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The Ways of the Worldviews (Part 5): Classical Greek Philosophy: Stoics, Epicureans, and Cynics…Oh My!

The Ways of the Worldviews (Part 5): Classical Greek Philosophy: Stoics, Epicureans, and Cynics…Oh My!

The philosophy of Plato and Aristotle ended up having a great deal of significance throughout Church history (as we will eventually see). Yet our understanding of the philosophical outlook of the Greco-Roman world would be dreadfully incomplete without at least a few brief words about Stoicism, Epicureanism, and Cynicism. As should be obvious, no society is a philosophical monolith. In fact, every society, no matter how predominant a particular worldview might be, consists of a number of competing worldviews, and most people, in actuality, derive their particular worldview by treating these competing worldview as essentially a smorgasbord, and simply picking and choosing from each one what suits their particular tastes. It is true today just as much as it was 2500 years ago in Greece. That being said, let’s briefly (and I mean briefly!) familiarize ourselves with the three other schools of Greek philosophical thought.

Zeno and the Stoics
ZenoStoicism gained its footing during the Hellenistic period. The philosopher most associated with Stoicism is Zeno of Citium (350-258 BC). At the risk of being too simplistic, Stoicism viewed the natural world as the only reality, governed by an ultimate natural law. Therefore “God,” for the Stoics was essentially nature itself, or more properly, the divine will in nature, which was the natural law—Stoicism was fundamentally pantheistic.

In any case, the Stoics taught that the purpose of man is to live a virtuous life, “virtue” being that which is harmony with nature. Living in harmony with nature took precedence over everything else, even any particular pleasure or desire for that matter. Stoicism meant to simply accept life as it came to you—pain, heartache, tragedy, etc. were all part of the way of nature. The Stoic’s ethical outlook was to accept those things, and live in harmony with them.

Here’s an example: My grandparents were Swedes, and if you know anything about typical Swedes, you know that they are very Stoic in a lot of ways. They never get too down (or if they do, they certainly don’t show it), and they never get too excited (and if they feel excited inside, they certainly don’t show it). They just accept what comes along and keep doing what they’re supposed to do, whether it be raise that family or work that job. You do your duty, and let nothing upset that balance.

Epicurus
Epicureanism was found, not surprisingly, by Epicurus (341-270 BC). If Stoicism taught that the highest good was to live in harmony with nature, Epicureanism taught that the highest good was the pursuit of one’s own personal pleasure and happiness and the elimination of pain. Oftentimes this is misunderstood as pure hedonism, but Epicurus would not have encouraged anyone to just stay in their basement and smoke weed for their entire life, because that “made them happy.” Epicurus, in fact, held wisdom to be the supreme virtue, for the wise man would be able to discern what was truly beneficial or harmful to him. The wise man would reason that a little wine is good for the heart and it brings joy, but an all-night drinking binge would result in a massive hangover, and probably a number of poor decisions in the process. The wise man would reason that it is good to be kind and generous and to work with others, for that would bring about a greater possibility for happiness and pleasure for all

EpicurusNot surprisingly, Epicurus had very little need for “God” or “the gods.” They might exist, Epicurus reasoned, but they have no interest in human affairs. He is the one who first reasoned that if God was willing to prevent evil, but couldn’t, then he was not omnipotent; if God was able to stop evil, but chose not to, then he was malevolent and evil himself; and if he was able and willing to prevent evil, then why is there evil? Simply put, Epicurus was much like an ancient Deist, who gave a cognizant nod to the existence of the gods, but who then really preached that the goal of mankind was “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” (Sound familiar? Did you know that Thomas Jefferson considered himself an Epicurean?)

The Cynics
Diongenes of SinopeThe founder of the school of Cynics was Diogenes of Sinope (400-325 BC). Like the Stoicism and Epicureanism that was to follow Diogenes, he taught that true happiness was to be found in living in harmony with nature. But for Diogenes, the main obstacle to living according to nature was the structures of society itself. Therefore, the Cynics often railed against societal conventions—they were, in fact, some of the first “anti-establishment” anarchists in history. Politicians? Temple priests? The gods to which both politicians and priests made much of? Screw them all! Therefore, the Cynics would often ridicule the political and religious conventions society, and even stage public demonstrations in which they would purposely do vulgar things just to mock the social mores. (Diogenes, for example, would publicly masturbate in the marketplace, and then mock the people who decried it as shameful).

