Saturday, April 21, 2018

"You Asked for It" Week 3: "How Does Prayer Work? Why Do Some Prayers Get Answered and Others Don't?"

Some notes to help with the sermon:

I wrote these notes along the lines of how I’d approach most topics - by looking at the big picture and zeroing in on the issue from that perspective. Whether that’s necessarily the best approach for the sermon is a separate issue, but hopefully some of this might be helpful! So here is a basic framework someone could use for understanding prayer:

Humans were created to be God’s representatives to the rest of creation, bringing his will, his plans, and his goals into effect. We were made to be God’s intermediaries to the rest of creation.

Sin and rebellion have set creation off track, diverting it from God’s will, his plans, and his goals.

Jesus won ultimate victory over sin and rebellion.

Jesus has therefore brought to creation God’s kingdom (God’s rule) - his will, the fulfillment of his plans and goals for creation.

The coming of God’s kingdom - the full compliance with God’s will and fulfillment of his plans and goals - is not yet fully complete until Jesus returns, so sin, rebellion, death, and disease still occur despite Jesus’ victory over them.

In prayer, we fulfill our original purpose - we participate in God’s rule and in bringing more fully his kingdom to earth. God wants his will done but part of that will is that that will be done through human beings. God gives us a say in how things go and listens to what we request, which is how things were always meant to work. In prayer, we can have access to some of that kingdom authority and power we were always meant to have.

We fulfill God’s will not only by praying for things but also by, often, enacting God’s answer to prayers! (This might seem to many of us to be a pretty risky thing - why use unreliable human beings to get your will done? But that’s part of our calling!) Consider: The person who prays to God to heal a treatable disease and refuses to see the doctor may be the one at fault when the disease isn’t healed since it may have been the doctor that God intended to use to heal the disease in the first place. That’s not a case of having faith in God, that’s a case of not having enough faith in him, that he can and does and intended all along to use human beings to get things done in this world. Or consider: instead of simply asking “Why hasn’t God given my neighbor the food I prayed for?”, maybe we should also ask “How can I be used by God to get my neighbor the food I prayed for?” Prayer can and often will change not only the world outside the one praying but also the world inside them (and sometimes do the former precisely by doing the latter).

The Bible has a lot of verses that look like they promise that anything anyone prays for will be given to them every single time without exception. When we look more closely, however, there is always some kind of qualification or some sort of restriction given by the context. We have to look at these qualifications and these contexts - and the wider context of Scripture - to get a better idea of exactly how such a “prayer promise” supposed to be understood. The following points are what we find.

“Whatever you ask for, you’ll get” is true of the kingdom of God. It is what happens when the kingdom of God is there - when God reigns, when God’s will is being done.

Since the kingdom of God is present in principle but not yet fully come, this promise is true in principle but not always in application - the old system of sin and death is still around to cause trouble. There is still opposition and sometimes it can achieve apparent victories, at least in the short term. Satan, death, sin, evil, and illness are still around until Christ returns. (For similar promises, true in principle in the kingdom but not always in application since God’s rule isn’t fully come yet, see many of the statements in John’s writings (i.e., that believers do not sin, will not die - but they do sin and do die!).)

In faith, in love, in following Christ, in being led by the Holy Spirit, we participate in God’s kingdom - his rule is operative in us and through us - and thus our prayers are also going to participate in the kingdom - they will conform to his will and be vehicles through which his will is done in the world. See James 5 on Elijah and the powerful prayers of the righteous person. Prayers not from faith, prayers that are unloving, that are outside God’s will - these fall outside the prayer promises almost by definition. Even prayers from faith can fail since even these prayers are subordinate to God’s will. See Jesus’ prayer at Gethsemane!

The prayer promises in the Bible, then, are meant to give us confidence, not unrealistic expectations. Christians will still suffer and still die, sometimes precisely because they are Christians and are being attacked by the world or the evil one.

Ultimate victory is God’s. The ultimate answer to all our needs and heartfelt cries are certain even if immediate fulfillment can sometimes seem wanting.



