Saturday, May 18, 2024

Problem of Evil / Temptation Contract Theory talk

This is based on a talk I would have given to a rationalist group, but then I found out that it was too long for their format. It's based on various previous posts on "theodicy" and I think is my best presentation of the topic.

The topic for this talk is the Problem of Evil, and one way of resolving it through a labor relations approach. Most of my interests are in philosophy and religion and might not be conventional subjects for a rationalist community group to talk about. However, I bring this up due to its use of economic thinking, in a way perhaps slightly reminiscent of the George Mason University economists.

THE PROBLEM OF EVIL

The Problem of Evil is the apparent contradiction caused by the following statements all claiming to be true:

1. God is all-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful
2. Evil exists

If God is all-good, why doesn't he prevent evil? Is it because he's not all-knowing or all-powerful? Maybe he is all-knowing and all-powerful. Then he must be less than all-good if he doesn't prevent it.

One way to soften things is to say that humans are the source or occasion of much evil. Either we commit the evil directly (it follows from our free-willed actions or inactions), or it is useful in "soul-making" (it gives us the occasion to become better people). This idea makes sense to me, to a point, but I think that it's hard to rule out the idea that some suffering is useless for that purpose. Suffering in wild animals being maybe the easiest example.

One approach that theists take is to say that we don't understand, but somehow these threads will be tied up for us someday, and the ultimate good and necessity of evil will be explained. I find this approach somewhat unsatisfying. So I thought I might try to come up with a more concrete solution to the Problem of Evil.

BACKGROUND TO TEMPTATION THEORY

First I will talk about my theory of God, my "theology". I think that God is primarily a good God. His goodness takes priority over other characteristics. In fact, for reasons I am not prepared to defend right now, I think that his goodness is the source of being, and thus of his power. This means that God is limited by his own goodness. I think this is a necessary property of a trustworthy God. Ultimately, a maximally trustworthy God is better for us than a maximally powerful one.

I want to show that God's allowance of evil flows naturally from his goodness.

For reasons that I won't defend here, suppose that in order for us to live in God's presence, we must be free from any evil in our hearts (in our intentions). God wants us to live forever, and so wants to provide a way for us to fully turn against evil in our intentions.

We need to really choose good. The way we do that is to really reject evil, even when evil looks attractive, even cartoonishly attractive. So we need evil presented to us in a way which looks good.

I postulate that God is incapable of presenting evil to us in such a way that it looks good. I'm not sure I could prove that, but on first inspection I think it sounds likely. A God who is goodness itself might have scruples against tempting us.

TEMPTATION CONTRACT THEORY

If so, then we have a situation where God's goodness makes him powerless to do a necessary part of bringing us to a state of having truly good intentions.

He needs other beings to tempt us. What kind of beings would tempt us? Presumably, evil beings. So God has to go to evil beings for help.

Temptation may be beyond the power of all the evil beings to actually implement. But God clearly acts out the will of his creatures. For instance, if you shoot a gun, you don't really will the bullet to go where it goes. You make a decision to shoot and where to aim, but the carrying out of that decision is done by God. So God could act out the decision of the evil beings.

If we sin, it is often God who is the efficient cause of the sin. He is our servant or slave. And God offers to be our servant or slave in this for the greater good of letting us act. So he can do the same, being the slave of evil beings. But the evil must come from the will of the evil beings.

How does God get the evil beings to will temptation for him? I propose that he does something like work out a contract with them. At a point in time, presumably far in the past, God allows his situation of need to be known. The evil beings know that they have leverage over God. They can demand concessions. Some of these concessions could include whatever evil that has no redeeming value. Because they are evil, they are paid with evil.

Does this mean that God tempts the evil beings to tempt us? My response as of now is to say it doesn't count as temptation for two reasons. One is that God does not will them to tempt, but simply lets them do what is in their nature. He doesn't put his thumb on the scale, the way they do with us. The other reason is that perhaps the critical sin in temptation is calling bad good. That the tempters tempt is actually a good thing, from a consequentialist perspective (since it allows us to come into tune with God) but for deontological reasons it is impermissible for this to be done by God himself.

WHY ISN'T THE WORLD WORSE?

If evil beings can have such serious bargaining power, why isn't the world worse? Are there any checks to their power? My theory has to explain why there is the amount of evil we have in the world, which seems finite, mixed with considerable finite good.

God and the evil beings are both bargaining with each other. God chooses which evil beings to work with. He can choose the ones who give him a good deal. He will not sign a contract that includes evil that keeps us from being with him forever. Things can happen in this life, and we can make decisions, which contribute to us failing to fully come to have good intentions. I don't believe God can know what is unknowable (states of affairs that don't exist yet, like future events). But whatever states of affairs have to obtain to give us the chance to make the right or wrong decisions, to create that risk, are ones which God would not sacrifice to the evil beings' negotiation. We live in a world in which it was worth it to God to create. So this predicts a generally hopeful state of affairs in the end, as long as each of us seeks to be in tune with God.

Evil beings offer their labor for wages, and collectively, there is a wage floor. Humans won't work for less than their wage floor (which might be "the amount of money necessary for minimal shelter, clothes, water, and food"). Evil beings want a certain amount of evil done in compensation for the good they do. If they were perfectly rational, they might push for a truly nightmarish human existence. But perhaps not all evil beings are rational to that extent. Lust is part of the psychology of evil beings. The lust for evil can lead to a strong demand for it, but also to a kind of pragmatism and impatience in seeking it, seeking to have what the evil being can have, now, rather than holding out for a really "excellent" implementation of evil-doing. Lust for evil could be an appetitive rather than calculating thing, or appetitive enough to inhibit or distort an evil being's utility-maximizing calculations.

So God may be able to negotiate with the most pragmatic and impatient of lustful evil beings, the ones who will sell out their labor for the lowest evil wages, yet these beings, because of their lust, have an absolute floor to what they will demand from him. The nature of the evil beings' psychology, how much evil their lust absolutely demands, determines the exact level of gratuitous evil that we see in the world around us.

Does God create the nature of evil beings' psychology and thus determine the level of evil in the world all by himself? Not if the nature of evil beings' psychology is substantially created by their own free willed choices to become evil.

The theory I have mentioned, I could call a labor relations theory of the Problem of Evil. The negotiations between different economic actors, in the economy of good and evil, produces a nuanced world. Just as the world we live in is the product of governments, corporations, civil society, individuals, etc. with differing points of views negotiating the mixture of all sort of different values in what we actually see and have to put up with, among these different voices there are also both God and evil beings. From a theistic standpoint, the way to analyze it might be that reality is a negotiation between God and what is not on the side of God.