For the Cynics, the “morality” of society was neither reasonable nor in harmony with nature. Nature itself should dictate morality, certainly not society.

Conclusions About Ancient Greek Philosophy
As one can see, the philosophy and culture of ancient Greece has much in common with our modern world. We have our Stoics; we have our Epicureans; and we certainly have our Cynics.

Although the masses undoubtedly cowered in the shadow of the powerful and unpredictable Olympian gods, the educated and the elite of Grecian society debated and philosophized on the existence of the gods, the nature of reality, and what constituted the ethical life. And even though many of the philosophers doubted and ridiculed the existence of the Olympian gods, they nevertheless maintained the social customs involving temple sacrifices, for those customs were not seen as simply “religious.” They were seen as part of the societal fabric that held their culture together. For many of the Greek philosophers, “the gods” might not be real, but religious observances were just good societal traditions that helped the cohesiveness of society.

In that respect, ancient Greek culture was very much like our culture today.  Indeed, this is one of the points I will be making throughout these “Worldview and Western Culture” posts. If you just take a little bit of time to understand some of the basic concepts of philosophy, and if you think about the issues and beliefs that a culture like ancient Greece, you will soon see that many of the issues we are dealing with today are the same issues they were dealing with then, be it political, religious, or moral. And although it might seem tedious to spend time getting a handle on these old philosophers, by the time we get through all this, I believe you will see just how much we can learn from them. Not only that, I also believe you will come to see much more clearly the various contentious and controversial issues that challenge our current society.

In my next post, I will look at ancient Rome.

A Bird’s Eye View of the Posts I’ve Written on Ken Ham This Past Year

A Bird’s Eye View of the Posts I’ve Written on Ken Ham This Past Year

aigTo get ready for the opening of Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter, as well as my self-published book, The Heresy of Ham, I thought I’d provide a post in which I list all the posts I’ve written on Ken Ham over the past year, so that it might be easier to find them. Enjoy…use this as a reference…share it with your friends and loved ones.

(August 8, 2015): Why I am Not Teaching This Year
(August 9, 2015): Ken Ham, Is He Just Wrong, or is He Really a Heretic?
(August 11, 2015): A Cheat Sheet for Understanding the Heresy of Ham
(August 14, 2015): Holy Ham! E.T. is an Atheist!
(August 17, 2015): Ken Ham’s Claims that there’s No Evidence to Support Evolution
(August 18, 2015): The Hermeneutics of Ham, and His Wrong Idea of “Authority”
(August 19, 2015): Ken Ham’s Rejection of John Walton
(August 21-23, 2015): Answers in Genesis vs. Peter Enns (Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3) (Part 4)
(August 24, 2015): My Ultimate Frustration with Ken Ham
(August 31, 2015): Pass the Lightsaber!
(Sept 1, 2015): Ken Ham Takes on Christian Group Gungor
(Sept 5, 2015): Ken Ham Tries to Fry Up Francis Collins
(Sept 17, 2015): Ken Ham, the Bad Magician
(Sept 30, 2015): Ken Ham and the “Traditions of Men”
(Oct 1, 2015): Bible Doctrines for Today, AiG…and Porn?
(Oct 1, 2015): A Brief Rant on Ken Ham
(Oct 9, 2015): Ken Ham Dirties Up Millard Erickson with Pig Slop
(Oct 15, 2015): Ken Ham, BioLogos, and Charles Templeton
(Oct 25, 2015): Ken Ham’s “Seven C’s of History”
(Nov 3, 2015): Ken Ham, Richard Dawkins…and Ben Carson
(Nov 5, 2015): Ken Ham on James McGrath
(Nov 6, 2015): Ken Ham’s Big Ark…Misguided Message
(Nov 11, 2015): Answers in Genesis Attacks NT Wright
(Nov 16, 2015): Irenaeus of Lyon (Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3) (Part 4) (Part 5) (Part 6)
(Nov 22, 2015): Answers in Genesis and the Moon Landing
(Nov 23, 2015): Ken Ham Attacks BioLogos and Tim Keller
(Nov 30, 2015): Answers in Genesis Attacks Karl Giberson (Part 1) (Part 2)
(Dec 16, 2015): Ken Ham vs. Michael Gungor, Round 2
(Dec 19, 2015): Ken Ham’s Impossible Claims About the Flood
(Jan 7, 2016): Ken Ham Answers the Question, “Why Don’t Scientists Accept YEC?”
(Jan 19, 2016): Ken Ham’s Fascination with Virgins, and the Shutting of Doors (Part 1) (Part 2)
(Jan 19, 2016): Ken Ham and Bryan College
(Feb 1, 2016): Ken Ham and the Wonderful World of Twitter (Part 2)
(Feb 20, 2016): Ken Ham’s Got 18 Tweets, and the Truth Ain’t One!
(Feb 22, 2016): Ken Ham…What a Neanderthal!
(Feb 25, 2016): Answers in Genesis, Neanderthals, and the “Creation Model”
(Feb 25, 2016): Answers in Genesis, and the Subterfuge of Andrew Snelling
(Feb 26, 2016): How Answers in Genesis is Really Good at Confusing You
(March 1, 2016): Ken Ham is Coming to Town (Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3)
(April 15, 2016): Ken Ham and Josh Feuerstein…on Twitter
(April 18, 2016): Adventures in YEC Logic
(April 27, 2016): Answers in Genesis Review’s “God’s Not Dead 2”
(May 6, 2016): Ken Ham on Tyler Francke: Does the Creation/Evolution Debate Hurt the Gospel?
(May 9, 2016): Answers in Genesis, Getting “Scientificy” (Part 1) (Part 2)
(May 11, 2016): AiG and Atheists and Billboards: Welcome to Junior High!
(May 28, 2016): AiG, Star Trek…and Khan Ham
(June 2, 2016): Gregory of Nyssa and the Evolution of Man
(June 8, 2016): AiG’s Top Ten Myths about Creation (Part 1) (Part 2)
(June 10, 2016): Does Jesus Eat Ham Sandwiches with Moses?–Ken Ham’s Exegetical Talents at Work

