A journal of Christian thought at the University of Pennsylvania
Milton, Donne, & Reason
I SSUE 01 SPRING â€˜12
LAMP POST A journal of Christian thought at the University of Pennsylvania
A Fresh Perspective Dear Reader,
Whether it is out of curiosity, delight, or contempt that you have decided to pick up our first issue, we are first and foremost thankful.
The expanse of secular discussions at Penn makes it easy for one to dismiss the relevance and existence of Christianity and God on this campus. After all, what does religion and God have to do with an exam tomorrow, a party next door, a job interview in the basement of McNeil, or a love interest down the hall?
! " #$$ % ' # Elise Jun #$ "
%$$( )* + - $ .
$1 $ 231- 31 $ )1 4 *0 1 56$ 0 15 *$0 1 2 50 15 * 0 1 7 88 5 * 59#*4 * $*/$$ -. *0 1 Ä†Ä’Ä•Ä”Ä˜Ä™ *2 '$ 2 ' ' -$$ % * 0 7 7*1
Yet, it is also unreasonable to dismiss the fact that everyone on this campus, throughout history, has thought about Godâ€™s existence, whether one believes in a personal relationship with a Father in heaven, or an absence of any force beyond the matters of this world. Even Benjamin Franklin was deeply intrigued by the Christian belief through his lifelong friendship with the English Christian preacher George Whitefield. We, the staff of Lamp Post, firmly believe that Christianity, being one of the most widespread beliefs throughout history and around the world, heavily influences the lives of many on this campus, including our own. We are a group of inter-denominational Christians. We firmly believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ and his love for us demonstrated through his life, death, and Resurrection. We have formed this journal with the belief that on one hand, Christianity offers a deep personal faith, and on the other, it is a philosophical framework that guides and forms our thoughts, words, actions, and values. Thus, we hope to express and explore the thoughts and philosophies that are tightly integrated with this personal faith through the pieces we present. We do not exist to proselytize, but to gain greater understanding of the gospel. We do not claim to have all the answers; rather, we hope to engage believers and non-believers alike in search for truth. Thus, we warmly welcome anyone who wishes to join us in our discussion. Blessings, Yue Xu Founder & Editor-in-Chief
Interested in writing for LAMP POST or joining our team? Go online to pennchristianjournal.wordpress.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Outsider Looking In: On Frank Kermodeâ€™s The Genesis of Secrecy #$$ % '
Thoughts On New Atheism Through Multiverses, Eyes, and Weasels '8.
On Reason in Miltonâ€™s Paradise Lost and John Donneâ€™s â€œHoly Sonnet XIVâ€?: Theologies on Agency in Christian Faith
Veritas Forum Review: John Lennox - Is Anything Worth Believing In?
On Hosea #
Cages # 17
Sin, Grace, and the Covenants '
God, Unifier of Mathematical Truths
Gratitude for Godâ€™s Grace
)* + -
Thoughts on Eternity " $
The Emancipation of Eternity and the Mercy of Godâ€™s Wrath ! "
Up the Mountain Yue Xu
For more Lamp Post, visit our website: pennchristianjournal.wordpress.com Spring 2012 | Lamp Post | 3
Outsider Looking In: On Frank Kermode’s The Genesis of Secrecy #$$ % ' No text has been read and reread as often as the Bible, and none searched so relentlessly for understanding. These readings suppose that the Bible’s stories contain meanings deeper than those immediately apparent, and the text itself encourages this notion. In Mark 4, Jesus tells his disciples that “to [them] has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables; so that they may indeed see but not perceive” (Mark 4:11-12 ESV). Only certain “chosen” listeners, Jesus implies, can receive the truths his stories contain. Frank Kermode, in his Genesis of Secrecy, contends with this concealment. Kermode differentiates between spiritual and carnal interpretation – that which assumes a certain opacity of the text, and that which assumes the true meaning of the text is available to any reader – and argues that our preference for spiritual interpretation of the Bible reveals our interest in finding what is kept secret. Questions of secrecy occur and recur in the Gospel of Mark. In Mark’s report, Jesus explains to his disciples that he speaks in obscure, difficult parables his listeners cannot understand “so that they [ . . . ] may indeed hear but not understand” (Mark 4:12 ESV, emphasis mine). Matthew’s retelling of the same incident replaces Mark’s hina with hoti, so Jesus’ words read “because seeing they may see and not perceive” (Kermode 30). Thus Matthew suggests that the listener’s lack of understanding is their own fault, that “the exclusion arises not from the speaker’s intention, but from the stupidity of his hearers” (31). Yet Mark, with “so that,” implies that the true message is intentionally concealed from listeners. Throughout his entire account, Kermode writes, Mark is “a strong witness to the enigmatic and exclusive character of narrative, to its property of banishing interpreters from its secret places” (34). He is focused on secrecy in both his subject matter and his style and structure. The Gospel of Mark continues to assert forcefully and candidly that its true meaning is hidden from listeners or readers.
4 | Lamp Post | Spring 2012
Parables are the paragon example of narratives of hidden meaning. They are stories “which are not to be taken at face value” (24). Some veil their meanings more closely than others, but “all require some interpretative action from the auditor” (24). Though a story may ask and make room for one obvious question and answer, the narrative style “provides a lot of information which seems too important to be discarded, once the easy act of completion [or interpretation, which completes the story by providing its meaning] is performed” (25). Parables are worlds of secret, hidden meanings: an ideal place for Kermode to begin his study of concealment. Because of their cryptic quality, parables contain infinite opportunity for interpretation. Their hermeneutic potential “though never fully available, is inexhaustible” (40). If a teller suggests that his parable contains certain concealed meanings, he limits the range of possibility. This assertion “implies that the sense of the parable is an occult” one, and the interpreter is thus tied to certain “historical and institutional constraints” which dictate what the parable could mean (40). If he looks just for that one meaning which has been hidden from him, the interpreter limits his own reading and misses infinite possible meanings. The work of interpretation is difficult. Kermode, in response to the question of why we bother to interpret, rephrases the question as one about privileging the author or the reader. “We prefer enigmas to muddles” – that is, we prefer to believe that the author has hidden meanings in his text, rather than that he made mistakes (49). Interpretation, Kermode points out, is difficult, yet we want narratives to make sense and so we engage in it constantly. We interpret because we want to see every detail and aspect of a text lead to one coherent whole. As an example of this search for sense and unity, Kermode addresses the discussions surrounding the “Boy in the Shirt” in Mark 14:51-52. In Mark’s gospel, and no
others, a young man dressed only in a linen shirt appears in the Garden of Gethsemane at Jesus’ betrayal and, when seized, flees the scene naked. An interpreter who believes that every word of the text matters, whether for literary reasons (no word should go overlooked) or religious (every word is inspired and thus contains meaning), is concerned with explaining the short appearance of the boy. Kermode compares Morton Smith and Austin Farrer’s interpretations of the passage for possible explanations. Smith sees the boy’s presence as a nod to another text purportedly also by Mark. Farrer sees the boy as an allusion to Old Testament verses and a parallel to the resurrected Jesus. Both see “an enigmatic narrative concealed in the manifest one” (64). Both interpretations attempt to make sense of the presence of those two verses by fitting them into a cohesive view of Mark’s gospel because, Kermode writes, we expect a sensible whole and we always “prefer fulfillment to disappointment” (64). Spiritual interpretation, assuming hidden meaning, is able to bring order and sense to a text when carnal interpretation, which assumes evident meaning, cannot. The Gospel narratives hold a complicated relationship with fact. It is difficult to distinguish “between narratives which claim to be reliable records of fact, and narratives which simply go through the motions of being such a record” by imitating the style of a factual record without claiming to accurately represent historical events (101). The gospels are narrated as if by an eyewitness and emphasize details of numbers, places, and people in a manner characteristic of “factual reporting” (102). At the same time, the authors assert the foretelling of the occurrences they recount. These emphases on tradition and prophecy shape a string of events into a plotted narrative; they constitute the “transformation of non-causal chronicle into causal history” (103). When historical events are told to fit the narrative shape of fiction, it becomes more difficult to tell the difference between history and fiction. The Gospels resemble literary narrative in their use of narrative structuring and Old Testament texts. Attempting to balance the two extreme views of the gospels – as pure history or, if not pure fiction, mostly falsified history – Kermode writes that John’s description of Jesus’ death, in the nineteenth chapter of his account, “strikingly combines what may be called reality-effects with an ability to comply with other literary texts” (105). That “the gospels sound like history” is “the consequence of an extraordinary rhetorical feat” (113). Kermode suggests that the gospels are in part fictive interpretations of Old Testament passages. He notes how tightly the Passion narratives are plotted compared to the rest of the gospels, without digressions, meanderings, or convoluted intercalations. They are told in such a way, he argues, because we are less likely to scrutinize or question
a plotted narrative, and the Passion narrative is a highly unlikely one. The retelling in Mark includes evidence of conscious, careful organization, such as intercalated accounts of simultaneous events. The Gospel of Mark, Kermode argues, is not a fact-based, linear report of events, but rather “a history with a literary structure” (116). The care of Mark’s plotting is visible in his use of intercalation, inserting one story into the middle of another. The intercalated presentations of the John the Baptist’s beheading, which comes in the middle of an account of how Jesus’ ministry began, and the healing of a bleeding woman, which occurs as Jesus is on his way to heal a dying young girl, are instances of interpretation. By juxtaposing two dissimilar narratives, Mark highlights aspects of each which otherwise might have gone overlooked, making interpretive assertions about each. He asserts the individual identities of Jesus and John the Baptist and emphasizes the uncleanness of the woman and the girl. The stories “do not have the same meanings we should have found in them had they been told seriatim [in order]” (133). Mark’s narrative structuring is a creative process, of interpretation and constructing meaning. Kermode argues that the structure of Mark’s gospel indicates that these accounts are manipulated retellings. Reality, he supposes, does not naturally comply with or follow any narrative structure; history does not follow a pattern of cause and effect. Thus because certain parts of the gospels are examples of narrative sequence, Kermode cannot believe these are pure, historical reports of fact. Yet in his discussion of the Passion narratives, ostensibly plotted so well so as to avoid awkward questioning, he acknowledges that the earlier chapters of the gospels “are seemingly incoherent, generically uncertain” and “such orders as are found in them are hardly narrative orders” (113, emphasis in original). If the authors of the gospels wished to tell their stories as normal, believable, understandable narratives, why did only this one part of each of their narratives receive such treatment? Kermode fails to address why the Passion narrative should be any less secret or obscure than the rest of the gospels. The authors could have told stories that made sense as narratives the whole way through, or could have kept the Passion story as scrambled as the others. Why take liberties with the narrative structure of only a fraction of their reports? Why should the Passion narrative be a carefully structured, fictive story, while the rest of the gospels remain meandering accounts of questionable events? Kermode’s relationship to the text differs from that of most Biblical interpreters. His work approaches the Bible “in a wholly secular way,” which he acknowledges is frowned upon by “the professionals” and “ecclesiastical institutions,” though permitted by “conventional wisdom” (15). Kermode investigates the secrecy of the gospels as
Spring 2012 | Lamp Post | 5
one of the outsiders from whom meaning is meant to be hidden. He does not address how his “outsider” status might shape his thinking about or approach to the text, but it seems a significant issue. How does “insider” status affect perception of secrets and secrecy? There are interpreters Kermode claims to respect who do not approach the text from his same secular perspective, Farrer among them. How are their interpretations different from Kermode’s? What characteristics of those thinkers mark them as more successful than others? From Kermode’s secular standpoint, these questions seem insignificant, yet they are key ones for further investigation of the understanding and interpretation of the function of secrecy in the gospels. The work of interpretation is not, in Kermode’s view, a worthless endeavor, but he does see it as a fruitless one. In interpretation, he writes, “one may be sure of one thing, and that is disappointment. . . . The desires of interpreters are good because without them the world and the text are tacitly declared to be impossible; perhaps they are, but we must live as if the case were otherwise” (126). Interpretation cannot provide a conclusion on truth. Yet for many interpreters of the Gospels and of the Bible as a whole, the search for the true meaning is a search for life or for how to live, and those readers must continue to live without full understanding of the text before them. For Augustine, the opacity of scripture provides opportunity for aesthetic delight; for the authors of midrash, who ask of scripture how we are to live day-to-day; for Philo, for whom the scripture contains hidden philosophical truths; and for those who read and interpret the Bible as Scripture. They all will continue to live, like Kermode, as if interpretation is not impossible. The conscientious interpreter will continue to hope that though true meaning may be hidden from him still, the search for meaning will itself bring him closer to his goal. Allison Wattenbarger is a sophomore in the College majoring in English.
