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Right-left, right-left.

I stare at the ground. The sun has been down for several hours, an orb of orange lamplight is hovering just over my right shoulder, the cloudless sky presents a magnificent view of the stars.

Right-left, right-left.

But I stare down at my beaten and torn Converse sneakers. Why? Because I can. And partially because doing so would give legitimacy to my use of the painfully overdone right-left, right-left motif.

Tap-TAP, tap-TAP, tap-TAP.

I hit a set of stairs. Have you ever noticed how much you can tell about someone by how they descend stairs? There’s the calm, measured steps of a “One. Two. One. Two,” the rapid pace of the impatient “ShuffleShuffleShuffleShuffleShuffle,” or my little brother’s infamous “da-DUMP, da-DUMP, THUD.” I used to pride myself on being able to pick out each of my family members by their footstep. Mine, I noticed, is a lightly syncopated “tap-TAP, tap-TAP, tap-TAP.” I’ll have to work that into a song sometime.

Left-right, left-right, left-right.

The cadence of the world is thrown off. It’s amazing how much shifting your focus from one foot to the other can cause disequilibrium in the pulse of the world. Or, at least, your world. I’m not sure anyone else cared to notice. But then again, there’s not much that any of us care to notice. By choosing to look at the world through one frame of reference, we exclude every other mode of perception. And then the moment is gone.

I spit behind a bush and notice a small, thin leaf lying on the tan earth. Deliberately. For the moment, my frame of reference is earthwards, not heavenwards. Tactile, not idyllic. Aristotelian, not Platonist. Don’t worry, the Platonism is coming later.

A security guard walks by humming a tune, grasping what appears to be a can of Mountain Dew. Two worlds collide, at least, from my perspective. One engaged in precise scrutiny of every experience that presseth upon the sense, another living carefree in the moment, walking the same route he’d walked many times before. I see him in a way that I’d never seen him before – not as an object, or as a person, but simply for the sake of illustration. Not that I’m denying the infinite mystery and wonder of his personhood. I’m much too Kantian for that. But one can be a means and an end simultaneously.

A lampost enters my periphery, streaks of lights cascading from the fluorescent orb. I wonder if everyone else sees lens flare when they look at lamposts. I know, at least, that the smooth blending of foreground into background is unique to my frame of reference. I never wear my glasses. The sharpness of vision that comes with it is unnerving. I prefer the fluidity of my own natural eyesight, slightly blurred from the decay of time, sleeplessness, and too many hours spent staring at a computer screen. It beats the glasses, though. One small scratch on the lens, and your view of reality is permanently scarred. At least, until you take off the glasses.

The wind cuts. My shoulders tense. I draw my peacoat closer in. It’s a declaration of defiance, in a sense. I have a cold and the elements are battering me. I recede inwards to steel myself against the harsh, unfeeling world around me. That world of infinite marvel and delight, of stars and galaxies and lamplights and cool night breezes and persons. Because I am scarred, infected by a virus, and any moment now I’m going to start coughing up a lung. Or at least a solid dose of mucous.

I head indoors and walk up the stairs with purpose, neglecting to pick out the rhythm of my footsteps. I’m focused now. Inspiration has struck and I am armed with a laptop. I sit down and lean against the wall. A friend starts to draw a picture of me. I catch on and let her know that I’m writing about her. She coughs too. She probably gave me the cold. But don’t tell her that. I start writing and I’d like to tip my hat to Remarque and vow never to criticize an author for using first-person present tense again.

We humans, we “Beings-in” and “Beings-at,” we Seins and Daseins are pathetic, really. We see the world through chipped and broken glasses. We go about our daily business, interacting with immortal horrors and everlasting splendors through blurry vision. We scar those mysterious Others which we include in our own glorious perception of reality. That’s not to say that the Others are scarred (though they are). But when they leave the realm of the “thing-itself,” and become the “thing-as-perceived,” we make them into constricted, twisted representations of those glorious, horrifying, beautiful, hideous things we call people. People, constrained, reduced, contorted by the knowing subject to a shell of their true selves.

We desecrate the Other every time we let supposed wrongs fester and bitterness grow inside of us. We desecrate the Other every time we reduce a person to a mere object of sexual gratification. We desecrate the Other every time we engage in that infernal practice of “networking,” subjecting eternal souls to the pragmatic triage of “who’s worth knowing” in our race to the top. We reduce, deface and capture these Others, working them into a coherent way of viewing the world that places us squarely at the center.

