Bonhoeffer’s Solution to The Problem of Pain

BonhoefferDietrich Bonhoeffer saw and experienced the unmistakable face of pain and suffering during the reign of Nazism in Germany. During his time at Berlin-Tegel Bonhoeffer exchanged letters and wrote notes that are now known as Letters and Papers from Prison. It is in these letters and notes Bonhoeffer explored the problem of pain and suffering. His address of human suffering does not flow from a philosophical armchair reflection as a passive observer but rather that of a deeply moved spectator. It is for that reason we do not find any  classical defenses such as of John Hick’s Soul-making theodicy and Alvin Plantinga’s freewill-defense in his writings.

Bonhoeffer’s solution to the problem of pain and suffering, to which I concisely introduced, was crafted  during his solitary confinement ward at Berlin-Tegel Military Detention Center where Bonhoeffer was imprisoned for his participation in a failed plot to assassinate Hitler. Tegel was the place where he spent his last eighteen months. He was executed on April 8th 1945.

What can Christianity offer in times of prevailing evil? God, in Christianity, according Bonhoeffer, is not deus ex machine, a being that mechanical appears to solve our insoluble problems. He is not a being that we evoke as an explanation of unexplainable due to our epistemic limitation. He is not a being that we call upon to offer us strength in are powerless and weakness moments. No. If Christian God was such a being, then He is no longer needed in the world that is “coming of age”. We are beginning to finally solve our problems. Such a God is “pushed further away and thus is ever on the retreat” (Bonhoeffer 2010: 408-9) Continue reading

Malignant Demon, Atheism and Search For Truth

Critique“Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind,” rhetorically asked Charles Darwin, “if there are any convictions in such a mind?” (Darwin 1881) In Darwin’s July 3rd 1881 letter to William Graham, we encounter a problem of epistemological uncertainty of our cognitive faculties. Darwin believed that Graham had accurately portrayed his conviction that “the Universe [was] not the result of chance.” He further explained,

“But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy”(ibid.).

Darwin’s unpleasant doubt is the incarnation of the Cartesian malignant Demon. In evolutionary biology, Rene Descartes’ malignant demon took on flesh and dwelt among us. This malignant demon is an “exceedingly potent and deceitful” being that  “has employed all his artifice to deceive” us to believe that we are experiencing an external world while in actual reality we are experiencing “nothing better than the illusions of dreams” (Descartes 1901, 224). Deceitfulness and falseness came through malignant Demon. Continue reading

Kierkegaard: Subjectivity is Truth

Kierkegaard“The subjective thinker is not a man of science, but an artist. Existing is an art. The subjective thinker is aesthetic enough to give his life aesthetic content, ethical enough to regulate it, and dialectical enough to penetrate it with thought.”(1974, 314)

“What is truth?” asked Pontius Pilate. “Subjectivity is truth,”(1987, 203) answered Søren Kierkegaard. For so long I misunderstood Kierkegaard. My love-hate-relationship with this brilliant Danish thinker underwent an existentialistic crisis. Re-reading Kierkegaard’s works in their proper historical background made me realise how I misunderstood him. My “hate” in my love-hate-relationship with him was based on misunderstanding. This article attempts to explore one of the Kierkegaardian ideas, namely subjectivity, which I once misunderstood.

Kierkegaard’s works can easily be misunderstood if not read within their proper context. Two clear examples are:  “Objectively, there is no truth”(1941, 201) and “It is subjectivity that Christianity is concerned with, and it is only in subjectivity that its truth exists, if it exists at all; Objectively, Christianity has absolutely no existence”(ibid. 116). Prima facie it seems that Kierkegaard is denying the objectiveness of truth and Christianity. This article aim to show that this is not the case. It argues that a relativistic understanding of subjectivity in Kierkegaard’s writings, which streamed existentialistic restoration of primitive Christianity from Danish State Church’s Christendom, would be misunderstanding his whole project all together.

Kierkegaard basic rejection of objectivity could be summed up in one  of his sentences; “objective thought has no relation to the existing subject”(1941, 112).  Holding on of objective truths of Christianity does not make an existing individual a genuine Christian. Majority of Danes, in Kierkegaard’s time, did that. The problem was what they believed did not affect them as existing individuals. Their daily lives were undistinguished from pagans.  The Hegelian systematic and objective Christianity did not affect existing individuals daily life. It did not generate passion for Danes to fully commit themselves to. Kierkegaard’s project was purely to address this issue. For him, “Christianity is spirit, spirit is inwardness, inwardness is subjectivity, subjectivity is essentially passion, and in its maximum an infinite personal, passionate interest in one’s eternal happiness.” (1974, 33) Continue reading

5 Top Articles That Spoke 2014

Raffaelo“One day I will find the right words,” wrote Jack Kerouac, “and they will be simple.” These 5 articles captured the days which I found almost the right words to express my thoughts. Unlike Kerouac, my thoughts are nothing but simple. Whether you agreed with me or not, it is my hope that I awoke the hunger to explore these wonderful issues in theology, philosophy and ethics.

