LIVE Oct. 5th, 9e/8c – Does Santa Exist?: A Conversation with Eric Kaplan

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Join us on Sunday, October 5th as we talk with Eric Kaplan, co-executive producer on The Big Bang Theory and television writer for shows such as Malcolm in the Middle, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, The Simpsons and The Late Show by David Letterman. Eric is also an agnostic with some keen insights on the nature of reality, thought and paradox.

We’ll talk about his new book Does Santa Exist?: A Philosophical Investigation, a humorous metaphysical exploration of the jolly fat man in a red suit. Matt Groening calls it “The funniest book on philosophy…well…ever.” Follow the event on Livestream here.

For past Roundtable episodes check out the archives here.

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What American Christians Haven’t Learned Since 9/11

(Read the whole article at Theologues.com)

Today marks the 13th year since two commercial airliners were hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center towers, killing almost 3,000 people. The events of that day rocked the American consciousness. Soon we found ourselves swept up into a whirlwind of fear. We declared war on Saddam Hussein, looking for nuclear weapons which were nowhere to be found less than a year after the initial attack. We also sent soldiers to Afghanistan to fight against Islamic radicals providing safe haven for terrorists. We considered ourselves the hand of justice.

But this vision of swift justice rapidly evaporated. After several years of war and over a decade of unending bloodshed, we find ourselves again and again in a cycle of violence and fear. I have to ask myself … how has this really affected the Church in America? Have any of us learned anything from 9/11? I think there is much that America has learned, but sadly there’s still much many churches and Christians across America have yet to learn. Here are three lessons that the American Church still has to learn:

(Read the whole article at Theologues.com)

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Scriptures, Doubt and the Tightrope of Inerrancy

This article originally was published on Theologues.com


 

Taking the Absolutes

I’ve struggled a lot with doubt in recent years. I grew up in a fairly conservative Christian home. I was homeschooled and almost all of my life revolved around church and family. So, when I started to question many things about my faith, including how true the scriptures are, I began to have a crisis of faith. Many times, we grow up in a world where we assume the absolutes. As we grow up or gain new information, we make decisions about how to enfold this information in our lives. Taking the scriptures as unequivocally, 100% true is something that is considered the backbone of belief for many Christians. To discard it is to utterly abandon the faith itself. I’ve come to my own conclusions on this subject and I think neither the materialist nor the fundamentalist are correct. Awhile ago, Michael Gungor, a prominent worship leader and musical artist stated in an interview that he had “lost his metaphysic” and then in a later blog post, Gungor responded to an article stating that he had “drifted from Biblical Orthodoxy”. In the blog post, he said:

Do I believe God exists? Yes. Do I believe Jesus is the Son of God? Yes. Do I believe that Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness? Yes. Do I believe that God literally drowned every living creature 5,000 years ago in a global flood except the ones who were living in a big boat? No, I don’t. Why don’t I? Because of science and rational thought.

He then goes on to explain how he can believe in the miracles of Christ without having to believe all supernatural events in the Bible. And I would agree. The Bible is a collection of books and every word is inspired by God, but that doesn’t mean every single word is held with the same regard in terms of literal criticism. We don’t take Christ’s words to “cut off your hand if it causes you to stumble” literally and we don’t take the virgin birth as figurative -at least, I don’t. For his position, Gungor was skewered by many Christian bloggers.

The Great Divide

It can get tricky, but I think there’s more to this debate than just a theological divide. There’s also a philosophical one as well. While one man looks at the past and says, “Things weren’t that great and their knowledge is incomparable to ours”, another man looks at the past and says, “Things were better back then and we underestimate the knowledge of the ancients.” My argument is that both men could be right and both men could be wrong, depending on the specific case. Taking the story of Noah as an example; Gungor does make a valid point in his blog post and it is that based on the scientific knowledge we now have of the earth, most aspects of the flood and the ark are not only improbable, but they’re insanely improbable. The diversification of the races and populations alone is not traceable to the event of the flood through genomic research. With all that being said, nothing is impossible with God. I don’t rule out the possibility that God could have flooded the earth and repopulated it with Noah’s family, or that maybe the story itself is referencing a regional flood but the truth is I don’t really have the capacity to know fully what happened. I can say that I still trust in the Bible as truth because the story of Noah is not useless if it’s not true. Rather, the story is about faith and obeying the voice of God. As G.K. Chesterton notes in Orthodoxy:

Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all.

