Monday, December 16, 2013

I Wonder if You Remember Me

You may never realize the impact you have on someone else.


Dr. Craig,

I wonder if you remember me. I was the dorky looking fellow hoisting about the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology at the Xenos Center in Columbus, Ohio July 10 and July 11 of 2013. I asked you four questions over the course of those two days: one regarding the ontological argument, one regarding the contingency argument, one regarding the kalamcosmological argument, and one regarding God’s relation to the Good. You answered them masterfully. I regret only that I did not get to thank you for the meteoric influence you have had in my life. If you receive and read this, please let me know or have someone let me know.

Below reads my testimonial. You can publish it if you like. All that matters to me, however, is that you read it.

I

“Misery” is a unique variety of suffering to truly observe, and so I naturally remember the first time I witnessed it. During my second week of college my Catholic roommate and my “progressive” roommate had a brief discussion:

“So how do you feel about abortion?” the “progressive” inquired.

“I’m Catholic, so I don’t really support it.”

The “progressive” allowed a snide laugh.

“You actually believe in that stuff? God and all that? Ha! Oh wait, I’ll just stop now.”

The energy seemed to flush from the Catholic, and his face withered into something I can only describe as sharp, desperate misery.

My third roommate was also Catholic. He began to party with the “progressive.” One night a Catholic girl across the hall dragged his drunken form to our toilet so he could commence vomiting. A week later the girl asked whether he believed in God:

“No.”

“What? Why not?”

“I don’t know. There’s just no reason to.”

A week later, he fell into depression.

I met the first Catholic (the “miserable” one) a year later for lunch. He was struggling ceaselessly with anxiety and despondency. He told me that he had become a resolute atheist. He asked me what I thought about God:

“I’m an agnostic,” I allowed tepidly.

“Why?”

“I haven’t found any good reason yet to believe it.”

“No, I mean, why not a full-blooded atheist?”

“I imagine there are probably some persuasive scholars on the theistic side.”

“Like who?”

“Swinburne… uh, and… what’s his name? Will Craig Lane [sic], I’ve heard he has some good—“

The newfound “full-blooded” atheist wrenched his face up with disgust.

“Craig?”

“Yeah.”

“Stay away from that guy.”

And I did.

II

My professors adored me and divined that I would become a prodigious historian. I was not happy like I was as a young Catholic, but my skeptical reductionism had yielded for me success as an alienated, but thorough scholar. CNN, my professors, Nietzsche, Foucault, and popular cinema crushed my theistic intuitions into uncertain wisps of memory, and so I resolved to put the idea of God “on hold.” God became something of a curious amusement for me, a petrified abstraction among many, an unexamined metaphysical insight at best and a social pathology at worst. I was happy to evacuate such a peculiar bourgeois artifact from my past and hang it on the mantle. After all, according to three “basic” philosophy texts that I had read, metaphysics had become antiquated after the advance of science and God had been retired; Paul Tillach, it seemed, would be your best and only bet if you were interested in God.

And oh how my despair amused me! My past harassed me endlessly with whispers of intelligibility and meaning I knew could never resolve, the present lurched in and out of focus like oppressive geometry, and the future grew dark and arid with disease and death. I became violently sick often and would roam about sleepless for days.

“I’m just like Raskolnikov!” I mused feebly, “How modern! Or perhaps post-modern… no,existential is a safe bet...”

Three elements palliated this state of affairs: (1) A brief passage about Plantinga’s ontological argument in a small philosophy textbook that my sister bought me. (2) Someone lending me The Brothers Karamazov. (3) You, above all.

III

Little by little I began to analyze the question that I had indefinitely placed “on hold.” I began with Theism and Atheism of the Great Debates in Philosophy series (Jack Smart v. J. J. Haldane), but upon taking extensive notes, I scored the debate a draw. I then started watching online segments of Lawrence Kuhn’s Closer to Truth after work, but Kuhn always managed to neutralize the theists’ arguments. One night, I thought I would watch Kuhn interrogate that Craig character just to see how much of a charlatan he was. You defied all of my expectations. Not only did you manage to answer all of his questions exhaustively and tersely, but you anticipated his objections and actually rendered him speechless after you exposited the advent of Borde-Guth-Vilenkin. Speechless! I had never seen that before. You even seemed to urge him forward a bit out of pity (“… Well, it’s by no means an open and shut case,” you offered). I watched several more of your segments, and though I was not convinced of theism, I determined who could convince me of it if it was at all possible.

