Volume II, Issue I. Autumn 2008 Vox Clara: a journal of Christian thought at Stanford P.O. Box 18658 Stanford, CA 94309 www.voxclara.org | firstname.lastname@example.org
4 Our Vision 5 Letter from the Editor Allen Huang
6 The Psychology of Joy Joey Klein
9 Silence Jerry Lee
10 Opinion: Thou Shalt not Ratzach Brice Rolston
13 Resting in the Family Grace Ahern
14 Feature: Joy Clara Caruthers
16 A Whispering Sound Nic Reiner
17 Is Faith Delusional? Jessy Klima
19 An Interview with Guinness and Ramsden Samantha McGirr
21 Unchaining the Mind Jose Armando Perez-Gea
23 Historical Perspectives on Joy Michael Davenport
25 Want to get involved? 26 Vox Clara Staff 27 Closing Thoughts
OUR VISION Vox Clara is a journal of Christian thought. It seeks to provide a forum through which students of Stanford University can explore and discuss the meaning and role of religion in their lives. We believe this question is not adequately addressed in the Stanford community, and is a danger alluded to in Jane Stanford’s inscription on the north wall of Memorial Church:
tion. It is through Him that we interpret and understand the world around us. Using this journal, we seek to express to the Stanford community that religion is not a set of arbitrary rules and prohibitions, something that limits or takes away our freedom, creativity or indeed ability to live, but rather an affirmation that sheds light on everything, imbues it, vivifies it and redeems it all.
“There is no narrowing so deadly as the narrowing of man’s horizon of spiritual things. No worse evil could befall him in his course on earth than to lose sight of Heaven. And it is not civilization that can prevent this; it is not civilization that can compensate for it. No widening of science, no possession of abstract truth, can indemnify for an enfeebled hold on the highest and central truths of humanity. ‘What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?’”
We at Vox Clara have come together, each with our own experience and from different Christian traditions to more deeply explore how faith illuminates life, and how life enriches faith. And we invite all to join us in this important conversation.
For those of us at Vox Clara, spiritual truths are found in the person of Jesus Christ, the one and only Son of God, who became man, died and rose again for the salvation of all people. He is not a thing of the past, something simply referenced in the pages of the Holy Bible that we turn to once a week, but is the truth that pervades our entire lives, our hope in a world that is beyond human solu-
Simply put, we are trying to give an account for the hope that is within us - the hope that we cherish. We are engaging the university community as Christian scholars, artists, thinkers, workers, students, children, parents, lovers and sufferers. We do not wish to impose our belief, but propose our views to everyone at Stanford who is searching, just as we are; searching for meaning, for truth and for Love. And seeking collectively, we will speak with a clear voice and voyage together, elevating each others’ lives in the process. May the Spirit of freedom guide us.
VOX NOSTRA A note on our name
In the words of the Christian apologist C.S. Lewis, we think of Christianity that, “it is at her centre, where her truest children dwell, that each communion is really closest to every other in spirit, if not in doctrine. And this suggests that at the centre of each there is something, or a Someone, who against all divergences of belief, all differences of temperament, all memories of mutual 4
persecution, speaks with the same voice.” All of us at Vox Clara acknowledge this voice of Jesus Christ and believe that in this confusing, clamorous world, His voice is the only true voice, forming the foundation of our hope and strength. For this reason, we have chosen Vox Clara, a Latin phrase which translates as “clear voice,” as the name for this publication.
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR Allen Huang
On a summer day in Cambridge almost two centuries ago, before a small group of Harvard Divinity School graduates, Ralph Waldo Emerson gave his assessment of the state of the church and of religion. “The soul is not preached,” he declared. While we may disagree with him on why, I think we all can admit that his diagnosis is still valid today, and I think especially so in the Academy. During the last century, the University has been at the forefront of progress. But even as we seek to feed the hungry, work for peace, and end injustices, the big questions still remain. “‘What am I? and What is?’ asks the human spirit with a curiosity new-kindled, but never to be quenched,” Emerson said to those graduates. No matter in what state a person finds herself in life, she and every member of humanity ask those perennial questions. The soul demands attention; it seeks to be preached. It’s no easy task to find the answers, but we’re cheating ourselves out of one of the greatest journeys we as humanity can take together if we simply say that there there is no right answer. It’s true that we’ll end up at different places if we choose to go on that journey, but if we decide to take it together, and to talk along the way about where we think the right destination is, we’ll learn something about each other, become better friends, and maybe even find ourselves at the destination where the search for truth should lead us. This second issue of Vox Clara hopes to continue to be a voice on that odyssey. We seek to share with this place of learning the voice of James Plank Kelly Fee Allen Huang Joey Klein
Jesus Christ. We believe that he wants to accompany you as your soul searches for answers to those new-kindled questions. For us he is the Eternal Logos, Reason personified, whose words and deeds show us the end for which we were created. Far from making us the dreary followers of a static religious system, the Christ of Christianity, in becoming man, has offered humanity the Way back to its divine origin. And when we find him, we find Joy, the theme of this current issue. Joy is inseparable from the quest for answers about the purpose and end of life. It is only in reasoning and searching for answers that we find a measure of contentment. Very soon we shall be celebrating Christmas, the moment in history when Jesus went from being the fear of kings and the hope of prophets to being Joy incarnate in the person of Christ. Jesus is Joy for he is the Logos, the Word made flesh who offers himself as both the Reason and the Answer for those who choose him. Where we end up is something we each decide for ourselves, but we hope you’ll consider the voice of Jesus as you’re travelling. See you along the way...