Well I refuse. If I can. Because doing so would grant legitimacy to my desires to be like God, to abandon this finite mortal body and transcend. To become infinite. 

A friend of mine told me the other day that the world is a womb. And I think he’s right. God is Spirit, and we are body and spirit. This merciful material universe is an incubator, a training ground for learning to interact with spirits. But at a distance. To interact with pure spirit in our current state would be more than we could handle. The sheer power of raw knowing would crush us, we tiny vessels who are capable of so little. No, this material world is a tutor, gently leading us ever onwards and ever upwards in our knowledge – infinite becoming, never becoming infinite.

There. I told you the Platonism would come back later.

No, it’s not my place to know persons as they truly are. They must always be that mysterious Other. But I can, if at all possible, seek the healing of scars. I can let go of myself and delight in the mystery. Revel in it. Live for it. I can lose myself, Heidegger be damned!

Dereliquerunt me fontem aquae vivae. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be understood, but to understand. Amen.

The Other-Centered Life

So this is a column that was run in the PHC Herald last semester. It pretty much describes the foundation of my ethical theory. I’m planning on doing more work with this later.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, at least, amongst Patrick Henry students, that man is a political animal. And though most of us are not as close to the form of the political animal as, say, Tony Cavicchi, we do realize this underlying principle: we are created to desire interaction with other people.

At this point, it’s easy for us to say, “well, duh!” and not push the question any further. But it seems that our very familiarity with this concept causes us to miss the truth contained within it.

Do we realize that we, as humans, were created for someone else? Of course, we all realize that we were created for God and that we derive our utmost fulfillment in him. But we also find in Scripture that “it is not good for man to be alone” and that we are created to enjoy the company of each other. We desire that which is outside of ourselves- both in God and man. We are designed to live an other-centered life.

That’s not really what you hear in culture today. There’s a lot of rhetoric about “my rights,” a desire to do whatever I want as long as I don’t hurt anyone, and a culture generally motivated by self-interest. But the mere fact that we desire to be served implies that there is someone who is supposed to serve. And since it seems that you can’t be served unless there is another person who is serving, it follows that it is more in keeping with human nature to serve than to be served.

So from a Christian perspective, doesn’t it make sense that if we were created by a loving God, the very thing that we were created to do will bring us the most enjoyment? And doesn’t it follow that if we all serve each other, we will also be served?

“But wait!” says the skeptic. “That’s all idealistic and such. But in reality, nobody’s going to do anything for you, so you’ve got to stick up for yourself.” There is some merit to this, but only because of the Fall. In an Edenic state, the way we were created to live, it is easy to conceive of everyone serving and being served by each other. Instead of sticking up for ourselves and defending “our rights,” we cheerfully execute our duties to one another and derive fulfillment from doing so. And when we are served by others, we are blessed.

Admittedly, in the post-fall world, there’s a bit of prudence to be applied. The hard truth is that service isn’t reciprocated, and duties to yourself now require greater emphasis. I’ll leave it to a Political Theory major to flesh out precisely how far this adaptation goes. But the principle is this. If it is a fundamental part of our nature to serve God and others, maybe the fulfillment derived from doing so is worth the initial self-denial.

Sartre on Freedom and Anguish

So, as some of you may know, I’ve been working my way through a big project on existentialism. I came up with some notes from a professor at the University of Indiana named Paul Vincent Spade on Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. One particular aspect of his synopsis intrigued me. It was the summary of one of Sartre’s defenses of absolute metaphysical freedom, particularly as relates to nothingness. Without further adieu, here’s the argument.

I stand at the edge of a precipice and look down. I begin to feel a little dizzy. What’s going on here?

It can hardly be that I am, in any objective sense, afraid of falling over the edge (at least not in most cases). Let’s suppose the ground is reasonably firm, the wind is not blowing so hard it’s going to puff me over the rim, there’s no real likelihood of an earthquake. None of that is what is really causing my dizziness.

