Thursday, February 20, 2014

Looking forward

As of last week, I am no longer in my “early 20’s.” I am 25 now. I thank God for letting me live. Some days are hard, in fact, most days. Still, I know that Jesus, the son of God, died for me and I am part of His plan. I am also grateful for having a blessed childhood with a loving mother and father. Sometimes I think back and remember.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The leap to faith and the irrelevancy of apologetics

“Yet Abraham believed and did not doubt, he believed the preposterous. If Abraham had doubted -- then he would have done something else, something glorious; for how could Abraham do anything but what is great and glorious! He would have marched up to Mount Moriah, he would have cleft the fire-wood, lit the pyre, drawn the knife -- he would have cried out to God, "Despise not this sacrifice, it is not the best thing I possess, that I know well, for what is an old man in comparison with the child of promise; but it is the best I am able to give Thee. Let Isaac never come to know this, that he may console himself with his youth." He would have plunged the knife into his own breast. He would have been admired in the world, and his name would not have been forgotten; but it is one thing to be admired, and another to be the guiding star which saves the anguished.” -Soren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling

Here’s an interesting fact: Kierkegaard coined the term “leap of faith.” Only, he didn’t. You see, while that is the phrase used by laypeople, Kierkegaard is actually quoted as saying the “leap to faith.” Is there really a difference? Well, to Kierkegaard there was. To him, there wasn’t just one leap you made and there, patiently waiting, laid belief. No, the whole enterprise of following Christ is faith. See the difference?

I have struggled. Doubt is a part of me. I’ve read books and articles on creationism. I’ve read books and articles on evolution. I’ve seen videos of atheists preaching. I’ve seen videos of Christians preaching. I’ve heard arguments for the historicity of Jesus. I’ve heard arguments for Jesus as a mythical legend. I’ve learned much, but know nothing. For every fact that lines up in the bookshelf of my mind, some forgotten corner starts to crumble into dust. What obscure science experiment or historical trinket could stop this vicious cycle?

Does the Christian need more knowledge? Does he need the manual or the vehicle of faith itself? I’d argue the latter. All the books in the world couldn’t bring someone to faith. As Kierkegaard himself noted, there were no professors or associate professors during the first century of Christianity. Everyone then accepted that faith could not be proven. There were no philosophers in the pews who wondered if God could make a rock so heavy He couldn’t lift. There were no baptized biologists that thought nature made itself. No, this was a time of simplicity.

Consider Abraham, as Kierkegaard once did. He could have offered himself to the Lord instead of Issac, his beloved son. Would this not have been considered morally praiseworthy in the pagan lands? A stoic father saving his son from a crooked and wicked deity. It is not true that he was to merely “sacrifice” Issac. That’s a deceptive euphemism. No, Abraham was to murder his own son. Isn’t that what the world would have believed? That an old man lost his mind and turned homicidal?

The truth, however, known only to Abraham, made him full of fear and trembling. He told no one his revelation, not even Sarah. Abraham did one thing and one thing only: He believed. He suspended every rule that society had put in place, and had faith in God instead. Tell me, of what possible use would Paley’s Watchmaker apologetic make? Abraham decided to forgo the universal and believe in his subjective (personal) relationship with the divine.
Contrary to Hawking, we can never know the mind of God. We can know what He did for us on the cross but we look through a glass darkly. We can debate God back and forth and still not have an answer. If we were merely weighing the evidence on some sort of cosmic scale, then we would cease to be truly religious in any sense at all. We would be no better than the Roman tax collectors.

If you want to put off believing in God because you have doubts, then you’d do well to not believe anything. External reality itself is a leap to faith. If you don’t have faith in Jesus, I can guarantee you have faith in something. Consider having faith in a God who loves you. He’s helped me.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Ender's Game and thoughts on alien life

So, I finally saw Ender’s Game. While the book will always hold a special place for me (it was the first work of genuine science fiction I read as a kid), the film version is definitely no slouch. For those not in the know, the plot of Ender’s Game is simplistic at first blush, that humanity is at war with a bug-like alien race called the Formics. The true depth of what’s going on, however, isn’t fully revealed until the credits roll. For the purposes of this review, I need to spoil the ending… so, now you know.

Basically, the Formics were pushed back to their homeworld after a failed invasion of Earth. 50 years later, humanity wants to destroy the threat they pose once and for all. The military brass utilizes genius child tacticians to plan their attack. Ender Wiggin is one such boy. Ender is a strategist of unprecedented brilliance, and he trains for mankind’s final assault on the Formics.

Little does Ender know, however, that his “battle simulations” are actually happening in real-time. It’s no game; he’s unknowingly leading men to their potential graves. Under this deceit, Ender successfully defeats the Formics: by vaporizing the surface of their planet. When Ender learns of what he’s done, he breaks down and fights the urge to throw up. He’s committed wholesale xenocide.

Amidst his grief, Ender remembers that he’s been having visions of an egg. Understanding this to be telepathic communication, Ender searches an assumedly abandoned Formic outpost, only to find a healthy queen’s egg.

Now, this part wasn’t touched on that much in the film, but the novel has the queen linking with Ender’s mind to share her perspective. She explains that when the Formics first encountered humanity, they were baffled by their lack of a hive-mind, and assumed mankind was not a sentient species. The Formics realized their mistake too late, however, when they were driven back. The war was a giant misunderstanding.

What interests me so much about Ender’s Game is twofold: firstly, that we must always try to understand our enemy. If we do that, there is a chance that a dialogue can bear fruit, that peace may reign. I think of World War 2 and our conflict with the Japanese. If only we could have successfully viewed each other as equal human beings and tried to respect our differing cultures, maybe the atomic bomb would never have been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Sadly, it can only be viewed as speculation now.

Secondly, what intrigues me is the possibility of making contact with extraterrestrial life. A conversation with another sentient race would be absolutely amazing. Ender’s Game shows how complicated such an event might be, however. In a truly alien environment, there’s no telling how evolution might take place. An insectoid species like the Formics could easily exist in the billions of galaxies with billions of stars each. Imagine what we could learn from beings that have entirely different ways of thinking! How exciting!

It’s hard to believe that we’re the only ones out there. We’re not even in the center of our own galaxy, for heaven’s sake. This brings me to theology. Put simply, why would God create an empty universe? The argument that the universe was merely created for aesthetic purposes i.e. it’s pretty, seems really intellectually hollow. Is it possible that Christ died a similar death for other alien races? While there’s no way to know for certain yet, it’s a possibility.

Finally, concerning the merits of the movie itself, I have to say it’s very well done. The special effects, while a bit too cgi oriented for my tastes, excel at producing truly exotic visuals. The storytelling, while sometimes lacking a bit in emotion (which could perhaps be critiquing the mindset of a gung-ho military), accurately underscores the weight Ender shoulders. Also, Harrison Ford’s in it… so that should be enough to see it, right? Damn well better be.