Wednesday, March 26, 2008

More Beauty

In the last post, I suggested both that we find the creation itself full of beauty and that the Bible presupposes--as have most thinkers throughout Western history--an objectivist view of beauty. Let me here share the counterargument that is most frequently offered.
People--and even cultures--differ on what they perceive as beautiful. Some people even do things to themselves (for the sake of looking more beautiful) that I (we) find very unattractive.
I grant that this is true, especially when we're discussing shades of beauty. There are, nonetheless, some things that every right-thinking person ought to find lovely and other things that everyone should agree are ugly. But all of such quibbling really misses the point.

If the subjectivist view is right, then the beauty--of, say, the glamorous supermodel--resides not in her but only in our thoughts about her. There is no beauty in the sunset; rather, beauty is the sort of thing that dwells in my own feelings about sunsets.

This seems rather absurd, and that's why most people (until recently) have rejected the subjectivist view of beauty. The postmodernist is not the first to discover that people have different aesthetic tastes. He's merely the first to focus too closely on this obvious fact and to follow it to an invalid conclusion... that objective beauty doesn't exist.

My friend (and fellow apologist and blogger) Bob Perry tackled this difficult subject awhile ago. Go here to read his excellent argument for objective beauty.

He ends that article with a challenge to Christians (and Christian apologists). It's very good, so I've copied it here...
While we have good reason to address the lack of respect for Truth and Goodness in our culture, it seems that we are less adept at understanding, or even noticing, that same culture’s lack of respect for Beauty. Everything we value in this life has its basis in one of these three or their combination. Even the technological gadgetry that so easily distracts us owes its design to the mathematical order, trustworthiness and beauty of the Grand Designer’s mind. We would do well to stop, look, and listen to the art, music, literature and poetry that derive from the same fundamental Source as our iPod. And we would do well to honor the beauty of this creation with all the respect, reverence, awe and honor it deserves.

But I think our call is greater than to just appreciate the beauty in this world. If we really believe we are made in the image of our God, I think that fact lays a great responsibility on us to be the best musicians, artists and authors — the best representatives and re-creators of beauty that human beings can be. For in our effort to do that we are best able to reflect the beauty and majesty of the Maker in whom we live, and move, and have our being.

19 comments:

Nate Bettger said...

Rick,
Thanks for your thoughtful response. I have a few thoughts. Perhaps we can agree that God, God's self, encompasses the ultimate objective beauty. We could add to this, truth, goodness, love, etc. So there is this objectivity... in God alone.

Now, here we are as mere mortals, finite, limited human beings pondering the objectivity and absoluteness of what we can know of an infinite God. Are we then objective as well? It seems to me that if I were to think of what I can know measured up against the infinite, there would always be an infinite amount that I do not know.

It seems to me that our attempts to understand that which is the absolute of what is beautiful is a worthless endeavor. Perhaps, anything that we find as beautiful, we might praise God for as we reflect on God's revelation to us through all creation. Is not anyone's creative attempt to unearth some glimmer of beauty, truth, or goodness something to celebrate? I think my point could be made easily if I were to ask 10 people if a certain song, work of art, or person were beautiful? How on earth do we know who has the absolute understanding? I propose that we cannot.

So in a simple question: What according to an objectivist understanding of beauty is beautiful music? What defines which art is beautiful? What makes it not beautiful? If we are going to talk objectivity, there must be an objective response to these questions...

And in regards to scripture (and historians|thinkers|philosophers for that matter)... first if you could point us to some of those thinkers (you said most) who followed with an objective stance on beauty. Also, in your last post you quoted Phillipians. The word for lovely there, in the Greek, is prosphiles. This means acceptable and pleasing. That's the only instance it is used in the entire New Testament. Doing a quick word study on beautiful can show that. You may also find that there are many, many places where beauty is talked about... all in the context of what individuals thought. I think it would be pretty hard through taking random verses, to prove that the Bible has an objective view on beauty.

For example, one might look at Song of Solomon, the very purpose of this book being pretty subjective. Some say an analogy for God's love for his people, some say simply a dialog of two people in the throws of love. To look at how the man in this book speaks to his love, it is clear that he thinks armys, jewels, grapes, doves, horses, and goats beautiful. He compares his love to these things. That is how he talks about beauty. So then, are army's beautiful? Do we compare women to horses? It's in the Bible though, so is it objective?

