Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Temptation of "If..."

My dad pointed out an interesting Biblical fact as we were engaged in a deep theological and philosophical discussion. Temptation is activated by the word "If". His source for this proposal was the temptations of Jesus Christ in the desert as found in Matthew 4:1-11

Verse 3: "If You are the Son of God command..."
Verse 6: "If You are the Son of God throw..."
Verse 9: "... if You fall down and worship me [Satan]."

This "If" of temptation continued at the crucifixion in Matthew 27:40 where leaders as they passed by Jesus nailed to the cross, hurled abuses at Him saying:

"If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross."

I imagine the temptation on the cross was incomprehensibly robust. Immediate relief verses Eternal satisfying joy - The Nobility of Character.

How many times have we received the "If" suggestion. It is oh so tempting when the suggestion is presented to you as, "Hey this is an proven, easy to get ..." When properly translated the tempting suggestion actually says, "If you do to this less than honorable thing you will become very wealthy, happy, powerful, etc. right now, but you will have to pay for it much later at an extremely towering cost to your reputation and the generations that follow." It is significantly more easy to agree with the "if"; however, it takes incredible courage to resist and say no to the "if" of temptation. "If" carries quick gratification with long-term harm, whereas honor carries some sacrifice followed by long-term peace and fulfillment.

The answers to these "if" temptations can be found in maintaining a long-term perspective. How will this effect my reputation and those around me 5 years from now, 10 years from now, 50 years from now, 150 years from now, etc. Eternity is .... Respect is worth it and lasts for eternity, shame is burdensome and lasts for eternity (unless one is forgiven - see Rom. 1:16-17).

Contrast the man who wrote the legendary hymn "Amazing Grace" to the CEOs of the recent banking meltdown. How must the city manager of the city of Bell in Los Angles county, California justify his actions? What is the status of his reputation and of his generations to follow? Somehow I do not see a long-term vision of respect, honor, duty, etc. from these disgraced "leaders".

The "morals" of a self-love do not produce a virtuous society of citizens. It is time for our leaders, both locally and nationally, to return to a "Nobility of Character" and actively teach (in words and deeds) this to the generations to come. Without the "Nobility of Character" we are seduced "by the Dark Side" of the Temptation of If.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Nobility of Character

Virtue (present character trait of moral excellence) means that we not only accept the rules of morality, but that we understand the reasons for them. As we contemplate our life, we must search (as Aristotle has written) the activity of our soul to find that we are in accordance with a virtuous character, for without we can only become less than noble. To do the right thing regardless of the situation or persons present is virtuous and as such a noble character.

Why present our life in nobility of character? As we develop the habit of a noble character we gain the intellectual "bigger picture" of events and people around us - in short we mature. We put away the itch, the desire, the longing for stuff and search our souls to see beyond ourselves. For it is in our decision to pursue what "ought" to be and not accept what "is" that we gain in maturity. Parents understand this as they raise their children - rules of behavior are required or the home deteriorates into anarchy.

Nobility of Character develops the insight into our purpose by defining our choices - what we "ought" to do becomes what we actually do. This insight into the nobility of character further develops within us a sense of reflection on the activities of soul - we discriminate between proper and improper. Lastly, reflecting on our nobility of character requires us to apply principles of truth, joy, and love into our being - for if we do not procure application we are simply academic.

Without nobility of character a person's soul takes on the loss of ethical behavior - of which we read daily of the embarrassment (a continued reduction of a stable, civilized nation). We need to stop the "spin" (nice word for deception) and start the honor. It has been said that a coward dies a thousand deaths, but a honorable man dies once. As there is always an accounting, we must reflect on our character and activate the nobility.

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2 Corinthians 5:10

Friday, July 23, 2010

What would you do?

If you lived during the fall of the Roman Empire and you knew that the Dark Ages was going to begin in your lifetime, what would you do? If you knew the next 1,000 years (the Dark Ages) were the result of the total abject corruption of the then current Church hierarchy and ancient Roman Empire, what would you do?