Now For Something Completely Different: MY BOOK ON MY LIFE IN TEACHING! “Getting Schooled”!

Now For Something Completely Different: MY BOOK ON MY LIFE IN TEACHING! “Getting Schooled”!

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I want to take the time to shamelessly promote my self-published book entitled, Getting Schooled: The Lessons, Plans, and Life of a Teacher. It is a collection of humorous stories from my years in education, from student teaching, to my time teaching overseas in the Peace Corps, to my time at three different small Christian schools. If you are a teacher, or if you are someone planning to go into teaching, this book will be a humorous and realistic look at the day to day experience of teaching that all teachers can relate to.

You can purchase it at either createspace or on Amazon. The paperback is $7.99 and the Kindle is $2.99. Here is an excerpt from the book.

Freshmen Elections

My first year of teaching in California almost ended before it really began; at least that is what I thought at the time. Before the school year began, the principal had convinced me to be the one of the advisors for the class of 2001. The principal assured me that the “real work” of being a class advisor didn’t really happen until their junior year, when they had to plan the Junior-Senior prom. As far as the freshman and sophomore years were concerned, all I really had to worry about was electing class officers and assisting the class during “Spirit Week” that took place in late February. “It’s a pretty easy way to make an extra $1000,” he told me. So, for an extra $1000, I held my breath and took the plunge…

…And almost never came back up for air. The event that almost caused me to suffocate and drown was the dreaded freshman class elections at the end of the first week of the 1997-1998 school year. Not only did I almost sink deep into the depths that all first year teachers know all too well within my first week of teaching, I almost dragged down every single student in the freshman class with me.

As every first year teacher knows, there comes a time, normally early on in that first year, when you realize that you have absolutely no control of the situation; that the students have your entire fate as a successful teacher in their hands, and are madly bouncing it around like a rubber ball. And since you are an inexperienced novice of a teacher, you do what comes naturally—you panic…and scream at the top of your lungs, thinking that such an outburst will frighten the unruly mob, only to come face to face with the realization that your outburst just adds to the day’s entertainment.

The fateful day started ominously. We were going to be on a special schedule that would allow one full period for each class to have their elections. The class advisors would run the elections and allow the students who wanted to be class officers to give their speeches. After that, the class would then cast their votes. I had to somehow conduct the elections alone and corral 90 freshmen during class elections in the gym. The equation went something like this: me + 90 freshmen + the school gym + 45 minutes = impending chaos. Picture the students as hurricane Katrina, the school gym as New Orleans, and me as the levees. It would be just a matter of time until the levee was going to break.

