Beyond Reason

Happy Little Discovery

Posted in Faith by Abigail on December 28, 2006

Christmas has gotten in the way of blogging. Just kidding. Christmas is great. But really the holidays and general “important” matters like eating and sleeping have interfered.

I intend to get back to the theology and philosophy conversation because it is intriguing. And because I want to do your guys’ comments justice by responding to them. (They were great, as always!)

In the meantime, I ran into this: Tillich and Berkouwer.

I read this guy on a somewhat regular basis becuase he is fascinating. How many Finnish theologians do I know? That’s random. If you go to the above post you’ll see the first link is to – ta da! – “Berkouwer and Tillich: The Relationship between Theology and Philosophy”

How perfect is that?! Apparently I’m not the only one interested in that relationship. I only recently realized that it’s pretty much the same question as the question of the relationship between faith and reason (although it is still different). Which is totally obvious but I hadn’t made that connection. Good for me! Still hitting the basics. 🙂

Anyway, I didn’t understand everything they said and I have no idea who Berkouwer and Tillich are, but, it’s always cool to see other people discussing the same things you are.

Take care friends!

Elves and Trauma

Posted in Pure Nonsense by Abigail on December 21, 2006

I have been inspired by the greatest of question of our time: how many of us were actually traumatized by Santa’s fictional nature? In other words, how many of us were devastated by the fact that he’s not real? Gasp choke. Oh my.

Well, I have conducted some very scientific research (I specialize in Santa Clausology) and have implemented some of the work I did on my dissertation (entitled Why Santa Should be Real). My elves (I hired a few from Santa. The rest came from Middle Earth) created the forms, the database to sift and calculate the data, and a web site which can only be accessed from the North Pole (or Middle Earth). Since they generated the tools for my methodology, you’d have to ask them any questions you may have on the credibility of my research. I refer you to the elves!

First, I asked myself (what any unbiased researcher would do). And then I based all further results off my own. Growing up, was I traumatized by the slow realization that Santa Claus wasn’t real? After thinking about a half second, it came to me: No! I wasn’t! I don’t think I was a superbly rational kid – I was just intelligent beyond all reason. Wait, that’s not what I meant to say. But, it’s true – there was no pain, no crying, no emotional disturbance over Santa’s nonexistence. In fact, this realization made such an impact on me that I have no memory of it!

Until recently, Santa has had practically no impact on my life. But the claim has reached my ears that many kids are traumatized by Santa’s unreality.* What to do with such a claim? Well, first find out if it’s true. Hence, my “research.”

Dave, who works in the cube near mine, was baffled by my question. No, he wasn’t traumatized, didn’t know anyone who was, and couldn’t imagine anyone who would be. Gary, who works next to Dave’s cube, had the same response. Damian, who works across from Gary, thought hard – no one. Michael, next to Dave, told me a story that had nothing to do with my question and then finally answered: no. Bill – The Boss – had the same response: no trauma. Of my two roommates, I’ve polled one: she was not traumatized and knows no one who was. This is an odd pattern… (Although this morning I asked the other one and, she told me, in all seriousness, that she was. I just stared at her for a couple minutes and then she confirmed the horrible truth – my theory has one statistic against it. So we’ll throw that out.)

To continue my stellar research, I am posing the question to you: were you traumatized by Santa’s unreality (or know anyone who was)? I know this is very personal…

*This claim was made in the middle of a very worthwhile conversation on the origin and value of Christmas, for a Christian. While I obviously view this particular claim, as, uhm, questionable, the rest of the discussion was worthwhile.

Grandma and Technology

Posted in Personal by Abigail on December 17, 2006

To take a break from “the serious stuff,” here’s my Grandma. She talks incessantly about her severe dislike for technology. However, we’ve had a huge breakthrough, documented on camera for your viewing pleasure. Here’s my sister and her fiancé with my Grandma. Watch the progression.

grandma 1

grandma 2

grandma 3

grandma 4

grandma 5

grandma 6

We have a convert.

Philosophy & Theology, Part 2

Posted in Faith by Abigail on December 14, 2006

All right! Finally coming back to the set of questions I raised a while back (and trying to ignore the fact that, in the meantime, I’ve posted about a statue, an encyclopedia, and my Firefox menu bar). Here’s what I’ve got.

First, is it fair to say theology is a form of philosophy?
  I would love responses on that.

Second, here are the questions I have been trying – and failing – to ask. They have formulated themselves very slowly.

  1. What part does theology play in my salvation? If my salvation is based on theology, wouldn’t my faith then be from men?
  2. How can/do men and God work together, considering God is omniscient/omnipotent and man is supposedly free?
Third, I need to correct an error I made.
  My Mom pointed this out to me. Theology has nothing to do with my salvation. Let me explain a little. Ray got me going on this when he said: “How much of doctrine is inference?” He’s right that much doctrine is inferred but my Mom made the extremely obvious point that not ALL doctrine is inferred. Some parts of doctrine require no inferring – they are simply statements that you accept at face value and believe through faith. The truisms leading to salvation are of this type. So, my faith is not based on theology (human effort to infer from statements to conclusion) and is therefore not from men (I’ve already assumed the Bible to be from God). It can take me a LONG time to get to super basic truths.Any thoughts on this one?

