should work.

Once we have a plan, we still must have the will power to see that plan through to its conclusion.  Sometimes the plan must be modified and adopted to changing circumstances.  Sometimes we lack the necessary skill or resources to follow through.

Sometimes we don’t even try.

Sometimes we quit.

Yet, sometimes….. we succeed.

The Reality of the Unreal

March 24, 2011

Some people think that only the material realm exists.  They judge everything by the evaluation of sensory perception.  Anything that does not register on the senses, at least to some degree, is unreal.

I believe in the reality of the unreal.  There is more to existence than that which meets the eye, or ear, or nose, or taste, or touch.

I believe in God.

God exists outside of the material realm.  God cannot be located using sensory perception, but He is very real, just not in the material sense.

At times throughout history God has revealed Himself in a way that could be perceived by the senses, but those apparitions were only temporary, performed for our sakes, so that we could gain clarity to our faith.

You see, it is by faith that we perceive God.  We recognize in our hearts the reality of the “unreal”.  The peculiar thing is that with an acceptance of the reality of God, the natural world around us makes more sense.

A Good Superbowl

February 8, 2011

Sunday the Green Bay Packers became Superbowl Champions.  It was a good game.  Despite being down 21-3 in the first half the Steelers never gave up.  They battled back throughout the game so that the game was still in question in the final minutes.   One big play on their last possession and there would have been a different conclusion to the game.  I like games that keep you on the edge of your seat.  It is more fun to watch a close game than a blow-out.

It was a good Superbowl.   I define good by comparison to an ideal.  I think that definition of good can be used for more than football games.  When we say that something is good or even great, it is in comparison to some concept that we have of an ideal object.

If we want to discover the good in humans, it should be in comparison to an ideal person.  Does one exist?  I believe that Jesus was the ideal human.  He is the only one that was, and is, truly perfect.  If we want to compare our lives, we should compare ourselves to him.  We will fall short of course, but Jesus gives us an ideal to serve as a model for our lives.  If we have chosen to follow Christ, let us also seek to imitate him.

My Starting Point

December 30, 2010

I would like to take this opportunity to express my basic approach to understanding life.  I have three basic premises that provide the starting point for my understanding of all things.  I can support these premises, but they cannot be conclusively proven, they are accepted by faith.

Premise One – I exist.

This, of course, is borrowed from Renee Descartes’ famous line “I think, therefore I am”.  It was one of the first truths that I grasped when I first began to study philosophy many years ago.  It provides a starting point from which to construct an understanding of the world around me.

Premise Two – God exists.

The first premise leaves us in a quandary called the ego-centric predicament.  We are unable to identify a logical basis for believing in anything outside of our own minds.  We need to take a “leap of faith” to believe in the existence of something outside of ourselves.  I choose to place that faith in the existence of God.

Premise Three-The Holy Bible is the word of God to us.

The second premise needs something to bring understanding of the God in whom I place my trust.  That understanding is provided by the revelation of the Bible,  which in turn provides a basis of understanding which enables my perceptions  of the world to make sense.

From these three premises I endeavor to construct an understanding of life.  It has worked well for me for fifty years.  I continue to refine and develop my thoughts and beliefs from this starting point.