Nameless Ones

I was taking the trash out in my place tonight. I walked down the steps to the garbage bin and saw a cat leap off and then run away from me. It stared at me for awhile after I threw away my trash. I got down to indicate for it to come my way, but the cat had no desire. It just watched. I came closer and it ran off.

As I went back upstairs forlorn, a thought occurred to me. That cat might not even have a name. I was hit with a degree of sadness upon thinking that. A name is given to one who matters. A name indicates that one is to be set apart from the rest. This is one reason why we can be bothered in public when someone else has the same name as we do.

This is the glory of naming. It allows us to make distinctions. When Adam called a dog a dog, then that was its name. The dog was different from all the other animals. When he said, “dog”, he knew what he meant. He did not mean a small creature that says “Meow.” There’s nothing wrong with that creature of course, but it is not a dog.

What about your name? I know what my name means and I take delight in it. When reading Scripture, it is important to pay attention to names. The names meant so much back then. That is why names were so often given by God. The parents didn’t just look through a baby book. The names meant something about the child.

We can see this in the VA tech shootings. To the gunman, they were probably just faces in the crowd. To us though, we have seen their names. We know them now. It wasn’t just a statistic then. These were real people that died that day. These were ones set apart from everyone else.

I saw this just yesterday in my own self. I went to get some photos done for my application to Seminary. The photographer and I looked through the shots on his computer and I got hit with a jolt. That name he keeps saying is me and that person on the screen is me.

I would even compare it in some ways to what an out-of-body experience could be like. I was really speaking about myself in a way the ancients never probably could. That image on the screen points to a person with actual existence. Have we ever really marveled at the wonder that we really exist?

The Bible tells us also that God knows our names. They are written on his hands. He will give us a stone one day with a name known only to the holder and to God. Could this be a name for us? Maybe. If it’s a name for God though, it’s done to indicate his uniqueness to all others.

This is a great joy that should mesmerize us. God knows our name. When you pray, he knows who it is that is praying. It is not a faceless soul out there. It is a person. Your name makes you unique from all others. God said Job was unique and there was no one else like him. I wager he could say the same for all of us.

Tonight, celebrate your name. You are set apart from all others by it.

Our Anger Is Justified

I was watching Fox News yesterday and heard Bill O’Reilly talking about watching the video and the pictures of the VT shooter. As he was talking to a news correspondent, he said that he was just filling up with anger and he could only imagine how those students felt who were there. I had to agree with him. Each time I saw the pictures, I had an anger raising inside of me also. An anger that someone was sick enough to do something like this.

At the same time, I’ll see the video of the group Mika from their song Grace Kelly where a female on a piano says at one point “Getting angry doesn’t solve anything” and see the pianist raise his finger in the air as if that was a powerful point made. Partially, they’re right. Getting angry doesn’t solve anything. It’s what you do with that anger.

This gunman had a lot of anger. Were there some things he was angry at rightfully? Sure. We should all be angry at debauchery and hypocrites. However, the solution to anger is not to play judge, jury, and executioner. Anger can be a good thing when you control it. It is never a good thing when it controls you even if it’s anger for the right reasons.

Yet many of us have an anger. In fact, it’s quite natural in the grieving process. Many of us might not have had much to grieve. We weren’t close to the situation. We weren’t numb with terror. It doesn’t mean that we’re cold. It’s just the way things are. Many people die every day and we don’t spend our days in sadness. We grieve more over a death the closer to it we are.

However, all of us can have that strong sense of injustice. We all have that built-in moral compass that tells us that this was wrong. We look at those images and hear that video and one word that keeps popping up in our minds is “Sick.” We look at such actions as inhuman, and indeed, they are.

I ponder though that many of us don’t allow ourselves to feel that anger. We’ve looked at strong emotion often times in our society as a bad thing. I was at a Christian bookstore tonight where I saw a chapter about what a sex-crazed Christian is to do. The Christian view of sex has been one area I’ve been most interested in so I took a peek at it.

