Friday, November 26, 2021

News: 26 November 2021

Recently I've started work on a couple of long-term projects, in addition to the book on the cross. One of them is a more organized version of MSLN than is on this blog, and of whatever other doctrines I feel should go with it. (Strictly speaking MSLN isn't about epistemology, or is somewhat indirectly about it if it is, but I might put epistemology in there.)

The other is a commentary on the Bible, which I expect to take a long time. The book is about the range of possible ways to understand God and what he prefers, and which ways we should prefer, act, and trust, given that range, for ethical purposes. Also, since I will be reading the Bible, I will see how well the philosophical part of MSLN (MSL, one might say) interfaces with it. (Basically, trying to apply the epistemology of love / altruism to the Bible, given the degree of epistemic and maybe therefore normative uncertainty involved.)

The two purposes of this text are: first, to provide information to any secular people who might have come through MSL to the point of trusting the Bible for ethical purposes (to see specifically how to come into tune with God). Second, to demonstrate the method of uncertainty filtered through ethics ("uncertain obedience") to recommend it to Christians to provide a way to settle doctrinal positions while still acknowledging what we don't know -- maybe this would help to some extent with significant church divisions like that between more conservative and more liberal / progressive Christians.

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Currently, with the first, philosophy project, I've read some of Copleston's A History of Medieval Philosophy. Also I've ordered the books in the Wadsworth Philosophers Series on Plato and Aristotle. I found that after reading their book on Berkeley, and thinking about Berkeleianism for a while, when I got to Berkeley's Principles of Human Knowledge, there wasn't a lot new I needed to understand. The titles in the series are written by different authors and are probably hit or miss, and Berkeley may be a particularly easy philosopher to summarize, but I'm still somewhat optimistic that I can get low-hanging fruit out of them without (as) much reading. Also I checked out a book on metaphysics from the library.

I tend to do better by learning the basics of other philosophers' views and then re-deriving whatever follows (that I feel the need to think of), and then maybe looking at the details of what they say. I'm not really interested in being able to, say, accurately explain some other philosopher's work, but I do want to let them influence my own. I also find it useful to keep my mind in the area of philosophy by reading even about philosophers whose views don't interest me.

I don't intend to directly cite very much of this reading in my own book on my own philosophy, which is why I'm okay reading library books.

With the second, Bible reading, project, I have done some planning and drafted some introductory sections and have read about halfway through Genesis in the first pass of reading through the Bible (out of maybe four or five passes total).

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Is Complete Trust in God Necessary for Salvation?

Is complete trust in God necessary for salvation, according to MSLN?

I'm not sure I can come up with a categorical "yes", but I think I can get close to a "yes".

As I study the Bible, I may come up with a stronger case, but I can at least say that to the extent that a person believes in the Bible through MSLN, we can see Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount teaching that a person should not be anxious and should ask God for what they need (whether they objectively or only psychologically need it, I guess). Not being anxious is a form of trust, and asking for what you need is a form of trust. Jesus ends the Sermon on the Mount with these words (Matthew 7:)

21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will tell me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, didn't we prophesy in your name, in your name cast out demons, and in your name do many mighty works?' 23 Then I will tell them, 'I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity.'

24 "Everyone therefore who hears these words of mine and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on a rock. 25 The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it didn't fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 Everyone who hears these words of mine and doesn't do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell -- and its fall was great."

I'm not sure all of the Sermon on the Mount's commands can be seen as absolute moral commands, or if some of them can be seen as practical advice that is upstream of obeying moral commands. However, some of the commands, like not being angry, and forgiving, do have language that suggests they are moral commands, related to whether you will be saved, and so it is with anxiety (Matthew 6:)

24 "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You can't serve both God and Mammon. 25 Therefore I tell you, don't be anxious for your life: what you will eat, or what you will drink; nor yet for your body, what you will wear. Isn't life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 See the birds of the sky, that they don't sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns. Your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren't you of much more value than they?

27 "Which of you by being anxious, can add one moment to his lifespan? 28 Why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They don't toil, neither do they spin, 29 yet I tell you that even Solomon in all his glory was not dressed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today exists and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, won't he much more clothe you, you of little faith?

31 "Therefore don't be anxious, saying, 'What will we eat?', 'What will we drink?' or, 'With what will we be clothed?' 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first God's Kingdom and his righteousness; and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore don't be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Each day's own evil is sufficient.