I consulted a blog entitled “Common Sense Atheism” that appraised you as the victor of every debate you had ever had about God (two other atheist blogs grudgingly admitted the same). The atheist blogger said that there were only seven debates that you may have lost: those against Sinnott-Armstrong in the book God?, Dacey, Stenger, Parsons, Kagan, Bradley, and Tobash. I bought the book God? and watched all but the Bradley and Tobash debates. Of these, the best debate indeed occurred in God?, and after extensive note-taking, I scored you the winner. I resisted the conclusion, as I figured I had not yet seen the best that the atheists had to offer and I scored you low on the Resurrection argument. For some reason, however, I couldn’t stay away; I watched you eviscerate Erhman, Hitchens, Harris, and Law. As my first year of graduate school wore on, I became a masterful debater and a concise presenter, for which I gained a considerable reputation. None of the “progressives,” self-proclaimed “anarchists,” or atheists suspected that a dreaded theist had conferred such skills to me!

I was confident Rosenberg would finally end your streak on February 1, as I heard he had been meticulously studying your tactics. I watched in shock as he immediately resorted toad hominem (he claimed you “do not listen” and always use the same arguments, despite the fact that you were using two new arguments, and then attacked the debate format as too “adversarial” to be productive), then brandished the old “uranium decay” and “Euthyphro” objections without at least acknowledging that you had addressed them before. My scoring system favored you in a landslide victory. I became a deist.

“It’s possible I could be a Christian,” I ruminated, “but it will take several years of extensive reading at least. I probably won’t convert, but at least the option is faintly open.”

IV

On May 4, 2013 at 4:00 AM, I became a Christian. I do not know how to properly articulate what happened to me. I was working on my cultural anthropology readings when I felt a tide of realization. But it was not simply a realization; the intuition pulsed so strongly that it hatched into an encounter. Jesus reached out to me, and I could not contain my emotion. I never had believed such a thing would happen to me, and when others recounted such events, I felt nothing but incredulity. And there I was, finally reunited with the God I had spurned so bitterly nearly five years ago.

I attend graduate school in southern California. I called my Mom to tell her the good news. She recommended that she and I attend a Xenos apologetics event with her coworker (who is a member of that fellowship) during my Summer Break in Ohio. I vaguely alluded to you at the mention of apologetics, and my mom asked what your name was.

“William Lane Craig.”

“Okay.”

“If I am ever on my death bed, and I can Skype with one person, that is the person with whom I would like to speak.”

“Hm.”

And by complete coincidence you came to that conference during my brief stay in Columbus, Ohio.

And I never thanked you.

Thank you.

V

I hope someday I can meet you in person again. Until then, this is all I can offer you as an article of my gratitude. I hope that you have learned something new about the secular pressures we have to endure as young Westerners, and how consistently and grievously they rupture our lives. My story also yields some insights into the importance of the internet in reaching younger people, other skills one can adopt from observing your debates, and how one atheist can effortlessly de-convert any theist when the latter lacks good reasons to justify his belief.

I know I am not a good person. Like that peasant woman in Aloysha’s parable, I have so few onions to grasp on my precarious ascent toward salvation, if any at all. But there is time yet, and I have such an honorable model in you.

I know I owe Christ for hatching my heart, but I owe you for exacting the first crack in the shell.

Thank you again,

--Kyle

Friday, December 13, 2013

A DELIVERER II | Super Inc. Cinema


video

Previously on Super Inc. Cinema:

Like Darcy must have felt in the scene above, the Israelites just got dumped on. They were left drenched, out in the rain, no longer the apple of their Creator's eye.

In the same way, we tend to find ourselves lacking. We turn away from God, never as committed or whole-heartedly following Him as we should be. Sin has its way with us far too often. Can He ever forgive us? This isn't the end.

TO BE CONTINUED....... NOW:

As the scene continues, the rain lets up. It is no longer Darcy who is center screen, but the true female lead, the romantic interest, the heart of the god. We may realize that is actually who Israel has been this entire time: The heart of God.

Of course, He forgives her. He has longed for her, waited for her, and cared for her more than she could ever know. But, before we get there, let's look at her reaction.

"Sorry, I just... needed to make sure you were real."

