30 August 2008

iPod Debate Status

I have not been convinced to buy an iPod.

I appreciate the input given. Basically, I decided there's just no (or no just) reason for me to have one. Many of you described situations where it is beneficial, such as when exercising. (Yes, gym music can be raunchy, I know.) But I'm not sure that use alone justifies a purchase for me.

Through one conversation, I found this to be a simple application of wisdom. When at home, I have music on the computer. When driving, I have a cd player. My computer has a burner and thus a link from computer to car, and the built-in car cd player may even be more convenient than an iPod. When at work I find music distracting (though overhearing co-workers may be more so)--and if I change my mind there's always Pandora. A former roommate had some real good input, suggesting listening to sermons while hiking/biking. Unfortunately I don't bike all that much any more. I'm glad that works for him.

I feel it is proper to ask such questions, what I call an application of wisdom in this case, because to simply buy one for the sake of having one would be sin. There, I said it.

Given my daily life situations, why do I need to figure out a way to have music with me at all times? Why is silence so bad? Is it a human necessity to have music at all times? Maybe it would be better at times to turn off the music and meditate on Scripture, like Deuteronomy 6:5-7. If I bought an iPod and kept it on me like a wallet, I would feel guilty of gluttony of the ear. To develop for myself a dependence on music would be nothing less than idolatry.

But that's just me.

Yes, I know an iPod is a very small thing. I'm sure I have other things that are just as worthless. I also know there must be someone right now in my town where an extra $100 could help tremendously. Will I spend the money on myself and encourage my seclusion, sit on my hands and wallet in an indecision coma, or actually do something to help someone? I mean, if I throw money out the window it may as well fall on a needful lap. So even though an iPod is small, I have the bigger issue in view.

And what is the bigger issue? I have opened several here: using wisdom to make decisions, Christian stewardship, compassion for the poor, and idolatry versus glorifying God (because I know someone will say, "Music isn't my idol, it brings me closer to God!"). Lord willing I will get to all of them and this endeavor will be of some benefit to us.

26 August 2008

Scientific Theory Pt 3: Jesus is Truth

Last time I said that science can only know for certain what is false. I also pointed out that the scientific community is reluctant to admit being wrong. See the problem here?

If science has declared something false then it is certainly false, according to the philosophy behind science as we've discussed. But what if science got it wrong? Then that idea has been categorized as certainly false but in reality may not be. If we then go back to the issue in question some years later and tell the community they've got it wrong, we'll be laughed at. "Everyone knows that isn't possible!" they will say.

Need an example? Flight is a classic one. It wasn't the scientific community that developed the airplane. It was regular people practicing science.

WWI fighter ace Eddie Rickenbacker said, "Aviation is proof that given the will we can do the impossible." But who said it was impossible? How do we know what is impossible versus what society has merely construed as impossible?

This is why author and inventor Arthur Clarke developed three "laws":
  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
I am one of those fanatics who believes perpetual motion is possible. And I believe miracles are possible. Not scientific you say? Magic? Regarding science and miracles, Ravi Zacharias argued, "The person who demands a sign and at the same time has already determined that anything that cannot be explained scientifically is meaningless is not merely stacking the deck; he is losing at his own game."

We seek truth. Jesus Christ claimed to bear witness to the truth, even to be truth. I said if we are to find truth, it must come without the innate human inclination to sin. Well, Jesus was sinless. Today the scientific mind demands proof of God. Jesus said, "If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead." Arise from death Jesus did, but today's scientific mind will have none of that because it isn't possible. Stacking the deck indeed.

I love science. I would not be typing at this computer if it weren't for technology. Science can be a God-glorifying endeavor to better understand and marvel at His creation. But it is not my source of truth by which to live.

"And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins... If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead." 1 Cor. 15:17,19,20a

"For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world--to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice." - Jesus (Jn. 18:37)

Have you ears to hear? Listen to his voice.

