Philosophy - the downfall of man - Part 1 - Introduction

Philosophy - the downfall of man - Part 1 - Introduction - by P.K.Odendaal - 23 March 2012.

The lines for the battle has been drawn. The whole world is at war. There is a war for land, a war for the resources of the world, a battle for man's money, a battle for man's mind and the biggest of all - a battle for man's soul. The troops are defending their strongholds these days with a new vigour and commitment.

I have entered the last mentioned fray some forty years ago.

I am writing this article as a dedicated Christian and not as an Apologetic. Many Christians are Apologetics and dodge their calling as dedicated Christians. God does not need apologetics. He needs no excuse for having created Heaven and Earth.
In this article I take issue with philosophy, the murderer of mankind. I will be prosecuting this battle on many levels, as it is an all out war on many fronts : the spirit and the flesh, the intellect and the faith, the rational and the emotional, the physical and the meta-physical, the philosophical and the real - and the Good and the Evil.

The first casualty and the first philosopher in this war was Eve, eating from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil - and here are her words : Gen 3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
Thus she committed all three the origins of sin in one strike : 1Jn 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

But even more importantly, the words of the Serpent cuts to the heart of the matter : Who are you? What are you doing here and what is the meaning of life? Eve considers this and comes up with the philosophical words quoted. This leaves the door wide open for the retort by the Serpent, informing her of his philosophy - that of Nihilism, of which he was the first casualty.
And today most people follow the same type of philosophy and commit the same type of sin, me included - and are cast out of Paradise. After her, hundreds of philosophers of name have expanded on this and have led mankind down the garden path. It is worthwhile to note that these renowned philosophies, unlike the recent explosion of knowledge and science, have not changed since Plato, and maybe not even since Eve. Still today, Modern Philosophy remains a footnote to Plato's hypothesis. I am not even talking of the false hypotheses of Aristotle, which, as a obvious error, could survive close scrutiny of the most learned of mankind for more than two thousand years. All what happened, is that the writings of modern philosophers has just become more unreadable, ununderstandable and vague, ending in the climax of Nothingness with Buddha, Kant, Nihilism and the subsequent or continuing destruction on mankind.

It was my intention to discuss the State of the Argument between Christians, Agnostics and Atheists on an intellectual level, and even come up with a strategy to minister to the latter, but the more I think about it, the more I become convinced that I will be wasting my time. After all - who wants to argue with, or even more unthinkable, minister to an Atheist, or to a lesser degree with and to an Agnostic. If I would do it on an intellectual or philosophical level, I will get nowhere as it is precisely science and philosophy which got them into that fix in the first place - having meddled with things far above their intellect.
Whilst I acknowledge that no argument on this subject can be won and none are conclusive, the task and obstacles are so great that my first thoughts on this is to advise you not to talk to Atheists or Agnostics at all, and not to get involved with them on an intellectual level. Who says that they will not convince you of the contrary, if you are not on your guard for their arguments of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, starting, as it were, somewhere midfield and ending inconclusively off the field without a initial kick-off or a final whistle - so to speak. On the other hand, I realise that there are some of those Atheists and Agnostics who begot themselves in untenable situations and need a life-buoy to release them from the entanglements of intellect, science and philosophy. However, I am not sure which I hold in greater detestation - they or their philosophy - it is a close call.

My task will be to interweave the arguments of religion, philosophy and science, and although the challenge is enormous, I will not flinch from the responsibility, as I am known to rush in where Angels fear to tread. Under the intense sense of the complexity and even intractability of the task, I still think it can be done, and I will not forgive myself if I do not at least give it a try; who else will? The bookshelves are empty on this issue, and we as dedicated Christians find ourselves, again and again, unable to stand up to the cynical arguments of the Atheists and Agnostics. We know they are wrong, but we are unable to convince them to the contrary, partly due to our own inability to know what we believe and why we do. Narratives don't get much more complicated than this.
I am informed and inspired in this by the following pieces :

1. I was partly inspired in this by the book of Cormac McCarthy - The Sunset Limited (TSL) - an excellent drama or novel in dramatic form. In real life The Sunset Limited is a train which travels from New Orleans to Los Angeles. In the play, a clever uneducated Black Christian person, who spent seven years in jail for murder and now lives in the slums, called 'Black' in the play, saves the life of a highly intellectual White University Professor, called 'White' in the play. The Professor flings himself in the way of the oncoming Sunset Limited train to commit suicide, but instead he lands in the arms of the Black person who thus saves him, takes him to his slum apartment and the argument about the meaning of life starts. The metaphor of the Black Believer versus the White Agnostic bodes well as a type of those White Intellectuals who walk in Darkness, and those Black Believers who walk in the Light. Of necessity, the argument has to be prosecuted on an intellectual level, however hard the Black person finds it to express himself on this level with mundane simplistic and valid arguments - some of them quite ingenious.

I also find the name of the train, The Sunset Limited, an excellent metaphor for the doubt, futility and despair of intellectuals who land up in suicide because they sought unlimited power and knowledge in philosophy and got a very Limited satisfaction, vision and lifespan in it, whilst suffering untold hardships in their search.

2. In the second place I was inspired by the film, The Big Kahuna (TBK), an expression of the futility of Christian ministry when not accompanied by inner faith and dedication.