Your emphasis at the end was to say that we have a responsibility to create art (music, writing, etc) as close to the objective beauty that we can know. Tell me how this is possible. Perhaps the Bible was written with the purpose of being written in objective beauty... I think this is a tough point to argue.

As I see my purpose in regards to beauty is to know that God has made all things beautiful. He has made me unique, you unique... each of us with a different understanding of what is beautiful. As I seek to understand you... to love you, my neighbor... my understanding of the beauty of God grows. There is no way that I can know what God's definition of beauty is, but as I live in this awareness, I remain open to those who can help me see a greater picture of that. Those things that allow me to see beyond my self and become more aware of life and God's presence in all of it are the things that I can count as beautiful. This of course is going to be different for you than for me... different for someone from Africa or from China than for either of us.

Thanks for making space to allow responses and dialog.

Av8torBob said...

Nate said: "I think my point could be made easily if I were to ask 10 people if a certain song, work of art, or person were beautiful? How on earth do we know who has the absolute understanding? I propose that we cannot ... So in a simple question: What according to an objectivist understanding of beauty is beautiful music? What defines which art is beautiful? What makes it not beautiful? If we are going to talk objectivity, there must be an objective response to these questions..."

Nate,
This is Bob -- and since you addressed something I wrote here (that Rick quoted) I feel justified in attempting a response ...

"Objectivist" philosophy is a very different thing from objective reality. And objective reality is a very different thing from absolute knowledge. You want to insist that if we can't know something absolutely we should give up on knowing it at all. But no one is suggesting we should (or can) know anything exhaustively.

The alternative to not knowing something exhaustively is not that it is unknowable. By claiming beauty is objective I am only saying that beauty is not something we decide subjectively, but that it is something we learn to recognize as being beautiful (or good, or true) and that it is that way whether know it or not.

Further, objective reality exists only as a limited reflection of the same trait (truth, goodness or beauty) that is inherent in our Creator. I think we do well to recognize that and try to honor it in our own creativity -- even if we can't do so exhaustively.

Bob Perry

Rick Gerhardt said...

Hi Nate:

Thanks for your comment.

I agree with part of what you seem to be saying. I'm glad that you seem to accept that there IS objective beauty, even if you can't understand how we can be confident about knowing it. And I agree that knowing that we have rightly ascertained what God's view of beautiful (or, for that matter, truth or goodness) is can be difficult. Moreover, since we find that difficult, we ought to hold our views (of what is beautiful, true, or good) somewhat humbly, and with a willingness to be corrected. Nonetheless, I disagree with your statement...

"It seems to me that our attempts to understand that which is the absolute of what is beautiful is a worthless endeavor."

I agree that we cannot expect to achieve full understanding of what God considers beautiful (or true or good), but I believe the Bible calls us to do our best to conform our thoughts to His.

This call seems more clear (in the Bible) with regard to truth and goodness, and perhaps this is why even Christians in our day struggle with objective beauty. Much of Scripture is devoted to declaring God's truth, and much of the Word is also taken up with declaring what is good in God's mind.

But I would submit that we can and should try (albeit imperfectly) to understand God's mind with respect to beauty as well.

Some of what passes for "art" in our day is downright offensive, not because I find it so but because common sense tells us that God finds it so. This is especially easy to see where the "art" in question is blasphemous, or where it does violence to God's view of the sanctity of human life or other creation that He calls good.

But really, there are more practical aspects to this usse than whether art is good or bad. Here's a different example...

God tells us (through the writer of the proverbs) to be content with the wife of our youth. But our culture tells us (in every way imaginable) to glorify youth itself, to be content with our wife only if she manages to continue to look youthful. So which is it? Should we conform to the culture's standard (only youth is beautiful) or God's (consider your wife beautiful even in old age)?

The Bible likewise reveals to us that every human being has beauty and value in His eyes, because we are each created in His image. Now, this presents a real difficulty, because I've largely accepted my culture's view that some people (based on their weight or size, the size of some facial feature, or the color of their teeth) are not beautiful. I believe it's our job (especially as Christians) to overcome our prejudices and find beauty in each child of God. (This is not to deny that there are degrees of beauty--even the Bible authors refer to Rebecca and other women as beautiful.)

So I believe both in the existence of objective beauty (and truth and goodness) and that we are called by God to do our best to ascertain what is beautiful (and what is not).

Thanks for reading, and I'd still like to have coffee or lunch with you one of these days.

