On Physics, Possibility, and Resurrection

Recently I was in a discussion about the Resurrection of Christ in which someone posted that "classical theism allows for the possibility of such contravention of the ordinary laws of physics". This raises the most commonly voiced objection I hear to the Resurrection, which was popularized by philosopher David Hume: The resurrection cannot occur because it is a miracle, and miracles are violations of natural laws, and since natural laws are universal, then we know a priori that miracles cannot violate them. For Hume, physical laws govern causality and what can, and cannot, happen to matter and energy within spacetime. This is further complicated by Hume's insistence that we can never "prove" causality, we can only note a correlation between two events. So for Hume, physical laws govern causality, while at the same time causality is a mental inference and not objectively part of the universe.


On subtle whoring and Kierkegaard

A few weeks ago, my wife and I were listening to an 80's station, when they played an awful song from the 80's that I had never heard before. Except, it was not "turn-the-station" awful, but rather "a-trainwreck-you-can't-not-look-at" awful. That song is the immortal "I've never been to me" by the singer Charlene.


Actually, I do have an Agenda

When someone volunteers a viewpoint but says "I don't have an agenda", my brain automatically hits the ignore button. It's like a saleswoman saying she's not trying to sell you anything, or a young man who says he reads playboy just for the articles. It is at best an intellectually sloppy habit, and at worst an attempt to disguise one's attempt to influence others. Everyone has an agenda, and we are all trying to persuade others, or at least see how our agenda stacks up to other agendas. 


Only 23 years left for the Episcopal Church?

I recently saw a WaPo article claiming that, based on the statistical free fall of membership in Mainline churches, we only have 23 Easters left before we cease to exist. On one hand, I would put this in the category of "the sky is falling" news reports we read about every few months, which are inevitably followed by a series of articles on signs of growth in "organized religion". This seasonal yin-yang of religion news fuels the constant back and forth of "told you so" posts on social media, as those for and against religion make competing claims. Yet on the other hand, there is something to listen to here. While I think we have many more than 23 Easters left, I do think things will change, and need to change, a great deal. By the year 2117 I would imagine that all American Mainline Protestants will have merged into 2-3 fairly small denominations. If I had to guess, probably one that styles itself a multi-faith fusion Religion, along the lines of Unitarian Universalism; One that is a Liberal Trinitarian Sacramental tradition, including many Lutherans, the Episcopal Church, and some Methodists; And one that is Liberal Trinitarian non-sacramental, and includes folks like Liberal Baptists and those who currently identify as Progressive Evangelicals. 


The Politics of Daily Bread

Today is the 100th anniversary of the Communist Revolution in Russia. It began as a righteous revolt against the real injustices of living under a corrupt Czarist government and an economic system that condemned millions to industrial and rural servitude. Yet the noble dreams of a classless society, where everyone had access to all the resources they needed to survive and thrive, was quickly subverted by the realpolitik of power and corruption. Then came the purges and the persecutions and the genocides, followed by decades of stagnation and nihilism, until Communism finally died a surprisingly peaceful death in the 1990s. It is easy to forget the dream which began the revolution, and look blandly at the inequality and injustice of today, and just accept it as "the way it is". But is this as good as it gets? Is the way we have engineered our society and our economics the best we can do? Is there not more to dream of, and more to hope for?


On Socially Engineered Tragedies

Another day, another mass shooting. Same event, different location. Sometimes more are dead, sometimes less. The plot is depressingly and predictably redundant, except when it is your loved one who is sacrificed in the story. As various newspapers have pointed out, this is now almost literally a daily event*. Part of the background noise. Just another news item to ignore as we work our 60 hour weeks just to keep our heads above water. 


Taking a stand for taking a knee

Like it or not, the #takeaknee protest movement has gotten us all talking. Unfortunately much of that talking is past each other rather than with each other. I have seen every conceivable reaction from both sides of this issue in equal amounts on my social media feed this weekend.


Following Jesus without God?

As many who read this blog know, I am a Christian priest who serves as a school chaplain and head of religious studies at an Episcopal Middle and Upper School (grades 6-12). My position shares a great many commonalities with being a parish priest. For instance, I am the "village vicar" and pastoral presence for nearly 600 students and staff, and their families as well. But there are significant differences too. Chief among them is the fact that my parish not only includes Episcopal Christians, but also Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants of every stripe, and every variety from Nominal to Committed to Conservative to Liberal. But not only does it include a broad spectrum of Christians, but my parish includes Muslims and Jews, Hindus and Buddhists, and many who Secular and even Atheist.


