Category: Philosophy

The Alter Call of Cthulhu

I just saw a film version of HP Lovecraft’s classic tale. HP Lovecraft’s vision of Horror as a feature of the human predicament in the cosmos is a combination of Edgar Allen Poe, Herbert Spencer, and Soren Kierkegaard.

Film Reference: “The Call of Cthulhu

This tale is simply the secularization narrative of the Enlightenment but with special attention given to humanity’s denial of death. The only mercy for Lovecraft is the limits to science that allow us to avoid for awhile putting the various sciences together to yield the conclusion that the laws of the universe will eventually wipe away all of humanity and it’s achievements. The Demi-Alien Cthulhu represents the ad hoc ness of mankind in natural history and it’s meaninglessness.

But Lovecraft is no Russell facing despair in a pretense of virtue, he sees this fact as intolerable to humans drawing them either to reverse the successes of science or using it without sanity, proving that there is no successful coping mechanism for final death. This made his approach to capturing cosmic and existential horror – a worldview of horror and an eschatological kingdom of horror – utterly fascinating compared to other horror takes. Lovecraft is preaching through parables.

Ernest Becker considered this feature – the denial of death (in a study with that as a title) – to be the fundamental psychoanalytic dynamic. Neurotic functioning developed principally in the individual’s degree of success in avoiding reflecting on the significance of his own death. His complement to Christianity was that it’s Gospel made recognition of death a necessary condition for obtaining true happiness.

The Christian worldview does so by agreeing with Lovecraft as much as it disagrees with him. The world does display causes of wonder that seem to transcend mere concatenations of particles that serve as signposts to the divine, humans in particular. But these divine features are at the mercy of the regular mechanisms of the machine of nature which produces storm and quake showing neither malice or pity. Pascal captures this by saying that man, though but a reed crushed by the universe, is still greater than the universe that crushes it because man is a reed which thinks.

But Christianity explains this by saying that while the world is both beautiful and terrible, this is because the world is not mankind’s normal home. The abnormality of man’s relation to the world is further said to be accidental based on events in the archaic past, and reversible, based on events that take place in an eschatological new age. But the plausibility of these inaccessible events are groined in the accessible historical experiences of the original Israel which came into existence by prophetic revelation and miraculous intervention, and which recapitulated the same conditions that led to the distortion of all humanity.

From her history we learn of an original covenant made with the original couple in a privileged place made for them, but which they broke and thus were condemned to this natural world. But also from the specific grants given to the families and rulers of Israel, we learn that God had promised humanity from the beginning that there would be hope based on God’s future provision and thus to live by faith until then. This was also accomplished in accessible history in the ministry, life, death, and resurrection of one Jesus Christ according to the promises made to Israel and attested by eyewitnesses. Because all are invited to join with God in his free promises of mercy in a new covenant we may look forward to a day when the oddness of humanities cosmic location will be overcome.

All this comes to the world like a signal from space from an alien race, but a much different one than the Thule Mythos, announcing the news that redemption is there if you want it. Good news is strange to a Lovecraft-like world. But that may not necessarily make it incredible. After all, even the point of Lovecraft’s fiction is still a surmise but Christianity is reconstructable news from its sources. Even if we must be skeptics about whether Lovecraft or the historic church is right, we may still be confronted with meaningful option to believe and hope in the offered Christ.

In this way, we understand how Christianity makes facing the existential threat a condition of happiness. Christ makes science with sanity possible in a Lovecraftian universe and Cthulhu turns out to be an accidental evangelist.



Had an interesting talk with a student on comparing short snippets from Sextus Empiricus and Lorraine Code. We suggested that skepticism is to the individual person what relativism is to society, a reversal of Plato’s republic in one respect. Just as in the individual, the cultivation of suspended judgment through personal inquiry leads to the cessation of perplexity, so the cultivation of relativism through public education leads to social tolerance (apathy). There is an important sense in which we have not fallen all that far from pre-modern thought, except Socratic pre-modern thought.