CONCLUSION

What I hope to have accomplished in this talk is to show that the evil in this world flows naturally from the existence of a certain kind of good God. However, as you have listened, perhaps you have thought of questions or objections. I'm interested to hear them.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

News: 16 April 2024

I released a condensed version of the MSL argument today in this booklet.

I hope that it makes it easier to see the whole argument in one view.

Recently thinking about Islam some, and have been working on new music.

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Afterward Release

I made a MIDI album that fits in with my overall writing project, called Afterward. If you've read this blog a lot, you will probably understand what I was trying to communicate with it.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Voluntary Millennial Holiness

At some point in the past, a commenter on this blog pointed out the resemblance between MSLN and Mormonism with regard to soteriology and eschatology. Having read Gospel Principles, an introduction to Mormon doctrine put out by the Mormon Church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), I think that Mormonism does fit the two basic ideas of millennial holiness of 1) Everyone must become completely holy before going to heaven, and 2) there is a long but finite time in which to complete this process. (I am less sure, but suspect that at least to some extent this is also true of Catholic and Orthodox theology.)

In terms of the potential power of the motivational structure of MSL, I felt as I read that the Mormon perspective does not drive motivation as much as the New Wine System, or my concept of "millennial holiness" would. Millennial holiness, as I defined it before, exists, and we know about how strong it is in motivating people. Certainly the Mormon, and perhaps Catholic or Orthodox, churches are active and productive in their own ways, but they are what they are. Yet, I think that there is something else, which I think I remember from the New Wine System, and which I do see in my own "millennial holiness" doctrine, which is different than Mormonism and may not have ever been implemented in a major way, the way Mormonism has been.

I would say that I emphasize the freedom of the will to the extent that people's salvation is really up in the air. We really could decide not to trust God fully. We really could decide to harden ourselves against God, and shut down our ability to freely choose God. This would be an element of voluntariness to salvation. I can't be sure, from what I read, that Mormonism didn't support this at all "officially" or "on the books". But it was not emphasized in Gospel Principles and if I were writing the equivalent of Gospel Principles for my own beliefs, I would emphasize clearly that there is a risk of hardening, or of failing to fully repent, because this is an important thing to know, to avoid a seriously bad outcome.

So I would add "voluntary" to "millennial holiness", thus "voluntary millennial holiness". Those three words are a mouthful, but they do (I hope) now convey the essentially "New Wine" or "MSL" belief system that I think has such motivational power. I could shorten them to "VMH", which unfortunately adds to the "alphabet soup" of my writing. But at least if someone hears me say "VMH" and asks about it, I can say "it stands for 'voluntary millennial holiness'" and not have too much trouble explaining those three words. Whereas I would have a harder time doing that with "New Wine" or "MSL", and those two labels go beyond what "voluntary millennial holiness" is talking about.

Monday, January 1, 2024

2023 to 2024

Review of 2023:

From my perspective now, looking back, 2023 was a year of wrapping things up and closing out accounts. In terms of the major things that I did, the only thing that doesn't fit neatly in that category is the release of Wordless Prayers and some glockenspiel music. Everything else (releasing Waiting for Margot, releasing Reality, re-reading New Wine for the End Times, re-reading this blog and making various related posts) fit into the category of "finishing up a particular writing project I've worked on since 2013".

In what sense is the project really finished? I do see myself moving away from writing that pursues secular well-being (more or less, the "how can we love?" and "exilic/familial" categories) toward more theistic / religious, etc. So maybe the "highwater mark" for my writing about some of the secular categories was reached in the blog already. I think the blog could be a sketch of my whole project, and from now on I could be filling in details.

I did not discover any major new intellectual scenes or interests in 2023. (Unlike getting more into effective altruism in 2020, discovering the "Christian humanists" in 2021, or getting into Indonesia in 2022.) At least, none that stand out in my memory. Relatively minor interests in some YouTube channels and in movie-watching. (I did keep up with the EAs and "Christian humanists" some in 2023.)

I did delete my Twitter account finally. (That's another "closing-up of accounts".)

Comparison of expectations with reality

Last year's predictions were mixed in quality. I did release an old book (Waiting for Margot) and a demo of an album (Reality). I didn't do much with poetry. I wrote blog posts. But I missed the whole "summing up" theme, which seems to me to be the most interesting aspect of 2023.

Preview of 2024:

I feel like Wordless Prayers and my glockenspiel music are OK, but seem to me like they have limited potential. My songwriting, I think, is more interesting to me and seems like it has more potential, but I feel like I probably won't pursue it a lot in the coming year. [On further thought, I'm not as sure I won't pursue it.]

I plan to start reading (and maybe writing) philosophy again this fall. I want to see if I can get MSL to a state where it is fleshed-out and persuasive. Also to improve on the articulation of MSL with people like Rawlette, Moynihan, and the EAs. This could take multiple years and give me plenty to do.

I think my main focus until the fall is to read books that may not fall directly in the path of my writing project. I want to fill in gaps in my general education and also make a list of books worth recommending. A similar project I have going is to update my subreddit.

I don't think I will use the blog much for a while, but if I do and it's really important, I will post about it on the subreddit.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Missionary Care for Creatives in Los Angeles; or for others

I wrote a post about cultural altruism hubs. That post, and this one, which is related, discuss a kind of organizational or "scenic" structure or structures that people could build. I don't feel like this is a thing I should pursue, so I'm not looking to try to build those structures myself. But I think the ideas are worth writing up. Maybe someone else will find them useful.

I often write to a secular audience, or to no audience / to myself. But in this case, I write more to a Christian audience.

Creative people are especially susceptible to spiritual attack. Culture war brings out Satan. Some cultural-spiritual warfare is fought by "foot soldiers" (through interpersonal contact). Others through "air support". Airplanes are sophisticated machines. Books, movies, etc. are machines made out of thoughts and images. Culture "flies in the air". So producing cultural artifacts puts new "airplanes" or "drones" in the sky. These artifacts fight each other and fight people on the ground. With good air support, ground troops can have an easier time. So (I think) with good cultural artifacts, interpersonal evangelism and discipleship can go better.