No. For Sartre, what is bothering me is not the possibility that I might fall; it’s the possibility that I might jump. There is no other way to accommodate the facts. I look, as it were, down there into the future and see myself tumbling head over heels over the edge to my death. Now, of course, in an obvious sense, I am not that man I see in the future. I’m up here on the top, reasonably intact; he’s down there on the bottom, all smashed. But in another obvious sense, I am that man I see down there in the future. That is, I recognize myself in that moment. If I didn’t somehow recognize myself in that future man, why would he bother me so much? The kind of vertigo I feel at the prospect of my tumbling over the side is quite different from whatever I might feel at the prospect that someone else might fall or leap over the ledge.

No, that’s me. And yet, it’s not me. I am what I am not, and I am not what I am. And, just as in the case of the gambler looking into the past, so too here in the case of the future, there is a way of putting this in terms of freedom: What is it that prevents me from being that man in the future in so strong a sense that I too propel myself over the side? Answer: Nothing. What is it that compels me to do it? Nothing. In short, nothing SEPARATES me that prospect. And that nothingness is just another way of talking about freedom.

And in fact, the closer I get to the edge of the cliff, the more obvious it is that nothing prevents me from actually doing it. It’s as if the literal distance between me and the edge is a kind of symbol of my own freedom. And that is what’s so scary, what produces the dizziness or vertigo. This fear of my own freedom is what Sartre calls “anguish.”

Copyright 1996 by Paul Vincent Spade. Used with permission.


In What The Tortoise Said To Achilles, perhaps one of the most enjoyable articles ever written in the field of epistemology, Lewis Carroll (of Alice in Wonderland and Jaberwocky fame), puts forward a dialogue between a tortoise and the great Greek hero Achilles.

The dialogue essentially takes the principle of Zeno’s paradox and applies it to deductive logic. According to Zeno’s paradox, in order for a fast runner to catch a slow runner, he must first run to the slow runner’s current location. By the time he arrives at that location, however, the slow runner will have advanced, and the fast runner must run to the slow runner’s new location. Upon arriving at the new location, the slow runner will have advanced again, repetitio ad infinitum. The fast runner must therefore run to an infinite number of locations in order to catch the slow runner. With Carroll, we find the following basic deductive syllogism split apart in similar fashion.

(A) Things that are equal to the same are equal to each other.
(B) The two sides of this Triangle are things that are equal to the
(Z) The two sides of this Triangle are equal to each other.

Upon a first glance, the conclusion seems to follow necessarily, but Carroll points out that we are assuming the hypothetical proposition “If A and B are true, then Z must be true.” In such a case, we can assume A and B to be true, but deny the hypothetical, and thus be under no obligation to accept Z as true. To compensate, we must construct the following syllogism:

(A) Things that are equal to the same are equal to each other.
(B) The two sides of this Triangle are things that are equal to the
(C) If A and B are true, then Z must be true.
(Z) The two sides of this Triangle are equal to each other.

We find on examination that we are similarly assuming another premise, let’s call it D, which is “If A and B and C are true, then Z is true.” Rinse, lather, repeat, ad infinitum.

Of course, we all find the idea of accepting A, B and C while denying Z to be utterly ridiculous. But the fact that we must assume an infinite number of hypotheticals points to a useful truth. The statement that a conclusion follows necessarily from the premises is not a statement of absolute necessity. It is a statement of practical necessity. If humanity were to operate under the rigor of perfect rationality, not only would inductive reasoning be insufficient, but deductive reasoning itself would fail us.

It appears that various “rational” methods that we use to interact with reality are not purely logical, but merely resemble logic, or approach logic, much like an exponential function approaches zero. But the fact that the function never reaches zero does not cause the mathematician to deny zero’s existence. Similarly, the fact that we never arrive at perfect rationality does not cause us to deny the existence of the perfectly rational. It merely points to an infinite qualitative distinction between the human and the rational, or an uncrossable chasm between human “rationality” and perfect rationality.

It also seems that human rationality is not merely an “imperfect” rationality, but that it differs in substance from true rationality. We would not say that the exponential function is an imperfect form of zero, we would say that it is a substantively different way of approaching zero.

Finally, it is worth noting that we do recognize rationality. Though we cannot explain why a statement is rational (any attempt to do so would send us off on an infinite regress again), there is an innate understanding that the syllogism we are perceiving is indeed rational. We participate in rationality though we do not know what it is. And as such, we retain the distinction of being rational animals, or perhaps a more accurate description would be that we are reasonable animals. We are able to reason, even if we cannot do so rationally.

