Tag Archives: Philosophy

Message to the Sick; Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II gave his “Message to the Sick” in 1999, in Mexico.  Diagnosed in 1996 with Parkinson’s disease, he did not write words of mere platitudes, he wrote with real meaning in his life.  He would have had a taste of the progression of his own illness and the words were borne out of his own painful experience.

The pope’s questions, “Why do we suffer?  For what purpose do we suffer?  Is there any meaning in human suffering?  Can physical or moral suffering be a positive experience?” were not rhetorical for him…he asked real questions and they had real meaning in his life.

This man, the most visible religious figure on the planet, did not  hide from life or to live a life of complaint…his suffering pointed him to the basis of his faith – Christ, who died for the sins of the world, was now with His servant who suffered.

Each person who suffers, whether physical pain, or emotional or mental, has the opportunity to use their suffering in positive ways, or to wallow in negativity.  The pope chose the positive, ever pointing to the source of his hope.

A man, dying of cancer, had spent years turning away from God.  He found hope in the Psalms of David and turned to Christ in the last days of his life.  When he wrote his own funeral, it pointed others to the source of his hope.  After that funeral, his widow found comfort in the message that her brother, who had also spent years in rebellion, had returned to the church because of the way her husband’s suffering had pointed to Christ.

That widow looks back at life, seeing years of infertility, the losses of pregnancies and the pain of her premature child…she finds comfort in the knowledge that beyond the grave, there is peace and fullness of life.  She understands now that she would not have the strength and compassion if she had not felt the suffering in her life.

Pope John Paul had a greater understanding than most people – when we suffer, we partake in the sufferings of Christ.  He died in April, 2005 – 12 years after his diagnosis.  He spent those years pointing others to the source of his hope.

It is in this pointing to Christ that we find meaning of pain and suffering in our human existence.

With these thoughts, I have wanted to arouse in each one of you the feelings which will lead you to live your current trials with supernatural sense; discovering in them an occasion to see God in the midst of darkness and doubt; and to gaze at the broad horizons which are visible from atop the crosses of our everyday lives – Pope John Paul II, January 24, 1999

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Discuss whether you see a way around exclusivism, pluralism, and inclusivism that might still keep integrity of each particular religion in place. Discuss how religious language might or might not play a role in your conclusion.

Exclusivism (the doctrine that only one religion is “true”) is the foundation of many religions.  If Scripture is correct, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”  Whatever a person believes passionately will come out of his or her mouth.  People who believe that their belief system has the only means to salvation; if they believe that souls depend on the truth of that system, that belief will be shared with others. They can fully respect the dignity of other people, and understand the depth of the beliefs of others; they want to share the truth so that all will come to salvation.  One can “witness” or “evangelize” by simply stating one’s belief, while allowing others to share their own beliefs in the same way.

Inclusivism may be compatible with exclusivism, in that (in Christianity, for example) inclusivism maintains that Jesus Christ is the only means of salvation, but salvation (through Christ) can be obtained without a specific belief in Christ for salvation, but through the “general revelation” of nature. People who embrace inclusivism have an understanding that people who have never heard the gospel of Christ, may (through general revelation) may come to a saving faith without ever hearing of Christ).

Pluralism maintains that all religions are equally valid and that any religion may bring a person to salvation.  This cannot be compatible with exclusivism (within a person) but may coincide with inclusivism.  Once cannot simultaneously believe that there is only one means of salvation and believe that there are many ways to salvation.

Within a group of people, discussions can take place that allow sharing and debates of beliefs.  These discussions can get passionate and even heated at times, and they depend on the ability of others to present their convictions and listen to other people and maintain respect and civility for the other people, even if they do not respect the other religion.  If respect and civility are not present, the “doctrine of ‘just shut up’” might come into play.

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On Free Will and the Sovereignty of God

1. Explain the difference between a libertarian and a compatibilist conception of free will.

My study of compatibilism, will, free will and libertarian free will goes deeper than the readings from the textbook…and I believe that how a person defines these terms (and how that person feels about those definitions) affects how he or she views the sovereignty of God.

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Philosophy reflection paper:

January 19. 2010

Is Religion Necessary?

John Piper once said, “Words don’t mean things…definitions mean things.” In order to answer the question, “Is religion necessary?” we must first define “religion”. Some definitions say that “religion” is “the service and worship of God or the supernatural” (Merriam-Webster) or “the belief in a god or gods and the activities that are connected with this belief” (google dictionary).  Others define “religion” as "a set of symbolic forms and acts that relate man to the ultimate conditions of his existence” (Robert Bellah, professor at the University of California, Berkley).