The first interaction isn't a cliche rush into each others arms or an "awww"-inspiring kiss... It's a slap in the face. Something similar soon happens with the judges of Israel:

While Israel was in "terrible distress," the Lord "raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them." He loved them and had pity on them. "Yet they did not listen to their judges." That's a slap in the face. "They [continuously] whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord..."

The same story continues through-out the book of Judges. "Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge... But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways..."

The point that the clip makes, "I just... needed to make sure you were real" becomes two-fold.

Whether or not it crossed the Israelites' minds, it is easy to wonder in modern culture of the authenticity of God. It is evident that he acts sustaining, preserving, and caring for us in our every-day lives. But, it is easy to neglect, to over-look, to ignore... the past cultural belief (of the Middle Ages) that every action was either inspired by God or demon-directed... Now, it just happens. Foundationally, we cannot see the spiritual world. And, so, we tend to hide it away from our daily thoughts. How can we even know He's real?

I'm sure past theologians such as Augustine or philosophers like Descartes would retort, "How can't we?" Foundationally, to be able to trust our own thoughts and senses must come from a trust (or faith) in something bigger than ourselves... something good that would not try to trick us or force us into living a life of lies. This good being may also reveal himself to us, perhaps to share with us something as simply complex as who He is. This being would be God (necessarily limitless, eternal, and all-powerful). This revelation then, is Christ, the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.

The second fold of this test of God... to make sure He is real... would be, for the Israelites as well as us, to see if he really meant what he had said. We obey Him when it is convenient. But, it is just too easy to go back into sin, to fall away, to see if He would really deliver a punishment to those He deeply loves...

In my train of thinking, I can't imagine how He could afford not to deliver a punishment out of love (at least in Israel's case). You see, the Israelite's slap the face of God again and again. He delivers them and they run away. He delivers them, they run away. He delivers them... you get the idea. But, the reason why he chose to deliver them had always been, "The people of Israel cried out to the Lord." And, the reason the people of Israel had cried out to the Lord was because of their oppression... His punishment.

That was the way He had brought them back to Him.

I'm not saying that you should go around punishing people because you love them. That doesn't work for us. We don't need another human for constant sustenance, provision, and care... The surplus of divorces prove the fact that in our culture, we'd rather put off abusive or neglected relationships than try to work through them... But, God punished Israel because there is no way around acknowledging the fact that we do need Him. He knew that they would constantly call back to Him.

 "Where were you?!?"

After their cry, He delivers them. He is with the judge who defeats the oppressor. The same thing had happened in Egypt with Moses. And, the same thing happened generations later with the birth of Christ. And, in this season of Advent, not only do we remember and wait for the celebration of His birth, but we also remember and wait for his return. We cry out, Where are you?!? And, I hope that we know Him well enough and trust in Him deep enough... building a relationship with him and basking in His presence at the Sacraments so much... feeding and clothing and caring for each other so much... that he does not answer with:


"Where were you?"

It is not our own works, will, or even spirit that saves us. Christ alone is victor. But, he teaches us to continue to learn and grow with Him.

CONTINUED IN DELIVERER III

For this Advent season, the Super Inc. Devotions will be set up a little bit differently... If you really want to, you can follow along, the passages used today are from Judges 2-3.

More of the same clip will be played next week as the story continues. But, for now, our Advent prayer is the same as the intro song by Daniel Vang:




Saturday, December 7, 2013

The "Code-X Translator" | A Next Wave Translation Device



The basic idea for the "Code-X Translator" would be to have a camera on the front of the device good enough to focus on the stream of letters (word) in the center of the camera's focus. It would then be able to show the translation in the chosen language on the other side of the device (screen) along with suggested definitions and parsing (with the push of a button).

In design, it should be monocle shaped and look a lot like a magnifying glass. In theory, one should be able to roll the device across the page and regardless of which direction is facing up, the screen should be able to have the definition/parsing displayed in the same direction on the screen.

Once the program is made, it would be pretty easy to make into an App for other devices. While, the Code-X monocle would still be available perhaps with a variety of dictionaries/languages/translations already installed. Part of the aesthetic quality of this device would make it appear as if one is just looking through a lens, when in reality it is a screen.

PLEASE, TAKE THIS IDEA (GIVE ME A FREE ONE) AND GET RICH OFF OF THE COPYRIGHT.


Friday, December 6, 2013

He Gave His One and Only Son | Forward in Christ

"'And what do you want for Christmas, little boy?' the mall Santa asked the seven-year old.

The boy answered, 'I would like two footballs, two remote control cars, and two video game systems.'

