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Mere Christianity; Sense and nonsense


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Chuckle

Smith climbs to the top of Mt. Sinai to get close enough to talk to God. Looking up, he asks the Lord, "God, what does a million years mean to you?" The Lord replies, "A minute." Smith asks, "And what does a million dollars mean to you?" The Lord replies, "A penny." Smith asks, "Can I have a penny?" The Lord replies, "In a minute."

— Sent by Trudy Myers

Thought

The old may be out-run, but not out-reasoned.

— Chaucer


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JONAL ENTRY 1206 | DECEMBER 8 2011

I want to begin my continued comments begun on Thanksgiving day by critiquing the verses of a Hindu hymn published then in this space and submitted for our consideration by Bud Book. Its first line:

There was neither non-existence nor existence then.

is what my Jonalthan-Edwards-amateur-theologian-friend (whom I shall from now on refer to as "the Edwardsian") would call a nonsense assertion. If there was a "there" or a "then," something had to exist. Both space (there) and time (then) are defined by their content; if there is no content in either, neither of them exist.

But as the Edwardsian argues and which I find logically sound, nonexistence is utterly unthinkable. He likes to say, "it may be sayable but not thinkable," which is nonsense in its way as well, but he means of course that when you say this you are talking nonsense. One of the primeval "logical proofs" for God, the ontological argument, speaks directly to this, to existence. If there is such a thing as existence, which you could only doubt if you yourself did not exist—but then you couldn't either, could you?—if any thing exists, there must be a God, defined as the Creator and the Prime Mover. How else could matter, from which I have been begotten, have come to "be" or to exist, if not for the existence of something beyond materiality?

The Hindu hymn continues with a re-enforcement of the initial nonsense assertion,

There was neither the realm of space nor the sky which is beyond

Beyond what? And then:

What stirred?
Where?
In whose protection?

How could anything stir if there was no existence? All that has come thus far is unthinkable in a biblical frame of reference. The Bible from its first verse on assumes the eternal never-created existence of God, as well as His immutability, and it never wavers from it. God told Moses to think of Him as "I am that I am," which biblical philosophers compare with the idea that His existence is eternal and self-revealing. And the Psalmist had these precepts in mind when he wrote, "the fool has said in his heart, 'there is no God,'" (Psalms 14:1 and 53:1). And the Apostle Paul takes this to its next step in the first two chapters of his Epistle to the Romans, especially Romans 1:20: "the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that [those who claim ignorance of God] are without excuse."

But this is saying not much more than that I prefer the Judeo-Christian scriptures to their alternatives from the competition. And the next lines in the Vedic hymn seem somewhat biblcal

Was there water, bottomlessly deep?
There was neither death not immortality then.
There was no distinguishing sign of night nor day.
That ONE breathed, windless, by its own impulse.

One of the mysteries of the biblical account of creation is its references to the firmament and the waters below and above the firmament, which Judeo-Christian theologians have speculated about for millenia. But if this creation narrative means to suggest that water was the first matter created (or, as a good Darwinian might say, "the first thing to accidentally appear"), again it is logically and scientifically suspect. But before the creation of the differentiated earth and its contents, it is logical and biblically consistent to say there was neither death nor immortality, no night nor day. And the ONE—what ever that might be or where ever it might have come from if there was no space before this point—resembles the Creator introduced in the first chapter of Genesis, as He also breathed the material world into existence. And if space was a vacuum it may be true that His breath made no "wind," but I'm wondering if "windless breath" is cut out of the same cloth as one hand clapping.

The passage looked at last time has one more verse:

Whence this creation has arisen
- perhaps it formed itself, or perhaps it did not -
the ONE who looks down on it,
in the highest heaven, only He knows
or perhaps even He does not know.

But what sense does it make to speak of it being self-created and yet beheld by "the ONE," much less than that "the ONE" was person enough to have eyes to see and a mind to reflect on His seeing...much less that He is great enough to look down on all creation and yet not know whence it came.

It sounds to me like someone is trying to trick or fool us. As the Church Lady would now be asking: "Could it be Satan!?"

What do you think?

— Webmaster Jon Kennedy