Vss. 24 - 25 suggest that to be anxious is to serve Mammon -- maybe not an airtight inference, but I think strong enough to make us concerned that if we never stop being anxious, we will be kept out of heaven. We would be trusting uncertain things (being anxious) rather than trusting the certain person.

That may be enough to convince some people (it would be enough for me), but there may be other Bible passages that strengthen the case.

Also, for those who do not trust in the Bible as much, but only in the natural theological part of MSLN, what can be said philosophically?

It does seem odd to think of someone who refuses to cease being anxious entering God's rest. It may be "physically" (psychologically?) impossible for a personal being to be in communion with rest if they are anxious. It sounds true by definition. It is as though we condemn ourselves to something like hell if we do not cease to be anxious. Not being anxious is a big part of trusting.

Can God rest if we don't rest? According to the metaphysical organism argument, God experiences exactly what we experience, so, no. That's a fairly airtight reason to think that anxiety must cease, and that if our will is what keeps it going, it must change or we must be destroyed.

Is it possible to sustainably exist in an environment forever if you don't fully trust it? I can think of multiple cases where I was in a social environment that wasn't feeding me (or wasn't feeding me "good food"), and I sort of died inside and had to escape. I needed my "food" from somewhere, and had to flee the sterility or the sickness to find it. I didn't trust my environment, because it wasn't offering me what I needed, or what I hungered for. A person in God's presence who did not fully trust him, was not fully and on all levels receptive to him, perhaps hungry for him enough to keep up with his richness, might find him to be "bad food", or might want to "eat" something outside of God (some kind of sin). Then that person would become desperate and start acting out, but would have nowhere to escape to without disturbing God's rest.

You can resolve to be friends with God forever with your will (with you, the real you), but if your "body" (or whatever part of your psychology is really where the "organ of trust" is located) can't stomach God, you will be tempted over and over by your indigestion of him to turn against him. If you model temptation (as I think maybe I would, although I haven't thought about this as much as I might) as "roll an N-sided die and if you roll a 1 you give in", then to be tempted by any finite-sided "temptation die" over the course of everlasting time, at some point you will roll a 1 and turn against God. You might be able to turn back to God after giving in (or maybe not), but in any case it would disturb God's rest. Therefore it is best for us to learn to trust God fully before we enter his rest.

(Supposing that your conscious love for God is unshakeable, so that you can roll the die and never roll a 1, every time you're tempted by your "body" to reject God, you will experience conscious stress, which will disturb God's rest.)

Another dimension of trust connects to loyalty. If you follow someone, you trust them on some level (true even on social media). To put full and unwavering allegiance in someone is to trust them, to trust that they satisfy whatever criteria obtain for them to be the thing in which you should put full and unwavering allegiance. The phrase "give your heart" to someone sounds like we are putting something valuable in the care of someone else, which is a form of trust.

This may not be a complete list of reasons why we must come to fully trust God, but it's probably sufficient for now.

When I started this post, I felt like I couldn't say for sure ("categorically") that complete trust of God was necessary for salvation. But I think it's necessary for salvation, for reasons given above.

(I don't always stop to acknowledge my intellectual sources, mainly for having so few of them, not wanting to repeat the same names over and over, but I will say that a lot of my concept of trust comes from Joseph Godfrey's Trust of People, Words, and God.)

Sarkar; Sarkar and Truth

In Hinduism, sarkar is (something like) how your pattern of behavior, vibe, feeling, "energy", and spirit are all one thing. If you make a physical movement, it affects the rest of your sarkar. Your feelings will affect your movements. Your feelings are movements, in a way. You are like a motor with interconnected parts moving in a rhythm. You have an inner rhythm which is interconnected with and between your consciousness and your body. (Again, this is approximately what Hinduism says. I may have bent it somewhat to my own purposes.)

It's hard to believe things that you can't work into your sarkar. It could be that we don't live according to our real beliefs, what we really see to be true according to our best seeing. That best seeing may be buried under a pile of how everyone around us patterns us, physically, with shared vibes, and so on. The human body, the brain, the physical mechanisms of the mind, can seemingly only be patterned in certain ways. Intellectual knowledge, the "seeing-that-a-belief-is-justified" (perhaps the ought-belief), might be unbelievable, "un-hold-able", untrustable, if it is not in line with the body in some way.

