Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Epistemology and Faith

Epistemology fascinates and frustrates me. How can I say that I know about knowing when I must know before I can make that claim about knowing? Today in Christian Ethics we discussed how we know God.

Augustine believes that humans are primarily loving beings. He says that we can never be certain that we know God intellectually, rather we know God in our hearts. At first I heard this and I was immediately skeptical. Heart? Feelings? Emotions? How fickle. How can that be the basis for knowing God?

I have always thought that knowing God is a combination of heart and intellect. Someone who only knows God intellectually doesn't actually know God. There has to be both emotions and rational involved in loving. But which is primary, heart or head? The two are distinct but not divided.

I know God, and love him, even though not everything about him makes sense to me intellectually. Augustine says that if we think that we can comprehend God, then we have the wrong God. We can never be certain about everything, but we still know God and we know that we know God. It's in our gut.

Augustine does not mean that we are not thinking beings, or that intellectual knowing of God is not important, rather means that we are first loving beings. We know things with our hearts before our minds. For example, in a romantic relationship two people love and know each other even though they cannot explain or understand everything about the person they love and know. That heart knowing gives them a connection that is deeper than just knowing facts about that person. The knowing is more like a gut knowing. (I think Augustine would hardly separate loving from knowing.) There are many similarities between loving/knowing a significant other and loving/knowing God.

I have doubts about God and about the Bible and reality, but I still have faith. I can't articulate what faith is because it's not entirely a feeling. It is something deeper than a feeling, because it trumps my feelings of doubts. Sometimes I don't have faith but I do. I don't believe in God but I do. It seems like Christianity is more gut. Knowing is a gut sort of thing. It's not just all intellectual because a lot of things about reality don't make sense to me, but I still know it. Prof Bennett said, "If Christianity is all about thinking, then why aren't the Pharisees the best Christians?"

I can't define what heart knowledge means though. Do I need to define it? I know is that it can't be just a feeling. Is it partially experiential?

My experience with faith and doubts seems to defend Augustine's point of view. I have doubts and I have faith, but the faith goes beyond my doubts. Faith and knowing are totally connected. (Can they even be separated?) Knowing seems more existential. Can we know even when we don't know if we know? Can we know even when we have doubts? Maybe this is what it means that knowing is a heart thing first, before it is intellectual.

The Fraction

This is a summary of a conversation I had with someone.

I walked to Rite Aid before weight training and I saw this bum sitting on the sidewalk. He was asking for change, mumbling more like, with his head down as if he was ashamed to ask. People were stepping over him like he was a trash bag or something. That depressed me so much to see him like that.
I gave him what change I had, thirty cents. I offered him a cigarettes and he just said, "Sure." I asked him if he needed a light and he just said no.
I talked to my Dad about it and told him how frustrated I was. He just told me that I should tell him about a homeless shelter and take him there. But I told him that it's not like homeless shelters are in some secret place. Bums know where homeless shelters are. Is that what we do with bums? Take them to the homeless shelter like we take dogs to the pound? Too many of them on the street so we take them someplace else.
The thing is, I am no different than I bum. I beg people for change so I can buy myself a damn pack, or I beg people for cigarettes. But if that guy walked into Rite Aid people would watch him like crazy. People would be all worried, yet people trust me. Why?
Why does society treat them like they have no value, like somehow I have more value than that bum?
They are dehumanized.
I went to weight training after that and I couldn't do anything and I got really pissed off. I ran for 1:40 and I was tired. I couldn't lift anything. That's how I feel about this bum problem. I can't do anything. I am so damn powerless to change anything.
When I was in 7th grade there was this fraction that I really wanted to solve but no matter what I did I couldn't solve it. I couldn't get the right answer so I started crying. I was in 7th grade crying over a fucking math problem and everyone in the class was laughing at me. This is like the ultimate fraction for me. I don't know the answer and it frustrates the hell out of me. It makes me feel so damn pointless.
What do I do? I get an education and learn about why our system is so screwed up. Why there is poverty. And what do I do when I get out of college? I get a job and buy into the system and become a part of the machine that creates oppression. What the hell am I supposed to do? I want to do something but I don't know what the hell to do!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Principalities and Powers

When I think about demons I get nauseous and dizzy. I don't know why. In a way I am still afraid although I have dwelt with my fear. This is something that I should be praying for more, that I would truly deal with my fears. Yes, they are powerful, but if God is for me who can be against me?

I have the full armor of God- truth, righteousness, gospel of peace, salvation, faith, the Word of God, and prayer. Clothed in this I am invincible. This is something that I have to be constantly reminding myself of because I know that these principalities and powers want my faith to go limp; they want me to bend in terror but I will not. The Lord of Hosts is on my side. He defeats Satan in the same way he defeated the Philistines, Egyptians, Canaanites, etc. Victory is mine because victory is Christ's.
Lord, remind me of this truth always.

Yes, the first part of the armor of God is the belt of truth. I'm sure this is because the first place that Satan attacks is the truth of God. In the Garden of Eden Satan told Eve, "You shall not surely die...You shall be like God." This is how Satan gets to us, by tempting us into disbelief.

I become fearful because I do not practically believe the promises of victory in Christ. I do not believe that he is my strength and my stronghold. I am vulnerable when I forget and do not believe that what God says about himself is true.

So fuck this dizzy nausea. It's a farce. He who is in me is stronger than he who is in the world. Though I am weak, he is strong.