Friday, December 16, 2011

Aristotle, Creation, and Evolution

Even before the first great Greek philosophers, man wanted to know where he had come from. Generally, after a person asks what they are, introspectively, it is usually followed by the question of why they are, ontologically. Various cultures have believed in different divine theories of creation, some with gods who fell in love creating the world, some with gods who solely wished to create out of chaos, and some with gods who had been torn apart in order to become the earth and sky themselves.[1] But, it seems, in the mindsets of the majority, almost no creation theories have lasted besides those of Secular Evolution and Christian Creationism. Perhaps, further exploring Aristotle’s four causes may help clarify whether Secular Evolution or Christian Creationism is more plausible.
Seeing the need for an explanation, Aristotle developed an argument from four causes. Instead of solely diving into current philosophies and theologies, he was able to develop his own and discover for himself a rendering behind the world and everything in it. He saw the other people’s view of origins and built up his own understanding.
Aristotle knew that we could never say that we knew anything without it first having a cause. His causes may help us, as humans, realize our cause and reason for being. Aristotle reasoned that the first cause would be the material cause, what a thing is physically. This had been the main cause addressed by many Pre-Socratic philosophers who would have used different elements to describe this cause; the idea of what we now know as atoms was also studied. The second cause is the formal cause, the pattern used in creating the thing. The Pythagoreans before Aristotle would have looked for the pattern in geometry and mathematics. Not too many philosophers before Aristotle really thought about this cause besides assuming that the elements had acted upon themselves. The third cause is the efficient cause, the outside source creating the thing. The Greeks would have used their gods to answer the efficient cause; they were the beings in action forming everything. The fourth cause is the final cause, the reason why the thing was made in the first place. The Greeks would have also used their gods to explain this cause. They would say that everything is a form of providence put in motion by the gods with no other reason than to please them.[2]
To Aristotle, the views held by the thinkers before him would have been interesting and still worth pondering. But, in Metaphysics, he discusses his own theories for his four causes. Aristotle admits that one might suppose that the only cause really understood or accounted for is the material. He says this material is the rawness of a being or the basic physical materials out of which it is made. Still, the original meaning of the thing is held within the material. A chair would not be a chair if it did not have the basic concepts for a chair.
The Secular Evolutionist would study deeply the inner-workings of every physical thing. Science is the means in which they would plan to find their answers. Here, they would see that at the core there is cellular structure working together to form objects. An even closer look may reveal atoms, protons, and electrons. The material cause is just that, material. Everything has an almost completely understood physical element. Though, even the scientist may admit that not quite everything is yet explainable, such as DNA and cellular communication.
The Christian Creationist would agree. This may be surprising, but at the physical level both worldviews are able to see the same thing. Deuteronomy 6:3 and Mark 12:28-30 agree that a firm believer in God is to love Him with all of his heart, soul, and might. Veith bases an argument for even a scientific vocation from this passage saying that even those “minds [that] are gifted in the sciences” can be used to serve God. He goes on to state that “whatever our calling, God demands all that we can do and all that we can think.”[3] In this way, whatever the scientist may observe of the physical material may be true. The difference of the interpretation between the Secularist and Christian falls within the categories of the other causes.
To Aristotle the second, formal, cause would have been turning the raw material into what it was originally meant to be. Perhaps a more modern term for this category would be a search for the means or making of our existence. For instance, the material of a chair is wood but it would not be a chair until it had been formed into one. When discussing the making of the world, it seemed unclear as to how it had been formed in Aristotle’s view. Perhaps he deemed it too obvious in coinciding with his efficient and final causes.
The Evolutionist would cheer for Natural Selection as his way, truth, and life. This theory of survival of the fittest is how he would describe the formal cause. Perhaps he would say something such as “we have been built through the means of Natural Selection, one gene pool surviving to the next.” In fact, Richard Dawkins, in his atheistic children’s science book, addresses organisms in a unique way. He relates that every animal that a child sees is only a machine built to form and pass along various genes. He states that this is very magical in a way and that the next time that a child looks in the mirror he should see himself as one of these magical gene-producing machines too.[4]
C. S. Lewis described a fallacy as chronological snobbery,[5] which means that a belief has to be false because it is out of fashion or had originally been believed too long of a time ago. This chronological snobbery is wrong due to the fact that time should have no affect on immanent truths. Ignoring this snobbery, the Creationist may hold an idea closer to Aristotle’s. According to Genesis chapter one:
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.[6]
The actual means of the cosmos’ formation in the Christian context is answered through God’s word. “God said,” therefore it was. To the Greeks, this formation would be understood as through the logos which is usually translated as the Reason[7] or as the book of John states, “the word.” The word of God is the means and driving force behind creation along with the Trinity.
