Thursday, September 29, 2011

Love is like a Pitching Machine

If you have ever had children and you live in Suburbia, you have probably
been exposed to youth Baseball, played by thousands of youngsters in ball
parks all over the country. A central object at baseball practice (and in
games, until the kids are old enough for real pitching) is the good ol'
Pitching Machine.

It's a pretty simple device, really: A large, rubber
wheel spins constantly, and a short section
of plastic tubing "feeds" baseballs
onto the wheel at just the right speed
and angle (and the wheel can be angled
up or down, left and right), in order to deliver
"perfect pitches" to the small Batter at the plate...
Electricity feeds the rubber wheel, keeping it in constant motion,
whether the coach is putting baseballs (from the bucket nearby) onto the wheel
or not; in this sense, the wheel is continuously ready, willing and able
to serve up pitches because it is always in motion; it never stops.

Well, True Love is an Attitude that is just like that: If LOVE is
in our hearts, if it is always already in motion, if we are continuously
ready to act on its momentum, then when opportunities to demonstrate
LOVE (in hundreds of ways that show Grace and Compassion and Kindness and
Courtesy and Respect and Deference and Generosity and Caring), we won't have to
"switch it on" or suddenly "change tracks in our mind" to now "focus" on
Loving someone; we will be already moving in that direction, indeed,
"primed" for whatever opportunities to practice and demonstrate True Love may
present themselves, all around us, every day...

And the more we practice our "swing", well, the greater our chances are for
hitting those home runs, or at least advancing the runner -- our Neighbor --
to the next base...

So where does this "constant Attitude of True Love" come from?

Attitudes are EFFECTS, not Causes; it follows, then, to examine Causes:
It begins with Thinking: "Seek wisdom, seek Understanding", Proverbs tells us;
How we THINK (and WHAT we Think) lays the groundwork for, and begins to set
in stone, what we BELIEVE. Then, our Beliefs -- reviewed, supported, grown,
and erected -- begin to produce in us certain ATTITUDES about the nature of
the thing being Believed, and very often, about the World in general.
The last bit is that it is most often our Attitudes which drive our BEHAVIORS.

Put simply, it looks like this:
    THINKING establishes (or "causes") BELIEFS
    BELIEFS foster (or "cause") ATTITUDES
    ATTITUDES determine (or "cause") BEHAVIORS

So, logically, the first place to focus when we want to create an Attitude
of True Love inside ourselves (and this should be our constant prayer...
"God change me, fill me with Your Love and make me a conduit of Your Love
to those around me") is to go back to how we THINK, about God, about ourselves,
and about those around us...

Indeed, is this not the main purpose of going to church, of reading
the scriptures, of reading good Christian literature, and of surrounding
ourselves with mature, humble, spiritual Christian companionship? To bring us
back, again and again, to the TRUTH of God (Thinking), which can then buttress
or change) our Beliefs, and which then can change our ATTITUDES, resulting in
more mature, God-like Behaviors? " being made complete..."

So ponder the Pitching Wheel today. Ask yourself if, right now, in your Heart,
you have this "Attitude of Love", already in motion to imitate Christ,
by "taking the very nature of a servant" and by "washing one another's feet"...
If we don't find that Attitude pervading our hearts, it's time to Think,
deeply, about whether or not the Christ-life is alive in us.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

2 Problems with Materialism

For the philosophically uninitiated, the philosophy of Materialism (and here I am
paraphrasing) suggests that the only plane of Reality is the physical world; indeed,
sometimes philosophers use the words "Physicalism" and "Materialism"

Especially in matters of Mind, a strict Materialist will insist that what we refer
to as "Mind" is merely the emergent result of the physical workings of the Brain;
that a Thought, or an Emotion, is merely the result of the chemical and
physiological workings of the organ inside our skulls, and that anything like a
"Mind" (or any other "Force" or "Influence" on that "alleged Mind") is quite
literally traceable to areas in the Brain and the chemical and physiological
processes going on in that region...

Well there are two huge problems with that philosophy and the central role
it plays in many modern World Views:

Truth becomes Impossible
An internal combustion engine works by having Gasoline injected into, say, eight
cylinders; the spark plugs (powered by the battery) provide a "spark" that causes
the gas in the cylinder chamber to explode, forcing the cylinder downward, and a
spring brings it back up. If all the cylinders are "firing" properly, the
aggregate "energy" from the engine is fed into the transmission systems,
eventually finding its way to the wheels, which spin the tires, and the automobile
is put into motion. (This is a recap from a strict amateur on how this all works,
but I think I may have got the basic details right...)

Now, there is nothing whatsoever specially "TRUE" about any of these details;
you would not say that a properly-functioning engine produced some kind of
"statement" about Reality that is "True" (or "False"), and neither can anyone say
that the mechanical, physiological, chemical "firings" in the Brain produce any
kind of "Truth"; they simply DO what they DO, as physical properties; they do not
establish, by themselves, any kind of FACT.

Indeed, statements ABOUT these chemical processes can be "True" or "False,
but if nothing exists EXCEPT those processes, then even those statements lose
all meaning. A physical process cannot make any claims about itself; it just
DOES what it DOES, making no statements and offering no insights on Reality.

So Materialism defeats itself because even the very statement "The Material world
is all there is" is not something mere chemical processes would ever assert.
Something OUTSIDE of those processes -- something BEYOND the chemicals --
has to be *observing* those chemicals in order to arrive at conclusions ABOUT
those chemicals. TRUTH, then, becomes impossible in a purely Materialist world,
since NO "thought" (even about Materialism!) can rise above the physiology.

Localization assumes way too much
Quite a few modern atheist/materialist/naturalist/reductionist Neuro-Scientists
(and others who trumpet the conclusions of this group as some kind of "proof"
that "Science" has figured it all out) are claiming to have found the "God" part
of the Brain, and proudly demonstrate how their various tools -- advanced brain
scans, high-resolution MRIs, etc. -- can pinpoint parts of the Brain that
"light up" when the subject is said to be having some sort of "religious
experience"... "See, it's all just Brain activity!" they gloat...
This is sometimes called "Localization", the idea that certain experiences
*come from* and are *local to* certain portions of the Brain...

You can take a simple radio and apply various electronic tools to "track"
precisely where, in the circuitry, the Sound of your favorite radio station
seems to be occurring at any given moment; but does that mean, then, that the
SOUND originates from, and remains resident in, those electronic components?
Of course not: The Signal is coming from a radio tower somewhere near enough
to be picked up by the radio, and these electronic components ACT on it --
"modulate" it -- in various ways to present the Sound to your ears (we could
talk about Sound "only happening in your ears", too).

So while it may be true that a Neuro-Scientist's tools can identify WHERE in
the Brain certain functions occur, it does NOT follow, then, that those portions
of the Brain are RESPONSIBLE for the *production* of specific events.
Something -- like a Mind -- could be *operating on* or *passing through* that
portion of the Brain, which then lights up the Scientist's detection tools, but
the SOURCE of that activity may very well be something the Materialist simply
cannot capture, measure, or pin down...

I get a little weary of the scientific community dressing up their assumptions
in lofty rhetoric and then excoriating anyone who challenges those assumptions.

But then we Christians know precisely why they do it, don't we...