Huston Smith noted that the oldest artifacts found by archaeologists have religious significance.  In ages past, before more recent scientific advances, the world around us must have seemed far beyond human comprehension…and yet creation got here somehow…and so did we.

All (or nearly all) cultures around the world, past and present, have had some sense of “religion”. Even today, many cultures do not have a mandated religion, yet most people have access to at least one belief system called “religion”. Whether the worshippers wanted salvation from the physical world around them or whether they wanted access to an afterlife, it seems that human beings are programmed to seek something (or someone) larger than themselves.

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1) Church...

We finally settled on a church.  Well, the kids like it; I settled.

I will not become a "member", but will become active in some of the ministries and studies.  There are issues, but this little church does seem to be the best thing going around here that is both acceptable to me and attractive to the kids.

2) College...

I took the fall off of college (and will take the winter off as well).  There's time to decide what to do with the rest of my life.
Right now, it feels good to reconnect with "me", not just barrel through classes.

3) Work...

I moved classrooms again.  Each time I move I dread it.  Each time I end up glad that I moved.  This time...the staff that I worked with last year tell me that I'm blessed that I got moved (I won't go further that that).  One of the staff that I worked with last year is the choir director; since I'm not in that room, I'm free to explore music options.  I'm starting a bell choir (I'm sure you'll read more)

4) Cycling...

I took up bike riding.  That feels good also.  I'm indoors for the winter, but I'm planning a few things for spring.

My philosophy for exercise is to do it the way my ancestors did;  they were in it for the long haul.  Before exercise was optional, people didn't run marathons, they walked across the country.  Life was less a matter of "let's go as fast as we can for as long as we can".  It was a matter of "let's go at a sustainable pace for as long as it takes to get there."

It makes more sense in that paradigm to ride at 12 MPH for 65 miles than it does to ride at 18 MPH for 2 hours.

As long as my heart rate is at a workout level, I'd rather go a little slower and enjoy the ride.

My plans are to take a few "overnighters".  Ride to my dad's house on the other side of the state - take a spin along the lake shore.  Maybe get the gear that I need to go camping on a bike:

the rest is minor.

4) Cars...

The last major thing is a new vehicle.

We went to Chicago to celebrate with my sisters-in-law and on the way there the transmission on my car "died".  We got there, but would not have gotten home.  I am related to a very special woman who made it possible for me to get a 2004 Honda Pilot with pretty low mileage and a lot of features that I like.

I really didn't want a car payment, but life makes it necessary.  With a 6-cyclinder SUV, my chosen summer life-style is much more possible.  I can put the bike in the back, I can pull the camper up a hill...

As with the bike, there are a couple things that will be added.

  • a trailer hitch is a must.  Stop by U-Haul.
  • an auxiliary adapter for my iPod.  (this one is an "anytime" - the trailer hitch is the biggie)

5) Fitness (diet, yada...yada...yada...)

Today I reboot the whole diet thing.  You all know the routine...

I'm focusing on one habit each week (my weeks start on Friday).  This week will be supplements.  Next week, water.

6) Socks...

The last thing I'm going to mention is something that only a few people will "get".  I think I figured out "the sock".

I'm tackling knitting socks for the first time ever and I broke my personal record for the number of times I started the project over again.

I'm using the "magic loop" method and I think what's making it harder for me to accomplish getting started is the fact that I'm left-handed so everything is backward.

But I think I've gotten it (until next time).

Tom is just hoping that he has two socks eventually.

[further note:  I've got way too many little blogs for record keeping.  Silly, but it works for me.  Little by little, as there's something to post, I'll post links.  Craft patterns (to keep track of what yarns and tools I use and where I buy stuff); diet logs (nobody here really wants to know what I had for breakfast); cycling information (just when DID I get those new tires and how long did it take me to ride to Sand Lake and back?)

Next post...2009 "goals and objectives" (we do not call them "resolutions", since they are very flexible)

At least for the time being...I've got posts on all sorts of topics coming off my keyboard and I tend to enjoy blogs more where I don't have to scroll down a bunch to read all the new posts...so I'm going to try to "schedule" mine a little bit.

I've got a post on the "gift of tongues" in pagan religions (including Mormonism), I've got a post on Christ and church/husbands and wives/Adam and Eve.   I'd like to cover the life and times (and theology) of John Calvin.  And there's a lot of political stuff going on that is interesting (especially since Michigan has the worst single-state economy in the country...what Granholm has done for Michigan, Obama wants to do for the country.

There's also room for "randomosity".   Mostly I know that I can have a tendency to become a "one trick pony" and I'm not that.  A flexible basic outline keeps me from hyperfocusing.
Sunday seems good for Sola (Reformed stuff) - also, randomosity.
Monday (lunes in Spanish) seems to be the day for the links I've collected over the week.  I'm going to start adding links to my other "little" blogspot blogs, which include diet/exercise and what I'm reading.

