Core of Identity and Identity Crises | 09/16/2014
At the core of one’s epistemic identity lies the metaphysical awareness of one’s humanness, as distinct from the animal world. But, being human is a given fact, the essential identity. However, being human alone doesn’t satisfy the human longing for self-identity. Essential identity (being human) doesn’t establish existential identity (being for…). Essential identity is naked without existential identity.
Existential identity is not a given, but a choice. One chooses to be what one considers is meaningful to be. What lies at the core of existential identity determines what one is and how he relates to the rest of the world. While it is not plausible to identify every instance of an infinite possibility of existentials that are assumed as individually meaningful by different individuals, we can at least attempt to identify few polarized cores, that can be distinguished from the other in the way that one distinguishes the merging colors of the rainbow.
CORE 1: FAITH
In its isolated, polarized form, faith forms the identity-core of the fundamentalist. This is faith that is willing to sacrifice anything just for the sake of faith. Faith is an existential leap from the launch pad of knowledge. Faith is the possession of and existential self-identification with knowledge that has been embraced as definitive of one’s identity. It becomes blind when it is segregated from Love and Hope.
Examples of people in this category are religious fundamentalists who become closed to anything other than what they have chosen to believe in. To such, any other view is not just antithetical but also antagonistic. Crisis of faith leads to identity crisis.
CORE 2: LOVE
In its isolated, polarized form, love forms the identity-core of the communalist. This is love that is willing to dump anything just for the sake of love. Love is an existential bond that lies at the core of relationship. To people in this category, faith is not the defining factor; relation is. Love is what gives meaning and purpose and a reason for living to a man who has been broken by everything else. Viktor E. Frankl has spoken about people who found the meaning of their life when they found the answer to the question, “Who should I live for?” A communalist may not be one who holds on to a person or group (religious or whatever) because of his faith; he is one who holds on to it because he finds in this relation his self-identity and is feels obligatory to protect this identity. Any threat to this bond invokes defensive, even offence. Any violation evokes the desire for vengeance. Any failure prompts escapism, even suicide. In this category is the philosopher who will give up his philosophy over a tooth-ache. In this category is also the cultural nationalist and the religious communalist (who holds on to his religious group that gives him historical and existential identity because of a history of relation). In this category is also the man who will accept something if it is loved by someone he loves, and he will reject anything, including truth that is self-evident, if that thing is identified with someone whom he cannot appreciate. The extreme pole of extreme love is extreme hatred. Crisis of love leads to identity crisis.
CORE 3: HOPE
In its isolated, polarized form, hope forms the identity-core of the utopianist. This is hope that ignores the present indicators because of the future vision it has absolutely embraced. There are two kinds of lunatics; the negative lunatic who is oppressed by negative fear, suspicion, and thoughts of harm, and the positive lunatic who is extremely self-confident about himself. The latter might be a laughing-stock of people, but can be also dangerous because of his willingness to undertake lunatic feats. The extreme utopianist doesn’t consider faith or community as essential or necessary in his walk towards the future. They are only useful as long as they may be instrumental. In this group is the one who is willing to exterminate the masses (the antitheses) in order to achieve a world devoid of threat. Crisis of hope leads to identity crisis.
A healthy core is one that possesses faith, love, and hope in balance; where faith works by love and is the substance of things hoped for (Gal.5:6; Heb.11:1). Such faith is open to reason, has no capacity for hatred, and takes risks only after calculation of things at hand (Luke 14:28-33; James 3:17). A healthy core is one where faith is personal (in the Eternal Person, Jn.14:1), love is spiritual (from the Eternal Spirit, Gal.5:22), and hope is substantial (by the Eternal Substance, Col.2:17; 1:27; Heb.1:3; 6:19).
O. Henry's "The Voice of the City" - Review | 09/15/2014
O. Henry's short story, "The Voice of the City", published in a compendium of the same name (1919) is a stunning tale spun from the meticulous spindle of the poetic heart. It is a heart that can gaze through the apparent indifference of the city and discover in its soul the romantic song of the lovebird. William Sidney Porter shocks us with phrases such as "the best bartender in the diocese" and "the spiel limit", for sure; but, there is nothing more surprising than the sudden epigram at the end of a much expected climax.
