Saturday, April 29, 2006

Objectivity and Faith

Thus, if someone wants to have faith and reason too, well, let the comedy begin. He wants to have faith, but he wants to assure himself with the aid of objective deliberation. What happens? With the aid of reason, the absurd becomes something else; it becomes probable, it becomes more probable, it may become to a high degree exceedingly probable, even demonstrable. Now he is all set to believe it, and he dares to say of himself that he does not believe as shoemakers and tailors and simple folk do, but only after long and careful deliberation. Now he is all set to believe, but, lo and behold, now it has indeed become impossible to believe. The almost probable, the probable, the to-a-high-degree and exceedingly probable, that he can almost know, or as good as know, to a higher degree and exceedingly almost know – but believe, that cannot be done, for the absurd is precisely the object of faith and only that can be believed with the passion of inwardness.

Christianity claims to be the eternal, essential truth that has come into existence in time. It proclaims itself as the paradox and thus requires the inwardness of faith – that which is an offense to the Jews, foolishness to the Greeks, and an absurdity to the understanding. It cannot be expressed more strongly: Objectivity and faith are at complete odds with each other. What does objective faith mean? Doesn’t it amount to nothing more than a sum of tenets?

Christianity is nothing of the kind. On the contrary, it is inwardness, an inwardness of existence that places a person decisively, more decisively than any judge can place the accused, between time and eternity, between heaven and hell in the time of salvation. But objective faith? It is as if Christianity was a little system of sorts, although presumably not as good as the Hegelian system. It is as if Christ – it is not my fault that I say it – had been a professor and as if the apostles had formed a little professional society of thinkers. The passion of inwardness and objective deliberation are at complete odds with each other. There is no way of getting around it. To become objective, to become preoccupied with the “what” of Christianity, instead of with the “how” of being Christian, is nothing but a retrogression.

Christianity is subjective; the inwardness of faith in the believer is the truth’s eternal decision. Objectively there is no truth “out there” for existing beings, but only approximations, whereas subjectively truth lies in inwardness, because the decision of truth is in subjectivity. For how can decision be an approximation or only to a certain degree? What could it possibly mean to assert or to assume that decision is like approximation, is only to a certain degree? I will tell you what it means. It means to deny decision. The decision of faith, unlike speculation, is designed specifically to put an end to that perpetual prattle of “to a certain degree.”

- Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, paraphrased.

I never really like Christian apologetics - they often sound too perfectly logical, too simplistic, too black and white. They seemed so preoccupied in creating a perfect, harmonious big picture of God and Truth by labouring hard to form this complex structure of systematic and predictable/comprehendable laws under the giant label 'Theology'. Jesus pass down his teaching, and instead of living the way he thought us to, people starts to categorizing them and draw cross-references with the Old Testament and juz... 'systematicalize' them.

It's scary how people overates Logic - funny how not many people realize that something can be perfectly logical while completely untrue. It's funny how people assume that Logic is the ultimate level of conscious thoughts when human nature itself is often illogical, like emotions and trust and faith. To be completely objective in one's faith, or to try to be objective, is to construct a system which is impossible to have faith in, for why would faith be required if everything is so glaringly obvious and self-explanatory?

To 'know' and to 'believe' are two very different things - many Christians have this bizarre perception that by studying and memorizing the Bible tirelessly, they will be more 'spiritually matured'. Balderdash. To read the Word is merely to 'know', or in other words, to not be ignorant of Truth. But to 'believe' requires action, and internalization of Truth into part of a person's being. Is it not said in the book of James: "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like."?

Yes, it's important to read the Word of God, every pastors and priests and reverends etc etc have emphasized on that, and all the Bible Knowledge competitions also prove the point. But it's merely the 1st step, and an incomplete step by itself, in the process of understanding Truth. One has to look inward into himself, and take the words in not as if the Ultimate Truth has been passed down upon him thru the holy words of the bible, but to establish a connection with God himself, with all the passion of inwardness. The establishment of the relationship itself, is so much more important than merely furnishing one's mind with all the Word of God in its hollow words without meaning. For meaning will only arise when one puts the Word into practise, into one's being, and not merely some 'floating' knowledge in the head of the so-called believer.

