Monday, November 22, 2010

An Outline of the FACTS of Arminianism

Now, the acronym for Calvinism is fairly well known: TULIP. However, the acronym for the alternative doctrine is much less widely known. I will introduce the acronym briefly, and will also provide a link to a much longer statement of faith for those who are interested in understanding what the different points stand for. The protestant Christians who disagree with Calvinism generally follow Arminianism, which can be summarized and represented by the acronym FACTS:

Freed by Grace (to Believe)
Atonement for All
Conditional Election
Totally Total Depravity*
Security in Christ

*Standardly labeled "Total Depravity." I have labeled this point "Totally Total Depravity" to avoid any confusion (or purposeful misrepresentations) that Arminianism may be similar to the semi-pelagic view that man is not totally depraved.

See the full explanation HERE for further details.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I think I just found my calling!

Dancing With Fire

Seriously, tell me *this* does not look like fun! Actually, I don't think that the word "fun" does the activity justice. It goes way beyond "pleasant" and well into the range of "insanely awesome!"

Of course, the element of danger does play a definite role in the appeal of this activity, but you have to admit that it also involves quite a bit of mad skills, art, and the simple beauty of fire.

I think that everyone should take the time to cultivate a skill or two (other than the requisite "Super Smash Bros" skills, mind you), and you must admit - playing the piano has Nothing on this!

Note: This blog does not endorse playing with fire, except in legal venues.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Jesus Loves Some of the Children (A Calvinist Children's Song)

Jesus loves some of the children
Some of the children of the world
But even children are depraved
That is why they misbehave
Jesus loves some of the children of the world (1)

Jesus loves some of the children
Some of the children of the world
Every child deserves his wrath
But some he sets on heaven's path
Jesus loves some of the children of the world (2)

Jesus loves some of the children
Some of the children of the world
He died for some, yes that is true
But only those that he foreknew
Jesus loves some of the children of the world (3)

Jesus loves some of the children
Some of the children of the world
Those he calls will come to him
If your not called your future is grim
Jesus loves some of the children of the world (4)

Jesus loves some of the children
Some of the children of the world
Those he elects will persevere
But those he hates have much to fear
Jesus loves some of the children of the world (5)

Jesus loves some of the children
Some of the children of the world
All non-elect our Lord God hates
To burn in hell will be their fate
Jesus loves some of the children of the world (6)

Jesus loves some of the children
Some of the children of the world
Some will see the pearly gates
But the rest are reprobates
Jesus loves some of the children of the world (7)

Jesus loves some of the children
Some of the children of the world
Why only some? I'm glad you asked!
To display the glory of his wrath!
Jesus loves some of the children of the world (8)

Jesus loves some of the children
Some of the children of the world
Some he loves and some he hates
That's his choice, for he is great
Jesus loves some of the children of the world (9)

Jesus loves some of the children
Some of the children of the world
His sovereign will, who can resist?
Don't question God or he'll be [ticked]! (10)
Jesus loves some of the children of the world (11)

(1) Total Depravity
(2) Unconditional Election
(3) Limited Atonement
(4) Irrestible Grace
(5) Perseverance of the Saints
(6) Reprobation
(7) Double Predestination
(8) Calvinist interpretation of Romans 9:22-23
(9) God's sovereign choice and God's glory
(10) There is another word that fits quite nicely here, but I have omitted in order not to offend anyone's conscience. The word can be found in the following scripture passages: 1 Samuel 25:22, 34; 1 Kings 14:10; 16:11; 21:21; 2 Kings 9:8; 18:27; Isaiah 36:12 (KJV).
(11) Calvinist interpretation of Romans 9:14-21

Authored by Joshua Taylor, and reposted here!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

95 Theses

To my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, I have written here regarding the doctrines of Calvinism. I write only to glorify the name of the pure and holy triune God, who deserves all glory, honor, and praise both now and forever.

In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1. The doctrines of Calvinism dishonor the pure and holy name of the Lord by teaching unbiblical concepts about His character, and thereby inadvertently portraying the Lord God Almighty as unloving, unjust, the inventor and instigator of all sin, in discordance with His own nature, and without full Sovereignty over creation.

2. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, referred to Himself as “I AM.” God is pure essence. The name Yahweh is based on a Hebrew name YHWH, which is a form of “to be.” It reflects the existentialism of God. Whoever He is, He is.

3. His every choice is sovereign, but sovereignty does not imply the freedom of God to go against His own nature, but rather implies the subjection of all creation to the decrees of God, which are always in accordance with His nature.

4. God is the Father of Lights, without variation or shadow of turning, and light emanates from a light source in every direction.

5. God consistently acts in accordance with his nature, not because he is under any obligation to any created being, but rather because it is who He is.

6. Nowhere in the Bible is found the teaching that God acts in exactly the same way toward all creatures, or even toward all men. However, it would be illogical and unbiblical to take this to mean that God is not the same Being and essence toward all.

7. Therefore, if God is a God of justice, He is just toward all. If God is wise, He is wise toward all. If God is all-powerful, He is all powerful toward all. If God is love(agape), He is love(agape) toward all.

8. Any doctrine which teaches that God is love only toward some, and not toward others, denies God's intrinsic nature.

9. God is absolutely Sovereign over all creation. This fact is seen clearly and referred to many times throughout the Bible. Yet nowhere does the Bible teach that this absolute Sovereignty involves micromanaging every aspect of creation.

10. The book of Corinthians teaches that a Christian can determine some choices in his heart, stand steadfast according to those, and make decisions, without any necessity, but rather in power and authority over his own will.

11. Those who have not been born again are slaves to sin, and those who have been regenerated are slaves of righteousness. Therefore, any free agency, or authority over ones own will does not imply freedom from slavery. An unregenerate person with free agency is one who can choose between one sin and a different one.

12. Therefore, though the will of man always be enslaved to one entity or another, the claim that no man can determine any of his own choices, or have authority and power over his will is without Biblical support.

13. Calvinism maintains that God could not possibly be sovereign, if His creatures have any authority over their own decisions. It may as well be asked whether a king can rightly be called king, if his kingdom has free agents as subjects.

14. In the earthly case, a subject can freely choose not to pay taxes, and the king, having more power, can choose to have the subject burned at the stake. Other subjects might then decide that although they want to avoid paying taxes, they also don't want to be burned to death, and therefore might freely choose to pay taxes.

15. If human kings can exercise power over their subjects, how much more is God, with His infinite tact and power, able to reign over His subjects without His reign being threatened by allowing them to have responsibility and authority over their own will.

16. God's Sovereignty, therefore, is not threatened by the choices of “free” creatures. While it takes little skill to orchestrate the activities of those whose minds are completely under your power, it takes much wisdom and strength for a Sovereign to reign completely over any number of free agents.

17. Calvinism denies the power and sovereignty of God, by teaching that He does not have the freedom to create, or to be Sovereign, over creatures who would be able to determine their own choices.

18. Let it said that God is under no obligation to give His creatures authority over their own will, but He is certainly free to do so if it pleases Him, while remaining in perfect Sovereign control over the universe.

19. Free agency in creatures only can exist if the Sovereign wants it to exist. Therefore, there is no tension between God's sovereignty and man's free agency, since man's free agency only exists, and is upheld, by God's decree, according to the good pleasure of His will.

20. Jehovah has the power to shuffle history. He chose the line of the Messiah; He chooses who your family is. No matter what man chooses, God's plans happen. The Lord is God, and nothing is too hard for Him. Though a man may mean an act for evil, yet God can work it for good, according to His foreknowledge and plans.

21. The Lord God sovereignly chooses where and when any of us are born. If God knew that Pontius Pilate would not have condemned Jesus to death, then there would have been no reason for God to allow Pontius to exist at that time in history, and in that position of authority.

22. We know that nothing happens without God's knowledge, whether in the past, present, or future. God, being timeless, is not only capable of knowing His own actions, but also is capable of seeing through time and knowing all actions and thoughts of any creature.

23. The doctrine of Calvinism that denies that God has this power of foreknowledge, but claims that He is limited to being able to know any detail of the future if, and only if, He Himself directly caused it is without logical or Biblical grounding.

24. It is based on this unscriptural principle that the claim is made: “God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.”