'Well,' replied Santa, 'that certainly is a tall order to fill. Do you mind telling me why you want two of everything?'

The little boy answered without hesitation, 'So I can share.'

Before we get halfway through our 'Awww,' it dawns on us that this little guy's response is not heartwarming. He wants two of everything so that it will be easy for him to share, so that his giving won't have to involve painful sacrifice.

WE FAIL TO GIVE GOD OUR ALL

Are you congratulating yourself on your holiday generosity? Before you get too far, it might be good to ask, 'Is my giving not just now but all year round--whether it is giving money, help, time, attention, or support? Or is it too often limited to what is easy, reasonable, and convenient?

Does God get all of me--all my love, devotion, and trust? Or have I acted like there are two of me so I can cater to myself and still congratulate myself for giving God a part of me now and then?'

We uncover a fundamental failure. We think if we give some of ourselves away to others or God, we deserve God's praise. But the truth is that we don't deserve his praise for our love. We deserve his punishment for our failure to love him and others as we should, and we desperately need him to rescue us...

GOD GAVE US EVERYTHING

That is what we are celebrating this season: that God loved us and came to our rescue.

But this is what makes us catch our breath: He didn't have two sons to give for oursalvation--he only had one. He only had one Son to send from his side in heaven to earth. One Son to make vulnerable to weakness and pain in a human body. One Son to run through the gamut of trials and temptations that is life on earth. One Son to give to beating, scourging, and the nails of the cross. One Son to crush under his wrath.

He had only one Son to give for you.

And yet, entirely without compulsion or obligation, in full knowledge of how costly and painful the sacrifice would be and even how often you and I would return such wondrous love with such shallow love, 'God so loved the world [he so loved you] that he gave his one and only Son...'

... Can you think of anything better to do with your one life than to give it cheerfully and entirely to your God and to others in love for him who sent his one and only Son to be your Savior?"

--- Pastor Norman F. Burger, Lansing, MI

Found in Forward in Christ, ------CHECK IT OUT!!!!!----

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A DELIVERER | Super Inc. Cinema


video

The first six books of the Bible talk about who God is and who we are... Our Fall and need for salvation along with His promises and grace towards us. These books describe the journey from the dawn of time in a perfect land through the the enslavement of sin and the entrapment of Egypt, climatically ending in the fulfillment of God's promise to deliver Israel to a new and holy land, flowing with milk and honey, and their ownership of that land. The journey is treacherous and deadly, no one who had been alive at the beginning had even lived to see the end.

Here, in this season, let's start at that end:

Joshua, the new leader of God's people who had led them just as righteously as Moses had, through battle and war, gathers all of the tribes of Israel.

He says, "Now therefore, fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord... Choose this day whom you will serve..."

The people answered him saying, "Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other Gods..." They spoke of the deliverance out of Egypt, the houses of slavery, and told tales of God's wondrous signs, gracious guidance, and continuous care for them as they had sojourned to the new land.

But, Joshua knew better, saying, "You are not able to serve the Lord for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions of your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm..."

The people responded, "No, but we will serve the Lord..."

Joshua lives out the rest of his life, dying at 110 years old. The generation of men who had sworn to serve the Lord also passes away.

"There arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel... The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served [other gods]... they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers... chasing after other gods... they provoked the Lord to anger...

[The Lord] gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them... he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies... the hand of the Lord was against them... as the Lord had sworn to them... they were in terrible distress."

The Lord God, Father Almighty, Savior, and Redeemer of Israel had left his people. They had seen God's glory, and they had experienced a glimpse of His face, but they knew that He was no longer on their side. They witnessed His had working against them. They knew that they had forsaken Him.

Like Darcy must have felt in the scene above, the Israelites just got dumped on. They were left drenched, out in the rain, no longer the apple of their Creator's eye.

In the same way, we tend to find ourselves lacking. We turn away from God, never as committed or whole-heartedly following Him as we should be. Sin has its way with us far too often. Can He ever forgive us? This isn't the end.


For this Advent season, the Super Inc. Devotions will be set up a little bit differently. I know, I hate "to be continued" endings as well. If you really want to, you can follow along, the passages used today are from Joshua 24 (the last chapter of the book) through Judges chapter 2 verse 15 (read ahead to spoil the ending).

More of the same clip will be played next week as the story continues. But, for now, our Advent prayer is the same as the intro song by Daniel Vang: