feelings?

Sometimes I reflect on the many things that I have heard in sermons throughout the years. For me, that includes some time in seminary.

So, I have been wondering:

Why can I not trust my feelings but I can trust my reasoning?

I cannot recall how many times I have been told that my feelings are untrustworthy but my reasoning I can trust. (And let’s assume that hermeneutics is a form of reasoning.) But how realistic is that? Or, maybe more importantly, how human is that?

Happy to read any answers!

accept to expect

I have been meaning to write this for a couple of days. While having a coffee I was challenged (indirectly) by someone to move from “accept to expect”. And I have been reflecting on that for a couple of days.

I really like that! Not “I accept God will come to my help” but “I expect God to come to my help”. I think there is a sense of action in being “expectant” on God. As the shift from “choice” to “resolution” is a movement toward action, from possibility to actuality, so “accepting” to “expecting” is a movement.

I think, in a way, that is the movement that Kierkegaard expects (!!) in faith. The change from possibility to actuality. The movement from having faith in Jesus to imitating Jesus in my daily life. Maybe that is what the Brethren of the Common Life called “conversion”. From the head to the heart?!

Is that too over the top philosophical?

usefulness?

I have been reading The Handmaid’s Tale and watching the TV version. I am not sure if that is confusing me or making it a little easier.

This morning I thought of Immanuel Kant:

Kant’s formulation of humanity, the second section of the categorical imperative, states that as an end in itself, humans are required never to treat others merely as a means to an end, but always as ends in themselves.

Kanthian ethics

Part of the objectification of people is using them for their usefulness. We rank people according to how they may serve society and we reward those who are more useful and punish those who are not useful. The Handmaids are simply a more extreme example of how we trend people as a means rather than an end.

I feel my uselessness. No skills for the greater good, sickness dragging down and costing society, without purpose or end. I am very forgettable.

No answer or insight! Simply that people are much more than their usefulness.

experience

During the week the theme of “experience” has surfaced a couple of times. It reminded me of a thought experiment sometimes called Mary’s Room. I think it highlights the importance of experience. And, by extension, to experience Jesus is better than to know about Jesus.

Also: I think the above is what Kierkegaard writes about in Philosophical Fragments.

Anyway, read the thought experiment and think about it:

Mary is a brilliant scientist who is, for whatever reason, forced to investigate the world from a black and white room via a black and white television monitor. She specializes in the neurophysiology of vision and acquires, let us suppose, all the physical information there is to obtain about what goes on when we see ripe tomatoes, or the sky, and use terms like “red”, “blue”, and so on. She discovers, for example, just which wavelength combinations from the sky stimulate the retina, and exactly how this produces via the central nervous system the contraction of the vocal cords and expulsion of air from the lungs that results in the uttering of the sentence “The sky is blue”. … What will happen when Mary is released from her black and white room or is given a color television monitor? Will she learn anything or not?

love the truth?

So here is a completely random idea: what if we were to stop talking about knowing the truth and start talking about loving the truth? Or, to put it in Christian terms, what if we were to stop talking about knowing Jesus and start talking about loving Jesus?

While I kinda understand the idea of knowing something, I think it has been drawn into a direction that is not helpful for our relationship with Jesus. It makes the relationship all about our head and then our heart. Let’s turn that around and make it about the heart exclusively. Let’s make it a human relationship rather than an intellectual.

I want to write about this more but I think this is a start!

objectivity?

Thus Christianity protests against all objectivity; it wants the subject to be infinitely concerned with itself.

Kierkegaard: Concluding Unscientific Postscript (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy).

So I have tried to read a little Kierkegaard every day. I admit that Fear and Trembling always gets me thinking (and desiring).

Yet I have also been reading Concluding Unscientific Postscript. And the above quote has struck me as something very relevant. In a world that elevates objectivity (and denigrates passion), what is the role of Christianity? Kierkegaard would say that it is this very paradoxical role that defines Christianity. Some within Christendom have adopted the objective approach and have created a dispassionate version of Christianity where reason is elevated over faith. In the process, humanity is reduced to being a “reasonable animal” and “me” is reduced to the sum of my parts.

I do not think we need to surrender objective truth. I am simply thinking that we cannot ignore the subject individual who related to the objective truth. But, I am no philosopher!

witnesses to Jesus

I have been continuing to read The Freedom to Become a Christian: A Kierkegaardian Account of Human Transformation in Relationship with God. (I had a very pleasant hour on the beach yesterday reading and watching the waves.)

I just wanted to share two quotes that really struck me:

When Christian conceptions or propositions become the object of the Christian faith (for example, in the form of Christian doctrine), ‘Christianity’ becomes a plaything for intellectual pursuits, cultural sensibilities and political agendas. This is not, of course, to deny that Christian concepts and propositions serve a purpose. Their primary purpose, however, is to serve as a witness to God: to provide us with teaching that helps us to talk about, understand and know both who God is and who we are before God. But, for Kierkegaard, they are not to take centre stage.

The Freedom to Become a Christian, 4.

I was struck by the idea that doctrine etc are witnesses. And that these provide a framework for us to speak about God.

The conclusion that this work seeks to draw is that, for Kierkegaard, Christian belief and understanding are subordinate to a person’s relationship with God. They do not constitute the relationship itself. They are nothing more than a witness to and expression of the fact that God actively relates to us in history.

This is the main aim of the book. And I think this is a really important point to remember: it is all about a relationship. As the author further explains it is about a choice for the Christian life, it is not about conclusions but rather a resolution. (The last part is me!)

intentionally focused on Jesus

I will preface this post by saying that I am not a philosopher, nor am I a theologian. I am a person who reads and thinks. So the following has no standing in either philosophy or theology (or reasoned argument).

I have been trying to understand phenomenology. Maybe understand is the wrong word!? I am trying to skip the stone on the surface of phenomenology to see where the ripples go to.

So Wikipedia defines it as the

philosophical study of the structures of experience and consciousness.

It is the first part that interests me: what is experience? Maybe to put it more in context, what does it mean to ‘experience Jesus’? I have no answers, either can there be an answer, but I have one observation. And that observation relates directly to this week’s gospel reading, Mark 4:26:34 (about which I will post later).

In that context I stumbled upon the idea of intentionality.

Intentionalism is the thesis that all mental states are intentional, i.e. that they are about something: about their intentional object.

Now, to wrap up a long and convoluted post, to experience Jesus one must be intentionally focused on Jesus.

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

Mark 4:33-34

To hear Jesus in the midst of all the noise of this world, one must be listening for Him. And to listen for Him one must be focused on Him alone. The lesson for me is that I need to have times of the day that I am completely focused on Jesus. For me, silence helps. And, of course, Jesus is not an object but a person. So I need to be focused on a person, settle my mind and see with the eyes of faith the Person.

Does any of that make sense?

Kierkegaard and Batman

I have been thinking of rewatching Christopher Nolan‘s Batman series. I have enjoyed them in the past and, since we are back in lockdown, I have a little spare time. And Existentialist Comics has a great comic on the connection between Kierkegaard and Batman.

A movie is an experience. I think we sometimes over look the depth of some movies. I like the no-brainer movies too. But there are movies that make people think and, I think, the church should acknowledge that and work with it rather than against it. I think Jesus (and most certainly Kierkegaard) would use examples from modern movies to illustrate His points.

I have always thought that the three Nolan Batman movies had much philosophical depth. And I really like Batman as a superhero. So I did a quick Google and found this: The Dark Knight: Why So Existential? The post draws some very good connections with Fear and Trembling. It is well worth a read!

I might write more about Batman as I make my way through the movies.