Joy To The World

Christmas today has seemed to lost its point. It seems to me that most of American society today goes one of two directions with the holiday. On one hand, you have the secularization of the holiday, with all its consumerism, tolerance, and other such things that you would expect from a non-Christian relativist culture. On the other hand, you have the radicalization of the holiday, as we loudly sing all the Christian songs, angrily say the word “Christmas”, and in general make a point to be as caustically pro-Christmas as possible. Both miss the message of the Incarnation.

So it bears being reminded of what we already know- the story of Christmas.

It starts at the beginning. God created the heavens and the earth. He created man and gave him full authority over creation. He instituted communion with man, he walked with man. And yet man blasphemed his creator. He arrogantly spurned the command of the all-powerful God upon which everything exists. He severed his source of life and divinity.

The response was breathtaking. For man now tainted by sin, the logical next step would be an eradication of blasphemous scum from an otherwise perfect world, and perhaps another creation of the imago dei. Yet God loved us, and promised redemption. Through the eons, He chose and endured a people who continuously spurned and rejected him, and reminded us of the promised Emmanuel- the restoration of communion, God with us.

And then on Christmas, he become incarnate. The very word of God, the logos, by which all things were made, and in which all things live, move and have their being, became flesh and dwelt among us. The perfect God of the universe emptied himself of his divine rights and dwelt in a body cursed by the blasphemy of his own creation, that he might be agonizingly crucified by the very people he came to restore communion with. That blasphemous creation upon whom, mysteriously, “his favor rests.”

It is a sacrificial love so inhuman, so transcendent, so divine. It overflows the limits of human sensibility, it is written throughout the fabric of the universe, yet we are only able to absorb small glimpses of it.

And in it, we find ourselves utterly disarmed. Any objection we can raise, any assertion of rights, any act of ego we dare to mount is so absurd, so irrational that the mere mention of it in the face of an all-loving God is our utmost shame. Instead, we find a command to love. To love sacrificially and unconditionally, to evangelize and spread this Gospel to all.

So the mystery of the incarnation is that our Lord is come, that he is bringing joy to the world, that he has come to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Memento Mori

In a short story idea proposed by a friend of mine, a concept emerged that I thought was highly fascinating. I post the fascinating part on my blog. The story features a murder, and then a collapse into insanity.

“Until that guilt is confronted factually and addressed as a living, breathing reality will there be hope for forgiveness and redemption. But continue in denial, continue in habit, and continue spinning, spinning, spinning, then what power you possessed to confront your wrong will be gone. It will haunt you daily. And after spending a lifetime confronted with death, you will die yourself. Death. We all find it curiously fascinating. Its cruel, cold, unfair, and yet poetic justice.”

-‘Chuck Watson’, Scissors that go Squeak, not Snip, 11/10/11

From a Christian perspective, death is a very complex, multifaceted concept. To simplify to its basest form, it is a paradox. As we were all originally designed to live in Eden, we were designed to live free from death. Death, therefore, is unnatural.

Yet as a result of Adam’s sin, we are all cursed to live in a fallen world. And our very existence in this world is unnatural. Death, therefore, provides us an exit from the unnatural. To the non-Christian, however, the only recourse that is left is another unnatural fate- that of eternal punishment. To the Christian, however, there is hope in the natural- a knowledge that our death with ultimately result in a deliverance from the unnatural, and a wholly fulfilled, natural rest in the arms of the eternal.

We see that two different perspective on death emerge, then. First is a non-Christian perspective- it sees life as unnatural. Now to be sure, most give formal assent to the idea that life is natural. There is, however, an innate sense of a transcendent in which we are participating. Take for example, the problem of evil. The mere fact that humanity poses the question “why do bad things happen?” implies that there is some external answer. There are those that take the concept of the unnatural and call it natural (say, Darwinists), but the concept still meets the average individual with natural repulsion. A thoroughly Darwinian morality repulses the average human. So the fact that we exist is taken as unnatural. They are, however, acclimated to it, so that they go on operating as if it is natural.

The non-Christian also sees death as unnatural. Death is viewed as inevitable, but it is always loathed, avoided, shunned, not discussed. It is seen as an impending non-existence, an annihilation of the self. There are indeed circumventions. The idea of reincarnation attempts to naturalize death by recycling the energy into another existence. Vague and fearful concepts of an afterlife attempt to provide some explanation, but largely fail to solve the problem. Whether the afterlife is an unnatural existence, or a completely nature-lacking, existence-less nihil, death is seen as a gateway to the unnatural, something uncomfortable, something to avoid.