Example “prayer promise” passages:
Matthew 7:7-11 is speaking only of asking for “what is good”, with the context seeming to specify this as specifically the things needed to fulfill the Sermon on the Mount’s kingdom vision. The parallel passage in Luke 11:1-13 gets even more specific and replaces “what is good” with “Holy Spirit”.
Matthew 18:18-20 is, in context, about church decisions/authority/power in the power of the kingdom.
Matthew 21:18-22/Mark 11:12-25 is talking about prayers done in faith and in the context of forgiving others (esp. Mark). This passage is meant to highlight the church as the new spiritual power center/dwelling of God/place of prayer vs. the temple, now under judgment.
John 14:13-16 is talking about empowerment for doing good things by the Holy Spirit - specifically, undertaking God’s mission and loving others.
John 15:7,16 is about prayers in the context of abiding in Christ, producing fruit.
John 16:23-27 concerns knowledge of God. “In that day” is “end times” language, marking this as concerning the coming kingdom.
Many of these also qualify the prayers as happening “in Jesus’ name” - that is, on his mission, in union with him (it doesn’t just mean you use the name “Jesus” in your prayer!).
I John 3:18-22 is in the context of having the Holy Spirit, not sinning, and loving.
I John 5:14-16 requires that it be “according to his will” and is about help not sinning.
James 5:13-18 is about prayers offered in faith by righteous people who confess their sins.



Further notes based on interaction with other people:

Libby's question is really interesting:  "Does prayer really change things? Can the Sovereign Lord, who knows the end from the beginning and the beginning from the end (see Isaiah 48:3), really be persuaded to change His mind or alter His long and deeply laid plans? If not, what's the point of making our requests known to Him (Philippians 3:6) in the first place?"

Here are my thoughts (trying my best - not necessarily succeeding - to not get too technical):
First, I would note that the first and second questions aren't equivalent - prayer might change things in the world without changing God's plans, just as my dropping a vase on the concrete might change things (the vase breaks) without changing God's plans (maybe God always included in his plans my dropping and breaking the vase). So God could always have intended that I pray for X and X happen as a result. From Scripture, prayer does seem to change things in the world - rain falls, people are healed, etc. - whether or not it changes God's overall plan for all of history. 
As for the second question, I think we can distinguish between God's plan being changed by our prayers and it being affected by them. Suppose God and his plans do not change at all. It still could be the case that certain features of God's plan are the way they are because of our prayers (maybe God's plan from all eternity includes A being healed of cancer in 2020 and it includes this because of the prayer of A in 2019 - so that 2019 prayer affects the eternal plan without changing it since it has always been true that that plan included the healing precisely because of that prayer and it never was any other way). 

Short version: If you pray, God heard that prayer from all eternity and took it into account in making his plans. That's good reason to keep praying! 

(Interesting side note: Suppose you don't know what happened with a certain past situation - this means that you could pray and affect (not change!) what happened with that, even though from your perspective it already happened, whatever it was. You could pray that someone made it to a certain destination safely, for instance, and (maybe) actually make a difference as to whether they in fact did so. That is, if they in fact made it safely that could be precisely because of your later prayer.)
(Another interesting side note: This might be getting too off the beaten track, but, along the same lines of the whole discussion above, in the Bible God often makes provisional plans - proposals, threats, etc. - and directs them to people to get them to discuss and have something to say about them and about what happens (this happens with Moses especially often). I think we can say that the answers people give God took into account in making his plan in eternity.)


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Bibliography: Second Half of 2017

A bibliography similar to the previous one. This one covers July-December 2017. Again, it's not necessarily complete and contains only whole books, not articles or primarily reference works. I'm also trying to only include books that are newish - i.e., not on the previous couple lists. (Childrens' books also generally not included!)

Nonfiction

Adeyemi, Femi, The New Covenant Torah in Jeremiah and the Law of Christ in Paul.
Arand, Charles, et al., Perspectives on the Sabbath: 4 Views.
Bahnsen,  Greg, et al., Five Views on Law and Gospel.
Baker, David L., Two Testaments, One Bible: The Theological Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments, Third Edition.
Baker, David L., The Decalogue: Living as the People of God.
Barr, James, The Concept of Biblical Theology: An Old Testament Perspective.
Benin, Stephen, The Footprints of God: Divine Accommodation in Jewish and Christian Thought.
Blaising, Craig, and Darrell Bock, Progressive Dispensationalism.
Burge, Gary, Jesus and the Land: The New Testament Challenge to "Holy Land" Theology.
Carson, D.A., ed., From Sabbath to Lord's Day: A Biblical, Historical, and Theological Investigation.
Church, Philip, et al., eds., The Gospel and the Land of Promise: Christian Approaches to the Land of the Bible.
Das, A. Andrew, Paul and the Jews.
Davies, W.D., Paul and Rabbinic Judaism: Some Rabbinic Elements in Pauline Theology.
Davies, W.D.,  The Gospel and the Land: Early Christianity and Jewish Territorial Doctrine.
Dunn, James D.G., Jesus, Paul, and the Law: Studies in Mark and Galatians.
Dunn, James D.G., The New Perspective on Paul.
Dunn, James D.G., ed., Paul and the Mosaic Law.
Feinberg, John, ed., Continuity and Discontinuity: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments: Essays in Honor of S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.
Fuller, Daniel, Gospel and Law: Contrast or Continuum? The Hermeneutics of Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology.
Gane, Roy, Old Testament Law for Christians: Original Context and Enduring Application.
Gaston, Lloyd, Paul and the Torah.
Gentry, Peter, and Stephen Wellum, Kingdom Through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants.
Goldingay, John, Approaches to Old Testament Interpretation.
Gräbe, Petrus, New Covenant, New Community: The Significance of Biblical and Patristic Covenant Theology for Contemporary Understanding.
Green, Bradley, Covenant and Commandment: Works, Obedience and Faithfulness in the Christian Life.
Hamilton, James M., Jr., God's Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments.
Hamilton, James M., Jr., God's Glory in Salvation Through Judgment: A Biblical Theology.
Heschel, Abraham, The Sabbath.
Hübner, Hans, Law in Paul's Thought: A Contribution to the Development of Pauline Theology.
Ladd, George E., Crucial Questions About the Kingdom of God.
Martin, Oren, Bound for the Promised Land: The Land Promise in God's Redemptive Plan.
Meyer, Jason, The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology.
Pate, C. Marvin, The Reverse of the Curse: Paul, Wisdom, and Law.
Perrin, Nicholas, Jesus the Temple.
Poythress, Vern, The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses.
Räisänen, Heikki, Paul and the Law, Second Edition.
Rapa, Robert Keith, The Meaning of "Works of the Law" in Galatians and Romans.
Rosner, Brian, Paul and the Law: Keeping the Commandments of God.
Ryrie, Charles, Dispensationalism, Revised and Expanded.
Sanders, E.P., Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion.
Sanders, E.P., Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People.
Schnabel, Eckhard, Law and Wisdom from Ben Sira to Paul: A Tradition Historical Enquiry into the Relation of Law, Wisdom, and Ethics.
Schreiner, Thomas, The Law and Its Fulfillment: A Pauline Theology of Law.
Sparks, Kenton, Ethnicity and Identity in Ancient Israel: Prolegomena to the Study of Ethnic Sentiments and Their Expression in the Hebrew Bible.
Sprinkle, Joe, Biblical Law and Its Relevance: A Christian Understanding and Ethical Application for Today of the Mosaic Regulations.
Thielman, Frank, From Plight to Solution: A Jewish Framework for Understanding Paul's View of the Law in Galatians and Romans.
Thielman, Frank, Paul and the Law: A Contextual Approach.
Thielman, Frank, The Law and the New Testament: The Question of Continuity.
Thurén, Lauri, Derhetorizing Paul: A Dynamic Perspective on Pauline Theology and the Law.
Todd, III, James M., Sinai and the Saints: Reading Old Covenant Laws for the New Covenant Community.
Tomson, Peter, Paul and the Jewish Law: Halakha in the Letters of the Apostle to the Gentiles.
Vern, Poythress, The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses.
Vlachos, Chris, The Law and the Knowledge of Good and Evil: The Edenic Background of the Catalytic Operation of the Law in Paul.
Vos, Geerhardus, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments.
Walker, P.W.L., Jesus and the Holy City: New Testament Perspectives on Jerusalem.
Walton, John H., and Andrew E. Hill, Old Testament Today: A Journey from Ancient Context to Contemporary Relevance, Second Edition.
Walton, John H., and J. Harvey Walton, The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest: Covenant, Retribution, and the Fate of the Canaanites.
Walton, John H., Old Testament Theology for Christians: From Ancient Context to Enduring Belief.
Watson, Francis, Paul, Judaism, and the Gentiles: Beyond the New Perspective.
Wellum, Stephen, and Brent Parker, eds., Progressive Covenantalism: Charting a Course Between Dispensational and Covenantal Theologies.
Winger, Michael, By What Law? The Meaning of Νόμος in the Letters of Paul.


