philosophy

Why I Am Troubled by 'God's Not Dead'

Courtesy Pure Flix Entertainment

Courtesy Pure Flix Entertainment

From the opening scene to its closing postscript, God’s Not Dead tells a story of persecution and courage, focusing on a young white man named Josh Wheaton (Shane Harper). “Mr. Wheaton,” as he is referred to in various parts of the movie, finds himself in a predicament on the first day of his Philosophy 150 course. In a scene that echoes Rome’s historic persecution of Christians, the powerful intellectual Professor Jeffrey Radisson (Kevin Sorbo) stands before his class of impressionable students and tells them they can skip the section of the course that discusses the existence of god, if each of them signs a piece of paper that says “god is dead.” The professor makes it clear that this proposal is more of a threat when he slowly and emphatically informs his students that the section on god’s existence is where “students have traditionally received their lowest grades of the semester.” This is Mr. Wheaton’s unexpected predicament: can he sign a piece of paper that proclaims god, as a philosophical category and concept, is dead? And if he decides not to sign that paper, can he have the courage to face the consequences?

Let's Talk About Food: Naked, No Doubt Hungry, and Definitely Not Ashamed

Rodin's 'Le Baiser.' Courtesy of LaVonne Neff.

Rodin's 'Le Baiser.' Courtesy of LaVonne Neff.

It's odd that Christians — people who claim to believe that God created the earth, sustains it day by day, and intends to create a new earth — are often so mixed up about sex and food. How long would the earth's inhabitants last without coupling and eating?

And yet most Christian writers right up to the 16th century praised celibacy, sexless marriages, and arduous fasting. Bless Martin Luther for loving his wife (and the beer she brewed), but lots of us still seem to think that good sex and good food — if not actually sinful — are at least pretty low on the religious values hierarchy.

Has it escaped our attention that, according to our most sacred literature, God made a naked male and a naked female, put them in the midst of grain fields and orchards, and told them to multiply?

QUIRK: Why Metaphysics Matters

John Cobb

Most of us know what physics is, but what in the world is metaphysics? One might first recall Meta World Peace, who currently plays for the Lakers. So, metaphysics is just another one of those guys who adopted some sort of weird name, right? 

Wrong.

According to John Cobb, a theologian who played a crucial role in the development of process theology, metaphysics asks, "what is it in and of itself that constitutes what is truly real and actual"? In physics you don't quite get to that. Metaphysics deals with ousia, which is substance in Greek. The world is made up of substances and the questions of metaphysics are to understand what substances are.

Woah. That sounds intense.

You can hear more and hopefully understand a little more (via the "substance" of your brain) HERE, as Cobb talks theology during the Emergent Village Theological Conversation at Claremont School of Theology in California.  

As the radio emcee at Homebrewed Christianity describes it, "It's time to nerd out with your geek out."

QUIRK: Justin Buber and Other Philosophical Pop Stars

"Justin Buber" from his twitter account @Justin_Buber

"Justin Buber" from his twitter account @Justin_Buber

Step aside Reinhod Bieber — there’s a new 20th century philosopher/pop star in town: Justin Buber. That’s right, the Bieb’s popular songs and tweets and Martin Buber’s existential Jewish thought combine in a way that would have the renowned thinker pulling the hairs out of his mountain-man beard.

One of Buber’s notable contributions to modern Jewish thought centers around the distinction of I-Thou (a holistic, infinite relation shared between people or God) and the I-It (a disconnected objectified relation). But if you’re Justin Buber , it might look something like this:

“Tonight I’ma be with u, shawty with u. For the space between two beings is where God may occur.” -  October 26, 2011

What Next for the Occupiers?

Group meditation in Zuccotti Park, October 2011.  Photo by Cathleen Falsani.

Group meditation in Zuccotti Park, October 2011. Photo by Cathleen Falsani for Sojourners.

One of the highlights of the fall for me was undertaking a kind of Occupy Tourism. I was spending most of my time on the move, working to build the broad coalition that eventually won at least a temporary victory against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from the tar sands of Alberta. In almost every city I visited, I tried to stop by the local encampment, in part because Occupiers were among our most reliable allies, and in part because it was so much fun.

I’ve gotten to speak through the human microphone in lower Manhattan and tour the D.C. campsite just a few blocks from the White House. But I’ve also gotten to sign the copies of my books in the library tent at Occupy Boston (a quiet tent, staffed by honest-to-God librarians from Boston Public Library, with everything arranged by subject). I even made it to foreign occupations—standing beneath a giant stone lion in the grand Vancouver encampment. Happiest occupation goes to San Luis Obispo, California, where I got a hug from a fellow with a huge “Free Hugs” sign. The most chic, not surprising, was Santa Fe, New Mexico, where they arranged not only a campfire for my talk, but a rising full moon in the desert sky.

Rule No. 1 of Interfaith Relations: Faith is Required

Did Jesus ever withhold love or healing for fear that he would give up too much of himself?

Did Jesus ever worry that the nature of God would change if he ate at certain tables, or touched certain kinds of people?

Of course not.

The Bible tells us that Jesus continually stepped out of the normative comfort zones of his day to extend his message of radical reconciliation.

I realized that my hesitation to embrace all people interested in an interfaith vision was mostly about my own fear, my own lack of faith. There was nothing Christ-like about it.

Afternoon Philosofail

2308371224_60e0cda6e8If you're anything like me, reading this brief entry from Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress.org titled, "Scalia says there's nothing unconstitutional about executing the innocent," will no doubt do more to raise your blood pressure than the afternoon latte you were just contemplating.

Working for the Kingdom of God: A Defense

Deep down I don't believe in the separation of church and state. Oh, I am against the idea of a state church or giving political preference to one religious sect or another, but it's the idea that somehow people can divorce their religious identity from their political identity that I just can't accept. That either our religion or our politics mean so little to us that we could restrict them to compartmentalized spheres in our lives seems absurd to me. I know people attempt to do it all the time, believing in the modern myth that an individual can assume an objective stance in this world, but reality is a lot more complex than that.

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