The direct concepts of the way that everything was made the pattern that was followed (and is probably still followed) are to be understood as too complex for a mere Christian man to comprehend. Unlike evolution, not all types of formation are empirical to a scientist. “God created” is possibly all that a Christian feels they need to know about the formal cause. As one of the main themes in the book of Job is that man is not great enough to understand the ways of the Lord.
Leading to the other two causes, Aristotle also understood that if material is all there is then there is nothing left to address the fact that material can be created and destroyed. There must be a cause behind this. “The underlying material itself does not make itself change.”[8] There is a need for some sort of driving force. This is the need for an efficient cause.
Aristotle’s efficient cause is a god known as the Unmoved Mover. This being seemed to feel like creating the cosmos. So, it did. Once everything was made, the Mover moved on. The world had no need to be watched or cared about, the god no longer needed to make sure it took care of or cared for the world. In fact, since the Mover was so perfect and powerful, he did not need to be mindful of the world at all and concerned himself with perfect thoughts about perfect things.[9]
The Secularist would say that Aristotle’s view (along with the Christian’s) is simply unbelievable. As a strong believer in science, he would point to the Big Bang as a possible efficient reason for the material, even though he may still admit that the truly original cause of everything remains unknown. Something happened, the cosmos was formed, atoms were made, and different elements had different reactions. As the Christian seemed to ignore the formal cause, the Evolutionist seems to ignore the efficient cause.
The Christian believes in the Triune God, God the Father, Jesus Christ the incarnate son, and the Holy Spirit, as three persons yet one God. This God is upheld as a tender of the garden of the world, unlike the Mover who has seemed to have forgotten about it. “God” created, “the spirit” hovered, and the “light” has become an analogy for the Son.
Now, to the fourth, the final cause, this is perhaps the most contemplated cause. This is the reason why we are here along with everything else. Aristotle would say that our goal is to achieve our “thinghood.” We have been made from material by the Mover, but we need to develop ourselves to be all that we can be. In his view, we are formed through learning how to live a truly virtuous life (simultaneously achieving happiness or eudaimonia). To gain virtue and disdain vice is seen as our true reason for living.
For the Secular Evolutionist, the goal for life is to survive and procreate. This is carnal at its base, going almost the opposite direction of Aristotle’s view. The Greek would fight for morals while the Evolutionist would argue for the beast. Nancy Pearcey states that Darwinism is universal acid as it is bound to destroy every other belief as only chance or byproducts of Natural Selection, including belief in Darwinism itself.[10] In other places, in fact, this is recorded as Darwin’s deepest fear.[11]
To some, the Evolutionist’s reason for life bears almost no meaning. If this is all that there is, this is still not that great. Even Aristotle’s view of the final cause lacks attraction. The Christian, on the other hand, sees the reason for our life as literally, please excuse the cliché, out of this world. Not only has God made the world “good,” the Christian believes that there is an even better afterlife.
The reason for this world is a not the goal as the Secularist would see it, but a means. In a way, Aristotle was onto something with his idea of “thinghood.” The Christian is called to serve fellow man here in the world through trials and successes, errors and triumphs. Man is shaped by the things he has gone through until he is ready for the next step towards heaven. To be “good” as God has claimed, perhaps Aristotle was right that man should try to be as virtuous as possible and achieve the perfect “thingness” that he was always meant to be. But, in a Christian understanding, there is no way for a person to conquer Original Sin. Jesus Christ, both God and man, was the only one with the ability to have a perfect life, so he lived the perfect life for us. He died for our sins and rose again. In a way, the Christians see all people who follow Jesus, the other Christian believers, as Jesus himself. Even though they know they cannot reach their final goal of perfection, they understand that through their God’s grace and mercy, they can still be understood as reaching it.
Also, unlike the Secularist, the Christian has a final cause. They believe that they are on Earth for a reason. Instead of being born from chaos, they are born from order. There is purpose in their life, if for no other reason than to proclaim the Gospel, to serve God, and to serve their neighbor.
In review, the material cause can be agreed upon by all three parties. The formal cause is the cause that Secular Evolution stresses the most and is the most focused upon, while Aristotle and Christianity view it as seemingly irrelevant. The efficient cause, though ignored by the Secular Evolutionist, is a key doctrine to the Christian Creationist and a deep part of Aristotle’s philosophy. The final cause to Aristotle and the Secular Evolutionist are almost polar opposites while the Christian adds even more options to the mix.
In the end, it seems the biggest difference between the Secularist and the other two is that he is distracted by observations and tries to understand the material and formal causes instead of the others. Aristotle seems to have a basic understanding of all causes but lacks development in many areas, especially in the areas making virtues relevant in the eyes of the Unmoved Mover. The Christian’s difference is faith. He holds faith in the efficient cause, God, to complete the other three. As Aristotle and the Evolutionist focus on their own ability to reason and rationalize, the Christian trusts God in the areas that are not understood and knows that he will see them through. Through this faith, God reveals his causes to us within His Word.

