Thursday, May 13 2004 @ 12:01 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
That invention [democracy] was predicated on ideas developed by the great religions. Judaism contributed the notion that God and man enjoy a dialogue, and this leads on naturally to the idea that individuals are worth the Creator's time, that they're worthwhile. For Christians, God actually became a human being. It's an extraordinary idea: we humans were so valuable that God wanted to walk among us. Christianity spread because other people saw what it did to the lives of Christians. When nonbelievers threw Christians to the lions, they were stunned by the peace with which the victims accepted their fate. The early martyrs were a tremendous advertisement for the ideas of Christianity. In the same way, Martin Luther King's stand against racism and his use of non-violence were extraordinarily powerful witnesses to the dignity of human beings. It held a mirror up to Americans. It showed them the distinction they were making between their promise of equality and the practice of racism. I began to see law as a way of giving embodiment to the best ideas man has had.
Rudolph W. Guiliani. Leadership (Hyperion, 2002,174).
Monday, May 10 2004 @ 12:01 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
Many people perceive Christianity as something institutional -- rather than as an encounter with Christ -- which explains why they don't see it as a source of joy.
Today, Christianity is seen as an old tradition, weighed down by old Commandments, something we already know which tells us nothing new; a strong institution, one of the great institutions that weigh on our shoulders.
If we stay with this impression, we do not live the essence of Christianity, which is an ever new encounter, an event thanks to which we can encounter the God who speaks to us, who approaches us, who befriends us.
It is critical to come to this fundamental point of a personal encounter with God, who also today makes himself present, and who is contemporary.
If one finds this essential center, one also understands all the other things. But if this encounter is not realized, which touches the heart, all the rest remains like a weight, almost like something absurd.
Cardianl Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Roman Catholic Church, in Italian Catholic weekly Vita Trentina.
Friday, May 07 2004 @ 12:01 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
(The following is from a police officer who was forced to kill someone in the line of duty. Just a few days later, his father suddenly died from a heart attack. For some time, the officer felt God was punishing him for the shooting by taking his father. A pastor helped him understand the difference between killing and murder.)
"I killed that guy last week and this [my father's death] is my payback. I took a life; now somebody's taking somebody I care about." I remember thinking that over and over and over again, even when I got home. . . .
The next day, I got a call from the counselor who handles the officer-involved shootings. . . . I told her what I was thinking and that it was really bothering me. She asked me, "Are you religious?" I said, "Yeah, I'm very religious. I'm a Christian. I'm not a Bible-thumper, but I have my beliefs." She said, "Well, if you have your belief in God, you know we don't have a vengeful God. God wouldn't do that. It just happened."
Then a couple of days after that. . . . I told [a pastor] about the shooting, my dad's death, about all that had been going on in our lives recently. He quoted something out of the Bible about how God makes allocations for police officers, and then he said, "You need to understand that there are those people out there that have to protect the flock, and that's what you do." Then he said, "Do you understand the difference between killing and murder? The Bible says, 'Thou shall not kill,' but that's misinterpreted. What the Bible really means is 'Thou shall not murder.' Murder's premeditated. What you do as a police officer to survive and protect everybody else is not murder. Yes, you killed somebody, but it wasn't murder. There's a big difference in God's eyes."
As soon as he said that, . . . it was like it was gone. That was probably five days after my dad passed away, and as soon as that pastor deciphered the difference between killing and murder and pointed out that there were allocations in the Bible for people like soldiers and police officers and that there are people that have to do ugly things so the rest of us can lead normal lives, every stress from that shooting was gone. It was just an incredible rush of relief, especially with the religious words, because I believe in God; I believe in certain things and I believe you shouldn't kill. Then, when I heard the difference between killing and murdering and the interpretation of the Bible, that was really a big relief to me.
David Klinger, Into the Kill Zone: A Cop's Eye View of Deadly Force (Jossey-Bass, 2004, 249-250).