25. This teaching denies the goodness and benevolence of God and invests him with all the attributes of sheer cruelty and maliciousness, insofar as it holds that he made the universe as it is, and, for his own pleasure and glory plunged it Himself into all the miseries, temporal and eternal, which it endures or is to endure.

26. These miseries cannot be the just punishments of sins, in the Biblical meaning of “justice,” for He causes the sins; and if he caused them and damns the universe for them, it renders the cruelty more revolting.

27. It will be said that God caused the action of sin, but that man is responsible for his evil motives. Yet if nothing can happen, save that it be foreordained and inspired by God, then God has irreversibly caused the wicked motive as well.

28. We know that God is the most righteous and holy of beings, who is too holy even too look upon sin. Every perfection is found in Him, and His character defined what is righteous and holy, of which the law is only a dim shadow.

29. The system of Calvinism denies God's righteousness by teaching that God is the sole, original, voluntary originator of sin, that he chose its existence when as yet it did not exist, and decreed it when, but for his decree, it never could have been, thus declaring that he preferred some sin to universal holiness--if, indeed, his own decree was his choice.

30. This insults the purity and holiness of God, making him not, indeed, the most holy, but the only unholy being in the universe, the cause and source of all impurity, in addition to being the cause of all creatures.

31. The doctrine makes God the mastermind and moving force behind the fall of man from innocence to that dreadful state of damnable depravity into which every child is now born.

32. Speaking now into the lives of believers, if nothing happens but by God's decree, then God must unchangeably degree every sin of every christian, clearly showing that He prefers that the elect should commit a great deal of sin after they are regenerated, rather than be holy.

33. The Holy Scripture gives believers the promise that God will not allow them to be tempted beyond what they are able, and with every temptation will also make the way of escape.

34. If this promise be true, along with the other verses, then the claim that God foreordained, secretly decreed, or otherwise inspired all sin, in such a way that no being could decide or act contrarily to, is scripturally unfounded.

35. The Lord God is also known as “the God who provides.” Just as He provided the ram for Abraham to make the sacrifice with, He also provided animals for the Israelites throughout the years to sacrifice, and provided the atonement of His own Son for sin once and for all.

36. God also provides supernatural strength when He gives a command, such as when He commanded Lazarus to come forth from the grave. The Lord, who is merciful, gives the command to all men everywhere, that they should repent. With the command, He, the God who provides, also provides a supernatural grace that they will be able to respond in repentance.

37. This undeserved grace was given freely and without reserve, through the conviction of the Holy Spirit upon the whole world, and through creation, clearly showing His invisible attributes, His eternal power and Godhead.

38. From the doctrine of original sin, we know that every child born into the world is born with a sinful nature, and is enslaved to sin. Thus, those who repent do so not because they are morally-neutral, or without an enslaved will, but solely because of the provision of God's unmerited grace.

39. Those who turn away from the grace of God, turning their back on Him, and committing blasphemy against the Holy Spirit are justly judged and finally condemned. Their damnation is just, for the wages of sin is eternal death.

40. Though God gives grace to all, He is Sovereign and unquestionable in His choice of who to have mercy on, and who to harden. God hardens the hearts of the wicked, and brings their destruction to pass in a way that glorifies Himself.

41. God is Lord of all creation, and Lord over all salvation. We cannot answer back to him and complain about who He has chosen to save.

42. Those who would deny that God has the ability and authority to justly grant undeserved salvation on a conditional basis deny God's absolute sovereignty, power, and wisdom.

43. Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of our salvation, and is the one who suffered a violent death for the sake of sinful man. If it pleases Him to give grace to everyone, we do not have the right to answer back to Him. Furthermore, does He not have the right to give undeserved salvation conditionally, in accordance to the good pleasure of His sovereign will?

44. Throughout the entire New Testament, salvation is shown to be both conditional upon faith, and also undeserved.

45. Grace given to believers is conditional, and yet undeserved. Believers rightfully deserve nothing good from God, and yet God grants grace to those who fulfill the condition of having humility.

46. When God chooses to save someone, even if He chooses in His good pleasure to only save those who meet His condition, it must be a work by His power, and His power alone. Man cannot save himself, nor can he assist in his own salvation somehow.

47. Those who deny God's freedom to grant salvation, based on His chosen condition that a person must have faith, on the basis that it would be a works-based-salvation deny the many Scriptures which teach clearly that faith is not a work.

48. Scripturally, a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ. Those who are denied salvation are denied because they did not seek it by faith, but by the works of the law. Faith and works are not at all biblically equivalent.

49. Additionally, the teaching of Calvinism denies that God is able to give man enough grace that he could accept God's gift of salvation, and yet not so much that he cannot resist it.

50. This teaching denies God's complete power over creation, and proposes that God does not offer salvation to all, with only the proof that God did not have the choice to give man the grace to accept or resist His command to repent and believe.

51. Generally, the logic given to defend this view of God's impotence is that since the unregenerate man is dead in sin, he is completely unable to do any spiritual good, and cannot have faith until he is first made alive by regeneration.

52. Speaking from the perspective of logic, this view is inconsistent since if death implies inability, then moral death would imply inability to do moral good or moral evil, even as a dead man can neither walk to help someone, nor walk to go and hurt them.

53. However, the idea that death is primarily inability is a pagan concept which proceeds from mere observation of those who have physically died, without faith in any sort of afterlife.

54. According to the Word of God, death is not mainly inability, but separation. From human logic, it made seem obvious that a dead man cannot do anything, but the Scriptures show that a dead man is able to do many things in the afterlife, and it is only his old body which is thrown off like old clothes.

55. The initial death, spiritual death, was the separation of our spirits from God. Physical death is the separation of a person from this physical universe. The second, death is the final and eternal separation of a person from God.

56. Death does include inability, even as life includes inability. The rich man in Christ's story, though able to speak, was unable to go back and warn his brothers. In life, you cannot fly like a bird, and in death, you will not be able to beat God at a game of chess.

57. Therefore, God is perfectly powerful, and fully capable of granting grace to those on earth, in order to, if He pleases, allow His fallen creature to accept or else reject His gift of eternal life, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

58. The denial of God's power in giving grace, and Sovereignty over His choice of who to save results in doing further violence to His character, insomuch as it leads to the belief that God is not love toward all men.

59. We know from the Bible not only that God is loving, but that God is love. God neither owes love to men, nor owes salvation to men. Rather, His love is completely undeserved, is an intrinsic part of His holy character, and is displayed for His glory

60. The claim that Christ did not provide salvation for all of mankind denies the character of God, in that it denies the love of God.

61. Love that inspires no action is not true love, and therefore those who hold that God loves the non-elect, while simultaneously withholding grace that they could repent, hold to a contradiction.

62. If God had decided ahead of time not to die for, or give salvific grace to a person, is it not still love to allow them to live, experience the blessings of life, such as rain on the just and the unjust?

63. No, but rather every sin will magnify the torments of the damned. Now, why were they permitted to live to commit personal sins and thus increase their torments? Why? Not that they might repent; not that they might turn and live. This was eternally impossible. Why, then, were they permitted to live? For this--that they might have an opportunity to increase their damnation a million-fold.

64. They are called to return unto God, to repent, to believe in Christ, to a holy life--no one of which calls could they possibly obey. And yet, for not obeying, every time they refuse, their damnation is increased.

65. It could have been a mercy in God to have sent them to hell when they breathed their first sweet breath upon a mother's bosom.

66. And here let me ask, why shall Calvinists demur when we charge them with holding to infant damnation? The fact is, they hold to no other kind of damnation.

67. If Christ did not die for those who are damned, then they are not damned for unbelief. Otherwise, it must be said that they are damned for not believing a lie.

68. Our Lord Jesus Christ said “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. "

69. Then, especially, when drawing nigh the city, he wept over it and said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together... but you were not willing!”

70. Him in whose mouth was found no guile, Calvinism makes full of deceit void of common sincerity, in claiming that He calls those that cannot come--those whom he knows to be unable to come--those whom he can make able to come, but will not--how is it possible to describe greater insincerity?

71. This doctrine represents Him as mocking his helpless creatures by offering what he never intends to give. It describes Him as saying one thing and meaning another--as portraying a love which he had not.

72. Furthermore, the teaching that God does not give those He has destined for damnation the ability to repent, when He calls them to repentance, makes God a liar in His claim that He desires for all men to repent and be saved.