[1] Padraic Colum, Myths of the World (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1959), p. 19.
[2] Forrest E. Baird, ed., Philosophic Classics, 6th ed. Vol. I of Ancient Philosophy (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, 2011), 12-31, 347-348.
[3] Gene Edward Veith Jr., Loving God with All Your Mind (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2003), 150.
[4] Richard Dawkins, The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True (New York, NY: Free Press, 2011).
[5] C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (Orlando, FL: C. S. Lewis PTE Limited, 1955).
[6] ESV
[7] This is stemming from the understanding of the Pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus.
[8] Baird, 349.
[9] Anthony Kenny, Ancient Philosophy Vol. I of A New History of Western Philosophy (New York, NY: Oxford University Press Inc, 2006), 297-302.
[10] Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005), 155-157.
[11] Find source (probably something from Christian Mind)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Reason for Art

Over the course of human history, art has played an integral role in society. From the earliest forms of pottery and body decorations to great structures such as the Taj Mahal and Mount Rushmore, art has been formed from many different material, formal, and efficient causes. These three causes in the art seem relatively self-evident, but where lies the final cause? What is the reason for art? The answer to this question ranges all the way from the secular views of relativity and nihilism to the Christian views of worship and deontology. The object of this paper will attempt to explore the reason for secular art in contrast to the reason for Christian art in order to decide which view may be more beneficial to both the audience and the artist.
Even though art such as cave paintings and hieroglyphs may have been at first a tool for scholastic teaching and historical records, art has grown to become a different means of creative expression for the artist. Besides teaching the viewer basic facts and chronologies, the artist began to make art in order to inspire an emotion in their audience and to share their own worldviews.
Some may argue that the artist is no thinker; that he or she would dwell in the realms of beauty and emotion, not logic or reason. This idea is wrong. David Gobel, a contemporary architect, may have described art the best when he said that in art, “a worldview is made tangible.”[1] Even though the audience may not be able to physically touch the artist’s worldview, they can better grasp the artist’s ideas through experiencing the art. We enter a construction of the artist’s mind in order to understand the artist’s work.
This idea of sharing one’s own philosophies through art has been so ingrained within the artist that they may not even recognize their presuppositions’ influence. In ancient Greek artists who would have understood Pythagoras’ philosophies, emphasizing the importance of geometry used mathematics to assist their sculpting. Knowingly or not, their philosophy helped to form their art. Further influence from Pythagoras and Plato led the Byzantine culture to create art which reflected the purity of their idols instead of portraying the seemingly corrupt world in which they lived. Upon the rediscovery of Aristotle’s notes and the understanding that the world too is a gift from God, friars emerged and an influence of the environment returned to the artist’s brush. Reformers, Enlightened artists, and Romantics among others have also had their art affected by their philosophies.[2]
Where does this leave us today? Instead of having mainly Christian or other single-minded ideas taking charge of our culture, we are left in a bizarre state of philosophical chaos. A person’s mind has been split between various concepts and understandings, most of which are conflicting or false. As culture has tried to free the artist’s ability of expression, it has lost the artist’s sense of aesthetics.[3] Almost any understanding of art is acceptable. Whether it be Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper or Andres Sorrano’s Piss Christ, Exekias’ Achilles and Penthesileia or Ai Weiwei’s Dropping the Urn, Alexandros’ Venus de Milo or Piero Manzoni’s Merda d’artista, it would appear that in modern times the cliché of “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is seen as true. Art, according to the majority, has been deemed as relative.