Society is making an existential leap by gambling that inquiry and education based on it will always be able to maintain or recover the indifferent equilibrium of “tolerance”, in as much proportion to the Socratic leap by gambling that absolute truth is out there and can be discovered. It must calculate the balance of value differently between risk of losing ultimate truth and final happiness by ignoring them and the exquisite unpleasantness of indefinitely prolonged perplexity and the humiliation of the surrender of intellectual self-sufficiency.

But tolerance won on these terms and based itself on the gamble for suspended judgment. If someone tries to argue in behalf of the Socratic spirit, the neo-skeptics will argue that the project of classical foundationalism proved a failure, denying any possibility of finding Truth even if it existed, and that since then science has made the prospect of Big T Truth even less likely. Still, would neo-skeptics consider seriously and sympathetically promoting the study of the grounds that call evolution and materialism into question or even the skeptical commitment to indifference itself. It turns out that commitment to indifference is taking a side after all. Consequently one group that cannot be tolerated are Socratic revivalists.

But Socratic revivalists can tolerate skeptics since, for revivalists, tolerance is not contingent on a belief state but a practical virtue to be cultivated, an accepting of folks you disagree with even though you think you are right and they are wrong. The Socratic raw confidence in the intellect that starts with wonder rather than doubt and takes an innocent until proven guilty policy on the intellect is orthoganal to classical foundationalism which was adopted in the first place to oppose the Socratic approach. Also, the value of obtaining even a shadow of the Truth is so high that is able to compensate for the additional riskiness of the pursuit.

The Socratic approach remains a live option for human beings. But the Neo-skeptic cannot tolerate that Socratic for long and must eventually impose his relativism on all. Thus, even contemporary followers of Socrates may share his fate.

The end of the debate:

It appears yet again that we are supposed to think that the debates over the great philosophical and moral questions have been settled. This article on Virginia campaigns expresses on behalf of Cato a presumptive commitment to contractual relativism. Without my making any surmised about the real quality of the candidates in question – they really may be bigoted and insane – still the arguments given for this are extremely specious and question begging.

That racists, nationalists, and anti-Semites may appeal to the same language (“intrinsic ends”, “natural law”) as objectors to same sex marriage does not show that there is no legitimate applications for natural law theory. One can mistake (even deliberately culpably mistake) the meaning and application of natural law theory, especially since their is more than one interpretation of it (Aquinas, Hobbes, Grisez). That such disagreements are possible strongly supports the intelligibility and prima facie plausibility of the view. Comparisons with Nazis are not sufficient evidence especially given how natural law was used against state powers to protect the rights of South American native peoples against exploitation in the 18th century.

Also, while those cited may certainly show ignorance in formulating and justifying an etiology of homosexuality on a psychoanalytic approach, that project has been taken up by more learned and competent hands as anyone looking at the history of the debate over including homosexuality in the diagnostic manual and at the credentials of the members of NARTH can testify. The psychoanalytic case is as adequate here as anywhere else.

Even if one dumps etiology for the more empirically attested research and therapy approaches, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, we find that they are indifferent to genetic as well as psychodynamic causes and basically place the decision to be a homosexual well within the clients own choice so there is no practical import to being “born homosexual”. Homosexuality remains a moral choice of identity, and may be questioned on moral grounds.

The question is begged on both moral and psychological areas, but the position is still presented as settled true. But such great questions remain aporetic and everyone necessarily has a right to their own opinion, not just in private but also in public.

Psychologically, convictions are efficiently formed as a basis for action in virtue of the individual’s own set of intuitions and plausibility structure. Even the skeptic of any moral prescription except keeping one’s contract has a set of assumptions that she is making a studied effort to conserve through argument and practical reasoning. But all do this with different plausibility structures. While some fail the test of time and change, strongly alternative accounts remain. As such, anyone of them may be rationally held such that no one ought to be socially condemned for holding them. Rather the hope for progress in views lies in preserving the right to express them, as our enlightened Founders concluded.

And contrary to the counter-bombast here from Cato, the position that marriage and family is an institution of natural intrinsic ends that can be characterized as proper functioning is one those views. The defense of marriage is about preserving marriage in that sense while allowing people who disagree to see marriage as a brute social contract to act accordingly.

But just as human rights do not imply a right to join any group you want, just as no one has a right to serve in the military or be a leader of a Moslem Student Group if you are Jewish, homosexuals do not have a right to enter into bonds of traditional marriage. They may form the kinds of institutions or contracts their own views oblige them to.

This kind of pluralism is founded on the presumption that there is greater resolution in the future, it gambles on the possibility of further enlightenment. This leaves all lines of communication open. But skepticism and relativism is necessarily committed in practice to work to support the claim that their is no ultimate truth whatever evidence may suggest otherwise. Thus, it constantly acts efficiently in the supposition that claims to intrinsic ends and such must need be self-preferential fictions and therefore bigotry. But the real bigotry is in the soft prejudice of moral skepticism as we can see here.

Polyamory and Happiness

The Love that calls for marriage.

I read a piece recently that argued polyamory as being superior to traditional marriage because it tended to result in better character in those participating in it. Traditional marriage breads jealousy and thus hostility and violence. This happens when a spouse has relations outside of marriage. But if this happens in polyamory, this doesn’t happen since the point of polyamory is complete openness to experience sexually with others. In fact, instead of jealousy, the partner feels happiness in the other’s success sexually. Rather than tending to violence, sex with other people tends to happiness in the case of the partner.

The problem with this view is that it overlooks the case where the partner does not have relations with anyone else. In the case of the polyamorous partner, she must be required to be sad for her dedicated partner for not succeeding with others but not only that she must at all times realize that she has no special claim to any of her partners’ affections nor they to hers. Polyamory instills an imperative to be open to providing “benefits” with many partners. She’s not even to be dedicated to certain sets of partners. Polyamory tends to a kind of ubiquity of relations to the point where e en friendship is irrelevant. But a traditional marriage understands that partners are partners because they have been chosen. Not only that but chosen with lifelong dedication. Marriage traditionally conceived is an exclusive covenant and promise. When one says “I do”, one sets a precedent against predictable future discounting and this assures the partner that right now when and while one is right minded and whole hearted one dedicates to their partner for all of life. This is a kind of precious love. Conjugal family creation specifically calls for covenantal love and thus traditional marriage.

Polyamorous arrangements assume no effort will be made to prevent discounting the future and that everyone involved will simply follow the mood at the time. The aim is to avoid sabotaging the heat of the moment and to mitigate the need to sublimate the libido. In polyamorous agreements, persons volunteer to be mere means. This is not as readily seen as it is in the case of slavery or Old Mormon style polygamy where the man is a kind of king and his wives are like his retainers. In polyamory however you have a kind of original position where several people contract to exchange sexual benefits with each other in the future. This is to grant each other property in the other’s bodies but only, though not necessarily exclusively, for pleasure.

So polyamory is only finding a happiness in another’s increased utility, like when a friend wins at Lotto. It’s not violent but also not much since the ends obtained come and go. But the anger that goes with infidelity is righteous indignation and need not be brute violence. On the other hand, there is no sense of dedicated love in polyamory and polyamory would resist and discourage such love by requiring infidelity to justify the lifestyle. Further, polyamory includes no provision for children. It would have to make special provisions if children are had or desired that would either compromise polyamory or compromise children. This could include sterilization or abortion, so polyamory is not necessarily without it’s violence.

The oceanic pleasure of the experience machine of polyamory that constitutes it’s “spirituality” is certainly spiritual in the original paganism of the human race. But in the spirituality of western theism the model of religion is marriage. God’s people are a “chosen people”, his prized possession, the apple of his eye. And he is a “jealous God”. In paganism the people find useful deities, but God says, “You did not choose me. I chose you.” God makes a covenant with his people and they are thus identified with each other. God’s love is unconditional but still exclusive. This is the difference between Eros and Agape.

Here at the me, I an celebrating “French Gay (Touquivillian) Atheist Day”, having a burger with French Gay Atheist Fries and so on. What could drive an Anglophillic Straight Theist to such festivities? It is to honor those gay atheists in France today who are marching with the opponents of the government’s attempt to push gay marriage. Not only this, but their arguments are stunningly perspicuous and compelling moral reasons that put many Americans to shame for there lack of clarity. Such stunning moral perspicacity from such persons runs counter to the narrative about them in Christian circles. One could say that they are deeply beholden in theory and disposition to the excellent social reasoning in their Catholic backgrounds. But this in no way dims their excellent arguments.