Tuesday (I don't why) I'll think more philosophically.  Other world religions, deep thoughts about life and living.  Stuff.

Wednesday is a good day for the "gender" topic (and Wordless Wednesday)

Thursday...Thursday photo challenge (my favorite photo scavenger hunt) and politics

Friday, Fit Friday

Saturday:  TN Photo Hunt (my other favorite photo scavenger hunt) and  denominational stuff (although that can overlap with politics...and philosophy.  And gender).

Just so you all know...I'm enjoying blogging, but I love variety...

Sounds like a contradiction? It doesn't have to be.

In the introduction to "The Essential Reinhold Niebuhr", he is called a "pessimistic optimist"- the operative word being "optimist", with the qualifier being "pessimistic".

Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary. (Rienhold Niebuhr)

We see both optimism and pessimism in this quote. Phil said (in a rather spirited political discussion with his dad) that democracy is the worst type of government...except for all the rest.

We see optimism in eternity...as Christians we know that eternity with Christ is the ultimate in optimism.

We see pessimism in the present...human beings are sinners. There is pain and trial in this world.

"Men may be quite unable to define the meaning of life, and yet live by a simple trust that it has meaning. This primary religion is the basic optimism of all vital and wholesome human life."

I cannot see eternity, but I trust that God does.

To know that there is meaning, but not to know the meaning...that is bliss (J. Middleton Murray)

Let that rattle around for a while.

The most adequate religion solves its problems in paradoxes rather than schemes of consistency, and has never wavered in believing that God is both the ground of our existence and the ultimate pinnacle of perfection toward which existence tends.

I can relate to that. Surety is a thing of the world - embrace the paradoxes. Finding freedom as a bondservant to Christ.

These paradoxes are in the spirit of the great religion. the mystery of life is comprehended in meaning, though no human statement of meaning can fully resolve the mystery. The tragedy of life is recognized, but faith prevents tragedy from being pure tragedy . Perplexity remains, but there is no perplexity unto despair. Evil is neither accepted as inevitable nor regarded as a proof of the meaningless of life. Gratitude and contrition are mingled, which means that life is both appreciated and challenged. To such faith the generations are bound to return after they have pursued the mirages in the desert to which they are tempted from time to time by the illusions of particular eras.

It is the mystery that gives life meaning.


Short story: PLEASE watch both the movie and the documentary. NOT FOR CHILDREN.

(NOTE: I'm not sure I'm very good at "official" reviews, so I'll probably end up telling about this movie the way I'd describe a book to a friend.)

"The Magdalene Sisters" is based on a documentary, "Sex in a Cold Climate" - the DVD includes the documentary). The movie reflects not only the truth that "power corrupts - and absolute power corrupts absolutely", it also reflects the era of the time, when victims were blamed for their own rapes, when girls were "gotten rid of" for becoming pregnant out of wedlock, but the boys got off with nothing, when beauty was looked on with suspicion.

It's the story of four women who were incarcerated for forced labor in a "Magdalene asylum" in the 1960's. One woman was sent there by her father because she had a child out of wedlock, another was sent there after being raped, the third was sent there because she was pretty and the fourth (appearing to be mildly mentally impaired) also had a baby out of wedlock. The nun in charge of the laundry bluntly told the girls when they arrived (I'm paraphrasing): The philosophy here is simple. Your sins will be purged through the washing of laundry. By doing penance here, you will earn your salvation.

They quickly learned that escape was not just difficult, it was nearly impossible. One scene showed an escapee who ran to her home, only to be returned by her angry father. She begged, "I just want to go home." He beat her with a belt, yelling, "You have no home! You have no parents! You killed them!" This girl eventually became a nun and joined the order, the only safe place. When Bernadette tried to escape, she was beaten and her hair was shorn. Sister Brigid forced her to look into a mirror, blood running in her eyes - "you're not so pretty now!"

In a nutshell, "The Magdalene Sisters" showed works-based salvation taken to extreme. The emphasis was all on working off your own sin and earning your salvation through your own work and suffering.

It is a difficult movie to watch and I had to take a couple of breaks. I watched the movie before the documentary and immediately called the friend that told me to watch it and asked, "It said *based* on the true story. Is the story true or are these 4 women true." He said, "Yes." There are a few additions to "flesh out" the attitudes and actions within the asylums - but there was stuff that was left out also that would have made a great emotional impact on any feeling human being watching. Nothing that contradicted the documentary.

Watch BOTH!

Next up: the history...