One does not need to disregard physical reality to have faith, but we need to realize that faith is not constrained by physical reality. The idea that faith is constrained by physical reality is a product of the enlightenment and the rise of humanism. We tend to no longer look at our forbearers with any degree of faith in their wisdom, but rather we look to the present scholars and academics to guide us in our relation to our faith. In a way, I understand this mentality. With the dawn of the Reformation, the gates had been opened for the religious to no longer be ruled by dictatorial mandates on what or how to believe. The flip-side of this, however, is that many began to abandon the entire foundation for the Christian faith and in doing so, decided to construct the Christian God in an image more suiting to their fancy. The Reformation brought freedom in many areas, but this freedom was abused and maimed to heighten man and his intuitions of the Holy Spirit to be above any ecclesiastical body.

The Fundamentalist Cometh

Then, we saw the backlash to the enlightenment with fundamentalism. In essence, fundamentalism had noble goals. To bring men and women back to entrusting sacred tradition, but in the scriptures. Fundamentalists put sola scriptura on steroids. The Roman magisterium had long been dethroned in the minds of the fundamentalists, but after seeing the liberals cut out all the supernatural and miraculous from the Christian faith, they decided to return back to making the world conform to the scriptures instead. The fundamentalists decided to break through the prevailing culture’s theological abrogations and determined to shape culture for God themselves. As Presbyterian minister and a father of the fundamentalist movement, J. Gresham Machen once said:

To bring back truth, on a practical level, the church must encourage Christians to be not merely consumers of culture but makers of culture. The church needs to cultivate Christian artists, musicians, novelists, filmmakers, journalists, attorneys, teachers, scientists, business executives, and the like, teaching its laypeople the sense in which every secular vocation-including, above all, the callings of husband, wife, and parent–is a sphere of Christian ministry, a way of serving God and neighbor that is grounded in God’s truth. Christian laypeople must be encouraged to be leaders in their fields, rather than eager-to-please followers, working from the assumptions of their biblical worldview, not the vapid clichés of pop culture.

The problems that began to arise with this view is that it still presupposes that through rigorous study, man can find the invariable truth of God and all areas of culture, including science, must conform to “God’s truth” (i.e. The Bible). Furthermore, this creates a dichotomy which need not exist. Christians do not need to be in opposition to science and although Ken Ham might tell you differently, the Bible is not a science or historical textbook. It’s God’s way of communicating the truth of Jesus Christ, the Living Word, to us. The scriptures are as St. John Chrysostom would say “God’s baby talk”. We can no further reason out the historical accuracy of scripture than a baby can measure the dimensions of a painting they’re staring in awe of. Inerrancy is essentially a unicorn when it comes to the human understanding of scripture. One can argue that the Holy Spirit illuminates people to it’s true meaning and I would agree…but only in the right context and only in certain things, not a Matrix-like download gnosis of the way the universe works. That’s only for God. Which, leads me to my next point.

Living in Paradox

The church fathers looked at the apostolic tradition and the knowledge that came with it as part of a winding mystery. I covered much of this in my article “A Phrase More Christians Need to Say“. The bread and wine are a centerpiece to this mystery. That’s what “sacrament” means. Partaking in the Christian life is not about filling our heads with unending reason, but it’s about filling out hearts with the mystery of our faith. The “unknown known” (as Donald Rumsfeld would say) is the Gospel. It’s that Christ was crucified, buried and rose again. We put our confidence in the Gospel and in how it has been relayed to us through the deposit of Tradition. There is latitude for me to put less confidence in an earth that is 10,000 years old because neither the scriptures or Tradition ask that of me. Rather, they ask me to put confidence in a God who is bigger than reality itself and His son, Jesus Christ. My conclusion is that we must retain the mystery of our faith if we are to ever align our minds to God. We belong to a religion based on paradox. A being came to earth who is both fully God and fully man. We worship three persons in one God. Impossible, right? Welcome to being a Christian. Let’s humble ourselves and take to believing that maybe paradoxically we can believe that Noah built an ark while also not necessarily holding it to be a verifiable, undeniable truth. We are the “errant” ones. Not God.


This article originally was published on Theologues.com

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5 Reasons You’re A Leader – You Just Don’t Know It

(Read the full article on Business2Community.com)

I’ve been trying to escape the title of “leader” almost my whole professional life. I never really have understood why until recently, but I think it’s in part because I imagined leadership to be a job for people with more drive to succeed than I had. I thought of it as an echelon for the powerbrokers and the people who cared more about their status and who loved playing “office politics”. Admittedly, this was an immature mentality I had. However, over the years, I learned that the best leaders were people I could most relate to. They were people I automatically wanted to emulate whether they had a “director” or “leader” title or not.