The bell rang and the freshmen made their way to the gym. Amazingly enough, within 10 minutes I had actually gotten them seated together on the bleachers. Score one for the new guy! The next challenge would be to make sure the aspiring student officers would stay within the five-minute time limit for their speeches. This would not be a problem at all. In an ironic twist of fate, though, this turned into an even bigger problem.

I don’t know what it is like in most high schools, but it has been my experience with the schools I have taught in that there are not exactly a lot of willing candidates for class officers. First, there is the president (normally 2-3 candidates); second, there is the vice-president (2-3 candidates); then there is the secretary (i.e. the friend of one candidate who got talked into doing it); finally there is the treasurer (another friend who acquiesces to be the treasurer the morning of the election). One might think that this would be ideal; after all, that means about 5-8 speeches. That would mean about 30 minutes of speeches and about 20 minutes for voting—perfect timing! That should take up the full period!

Well, not necessarily. Freshmen speeches for class officer can be categorized in one of three ways. First, there is the typical freshman class speech: “Hi…I’m Mike…uh, you know that….Well, I think it would be cool to be class president cuz…ah, I don’t know…just because. I want to help the school…maybe get more snacks in the cafeteria…and… um…yeah, that’s about it.” WOW! That took all of 45 seconds! How long did this aspiring bureaucrat work on that tremendous feat of oration? Granted, these are freshmen, but you’d think one would come up with something more than more snacks in the cafeteria. Second, there is the speech of the one running unopposed: “Hey, I’m Julia! I’m the only one running for treasurer, so looks like I’m it!” WOW! Ten seconds! That must be some kind of record! And let’s face it, it’s kind of gutsy! After all, even psychotic dictators like Joseph Stalin and Saddam Hussein at least would play along and actually give speeches to at least put forth the illusion of democratic elections.

Finally, there is the speech of that one eager beaver who would talk for the entire period if she could, going on about how she really wants to make this year the best ever, and how she has a laundry list of reforms and proposals that, if the class would get behind, could really make a difference. Unfortunately, it is precisely this kind of student who is not well-liked by most of the class and who doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell to win.

Total those riveting freshman speeches up together, and what you have is a lot of extra time on your hands. In my case, even after I passed out the ballots, had the students cast their votes, and had collected them, I realized that we still had 30 minutes to kill. So, what do you do? I announced to the students that they could sit on the bleachers for the next half hour and talk with their friends until the bell rang. It was at that point that one student raised his hand and asked, “Could we stand up and just walk around in the gym?” I responded, “Sure!” After all, what’s the harm in that? I thought everything would be cool.

Well, it wasn’t cool. What I learned very quickly is that absolutely NOTHING freshmen do is EVER “cool” …or calm…or relaxed. Within the first few minutes, a few freshman boys got into the basketballs and started shooting baskets. Yet within the next few minutes, they had started to play impromptu games of dodge ball with the basketballs. So I went over to them and said, (no, I had to yell a bit, due to the rising decibel level of the freshman noise), “Hey guys! Don’t be throwing the basketballs at each other, okay? I’m not even sure we’re supposed to have them out! So just shoot baskets, or we’ll have to put them away!” Then, since I assumed that they would actually respect my authority, I simply walked back to the other end of the gym to chat with some other students who wanted to hear about my time overseas.

Now, please note a few things about what I said. Virtually everything I told them was wrong. Note first the “okay?”—it doesn’t really evoke “teacher authority” now, does it? It sounds like I’m asking their permission to allow me to tell them to not pelt each other in the head with basketballs. Then, note my second blunder: “I don’t know if we’re supposed to have them out!”  That tells the students, “This guy thinks what we’re doing might be wrong, but isn’t going to do anything about it!” This then plants the thought into their brains, “What else can we get away with?” Finally, I simply walked away, without making sure they actually did what I told…no, politely asked…them to do.

This kind of insight only comes after the kind of experience I endured that day. Five minutes after I walked away, the levee started to break. As I was talking with a few students on the other side of the gym, I happened to look up to see what was going on. By now it had gotten really loud, to the point where I was thinking I needed to tell them they should probably sit down and just talk a little more quietly. To my horror, I saw something I never thought I’d ever see as a teacher: a large group of the freshmen had assembled at the base of the bleachers and had their hands up in the air. They were awaiting the arrival of little Michael Nolf, who had just jumped off from probably the fifth row of the bleachers and who was, at that very moment, flying through the air….getting ready to bodysurf across the gym!

