Thursday, April 16, 2009

On Recent Dreams and Schemes

This morning my iPhone's alarm went off at 6:30 with the text "time to go for a run!". I pressed "snooze" and immediately dreamt that my wife heard a noise in the basement, which I and my friend, a tall, dark, intelligent, and funny twentysomething of a man with whom I was clearly familiar in my dream, but whom I have never seen in my waking life, promptly and boldly, if nervously, investigated. In my dream the door to our basement was outside - we exited out the back door and walked along the side wall toward the front of the house down a grassy slope and entered by the door on our right, which was ajar. We shortly wound up encountering a vampire whom I, needless to say, rushed and engaged. And I, needless to say, overpowered him. I had half a bulb of garlic, facing out, in my left hand that I pushed in toward his face, and something of a dagger in my right hand whose hard black handle I grasped firmly but whose blade came down from the handle, protruding from the pinky-side of my hand instead of the thumb and forefinger side. I used the knife as situated this way by swinging something like an upward right hook - a right-to-left uppercut. The entire construct of the dream visually tore apart and faded at the same time as I woke up at 6:10 to my iPhone alarm with the text "time to go for a run!". I again snoozed it and relived part of the dream but like in the movie "Ground Hog Day", or "Run Lola Run" if you prefer, I had the knowledge I gained from the first go-around. When my wife heard the noise, I knew it was a vampire, but avoided saying so, so as to not scare the beautifully blue-eyed woman carrying my firstborn son (whose working name is "Søren", but without the Danish "ø"). The brief situation in the kitchen with my wife and strange friend sort of faded, sort of jolted and I relived it but with certain features varying a couple more times, and I intermittently relived, or flashed forward to, my struggle with the vampire.

By 7:00 the real my wife was sweetly waking me up by calling to me from the other room. She recommended/suggested/co-rejoiced with me at the fact that I had the opportunity to go for a run and that it was a nice morning to go for a run on. I felt like I had woken up at 5:00 not feeling tired, but gone back to sleep under the weight and warmth of the blankets only to descend into this bizarre unrest riddled with vampire. I turned and put my feet on the ground and they felt swollen and my left foot felt like there was something wrong with it between the instep bones of my big and second toe.

I pensively ejected a carefully chosen minor expletive. I realized that, like every Thursday, I was supposed to meet with three men from my church at 6:30 at Java.

...

This afternoon I went with Jonathan to The Resort for a light lunch. He did a lot of the talking. There wasn't a lot of talking overall. He read to me out of a book, which made me laugh a bit. On the way out the front door I was being trailed by a woman. Politely keeping the door open for her I watched as she came halfway through it and stood without further forward motion. I was shocked, and then irritated that she had taken my niceness for granted. I held it longer, but with a rudely impatient look on my face. I stared straight at her, but she was casually standing and fidgeting without paying attention to me. I eventually let the door go, and she came the rest of the way through the threshold without even tipping me.

...

This late afternoon my wife showed me with genuine loving gladness that PitaPit sent me a coupon for a free Pita in commemoration of my birthday. I turned 25 last week. I had a great day. I wonder how they found out about my birthday and whether I can pull the Max Clark-like prank of getting it changed so that they are always commemorating my birthday with free Pitas.

...

Last night was the introduction to a parenting class my wife and I are taking. Seems like it will have some true or helpful and challenging main points, packaged in only slightly less of a silly, fundamentalist, prior-generational context. For example, it is introduced as "The Biblical Model of Parenting".

My thing with that is that the Bible is not a parenting book. It speaks to certain things and should be left to do so. You can use the Bible for a text book on marriage, parenting, finances, and psychology without ever touching on the deity of Christ or the reality of the depravity of man. The Bible speaks to certain things for a reason and ought to be not just left to do so, but praised for doing so and studied on those vary accounts! At best the parenting class presents a parenting model based on some Biblical principles.

Still, it is easy to strike away at all the trappings and phrasings of a thing without actually facing it and oneself squarely and dealing with it according to its main themes and points and being honest about oneself and how one can grow and mature in anticipation of an impending child for whom one wants to, above all, model life and love.

Criticism has its place and can be constructive, but it is a correcting tool for building straight and strong and not for preventing good projects from getting off the ground for fear of any slight imperfection.

Lambasting however, is a tool for destruction. But a parenting conference based on Biblical principles, or at least earnestly attempting to be such, need not be destructed (and therefore not lambasted).

This post will not be edited for reading ease.

24 comments:

  1. Will it, however, be edited for truth? For example, your initial alarm evidently at 6:30, you snoozed it, and then heard it go off at 6:10. Amazing.

    Additionally, though the cute phrase "all truth it God's Truth" has been thrown around a lot, I submit to you that God's Truth is all the Truth we need. Everything necessary for life can be deduced from Scripture, and therefore, the Bible is sufficient. Of course, it was not written as a parenting book, but it has enough information to be the only book one needs in order to be a good and godly parent.