3. Thirdly, I was greatly inspired by the book Candide (CV) by one of the most sober and excellent thinkers of the world, Voltaire. It is a satire on philosophy - and being an ardent lover of satires myself, fitted well into my placing of my troops in this battle of the mind.

4. Fourthly, I was agitated (and pissed off) by : 'Why are you Atheists so angry?' - 99 Things that piss off the Godless, by Greta Christina - a bigoted Atheist as they mostly are.

To start with the Sunset Limited, I must give the writer full credit for a very intellectual exposition in a true to life simple set or cast. Ultimately the Black person and White person cannot understand each other and both end the argument in a most unsatisfactorily way - neither being able to convince the other of their plight or mission to the contrary. The argument thus ended, the Professor had no choice but go back in order to jump in front of the Sunset Limited again, this time without a saviour in the form of a Godsend miracle or Angel, an uncomely servant of God - his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men (Isa 52:14) - and such was the visage of Christ Himself, whom many of us will not take as a saviour.
I understand this shortcoming, but I think there are ways to resolve this wide schism on a very simple level. In fact, I will be using some of the selfsame ingenious arguments as the basis of my narrative.

Before I embark on this monumental task, let me first define the basic tenets of the arguments and the players.
As players we have a dedicated Christian, who believes, but does not know how to express the principles on which his belief is based. Why do I say a dedicated Christian? Having been a conventional Christian myself, the idea of a dedicated Christian is quite easy. A conventional Christian believes in the dogma of the Church as it has been received by him from his parents or grand-parents. He follows this conventional dogma, without questioning and believing it himself. He will not testify to others or carry the gospel to the world, because he does not understand or even know the principals of his faith. He might also most likely be a non-believer, not having met God and Jesus Christ himself, basing his faith on the tradition of the elders.

And then we have the Agnostics. They hold that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience. They are also termed as unbelievers and sometimes even as Agnostic Atheists. One may talk to them on an intellectual level, which very few Christians can, and it is best to minister unto them. Many of them are susceptible to belief and are constantly looking (and hoping) for even small cues that God really does exist. Such is the position of White, a professor in the TSL.
The third group are Atheists, and they also vary somewhat in class and belief. On the one side you will find them saying that they are Atheists, whilst they are really Agnostics. On the other side they will say they are Atheists whilst they are really believers, such as people like Richard Dawkins of The God Delusion fame. What they really say is : There is no God and I am going to fight Him. Thirdly there are Atheists who have had a bad experience with God or who say they have been disappointed with Him or the Church or with Christians. Some even hate Him and they also hate the Church and religion, and are not able to make any distinction between these. They are believers and not Atheists, and one should not even classify them here. And then there are really Atheists - Godless people - 'without hope and without God' as scripture so aptly says. I do not minister to those, but you might find the odd one who will listen to you and then even accept the Christian faith.

There is also a group who have been Christians, but have denied the faith. If they have not gone too far they can still be brought back, but some have gone to far and can never believe again. Some have even blasphemed against the Holy Spirit. For them there is no hope (and no God) as they have already entered the last stage or the second death, having trodden Christ under foot : Heb 10:29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? - And then of course there are those who have a form of Godliness, but denying the power thereof : from such turn away.
As you can see when you read TSL, you will find that even though the arguments of Black were vital, practical and true, cutting to the bone in a simple sort of way, it did not come up to addressing the doubts of White.

The first argument in TSL is the first words of White to Black after Black saved White's life :
Listen to the reason for his doubt, depression and despair :

White : It doesn't mean anything. Everything that happens doesn't mean something else.
Being uttered by a professor, it is supposed to shock Black and expose the utter disappointment and depression of White - no doubt a cause of White's selective use of vague intellectual statements. He does not really mean what he says, but he is too tired to come to the fore with the real argument leading to his suicide attempt. He is indeed very tired from not having slept the previous night, but even more from the uselessness of and despair in his life.

White knows the Law of Cause and Effect very well - much better than Black, but he does not mention it, because he might baffle Black with a high sounding and Nihilistic statement like this one he made. White also knows that this law is exactly the law of Cause and Effect that got him in this mess in the first place, and now he wants to shift the responsibility to some other agency.
If I may jump forward a few steps - to the root of the problem, White is looking for a reason to live and Black should be the right person to tell him that and show him the way, being a dedicated Christian. If one looks at the number of times, about fifteen, that White threatens to leave Black and go home or on with his suicide mission, and then decides to stay, in case Black might just say something which might give him hope, one gets an idea of the tenacity with which White wants to cling to a straw of hope. The essence of it all is that here White is waiting for hope and Black realises this, but Black cannot give him hope, for some reason. White is in such a dire need of help, that he is prepared to linger here in the slum apartment of an uneducated Black man, who can't even speak English correctly - an environment so alien and repulsive to White, that it is insightful that he does not just take his jacket and leave as soon as possible.

I have lingered on this more than I should have, because I think it is very important to realise that people in need will listen to you in the most strange and even inconvenient circumstances - and you must be ready to minister or testify to them. That is their appointment with God, and God needs us to be there to say His words in Mat 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Next time part 2 - Fact, Faith and Fiction.