Culture


THE MOST DANGEROUS THING A CHRISTIAN CAN DO…

 

Recently, I have been having a “crisis of religion.”  I have been examining my life, my beliefs, and my behaviours.  I have discovered the single most dangerous thing a Christian can do.  It is absolutely devastating to one’s religion.  This single act has the ability to completely demolish one’s view of religion and change how you approach religion for the rest of your life.

Think about it for a moment.  Ask yourself the following questions.

 

1)      a. What is salvation?

b. How is one saved? 

c. What does it mean to be saved? 

d. What is my roll in my own salvation?

2)  a. What version of the Bible do I hold to?

      b. Why?

3)   a. When I go to church does everyone look like me?

      b. Are there any from the outside?        

c. Would we tolerate someone with tattoos?  Long hair?  Dirty clothes?  Where      would/do we draw the line when it comes to who we will let in?

i. If we claim we would allow everyone then where are they?  “Oh, they just don’t want to come here.”  Why not?

ii. “They can’t handle the truth.  It is obvious they are sinners and don’t want to hear the truth.”  What truth is that?  Your doctrine or Biblical doctrine?

 

There you have it.  You have just engaged in the single most dangerous thing a Christian can do… and that is to “Think.”   Think about what you believe and why you believe it.  I challenge you to examine your beliefs.  Why do you believe what you believe?  Are you going along with the herd or can you defend your beliefs and behaviours with sound contextual Biblical teaching. Do you have to take text out of context to “proof” your beliefs?  Do you take scripture and interpret it in the light and context of 2008 in order to get your doctrine?  Think about it?  Do you believe it because you have studied it out or because the denomination believes it and it has always been done this way? 

 

If your beliefs cannot withstand such examination then what good are they in the first place?  If they only bring you comfort and do nothing for your soul or your relationship with Christ and your relationship with others then what good are they?  If your beliefs are based on error and you do nothing to discover the error and correct it… guess what… you will be held responsible for that error on the Day of Judgment.  This is especially, most extremely, important when it comes to salvation.  That is why Scripture warns us to examine ourselves to show we are in the faith, and to make our calling and election sure.  It is of vital importance to be certain we are holding to Biblical doctrine and exalting Jesus Christ and not the doctrines of men and our imaginations.

 

There you have it.  The most dangerous thing a Christian can do is to “Think” and be able to give a reason for the hope that is within him. 

Many Christians are unsure of what to think of philosophy.  Some believe that it is a volatile mixture of mysticism, humanist psychology, and pagan religion, while yet others believe it to be a discipline that is exclusively practiced by the intellectually elite.  None of these ideas are true, however, and the people who hold them would be surprised to know that they practice philosophy, in some sense, every day.     
       For example, when two men are talking about the moral implications of our nation going to war they are, in fact, philosophizing.  When woman dialogues with another concerning the issue of abortion, and seeks to demonstrate that an unborn child has the same right to life as any other individual, then philosophy is being utilized.  In fact, many of the topics that we ponder and discuss every day fall into the realm of philosophy.

 What is Philosophy?
      Giving a clear, concise definition of philosophy is difficult.  This is not because that there have been no attempts to define it, but because there have been so many different definitions.  So where do we go to find a definition?  The meaning of the word itself may give us a clue. 
      The word “philosophy” is derived from the combination of two Greek words.  The word philos means “love” and the word sophia means “wisdom”; when you combine the two, you have the phrase “the love of wisdom”, which is the meaning of the word “philosophy”.  So philosophy, at least in the ancient sense, is the love and pursuit of wisdom.
      Based upon the etymology of the word and the practice of philosophy – at least from a classical or Christian perspective – we can come to this formal definition: Philosophy is the pursuit of truth and understanding through sound reason.  This is, admittedly, a somewhat biased definition; but all definitions of philosophy are ultimately biased in some form or another.

The Value of Philosophy
      You may still be wondering what value the study of philosophy holds for the CHristian.  Allow me to point out a few benefits that the study of philosophy grants:

(1) It Cultivates Good Judgment
      Individuals who are familiar with philosophical argument are less likely to be deceived by rhetoric or propaganda.  They will look beyond ad hominem attacks and empty emotional appeals and be able to see to the crux of the argument.    This is crucial for the modern day Christian in that it allows us to reason with individuals instead of falling for every rhetorical smokescreen that is set before us.