The story was of a group of men together and they were all praying and having fellowship at some Christian retreat. At the end, one 29 year-old bachelor confessed that while he had never had intercourse, he had resorted to pornography and masturbation simply because he had a strong sex drive and he suggested that they pray that God eliminate his desire.

The author of the book then told this guy that that wasn’t really what he wanted. If he had his sexual desire removed, he wouldn’t really be him. I did not get to see past that, but I would say the next thing to ask for would be self-control. That’s what we all need, and that’s what has been lacking.

Our desires and emotions are not bad things. They are there by God. Sometimes, we can have them at the wrong times and sometimes they can be excessive, but they themselves are not bad. As I have said before, Christians are not Buddhists and we should appreciate our mental systems and the wonderful way God made them.

Do you feel anger at what happened? Good! I hope you do! I think we should all be angry! I would suggest though that we remember the words of Mika. Getting angry doesn’t solve anything. It doesn’t, though I think I have a different idea drawn from it than what Mika would have me draw from the song.

Don’t just get angry. Do something. I have my own ideas politically what I think should be done, but this is not a political blog so I won’t do that. If anything, I would send my anger towards the moral decadence that is flooding our society. I would also send my passion out in ministry. If there’s one thing that can save this world, it’s the gospel.

So go out, get angry, and make the world a better place through that anger.

Partial-birth abortion ban and VA Tech

Today, our world had two major events take place. The first one was that we found out about a package that the VA tech gunman had sent to the news media who unfortunately played the tape and showed the photos. The other event was that the Supreme Court upheld a ban on partial-birth abortion. Is there any connection to the two?

I believe there is. Everyone is decrying what happened at VA Tech and rightfully so. This is one thing conservatives and liberals are agreeing on. Why do we decry it? Because we know life is valuable in itself and just because you have some pains with someone else, that does not give you the right to be judge, jury, and executioner.

Yet that is what happens everyday with abortion.

Immediately upon hearing about the Supreme Court ruling, the cry of people like Nancy Pelosi was heard. A woman’s rights have been violated and her health could be at stake. We should not ban a safe medical procedure.

Safe for who? Those babies who have that horrible event happen to them probably don’t feel safe.

Now if this was about protecting a woman’s health, I have the solution. Let’s say that abortion will only be allowable in cases where the mother’s health is at risk. In fact, I’d be generous and grant even cases of rape or incest at this point. Let’s just get rid of abortion for convenience at least.

I simply find it amazing that we treat life so cheaply at its most innocent state, and then wonder why some people treat life so cheaply later on. I am amazed that our society doesn’t have any self-control when it comes to keeping our pants on, and then we wonder why events happen where psychotic people lose control and go on a rampage.

What’s happened? The message has been received. Life can be eliminated if it’s an inconvenience to you. Your own pleasure should be at the forefront.  We have come to the nation’s altar of sex to perform our fertility rituals before the deity, only to find that the philosophy that is used there produces dangerous results elsewhere.

If we’re going to say life is valuable, it needs to be valuable at all points. Otherwise, we are just defining people by function and we will determine which functions are more valuable than others and then, which people are more valuable than others. If lives are sacred when they’re college students on campus, they are just as sacred when in the womb.

Listening to the philosophy of the other side, I find it amazing that so many babies can be aborted in one year and no one says anything. If there had been 32 partial-birth abortions, no one would have said anything. They would have stood up and said that this was a woman’s right.

I disagree, and I think the pro-life position is the consistent one here. Life is sacred at all times and it’s time we started treating it as such, from the womb to the tomb.

My Concern With VA Tech

I said yesterday that I would be writing about what concerned me the most about this tragedy yesterday. Today is that day. Let’s be clear it’s a tragedy. My boss had to laugh some when a news station described it as an “unfortunate incident.” Getting locked out of your house is an unfortunate incident. 32 deaths in cold blood before someone murders himself is just evil.

What I’m not going to write about though is how the school or police should have handled things. I do not have any authority in that area. I do not know enough about the situation and there are already enough people doing that. I am a philosopher though and a theologian and I am going to write on that area.

Today, we know the identity of the shooter and we know a lot about him. I remember hearing on a news station today someone describing it and saying that you couldn’t fire that many shots at once. Something in you would stop you. It’s not human to keep doing that.