My very first thought screamed through my brain, “I AM SO FIRED!” My very first action was to proceed to scream my head off and possibly do irrevocable damage to not only my vocal chords, but also to the eardrums of the innocent girls who were unfortunate enough to be standing right next to me at the time. Even though we still had about fifteen minutes before the bell rang, I fully intended to keep screaming until the bell rang: “HEY!!!!!! ALRIGHT! EVERYONE GET BACK IN THE BLEACHERS AND SIT DOWN! SIT DOWN! SIT DOWN! GO! GO! GO! RIGHT NOW! SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP! NO TALKING! I MEAN IT!”

The problem with this sort of wild-eyed crazy approach to discipline is that, although it understandably terrifies the more timid and “good” students, it actually backs you into a very small corner—you’ve unloaded your discipline clip and your discipline gun is now empty. And the kids know it!

As I was screaming for all the students to get back in the bleachers, there were a handful of boys who were not intimidated in the least. In fact, they viewed the whole scene as an opportunity for the spotlight, and proceeded to mimic my actions and laugh at how ridiculous I looked. Well, this was something I simply could not tolerate, so I unloaded another salvo of anger: “THIS ISN’T FUNNY! GET BACK IN THE BLEACHERS! SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP!!!” But, as I said before, my discipline gun was out of bullets. Their leader, Marco, was not intimidated at all and aped a few more gestures aimed to humiliate me. And so…. “MARCO! COME HERE!!!” (What was I going to do? I hadn’t thought that far ahead! I was too blind with rage!) “MARCO! GO SIT IN THE CORNER OF THE GYM! GET THAT CHAIR AND FACE THE WALL!”

The reason that was a mistake was that now I had literally given Marco the entire gym floor as a stage. He sat down in the chair next to me, beaming. “NO! OVER IN THE CORNER!” So he started scooting his chair along the gym floor as he remained seated. “GET UP AND WALK OVER THERE!” So he got up and started walking to the corner…. “NO MARCO! TAKE THE CHAIR!” Finally he made his way to the far end of the gym and just continued to make faces when I wasn’t looking. I felt like a helpless fool.

The ironic thing about my horrific baptism into the world of high school elections, though, is that over the course of the next four years, that class and I developed a real bond, and that day eventually achieved iconic status in our collective memory as a class. In fact, the students and I realized it was going to be something memorable by the following Monday. You see, the one thing about that whole event that I did right really was how I handled it after the fact. When those students came back into my class the following Monday, many of them apologized for acting so crazy. I in turn apologized for temporarily morphing into Satan…and then I couldn’t help but crack a smile and laugh.

Soon we were all laughing about it. After all, the whole scene really was funny! A sense of humor goes a long way in teaching. It helps smooth out the rough edges and sooth hurt feelings and potential festering resentment, and in cases like the freshman class elections of 1997, a sense of humor, coupled with a little bit of humility, has the power to transform the panicked thrashings of a first-year teacher drowning in despair into an endearing and fond memory of a miraculous walk on the sea.

In fact, when I e-mailed some of my former students from the class of 2001 for ideas for this book, almost all of them insisted on me telling this story. Make no mistake though, even though I can laugh at it now, at the time I suffered a horrific baptism in the life of teaching. Baptism signifies a death—it is going down in the waters of chaos, and coming up born anew. And on that day of the freshman class elections in the fall of 1997, the levee broke, and prayin’ did me no good. I was going down.

 

Valentine’s Day in America: Sex, Pajama-grams, and…Children?

Valentine’s Day in America: Sex, Pajama-grams, and…Children?

Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching. And, if you have watched any amount of T.V. over the past few weeks, chances are you’ve seen those commercials: “pajama-grams,” “giant teddy bears,” etc. Yes, I know, they’ve been on T.V. for the past few years every Valentine’s Day season. But as I’ve seen them this year, something has occurred to me. Roll your eyes, call me a prude, and say I’m over-reacting, but I really have come to abhor those commercials. I think they reflect something very insidious and perverted in our culture.