73. If God does not, in Spirit, in truth, or in action, love(agape) all men, then we as Christians are given contradictory commands throughout Scripture:

74. For righteousness is conforming to the character of Christ, and to be like Christ is to fulfill the law.

75. Love is the fulfillment of the law, and the Scripture calls us to imitate Christ, and therefore to love is to imitate Christ. If we do not love, we do not abide in Christ, but are in darkness until now.

76. We are all called to be holy as God is holy, and the law is summed up in two commands: Love God, and Love your neighbor as yourself.

77. Love your neighbor, imitate Christ, and be Holy as God is holy are three commands that must not contradict.

78. The teaching that God does not love the non-elect in Spirit, in truth, and in action puts these commands in contradiction to each other, and makes Christians have to choose between obeying the command to love, and the command to imitate Christ.

79. According to the Scripture, inspired by God, and penned by the Apostle John, God is love. This Scripture is not in contradiction with the Scriptures which state clearly that God hates all unrighteous, and hates the wicked themselves with a burning passion.

80. God hates the wicked enough to desire their eternal destruction, and yet loves them enough to desire that they repent, be reborn, and therefore be perfect and therefore without need of destruction.

81. Insomuch as we read in the Psalms that the Lord, who is holy, hates all those who do wrong, we also read that we were wicked, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents. Yet while we were sinners, Christ loved us enough to die for us so that we would no longer be wicked.

82. He was raised up, like the bronze serpent was raised up for the snake-bitten Israelites, to provide healing for all of them, but only to enact healing through those who looked upon it.

83. Similarly, though Christ died for every sinful man, woman, and child, thus providing salvation for all, through His infinitely precious blood, yet He procured and enacted salvation only toward the elect, which are those who believe. The atonement is universal in scope, and provisional in application.

84. Whoever believes on Christ is promised eternal life. But those who do not believe on Christ are condemned already. Therefore, salvation is not procured for or applied to the unbelievers.

85. However, nowhere in the Word of God is found the doctrine that Christ did not die to provide salvation for all. This teaching, in fact, is directly contrary to multitudes of express declarations of revelation and to the whole tenor of divine teaching.

86. It is contrary to those passages which teach that Christ died for all men, for every man, for the whole world; It is contrary to those Scriptures which contrast the death of Christ with the fall of Adam; It is contrary to those Scriptures which require all men to believe on and accept Christ; It is contrary to those Scriptures which represent the cause of the sinner's damnation as being his rejection of Christ and unbelief in him.

87. It is contrary to those Scriptures which teach that some for whom Christ died may perish. “And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?” “There will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them.” “Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.”

88. It is contrary to those Scriptures which represent the Lord as not willing the destruction of sinners, but as regretting their folly and desiring them to turn and live; It is contrary to those Scriptures which represent God as a being of universal love; It is contrary to those Scriptures which represent him as impartial.

89. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of God's throne, but God's justice, in addition to love, is lost in the teachings of the doctrines of Calvinism.

90. In the New Testament, God commands all men everywhere to repent, and we are told that we shall not escape if we neglect so great a salvation. Yet if the reprobate are not able to believe, then they are required to perform an absolute impossibility.

91. If all the non-elect are inevitably and necessarily damned, then they are punished unavoidably--they are placed in circumstances where such damnation is the consequence of that over which they have not, and never did have, any control.

92. This teaching, along with the teaching that God causes each act of sin unavoidably, not only goes against Scriptural proclamation, but also goes against the sharp conviction given by the conscience of every man.

93. God requires of his subjects only conformity to himself--to his own moral excellencies---but he affirms of no obligation on himself to work impossibilities; and does he impose obligations on his subjects which he himself refuses to assume?

94. He does not regard it as an excellence in himself to work that which is impossible for Him; does He then command it as a virtue in his subjects? If indeed God does not work true impossibilities, then how can it be thought that He will require of his creatures that which He Himself cannot do?

95. The doctrine that man is held responsible for all sins which God causally determined that they do, and then the non-elect damned for not believing on Christ, which would be an impossibility for them, completely contradicts and undermines the system of responsibility, culpability, and justice, as set forward in the Word of God.

*Written mainly by Rebekah Reinagel, but includes integrated quotes from Dr. Beecher and R.S. Foster, taken from Foster's book "Objections to Calvinism: As it is."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Fiery Dilemma

Today it was plastered all over the internet news: A house burned to the ground while firefighters stood by and watched, because the residents had not paid their annual $75 fire-protection fee. You can read all the details here: Yahoo News Article. Just as food for thought, why is it that a house can be described as either "burning up" or "burning down" in the same set of circumstances?

Pictured above: A completely irrelevant house burning

Anyway, at first glance, it seems to be heartless of the firefighters to just stand by while a person's home goes up in flame. Especially considering the prices of homes and how many years and years of hard work it takes to buy one of those. On second thought, though, it seems clear that if all the community relies of how heartless it would be for the firefighters not to put out a fire on their house, even if they didn't pay dues, then none of them would feel inclined to pay. Whereas, if they realized that their own house *actually* burning down was a real risk, they would be lining up down the street to pay $75! Even to slap on a fine of $1,000 might not motivate people, because it's so much easier to imagine that you'll never need the insurance, and then if you hit the situation, you'll pay for it then. Americans do have the tendency to think that the world owes them, and therefore would be outraged when they don't receive a service which they had every chance to subscribe to, but choose not to.

In other words, letting the house burn to the ground was just, but it was not merciful. Strike the scoffer, and the simple will become wary. People will realize that safety is not magically guaranteed, and will take the deal more seriously. Rather than learning that they can get away with not paying, they will learn that justice does not bow to the American "you-owe-me" mentality, or popular vote (which would have gone in favor of putting out the fire.) So, I can readily understand and every support where the firefighters were coming from on that one.

But, you know me, I'm all heart. I would go with mercy. If the justice was about something horrible like killing, or even a habit like stealing, then I might justly let a person's house burn to the ground. But for a small amount of money? I would question the system, because deciding that the *only* way to make people pay dues was to show them that deliverance was not a right. You see, I like to show mercy, when it's at all feasible (but not when it would be inappropriate)

In some places, we still have volunteer firemen in this country, people who would put out fires for no money at all -- and surely that's loving. If I had been in charge, I could have put out the fire, and then pressed supervisors about how badly it would have gone if I hadn't, even though they hadn't paid, and propose to make it a mandatory fee (like car insurance.) The system may be better if you just slap people with a $1,000 fine if you have to put out a fire when they weren't "insured" like that. Alternatively, it could be better if those sort of things are covered in taxes, like they are where I live. I mean, of all the silly things our taxes dollars go to work on, fire protection easily ranks high.

So, I would have mercy on the poor people and save their house, and then re-think the system so that we could get the money we need/want, and people still don't end up having to beg and plead and cry while their house burns down before their eyes. Even if their proud lack of foresight justly deserves that disaster.

Monday, September 27, 2010


I found myself with all of these half-baked ideas, and I realized that two halves make a whole, so I put them all together! And now, for your reading pleasure, are the great proverbs of wit and wisdom that never existed... until now!

Better a late bird than an early worm.

If it ain't broke, don't sweep it under the rug.

One man's smoke is another man's fire.

The early bird catches the cold.

Pen wise, sword foolish.

You can hold your horses, but you can't make them drink.

Those who live by the sword die by the pen.

A mouse by any other name still wants a cookie!

A fool and his cookie are soon parted.

If you can't beat 'em, get out of the kitchen.

Too many cooks can dish it out, but can't take it.

Don't count your chickens until the fat lady sings.

Where there's honey, there's vinegar.

A stitch in time is a penny earned.

Up a tree without a paddle.

What goes up a creek must come down.

Don't sweep the spilt milk under the rug!

Call a molehill a molehill.

Ruffle a few feathers the wrong way.

Many hands make the cookie crumble.

Don't judge a horse by it's saddle.

Look before you judge a book by it's cover.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Once Upon a Disneyland

A friend once asked me, “If you could travel to anywhere in the world, where would you go?” I pondered the question thoughtfully, and then responded in all seriousness, “Disneyland.”

He laughed in a good natured way, because he knew that it was true. Even though I go to Disneyland every couple of months, whenever I find a chance or excuse to be there, it's special to me. Disneyland is my second home. Last year, in fact, I even made a huge gingerbread castle that was a model of the Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland.

