Confession of an Incurable Evidentialist, Part 3

What is beauty?

The beginning of the Rock Music culture in the US is a little difficult to pinpoint, but by the time of Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock,” its presence was evident to almost everyone. With the advent of Rock the youth of America possessed their own music. Their parents dismissed it as dissonant, gyrating wildness and told their children: “That isn’t music!” But the youth—particularly the Baby Boomer Generation—held on to it tenaciously. Rock/Pop has now become the world’s music to the extent that it is heard everywhere and all the time. Now teenagers listening to 100-year old hymns think, “That isn’t music!”

Many post-modern thinkers will probably tell you that the quality of music is a matter of taste, determined by culture and experience. This is a break with how people have thought, literally for millennia. It uses an argument that can easily be turned against itself (you can also say that the proposition “quality of music is merely taste, determined by culture and experience,” is simply a product of culture and experience, and perhaps not valid at all). When we talk about music or art, we also talk about the concept of beauty. I am not telling you a fairy tale when I say that there was a time when people agreed on what is good music, even if they disagreed on style preference. When and how did the change to today’s view of beauty come about? I think the change began slowly with the ideas of Immanuel Kant (and you thought it all started with Elvis, right?).

Something more to life than the strictly objective

To understand Immanuel Kant, one also has to understand the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment produced two groups of philosophers: rationalists (like Descartes and Spinoza) and empiricists (like Diderot). David Hume challenged both groups by pointing out the limits of reason, as well as the limits of scientific proof. Kant said that Hume woke him out of his “dogmatic slumber.” By “dogmatic,” Kant did not mean his own adherence to Luther, Calvin, or the Pietism in which he was reared. Instead he meant rationalist theology. Like other philosophers of the Enlightenment, Kant believed that all knowledge begins with experience. But Kant also proposed a priori knowledge (knowledge “prior to” experience), which affects our understanding.

At the beginning of his Critique of Pure Reason (German version published 1781), Kant proposed that the concepts of time and space are not objective but originate from within our minds. The a priori concepts of time and space create what he calls a “manifold” (one could also accurately use the word “grid”) through which we interpret the entire world as we discover and examine it. The mind creates the pattern and fits the world that the senses experience, into the pattern it has already established. The conclusion is logical: we only see, hear and touch an interpreted world. Beauty, for instance, is our response to what we see, not the quality of the object we see. Whether he knew it or not, Kant borrowed a page from Augustine for one of his ideas, namely, that the notion of time originates from within our heads. In the 1300s, William of Ockham challenged Augustine’s view. Lucky for us, since William’s challenge was necessary for the beginning of modern science. (Ockham argued that time had both objective and subjective existence.)

But was he right?

At this point I want to pull back from being dogmatic. I am not an authority on Kant’s philosophy. When it comes to the a priori concept of space, we have to realize that Kant meant Euclidian space (height, width, depth), exists in our thinking prior to our examination of the world. The Euclidian space in our minds determines how we interpret the world. Albert Einstein observed how many experiments had results which contradicted what one would expect in Euclidian space. Other scientists concluded that something was wrong with the results of the experiments. Einstein surmised that the results were right, but that, in a manner of speaking, time had to be factored into Euclidian space to correctly understand physical events. If Kant was right—that we are predisposed to see a world in certain ways because our minds are hardwired with the idea of Euclidian space—how did Einstein come up with a different idea? I wonder if perhaps those who follow Kant on his concept of Euclidian space inside the head are actually stuck in 1781.

Kant did philosophy a great service by pointing out the error of the empiricists, namely, that the mind begins like a blank slate (tabula rasa). At the same time he proposed a concept that to me contradicts the Bible. Again and again in his Critique of Pure Reason Kant says that no one can objectively perceive time. The Bible, quite to the contrary, says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Matter and space had objective existence before man was created. “And it was evening and it was morning, the first day.” Time and motion had objective existence as well. According to Scripture, the sun, moon, and stars are given to man so that he can objectively mark seasons, days, and years. Prophecy not fulfilled on the day predicted is regarded by the Bible as false prophecy.