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  2. I am willing to edit this post for truth. In the case of the timeline discrepancy (kudos for picking up on it), I have to say I am tempted to leave it for humor's sake.

    I believe the Bible is sufficient for what it is intended to be sufficient for.

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  3. Hey David. I don't mean to be divisive, I ask the following in earnest: what about the establishment of the normativity of monogamy? Why can't we, pace the Mormons and Hebrews, have multiple wives a la King David, or hundreds of concubines a la King Solomon?

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  4. yo. i didn't read the post, but i'm with derek. as long as i'm not an elder, i should get all honies i want.

    -max

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  5. i meant to say that i didn't read the post, because it's it's way too long.

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  6. Sooooo funny. SO funny.

    Also, I like your friends that comment.

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  7. @Derek
    to be honest, I don't understand how you're using the word 'pace'. The fact that you're italicizing it make me wonder if it's a different language, or something i'm supposed to get, but well, I didn't go to high school.

    The principle of marriage between one man and one woman was initiated in creation, before the Fall. God made one woman for, from, and to help one man. The fact that Abraham, Jacob, King David, and Solomon had multiple wives doesn't mean that it is a good thing. God's supposed silence on the matter in Scripture doesn't mean He endorses it. I don't think we can assume God necessarily endorsed the rape of Dinah or the slaughter of the Levite's concubine because He didn't intentionally speak out against them in Scripture.

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  8. @ David

    pace = with all due respect to. A latin word that philosophers use to be pedantic. Luckily, I’m not a philosopher, so I am no pedant for trying to use it. But maybe I’m a wanna be pedant for using it….

    And I’m pretty sure your unfamiliarity with the term has nothing to do with not going to highschool! What do people know because they went to high school?

    As regards your I Cor. reference. I’m pretty sure Paul is using “man” and “woman” in the sense of kinds—viz. that men were not created for women, but vice-versa. Otherwise the translator should have put indefinite articles before “man” and “woman” (at least to necessitate your implicit reading).

    I agree that the institute of marriage was initiated at Creation. However, there mere fact that Adam only married Eve has no bearing on whether polygamy is morally permissible—though it’s not monogamy, it is still a form of marriage.

    I agree that it’s not a good thing that men have multiple wives and/or concubines, but my thinking so is not because of anything I’ve read in scripture. Hence, there might be some things in which scripture is insufficient to establish that is “necessary for life”.

    I’m no scholar, but the reason why we shouldn’t think rape is normative is because we shouldn’t commit adultery (at the very least); the reason why we think slaughtering concubines shouldn’t be normative is because “thou shall not murder”. This is to say that even though there’s exceptions to the rules found in scripture, the scripture does establish the rules (e.g. the normativity of not-murdering and not-raping is explicitly or implicitly established in scripture).

    The same cannot be said for the normativity of monogamy. At least, not to my knowledge.

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  9. I agree that it’s not a good thing that men have multiple wives and/or concubines, but my thinking so is not because of anything I’ve read in scripture. Hence, there might be some things in which scripture is insufficient to establish that is “necessary for life”.Why exactly do you believe polygamy is wrong?

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  10. it's apparent to me that non-monogamous aren't as healthy or conducive to human flourishing as monogamous relationships are. What do I mean by 'health' and 'human flourishing'? Something like 'that which maximizes the quality of human happiness.' How do monogamous relationships do this? It seems to be me there's more unity to a family that is established and brought about between a man and woman, as opposed to to a man and several women. I also think monogamous relationships, combined with fidelity, tend encourage a deeper union between a man and woman by preventing the possibility of a rampant jealousy that inevitably comes with having multiple partners (be it other wives, concubines, or husbands).

    Furthermore, monogamy seems to be indicative or conducive to 'treating others as an end unto themselves as opposed to a means an end.' Whenever I think the idea of men having multiple wives and/or concubines, I'm struck with the impression that the man's ability to love each wife as an end as opposed to a means must be difficult, and in it's obvious that he wouldn't be treating his concubines as an end as opposed to a means.

    For these three reasons (i.e being conducive to unity, harmony, and respect) I think monogamy is normative and superior to other forms of marriage.

    Of course, the principles I invoked above do have a grounding in scripture, no doubt. But it takes a few steps in reasoning to get to these conclusions, reasoning that involves data not explicitly found in scripture.

    To sum up my position. I think it's the case the monogamy is normative. My reasons for thinking so are based upon biblical principles, but there are steps in my reasoning that are extra biblical. Therefore not everything necessary for living is explicitly or implicitly stated in Scripture.

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  11. So you do not believe the Bible is concerned with "maximizing the happiness" of God's people? That it is insufficient in this regard?

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  12. yes. There's many issues related to the maximizing of human flourishing that the Bible does not explicitly mandate or explicate.