I was remembering the blockbuster move “The Book of Eli” starring Danzel Washington released in Jan. 2010. The main character walks across the U.S. with a book as his treasure destined for Alcatraz. His treasure was the Bible in Braille format.

Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:34 NASB).

So what would be your treasure if you knew the Neo-Dark Age (economic catastrophe, nuclear winter, etc.) was rapidly approaching?


Eagle Driver

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

"Revolt against Rationality"

As I am getting ready to fly a late night trip, I watched HLN to get up to speed on what is happening in the US. I was taken aback by the small icon in the lower right corner listing the number of days Lindsey Lohan has been in jail. Then I see the continuing news on Mel Gibson’s troubled meltdown.

What is going on that I need to know the number of days Lindsey is in jail? What is going on that someone on top of the world from the financial to the professional ranks has lost control of themselves? What is the example that is being set for American’s to view?

Back in the 1970s Christopher Lasch wrote a bestseller titled The Culture of Narcissism – American Life in An Age of Diminishing Expectations. In his section on The Eclipse of Achievement, Lasch writes:

“Self-approval depends on public recognition and acclaim, and the quality of this approval has undergone important changes in its own right. The good opinion of friends of friends and neighbors, which formerly informed a man that he had lived a useful life, rested on appreciation of his accomplishments. Today men seek the kind of approval that applauds not their actions but their personal attributes. They wish to be not so much esteemed as admired. They crave not fame but the glamour and excitement of celebrity. They want to be envied rather than respected.” (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1979, pg. 59)

This is the spiritual and moral condition of many in our American society. As James Allen wrote about in his famous treatise on “As A Man Thinketh”, thoughts crystallize into habits which solidify into circumstances. Noble thoughts cannot produce bad fruit.

Or better put: “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit” (Matt. 7:17 NASB).

Mel Gibson’s road must not to be traveled by us or by our children and our road of life can/must be guarded with noble thoughts. Lindsay Lahan’s road is not to be traveled by us or by our children and our road of life can/must be guarded with proper actions not personal popularity. Why? Actions speak loudly. Jesus Christ spoke of the proper actions (not a concept well received today with the new religion of “tolerance”) in John 13:17, “If you know these things [those from prior verses 5-16], you are blessed if you do them” (NASB).

These things: server others, bear good fruit, etc. are mandatory to maintain a civilized society. Lasch concludes with the indictment of, “More than anything else, it is this coexistence of hyper-rationality and a widespread revolt against rationality that justifies the characterization of our twentieth-century way of life as a culture of narcissism” (pg. 248).

The time is now to study and regain a rational lifestyle.


Eagle Driver

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Truth: I got mine, go get yours!

Exciting news today on the truth front: from Shirley Sherrod the ousted USDA official to the “photoshopped “ picture of BP’s Command center, we are inundated with “facts” that have been taken “out of context”. One of “Deception’s” greatest tools is the employment of plausibility, which has inherent the minimizing of truth.

Truth requires first that we know. Knowledge requires study and is NOT gained by being “spoon fed” from the “talking heads” on the TV. Study requires reading varying sources and developing rational thought to understand the issue. Politics is about manipulation of opinions and we must be aware of the barrage of deceptions.

Our English word “truth” comes from the Greek word aletheia: “what is not concealed, but open and known; thence true.” I like that – not concealed. If it is open and known then truth must be an external reality. I like that – external reality, non-subjective.

Employing a rational mind that God has equipped human beings necessitates the realization that there are those who wish to conceal information to propagate their agenda – whether it is “Universal Tolerance” or BP’s current Public Relations gaffe. This “negative of the truth” was written about in Hegel’s Philosophy of Spirit. Glenn W. Campbell wrote an exposition on Hegel in his pamphlet: Ethics – Modern and Contemporary (1996). Glenn writes on page 41:

“If the mind is truly free to choose, it must be truly free to choose wrongly; that is, the negative of the truth… the experience of the negative by the mind leads it to the final presupposition: Maturity. We do really learn from our mistakes. A free mature mind is superior to a free naïve mind.”