In most cases, art has been diluted to the definition that Germaine Greer, a professor at the University of Warwick, uses: “Art is anything an artist calls art.”[4] The secular mind has benighted itself into thinking that whatever an artist[5] has spent time and effort on is logically art. Greer would go so far as to say that anything which is unique or separate from any other work is truly art. This would include her example that a crooked, malfunctioning, urinal would be art if it were seen as such.[6]
If this is the case, anything which a person sees as art can be good art; it follows then that everything can be judged as good art and so nothing can be judged as good art. As Tom Jay has said, “The term art has been spread so thin, its edges moved so far out that it can no longer bear meaning. Anything can be art, the icicle stuck in the lawn, the moustache on the billboard beauty: if anything is art nothing is art.”[7]
This relative view takes the meaning out of art. If a work can have different meanings for different audiences it can mean a lot to one person and nothing to the next. To escape seeing art as nihilistic, there needs to be some form of absolute good within it. There is a need for art to have aesthetics that most audiences can recognize. But, to the world, “good” has become relative.
Even though this is so, it is clear that what is good for one person may not be good for another. For example it may be good for an explosives expert to have dynamite but not a kindergartener and it is good for a paratrooper to be falling from an airplane but not a scuba diver. Even if dynamite and falling would not be good for different types of people, they still share an absolute good of needing to eat and sleep in order to properly function.
If the secular definition of good art lies somewhere within its uniqueness, this is insufficient because everything is unique in its own way. There are no two exact duplicates of anything otherwise matter would have to be displaced as the two objects would need to hold the exact same space in the physical world. Just the difference of spacing alone is enough to make one object different than another. This is seen even in the example of the urinal. If the urinal were in its proper place then it would still be unique in the fact that it takes a different location than the other urinals in the bathroom and it could be seen as an artistic placement.[8]
Unlike the relativity of secularism, Christianity recognizes that there are true absolute goods. This is possible because a Christian believes that God is good. Even if there are bad things in the world, it is seen as true that the world has originally been made good.[9] There are still good things hidden under the contamination caused by the Fall.[10] These absolute goods can be used to measure art.
Over the centuries, man has attempted to worship God even through art. Sculptures, cathedrals, paintings and other wonders have been built in order to get a glimpse of what is godly. Many Orthodox churches attempt to depict heaven within their walls and please God with their sanctuary’s beauty.
Yet, measuring art only by its godliness may not be the correct answer. Are we solely to create art as a form of seeing or worshipping God? This is a tough question. Alvin Schmidt states that “the truth and religious significance of Christian art was not a mere end in itself, but rather an intimate part of human life.” It seems that art has played a bigger role than only working towards the reaction of the audience.
God has also made man as a creature in his own image.[11] Man was made with the abilities to think, to feel, and to create. Perhaps an understanding of vocation is needed to recognize the artist’s role in the world. In vocation a man is called to lovingly serve their neighbor. The artist’s ability to provide aesthetic works is a way to serve others.
There is another problem though. As Adrienne Chaplin points out, not even all religious art is made by believers. There may be artists such as David Mach who create “Christian” art for the audience’s reaction and not to worship the Christian God.[12] It is also clear that not all art directly points to God in its understanding.
It is possible that God could still use the art of the Christian and the nonbeliever in order to spread the Gospel. But, without the believer’s concept of intrinsic good, the audience may applaud anything as good art. In the end, uniqueness and relative aesthetics may be something worth seeing but without intrinsic meaning the art remains nihilistic. Knowing God can add meaning behind the art. Art can be used in order to appreciate God’s gifts or see a new aspect of God that perhaps a person would not have realized otherwise. If reason matters, Christianity is beneficial to art. But, if chaos rules, art may need no god.