What is worth learning?

Recently a colleague sent me an article summarizing Harvard professor David Perkins entitled "What's Worth Learning in School?" This is a worthwhile and incredibly broad topic, so I was both eager to read what was said, and also hesitant. 


By the Corporations, for the Corporations

Let's get this straight: Equifax makes the mistake, but we all have to pay their bill? Equifax had sloppy cut rate cyber security to maximize profits, and as a result millions of consumers will have be diligent for the rest of their lives, investing time and money (paying companies like Equifax!) to make sure their credit rating does not get hurt, and their economic identity does not get stolen. This may result in losses for Equifax, which could result in layoffs of thousands of workers, and perhaps even the end of the company in a worst-case scenario.

All the while, the executives who made the decisions to put profits over security will still get their bonuses. Hell, even if the company folded or they were terminated, their severance packages would still leave them wealthier in a five years than they are today. And certainly no one would see jail time, except perhaps some low level executive who was only following orders. The same is true for the Wells Fargo scandal of opening millions of fake accounts, not to mention the 2008 crash, or basically any white collar scandal you can name. The high level executives always come out wealthier (even when fired!) while the consumers and the workers pay the real costs.

And furthermore, huge multinational corporations can get away with it, but local entrepreneurs would be shut down and arrested. If the deli down the street was caught selling a few dozen credit card numbers and customer addresses, they would be jailed and the business would be shuttered. But Equifax can basically give away tens of millions of customer identities and social security numbers, and I guarantee you nothing will happen to put a dent in the bank accounts or lifestyle of the people in charge.

This is not an aberration of our economic system. This IS our economic system. It is doing precisely what it has been engineered to do by lobbying and legislation over the course of a century. It is not an accident. It is designed to "fail" in such a way that every failure shifts cost and burden onto the workers and consumers, while increasing profitability for those who benefit from such "failures". For instance, even if Equifax ceases to exist after this, companies like Equifax, run by people who are like (or perhaps identical to) those who run Equifax will benefit in the long term. Millions will have to rely on their services to protect them from the effects of what Equifax did. It's an almost perfect plot to create and maintain customer base. And once you learn to spot it in this scandal, you can see it repeated with infinite variation in other industries.

We the people need a robust system of legal protections that tilt the economy back in favor of the worker, the consumer, and the local entrepreneur, and away from the huge multinationals and the oligarchs who run them. We can either be a government of the people, by the people, for the people. Or we can be a government of the corporations, by the corporations, for the corporations. But we can't be both.


Theology and Artificial Intelligence

This is a longish quote, but it was nice to read a Christian Theologian who is making these kinds of arguments. The context is an article where he is arguing that the "soul" or "self" is a transcendent emergent property arising out of sufficient patterns of complexity in information processing. Once this pattern achieves self awareness, it become a phenomena in is own right, capable of being embodied in other forms (i.e. organically, digitally, etc) even if it's originating "hardware" (i.e. body, brain) is destroyed. 

Trinity and Identity

I want here to give a brief account of who we are as created persons living in a reality upheld by the Triune God. There are a baffling number of images of who we are presented within the Judeo-Christian tradition. We are variously lost and found; sinners and saints; justified and glorified; children of God and servants of Christ; made in God's image yet destroyers of that image; created and mortal, yet eternal and immortal. We partake in the Divine Nature and yet are alienated from that same Source. 


On Poetry and Religion

The spell cast by good poetry
And the role played by good religion
Overlap in this

To make familiar terrain
Unfamiliar and strange

To experience the old
As new again

To listen to the ancient story
With the ears of a child

Thanks for reading my incoherent babble. May strength and compassion and wisdom fill your life. // Nate.

This is a bunch of stuff to make us think hard about our incredible love affair with the God of the universe, our astounding infidelities against him, and his incredible grace to heal and restore us through Christ. Everything on this site is copyright © 1996-2015 by Nathan L. Bostian so if you use it, cite me... otherwise you break the 8th commandment, and make God unhappy. You can contact the author by posting a comment.