Fourth – that second question up there – I recognize I couldn’t have opened a bigger Pandora’s box, and in the past I have always laughed at this debate. Seriously. When someone would bring it up I would snicker inside and think why don’t you go home? Why? It’s unanswerable and I hate wasting time. But, since then I’ve decided I was wrong. While it may be unanswerable, exploring the question can clarify other issues.

Way back when, in my very first nerdy post on “theology” and things I shouldn’t be getting into, I mentioned the “tandemnness” that exists between God and man inside of Christianity. While philosophy attempts nothing more than an understanding of the universe, theology attempts the same BUT tacks on the phenomenal claim that its explanations are sourced in God Himself – divine backing for an argument. This requires God telling man something and man being able to understand, and not pervert, that message. In other words, this is God and man working together which does nothing more than raise the age old question – how can men with free will co-exist with a God who is both omniscient and omnipotent?

In one sense, there is no “tandemeness,” no “working together,” if man has no free will. In that case, God is directly responsible for all our actions and beliefs. However, if we truly have free will (which needs to be defined – perhaps someone can do that for me?), we are responsible and, as I’ve been implying all along, theology can only be partially trusted. Theology immediately becomes suspect (for the same reason philosophy is suspect) because it is not direct word from God. But even that makes me think of the Bible. In a very real sense, the Bible is not “direct word from God,” because those words must go through my brain before I accept them. I have the ability to convolute, misunderstand, pervert, and manipulate anything. And – according to my perspective – I have free will.

From the free will perspective, God is clearly willing to let us make mistakes, kill each other, and suffer all the other necessary consequences to abandoning the source of life. So, if He’s willing, how can I trust theology (a partially human endeavor)? What will God “let us do?” This is a question of wills.

These are a lot of philosophical questions with only limited value. I hope no one thinks I’m questioning God – I’ve already made “the leap” to trust Him. But I am very curious and a verse I refer to is Proverbs 25:2. Also, while I love philosophy, it is dangerous because it requires self-reliance to some degree (hence my question of wills – somehow God and man work together). I need to point out that I’ve been trusting myself this whole time – to develop these questions – and even that should be questioned to some degree. And, I recognize that the ultimate answers to these questions is faith. God doesn’t owe me an explanation but I think also we’re meant to understand some things – we just don’t always know which is which.

Fifth, I must thank my wonderful friends for posting! You kids make me happy.  🙂  I couldn’t have been more pleased with the responses to the several questions I asked. Starting a blog, I wasn’t sure how many people, other than me, would actually pay it any attention. I mean, I like what I have to say…

So, Joel – you had some practical answers (as opposed my philosophical nonsense). Thanks! Forgiveness, yeah. There are hardly words to communicate the beauty of that. Certainly we are allowed to make mistakes and then God forgives us. I am now curious about the “we are allowed to” part – was I free to do that, or not? But that’s philosophical also – a little bit of “in the sky kind of stuff.” Thanks for bringing up the extremely practical side. Enough can’t possibly be said about forgiveness.

Although my driving question right now is obviously the philosophical end of the whole deal. Perhaps it’s not worth as much…

Brad – your point that “the Bible was not meant to be a Theological document full of logical syllogisms” and that it’s purpose is to “bring you to an encounter with God” helped me immensely! It’s very easy for my thoughts to get confused. (Although, obviously, here, I am accepting man’s words – yours – to help me understand God’s. Is that fair?)

You said, “At the end of the day I think we try to systematize God” for various self-centered reasons. I agree except for one thing – hasn’t God made us rational? I believe, we try to systematize because we are made to systematize, name, label, categorize, and thus “understand.” Certainly we’ve corrupted that good thing, along with every other good thing. Any thoughts on that?

Chris, thanks for your point on theology informing philosophy. From that perspective, there is no disagreement between philosophy and theology. If, by faith, you have already determined that a being created the universe, that He is the one we see in the Bible, that Jesus is that God, etc, then philosophy poses no threat to Christianity. I was referring to philosophy in its purest form where you begin with no assumptions or faith (which is actually impossible but it is a desired goal) and in which you use your own reason to locate “truth.” This certainly leads to a thousand different conclusions (and definitely excludes the need for God). This was the tension – and potential direct opposition – I was referring to before. A Christian philosopher has already addressed and answered all the big questions that philosophy attempts to answer.

Theology – which appears to me to be a form of philosophy – depends on… that tension between God’s will and man’s? And direction from God (Joel started talking about this). I don’t know. That’s the next question I’m coming to…

If ANY of you read all the way through my post, you are beautiful! You are the bomb. And, uhm, you deserve a cookie. And maybe a bag of chips.

As always, any thoughts?


Posted in Personal by Abigail on December 13, 2006

I debate with myself on a regular basis whether or not I should post mundane stuff. My thought is, we all live mundane lives. Who wants to come to my blog and read my mundane stuff? At the same, I think, I shouldn’t post only about theology and superheros… I mean, I gotta get over that stuff someday.

