Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Can we lose our humanity through technology?

I really enjoyed this talk by Father Thomas Hopko that he gave a while back at St Elijah in Oklahoma City.  He really brings up some powerful questions for me concerning what it means to be human, and how allowing technology to augment us too drastically may threaten our humanity.  His point of view on the end times isn't that things will get "worse" in the way that most people consider it, his suggestion is that people will cease to be human as we try to engineer away every aspect of our humanity that we don't find appealing, yet somehow still attempt to call it Christianity.  The verse came to mind "My strength is made perfect in weakness", meaning that at some point I may have to say no to some awesome technology and remain weak, so that I am purposefully human, weak and dependent on God.  Not to eschew technology as something evil, but to do so to purposefully guard my reliance upon God as something sacred.

I think there is a ethical and even a biological element to consider to all of this as well.  It is wonderful that we live in an age that I can learn to do almost any task by simply youtubing it and mimicking the instructor.  The learning curve for so many things has drastically been shortened because of technology, however I can't help but to wonder if we aren't missing out on some other aspects of life that may be just as important, the chaos, uncertainty, and humility that is found when you have to figure something out all on your own, or even depend on some time in prayer to seek the answers.

In what way are we affecting brain development if our brains never experience the terror of that abyss called the unknown?  The humiliating aspect of learning something new?  That place where we find ourselves reaching out to others and even to God for answers as we try to solve a complicated problem?  If technology allows us to overcome that, and we grow accustomed to not having to experience it, will we even endeavor to take on challenges that haven't already been conquered and figured out by someone else?  Will we even be physically capable of challenging the status quo to seek something better?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Plenty of Hope

I'm not an expert, nor am I a Muslim. And I'm not trying to be disrespectful of anyone. And maybe I have it all wrong, and if I do, please chime in and educate me. But it seems to me that the thing about Islam is that in some ways it can change. Not the religion or the scripture itself, but in how it is carried out and understood by it's believers. Their approach to their scripture is not the same as the approach of other religions, particularly not that of Western Christianity (which, by the way, has a different approach to scripture than much of the rest of Christianity).
From my understanding, there is no apostolic (obviously) understanding that is passed from generation to generation, but instead, a deference to scholars and thinkers who can apply the message of the Koran to their current context. There is no central authority, but instead a general consensus that develops over time, obviously with outliers.
In many ways this is like the Post Reformation Christian handling of the Christian Scriptures in their rejection of the Roman Church . The differences being in the vestiges of interpretation that are left from the pre-reformed and ancient times (the great Church Councils, etc) that most all of modern Christianity accepts as authoritative by default, even while implicitly rejecting the actual authority of those bodies of believers (but I digress). The point is that modern reformed Christianity also claims to have no central earthly authority and defers to a consensus of scholars (theologians, authors, etc) to ascertain meaning that is, over time, unofficially accepted by general consensus, and also with its fair share of outliers.
Now, from the stand point of holding to a true interpretation of Scripture, I would say that overall this is not really a good thing for Christianity and has lead to many problems, as the Church's tradition helps to protect the context and original meaning of what was written, and departing from that authority is what opens the doors to heresies. Particularly this method threatens the actual gospel and our definite understanding of the person of Christ (which were some of the primary concerns of the early Church councils).
However, when speaking of Islam, and again, me not being a Muslim, I would say that the way in which I understand their method of interpretation leads me to have great hope, because the consensus seems to be building toward an Islam that marginalizes the violent sects, focuses on the love and forgiveness of God, and encourages believers to act in charity and good will toward their fellow man.
If this is the case then one can imagine that there is plenty of opportunity and even theological basis for Muslims and Christians and people who believe in peaceful philosophies of life to come together and really explore the differences that they have and the similarities that they share and to do so with mutual respect. I would think that people of every religion would see this as the ultimate opportunity for evangelism.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

A wink and a nod.

Personally and as an Orthodox Christian, I can't seem to justify homosexual behavior. I have been reading and considering a lot from all sides and the arguments are compelling, however I can't let go of the idea that our physical nature as human beings is heterosexual, and spiritually our union is a picture of Christ and the Church, not only in a sense of sacrificial love, but also in the creative sense of how the words of our marriage covenant become flesh through childbearing, in a like way that Christ became flesh by means of God's covenant with mankind.

That being said I cannot help but to empathize with those who are homosexual.  I cannot imagine the struggle it must be, particularly in our culture.  The standard counsel given to homosexual Christians seems to simply be that they must be chaste from sex.  And I agree with this, theologically, however I also shudder.  It's a burden that almost all heterosexuals could not and do not bear, even the most pious being able to flee to marriage and safely contain their passions.  However, it seems that for the homosexual, in most Christian circles, including my own, that is not a possibility, and I understand and agree with it, while I still lament it.

It seems so reasonable to me for a Christian homosexual to be able to also flee to a committed relationship to contain their own passions and also enjoy the other fruits of such a bond.  In many ways I can truly see how God could be glorified in their commitment to Christ and to each other and in their desire to honor each other and to contain their sexual passions within that commitment.  