6 | Lamp Post | Spring 2012
References: 1. Kermode, John Frank. The Genesis of Secrecy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979. 2. Kugel, James L. The Bible As It Was. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1997.
Thoughts On New Atheism Through Multiverses, Eyes, and Weasels '8. Among the several ideologies opposing Christianity, one in particular claims that Christianity lacks credible evidence to support its beliefs. Richard Dawkins, the famous Oxford professor and evolutionary biologist who wrote best-selling books such as The Blind Watchmaker (1986) and The God Delusion (2006) espouses one such position that attempts to prove that belief in a divine being or in a creationism is simply delusional. He implies that other ideas, such as New Atheism, are superior because they are supported by reliable proofs, which merge together to form a cohesive argument. However, it is important to note that arguments such as New Atheism also incorporate beliefs that cannot be completely verified by credible proof. No particular way of life or belief system is “better” than another, and thus, New Atheism’s assumed superiority to religious faith must be questioned. Every worldview makes truth claims and faith assumptions to show its uniqueness and superiority over other worldviews, and New Atheism is no exception. In order to illustrate this, we first need to establish a working definition of “belief.”The Oxford English Dictionary notes that “to believe” is to “accept that (something) is true, especially without proof.” Similarly, “proof ” is “evidence or argument establishing a fact or the truth of a statement.” For Christians, the idea of “faith,” or convictions held despite a perceived lack of proof, is not new at all. In fact, faith is defined in the Bible as “confidence in what we [Christians] hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”1 However, for the New Atheist, the thought of any reliable idea lacking proof is appalling, as the utilization of rational arguments is the main technique to counter, criticize and expose religion.2 Specifically, New Atheists agree that attributing the present, life-supporting conditions of the universe to a designer should be rejected. Instead, cosmological theories such as the multiverse theory are offered up as conceivable alternatives.3 In addition, Dawkins has advocated that the Genesis 1 account of creation is rendered obsolete by the evidence of evolutionary processes guided by non-random
mutation and blind natural selection. While it would take an incredible amount of time to discuss these theories at length, I will offer a few brief points to demonstrate that irrefutable evidence and inconsistent reasoning fail to support Dawkins’ theories. 1. The universe’s fine-tuned conditions for intelligent life: Among other theories, the multiverse theory proposed by Richard Dawkins states that “out of an infinite number of universes, one will bound to be fine-tuned by chance alone and that one happens to be our universe.”4 While Dawkins acknowledges that the multiverse may seem overwhelming due to its sheer number of universes, he also notes, “[I]f each one of these universes is simple in its fundamental laws, we’re still not postulating anything highly improbable.” However, philosophers such as William Lane Craig note that each universe in the multiverse should not be defined as simple, as they are each characterized by several constants and quantities. For example, Stephen Hawking pointed out that “if the rate of expansion one second after the Big Bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million million; the universe would have recollapsed before it ever reached its present size.”5 Also, other constants such as the speed of light, the force of gravity and electromagnetism need to work precisely in order for life to exist. Thus, the complexity of our universe contradicts one of the basic premises of the multiverse theory, indicating that an element of belief is needed for this theory to completely explain the improbability of our universe being fine-tuned for life. 2. Evolution by non-random mutation and natural selection: Interestingly enough, the illustration of a monkey using a typewriter has been used to illustrate the improbability of a series of favorable mutations and
Spring 2012 | Lamp Post | 7
natural selection leading to life on earth. For example, Dawkins calculated that the odds of a monkey producing the statement “METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL?” by randomly typing at a typewriter is “about 1 in 10,000 million million million million million million.” This improbability highlighted by Dawkins represents “singlestep selection,” where everything needed to generate a living organism must come together at once or nothing will happen. After his analysis, Dawkins himself noted that “if evolutionary progress had to rely on single-step selection, it would never have gotten anywhere.”6
1. First, there is a random sequence of 28 letters (with spaces as one letter): WDLMNLT DTJBKWIRZREZLMQCO P 2. Then, as this sequence of letters is duplicated repeatedly, there is a certain chance of random error, or “mutation” in the copying. For example, after 10 generations of copying, the phrase chosen for “breeding” in Dawkins’ experiment was: MDLDMNLS ITJISWHRZREZ MECS P
To further illustrate the improbability of single-step selection, we can use the example of the eye, as Michael J. Behe, a biochemist at Lehigh University, did in his book Darwin’s Blackbox (1998). Behe noted that the eye required several components in order to produce vision (retina, lens, etc.) and that missing any of these components would diminish one’s vision or cause blindness, as the ability of the eye to see is dependent on all of its parts. Behe defines this as “irreducible complexity,” which is “a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease function.”7 He further notes that an irreducibly complex system “cannot be produced…by continuously improving the initial function… by slight, successive modifications of a precursor system, because any precursor to an irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is by definition non-functional.”8 In relation to the eye, then, the lens without the retina is not capable of seeing at all. Thus, if an organism had a lens but none of the other prerequisites to produce vision, natural selection would not keep the lens around and wait for the other parts of the eye to form. First, as Dawkins noted, “evolution has no long-term goal. There is no long-distance target, no final perfection to serve as a criterion for selection”9 (thus the term “blind” natural selection). Natural selection only knows that the lens serves no function at the present moment. It would therefore eliminate the lens, not choosing it because “natural selection can only choose systems that are already working.”10 So even if a fully functional cornea appears in the later stages of the development process, no lens would be present for the cornea’s arrival, as natural selection, which chooses function, would have eliminated any part that is useless by itself. To counter the inadequacy of single-step selection, Dawkins proposes the process “cumulative selection” using the typewriter11 example:
8 | Lamp Post | Spring 2012
After 20 generations, it was: MELDINLS IT ISWPRKE Z WECSEL After 40 generations, the phrase was only one letter away from reaching the required sequence: ME THINKS IT IS LIKE I WEASEL And following 3 more tries of recopying the phase, the target phrase (ME THINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL) was reached after generation 43. As you can see from this example (and as Dawkins noted), “each improvement, however slight, is used as a basis for future building, whereas in single-step selection, each new try is a fresh one.” However, there are several fatal flaws in this line of reasoning that destabilizes Dawkins’ argument: a) Lack of inerrant duplication: In Dawkins’ example, once a target letter has been placed in the right place, it never moves or changes in future generations of duplication. For instance, the first letter M, correctly selected at the 10th generation of duplication, does not change once in the next 22 duplications; which implies that this type of natural selection is not blind because it is clearly aiming to eventually achieve the phrase ME THINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL. b) Constant number of variables: In Dawkins’ example, the sequence starts out with 28 letters and this number is retained through all rounds of duplication. In nature, however, this is unrealistic, due to chromosomal aberrations in cell division. For example, during cell division, there are times where one chromosome is absent from the normal diploid complement (monosomy)12 or an additional chromosome is present in an otherwise
diploid cell (trisomy)13, causing conditions such as Turner’s syndrome and Down syndrome respectively. In response to these issues, Dawkins admitted in a later chapter that “although the monkey/Shakespeare model is useful for explaining the distinction between singlestep selection and cumulative selection, it is misleading in important ways…one of these is that, in each generation of selective breeding, the mutant progeny phrases were judged according to the criterion of resemblance to a distant ideal target, the phrase ME THINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL.” However, as mentioned earlier, Dawkins noted that evolution works through blind natural selection with no long-term goal or final perfection to serve as a criterion for selection. Here there is a contradiction in Dawkins’ argument that cannot be resolved through consistent and logical reasoning. With all this in mind, it seems that faith-based groups are not alone in incorporating beliefs that are not necessarily verified by what the scientific community considers credible proof. Theories such as the multiverse theory and evolution guided by non-random mutation and blind natural selection lack consistent reasoning and irrefutable proof. While New Atheists such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins undoubtedly possess brilliant intellectual minds, they cannot yet claim that New Atheism is superior to other belief systems.
References 1. Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) 2. Hooper, Simon. “The rise of the New Atheists”. CNN. http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/europe/11/08/ atheism.feature/index.html. Retrieved 2010-03-16. 3. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston: A Mariner Book, 2008), pp. 173-175 4. Richard Dawkins and the Teleological Argument [Video], (2011). 5. Brief History of Time: Updated and pages 155-156. 6. Dawkins, Richard. The Blind Watchmaker. New York: Norton, 1986. Print. 7. Michael J. Behe, Darwin’s Blackbox (New York: A Touchstone Book 1998), p. 39. 8. Dawkins (1986), p. 49. 9. Ibid, p. 50. 10. Behe, p. 39. 11. Dawkins (1986), pp. 47-49. 12.http://medical-dictionar y.thefreedictionar y.com/ monosomy 13.http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/trisomy * Special thanks to Dr. Ryun Chang for his material as well as editorial input into this article.