Putting various reports together the argument they give can be compellingly and efficiently given.

(1) The rights of the child trump the rights to a child.
(2) Every child has a right to have both it’s mother and father.
(3) Thus the state has a duty to see to it that the child has it’s father and mother.
(4) Gay marriage will not see to it that the child has it’s own father and mother even allowing for adoption.
(5) Thus, the state has no duty to support gay marriage over normal marriage.

I don’t care to consider the whole argument now but I do want to look at parts of it. Clearly the notion of right in the first phrase of (1) and in (2) is that of a natural liberty right prior to state and legislation design. The “right” in the second phrase (1), in cases not involving the children that parents have by birthing them, refers to positive “rights” that are creatures of legislation, such as adopting. Also, (1) and (2) are synthetic a priori moral truths, given the properties of natural rights.

While this last bit will no doubt be challenged, I simply give my best sweeping “consult the literature” arm wave and move on. One interesting implication of natural rights of children is that they illustrate an implication of natural rights, namely that they imply duties not only contemporary with the person but before the person exists. If a person P has a natural right at a time T then others have the duty to secure P’s rights not only at T but prior to T. If children have a natural right to a mother and father we need to secure that right insofar as we have anything to do with that outcome even before the child exists. Every child that is going to exist has the right.

If this is true of the natural right to a mother and father, it is also true of another natural right: the right to life. Children have a right to life that trumps the right to get or not get children. If a a child is going to exist we have the duty to protect that future life. This implies a prima facie duty to protect life from conception. If there is a conceptus there will be a child with a right to life. We can prevent the existence of a child with a right to life by terminating the embryo but this is exactly what is forbidden by the future child’s right to life, the future child whose existence has been rendered disposed to happen by the existence of the conceptus.

Thus (1) is an axiom that makes clear the duties regarding marriage and childbirth, two of the many contended areas of social concerns. No doubt it has bearing of freedom of religious expression but we will leave that as an exercise. But we do owe French Gay Atheist marriage advocates and major debt. Happy French Gay Atheist day.

Does Jesus need to be forgiven?

Morrisey, lead singer of the alternative group “the Smiths” and outspoken homosexual and gay activist, sings to Jesus that he has forgiven Jesus, no doubt for being a moral monster fir making the unreasonable and thus malicious claim that there is something worthy of damnation about the homosexual lifestyle. This shows that Morrisey is the better person. But one could understand if one should rather tell Jesus to go to Hell himself for such an inhuman and arbitrary opinion. Morrisey is thus being more gracious than need be and more than perhaps most of us would care to be, the true embodiment of grace in thus conversation. Meanwhile, Jesus has proven to be a failure as a moral teacher and psychologically unstable for his homophobia. At best, Jesus is a figure that failed to perfectly rise above his own time and place in the ancient past and thus his life is best unregarded by us today. The same could be said of Jesus’ book, the Bible, to which Jesus gladly submits as authoritatively teaching right and wrong, including on issues like the condemnation of homosexuality and approval of ritual blood sacrifice. It’s fine as a quaint artifact but it’s continued use in public ceremonies such as swearing an oath of presidential office can no longer by tolerated as a custom but rejected lest we imply any condoning if it as a moral guide to justice.

Even the presuppositions of Jesus and the Bible are positively obstructive. Even in the recent past we may have had tolerate religious customs and bizarre comments about science and public policy by yahoos claiming only the authority of the Bible on their side, just from their numbers and previous status as citizens. But we are now at the point where we can simply push all this nonsense away and build more sound culture based on proper science and pragmatic policy. We should not be ashamed to openly legislate against this but rather be ashamed that we let the moral monsters of the Judeo-Christian tradition survive another day.

This speech characterizes the point of view of our society and our mission field in the West as Christians. We no longer live in the early 20th century where there was still a residual tissue in the language and customs of society – and thus in the conceptual schemes of most citizens – that made sense of the Christian faith even for those who didn’t hold it. Even while many did not believe the gospel of Christ, one could briefly explain the Gospel in it’s traditioned terms and it would still get across. A program like Billy Graham’s crusade ministry was possible and appreciable.