09 President Jonathan Scrafford 09 Editor 09 Publicity and Finance Clara Caruthers 11 Editor 10 Editor-in-Chief Katie Turner 09 Editor 08 Designer-in-Chief Nic Reiner 10 Editor
Steven Puente Josiah Hall Jessy Klima Greg Witmer
10 Designer 09 Designer 09 Designer 09 Designer
THE PSYCHOLOGY JOEY KLEIN
THOSE DAYS SNEAK UP ON YOU ONCE IN A WHILE. YOUR ALARM DOESN’T WAKE YOU UP, YOUR BIKE GETS A FLAT, ketchup finds its way onto your favorite shirt, rain starts falling as you head out for an evening midterm. Inexplicably, the details in your life held a conference call and decided to have one day of wholesale mutiny. Even Pollyanna might find it tough to stay cheery by the end. But, unfortunately, life gets much worse than a ketchup stain on your polo. Disease, disaster, abuse, and death certainly have impact on a deeper emotional level and require a different sort of coping. Attempting to turn to Scripture in scenarios such as these, generic as they may be, can initially be frustrating. For example, the recommendation in James 1:2 may not stand out as particularly realistic: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds….” It may feel a bit like James is using more words than necessary to simply say: “Grin and bear it.” But another verse pops up with the same refrain: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4) In the midst of a struggle, being told to feel the opposite of what we are feeling is hardly reassuring; in fact, verses like these may cause greater frustration and despair. Guidelines for exhibiting emotions are not uncommon in the New 6
Testament, and they touch emotions beyond frustration and joy: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Ephesians 4:31). Elsewhere, Christians are told to be slow to get angry, be more thankful, display respect to everyone, not show pride, and to turn sorrow into rejoicing. Each of these commands is focused on an emotion or the display of an emotion. But can we really go about life displaying joy in each trial or exuding calmness when everything is so angering? Sometimes it seems that the only options available to a Christian are either to maintain ironwilled control over each feeling that slips into consciousness, or to put on a false front that denies the frustration boiling underneath. The field of psychology has undertaken the task of explaining what might happen to a person who chooses the latter option of disingenuous emotional display, including much work by Professor James Gross here at Stanford. One basic model of emotion, called the modal model, describes a personsituation interplay that leads to the display of emotional behavior. This model has four steps: it begins with a relevant Situation (typically Vox Clara, Vol. II, Issue 1
external, although it could be a mental state such as a memory). In step two, the person pays Attention to this situation, and then Appraises the situation in terms of value, familiarity, and other features. Step four is the resulting behavioral Expression of an emotion, including the physiological changes. Although radically simplified, this model allows for specific descriptions of ways that humans attempt to regulate emotion. For each of these simple steps, there is also a strategy for modifying what type of emotion emerges. A person might try to change an emotional situation (or avoid it entirely), or he might instead choose to change his focus of attention. These types of emotion regulation are often those used by parents to help children deal with stressful situations. But it is the two other types that are the most relevant in this case; they are often labeled Reappraisal and Suppression.
Are the only options available to a Christian to maintain iron-willed control over every feeling, or to put on a false front that denies the frustration boiling underneath?
Suppression occurs at the level of observable behavior, and can include both downgrading of expression (hiding your anger at a friend) or increasing of expression (trying to
OF JOY appear happy when you don’t feel it). Regardless of how convincing an actor one is, suppression seems to affect emotional experience in various ways. Using self-report and various physiological responses, Gross and others have shown that when a person downgrades expression of a positive emotion, such as happiness, it will lead to a lessened experience of that emotion. However, downgrading a negative emotion like anger can lead to increased levels of experience and increased internal physiological markers—that is, trying not to show it will make you more angry. Although simplified, there seems to be some credence to the idea that bottling up emotion internally increases the potential for a blow-up. Alternatively, reappraisal is a form of cognitive change, in which the meaning of the situation is changed in order to modulate emotion. (It does not consist of downward social comparison, in which you compare your situation to someone who is worse off in order to feel better about yourself.) Rather, it is a fundamental change in the way we see this situation as relevant to our goals. For example, remembering that a tough test is only worth a small portion of your grade, or convincing yourself that grades are not that important in this class, are simple forms of reappraisal; rather than getting frustrated at doing poorly, you redefine what it means to perform poorly, and the emotion
elicited by this situation changes. The essential difference between the two is that suppression leads to incongruous emotional behavior: internally you feel one thing, and externally you are expressing another. Reappraisal “resets” the emotion so that you have a unified
Suppressing emotion can lead to higher stress markers, poorer memory for emotional stimuli, and even cause higher blood pressure in people nearby.