Thursday, May 06 2004 @ 12:01 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
In these countries [Western Europe], reincarnation, where it is believed in, is mostly an image of hope. This is quite different from the religions of East Asia, for which reincarnation is precisely the opposite of hope. Whereas everything there aims at liberation from the cycle of rebirths, in the West the prospect of reincarnation appears as an opportunity for gradual self-realization and higher development. Accordingly, whereas the Christian path of salvation can be proclaimed in Asia as redemption from the constraint of rebirths, the doctrine of reincarnation presents itself among us more and more as the alternative path of salvation, positing in place of the Christian hope of eternal life given us by grace, rebirths as the path of gradual self-redemption.
Christoph Schonborn, From Death to Life: The Christian Journey (Ignatius, 1995, 126).
Wednesday, May 05 2004 @ 12:01 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
One thing that gets in the way of our joy is our desperate desire to do things right, or to "get it right." It it something I call "terminal earnestness." It is a condition wherein we are so desperate -- so earnest -- to "get things right" in the matter of spiritual affairs that we squeeze any joy completely out of our lives. We become as dead automatons, doing all the "right" things in all the "right" ways, but without any true life of the Spirit, without any joy in our lives.
Our terminal earnestness can include many things, such as "doing church" right, having the latest programs from the most successful churches, including their orders of service and just the right worship band. It can include keeping up with all the unwritten rules and regulations of whatever evangelical subculture to which we belong. We can become almost like the Pharisees in Jesus's day, who worried so much about keeping the law that they ended up practicing absurdities and losing sight of their God.
David M. Howard, Jr., "Surprised by Joy: Joy in the Christian Life and in Christian Scholarship" (Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 47:1:15, March 2004).
Tuesday, May 04 2004 @ 12:01 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
The Bible is literature: It is divinely-inspired and inerrant literature, but it is literature all the same. This means that we must read it as literature. Some parts are meant to be literally understood, and they are written accordingly -- as history, or theological propositions, or whatever. But one would not expect to read the Psalms or the Song of Solomon by the same literary standards used for the Book of Romans. It would be like reading Hamlet's soliloquy "literally": "The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. . . to take arms against a sea of troubles. . . . " We cannot understand what the Bible really (literally) means unless we appreciate its use of literary styles. Would we understand the Twenty-third Psalm properly if we were to take it "literally"? Would it not, instead, look somewhat silly? In fact, if taken literally, it would not be true: For I daresay that the Lord doesn't make every Christian to lie down in literal, green pastures. But we don't usually make such crude mistakes in reading Biblical poetry. We know it is written in a style that often makes use of symbolic imagery. But we must realize that the same is true of the prophets: They, also, spoke in figures and symbols, drawing on a rich heritage of Biblical images that begin in the Garden of Eden.
David Chilton, Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Dominion Press, 1987, 28).
Monday, May 03 2004 @ 12:01 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
Christian morality. . . maintains that since man is not just an animal, as Freud thinks, therefore the soul and its conscience are just as much a part of innate human nature as the body and its animal drives; that the rules of sexual morality, like all real morality, are not an invention of men but of God, not artificial rules of a game society decided to play, but natural rules of a spiritual organism, based on the inherent, built-in design and purpose of human nature.
Thus, "Thou shalt not commit adultery" in morality is like "Thou shalt not eat fatty foods" in dieting, or like "Thou shalt not mix sleeping pills and alcohol" in medicine -- a natural rule, not an artificial one. Fatty foods can't make you thin, no matter how much you believe in them, no matter how sincere you are, and no matter how much you love them. A stimulant and a depressant cannot work together, no matter what you believe. Christian sexual morality, like the rest of Christian morality, is based on human nature, on the kind of thing we are and the kind of thing sex is. It is not the changeable rules of a game we designed, but the unchangeable rules of the operating manual written by the Designer of our human nature.
Peter Kreeft, Making Choices (Servant, 1990, 100-101).