Los Angeles is a center of the movie and music industries, which manufacture cultural artifacts (that part of the "air war"). Those industries are not always kind to the people who try to work in them. Many people have dreams of success in them, but only a few can succeed. There are stories of exploitation in those industries. This can affect everyone who tries to "make it". The overall culture of these industries seems to largely be non-Christian. Christians trying to work in those industries may experience as much exploitation and as many broken dreams of success as non-Christians. They may also experience culture shock and spiritual attack (for instance, being invited to hedonistic parties (something that I would guess happens), or being acculturated to the dominant secular culture to the point of compromising their faith). They may also experience hostility, due to their beliefs.

Are Christian creatives in Los Angeles missionaries? Arguably yes. So they can be supported and cared for like any other kind of missionary. (I recommend reading Serving as Senders Today and The Reentry Team, both by Neal Pirolo, to understand what I have in mind by "support" and "care". Briefly, churches or other sending teams can provide moral support, prayer support, send and receive messages about what's going on in the field, maybe money or logistical support, and help in missionaries transitioning in and out of service.)

Creative missionaries could care for fellow creatives and engage in evangelism and discipleship like any other kind of missionary. But they also "translate the Bible into the native language" of their fellow creatives, by being creative themselves, and/or into the language of the US in general, or even of other parts of the world, where LA culture industries reach.

I feel like if I were a suspicious secular person (perhaps an ex-Christian), an incorporated missionary agency sending financially supported creative missionaries into LA would be disturbing and lead to bad press (if evangelical Christians think that there is an oppressive, militant "other" in the cultural world, so do secular people -- everyone is "David" seeing "Goliath" in each other). Creative people tend to have their own ideas and some might not want to work with a missionary agency themselves. (It's good for creative people to be independent-minded in order to see what other people don't see.) Financially supported missionaries might be harder to relate to by struggling actors, writers, musicians, directors, etc. that they may be trying to reach.

So I think maybe the best way to implement creative missions is to set up structures to care for and support the creative Christians who find themselves in Los Angeles, as though they have sent themselves already, but maybe without enough support.

--

Implementation:

I don't know anything about what might already be going on in this area. I can imagine that something like this is already going on.

I think churches in Los Angeles are already doing some of this support and care work. What they might not have is the sense that their creatives are missionaries dealing with spiritual warfare, culture shock, etc., and not know as much as they could of how to be good "senders" and "carers". Perhaps what is needed is to equip those churches.

Also, creatives might not have the sense that they are missionaries on a mission field. They might benefit from additional teaching and encouragement in having a really Christian worldview and practice in their art and life.

Other ideas:
1. Establishing refuge places in Southern California so that people can (affordably) get out of LA to take a break from it.
2. Connecting churches that have creatives to creatives in LA. (Not every church is a good place for a creative person to be.)

Southern California (plus northern Baja California) could be seen as having two areas of strategic significance for cultural people: Tijuana which is a gateway to Latin America and/or to understanding the non-American, non-"developed" world; and the cultural artifact manufacturing center of Los Angeles. In between is San Diego, a quieter place (maybe the military in San Diego is of cultural strategic significance?).

--

Caveats:

I have not spent a lot of time in LA. I was involved in a low-budget film production that got actors from LA and have seen the incentives for exploitation and selling yourself in filmmaking. I can sense a certain amount of felt unhappiness and spiritual darkness from Los Angeles filmmaking (Hollywood and I guess "aspiring Hollywood" or indie film productions). I don't have direct experience with the music industry in LA.

--

Postscript:

What about film directors? I mentioned them above. They are employers, people in positions of power. But they are at the mercy of their funding sources. Directors have to cobble together funding and employees from various sources, and then work intensely during production, with long pre-production and post-production times. Once finished, they sell their product on the market and hope for critical and financial success, which is uncertain. A lot of money rides on what they do. If they lose too much money, maybe they can't work again. It sounds like a risky, stressful, "disestablished" line of work.

This sounds like perhaps a more intense (or not) version of what entrepreneurs in general go through.

A film director could do the wrong thing because they are under some kind of pressure. Perhaps it is true of any kind of entrepreneur. Or business executive. How much wrongdoing comes from powerful people who are (subjectively or objectively) in insecure positions? Perhaps it would be good to come up with care and support for them.

Maybe if a person doesn't have money, that's their hard limit, and only with additional funding would they be able to do the right thing. (Maybe there could be funding to help them do the right thing?) With better support (prayer, moral, logistic, communication) and the expectation that they can get care if they fail, they might have more courage to do the right thing in marginal cases where they may not really be risking their success, (where perhaps it is some kind of delusion of danger or sin that puts its thumb on the scale of their perception of risk), or even in self-sacrificial cases where they have to sacrifice their success (their business venture/film? / career?) to do the right thing.

(Funding to help do the right thing: a director could develop a relationship with a funding agency that would commit to providing at least a significant part of the director's funding for each of their films, conditional on them doing the right thing and not necessarily on them being commercially successful. In other words, provide grace, or slack, so that directors can fail commercially if they do the right thing on set or in their other operations.)

(Conservative talk radio, to me, sounds like the voice of people who are suspicious and hardworking -- maybe small business owners who could easily go out of business and who have to deal with other insecure people who might cut corners or make untrustworthy deals to survive. Can there be care and support for them?)

Likewise, people in the spiritually dark worlds of the elites. Do Washington, DC churches adequately care for politicians and staffers who fight a culture war of their own? Political theater is part of the "air war" that movies are also involved in. Political decisions and governmental implementations of them have cultural consequences.

(Silicon Valley sounds like a place with its darkness and its own, different culture. What about it?)

People with bad reputations (criminals, prison guards, and police, for instance) may need care and support. It requires discernment how to support someone who has directed their life toward wrongdoing.

Like with creative missionaries in LA, I don't know anything about what might already be going on with care / support for people in these areas.

--

The church I grew up in had a sign over the door as you went out, that said "You are now entering the mission field". Probably everyone could see themselves as a missionary, and everyone experiences occupational hazards as they interface with the world. And so everyone could be sent and cared for -- by other people who also could be sent and cared for. Do churches send and care for their own pastors? (Maybe pastors should have some support from outside their own congregations.)

--

Everything is powerful, culturally. Everything sends a message. The way you do business as a small business owner affects the overall culture, the sense of how things are and how people act. Similarly with the products a business owner releases on the market. Each one is a movie or book, conditioning people's minds. The caring professions are culturally powerful.

This raises the question: if everyone has cultural power, if each person can say something that has a significant effect on someone (at least on him- or herself), what should you say? Are you the missionary for God and the truth, or for an off-flavor of God and a somewhat misleading truth? You have to seek to know what is true, so that you can correct what is wrong.

