Thursday, December 12, 2013

Support Your Volunteer Spiritual Fire Department

Global warming. This has been the coldest December in memory. At night I have to put blankets around some of the plants to spare them death by frost. But the darkest moment is before the dawn, thus the felicitous convergence of the winter solstice, Christmas, and Little League sign-ups.

Can't tell you how much I love Little League. I've met so many good people and cool dads. I think you can measure the deterioration of culture based upon the eclipse of baseball and the ascendence of football and basketball as national pastimes. And let's not even talk about soccer. But let us never again elect a man president who prefers basketball to baseball.

There are two seasons a year, spring and fall (for spring we start practicing in early February). This will be our seventh. I always assistant coach. Why not head coach? Because not all the parents are cool, and -- hate to say it, but I really dislike some of the kids. There are always at least a couple of kids that are not just devoid of positive qualities, but really annoying, and every once in awhile I can't help letting slip a snarky comment, especially to the ones who don't even try.

I get the sense that some of these kids have never heard honest criticism in their lives, which is not a recipe for self-esteem, but for Obama-level cluelessness -- for confusing legislative strikeouts with signature achievement grand slams. They are in urgent need of more snark, but I really don't want to be investigated by Child Protective Services.

A lot of the dads help out, and you can go a whole season without ever knowing what another dad does for a living. That's good: between the lines, all men are equal. But sometimes it comes out that I'm a "psychologist," which never generates a neutral response. Often the reaction is a quick widening of the eyes accompanied by a slightly higher pitched "oh!" -- like you're special, but in a way that isn't necessarily good or bad, just... different. I'm trying to think of other professions that might generate this ambivalent reaction... mortician?

I would prefer to say I'm a writer, but then they'll ask what you've published, and you have to specify that you're not the kind of writer who gets "paid" for it. Then they might ask what you write about, and then they put two and two together and start thinking you're crazy. Not sure if I want this guy around my kid. Tell me again what you write about?

I guess what I really want to say is that I'm just a humble philosopher, a lover of wisdom and seeker after truth. That's it: I'm a member of the local volunteer philosophy department. Like the volunteer fire department, except we try to start fires.

So, what sort of fire shall we set this morning? Well, let's see. We've been talking about freedom and necessity, each of which has a positive and negative side. With regard to freedom, there is the existential nothingness we have in the absence of God, alongside the fullness we assimilate in pursuit of transcendent truth.

For Berdyaev, this is "a world-problem which finds a solution only in the coming of Christ." For only Christ "finds a way out of the tragedy of freedom," and "eliminates the conflict between freedom and necessity." How? By descending "into 'nothingness,' that is, into primordial freedom." In so doing, he "extracts the poison from freedom, without destroying freedom itself.... In Christ is a third freedom revealed, which comprehends the other two."

Contrast this with, say, Islam, which attempts, through sharia, to extract the poison from freedom by eliminating it altogether; or Buddhism, which attempts to solve the problem of freedom by extinguishing the desire through which it manifests. And the dominant religion of contemporary liberalism attempts to solve the problem by pretending it isn't one, which quickly devolves to nihilism and even soccer.


Okay, "The truth of Christ, which makes us free, does not force or compel anyone; it is not like the truths of this world which forcibly organize spirit and deprive it of freedom." For example, there is no freedom, no wiggle room, in math. Rather, a mathematical answer is necessarily entailed in the terms of its equation.

But if religious truth is not necessary, this must mean that faith is a mode of freedom. Again, if we are compelled to believe in God, then that is necessity, not freedom. How to preserve our freedom and yet still accept God? It seems that the only way is via the free exercise of faith, for anything less situates us in the kingdom of necessity.

So, "the light of Christ enlightens the irrational darkness of freedom, without limiting it from without." In my opinion, one could invert the terms of this statement and affirm that the sophsame Light that enlightens our freedom is simply Christ by another name. But in any event, "Redemption is the deliverance of man's freedom from the evil which destroys it, deliverance not by means of necessity or compulsion, but by grace."

There is another subtle point: that grace cannot be necessity. Rather, it must always be mingled with freedom: "Man freely accepts or refuses grace, but grace does not force him." It acts "within human freedom itself." So grace and faith are complementary modes of freedom.

