27Mar

How to Feed the Homeless: Safe, Cheap and Legal

Introduction
Back when I was a confused, selfish teenager I had an experience with God where He asked me to be his “Jesus of Suburbia.” My seldom mission in life has been to represent the character and love of Jesus to my community around me. The biggest part of this has been to put the commands of  Isaiah 58:7 into action, “Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, take in the homeless wanderer and do not turn away your own flesh and blood.” I believe that good deeds create good will within my community and that in turn opens more doors to the good news than it closes.

About half way through college I started to “feed the hungry” at my congregation’s weekly soup kitchen. Two and a half years of being a steady volunteer and donor to that soup kitchen ministry lead me down a road of creating a food-based business that would give jobs to people in desperate need of work. In addition to running this small food business, I worked as a part-time tentmaker job and as a manager for a cafeteria of a factory. When the plant workers go on break, they could come buy breakfast or lunch in the cafe.

Between running my own kitchen and working in the cafeteria, I’ve continued to make feeding the hungry a big part of ministry to my city. I’ve been able to redistribute hundreds of pounds of food to people who need it all on my own. And this year I challenged myself: I wanted to see if it would be possible to provide small, weekly meals to the homeless in my community all without a huge ministry or congregation backing me. We are currently on week 12 of the year and I’ve kept up the small meals with little to no problem. They’ve been as simple as 15 pb&j sandwiches with 2 pounds of potato salad and as complicated as 30 plates of Parmesan chicken with sides of funeral potatoes and green bean casserole.  Read More »

12Mar

Be Disciples That Make Disciples

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew 28:19-20

Every Christian knows about the great commission, but they know little about what it really means. Today the ‘institutionalized’ church has taken this to mean getting baptized, going to church on Sunday, attending a bible study, and sending out specialized units of missionaries to fulfill this command for them. As long as you give some money toward the cause that means you’re okay, right? Wrong. This thinking has led to the destruction of churches, it is nothing but a 21st century way of living comfortably without living Christianly. Read More »

1Mar

Does the Bible Talk About Tattoos?

Christians have a lot of conflicting opinions about tattoos. There is of course that famous Facebook group that claims everyone who gets a tattoo becomes a violent criminal. And then I know plenty of pastors who were out and in the world and got all tatted up but when they started following Jesus they keep the flaming skulls and gang marks for the sake of sharing their testimony. But then there are those of us who were Christian before we got our tattoos. My cousin for instance has a cross that takes up probably 2/3 of his ribs and stomach.

Many people think that tattoos have a clear cut answer and there are typically two answers to this question that people will dogmatically spit out to justify their actions. You’ll find hundreds if not thousands of articles out there that answer this question for you. My purpose here is not to just repeat the normal answers about tattoos but is rather to point out a really interesting fact that not a lot of folks seem to bring up. That being said, let’s first look at the typical answers about tattoos and I’ll tell you what I think of them.  Read More »

26Feb

Did God Have to Create the Universe?

Some argue that God created the universe necessarily, but here I will make the argument that God must have created the universe freely. By freely, I mean that God had ability to do otherwise. To make this argument, I will be assuming that the universe is self-evidently contingent as the Five Ways of Aquinas or Leibniz’s Cosmological Argument demonstrate. The Bible itself seems to affirm that creation is a free act of God: “And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.” (Acts 17:25). Aquinas develops this point rather well:

Since, then, the divine goodness can be without other things, and, indeed, is in no way increased by other things, it is under no necessity to will other things from the fact of willing its own goodness. (Contra Gentiles, Ch 81, 2)

If God was compelled to create, it would be because there was something either in the nature of His own being or in the nature of creation itself that necessitated it. If it was the nature of creation itself that compelled God to create, then this could only be if the divine intellect grasped creation as necessary in itself and therefore something that the perfect will of God must create – otherwise His will would be imperfect for not willing what is necessary. But this obviously cannot be because the universe is contingent. The divine will cannot be necessitated to will what the divine intellect grasps as contingent.

The other option would affirm the contingency of the universe, but would argue that it is the nature of God that necessitates the creation of the universe. The justification here is that it is the nature of goodness to diffuse itself. However, this view implies that God’s nature would be deficient without the creation of the universe. Why must goodness diffuse itself in contingent ways? Goodness itself is by nature necessary and perfect. It would only need to diffuse itself if it is somehow imperfect. Perfection by definition needs nothing but itself. So contrary this view, it follows that God need not have created anything external to Himself.

