After Atheism: New Perspectives on God and Religion

When I work from home I often listen to podcasts and I’ve been listening to CBC Radio Ideas’ After Atheism this week. This is what I’d call a post-post-modern look at religion and materialism over the past few thousand years. This is a compliment as they recognize things like the resurgence of spiritual interest, the myth of religious violence, the actual (not supposed) factors at play in the separation of church and state. They even recognize Christianity specifically has been behind many social change movements and demonstrably not just an ‘internal, private spirituality’ thing.

The episodes are long and in-depth but, for the first time in a long time, CBC is giving as fair a shake as can be expected to faith in general and, in places, to Christianity in particular.

It’s by no means pro-Christian but it’s decent place for open discussion.

Cosmos 2014

I’ve been watching the 2014 Cosmos mini-series on Netflix and have to say, once you get past the evolutionary propaganda, it’s a really well-made, very polished and cleverly produced look at Earth’s history.

The blatant focus on forcing the evolutionary belief over the scientific look at nature is pretty bad but once you get past it you can take it as a really good romp through scientific history including animated biographies of all the major philosophers and scientists.

AiG has a write up on each episode in case you’re looking for something to counter the evolutionism in the show:

If I can find it I’ll probably watch the original Carl Sagan Cosmos, as well.

Snow Racer / Over Hurdles / In Mid-winter

The hill was empty then. I stood just below the peak. Over one hurdle, and then over another. They had all left. And their challenge hung chill in the air.

The hill was empty then. I stood just below the peak. Over one hurdle, and then over another. They had all left. And their challenge hung chill in the air.

“Not possible,” they had said. That challenge. Echoing off every ice crystal hanging in the frozen air. Not possible! What foolish words to utter to a child. What was impossibility to a ten year old? It was simple! A hill. Two jumps. The first to the right, the second to the left. I can do this!

So I pushed off and attacked my challenge…

Slowly my pace quickened and soon I was screaming towards the first obstacle! Ack! A monster rearing its ugly face! Up! And over! Gliding through the air and! Thud! To the ground, turn to face my second foe, slip! Flip!

Into the the jagged ice, cold and miserable, but not convinced.

So I trudged back up the hill, caught my uncatchably cold breath, surveyed my task again, refined my strategy, and delivered…

In a few moments I was racing again over shrill snow! The monster rose up again! But I was ready for it! Swat to its snout! Up! In the air! The glorious air! CRACK! Back on the snow and this time holding tight to the turn, toward my second obstacle! Pounding hard to his beastly gaping maw! Blam! Higher and higher! Flying! Smashing to the ice! But an odd sensation! Shuttering! Toppling!

Face down in the bitter snow, cold and miserable, but not convinced.

No, never convinced.

Tired and exhausted, I scaled the hill again. Back to the top where I could see again the challenge I wanted desperately to meet. There I rested my battered body, caught my uncatchably cold breath, committed again to the challenge, and charged…

Quickly I was skating away with wind wooshing past my head! Again he appeared and again I hit him full force! With a heavy blow and endless soaring weightlessness! Gone too soon and smack! On the ground and upright and I hurtled again towards the final feat! That grotesque ugly thing! I slammed hard into it and launched into the air! A nothingness in the air for an eternity quickly finished! Smash! To the ground I hit with a slam! I’ve knocked myself silly! I’m still moving. I’m unsure of myself. I’m a little dazed. I’m still gliding…

I did it.

I did it!

I DID IT!

I knew I could do it!

I think I told them, but I suspect no one now remembers the kid who stayed behind to answer their challenge, to do the impossible.

Many years have passed and this memory remains with me. This memory informs my steps even now. No longer a child, a man, and I have seen many challenges, but none quite like that hill and none like its power over me. But this time my challenge is different.

This time my challenge is you – my impossible. For you rest upon a peak I can not climb, and you stand across a chasm I can not bridge. There is no path I may scale nor have I device to take me over.

No. You are my impossible, at a time and in a place where a child’s ferocious imagination and untainted belief in possibilities can no longer shape desire into reality.

It’s impossible. Heart, mind, self. Mysteriously connected one to another. I can’t do this.

It is impossible, I’m alone.

And so I call on Him with Whom all things are possible, “He who made them at the beginning, who made them male and female, He is mighty to save!”

You are my impossible, and I am cold and miserable.

But I am not convinced.

No, never convinced.

Christus Invictus: Behind the Verse

Update 2015-05-16: I just came across a well-written post–“Invictus” Redeemed–about the poem and Dorothy Day’s response to it from many years ago. Day’s poem is a good read but the author writes quite well on why it is the original poem isn’t all that inspiring or reasonable when you get into the details.