[1] Nancy Pearcey, Saving Leonardo (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2007), 76.
[2] Pearcey, 76-90.
[3] Harry Blamires, The Post-Christian Mind (Vancouver, Canada: Regent College Publishing, 2003), 117-129.
[4] Germaine Greer, “Now please pay attention everybody. I’m about to tell you what art is,” the Guardian (2011), (accessed November 20, 2011).
[5] The definition of an “artist” would become extremely vague in this sense, including anyone and everyone who believes that they can see art in something they create (such as a fast-food employee who has just made a Subway sandwich).
[6] Germaine Greer, “Now please pay attention everybody. I’m about to tell you what art is,” the Guardian (2011), (accessed November 20, 2011).
[7] Tom Jay, The Blossoms Are Ghosts at the Wedding (New York, NY: Empty Bowl, 2006).
[8] This “art” would probably be under the class of parallelism.
[9] Genesis 1:31
[10] Genesis 3
[11] Genesis 1:26
[12] Adrienne Dengerink Chaplin, “Not all religious art is made by believers,” the Guardian (2011), (accessed November 20, 2011).

Holy Horseshit

This song, Holy Horseshit Batman (HHB), by Gym Class Heroes is by the same group who plays Stereo Hearts which frequents the radio. The lyrics of HHB take a perspective that I usually do not seem to see. The singer is on a different side of Christianity than most of the people that I run across. He is neither really for it or against it, he’s almost neutral.

In the beginning of the song, the singer is offered a pamphlet. He doesn’t take it; the giver of the pamphlet angrily gives him an accusing glance and tells him that she will pray for his children. To the singer, he thinks that no matter what he can do (buy a Jesus piece [necklace]), Jesus won’t forgive him. He seems to be sarcastic towards miracles while still somewhat believing in them. He also throws out a lot of smack explaining that he doesn’t even really know who God is. He thinks Hell is a fine place to go and he would be a fool to think that he could ever deserve Heaven. This view could probably be used in part of the definition for “Agnostic.”

I have good news (literally Gospel) for this guy. “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter” (Mark 3:2“Everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name" (Acts 10:43). Even though the singer rightly knows that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a), he doesn’t deserve to be saved (along with everyone else). He forgets the last end of the verse: “The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23b). We have been saved anyway. We have been given Heaven even though there is no possible way that we could ever deserve it. If we buy a Jesus necklace, accept a Christian pamphlet, or even proclaim that we have accepted Jesus, it means nothing without His grace and forgiveness. We can do nothing, while He gives everything for us.

