Friday, September 19, 2014

He Didn't Commit Himself to Anyone

But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man. (Jon.2:24-25)

Rejection, betrayal, denial, and abandonment - He knew all of that would come; and yet, He loved them all. But, He didn't commit Himself to them.

How do I know if a good friend would not betray me or deny me? How would I know if the one who praised me today wouldn't slander me tomorrow? If they did it to the spotless Son of God, what is this frail and failing metal to expect any better?

And, yet He who knew no sin was made sin for us and the chastisement of our sins was on Him. But, He trusted none for He knew what was in man.

But, what was in man?

Selfishness. The desire to condemn. The desire to bypass punishment. The desire to rather let others suffer than to suffer for them. The desire to desire desire, the flame of fire....


Religion and Culture: Problems in Definition -1

The existence of religion and culture can be both claimed and denied at the same time. In the claim that religion exists, one only uses the term "religion" to identify a group of things that are like each other. It is not necessary that every "religion" within the group will have elements that agree with another "religion" in the group. For instance, A may have some similarities with B and B may have some similarities with C; however, this doesn't necessitate that A has elements that are similar to C. To argue that would involve an invalid categorical argument. For instance,

"Christians and Muslims believe that Abraham was a Prophet,
Muslims and Jews consider the swine unclean,
Therefore, Christians consider the swine unclean", doesn't necessarily follow.

Also, to deny the existence of religion just because one cannot find its essential soul is to only affirm a paradox. For instance, take the argument for the denial of the car which says that the car really doesn't exist because when one begins to take apart the car, there will eventually come a point when the car ceases to exists. For instance, I begin by removing the tires and would still be capable of saying that the car exists, but doesn't have tires. Or say, I begin by removing the door and would still be capable of saying that the car exists, but without a door. However, as I begin to take away the parts of the car one by one, I finally realize that there comes a point when I cannot call the car a car anymore. However, does this mean that the term "car" is useless?

The above is an example of Sorites Paradox. The Sorites Paradox usually asks the question, "Suppose there is a heap of sand; if I remove a grain of sand the heap will still be a heap; if I remove another grain, it will still be a heap: how many grains must I remove from the heap in order for the heap to cease to remain a heap?"

The above is called a paradox because we know that the heap does exist; however, when one tries to define a heap with reference to specific number of grains, the definition becomes impossible and "heap" becomes nonsensical.

Somewhere, there comes a point when the abstract concepts cannot maintain themselves before the empirical concepts. But, the case can also be vice versa. Take Zeno's paradoxes, for instance.
However, one must not forget the historical question as well. For instance, Hindu was never considered an ism in early history. The ism was suffixed much later. "Hindu" didn't refer to a religion, but to a people. In fact, the ancients used the term to refer to the land. For instance, Esther 1:1 refers to India as hodu. Similarly, with regard to "Christianity", it was the disciples of Christ who were first called "Christians" in Antioch. But, noting that now a term such as "religion" has already become a part of common parlance, to yet avoid confusion and ambiguity, one can use more specific terms like, say, Vaishnavites and Pentecostals rather than Hindus and Christians. Not that we can't call them so; but, that it is important for a communicator to be clear and specific in communication....

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Justice, Mercy, and Grace

Mercy involves forgiveness.
  • Only the one who has power to execute justice can show mercy.
  • When mercy is shown to one, the price is paid by someone else. To forgive a debt means that what has been taken or spent was taken from someone and not given back to him/her; so, the latter has paid the price.
  • The price paid will be the withdrawal of justice from the one who pays the price either voluntarily or involuntarily.
  • When one is forced, involuntarily, to pay the price, then s/he suffers injustice.
  • Forced payment creates injustice which in turn demands for justice.
  • Only justice, if not mercy, can be the terminal point.
  • When one pays the price voluntarily, then s/he shows mercy, and the voluntary payment is called sacrifice.
  • Someone, always, has to pay the price.

  • Infinite mercy requires infinite sacrifice.
  • Infinite sacrifice demands an infinite source.
  • The infinite pool of mercy is Love.
  • God is Love.
God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) (Eph 2:4-5)

Grace involves generosity.
  • Grace involves generous giving of a gift.
  • Grace is always only voluntary. It involves a choice.
  • When grace is shown to someone, it is always at an expense (Mark 7:27)
  • Thus, grace also involves the question of justice (2Cor.11:8)
  • But, since grace is always voluntary and contributory, it never involves injustice (Matt.5:45; 20:14,15).
  • Favor unjustly shown is called favoritism.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Identity-Cores and Identity Crises

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.

In its isolated, polarized form, faith forms the identity-core of the fundamentalist. Here, identity is derived from the ruling propositional tenet of faith. 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.

In its isolated, polarized form, love forms the identity-core of the communalist. Here, identity is derived from belongedness to the community. This is that existential 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. It is not one-sided by mutual. Identity is found in acceptance within the group. The opposite of acceptance is rejection. 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 feels obligated 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, for ideas matter less. 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. There is also strong group conformity in this category. Crisis of love leads to identity crisis. Hurt to community are taken personally and responded with the same aggression. This might be one reason why the Benjamites chose to rather fight the non-Benjamites than hand over the perverted men to them (Jdg 20:13,14).

This pole is the strongest and the most predominant one. It can be self-annihilating.

In its isolated, polarized form, hope forms the identity-core of the utopianist. Here identity is derived from the vision of future. This is hope that ignores the present indicators because of the future vision it has absolutely embraced. Existential hope is the antidote to existential despair. 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. This was what prompted Hitler to shoot himself after witnessing, beyond doubt, his disillusionment with future.

NOTE: The above are not the only identifiers. It is possible that two or three of the above may blend with each other to form a combined identity core. It is also possible that a person's core may shift from one to the other, depending on the power of the identifier over his cognitive (faith), affective (love), or conative (hope, in the sense of will-to..) faculty. The above three analyses are only deductive inferences about the three polarized identifiers, isolated from each other.

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).