Dietrich 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 9th 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
“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
“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
“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.
- A 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.
- Naturalness 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)
- What 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.
- Dissecting ‘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.
- On 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.
“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.
Does a being that is God1 exist? Before we can disagree on whether or not a being that is God exists, we need to agree on what a being that is God is. There cannot be any disagreement unless there is an agreement on what is that is disputed.
What is a being that is God? A being that is God is a being that there could not be other than that which nothing greater nor equal could be conceived2. Such a being, if exists, must exhibit maximal perfection. Therefore, a being that is God, borrowing Alvin Plantinga’s insightful words, is a being “having an unsurpassable degree of greatness—that is, having a degree of greatness such that it’s not possible that there exist a being having more.” (Plantinga 2002: 102 emp. removed).
My first premise in my attempt to answer the dispute of whether or not a being that is God exists, is thus:
(1) If a being-that-is-God exists then that being-that-is-God could not be other than that which nothing greater (or equal) could be conceived.
Anselm of Canterbury (1033—1109) argued that, if there was such a being then it is absurd to hold that such a being exists in our thoughts alone but not also in reality. According to Anselm, both atheists and theists can agree with (1) (Anselm 2009). Atheists would argue that such a being exists in our minds alone. Theists, however, would argue that such a being exists both in our minds and in reality. Continue reading