And then, from a Christian perspective, the non-Christian experience with death includes an unnatural punishment that was never intended, for all eternity.

For the Christian, we see this existence as unnatural- until our justification. At the point of our justification, we are imbued with another nature, one that we were intended to have from the start. We also see death as unnatural, something that was not meant to be in the created order. Thus, the Christian view entirely encapsulates the non-Christian view- it sees existence as unnatural and death as unnatural. But the Christian also has a more robust understanding of death. We understand not only the unnatural existence, but also the natural existence- that paradoxical struggle of old man and new man. We see not only the unnatural aspects of death, but also the role of death in delivering us to a wholly natural state. Death, to the Christian, is paradoxically natural and unnatural.

Because of this, it is imperative that the Christian take a full-orbed picture of death. Yes, it is true that death can contain some poetic justice for the sins that we have committed. But it was never intended to be our fate. Our death, insofar as it attests to our unnatural existence and this disorder of the universe, is ultimately tragic, infinitely more so for the unbeliever destined for eternal damnation. It must be considered a tragedy.

Yet death is also not poetic justice for the Christian. It is an ultimate respite, a deliverance from the City of Earth to the City of God, and an entrance into God’s eternal peace. Thus, it can be the most natural thing ever experienced in this life.

The Christian author therefore has a unique ability. He can paint a much more hopeful picture of death than the temporal, fleeting, non-Christian glimpse of death allows.

When applying the perspective on death in a literary context, you have a few options. You can demonstrate the futility of the non-Christian perspective, and allow the unnaturality of the concept itself serve as an apologetic for Christianity. But fully as important is to focus on the higher view of death, that paradoxical viewpoint that allows us to embrace death in the loveliness that only a Christian surrendered to his master can see.

Remember, you die. But it’s not just a horror story.

On Dumping Spices

“Once when the spice market in Holland was a little slack, the merchants had some cargoes dumped at sea to force up the price. That was a pardonable, perhaps necessary stratagem. Is it something similar we need in the world of spirit?”
-Soren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling.

It is comfortable to have God figured out. Its comfortable to know how he works, when he works, and why he does what he does. Its comfortable to have a tight system that is brutally consistent and leaves no questions unanswered. It is comfortable to have a monopoly on the ways of God. If you have God figured out, the omnipotent comes under your control, you can peer into the mind of the omniscient, you can transcend the confines of humanity. With a comprehensive knowledge of the holy, you can level any foe who dares to construct a rival system with their audacious, misguided, nay, heretical positions on the divine. You can know everything there is to know about the nuances of God…

…and lose Christianity. And fail to see who God really is, and how we are to relate to him.

Because God is mysterious. God defies norms. God is the one who commanded Abraham to ascend mount Moriah and sacrifice his son. God is the one who commanded the obliteration of entire races of people, yet at the same time desires that none should perish. God is the one who, in perfect justice, descended to body of a mere man, suffered as we did, and was brutally executed, so that we, inferior beings, not worthy of the attention of the divine, could be reconciled to him.

Any attempt to compartmentalize the deity results in these glaring exceptions to our systems.

Isn’t it time that we stop compartmentalizing him? But how do we live a life wholly in pursuit of God, and dedicated to uncovering the mysteries of who he is, without systematizing him?

Systemic theologies can be useful, yes. Systemic theologies allows us to closely approximate the actual, to explain as best as we can the nature of God. But insofar as systemic theologies are derived by human interpretations, fallible man’s attempts to glimpse into the divine, they are not exhaustive, they are not infallible, they are human. I believe in Scripture alone, not my conception of Scripture alone.

A distinction must be drawn between a systemic theology and a systemic God. The principles upon which God operates transcend the corrupt faculties of fallen humanity. The foreshadowing of the Messiah left even the prophets bewildered, blocked behind human reason in an attempt to grasp the paradox of a triumphant king who is simultaneously suffering, crushed and afflicted. That is, until God descended to the body of a man and triumphed over death and sin by offering himself to be tortured and killed.