    E.g.

    What economic systems optimize human flourishing? Which ones don't?

    What systems of government optimize human flourishing?
    Which ones don't?

    What methods of parenting optimize and maximize the flourishing of a family?
    Which don't/aren't?

    Should monogamy be normative?

    ETC.

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  13. I'm going to disagree with each of the examples you provided. But I forgot to ask one other question. You do not believe the Bible is sufficient to maximize human happiness because that is not it's purpose, correct? What do you believe the purpose of the Bible is?

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  14. While we're on the subject-- it's interesting to note that the entirety of Locke's First Treatise on Human Government is devoted to rejecting Biblical arguments for Monarchy and the DIvine Right of Kings. Locke's Treatise caused much controversy because almost everyone in England at the time thought that a correct reading of Scripture mandated these views. I've yet to meet an ardent Christian who thinks that Locke's opponents were correct! This goes to show that (1) it's easy to have a conviction about what should be the case and read your convictions into the Bible (I think Brandon would agree here, since he accused me of doing this during our John 3:16 discussion; and (2) that whether or not an absolute Monarch is normative will affect human flourishing for better or for worse; and (3) that the question of whether the establishment of a Monarchy is normative is not explicated in scripture.

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  15. The purpose of the Bible is to communicate to man his relationship to God and what man must do to restore it.

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  16. Sorry for the intermission.

    The purpose of the Bible is to communicate to man his relationship to God and what man must do to restore it.And that is in contrast to maximizing man's happiness. So the fullness of man's happiness is not found in his relationship with God and being reconciled to God will not satisfy man?

    I'm not trying to be a sophist here, these are genuine questions.

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  17. Asking questions is Socratic- even if you're trying to get me to back myself in in a hole. If anything, my pontificating about the nature and scope of Scripture is the sophistry.

    But even if I'm wrong, at least I'll learn something, and learn something about God, scripture, and His world no less.

    So- to answer your question. I think it's true that our being reconciled to God entails the maximization of human flourishing. If it didn't, then there would be something greater than God that fulfills us, which is false.

    Though I think Scripture communicates the means by which our reconciliation to God is brought about, it doesn't explicitly give us an idea of what this will look like- either in this life or in the resurrection. It does, however, communicate the "principles" of human flourishing, as well as the criteria by which we can judge what might amount to human flourishing.

    Unless someone thinks that principles and criteria themselves are sufficient (not just necessary) for explicating what exactly the maximization of human flourishing will look like, then Scripture per se is not sufficient for such an explication.

    To say otherwise, it seems, implies that there are no moral questions that are unequivocally settled by Scripture.

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  18. I had half a bulb of garlic, facing out, in my left hand that I pushed in toward his face

    Haha!

    Also, good post. Looks like it caused quite the flurry of commenting... wowzers.

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  19. Sorry again for the delay. It appears there's a new post I'll have to take a look at and hopefully comment on as well.

    I'm a little uncertain of what you're saying here Derek. You say:

    Though I think Scripture communicates the means by which our reconciliation to God is brought about, it doesn't explicitly give us an idea of what this will look like- either in this life or in the resurrection. It does, however, communicate the "principles" of human flourishing, as well as the criteria by which we can judge what might amount to human flourishing.So God has not revealed what reconciliation looks like in this life, or the next. But you, aside from revelation, can determine what reconciliation and thus human flourishing should look like in this life?

    This to me is the problem with your view. I would clarify my statements by saying Scripture may not be sufficient for everything in life, but if Scripture is not sufficient, nothing else is. So I would deny that you can somehow determine what reconciliation and human flourishing "looks like" if Scripture has not revealed it.

    Or to take the marriage example: If Scripture does not sufficiently answer whether monogomy is morally superior to polygamy, then neither can you.

    You then go on to claim that there are moral issues that cannot be decided by Scripture. That seems quite odd to me. What is morality? Does not God determine what is and is not moral? If God has not revealed the morality of a particular thing, what right has man to do so? Man does not determine what is right and what is wrong.

    Let me know if I have misunderstood you.

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  20. “So God has not revealed what reconciliation looks like in this life, or the next. But you, aside from revelation, can determine what reconciliation and thus human flourishing should look like in this life?”

    Yes.

    “You then go on to claim that there are moral issues that cannot be decided by Scripture. That seems quite odd to me. What is morality? Does not God determine what is and is not moral? If God has not revealed the morality of a particular thing, what right has man to do so? Man does not determine what is right and what is wrong.”

    I actually think we’re getting somewhere Brandon! It’s important that we distinguish between two different senses of “determine”. In one sense, “determine” can have a purely epistemological sense, perhaps synonymous with “figuring out” or “knowing”. “Determine” can also have a metaphysical sense, synonymous with “causing to be” or “makes it the case”. Though I don’t think you’ve confused the two, it will help our discussion if we distinguish them from the outset.