For the Bible, time and space are objective entities to be objectively experienced. Kant was not wrong to say that our minds begin by being active, not passive, and that there are understandings which already reside in the mind prior to experience. His conclusion, I believe, was wrong: that we do not objectively perceive time and space. Rather, because man is created in the image of God, he was created with an active mind and a priori understandings, and he is able to rightly comprehend the world as it truly exists (think, for instance how Adam, directly after his creation could converse with God, then afterward to name animals).

Few men who have ever lived have been as brilliant as Immanuel Kant. His explanation of beauty is a world better than that of David Hume and other enlightenment philosophers, who viewed the whole enterprise of writing poetry, composing music and creating works of art as deceitful. But the most uneducated Christian can refute the beginning of Kant’s philosophy by quoting Genesis 1:1-5. Time and space do not begin in our heads, though they exist there. They began at day one of creation, without us. And the fact is, the most avid follower of Kant’s philosophy continues all his life to be convinced about what he saw, or heard, or touched, and its genuine traits. Where does beauty begin? Are beautiful sounds in the ear of the hearer, or does the beauty reside in the sounds themselves? Ask any mother if she treasures listening to her baby cry for a solid hour or two. The mother may be beautiful. She may think her child is beautiful. But the noise coming out of the child just plain is not beautiful.

The Bible and beauty

Contrary to Kant’s view, the Bible assumes that beauty has an objective existence. There are a variety of Hebrew words used in the OT to denote beauty. It was obviously a well-developed theme in the ancient Hebrew mind, and one with which the reader was confronted daily. God told Moses to make the garments of the high priest from gold, linen, blue cloth, etc. and with a particular design, in part “for beauty” (Ex. 28:40). Zion is called “the perfection of beauty” (Ps. 50:2). An adulterous woman may have an alluring beauty, which young men are warned not to lust after (Prov. 6:25). The ministry of the Messiah to Israel will include replacing the ashes of mourners with beauty (Isa. 61:3). The argument of James 1:23-24, that the Bible is like a mirror showing a man his true spiritual self, is based on the assumption that a physical mirror will give its user a true image of what they look like. One gets more the idea from James that it is not our a priori concepts that modify a true image of what we are. Rather, people who disregard the honesty of the mirror walk away maintaining their inward image of themselves. This image is incorrect. If some reading what I write still insist that beauty is strictly in the eye of the beholder, they will need to suppress those shocking moments—perhaps the last time was this morning—when they viewed the unexpected in the mirror and their a priori did a double take.

Aristotle said that beauty is distinguished by “orderly arrangement, proportion, and definiteness.” (Metaphysics, 13.3.11) Beauty is not simply “in the eye of the beholder.” Though we do not analyze beauty in our first impressions, we can, with a further look, notice some quantifiable things about it. A botanist will tell you that there is an incredible orderliness and proportion in flowers. Jesus said that they were surpassingly beautiful in themselves (Matt. 6:28-30).

There is no question that we observe the world in a limited way. Only God sees it in its totality. There is likewise no question that we are inherently biased in our judgments. But these factors do not keep us from experiencing the world truly and objectively. God repeatedly holds human beings to account for what they have seen and heard: “Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Surely we did not know this,’ does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?” (Prov. 24:11-12).

We see and interpret reality: usually for exactly what it is. Beauty did not originate in us. It originated in God’s creative idea. It found its expression in the creation itself. If we have a regenerate heart, the world will tell us a great deal about God, and about beauty.

The Painted Sky
(by Jeff Brown)

Azure, silver, grey and white
Edges gilded by the light
Clouds a-sitting in the sky,
Perched above a bed of green:
Hills and trees and fields of grain,
What a genius-painted scene!
And see, the clouds, they glisten!

With colours bright and ever true
He paints each inch in perfect hue.
And brilliant colours all have these:
The sky, the clouds, the grain, the trees.
While gazing at the artist’s strokes
The cloud I notice, slowly moves.
It moves! The cloud, it moves!