Fiction

Brontë, Emily, Wuthering Heights.
Bulwer-Lytton, Edward, Zanoni.
Twain, Mark, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.
Wells, H.G., War of the Worlds.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Bibliography: First Half of 2017

A bibliography similar to the previous one. This one covers January-June 2017. Again, it's not necessarily complete and contains only whole books, not articles or primarily reference works. I'm also trying to only include books that are newish - i.e., not on the previous couple lists. (Childrens' books also generally not included!)

Nonfiction

Morales, L. Michael, Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord?: A Biblical Theology of the Book of Leviticus.
Morrow, William S., An Introduction to Biblical Law.

Fiction

Anonymous, The String of Pearls.
Beraud, Henri, Lazarus.
Brush, Michael and S. G. Mulholland, eds., Challenger Unbound.
Burroughs, Edgar Rice, Warlord of Mars.
Burroughs, Edgar Rice, Thuvia, Maid of Mars.
Burroughs, Edgar Rice, Chessmen of Mars.
Campbell, J. R., and Charles Prepolec, eds., Professor Challenger: New Worlds, Lost Places.
Davidson, Brett, Anima.
De Balzac, Honore, The Magic Skin.
De la Mare, Walter, On the Edge.
De la Mare, Walter, The Wind Blows Over.
De la Mare, Walter,  A Beginning and Other Stories.
De la Mare, Walter, Broomsticks and Other Tales.
De la Mare, Walter, The Lord Fish.
Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan, The Poison Belt.
Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan, The Land of Mist.
Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan, Professor Challenger stories.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel, The Marble Faun.
Hichens, Robert, The Dweller on the Threshold.
Hodgson, William Hope,  The Boats of the Glen Carrig.
Hodgson, William Hope, The Ghost Pirates.
Hodgson, William Hope, The House on the Borderlands.
Hodgson, William Hope, The Casebook of Carnacki the Ghost-Finder.
Hodgson, William Hope, The Night Land.
Kidd, A.F. and Rick Kennett, No. 472 Cheyne Walk: Carnacki, the Untold Stories.
Kipling, Rudyard, Just-So Stories.
Kipling, Rudyard, The Jungle Book.
Kipling, Rudyard, The Second Jungle Book.
London, Jack, The Scarlet Plague.
MacDonald, George, The Princess and Curdie.
Meikle, William, Professor Challenger: The Kew Growths and Other Stories.
Meikle, William, Professor Challenger: The Island of Terror.
Pain, Barry, An Exchange of Souls.
Pain, Barry, The Undying Thing and Others.
Robertson, Andy, ed., William Hope Hodgson's Nightlands, Volume I: Eternal Love.
Robertson, Andy, ed., William Hope Hodgson's Nightlands, Volume II: Nightmares of the Fall.
Robertson, Andy, ed., other Night Land stories.
Shiel, M. P., The House of Sounds and Others.
Tolkien, J. R. R., The Hobbit.
Wells, H.G., The Time Machine.
Wells, H.G., The Island of Doctor Moreau.
Wright, John C., Awake in the Night Land.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Bibliography: Second Half of 2016

A bibliography similar to the previous one. This one covers July-December 2016. Again, it's not necessarily complete and contains only whole books, not articles or primarily reference works. I'm also trying to only include books that are newish - i.e., not on the previous couple lists. (Childrens' books also generally not included!)