    I agree with you, roughly, that “God is what determines what is or is not moral” (since this smacks of a divine command theory I’d rather say ‘What is moral and immoral flows from God’s character’). But just because God is what makes what is immoral immoral and what is moral moral (He determines morality in the metaphysical sense), it doesn’t follow that man is unable to determine what morality is in the epistemological sense. That is, though God is the grounding of all moral truths, there might be other ways that God reveals these truths to man other than through Scripture (Cf. Romans 1:18-2, Isaiah 1:18).

    To summarize, I acknowledge that “all truth is God’s truth” in the sense that every true proposition depends upon God. However, just because all truth is God’s truth, it doesn’t follow that every truth is revealed in Scripture. That is, there are other ways in which God can reveal some truths (e.g. through human reason or Natural Law), in which case man can determine (in the epistemological sense) what is true without the use of Scripture. Some of these truths I can “determine” include “I am now writing this comment”, and “it is morally permissible to kill in self-defense.” Neither of these truths are explicitly revealed through Scripture. Scripture is emphatically silent about the truth of the former, and the normativity of the truth of the latter is certainly not unequivocally established in Scripture.

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  21. That is, though God is the grounding of all moral truths, there might be other ways that God reveals these truths to man other than through Scripture (Cf. Romans 1:18-2, Isaiah 1:18).Romans 1 does not teach that general revelation reveals anything that is not also revealed in Scripture. Rather, it is the beginning of Paul's argument that all have sinned and are without excuse because the law of God is written on their hearts (Rom 2:15)), yet they rebel and suppress it.

    Isaiah 1:18 is a rather odd reference. I don't see how God specially revealing Himself through a prophet whose words are recorded in Scripture supports your case. Perhaps you just like the word "reason" in the verse? If so I don't see how that has anything to do with the price of tea in China (I think that's how the saying is supposed to go).

    That is, there are other ways in which God can reveal some truths (e.g. through human reason or Natural Law)What is "human reason"? You seem to want to hold up "human reason" in contrast to Scripture. I agree that God has innately revealed things to all men. But I deny that what He has revealed to all men is anything in addition to what is also found in Scripture. Furthermore, "natural law" is not a valid source of truth because, as is Paul's entire point, man suppresses and distorts that innate revelation.

    “it is morally permissible to kill in self-defense.” Neither of these truths are explicitly revealed through Scripture.I don't want to sound rude, but you should spend more time reading your Bible (Exodus 22:2-3).

    the truth of the latter is certainly not unequivocally established in Scripture.That's your opinion. Some people think the Trinity is not unequivocally established in Scripture either. Does that mean we should rely on "natural law" to figure out the Trinity?

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  22. “Romans 1 does not teach that general revelation reveals anything that is not also revealed in Scripture.”

    It may be the case that everything in revealed through “general revelation” is also revealed through scripture, but it doesn’t follow from this that one cannot “determine” what is moral or immoral without Scripture; that is, God can reveal to man what is moral and immoral with Scripture and without it (via “general revelation”). Though each are sufficient, “knowing moral truths” can have disjunctive conditions. I.e., though it is necessary that “knowing moral truths” must come from either General Revelation or (inclusive) Scripture, one source alone is sufficient.

    “You seem to want to hold up "human reason" in contrast to Scripture.”

    I think human reason and Scripture are two sources of knowledge. The latter can tell us things that are unreachable via human reason, but the former can tell us things that could have been expressed explicitly in Scripture, but in fact, are not.

    “Furthermore, "natural law" is not a valid source of truth because, as is Paul's entire point, man suppresses and distorts that innate revelation.”

    No doubt Paul is saying that men suppress the truth. But don’t you have to know, at least in a propositional sense, to be able to suppress? Just because one always suppresses what she knows, it doesn’t follow that she doesn’t know what it is she knows.

    (1) If I suppress that P, I know P.
    (2) I suppress that P.
    (3) Therefore, I know that P.

    If you deny (1), this means you can suppress what you don’t know. How is that possible?

    (1) If source X guarantees that I know that P, then source X is a reliable source.
    (2) I know that P from source X.
    (3) Source X is reliable.

    ““it is morally permissible to kill in self-defense.” Neither of these truths are explicitly revealed through Scripture.I don't want to sound rude, but you should spend more time reading your Bible (Exodus 22:2-3).””

    No offense taken. From verse 3, why shouldn’t we make killing in self-defense illegal after sunrise? “but if it happens after sunrise, he is guilty of bloodshed.”

    “Some people think the Trinity is not unequivocally established in Scripture either. Does that mean we should rely on "natural law" to figure out the Trinity?”

    I think that the “One God in three Persons” metaphysic is implicit in scripture, but it does take the use of properly functioning human faculties to get a robust formulation of it.

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