response. The cost of having to maintain split emotion can have negative impacts; subjects in a study who were suppressing emotion had higher stress markers, poorer memory for emotional stimuli, and even caused higher blood pressure in another person who happened to be in the room. And, given that suppression decreases positive and increases negative emotion (on an internal level), over time a person who tends to suppress will feel more, and stronger, negative emotions than someone who reappraises as a regulation strategy. Thus, Gross suggests that reappraisal is a healthier and more adaptive general strategy to implement. James the apostle seems to be agreeing with James the professor, in that when you look at the rest of the command in James 1:2-4, the focus shifts from the trial itself
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to the meaning of the trial: “… because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:3,4). The command is not to suppress our natural frustration or anger at a circumstance but rather to see these circumstances as an opportunity, a chance to prove our faith and improve our character. In essence, we acknowledge that our lives are about something greater than just our own comfort, and subscribe to a different vision of suffering and joy. Further, the biblical passage emphasizes the fact that reappraisal isn’t just something you can do immediately; it takes practice (and eventually can occur at a subconscious level). Little day-today problems can be a sort of training ground for dealing with non-useful negative emotions, so that when a bigger test arises we will be ready. A common thought is that you can “turn it on” when something big arises; this is akin to a runner stating that he doesn’t want to put up with his daily training regimen, but will just turn it on when the marathon arrives. James is stating that character must be built by day-to-day experiences of modifying our thoughts to mesh with the purposes of God. So what does Biblical reappraisal look like? Perhaps the biggest clue is a direct quote from a chapter in 7
Gross’s book: “Emotions arise when an individual attends to a situation and sees it as relevant to his or her goals.” The goals, and where they originate from, are the key. If coming from an internal source, it would take an immense will (or a will bent toward masochism) to constantly look at problems as positive situations. However, aligning our goals with those of Christ can allow for a vastly modified perspective, in which trials are fleeting and fertile, a temporary place for growth and refocus. There are, of course, situations in which emotion is positive, such as
anger at injustice or disgust over inhumane behavior. There are also situations when reappraisal is not adaptive, such as when a victim of abuse manages to justify her attacker’s actions. Additionally, models don’t explain how to deal with deep emotional scarring, just as simply reading Scripture won’t automatically cause patience or calm. For the big questions, a Christian should call on other resources: fellow believers for comfort, camaraderie, and balance, and the Holy Spirit, for constant guidance and wisdom. Where to
find such wisdom? One more verse from James ought to sum it up: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). Citations: Gross, J. J. (1998) Emerging field of emotion regulation: an integrative review. Review of General Psychology, Vol. 2, No. 3, 271-299 Gross, J. J. (2002) Emotion regulation: Affective, cognitive, and social consequences. Psychophysiology, Vol. 39, 281–291 Gross, J. J. & Thompson, R. A. (2007) Emotion regulation: Conceptual foundations. In Handbook on Emotion Regulation, edited by James Gross. 2007, The Guilford Press, New York, NY Holy Bible, New International Version
JOEY KLEIN, a coterminal Master’s student in Psychology, grew up on a farm in Edwall, WA. He hopes to work in the non-profit sector following graduation, after enjoying one last season of Stanford sports.
JERRY LEE is a Human Biology and Biology coterm from San Diego. He plans on becoming an infectious disease physician and working with international medical aid organizations.
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SILENCE JERRY LEE Meyer library often gets a bad rap for being lifeless. From the incessant drone of computer buzzing to the erratic tapping of nails on a keyboard, it’s easy to see why. Nevertheless, I often find myself sitting here for hours on end, pretending to work on some deep complicated problem in the wee hours of the night in order to fit in with the rest of the Meyer inhabitants, all the while listening to the deafening silence in front of a blank computer screen. But from my perspective, the silence is what keeps me coming back to this place; far from being lifeless, Meyer is alive with all shades of stillness. Recently a good friend and I ended any future possibility of a romantic relationship. We had both been interested in each other, but it became apparent that the relationship would not work out because of several spiritual incompatibilities. I was devastated. I mean, she was almost everything I wished for in a girl—spiritual groundedness, good looks, intelligence, integrity, humor, kindness, a beautiful smile, and a voice so sweet it made honey taste sour… The point is, I had invested so much in her that it was impossible for us to even be friends anymore, that whenever I would talk or even look at her I would be in pain. But I acted pretty nonchalant about it. I was mostly unfazed throughout the rest of the day, and even the day after, that is, until I went to Meyer, where the silence forced me to reflect and confront my façade of indifference. Suddenly, I became overwhelmed and poured out my soul to God—my tiredness, my anger, my sadness, my loneliness. “God, I am tired of always striving for Your will and missing completely; I am angry at myself for letting this situation hurt me like this; I am sad that I lost such a good friend; I am lonely, and I need You.” And in the midst of my heartfelt prayer, God reminded me of Psalm 46:10: Be still, and know that I am God. In truth, it had always been about me, what I wanted, what she wanted, and even what I thought God wanted, but even though I had been trying to strive for God’s heart, I never left any space for God to work. And here He was, telling me that He is enough—that God’s love is enough. Often we forget in the hurry of our day to stop, be still, and wait on the Lord, for it is He whom we honor, and it is only His instruction we take. And by forgetting these things, we fail to realize that our love for God becomes something less of agape—something less of a complete, consuming love, and instead we put idols before us, in the form of relationships, accomplishment, and even dutiful service in His name. For the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37), but the truth is, the only way we can love Him is to let Him love us: “We love him, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). If we fail to be still and wait on the Lord, we are not letting Him into our lives, not seeking His counsel on our decisions, not spending time with the God of the universe who so intimately called each of us by name to be His servant, and most importantly, not letting Him love us. In the silence, God’s love pours over us like warm rain. Paul tells us in Ephesians to be “rooted and grounded in love” so that we may be “filled up to all the fullness of God” (3:17-19). Therefore, the foundation of any Godpursuit requires a comprehension of the love of Jesus Christ. However, just knowing the love of God isn’t sufficient; how can our hearts be enraptured with the love of Christ if all we have is intellectual knowledge? Rather, it is the experience of His love that is absolutely critical, a love so real and compelling that nothing else captures our heart’s attention. And only by quieting our pride and our desires can we present ourselves nakedly to Him, and reach a place of sweet intimacy with God. God told me to “be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7). And then, I realized how amazing God was—the depth of His love, the breadth of His compassion, the magnitude of His understanding. And I realized that I am the greatest of fools for trusting in myself while everything I had searched for and wrestled with was already answered by God’s word. My concerns about what I should do, how I should act—all of that is answered by Proverbs 3:5-6; all I need to do is “trust in the Lord and lean not on my own understanding…and He will make my paths straight.” Why should I worry when my Savior has my life in His hands? See, if you are willing to wait patiently on God for His word, He will hear your prayers anywhere, anytime you ask him. Even in Meyer.