Jennifer in OR said...

I'm wondering the point of arguing for subjective beauty. When one argues for that, what does one want to prove? An honest question. When I argue for objective beauty, I'm contending for something, namely that, ultimately, God is unchanging, the same yesterday, today, and forever, that I can know some things absolutely even if not fully, that the more I know God the more I can know the objectivity of everything, including beauty.

www.diaryof1.com

Jennifer in OR said...

Off Subject - but I see you're an owl expert! I did a post on an owl last year, can you tell me if I've guessed our owl correctly?? :-)

click here: Name That Owl

If that link doesn't work, you can look in the Science category on my blog, it's in there.
www.diaryof1.com

Rick Gerhardt said...

Hi Jennifer:

Yes, it's a Long-eared Owl. As you learned, they don't make their own nests, and so are mostly dependent on hawks to make (and abandon) a suitable nest. I've seen them on nests originally made by ravens as well. But in my experience, their preferred nests in this (juniper) country are those made originally by magpies. Unlike the hawk nest you found, magpie nests are generally much lower in (down nearer the base of) a juniper.

Their reproductive effort is determined by the amount of prey available, and so varies from year to year (you won't find them nesting every year). But here's wishing you and yours many years of interactions with Long-eared Owls.

Thanks for reading.

Jennifer in OR said...

Well, that's very cool! Thanks for owl education. We feel very fortunate and blessed to have a great deal of wildlife roaming our property. I haven't seen the owls yet this year. I don't know if the construction has scared them away or if we're just not around enough in the evening to be aware of their presence. The neighbor on the 20 acres next to us just completed his house, and we're still working on ours, so there's been quite a bit of activity going on.

But there is more than enough habitat and wildlife to support them - we both cleared just enough land to build a house and the rest of the property is heavily treed.

Thank you for your wonderful apologetics writing - you have no idea (well, I'm sure you do) how refreshing it is in a world that, pardon me, but as my Gramma used to say, "is going to hell in a handbasket." We had to leave our last church for a few reasons, including that the pastor didn't *really* believe in Creation. He had some kind of idea that dinousaurs pre-existed Adam, and "why make such a fuss over it?" I don't understand how people do not grasp the gravity of belief in Genesis and how their worldview will inevitably be affected by their belief or non-belief in biblical origins. Macro-evolution cannot coexist with a biblical worldview.

Sorry, this is not the post to be commenting on this, but, I get sidetracked easily it seems. I haven't read enough of your blog to know your position on these matters, so I should be quiet now.

Greg Bolt said...

Rick,

I appreciate your work and your blogs. I was at your presentation on postmodernism (I came up afterwards and had some questions...I hope you heard those as clarifying and not criticizing...but I digress) I have gotten caught up with your blogs and the comments they illicit.

Before we start I have to be clear that I am not only a Christian, but I am also a candidate for the office of minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church USA. I have been seminary trained (which could be good or bad...depending on who you talk to) and I have a Southern liberal arts education and I am thoroughly postmodern.

I think the crux of what I want to say here boils down to...why is it so important for those claiming an objective/absolute truth/goodness/beauty to be right?

I can read your blog talk to any number of people about their opinions (which they may have hard evidence for...or at least they believe there to be) and come away thinking, "I am not convinced."

Even if I disagree thoroughly with what they have to say doesn't mean they or I am wrong. Obviously we can agree on things like "Is that an owl" "2+2=4"...but on beauty? I don't know.

There is a book I have not yet read but the title is "You don't have to be wrong for me to be right."

Is there a space in the world created by our beloved God for there to be two right answers? Ten? A million?

Just some thoughts a little disjointed but nonetheless.

Conversation will get us everywhere.

God loves you, just as your are, no strings attached.

Greg

Rick Gerhardt said...

Hi Jen:

As long as a good nest structure remains, there is always the chance that Long-eared Owls will nest again in future years in your yard. (One can even construct an artificial platform and fill it with sticks, creating a suitable nest structure for owls.)

I loved the Easter week blog carnival that you hosted!

The issues involved in rightly interpreting and understanding the Biblical creation accounts (in Genesis and elsewhere) are complex and, unfortunately, divisive. It is certainly not as simple as some of the more vocal "creation scientists" would have us believe, and even such issues as naturalism, macroevolution, and the age of the earth are quite separate issues with their own complexities.