  1. Digital UniverseA Major Divergence: Is Genesis 1 Creatio Ex Nihilo? & A Minor Divergence: Is Genesis 1 Creatio Ex Nihilo? A thorough defense of Genesis 1 as teaching creation out of nothing is found in a co-authored work, Creation out of Nothing: A Biblical, Philosophical, And Scientific Exploration (2004), by Paul Copan and William Lane Craig. They, I will argue, also read this presupposition into Genesis 1. Copan and Craig presupposed that ancient Near East (ANE) also understood creation as defined by substance and properties, largely the material (and immaterial) properties. I think they are wrong. These two articles explained why they are wrong.
  1. Johannes_Moreelse_-_Democritus_-_Google_Art_ProjectNaturalness of Theism: This article presented empirical data showing that implicit belief in supernaturalism is nature. Atheism, namely disbelief in supernaturalism, as Pascal Boyer summed up, “is generally the result of deliberate, effortful work against our natural cognitive dispositions — hardly the easiest ideology to propagate.” (Boyer 2008:1039)
  1. Human FoetusWhat is Wrong with Abortion? Is it immoral to deliberately end the life of a fetus? This article tackles the ethics of abortion. Exploring three theories of what exactly makes it immoral to kill one of us on most occasions, three philosophical arguments are offered to show why abortion, on most occasions, is immoral.
  1. 21 One-less-god-Poster FacebookDissecting ‘One God Less’ Meme: Contrary to Daniel C. Dennett (2006, 210), the idea that atheists just go one god further is not “some sound advice” offered by Dawkins (Dawkins 2004, 150) but a mere wind-egg because it confuses the conceptions of God with the concept of God.
  1. David HumeIIOn Behalf of Demea: Hume’s Problem of Evil: Treating Demea’s solution to the problem of evil not as a theodicy but as a defense, this article attempted not to postulate the Deity’s reason to permit such instances of pain and suffering but an attempt to show that existence of evil is compatible with the existence of an omnicompetent and benevolent Deity.

Thank you for 2014. Thank you for being part of With All I Am.

A Major Divergence: Is Genesis 1 Creatio Ex Nihilo?

Genesis“This is a real creation,” wrote David Hume, “a production of something out of nothing; which implies a power so great that it may seem at first sight beyond the reach of any being less than infinite.”(Hume 1881:343-4) Hume captured our modern and classical material ontology understanding of creation.  Coming into being, in our modern understanding, means acquiring material (or immaterial) properties. We intuitively presuppose that an entity was created if prior to the moment of its creation was not there. It is, thus, not surprising that we read this presupposition into Genesis 1’s creation account.

In their co-authored work, Creation out of Nothing: A Biblical, Philosophical, And Scientific Exploration (2004), Paul Copan and William Lane Craig also read this presupposition into Genesis 1. They presupposed that ancient Near East (ANE) also understood creation as defined by substance and properties, largely the material (and immaterial) properties. I think Copan and Craig are wrong in their presupposition. So one of the things I have to do is to explain why they are wrong¹.

It is said that any fruitful criticism of any writer must generally begin by finding some common ground. Copan and Craig are correct that the Holy Writ explicitly conveys creatio ex nihilo (John 1:3 and Romans 4:17 cf. 2 Maccabees 7:28 and 2 Enoch 24:2). My criticism ought not, thus, be understood as  questioning whether creatio ex nihilo is true. It is true. Where I diverge from Copan and Craig  is on viewing Genesis 1 as also teaching such a doctrine.

Continue reading

The Nietzschean Sinner

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo MiniThe Sinner, in my re-modification of Nietzschean Parable of the Madman*, ran up to the place called Golgotha, and cried incessantly: “I seek Life! I seek Life!” As many of those who did not believe in the accuracy of a mocking but ironically true description placed above the head of a Nazarene hanged on the Roman cross, ‘This is Jesus the King of the Jews’, laughed at the insanity of the Sinner’s words.

“Where is Life?” the Sinner cried; “I will tell you. We have killed Him – you and I. Death have finally and victoriously won. Hope is lost. It stung and killed Life at the cross. Men forever lost. Wretched men that we are! Who will rescue us from this perishable body of death?”

“O Sinner”, the Eschatological Hope replied,” Do not fall into despair. The death of Life at the cross was the death of Death. It was impossible for Life to be held by Death. The resurrection of Life was the confirmation that you O Sinner and the Church, who are found in Life, would also put on the imperishable body of life. Life has already but not yet rescued His Church. Death was swallowed up in victory by Life.”

“Rejoice and sing praise to Life, O Sinner,” said the Eschatological Hope, ” You and the true Church of God ought to rejoice with this new song: ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’”

“For the death of Life was the death of death.” the Eschatological Hope affirmed, “Rejoice O you who are in Life. Rejoice. Death has no dominion over you. It’s lordship ended at the death and resurrection of Christ, your true and everlasting Lord and God.”

*Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Gay Science (1882, 1887) tran. Walter Kaufmann (1974) New York: Vintage, 1974 p. 181-82)

Kordig’s Deontic Dialogue For God’s Existence

Rural-World-Famous-Painting-WallpaperIJane: John, are you familiar with Carl R. Kordig’s deontic argument for God’s existence?

John: No. I am not. Would you be kind to explain it to me?

Jane: Kordig argued that a deontically perfect being ought to exist. If deontically perfect being ought to exist, then such being can exist. A deontically perfect being cannot be a contingent being. Therefore, a deontically perfect being must exist.

John: What justification does Kordig offer to believe that a deontically perfect being ought to exist?

Jane: He believes that even though an individual may hold that God does not exist, that individual should grant that most perfect being ought to exist.

John: Well! I am not persuaded by that. Argumenti causa, say I grant that, how can a person possibly defend the idea that God, a deontically perfect being, cannot be a contingent being?

Jane: Kordig would argue that the idea of contingent God is metaphysically impossible. It is like the idea of a square that is also a circle at the same time and same sense. It is simply a logical contradiction.

John: How is contingent God a logical contradiction? Continue reading