However, if we want to believe, in a more bodily way, something we see to be true (perhaps is-believe it), then we may have to retrain our sarkars so that they fit what we really believe to be true. We may have to do this against the headwind of how other people pattern us.

Another perspective (than saying what is intellectually true should pattern our sarkars) would be to say that the sarkar is what is right. The right sarkar is what is right, and intellectual beliefs must be chosen as to whether they fit the right sarkar.

How would you know which approach to take? Sarkar-truth or intellect-truth? Either one could be true, one might think. I can't be sure that this is the only meta-truth approach, but the one I tend to favor (the one I currently think best), is that of the epistemology of love / altruism, where we consider all the possibilities, and when there is uncertainty, try to trust and act according to the course of action or trusting which avoids the greatest harm. So if intellect-truth says that there is a threat, it should be taken seriously, and if sarkar-truth says (or "feels") that there is a threat, it should be taken seriously as well. Whatever threat matters most should be prioritized, but the threat that is of secondary importance should be taken into consideration as well.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Doing the Biblical Thing

There are times in life where we have to weigh which path to take; other times where we are preparing ourselves to be a certain way, so that we make the right split-second decision when it arises and there's no time to think (more, or less, aware that that's what we are doing). If we can be deliberate, we might think "What's the wise thing to do? The prudent? The morally correct one?" (The prudent person eats stew, but Esau sold his birthright for stew -- an unwise choice.) We might also think "How can I love God through what I do? How can I trust him? How can I be loyal to him?"

We can certainly make mistakes, and sometimes we can't know the right thing to do in advance. If we feel that we are risking doing the wrong thing, we may try to be risk-averse (choose the safest option). But we can also say "Even if I'm doing the wrong thing, at least I'm doing the biblical thing". (We can find some precedent in the Bible for some behavior, though that behavior might not measure up to worldly standards of good decision-making. Care should be taken that use of the Bible is well-implemented.) Not "doing the wrong thing" in a sinful way, but in an unwise way. Some people choose wisdom (worldly wisdom), while other people choose to be true to God (spiritual wisdom), through the Bible or whatever other valid source of information about what God wants.

Worldly wisdom may employ reason, and we can know things about God using reason, but according to one form of reason, we seek to do what is socially defensible and in line with human instincts, while according to the other we acknowledge God as he really is, as one who connects to all of life.

Will-Nature Ontology

I ran across a concept in Trust of People, Words, and God by Joseph Godfrey, (a concept which is original to him, it seems), called "will-nature ontology". I haven't read the book in a long time and probably am misremembering what I read about it. But my mismemory might be interesting. So I'll explain what the concept means to me now, and then go back and see what he said it meant.

My explanation: When you encounter an object, at first it's a blank slate and you can't interact with it. Maybe you see an old-fashioned tool and can't imagine what it's for. Or you meet a person but all you know is their name and face at first. Then, as you understand more of the properties of the object, or as you grasp intuitively more about the object (as when mentalizing a person), you develop desires toward interacting with the thing, and the confidence that you can (something like the concept of favor). It is as though the nature of the object you apprehend halfway (or sometimes completely?) causes you to act [to will]. Understanding things, getting to know them, forming an idea of them (whether accurate or trustworthy or not) gives you a kind of psychological power or fuel, opens up motivation, could halfway force you to commit [to them, or some other course of action]. Therefore seeking to understand things could be life-changing, or sometimes dangerous.

(There might be more that I could develop here, but in the interests of time, I'll just say that's what I think and see what Godfrey said.)

Godfrey (informed by Trust of People, Words, and God, Ch. 7, "Ontology: Two Models for Reliance Trust and I-Thou Trust" and "The Will-Nature Model" (pp. 222-225)): The will is the subject, not only as knower, but as will-er, doer, truster, etc. Nature is the way an object is, that which makes it capable of "being modified, used, and known" (p. 224). The will finds the environment (objects in it?) to be allied, opposed, or neutral, to its interests.

This is different from my version of the idea, but my version might mostly be an elaboration or set of instantiations of his.