There are at least four different Christian views of the relationship of science and theology, with some Christians seeing the two disciplines as allies, others as enemies, others as strangers, others as associates. (Besides this, there are at least four competing views, held even in our day, of the nature of science itself--consistent realism, instrumentalism, antirealism, and eclectic realism.)

Indeed, with regard to the very finite issue of accurately interpreting Genesis One there are--among evangelicals who hold to the inerrancy of Scripture--no less than twelve different views. The "Plain-Day" view (one of two that take a young-earth approach) is itself an interpretation of Genesis One, not (as is frequently claimed by their proponents) "what the Bible says" or "the only orthodox view."

For an excellent book that discusses the complexity of this issue (and takes no firm stance with regard to a particular view), I recommend Reading Genesis One by Rodney Whitefield.

So I expect that your ex-Pastor may "really believe" in creation, just not in the form of it that you have been told is correct. I further suspect that God may care less whether we understand the details exactly and more how we go about interacting with fellow believers with whom we disagree on those details. In fact, I believe God is honored when we seriously and lovingly (in community) seek a deeper understanding (through Scripture, the evidence from creation, and the reason with which He has endowed us) of His work in creation and sustenance of the universe in which He placed us.

For the record, I find that God is blessing our skeptical generation with overwhelming evidence (from science) for His existence and love, and for the historical and scientific accuracy of the Bible's accounts of His work. (That is not to say that we are anywhere close to answering all of the questions one could ask.) I reject naturalism (obviously), and also find overwhelming evidence contrary to macroevolution (though I continue to treat with respect my brothers and sisters who believe that God used evolution to accomplish His ends). I also, however, find abundant evidence (scientific, hermeneutic, and theological) that leads me to reject the interpretation that God's creative activity was confined to six 24-hour (solar) days a few thousand years ago.

So--with your ex-pastor--I believe that dinosaurs pre-dated Adam. The most common rebuttal I encounter to this is an emotional/theological one--a belief that God's original creation was perfect (without even animal suffering and death). If that's where you are, I highly recommend a short but insightful book by my friend Mark Whorton called Peril in Paradise. (Alternatively, I could give you some of the important points he makes, but it really is an easy and worthwhile read.)

Thanks again for reading and commenting.

Blessings in Christ.

Rick Gerhardt said...

Hi Greg:

You wrote... "why is it so important for those claiming an objective/absolute truth/goodness/beauty to be right?"

and

"Is there a space in the world created by our beloved God for there to be two right answers? Ten? A million?"

Let's forget about beauty for now. I admitted at the outset that it was an uphill task to defend objective beauty even among those who deny subjectivism in the areas of truth and goodness. I still believe there is objective beauty (that some things really are beautiful and other things really are ugly), but I'm much more interested in discussing truth, an issue that your post also touched upon.

I think I understand the postmodern tension behind the first question (above). I too resent dogmatic assertions by those who claim to be right--especially when their conclusions are very much in doubt. (If you'll remember, I said in my talk that skepticism toward some of the truth claims and certainty of modernism is warranted, and something in common between pre-modernists (most Christians) and postmodernists.) But to say that one ought to be cautious about proclaiming to know the truth is something entirely different than proclaiming that there are no wrong answers--or even, in some cases, that there are more than one right answer.

Beliefs, for example, are themselves truth claims--claims regarding truth. And some such beliefs are mutually exclusive.

For example, Christianity claims that Jesus is the eternal Son of God and that God is triune. Islam claims that Jesus is not the Son of God and that God is not triune. These two claims cannot both be true. They might both be wrong (untrue), if say, neither God nor Jesus ever existed, but they cannot both be true. Another way of saying this is "If Muslims are right in their claim (about the identity of Jesus and the being of God), then Christians are wrong."

In philosophy, this is known as the Law of Non-Contradiction. And this--with the other laws of logic--is itself a discovered characteristic of the universe in which we live (and not a rule invented by men).

And one of the proofs of this is that even postmodernists use the laws of logic in arguing against objective truth or against the laws of logic themselves. That is, one cannot live consistently by the epistemological principles of postmodernism.

At issue in the present discussion is this... "Am I right in claiming that objective truth exists, or are you right in rejecting it?" If each view is equally valid, then why are you even discussing it? (I'm discussing it because--on this issue--I believe I can demonstrate that your position is illogical. But on your view--from your perspective--all views are right, and so mine is too, so why are you trying to dissuade me from it?