Truth is objective, constant, and rational. Truth is knowable and discoverable. We are free to choose to remain in a free naïve mind or develop a mature mind that aggressively seeks the rational, constant truth (non-subjective). BTW Aristotle asked “What is Truth?” Asking the right questions some 300 years before Pontius Pilate asked the same question.

Painting by Antonio Ciserie titled "Ecce Homo" - translated: Behold the Man

Food for Thought
If you are Hungry

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tolerance and Truth – Why can’t we all get along? Answer: Anarchy

Tolerance is defined as “a willingness to be tolerant and patient toward people whose opinions or ways differ from one’s own” (emphasis mine).

An Anarchist is defined as “a person who wants to overthrow established governments and have a world without rulers and laws” (emphasis mine).

To be Civilize is defined as “to bring out of a savage or barbaric condition; train in culture, science and art; to improve in manners; refine” (emphasis mine).

Philosophically, a civilization must be intolerant by definition to some degree. To be civilized, the nation cannot endure savage or barbaric conditions; nor can the nation allow its people to have a world without laws - thus to be a civilized nation it must be intolerant of harmful and unlawful activities. Simple logic constructs the meaninglessness of "Universal Tolerance", unless anarchy is the desired end.

So objective, not relative, principles must be maintained - this is rational, logical in order to connect a civilized society. The preamble of the US Constitution does not contain any wording to the effect of: "I'll do what I want regardless of the consequences to society." Rather it declares a common defined culture:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Intolerance is required and truth must be declared as an objective “measuring stick.” Liberal tolerance within the current culture of America is tolerant of almost everything except truth and is therefore intolerant by definition. This has become an oxymoron. The argument goes: “If I am to be ‘open-minded’ on everything and therefore no one knows the ‘truth’, then there is no reason for me to follow your truth or rules, nor can you declare what I say or do is wrong.” As this argument grows the resulting societal mentality is without rules and laws (objective truth) and thus becomes a society of anarchy.

Therefore, truth is objective, can be discovered, and must be employed for a society to remain civilized. Relativism with its cousin Universal Tolerance can only lead to anarchy - “an absence of a system of government and law; disorder; confusion; lawlessness”.

So, as Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, “What is Truth?”


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What is Truth?

The main character of George Orwell’s famous book, Nineteen Eighty-Four (Plume Printing, New York: 2003) begins with Winston purchasing a book. “The thing that he was about to do was to open a diary. This was not illegal (nothing was illegal, since there were no longer any laws), but if detected it was reasonably certain that it would be punished by death, or at least by twenty-five years in a forced-labor camp.” (pg. 6-7) The three famous sayings throughout the book of the “Party” were:

War is Peace

Freedom is Slavery

Ignorance is Strength (pg. 4)

Beginning his diary entry, we read of Winston’s thoughts about writing: “How could you communicate with the future?” (pg. 7) What are we communicating to the future generation - is there such a thing as truth? Winston begins writing his first truthful thought on to paper: “
Down with Big Brother”. As he is writing, he realizes in that moment of free thought that he had committed a “Thoughtcrime”. As this moment unfolds, Winston recalls the consequence of people who resisted the “Thought Police” in that they “simply disappeared, always during the night. Your name was removed from the registers, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out, your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten.” (pg 18)

I was recently struck by the same question by Pontius Pilate to Jesus during the trumped up trial some 2,000 years ago. “What is Truth?”

In the current stampede to tolerance, I ask myself as a follow up to Pilate’s question: What is Universal/Liberal Tolerance?

I’m told that the movement to a universal tolerance in America is to legislate that
I can do and believe anything I want privately as long as publicly I placate all others. Has our current society replaced truth with a liberal tolerance of no one point is correct? Has George Orwell’s 1984 book become a reality? Remember the opening lines of: “This was not illegal (nothing was illegal, since there were no longer any laws), but if detected it was reasonably certain that it would be punished by death”? Is the objective dead and the relative the new god?

Next blog: expounding on tolerance and truth

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