Jabez Yeo will be a December 2012 graduate, studying Biology in the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as Finance and Social Impact in the Wharton School
Spring 2012 | Lamp Post | 9
On Reason in Miltonâ€™s Paradise Lost and John Donneâ€™s â€œHoly Sonnet XIVâ€? Theologies on Agency in Christian Faith Note to the Reader -RKQ0LOWRQÂśVHSLF3DUDGLVH/RVWLVDSRHWLFUHFRXQWLQJRIWKHIDOORIPDQLQ*HQHVLV0LOWRQÂżQHVVHVWKHVWRU\RI PDQÂśVRULJLQDQGKLVHQFRXQWHUZLWK6DWDQE\LPDJLQLQJWKHVFHQHVRIGHPRQVH[LOHGWR+HOOWKHELUWKRI'HDWKWKH ZDULQKHDYHQDQGWKHFRQYHUVDWLRQVRI$GDPDQG(YHZLWK*RGDQGWKHDQJHOV,QFRQWUDVW-RKQ'RQQHLQÂł+RO\ 6RQQHW;,9Â´XWLOL]HVWKHVRQQHWVWUXFWXUHWRLOOXVWUDWHPDQÂśVXWWHUGHSHQGHQF\RQ*RG7KLVSDSHUDGGUHVVHVWKH WKHRORJLHVDQGLPDJLQDWLRQVRI5HQDLVVDQFHSRHWVZKREULQJIRUWKELEOLFDOLGHDVWRDOLWHUDU\DXGLHQFHLQRUGHUWR H[SOLFDWHERWKWKHUDWLRQDOLW\DQGEHDXW\RIWKHLUIDLWK )RUUHIHUHQFH-RKQ'RQQHÂśVVRQQHWLVLQFOXGHGDWWKHHQGRIWKHHVVD\ In his essay Areopagitica, Milton argues, â€œreason is but choosingâ€? (Milton 252). He presents reason as the freedom to choose obedience in Paradise Lost, in which Adam and Eve ultimately disobey God. John Donne approaches the idea of reason in a different light; reason is Godâ€™s â€œviceroyâ€? in man (Donne line 7). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, reason is a â€œpower,â€? a â€œcapacity for rational thoughtâ€? and a â€œmental faculty,â€? (â€œreason,â€? II.5.a, OED) and resides innately in human beings. Both poets acknowledge this internal nature of reason, but emphasize the varying degrees to which reason enables manâ€™s relationship with God. Donneâ€™s eroticized â€œHoly Sonnet XIVâ€? frames reason as a fallen force through which the speaker seeks an impassioned, homoerotic union with God. Paradise Lost emphasizes temperance between passion and reason through discourse and prayer. By examining reason in the fallen and unfallen phases of Paradise Lost in comparison with reason as portrayed in Donneâ€™s sonnet, this paper will first illuminate the common theme of manâ€™s dependency in the poetsâ€™ theologies and then note their subtly contrasting emphases. Both poets agree on the necessity of manâ€™s dependence on God through reason. However, Donne stresses the weakness of reason in manâ€™s sinful nature as a way to seek God. Milton, in contrast, advocates greater agency of the Christian person by emphasizing the power of reason through discourse and prayer before and after the fall of man. In Book III of Paradise Lost, before the fall, God speaks to the Son about reason and free will: What pleasure I from such obedience paid, When will and reason (reason also is choice) Useless and vain, of freedom both despoiled, Made passive both, had served necessity, Not me. (III.107-110)
10 | Lamp Post | Spring 2012
In this passage, God explains the necessity of â€œwill and reasonâ€? (III.108) as â€œproofâ€Ś/ Of true allegianceâ€? (III.104105) to Him; God would not receive pleasure from â€œobedience paidâ€? out of â€œnecessity.â€? He equates reason with choice, echoing the idea in Areopagitica; without freedom, will and reason are â€œ[m]ade passiveâ€? (109), and become â€œ[u] seless and vainâ€? (108). Thus, reason before the fall is â€œproof â€? (104) and â€œpledge of [manâ€™s] obedienceâ€? (III.95) â€“ a sign of manâ€™s allegiance to God. Raphael reiterates Godâ€™s purpose for reason in man. He explains to Adam in Book V, â€œGod made thee perfect, not immutable; / And good he made thee, but to persevere / He left it in thy powerâ€Śâ€? (V.524525). Adam, who is â€œnot immutableâ€? (V.524) will face the trial of choosing obedience in order to persevere in his faith; the merit of his faith lies in his choice to persevere. Raphael also repeats Godâ€™s ideas that man is â€œnot overruled by fate / Inextricable, or strict necessityâ€? (V.525-526). The enjambment detaches â€œfateâ€? and â€œinextricableâ€? to reflect Adamâ€™s freedom from fate and â€œstrict necessity.â€? Just as the freedom of reason symbolizes manâ€™s obedience to God, it also challenges the idea that man is â€œsufficient to have stoodâ€? (III.99). How does reason enable man to stand, or resist sin, in Paradise Lost? As reason enables man to freely obey, it also exposes man to error, or worse, to sin. Adam and Eve must choose to refrain from eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge as a sign of their obedience. Thus, their transgression after the fall is not simply eating the fruit, but choosing to eat it. Moving beyond the idea of choice to describe reason, Milton provides an answer to the issue of Adamâ€™s sufficiency to stand by examining the difference between angels and human beings. Raphael explains that reason resides differently in celestial and earthly bodies: â€œReason is [the soulâ€™s] being / Discursive, or intuitive; discourse / Is oftest yours, the latter most is ours, / Differing but in degree, of
kind the same” (V.488-490). The angel’s comment points to the degrees of reason in man and angel: discourse and intuition, respectively. For angels, reason is intuition. In contrast, reason in man requires discourse, “the process or faculty of reasoning” (“discourse” 2.a, OED) or the “communication of thought by speech; talk, conversation” (“discourse” 3.a OED). These complementary definitions illuminate the dynamic nature of reason in human beings as a process as well as a conversation. The latter definition of discourse as a conversation suggests that man cannot reason alone, but in conversation with another, such as an angel or God. To solidify this idea, Milton highlights moments where Adam and Eve use reason rightly and wrongly. For example, Adam hones his reason in his extensive conversations with Raphael and Michael. Raphael comments, “[S]uch commission from above / I have received, to answer thy desire / Of knowledge within bounds” (VII.118-120), to suggest that the wisdom he bestows upon Adam is ordained by God. The enjambment juxtaposes Adam’s “desire” and “knowledge within bounds” to underscore the angel’s temperate approach to Adam’s reason and knowledge. Conversely, Milton also emphasizes man’s reliance on God’s discourse by explicitly pointing to a moment of sinful dialogue when Eve converses with Satan. In the moment preceding Eve’s fall, the narrator describes, “In her ears the sound / Yet rung of his persuasive words, impregned / With reason, to her seeming, and with truth” (IX.736-738). Here, Milton highlights the peril of rhetoric and Eve’s inability to distinguish pure reason from sinful reason, which ultimately leads her to her fall. Satan’s persuasive presentation of his reason merely seems to hold reason and truth, which suggests Eve’s flawed use of discourse. In these moments, Milton nuances his idea of reason to show the need for Adam and Eve to use discourse wisely, as seen in Adam’s conversations with the angels or God. Thus, the implications of man’s discursive reason points to the irony of obedience: for man to be “sufficient to stand,” he is dependent on divine wisdom through discourse. Similar to Milton, John Donne also carries forth and magnifies the ideas of man’s dependency and weakness through the use of paradox in “Holy Sonnet XIV”. Donne accentuates the idea of weakness in man through his emphasis on the insufficiency of reason. The speaker in the sonnet states: I, like an usurped town, to another due, Labour to admit you, but oh, to no end, Reason your viceroy in me, me should defend, But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue (5-8) This second quatrain illustrates the speaker’s conflict between reason – God’s “viceroy” (7) in him – and sin. The first line in the quatrain presents a simile that likens the speaker to “an usurped town” (5) – to suggest that he is forcefully seized by “another” (5), which refers to sin or
Satan. This simile also illustrates the subjugation of man to the authority of sin. He is “due” (5) – obligated – to his own sinful nature. Donne literally presents God’s inherent authority in the speaker as “Reason” (7). Reason is God’s viceroy in man – God’s figure of authority – meant to govern and “defend” (7) mankind. The object pronoun, “me,” is held in the middle of the line to portray the authority of Reason encompassing the speaker to “defend” (7) him. In addition, the repetition of “me” also accents the speaker’s breathless desperation. However, reason is “captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue” (8), because it resides within the sinful speaker, usurped by Satan. In terms of the sonnet’s form, the rhyme scheme, A-B-B-A, magnifies the speaker’s struggle “to no end” (6), as the quatrain extends and rises to the B-rhyme: the speaker’s –“labour to admit” (6) God. The speaker’s weakness overcomes his struggle as the rhyme dwindles back to the A-rhyme and reason proves “untrue” (8). Thus, the violent imagery, simile, and rhyme indicate Donne’s argument that reason in a fallen world is insufficient for man; reason “proves weak or untrue” (8). Milton’s perspective on reason after the fall resists Donne’s emphasis on man’s utter insufficiency. Instead, he maintains and modifies the ideal of reason that enables Adam to stand. After Adam and Eve transgress, Michael describes to Adam the state of reason man after the fall: Since thy original lapse, true liberty Is lost, which always with right reason dwells Twinned, and from her hath no dividual being: (XII.83-85) Michael delineates the loss of “true liberty,” because of Adam and Eve’s “original lapse”(XII.83). His next statement explains the inherent link between “right reason” (XII.84) – “the inherent ability to perceive the good” (Milton 919) – and “true liberty” (XII.83). Reason in the fallen world is no longer absolute, but qualified as “right.” Michael recalls the idea that reason is choice, but true liberty and “right reason” is lost because of their transgression. Thus, this passage also illuminates the title of Milton’s epic: Paradise Lost. Paradise for man is a place of “true liberty…which always with right reason dwells,” (XII.83-84) and after the fall, true liberty “[i]s lost” (XII.84). Furthermore, in terms of the poem’s form, the enjambment in the line, “true liberty / Is lost,” shows the loss of Adam’s liberty to the next line, emphasizing the attribute of man that “Is lost.” Michael continues his speech to further reveal the change in reason after the fall. He states: Reason in man obscured, or not obeyed, Immediately inordinate desires And upstart passions catch the government From reason, and to servitude reduce Man till then free. (XII.86-90)
Spring 2012 | Lamp Post | 11