He was right. It isn’t human. This is what happens when people fall from being human and make themselves less than human, something we all sadly do everyday. The most truly human person to ever live was Jesus Christ and we all fall short of that. If you ever want to know if something is human, look to Jesus.

I believe this is largely a result of our falling away from God. Because we do not have the right view of ourselves, we do not know who we are anymore. Many people know I believe in four types of alienation in the fall. We are alienated from God, the world, each other, and ourselves. We no longer have true views of any of these.

Unfortunately, I can only see it getting worse. This has been called the worst massacre in our nation’s history. I don’t see things getting better. Eight years ago, we thought Columbine was the worst. I pray that we shape up in time before we have another such massacre that is even worse than this one.

One thing that will need to be done is to stop the idea of moral relativism. I was terrified yesterday as I thought about the evil I was seeing on the screen and remembered that I have talked with people who have said that there is nothing that is truly evil. It is all a matter of opinion. They may not like it and they may not approve of it, but they cannot say it is really evil.

Friends. If someone says that what happened on 4/16 was not evil, they don’t need an argument. I think they need a psychiatrist. I’m hesitant to say such though since probablysome psychiatrists would think the real problem was that they even had any feelings of right and wrong about it. We have become masters of the therapy of sin.

Yes friends. Some things are just evil as some things are just good and too often, we have sacrificed the idea of truth about good and evil at the altar of political correctness. Oh no! Let’s not offend anyone! Some people need to be offended. If you don’t think the actions done were evil, then I will be more than happy to offend you.

But let us speak of the positives as well though. There were many brave students and teachers who risked their lives, and in at least one case gave their lives, so that others could live. We need to honor these people. They don’t tend to want honor. They’re merely doing the right thing. They need to be honored anyway. We need to stand up and say “These are the kinds of people that we commend in our society.”

What we can learn from yesterday is that evil is real. There are patches of evil everywhere. No one was expecting this young student to go on a rampage. Well, it happened. The darkest evil of all can often be that which lurks in the hearts of men. Unfortunately, I believe our society is making it easier and easier for such evil to take place. A good society has been defined in one that easily enables you to be good. Does that match our society? I think we all know the answer.

My solution then? First off, we need to repent as a nation and turn back to God. We need the Christians to stand up. We’ve heard before about the homosexual movement coming out of the closet. As one speaker I know said, when they came out, it seems that they pushed the Christians in.

No. We have the truth. We need to stand up with that truth. We need to show the world that Christ did walk out of that tomb nearly 2,000 years ago and that that does make a difference. If this truth is so revolutionary and life-changing, we need to show it.

After all, rebuilding society and changing the world starts with you and me. It’s too often been made the next guy’s responsibility. Well, it isn’t. It’s ours, and we have a duty to be salt and light as followers of Christ.

Our Grief Today

Today, our nation witnessed the worst massacre in its history. Many of us were shocked around the Noonday hour to hear about a shooting on the Virginia Tech campus, but few of us would have thought it would turn into this. I spent much of today being around TVs trying to hear anything I could about what happened.

I have a lot of thoughts today about what happened. I’m not speaking of the political side or the side of how the events were handled or the number of gunmen or stuff like that. I will leave that to those in that area. I have a lot of thoughts on our view of suffering and evil and morality.

But that’s not for today.

One thing I’ve told people who I work with in this field and respect me is how to handle people in grief. I’ve said that if a mother comes to you and her son just died in a car accident and she wonders why God let this happen, that they had better not be a philosopher or an apologist at that moment.

She needs a friend at the moment. A friend and a minister and a counselor. She does not need a philosopher or an apologist. Now a few weeks later, you might be able to discuss such issues, but they are not to be discussed then.

Now I don’t know the people that died today, but I would like this blog to merely be a reflection on some possible scenarios so we can take to heart this tragedy and want to make a difference so it doesn’t happen again.

Let us pray for these people then:

For the son who simply wanted to go and get a degree and make the world a better place.

For the daughter who had hoped to fall in love with the man of her dreams and will now never get her chance.