Christus Invictus: Behind the Verse

In a previous post, I published a poem entitled Christus Invictus. That poem was based on and inspired by William Ernest Henley’s Invictus. Although the Wikipedia article doesn’t cover it, Henley’s Invictus was a “deathbed affirmation of his atheism” [author’s note: not literally, since he wrote it young when he was sick and lived many more years but true per his apparent convictions later in life]. I think most people know the poem even if they don’t know the author or remember the poem in its entirety.

I was piqued in the last two weeks by a Ravi Zacharias podcast mentioning the poem, used in contrast to his Christian message. It’s a good poem, well written, realistic, inspiring, even, but I knew the poem lifted man above God – and, as is my bent, I can not abide what I perceive as foolishness. Thus, Christus Invictus is my response to Henley’s Invictus attempting to show the vastly different perspective of one suffering, as Henley did, yet living with the hope of glory in the salvation of Jesus Christ.

I had a few goals in mind when revising his poem. The first was to respond in verse, speaking on the same themes, but from the perspective of salvation. That was a driving force. A second goal was to show how changing so very little of the poem could result in such a different attitude, pained yet joyful, humble yet victorious. Another goal was to avoid sugar-coating the Christian experience. God does not promise unending earthly happiness. In fact, He promises the opposite. Hence, the poem is left untouched in many areas to retain and openly admit the reality Henley experienced and wrote about.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank, in Him, Jesus Christ
For my redeemed and purchased soul.

Henley had it right with “Out of the night that covers me, \ Black as the pit from pole to pole,” and so I left it as-is. There’s no use arguing against this Fallen world and that evil is afoot here.

Where Henley originally wrote, “I thank whatever gods may be \ For my unconquerable soul,” I knew this was disingenuous. There is a God and He has been saying the same thing to us for all history: Follow me. Just mentioning God, however, didn’t oppose all of the original intent. I needed to speak to Jesus Christ and His act on the cross that is salvation to every man, woman and child, each of us “our redeemed and purchased soul.”

In the fell-hard clutch of circumstance
I have sore-winced and cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of flagrance
My head is bloody and low-bowed.

Note the change from Henley’s “fell clutch” to “fell-hard clutch.” This is not an attempt to remove any of the original meaning but actually a poetic alteration to match the rhythm of the third line’s altered nine syllables.

Henley writes, “I have not winced nor cried aloud,” but he and I both know no human goes through this life without pain and sorrow. I simply admit as much. This line, too, was altered to match the third line’s altered rhythm.

I wanted to change Henley’s insinuation of random chance when he wrote “Under the bludgeonings of chance” and so altered the last word to “flagrance.” The truth is there is something going on in this world and there is more to the events that occur, to our circumstances, and to our choices, than simple random chance. This is the change that necessitated the “fell-hard” and “sore-winced” rewording in the first and second lines.

Sheer contrast is needed in the fourth line to provide force to the incredible difference of response one should expect from one saved from eternal death. Henley’s original, “My head is bloody, but unbowed,” needed a response that indicated an alternative to the natural reaction of men to the evils of this world. I did not want to diminish the reality of pain, however, and so “My head is bloody” remains.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the Shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

This verse is unique. There is absolutely no change to wording. I felt it was all accurate, fair and true. The observant reader will notice, though, that there is a single difference: The “S” in “Shade” has been capitalized where it was lowercase in the original. Where the original implies an insignificant nothingness, I wished to simply and subtly convey a terrifying somethingness, that which is the only thing left when one’s fate is not with God in the eternal.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
He is the captain of my soul.

Here, we come to Henley’s climactic verse of self-statement and self-direction. Most people know the last two lines of this verse even if they know nothing else about the context of those words.

Henley’s first lines are true and so left unchanged. The Christian admits God’s Way is straight, narrow, and difficult to maintain. The Christian admits God’s punishments are strong but know His mercy is greater and, His sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, ultimate in securing our souls.

And now Henley rings out at his strongest, his mightiest. His conclusion, affirmation and pronouncement: “I am the master of my fate: \ I am the captain of my soul.” And it is here that the strongest, mightiest contrast needs to be made.

Henley was right and Henley was wrong. He is very right in saying, “I am the master of my fate.” A man may choose, indeed, to accept or reject what is offered him. He may choose to accept Jesus’s salvation and he may choose to reject the same. Man is the master of his fate in the end.

C.S. Lewis put it in this way: It is either “Thy Will be done” or “Thy will be done.” We say to God, “Thy Will be done,” or God says to us, “Thy will be be done.”

Henley’s closing needs change in order to present the true distinction of the  faithful. The Christian understands he has chosen to accept what Jesus has done. The Christian understands that in so doing he makes not himself but Jesus the very captain of his soul.

I am the master of my fate:
He is the captain of my soul.

Christus Invictus is my response to Henley’s Invictus showing a Christian perspective on the same themes. I hoped to show the incredible difference of perspective of one who is going through suffering, as Henley did in his life, but who also lived with the hope of salvation in Jesus Christ.