23Feb

Paper: A Thomistic Defense of the LCA

I wrote this paper under Edward Feser because the LCA is my favorite argument but I thought it could use some Thomistic principles to strengthen it against various objections.
19Feb

So You Want to Be a Philosopher? Here Are 9 Books You Must Read

For those who are aspiring to be a philosopher but have zero experience, it is absolutely crucial to start well. I often hear from people who took a philosophy class that they ended up being more confused than before. This is in part because they’re introduced to conflicting ideas but they’re not shown how to think about these ideas. Ideas are dangerous things; capable of destroying or creating societies. I’ll be honest, I do prefer the classical philosophers over the modern philosophers – which my list will reflect – but I think you can still benefit from it despite this bias by evaluating the ideas for yourself. Without further ado, here are the books that I would recommend reading in the following order:

1. Being Logical, A Guide To Good Thinking by D.Q. McInerny

This book starts off with some key logical concepts that are really just common sense ideas. This is important. Some people mistake philosophy for contrarian pseudo-intellectual ideas. I even met someone who thought the best way to do philosophy was to smoke weed.. That’s not philosophy; that’s either sophistry or stupidity. In my opinion it’s a good idea to start with common sense, or else we’ll end up with nonsense. The author’s lucid yet concise writing style is a role model for all philosophers.

2. Ancient Philosophy (Beginner’s Guides) by William J. Prior

It is crucial to start with the very beginnings of philosophy without being bogged down by technicalities and monotonous details as the more advanced books do. What better place to start than the very origins of philosophy itself? An aspiring philosopher needs to be introduced to ideas and the reasons for those ideas in order to prime their minds for philosophical reasoning.

3. Aquinas (A Beginner’s Guide) by Edward Feser

This book is an absolutely essential introduction to medieval / scholastic philosophy. You’ll become familiar with ideas like form and matter, the four causes, universals, five ways, etc. Personally, this book did the most to transform my philosophical perspective. I felt like a child who was seeing familiar things under a new light for the first time; it literally took my passion for philosophy to a new level. Feser does a great job of communicating the ideas clearly and diffusing common misconceptions that moderns have about Aquinas.  Read More »

12Feb

Why Did God Create the Tree of Good and Evil?

“The Lord God caused to grow out of the ground every tree pleasing in appearance and good for food, including the tree of life in the middle of the garden, as well as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Genesis 2:9)

The standard response, which I shall improve upon here, is that God placed the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to give man a free choice to follow or obey Him. They also add that without it, the fullness of God’s character (e.g, His justice and mercy) would not have been displayed. Thus God allowed man to fall, despite foreknowing what they would freely choose, because He had some greater purpose – namely, the greatest display of His love for mankind through the death of His Son. If the fall had not occurred, we couldn’t have known the full extent of His love. Love that loves the perfect is expected, but love that loves the fallen is completely extraordinary.

Any good story is going to have conflict and through that conflict love displays the greatest acts of courage and sacrifice. Sometimes it ends tragically, such as when a LOTR character named Boromir valiantly dies to protect the hobbits from evil forces, but it is a beautiful tragedy because of the extraordinary good that it displays. Furthermore, if the characters in question were born in a world without challenges to themselves, their paradise would be as artificial as a greenhouse. Proper freedom involves self-mastery over one’s choices and character through tests. Since God values freedom and character-building, He tests man with the tree to see if they’ll reject or obey Him – thereby removing the artificiality of the paradise.  Read More »

3Feb

A Response To “You Don’t March For Life”

Courtney Hood recently published a heartfelt article that I greatly sympathize with, at least with respect to her care for others. As someone who is prolife, there is more to human life than just its birth, but I think the article gets several things wrong:

I do value all stages of life so there’s an appeal to this, but I will say that if we cannot value life at its most innocent and vulnerable stage, how can we claim to value life at any of its other stages? At what stage does life start mattering and why that stage? If we cannot properly value the most fundamental aspect of life (which is our right to live) then our quality of life is not a right either. So the question can be turned around.

Now, to address this articles’ objection, we care about the quality of life but in a different way. The article condemns our moral values as expressing “outdated views” without realizing that these values are the pillars of a thriving society. To borrow from Plato, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” The quality of life is directly affected by our moral values. So if we think it is permissible to have premarital sex, children out of wedlock, no-fault divorces, and the like then what inevitably occurs is that the quality of life suffers with it. The family is one of the most effective weapons against poverty, but once the family breaks down, so does our life.

