Monday, May 28, 2007


Noah's Ark -- The Untold Story

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(via Steve Story)



Saturday, May 19, 2007


Today's deep thought by Jack Handy

Instead of trying to build newer and bigger weapons of destruction, we should be thinking about getting more use out of the ones we already have.



Views of Hell

[This post is indebted to an article by C. A. Patrides, published in Harvard Theological Review in 1964.*]

There are two punishments associated with hell, poena damni, pain of loss, and poena sensus, pain of sense. The latter is the one most people associate with hell, i.e., torment in a lake of fire, but the former also has an ancient pedigree.

Despite my love of Dante, I will be surveying thoughts on poena damni, since I do not conceive of hell as a "literal" lake of fire. Although, before I begin, I quote Bishop Thomas Bilson, who brought a smile to my face with his admonition that:

They that go thither shall find it [i.e., hell] no metaphor.

Origen wrote: seems to be indicated that every sinner kindles for himself the flame of his own fire...Of this fire the fuel and food are our sins, which are called by the Apostle Paul "wood, and hay, and stubble."

...when the soul shall be found to be beyond the order, and connection, and harmony in which it was created by God for the purposes of good and useful action and observation, and not to harmonize with itself in the connection of its rational movements, it must be deemed to bear the chastisement and torture of its own dissension, and to feel the punishments of its own disordered condition.

Robert Bolton, a Puritan, described poena damni as follows:

I. The Pain of loss. Privation of GOD’S glorious presence, and eternal separation from those everlasting joys, felicities and bliss above, is the more horrible part of hell, as Divines affirm. There are two parts (say they) of hellish torments; I. Pain of loss; and 2. Pain of sense: but a sensible and serious contemplation of that inestimable and unrecoverable loss, doth incomparably more afflict an understanding soul indeed, than all those punishments, tortures, and extremest sufferings of sense.
It is the constant and concurrent judgment of the ancient Fathers, that the torments and miseries of many hells, come far short, are nothing, to the kingdom of heaven, and unhappy banishment from the beatific vision of the most sovereign, only, and chiefest Good...The far greatest, and (indeed) unconceivable grief would be, to be severed for ever from the highest and supreme Good…

John Donne, a priest and poet, wrote:

when all is done, the hell of hells, the torment of torments, is the everlasting absence of God, and the everlasting impossibility of returning to his presence; Horrendum est, says the Apostle, It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God...but to fall out of the hands of the living God, is a horror beyond our expression, beyond our imagination...What Tophet is not Paradise, what Brimstone is not Amber, what mashing is not a comfort, what gnawing of the worm is not a tickling, what torment is not a marriage bed to this damnation, to be secluded eternally, eternally, eternally from the sight of God?

Richard Sibbes, another Puritan, wrote:

when God the Fountain of all good shall hide his face altogether
from the creature, that is Hell: The place where God shines not
outwardly with comforts nor inwardly, nor there shall be no hope of
neither, but a place of horror and despair, that is hell, as the hell of this life is when God shines not on our souls.

Ralph Cudworth, one of the Cambridge Platonists, wrote:

We have dreadful apprehensions, of the Flames of Hell without us; we tremble and are afraid, when we hear of Fire and Brimstone, whilst in the mean time, we securely nourish within our own hearts,
a true and living Hell,

---Et caeco carpimur igni:

the dark fire of our Lusts, consumeth our bowels within, and miserably scorcheth our souls, and we are not troubled at it. We do not perceive, how Hell steals upon us, whilest we live here. And as for Heaven, we only gaze abroad, expecting that it should come in to us from without, but never look for the beginning of it to arise within, in our own hearts.**

The preceding excerpts describe the sort of hell I envision, i.e., privation of God's presence and everlasting despair. I guess you can say I occupy the middle ground between "atavistic" literalists and namby-pamby liberals. (Although, I identify more with the former than the latter.)

*All the quotations, with the exception of Origen, are taken from Patrides article.

**Although I agree with this statement, I also agree with Alexander Ross, who wrote:

Though it be true, that where God’s presence is, there is Heaven; yet we must not therefore think, that there is not a peculiar ubi of bliss and happiness beyond the tenth Sphere, wherein God doth more manifestly shew his glory and presence, than anywhere else.