Long time, demands and cares of life
Have caused me to forget my right
To look and wonder as a child.
For sunlight, air and heat and wind,
And rain and ice his tools in hand.
No gall’ried portrait is so grand
As this! It’s all around us!

And when you look up high, straight up!
And nothing more than blue can see
You question what is there beyond:
Can I see God? Does he see me?
Though heaven’s still, infinity
Will steal upon your soul and hold it captive.
It’s out there, way beyond me!

Now some say that the sky has holes
And all is slipping out to space
And preaching do condemn our race.
Confessing sin, yet still I ask,
“Are we so able to the task,
To tear apart this great canvas?”
I wonder if they ever look?

A farmer toiling in the field,
Or children walking home from school,
Troubled man and sorrowing woman,
Joyous lover, and unforgiven
All may look and hope again
At this most glorious gift to man!
I find the artist friendly.

[node:bio/jeff-brown body]

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There are 25 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Jeff, thanks again for taking on these topics. Though they don't have broad appeal, they have intense appeal to a smaller number (so the total appeal value is still pretty good, right?).

Jeff Brown (essay) wrote:
There is likewise no question that we are inherently biased in our judgments. But these factors do not keep us from experiencing the world truly and objectively.

This sounds like a contradiction to me. Do you really want to say "objectively" and "inherently biased"?

Question 2: how does all this relate to Scottish Common Sense Realism?

Jeff Brown's picture

Yes, Aaron, I think I mean to say just that. We are inherently biased in our observations and judgments. First, we are sinners. The working of our sin nature on our thought life colors, even twists our thinking. Second, as humans we are limited, and thus biased in our observations. Only God can see things in their totality, and comprehend them with perfection. But the Bible views persons as being able to form objective judgments. I have quoted one of those instances above. Another instance is the OT requirement for two or three witnesses to attest a murder. The word of the witnesses is then regarded as objective argument for a conviction. John speaks of the reality of the Son of God on earth by saying, "our eyes have seen . . . our hands have handled." When speaking about the resurrection of Jesus, Paul says that 500 people saw Him at one time, and that most of these witnesses were still alive as he wrote." These are appeals to that which is objective and what is true.

Do we know as God knows? No. Do we truly know God as Christians? Yes. Do we love as God loves? No. Can we as born-again sinners truly love one-another with God's love? Yes. Objectivity is no different in this regard. You will never be able to observe nature or a small segment of nature as God views it. You will never comprehend beauty as He comprehends it. Nevertheless, you can give an accurate report of what you saw or heard or felt in nature that truly pleases God, regardless of the fact that you have built-in bias. A beautiful example of this truth is given in John 9:25. The fact that your personality is involved does not eliminate objectivity. We can never, nor should we totally eliminate our emotions from what is meaningful. "The attempt to be objective" should not be confused with "total objectivity." When we talk about objectivity and bias we need to have balanced thinking. If you emphasize one in order to deny the other you will inevitably lead yourself and others astray.

Jeff Brown

Mike Harding's picture

Very good article Jeff. God is wholly other and therefore objective. Truth and beauty orginate with God. Therefore, truth and beauty are also objective in their essence. Man's depravity often prevents him from perceiving truth and beauty apart from common grace and/or saving grace. Kant did not believe God was objective, he argued as I recall for a subjective view of God. God, Kant argued, was not an object of knowledge. Rather, one had to postulate God in order to believe in God. Therefore, God to Kant was not object of knowledge, but solely an object of subjective belief. In other words, God is in the mind of the beholder in Kant's perception of the world. Thus, Kant's view of beauty was also essentially in the mind of the beholder. The creation was good prior to the creation of man who recognized in his holy/innocent condtion that indeed it was good as God had already declared.

Pastor Mike Harding

Jeff Brown's picture

Thanks very much, Mike! You have explained Kant's view of things pretty much on the money. He believed that God was a legitimate concept for the rational mind and believed in His existence, but did not believe that God's existence is a part of objective knowledge. His division between faith and objective knowledge remains a paradigm in the thinking of lots and lots of people to this day. It is a foundation stone for Liberal Theology. I will take it up in my next article.