The description of reason in this passage – “obscured, or not obeyed” – evokes a direct comparison to Donne’s description of reason as “captiv’d,” “weak,” and “untrue.” Though both poets acknowledge the tainted nature of reason in man’s sinful state, Donne advances an exacerbated understanding of reason after original sin. For Milton, reason is simply “obscured, or not obeyed,” due to “inordinate desires / And upstart passions” that dims Adam’s discernment of “right reason” (XII.84). His understanding still implies the existence of reason as an ideal in the fallen world, but acknowledges the augmented difficulty for man to obey God through reason. In contrast, Donne presents a seemingly irredeemable view of reason, “weak or untrue” (8), as a facet of the speaker’s overt selfeffacement. Though the consequences of man’s sinful reason manifest differently in Milton’s epic and Donne’s sonnet, their poems agree on the importance of man’s love for God. While Donne builds upon the speaker’s self-effacement to convey this idea, Milton persistently appeals to reason and discourse to present the unifying crux of his theology – love. For example, the volta in Donne’s sonnet triggers a change in rhyme and tone to highlight the speaker’s love: Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain, But am betroth’d unto your enemy Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again, Take me to you, imprison me, for I (9-12) The speaker describes his ardent love for God; however, his bondage to God’s “enemy” (10), Satan, prevents him from being loved in return. In this third quatrain, the rhyme scheme changes to A-B-A-B, which drives the poem toward an intimate union with God. The rhyme, “enemy,” and “I” reflect the betrothal of man to sin, and the interfering line between the rhyme represents the power of God to “divorce,” “untie, or break” (11) the sinful union. Furthermore, Donne shows reason as a facet of man’s extreme weakness to magnify God’s power and of the speaker’s desire to unite with God, as the final couplet suggests: “Except you enthrall me, never shall be free, / Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me” (13-14). The placement of “I,” a subject pronoun, at the end of the line not only diminishes the speaker’s active presence in the line, but also causes an enjambment preceding the couplet. This enjambment enables God’s presence in the poem to interrupt the speaker, paradoxically separating and binding the speaker to his freedom and chastity through God. Furthermore, the concluding paradox illustrates that man’s freedom and chastity stems from God’s imprisonment and rape; the chiasmic couplet shows God’s overpowering strength encompassing the speaker. He ironically commands ravishment from God – a nonconsensual act – to intensify his severe desire to be powerless against
12 | Lamp Post | Spring 2012
God. Donne hyperbolizes the speaker’s weakness and amplifies God’s power over man through this overtly erotic description of the speaker’s consummation with God. In Donne’s poem, love manifests through Donne’s extreme, impassioned use of marital and erotic imagery to convey the speaker’s relationship to God. Similarly, though with a milder resonance, the angels and Adam echo the significance of love for God in Paradise Lost. Before the fall, Raphael explains, “Because we freely love, as in our will / To love or not; in this we stand or fall” (V.539-540). He reiterates his point in the same speech: “Yet that we never shall forget to love / Our maker, and obey him” (V.550-551). After the fall, Michael emphasizes the same idea: “The law of God exact he shall fulfil / Both by obedience and by love, though love / Alone fulfil the law” (XII.402-404); he places love above obedience as a way to fulfill God’s law. To further advance the significance of love, Adam receives Michael’s wisdom and reasons, “Henceforth I learn, that to obey is best, / And love with fear the only God, to walk / As in presence, ever to observe / His providence and on him sole depend” (XII.561-564). These concluding thoughts are reverberations of Raphael’s insight in Book VIII: “In loving thou dost well” and “love refines the thoughts, and….hath his seat / In reason” (VIII.588-590). Through the angels’ conversations with Adam, Milton persistently highlights the affinity between love, obedience and reason, through which Adam “mayst ascend,” (VIII.592) and stand. The fallen world presents the challenge of obeying God’s law, which evokes a “love with fear” (XII.562), in Adam, to suggest his reverence for God through love. Like Donne, Milton stresses God’s power over man, “His providence” (XII.563), as well as Adam’s need for God, on whom he will “sole depend” (XII.564). Milton implies hope for mankind in this discourse of reason through prayer. For example, Michael teaches Adam, “Sufficient that thy prayers are heard… / wherein thou mayst repent” (XI.252, 255). The angel’s insight on prayer and repentance suggests that Adam requires prayer and repentance to be sufficient to stand in a fallen world. Thus, love in Milton’s comprehensive epic manifests through the actions of man: prayer, repentance and reason. In contrast, love in Donne’s sonnet emerges through a homoerotic plea to consummate the speaker’s relationship with God. Milton and Donne evidently agree on the humility required of the Christian person. However, Milton’s framing of Adam and Eve in Paradise Lost suggests a greater agency within human beings to seek God through the power of reason, while Donne presents an extreme, self-effacing, and powerless image of man. Though Donne and Milton agree on the crux of their theologies – man’s dependence on God – they magnify differing degrees of dependency and agency in the fallen human being. The comprehensive, didactic capacity of the epic form enables Milton to advance his poetic agency as he examines the nuances in reason, obedience and love. John
Donne accomplishes a different feat: the impassioned plea of desperation and desire for God through the Petrarchan sonnet tradition. The striking convergence of sacred and erotic ideas in Donne’s use of paradox conveys man’s extreme weakness and lack of agency against God. Their contrasting ideas on the Christian posture in the face of sin also speak to their ideas regarding the nature of God. Milton imagines a rational divine authority while Donne envisions a forceful and wrathful supreme being. Milton and Donne both transform and even exaggerate the elements of the sonnet and the epic to advance religious ideas, merging Christian doctrine with art. Though the theologies appear contradictory, Milton and Donne’s poems, together, illustrate a more coherent image of the fallen man. Milton states, “reason is but choosing”; reason depends on a person’s free will to be utilized for either man’s pleasure, or God’s glory. Tainted by sin, reason – one’s God-given capacity for thought – can lose its sole purpose: to know the Lord. As Milton shows, reason through prayer enables us to meet our heavenly Father, and choose his way. By God’s grace, reason helps us to discern God’s logic and turn away from our own, humanistic and finite understanding of life. Reason, both viceroy and choice, hindrance and gift, challenges us to delight in God’s truth. Dr. Tim Keller puts it best: “Reason can get you to probability, but only commitment can get you to certainty.” Trina Hyun is a senior in the College studying English.
Holy Sonnet XIV John Donne Batter my heart, three-person’d God ; for you As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ; That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new. I, like an usurp’d town, to another due, Labour to admit you, but O, to no end. Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend, But is captived, and proves weak or untrue. Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain, But am betroth’d unto your enemy ; Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again, Take me to you, imprison me, for I, Except you enthrall me, never shall be free, Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me. References: 1. Donne, John. “Holy Sonnet XIV.” 2. Milton, John. “Areopagitica.” John Milton: The Major Works. New York: Oxford UP, 2008. 236-72. Print. 3. Milton, John. “Paradise Lost.” John Milton: The Major Works. New York: Oxford UP, 2008. 355-618. Print. 4. “reason, n.1”. OED Online. September 2011. Oxford University Press. 12 December 2011 <http://www.oed. com/view/Entry/159068?rskey=8v85cD&result=1&isAdv anced=false>. 5. “discourse, n.”. OED Online. September 2011. Oxford University Press. 12 December 2011 <http://www.oed. com/view/Entry/53985?rskey=36gOpM&result=1&isAdv anced=false>.
Spring 2012 | Lamp Post | 13
Veritas Forum Review John Lennox - Is Anything Worth Believing In? In February, Penn welcomed John Lennox to speak at Irvine Auditorium for a discussion on the existence and nature of God. Lennox is a professor of mathematics at Oxford as well as a lecturer in the philosophy of science and Christian apologetics. He is a renowned scholar, known for speaking on Christian apologetics around the world, and has debated academic atheist Richard Dawkins multiple times. Lennox spent the evening answering questions that had been submitted by Penn students the week before the event. All around campus, different Penn groups worked in harmony to promote the upcoming discussion. Many students received emails asking them what they wanted to hear Lennox discuss. The Veritas Forum organizers were encouraging Penn students not just to dictate the direction of the discussion, but to ask specific questions of Lennox. Many students had written questions asking whether it was â€œokayâ€? to consider God as a force. Although he began the response with a joke about â€œThe Forceâ€? from Star Wars, Lennox made an argument that was both lucid and logical. He believes that God must be thought of as a person, and the Bible particularly claims God to be a creator, a speaker, and a being with an image from which we are made. According to Lennox, if God is merely a force, then we dangerously reduce him to a force that we can control and use, just as we would use the force of electricity. Lennox next tackled the question of God as a singular deity. His answer pointed out some of the logical fallacies involved in a polytheistic approach. A glaring problem with multiple deities is the question of omnipotence, or complete power. If all gods are omnipotent, then we need to deal with the multiple realities that multiple gods would be capable of creating. If only one god is omnipotent, then the other gods are not truly gods at all. On the topic of suffering, Lennox notes that many people reject the existence of God on the basis of suffering. Adamant atheists such as Dawkins claim in response that the universe has no good and evil. To this, Lennox notes that this particular â€œatheistic solution doesnâ€™t remove the suffering. And indeed, it could make it worse, because it
14 | Lamp Post | Spring 2012
removes all hope.â€? God could have easily made a universe in which bad things didnâ€™t happen. However, Lennox argues that â€œthe one thing you will not get in an automated, robotic, computerized universe is love, relationship, and so onâ€ŚIn order to have the possibility of love or relationship, you must create the possibility of choice.â€? The possibility of choice thus suggests the possibility of failure and evil, as we are sometimes conscious in choosing relationships that may fail. Nonetheless, Lennox suggests that if we believe in â€œthe central claim of Christianity is that Jesus is God incarnateâ€? and he died on the cross, then â€œGod has not remained distant from human suffering, but has become part of it.â€? Finally, Lennox discussed the issue of religious war and violence in the world today. To this question, Lennoxâ€™s answer was simple and humble: â€œI am ashamed of it.â€? He expressed his sorrow that his faith has become associated with weapons and warfare. He stated that violence should never be used to â€œconvertâ€? a person, and illustrates his position through a passage in chapter 22 in the book of Luke. The disciples defended Jesus as he was about to be arrested; one of the disciples sliced off a soldierâ€™s ear, only for Jesus to heal it moments later. Lennox believes that this passage reveals a deeper message: using violence to defend Christianity metaphorically cuts off peopleâ€™s ears, so that they will never hear or know the message of Godâ€™s love. Over the years I have asked myself many questions regarding my faith. When I put in the effort, most of these questions have been easily answered; some, however, left me stumped. To see these seemingly unanswerable questions discussed in a logical way with biblical evidence put many of my worries to rest. While I find great value in Lennoxâ€™s rational approach to faith for my own spiritual walk, his discussion has given me an even more fruitful and indispensable ability: to answer such questions when others come asking. * A recording of the event can be viewed online at the Veritas Forum website, www.veritas.org. Sarah Banks is a junior in the College from Okemos, Michigan majoring in Biology and Classical Studies.