(2) It Aids in Our Understanding of Culture and Society
      Philosophical principles help us to understand the intellectual forces that are driving our culture.  Rather than seeing the ‘fruit’ of fads and trends, we will see the ‘root’ of a worldview that is giving credence to the culture.  The study of philosophy will teach us that ideas do, indeed, have far reaching consequences.

(3) It Aids in the Systemization of Knowledge
      Another benefit of philosophy is that it allows us to organize and systematize our beliefs.  Philosophical analysis gives us the tools necessary to formulate rational arguments for what we believe.  Also, it is impossible to do a Systematic Theology without employing philosophy.
      Without any doubt, philosophy can be an extremely useful tool for the Christian, and is necessary for apologetics.  It is important to remember that all truth is God’s truth.  He is the Author of truth, and truth is an essential property of His Being.  Since philosophy is the pursuit of truth, the Christian philosopher is in the best position to philosophize, for he knows the one who claimed himself as “the way, the truth, and the life”.

The Three Levels of Philosophy

      Philosophy can be practiced and communicated on three levels:

  • (1) Theoretical Level
  • (2) Existential Level
  • (3) Prescriptive Level

 Level One- Analytic Level
      This level of philosophy deals with rigorous logical analysis, and is concerned with constructing analytic arguments that follow from strict logical inference.  The classical proofs of God’s existence are set forth in this level of philosophy, as well as such issues as the nature of truth and morality. 
      The key word to remember in in regards to this level is “logic”; that is, beliefs and opinions are examined in light of the rules of reason.  If an idea breaks down on this fundamental level and proves itself to be illogical or incoherent, then there is no more need for discussion on the matter: the idea is erroneous.
      The benefits of philosophy on this level come from the fact in that it deals with solid and objective rules of thinking.  It appeals to fact and not emotion or opinion.  Every theory, belief, or idea should be able to stand on this first level of philosophy. 
      However, there are negative aspects to this level when it is employed exclusively.  A debate on the theoretical level often becomes a contest of intellect, pitting one mind against another.  Sometimes the facts are blurred because of the ability of some brilliant intellect or charismatic communicator to manipulate the debate in his own favor.  To put it frankly, there have been intellectual giants who were and are Christians, and there have been intellectual giants who were and are non-Christians.  If an idea or belief is only treated on level one, then everything boils down to a battle of the brains and a satisfactory conclusion may never be reached.

 Level Two- Existential Level
      The second level of philosophy is not communicated by theorems and proofs, but is carried out in the avenue of the Arts.  Novels, poetry, painting, music, and many other methods of artistic expression can communicate ideas in an incredibly powerful manner.  This level is concerned with illustrating philosophical ideas in the artistic expression of the existential struggles and questions that all men must deal with.
      The Scottish politician, Andrew Fletcher, once said, “Let me write the songs of a nation; I do not care who writes its laws.”  This statement by Fletcher shows enormous insight!  The most influential philosophers of our day are not just the distinguished professors of great universities, but the individuals who maintain the print, television, and music industry.  Although these individuals may not be giving lectures on hard philosophical facts, they are carrying their philosophies through the medium of the arts.  The worldview of an individual will always be communicated in the art which they produce, whether it is fiction, drama, music, or any other creative work.  C. S. Lewis realized the implications of this fact when he said: 

We can make people (often) attend to the Christian point of view for half an hour or so; but the moment they have gone away from our lecture or laid down our article, they are plunged back into a world where the opposite is taken for granted…We must attack the enemy’s line of communication.  What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects – with their Christianity latent.[i]

      An evaluation of the existential level demonstrates that is a highly effective means of communicating ideas.  Whereas many individuals will never pick up a work by Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, or Alvin Plantinga, nearly everyone reads novels, goes to the movies, or listens to some type of music. 
      On the other hand, if one uses the existential level alone, he is bound to fall into error.  The danger of isolating the existential level from the other levels of philosophy is that it leads to subjectivism (the idea that truth is whatever you believe it to be).  The existential level must be grounded upon the analytical level to prevent this slide into subjectivism. 