Over all, this song points out a type of bad evangelism. How can you reach someone without explaining to them the truth? If you just give them mean glances and tell them that you will pray for their children so that you can feel righteous it may have been better that you would have stayed at home. Though, if you do tell them that you’ll pray for them and their children that is great if you mean it and actually follow through. In spreading God’s word it is important to understand how your message is getting across and how you act, try to never give them a reason to think negatively towards Christianity. The Bible doesn’t teach to spread the word with malice and prejudice; but with open arms (just as Christ’s on the cross).8). 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Devils' Mailbox: Music

You are learning quite well. I can tell that you are pleased with the success that the song “Cough Syrup” by the band Young The Giant has had on your boy. Getting the lyrics stuck in his head was a tremendous idea. This song is one of the absolute best to help us guide your little meal the way we may want him to go. As the smooth melody puts him in a peaceful state, he does not realize the affects that the words have had on his life. The singer specifically says, “Life’s too short to even care at all,” leading the boy to believe that the world truly means nothing. The term that the humans would probably use is “nihilism.” After your boy holds a good sense of nihilism, he won’t be able to help but commit suicide. The lyrics even go on to say, “One more spoon of cough syrup now.” In fact, this may be the best direction to take with your boy as it shall prove difficult to sway him from his strong faith in our enemy. It might be better to have him give up on everything he has ever believed in and instill doubt in his friends and family around him. Just, be sure to keep him from dying until he loses all of the faith that he has ever had.
Though this song has been beneficial to you now, do not be mistaken to think that you are the first to use music towards the Great Lord’s purpose. It is true that most music was a gift given to man by our enemy in order to worship him, but ever since the first ancient drum beats; our father has had his hand in music, improving it. We have been able to use the grossly heavenly sound in much the same way that we have been able to use the human’s interpretations of their mental disease called love.
One magnificent way that we have found to manipulate music is by forming it into an idol. By means of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and other such popular artists, the Great One is able to influence man to worship the music itself with their bodies and their souls in order to distract them from worshipping the one who has created them. Music has also become a gateway for us to spread our gospel of further sins. We can introduce lust, profanities, adultery, and other ways to corrupt humans, both physically and mentally, through bad lyrics and dancing girls. My personal favorite current song would probably have to be “The Lazy Song” by Bruno Mars. If a person is truly too lazy to do anything then he cannot be working against us. It also fits quite well with my motto: “Keep ‘em lazy when you can and overstressed when you can’t.” I would also like to suggest the use of “American Trash” by Innerpartysystem to help lead your boy. In this song, the horrific human bodily temple built by the enemy to worship him is described as nothing better than garbage. This will clearly influence your boy to become nonchalant towards at least his physical self, perhaps mental too, and what happens to it.
Sadly, I must leave you with a warning. As I said, our enemy has gifted man with song in order to worship him. He can also use music to his advantage. It is important that you teach your boy to believe that all songs that the other side uses are either cheesy and heartless or traditional and boring. The Christians’, I spit at the name, radio station will be great for you in your attempt at this. Help your boy to believe that all those people want is money. Make it so that every time he turns on their radio station, which should not be too frequent, he hears petitions to relieve him of his cash. Also, in secular music, be careful as to what you allow your boy to hear. Make sure to keep him from hearing songs that will help him to think or to question your lead. As you listen to seemingly safe artists such as Lil Wayne, Eminem, and the Black-Eyed Peas, be careful that he doesn’t hear, or at least understand the meaning of, “How to love,” “I Need A Doctor,” and “Where is the Love?” These songs may lure him back into the mental trap that our beastly enemy has left in the mindsets of humanity. A total intoxication of the disease deemed love would most-likely point our poor livestock towards our enemy, or give him the realization that he, along with the rest of the world, is sick and in dire need of a doctor, our enemy has been known to show himself as a healer or surgeon.
Otherwise, keep up the fine work and make sure your boy is never led astray from our master.
                                                            Your notorious mentor,