This is progressive revelation. This is man, limited by the very nature of humanity, glimpsing the divine solely because it pleased God to grant it to him. To impart a sliver of the suprarational to the human mind.

So does the disciple degrade to the nihilist? Far from it. The disciple is just that, a disciple. One who is learning the ways of his master. But as we learn the ways of our master, we will find areas that we cannot resolve. As we study, we realize that many minds greater than us have come to radically different interpretations of Scripture. And so we approach it with utmost humility, excising all preconceived notions that may radically skew our interpretations. We dump the spice cargoes. And when we get to a part that we cannot resolve, we rest assured that someone greater than us has figured it out.

And from this, we develop a hermeneutic. One that boils down everything we think we know, and dives instead at the main question. What is the essence of Christianity? How should we live our lives? How do we approach the holy? We approach the divine with faith, and knowledge that whatever intricate divine workings are at play, God is in control so that we don’t have to be. And as we keep God at the center, with theological superfluity at the peripheral, it may be that he will reveal an aspect of himself to us.

We don’t need to systematize God. We don’t need exhaustive knowledge. We don’t need to drag divine reason down to the human faculties. We have faith in a transcendent deity who has worked out all the details.

“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. ”
-Micah 6:8

On Natural Revelation

So, the events narrated in an earlier blog post of mine (on Rocky Mountain Sunsets) kinda fit into several issues that I’ve been mulling over lately. The intent of this blog post, therefore, is to articulate my thoughts on a few subjects- namely, natural revelation, spiritual disciplines and the distractions that impede our appreciation of the first two.

First, off, natural revelation. Natural revelation, quite simply, is God’s revelation of his existence to us through creation, so that we are without excuse. The most oft-quoted appearance of natural revelation in Scripture comes in Rom 1:20 which says,

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

So, essentially, natural revelation leaves us without excuse in regards to the knowledge of God. And, surely, the proof contained within the created order is undeniable. As Sir Isaac Newton once stated, “in the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God’s existence.”

NOTE: Theologians have divided natural revelation into two categories: 1). revelation through physical nature (what we would normally refer to as creation, or nature) and 2). revelation through human nature (the reflection of the imago dei through man). For the purposes of this post, I’m going to be focusing on physical nature.

The question then is, what is the use of natural revelation outside the articulated purpose of leaving man without excuse? Doubtless there are many applications that minds greater than myself can elaborate on, but I want to take a look at one specific application that I think is missing in our culture today. But before elaborating on that point, I want to introduce my second concept.

During the Fall 2010 semester at PHC, our wing had an opportunity to host Dr. Kucks to speak to our dorm about spiritual disciplines. The verse he emphasized was Deuteronomy 6:24

“And the Lord our God commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear him so he can continue to bless us and preserve our lives, as he has done to this day.”

Obedience thus accomplished two-things in Old Testament Israel, it accomplished their salvation (“preserve our lives”) and gave them blessings (“so he can continue to bless us”). Since we, today, are living after Christ’s atonement for us, we are saved by grace, through faith. Consequently, the first purpose (salvation) is a part of the law that has been fulfilled by Christ for us. However, the second aspect, that of blessings, is one that we can still reap if we obey Christ’s commandments.

From this point, we took a look at the importance of spiritual disciplines. Dr. Kucks acknowledged that prayer and Bible study (the most recognizable spiritual disciplines) are indeed important, but focused in on some others, such as work (cf. Gen 2:15), and, this one intrigued me the most, being absolutely still and silent before the Lord, no prayer, no worship (all spiritual disciplines worth cultivating in their appropriate contexts, to be sure), no thinking about anything else but sitting in absolute silence (cf. Psalm 46:10).

And these were just a couple of disciplines that were mentioned.

Well, coming back around to the application of natural revelation that I talked about, it seems to me that nature was put there for a purpose- yes, to prove the existence of a God, but also for the glorification of God to his creation. It was created to demonstrate his power and glory. Consequently, it behooves to reflect on his creation (and to enjoy it). I would go so far as to say that reflection on God’s creation is a spiritual discipline ordained in Scripture.

It seems that this is backed by Scripture in three ways.

1). Scriptural evidence that nature testifies to God’s power, majesty, etc.
Psalm 19:1-6, Rom 1:20, et al.
2). Precedent set in Scripture of those who have exercised this spiritual discipline.
Psalm 8:3.
3). God’s use of natural revelation in his answer to Job, including a command to Job to contemplate natural revelation.
Job 38-40, specifically 40:15.