I spent this last weekend at Disneyland. It was pretty awesome. Wow – I just repeated myself there. In any case, I had a lot of fun. I had more fun that you will probably ever have when you go to Disneyland, but probably less fun than I've had at Disneyland before. It's a delicate balance. Thursday evening, I drove down to the Anaheim area, and arrived at about 3 a.m. After sleeping for just five hours, I woke up with my heart pounding, hopped out of bed, and headed to Disneyland to hang out with my best friend, JD. Well, that is, after getting ready, and enjoying the perfect breakfast: A warm, thick slice of Rye Sourdough toast, with delicious melted butter on top.

But I will not bore you with what actually happened, I will get straight to all my favorite stories. Err – which isn't to say that my favorite stories didn't actually happen, because they did. But, you know what I mean! Anyway... where to begin?

One thing that was special about this last weekend was that the park was newly decorated for Halloween. Space Mountain became “Ghost Galaxy,” and the Haunted Mansion was decorated in “Nightmare before Christmas” style:

“Twas the nightmare before Christmas

And all through the house

Not a creature was peaceful

Not even a mouse.”

In honor of Halloween terror, or perhaps because we were standing right next to the ride at one point, me and JD rode The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. It was Terrible! I mean Terrific! One activity that is always exceptionally fun is to pose for the picture on various rides. Many of the rides are equipped with cameras that take your picture, and it's endlessly amusing to think of different poses for that precise moment. For the Tower of Terror, me and JD did our best to look very happy, contented, and even downright relaxed. The picture turned out perfect! If there was no explanation that we were on the “Tower of Terror,” one might look at the picture, and think that we were just relaxing on a park bench (albeit an odd-looking, elevator-style park bench.) Actually, the reason that we were right next to that ride is that we wanted to get a fastpass for that ride, before heading (from Disneyland's California Adventure Park, DCA) over to Disneyland itself. I only mention that because we never actually ended up using those Tower of Terror fastpasses later at all...

But fastpasses are fun! Besides the obvious advantage that the passes allow you to get on rides quickly, when you could have been happily waiting in line for hours on end, they also give the holder a distinct feeling of empowerment. Even if you never actually end up using a fastpass, you always have the feeling that you could have, if you'd wanted to! Therefore, you might be willing to spend an extra 30 minutes going to get a fastpass, which will save you... 30 minutes of time standing in line. So this one time, I wanted to go get Space Mountain fastpasses (which were actually rather necessary, since the line was habitually over an hour long, due to the “Ghost” decore), but JD and Elizabeth, JD's sister, wanted to stay in DCA instead. So we struck a deal, and they rode a ride in DCA there, while I walked all the way out of the park, to Disneyland, to Tomorrowland, to Space Mountain, to get fastpasses for the three of us, and then walk back to Mainstreet, leaving Disneyland, and then into DCA again.

This was all after minimal sleep the night before, and so I was so exhausted after that trek that I sat down at a table in the shade, and promptly fell asleep before JD and his sister returned from California Screamin'. Was it all worth it? Yes! A hundred times, yes! For one thing, the nap was worth it, and allowed me to stay up 'til Midnight. For another thing, we all rode Space Mountain later, and it was epic! The flaming skeleton, which we named Mephistopheles by the way, chases people all around the ride, with its flaming hands which can extend seemingly indefinitely. For the pose of that ride, we knew where the Ghost would show up on the final picture, and then posed as if we could already see the Ghost and were reacting in sheer terror. Speaking of which, wouldn't it be freaky if people kept going into Space Mountain... and never coming back out? Then again, I guess Disney is prepared for that possibility, since I happen to know that there are approximately 10,000 body bags under Space Mountain. (That's actually true, by the way). That reminds me, though, a couple days later, I was looking through my purse, and found an old Space Mountain fastpass from July 7th, for 9:30 to 10:30 pm. I wondered if they would notice the discrepancy, and so on September 19th, between 9:30 and 10:30 pm, I got in the fastpass line – and sure enough! They let me right onto the ride!

Another ride that you won't want to miss is called “Astro Blaster,” and you get to compete with the person in the same car as you to shoot at moving and non-moving targets with an unreliable laser gun, from a moving vehicle. My cousin is a CHP officer, and he loves that ride!!! Hmm... that's kinda scary. In any case, you score points based on how many targets you hit, and how many points they are worth. Occasionally, the ride will stop for a few moments, because the Cast Members have to take extra time to help someone get on or off one of the spacecrafts, and while it may be annoying to be stopped while riding most rides, this is one ride where you secretly hope that it stops once in a while... right in front of a really valuable target. This time, it did. Twice. In front of the *most* point-worthy targets, and I just blasted the Disney Magic out of it.

As we were nearing the end of the ride, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that I was not gaining any more points, and so I complained to JD about that fact. After laughing at me, he proceeded to inform me that I wasn't gaining any points because I had already hit the maximum. !!! I looked at my score, and sure enough! Never before, and probably never again! I had 999,999 points! I quickly forgave the ride for refusing to give me more points, and instead invested my energy in trying to take a picture of the scoreboard before it vanished.

JD got more like 250,000. But in all fairness, I've had significantly more practice, and I usually take pleasure in p'wning whoever I'm with. The previous time I was on that ride, I was with a friend who was into weapons, swords in particular, and had been previously boasting about his intense sword-fighting skills. By the end of the ride, my score was over 3 times his score, and he seemed rather discontent about the whole situation, and so I gently reassured him that if it had been a sword fight, he would have beaten me. After a moment's reflection, he seemed happier and agreed that “Yeh, [he] totally could have killed me 100 times by now.”

What loyal friends I have....

Speaking of swords, though, there is an adorable Sword Shop in Fastasyland. Some people may not believe that the words “adorable” and “sword” go together, but swords can be so artistic and beautiful! There is even a pirate set with a skull and two swords, which can actually be taken off the display and used in case some breaks into your intricate, Disney-decorated house.

If you are reading this, and thinking that Disneyland is all about the awesome rides, then you are sadly, sadly, mistaken. Already I've mentioned the thrill of the fastpasses, the sleep-inducing tables, and the carefully crafted swords, but there is so much more to Disneyland than that. For instance, one activity that I always find amusing is stepping on and off the sidewalks. ( Go ahead and take a moment to laugh at how odd I am before continuing, if you must... ) You see, when I step off a sidewalk, I always use the wrong foot to step with. That is, if I am resting my weight on my left foot, and I reach the curb, I put my right foot forward, but then slide my left foot onto the ground before putting my right foot down. It's fun, but it takes practice. Similarly, when I step onto the sidewalk, I do not step up. I jump just a bit, and then put both of my feet down sequentially. Sure, it's unnecessary, but it's fun! For instance, have you ever tried being unhappy while skipping? It just doesn't work!

Now, I had come to Southern California to visit Disneyland, to visit all of Disneyland, and to visit nothing but Disneyland. But then, you see, I learned that one of my close friends in the area had two tickets for a concert, which he didn't plan to be using. Normally, I wouldn't give a second thought to it, but two of the bands playing were Disturbed and Avenged Sevenfold. So you see, since the man I love had at one point listed those two exact bands as two of his all-time favorites, I felt very motivated to go and see them, if for no other reason than to make him jealous. :) That is the flexibility of my Disneyland schedule. Some people have every moment of every day there set in stone, but not I. So JD and myself set off to find ourselves in a midst of a concert which couldn't be less Disney if it tried! It was certainly pretty interesting, and I did find it quite enjoyable, though I walked away with the distinct impression that the bands were darker and more obsessed with fire and death on stage than they had seemed on CD. Since I hadn't had a lot of foreknowledge about going to this event, I somehow missed having the important thought that I would have wanted to bring some sort of ear protection. As a result, my left ear was still ringing the day...

“Say, what ride do you want to go on?”

“Huh? Talk in Granny's good ear!”