For the young man who was about to pop the question to the girl he loves.

For the senior who was getting ready to graduate and face the world.

For the mother, whose daughter will never get to borrow the wedding gown.

For the father, who will never throw the ball with his son again.

For the young man, who never got to tell that girl in class how he really feels about her.

For the young brother, who will never go fishing with his oldest brother again.

For the young sister, who will never have girl talk with her oldest sister again.

For the Freshman, who was so eager to face the world.

For those who were lost, and do not have another chance.

For the teacher, who was just trying to encourage fresh young minds.

For the husband, who will never treasure his wife again.

For the wife, who will never feel that embrace again.

For the couple, who didn’t know their last kiss would be their last.

For the student at his church, who will leave behind an empty pew.

There are no doubt many more.

Friends. This hit home for all of us today. I’m not usually emotional, but I sure felt it writing this out. It reminds me how precious and valuable life is and how we can all take it so often for granted.

As you pray tonight, remember to pray for VA tech and all the families and friends involved.

MySpace

Like many of you that are on the net a lot, I am on MySpace. I have most of my friends on there being those that I graduated from High School with. I find it amazing to just look through the list and see people that I knew so many years ago when all of us were just preparing to go off and face the world and I wonder where they are now.

Some of them are depressing. I see friends that are happily married and making good money with good careers and I wonder, “Geez. Where did I go wrong?” I find to be a relief that some of them are still single also. Not everyone is out there yet living their dream. Some though seem to have strayed from the path they were on and I wonder if they’re really the person I remember.

It is this though that makes me think of the impact of lives. I look and think about each of those people. What kind of witness was I to them back then when I was ignorant of so much I know today? What would they think of me if they saw me today? If I encounter any of them again, will I need to do any kind of ministry?

I think about that tree of graduating students and how we branched off. Many of us still live in this city, but a lot of us don’t. I wonder when I see the families on there how I’ll be with my own. A friend of mine recently asked me if I’d ever thought about what it would be like to be a Dad. I told him I had. I’ve thought about that kind of thing a lot.

Looking at these people though reminds me that the adventure is still going on. The story hasn’t been finished yet and it’s still going on. I get surprised especially though with how many people have seen me and wanted to add me on to their MySpace. I really didn’t have a lot of friends when I was in High School after all.

Seeing these people wanting to add me makes me wonder though how many people I might have been making an impact on. It’s the same kind of thought you have as you look through your old yearbooks and see all the notes that everyone you knew left. The Senior year always has the biggest ones. After all, you may never see anyone there again.

What can I do with that today? I can look at how I live today. I can realize that there might be more people out there who are viewing me in a high way that I hadn’t realized. I think we all need that. When we think there’s no one there, it could be that there’s someone who’s really praying for us every night.

And if there’s someone praying for you, isn’t that encouragement enough?

Ghost Rider

Tonight, my Dad and I went to finally see Ghost Rider. I’ve had an interest in the superhero aspect of our culture and how we live in a society that wants heroes to stand up for the good and defeat the evil. I don’t know much about a lot of the comic book characters, but it’s something interesting to learn and good father/son time together.

So what’s the plot? Johnny Blaze is a stunt motorcyclist in love with a beautiful girl and finds that his Dad is dying of cancer. He winds up making a deal with the devil so that in exchange for his soul, his Dad is cured. His Dad gets cured, but his Dad is a stunt driver as well and dies the same day in a stunt. Blaze leaves the girl and everything behind running from the devil who will come back to collect at a later time. The one thing he keeps saying as he continues doing more and more crazy stunts is “You can’t live in fear.”

In this one, the devil has a son of sorts who wants to collect a contract of 1,000 lost souls from an earlier Ghost Rider. Blaze is then sent to get the contract for the devil and keep his son from it. Blaze has no control over this and goes to fight the son and his goons who are wrecking havoc.

However, he is also trying to fight it off. As the story progresses, Blaze learns more and more to control his power so that he is not totally possessed. As the story ends of course, Blaze defeats the villain and has the chance to run off with the girl. It is at this point that the devil appears again.