But this us no longer true. Today our society is highly educated. College study is widely distributed and includes acquiring the skills of critical thinking and the hermeneutic of suspicion. What it does not include is an appreciation of classical liberal learning and the western tradition but rather the deconstruction of all traditions to a scheme of competing interests.

As the opening paragraphs show this has had the two-fold result of losing all touch with Christian literacy and with it a commensurability with the conceptual scheme of the gospel. Critical ideas such “God”, “sin”, “reconciliation”, “repentance”, etc. no longer hold the sane meaning for Christians and today’s non-Christians. On top of this, there is in the non-Christian point of view a prima facie case that becoming acquainted with the Christian conceptual scheme is foolish and immoral. The program is now to eliminate the Christian view once and for all with confident belief that at any point we can ourselves create our own conceptual scheme whenever we need to through quilting a new one.

The situation of the church today has gone back to that of the apostle Paul in the Hellenistic world having to start from scratch and using concepts available from the culture of Athens to make his points and help the gospel make sense to the Greek world. Francis Schaeffer wrote concerning apologetics that while it had the negative function of defending the faith, it also had the positive function of communicating the faith. This us all the more true today. Even if one were to argue that argument and evidence could never be the sort to demonstrate or compel assent to Christ and his truth claims, it would still be necessary to give a reasonable account of faith if only to communicate it in a way that makes lucid the meaning and plausibility of the gospel. Our approach must reckon with both the analytic acumen and sense of justified resistance to the gospel of today’s non-Christian.

I don’t intend to answer the question about whether Jesus should be forgiven but rather point to a way to find the answer and motivate taking that way.

Starting with the later, while the emphasis on the present and the alleged ability to construct a conceptual scheme de novo blocks any argument for becoming literate in the Judeo-Christian tradition from the obvious fact that the Christian scheme has influenced Western thought until recently, one still has to confront the false claim self-sufficiency in evaluating such a product. Like doctors, writers who edit themselves have fools for clients.

To really appreciate the value of your scheme construction, you cannot keep bootstrapping on your own perspective alone. You need to be able to get a view of your thinking from a point of view outside of your thinking. But since the new technology is bringing about a global scheme building operation, there is no “other” point of view to be found contemporary to yours that is other in a sufficiently radical sense. The only alternative is to revisit the past and enter sympathetically into what were once the viable traditions and try to understand them as moral points of view, thus appreciating the moral shock they would have about the modern world. This would be necessary to avoid self-deception through self-absorption.

This would open the prospect of reconsidering the Christian worldview on spite of it’s features that offend modern moral sensibilities. The fact is that Christians like any other holders of great traditions gave gone through the exercise of setting up a dialogue between traditional and then contemporary thought as well as between western and eastern thought and thus have continued until and including now, avoiding the extremes of isolated fundamentalism and capitulating “liberalism”. They are following the example set by Paul in Athens.

Some reply that one of the features of modern global conceptual scheme formation is that diversity of points of view is not denied but radically emphasized. We are all other to each other and to ourselves moment by moment. Now either thus claim is genuine in which case the Christian tradition should be considered seriously and appreciatively just like any other point of view or this is just a protocol statement that uniformly defines and applies to the global contemporary scheme and still requires a genuinely outside stance to critique it. Conclusion: while not necessarily imposing a personal obligation on the individual reader to consider the Christian way of thinking, it does argue that the project of considering the Christian worldview should be taken up by some in behalf of all, and that anyone of good will ought to agree that rejecting the consideration of Christianity by eliminating it is wrong whether it’s Dennett’s way or Barzum’s.

But I have another reason that non-Christians should not refuse to consider the Christian worldview and learn to appreciate it as a conceptual scheme with it’s own moral point of view, and that is the case for Christ and the Bible as original sources of authority. If Jesus is God, then obedience is the only reasonable response and we need to reconstruct our views accordingly. Of course, it must be God as morally perfect in himself alone that could make us change our moral views with reasonable contentedness and so this claim that Jesus is God must be explained and defended. but this is what apologetics does – which is what I attempt to do in this book:

I won’t develop the point further here but I expect that anyone who takes up my project seriously will discover that it’s Morrisey that needs forgiveness and not Jesus

Apologetics ministry has become necessary in the 21st century. Apologetics and evangelism have become one in a West where Christianity has become a second language.