One part of the trip that was particularly memorable was the part at which me and JD and Elizabeth all got the best Caramel Apples ever, and then enjoyed each delicious bite, while next to the lovely Rivers of America. This was memorable not only because it was ridiculously tasty (and even filling!) but because we weren't talking, while the three of us munched on the apples. We were all overly-hunger, and while happily consuming the newly-acquired food, it struck me that we hadn't had a moment of silence like that up to that point. Those were some *good* apples, though. I certainly plan to get another one the next time I visit. As we walked over to buy the apples, we ran into my good and dear best-friend who lives far away, Trina! No sooner had the words “Caramel Apple” left my mouth than she was giving me puppy-dog eyes to try to persuade me to get her one as well. Heh heh. That girl is like a little sister to me, and so of course, when we hung out the next day, I got her a caramel apple. For the sake of context, she often has so little money and gets so little to eat, that feeding her is one of the more rewarding experiences one can have.

Then again, she's good at being adorable and getting people to do things for her. Just like Hope, except more skilled. For instance, at one point the other day, I was hanging out with Trina, and the line for Haunted Mansion was about an hour long. She didn't have an hour to stay in the park, and she hadn't yet had a chance to see how it was decorated for the upcoming holidays... so she found some Cast Members she knew, and before I knew it, one of them had let us through the Fastpass line though we didn't have fastpasses!

But as many adventures that we had, while we were there, there were also adventures that we didn't have. I should definitely tell you about some of those as well. First of all, there was the game of invisible checkers that we never got to play. On Tom Sawyer Island, there is a table, and on that table, there is a painted Checkers/Chess board. At one point in the past, I was with a friend of mine, and while we did not have any game pieces, we did have Triscuits (a type of cracker). We used those as pieces for the game, and named it “Trisketiers.” The rule was: If you jumped the opponent's piece, you got to eat it! It was awfully fun. But this time, I didn't even have Triscuits. Therefore, I thought to myself that we should play checkers with no pieces whatsoever, and just try to keep track of where the pieces were. There were three of us, and so while two of us could play, the third could settle the inevitable disputes that would have come up, regarding where the pieces were, and how many were left. It was bound to be boundlessly amusing, but then by the time we got there, two other people were sitting at the table.

Oh well. We had to quickly abandon that idea, and content ourselves with running all about the Island, climbing on and over everything, and taking lots of fun pictures. It was a blast!!! A person isn't really allowed to climb on everything on Tom Sawyer Island, but it's mostly just for safety reasons. There's also a shipwrecked boat on the Island, which I named the U.S.S. Acosta after the friend who I played Trisketiers with, C. Daniel Acosta. While on the Island, me and JD and Elizabeth took many excellent pictures which prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that we had more fun than we actually did, and then we headed back for the mainland. On the way to Tom Sawyer Island, actually, JD had been causing trouble by flipping the sign around, so that it said that the Island was closed. Not surprisingly, people still came to Island. Surprisingly, when we got back, the sign *still* said that the Island was closed! No Cast Member had even noticed it! After the requisite bout of laughter (and maybe a couple extra ones), we conscientiously corrected the sign before heading off to other adventures.

Another adventure that we never had was visiting the fireplace. You see, after a long day, filled with more fun than you and grandmother can handle, the most enticing place in the whole world is this one spot with a huge, cozy, snug fireplace.

In front of the fireplace are perhaps a dozen comfy rocking chairs, and there is soft piano music playing in the background. There is nothing quite like it. Even if you were able to reconstruct the scene, you wouldn't enjoy as much if you were not quite so physically exhausted. And even if you were physically exhausted because of work, you would not enjoy it quite as much as you would after a long, exhausting day of fun at Disneyland. It's like... well, you know the feeling that you have in the morning when you wake up, and then you hit “snooze” and snuggle up with your blankets for another few minutes? It's like that cozy feeling, times ten! It's just a perfect feeling that you want to hold on to forever. Well, we didn't have a chance to enjoy that feeling because on Friday evening, we were at a Disturbed concert, and on Saturday evening, we were busy watching Fantasmic, and then World of Color. It was all good, though, because we had such an extraordinary amount of fun, and besides that, now we have adventures to have next time!

So you can see, many people don't bother to write about the adventures that they never had, but sometimes, that's the best part!!! You can why I never get bored of Disneyland, though – every time I leave, I have so many exciting plans, that at the end of the trip, I find that I simply must come back again to finish having all those adventures that I hadn't yet gotten around to having.

Now, when we did see Fantasmic, it was absolutely breathtaking. Except for one important detail. The Dragon – the main antagonist who sets the whole river on fire – was missing. :| Naturally, I did not miss the opportunity to tease my Arch-Rival (who is a Fantasmic lead) about the Dragon being gone. I hear that the Dragon, a couple weeks ago, was put in the hospital after Mickey zapped him so powerfully that he fell face-first... and couldn't get back up.

Epic victory on Mickey's part! Although I do have to mention that the Dragon was never particularly cooperative. When he first made his debut this year, he kept breaking because the Disney special effects crew couldn't handle him. Eventually, they just hired the people who built him to control him during the show. Obviously, the Dragon, in time, was too much even for them. Even so, we miss you, Fantasmic Dragon! Please come back!!!

Speaking of things being missing from Disneyland, JD and I wandered into Toontown at one point, and I was shocked and disappointed to see that Landmark 3 ½ (which had been dedicated on “some important day”) was gone. One word: Why??? Seriously. Why? What could Disney possibly gain by taking away Landmark 3 ½? For that matter, why did they take away “The Blank Sign?” All they have there now is, well, an actually blank sign. Not quite as funny.

But it was all good. I remember at one point, me and JD were standing in line for the Canoe ride, which is by far, one of my two favorite rides in the entire park (Elizabeth didn't want to do any hard physical labor on her vacation. I can't figure out why), and JD mentioned that he rarely gets to spend so much time with me – that it seemed odd, but in a good way. That made me think, because it didn't seem at all odd to me. It seemed like the most natural thing in the world to be at my favorite place in the world, with one of my favorite people in the world. Not for one instant did anything in the world seem more “normal” to my mind. I leave Disneyland, and then come back months later, but as soon as I arrive, I feel as though I've never left. The canoes were tremendously fun, by the way. Not just tolerable, not just somewhat fun, but incredibly fun! It's small wonder that I hold the record of thirty times on that ride in a day. The canoe guide was very witty, and told the canoe jokes with skill and finesse. Even JD was very happy to hear those jokes (which I'd recited to him again and again) actually told in context. The guide, Ben, even told some canoe jokes that I'd never heard before. For instance, as we slowly glided by the Smoking Area that is right along the river, Ben called out to us “Stroke! Stroke! Stroke!” and then, turning his head to those smoking, “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke!” It was pretty hilarious, and even the smokers found it amusing. To be fair, though, that wasn't his best joke; that's just one that I'd never heard before, and will have to add to my list.

I took lots of interesting pictures of Disneyland. In fact, Disneyland is one of the few places where I ever take pictures at all, and I have one simple guideline: I don't want to take pictures that look like everyone else's pictures. “Here's me with the Castle.” “Here's me with Mickey Mouse.” “Here we are in front of a ride.” Boring! That might just be the best way to make the most exciting place on earth look simplistic and over-rated. However, I do love to take pictures. Luckily, JD and his sister had digital cameras with them, and I relied on those a great deal. Of course, I also brought a camera, but you see, I *hate* carrying things. When I go to Disneyland, I do not carry a backpack, or even a purse. If I have to carry it, I don't bring it. It's that simple. In this case, though, since I brought my camera and it didn't fit in any of my pockets, I simply carried it in one of my boots. Last time, I carried it in my pirate hat, but the trouble with that was that I would keep forgetting, and every time I would take my hat off, my camera would fall to the ground! I didn't like that much, but as hard as I tried, I never could keep in mind the fact that I was carrying a camera in my hat. (Similarly, my friend David teased me at the end of the day when I took off my boots, and my camera feel to the floor. Clearly, I also can't keep in mind that I'm carrying a camera in my boot)

Anyway, that kept things nice and interesting because we would be walking along, and every time I saw something that I really wanted to take a picture of, my friends would get to laugh at me as I hopped on one foot, while trying to get my camera out of my other boot. (Then again, it makes me wonder: Would Disneyland be quite as fun if I were not quite as odd?)