This process of self-correction has to go on on a societal level. Society (people within it) must speak against what is believed by society (other people within it). What does it take to oppose a consensus or effective consensus? What if the consensus involves the caring structures that you can find? Who will care for you when you burn out? Will the price of getting care be that you have to stop pointing out what's wrong?

So as much as care and support sound like a good thing, for at least some people, those who would point out what is least popular, it may be good to develop independence from human support and care. A wise society concerned with protecting itself from its own blind spots might try to develop the strength behind that independence in people, and not only promote care and support for people. For a believer in God, deriving strength from God, rather than from people, is a way to be strong enough to say what's unpopular.

It's possible for Christian (church-based) culture to somewhat discourage the individual from seeing things from their own perspective, and instead tries to enmesh them in a social organism. An individual church, and many individual people, will fare better if they are simply in-some-sense-"properly" interrelated socially. But Christianity as a whole suffers if it becomes blind due to its success in orienting individuals toward the points of view of their nearby congregations, which all can potentially be misguided.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Long Links #4

On my subreddit I put up links to individual videos, websites, or blog posts, etc. Any of these things can be "consumed" (paid attention to) in one sitting (generally speaking). Those are "short links". But "long links" take (or take me) more than one sitting and to me seem to not belong in the same context as short links.

--

I started playing a DOS RPG called Aethra by Michael Lawrence. It's been a while since I've played a computer game seriously.

I did most of my computer game (and video game) playing between maybe the age of 11 and 20. I had a somewhat superficial understanding of what was going on in the games and in me when I played. Now, many years and many experiences later, I get a lot more out of this game than I expect I would have then.

For instance, the idea of forming an adventuring party seems to be an image for a process in everyday life. The adventuring party is made up of people with their advantages and drawbacks. Then, over time, it is necessary to mitigate the drawbacks and make use of the advantages. There is a degree of complementarity between the members of the party, but they each have to hold their own in a fight, to some extent, because the other characters can't always help them.

I've played a lot of Angband. In a roguelike, like Angband, there is only one adventurer, one whom I never really saw as a person -- really he or she was just me, I was the one in the dungeon, and when their game was over ("death") it was really just my project that was over ("try to see how far I can get in the game"). There can be a real sense of loss when you lose a character in a roguelike, but it's not the loss of a person, rather the loss of a venture. In this game, I can't identify with just one person, since the party has three members, so they seem more like separate persons to me. It's too soon to say how this will affect how I play the game or what I get out of it.

I feel more like these are real people than novel or movie characters do to me. In a novel or movie, to me, people are just images, living in a completely different universe. But in an RPG, I'm involved in the characters' world, making decisions. This is one of the comparative advantages of games, in that they get a person to live in the imaginary, or imaginal, world.

--

I watched Millennium Actress, directed by Satoshi Kon. It's a good movie. At first I found its "beautiful dream"/past-oriented aesthetic too powerful, and found that it took me away from doing things I needed to do in my life in the present (helping a friend). So its beauty was kind of untrustworthy. But for me, the "beautiful dream" feeling faded, and I was left with a kind of simantic word or imaginal symbol that I think could be helpful in everyday life, in working to do good. The movie is basically about a moth who flies to a star.

--

I watched We Are Not Ghouls, directed by Chris James Thompson, a documentary about a US military lawyer's representation of a Guantanamo Bay suspect. It has some relevance to "the cross" (suspect undergoes torture, the lawyer goes against the system, endures stress). The lawyer (Yvonne Bradley) was the main person interviewed and I think she had a good presence that's worth watching.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Blog Review: Formulalessness, 2019 - 2023

I have often written things in a sort of diaristic way, not knowing how they would appear to me until I finished and re-read them for the first time. This blog has been a diary of my thinking. I feel as though I've been approaching the end, or an end, of my blog (for instance, not writing too much since fall of 2022). So, I've been engaging in behaviors of summarizing and wrapping up, and included in that, I've been re-reading my blog.

I re-read the whole thing up to the present post, except I didn't finish reading the Feeling of Value notes (1, 2), because simply to read them was too philosophical for me, and as I've mentioned, I'm trying to abstain from philosophy until October 2024. (Reading notes requires trying to figure out what I was saying, and trying to evaluate what I was saying turns into philosophy, according to me.)

Certain things stood out as things to come back to someday. Maybe re-reading the Feeling of Value notes and the Lukas Gloor sequence on moral anti-realism, plus other sources, to do a better job of talking about moral realism / anti-realism. Also, maybe writing a clearer presentation of the arguments implicit in my review of X-Risk by Thomas Moynihan. Occasionally, people find my blog through the Feeling of Value and X-Risk reviews, and what I have to offer isn't too user-friendly.

Generally, I could go back and try to improve past posts, and maybe make a few books out of them. Perhaps one for effective altruists.

Another thought is to use my wiki [January 2024: which I took down] as a place to write clearer versions of many of these posts, or to break down their ideas and recombine them in different ways that suit the subject matter better than my sometimes arbitrary lumpings of them. Then I could make a book or books based on the wiki.

There were times my present self (reviewing the blog) wished my past self had been clearer, argued better, or wrote more fleshed-out posts. I suppose that if I were a professional writer, I might have evaluated myself sooner than after four years as I'm doing now. I got into writing this blog just to put my notes online (at least, that's mainly what I did), and once the habit got going, I guess I didn't question what the product would be.

What niche does the blog fill? I would say that if you are a Christian interested in futurism, it takes you a certain way into the topic of Christianity-and-futurism. If you are a futurist, it shows a vision of a particular kind of theistic/Christian input into how the future should go. I don't know what my actual readers get out of it -- maybe something else. Blogs often are really all about their themes, their vibe, and a few of their memorable ideas. I do think that this blog has a vibe to it, and that's an undercurrent of it, that there's a spiritual world that connects to our everyday experience, and a spirit that breathes through us, which is imaged by the writing. Some themes of this blog are openmindedness, trust, truth, reason, and ethical theism (not a complete list).

If I'm thinking hopefully, I think this blog communicates a unique vision of how to be a Christian, or a Christian-like theist, a new religion or set of religions that helps deal with the divisions (progressive/conservative, secular/religious, perhaps Christian/non-Christian) and lack of motivation that keep people from God, and keep society locked into conflict and ineffectiveness.

Writing the blog served me. I started the blog (in early 2019) because it felt like time to write a blog. The fact that I had been reading Slate Star Codex since fall of 2016 was in the background of that decision. In early 2019, I was experiencing a mental breakdown (which lasted about three years at full strength and then diminishing to now), which largely was caused by others' indifference and hostility, lack of support and poisonous support. Having something to focus on other than the memories of the people who caused the mental breakdown, and the thoughts of despair they put in me, was helpful and gave me a direction forward.