Subsidiarity & Religious Psychology

William James in his work on the psychology of religion, characterizes two types of religious psychology that he observes in the religious experience of humanity. One he calls the healthy minded, morally strong type. A good example is Zen Buddhism which emphasizes self-help and the sufficiency of reason and practice in religious formation. Charismatic leaders play only an ancillary role in facilitating religious development in followers which is neither necessary mor sufficient to their success. Eventually, religious followed should be able to reconstruct the path to religious success for themselves.

The other type is what Janes calls the sick-souled spiritually dependent type. A good example is the Shin schools of Buddhism where the supplicant admits that he is unable to make sufficient progress on his own and must rely on surrogate labors of others. Religious figured are indispensable for their objective work on behalf of others. Fruits of such labor cannot be discovered by reason alone but require proclamation and tradition in the form of legends technique will not obtain this help which can only be acknowledged, requested, and relied on.

In Christianity, the same is observed. Focusing on Western Christianity, believers struggle to avoid two extremes, Pelagianism or autosoterism, in which God’s role is only to acknowledge moral perfection when it is achieved by the striving of the saint and Christ’s work on the cross is only an example of morality to us. The other extreme is theologism the view that God is the sole cause of all that happens in creation and redemption such that secondary causes are mere illusions.

Within those boundaries, the church in the west has been divided into the Roman Catholic and the Protestant branches. The first seems to emphasize moral strength more. Salvation as justification depends on your works being sufficiently worthy to justly earn heaven. Both the work of Christ and other forms of grace are necessary for success but they are all ancillary to this result. The tradition also gives greater scope to natural reason for moral guidance as well as institutional support through the catholic church hierarchy.

The Augustinian-Jansenist-Protestant branch of western theology reflects the spiritual dependence theme. Salvation is all of grace even to the point of being chosen before time for salvation independently of our own existence. The believer is absolutely dependent on God for salvation. He is not just sick but dead in his guilt and sin and cannot save or seek salvation of himself. In Protestantism, Christ is not merely an example nor even just ancillary to salvation but rather is the complete and sufficient achievement of that salvation for believers. This is known by special revelation only which while compatible with objective morality relies on it primarily to expose the absolute need for grace. This has tended to make the believer immediately present in her own subjectivity before God and has deemphasized the institutional church.

It seems that healthy minded religion and sick souled religion are supposed to be incompatible. Yet either one if not taken to extremes us something that is prima facie good in it’s own right. Also each is supported by it’s own primary intuition: health mindedness by the intuition of personal moral responsibility and the sick-souled by the intuition of absolute dependence. Both of which is a part of out intuition of God as sovereign and as mysterium tremendum et fascinans.

In spite of these differences, Protestants and Catholics have discovered a very important area if common ground emerging from their respective traditions. From the Protestant side it’s called “sphere sovereignty”. From the Catholic side, it’s called “Subsidiarity”. Both terms highlight that there are different spheres of responsibility that a person may act it. The first highlights them as distinct jurisdictions and the second their ordering relations.

An example is the relation between the family and the state. According to Subsidiarity, the two spheres are distinct in that they have specific responsibilities that are primarily theirs. Yet each has on obligation to assure the ends of the other. So for example, the mission of the family is to see to the being and well-being of it’s members. This includes their health but also the development of their potential and character. However, the state sees to the security of it’s citizens and their prosperity and posterity. It thus recognizes that developing character in it’s citizen’s is a public good. But it also sees that developing character is principally the purpose of the family. So the state sees to it’s proper public good by facilitating the family in it’s own pursuit in it’s own mission and not by doing the family’s job for it (unless the family has become so broken down that it cannot do it’s job). Citizens with good character are a public good but the role of the state is subsidiary to the role of the family.

Now I suggest that Subsidiarity may help us to reconcile the the healthy minded and sick souled sides of western Christianity and thus may shed s useful light on some of the plights of Western Christianity today.