Level Three- Prescriptive Level
      The third and final level of philosophy that we will deal with is the Prescriptive Level of philosophy.  This level deals with the applicative nature of a certain philosophical system.  This is the level that says, “How does this affect my life?”
      This level deals with how we should live.  It takes the information of the previous two levels and translates into reality.  It is demonstrated in the parent instructing the child on what he should or should not do, or in the minister who sets forth moral standards for his congregation.  We are constantly engaged in the prescriptive level day in conversations on the sidewalk or in our own living rooms concerning the far-reaching moral and ethical issues that we encounter each and every day.
      This level of philosophy is important because any idea is meaningless if it can’t be applied to reality.   It is on this level that the seemingly abstract arguments of the first level and the personal expression of the second level touch reality.
      Again, there are dangers in using this level alone as well.  If the child comes to her father and says, “Dad, we were taught in school today that there are no moral absolutes.  What do you think about that?”  If the father is not careful he will simply jump straight to the prescriptive level and began spouting Scriptural proof texts against the error.  The problem, however, is that the teacher does not believe the Bible and the classroom milieu does not regard it as authoritative.  In essence, the child is not asking her father what he believes about the issue, but why he believes what he does about the issue.  If you forego the first two levels, then you are only left with application, which is very subjective and weak without a foundation.
      It is important that we learn to operate on every level if we really want to communicate our worldview. Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias, has wonderfully set forth the meaning and function of these levels of philosophy in this portion of his article, “Living an Apologetic Life”.

 Level one concerns logic, level two is based on feeling, and level three is where all is applied to reality. To put it another way, level one states why we believe what we believe, level two indicates why we live the way we live, and level three states why we legislate for others the way we do. For every life that is lived at a reasonable level, these three questions must be answered. First, can I defend what I believe in keeping with the laws of logic? That is, is it tenable? Second, if everyone gave himself or herself the prerogatives of my philosophy, could there be harmony in existence? That is, is it livable? Third, do I have a right to make moral judgments in the matters of daily living? That is, is it transferable?[ii]

 An important principle to keep in mind concerning these three levels is that we argue on level one (Analytical), we illustrate on level two (Existential), and we apply on level three (Prescriptive).  


 [i] Lewis, C. S., God in the Dock (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), taken from chapter 10, “Christian Apologetics”, pg. 93

[ii] Zacharias, Ravi. “Living an Apologetic Life”, (Just Thinking, Fall 2003), p. 8

 

 

 

Top Ten Posts for February, 2008 

Very little was posted this month (the team has been busy!), but here are the Top Ten most visited posts for the month of May:

  1. The Battle for the Mind: German and British Propaganda In the First World War: A post examing the beginnings of modern war propaganda and how it is used to direct the populace.
  2. Doormat Christianity: How much personal offense should a Christian put up with?
  3. The Nature of Truth: A two part essay that examines the meaning of truth and its underlying principles. Part 1, Part 2.
  4. What is Christian Art?: Is there such a thing as “Christian” art and how does one recognize it?
  5. Eschatology Poll Update and Fun with Christian Kitsch:  A post that examines the results of our eschatology poll while having some fun with kitschy Christian art.
  6. Faith and Reason: A two part essay dealing with a proper definition of faith as well as its relationship to reason. Part 1, Part 2.
  7. Much Ado About Nothing: Nihilism and Modernist Literature: A four part essay that examines nihilistic themes in the works of three Modernist authors.  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.
  8. Is Fantasy Escapism?:Is fantasy literature (LOTR, Narnia, etc.) an attempt to escape reality, or does it communicate reality better than any other genre?
  9. Monty Python’s Parody of Knighthood (Part 1): How Monty Python and the Holy Grail humorously skewers the ideals of Arthurian chivalry.
  10. The Ethical Quagmire of Designer Babies: A post that investigates the murky waters of bioethics.