VERITAS FORUM @ PENN
A CONVERSATION WITH JOHN LENNOX: EXCERPT FEBRUARY 22ND, 2012 Q: This talk about God is really just replacing one mystery with another mystery, and it’s not different from the Big Bang Theory and etc. God is not an explanation. How do you see it? A: If you’re talking about the concept found in Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, then I putted to Dawkins in this way, I said: “Richard, I picked up a book, it’s called The God Delusion. It’s about 450 pages long, it’s quite complicated. So I ask about its origin and I discovered its creator was a person called Richard Dawkins, and his mind is infinitely more complex than the book. So I dismissed that explanation on the basis that the explanation is more complex than the thing I am explaining.” What lies behind this is the curious idea that explanations have always got to be simpler in an absolute sense than the thing you’re explaining. Q: If God is a creator, then who created the creator? A: This is the kind of question, that by its formulation, it closes out the only possible answer that makes sense. Who created “x”? Now, what does that mean? It means that you’re assuming that “x” is created. So if you’re asking the question who created God, you’re assuming God is created before you start, but what if he isn’t? If Richard Dawkins had written a book called The Created God’s Delusion, I don’t think many people would have bought it. Because we don’t need him to tell us that created gods are a delusion, we’ve known that for centuries, we usually call them “idols”. The point is the question deludes you into thinking that it’s a real question about god, but it isn’t, it’s a question about created gods. And the answer is that they are a delusion.
Photo courtesy of Sophia Ciocca @ the DP
Spring 2012 | Lamp Post | 15
Evening weaves sheets of icicle-ply thread Frost f ills her absence in half of the bed; His lashes, like blades of grass, drip dew, He clutches the abandoned billet-doux.
Such lovely form, the poet yet upholds, And with Conventionâ€™s hands, the pen conf ines The fashioned Sonnet in one of two molds,
While f irst loveâ€™s remnant lifts their f irstbornâ€™s grin, The partners of her inf idelity Inscribe her childrenâ€™s faces, the foreign Mirrors of his invisibility. Eyes only for her, her vision akinâ€” Could they return, the simpler times of old? His gaze unmet, his voice lost in the din The prophet heard divine Word being told: I ink my love in letters you ignore; They sit unopened on the nightstand, for You wrap yourself in lustful sheets and him, Trading wedded devotion for a whimâ€” Iâ€™ll stop my anger before your walls melt, Walls built in shame with unsaid words. Loveâ€™s spelt Cryptically, you say; you donâ€™t understand Letters of patience written in my hand. Sheets crinkle with your tears of contrition The bed alone hears of the attrition: Remorseful tears fall from affection waned, But tell me from the heart, tell me unrestrained, The ink smears with your tears of omission, Asks you to come of your own volitionâ€” Says faith is not distant recognition, But love is waiting for your permission; Iâ€™ll wait till, above sweet talk others said, You hear the whisper of the one you wed.
16 | Lamp Post | Spring 2012
How Shakespeare, in quartets, enchained its lines, Or trite rhymes symmetrized as Petrarchâ€™s slaves, No spark igniting these kindling designs. Its natural charm enclosed by rigid staves, Her museâ€™s body stands everted, skin And flesh encased in skeleton, while graves Lie barren, pleading poets to begin Admiring natural curves, bone frame within, Inspirâ€™ng soft tapestries for bards to weave. For God constructed Adam want of rib That woman could be given her own eve.
Susie Ahn is a sophomore in the College studying English.
Sin, Grace, and the Covenants ' â€œLong ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the worldâ€? (Hebrews 1:1-2 ESV). With these words, the author of the epistle to the Hebrews proclaims the unity of the historical revelationâ€”Godâ€™s revealing of himself and his will over Creationâ€”given through the ages to the children, physical and spiritual, of Israel. He also affirms the unity of the grace given to Israel, both national and spiritual (Galatians 4), which points to the fullness of grace in Christâ€™s sacrifice. Many try to remove â€œlegalismâ€? from the church, downplaying obedience to the morality revealed in Scripture. From outside the church, many see God as either an all-loving god who frequently overlooks sin, or an angry, bigoted god who is the object of atheistic and agnostic scorn gathered from the strict laws found in the Pentateuch. In both cases, the clarity of revelation has been obscured by ignorance of text and the historical doctrines concerning the unity of scripture have been lost, and with it, the understanding of Godâ€™s unity of purpose in the covenants. The covenants are first observed in the introduction of the relationship between man and God in the Garden of Eden. Until the fall in the third chapter of Genesis, God addresses man directly without the need for an intermediary. God is able to deal directly with Adam and Eve because of manâ€™s original state of righteousness before God. Before man, God sets the first direct commandment, saying, â€œYou may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely dieâ€? (Genesis 2:1617 ESV). This is the formation of the Covenant of Works, whereby man can remain righteous by obedient acts of his own volition. After the fall, the second acting covenantâ€” the Covenant of Graceâ€” is formed between man and God. To signify the promise, God clothes the man and woman, symbolizing the clothing he would extend to man in Christ, the promised descendent, who would clothe Godâ€™s people in righteousness. Additionally, Christ would â€œbruise your [the serpentâ€™s] head, and you [the serpent] shall bruise his [Christâ€™s] heelâ€? (Genesis 3:14-15 ESV). While neither of these is explicitly named as covenants, they bear all the marks of such. They relate two parties, God and man, with
conditions to be met or kept, and a promise with those conditions. In the case of the first covenant with man, manâ€™s spiritual status is predicated on his obedience, while the second covenant promises a descendent of Adam to redeem man. In his dealing with Noah, God shows his love to those who remain faithful in obedience to his revelation. In Hebrews 11, the author states: â€œBy faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faithâ€? (ESV). In saving Noah and his family, God saves a remnant of the people for their faithfulness. This displays an early type of the future promises in Christ, resembling the faithfulness of the Church to Christ and Christâ€™s work in giving salvation to Godâ€™s people. Hebrews 11 continues to the story of Abraham, where there was further revelation of the completion of the covenant in Christ. Here, God promised Abraham offspring through his aged wife Sarah. Abrahamâ€™s steadfast obedience leads him to nearly sacrificing his son, giving up what was his promised heir. This child is one through which â€œall the families of the earth shall be blessedâ€? (Genesis 12:5 ESV). Further, in chapter 14, Mechizedek, a priest, brings Abraham a covenantal meal of bread and wine, (Genesis 14:18 ESV). In this, God secures his people for himself through Christ With Moses we see the continuation of revelation in the calling of Israel, Godâ€™s people, and the giving of the Law. In the Law, God foreshadows the sacrifice of Christ to come and a clear exposition of the morality required of Godâ€™s people Israel. The author of Hebrews, in chapters eight through ten, expounds the relation between Christ and the types given in the law, stating that the Law is composed of three parts: the civil, moral, and ceremonial laws. The civil laws are given for the ruling of the nation of Israel; the moral laws are, roughly, those which Romans speaks of as written on the hearts of the Gentiles (Romans 2:14-15) and which are most clearly set in the Ten Commandments but clarified through the rest of the Law; and the ceremonial Law is given as a shadow of Christ and the need of man for God. The author of Hebrews recalls the climax of the revelation of the prophets and faithful men of old in the complete revelation of grace in Christ, given in chapter 12.
Spring 2012 | Lamp Post | 17
There, the author explains Jesus’ sacrifice as the archetype of the sacrifices given in the Law and the establishment of the kingdom of Christ. In Romans, Paul sets the relationship between Adam and Christ as the federal heads over man. Where Adam was created righteous and fell into sin, Christ was God as man, the Son, in a fallen body and made to live as the promised sacrifice for man. He stands as clothing for sin by leading a blameless life and accepting the punishment for the sins of the spiritual children of Israel. Both stand as the federal heads and archetypes for all of man. Beyond this, God also secures for us his grace in sanctification, teaching us obedience as a father would through discipline (Hebrews 12:7-11). Paul writes in Romans that we have been freed from the punishments of the Law by the grace of Christ (Romans 2:21-31, 6:1-3). However Paul does not suggest that we are in a state of antinomy, without any sort of law, but that we have been freed from the punishment of the weight of the law and the covenant of works against us. Paul goes on to speak about making life a living sacrifice, a true and acceptable worship through Christ, through obedience to God. David wrote in Psalm 51 that it is a broken and contrite heart which is not despised by the Lord. This continued redemptive narrative is the basis of the unified covenantal outlook. The unity of revelation from God to man indicates that the morality set forth from the beginning is the morality we must still abide by today. It declares man the finite creature of God, making
man dependent upon God for all that he has. This outlook further clarifies the way in which the Church relates to the Law given to the children of Israel in the desert. The Ten Commandments and other parts of the Law still are to be taken as the pillars of honoring God, even though death no longer holds any power over the people who live in the promise of Christ. The entire scope of the biblical narrative informs the reader of the unchanging character of God and decrees of God in his extensive redemptive plan for creation as well as his love for his creation. The covenants also remind God’s people about his role in predestination and the importance of sanctification from sin. The evangelist who looks to make Christianity less about rules and more about “God’s love” is doing a great disservice to the Church in destroying the equality of godly, holy love and obedience to his commandments. God, although loving, is unable to accept sinners except through Christ because of the covenantal relationship between God and Man. Moreover, those who charge Christianity with bigotry overlook the significance of the relationship between sin in the Old Testament and redemption in the New Testament regarding judgment: the judgment of sin and the Day of Judgment where God will judge all of mankind. An examination of current theology needs to occur in modern evangelicalism so that a reformation of the Church’s teachings and a revival of love for God’s word can take place. The current trend toward a more relevant Christianity or ‘Christianity-lite’ is leading a church away from understanding the glory of God and the full knowledge of God’s grace in dealing with man throughout history. Christopher Hockenbrocht is a engineering freshman studying computer science and mathematics.
