15Dec

Winter Break Projects

I know I haven’t blogged in some time and I make no apologies for that, but now that I got a break from school I’ll do some more posting whenever I got something interesting to write on. The break is a great time for me because I get to work on what I enjoy the most. So here are a couple of things that I plan to do:

l. History of Ancient Philosophy (Mini-Course Series)

I’ll be starting a mini-course series on ancient philosophy. They’ll be partly based on the class notes I received from Feser during class but I’ll be adding my own content as well. It’s going to be a broad summary of the ideas that some of the key philosophers held to in order to introduce people to the subject.

ll. Philosophy Reading

I plan to read “An Introduction to Philosophy” by Daniel Sullivan. It’s purported to be one of the best and clearest explanations of Aristotelian-Thomism (A-T) around. While I’m not an absolute beginner, I always feel like I’m just beginning to understand the depths of Aquinas’ system of thought. If I can understand it to the point that I can explain its ideas simply and clearly for the benefit of others, then I can safely move on to the more complex ideas.

lll. Preparing for Next Semester

I’ll be taking an English 1A and Math 7A class next semester. It’s almost a miracle that I passed the two math classes that I took this semester. I have no intention of forgetting that material so I plan to use Khan Academy (or Great Courses) to help me retain and better understand the concepts. For English I’ll be reading “The Elements of Style” to elevate my writing skills. It’s also going to be important that I get down some memory techniques from “Memorize the Faith!”

lV. Personal Development

As a sinful and finite creature, I have many areas that need to be worked on. Nothing beats prayer and regular reading of the Word, but I’m also going to be reading “Overcoming Sin & Temptation” by John Owens. More physically, I’ll be trained by a friend to help me gain some weight through muscle-building. At a personal level, I need to fully overcome shyness (little by little, I have) and become more bold in my conversation with others. It’s something I’ll mostly learn by experience, but Art of Manliness has some good articles on it and “How to Win Friends & Influence People” seem like good places to start.

V. Fun Stuff

I’ll be reading some Marvel comics (e.g, Ultron, Captain America, etc), per the suggestion of professor Feser. I’m not much of a gamer, but I’ll be playing Pheonix Wright and Spiderman Unlimited on my free time. I’ll also be watching an anime called Parasite that my friend Justin recommended. Everything else above is more important, so if needed, I’ll sacrifice some of my “fun” time for other things that need to get done.

16Oct

Do Animals Have Souls?

Aquinas refutes the idea that animals have subsistent (continues after death) souls, and as it turns out, also refutes the idea that sensation requires some immaterial component that dualists often used to prove that humans have a subsistent soul (ST I, Q. 75, Art. 3):

“Plato, however, drew a distinction between intellect and sense; yet he referred both to an incorporeal principle, maintaining that sensing, just as understanding, belongs to the soul as such. From this it follows that even the souls of brute animals are subsistent. But Aristotle held that of the operations of the soul, understanding alone is performed without a corporeal organ. On the other hand, sensation and the consequent operations of the sensitive soul are evidently accompanied with change in the body; thus in the act of vision, the pupil of the eye is affected by a reflection of color: and so with the other senses. Hence it is clear that the sensitive soul has no “per se” operation of its own, and that every operation of the sensitive soul belongs to the composite. Wherefore we conclude that as the souls of brute animals have no “per se” operations they are not subsistent. For the operation of anything follows the mode of its being.”

Modern philosophers, particularly those of the Cartesian sort, seem to have this obsession with qualia as a means of proving that there is a soul. Aquinas, on the other hand, thought the only relevant faculty that required a subsistent soul was the intellect and the will. In a way then, Aquinas can be said to side with the materialists on this issue with some qualification. Alfred Freddesso affirms this exact point in his article entitled, “Oh My Soul, There’s Animals and Animals:”

Second, and this is exceedingly strange from a Thomistic perspective, the main contemporary arguments against one or another form of materialism have to do almost exclusively with sensing and feeling and not with intellective understanding or willing. In part, this is the legacy of Cartesianism. What I mean is that quite a few materialists share in common with their dualist opponents Descartes’ assumption that any sort of interior psychological life, be it sentient or intellective, must have an immaterial immediate subject.

I see absolutely no problem with explaining sensation, whether human or animal, without appealing to some immaterial soul that persists after death. The neural corollaries of qualia is sufficient to explain the sensation, and the individual substance is sufficient to explain the private experience of that sensation. Aquinas’ alternative conception of matter (as opposed to the modern conception) is superior in many ways and it is the rejection of this conception that leads to this problem in the first place. Let’s all be hylemorphic dualists and be done with it.