This is almost humerous but it rings true what with all the databases out there that have your information. the grocery store has those little VIP Store cards that if you use will allow you to save a percentage on you bill… at the cost of your purchase being added to their database about your buying habits. Not to mention credit card purchases, credit reports, bank statements, HMO records, dentist records, hospital records, military records, police records and the lists go on infinitely, everyday a new list, a new way to catalogue you and your habits. As you read this say hello to the guys and gals in Foggy bottom.

Vodpod videos no longer available. from www.youtube.com posted with vodpod

 

It is ironic that the very ones who pried open the lid of our Judicial system are the very ones who are now trying to nail it back on.  The natural response to anarchy is totalitarian rule. So it is easy to see how we have gotten to this point from say… the Sixties and Seventies.   Now, it’s hard to see how we can claim to be a democratic republic given we can only choose from only two parties which are running politicians whose image is more important than their character and substance.  There are no more statesmen who hold the best interest of the nation above their own political ambitions.  So, in order for the politicos to retain their power they have to have a victimized society which they can “care” for and pander to.  This is the enevitable result…

Reporting live frome the Village, I’m Number 6.

 

We’re run by the Pentagon, we’re run by Madison Avenue, we’re run by television, and as long as we accept those things and don’t revolt we’ll have to go along with the stream to the eventual avalanche… As long as we go out and buy stuff, we’re at their mercy. We’re at the mercy of the advertiser and of course there are certain things that we need, but a lot of the stuff that is bought is not needed…   We all live in a little Village… Your village may be different from other people’s villages but we are all prisoners.”   Cult TV (UK): “An Interview with Patrick McGoohan”, conducted by Warner Troyer, March 1977

From The Prisoner

“Where am I?”
“In the Village.”
“What do you want?”
“Information.”
“Whose side are you on?”
“That would be telling…. We want information. Information! INFORMATION!”
“You won’t get it.”
“By hook or by crook, we will.”
“Who are you?”
“The new Number Two.” 
“Who is Number One?”
“You are Number Six.”
“I am not a number — I am a free man!”
                                                                 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Prisoner

Top Ten Posts for February, 2008 

Here are the Top Ten April posts on Quadrivium:

  1. Faith and Reason: A two part essay dealing with a proper definition of faith as well as its relationship to reason. Part 1, Part 2.
  2. An Evaluation of the Bundle Theory of Substance: An analysis of a popular theory of substance advocated by the famous skeptic/empiricist David Hume
  3. The Ethical Quagmire of Designer Babies: A post that investigates the murky waters of bioethics.
  4. An Evaluation of Descartes’ Claim that the Mind is More Easily Known Than the Body: A post that examines the contents of its formidable title.  (Note: this is not an argument against substance dualism, just an evalution of one of Descartes’ arguments for it).
  5. The Battle for the Mind: German and British Propaganda In the First World War: A post examing the beginnings of modern war propaganda and how it is used to direct the populace.
  6. What is Christian Art?: Is there such a thing as “Christian” art and how does one recognize it?
  7. Much Ado About Nothing: Nihilism and Modernist Literature: A four part essay that examines nihilistic themes in the works of three Modernist authors.  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.
  8. The Nature of Truth: A two part essay that examines the meaning of truth and its underlying principles. Part 1, Part 2.
  9. There’s Hope For Porn Stars! (sort of): This post analyzes the controversial techniques of a ministry to porn stars along with the misleading statement, “Jesus Loves Porn Stars”.
  10. Two-Way Tie for Tenth: The Suffocating Soul: A two-part book review and commentary on the various ‘corsets’ and ‘tight slippers’ that suffocate our souls.  Part 1, Part 2. And Is Fantasy Escapism?:Is fantasy literature (LOTR, Narnia, etc.) an attempt to escape reality, or does it communicate reality better than any other genre?

* Since I have been unable to come up with some interesting posts here lately, here is a copy of a paper that I delivered at the UNCG Honor’s Symposium in 2007.

In the First World War humanity was horrified at the advent of trench warfare, u-boats, tanks, and casualties on an unprecedented scale as nations rapidly discovered new and more brutally effective ways to slaughter one another’s citizens.  However, war-fueled innovation extended beyond the bomb-blasted battlefields of the Eastern and Western fronts; it began in the home front, as the concept and practice of war propaganda flourished.