The devil says that he will free Blaze from the curse and allow another one to take it. Blaze can have the second chance he’s wanted the whole movie and go off and live a normal life with the girl of his dreams. Blaze tells the devil though that he’s keeping his curse and he’s going to use it to fight the devil every stretch of the way.

Naturally, not everything in the movie is fit with a Christian worldview. At this point though, I’d like to interject a side point. I left the theater and heard someone say on a phone “Not a Christian movie” and I thought about that. If I wanted to see a “Christian movie” I’d see something like Jesus of Nazareth.”

However, why do we have such genres as “Christian” movies? Christian should describe people. It does not describe objects. We can say that a movie or book or song has tenets in it that reflect a worldview that matches with that of Christianity, but can we really call movies and music and literature “Christian”?

What do I find that I like though? I like the hope that I see. Hope? Yes. Blaze wants nothing more than a second chance and when he sees the girl he left behind so many years ago, he takes this as his sign and is ready to go on and face the world. C.S. Lewis once said that it is more important that Heaven should exist, than that any of us should make it there.

As long as we have the tiniest glimmer of hope in our quest, we can move on. If there is but the slightest chance that we can succeed, we are more than willing.  We will gladly trek over that last hill if we have reason to think that there could be a place of safety on the other side.

I like Blaze saying you can’t live in fear. Despite his past, Blaze wants to keep leaving. I’ve recently been thinking that the Bible doesn’t say much about personal past. It speaks about the past of the history of Israel, but it rarely talks about the past of individuals. It doesn’t give people tips on what we call “Getting past your past.”

Why? I don’t think this was a problem back then. People were more collectivist and put the society as a whole before themselves. Today, we are the center of our universes and we often push ourselves to the forefront. We can look at our past and it seems like the whole world knows what it is.

There is a story that even at least a century ago, someone sent a message to twelve leading officials in London. It read “All is revealed! Flee now!” By morning, half of them were gone. Now I might have the time wrong and the numbers off, but the basic thrust of that message is the same. Imagine going to your mailbox one day and opening a letter to find written a message from someone saying “I know all your secrets.”

To them though, I think the past was the past and we seem to get so obsessed over it. I still find myself beating myself up for sins I committed years ago. Why? Could it be we’re so focused on us that we’ve lost focus of God and his forgiveness?

The last thing I thought about was Blaze’s refusal to give back the curse at the end. I think the thing that made him keep it was the idea of someone else having to have it. Blaze knew what it was like for him and he didn’t want that put on someone else. In the story, the devil wasn’t too pleased with Blaze’s decision. Does Blaze care? Probably not.

And where does that leave me? With my decision. I look to the future with hope. I put the past behind me refusing to live in fear. Then, I accept the challenge and say “I’m gonna keep fighting.” Do you want to come along for the ride?

Religious Neutrality?

I’m getting ready to write a letter to the editor in the local newspaper where the writer said she didn’t support creation being taught in schools as religion has no place in the public schools. Instead, religion is for the home and for the religious school. Interestingly, to show this, the Jewish writer gives a story on how a Christian teacher treated her as if this illustrates religion in the public schools is a bad thing.

To begin with, the tale of using a story is a more postmodern one. Stories can be used of course, but the point of these stories is to get a purely emotional reaction. This is exactly what the story I read does and I will confess, it does it well. I’m sure the writer got several readers drawn into it.

However, I could make up a story that could be just as likely. Imagine I as a young man go into my High School science class and the teacher sees my necklace and says, “Oh. A cross? Are you a Christian?” I answer that I am and she says “Well, I prefer that you sit in the back then and have the students that really care about science sit in the front.”

No. This didn’t happen. However, if it had, what would it have proven? Only one thing. It would have proven that my teacher was a jerk. Evolution could still be entirely true and my teacher could be entirely a jerk. On the other hand, a Christian teacher could be entirely a saint, and Christianity false.

Secondly though, she seems to assume that religious private life can be separated from religious public life. I contend that it cannot. Instead, my Christianity teaches me how I am to live in public. Want me to have no traces of my religion in public? Sure. That just means I have no reason to love my fellow man in public then.