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THOU SHALT NOT RATZACH BRICE ROLSTON “As surely as I live, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn away from their evil ways and live.”—The Lord, Ezekiel 33:10-11
MY FIRST PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH CAPITAL PUNISHMENT OCCURRED IN THE IMMEDIATE AFTERMATH OF Hurricane Katrina. Reports of theft in the neighborhood put most of us on edge. The sign out front warned “You Loot, We Shoot,” though that did not stop a desperate rebel from breaking into my neighbor’s garage. As I ran outside with sidearm drawn, a grim reality hit me: Would I really be willing to inflict the ultimate punishment on someone for stealing? Fortunately, he had already vanished; I did not have to answer that difficult question right then. In my upper class, conservative, southern town, everyone I know supports capital punishment. “Execute ‘em,” we would cry, not really giving much thought as to why we felt this way. “God says that murderers must be punished.” That was the typical answer, and I never really questioned it—the death penalty was what was given to murderers, end of story—until a class I took on the death penalty inspired me to examine what my faith says about the issue. Here begins a new story in my personal viewpoints on capital punishment. It’s time to forget about everything I’ve ever been told and make my own decisions based on research and reflection. 10
As a Christian, I look first for answers in the Bible. In considering biblical arguments for capital punishment many people attempt to “erect a wall between the Old and New Testaments.” However, during his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” He then continues to speak on the importance of the commandments of the Old Testament. While the New Testament brings forth new teachings, it is important to examine both books simultaneously, since both are the word of God. The Bible’s first account of murder ends in a showing of mercy by God. In the story, Cain kills his brother Abel and attempts to hide his evil deed from God. When God discovers what has happened, he punishes Cain by banishing him from the land. He also puts a mark on Cain so that no one who finds him will kill him. God is not being easy on Cain—banishment from society is sometimes a fate worse than death. Cain’s punishment allowed him to seek redemption, Vox Clara, Vol. II, Issue 1
a theme repeated several times in the Old Testament. The story ends with the birth of Cain’s son Enoch. Ultimately, this ending tells of new life, not of death. The story of Cain shows that redemption and renewal are possible because of God’s mercy. An Old Testament rule often cited by death penalty retentionists is “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” This rule appears several times in the Old Testament and would seem to justify the taking of a murderer’s life. On the other end of the argument, though, it is more a teaching that punishment should be proportional to the crime and not a repetition of the crime. Westmoreland writes, “There is no command to lie to a liar, rape a rapist, or steal from a thief—a consistency that would be grotesque...[the rule exists to] limit escalating vengeance cycles.” As Gardner Hanks puts it, the law actually means “No more than a life for a life; no more than a tooth for a tooth; no more than an eye for an eye.” This limitation on violence was needed in a time when an entire family may be killed in retaliation for the murder of a single person, and should not be misrepresented as an endorsement of violence. The Sixth Commandment states that “Thou shalt not kill.” Abolitionists often cite this as God speaking against the death penalty—after all, the
commandments came directly from God to Moses. Retentionists, believe it or not, also use this passage to support their beliefs, as Barrett Duke explains. “The state does not violate the sixth commandment by its proper exercise of capital punishment. The Hebrew word ratzach, translated kill in some translations of Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17, refers to acts of murder or homicide. A different word, harag, often translated kill, occurs in most other passages in the Old Testament. Rather than violating the sixth commandment by its use of capital punishment, the state actually supports the commandment by executing those who murder.” Westmoreland refutes Mr. Barrett’s claim, noting that the word ratzach actually has a much wider application, and is actually used to refer to capital punishment in Numbers 35:30. The Sixth Commandment by itself, Westmoreland says, “neither demands nor prohibits capital punishment.” It would be foolish to maintain that the Old Testament does not allow for capital punishment—it is clearly prescribed for a variety of offenses. Some examples of capital crimes include the touching of tabernacle furniture by anyone but a priest, and cursing one’s parents. This seems quite drastic, and it is important to look at it not from today’s perspective, but a historical one. Capital punishment, as Gardner Hanks explains, was seen in the Old Testament as a sacrifice to atone for a serious crime. While animal sacrifices would suffice for less serious crimes, the worst crimes required that the person’s life be
forfeited in order to restore balance. Before Mosaic Law existed, victims’ families would seek the human sacrifice themselves, leading to bloody escalations of violence. The Mosaic Law, therefore, actually existed to limit violence, ensuring that only the original perpetrator be held liable. The Old Testament does not fail to be just and, in the case of capital crimes, includes rules that are “more stringent than the modern American judicial system.” For example, the Old Testament mandates that capital cases require at least two witnesses, while many capital cases in the United States are decided based on the testimony of a single person.