In order to clear off all the distractions and obstacles in establishing the relationship between God and the individual, one have to 1st deconstruct the entire myth of what Christianity is all about, as propaganded by the countless facets of Christendom, in all its factions and petty arguments. One have to disregard all the logical system that has been laid down throughout the entire so-called 'history of the Christian church', and take the leap of faith by relying on God and God alone, not some theology created, developed and finalized by mere humans. One has to realize that 'Truth is Subjectivity', that Truth can only be understood after one exists in it, after one take the step of living it, and not the other way round.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

"The Victorious Christian Life" - A Contradiction in Words

from where does the 'victorious christian life' phrase come from? to follow christ and living this "victorious christian life" is, in my opinion, a contradiction in words.

did Jesus not said that "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23)? How would a life filled with constant struggle against the nature of oneself be 'victorious'? consider Jesus' walk to Golgotha, carrying the burden of the cross to be crucified: is it not filled with pain, humiliation, and eventually culminated in something that comes close to despair: eli eli lama sabachthani? would u apply the adjective 'victorious' to this final torturous walk of Jesus earthly ministry?

to me, becoming a christian isn't about boasting about how i am saved and how the devil has no power over me. in fact, it is the 1st step into a life full of struggle, as i have now decided to take up the burden of the cross and deny my carnal nature which is corrupted by Sin, as with the rest of mankind. everyday is a test, and while there are times where i do the right thing, i believe that i fail miserably most of the time. so ya, my Christian life, and being victorious, are mutually exclusive of one another. for the more i try to be perfect, the more i realize that i will never be perfect, which is why God's grace is so precious to humanity: God's willingness to love the unlovable, is the basis of my carrying of the cross for him, and not the desire to be justified before God.

i believe that whether i am victorious in this struggle is not of primary importance: the fact that i decided to take up the cross and deny myself, that is the Decision, and the fact that i will stick to the struggle and carry on the burden without giving up and denouncing God's ownership of my whole being, that is the life that I believe God wants out of me.

a Christian life cannot be victorious or glorious in any sense. one juz have to look at Christ: he was never a 'celebrity' of sorts during his earthly ministry, and he always avoid situations which will glorify his status. so neither should we.

being victorious is something that should be reserved till we enter the kingdom of heaven. for now, we are to struggle against the 'prince of this world', and more importantly, against our very own sinful nature.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Rebuke/ Judgement

Where do u draw the line between a rebuke and a judgement? If you are to love your brother, you would do whatever you can to lead him back to the path of righteouness. But being mere humans, who are we to know that we have not strayed from this path ourselves? By telling your brother what he should and shouldn't do, do we not just committed the sin of passing judgement on others? So, where and how is the line drawn?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Truth is the Way

Truth is not something you can appropriate easily and quickly. You certainly cannot sleep or dream yourself into the truth. No, you must be tried, do battle, and suffer if you are to acquire truth for yourself. It is a sheer illusion to think that in relation to truth there is an abridgment, a short cut that dispenses with the necessity of struggling for it. With respect to acquiring truth to live by, every generation and every individual must essentially begin from the beginning.

What is truth, and in what sense was Christ the truth? The first question, as is well known, was asked by Pilate (Jn. 18:38), and it is doubtful whether he ever really cared to have his question answered. Pilate asks Christ, “What is truth?” That it did not occur to Pilate that Christ was the truth demonstrates precisely that he had no eye at all for truth. Christ’s life was the truth (Jn. 14:6). To this end was Christ born, and for this purpose did he come into the world, that he should bear witness to the truth. What, then, is the fundamental confusion in Pilate’s question? It consists in this, that it occurred to him to question Christ in this way; for in questioning Christ he actually denounced himself; he revealed that Christ’s life had not illumined him. How could Christ enlighten Pilate with words when Pilate could not see through Christ’s own life what truth is!

Pilate’s question is extremely foolish. Not that he asks, “What is truth?” but that he questions Christ, he whose life is expressly the truth and who at every moment demonstrates more powerfully by his life what truth is than all the most profound lectures of the cleverest thinkers. Though it makes perfect sense to ask any other person, a thinker, a teacher, or whoever, “What is truth?” to ask Christ this it is the greatest possible confusion. Obviously Pilate is of the opinion that Christ is just a man, like everyone else. Poor Pilate! Pilate’s question is the most foolish and confusing question ever asked by man. It is as if I were to ask someone standing right before me, “Do you exist?” How can that person reply? So also with Christ in relation to Pilate. Christ is the truth. “If my life,” he might say, “cannot open your eyes to what truth is, then what can I say? For I am the truth.”

As with Pilate, in our day Christ as the truth has also been abolished: we take Christ’s teaching – but abolish Christ. We want truth the easy way. This is to abolish truth, for Christ the teacher is more important than the teaching. Just as Christ’s life, the fact that he lived here on earth, is vastly more important than all the results of his life, so also is Christ infinitely more important than his teaching.