Jeff Brown

Jeff Brown's picture

You keep asking me this, Aaron, and I keep begging off. That is because I have never read a treatise written by one of the Common Sense Philosophers. For that matter, most theologians who talk about the subject probably haven't eaither. I can only answer from summaries I have read. Maybe someone out there looking in has read Thomas Reid's Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man and could comment (but somehow I doubt it).

Scottish Common Sense Realism attached itself to the scientific method, laid down by Francis Bacon. Its philosphers regarded Newton's writings as the culmination of Bacon's inductive philosophy. The mind correctly senses the object and quantifies it. We know this is the way things function because of (in a way like Kant's view) an a priori irresistible conviction. To some extent I have been talking like the Common Sense philosophers. But to some extent, so did David Hume and Immanuel Kant. My difference with the Common Sense philosophers is that I would not go back to an a priori conviction, since philosophers have proven they are more than ready to debate its validity. Philosophy had already gone the route of the autonomous man long before David Hume was born. My orientation point is the Bible, which tells me that God created everything, including man in His image. He also tells us in the Bible how He interacts with man in a way that He expects us to rightly observe and interpret nature. One can only conclude then, that I need to consider myself fully capable of comprehending nature, and recognizing that God created it. Both Hume and Kant are wrong. The Common Sense Realists were right, but for the wrong reason.

Jonathan Witherspoon is said to have been the first channel of Common Sense Realism to the American Colonies. The philosophy caught on, since it fit the mindset of the American people. People today often read writings of the founders of the American Republic, thinking what they were saying was Enlightenment thinking. It wasn't really. It was more a rejection of the Enlightenment. Thomas Jefferson was one of the truly Enlightenment thinkers of the early United States, but he was in the minority (as I understand it). Hume, Kant, and Hegel caught on in the intelligensia of Europe. They did not make a lot of headway in the US until a long time later. Common Sense Realism was no doubt part of the reason for that.

In theology Common Sense Realism was foundational for Princeton seminary. There are no doubt a number of reasons why the orthodox theology of Princeton (and similar versions of orthodox protestant theology) lost out in many protestant denominations in the US. One is surely its dependence on Common Sense Realism. Kant was a whole step ahead of the Common Sense Realists, who, like Kant, were interacting with David Hume. The Princeton theology was probably not ready for the Kantian arguments when they finally took hold in the universities and among the writers of the US. Likewise, both Kant's and Hegel's thinking (a step beyond Kant and evolutionary), pervaded much of German Higher Critical thinking. The best and the brightest of American theology had for decades been sent to Germany to learn from the cutting edge of theology and philosophy before the end of the 1800s.

Kevin Bauder probably knows more than most anyone else who posts on SI about Princeton theology.

I think I have said enough.

Jeff Brown

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Jeff, thanks for the help on Common Sense Realism. It has been alleged to be a major component in early fundamentalism and, if your view it's influence in early Princeton days is correct, that's a bit easier to see.
But if they "were right but for the wrong reasons," I wonder if fundamentalists holding to CSR notions weren't right for the right reasons.

Jeff wrote:
Yes, Aaron, I think I mean to say just that. We are inherently biased in our observations and judgments. First, we are sinners. The working of our sin nature on our thought life colors, even twists our thinking. Second, as humans we are limited, and thus biased in our observations. Only God can see things in their totality, and comprehend them with perfection. But the Bible views persons as being able to form objective judgments

I'm still confused on this point. Do you mean, then, that (a) sometimes we are forming "objective judgments" and sometimes we are not, or that (b) we are being subjective and objective at the same time (in which case "objective" in your usage means something other than the opposite of "subjective")?

Thanks. I'm learning a lot! (Some guys get PhD's. Other guys just pick the brains of PhD's).

Jeff Brown's picture

Hi Aaron!

Sometimes the only difference between a Ph.D. and a non Ph.D. are the letters that follow the name.