Nonfiction

Geisler, Norman, Christian Apologetics: Second Edition.
Gignilliat, Mark, A Brief History of Old Testament Criticism: From Benedict Spinoza to Brevard Childs.
Hays, Christopher and Christopher Ansberry, eds., Evangelical Faith and the Challenge of Historical Criticism.
Joshi, S.T., Unutterable Horror: A History of Supernatural Fiction, 1: From Gilgamesh to the End of the Nineteenth Century.
Joshi, S.T., Unutterable Horror: A History of Supernatural Fiction, 2: The Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries.
Lovecraft, H.P., The Annotated Supernatural Horror in Literature.

Fiction

Anonymous, Njal's Saga.
Anonymous, The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki.
Anonymous, Sir Orfeo.
Barras, Glynn Owen, ed., In the Court of the Yellow King.
Blackwood, Algernon, Incredible Adventures.
Bulwer-Lytton, Edward, The Haunted and the Haunters, or, The House and the Brain.
Burroughs, Edgar Rice, A Princess of Mars.
Burroughs, Edgar Rice, Gods of Mars.
Chambers, Robert, The Yellow Sign and Other Stories: The Complete Weird Tales of Robert W. Chambers.
Chambers, Robert, The King in Yellow.
Chambers, Robert, In Search of the Unknown.
Chambers, Robert, Police!!!
De La Mare, Walter, The Riddle and Other Stories.
De La Mare, Walter, Ding Dong Bell.
De La Mare, Walter, The Connoisseur and Other Stories.
De La Mare, Walter, Uncollected Stories.
Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan, The Lost World.
Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan,  The Maracot Deep.
Erckmann, Emile and Louis Chatrian, The Man-Wolf and Other Tales.
Feval, Paul, The Vampire.
Feval, Paul, Knightshade.
Feval, Paul, Vampire City.
Gautier, Theophile, One of Cleopatra's Nights and Other Fantastic Romances.
Gautier, Theophile, Avatar.
Gautier, Theophile, Jettatura.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel, The House of the Seven Gables.
Hogg, James, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner.
Jewett, Sarah Orne, Lady Ferry and Other Uncanny People.
Jones, Stephen, ed., H. P. Lovecraft's Book of the Supernatural.
Kafka, Franz, The Metamorphosis and Other Stories.
MacDonald, George, The Princess and the Goblin.
Merimee, Prosper, Carmen and Other Stories.
Morris, William, The Water of the Wondrous Isles.
Morrow, W. C., The Monster Maker and Other Stories.
Prata, Nicholas, Angels in Iron.
Price, Robert, ed., The Hastur Cycle.
Pulver, Joseph, Sr., ed., A Season in Carcosa.
Pulver, Joseph, Sr., ed., Cassilda's Song.
Pulver, Joseph, Sr., The King in Yellow Tales, Vol.1.
Quiller-Couch, Sir Arthur, The Collected Supernatural and Weird Fiction of Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch.
Robinson, R. L., No Light in August: Tales from Carcosa & the Borderland.
Stoker, Bram, Dracula.
Valentine, Mark, ed., The Werewolf Pack.
Various, The Sagas of Icelanders.
Verne, Jules, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Worthy, Peter, ed., Rehearsals for Oblivion: Act I.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Bibliography: First Half of 2016

A bibliography similar to the previous one. This one covers January-June 2016. Again, it's not necessarily complete and contains only whole books, not articles or primarily reference works. I'm also trying to only include books that are newish - i.e., not on the previous couple lists. (Childrens' books also generally not included!)

Nonfiction

Chesterton, G.K., Orthodoxy.
De Lubac, Henri, The Discovery of God.
Lucian of Samosata, Instructions for Writing History.
Newman, John Henry, An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent.
Orr, James, The Christian View of God and the World.