Now onto application. It seems to me (and I am basing this on personal observation), that our culture today is very self-absorbed. Even Christians seem very focused on success, getting ahead, our own pleasures, etc. But, to quote the Westminster Catechism, the chief end of man is “to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”

In our observation of nature, God first demonstrates his glory to us, and second, allows us to enjoy him. Furthermore, by our contemplation of nature, we shift our focus away from ourselves and towards God.

So this has kind of been a brief overview of stuff I’ve been mulling over. I guess the chief objective of this post was to encourage you all to take time out of your schedules to observe the wonders of creation around you.

A thick layer of clouds stretches across the sky out to the horizon, punctured at intervals by the jagged mountain peaks emerging from the continental divide. The sun begins to dip, the colors begin to acquire a new vibrancy.

The clouds beneath me darken, the clouds above me refract a spectrum of reds, yellows and blues. The sun begins to set on the horizon, and the color intensity peaks. The silhouettes of mountains, bathed in ethereal mist, grow in size as the plane descends. Twilight approaches.

The plane dips below the clouds. After a small shudder of turbulence, the fog outside the window subsides, and the city lights appear. Clouds obscure the sun, as the stream of lights on the highway below illuminates the scene. In the distance, the mountains descend to the earth in full, regal majesty.

The sun has set. The pulse of humanity pounds on, each person pursuing his own aims, scarcely pausing to observe the spectacular display given to us by our creator every day. Nature speaks, but are we too immersed in ourselves to listen to its testimony?

[Date Stamp: Dec 13, 2010- 09:11 AM]

All right, we’re in the last stretch before the semester ends. Literally. Some of our classes are done- complete, gone forever. And some of us still have massive homework assignments and essays to write. Most of us at least still have some exams left, which we may or may not have adequately studied for (more leaning towards the “may not,” I’m guessing, from the quantity of exams that hit during finals week).

In all of this, there have been two (when you look at it, antithetical) temptations that have been personally come up in my life that I think are a bit reflective of the typical college experience.

1). Stress out

This comes along the lines of “my GPA’s about to plummet,” “I’m gonna fail the class,” (those with merit-based) “will I even be able to come back next semester?”

But one thing I’ve realized throughout the stress of worrying about GPA and stressing myself out about doing something, is that, as the eloquent Betsy Reich pointed, “worrying won’t add a single word to an essay” (or I might add, a single percent point to an exam). Here’s the Scripture to back it up: “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” -Matthew 6:27 (ESV).

In other words- it comes down to this. If you are faithful in your studies, and perform excellently to the best of your abilities, God will reward it. Essentially, just do it (and not in the post-modern Nike sense of the word).

There is some merit, to be sure, in the “God…I blew it. HELP!” prayer, but after this prayer, just do it. Don’t worry about it, because its all in God’s hands anyways.

And oh, by the way, the God of the universe has got your back, and he not only created you, he put you here, under the tutelage of professors that he made, and he’s more than capable of getting you through this season of trials.

“(6) Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (7) And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

2). Apathy

This is more of a burn-out phase that results in just wafting through the finals, getting hit by one of them, and surviving. And…it has been my typical response. The fact of the matter, though, is that you do have a vocation as a student (this concept should not be foreign to you, we have a certain faculty member who is a fan of reminding us of this fact, and a certain book in CSGs we’ve been going through that has done the same).

Consequently, “whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” (Col 3:23, ESV). The spiritual and the secular intersect on every plane. Your function as a student entails a spiritual call to excellence that must be applied to your studies.

“…let us run with endurace the race that is set before us.” -Heb 12:1b (ESV)

Context on the above verse- you are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses urging you to run your race in obedience to God. This is DIRECTLY applicable as a student, since your vocation here IS a calling from God.

And your season of refreshment is 3 days away (for many of you anyways). This goes for both the stressed and the apathetic.


Study hard. Push it out. You have three days left. Be faithful in what God has called you to. And he has it under control. So just do it. If you need to, run a cost-benefits analysis on the merits of Red Bull/Monster/Espresso or other stimulants (or, for some, maybe sedatives or tranquilizers would be best- I find chamomile tea quite effective). Now for coffee and to study a bit more for Spinney.