VermontTeddyBear

Let’s consider the commercials in question. The “Valentine’s Day pajama-gram” commercial I’ve seen shows a variety of hot and sexy women in what can be called nothing other than an adult version of the full-body sleeper that parents put their young children in. The main difference, of course, is that the “adult pajamas” come in a variety of styles: “midnight fantasy baby doll,” “sexy leopard,” sexy and sweet,” “hot pink lacey chemise,” “red seduction,” “hot lover,” as well as many others.  In the commercial we find grown women writhing around in bed, hugging pillows, and then welcoming their “significant other” to the bed. And, all throughout the commercial, the announcer uses words like “fun, flirty, sexy, like when she was a little girl.” WHAT? Think about what the announcer has just said…

Similarly, there is the “giant teddy bear” commercial. Who has dolls and teddy bears? Children. And why is the man giving his wife/girlfriend a teddy bear? Two reasons—to make her feel like a little girl again…and to get some “hot Valentine’s Day lovin’” later that night! And yes…of course…this is all in the name of “love.”

Are you beginning to see my concern? Not only do such commercials reflect what has become already blindingly obvious in our current American culture—the substitution and mischaracterization of “true love” for “romance and sex”—but more shockingly, “romance and sex” is becoming more and more associated with children. Look at magazines like Rolling Stone and Cosmo: for years they have put 17-18 year old girls on their covers in half-naked, provocative poses. For years, models have been getting younger and younger, thinner and thinner, and more and more resembling children, not adult women.

And now, blatantly put forth in this silly and stupid Valentine’s Day commercials, hot sexy women are displayed in terms of getting turned on when their men dress them up in children’s pajamas and give them teddy bears. These women, in turn, can’t wait to get out of those PJ’s so they can get to some all-night Valentine sex.

I am the only person this bothers? As far as I can tell, there’s a “double whammy” going on here. First, there is the misrepresentation of “love” being nothing more than “romance and sex.” And second, that “romance and sex” is being more and more associated with childhood. We condemn pedophiles, and rightly so, for having sex with children; but then we encourage adults to engage in and act out sexual fantasies involving childhood themes and props. That is incredibly disturbing, but most of us don’t see it, because…gee, those women on those commercials look so hot!

Valentine

Saint Valentine was actually a third century Christian martyr who became associated in the Middle Ages with the tradition of courtly love. Courtly love was a concept in which the man honored a maiden, extolling her virtues, and using his love for her to become a better and more virtuous man.

How did we get to a point in our modern society where we’ve used St. Valentine’s day as an excuse for…pajamagrams and teddy bears?

Christianity in the Modern/Postmodern World

Christianity in the Modern/Postmodern World

***This is a revised version of an early post I wrote for my earlier blog. I think it is still more relevant than ever.

We are certainly living in interesting times. Who could have thought 50, 100, or 150 years ago, for example, that a single man, living in northwest Alabama, could not only type his thoughts out on a machine and then transmit them to a worldwide audience with a press of a button, all without one single sheet of paper? Technology and scientific discovery has rocketed mankind far beyond what the previous ages could have imagined.

These advances in science and technology, though, have had a tremendous effect on religion. In fact, more people in Europe and America are becoming less and less religious, and more and more “secular.” Why has this happened? A standard answer that is given nowadays is that science and evolution somehow “prove” that we are simply evolving away from our primitive religious roots. A simple answer to that is, “No, science and evolution don’t ‘prove’ that. You can’t confuse statements about biology with philosophical assertions.”

Another answer that can be given is that, at least in America, Christianity is becoming more and more irrelevant to people’s lives. Be it the stale redundancy in mainline churches, the adolescent/ADD mentality of the more “hip” and emerging churches, or the glitzy commercialism of the mega-churches, there is just something missing…in all of them.

Nevertheless, I am a Christian. Yet I have come to realize that the only person responsible for my overall maturation and development, be it spiritual, emotional, or intellectual, is me. I cannot rely on anybody else to live my life. And so, in the course of my 45 years of life, as I have searched for truth, meaning, and purpose in life, I have come to the conviction that the claims of Christianity are, in fact, true. This is, though, very discouraging in an ironic way—equal to my conviction that Christianity is true, is the co-equal conviction that, for the most part, the “Christianity” I see in most Evangelical churches in America resides in a shallow grave. Attempts to “make Christianity relevant,” however sincere, seem to amount to nothing more than putting a little more make-up on the face, and a little more embalming fluid in the veins, of a corpse.