The story writer searches for the voice of New York city. To the bartender, his question is, "doesn't the gab of it [the city] seem to kind of bunch up and slide over the bar to you in a sort of amalgamated tip that hits off the burg in a kind of an epigram with a dash of bitters and a slice of—" To the cop, he says, "let me ask you. You see New York during its vocative hours. It is the function of you and your brother cops to preserve the acoustics of the city. There must be a civic voice that is intelligible to you. At night during your lonely rounds you must have heard it. What is the epitome of its turmoil and shouting? What does the city say to you?" Yet, regardless of who the question is addressed to, at each turn of the interval, the spindle's timely thread turns in a romantic hue. There is some girl or the other who sets the pitch and dances off the notes on the musical staff. The writer ponders and returns to the girl he first addressed this question to.
I sat at her side and we watched a little cloud tilt at the drifting moon and go asunder quite pale and discomfited.
And then, wonder of wonders and delight of delights! our hands somehow touched, and our fingers closed together and did not part.
After half an hour Aurelia said, with that smile of hers:
"Do you know, you haven't spoken a word since you came back!"
"That," said I, nodding wisely, "is the Voice of the City."
One wonders if O. Henry did really discover the voice of New York. It may be difficult to know that. But, it stands for sure that the story did discover O. Henry's heart.
The story tries to introduce, if not highlight, spirit into the machinery monotony of life. The voice of the city is heard in the poetic moment of silence that it finds at the end of the day, in the transcendent possession of love.
Denominations Tree | 09/14/2014
1st Schism (1054 AD) - EAST & WEST
EAST - ORTHODOX CHURCH (GREEK, RUSSIAN, & EASTERN)
WEST - CATHOLICS, PROTESTANTS
CATHOLIC (Franciscans, Dominicans, Jesuits)
Martin Luther (Lutherans - Moravians)
Zwingli (Anabaptists, Mennonites)
John Calvin (Reformed Church)
John Knox (Presbyterian Church)
Cranmer (Puritans, Separatists)
-Separatists - Congregationalists, Baptists, Methodists
-- Baptists - Church of Christ, William Millar, 7th Day Adventist
-- Methodists - Pentecostals
Two Aspects of Forgiveness | 09/14/2014
1. Perfect Forgiveness - Procured
God has forgiven us in Jesus Christ (Col.2:13,14; 1Jn.2:12; Eph.4:32; Col.3:13)
-The High Priest has completed the atonement for sins (Heb.9:7,11,12, 25,26; 10:14,17,18)
-The Way into the Holiest is open because He has gone before us (Heb.10:19,20; 6:19)
2. Practical Forgiveness - Applied
God is faithful to forgive us our sins (1Jn.1:9)
- If we confess our sins (1Jn.1:9; James 5:15,16)
- If we forgive others (Matt.6:14,15; Luke 6:37)
Tillich's "God Above God" in View of Rational Fideism | 09/14/2014
For Paul Tillich, the theological concept of God as the Supreme Being is wrong. In the concluding pages of The Courage to be, he stated that theological theism is a doctrine about God and man as two persons "who may or may not meet but who have a reality independent of each other", and as such is is need to be transcended because this view is wrong. For Tillich, God cannot just be another being out there; God is the ground of being; God is being-itself, and as such the source of all being.