3Oct

Brief Thoughts on Divine Hiddenness

Divine hiddenness doesn’t seem to be that significant of a problem to me. Very briefly, the argument states that if God is all loving and reasonable non-belief occurs, then God cannot exist because a perfectly loving God would not let that occur. But God’s not particularly focused on producing a belief of His existence in creatures. Even the demons believe that He exists and yet they still reject Him. Rather, He’s interested in producing a relationship with His creatures. But its not just any relationship that he’s interested in producing. A friendship, for example, can be rather causal and non-intrusive. You can be you and they can be themselves. A friendship is possible even with differing visions and goals.

A Transcendent Relationship

Being in a relationship with God however, means subsuming yourself into the very nature of God to become His child. It’s to do His will and be His representatives. It’s not casual but a total reorientation of who you are. It’ll define what you do, what you say, and what you think in every sense of the word. You will seek to be like God precisely because He is the greatest conceive being, and thereby the greatest conceivable good. To be in a relationship with God is to recognize Him as the “Emperor of Worlds” (it’s a cool term, okay!) and to enter into a world beyond this world. You must give up lordship over your own life and surrender it to Him. Lastly to be in a relationship with Him is to burn with love for Him as you would for your spouse. This relationship is serious, loving, and transforming!

Yet the argument from divine hiddenness acts as if all that is at issue here is “reasonable” nonbelief, as if somehow it’s just a matter of reason. It’s true that in order to begin a relationship with someone you must know that they exist, but it is not alone going to produce a relationship. If anything, knowing that God exists increases your culpability when and if you do reject a relationship with Him. The greater the culpability the greater the punishment. God, in His middle knowledge, knows how each person would respond to Him in various situations and may decide on most occasions to be merciful to someone who would’ve rejected Him by not providing compelling evidence of His existence. So it’s plausible that they have reasonable non belief only because they’d reject Him anyway so God graciously makes them less culpable.

Not Enough Evidence?

Nevertheless, I do think that God has given us sufficient evidence to makes us minimally culpable as Romans 1 and other biblical texts declare. It is not a coincidence that most of the world has believed in some kind of god for as long as we know. If God was truly so hidden, then why do so many people tend to believe in something like Him? Intellectual atheists are for the most part a novelty of the modern age; made possible by the advent of mechanical philosophy, worldly materialism, and the rejection of Aristotle. It seems to be just a properly basic belief, or perhaps a common sense belief, that some kind of god exists. Atheists that think otherwise most likely have their common sense faculties impaired. Arguments for God’s existence can help with doubt but only if the person is willing to go where the evidence leads. Furthermore, it’s not just about knowing that God exists. We also have a knowledge of at least the moral law and that’s the problem: it is the moral law that condemns us.

So this leads me to ask, just what is meant by the term reasonable non-belief? What is reasonable? Because I sure don’t see the atheistic explanations of the universe as reasonable whatsoever. For them, either the universe is a brute fact, it come from nothing, or it just has to exist. All three options are plainly desperate attempts at grasping for straws. Perhaps by reasonable all that’s meant is that there aren’t any non-intellectual explanations for an atheist’s lack of belief. But that’s false. What’s at issue is not reasonable assent, but relational assent. There is, in other words, a practical atheism that dominates human nature. No one seeks after God, as the Scriptures say, for it is He that seeks us first. We are not lost for our lack of belief, we are lost because we are sinners. A relationship with God requires everything and it changes everything. Sin makes us unwilling to do that. So the argument from divine hiddenness puts too much emphasis on reasonable assent and assumes a scenario in which an individual is somehow free to reject or accept God without the aid of grace or the influence of sin. There is no such thing.

31Aug

Why Brute Facts Are Impossible

There is a common trend in the atheist community to posit brute facts as plausible alternatives to other explanatory facts, especially with regard to the universe. For there to be a fact that plausibly requires God as an explanation is almost out of the question. Plausibility is therefore reduced to a predisposed preference for possible alternatives that are contrary to a theistic conclusion. Consequently, any premise that would otherwise be regarded as plausible, intuitive, rational and metaphysically true beyond reasonable doubt are themselves subject to scrutiny once it is seen that irrational doubt is necessary to avoid God’s existence. This is demonstrably seen through atheistic responses to arguments like the KCA (e.g, denial of the causal principle) or the LCA (e.g, denial of the PSR or of the universe’s contingency). In other cases, they may attempt to deny the explanatory power of God altogether. Read More »

14Aug

Being Fit To Receive God’s Grace

No one can merit a gift from God because to merit it would require maximal holiness on our part, which is simply not possible (1 John 1:8). And it is precisely because it is a gift (not our earned wages) that it is unmerited, which is what we call God’s grace. Nevertheless, I often find that while grace cannot be merited, the full gift of the Spirit is often given to those who are spiritually fit to receive it. And becoming fit seems to be a gradual process by which we cleanse ourselves from iniquity in order to set ourselves apart for God’s use.