Because of Christ’s ultimate payment for the sins of man, it is no longer necessary that we make any other sacrifice to God. While the death penalty is not forbidden in the Old Testament, it does place exacting criteria on its use. Hanks states that “the Old Testament is concerned for justice and a belief in a God who ultimately prefers to restore rather than to punish.” In contrast to the Old Testament, the major theme in the New Testament is one of love. As John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Atonement in the Old Testament was obtained through the capital punishment of the convicted. In contrast, John 3:16 tells us that
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Jesus has already atoned for our sins by dying on the cross. Keeping that in mind, McBride asserts that “it would be blasphemous to argue that capital punishment is needed to atone for or expiate sin. That would deny the efficacy of Christ’s expiatory death on the cross.” To me, that says it all. Because of Christ’s ultimate payment for the sins of man, it is no longer necessary that we make any other sacrifice to God. Operating under this belief, personal vengeance can be the only thing leading a Christian to demand the death penalty, which would be blatantly against Christian teachings. In addition to this cut and dried interpretation of capital punishment in the New Testament paradigm, there are several other verses worth examining. Death penalty retentionists typically steer clear of the Gospels, due to the overwhelming number of passages that contradict their stance. The one New Testament passage they turn to is Romans 13. In the first few verses, Paul teaches that governments are authorized agents of God. Romans 13:4, retentionists claim, gives governments authority to execute. “For he [government] is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword [machiara] for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” Retentionists believe Romans 13:1-5 authorizes governments as God’s agents of punishment. What about the German government under Hitler? Does that mean that a mass extermination of the Jews was authorized by God? “No,” said Duke during a telephone 11
interview. “When authority is abused by government, it becomes illegitimate. It no longer fulfills its obligation under God, and therefore is no longer authorized under God.” Barrett Duke claims that because the sword is an instrument of death, “it is evident that the state’s authority to administer justice includes capital punishment.” This argument rests solely on the translation of the word machiara. According to Hanks, the argument fails because machiara is “a symbol of authority, but not the weapon used by the Romans in carrying out executions.” While Romans 13 does authorize governments to maintain order and administer justice, it does not authorize governments to inflict the ultimate punishment. The remaining New Testament passages are generally overlooked by retentionists, as they offer no support for their stance. During his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells the crowd: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the
right cheek, turn to him the other also.” The basic message given is do not retaliate. It is interesting that Jesus quotes the original teaching of an eye for an eye, but makes no mention of a life for a life. In fact, “in all his teachings, he never quotes an Old Testament passage that calls for the death penalty or any other form of killing.” Inferences can be made about Jesus’s opinion of the death penalty when He stops the execution of a woman caught in the act of adultery, telling the mob: “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” One by one the crowd dispersed until only Jesus and the woman remained. Jesus, who was himself without sin, did not condemn the woman, instead telling her to “go and leave your life of sin.” The message here is clear--because no one is blameless, no one has the right to kill others. Our only other reaction to sin is forgiveness, as Jesus teaches throughout the New Testament. In Matthew 6:14, Jesus teaches that “if you forgive men when they sin
against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” It is easy to take single verses out of context and make a case either for or against capital punishment. When looked at in the context of the entire Bible, however, there is very little support for capital punishment in our modern day. The message of the New Testament is one of love and forgiveness, not retaliation, giving no support for capital punishment. The Old Testament technically allows for capital punishment, but only under strict criteria and, as I have shown, is meant actually as a way to prevent escalating violence from occurring between families. Even though capital punishment is technically permitted in the Old Testament, the Lord God makes his wishes very clear late in that same Testament: “As surely as I live, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn away from their evil ways and live.” It seems obvious to me that in both the Old and New Testaments, the message of life over death prevails.
BRICE ROLSTON graduated in 2007 with a degree in Human Biology and, prior to attending medical school, is working as a TA and traveling with the San Francisco 49ers performing sports medicine research. CITATIONS: Clay, William L. To Kill or not to Kill: Thoughts on Capital Punishment. San Bernardino: Borgo Press, 1990. Duke, Barrett. “Capital Punishment.” For Faith and Family. Southern Baptist Convention Ethics and Religious Liberties Committee. 20 Nov. 2005 Duke, Barrett. Telephone interview. 22 Nov 2005. Escarma, Reginald E. “Capital Punishment or Death Penalty.” For Faith and Family. Southern Baptist Convention Ethics and Religious Liberties Committee. 20 Nov. 2005 Hanks, Gardner C. Against the Death Penalty: Christian and Secular Arguments Against Capital Punishment. Scottsdale: Herald Press, 1997. Holy Bible: New International Version. Colorado Springs: International Bible Society, 1984. Klouw, Robert. Telephone interview. 28 Nov 2005.
