2018-01-03

Monism and Dualism, Metaphysics and Ethics


Contrary to persistent misperceptions: 

Metaphysical dualism implies Ethical monism. 

Metaphysical monism implies Ethical dualism. 

2017-12-17

A Theology of Jesus and Aliens


I recently got into a discussion with someone about the growing evidence that our planet has been visited by Extraterrestrial Beings for some time now. My friend speculated that perhaps God and Jesus and Muhammad and Buddha could have been aliens. He ended his statement with "one thing is certain, Earth isn't special enough to be the only planet that has life. Not even close."

I have written bits and pieces about this in other places, speculating about how aliens could be tied into Christian Theology and World Religions (if aliens exist at all). I have speculated about how alien life could tie into an overall framework to understand why God made the world, as well as how alien life might be part of the evidence for God's existence. But I have never written a full description of why I think aliens probably exist, and how we might understand their possible visitation to our planet. That is what I would like to do here.

Redemptive Hell and Universal Restoration in Christ

Hieronymus Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights. A standard picture of hell and judgement for many.

I frequently write and speak about the hope of universal restoration through the work of Jesus Christ. I often teach about how what God did in Christ is for every person who ever lived, and that Christ will not give up until Christ has reached every person who has ever lived. And yet, I also teach about the reality of Divine Judgment on our sin of denying God's Love and destroying God's children in big and small ways. I believe that hell is real, and we experience the judgment of hell in the sufferings and addictions of this life, and if we persist in selfish sin, we will experience it in the next life as well.

An Eagle Scout Prayer


Today I was honored to pray at another Eagle Scout ceremony. In 18 years of full time Church ministry, I have had at least one Eagle Scout per year from my Church or School (and sometimes as many as a half dozen per year). It is a phenomenal program to form young persons as servant leaders who embody the character of Christ. If it helps you, here is an invocation I use for Eagle Scout ceremonies which includes the Scout Oath and Scout Law. Feel free to use or adapt it if you are asked to pray at a Scouting ceremony. 

2017-12-15

A CHART: Two Ways of Interpreting Torah

Many times each year, both in the classroom and online, I get into discussions about how interpret and apply Biblical laws, especially those that are found in the Hebrew Torah (the first five books of the "Old Testament": Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). I do not have the time or space here to get into a complete theology of how to interpret the Old Testament from a Christian point of view. I have written elsewhere that Scriptural difficulties are worked out when we see Scripture as a process of Developmental Revelation, which is on a trajectory that is fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. In this understanding, to use words spoken by Martin Luther King Jr.: The Moral Arc of History (and Scripture) is long, but it trends toward Justice. This view has been shaped by voices as diverse as CS Lewis (in terms of overall narrative development of History), Walter Brueggemann (in terms of looking at the Hebrew Bible through the lens of the Prophets), NT Wright (in terms of looking at the Old Testament from the perspective of the New Testament), Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (in his work on confronting violence in the Torah), and Roy Heller (my Hebrew Bible prof in Seminary). 

2017-12-06

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.

2017-11-30

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.

2017-11-29

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. 

2017-11-09

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. 

2017-11-07

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?

2017-10-03

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. 

2017-09-26

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.

2017-09-13

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.
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.