Fiction

Abbott, Edwin, Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions.
Anderson, Douglas, ed., Tales Before Narnia: The Roots of Modern Fantasy and Science Fiction.
Anderson, Douglas, ed., Tales Before Tolkien: The Roots of Modern Fantasy.
Anonymous, The Unseen Hand: Supernatural and Weird Fiction by Unknown Authors.
Baldick, Chris, ed., The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales.
Beckford, William, Vathek.
Beckford, William, The Episodes of Vathek.
Bierce, Ambrose, Ghost and Horror Stories of Ambrose Bierce.
Bierce, Ambrose, The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce.
Blackwood, Algernon, Ancient Sorceries and Other Weird Stories.
Blackwood, Algernon, Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood.
Blackwood, Algernon, The Empty House and Other Ghost Stories.
Blackwood, Algernon, The Listener and Other Stories.
Blackwood, Algernon, The Lost Valley and Other Stories.
Blackwood, Algernon, Pan's Garden: A Volume of Nature Stories.
Braddon, Mary Elizabeth, The Face in the Glass and Other Gothic Tales.
Broughton, Rhoda, Twilight Stories.
Cavendish, Margaret, The Blazing World.
Collins, Wilkie, The Haunted Hotel & Other Stories.
Cox, Michael and R. A. Gilbert, eds., The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories.
Cox, Michael and R. A. Gilbert, eds., The Oxford Book of Victorian Ghost Stories.
De Balzac, Honore, Selected Short Stories.
De Bergerac, Cyrano, A Voyage to the Moon.
De Bergerac, Cyrano, A Voyage to the Sun.
De Maupassant, Guy, The Weird Fiction of Guy De Maupassant.
Dickens, Charles, Complete Ghost Stories.
Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan, Tales of Unease.
Edwards, Amelia B., Collected Supernatural and Weird Fiction.
Freeman, Mary Wilkins, The Wind in the Rose-Bush and Other Stories of the Supernatural.
Gaskell, Elizabeth, Gothic Tales.
Godwin, Francis, The Man in the Moone.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel, Tales and Sketches.
Hoffmann, E.T.A., The Best Tales of Hoffmann.
Irving, Washington, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories.
Jacobs, W.W., The Monkey's Paw and Other Tales of Mystery and the Macabre.
James, Henry, Ghost Stories of Henry James.
James, M.R., Count Magnus and Other Ghost Stories.
James, M.R., The Haunted Dolls' House and Other Ghost Stories.
Kepler, Johannes, Somnium.
Kipling, Rudyard, Strange Tales.
Lear, David, ed., Micromegas and Other Early Science Fiction Tales.
Lee, Vernon, Hauntings and Other Fantastic Tales.
LeFanu, Joseph Sheridan, Best Ghost Stories.
Lewis, Matthew, The Monk.
London, Jack, Before Adam and Other Stories.
London, Jack, The Iron Heel and Other Stories.
London, Jack, The Star Rover and Other Stories.
Lord Dunsany, Gods of Pegana.
Lord Dunsany, The Gods and Time.
MacDonald, George, Lilith.
Machen, Arthur, The White People and Other Weird Stories.
Machen, Arthur, House of Souls.
Malory, Sir Thomas, Le Morte D'Arthur.
Maturin, Charles Robert, Melmoth the Wanderer.
Morris, William, The Well at the World's End.
Nesbit, Edith, The Power of Darkness: Tales of Terror.
O'Brien, Fitz-James, The Best Weird Fiction and Ghost Stories of Fitz-James O'Brien.
O'Donnell, Elliott, The Screaming Skulls and Other Ghosts.
Onions, Oliver, The Dead of Night: The Ghost Stories of Oliver Onions.
Peattie, Elia Wilkinson, The Shape of Fear and Other Ghostly Tales.
Radcliffe, Emily, The Mysteries of Udolpho.
Riddell, J. H., Night Shivers.
Shelley, Mary, Collected Tales and Stories.
Shelley, Mary, The Last Man.
Swift, Jonathan, Gulliver's Travels.
Verne, Jules, Journey to the Center of the Earth.
Walpole, Horace, The Castle of Otranto.
Wells, H. G., The Red Room and Other Horrors.
Wells, H. G., The Stolen Bacillus and Other Incidents.
Wells, H. G., The Plattner Story and Others.
Wells, H. G., Tales of Space and Time.
Wells, H. G., Twelve Stories and a Dream.
Wells, H. G., The Door in the Wall and Other Stories.
Wells, H. G., Uncollected Stories.
Wraight, Chris,  Parting of the Ways (audio).

The Horus Heresy series:
The Outcast Dead: The Truth Lies Within.
Wolfhunt (audio).
The Sigillite (audio).
Deliverance Lost: Ghosts of Terra.
Corax: Soulforge: Victory is Vengeance.
Ravenlord: Freedom Bought with Blood.