Well, looking back over all the stories I've told so far, I can see that I've already told quite enough, if not too many. Even so, I haven't even told you about all the excitement from this trip, and this has been just *one* trip. Imagine how much fun I've had on all the trips combined!!! And do I go back to Disneyland and do the same things again and again? For some things, yes, and it's familiar and awesome. In other ways, no; I have different stories to tell every time I return. There are about ten more favorite stories just from this most recent trip that I haven't the time to write about. Stories of contraband, and going on Winnie the Pooh again and again to relax at the end of a beautiful but mentally-tiring day; stories of accidentally creating status symbols, and my mental ponderings about whether or not it's worth it to have a conversation if you already know everything that's going to be said. There are a couple stories about various adventures having to with “15 minute parking” (would you believe “50 minute parking”?), and how trippy it is to go at high speeds on a ride where you can look backwards the whole time. All those stories will have to wait for another time, though. I had lots of fun. So much. In fact, I did things so risky that at one point, I hid my ID in my boot, for fear of getting caught and having my pass revoked. But the abundance of stories is something that never ceases to frustrate me at times, because, at the end of a really awesome day, I will have perhaps 10 pages of stories to write. But before I can raise my hand to write in my journal at night, I fall into a contented sleep. When I wake up, it's usually time to go back to Disneyland. I mean, who can sit around writing, when Disneyland awaits?

[Text on Sign: "This is a blank sign! Please do not pay attention to any printing you may see on this sign. We only wrote this to let you know that this is a blank sign. With nothing on it. Except this message."]

Anyway, I hope that you guys have *half* as much fun as I have! Because, you see, that would mean that I would be having twice as much fun as you... and you guys seem like you'd be having a great time!

Well, after all this, I've reached the end of this blog. And, as much humor as it has contained, I have just one last joke – for all you psychics out there:

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ponderous Ponderings


Where do we start when we look for the most basic unit of knowledge?

Well, Descartes’ famous maxim was “I think, therefore I am” but I believe there’s a better starting point. Namely:
“I perceive, therefore I am.”

Perception does not necessarily require thought, and therefore is a more basic starting point.

So what does it mean to say “I perceive”? First, we note the subject is “I.” This is critical, because this limits the scope of the argument. “I”, as the subject, have direct knowledge of perception, so this is not saying you perceive nor does it say I can perceive what you can perceive. So this is very limited in scope, but it is essential.

Secondly, what is it to perceive? We might say that it is using our senses to take in sensory data. But this is not an accurate definition to begin with, for there is no way for us to know yet whether or not what we perceive is valid or real. It is, after all, possible that the entire external world that I perceive is a hallucination, albeit a very convincing one. Thus, the existence of perception does not actually prove that we have senses nor that the sensory information we perceive is valid.

Nevertheless, the simple fact of perception requires that there be something to perceive such a perception; in this case, the subject “I.” And this leads us to the same place Descartes started from—proof of some kind of existence. For it is the case that if I exist in order to perceive something (and I have direct access to this knowledge since I am the subject and I do, in fact, perceive) then something exists. We do not yet know what my attributes are, other than that I have some kind of existence. It is possible that I exist immaterially, as a spirit who is deluded into thinking the physical world is real. It may even be possible that I exist as a self-aware thought in the mind of some higher being, such as God. Or it could be that I exist exactly as I perceive myself to exist—as a physical being with an immaterial mind.

None of those things can, as of yet, be proven. But for the sake of understanding the most basic unit of knowledge, my direct experience of my own perceptions proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that something does in fact exist. And because something does exist, by the brute fact that what exists cannot not exist, we have established two logical truths as being necessary:
1. Identity. A is A. That is, whatever exists, exists. We can go further and say that while we do not know what attributes to apply to me, we do know that whatever attributes are a part of my existence do, are in fact attributes of my existence. If I have an attribute X, then it is the case that I have the attribute X.

And this brings us immediately the corollary
2. The law of non-contradiction. A is not ~A. That is, whatever attributes I do not have are, in fact, attributes I do not have. I cannot both have and not have the same attribute at the same time and in the same relationship.

So we see very quickly that the two foundational laws of logic are established simply by virtue of the fact that I exist in order to perceive something. And if these two attributes of logic exist, then we can begin to probe logic itself to see what it is that logic must require in order for logic to be valid.

As we’ve seen, logic is established by existence. In this case, the only thing I know exists (at this point) is myself. And as you read this, the only thing you’ll know exists is yourself. We cannot prove to the other person that we exist, for we do not have direct access to others’ perceptions.

But we can still learn important information. If we are to assert that logic is a meaningful tool to probe the rest of reality, then we know that logic must be grounded in something. If it is grounded in existence, then logic is only valid insofar as existence “exists” (for lack of a better word). Now, existence itself cannot exist; rather, objects have the property of “existing.” So to say that existence “exists” is really to say that there must be some kind of existing object. And, as I’ve stated, if that is the grounding for logic, then the scope of logic is identical to the scope of the existing object.

If, therefore, we are to say that logic is universal, then we must stipulate that there is a universal existence. That universal existence must transcend all other existing objects, and indeed must be the basis for which other existing objects have their existence. There must be something that is transcendent, such that if you and I both exist as separate objects then we both have the same rules of logic we must obey. If that assumption is true, then logic is grounded in an existence that is bigger than either of us individually. We must seek the transcendent.

This path also seems reasonable when we consider that our own existence, which we know is real for we have perceptions, must either be a self-existence or a derived existence. That is, whatever it is that makes me exist must be either something that exists with the essence of being within itself (hence, self-existent) or else whatever makes me exist must come from some other more foundational form of existence. Yet it is clear that if there is a more foundational form of existence, then either that foundational form is self-existent, or else derived from another even more foundational form of existence. Yet the cycle cannot be infinite, for that would cause an infinite regress fallacy, which would violate the very standards of logic we are trying to establish. Therefore, my existence proves something must be self-existent. And that something must be either myself, or something more foundational than myself; and if it is more foundational then myself, then it is transcendent once again.

So we see that either I am the sum of all existence, or else there is existence that transcends me. What else can we demonstrate?

Well, obviously the issue of time comes to mind. And this can present some real conundrums. For instance, when it comes to being there are two different classical strains of thought: Whatever is, is; and whatever is, is becoming. The first sense gives us a static universe; the second gives us one which is never the same (yet, ironically, it becomes static in its ever changing nature—that is, if it always changes then it never doesn’t change, which means it’s always the same after all). In any case, the questions that result from this discussion are fundamentally based in a concept of time.

Time cannot be infinite, for the same reason that we cannot have an infinite number of more foundational existence. It causes a regress fallacy. If time is not infinite, then it had to have a beginning. Regardless of how we come down on the topic of “whatever is, is” and “whatever is, is becoming” it seems plain that time must exist as soon as there is physical existence.

Now time is inherently tricky to define. Ultimately, time cannot be defined except in relation to movement; yet movement is defined in relation to time. For instance, in physics we know that velocity is distance divided by time. And using math we could say that time is therefore distance divided by velocity. But that doesn’t give us a definition of time, because velocity requires time to define what velocity is! But in the end, this is the only satisfactory definition of time that we have. For instance, Einstein once quipped: “Time is that which clocks measure.” But all that essentially means is that time is defined by the rate in which one arm on a clock moves a certain distance. Thus, when one hand moves all the way around the clock face, it is said that 60 minutes have passed.

Since all definitions of time require movement, it seems most likely that “whatever is, is becoming” is the most accurate concept of being, even though paradoxically it leads to a different form of stasis (as I indicated above). This means that not only does time require existence, but also change. If something existed but never changed, there would be no time. But if time is the “space between changes” so to speak, then time cannot be eternal for if it were, there would have to be eternal change. And if there were eternal change, then we could trace it back an infinite distance. But if we traced it back an infinite distance, it would take an infinite amount of time to return to our present position. Which means if time began an infinity ago, the present would have never arisen—for we would still be an infinite number of years in the past.

On the other hand, time is also relative…and it is precisely relative in its relation to motion! Indeed, the faster an object moves, the slower time appears to go (from the perspective of someone not moving). More precisely, if only two objects exist, Adam and Mary, and they are moving away from each other, then Adam will perceive time move more slowly for Mary (for from his perspective, she is moving while he is standing still) while Mary perceives time moving more slowly for Adam (for from her perspective, he is the one moving while she is standing still). So the relative motion between objects gives us the rate of time. And yet this requires one to have a view from inside the universe, so to speak, which immediately begs the question: how fast does time go for the observer outside the universe who looks at the universe as we would look at an ant colony? If all motion is internal to the universe, then perhaps in the end “whatever is, is” becomes true after all—for if no motion escapes the universe, then from outside the universe, the universe itself is static.

