Saturday, July 21, 2012

My Last Philosophical Will and Testament

No, I haven’t died physically yet. Though I sure feel my age, of late, as my body parts fragment earlier than expected.

Rather, this article deals with the crisis I’ve experienced mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. The substance-- lines and examples came to me a couple hours ago as I swam laps at the health club pool, and I wrestled with the modern torrential waves of theological and Atheistic determinism.

Or viewed alternately, what occurred was a crisis meeting, somber party of Albert Camus and George Fox;-) and others, laying a game plan to defy the wiles and brilliant horrors of determinists of all sorts.

And then, suddenly, the breakthrough answer came to me…

But let me back up, and provide a bit of perspective before shouting out my Will and Testament.

It’s been a tough spring and summer. The evangelical minister and theologian John Piper started it off by claiming that 90 tornadoes that wreaked havoc and killed at least 40 people in the American Midwest in early March 2012 were actually God raking his fingers across the landscape. And that Jesus ruled these winds, the tornadoes were his.

Really comforting to the grieving families! who lost loved ones including a baby infant throw hundreds of yard into a corn field, left to suffer in agony until it finally died after being rescued. How wonderful of Jesus. (sarcasm a few hundred millions miles long)

I would still like to punch Piper in the nose for his words. (emotional hyperbole, not literal for those who wonder if I’ve given up my dedication to nonviolence).

Then nearly at the same time out came Sam Harris’ shocking essay that humans have no free will, that we are only an effect of previous natural causes, that we can’t reflect and make creative decisions but are only acted upon by causes within our unconscious and previous forces of past existence.

I still can’t believe he wrote such an essay and a book of the same name, Free Will, which came out mid-March. Several years ago, when I read a couple of his books for Atheism, I thought he was a voice of moderation compared to the other New Atheists. Guess not.

Anyway, let’s cut the words. What came to me as I swam--in the midst of a mental, spiritual, and emotional crisis--was a defiant insight!

I remembered reading Atheist Albert Camus’ tragic existential novel The Plague years ago. In the powerful book an individual fights against a decimating disease killing thousands (it could be millions); he has no hope of possible victory but defiantly fights against the plague and for individual humans anyway. And Camus, emphasizes that even though, according to his understanding, there is no meaning or purpose to Existence, no hope—yet he still acts to fight against destruction, and for the good as he understands the good to be.

And a world away, 300 years earlier, of an opposite life view, George Fox, a spiritual seeker, totally disillusioned with the Christian churches of his time and the materialists too, feeling drowned in an ocean of darkness, finally experienced an ocean of light. And said, “When all my hopes in them and in all men were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could tell what to do, then, oh, then, I heard a voice which said, ‘There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition’; and when I heard it my heart did leap for joy.

Well, I can’t say I am leaping for joy…

But by the time I finished swimming I did realize I don’t care, ultimately, whether Sam Harris and his kind can show materialistic determinism is true or Christian theologian John Piper (or Thomas Aquinas or Sunni Muslims or Spinoza, etc., fill in the blank with your favorite fatalist)
can show theological determinism is true…

Ultimately, even if it were proven we humans are incapable of decisions (of free will), I choose (like Camus and Fox) to defy “the stars.”

Even if there are no ethical truths, there should be.

Even if humans matter not at all, they should matter.

Even if there is no free choice, there should be.

So maybe we will go our ordained way as chained galley slaves of the indifferent cosmos or some sadistic sovereign god. Maybe our lives are condemned by fate.

But let us go defiantly contrary, refusing, opposing, against that destiny.
Let us choose the Light no matter what.

Let us follow Jesus all the way to death. Let us rescue the perishing no matter what.

In the Light,



Katya5 said...

Hi Daniel,
I already left a comment for you on FB, but thought it would be OK to expand a little here.
So someone says the winds are a hand of God. What does this mean? Only that he thinks he knows god - an angry god... Or, more likely, he does not see the big picture. So someone else says there is no free will. The only thing that means is there is no free will - for that person. He chooses not to believe in it... Or, more likely, he is so twisted in his philosophical route that he got lost somewhere and can't find a way out of his own (well-composed)thoughts.
I have long stopped listening to every Tom, Dick and Harry that thinks he(or she) knows what the world is about... That helped me immensely. That way, I can pick and choose what and who to listen to.
Feel better. I wish you well.

Daniel Wilcox said...

Hi Katya,

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Much appreciated.

Unfortunately, the problem isn't "listening to every Tom,Dick, and Harry." I wish that could be true; then I could move on. But the whole battle is against brilliant, highly educated leaders in Atheism and Christianity.

Since I am of more of the middling sort, and insecure at that, I find it a terrifying struggle to battle against these "who claim to know better." A number of people have asked me, 'Who do I think I am to disagree with those who know?'

And, I answer, my own self isn't the point, but what is true, good, and right. So many Atheists and Christians are now embracing hard determinism which means the humanistic ideals of life are illusions.

So I continue to battle against the dark despair of their views.

Also, don't you think it is ironic that Atheists and many Christians hold to the same view of the world--a fatalistic one?

Very strange and depressing.

Thanks for sharing,


Hystery said...

When I was a girl, my father told me that the first thing he was told in seminary was that there was no Jesus. I asked him why they would tell him that. He explained that there was very little historical evidence that such a person, as we understand him, existed. More importantly, however, was the idea that proof is not really important. The idea of Christ is so amazing that it is worth following him anyhow. And so, since that time, I have been unimpressed by those who argue that either theologically or rationally, there is no justification for a theology based on love, compassion, and joy. I've also been unimpressed by those who claim to have proof or correct belief in a "Christ" that they use to justify fear or judgment. For me it is more about a workable idea than a "correct" idea. Love works. Despair does not. I choose love.

Daniel Wilcox said...

Hi Hystery,

Tragic to hear your father was told in seminary that Jesus never existed. This is actually a very minor position of scholars. The vast majority of secular and biblical scholars do think Jesus existed.

I find all such historical speculation interesting but suspect. When I was a literature teacher a few scholars started arguing Shakespeare didn't write his plays. Intriguing theory, but also doubtful.

Thanks for sharing your perspective.


Hystery said...

I don't think it was tragic as much as thought-provoking. The idea was not to indicate to the seminarians that Jesus did not exist (which, as you point out, is a minority position to be sure), but to move them away from the notion that faith in a Christian perspective can or should be based on literalism or fundamentalism. I think that a faith based on "facts" is an easily threatened faith. However, a faith based on Truth is much stronger. If someone did prove to me that Jesus of Nazareth simply did not exist or that he was absolutely different than the embodiment of Love that I honor as the heart of my spiritual world, then I am not left bereft. I know the spirit of Christ, the spirit of Love, to be real because I have experienced him. I need neither the Bible nor history to justify my faith in this Love.

Faith Barron said...

It is so touching, i love it really.

saving memories forever