Various short stories. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Catching up with the Present in Presentist Time?

Presentists hold that only one time exists. Obviously, since there are no other times, this time is the only one that can be correctly referred to as "the present", absolutely speaking. Previous times, however - "the past" - do not exist or at least are not real times in the same sense as the present.

Now consider the scientific fact that it takes time to perceive things. It takes time for light to bounce off a surface and enter into my eye, or for the signals from any one or more of my senses to travel along my neural pathways and make their way to my brain. It likely takes time for my brain to process any kind of input prior to it even becoming conscious. Conscious experience is likely itself spread across a period of time. What this means, then, is (at the least) that what is perceived (or at least those particular conditions or slices of life of whatever objects are perceived) is always in the past relative to your perception of it.

So if the past is unreal as the presentist claims, the world you perceive is also not real and hence your perception is, in a sense, illusory since it is presented as real and existing - the conditions of it presented as actually obtaining. The world you perceive has no real existence - your perceptions are of the ghosts of another world allowed to slip into the actual world, the present, and not of the actual world itself.

Perhaps you can try to infer what the real world is like from what is presented in experience, but this also takes time. Our perceptions and our mental faculties in general have difficulty in "keeping up" with what is real as everything we try to grasp is swiftly swept away into oblivion.

In the presentist's world, then, we are disconnected from reality in a much stronger way than one would have otherwise thought, contrary to many presentists' claims that presentism is somehow the "common sense" view (a claim I would reject for many reasons - see my dissertation, for examples). A real past, however, one that exists and is fully actualized in the actual world we live in (and I think this actually fits common sense a bit better), renders our perceptions true, with us really perceiving and in touch with reality as it is and exists. Including what we see when we gaze out into the stars...

Monday, January 25, 2016

Some (Slightly Edited) Facebook Posts about Gay Marriage and Related Topics from Last Year

** In response to the Supreme Court's decision on gay marriage:

Okay, here's my rant-y, overly-long, and potentially incendiary post for the quarter (actually a cleverly disguised apology/call for love and understanding):

Thank you friends for being who you are. I'm proud to say that, given the recent Supreme Court judgment on gay marriage, Facebook pretty clearly shows I have friends on BOTH sides of the issue. This is a good thing (surrounding yourself only with those you agree with is not the best way to go about life). And frankly, you've all been, without any exceptions, extremely respectful and loving in every one of your posts on the subject, even when others may not be. Even the articles you share have been similar. On the one hand, you have been celebratory without being gloating or judging. On the other hand, you have been disappointed without being bitter or judging. Thank you for doing your part in making the internet and life in general a more respectful, friendlier, and generally more decent place for everyone.

In general, I get annoyed by debates over gay marriage or homosexuality in general. Not because I don't have an opinion on some matters (listen to my Cornerstone class on the Old Testament laws where I talk about biblical commands about sex) or that people don't agree with me but rather because of the tone and irrationality of the debate in most cases. Debates generally consist almost entirely in name calling, straw men, false analogies, condemnation for even making an analogy (without even considering the merits of the argument), begging the question, equivocation, ad hominems, genetic fallacies, etc.

On the debate over the legalization of gay marriage I just have a few points to make which, if taken seriously, would have at least as much chance as any in making things a bit more tolerable (though maybe not):

1) Just because someone supports the legalization of gay marriage does not mean they think it is morally permissible. You can think being a Jehovah's Witness is wrong, for instance, all the while thinking that people have a basic right to be a Jehovah's Witness. People can have rights to choose whether or not to do a bad thing.

2) Just because someone is against the legalization of gay marriage does not mean they think it is morally wrong. The majority of the legal and philosophical arguments against legalization do not depend in any way on the moral (or even religious) status of gay marriage. (Nor does anyone claim that gay marriage will harm their own personal marriage - that's a straw man) For instance, one argument is that marriage by definition excludes two persons of the same sex so that saying we should legalize same sex marriage would be akin to saying that we should legalize round squares. Whether the argument works or not, that has nothing to do with morality.