            Governments engaged in the Great War learned very quickly that modern warfare would require the effective use of propaganda to sway public opinion.  It was no longer sufficient for a nation’s military to be the only force in conflict now the entire populace – both civilian and soldier – would combine into a national fighting force.  “Of the numerous lessons to be drawn from the First World War, one of the most significant was that public opinion could no longer be ignored as a determining factor in the formulation of public policies” (Sanders & Taylor 1).  National morale would depend on how swiftly recruits signed up and how much comfort and peace of mind citizens would be willing to sacrifice.

            In this paper, I will examine World War One propaganda as it was practiced by the British and German governments.  Each of these nations was required to increase its propaganda effort in order to continue fighting in a war that became increasingly detrimental to public morale.  Examining the propaganda techniques of both countries will reveal a great deal about their respective cultures: how much they differed and how much they shared in common.

            Even before their declaration of war on August 1, 1914, the Germans had already begun work on their own semi-official propaganda machinery, which was loosely spread throughout the various branches of German government (Welch, 22).  Early in the war German journalist Matthias Erzberger established the Zentralstelle für Auslandsdienst (Central Office for Foreign Services), which concerned itself with distributing propaganda to neutral nations (especially after the invasion of Belgium).  The German government also heavily employed the Wolff Telegraph Bureau as a means of international propaganda.  After the British cut Germany’s undersea telegraph cables, the Germans relied upon their wireless Nauen station (the most powerful transmitting station in the world) to continue a constant feed of pro-German news reports to the world (Welch, 22-23).

            An interesting German propaganda technique was the use of mobile cinemas.  These transportable film machines would be sent to the German front line to provide entertainment to the weary German troops.  Scattered throughout the featured films, German propagandists had inserted short newsreels that would depict recent events in a decidedly pro-German light. 

            Posters and postcards also played and important role throughout the war.  A comparison of German and British posters clearly reveals the differences between German and British culture.  While British posters relied heavily on artistic flourishes and effective slogans, German posters were much more matter-of-fact.  Indeed, German war posters were often nothing more than large, illustrated graphs which detailed the resources of Germany in comparison to other nations.  One such poster that contrasted Germany’s combined national income with Great Britain’s features a smiling, well-fed German citizen holding a much larger wallet than the sour-faced, emaciated Briton that he is compared to (Welch, 83).

German visual media excelled in adapting national mythology to the war.  This was a decided advantage in propaganda over the British.  Although Great Britain was a nation with a strong literary tradition, it lacked an epic cultural mythology like Germany’s.  German mythology in the Nordic tradition was perfectly suited for militaristic aims.  It should come as no surprise, then, that many German war posters contained images of dragons, Valkyries, and sword-wielding, Siegfried-like heroes.  Portions of the Hindenburg Line were even given such names as Siegfried and Wotan (the father of the gods in German mythology).

Germany placed far less emphasis upon recruiting in its propaganda than did the allies.  The German military was fairly large at the beginning of the war, and since the German government had effectively portrayed their struggle as defensive, the German populace was swept up in a nationalistic fervor.  Indeed, the primary manifestation of German home-front propaganda lay more in what was censored than what was said.  German media was closely scrutinized by the government so that most of what the civilian population imbibed was positive.  Defeats and setbacks were rarely revealed.

            British propaganda has been described as “an impressive exercise in improvisation” (Sanders & Taylor, 1).  The origins of Great Britain’s propaganda machine are little known, but an almost unanimous consensus exists among historians that, prior to the war, the British had no official strategy for propaganda.  However, as the war progressed, German propaganda was eventually surpassed by the effort of the British.  The Germans excelled in quantity (they were notorious for inundating neutral nations with their propaganda), but the British excelled in quality.  The British government learned, and learned quickly, the best way to sway public opinion, at home and abroad, eventually organizing an official war propaganda office titled M17.

            Perhaps the strong British literary tradition contributed to the quality of British propaganda.  A large part of what makes great literature great is the ability to use the right words to convey a precise, effective meaning.  British propaganda excelled at this.  Even the simple poster which pictures two small children asking their befuddled father, “Daddy, what did you do in the Great War?” made a powerful impact on the British social conscience.  British newspapers, cartoons, and visual media were very successful in producing their desired effect.