18 | Lamp Post | Spring 2012
God, Unifier of Mathematical Truths %$$( Postmodern secularism assumes that modern-day advancements of mathematics and science have discredited truth claims of universal standards made apparent in the Bible or other religions. Surprisingly, however, former holders of such anti-theist positions have come to acknowledge the plausibility of the Biblical platform. Earlier this year, Professor Richard Dawkins, regarded widely as the spokesperson for atheism, admitted to uncertainty that there is no God. In fact, his remaining qualm with religion is what he sees as a lack of beauty. To him, putting a creator into the picture makes the story ugly. The â€œextraordinary beauty of the idea that life started from nothingâ€? with no creator is, in his opinion, a very â€œstaggering, elegant, beautiful thing.â€?1 In response, I will offer the Christian presuppositions that appease this desire for an explanation of the teleological elegance and coherence within the universe, which is clearly reflected in the field of mathematics. More than appease, I will present a rebuttal claim to argue for the necessity of a Biblical worldview in order to derive any sensible meaning from mathematics versus other worldviews that cannot give mathematics meaning. It is peculiar enough that Christianity was once considered the more elegant worldview, and from this worldview came the rise of modern mathematics. Expanding onto the face of polytheistic Greek territories, Christianityâ€™s monotheism provided sound rationalism standing in stark contrast to cultures whose gods had fickle wills and irrational temperaments. Three presuppositions determined a Christianâ€™s interpretation of observed creation: 1. Universal matter and order exist on the basis of being under the authority of one rational God that created it from nothing.2 2. Man, in being given the communicable attributes of God as an image-bearer of him, is granted an understanding of the order and can grow in knowledge of it.3 3. Man can, and is actually ordered to, subdue the earth and control it.4 From the many proof texts gleaned from the first chapter within the book of Genesis, the Abrahamic God
can be seen specifying the order of planetary motion and biological life.5 Without the presumed control of God, the colloquial phrase â€œlaws of natureâ€? is misleading because the phrase implies the autonomy of nature. However, God never has to break any laws to ordain acts. God speaks, and so it is done: â€œHe sends his word and melts [snow and ice]; he stirs up his breezes, and the waters flow.â€?6 Godâ€™s act of speaking makes apparent miracles in the Bible appear less like anomalies and more like the operation of the only law â€“ Godâ€™s word. The fathers of modern mathematics used this knowledge about God to fuel their investigation into further understanding, most famously Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Pascal, and Newton. Copernicus claimed that the universe was â€œbuilt for us by the Best and Most Orderly Workman of all,â€? while Newton believed that the discussion of God â€œdoes certainly belong to Natural Philosophy.â€?7,8 The New Testament confirms both the belonging and the holding together of creation by God; it even goes further to state his purpose in uniting the sum of creationâ€™s parts to fully glorify God himself. Thus, acts of mathematical revelation to humans from the creator depict a beautiful plan for mere creatures to ultimately grasp the divinely ordained coherence present throughout the universe. The next challenge is to understand the necessity for a Biblical worldview in applying mathematics logically. Letâ€™s take the simple equation: 1 + 1 = 2. Contrary to popular opinion, this equation, 1 + 1 = 2, is not a worldview-neutral statement. Oneâ€™s worldview on the source of truth ultimately determines oneâ€™s corresponding claims about mathematical logic. A non-Christian epistemology is left to explain the correctness of the equation 1 + 1 = 2 either a priori or a posteriori, that is, intuitively or experientially. First, an a priori answer that asserts 1 + 1 = 2 as a constant universal truth would require its removal from all experiential contingencies. Therefore, â€œ1 lamp + 1 lampâ€? needs a separate qualification from â€œ1 post + 1 post.â€? This subsequent diversity of definitions is unable to generate a consistent definition for 1 + 1. A more practical objection to the a priori worldview is its inability to reconcile the counterintuitive nature of some functions that exhibit pathological phenomena, e.g., everywherecontinuous, nowhere-differentiable functions. On the other hand, a posteriori knowledge of 1 + 1 = 2, possibly derived
Spring 2012 | Lamp Post | 19
from seeing two cats or two buildings, can be invalidated as the orders of magnitude extend to 1 trillion + 1 trillion = 2 trillion, in which case it is highly unlikely that the human mind has ever perceived the tangible existence of 1 trillion of any entity. An adherent to the a posteriori worldview would argue that the latter equation was formulated under the knowledge of more minute generalizations; but yet again, that conglomerate of smaller generalizations then begs the question of which particular generalization to use. The decision to choose one generalization over another is based on some previous generalization, and so on goes the recursive question-asking until the a posteriori worldview-holder must come to admit that there is an element of intuition required in order for the human mind to grasp its knowledge of the nature of numeral relationships. Anti-theistic philosophies of mathematics are condemned to seesaw between a plurality and unity of truth without a solution for integrating both schools. The Bible is different. Man, explained before as being created in the image of God, already has some intuition of mathematical truth without needing to define it in its entirety, yet, through natural revelation, man can grow in understanding with each novel theorem. This solves both the problem within a strict a priori and a posteriori worldview. Apart from epistemological problems, the antitheist will struggle to find a solution to the metaphysical “Problem of Universals,” that is, the problem of defining abstract entities, such as numbers, as existing independently yet falling under a unity, here, within a system of arithmetic. This is not simply a problem with semantics: 1 + 1 = 2 holds meaning not as a fact learned by rote but as a truth that has value when given application, bringing back the example of adding lamps and posts. This single equation that evokes a plurality of experiences presents a plurality and unity of truth that must be reconciled to employ mathematics satisfactorily. To bring this problem to a macro level, observe the diversity of the universe embedded within a semblance of structure. Throughout this paper, what has been assumed is that mathematical order naturally expresses itself into physical order, meeting the above pluralistic and unifying requirements. Secular researchers have not entirely dismissed this fascinating link between mathematical and physical order. Princeton professor and Nobel laureate Eugene Wigner delivered a lecture titled, “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences.” Wigner found himself disconcerted by the bizarre grounds on which mathematics and physical entities coalesce into a mysterious thread of truths – “The first point is that the enormous usefulness of mathematics in the natural sciences is something bordering on the mysterious and that there is no rational explanation for it. ... It is not at all natural that ‘laws of nature’ exist, much less that man is able to discover them.”9 On the other hand, the Bible offers a rational framework for the compatibility. In the first chapter of the book of John, the apostle writes: “In the beginning was the
20 | Lamp Post | Spring 2012
Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”10 These verses present the mystery of one God as multiple persons. The Word, that is, Christ, was with God the Father before the creation of all things. Christ is also God and is the one from which and through which all things are created. God is preeminent in all of creation, and mathematical truths fall under this category, as does all order in creation – physical matter and antimatter – that subsequently assents thereto. Here highlights the wisdom and rationality and harmony of God, displaying these qualities within himself through the indispensable doctrine of the ontological Trinity: three persons as one God. The “Problem of Universals” is hence solved quite elegantly and beautifully. A plurality and unity exists in God, the source of definitive truth, and he thus reflects his attributes to enable a plurality and unity of truth to exist in his creation. Willis is in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences studying Electrical Engineering (C’2012 BSE, C’2013 MSE). References: 1. Bingham, John. Richard Dawkins: I can’t be sure God does not exist. News Report: Interview. Chatham, Kent, United Kingdom: The Telegraph, 2012. 2 Genesis 1:1; 1 Corinthians 14:33. 3 Genesis 1:26-27. 4 Genesis 1:28. 5 Genesis 1:11 and 1:14-15. 6 Psalm 147:18 ESV. 7 Copernicus, Nicolaus. On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres. Chicago: Brittanica, 1952. Great Books of the Western World. 508. 8 Newton, Isaac. Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. PenguinO PS, 1686. 442. 9 Wigner, Eugene P. “The unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences.” Communications on Pure and Applied Mathematics (May 11 1960): 13(1):114. Richard Courant Lecture in Mathematical Sciences delivered at New York University. 2-5. 10 John 1:1 – 3 ESV.
Gratitude for God’s Grace )* + -
Giving thanks is a topic frequently discussed in the fall and winter seasons with Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it is a topic that should not be relegated to particular seasons. Christians have plenty of reasons to be thankful for the mercy and grace given by God every day, every month and every season. God’s grace is too often taken for granted; when there are storms in life, complaints instead of thankful sentiments are expressed. At a conference hosted by InterMed, a fellowship that brings together medical and healthcare students and professionals from across the Philadelphia region, the speaker, neurosurgeon Dr. David Levy, says that, “[S]elf pity is the counterfeit Holy Spirit that will tell us, let me come in to comfort you because God seems to have let you down.” But Christians need to realize that God’s grace is enough to get us through any situation– that through God’s mercy and grace, all of us sinners are saved by Jesus Christ. Furthermore, it is important to recognize that God has also given each person special gifts, talents and blessings. Sadly, it is still so easy to discount all of that whenever suffering and pain comes along to inflict temporary amnesia and wipe away all of God’s blessings. In times of suffering and pain, one needs to be reminded of God’s mercy and grace and be thankful. Being continually grateful is not an easy task, but it is not impossible. Christian author Priscilla Maurice suggests that one can “begin by thanking Him for some little thing, and then go on, day by day, adding to your subjects of praise; thus you will find their numbers grow wonderfully; and, in the same proportion, will your subjects of murmuring and complaining diminish, until you see in everything some cause for thanksgiving.” An illustration from the Bible in Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:10-17 and John 6:5-15 shows Christ feeding five thousand people with only five loaves of bread and two fish. He gave thanks in this seemingly impossible circumstance, and ended up with baskets of leftovers. In thanking God despite difficult situations, miracles can occur. The Bible tells us, in Psalm 92:1-2, “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and
to sing praises unto Thy name, O most High: to show forth Thy loving kindness in the morning, and Thy faithfulness every night.” Gratitude is intrinsically tied to happiness. Martin Lindstrom, an expert on branding, reports that people in nations without our modern conveniences were happier than those who did. He observes that people in China who have all of the gadgets of modernization still yearned for more and were not happier than those who had less. Charles Spurgeon, a Christian pastor in 19th century England agrees with this sentiment: “[Y]ou say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.” God has and always will provide for our needs, as the apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4:19: “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Therefore, there is no need to compare oneself to the world’s standards of success, an act that can often drive people to greed and sin. This Biblical concept of gratitude is not just a clichéd concept; it can be applied practically and realistically to one’s own life. In an experiment involving more than 200 undergraduate students conducted over a two month period, students were assigned either to a group who kept journals that recorded hassles or neutral life events or a group who kept journals that recorded things the students were grateful for. Not surprisingly, the group of students who had kept gratitude journals had more positive attitudes and better health than their peer groups who kept journals that recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons & McCullough, 2003). In addition, researchers at UC Davis also found that people who “regularly attend religious services and engage in religious activities such as prayer reading religious material score are more likely to be grateful” (McCullough et. al., 2002). Being grateful does not mean putting on rose-colored glasses and ignoring or denying the negative aspects of life, but rather, to see yourself and the world from the perspective of God’s love, as Beckah Shae writes in her song, “Put Your
Spring 2012 | Lamp Post | 21
Love Glasses On”. Beckah Shae grew up in a broken home, lived in trailer parks and battered women’s shelters, and struggled with eating disorders. Today, she is living out her artistic calling as a Christian singer. Bekah Shae sees God’s mercy and grace in her life and says, “To see yourself the way God sees you is the beginning of freedom.” At the end of the day, the one who truly deserves our praises is the Creator of the universe. Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” He echoes this command in Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” And so we will. Linda Xiao Kang is a dual degree student in the College and the Nursing School, pursuing a major in Health and Societies. She has also sub-matriculated into the Nursing School for a doctoral program.