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Friday, May 11, 2007


Al Sharpton and Mormonism

I do not care for Al Sharpton, and I do not think it is fair to say Mormons do not believe in God. However, it is entirely fair to say that they espouse a false conception of God. The correct conception of God entails the following:
(The list is not exhaustive.)

The Mormon conception of God fails on these points.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007


Cameron-Comfort-Rational [sic] Responders debate

Comfort and Cameron mean well but they fared poorly, as I expected. However, the Rational [sic] Responders were also inept. They advanced several false claims, such as conservation of mass-energy being the 3rd law of thermodynamics (it is related to the 1st law) and that it implies matter is eternal; quite to the contrary, it is likely that at the big bang the gravitational field and its fluctuations introduced more energy into the system (ex nihilo).

I would have mopped the floor with the Rational [sic] Responders, of course. :)

(via Peezee)

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Saturday, May 05, 2007


More Cicero

Early Christians rightly judged Cicero a righteous pagan. The following excerpt is from his De natura deorum (translation by Francis Brooks):


Now Cleanthes, who belongs to our own school, said that [idea] of [God] had been formed in men’s minds owing to four causes...As the fourth and most important cause of all he names the uniformity of motion, the revolutions of the heavens, the grouping of the sun, and moon, and all the stars, their serviceableness, beauty, and order, the mere appearance of which things would be a sufficient indication that they were not the result of chance. Just as a man going into a house, or gymnasium, or market-place, would find it impossible, when he saw the plan, and scale, and arrangement of everything, to suppose that these things came into being uncaused, but would understand that there was some one who superintended and was obeyed, so in the case of such vast movements and alternations, in the orderly succession of phenomena so numerous and so mighty, in which the measureless and infinite extent of past time has never deceived expectation, it is much more inevitable that he should conclude that such great operations of nature are directed by some intelligence.

Chrysippus, again, speaks in a way which, though his own mind is a very keen one, he seems to have learnt direct from nature, rather than to have discovered himself. “For if,” he says, “there is something in nature which the mind, the reason, the strength, and the power of man would be unable to produce, surely that which does produce it is higher than man; now the heavenly bodies, and all those phenomena which observe an everlasting order, cannot be created by man; consequently that by which they are created is higher than man. And what could you say this was rather than God? For if there [is] no [God], there can be nothing higher in nature than man, since he alone possesses reason, and nothing can surpass reason in excellence. But that there should be a man who thinks that in the whole universe there is nothing higher than himself shows senseless arrogance. There is, then, something higher, and therefore there is assuredly a God.” Is it the fact that if you saw a large and beautiful house, you could not be persuaded, even if you did not see the master, that it had been built for the sake of mice and weasels, and would you not present the appearance of downright imbecility if you supposed that all this adornment of the world, all this diversity and beauty of the heavenly bodies, all this might and amplitude of sea and land, were a dwelling-place belonging to you and not to the immortal [God]?...And yet, on the ground even of man’s intelligence, we ought to consider that there exists some mind of the universe, one that is keener than his and divine. “For whence,” as Socrates says in Xenophon, “did man get hold of the mind he has?”...

And the element which surpasses all these, I mean reason, and if we care to express it by a variety of terms, intelligence, design, reflection, foresight, where did we find, whence did we secure it? Shall the universe possess all other qualities, and not this one which is of most importance? Yet surely in all creation there is nothing nobler than the universe, nothing more excellent and more beautiful. There not only is not, but there cannot even be imagined anything nobler, and if reason and wisdom are the noblest of qualities, it is inevitable that they should exist in that which we acknowledge to be supremely noble. Again, who can help assenting to what I say when he considers the harmonious, concordant, and unbroken connection which there is in things? Would the earth be able to have one and the same time for flowering, and then again one and the same time in which it lies rough? Or could the approach and departure of the sun be known, at the time of the summer and winter solstice, by so many objects spontaneously changing? Or the tides of the sea, and of narrow straits, be affected by the rising or setting of the moon? Or the dissimilar movements of the planets be maintained by the one revolution of the whole sky? It would be certainly impossible for these things to come to pass in this way, with such mutual harmony amongst all parts of the universe, if they were not held together by one divine and all-pervading spirit...

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