The essential Christian hope is that of a future resurrection of all creation. The basis for this hope is the resurrection of Jesus Christ—that is the central claim of Christianity. Unfortunately, most churches resemble the night of the living dead, and not a community living out the resurrection life that Christ promised to his followers. Now please note, I have met plenty of individual Christians who are, in fact, living out a resurrection life—they are sincere, thoughtful, rational, inquisitive, and are truly seeking after the truth. For some reason, though, get these vibrant believers in a typical church service, and all the life goes out of them. Why is that? Well, that is a question for another day…

Let’s face it, we are living in a new world—modernism has been the predominant worldview for the past 250 years, and currently we are experiencing what some call a “postmodern” turn. Simply put, postmodernism can be summed up as this: it looks at all the utopian promises that modernism has made of a brave new world, and it has given it the middle finger. Nothing demonstrates this as vividly as Green Day’s song, “Mass Hysteria/Modern World.” Without quoting the entire song, I will just quote a few lines:

I can hear the sound of a beating heart that bleeds beyond a system that’s falling apart

With money to burn on a minimum wage, ‘Cause I don’t give a shit about the modern age

I don’t want to live in the modern world

The challenge for anyone today is how to navigate between the “prophecies and proclamations” of sages of modernism that still hold the seats of power in today’s world and the rising rhetoric and revolution of postmodernism. And the scary thing is that some of these “modernistic sages” do, in fact, have positions of power in many churches. They’re saying the name of Christ, but they really are preaching a modernistic gospel from an Enlightenment worldview. If you’re asking, “What does that mean?” Well, keep coming back to the blog—we’ll tease that out over time.

True Christianity is neither “modern” nor “postmodern.” True Christianity is life—resurrection life. And the only way to live it is to first put to death the idols of our age that we find ourselves wanting to bow down to every day. They could be the “idols” of pop culture and the vulgarization and oversexualization of the human being, be it on TV, music videos, or the movies. They could be the “idols” of the political Left, beholden to such a progressive ideology that actually finds itself defending the practice of harvesting aborted baby organs and then selling them to the highest bidder. They could also be the “idols” of ultra-fundamentalist Evangelicalism, beholden to a literalistic (and ironically anti-biblical) interpretation of the Bible that says if you don’t believe the entire universe is 6,000 years old then you are “subverting God’s Word,” when in reality you are simply saying a man like Ken Ham is wrong.

All of these ideologies and idols, in fact, distract us from the real spiritual journey God is calling us to. You don’t have to think about the state of your soul when you’re too busy looking at bikini pics of Kendell Jenner. You don’t have to bother with picking up your cross when you’re too busy watching MSNBC and parroting the rantings of yet another Leftist website. And you certainly don’t have to think about what it actually means to be created in God’s image, when you’re obsessing over trying to prove that Adam and Eve had a pet stegosaurus.

That is why I’m starting this blog. It is my attempt to articulate a truly Christian worldview in the midst of the ongoing host of issues that rise up and challenge us every day. I will state my views in the hope that others will respond with their views, and hopefully, through a sincere, relentless, and respectful search for truth, our dialogue can help resurrect a true Christian Orthodoxy that can live, breath, and work throughout our world.

And so it begins….

And so it begins….

Welcome to the inaugural post to my blog, Resurrecting Orthodoxy.

Six years ago, while I was still a teacher at a small Christian school, I had started a blog entitled Resurrected Orthodoxy, in which I hoped to write on how Christianity speaks to various issues that confront our society today. The reason why I started the blog was because I was a Worldview teacher, and it was my job to not only teach Bible classes, but to also introduce my students to the basics of Church history and the flow of Western cultural and philosophical thought, so that they would be in a better position to understand and address societal issues today.

In the course of those six years, I learned quite a lot by writing that blog. Nevertheless, due to a number of hardships that I have gone through, this past January I felt it was time to close down that blog. It had run its course.