Reviewing the blog from start to finish eventually started resembling, to me, reading any number of my diaristic works from 2015 - 2018 (most of the books found here). Those books emerged from me as a flow of writing, expressing something subtextual through their wholes. I think the same could be said of this blog, although to me at least the subtextual note is fainter. Both those old books and this blog have an aesthetic of "formulalessness".

Monday, September 25, 2023

Moving Forward

In trying to think about my writing, I wrote a page called Categories of my Writing. I noticed different trends in my writing: "how can we love?", the "exilic/familial", "radically theistic / New Wine" (or, I should say now, "radically theistic / millennial holiness"), "aletheism". How would I now say all these things relate? And how do they relate to outside views?

Overall, I want to move forward. "Moving forward" characterizes "advancing kingdoms" -- the kingdom of God, or civilization, or justice, or something like that. One thing I have had to do is move beyond being more into advancing secular things (civilization, justice, etc.) and into doing good in a really theistic way (advance the kingdom of God, the God who really exists).

Is the project (or projects) of "moving forward" a good thing? I can think of some "dissents": postmodernism (in my mind "there are a diversity of viewpoints none of which can be said are invalid"), and elements of the "exilic/familial" (the sense that nobody wins, and we mourn the death of our enemies). If we mourn our enemies too much, then we risk being on their side, or sinking into inactivity. Being on their side might sound like a good thing if we think that we are on the side of them as persons. But we should not necessarily adopt everyone else's point of view. The truth is what it is -- that our enemies are wrong necessarily connects to the fact that there is something we need to do in the world.

Another dissent is the apocalyptic view (in the sense of, there is only a little bit of time left). I feel that this is working deep, under the surface of our culture, in a way we don't always explicitly state. But it can be an explicit view (climate, AI, the perennial religious end-times thinking). If there is no more time left, then we lost motivation to move forward.

Another dissent is the appeal to human nature, or other kinds of nature, or the body, or health. Human nature certainly isn't the best thing we can conceive of, but it's also not the worst. Health calls for moderation (for not moving forward too much, or not at all in a sense, since we already have the body and its desires).

Those engaged in the project of moving forward might become disillusioned with its failures (they might be on the side of moving forward still, in principle, but might have lost some faith in it because they see the damage it causes, or its inability to bring about what we think it promises). Prophets speak the unvarnished truth which "nobody" wants to hear, for the sake of the truth, even if it seems unhelpful for them to do so.

Part of moving forward involves the truth. How do we know the truth? Can we know the truth? For the postmodernist, the claim is that there is no one truth. For the Reformed (Calvinist) thinker, the claim is that humans can't naturally come to know the truth, and God has to give us that truth (this undermining natural reason). Buddhism and modern science also cast doubt on natural reason.

The Bible itself (I think, this is my reading) contains both moving forward and critique of moving forward. Abraham is called by God to found a new nation to bless the whole world ("moving forward") (Genesis 12:1-3). But he is also commanded by God to sacrifice his son, who is the child through whom that nation is supposed to descend (Genesis 22). David weeps for his son Absalom (who had been killed after trying to take the throne from David), but then David realizes (is told) that he has to live for the ongoing process, for the people who were on his (rightful) side (2 Samuel 19:1-7). Should you trust the voice of God? Overall you should. Should you fight for God's project (as I think the Bible would say David was doing more so than Absalom was)? Yes, but you have to acknowledge the danger in what you're doing and listen to the critique.

I use the term "moving forward" rather than "progress" because while progress is a form of moving forward, there is also the moving forward needed to preserve the things that already exist. Neither the church, civilization, nor justice will maintain their current sizes/fullness (in general) unless individual people move forward. The dissents to moving forward take away energy that can help people move forward -- whether to maintain what is good or to make things better.

"How can we love?" is about "moving forward". "Radical theism" contains both "moving forward" and concern for every person (because every person came from God -- every person has a history of being a child descended from God, even if they choose to reject God permanently) -- thus, mourning and losing (like in the "exilic/familial"). God loses in the end -- but he doesn't have to lose as much. Love mourns what is lost, but has to apply effort to prevent further loss.

I think that evangelicals (at least, the best of them) balance this forward-moving with a concern for every person, a concern which does not demoralize them but causes them to move forward (in a way that does not "outpace" the people they try to help), and I would consider my writing project overall to be evangelical in a certain basic sense.

I think it is wise to consider the dissents to moving forward, as each contain some element of wisdom and can be a check on moving forward in a misguided way.

Postmodernism in a strong-enough form is a way to close the mind against the possibility of there being answers, and this I find hard to like. But in a sufficiently weak form, it says "you have to listen to everyone's point of view in seeking the truth, and when you start the discussion, everyone's view is equally valid". Or it could say as well "You feel like X is true from your own experience and reason, but other people believe not-X. Why do you think you're right and they're wrong?"

Apocalypticism biases us to do good in the short term. Perhaps we have too many incentives to do good in the short term already. But maybe apocalypticism biases us to act intensely in the short term. I don't know if that always is a good thing, but it's worth considering. Apocalypticism may also bias us to rest, a similarly mixed thing to pursue.

Concern for health, the body, human nature, etc. is necessary to keep us from burning out and to do good in an unhealthy way tends to be doing something that has evil mixed in it somewhere. Health-pursuing, like postmodernism, can close the mind, but if it does not make itself a god, it is something worth listening to. Respect for human nature (in the sense of seeing it there, like you see a rattlesnake in your path) and typical human fallibility is wise.

Those who move forward but in the process of moving forward critique specific ways of moving forward, are doing something good to make sure that their efforts are really good instead of bad, as long as they avoid demoralizing themselves (or other people) about the overall process of moving forward.

Reformed, Buddhist, and scientific questioning of human's natural ability to reason each have their uses.

The Reformed perspective says "you are not God". I think people should move forward, try to have the values of God and then do the things that God wants, which are in line with those people's values now that they have adopted God's values. So you should see what you see and do what you want. You want to do what is good, so your appetite is trustworthy when you want that. When you do what you and God want, you are an agent of God. You are becoming like God, on the small scale that you can act in. Everyone who acts out God's will is in a sense God himself, his body. When you behave completely legitimately, you are part of Legitimacy.