One if the great concerns of Protestantism is it’s apparent co-belligerency with early modern thought in taking the subjective turn. But a better way of thinking about this is to recognize that it’s good for theism to see that there are many ways something could be, one if which is to be subjectively. What the early modern period discovered or re-discovered is the sphere of the individual, that alongside the social spheres of responsibility there is also for each person the sphere of the self that she is accountable for. So if we see that we can see that the priorities of religion of the sick souled are the priorities of religion in the sphere of the individual sphere. On the other hand, the priorities of the religion of the healthy minded are the priorities of religion in the social spheres, beginning with the family. Finally, the priorities of religion per se or per the religious object are the priorities of the sphere of the religious institution, the church, temple, shrine, or mosque.

The western church’s primary responsibility is orthodoxology, the right speaking of God in proclamation and worship. But this also includes holding the spiritual and moral well-being of it’s members as individuals and as a community since repentance is the appropriate response to the evangel. But the church’s role is secondary to the family in cultivating the pedagogy of moral and compassionate becoming that makes for community. The real know-how and direct supervision for that belongs to parents and peers. But such wisdom will be a natural wisdom common to all families with a presumption of virtue and prudence. All this is wholly appropriate to cultivating moral strength. Here is the grist that helps us understand the theology of sanctification, mortification, and divine chastening.

But it also is an aim of the church to see to the salvation of souls. This takes up the soul’s own responsibility for her own happiness and her intimate knowledge of fallenness, sinfulness, and irreconciliation with God. The church guides with Christian direction but this is ancillary to the soul’s own response to grace. This can only be appropriate to the soul based on self-awareness even though this is sabotaged by self-deception. The awareness of one’s own helplessness appropriately calls for dependence. The soul may balk at this because of uncertainty created by worries that melancholia is misleading them but that is yet another feature that makes total dependence rational. But the church seeks to direct the individual to the word of God as to the truth apart from all self-deception. But the soul must choose to apply that truth to itself. And here we have the whole forensic and relational theology of graces like substitution, justification, assurance of salvation and so on.

So the consistency of healthy mindedness and sick souledness is consistent because these modes of the psychology of religion are true relative to a sphere. The fact that individuals are placed immediately before the presence of God in the individual sphere of concern for salvation is consistent with the fact that communities as communities are directly present to God according to the other social spheres and their specific economies, including the church.

Of course, this solution does not automatically dictate how specific doctrinal conflicts between branches of the church should be worked out. But it should take off the table objections to doctrines that are based on consequentialist arguments such as that this or that doctrine leads to either rugged individualism or group think.

H. P. Lovecraft’s Cave

H. P. Lovecraft’s Cave

Oh, that I may never have taken that option that I might have remained comfortable in my naïveté – only thinking that I knew anything when in fact knew nothing. Oh to not know now what I didn’t know before.

I was content with my daily life. I was doing fine watching shadows on the wall. But some wise man unlocked the shackles that bound me. He told me that this world of appearances was a meager reflection of a more real and more perfect world, bathed in more pure and illuminating light. He seemed strange and queer – in fact, dangerous. I saw no reason to doubt the reality of my world, but he said that was only because I grew up bound to this world and simply knew of no other possibility. I decided that if it was possible there was greater truth to be found it was worth the risk.

So I stood up from my chains and saw that the world that appeared to me was indeed nothing but shadows reflecting on the wall of a cave. I was disoriented but turned around to find another area of the cave where the light came from. But as I examined this area, I discovered that there was nothing but a random hedge if briars and that the light of a fire was passing through it and casting the shadow from it on the wall. But the fire was but a dying glow from mere residual embers and there was no definite shape to the briars. The random flickering and crackling of glow created mere blots of shadow and the illusion of noise that I took to be animals and people and their voices speaking to me. But there were no other people here besides myself and no rhyme or reason to what was going on.

I noticed that behind the embers was indeed an exit from the cave. It was rough and meandering. But I went out looking forward to a more perfect world that I longed for even more. It was indeed a torturous journey but I pressed forward taking my perplexity as as a measure of the lack if understanding that would yet be more than overcome by that brighter light of reality. But it was just the darkness that ever increased as I moved further and further away from the weak light of the embers back behind me.