Again, we are making mutually exclusive claims--both cannot be right. You are claiming that we can both be right, and I am claiming that we cannot both be right. Do you see the problem?

In fact, the only way to consistently hold that all views are equally valid is to never pay any attention to anyone's truth claims and (for sure) never to open your mouth (or type on your keys) to try to convince anyone of the weaknesses of one of their beliefs. And yet here you are questioning my belief (in objective truth) and suggesting an alternative. How am I to take that?

Greg, I certainly don't deny that one can be a Christian and "thoroughly postmodern" at the same time. But here's the big difference (I suspect, but if I here mischaracterize your belief, consider me to be addressing others in the postmodern Christian camp) between your view and mine (and this has, I submit, important ramifications on our respective views of evangelism)...

You are a follower of Christ who sees Jesus as a way to God. Jesus works for you (brings you into right relationship with God, provides forgiveness, joy, and peace), but you would never suggest that what I believe is true. And that is that the death and resurrection of Jesus constitute the central event of all cosmic history, that Jesus is the only way for anyone to come into right relationship with God, and that the claims of Christianity are true for all people everywhere.

Again, we seem here to have two mutually exclusive claims (two claims to which the law of non-contradiction applies)--Jesus is the only way to salvation versus Jesus is not the only way to salvation. I may be the one that is wrong here, but we can't have a rational discussion (whose purpose is to discover which of us is nearer right on this issue) unless you first recognize and acknowledge that we can't both be right.

Sure, there are some things in life about which there are many right answers. Favorite flavor of ice cream is one example. But there are many, many issues on which the answers are mutually exclusive--issues about which there are many wrong answers and only one right answer. Only when we recognize this can we humbly and lovingly seek to arrive at a point as near that right answer as reason, evidence, and revelation allow.

I'm excited that you're planning to minister to the postmodern generation in our midst. But I believe you'll be better able to serve the Lord in that capacity when you have seen through some of the illogical claims made within that worldview. I suggest that what postmodernism needs is to turn some of its skepticism inwards--to critically examine some of its own claims.

Thanks so much for chatting with me--I'd love to get together. In all of this, I MAY BE WRONG (but then, that would itself prove my point).

Darren King said...

I just wanted to quickly jump in and out of the fray to say that the law of non-contradiction actually HAS been shown to be less than full-proof. The universe does appear to adhere to this law- until your move into the quantum level. There all ideas of something being one thing, and not simultaneously another, break down. They really do.
So the “law of the universe” that was being called upon here is based on outdated science.

To say the law of non-contradiction is not a law of man is also, in my mind, misleading. Because, case in point above, it’s only is “a law” because it appears to be consistently self-evident to finite, fallible man. But look what happened- suddenly quantum mechanics teaches us that the old law is broken. But we cannot blame the universe for this, because it WAS man's understanding of the law, based on his limited observation, that was at fault. The universe didn’t change, man’s understanding did.

Last point: I definitely think that beauty is a subjective enterprise- believe me, I'm a web designer, I should know. What some people appreciate in design, others will detest. That's just way it goes for enculturated human beings- which we all are.

To address Rick’s note that nature never seems to offer color clashes, that too, I would argue, is a misleading statement. Our appreciation of beauty is formed by out natural surroundings. In fact, we later judge beauty in art and design according to the framework we’ve build by observing nature. But that’s the way it works- observation equals appreciation, not the other way around. And believe me, someone who grows up in the Sahara has a different understanding of natural beauty than someone who grows up in rain-soaked Seattle, Portland, or Vancouver.

For those who don't know me, I follow Jesus of Nazareth and am very involved in the emerging church discussion, coming out of a decidedly Evangelical background. I appreciate Rick’s awareness of Modernism’s flaws, but I feel that he (and many other Evangelicals like him) still place far too high a confidence in our ability to lay things out in near, orderly, unchanging lines.

I say, embrace the mystery. Relish in the goodness of God; a goodness that moves and breathes in ways we can only begin to comprehend.

Jennifer in OR said...

Rick, you sure know how to generate discussion! I'll definitely look into some of the books you mentioned. And I appreciate your ability to have respectful conversation. (As far as my ex-pastor goes, the discussion was closed. He merely made derogatory comments about "young-earth" proponents.)

Could you expound on your view that dinosaurs pre-dated Adam? How does this view fit into a literal reading of Genesis 1 (or maybe it doesn't fit into such a reading), and how many years are you talking? And if Genesis 1 is not to be read literally, then what is the reason why?

www.diaryof1.com

Rick Gerhardt said...