So from all of that, we can come to this firm conclusion: time makes no sense.

In fact, I believe that the inconsistencies actually prove that time doesn’t exist, at least not in the way that we think it does. Therefore, the perception of time is an illusion, useful as it may be. Time is not transcendent. And therefore, in order to ground logic, we must step outside of time. The ground of logic itself must be atemporal.

Similarly, the existence that grounds logic cannot be physical existence either, for physical existence is tied up in the paradox of “whatever is, is” and “whatever is, is becoming” for the same reason that time is so fluky. Therefore, whatever grounds logic must be aphysical or, in this case: immaterial.

So by using simple logic, we’ve discovered that the grounds of logic must be transcendent, immaterial, and atemporal. These are three attributes that can only be found in divinity. Speculating further might give us more information, but in terms of identifying Who the divine is, that is something that cannot be grasped from these principals. Instead, we require Revelation from the divine.

And that is to be expected. For if we exist, and if we are not ourselves divine (as does not seem likely, although logically that has not been ruled out yet), then that means we were created. And if we were created, the very act of creation itself implies a purpose for creation. That is, there must be a reason for it. And if there is a reason for creation, then we ought to think that the One who created us may very well provide that reason to us.

Naturally, there are competing claims as to Who the divine creator is. Some say Yahweh, some Allah, some The Great Spirit. But it seems plain that atheism cannot be true. At least, not if we are to remain rational adherents to logic.

Important Note: I am not the author of this blog. This is a reposting of Peter Pike's thoughts on "The Basic First Principles of Knowledge." However, please know that this post may or may not accurately reflect his current opinion.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Can Emotion be Expressed Online?

To all my faithful readers, not-faithful readers, and non-readers -- whoever you may be, sitting there at your computer, reading this, I would like to extend an invitation to you.

I invite you to participate, if you dare, in a newly developed survey about the various ways people do or do not express emotion over the internet.

Do you feel that emotion is hardly expressed at all?

Do you think that emotion is expressed more than people know?

Your input is valued highly. This survey awaits your response.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Does God Sin By Allowing Evil - Part 1


This topic came up as a result of this blog, posted by Peter Pike over at Triablogue: Does Permission Exculpate God?

Pike puts forward the the idea that, according to Arminianism, if God foreknows everything and then still allows sin, He would become culpable for all evil that occurs. I commented, and as me and Peter debated back and forth, it quickly became a very fascinating discussion. I was half-tempted to just repost the conversation here, but I generally feel that reposting conversations is a very unstructured and sloppy way of presenting information, and so I decided to make this more of a proper blog.

During the course of the debate, three interrelated but separate topics were discussed:

  • Is it immoral for us to permit sin and harm? From an Arminian point of view, is it immoral for God to permit sin and harm?

  • Calvinist premise: God is held to a different standard than we are. Therefore, He can permit and cause sin without sinning. Does this hold true?

  • Does Arminianism contradict itself or claim this: God would be culpable for causing sin, since He is held to the same moral standard as man, but would not be culpable for allowing sin, since He is not held to the same moral standard as man.

I will post three blogs, and in each blog, one of these topics will be addressed. The blogs will be posted in the order listed above.

Topic 1 - Is it immoral for us to permit sin and harm? From an Arminian point of view, is it immoral for God to permit sin and harm?

Here I will quote a chunk of Pike's blog post:

“I do not wish to rehash old ground anew, but instead to add yet one more Scriptural proof that permission alone is insufficient to exempt someone from culpability. And that Scriptural proof is found in the Law of Moses.

Exodus 21:28 states:
When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner of the ox shall not be liable.

Now an ox is an animal, and as such it as a rudimentary will. It is not an inanimate object, in other words, and it will often do things that the owner does not wish for it to do. Anyone who has ever owned livestock—or even pets, for that matter—knows of the frustration of wanting an animal to do something and the animal not doing it.

… What is clear from this verse is that the owner of the ox is not held responsible for the actions of the ox. Presumably, this would be due to the fact that the ox’s will is not the owner’s will, and that is why the owner is not liable. The owner did not wish for the ox to kill anyone, the owner did not plan for this, therefore the owner is not culpable.

Thus far, it looks like this would be evidence for the position that if God permits something evil to occur He is not culpable for that. However, the very next verse reads:

But if the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has been warned but has not kept it in, and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death.

And here we see that the escape to “permission” cannot remove culpability from God. For we see that it is still the case that the owner of the ox does not will that the ox gore anyone, and we still see that the owner does not plan this event to happen, yet nevertheless the owner is held responsible with the same penalty imposed as if he had murdered the man himself. Why is the owner culpable? Because he did not take measures needed to reign in an ox “accustomed to gore.” He is negligent for not stopping that which he knew was dangerous, and therefore he receives the same penalty as if he had personally acted instead of the ox.

… And if the owner of an ox is culpable when he knows full well that he has a dangerous ox, then God surely must likewise be culpable if He knows full well that a created being He put on Earth is a danger to others.”


Issues brought up:

Here we establish the Biblical principle that if a person allows his non-moral beast, who he owns, who he is responsible for, and who he knows is dangerous, to hurt people, he is in the wrong. But this doesn't say anything about God permitting us to sin, because God does not relate to us in the same way that we relate to non-moral oxen that we own and can in good conscience lock up in the backyard for their entire life! I put forward to Pike the idea that if we “own” an animal we are accepting responsibility for them in a different way than we accept responsibility for other people, and different then any way God takes responsibility for our actions.

Pike answers this by setting forward this idea: It is not only immoral for a person to allow his beast to kill someone, it is also immoral to allow harm to come to another person when you could prevent it. He gives two reasons for this argument. Reason #1 - Ezekiel's watchman is warned that if he does not attempt to save others by warning them, he is held responsible for their deaths. Reason #2 – It would be unloving to not stop harm from occurring, if you have the power to stop it. (He adds a side note that he is not talking about instances in which it is right and proper for you to avoid interfering.)


Here is the direct question:
“If we allow someone to be harmed when it is in our power to stop that harm, is that loving him as we love ourselves?”

It depends on our position, and our motives. If we are the person's bodyguard (a position), and we allow them to be harmed, that would be unethical and wrong. If we allow that person to be harmed out of a lack of love, then that would be unloving. There are, however, other cases in which we may allow people to be harmed, in which we do no wrong. I allow people to be harmed everyday, when I have the power to stop that harm, because I choose to go to work at an office job instead of being a detective or police or military or Social Services worker. I do not permit harm because I am not loving. I permit harm because I do not feel called to go and prevent that particular harm. People permit harm to those on death row (namely, death) – this, also, is not unloving. I could go on and on, but my point is this: Whether permitting someone to hurt someone else is right or wrong depends on your position(and thereby responsibility) and motives.

Position or relationship of responsibility: If I own an oxen, I am in a position of authority and responsibility over a non-moral being. If I allow it to hurt people, I am abusing my position. If I am a watchman, and I don't warn people, I am neglecting my duty. But what if I don't own the ox? What if I'm not a watchman? Then I have no responsibility in those cases (except for the moral responsibility of motive) If you let your ox kill someone, shame on you. On the other hand, if my little sister goes and slugs some guy at school, I am not culpable for that, even if I know that my little sister has violent tendencies. Why? I am not in a position of authority or responsibility over my little sister in the same way I would be over an ox. For this reason also, God is not culpable for allowing sin, since He does not take responsibility, as an owner of a non-moral being, nor signed up to be a “watchman.” He did not take those positions, and therefore is not culpable for not fulfilling the responsibilities that go along with them.

Moral character: It's all about the motive here. This goes back to what was said about the commandment to love. If we let our animals go around killing people, and we don't warn people of an attack, it's probably become we are not pursuing righteousness or love. We would rather sleep at home than warn people of impending danger, and if my animals hurts you – well tough for you. Is that loving? No. However, if we permit something for a good moral reason (IE it would be illegal to do otherwise, we are dedicating our time to a different cause that God has put on our hearts, we know that we need to allow our children the freedom to make mistakes rather than just locking them up, etc), then it can be fine. God's moral character is always pure and holy, and so if He allows something, you can bet your life that it is with morally pure, righteous, and loving intent.