Milani, Abbas. Telephone interview. 20 Nov 2005. Pfefferman, Naomi. “Jews and the Death Penalty.” Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles 3 (2000). 10 Nov 2005 Westmoreland, Michael L., and Glenn H. Stassen. “Biblical Perspectives on the Death Penalty.” Religion and the Death Penalty: A Call for Reckoning. Ed. Owens Erk C. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2004. 123-138. “What the Hebrew Scriptures Say About the Death Penalty.” Religious Tolerance dot ORG. Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. 26 Nov. 2005 <http://www.religioustolerance. org/exe_bibl1.htm>. Zimmerman, Micheal. Telephone interview. 21 Nov 2005.
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GRACE AHERN is from Grand Junction, Colorado, and is a senior majoring in English. Her favorite pastimes are writing, playing piano and violin, and hiking.
RESTING IN THE FAMILY GRACE AHERN A few weekends ago, I went on retreat. I didn’t particularly feel the strong need to retreat - my schedule was not drowning me with work or stress. But the idea of a first ever joint retreat between the Reformed University Fellowships of Stanford, Berkeley, and Santa Barbara convinced me that Redwood Glen, a camp nested in the Redwoods of the Santa Cruz, was the place for me on that October weekend. For one, I thought it would be a testament to God’s grace to witness joyous unity between these three particular schools. And in truth, I wanted to know what it would be like to worship God with strangers with whom I had one prevailing thing in common: desire for a deeper understanding and love of Christ. In keeping with the requisite tradition of ice breakers on any good retreat, any barriers between the three schools were (violently) dispelled on the first night with three games of Wii Tennis – naturally. In an attempt to fairly determine the superior school of the three, a representative student from each took part in a Wii Tennis battle for glory. The scene was dangerous for any onlookers standing within three feet of the swishing arms of the contestants, but amidst whoops and hollers and cheers, a victor emerged. Which school claimed victory, and thus superiority, in this competition should be obvious enough, so I don’t feel the need to mention it here. Wii Tennis aside, I was surprised by a beautiful unity throughout the whole weekend. For most of us, we were meeting each other for the first time, yet I found it to be a seamless transition from the intimate Bible studies with close friends that I experience each week at Stanford, to candid discussions with relative strangers. It is easy on a college campus – perhaps especially at the “bubble” that is Stanford – to forget that the rest of the world exists, to carry on day-to-day life, content with narrow interactions. As a Christian, this is disquieting to realize. In Philippians, Paul emphasizes the importance of unity for those who follow Christ: “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil: 1:27). College communities produce dorm spirit, team spirit, student group cohesiveness, crowded football stadiums – general unity within their borders. But Christians also need to be looking outwardly. Wake up: there other college students on other campuses, students worshipping Christ with a joy, humility, and familiarity that encourages other Christians who sometimes wonder if they’re the only ones for miles around. “No man is an island, entire of itself . . . any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind …” John Donne wrote it, Simon and Garfunkel referenced it, and, of course, scripture has a thing or two to say about it: people are not meant to live this life alone. Everyone at some time or another will experience this (probably more often than we realize), and talking and worshipping together with other Christians hammered this home. I realized how much we all shared: the same confusions, the same doubts, and the same frustrations that come with being a Christian on a college campus. After our large group meeting on Saturday morning, my discussion group of three students from Berkeley and three from Stanford sat outside on a massive redwood log and began to talk. I shared some of my struggles with pride and with my desire to live up to the standards of my friends and fellow students, to fashion my whole life around someone’s opinion, to do things for glory and respect rather than doing them of out of love. Have I taken classes or joined groups because I want to live up to the Stanford Student standard of over-commitment and “success”? When one of the students from Berkeley answered with similar concerns and followed them with an exhortation to remember that we are God’s and his love for us is undying, I was blessed by both the commiseration and the hope. If we couldn’t speak with a complete and perfect understanding of God and of life, we could at least together understand the reassurances of hope in Christ. Rev. Bob Crossland spoke to us about change. We tend to form narratives for ourselves – try to work out our own story – and leave God out of the picture. As we broke into small groups to discuss our reactions, I felt like I had been with these folks for much longer than a day. Sometimes the commonality was in our very confusions – the pressures, the temptations, the sense of false security and success in adding more busyness to lives already too crowded to leave room for God. Yet these very complications brought unity. Through acknowledgment of our weaknesses God brought us together to see his goodness and grace. It’s a funny thing to arrive at a retreat convinced that you don’t need the time off to give to God. You leave wishing for nothing more than another weekend of just that.