Some of my best spiritual insights come from novels -- including from novels not written as Christian messages. A good example of God's graciousness in restoring a sinner by grace is found in the following conclusion to a well-known mystery novel. The main character is reflecting on everything he did throughout the events recounted in the novel. He is anguished that in fighting evil, he might have crossed the line and become evil himself. Is there any hope?
Bosch stood with his arms folded on the deck railing and his head down. He thought about McCaleb's words, both spoken and printed. They were pieces of hot sharpnel ripping through him. He felt a deep tearing of his interior lining. It felt as though something within had seized him and was pulling him into a black hole, that he was imploding into nothingness.
"What did I do," he whispered. "What did I do?"
-- he wrestles with his conscience, gets angry, and then destroys the written report that assumes he had "crossed the line." --
Slowly, his eyes came up and he looked through the kitchen window and out through the Cahuenga Pass. The lights of Hollywood glimmered in the cut, a mirror reflection of the stars of all galazies everywhere. He thought about all that was bad out there. A city with more things wrong than right. A place where the earth could open up beneath you and suck you into the blackness. A city of lost light. His city. It was all of that and, still, always still, a place to begin again. His city. The city of the second chance.
Bosch nodded and bent down. He closed his eyes, put his hands under the water and brought them up to his face. The water was cold and bracing, as he thought any baptism, the start of any second chance, should be.
Michael Connelly, A Darkness More than Night (Little, Brown, & Company, 2001, 413-414).
We can evaluate arguments as valid or invalid only after we find them. Not all written or spoken discourse contains arguments, and discourse that does contain arguments is usually like a tide pool containing crabs: you have to hunt for them to find them.
Detecting arguments is like crabbing. Suppose we are fishing for crabs with a net. We must (1) first detect the presence of a crab before we can hope to (2) get it into our net; and we usually must get it into our net before we can (3) tell whether it is one of the edible kind of crabs or not. These three steps apply to arguments as well as crabs. The critical question about any argument is (3) whether it is logically valid or not, whether the mind can accept it, whether it is mentally edible, so to speak. But before we can determine that (3), we must first (2) be clear about what the argument is saying, and we do this by putting it into logical form, especially the form of a syllogism. That corresponds to the net. (Advanced fishermen might do without a net, and advanced logicians can bypass the step of putting ordinary-language arguments into logical form, but beginners in logic definitely need to put an argument into logical form before they can see whether it is valid or not, just as beginning crabbers need to get the crab in the net before they can see whether it is edible or not.) But even before we can do this (2), we must first (1) detect the presence of an argument, as we detect the presence of a crab. If we wave our net of syllogism randomly, we will probably not find an argument in it. For there is much more in human linguistic communication than arguments, just as there is much more in the sea than crabs.
Peter Kreeft, Socratic Logic: A Logic Text Using Socratic Method, Platonic Questions, and Aristotelian Principles (St. Augustine's Press, 2004, 190-191).
Thursday, April 29 2004 @ 12:01 AM EDT Contributed by: AIA
(St. Augustine on the powerlessness of the Roman gods)
There is, then, no need to worship such gods for the sake of the benefits they are supposed to confer. The fact is that many who worship Juventas had nothing of the youthful vigor of many who paid so much worship; and many who have prayed to fortuna Barbata had a shapeless beard or none at all, and are the laughing stock of finely bearded men who paid her no sort of service. No human intelligence is so dull as to believe that a worship of such gods can bear any fruit in eternity, when the worship with a view to temporal and passing benefits and within the sphere of their competence is seen to be silly, and vain.
Such gods, then, cannot give us eternal life. Not even those who wanted them to be worshiped by the ignorant populace dated to make such a claim. They were content to divide up the occupations of earthly life, and, to keep all of their gods busy, assigned to each god a particular job.
St. Augustine, The City of God (Book VI, Chapter 1) (Image Books, 1958 edition, 122-123).
The Lord's Servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will give them a change of heart leading to a knowledge of the truth
II Timothy 2:24-26