The answer to your question is yes, both (a) and (b). Most of the time we are making objective (concentrating on the object) / subjective (concentrating on my response to the object or idea) evaluations. This may sound like repition. We are never completely objective (though we may make people think we are, since they cannot read our minds). The error of the Enlightenment was to propose the goal of absolute objectivity. Their virtue was to make a lot of objectivity. We should too. And regardless of what theologians and philosophers write in their books, whoever attempts a Ph.D. without desiring to write objectively will either get a worthless Ph.D. or no Ph.D. The professors of credible institutions all demand it. In fact, in many institutions that rule is followed all the way to the bachaelor level.

Because we are subjective and objective at the same time does not eliminate one or the other. Objective means generally, that you formulate your judgments on the basis of your evaluations of the object itself. Subjective means that you form your evaluations and judgments on the basis of your inward feelings, biases, or even perhpas, your principles. That is a general statement about the two, and can be found in any dictionary. When we say that a person is tall, it is always relative. When that person stands beside an NBA center, then we say, "Well, the other guy is really tall." Does this mean the first was not tall? No, he is still tall. Or in another case, you say, "That is an honest man." Even if you never heard a falsehood from him in the 30 years you have known him, he is not thoroughly honest. At the very least he deceives himself (morally). The Bible says so. Only Jesus was completely honest. Does this mean that it is wrong to call a man of integrity "an honest man"? Of course not. The Bible praises the character of a number of people. The same goes for being objective. Though personal bias is never eliminated, we can evaluate objectively. It is genuinely objective, because we are concentrating on the character of the object. If because of the presence of subjectivity we say no one can be objective, then we must also say, no one is really subjective, because they practice objective evaluations, not just subjective ones (everybody does this).

Maybe someone else can answer better than I can. That is about the best I can do.

Jeff Brown

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Thanks, Jeff. You're explanation is clear enough to allow me to understand what you mean as you use the terms, I think.

Just one more question: do you see any inherent tension between looking at things objectively vs. subjectively? Some would say that they are inversely related... as obj. increases, subj. decreases and vice versa. This would suggest that we are only one to the degree we are not the other.

RPittman's picture

Changed my mind . . . DELETE . . . let it go . . . Solomon was right . . . .

Jeff Brown's picture

Sometimes I feel like I am groping to answer your questions, Aaron.

Of course there is a tension between looking at things objectively and subjectively. A pliceman gathering data about an accident would get quite frustrated if your answers to him were strictly your feelings about what happened. Eventually he would quit questioning you. You are not a competent witness. So he would ask another witness for data. this does not eliminate elements of subjectivity in either the report of the second witness or in the information-gathering of the policeman. But both the policeman and the witness can be genuinely objective. If not, God is fooling with us when talking in the Bible about justice, or not bearing false witness.

Suppose 20 years ago I had flown from the US to Germany after the death of a relative. Two days later a visitor asks me how the flight was. Not only strugglig with jet-lag but also with broken emotional ties, I answer, "Well, I still don't feel like I'm back in Germany." Then one of my children, standing nearby says, "But Daddy, you are in Germany! That would be a clear instance of a subjective vs. an objective answer. subjectivity and objectivity exist, even if they are often intertwined. And perhaps your answer is right, that we are one only to the degree we are not the other. I cannot really affirm or deny that. I am certain, however, that the Bible sees people as capalbe of making objective evaluations.

Jeff Brown

RPittman's picture

Jeff Brown wrote:
Sometimes I feel like I am groping to answer your questions, Aaron.

Of course there is a tension between looking at things objectively and subjectively. A pliceman gathering data about an accident would get quite frustrated if your answers to him were strictly your feelings about what happened. Eventually he would quit questioning you. You are not a competent witness. So he would ask another witness for data. this does not eliminate elements of subjectivity in either the report of the second witness or in the information-gathering of the policeman. But both the policeman and the witness can be genuinely objective. If not, God is fooling with us when talking in the Bible about justice, or not bearing false witness.