23 August 2008

What is a Theory? Pt 2: Science is not Truth

A while back I posted What is a Theory?, where I tried to describe the meaning of the term theory and some philosophy of science. I am going to continue that thought, so you may want to review it. The approach then was somewhat of a defense of science. I concluded:

So when something is granted the title of Theory, we must know that it has been rigorously tested and has been found to be a very accurate description of reality. The charge that evolution is "just a theory" is the same as charging it as "just science."

Now I'm going to approach this from the other side: to say something may not be true because it is "just science" is actually a good argument.

The reason bodies of ideas in science never graduate from "theory" to "canon" is because nothing is ever proven. There are three categories for ideas: true, false, and maybe true. Science can only determine what is false. Theories that hold are maybe true. Absolutely undeniably true is never reached. In science, all we can know to be true is what is false. Think about that.

The attempt of science to understand the universe is like applying a process of elimination to a multiple choice problem (note the Stephen Hawking quote from last time). We can determine which options are false and thereby conclude the option that must be true. The difference in science is that there are more options than a, b, c and d. Although we'll get closer and closer, we can't use elimination to determine truth.

Terms such as "law" in scientific theory are unfortunate, like law of gravity. It seems to imply that the concept has attained the status of true. The only reason we think nature must abide by a "law" is because we have never observed it to do any differently (ever seen something disobey gravity?). Just because we haven't seen it does not mean it is impossible.

Einstein's prediction that light from distant stars bends around the sun was a great success of the theory of relativity. But it does not prove the theory. The whole thing is still maybe true. When this was taught to me in class, the professor said something like, "Those who are skeptical about relativity just need to look at the observations. Regardless of your beliefs, the facts force you to 'read em and weep'." That has some truth, but is debatable. Note well evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould: "Facts do not 'speak for themselves'; they are read in the light of theory." The only weeping to be done over these facts is that Newton's theory is not completely right. Ok, we've proven something false--same old story.

Anyway, all scientists understand that our theories are constantly being refined and that the current ideas are not dogma. It is unfortunate then that most in the scientific community treat their precious theories as dogma. Who wants to spend a lifetime of effort developing ideas only to find out that you are wrong? The scientific community will boast about its ability to self correct. However, when we get to the bottom of the matter, this is not about scientific ideas but about people. Attack evolution and you are actually attacking the people whose daily work is to study and develop the theory. And they will be offended not because of their dedication to truth but because of their pride. "I don't care if I'm wrong, just don't tell me I'm wasting my time," the prideful heart says. We are all this way.

Yes, science is just another human endeavor, tainted by the same things that humans are tainted with. If we are to find truth, it must come without sin. Evolution may not be true because it is only science, and science cannot tell us what is true. What, or who, can?

18 August 2008

Convince me to buy an iPod

This is something that I have considered posting for a while. Since it has been a while from my last post, I might as well now. It regards a concept we could call "simple living," or maybe "your best life later." But for now I want to look at a specific situation. I want you, reader, to convince me to buy an iPod.

Two weeks ago I began my first full-time salaried job. I have started to generate income. This is a pretty big change coming out of college. I know all of it to be from God's hand.

What has disturbed me when I tell others about my new job and income is this question: "So, what are you going to buy?"

As I said, for now I want to stay specific, so I won't delve into this any further. Someone asked me at work today, quite assumingly, if I have an iPod. To their surprise I told them no. I also noticed that Brett mentioned the iPod on a recent post. So you probably get the hint that convincing me to purchase an iPod will be difficult. Here's what you have going for you:
  • I like music.
  • I am a musician.
  • I sing in the shower (sometimes).
  • I can find music to be positive and encouraging in life (thought not necessarily that music which is dubbed "positive and encouraging").
  • I use iTunes.
I usually don't get many comments on here, but please go ahead. Don't be intimidated. I have not all-out decided that I am right. Perhaps if you have an iPod you can tell me how it benefits you.