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I like my misremembering, and wonder if that's a good strategy for coming up with new ideas. Maybe if I'm in a mood for adventure, and making the most of reality, I might try that deliberately.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

You Can't (Spiritually) Save Someone Without Them Understanding

Sometimes the salvation of another person feels urgent, or if not urgent, then still necessary. You may feel like you have to act regardless of any other considerations, given how urgent or necessary the call for this salvation is. The act becomes a number one priority, shutting out all other voices.

This has a tendency to cause you to act forcefully. You have to ignore anything that gets in the way of you saving the other person, including how they feel about it, any other goods in their life, any other possible ways they might be saved or need to be saved. There are reasons why they may see things differently than you, but you have to ignore that, and if those reasons connect to what their life is naturally, their flesh (who they are naturally) may have "limbs" that you would try to amputate so that they survive.

Ideally, everyone would understand when someone else came to save them. But if the threat is urgent enough, you have to save someone whether they understand or not. Maybe they will understand and be grateful to you later. What's important right now is making sure they don't die.

If your perspective is that you're trying to save someone from physical death, yanking them out of the way of, say, a speeding car without them understanding why does make some sense. You will succeed in saving them from (that) physical death, even if they never understand what you did.

But if you're trying to save someone from spiritual death, you can't force people. They themselves, in an uncoerced way, have to choose to affirm God's values. The understanding itself (intellectual and in their hearts) is what causes them to be saved.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Vision, Ego, Seeing, Opinion

Vision, ego, seeing, and opinion are all related. If someone has a lot of vision, that might be interpreted as ego. When you see something, when you really see it strongly, with who you are, that's an opinion. Being opinionated may be interpreted as ego. If you are intensely engaged with reality, that could be interpreted as ego.

What makes vision, seeing, and opinion "ego" might be some factor of how much your visions, your seeing, and your opinions are "about you", how self-serving they are. If you are pure in heart, then you can engage with reality intensely, have vision, see things, and have opinions, and make it really about the whole, rather than just your own interest.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Being Aware of Satan Can be a Good Thing

Being aware of Satan can be a good thing. When you or someone else is going crazy, remembering that that can be a product of supernatural mischief -- the situation is a scam that stuns and distracts you, thus pulling you into it -- can reveal the fakeness of it and thus take the wind out of it. Or perhaps it is only possible to really believe in God if you believe in the supernatural world, and you can only believe in things if they're dangerous. Perhaps both reasons obtain.

Being too aware of Satan is like any obsessive thought -- itself the kind of thing Satan can use on you. But you might try to increase how often you are aware of the possibility that Satan exists and may be scamming you, if you haven't hit the point of being too aware.

It's good to remember that the existence of Satan necessarily implies the existence of God (even though the existence of God does not necessarily always imply the existence of Satan).

Asking is Willing

If you will that God makes you good, then asking to be made good (in the way that God can do for you) can be a way that you are good, in the way that is completely up to you.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Being Human can be Unfair for Others

We don't naturally connect with all people equally. Some people we take natural delight in, often because they are similar to us, or different in a refreshing way. But other people are not naturally appealing. So if we are being natural (human? honest?) we will be unfair to people, withholding full welcome from some while giving it to others. So in that respect, fairness and standardization (and the mechanization of social relationships?) go together.

Is it possible to have a better nature, and naturally connect with all people equally? Maybe. Some people may be born with that kind of nature, and maybe to some extent it can be cultivated. We might learn to delight in all people. Another approach is to be at peace toward all people.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Therapy and Holiness

Secular therapy (or even Christian therapy) doesn't always aim at bringing a person to a complete relationship with God. There's always a danger with any seeking of well-being apart from a relationship with God that it can be too successful and leave people in a bad establishedness that keeps them from seeking God. When we go through pain that is bad enough, it tempts us to think its alleviation is all that really matters. Psychic pain can do that. If a therapist is our society's sanctioned way to deal with psychic pain, and they are successful, then we might think that that fixing was all that mattered, and not seek God.

So therapy has dangers to it. But therapy's goals can align with those of holiness to some extent. For instance, if therapy is meant to address issues like past bitterness, it can help people forgive, which is good in God's eyes. Or if someone seeks to be free of dark triad traits, that intention is a case of having God's values, and therapy may be able to make evil have less of a hold on the client. Sinful habits are something of which we are healed as much as it's something we repent from. Perhaps therapy can give people space from their pain so that they can notice how their relationship with God is going, or that God exists.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Spiritual Calculus

In MSLN, hardening is the chief danger. One meaning of "calculus" is "hardened deposits" -- a spiritual danger. The habits and loves we have for idols of whatever sort (or pick another analogous word if you think "love" is too sacred for what we feel for idols) are attachments that can compete, perhaps fatally, with our love for God. They accumulate, and may have to be forcibly removed, by us or by God, if they threaten our salvation. Perhaps they can be prevented with some kind of hygiene (like with calculus on teeth).