Suppose 20 years ago I had flown from the US to Germany after the death of a relative. Two days later a visitor asks me how the flight was. Not only strugglig with jet-lag but also with broken emotional ties, I answer, "Well, I still don't feel like I'm back in Germany." Then one of my children, standing nearby says, "But Daddy, you are in Germany! That would be a clear instance of a subjective vs. an objective answer. subjectivity and objectivity exist, even if they are often intertwined. And perhaps your answer is right, that we are one only to the degree we are not the other. I cannot really affirm or deny that. I am certain, however, that the Bible sees people as capalbe of making objective evaluations.

Perhaps it is our differing conceptions of subjective and objective that puts us at loggerheads. Think of subjective and objective as being two poles with a continuum in between. Let us define continuum as "a continuous sequence in which adjacent elements are not perceptibly different from each other, although the extremes are quite distinct." No one is completely subjective (even fantasy is grounded in previous experience) and no one is absolutely objective. Likewise, no proposition or statement is completely subjective or objective. It has some of both. Every human idea, every concept, every thought, every belief, is partially subjective and partially objective. It is a matter of balance between the two as to whether one tends toward subjectivity or objectivity. This is NOT to deny that absolute objective exists as in a physical reality and the mind of God but it is a denial of human grasping, understanding, or achieving complete objectivity (perhaps not even close to it).

A great deal of what we may perceive as objective is true and workable at the level of perception but it is NOT objective when extrapolated to another level. For example, we perceive our our chair as a solid wood structure when in reality it is mostly space and has very little matter if the atoms were collapsed. However, our perception is okay because the chair holds us up and functions according to our perception and predictions (i.e. expectations). In other words, it works for us. And this is what science is all about--to tell us what works and what does not. Science tries to limit subjectivity and maximize objectivity.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Quote:
Sometimes I feel like I am groping to answer your questions, Aaron.

I'm making you think and I'm not even getting paid to do it. Biggrin

I appreciate the time, though. In the Millennium, I'm going to be a philosopher for a century or two (but not until after I'm a novelist and composer).

RPittman's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Quote:
Sometimes I feel like I am groping to answer your questions, Aaron.

I'm making you think and I'm not even getting paid to do it. Biggrin

I appreciate the time, though. In the Millennium, I'm going to be a philosopher for a century or two (but not until after I'm a novelist and composer).

Yes, Aaron, but these too are vanity (think soap bubbles) . . . Solomon was right . . . . after all he was the wisest of all who came before and those who followed after . . . . No, Aaron, I suspect that you'll be too busy adoring your Lord and Savior for a mere 1,000 years to worry about these trivialities. I suspect you'll find the mere rationality of a philosopher to be hopelessly infantile, the imagination of fiction to be dull and lifeless, and your music will be the spontaneous praise and adoration of your God. So, if you're gonna do these, better do them now! And then is it worth the effort? All is vanity and vexation of spirit . . . . .

Jeff Brown's picture

Quote:
And this is what science is all about--to tell us what works and what does not. Science tries to limit subjectivity and maximize objectivity

Well, yes, that is true, Roland. But it is also an exercise in finding out what is and what is not. Natural Science arises out of our desire to know.

Jeff Brown

Jeff Brown's picture

Here is something I should add to the prerevious discussion about Common Sense Realism: David P. Smith's ETS Monograph has recently been published by Wipf & Stock. It is called, B.B. Warfield's Scientifically Constructed Theological Scholarship. That is a mouthful, to be sure. What is interesting is that he argues that Warfield was not really that influenced by Common Sense Realism, but held to both an objective and a subjective source of knowledge. Smith's scholarship is evidently thorough.

Very few church historians have had the time to thoroughly investigate Warfield's writings and compare them to Common Sense Realism. This book should be a real addition to the debate and will likely change some presentations of the history of American orthodox protestant belief.

Jeff Brown

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Thanks, Jeff. Given my already deep backlog of stuff to read, I probably won't get to that one any time soon, but I'm glad to hear more attention is going into researching that connection of ideas. I always thought Marsden's claims about CSR and fundamentalism seemed a bit on the thin side, especially given that several of the ideas considered part of CSR are also part of other philosophies.