And it isn't just liberals who deny real freedom, for "if grace acts upon man without any participation of man's freedom, we get to the doctrine of predestination." So there is slacklessness at either extreme.

But through Christ, freedom is "inwardly joined with grace." For obvious reasons, I like to symbolize this double movement (↓↑). Less obvious is the fact that this is a unity of two freedoms -- like a marriage of love.

"Grace acts as a third freedom, the freedom of a heavenly, spiritual humanness." And "He truly loves freedom who affirms it for his fellows" -- which automatically excludes the punitarian liberals with which my surreality-based community is crawling. For "there is always the danger that in the name of freedom, men will begin to deny it" (Berdyaev).

Saaaay, just what kind of philosophy do you profess, coach?

Er, the philosophy the Almighty and me works out betwixt us.


julie said...

Ah, the ever-loaded question of "what do you DO?"

In my case, this is often followed, implicitly or explicitly, by "...all day??"

This is usually asked by people whose days are so filled full of constant busy-ness they find the very thought of (what they perceive as) a slack-filled life to be, well, empty. But while a certain amount of "emptiness" is required for a life of freedom, it is only a barren wasteland emptiness if one chooses it to be. It can just as easily be meaning-full, but of course anyone who understands that would not be asking the question with such horror in the first place...

Gagdad Bob said...

New kid two doors down was asking Tristan what his mom does. After he answered, the kid says, "No, what does she do?" Not surprisingly, the poor kid has no slack.

Rick said...

We get a similar question re the boy:

"So what's his major?"



There's is quite a range of responses and non-responses.
Most people it seems would rely on what they know from TV and the movies.

If your talking to an engineer, the proper response is: engineering.

Rick said...

"I'm trying to think of other professions that might generate this ambivalent reaction... mortician?"

I thought you were going to say priest.

ted said...

A technical question: Berdyaev says "grace acts as a third freedom," so how does he distinguish the other two?

And yes, I often find myself saying little when it comes to my hobbies or outside interests. If I do, I will usually get that glazed-eye look. And even worse, I work with engineers so you can imagine how this stuff doesn't even enter their limited left-brain radars.

mushroom said... you're special, but in a way that isn't necessarily good or bad, ...

One of God's special children -- I can get from people just looking at me.

mushroom said...

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God ... -- Ephesian 2:8

It sounds there as if grace is available, but, like binary epoxy, it needs faith to make it stick to me. Where I think predestination goes wrong is in claiming that, as you say, it is grace that is "forced" on us. Clearly, that isn't the case for all of us. Hence, they conclude, God chooses some to be saved and others to go to hell.

If, however, all are given faith, we are free to use it as we like -- even in wrong purposes.

Giving everybody faith is like giving everybody a hammer. Not everybody is going to handle it equally well.

julie said...

Meanwhile, over at Vanderleun's, there's an apropos quote by one Tom Godwin:

"Existence required order, and there was order; the laws of nature, irrevocable and immutable. Men could learn to use them, but men could not change them. The circumference of a circle was always pi times the diameter, and no science of man would ever make it otherwise. The combination of chemical A with chemical B under condition C invariably produced reaction D. The law of gravitation was a rigid equation, and it made no distinction between the fall of a leaf and the ponderous circling of a binary star system."

Which of course is true, as far as it goes, but says little or nothing about the very surprising fact that a leaf should exist to be subject to the law of gravitation...

Gagdad Bob said...


I'm not sure what Berdyaev would say, but I'd say we have horizontal and vertical freedom. Vertical freedom prolongs horizontal freedom, while grace prolongs and perfects vertical freedom.

NoMo said...

The reason man is not free to choose God is his sin nature. The originals (A&E) did have the choice. They chose poorly (for all of us).

Man was clearly made in the image of God and shared His nature, but the originals set us on a different path (per God's permissive will). Thus the purpose for the work of grace by the "second Adam" (Christ), the "life giving Spirit", who said, "But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10

There is no escaping it, you have to ignore vast numbers of texts, themes and doctrines revealed in the Bible to say man can freely choose God, given his inherited nature.