Hi Darren:

Thanks for reading, and for dialoguing.

I addressed your misunderstandings of quantum mechanics (and your misapplication of quantum theory to the laws of logic) in a new blog post.

As to objective beauty, we continue to talk (type, actually) past one another. I am not arguing that people do not have different tastes as to what they perceive as beautiful. I can't imagine that anyone would argue against the obvious facts that you relate, that people appreciate beauty differently. But that is irrelevant to the question of whether objective beauty exists or to the question of whether the beauty resides in the object or the subject.

Likewise, your observation that someone living in the desert perceives the beauty of nature differently than does someone raised in a rainforest also misses the point. I believe that both the desert and the rainforest possess an inherent beauty (with which the Creator endowed them) and that--while people differ in their ability to perceive their respective beauties--the beauty is an aspect not of the observer/subject but of the landscape itself (whether it be a desert or a rainforest).

Again, there are many areas of aesthetics in which the different tastes of different people is not a problem (or is, in fact, something to be celebrated). But there are other areas in which an individual's inability to accurately assess something's beauty (or, conversely, its ugliness) can be symptomatic of something wrong in that individual.

Greg Bolt said...

Rick,

Thanks for your detailed response. I have several thoughts, just because I disagree with you and "argue" my side my goal is not to get you to believe what I believe or to find out who is "right". It is (whether you believe it or not) to get you or me to accept/respect where both of us are coming from. I believe that we both come to our understanding from our studies of scripture and extra biblical texts (which you so often point to) so I can also believe (and want you to believe) that we can come to understanding that while different, we still agree that God is beautiful and God loves us.

Also you guessed rightly that I believe that Jesus "works for me" and but I also believe his life death and resurrection to be the preeminent moment in history. But because I believe in an infinite, all knowing, sovereign God I believe that I do not have "the truth". I believe that God has the ability to work with, through, and outside our human convictions and institutions. Because I believe that I can say Jesus is right for me but if you are able to come to a greater understanding of God through Buddhist meditation (for example) then have at it.

Salvation is not up to me, nothing I do or don't do can change my salvation so I will continue to leave that up to God. My job, my call, my ministry is to offer youth and young adults a place where they can come into deeper relationship to our beloved beautiful creator. My expertise on that subject is based solely on the person of Jesus Christ so that is what I will preach but I will also be open to allow God to work in ways that I don't think work, are illogical, or are outside the Christian purview.

One more question:

Who decides what things don't have right and wrong answers? Maybe ice cream flavors are more important to some people than how they relate to God.

Who knows maybe we are all wrong but when we are ALL in heaven we can have a good laugh and talk existentially about how we all were misguided.

Greg

Darren King said...

Rick, I addressed your comments from above in the comments section of your new post. Suffice to say I think it is you who misunderstands the implications of quantum physics.

But let me make one last point regarding non-contradiction. As a Christian believer, I am sure you believe (as do I) in the doctrine of the Trinity.

Now, I'm sure you have some nice Augustinian way of wrapping this mystery up in a nice two-tone modern skin, but in REALITY (yes, I believe in it) this is a mystery, a paradox- that simply will not fit within our conventional conceptions of what makes something one thing, and not another.

Like I said, I'm sure you'd like to claim otherwise, but wrapping something in modern dress and truly understanding it are two very different things.

Thanks for the conversation. Peace all.

-Darren

Darren King said...

I posted this on Rick's other post, but I think it proves very informative for this conversation too. Here it is, more evidence regarding our shifting understanding of how reality spins:

""The probabilistic nature of quantum physics introduces some worrying implications for the nature of reality. In particular, the Copenhagen Interpretation (one leading view on what the quantum calculations translate into in the macroscopic world) posits that an observer is needed to collapse the wave functions, creating what we see as real. Taken literally, this means that nothing exists if we aren’t watching. The falling tree in a deserted forest really does make no sound, solving the Chinese proverb succinctly. Erwin Schrodinger, one of the pioneers of quantum theory and the man behind wave equations, disagreed with this interpretation most vehemently. Schrondinger’s cat was the fruits of his protest; a thought experiment introducing the paradox that this interpretation brings."

Peace all,
Darren

Darren King said...