RP wrote:
Yes, Aaron, but these too are vanity (think soap bubbles) . . . Solomon was right . . . . after all he was the wisest of all who came before and those who followed after . . . . No, Aaron, I suspect that you'll be too busy adoring your Lord and Savior for a mere 1,000 years to worry about these trivialities.

At the risk of getting way off topic, you seem to be forgetting that the effects of the curse are greatly mitigated in the Kingdom and that when God created the world, He declared it very good and put man in it to tend, keep and have dominion.
These are not vain or trivial activities.

Furthermore, you seem to have a pretty narrow view of what "adoring our Lord" means. Of course it includes the direct adoration of praise, but Rom.12:1 (and many other passages) show that for the Christian all of life is to be worship.
Add to that the fact that we are to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.
He did not give us the ability to think and create merely so that we would have vain things to do while we pass the time until we can engage in direct praise endlessly.

No, those who have the vocations of philosophy, or painting or composing or science engage in them now as adoration of their Creator and Lord. Their activities now are tinged with vanity, but in the future they will be redeemed from this limitation (Rom.8.21).

RPittman's picture

Jeff Brown wrote:
Here is something I should add to the prerevious discussion about Common Sense Realism: David P. Smith's ETS Monograph has recently been published by Wipf & Stock. It is called, B.B. Warfield's Scientifically Constructed Theological Scholarship. That is a mouthful, to be sure. What is interesting is that he argues that Warfield was not really that influenced by Common Sense Realism, but held to both an objective and a subjective source of knowledge. Smith's scholarship is evidently thorough.

Very few church historians have had the time to thoroughly investigate Warfield's writings and compare them to Common Sense Realism. This book should be a real addition to the debate and will likely change some presentations of the history of American orthodox protestant belief.

From a any perusal of Warfield, it is pretty evident that he was influenced or at least held threads in common with Common Sense Realism as did most of his colleagues. On the other hand, it is pretty evident as well that he diverged from it under the influence of the scholarship of his period. After all, Common Sense Realism was pretty much dated by his time.

RPittman's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Thanks, Jeff. Given my already deep backlog of stuff to read, I probably won't get to that one any time soon, but I'm glad to hear more attention is going into researching that connection of ideas. I always thought Marsden's claims about CSR and fundamentalism seemed a bit on the thin side, especially given that several of the ideas considered part of CSR are also part of other philosophies.

RP wrote:
Yes, Aaron, but these too are vanity (think soap bubbles) . . . Solomon was right . . . . after all he was the wisest of all who came before and those who followed after . . . . No, Aaron, I suspect that you'll be too busy adoring your Lord and Savior for a mere 1,000 years to worry about these trivialities.

At the risk of getting way off topic, you seem to be forgetting that the effects of the curse are greatly mitigated in the Kingdom and that when God created the world, He declared it very good and put man in it to tend, keep and have dominion.
These are not vain or trivial activities.

Furthermore, you seem to have a pretty narrow view of what "adoring our Lord" means. Of course it includes the direct adoration of praise, but Rom.12:1 (and many other passages) show that for the Christian all of life is to be worship.
Add to that the fact that we are to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.
He did not give us the ability to think and create merely so that we would have vain things to do while we pass the time until we can engage in direct praise endlessly.

No, those who have the vocations of philosophy, or painting or composing or science engage in them now as adoration of their Creator and Lord. Their activities now are tinged with vanity, but in the future they will be redeemed from this limitation (Rom.8.21).

Yeah, I understood this to be part of your philosophy and interpretation but I don't know that it's the intentional teaching of the Scriptures referenced. And I don't think my view of adoration is necessarily restricted. How would you know because I haven't outlined the boundaries for you. It seems you're making unwarranted assumptions again, Aaron. Yes, all of the believer's life is unto the Lord but I don't know that this is a rubber stamp on all my desires, wants, or ambitions. Somehow, I can't find a picture of your fantasy in those passages describing the millennial reign of Christ. Can you help me here?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Roland, in my post there's an argument supporting my view (more than one, in fact)

RP wrote:
How would you know because I haven't outlined the boundaries for you.

Actually you did. You made a distinction between the activities I described and "adoring the Lord."