I don't like everything the Book says either, but certain overall Truths are inescapable. Don't take my or anyone else's word for it, just read it for yourself. Amazing that the Book has lasted as long as it has and is as widely available as it is.


Gagdad Bob said...

In that case, I blame this God of yours for predestining me to believe predestination is absurd and impossible. Not to mention making a mockery of his own most precious gift to us, our intelligence.

Gagdad Bob said...

On a related note, I wonder if that schizophrenic guy in South Africa kept moving his hands randomly forever, he'd eventually produce the complete works of Shakespeare in sign language.

Van Harvey said...

Gagdad said "...kept moving his hands randomly forever, he'd eventually produce the complete works of Shakespeare in sign language."

If he didn't accomplish it, can you imagine the multi-culti-ist who'd dare say so?

Van Harvey said...

NoMo said "...There is no escaping it, you have to ignore vast numbers of texts, themes and doctrines revealed in the Bible to say man can freely choose God, given his inherited nature..."

Either that, or pay closer attention to them and laugh at the inescapable realization that they all say the exact opposite.

"... but the originals set us on a different path..."

Er... pardon me, but just exactly how did they 'set' us on a different path?

"...(per God's permissive will)..."

That figures, 'God', the original progressive.

Hmmm... I'm going to go with... Not!

(The preceding aside, hey Nomo!)

Van Harvey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Van Harvey said...

"Can't tell you how much I love Little League. I've met so many good people and cool dads. I think you can measure the deterioration of culture based upon the eclipse of baseball and the ascendence of football and basketball as national pastimes. And let's not even talk about soccer. But let us never again elect a man president who prefers basketball to baseball."

I do think Baseball is singularly superior, but Football was fine as an off-seasonal fill in. The other two though... blechhh.

"... This will be our seventh. I always assistant coach..."

Same here on the coaching end, and yep on the other parents, good and bad. I think I had (including T-Ball... because for some reason I couldn't exclude it) I think I had 10 yrs (six years with each boy, with 2 overlapping), and then Football from then on out through High School.

BTW, no doubt no prompting is needed, but if the GagBoy's baseball game starts to slip, be sure to get his eyes checked. Ryan was an awesome batter, and then suddenly lost the touch when he turned 12. It happened at the same time we had an off coach, who was messing with his swing, and not having a reading problem, or other complaints, or a problem in any of the physicals, we never suspected his eyes needed to be checked.

When he went into the Air Force, they caught what the casual yearly physicals missed, and got him glasses/contacts. On a whim, startled at how different the world looked, he went to a batters cage for the first time in nearly a decade, put it on pro-speed, and slammed nearly every ball.

Coulda been a contenda'. And I never felt like such a heel as a parent.

mushroom said...

I was raised in Baptist church, but I was never a Calvinist. Most of my preacher friends are Arminianist. Arminianism has a lot of problems -- probably more problems than anything except Calvinism. There are a lot of texts for predestination, just like there are a lot of texts to support Dispensationalism and a Pre-Millenial, Pre-Tribulation Rapture. Dispensationalism is falling apart. Maybe tell the Syrian Christians or the Chinese Christians, or the Sudanese about not going through the Tribulation. I mean it will be really rough then, because you might be beheaded for the testimony of Christ.

Here's one of my favorite Calvinist verses, Isaiah 45:7 -- "I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things."

That whole passage is about how He is God and there is no other.

But here's the thing, God is offering us a choice. Believe the truth or believe the lie. Not do better. You can't. Your will is in bondage -- until you realize that you have been set free in Christ.

Adam is the cause of all this. Yes. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many ... death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ (Rom 5:15-16)

How many is many? Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. (Rom 5:18)

One more: For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Cor. 15:22)

All are made alive which means ALL are released from bondage. ALL are free. What you do with that freedom is up to you.

NoMo said...

Hey, guys! I appreciate your thoughtful comments.

I'm not much on labels, I just think the Book itself should be one's primary source for Truth, and try to encourage everyone to apply their intelligence directly to it rather than to someone else's conclusions about it. FWIW, I still love and highly recommend this method for doing so:

Hmmm, maybe I'm an early Lutheran.