The God of theological theism is a being beside others and as such a part of the whole of reality. He certainly is considered its most important part, but as a part and therefore as subjected to the structure of the whole. He is supposed to be beyond the ontological elements and categories which constitute reality. But every statement subjects him to them. He is seen as a self which has a world, as an ego which is related to a thou, as a cause which is separated from its effect, as having a definite space and an endless time. He is a being, not being-itself. As such he is bound to the subject-object structure of reality, he is an object for us as subjects. At the same time we are objects for him as a subject. And this is decisive for the necessity of transcending theological theism. For God as a subject makes me into an object which is nothing more than an object. He deprives me of my subjectivity because he is all-powerful and all-knowing. I revolt and try to make him into an object, but the revolt fails and becomes desperate. God appears as the invincible tyrant, the being in contrast with whom all other beings are without freedom and subjectivity. He is equated with the recent tyrants who with the help of terror try to transform everything into a mere object, a thing among things, a cog in the machine they control. He becomes the model of everything against which Existentialism revolted. This is the God Nietzsche said had to be killed because nobody can tolerate being made into a mere object of absolute knowledge and absolute control. This is the deepest root of atheism. It is an atheism which is justified as the reaction against theological theism and its disturbing implications. It is also the deepest root of the Existentialist despair and the widespread anxiety of meaninglessness in our period. (The Courage to Be, 184-186) Obviously, Tillich searches for such an absolute rootedness of being that would become the ground of self-affirmation (the essence of the courage to be) and put an end to the anxiety of death and meaninglessness. Undoubtedly, such a quest implies faith in the relation between individual experience (self) and the ultimate ground of being (reality). Eastern philosophy abounds in approaches towards this problem in both Advaitin and Buddhist philosophies (one asserting the Self as the Underlying Reality and the other asserting the non-reality of the Self). However, can Tillich's quest be complete without properly addressing the epistemic issues of this existential quest for absolute reality in relation to itself? In Epistemics of Divine Reality, the chief argument has been to demonstrate that the disagreement between empirical and rational theologies has been in essence a problem of epistemological approach. Rational theologies cannot accept God as a being (The Upanisads refer to God as the non-dual in order to avoid the notion of monotheism). Empirical theologies, on the other hand, cannot accept the existence of Being apart from beings; and so, it makes no empirical sense to talk of being-itself. The paradoxical situation is that both the categories of reason and the entities of experience cannot be denied. Rational Fideism maintains that the answer is only found through faith in the self-revelation of God and in rational faith reason and experience find meaningfulness. The God who transcends also dwells in us; the God who is one is also Triune; the God who is a necessary being is also affected and moved by human actions; the God who is immutable is also the God who takes the form of man; the God who is infinite is also the God who enters the finite world of man.
But, knowing God is not self-realization. God as self-realization is the argument of rational theology that cannot accept the creation of something out of nothing and posits being as one; and so, the universe as non-dual and eternal or beyond space-time. In non-dualism, rational theology reaches its ultimate conclusion: individual consciousness, for it, must affirm cosmic consciousness (aham brahmasmi). In rational fideism, as the view may be called, knowing God means to know Him as the Transcendent Spirit and yet as not distant from us, as the Source of all things and yet distinct from all things, as the transcendent one and yet the moral Governor of the universe, as immutable and yet active. God is certainly a Being as the "I AM THAT AM" whose identity and existence is not dependent on anything else. He IS. He is God. As such, it seems meaningless to talk of God as the Ground of Being of God (God Above God). That doesn't solve the problem. For one immediately can ask, "What is the Ground of Being of this 'Ground of Being of God'," and so on ad infinitum. If we can rationally accept the possibility of an ultimate reality, then there is no reason to not affirm that this First and the Last is God Himself as Who He is.
True Love is Not Blind; But Hatred is | 09/14/2014
The Bible doesn't say that love is blind. In fact, the Bible says that God is Love (1Jn.4:16) and there is no darkness in Him.
However, the Bible does say that he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes (1Jn.2:11). In other words, it is not love that is blind; it is hatred that is blind.
There is a difference between true love (that really loves the other) and fake love (that pretends to love the other but actually is in love with self). For instance, a young man feels that he loves a woman; but, he finds out that she doesn't reciprocate his feelings; so, his feelings turn to hatred towards her. This is not true love. This is selfishness. If he had truly loved her, then he would be happy with what she is happy with; he would seek her happiness, not his. But, the fact that his feelings have revealed hatred prove that what he had in the first place was not love but hatred.
Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?
Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh. (Jam 3:11-12 NKJ)
And the very fact that he was in selfish, idolatrous love only with himself proves that he doesn't have the capacity to love any other. He who is in selfish love with himself cannot love any other. For, no man can serve two masters; he will either hate the one and be loyal to the other, or be loyal to the one and hate the other (Matt.6:24).