A Final Question from Pike:

“Are you actually saying that God is not responsible for His own creation?”

God is responsible for His choice to create. He is responsible for His choice to create moral beings who could then choose to sin. He is not responsible for what those moral beings choose to do. [From an Arminian perspective in which those moral beings cause themselves to do things. If one assumes that God causes all the actions of the beings, then yes He would be responsible for any good or evil that they carry out, at His decree] He is responsible for His actions, and not ours. We will be held responsible and culpable for our actions, except in the case where God choose to take our punishment on the cross, and we trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, in which case our culpability was put on Him.


Stay tuned for my next three blog posts, which will cover the other aspects of this same discussion! But, just to reiterate the points that I put forward here:

  1. Man would be culpable for allowing his non-moral beast, which he owns, to go off and kill someone, if he knew that the ox was dangerous.

  2. It does not follow that we are also culpable for allowing anyone to be harmed. Whether or not it is a fault to allow harm to befall someone depends on these two factors: Our responsibility/positon/role, and our moral character/intent.

  3. God is not culpable for allowing man to hurt each each other, or for allowing oxen to hurt people for two reasons. First of all, He does not take a role in which He has the responsibility to protect us from all harm (as a watchmen would) or to keep us from hurting each other (like locking up an ox). Secondly, His moral character and intent in allowing harm is already righteous and pure.

Does God Sin By Allowing Evil - Part 2 (Special Pleading)

Topic 2: Calvinist premise: God is held to a different standard than we are.

Therefore, He can permit and cause sin without sinning. Does this hold true?

Issues Brought Up

Now, by the end of the last post, you can see that I support the idea that the relationship between God and man and the relationship between an animal owner and his animals. Pike says that we can extend this further, and develop the concept that there is a difference in the relationship between God and man and between man and other men. Well – so far, so good. I actually agree! God's relationship IS different than our relationship with each other! However, Pike goes on to say that because God's relationship to us is different than our relationship to us, what may be wrong for us may be right for Him. At first glance, this may make sense – after all, it would be wrong for us to judge the world, but it's right for Him to do that. However, the form of calvinism that Pike holds to claims that there is a lot that is wrong for us that is right for God: It would be wrong for us to cause sin, but it's right for Him to cause sin. It would be wrong for us not to love people, but its righteous if God doesn't love people, etc. I disagree with this view.

In the last blog, I touched on the two categories of position/role and moral character/intent. I will bring these two concepts up again in this discussion.

God has a different position/role than we do
but He holds us to the same moral standard that He holds Himself to.

Now, I agree with Pike that God does relate to man differently than man relates to man. Additionally, I agree that God can restrict men from doing things that He Himself does, and He can command men to do things that He Himself does not do. For example – He judges the world, and we repent. However, I do not see this this logically points to the idea that God does not conform to the same standard of moral perfection that He strives to mold us into – in fact, the Bible states specifically that He wants to conform us into His own moral image: the image of His Son.

The difference between what God is culpable for and what we would be culpable for only applies to position/role. For example – God takes the role of judge over the earth – we do not. However, while God does not take that role – as in, when He came to take the role of a mere man – He operated by the same moral principles that are always a part of his nature. We are never going to take His role, even in heaven, but we will be conformed to the moral standard of perfection, in the likeness of His Son, who took on our submissive role.

Our role is different from God's role. But God holds us to the same moral standard that He holds Himself to. The most fundamental part of God's nature is love. As we are told: God is love. Even the two most important commandments for us reflect this: Love the Lord your God, and Love your neighbor as yourself. You'll notice that what He is and what He calls us to be are not two distinct and separate moral standards. No. Rather, in learning to love and obey God (He who loves Christ will keep Christ's commandments that we should love), we become conformed to HIS image – which is love. You may notice a repeating theme here. So, even though our relationship to each other is not the same as God's relationship to us, we can count on the fact that He is always more holy, and not less. If He calls us to love, it's because He loves more. And if He calls us to demonstrate justice, it's because He reigns justly over the entire universe. We are to imitate Him. This is only possible because of the moral standard that He holds Himself to, and expects us to hold ourselves to, in an ever-increasing way.

Okay well - What standard does God hold Himself to?

Now, obviously Pike still believes that God is perfectly holy and righteous when He causally-determines evil, and so he continues the discussion with a discussion of what moral standard God holds himself to.

“Of course, we'd have to get even deeper here. Is God holy because holiness is a standard that God must follow; or is God holy because whatever He does is by definition holy? I maintain the second, as there is no morality apart from God, and thus there is no standard of behavior He has to follow external to Himself. Which means that it is true that if God determines x, it is impossible for God's determining of x to be a sin, even if He declares that x is itself a sin.”

Now I agree, of course, that there is no force outside of God that God is accountable to. God is the highest moral law in the universe. However, going one step further, me and Pike disagree again. I believe in Divine Essentialism, and not Voluntarism. Voluntarism is the position that maintains, basically, that God's will is above His nature. What God chooses is righteous. If God suddenly commanded us all to torture each other, it would be a sin to disobey! I do not hold to this point of view. I believe in Divine Essentialism – God is always true to His essence. His will and His nature are always perfectly in sync. It is impossible for God to choose to something that His nature finds abhorrent. And yes – God does record in the Scripture that He finds sin abhorrent. (see Amos 6:8) God is the great “I am.” He is unchangeable. There is no deceit in Him. There is no shadow of turning with Him.

God would be culpable for causing sin for two reasons:

Reason #1 - It would go against His Holy and Perfect character. He does not even look on sin (Hab 1:13-14). He disavows even thinking up specific sins (Jer. 32:35). There is no shadow of turning in Him. Why then, would He with one hand abhor sin, and with the other hand cause it?

Reason #2 - In the Bible, God specifically that anyone or anything that causes sin commits sin. For Him to cause sin, by His own standard, would mean that He would be committing sin. (See The Culpability of Causing Sin)

God Was Not the Mastermind Behind this Sin

Earlier in this blog, I made the claim that “[God] disavows even thinking up specific sins (Jer. 32:35)” Here's the verse I was referring to:
Jeremiah 32:35
“They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.”

Pike responds with this absolutely fascinating interpretation of this verse. (What will they think of next?)
“By the way, your quotation of Jeremiah 32:35 is incorrect, when you imply that God cannot think on sin. What "didn't enter God's mind" was that they ought to engage in this behavior. It's the moral imperative that God didn't consider.”

I can just image the tonal inflection of the discussion between a calvinist and a non-calvinist reading the same verse...
  • Non-Calvinist: “...Nor did it enter into my mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin!”

  • Calvinist: No, no, no. “Nor did it enter into my mind that they should do this abomination!”

Anyway, first of all, Pike said that I imply that God cannot think on sin – what I actually said was that God didn't think up (invent, mastermind) that sin. There is a difference there.

Going back to his interpretation of the verse, am I really expected believe that God causally-determined Israel to offer up sons and daughters to Molech, and then turned around to say, with an air of indignant innocence: “I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination...” A lawyer could say “Yes, yes – you see? He did not command it. It wasn't something they should, by His revealed will, have done. God never says that He didn't make it happen.” But I think that's missing the whole point. I think that God's commentary could be more likened to this: “You think this was my idea??? It wasn't. I didn't mastermind this! This is sickening – an abomination! Abhorrent to my soul!” At face value, that seems a lot more like what God is saying. I mean, just look at it for a moment, without bias if you can:

Quote: “I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination...”

Interpretation 1: “I didn't command this in my revealed will! I caused it, sure, but they shouldn't have done it! They are going to pay.”

Interpretation 2: “You think this was my idea??? It wasn't. I didn't mastermind this! This is sickening – an abomination! Abhorrent to my soul!”

Enough said.


Just to give a brief re-cap of the various main points that were put forward in this blog, here is a short outline:

  • God relates to man differently than man relates to man

  • There are different moral obligations that go with different roles - We will never take God's position/role

  • On the other hand, God's moral standard for us and for Himself are the same. His commands reflect His character.

  • God's will is not above His nature. He Himself cannot do anything against His own divine essence.

  • God would not cause, and then later disavow, evil that His soul abhors