However, there is a sense in which you are not God and never will be. God's work is much greater than yours. Your work has a boundary to it and many things happen outside your work. Your work is affected by things you don't understand, but which God does understand.

If you are trustworthy, people will trust you, and some will think you are most-trustworthy on a deeper level -- they will give you the glory and not God, and this is a dangerous mistake. If they make you an idol, you (with all of your trustworthiness) could keep them from loving God.

So it is good to consider the Reformed perspective (in which it can sometimes seem like God does everything). I don't think it's literally true that God does everything and we do nothing, but it's a good perspective.

The Buddhist perspective can be taken as a means to achieve mental health (see above). The scientific perspective can elucidate human nature (see above). Also it teaches us to think carefully and biases us to not trust our intuitions, which is a good thing up to a point.

All of these things are dangerous when they close the mind to the good that we really should be doing, the forward moving that we should really take seriously. Buddhist and Reformed critiques of reason need to see the danger that they are wrong and that reason is saying something valuable (as much as it is important for rationalists to consider that their reasoning is dangerous, as Buddhist or Reformed thinkers allege). I would propose that everyone move forward with their worldview (postmodern, Reformed, Buddhist, evangelical, etc.), but periodically consider that which questions their worldview, take it as a live possibility.

This would be an "aletheistic" thing to do.

So, perhaps I could integrate all of the above into a kind of formula:

Movement: Motivate yourself strongly ("how can we love?") to go into the secular world to some extent ("how can we love?"), but primarily to reach people to prevent them from hardening and dying the second death ("radically theistic / millennial holiness"), seeing them as kin, children of a God who risks losing them if they reject him ("exilic/familial"), not as people to defeat but rather people to mourn ("exilic/familial") but overall still moving forward with the work to make the world more the way God wants it to be ("how can we love?"), anti-tempting ourselves and those around us ("radical theism / millennial holiness").

Dissents: We need to question the movement from time to time ("aletheism"). We can consider "dissents", like Reformed, Buddhist, health-oriented, human nature-oriented, postmodern, and apocalyptic thinking (mentioned above). Or perhaps even the Bible could be considered as a dissent, or both a dissent and a support (call of Abraham and binding of Isaac / David mourning Absalom and moving on). Or there could be other dissents not mentioned. The movement is improved by the dissents, but overall the movement is where you are headed.

Semi-dissents: We need to improve the movement. We might accept it as it is on a "coarse-grained" level, but on a "fine-grained" level still want to improve it. This requires self-criticism. Perhaps this self-criticism can morph into full-on dissent.

A person could try to live this out (or an improved version of it) both somehow integrating all of the above into everything they do in each moment (or getting closer to doing that), or by going through phases.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

MSL's Relationship to Christianity

Reading New Wine for the End Times makes me think again about the Bible in more depth. This makes think I should write about MSL's relationship to Christianity.

One way for me to look at this question is to look at myself, as someone with some kind of relationship to both MSL and Christianity.

I was raised in a moderate church, probably "theologically conservative" but moderate in tone. I think I'm reacting to that, and assuming that, a lot of the time. I think the flaws of progressive and conservative Christianity are the flaws of "Los Angeles" while the flaws of moderate Christianity are those of "San Diego". In other words, moderate Christianity seems nicer than the other two and thus is more likely to have a serious but unexamined problem with it. MSL and New Wine Christianity call for excellence, while I think both being basically moderate in other respects. Hopefully that call for excellence makes up for the danger of complacency within moderate belief systems.

I had a significant, highly negative experience with a progressive Christian (this blog comes out of that experience, to some extent). I don't want to assume the worst of all of progressive Christianity because of what I went through, but I can't assume that all progressive Christians are different than the person that caused my negative experience.

Progressive Christianity has an epistemic openness and a willingness to question. I find this aspect of it trustworthy (assuming it is really willing to consider things that are or could be coded "conservative"). What I don't find trustworthy is its emphasis on ethical humanism to the exclusion of ethical theism. Perhaps it sounds good for God to serve humanity, and for humans to serve humanity. Then who serves God? Or are humans the highest end of both God and humans? It sounds like we are making ourselves the center of the universe.

A progressive Christian might look at that last paragraph and think "so you're basically on the side of the conservative Christians". I think conservative Christians (at their best) do try to put God at the center of the universe and not put humans there. But conservative Christianity isn't always good. I think there are (at least) two kinds of conservatives: the kind who like to say "no" to other people, and the kind who value things so much that they try to protect them from other people. "Liberals" (the generous and free) have straightforward human desires. They think (often) that all conservatism is of the "say no to other people" kind, and they feel entitled to their straightforward human desires and think of conservatives as people who are unfair and want power over other people, this power which is proven by their ability to say "no" to them and restrict their straightforward human desires. They (seemingly) do not think that any conservatism is of the "there is something valuable, perhaps delicate, which must be protected from harm". I don't like saying "no" to people, so in that sense, I am a liberal (or, maybe I should say, I am not an "invalidating conservative"). But I also think there are things that are valuable, to be protected from harm, which are not part of what most (or most liberal) people think are "canonical, established straightforward human desires". In that sense I am a "protective" or "sensitive" conservative.

If a man has "straightforward human desires" for a woman, and she says "no", is she invalidating him? Or is she protecting something? He might think that her "sensitivities" (maybe her religion which she calls on to justify her desire to not have sex until marriage?) is a scam when all she really wants is to say "no" to him, to humiliate him and have power over him by keeping him from his natural desires. She has to invalidate him in order to protect herself, but her goal is to protect something, a good or a value which he does not respect. I think it likely that at least some of the time women do try to humiliate men and have power over them. (They really are the "invalidating conservatives".) But often (most of the time?) they are protecting something from the man. (They are really "protective" or "sensitive" conservatives.)

I think that conservatives reading this post would think that they were protective or sensitive conservatives, and generally I would agree with them. The "will-to-invalidate" is also in conservatives, some of the same who are at other times protective or sensitive, others who are only invalidating, with no concern for protecting.

Some progressive Christians might assume that I'm really a front for invalidating conservatism. That's not my intention. But I am not sure that I've made a case in my writing so far which forcefully establishes my actual intention. (Maybe I have, maybe not.) However, I think a truth-seeking progressive Christian should consider the possibility that maybe there is something to protect which they don't already recognize as being worth protecting, which conservative Christians (in this case correctly) think is worth protecting. Maybe my writing is a scam, maybe it's not. If it's not, what then?