22 | Lamp Post | Spring 2012
References: 1. Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: Experimental studies of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 377-389. 2. Lindstrom, M. (2012, February 28). How To Be Happy Anywhere. Fast Company. Retrieved March 11, 2012, from http://www.fastcompany.com/1820974/buyology-martinlindstrom-global-happiness 3. McCullough, M. E., Emmons, R. A., & Tsang, J. (2002). The grateful disposition: A conceptual and empirical topography. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82-112-127.
Thoughts on Eternity " $ If youâ€™re anything like me, you often find yourself pondering your mortality. Iâ€™m not talking about complex philosophical theories, but simple questions like: how can life be so fragile, yet hold so much appeal? What is the point of money and school--really, all established society-if everyone understands to some extent the inevitability of death? I realize that as Christians we have something to look forward to, but we still desire to do â€œwellâ€? in our earthly lives. Atheists too understand that life is finite, yet wealth and success remain issues. These are questions that bother me on a regular basis. However, I have come to realize that the scariest ones arenâ€™t questions of mortality, but of eternity. For some reason, the thought of something that never ends is unnerving. Perhaps it is because everything we know has an end. Midterms and finals may feel eternal, but eventually-after either completing all the questions or giving up--we are free to go. Lectures can go on for impossibly long periods of time, but no professor will keep students forever. Sometimes we even complain about how things end too soon. When our favorite movie is over or a great vacation comes to a close, we feel let down. We wish those films or trips could last forever. But do we realize what weâ€™re wishing for? Think about eternity for a second. Let go of your assumptions that life always ends in death, lectures always end at ten to the hour, and movies always end with credits scrolling down the screen. Isnâ€™t it scary? There are no reference points. There is no way to say â€œthis is the middle,â€? or â€œI am nearing the end,â€? because there is no beginning, middle, or end. Eternity is a line that stretches on and on and on without any possible way of reaching an end point. I once found myself wondering at what moment in history God decided to create the universe. Then I remembered: there was no history before he made it, and he exists outside of history. Itâ€™s a disconcerting thought. I am not someone who likes change. I enjoy knowing whether I am facing north, south, east, or west and how long it is until my next big test, sports game or school break. Reference points are essential for my peace of mind. Eternity is scary, I realized, because I have never existed in it. Just as it is impossible for a fish to comprehend flight until he understands the existence of air or for someone to miss a friend until the two have met, it is impossible for the human brain to comprehend that which it has never experienced. The reason I fear eternity is because in all my
personal experience, an extended period of time is equivalent to boredom. Any movie, no matter how engaging, would become indescribably tiresome if it progressed endlessly. After a day or so there would be no one left in the theater. So eternity only seems like it would be uncomfortable because I donâ€™t understand how an endless experience could continue to be stimulating. Thatâ€™s where faith comes in. God says that heaven will be perfect; that his presence will be all we need; that it will be exciting, passionate and invigorating. Yet I still feel a twinge of doubt regarding eternity. Why? Just as my lack of experience with eternity makes it impossible for me to comprehend, my lack of experience with God makes the idea of spending time with him impossible to grasp. Our current relationships with God are only reflections of what they will become. The unblemished existence Adam enjoyed when he walked with God in the Garden is unattainable for this fallen earth. Walking with God in the Garden is a foreign idea; we wonâ€™t be in perfect companionship with him until we are in heaven. This brings me back to the topic of eternity. I previously stated that I canâ€™t appreciate the fact of unblemished fellowship with our creator because I have never experienced it and because everything I have experienced becomes boring over time. Thus, I have arrived at this conclusion: eternity is scary because I know nothing now that is eternal, and I know nothing that does not get old with time. Since I have never experienced complete, perfect fellowship with God, I do not know how to appreciate the eternal value of such a gift. Therefore, I must trust that perfect fellowship with God can only exist outside the boundaries of time; that it will always be fresh and exciting, as he promises. This perspective offers a new lens through which to view earthly life. Frustrations with issues of mortality stem from an inherent desire for eternal fellowship with our creator. We are both discontent with things that come to an end and unable to comprehend the value of things that do not end. The finite world frustrates us because we were built for eternity. One must learn to place faith in the wisdom of the God who created us to live with him forever. As Paul writes in Corinthians, â€œwe fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternalâ€? (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV). Nolan Burger is a College freshman and is currently undeclared.
Spring 2012 | Lamp Post | 23
24 | Lamp Post | Spring 2012
The Emancipation of Eternity and the Mercy of Godâ€™s Wrath ! " A single chord sounds indefinitely amid perpetually green fields and hills populated by motionless people. While motionless, these people are not lifeless: they are vivaciously still. The sun bears down upon them from the same ideal angle from which it always has and rivers are seized in thousands of undulant curls; the mist, droplets, and crashes are suspended impossibly. Restricted by the temporal world and the conditions that we inhabit, our understanding of eternityâ€”the eternity in which God created time and all elseâ€”is often an understanding of an existence without time. We envision a great stasis and in that stasis, while everything is energetically mid-motion, nothing can move. Because there is no time, there can be no progression. There are no actions, only states. Yet such a view limits our God, who is immeasurably and inconceivably larger than anything we can ever imagine. By nature of being the creator, God, in his eternity, must be greater than all of creation. It is impossible for God to exist in a reality more restricted than that of his children. Eternity, then, is not one moment; it is, instead, the transcendence of all moments. The implications of this eternity reflect the mercy of God. In geometry, the progression from one to two dimensions demands not the restriction or loss of the first dimension but the addition of another. The line does not stop existing in the plane; there are merely more lines. These lines intersect and run parallel to the original line. In the transition from two to three dimensions, the initial plane is not lost, only its solitude. So it is with time. We can only experience the one-dimensional path of time. To move beyond this constraining single dimension requires the addition of more lines, of more times. This entails countless timelines that are
parallel, intersecting, or even skewed entirely. Rather than a single yet perpetual moment, eternity is the summation of all these timelines. Such a multitude of timelines means that each contains the same existence but their experiences and histories differ. While as our mortal selves we can only know this one timeline, in eternity a person is not limited to one set of circumstances. Instead they live the equivalent of infinite unified lives, some of which intersect in instances of common conditions and some of which are entirely irreconcilable. This person, under this understanding of time, can no longer be defined by their experience. Instead they are defined by their position before God. This irrelevance of experience has tremendous implications. It reaffirms the gracious and merciful character of God made known in the Old and New Testaments. The surrounding world and a personâ€™s prior experiences have an immeasurable influence on their choices and actions. The impact of circumstance makes those choices and actions insignificant in determining a personâ€™s essence, or soul, and causes people to ask questions of how admission into heaven can rely on one such choice. Some would argue that it is unjust that a person can be damned for never being exposed to Christianity; such injustice proves God cannot be loving. But that and similar statements assume that life on this earth and the choices made here are all that matters. With a notion of eternity, however, this life becomes inconsequential. Instead, the choice made upon entrance into eternity is of great import. In eternity we are no longer limited by the circumstances within which we live this life, nor by the understanding of God instilled by those around us. We are able to see God unmarred by earthly lenses. Upon
Spring 2012 | Lamp Post | 25
this sight we must make a choice. We may either dive forward towards him, in pursuit of intimacy with all that is good, or we may retreat in fear of that very same goodness. If, as our whole, essential selves we are so vilely antithetical to God so as to recognize yet hate his goodness, we will reject it. But if we possess an appreciation for this goodness and yearn for amity with it, God welcomes us. He welcomes us regardless of our acts, choices, or definitions on this earth. This is grace. Our admittance is not determined by anything we do save for one choice made when we become aware of unveiled truth. That God extends his love to us not in response to any deed of ours but on his own initiative. Eternity, however, furthers this notion to clarify that God’s love is not even reliant on a person’s knowledge of him. All will come “face to face” with God and at that moment will encounter his goodness and truth (1 Corinthians 13:12 NIV). No one will be condemned to hell—however it may be imagined— for ignorance of or even disbelief in God, for all will be made entirely aware of his truth: condemnation will follow a person’s rejection of a God known to be true. Such grace, however, ought not to dissuade individuals from belief while on this earth. While this life is inconsequential in comparison with eternity, it is still true to a person’s essence. If, while on earth, a person is fortunate to have a fairly clear and true view of God and he chooses to ignore him, is he not more likely to do so on a second exposure in eternity? Why would he turn towards God then if he has already turned away now? Though this life is minor it is not a fiction. Grace even permits a person to believe in God but to postpone any adherence to his will, but this is no reason for prodigality. If a person believes in God and in his goodness, there would be no reason to delay a life lived in that goodness. Gifted with knowledge of the possibility of such a life and introduced to eternity even while on this earth, surely we want to experience it now. It makes much more sense to board a train at the nearest station rather than to walk along the tracks to the next one, especially if the trip is paid for by someone else. This extension of God’s grace allows for merciful interpretations of angry acts of God. It allows God to smite out of love. In chapter sixteen of Numbers, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram challenge Moses and Aaron, and therefore God. In response to this insolence, God rends the earth and a chasm swallows the rebellious men. Moments like this often cause a reader to differentiate between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament: the former, they say, is wrathful whereas, irreconcilably, the latter is merciful. Both testaments, however, feature the same God and, because of eternity, the traits of wrath and mercy are not at all mutually exclusive. God is indeed angry with Korah for his rejection of God’s command through Moses. God desires that his people
26 | Lamp Post | Spring 2012
align their wills to his and to, accordingly, follow his decree. Korah has not done this and this disobedience is infuriating to God. Yet this does not preclude grace. An act of anger and an act of love are not opposite. Eternity allows for the possibility that when God bid the earth to consume Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, he was graciously providing them with an opportunity to still be with him. As they revolted they turned from God and perhaps caused others to similarly turn. By severe intercession, God removed them from this course and brought them immediately into eternity to view him without distortion before they had proceeded too far in their rejection. God’s wrath prevented these men from attaining such a perversion that they would no longer desire an intimacy with God. God’s wrath lovingly saved Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. Although we know God is eternal we often restrict him to the same regulations that apply to ourselves. We erroneously limit him, and therefore his grace as well, to the constraints of this earth. God, however, is far greater than anything we can even imagine. It is impossible for the created to fathom the creator, but by appreciating eternity we loose our understanding of God from the false restraint of temporality. This liberation extends God’s mercy and allows for a gracious interpretation of his wrath. The compatibility of God’s anger and love is not novel but the understanding here described provides a new means for their reconciliation. The writers’ humble musings can in no way redefine God but they do create a framework both for the affirmation of what is visible in scripture and for the exploration of many other questions. While scripture must confirm any ensuing theories, our recognition of eternity’s infinitude excites and facilitates the discussion of questions as various as those of predestination, the retroactivity of prayer, and the experience of music in heaven.