To love oneself more than others is hellish (2Tim.3:2). The only true way to love oneself is to love others as oneself. The Bible says that a Christ-like husband loves his wife like he loves his own body; in fact, he who loves his wife loves himself (Eph.5:28).
Lust is a form of hatred; because the fruit of lust is not love but hatred. A man who forces a woman, a man who engages in pornography, a woman who seduces a man through lustful attraction all actually hate the other. They will rather desire that the other suffer than they suffer the consequences of their lust. Such was the case of Amnon who raped Tamar, his half-sister. His love (lust) for Tamar was consuming and passionate; it tormented him and made him feel ill (2Sam.13:2). The consuming passion was like the hunger of a beast who longs for its prey, not because he wishes the prey to live, but in order to satiate his own pangs of hunger. It cannot love the other. And so, when Amnon had done the abominable, the hatred of his lust became evident (2Sam.13:15).
When one shuts the other down, deletes the other, slanders the other, has ill-will against the other just because the other has not responded in a "complying" manner, then such aggressive behavior is only proof of the lack of the Spirit of love.
"For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
"And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? (Mat 5:46-47 NKJ)
It is impossible for love not to love in any situation (Matt.5:44); for love is its nature. It can bear no other fruit.
But, true love is longsuffering, patient, kind, not easily provoked, not rude, not envious, not self-seeking; true love is rejoices in the truth, i.e. it accepts reality; true love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things; true love never fails (1Cor.13:4-8). True love is not blind.
Later Quotes & Entries
...the relation of self-affirmation and love toward others. For Spinoza the latter is an implication of the former.
Erich Fromm has fully expressed the idea that the right self-love and the right love of others are interdependent, and that selfishness and the abuse of others are equally interdependent. (Paul Tillich, The Courage to Be, p.22)
The Testing of Faith (James 1:2) | 09/13/2014
"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." (Jam 1:2-4 NKJ)
Viktor E. Frankl said once, "Just as a small fire is extinguished by the storm whereas a large fire is enhanced by it-likewise a weak faith is weakened by predicament and catastrophes whereas a strong faith is strengthened by them."
The power of an engine can only be assessed after it has been tested. What is said or thought before the test may be mere opinion, and opinions do not matter much until the test is over. Many a teacher have made the mistake of making judgments about the abilities of their students before the students had gone through the test. Many still didn't realize that the real test was not the school examination the student sat under, but a forthcoming test in real life that would uncover the real strength and abilities of the child. There are many stories of people who had been misjudged, rejected, and not given an opportunity to try; but, who, when they found an opportunity, so excelled that those who rejected them earlier were ashamed later. It matters very less what people think about us, or even what we think about ourselves; it is the test that reveals who we really are.
A test can be a humbling experience, because it reveals that what we have thought of ourselves was not so right. A test may shock us by showing that we weren't what we thought we were. Perhaps, we weren't as strong as we thought we were; or even, that perhaps we weren't as weak as we thought we were. A test may surprise us with facts that are important for us to know in order to face reality.
The presence and strength of faith can only be detected when faith goes under fire.
Tests act like mirrors. We can either get discouraged for being able to see what we really are, or be happy to see what we really are so that we can correct what can be corrected and improve on what can be improved.
Testing is the fire that elongates faith in time and molds it into the shape of patience. Patience is nothing but faith elongated by the fire of trials. Testing uncovers faith.
Testing is an opportunity to exercise faith and strengthen its muscles. Where there are no tests, faith is not put to work. To put faith to test is to put faith to work. Testing increases the strength of faith.
Testing may be of various kinds. There are various trials. However, a million varieties of trials cannot change the nature of the singular faith that one has in God. All testing only purifies the nature of faith (1Pet.1:7).
Testing is not in order that God will know what we are, but in order that we will be what He wants us to be, that we may lack nothing. In fact, He has already searched us and known us before, we have ever thought or have done anything (Psa. 139:1). He knows what we will be thinking about in the future, even before we ever knew the categories that would form the vocabulary of such thoughts. He understands our thoughts from afar off (Psa.139:2).