A conservative Christian may then think "so you're a conservative Christian, like us". I think that there's something to that. However, I don't believe the Bible is necessarily inerrant. I am not committed to the Bible primarily as my foundation for my faith in God. Nor am I committed to the church (the existing body of people who identify as Christians, or the culture of those people) in the same capacity. This is a radical difference ("radical" as "at the roots") from conservative Christianity as I understand it. Basically, I think that the idea of proving the existence of God through reason (MSL) is the kind of thing that would be undertaken by a rationalistic person, and if successful, would take weight off of the Bible and the church, if they were less reliable than it. So here we see MSL making me "epistemically progressive" or "epistemically liberal", which seemingly disqualifies me from being a conservative Christian (I think it's pretty fair to say it does disqualify me from being what we normally call a conservative Christian).

So far my blog has not had any pushback from conservative Christians, but that may well change. I do not have the mental resources to try to deal with huge texts like the Bible, or with history, or with reams of peoples' arguments one way or the other. (At least not now.) But I will discuss a little bit why I think the way I do about the Bible and the church, and at least if there are objections try to put them on my wiki [January 2024: replaced by this.] so that I (or someone else, perhaps) can address them someday. (My mental exhaustion may be another thing I have more in common with progressive Christians than conservative Christians.)

I can think of one major reason to doubt that everything in the Bible necessarily comes from God, which is that it (even its Jesus (Matthew 24:34)) expected the end of the world to come soon. But it didn't. Maybe we can dig in and say "well, there's a sense in which the world did end" or "the words that make us think Jesus expected it soon can be interpreted differently" or even "God changed his mind because maybe things were going better/worse than he expected". If I were committed to the Bible, I would choose one of those, or some other similar thing, to believe. But if uncommitted, I would think about how the early Christians thought one thing was going to happen, and it didn't, and say "well, there might be some sense in which the words that gave them that expectation are trustworthy, but it might also be the case that they were misguided by expectations that didn't come from God, and maybe the rest of the Bible is a mixture of good guidance and misguidance. Or maybe there are things that Jesus said that are accurately conveyed by the Gospels, but the end-times beliefs weren't among them".

However, I have found the Bible to be very helpful in my own life, trusting it as though it is true, at least as I understood it (i.e., reflecting what parts of it said, as it "plainly" or "naively" appeared to me). I think that the basic project of the Bible is the same as that of MSL, and that MSL is a continuation of it (though some conservative Christians might disagree). This increases my credence that the parts of the Bible that I don't trust might be trustworthy anyway. Sometimes perhaps that causes me to re-evaluate what I don't trust, so that I do trust it, but it does not make me trust everything in the Bible, and I am not certain everything in the Bible is true.

I believe in the Jesus of the spiritual world. The Bible is an introduction to this Jesus, but there is a world in which the spirits live. Occult people "dial up" the spirit of Saturn (the god? the planet? both in one being?) and there is a whole world of spirits, one of whom is Jesus. (The Bible as it lives in our imaginations and memory is the Bible in the imaginal world, which is an access point to the world of spirits.) In my experience, this spirit is to be trusted. But is this spirit 100% the same as the man described in the Bible? I don't know. Does this spirit lend enough credence to the many things in the Bible to validate them all? I wouldn't assume so.

One argument for founding a person's faith on the church is that Christianity has to have a lot to do with the Bible (even progressive Christians seem to care about what the Bible says in some sense). Where did the Bible come from? The individual texts came (it is believed) from the Holy Spirit through human writers. But the church are the ones who canonized the Bible (selected the texts to go in it). We assume that the church was guided by the Holy Spirit when they did that. And the church are the ones who preserved and transmitted the Bible through time. So without the church, there would be no Bible.

Does that mean that we are beholden to the church? What exactly goes into the word "church"? If you don't go to "church", are you a bad Christian, or simply not a Christian? I think the church "wants" (it's a culture more than a conscious individual) you to go to church. Is that what God wants? Is church-centricness a cousin to progressive humanism? (Putting the focus on people rather than God.) Well, if the church is divinely inspired (a presupposition for the Bible to be divinely inspired, we think) then maybe the church is a source of authority in itself and individual Christians must submit to it. But if MSL is valid, then it takes the epistemic burden off of the church. The Bible gains credence because it resembles MSL (a publicly verifiable source of credence) and because its Jesus in some way is the same as the Jesus of the spirit world (a non-publicly verifiable source of credence, unless we all get in conscious contact with that world). The church gains credence to the extent that it is aligned with MSL's God.

Because of my experiences with the spirit world, and the confirmation from MSL, I think I trust in Jesus enough for me to be considered a Christian. But that spirit, and MSL, are the only points on which I'm significantly committed, and the Bible, and the culture that flows from it, I'm not so committed to. Not everything that is socially (or perhaps even Biblically) "church" is in tune with MSL and the Jesus of the spirit world (i.e., instead it takes Satan's side rather than Jesus' side, in Satan's war against God and God's creatures.)

(My example doesn't have to be normative for all people interested in MSL. But I mention it because it's something concrete that I know about, and maybe it provides some guidance.)

So at this point, maybe it seems like I have struck blows for the side of "uncertainty" (a "progressive Christian" thing), so does that leave me really being progressive? I think that uncertainty could lead to a practical liberalism (where we don't know anything, so we default to our natural appetites for guidance), but it could also lead to a practical protective conservatism (where we don't know anything, so we consider the things to protect in every different likely scenario and try to figure out how best to manage the task of protecting things).

So far I've mostly talked from a Christian perspective. But I think that MSL does lend credence (or may; I haven't studied this myself) to non-Christian religions (a progressive Christian thing to say?). I don't think that any religion other than a basically Biblical Christianity (a New Wine Christianity) could be the most compatible with MSL, so the Bible would be most-recommended by it for the purposes of seeking God's preferences (a conservative Christian thing to say?). (But I suppose there might be some obscure religion somewhere that does better. In many ways that obscure religion that I hypothesize would have to be a form of Christianity, but perhaps using different terminology.)

We want to obey God, and so we search for his preferences, for wherever they might be: in reason, nature, and in holy books. We focus first on obeying God in the ways that we are most certain: what MSL recommends. Then, when we have time, we implement the less-certain obediences which are found only in the Bible (or perhaps other holy books). (This motion toward obedience is a typically conservative thing.)

The process of seeking ways to obey God, in the uncertain space of holy books, suggests an intellectual project: To seek what to obey (to come to prefer, act, and trust) from sources that may indicate what God wants -- uncertain obedience. Since we are not sure whether these ideas are from God or not, we consider the possibility that they are not from God, possibly even from Satan. Can we implement these "obediences" to what God may want in such a way that we minimize the damage caused in case they are from Satan, and maximize the good resulting, whether they are from Satan or from God?