Benjamin Notkin, a Seattle born sophomore in the College, is currently studying English and Physics.
DAWN It was dawn. It was time to rise and to hear his motherâ€™s voice carrying tones of healing. He stretched, letting his joints adjust. It was to be a new day, with much promise. Thud. He heard the sound of footsteps trudging in the adjacent rooms. His father was an early bird: he would have two piles of wood cut into manageable pieces before sunrise. Mother was in the room of offering, baking. He smelt pleasant aromasâ€”the smell of freshly sliced bread and the sweetness of the early morning dew. The boy took care to watch his mother as she took the earth-fruits with her bare fingers. She assorted the various vegetables into a pot. The minuteness of her subtle movements caught the boyâ€™s eye. â€œDid you sleep well?â€? she inquired. â€œYes, I had a very pleasant dream.â€? â€œWell, youâ€™d better get ready for class at the synagogue today. You have a test, donâ€™t you?â€? â€œYes. Iâ€™ve studied.â€? The sun was almost distinctly in the sky. He had to start moving soon, because today was his test on reciting the laws of the Book. The night before, he had carefully studied his scrolls, searching for any gaps in his memory. He felt a tap on his shoulder before he was out of the house. â€œHey, letâ€™s go.â€? David said. â€œYes, I suppose we should be on our way.â€? Spring 2012 | Lamp Post | 27
The two, walking side by side on the dirt pathway, made their way out of the boy’s small abode. The synagogue was two hills north, beside a river at the base of the second hill. “I’ll never pass the test,” David said, shifting his eyes. “But,” he continued, “I feel confident today.” David was almost two years older than he, and had taken the oral exam almost four times. Each time something went wrong. During one of his exams, he fell asleep. On another, he lost his voice the night before. “I have faith in you,” the boy said. “Thanks.” They paused by an olive tree, one that had seemingly been there for years. The two boys took three olives each, eating one and pocketing two. As they passed more trees, the boy heard more noises – birds, insects, squirrels. He could hear the song of the mother bird, the familiar cricket of the grasshopper. Here in the forest he felt very much in tune, absorbing every sound one by one. “Do you feel at peace here?” the boy asked David. David was a kindly boy, dark-eyed with a constant smile. David reminded the boy of his father, because they had hairy faces. David constantly brought new ideas into his mind, challenging what the boy had thought long ago. It almost seemed as though David was his practical side, always concerned about building things, creating things. Then, they were approaching the end of the forest. “You remind me,” David started, “we should gather wood, to make our boat.” “Ah. We should.” “And then maybe we’ll fish, and find your hundred fish!” The boy chuckled. There was a sense of lightness in the manner of their conversation. They talked about building boats, skipping stones, or synagogue in general. The boy felt he could sense David’s words before he said them. They stopped by a pile of stones near a small stream. Upstream there was a waterfall, and a pond topped by fresh lilies each spring. Every morning they passed the stream, they would take note to add another stone. It counted the days they had since the first day of school. “We probably can’t make it a steeper mound,” David remarked. “Maybe we should make another one.” So went each morning, filled with little moments. They appreciated each moment, having known that it wouldn’t last and feeling the slowness of personal experiences. By and by, it seemed so that there was less continuity between each moment. “Here, boys,” called the teacher. They left the serenity of the water, to a house made of straw. This was the instruction hall, in which first-years and second-years would receive lessons on the Book and be tested on their knowledge. Today was the boy’s test, gauging his readiness to interpret the Torah properly. He was to recite from Isaiah. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; 28 | Lamp Post | Spring 2012
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. What did it mean: “by his wounds we are healed?” When the boy read this passage, he felt a sense of unease. Some parts of Isaiah he could recite, but a part of him resisted to understand. “No, we can’t. I don’t get why, though, parents get their children stuck in a cycle. I don’t want to be a carpenter for the rest of my life,” David said to him. “You don’t?” the boy said with a surprised tone. “No, I don’t. Have you noticed how quiet, how monotonous a carpenter’s life is? Why would I choose to live in solitude like that?” “Wait, what do you mean by cycle?” “You have the moon each night and the sun each day. You have summer, then fall, then winter, and then spring each year. We sleep by night, live by day.” “I think,” the boy said, “we’ll be different than our parents.” “How reassuring,” he thought, “it is reassuring to think that we are to change the world.” Their footsteps slackened, for they had reached the top of the second hill. The sun was descending near the horizon, spilling colors into the sky. The orange sky, and the trees afar, made the sunset an experience. “The final chance to see the sun,” the boy remarked. “So it is.” “Until tomorrow.”
SUNRISE Sunrise came, changing the colors of the sky. The father and the boy were up, and rearranging their beds. Samuel and Isaac were still sleeping. Father wrote a note on a scroll: Thank you for your generosity. We unfortunately will have to head off early, before the sun becomes too intense. They put on their sandals, brown feet meeting scratchy, hard leather. Off they went, into the desert to the north. Their business was done in Bethlehem. “Father, do you enjoy your work?” “I do.” “Why is that so?” “It’s hard to explain. It’s been part of me for so long. But part of me is obsessed with building, creating. Every time I fix a house, I feel as though I am fulfilling my purpose.” “How does one find his purpose?” “It is not something to be found. Rather, your purpose finds you.” “Do you think one day, I will find fulfillment in the purpose that finds me?” “I believe deeply in such a truth.” The boy thought: “What was belief ? Was it following the laws and commandments of God? Was it going to synagogue every day? Could a beggar have deeper belief than the highest priest? There was no clear answer.”
Spring 2012 | Lamp Post | 29
It’s morning again. The aroma of fresh bread arose slowly into his nostrils in a repetitive, unavoidable way. The boy awoke. Another dream, so vividly etched in his mind that he was unsure of the difference between the reality he saw through his eyes and the one in his mind. He was walking to the synagogue on a dirt path, he had a companion with him—a young female named Mary. She was his friend for many years, and now as they walked he could feel her arm next to his. The sensation, vividly imagined, did not leave his mind. He wanted to be back in his dream world, constantly reliving the feeling of companionship he had with the girl walking next to him. Arising from his bed he dragged his slender body off the straw mat, strolled over to Mother, and gave her a kiss on her forehead. “Good morning,” he remarked. “You are ready?” “Soon.” He was off to the dirt path, this time with no companion and sandals full of dirt from the trip a few days ago. He was to meet David again at the tree, to walk to the stream that they always did, attend synagogue as he always did. Yet today was a happy day—he would have time to himself, to draw and fish after his studies were over. Being a Saturday, synagogue ended early and David and he usually spent the afternoon resting. He enjoyed synagogue, enjoyed learning, enjoyed people, yet he felt freest in the meadow, scribbling on a scroll, underneath the clouds. A deep connection with nature was what he enjoyed the most. His father seemed to embody this promise of contentment that he so desperately wished to believe in. He worked foremost to fix, to offer to others a sense of security in their homes. And the minutes and hours he spent carpentering, he sincerely enjoyed relishing the bead of sweat on his forehand, and the calluses on his hand. Yet, he was fully aware of the world at large – a world that barely gave him any moment of rest and joy. It had to be made new again, he knew, because there was simply too much agony and labor. And only he knew the way – a broken peg in need of permanent glue, of a unifying bond that would put together thousands, if not millions. This was the dawn he imagined, the dawn he would put together if it took his life. He could see it as an effort that required a sacrifice. In fact, he knew nothing that redeemed without sacrifices. It could not be done if he did not devote the entirety of his life. Shadows plagued the world, but he knew the end of darkness was coming. He believed in the rising sun. John Bang will be a December 2012 graduate, studying English in the College.
30 | Lamp Post | Spring 2012
Up the Mountain An Adapted Screenplay of C.S. Lewisâ€™s â€œThe Great Divorceâ€? Yue Xu EXT. A FIELD. DAY. A YOUNG MAN(V.O) ! "#$%&'! ! * !
$+,$/$0102$# 3! 0&456789 ! ,: /!, Tss....
,! 0&456;&9 $ ! ! ! 0 , < 5=# %*! 0 2! < !,!! %
0 ! ! Spring 2012 | Lamp Post | 31
5=# %>% 1
5=# 3! *! 0 !5 ? !5 0&456;&9 !! !, ! ! ! < & !!5 ! < CUT TO $+/&&&/2>&4'2'02$# OLD WOMAN >! !@ 2 &01&>2'#",5=#/! 0 :5 #",5=# , =! =2> @ !! #",5=# B OLD WOMAN @5 @ ! @* >H
32 | Lamp Post | Spring 2012
#",5=# %! > ! !! =2> @! % !H #",5=# % *! =!% " @, ! =2> ! ! !H ! > #",5=# =! @ %!!
! !J ! :!K8 =2> @'H' 1H #",5=# '! ! 1 > ! H =2> % * H #",5=# =! =2> ! ! !H #",5=# , =! 2 !
=! ! Spring 2012 | Lamp Post | 33
#",5=# ! =! ! ! @
=! #",5=# ! > " ! 32>$#234523J&0&452'1,$5=#P 5=# 3!!
5 0 0 ! ! $+&=&/,$>&4'2'02$# 0 5 5 0 ?!0 , , 1H
5=# ! ! 0 B5 ! 3!B!5 0&456;&9 ! 1 >! ! !2 ! ,!> =! Yue Xu is a senior in the College, double majoring in Cinema Studies and East Asian Language & Civilizations.
34 | Lamp Post | Spring 2012
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. - Matthew 5:14-16 ESV In a sophisticated academic setting such as Penn, many find serious study of scripture quite puzzling. It might, therefore, come as more unfortunate news that the folks at Lamp Post not only treat such scripture seriously, but also credit the person of Jesus to be supremely paramount to the cause of the publication. In one of the rare instances when the writer of this blurb will show self-restraint in not making the case for Biblical inerrancy â€“ for the moment â€“ the patient reader will be called to bring his or her attention to the content of the above passage. Would someone of fair sensibilities essentially find fault with it? The term â€œlightâ€? might require some contextualization. Here, Jesus is addressing his disciples, people who will come to know and reflect his love in an otherwise bleak world. The joyful studier confined for the night in Huntsman. The unexpected fifty dollar bill given to the beggar under the Tampons. A community that celebrates more than it mourns for a fellow studentâ€™s entry into the heavenly kingdom. By all counts, the light stands countercultural to the prevailing postmodern norm of solely seeking oneâ€™s own personal and professional success. It becomes symbolic even to the minute detail of a publication title; Lamp Post could easily have been The Penn Christian Journal, keeping in-step with all the other Penn(blank) entities. However, Lamp Post will choose to keep in-step with Christ.
Spring 2012 | Lamp Post | 35
Photos courtesy of Jeff Wen (Wharton ‘14), Philip Winter (College ‘12), and Tori Duttweiler (Nursing ‘15).