By the way, for those interested in reading more about this, here is link for the piece I quoted earlier:

http://vulcanis.wordpress.com/2007/09/30/schrodingers-quantum-cats-and-their-implications-for-reality/

Perhaps this'll open up a couple new wormholes for further thought!

Peace,
Darren

bobpearson said...

To carry this discussion further into the truth vs Truth area, it is important to fully comprehend the status of humans. We are the created. We are the characters in God's story. We are not able to grasp the mind of God even to a small bit, and to think otherwise is self idolatry of the highest order.

A great example of this view is in a book called Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder. In it the characters of the novel become aware that they are characters in a novel and try to postulate as to the nature of the author, a clearly impossible task.

So we can develop a truth that is comprehensible to us and then say this is GOD"S TRUTH. We can base in on the best and most inspired writings available. We can argue it and nuance it to the greatest extent of the human mind. But in the end it is dross when compared to the real TRUTH of God that is so far beyond our ability to think and see and feel that we must admit total failure. It is only humans projecting their world view onto God.

In this failure we must throw ourselves into the hand of God, into the Grace of God, into the mystery of God and let this be our salvation.

Jesus spoke in what may be defined as Zen Koans. Contradictory statements that are not comprehendible by humans but that point to the mystery and truth that is beyond us. Only in this enigma can we really find God. Trying to find God in some fact or statement or world view or human characteristics or writings is just an exercise in failure and can cause so much damage to the real world that God wants us to live in.

God is love, but what is love?

Rick Gerhardt said...

Greg:

Thank you for your humble and sensitive contributions to this dialogue. I agree strongly with most of what you have shared in your most recent comment. Moreover, I agree that when we get to Heaven, we will indeed see that we have been wrong about many things, even things about which we felt certain in this life.

Where we seem to differ (as I see it) is this… You tend to leap from the observation that “we do not have the truth” to the conclusion that anything goes, that truth is so elusive that we dare not point out when someone else’s views are demonstrably false.

As I see it, the Bible (on every page) presupposes both the existence of objective truth and our ability to grow ever nearer to a right understanding of truth. Thus the frequent admonitions to seek wisdom, to pursue truth, to destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, to love what accords with sound doctrine, to avoid foolish controversies, to abhor vain and empty philosophies, and on and on.

But not only does the Bible presuppose truth and our ability to find it, so too does the fact that we are engaging in discussion. Every argument offered (in this thread or any human discussion) assumes that some ideas are right and others are wrong. Sure, we need to be respectful and humble when pointing these things out, but the fact that we will probably not (in this life) attain perfect understanding of all truth does not mean that we cannot help each other to get closer to it.

In answer to your question, nobody “decides” what things have right and wrong answers, but common sense helps us here. It just makes sense that right relationship with God—having, as it does, eternal consequences—is something one should care more about getting right than ice cream flavors.

And here is where I’m concerned for the people to whom God has called you to minister. His Word, the Bible, declares in no uncertain terms that Jesus is the only way to right relationship with the Creator. (In our face-to-face chat after my talk, you raised an exegetical doubt about John 14:6. But, as I shared, there are more than 100 verses in the New Testament that claim that Jesus is the exclusive way to forgiveness and right relationship with God. We might misinterpret one or two, or half a dozen, but you simply cannot explain away 100 verses with that unified message.) So, we either accept (and pass on to those in our charge) what God’s Word says, or we reject it, or convince ourselves that the universe in which we live is somehow more complex and nuanced than the one in which the Bible’s original readers (and writers, and the Holy Spirit inspiring them) lived.

I know that the exclusivity of Jesus is offensive—perhaps even more in our culture than in many others that have preceded it—and that it is much easier (more comfortable) to avoid the Bible’s clear teaching in this regard. But if the Bible is right that Jesus is the only way, then you are failing in your call to “offer youth and young adults a place where they can come into deeper relationship to our beloved creator” if you wrongly suggest that Buddhist meditation might be an equally viable path. (Even Gautama himself didn’t claim to have addressed the problem of separation from God, nor did Moses, Muhammad, or anyone else.) You underestimate and underappreciate the work of Christ when you say “My expertise on that subject [of relationship with God] is based solely on the person of Jesus Christ…” If the Bible is true, then the person and work of Jesus Christ is the only basis for anyone anywhere coming to relationship with God. I know that’s offensive, but that doesn’t make it less true.

Again, thanks for the dialogue, and though I have camped on our differences, I acknowledge and cherish the many agreements we share. I’m praying for you, Brother.