Gradual & Instant Grace

Now of course divine grace can produce an inward change such that we are instantly made fit to receive it in full, but I find that this is the exception rather than the norm. Instead it seems as if God often wants us to immerse ourselves in the riches of His Word in order that we may gradually be purified by its truth and as a result be made fit to receive a gift from the Holy Spirit. This is evident in 2 Timothy 2:21 which states that anyone who purifies himself from anything dishonorable, he will be a special instrument, set apart, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.

Being made fit for something merely means that you are spiritually able to receive and utilize the gift in a manner that will truly fulfill the function of that gift. Now this fittingness can be immediately given as I said earlier, but I think the reason God rarely employs this method is at least partially due to the fact that putting the effort to become fit is both costly and rewarding in a way that an immediate gift is not.

Why God Prefers Gradual Grace

We often take instant gifts for granted because we did not have to suffer to acquire it. Give someone a million dollars and often times you’ll find a great temptation to spend it away in an excessive manner. It’s easier to give into this temptation when you didn’t work for it. The same is no different when it comes to God’s own gifts for us. Truly knowing the price it took to receive that gift is something that makes us appreciate having that gift. And in the process of purification, we will realize our own unworthiness and dependence on Him all the more clearly as we seek to become His vessel for good works.

I also think that the cost of becoming fit is great and requires an endurance that is worthy of reward. It seems this is important because God wants to reward His children (1 Cor 3:14). And I think that reward has partly to do with honor. A person who finishes a race after rigorous training is going to be honored more than someone who took steroids to finish the race for the simple reason that one endured a heavier cost than the other. This shows strength of character in the face of difficulty, and that is something that God wishes to reward.

Conclusion

It’s important to remember, however, that both the one who is gradually made fit and the one who is instantly made fit are on the same level. Neither of them deserve the gift in the first place. The kind of gift that God gives is in accord to what He determines a person is able to do. The parable of the talents is an apt illustration of the concept I am attempting to get at here (Matt 25:14,30), which I encourage you to read. The greater the cost and the greater the fruit, the greater the reward. So whenever you wonder why God hasn’t given you instant grace for addiction like he has for a former drug addict, for example, then always remember not to envy it. God has given the grace that He has seen fit to give you for the good of those that He loves. Focus on your own race and endure to the end!

12Aug

Christians are the Most Persecuted People Group

My heart and prayers go out to these beloved Christians. Western Christians like myself need to realize that our battle with secularists hardly compares to their battle. The suffering they endure takes tremendous courage and faith. Their persecution grieves me deeply.
5Mar

Is Beyonce Demon Possessed?

It wasn’t until recently that I had even heard of Beyonce. I’m just not interested in godless soft porn stars that we have today but something did catch my interest. Upon researching a certain topic that I’ll be covering later on my blog, I uncovered the claim that Beyonce is demon possessed. You’re probably thinkingOh brother, are they going to say she’s an alien next?” or maybe I’m the only one who thought that at first but it caught my attention because Beyonce herself claims to be possessed by something:

“When I see video of myself on stage or TV I’m like, ‘Who is that girl?’. That’s not me, I wouldn’t dare do that..” (Beyonce, September 2003).

“I have someone else that takes over when it’s time for me to work and when I’m on stage, this alter ego that I’ve created that kind of protects me and who I really am. Sasha Fierce is the fun, more sensual, more aggressive, more outspoken side and more glamorous side that comes out when I’m working and when I’m on the stage.” (Beyonce Press Statement, October 2008).

I/ve created an alter ego: things I do when performing I would never do normally. I reveal things about myself that I wouldn’t do in an interviewI have out-of-body experiences [on stage]. If I cut my leg, if I fall, I don’t even feel it. I’m so fearless, I’m not aware of my face or my body.” (Marie Claire interview, October 2008).