It has now been seven months, and I am going to give it another go. I’ve changed the name of my blog, though, from Resurrected Orthodoxy to Resurrecting Orthodoxy. The reason for the change is something that hopefully will become evident in the course of my posts. For now, I’ll just say this. “Resurrected” implies that the hard part is over; it implies almost a sort of triumphalism. Well, the truth is that although Christ has conquered death, I haven’t yet. Therefore, “Resurrecting” speaks more to the process and journey that entails salvation. God has given me life, and I must find a way to live it out in the midst of a world where not only physical death is inevitable, but where we witness the death of dreams every day. It’s hard, because we are called to follow Christ while our wounds are still fresh. This blog is going to be my attempt to walk that journey once again.

Orthodoxy?

Although I am officially a member of the Orthodox Church, when I speak of “Orthodoxy,” I am not simply referring to Eastern Orthodoxy. I am referring to the fundamentals of the Christian faith that all Christians, regardless of their denomination, share. If you will, I am referring to the fundamental worldview of Christianity that has been there throughout Church history.

I grew up in the Assemblies of God church, and have been a Christian my entire life. The thing about growing up Assemblies of God, though, is that when it comes to Church history, there is nothing. I knew absolutely nothing about the history of the Church. Consequently, as I was growing up there were a number of things I heard in sermons and in youth groups that, for some reason I couldn’t explain, just didn’t seem right…but I had no frame of reference to articulate what seemed off, and certainly no context to even begin to gain clarity.

It was the summer after my junior year in high school that I picked up Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer. My real Christian journey had begun. I eventually found my way to the Orthodox Church. I remember the first time I set foot in an Orthodox service, a voice in my head said, “This is home.”

The interesting thing, though, is that once I became Orthodox, I actually felt more at ease and “at home” in other churches as well. To be honest, I never felt “at home” in church while I was growing up, because something was missing—it was, as I now know, a basic understanding of the Church. Why Assemblies of God? Why Baptist? Why Lutheran? Why Catholic? What’s the difference? I simply didn’t know or understand, and that lack of understanding what the Church was caused me to not really feeling at home in any particular church.

In addition, I simply had a lot of questions about my faith, about the Bible, and about how I was supposed to live my life. But the thing was, as I suspect is the case with many Christians, all the answers I was given seemed pretty superficial and shallow: “You just gotta believe, even though you can’t prove it;” “Read your Bible every day, it’s God’s Word;” “Be a good person: don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t have sex until marriage.”

Sadly, doesn’t that more or less sum up the majority of what an Evangelical Christian kid is taught growing up? Does that really encompass all of Christianity, really? Of course not…but sadly, that’s the extent of what most churches seem to offer. Yes, that’s an over-generalization, but I hope you get my point.

That being said, my Christian journey has not only led me to Eastern Orthodoxy, but it has also led to me to many writers and thinkers across the spectrum of Christianity who have influenced me tremendously. They have enriched my faith and challenged me on a number of levels. And in doing so, they have given me a much better understanding of not only the Christian faith, but also of the world today.

My Christian faith, my resurrecting orthodoxy, cannot be compartmentalized into a separate sphere of “religious belief.” It is not “sacred,” as opposed to “secular,” because I’ve come to realize that everything, even the secular, can be made sacred when offered up to God. It informs my political leanings, although it should never be confused with politics. It helps me see the beauty of truth in all types of art, music, and literature. It challenges me and sharpens my mind as I study the Bible, theology, and philosophy. And all of that—all of it—make up my life, and I hope my life bears witness to the reality of the resurrecting orthodoxy of the Christian faith.

The Scope of Resurrecting Orthodoxy

Now what does that all mean? I’m not entirely sure! All I know is that I have to share, I have to speak of what I know…and hopefully that will strike a chord with others.

What I will cover in this blog is a variety of topics. I will share posts on Spirituality and Biblical Studies, as well as posts on Literature and Poetry. I will occasionally share my thoughts on modern culture and political issues, and I will also try to give some book reviews of some of the most influential books I’ve read in my life. Occasionally, I will go back in my Resurrected Orthodoxy vault, and re-post something from my previous blog, no doubt with revisions.

I also want to have an open forum, and answer any questions you may have about the Bible, Christianity, or current events. I want this to be a place where you can come to get intellectually challenged and spiritually enriched.

If that sounds intriguing, follow my blog, leave comments, and tell others. If that sounds like it might be a bit dull, all I can say is that if you could ever speak to any of my students over the years, they will testify to the fact that my classes were not boring! I do not intend for this blog to be boring either.

So please, make this blog a regular stop in your internet travels. I intend to post something 2-4 times a week.

Joel

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