As I grew in my own career, I started to realize I wanted to be a leader, but by then, I had missed many opportunities to push myself to that goal. I had a comfort zone and because I clung to it too much, I had convinced myself that I was not actually fit for leadership, but the truth is that I was the only one holding myself back from being a leader where I was at. It’s now clear to me that to be a good leader, there are qualities which someone may possess and they don’t even realize that this makes them just as good (if not better) of a leader as the person above them.

(There’s more on Business2Community.com!)

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Common Hatred: Why Loving Our Enemies Is So Hard

(Read the full article on Theologues.com)

What do Adolph Hitler, Fred Phelps and Justin Bieber have in common?

They are people we love to hate – to varying degrees, of course. In each case, society has made a verdict. (Of course, Justin Bieber is an exception; he is not considered a truly evil person … just a brat.)

It’s easy for each of us to forgive and love our neighbor – someone we already have a relationship with, or at least no real disdain for. But it’s a whole lot harder to forgive and love serial murderers, bigots, despots, pedophiles, thieves, and people who have committed acts so heinous that to even extend forgiveness is seen as weakness or injustice. Essentially, it’s harder to love people that our society has already found to be evil in the sight of the world.

(Read the full article on Theologues.com)

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The Logos: Where Philosophy and Theology Meet

Read the entire article on Theologues.com

Why I Love the Gospel of John

The Gospel of John is my favorite Gospel. It’s also one of the more controversial Gospels of the four, because it’s not a synoptic Gospel. This means it doesn’t cover exactly the same territory or have the same narrative structure of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. While those three books cover Jesus’ latter ministry, John covers a wider timeline and gives us the three-year span of Christ’s ministry. Some also question if it was even authored by John, but the Catholic and Orthodox churches affirm the traditional view that the author is St. John the Apostle.

The Gospel of John clearly has a different mission. Its style and arrangement are more directed towards Gentiles, with an emphasis on unpacking philosophical and theological ramifications for the incarnation of Jesus Christ, starting right off the bat with a dive into Greek philosophy. It’s intellectually rich, but also simple enough that a child could understand the significance of the events told.

In the early church, the four gospels were to be read by new Christians in succession, with John being the last one read around Passover (Pascha). It’s a book that highly emphasizes Jesus as the Christ and takes focus on the last year of His ministry, so for the newly baptized, it could be thought of as the crescendo to a beautiful theological orchestra.

Read the entire article on Theologues.com

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Perfect Love Casts Out War

Read full post on Theologues.com


 

The Machine of War

As I’m writing this, the news is breaking that Israel has invaded Gaza. This is the culmination of weeks of tension, which has now ratcheted up to all-out war. I can only observe this from a distance. I’m able to see the bloodshed and tears through video and pictures, on my TV screen while sitting in the comfort of my own living room. I don’t want to dismiss the lives of men, women and children who have been lost on either side.

This is why I want to be very careful in what I’m about to say.

The world today is in many ways safer but also scarier than it was past centuries. We also have bigger and more deadly weapons, capable of ending millions of lives in an instant. We continue to live in this cycle of war, in spite of our best intentions. We shroud the implications of death and violence with consequential reasons for defending the weak and the innocent. We constantly try to justify war through our belief that God sees is it as a moral imperative. My question is, “who or what really controls us when each individual has to decide the value of life, even the lives of those we deem ‘evil’?” I don’t believe it is God. I believe it is fear.  The question Christians need to ask is “why are we afraid when we have perfect love over us?”


 

Read full post on Theologues.com

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You Can Start a Podcast

I wrote this as a sample of my non-religious writing skills. I’m currently and building a portfolio. Enjoy!

You Can Start a Podcast

I used to believe that starting a podcast would be a Herculean task that only polished professionals or audiophiles could get into. This is not true though. Pretty much anyone can podcast if they take the time to get the right equipment and software.

However, to do a podcast well…that takes a bit more work.

The podcast I’ve started is called the Theologues Roundtable. I began the podcast as an idea with one of my good friends and launched it a few months ago. I did have to spend some money to get started it, but surprisingly, not that much.

Read the rest on LinkedIn…