Tag Archive: Evangelism

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.


The Agnostic’s Prayer

The Agnostic’s prayer

I’ve seen more than one post on FaceBook giving substantial objections to the sinner’s prayer in evangelism. Myself, I have led someone to Christ using the Agnostic’s prayer.

The prayer is valuable for intelligent friends who are sensitive to the sources of skepticism that are so much part of the modern plausibility structure. I present an apologetic witness, using arguments for theism and criticisms of naturalism. But my presumption is that these are if some value to those whose conscience won’t allow them to consider faith due an inadequate and incomplete picture of the philosophical case for theism. My aim is to bring them to the point where their desire for meaning is peaked and where a theistic interpretation of life seems again like a live option.

There is a way one can get stuck here because of caution. That’s when I suggest the Agnostic’s prayer:

“Dear God, if there is a God, save my soul, if I have a soul.”

On the one hand, praying this prayer is a reasonable risk if one cannot rule out the possibility that a good God exists who so to it that human beings exist with inherently religious dispositions. But it is also a commitment to be prepared to accept evidence for answered prayer according to the proportion of what we are able to know.

This prayer assumes that not all demands for evidence are legitimate. If someone wants proof that he is not wired into the Matrix, it may not be forthcoming. And this could be that God could not provide such evidence without contradicting the nature of human reasoning. To overcome such skepticism would be to remake man into a God-like omniscience. And this at not be logically possible for man to be. God could not be obliged to do the logically possible. So the demand for such evidence is illegitimate.

But on the other hand, it is clear that humans have an insatiable desire to understand and phenomenological evidence of cognitive activity that gathers evidence, forms hypotheses, judges their truth, and assumes responsibility for doing so. If God exists then we expect that this cognitive process is as good as what it appears to be. So if God exists, we expect Him to adapt His message to this truth seeking design. If we pray the agnostic’s prayer, we are prepared to act on what evidence God may give us.

The Agnostic’s prayer is a kind of minimal promise making. It is open to possibilities that may or may not obtain but because it’s a promise it brings about a state of affairs that didn’t exist before but which adds to the moral reasons for accepting Christ when it is appropriate to do so.

I also suggest whether they pray the prayer or not (and I don’t insist the do it in front of me or using this formula) that they must take seriously that God may have already provided for an answer somewhere already since one might expect that such a prayer would be possible for many people. Then I introduce some of the evidence for Christianity and invite them to look more deeply into the matter to see if it’s so.

I know one seeking person who was effectively led to Christ, saying that this was just what she needed to hear.

Maybe you are in the same boat. You feel like you cannot responsibly receive the good that God would do you because you see no justification for God. Science seems to have the money in the bank that overrules any plausibility of theism. And yet it seems true to you that your whole being is meant for something rather than nothing, But it is possible to move from skepticism to faith through several gradual steps, each of which based on evidence is a rational risk. If you are willing to expectantly explore the case for God and for Christ you will find the way – because God will be guiding you – to a reasonable, healthy, mature adult and saving faith in Christ.