This may seem strange, but I am heartbroken that I cannot fully join them them in rejoicing in such a covenant.  I can't because I can't deny our human nature.  Not our human nature to love or the admirable qualities of commitment, I'm simply speaking of our actual and ideal physical nature, that we were created as male and female.

I'm saying this to say that I won't be advocating for Christian Churches to recognize homosexual marriage, because I don't believe it is appropriate.  However, there is a big part of my heart that is happy that there are Churches who are willing to see this differently than I do, and provide gay couples, as couples, a place to seek the same grace and mercy that I seek daily from Christ.  I cannot support it, but by grace, and seeking God's mercy, I applaud it. I at least can give it a wink and a nod.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Thank God for Sinners

Do you know the kind of people I like to be around?  Moderately honest sinners.  They're the best.  They're people just being who they are, trying for happiness, trying to extract meaning from life.  Sometimes they'll lie about it, but you can always tell, and you're glad for it.  They're sinners, they know it.  "Sin" just means to miss the mark, but the impressive thing is that they're taking a shot at it.  Some of them are atheists and Christian and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and I'm sure there are others too.  They're straight and gay, single, married, divorced.  Some are rich, some are poor.  Some are really nice and a lot of fun, some are real jerks and total bores.  Every once in a while they'll try on the suit of a prefabricated persona, just for a break from the chore it is to discover their own, but you can always tell that it doesn't quite fit, and you appreciate them for it.  They can't even do that right, thank God.  Somehow we've been convinced to applaud the story book successes and then we use them to measure our own happiness.  But I've changed my perspective and have come to see that the sinners and strugglers really show us the glory of what it is to be human and how precious is a person with personal passions and heart longing for happiness and purpose.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Privacy as a commodity

I've been listening to KUCO lately, the classical station.  I like the music, but I also like the little history lessons that they throw in between songs.  So many of the great composers seem to have spent some time being employed in the courts of royalty.  

It got me to thinking about how music is such a commodity today, everyone has access to almost any kind of music instantly with little or no cost.  In the past only Kings could afford music on demand, and this came at great expense.  The peasants had to settle for what they could come up with on their own, and anything with any level of orchestration and instrumentation had to be heard at Church or at a state function.  

This is what the free market and technology does.  It takes the things that are desired by all but only attainable by the rich and privileged and makes them available to everyone.  Music, books, food out of season, travel, hygiene, entertainment; all of these things are now commodities to all but the very poorest of people, but they used to be the exclusive property of royalty.  

Look at what the "royals" of today enjoy that is out of the reach of the masses, and you can bet that technology and industry is trending to equalize that disparity.  I predict that the next luxury soon to be commoditized by technology and the marketplace will be on-demand personal privacy.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The cost of freedom is suffering, even for God.

God created us to be free and that had to include the possibility of sin. If every time we abused our freedom and sinned and hurt each other, God intervened and stopped it, we would no longer be free (and we'd probably complain about that too). Yet his response to our condemnation of Him for the atrocities he allowed in our freedom is profound. Not only does he have mercy and forgive, but he also takes the sin upon himself. This not only reconciles us to him, but also to each other. Because it would not be enough simply to forgive the rapist, because where is the justice for the victim? The rapists might be reconciled to God, but now the rapist's victim is not only still embittered against the rapist, but now also against God. 

So, since God's mercy is effective, when he looks upon a sinner and makes a judgement of righteousness upon them, then he necessarily takes the responsibility for their sin upon himself. Just as if a human judge declared an obviously guilty person innocent and let him go free, would not the victim now accuse the judge of a crime? Would the judge not now be culpable for the crime of the person he had mercy on? With God His judgement it is actually effective, meaning if he judges you innocent you are innocent, and naturally, to all those you have victimized, your sin necessarily and totally now falls upon God. 

So by God having mercy on sinners, the victims of those sinners now blame God. But what are we going to do? Crucify Him for it? 

There is a reason why Christ is the Judge of mankind, because he is also the one who is willing to take our sin upon himself, by means of his mercy. It is simple enough for Him to simply forgive our sins against Him, it is another thing all together for him to forgive our injustices against each other and for us to still be able to call him just. But as it is, He is both just, and the justifier of those who believe in Him.

The cost of our freedom is suffering, even for God.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Habitual Rededicaters

When I was a pastor and just growing up I remember at church, when we'd have the invitation and people would come down the isle to get saved, there were many times where the same people would repeatedly make the trip every few weeks if not every week.  We called it "rededication" or something, and repeat rededicaters would inevitably get an eye roll, at least an internal eye roll, if not an actual one.

I mean, you're already saved, why do you have to keep on coming back and doing it over and over again?  Part of me questioned their faith, but ultimately I questioned my own faith too, I rededicated several times growing up.

Heck, I was baptized three times, I guess I was a habitual rededicater too, I probably even got some eye rolls.  It wasn't until I considered and participated in the Orthodox sacrament of confession that I realized what was happening.  

The rededicaters were really seeking confession, but the their tradition didn't really provide for it, so walking the isle and getting saved again was the closest thing they could figure out.  

I'm thankful for the wisdom of the Church in providing for a sacrament that I can regularly participate in to confess my sin.  I've always known I needed it, I just didn't know really what to do until now.