Christ is the truth in the sense that to be the truth is the only true explanation of it; the only true way of acquiring it. Truth is not a sum of statements, not a definition, not a system of concepts, but a life. Truth is not a property of thought that guarantees validity to thinking. No, truth in its most essential character is the reduplication (reduplication is Kierkegaard’s term meaning to exist in what one understands, to manifest the truth in one’s life. It means to live out in life the challenges of thought, to be what one says) of truth within yourself, within me, within him. Your life, my life, his life expresses the truth in the striving. Just as the truth was a life in Christ, so too, for us truth must be lived.

Therefore, truth is not a matter of knowing this or that but of being in the truth. Despite all modern philosophy, there is an infinite difference here, best seen in Christ’s response to Pilate. Christ did not know the truth but was the truth. Not as if he did not know what truth is, but then one is the truth and when the requirement is to be in the truth, to merely “know” the truth is insufficient – it is an untruth. For knowing the truth is something that follows as a matter of course from being in the truth, not the other way around. Nobody knows more of the truth than what he is of the truth. To properly know the truth is to be in the truth; it is to have the truth for one’s life. This always costs a struggle. Any other kind of knowledge is a falsification. In short, the truth, if it is really there, is a being, a life. The Gospel says that this is eternal life, to know the only true God and the one whom he sent, the truth (Jn. 17:3). That is, I only know the truth when it becomes a life in me.

Truth is not a deposit of acquired knowledge, the yield. This might have been if Christ had been, for example, a teacher of truth, a thinker, one who made a discovery. But Christ is the way as well as the truth. His teaching is infinitely superior to all the inventions of any and every age, an eternity older and an eternity higher than all systems, even the very newest. His teaching is the truth – not in terms of knowledge, but in the sense that the truth is a way – and as the God-man he is and remains the way; something that no human being, however zealously he professes that the truth is the way, dare assert of himself without blasphemy.

Christ compares truth to food and appropriating it to eating it (Jn. 6:48–51). Just as food is appropriated (assimilated) and thereby becomes the sustenance of life, so also spiritually, truth is both the giver and the sustenance of life. It is life. Therefore one can see what a monstrous mistake it is to impart or represent Christianity by lecturing. The truth is lived before it is understood. It must be fought for, tested, and appropriated. Truth is the way. And when the truth is the way, then the way cannot be shortened or drop out unless the truth itself is distorted or drops out. Is this not too difficult to understand? Anyone will easily understand it if he just gives himself to it.

- Soren Kierkegaard, Practice in Christianity -

Monday, April 10, 2006

Noisy Old Hermit

After reading some of my posts on a internet forum, a friend of mine commented lightheartedly about me:

You're like some kind of hermit who has distanced himself from the community and yet has a lot to say to them.

While that statement didn't hit me when he said it, it stays in my head for the past few days until now when I realize the bizarre paradox that is within me. Yes, indeed, I am losing faith in the community that I am surrounded with, and worse, I may have lost faith in the entire human race. But at the same time, I still have the hope within me that so long as I can help affirm a few individuals who have somehow walk upon the same path of realization as I do (juz as how Timothy Neal's writings affirm my belief), I will continue to voice out to the people, no matter how unpopular I may become as a result of it.

No, I am not under a delusion of grandeur, I am juz doing wat I sincerely believe is the right thing to do: to strive for truth, and to help others who are along the same path, juz like the Good Samaritan. I, am a seeker of Truth, and I will not let any religious institution/dogmas or any atheistic figures stopped me from moving on in my quest, though I have absolutely no idea where I might end up at.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Note to Self

Note to self:

1. Persistence need not be equate to annoyance. It is an effective method to get things done. Be nice and diplomatic to others and don't push them to do something they should would only result in stagnancy and I'll be the only one who's losing out. Stop being such a timid wuss Thom, and do wat needs to be done without procrastinating.

2. "Mind your own business" isn't completely a selfish, egoistic phrase after all. I used to associate that phrase with insolence and anti-social, but I have come to realize the value of personal privacy, and really, sometimes, we juz shouldn't dig in so much about a person's private affairs. It can be seriously annoying, and it can cause potential deterioration of friendships.

3. Just bcuz one is constantly surrounded by idiots doesn't mean he should succumb to this twisted phenomenon called 'peer pressure' whereby one is forced to reduced ones intelligence to fit into the level of these lowlings. Just be yourself Thom, and do wat u believe is right. After all, you are at least slightly above average in terms of intelligence among the general population.

4. There's limited oppurtunity to learn, so grab hold of it when u can. To hell with the humiliating criticism and intimidating challenges: all med students need to go thru this anyway. Go for it, suffer thru the fire, and you may emerge a better, more skillful person. To those who give pretty excuses in order to avoid coming under fire, they are the only ones in the losing end. There's plenty to gain in all the small windows of oppurtunity of learning, and everything to lose if one misses them.