(Given this project, why not look everywhere there are old values and revive or preserve them (to undo cultural Moloch), using the same metric of "how do we implement this to maximally serve God and minimally serve Satan?". Perhaps some old values are not compatible with God, but even with them, how much can be salvaged?)

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Millennial Holiness

11 February 2024: superseded by "voluntary millennial holiness".

For a little bit of time, I have been unsatisfied with the terminology available to describe my writing project. "MSL", or "MSLN", sounds weird, technical, "mathematical", artificial to me. For some people, those adjectives are not a problem. (For philosophers, especially analytic, maybe some STEM people, some intellectuals who are outsiders.) Also, while the term "New Wine" is a nice-sounding one, I feel like it belongs more to Philip Brown, who coined it, than to me. Neither "MSL" nor "New Wine" signal to a casual listener the content of those belief systems.

As I think about it, I think it's fine to call my philosophy "MSL", because it's intended for philosophically literate people. But it's good to have a general, broad label for the basic idea of both MSL and the New Wine System.

The two big points that I see in both MSL and New Wine Christianity are 1) becoming completely holy, and 2) having a millennium (or something like it) in which to become completely holy. So, "holiness" and "millennium". Or, we could say "millennial holiness". This does give some idea of its content, although for most people it is more a hint. It's a term that describes both MSL and New Wine Christianity, while allowing them to be different from each other in some respects (which seemed to make less sense if I called MSL a "New Wine" thing). (It may also describe Mormonism, and possibly Catholicism is related.)

So I plan to use "millennial holiness" sometimes where I would have used "New Wine" before. The past blog is what it is, and maybe if I can leave a note somewhere in it without too much effort, which makes the correction to help future blog readers (at least it should go in MSLN), that would be worth it. But I'm guessing that my blog will not be the introduction most people get to my writing at some point in the future, or perhaps this blog will be, but increasingly so the "era" in which I habitually use "millennial holiness".

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Prosaic Afterlifes

One thing I remember from when I first read New Wine for the End Times was a sense of simplification in me about the question of the afterlife. I didn't realize this before reading the book, but I had some uncertainty about it, I suppose about whether I would go there. Heaven was something nebulous, uncertain, or poetic, a dream. But the Millennium is guaranteed to almost all (except extreme ethical anti-theists). And it is a more or less prosaic place / time, somewhat different from this life, but recognizably similar. Just like in this life, where we have to learn to be in tune with God, so it will be in that life. Both this life and the next are places of work, and there is a degree of risk in both places -- the risk of hardening.

I think Christians sometimes have trouble believing in heaven, because it's so dream-like or poetic. They know themselves to be made of prose, not poetry. How can a prose-being live in the world of poetry? Can a prose-being be turned into a poetry-being? At best, it is uncertain whether we can really exist in the world of poetry.

Perhaps some people can believe in poetry, that it is real. But I think by default, poetry seems like a dream. It is a beautiful, unreal thing for the imagination. So if heaven is poetic, it's a beautiful, unreal, imaginary place. Only where there is prose, there is real life.

Some Christians have a hard time thinking about the afterlife, and who goes there, because traditional Christian soteriology doesn't make sense to them ("Do children who die before they profess Christianity go to heaven?" "What about my very nice friend who isn't a Christian -- or the one who is sort of on the line between Christian and non-Christian?" "What about people in uncontacted tribes in the Amazon basin?") The New Wine System makes more sense (the answer to all four questions in the previous parenthetical are "they will be resurrected to the Millennium and hopefully, over the course of the Millennium, will mature to the point of going to heaven"). With the New Wine System, people can face the afterlife and see it as real.

Given this, believers are freed from the despair that accompanies the belief in the transitory life. They can shift their focus away from survival and enjoyment (get what you can in this life) and toward ethics and God (try to work toward becoming close to, and like, God in this life and the next). New Wine Christians might look at death as "falling asleep" the way Jesus and the early church did, something relatively mundane and lightweight, rather than a tragedy mixed with a celebration as Christian dying can be seen under modern Christianity.

In New Wine or MSL thinking, is heaven a prosaic place? If we take the Bible of New Wine Christianity literally, it sounds like heaven (the New Jerusalem) is a giant cubical spaceship made out of weird, beautiful materials, which actually floats in heaven (the sky). I don't think modern people would make up that heaven, it wouldn't speak to them as normal beauty, so it doesn't work the same as modern poetry or imagination. It's too weird to be a beautiful dream (at least to me). It seems sort of orthogonal to my tastes, which perhaps is appropriate. That it doesn't fit with my desires gives it the taste of reality. Heaven isn't about what we want, it's about what God wants. Still, while it doesn't sound like my fantasy of heaven, it doesn't sound 100% prosaic either.

Should we assume that Revelation (the source of the New Jerusalem image) is literally true? My first thought is, no, it's explicitly a vision, and visions don't have to be literal. I guess it could be, but we should consider whether it's not. In that case, maybe Jesus saying that in his Father's house, there are many rooms (or words to that effect) gives us some idea.

(I'm not sure all of where Jesus could be seen to be talking about heaven. Here's the passage I was thinking of in the previous paragraph (John 14:1-4):

14:1 "Don't let your heart be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. 14:2 In my Father's house are many homes. If it weren't so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. 14:3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will receive you to myself; that where I am, you may be there also. 14:4 Where I go, you know, and you know the way."
Jesus' description is very plain and is consistent with a prosaic heaven. It does not rule out a poetic heaven. Without Revelation, I would default to thinking either prosaic or a plain kind of poetic heaven.)

MSL (which is apart from the Bible) doesn't commit us to any particular view of heaven, but it does commit us to a view of humans as being mature when they go there. When we are mature, will we need a heaven of magic, wonder, and maximal pleasure? Or will our tastes have changed? MSL does indicate that, unless somehow nobody hardens / rejects God, there will be an undercurrent of sorrow for the people who are not there. And even for those who are there, some of the truth of their existence there will involve how they got there, from lives of hardship and (temporary) enmity with God. I don't think that heaven will be a place of pure happy feelings, but overall tempered with sorrow. That is what love of people and the truth call for. I suppose that heaven may involve qualitatively rich or new, otherworldly experiences, which speak to a sort of Sehnsucht (as C. S. Lewis uses it?) or Lewis's image of heaven as being like the world you know but five times bigger (I think he said something like that), but we won't need it to.