            And what was this effect?  One word: recruitment.  Upon entering the war, Britain’s volunteer army was woefully small compared to the immense German war machine.  This required a massive number of recruits on a short notice.  Initially, recruitment did not pose a problem for the British.  Recruitment centers were literally overrun with volunteers.  However, as the war (which had been predicted to be a short conflict) progressed and casualties mounted, recruitment slowed to a trickle.  This is when propaganda began to play its crucial role.

            Much of British propaganda appealed to a sense of national honor.  Posters and pamphlets aimed to produce guilt among the men who had not volunteered for service.  From the start, however, Great Britain was forced to use its most powerful and persuasive propaganda weapon: the demonization of the enemy.  Germany also employed these tactics, but they were nothing in comparison to the flood of atrocity stories and cultural animosity that Great Britain (and later the USA) would produce.

            Early in the twentieth century the political scientist, Howard Lassell, stated, “So great are the psychological resistances to war in most nations that every war must appear to be a war of defense against a menacing, murderous aggressor.  There must be no ambiguity about whom the public is to hate” (47).  The anti-German propaganda produced by Great Britain focused the anger and anxiety of the populace into a hatred of the savage and barbaric “Huns.”  Much of this was accomplished through atrocity stories.  As Aaron Delwiche has observed, “The atrocity story implies that war is only brutal when practiced by the enemy” (Delwiche).  It is easier to kill a monster than a man.

            By far, the most powerful assortment of atrocity stories produced during the war was The Report of the Committee on Alleged German Outrages, better known as “The Bryce Report” (named after James Bryce, the head of the committee).  Contained within the pages of this officially sanctioned report were records of nearly every atrocity that it was possible for a German soldier to commit against the populace of Belgium.  The most shocking accounts were those that described the killing or torture of women and children.  While it is certain that such atrocities occurred during the war, the tendency of the report to dwell on the more sensational eyewitness accounts let to its eventually being discredited.  Translated into 30 languages by 1915, the Bryce Report stoked the righteous indignation of the allied populace and dramatically increased recruitment for the cause of defeating Germany.

            Eventually, as the war neared its conclusion, British and German propaganda was overshadowed by the enormous amount generated by the United States.  Yet, the damage had been done.  The emergence of propaganda in World War One set the standard for wars to follow, and sanctioned the deception of civilians and the demonization of the enemy.  In the end, the point is not really the differences between German and British propaganda, but in their similarities.  Both nations were driven by a philosophy that marked an important moment in cultural history: the opening of a vast gap between the “official truth” and the undisclosed reality of war.

—————————————–
Sources Cited

Delwiche, Aaron. “Of Fraud and Force Fast Woven: Domestic Propaganda during the First World War”, taken from < http://www.firstworldwar.com/features/propaganda.htm&gt; on March 3, 2007.

Fussell, Paul. The Great War and Modern Memory. New York: Oxford, 1975.

Lasswell, Harold. Propaganda Techniques in World War I. London: M.I.T. Press,1927.

M. L. Sanders and Philip M. Taylor. British Propaganda during the First World War. London: Macmillan, 1982.

 Welch, David. Germany, Propaganda, and Total War. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2000.

 

What is the balance between putting others above yourself and standing up for yourself, particularly on the job?  When do you lay down the robe of passivity to protect your job?

Matthew 5:10-12 states, ““Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

What does this passage imply?  Are we to be doormats to be trodden on under any circumstance or is there a point when we stand up for ourselves?  The Christian life is about balance, and I have often wondered where these two extremes can harmonize.  It is very clear by this passage and others that we are not to push others down in our own endeavors.  Looking out for self even at the cost of hurting others is clearly unbiblical.  However, is it completely biblical to always turn the other cheek?  Jesus states in Matthew 5 that we are blessed, or counted as fortunate if people lie against us on His account and our reward in heaven will be great.  There have been instances when Christians have been lied about at work and have lost their jobs because of it.  I would like to know if they would have been right to bring the truth to light, dispelling lies and protecting their jobs as well.

I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this.  Where is the balance between defending oneself and turning the other cheek, or should we even attempt to balance the two?

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