In fact, at this point, the writer surrendered religious neutrality. As soon as she tells me to leave my religion at home, she is making a claim about my religion. While she says she doesn’t want to endorse any religion, she is. She’s endorsing the idea of humanism that says that religion is not for public discussion.

This is my problem. Please note I have no problem with her stating her argument and putting it in the local paper. That’s the way the system works and that’s the way ideas are exchanged. I have a problem with her assuming that she’s religiously neutral while telling everyone how they should live their religion.

Such religious neutrality is a myth. Christ said it best, as he has a tendency to do. “You are either for me or against me.”

Socratic Method

Philosophers make for very dangerous friends.

A lot of my friends would probably agree with that. They know that as soon as I start asking them questions, they need to prepare themselves. Tonight was no different. I had a couple stop by tonight and one of them started talking about this book I have called “For Men Only” while the other watched YouTube.

The one who was talking to me told me that he just couldn’t find that interesting. I asked him what he did find interesting and I got the answer of Star Wars. I asked him why and he had to think about it some and then he started describing some things interesting he found in there. Fair enough. Why?

Before the evening was done, we had discussed masculinity, beauty, sexuality, and the Trinity.

All of this was through what is called the Socratic Method and I find it quite amazing to undergo. This is something I’d recommend doing with people if you want to learn something from them or help them learn something. Generally, it just involves asking simple questions and the person does their thinking on their own until they reach a conclusion.

You can really learn a lot from people this way in that they open up into themselves. They start talking about what matters to them and really thinking about deep issues. That’s one of our problems today. We don’t really think. We don’t know how to engage a topic. If anything, our thinking is shallow.

What’s amazing is how far you can go on this. When I started talking tonight, I had no idea that this would eventually lead to a discussion of masculinity and how far that would go. Of course, you don’t always have a goal. You just go where the road of thinking leads you. Isn’t this how it goes when we use it on the one that we can engage in it the most with? Ourselves?

Here’s something else. He enjoyed it. He wished he could have stayed more, but he had told his folks he’d be home at a decent hour. Understandable. So I let him go and he wants to come back again. People like thinking. They really do. We don’t do it enough but when the common person gets engaged in a conversation of this sort, they readily enjoy it.

So indeed we philosophers make dangerous friends, but we’re agents of truth. We will either destroy your ideas or build them up to a better level. Rest assured though, if I ask you a question, you might want to go into defensive mode immediately.

God Did It!

I recall recently having someone challenge me on my reasons for why I believe God exists. I was told to give some and one that I gave is the origin of the universe. I see no way in which the universe could have arisen aside from God. In reply to this, I was told that I was begging the question.

There’s only one way you can be told that you are begging the question in this case. That is if God didn’t do it. If anyone is begging the question, it is the naturalist who is assuming naturalism can explain everything, something that science has never shown or can ever show. We hear much about God of the gaps, but never naturalism of the gaps.

Why is this? It’s almost as if the mention of God doing anything is anathema, which of course it is. We have reached an age where men want to expel the old beliefs of the past and claim their right to deity. Rest assured, if someone wants to knock God off of his throne, something will have to be in his place, and it will most likely be a mirror.

The naturalist has several gaps to explain. Why should we accept it when they say “Just give us time!” I don’t. I accept the Bible has been shown to be accurate and based on the resurrection of Christ, it’s safe for me to think that God could have had something to do with the origin of the universe and that this God has revealed himself in the person of Christ.

I will say that I am against though us suddenly assuming that everything is “God did it!” However, when naturalistic explanations have been thoroughly tried and all evidence even points to something non-naturalistic, let’s go with it. Why would some people not like this idea?

My belief? It could be because of America’s #1 god. That would be sex. God interferes with our current sexual mores. If there is no God though, you can do as you wish sexually. You can watch all the porn you want and sleep around with whoever you want. It’s okay. You’re your own god.

If there is a God though, he has power over you. That is something so horrendous to many that they will gladly choose any other idea to avoid that one.

Let’s not let them. They need to have just as many reasons for believing there is no God as we do for believing there is one.