There is no testing that is outside the knowledge of God. He knows our sitting down and our rising up (Psa.139:2).
Therefore, the Bible tells us to rejoice when we fall into various kinds of trials. We are not to desire to fall into trials and temptations. In fact, we must pray to not be led into temptation (Matt.6:13). However, when we find ourselves in temptation, we must remember that this testing is not to destroy us but to strengthen us (1Cor.10:13).
The Lord Opens the Eyes of the Blind | 09/11/2014
Blinding Factors and Forces
1. Christlessness (2Cor.3:15). A heart that knows the Law, but doesn't have Christ who is the fulfillment of the Law, is blind. But, when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.
2. Hatred (1Jn.2:11). The darkness that one lives in blinds the eyes of a person so that he cannot love his brother. A person who hates is unable to see, because only love can see. Hatred is blind.
3. Bribe (Deut.16:19). Lust for money blinds the eyes of justice. Lust suspends the powers of discretion and judgment. Covetousness and greed destroy vision.
4. Spirit of Stupor in Hardened Hearts (Rom.11:8). God sends the spirit of stupor on those who have chosen to reject the grace of God. In one text we read that God abandons rebellious people to a debased mind (Rom.1:28).
5. God of this Age, the Devil (2Cor.4:4). The devil blinds the eyes of those people who refuse to believe the Gospel willfully, lest the light of the Gospel should shine on them.
But, "The Lord opens the eyes of the blind" (Ps.146:8)
Psa.119:18; 2Cor.3:16; 2Cor.4:6; Acts 26:18
Shakespeare said that Love is Blind; the Bible declares that Hatred is Blind (1John 2:11)
Have Denominations Been Advantageous, At Least In Some Areas? | 09/10/2014
While denominationalism as an ism can be very idolatrous and divisive, denominations in themselves may not be evil. The only evil lies in the sectarianism intrinsic to denominationalism, for instance the unhealthy nurturing of denominational feelings.
1. Denominations that originated out of doctrinal differences historically played an important role in the reaffirmation of Christian faith.
2. Some of these played an important role in the purification of the Church and in refocusing in their times.
3. They also played an important role in the combined development of Biblical scholarship through Seminaries started to train the workers.
4. The Seminaries and Conferences also helped advance theological development.
In modern times, the chief differences relate to doctrine, practice, form of government, focus, and, perhaps, assets. However, modern Seminaries help to train cross-denominationally, especially in the evangelical and pentecostal movements. The only fears regard secularizing of theology in University and the growth of fake degrees that answer to nobody, especially where there is a lack of an accountability structure. Yet, when it comes to doctrinal issues, distinctions do revolve around the denomination or movement based conferences and seminaries. The fact that Acts 6 could be resolved administratively but Acts 15 resulted in doctrinal affirmation and division from the opposing group cannot be denied. Yet, this particular unity and separation of Acts 15, non-denominational, also set an example for future generations. We must know our common faith, the one faith that makes us one and disallow the minor elements from causing massive rifts.
What Matters More In God's Eyes | 09/09/2014
God doesn't care how busy we are in ministry or how intelligent we are about theology; He simply looks at how much we love Him now.
The Ephesian Church had many works, labors, wisdom to discern the false apostles, and much patience; but, it had left its first love (Rev.2:2-4).
The Levite and the Priest had the identity and popular acceptance among people as people of God; however, they missed the Second Royal Law, "Love your neighbor as yourself". They might have been too busy or worried about the Temple; but, God didn't care first for that (Luke 10:31-33).
The Pharisees were too keen about obeying the letter of the Law, but they missed the heart of God (Matt.23:23)
Martha was busy with a lot of works, but Jesus said that Mary had chosen the better part (Luke 10:40,41,42)
But, the widow who dropped her two mites in the offering box wasn't known for how busy she was in ministry or how many books she wrote on theology; she was just praised for giving her all to God (Luke 21:2)
The woman with the alabaster box similarly, was praised for what she did to Jesus (Mark 14:3,9)