I even had the thought that I was “sticking up for God” which is a childish thing to think for a Christian. The Almighty needs no champion but Himself; And He already came in the form of the Son, Jesus Christ, who hung on a cross for our sins, died, and rose again, and conquered everything.

Nevertheless, God is due His rightful honour and glory. As Joseph said, in Genesis 50:20, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” I make no claim that this is such a case. That God intended me to do this, I do not make the claim. As Henley is created in the image of God, however, I can see the good within his writing and so wish to see it redeemed, in the end, to the glory of God alone.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Misericordia, Soli Deo Gloria

Most people believe what they hear most

Readers will know I talk about creation and evolution quite a bit. I also read Slashdot.org, which is populated by large numbers of well educated individuals from which, it appears, most do not have a Christian faith or up-bringing. I’ve come to realize something in my back-and-forths on slashdot about creation and evolution: People believe what they hear most.

Readers will know I talk about creation and evolution quite a bit. I also read Slashdot, which is populated by large numbers of well educated individuals from which, it appears, most do not have a Christian faith or up-bringing. I’ve come to realize something in my back-and-forths on slashdot about creation and evolution: People believe what they hear most.

Evolution gets a huge amount of media coverage. It’s what everybody has been hearing about in classrooms, books, television, radio, music and movies for decades. Consider that one hundred to two hundred years ago, children were being brought up on the Genesis account of creation. They heard it at home. They heard it in school. They heard it in books. They heard it in church. You get the picture.  Atheists have long claimed Christians are unthinking believers – believing only what they have heard. And, you know, they’re probably right in a lot of cases, but, as it turns out, the shoe is on the other foot and what do we see? We see the exact same behaviour.

For the past hundred years or so, Christian families and up-bringings have been less and less the norm, evolution has been taught in our schools, it is taught in our books, movies, music, television, radio and in a myriad of other content. And look what has come of this? Most people doubt, at the very least, the Genesis creation account and, more than likely, just simply believe evolution.

The circle has come full turn and this is the final analysis: People believe what they hear most.

Don’t be one of those people. Read contrarian content. That’s right, read about evolution, read about scientology, read about Buddha, read the Qur’an.

God’s Word is not brittle, it will not fail you at the first mention of controversy. God made us after his own image, intelligent, made to reason and to comprehend. God is not scared that you will find the truth if you read Richard Dawkins or some evolution book. Christianity and its apologetics are stronger and more secure than they’ve ever been, and their information is quicker to access than ever before.

Remember your Christian guides, however, because you are a fallible, insecure human, just like all of us. Remember to pray, read your bible, maintain strong Christian friends, and remember resources like Creation.com.

Go forth, then, in the light and in the strength of the solid foundation of God’s Word and believe not what you hear most but believe instead what is true.

The Paradox In Which all Men Believe

There is a paradox to the Christian faith which concerns the origins of our existence. The paradox consists of realizing that everything has a cause, hence our existence was created by God. But everything has a cause; Then God must have had a cause; So, really, that cause is God; And that intermediate “God” wasn’t really God.

There is a paradox to the Christian faith which concerns the origins of our existence. The paradox consists of realizing that everything has a cause, hence our existence was created by God. But everything has a cause; Then God must have had a cause; So, really, that cause is God; And that intermediate “God” wasn’t really God.

We don’t talk like that. We say that God created our existence and that God simply is. He had no beginning and has no cause. He is self-existent.

Science, however, theorizes any number of ideas in which a natural existence can be the cause of itself. Hence, the infinite collapse and explosion of our universe in the big bang, or the multiverse theories.  In either case, existence, in which the universe collapses and explodes or in which the universe of the multiverse is created, can either be considered to have been already or “existence” and “universe” are considered one and so the existence simply is. Regardless, you can abstract, extrapolate, interpolate and extend what is further and further out and back but you must satisfy the law that all that is was caused. And that is the paradox. All things have a cause except the origins of what is.

One can see that this irrationality is actually the rationality claimed by modern thought.

I use here Christianity as the symbol for all religions, for the defining principle of all religion is faith, and Science as the symbol for rationality, at least the rationality modern thought has coined of it. It matters not that Christianity is different than Buddhism , but that modern thought differentiates itself from the religion because it perceives irrationality. It matters not that Science is not the only system of rational thought, but that we generally differentiate what is science and what is religion by considering one rational and one not. They represent the two halves of the great chasm separating man’s mind from himself.

Once you’ve gotten past the issue, of knowing the paradox  of whatever you think you know or believe in, you must rationally come to the conclusion that, because there is no reason for existence to be at all, there must be a cause of our existence. This cause, no matter how far back or how many iterations out you push this, must be final. This final cause has chosen to reveal itself not through natural test (our five senses; modern scientific inquiry), but rather through rational deduction. You must believe in a paradox to be reasonable. You must become irrational to become rational.

It is something significant to ponder that this ultimate thing should choose such an avenue of revelation.