If you have something in your life in addition to God, it might not be bad for you. There are many things which are good other than God (in some sense of the word "good"). If they don't fatally compete with love of God, they are basically safe. But if those attachments are hardened (fixing to be irrevocably necessary to you), then they must someday be unhardened or removed.

But another meaning of "calculus" has to do with measuring rates of change and is considered below.

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The following paragraph contains a brief explanation of calculus, using position, velocity, and acceleration as examples. There are better/fuller explanations elsewhere if this isn't good enough.

In physics, we can measure a particle's position. Then, if the particle's position is changing, it has a velocity. The velocity is the rate of change of the position. If the velocity is changing, it is accelerating or decelerating (has a positive or negative, nonzero acceleration). The acceleration is the rate of change of velocity. We use the mathematical tools of calculus to calculate the derivative of position, and this gives us the velocity. This is the first-order derivative of position. Then we can take the derivative of velocity, the derivative of the derivative of position. This is the second-order derivative of position, acceleration. And we can go on to higher-order derivatives of position, like the rate of change of acceleration (third-order), or the rate of change of the rate of change of acceleration (fourth-order), and so on.

(Thinking spiritually:) You can think of yourself as traveling on a path toward full kinship with God, holiness, being in tune with him. You move closer and sometimes further from him. If your position ever reaches your destination, then you are safe. But until then, if your velocity reaches 0 (you stop moving toward God), and never increases (it is never saved by acceleration), then you are lost.

The world judges people based on position. And it's right to do so. Position enables you to be trustworthy, and the world does not want betrayal. Untrustworthiness leads to unnecessary harm. But this can be deceptive. We forget that it's velocity that's really critical, and a further variable that may or may not be well captured by mathematics, one of "that-which-brings-things-to-completion" ("endurance"? "ultimation"?)

In your spiritual life, you will have position yelling at you to pay attention to it, but velocity may be quieter. Acceleration is even quieter, and the higher-order derivatives of acceleration quieter still. There are an infinite number of orders of derivatives of position possible to compute, and they get harder and harder to sense as you get away from position. But it's certainly useful to think about velocity and acceleration, and perhaps develop a sense for the derivative of acceleration.

If possible, try to remember that other people aren't just position, but are also velocity, and acceleration.

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The previous metaphor may seem to suppose that progress is linear. But that may not be realistic. Another metaphor: You may be moving toward or away from God in some kind of 3D space. Up until recently, you may have been traveling basically straight toward him (straight-ish but with some error, straight as far as you can see from a distance), but because you were off by some angle, you need to make a course correction as you get closer. Maybe you have to divert around an obstacle that blocks your path, and actually move away from God for a time in order to proceed down your path toward him. (It's dangerous to desire or be comfortable with any movement away from God, but that movement may be what your life ends up bringing you.) In this picture, progress can be a spiral or some wandering path. But that "endurance" or "ultimation" variable still matters. You could think of it like, its health and strength, and the direction its health and strength are headed, are like velocity, and acceleration (respectively) in the other example.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Forgetting Past Sins and Excursions From Values

If you commit a sin, then you might think you are a sinner. If you hold to that identity so assiduously that you keep on sinning because of it, that's a problem.

So we usually (partially or wholly) disown our past selves that sinned, say that we are a new person, which helps us avoid that trap.

There are two ways to commit a sin: to do something wrong, or to fail to do the thing you need to do. If you're worried about not doing the thing that you are supposed to do, you might watch out for things that bend your identity away from being the kind of person who would do them. But you may well find yourself intentionally or unintentionally doing something that moves your identity away from doing what you need to do.

If that happens, you might disown your past self that was not "a good worker" or "in tune with the truth" or whatever other identity enables you to do what needs to be done, just as you would disown your past self that committed some kind of infraction.

If you mess up or had a bad intention in the moment, then it's true that you were out of line with God's values. But what would really make you be out of line with God's values is if you stay there and never get back on track.