I had discovered that I had already exited the cave for a while before I realized it. I had wandered randomly and tripped at the edge of a lake. But the surface had frozen over and some silt had been mixed in with the ice. I saw nothing but an empty cipher when I tried to look at my reflection on the surface. There was nothing to see. All the lines on the ice were not natural to it but had been scratched into it by what must have been giant claws scratching across it over time.

As I looked up, I could see that the only light was from distant stars that defied being formed in any constellation. The empty spaces of the cosmos were underlined by the fading paleness of the eternal twilight. There was no sun, no moon.

In the pale cold darklight all I could see were obtuse formations of grey rock and crystal. There was nothing of any particular shape. All I heard was the mechanical drone of static from the icy wind blowing hollowly through rocks like so much feedback.

Suddenly, I realized that I had been deceived. Worse, that I allowed myself to be deceived. I turned, hoping to find my way back to the cave before it was too late, – and then I saw the Ancient One. And I knew that I would never go back to any semblance of sanity.

I could not look away from the Great Perversity, even though my mind was slipping away. I was despairing of any illusion of dignity and meaning, I was absolutely terrified and denial could not keep up with the fresh stinging realizations that this was the real world I was told about. Yet I was laughing, laughing hysterically in the midst of tears that drained my ducts dry. I had lost my mind.

Then I saw that there were others like me, all attached to the Thing, with several of It’s tentacles and antennas piercing there bodies brains. I saw tubules from It penetrating them draining their blood and body fluids and infusing them with disgusting phlegms of It’s own. There faces grimaced into awful grins, reflecting a gnosis other than what the must actually possess.

Then I saw the wise man who released me in my cave, tubes going in and out of his head and belly. “See him, master, I have brought him to you”, he gurgled. “Bring them,” they all began screaming, “Bring to the master all bodies, all brains, all blood!”

I bolted, but too late. It was upon me instantly, and I was suddenly swallowed in terror as the tubes went into me. I was overwhelmed with an orgy if pain as the last bit of my sense of humanity faded into ubiquitous flesh.

But now here I am going back to my cave and to my fellow cave citizens. But thus time I come with an alien host that has taken me over like a marionette. I want to warn you not to believe anything without evidence and do not act on mere theoretical hopes like I did. I want you to go with your natural instinct. I must sound crazy. Please lock me up. For your own sake and mine, PLEASE KILL ME!

But what will I say? “Don’t you think that we will be better people if we assume a brighter world even if we cannot find it, then becoming lax and give up inquiring?”

Imminent Supernaturalism

Two types of scientists:

Suppose some astronomers are looking at Jupiter through a telescope. Call this Group A. While they do this, another group of material engineering researches confiscate the telescope and analyze it’s material properties. They look at it’s shape and the shapes and situations of it’s components. They examine each piece for it’s physical properties and interactions and for it’s chemical properties. Finally, they publish a complete physical chemical description of the telescope and insist that this is all there is to it. Call this second group of scientists, Group B. It is quite likely that Group A will say wryly to Group B, “No that’s not all there is to the telescope. One thing that is a fact about the telescope that is not in your description is that you can see Jupiter through it”.

Group A might be amused by the selective approach of Group B, saying that they looked at only what they wanted to and prejudiced themselves against the most important feature of the telescope. And then after a laugh, Group A returns to their study of Jupiter.

But Group A turns out to be trying to determine a physical and chemical description of the Jovian planet. They also want to determine it’s physical, mechanical, and chemical (including possible biochemical) features, with the belief that when they have this they will have a true and complete description of Jupiter.

And here Group B may justly fault Group A for it’s own selectivity. There is the same difference between what we see when we look at Jupiter and the alleged final description of Jupiter. Just like Group B, Group A has neglected the most important fact about Jupiter, namely that Jupiter is itself a certain kind of “scope”, showing us an object distinct from the true description of it’s extended and extrinsic interaction. Whatever may be found in this description, Jupiter is also and on top of that an intentional object and an embodied artificial substance.

We cannot really separate the idea of the supernatural from the natural into air tight zone. How “ordinary nature” presents itself to our minds is more that the instrumental conditions that are correlated with that presentation. So even the ordinary objects of the world are signs of supernatural realities.