10 August 2008

Boyd and Christ's Scope, Pt 3: To Fulfill, Not Abolish

I apologize for the delay on this. My life's routine was suspended due to a move and a new job. Anyway, here we go...

We've looked at Boyd's idea that Jesus taught "unconditional refusal to engage in violence." Another of his ideas is that Christ taught "unconditional love for enemies." I must ask, what enemies? Who is Christ's enemy? Is his victory over sin and death an act of unconditional love toward the prince of darkness? Of course, there is a subtlety here in how we define love, but it is a given in this Kingdom theology that we are talking about something like hippie love, as I've called it. In that sense, we can't say that Christ's defeat of the devil was an act of love towards the devil. Now, you might say that I'm really stretching things here, and that by "enemies" Christ obviously meant certain other humans. But if we must make that qualification then it's no longer unconditional. And that is the point.

The mistake -- what I feel to be at the root of all this -- is attempting to apply Christ's teachings to an improper scope. Jesus had a very specific purpose to accomplish. In his teachings he illuminated that part of the law which seemed to be veiled and forgotten (but was there all along), to love God and your neighbor. In his death and resurrection he made it possible for us to keep that law of love. But Jesus never presented a political platform. The King of kings did not run for president. So the attempt to extrapolate Jesus' teachings to how a society is to be governed is not justified. That's just not what he was talking about.

As we pointed out before, we cannot reduce Christ to an ideology or a bare concept. We have to consider him as a being and consider at least all that he said and did. And one thing he said was, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them," Mat 5:17. Since this is what Jesus prefaced his radical teachings with, we must seek to understand those teachings in light of this. How does Matthew 5:38-39 fulfill the law rather than abolish it? Again, I contend that the answer is in the scope. As the commentator Matthew Henry said on Matthew 5:38 regarding "an eye for an eye":

This we find, Exo 21:24; Lev 24:20; Deu 19:21; in all which places it is appointed to be done by the magistrate, who bears not the sword in vain, but is the minister of God, an avenger to execute wrath, Rom 13:4.

So "an eye for an eye" is to be understood at the scope of a government executing justice. The Jewish people, mostly being without regenerated hearts, were incapable of fulfilling the spirit of the law and consequently took "an eye for an eye" beyond its intentioned governmental scope to the level of personal interactions. Jesus, in fulfilling the law and not abolishing it, unveiled their spiritual eyes to the spirit of the law, where in personal interactions we are to instead turn the other cheek. Just read over Matthew 5:38-47 and consider if the situations describe person-to-person relations as opposed to government-to-person or even nation-to-nation relations.

A strong point of Kingdom theology is its emphasis on being like Christ in person-to-person relations, something we should take to heart. It is unfortunate that this is now being stretched to governmental scope. I admit that in America this is really complicated, since we govern ourselves in some way. But the problem I have addressed is not so much with politics today as it is with understanding the Bible. When this started I asked if we can reconcile "an eye for an eye" with "turn the other cheek." I hope you can see now how it fits, at least in my view.

I think I am done with Boyd, but for further thought I'll refer you to some other bloggers who are discussing similar material. I am watching Pyromaniacs, where Frank Turk has been discussing church and government. Not much has come for a while, so I'm sure when it finally does that it will be good. Another blog of interest is Christianity: Doctrine and Ethics, where "How Would Jesus Vote" is the first post in what appears to be a series. If you have not the time to read it, get the last paragraph at least:

How would Jesus "vote" on the issue of capital punishment? It’s a silly question. We do know, however, that Christ came to do the will of his heavenly Father (cf. John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38). That revealed will involved the killing of those convicted of murder (cf. Gen. 9:6; Ex. 20:13; Deut. 5:17; Rom. 13:1-4). That’s what Jesus would do and that’s how Jesus would think, because God revealed it so.

Amen. Stated far more simply than I ever put it.