Does this sound anywhere near normal to you? It sure seemed crazy to me, so I began to take this claim more seriously. Christians shouldn’t be all that skeptical because it’s not surprising that some people use demons to bring about their success and subsequently are possessed by them. Apparently this transformation from Beyonce to Sasha Fierce can be seen in the recent Super Bowl performance that she had this year:

1_eyes_beyonce1_tongue_beyonce

That’s some freaky stuff right there. At the same time, it feels like something you’d only see in a movie but given her own claims and these images, it seems like it all fits. There’s a youtube video that breaks this process down in more detail. According to some, there’s all sorts of demonic symbolism to be found in her work as well. Beyonce is not the only one who claims to have these experiences, there are other stars that have similar experiences. Coincidence? You can be the judge of that, but it doesn’t seem like one to me. There’s something sinister at work here and as christians we should confront sin but we should also pray that God frees them from this self destructive lifestyle.

Disclaimer: None of this is meant to be conclusive proof that she is demon possessed, it’s mainly presented for the sake of interest and discussion. Feel free to make your own conclusions.

24Dec

Glory Cloud: Real or Fake?

What the heck is a glory cloud, you ask? It is simply a physical manifestation of God’s glory and presence within a particular location. It is known as the “pillar of cloud” more specifically in the OT as a means of guiding the Israelites in the morning as they traveled (Exodus 13:21-22). However, it’s not something that you can simply manufacture or produce like a product. Whenever God chooses to reveal his glory in some physical way, it is something that He sovereignly does. There is nothing we can do except invite and be open to His miraculous work. Bethel is a church that claims to somewhat regularly experience these miraculous manifestations. Check it out here:

Cool, right? Well yeah, but not all Christians think its real:

It could be from the vents or it could be staged from gold glitter. So what should you think about this? If you’re an atheist, this might as well be a barbie girl’s church service. But I think as Christians, we have at least some biblical support for believing that this is possible. Who’s to say that God is not capable of physically manifesting Himself in these ways? However, it’s one thing to suggest that God is not capable and it is another to question whether this specific event is a real manifestation. Frankly, I don’t think we can scientifically prove it either way. If this is real, then God is clearly using physical means of doing so. Merely describing the physical structure of this manifestation wouldn’t rule out a divine cause of this structure anymore than describing the physical structure of a computer rules out a human cause.

As far as this video’s response goes, I haven’t seen any conclusive proof that this is staged/accidental but neither do I see any conclusive proof that it is real. He says that this is due to a vent, but where are his sources? Furthermore, while he makes a valid point about how serious the presence of God is, it seems as if the Israelites weren’t falling on their knees as God led them. This seems to be a less powerful manifestation of God’s glory, otherwise he would be correct. I’m open, but I remain skeptical.

26Oct

Is Divine Simplicity Scriptural?

One common criticism of divine simplicity is that it is an unscriptural dogma, and that in accepting it one subordinates Scripture to philosophical speculation. If simplicity is true and entails that talk of God is analogical then it would seem to imply that some passages require an interpretation different from their most immediate, literal one.

There are three points worth making. The first is that all biblical talk of God is going to require some philosophical interpretation. In fact, much of the Bible more generally will. Scripture is only made consistent under a certain interpretation. Are we to accept that Moses literally saw God’s back side? Clearly not, since God is immaterial and has no back, literally speaking. And what view of predestination and God’s providence are we to accept? This may largely depend on what view of free will you accept. Now, are we here “subordinating Scripture” to the idea that God is immaterial or that humans have libertarian free will? Maybe, but if we are then I don’t see anything wrong with this. There is nothing wrong with making Scripture consistent with one’s philosophical views so long as it does not radically distort what Scripture is saying (for instance, by saying that the Resurrection is just a metaphor).

Second, not all philosophical or theological doctrines need to be grounded immediately in Scripture. Maybe simplicity isn’t explicitly stated in scripture. In fact, this is obvious. But this is an unfair requirement to impose on defenders of simplicity. After all, neither is it stated explicitly in Scripture that God is three hypostases in one ousia.

You may reply that the idea is found implicitly there, but then I would say that so is simplicity. And this brings me to my third point, that by any reasonable criterion of something’s being scriptural, simplicity is scriptural. Simplicity is implicit in Scripture in that it follows from a strong doctrine of aseity and God’s providence, which is found stated in John 1:3 and Colossians 1:16. These passages say that all things were created by God. So it is true that whatever is non-identical to God is created by God. But if God had parts he would have to create his parts, and in so doing create himself, which can’t be true since God is uncreated and uncaused. Hence, God doesn’t have any parts and is simple.

One may reply that these passages should be taken loosely. But then I see no principled basis upon which to accuse defenders of simplicity of “subordinating scripture” while saying a “non-simple” view of God doesn’t. For now we are interpreting these passages in a less than strict sense in order to save the view that God is non-simple. And this seems to be precisely what simplicity was being accused of.