So I’m posting about my menu bar, in my browser. Great alternative. I know. It has disappeared!!! And I can’t get it to come back. I do this kind of stuff all the time. Since I’m a nerd, I customize everything and press every button just to see what it does. This is a waste of time. But it’s fun. Right before I clicked the button, I told myself – Amanda, you’ve done this before. And we know what happened last time. (Last time I went for a month missing some key buttons.) Well this time is much worse. ALL the main buttons are gone (file, edit, view and the susequent necessary buttons like options, preferences, etc.) and not a soul on the Internet seems to have experienced the same thing ’cause they haven’t posted about it! I live in an odd world.

(The firefox help file says what I did is not possible. )

So, that was the most exciting post of all time. Thank you for reading.

The Greatness of Wikipedia

Posted in Personal by Abigail on December 10, 2006

Wikipedia is amazingly awesome. I’ve been there reading about Free Will (because I realized that’s where my ideas are going on this Philosophy & Theology idea) and I’m thrilled. (Notice my complete lack of being articulate – I’m abanding it in the dust just to convey my true feelings about Wikipedia – which makes no sense. In my life, excitement often leads to inability to talk.)

Not too long ago I read about a professor or school banning Wikipedia as a source, which made sense to me. But, since then, I’ve used Wikipedia for many topics and it seems so 1) well written, 2) well constructed, and 3) accurate (since natually I know everything that might go in an encyclopedia I can just compare each entry to my own mind).  Supposedly they have a board of people that regularly review content. That makes it somewhat more credible. What I don’t understand is the similarity in style between entries – they are consistent and yet hundreds of people write these things. Does someone rewrite everything? I would love to know how Wikipedia works. In the mean time, it is cool as heck and I am a loyal follower!

Just for the record, I’m on break right now (6 weeks of pure joy) so I have time to blog and read and write. When school starts, in January, this happy endeaver will greatly decrease.


Posted in Personal by Abigail on December 9, 2006

To whoever planted the David statue directly outside my house, thanks! I always wanted my own 4-foot tall David statue.

Actually, this morning, as I left my house, the statue scared the heck out of me. That was exciting.

The Three Steves

Posted in Personal by Abigail on December 8, 2006

I am fortunate enough to have three Steves in my life. One taught me databases and how to ski, one fixed everything in my roommates’ house (which is nice for me) and my car, and the other has articulated thousands of fascinating ideas over time.

Why a post in dedication to “The Three Steves?” Well, first, all three are claiming the superhero status which I carefully defined in my first groundbreaking post. This must be examined as two are blonde. Second, in my very first post, I managed to confuse one and ostracize the other so I must right these wrongs.

Steve D H – you do rock! Although I wasn’t talking about you in my first post, you do rock. You are one of the happiest people I know. And most ridiculous. You have people skills to die for.

Steve G H – I was talking about you but I don’t think you’ve ever been to my blog. You are fascinating on a regular basis because you are constantly philosophizing. If you stop by my blog, I’m sure everyone would love to hear what you have to say on anything we’re talking about.

Steve P – Is there anything you can’t do? Is there any topic on which you DON’T have extensive knowledge? We don’t know what to do with you – you’re too much. You have incredible amounts of kindness.

Lastly, in dedication to my dear friends, The Steves, I need to point out that all three of you are engineers, two of you have received serious awards for your work on base (did you guys know that?!! Both Steve H’s), and Steve P, while he has not received an award from the base, is instead just working on a Ph.D. in engineering.

Ok, you guys are definitely superheroes waiting to happen!

I hope I have righted my wrongs. Steve G H – are you out there? Probably not… probably off philosophizing somewhere.

More of the Same

Posted in Faith by Abigail on December 7, 2006

I recently ordered a book for my Aunt which has a quote inside the front cover from Dr. John Frame, Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy (Reformed Theological Seminary).

But, neither the quote nor the book interests me. Just his title. He is a professor of theology and philosophy. Why? What is the connection between those two? This is extremely similar to the issues I was posing in my previous post.

I remember walking the hallways of the Cedarville Bible building and noticing that the philosophy department was housed there. I thought that was odd. I recognize that theology and philosophy ask the same big questions. Some of their differences come in their method of answering those questions and in many of the specific questions asked. Other than that, they appear awfully similar.

But, why, at a seminary, do you teach philosophy? (For anyone who may be thinking that I’m losing sleep over this, I’m not. I just find it severely intriguing. I’m odd, I know.) There’s nothing wrong with philosophy. I love it, personally. I can’t think of anything I like better. But doesn’t it come with inherent dangers for the Christian? A Christian says I believe these things on faith not on a series of thought experiments. In other words, I believe this because I can’t turn to myself anymore, ‘cause it’s all over on my end, my fallibility has proved itself one too many times. So, I suppose I could turn to a seminary catalog and read their descriptions, but that’s no fun. I prefer to post this on my blog.

Any thoughts?

If not, no worries – I’m stuck on this topic. It’ll come back.  🙂

(Brad and Joel – I’m still getting back to your comments.)