The liberal position is like encouraging a child to play with fire and afterwards providing free governmental care. Conservatives promote moral values that preemptively discourages harm from occurring in the first place. The liberal solutions to these problems (minimum wage, food stamps, welfare, etc) at best just patches the holes of an already sinking ship. You have to get to the root of a problem if you’re going to solve a problem, otherwise you’re just delaying and covering up the harmful effects until it sinks. I should note that only God can change hearts, however, so conservatives can only offer trade off solutions in the political realm.

Also, it’s not that conservatives are in principle against healthcare or against providing some kind of safety net for struggling mothers. We just have different methods of doing so that emphasize individual empowerment rather than dependency. The problem with liberals is that they equate their policies with caring about the quality of life and anyone who disagrees with their way of doing things must not care about life. This is completely unfair. Some disagree with minimum wage laws, for example, because it increases unemployment. They may be wrong, but it’s not because they do not care about life.

27Jan

A Quick Argument Against Abortion

If a fetus does not have a right to life, then when does it gain a right to life? After it comes out of the womb? This implies that changing location suddenly gives a human a right to life. That’s obviously ridiculous. What about consciousness? Well we’re technically unconscious when we sleep or get knocked out, so do we temporarily lose our right to life? Surely not. Even six week old fetuses have some level of consciousness (http://www.ehd.org/dev_article_unit7.php).

Perhaps a certain level of consciousness gives a right to life, but that’s arbitrary. Why does that level of consciousness give a right to life? Suppose a person went into a coma but had a 100% chance of recovering. Surely it’s not moral to kill them during a coma. Furthermore, this implies that people with greater levels of consciousness are more valuable than others, which is clearly false. So a right to life must not come from the level of consciousness.

In fact, rights cannot come in degrees like consciousness does as the above example shows. This leave us with the best answer: We have a right to life because we are of a certain *kind* of being at the very moment of conception: a rational animal (aka being human). Kind, not degrees of consciousness, are what give humans the right to life. Since fetuses are humans, abortion is wrong.

23Jan

Questions about Entire Sanctification.

This is a brief excerpt from John Wesley’s book “A Plain Account of Christian Perfection.” Wesley tells us that these questions were written by a group of British Christians in the 1760s. I thought these questions were really insightful and got me thinking about sanctification in a totally new light. I especially think questions 7 – 12 are really interesting to think about.

QUESTIONS, humbly proposed to those who deny entire sanctification is attainable in this life.

1 Has there not been a larger measure of the Holy Spirit given under the Gospel, than under the Jewish dispensation? If not , in what sense was the Spirit not given before Christ was Glorified? John 7:39

2 Was that ‘glory which followed the sufferings of Christ,’ (1 Peter 1:11) an external glory , or an internal, viz., the glory of holiness?
3 Has God anywhere in Scripture commanded us more than he also promised us?

4. Are the promises of God respecting holiness to be fulfilled in this life or only the next?
5 Is a Christian under any other law than those which God promises to ‘write on our hearts?’

6 In what sense is ‘the righteousness of the law fulfilled in those who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit?’

7 Is it impossible for anyone in this life to love God with all his mind, all his soul, all his heart and all his strength? and is the Christian under any command that is not fulfilled by doing this?

8. Does the soul’s departing from the body effect its purification from indwelling sin?
9. If so, isn’t it something else besides the blood of Christ which cleanses us from all sin?

10. If his blood cleanses us from all sin while the soul and body are united, is it not in this life?

11. If when that union of body and soul ceases, is it not in the next? and is this not too late?

12. (On the death bed;) what situation is the soul in, when it is neither in the body nor out of it?

13 Has Christ ever commanded us to pray for something he never intended to give us?
14 Did he not teach us to pray ‘your will be done on earth as it is done in heaven,’ and in heaven is God’s will not done perfectly?

15. If so, has he not taught us to pray for perfection, and if so does he not intend on giving it to us?
16. Did the Apostle Paul not pray according to the will of God when he prayed that the Thessalonians might be “Sanctified wholly and preserved” (in this world not the next, unless he was praying for the dead) and “blameless in body, soul, and spirit until the coming of Jesus Christ.”

17. Do you sincerely desire to be freed from indwelling sin here and now?
18. If you do, did not God give you that desire?
19. If so, did He give it to you to mock you, since it is impossible and can never be fulfilled?

20. If you do not have enough sincerity to even desire it, are you not worrying about topics that are too high for you?
21. Do you ever pray for God to “cleanse the thoughts of your heart” so you may “perfectly love him?”

22. If you neither desire what you ask, nor believe it is attainable, are you not praying in vein?