3) Similarly, just because someone thinks it's wrong doesn't mean they are against legalization and just because someone thinks it's morally permissible doesn't mean they think the law should recognize it. In other words, issues of legal rights and legal values are separate (though not always necessarily completely distinct from) issues of moral rightness and moral values. Just because it should be legal doesn't mean it's okay. Just because it shouldn't be doesn't mean it isn't. To repeat: these are distinct questions. How we relate the questions to each other will largely depend on the political and legal assumptions we adopt. It's not a matter of being a bigot or not, or being an approver of sin or not - it's about political and legal views, period. In general, Americans tend to confuse legal and moral values and jump to conclusions about one from a conviction about the other. "People should have the right to do X; it's none of your business if they do it, so mind your own business" quickly becomes "So doing X is okay"; and "Doing X is wrong" quickly becomes "We should outlaw X".

4) There's a distinction between what should or shouldn't be legal and what is or isn't constitutional. Someone can think the supreme court ruled correctly while also thinking that gay marriage should be illegal or think that it should be legal while thinking that the court ruled incorrectly. (A distinction that was lost on those who, simply because they thought it should be illegal, criticized Chief Justice Roberts for ruling in favor of "Obamacare")

5) The Bible does not explicitly and directly tell us which political and legal theories to adopt nor does it explicitly and directly speak about gay marriage, hence to say "the Bible says no to gay marriage", etc. is a bit misleading when we're talking about legal rights.

6) On the other hand, to say "The Bible says nothing about gay marriage" is also misleading since it does in fact (in my opinion) say direct things about homosexual acts and morality (note that I say "morality", not "legality"), which are topics obviously closely related to gay marriage.

Bottom line: As someone who has not chosen a specific political/legal reference point, I don't have a particular opinion on whether or not the Supreme Court made the right decision. I don't know - I haven't considered these reference points nor the arguments for and against gay marriage in enough detail to make an informed decision regarding legality. (I really can see both sides of the argument at the moment.) I make decisions based on warrant and right now I simply haven't acquired enough information. Some other people may have done this, but I haven't. I hope that's okay - it wasn't up to me to make the decision anyway. But let's be understanding of those who do not share our own views, whether of the legality or the morality of gay marriage. Let's listen and understand where they're coming from, WHY they hold the views they do, and let's see things from their point of view before we rush to condemn. Let's have empathy with others and drop the name calling, shaming, and judging. We're not enemies, we're family. We're people. Let's treat each other as such.

** In response to Kim Davis refusing to sign marriage licenses:

Not a popular opinion (feel free to disagree) - and I may be wrong about this - but I can't help but think regarding what's going on in Kentucky that recognizing that two people have met government requirements to enter into a government contract, regardless of whether entering into such a contract is sinful or unwise or otherwise inadvisable (and the clerk in question apparently has no problem recognizing other contracts she disagrees with), is in no way an endorsement or moral acceptance of such a contract. I'm a very strong supporter of religious liberty, but I don't think religious liberty has much of anything to do with what's going on here. That's just my initial reaction, though.

** In response to this bit of silliness:

Oy. Sorry, short rant: While I agree that Davis isn't doing the right thing here, I have to object to the way Huffington Post is trying to argue for that position. This is the sort of article you see again and again (not necessarily about this case, but in general), and it's really annoying since it completely ignores how biblical hermeneutics (the interpretation and application of the Bible) even works. The majority of these jobs are not "banned by the Bible". For one thing, most of the out-of-context quotes don't even match the job description given. Not eating pork, for instance, doesn't have much to do with selling other people pork (though if the former is wrong, one could argue the latter would be as well, but that doesn't follow automatically). For another, even if they did, it still wouldn't be relevant since lists like this ignore the fact that there are biblical and theological reasons why Christians follow some laws strictly and literally today and others not so much. Articles like this try to make it seem arbitrary, silly, and a case of picking and choosing. While many Christians might not be aware of the exact reasons WHY some laws are followed more strictly than others, that does not mean that there are no good reasons. This is precisely one of the many reasons why I did the Old Testament laws class I did, so people would understand biblically how to interpret these laws and how they are supposed to be applied today. Other than the psychic advisor or maybe the gossip columnist (which is kind of a scummy job to do anyway), I don't see how any of these would be a violation of biblical principles.