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Fruits of the Spirit
“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.’” * * * As psychology studies repeatedly report, most individuals want to be happier, but their aims to increase their happiness frequently fall short.1 In a 1978 study, lottery winners reported happiness levels that were no different from those of individuals who hadn’t hit the jackpot.2 In fact, unlike the controls, the winners expressed that they had been happier in the past. Winning the lottery is an extreme example, but it embodies what people often look to for happiness—it can be wealth or status, a job or a degree. But both the quantitative results and the qualitative let-downs indicate that the “lottery” just doesn’t cut it. As a 1998 study confirmed, our “affective forecasting” is faulty: we tend to overestimate the happiness that future events have in store for us.3 Ultimately, though, the problem isn’t overestimation; it’s that the feeling of happiness itself doesn’t encapsulate what the human spirit really longs for. Happiness is an “all about me” philosophy that hones in only on my own here and now. Nowhere in the Bible does the Word teach us that God just wants us to be happy. When we look at what God does want for our lives, we learn that He has designed us for something much deeper. Namely, Jesus calls us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.”4 These are His commands. “If you obey my commands,” Jesus tells us, “you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”5 God invites us to experience not happiness but joy. How do we reach this wonderful promise? The inadequacy of finding joy on our own steam is especially clear in the face of hardships. “Consider it pure joy,” says James, “whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”6 So too does Paul write, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”7 How can we find joy amidst suffering? If we’re pulling our own weight, we can’t. But God did not intend for us to find joy on our own. Before his crucifixion, Jesus told his disciples, “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” “Ask and you will receive,” he says, “and your joy will be complete.”8 Jesus promises that when we choose to have a relationship with Him, God will abide in us in the form of the Holy Spirit. When we “live by the Spirit,” the Bible teaches, we will then experience Student Perspectives on Joy Joy is one thing guaranteed to be available to you regardless of your situation. I imagine God smiles when we, in the midst of a ridiculously difficult challenge (i.e. a billion midterms and problem sets) rejoice, not because we enjoy the trial, but because we know God is so totally there with us, waiting for us to finally run back into His arms and trust in Him. --Jose Vietez From time to time, I tend to forget what truly gives me joy. A catchy Italian song or a delicious meal does make me happy, but it’s only those moments of spiritual renewal or reconnection with God that give me the true, permanent joy. --Laura Huaman Joy…a way to rejoice, a way to be totally in awe of God and on a sort of spiritual high. Regardless of how it enters your life, be thankful for it, because it is a wonderfully vibrant emotion that is able to lighten the heart. --Tessa Price
the “fruit of the Spirit.” Joy is one such fruit.9 In 1 Thessalonians, Paul speaks of “the joy given by the Holy Spirit,”10 and in Luke, the Bible tells us that Jesus was “full of joy through the Holy Spirit.”11 The capacity, then, to be “joyful always” comes not from our own efforts but from the work of the Holy Spirit moving within us. “You have filled my heart with great joy,” cries David; “You…clothed me with joy.”12 He prays “to God, my joy and my delight,” and proclaims the “joy of your presence,” portraying God not only as the source of our joy, but also as the one who works within us so that we might discover the very joy that He offers.13 In Philippians Paul writes, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”14 Habakkuk too proclaims, “Though the fig tree does not bud…though the olive crop fails… yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength….”15 With God as our strength, joy is not contingent upon the circumstances that we’re faced with. “Out of the most severe trial,” writes Paul of a church in 2 Corinthians, “their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity…for they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.” “They gave themselves first to the Lord,” Paul continues, “and then to us in keeping with God’s will.”16 Be it in tribulation or triumph, when we strive to place God’s will above our own by loving God and our neighbor, then we experience the “great joy” of which the angel proclaimed on the night of Jesus’ birth. * * * In Reflections on the Psalms, C.S. Lewis writes, “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.” Psalm 30:11-12 proclaims, “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.” When Paul says, “Be joyful always,” he follows this phrase immediately with “pray continually.” What does the Bible teach us about the relationship between praise, prayer, and joy?
1. Psychology information courtesy of Professor Jeanne Tsai, Stanford; Tsai, Knutson, and Fung, 2006 2. Brickman et al., 1978 3. Gilbert et al., 1998 4. Matthew 22:37-39
5. John 15:10-11 6. James 1:2-3 7. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 8. John 16:22, 24 9. Galatians 5:16, 22 10. Galatians 1:6
11. Galatians 10:21 12. Psalm 4:7, 30:11 13. Psalm 43:4, 21:6 14. Psalm 4:12-13 15. Habakkuk 3:17-19 16. Habakkuk 8:2-5
A Biblical Perspective on Joy
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. --Psalm 100: 1-2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. --Hebrews 12:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. --James 1: 2-3 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. --1 Peter 1: 8-9
A WHISPERING SOUND NIC REINER I Kings 19:9, 11-13, 15 The pilgrim watched in awe as the wind lifted the birds like they were plastic bags. He watched as it sliced the branches and the trees, ruptured the mountaintop with sharp gusts. Watched as the wind swirled, gathered speed, screamed at him. Watched as it scared even the rocks, as it blasted them like dynamite. After the wind, he felt the earth beneath him awaken. The boulders around his feet danced. The roots that held the trees to the dirt snapped, abandoned by those trees that now caressed the sky. He swayed with the earth, trembled as he fell to the rhythm of the tremors. After the earthquake, a fire engulfed the cliffs. Enveloping the ravine, the fire spit smoke into the valley punishing the green plants and the branches that hung lifelessly on the trees. The harpoon-like flames rose above the pilgrim and attacked the dry brush clutching the still ground. After the fire, the pilgrim heard a tiny whispering sound. He looked at the rubble around him, saw what had been destroyed and hid his face in his cloak. The voice said, â€œWhy are you here?â€? The pilgrim heard the voice, looked down at his hands, saw what had not been destroyed and set out down the mountain toward the road.