RPittman's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Roland, in my post there's an argument supporting my view (more than one, in fact)
RP wrote:
How would you know because I haven't outlined the boundaries for you.

Actually you did. You made a distinction between the activities I described and "adoring the Lord."
Nope, I didn't set boundaries on adoring . . . are you without imagination? I put no parameters on adoring the Lord but I did differentiate between what is probably more self-fulfilling than Lord-adoring.

As for your argument, I see more of a human perspective to justify what we do rather and want to do rather than what is glorifying and adoring God. God tells us rather plainly what glorifies and honors Him. Our obeying is loving God. To write a composition, novel, etc. is more self-rewarding than honoring God by doing good works such as showing compassion and aiding the poor. It is our obedience, faith, love, etc. that pleases God more than our doing per se. Too often, our idea of worship is more about what pleases us than what pleases God.

However, Aaron, I'm not saying that ambitions are wrong or even bad. I have some similar ambitions of my own. I am just saying they fall way down the list of things when compared to eternity and our future relationship with our God.

Jeff Brown's picture

I am not sure this is right, Roland. Was John Bunyan's life more self-rewarding and less glorifying to God because he wrote Pilgrim's Progress instead of doing more acts of mercy in prison? Were Luther's and Wesley's lives more self-rewarding and less glorifying to God because they wrote so many volumes, when they could have spent the time doing a few thousand more acts of mercy?

If it is less glorifying to God to write books than spending the equivalent time doing acts of mercy, it is also less glorifying to God to read them.

The fact is, that if Christians do not write and write well, they have given up the winning of minds to the unbelieving, who are going to write anyway.

Honestly, I am convinced God expects us to do both.

Jeff Brown

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Roland,

Good works is a very broad term. Couldn't writing books be included under that umbrella as much as showing compassion and aiding the poor?

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

RPittman's picture

Jeff Brown wrote:
I am not sure this is right, Roland. Was John Bunyan's life more self-rewarding and less glorifying to God because he wrote Pilgrim's Progress instead of doing more acts of mercy in prison? Were Luther's and Wesley's lives more self-rewarding and less glorifying to God because they wrote so many volumes, when they could have spent the time doing a few thousand more acts of mercy?

If it is less glorifying to God to write books than spending the equivalent time doing acts of mercy, it is also less glorifying to God to read them.

The fact is, that if Christians do not write and write well, they have given up the winning of minds to the unbelieving, who are going to write anyway.

Honestly, I am convinced God expects us to do both.

This is a conversation that I did not seek and did not want to have. My original response to Aaron was more a jest and dig at him than an attempt to serious discussion. Jeff, you have been very kind and gentle in your response but there some facets that need polishing. Although I esteem Bunyan, Luther, and Wesley and honor their contributions, I don't know how to judge their accomplishments. It seems that Paul discussed this matter in I Corinthians 3-4. I suppose we need to wait for the Bema Seat Judgment to know the final judgment. I think perhaps we'll be surprised that it will be the faithful little people who will be honored by our Lord.

Whereas I have no major argument with anything you said, I do think a small point needs noting and airing. We do tend to justify what we do and what we like, many times attributing it to honoring or pleasing God. Oftentimes, it is more about satisfying and pleasing ourselves. For example, we often go to great extremes to proclaim that our music is more Biblical and God-honoring than other kinds. Or, we claim our ideas are more Biblical when we don't a verse of Scripture in support. We ought to have enough self-discernment to recognize this is true at least in principle.

And I wish that I had never gotten involved here. Ideas keep intruding. For example, what is God-honoring about a work or composition? The human quality of the work or the motivation behind it? Are works with theological errors, such as Luther's works during one of his periods, honoring and glorifying to God? Disturbing thoughts . . . . I think I'll go and have a snack . . . . . Biggrin

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I think producing a thing of beauty is an act of mercy.

RPittman's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
I think producing a thing of beauty is an act of mercy.
How do you know? It can also be argued that it's a inherently selfish act by producing what pleases me. Is not this the basis of idolatry? Every man wants his own little god or idol that satisfies him.

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