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DELUSIONAL ? JESSY KLIMA
“You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.” – St. Augustine On October 8th, 2008, Cardinal Life sponsored an event called “The Journey: A transcendence in the persons of G.K. Thinker’s Quest for Meaning - Os Guinness & Is Faith Delusional? - Michael Chesterton and C.S. Lewis, both atheists who slowly found their faith Ramsden.” This article is a response to that discussion. “The world of reason and explanation is not the world of reality.” It is a familiar notion – the awkward dichotomy between what we believe and what we know how to express; the disparity between the mind’s reality and the realm of everyday existence in which one is expected to function. Michael Ramsden’s introduction to the question of “Is faith delusional?” referred to Jean-Paul Sartre’s 1938 existentialist novel, Nausea, which explores the conflict between an individual’s consciousness and the dictates of the “real” world. Philosophy, as Ramsden explains, demands the use of argument to establish an absolute truth about reality, but where does reason come from in a world that assumes an objective truth does not exist? And how does faith contribute to the reality which we experience? The popular definition of faith, which presupposes that one chooses to believe something that might not be true, easily devolves into suggestions of delusion. Choices and beliefs, components of the “fuzzy” realm of the mind, can be distant cousins to actual, concrete existence. Ramsden answers this by
pointing to the Biblical notion of faith as a gift from God rather than a mere decision. “Do I have faith or do I not have faith?” is a misplaced question; faith is ours for the taking. The only question or choice therein is whether or not you will accept the gift. Os Guinness followed Ramsden’s introduction, and negation of faith as delusion, with the observation that many people at elite universities fail to understand the historical and present significance of faith, or the intellectual basis of it. To find the objective truth that allows for belief in God, Guinness outlined a roadmap of the four phases of “The Journey” – the interim between birth and death, which he describes as a time for the thinking person to truly dissect life and find evidences for what one believes. The journey begins with a time for questions. As humans, we are naturally disposed to ask questions, but looking for answers as a “seeker” is a much more deliberate act. Doing so requires you to puncture your own worldview, to start disbelieving what you have passively assumed to be true. Guinness points to wellknown examples of this type of
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through reasoning. So why aren’t we always seeking? Guinness explains that a true search for answers necessarily involves wrestling with our own mortality, which is a difficult thing for people to engage with. We look for diversions, to be “tranquilized by the trivial”, or we decide that mortality is something that can be dealt with later. The very difficult nature of the first step is why, Guinness explains, many have yet to begin their journey. Once the seeking has begun, finding the answers, in all their variations, constitutes a distinct second phase. One example is the conceptual struggle of an individual finding an identity that is not ascribed but achieved. Some eastern religions consider the highest form of freedom to be an achievement of “non-self” – a separation or liberation from individuality. Secularists will claim that there is no meaning other than what you yourself create. However, the Biblical answer to the search for identity reminds us that we have a personal God who has created us in His image, and that this, in itself, is a calling to become who we have been made to be. Ultimately, looking for answers involves a confrontation with absolutes – does life have 17
meaning or does it not? Are humans inherently evil? Deciding on the most satisfying answer to riddles like these necessarily involves a movement into the third phase of Guinness’s journey – a time for justifications. Gathering evidences for the answers you have found, so that you have a why. For many who find their foundation within the framework of a solid religious upbringing, this seems to be a common stumbling block. When you have been handed the answers, how do you learn to defend what you believe? Have you circumvented “the journey” because it seemed like there were no questions left to be answered? The road can be populated by many people who influence us, but the essence of the journey is in its individual, solitary nature. Shortcuts, offered by the recycled wisdom of others, detract from, rather than supplement, the experience. The final phase involves a time for commitment – dedicating yourself to
what you have found as your own reasons for believing. The difficulty of doing this lies in having to bend your desires to the truth, rather than the other way around. The false sense of liberation that comes from neglecting this crucial step makes the journey impossible to complete. Armed with the gift of faith, freely given by a God of grace, and an awareness of the task we are faced with in the interim between our beginnings and ends, the realms of the mind and of existence seem to find common ground. Along the way, there is a dawning awareness that what others have discounted as delusional thoughts are not just thinkable, they are also livable. Guinness noted near the end of his talk that society today seems to regard the concept of a journey as a hopeful wandering. But that isn’t good enough, he says. Make sure that when you wander, you actually get somewhere.
JESSY KLIMA is a senior from San Diego, California studying international health & infectious disease. She feels blessed to be involved with the vision of Vox Clara and its inspiring staff.
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ABOUT THE SPEAKERS: MICHAEL RAMSDEN is the European Director of the Ravi Zacharias International Ministries Trust and a lecturer in Christian Apologetics at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University. He grew up in the Middle East, later returning to the UK to study at Sheffield University where he taught Moral Philosophy. DR. OS GUINNESS is the co-founder of The Trinity Forum and has been a Guest Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Studies as well as at the Brookings Institution. He has been author or editor of more than twenty books, motivated by the ambition of bridging the gap between academic and popular knowledge.
AN INTERVIEW WITH GUINNESS
AND RAMSDEN SAMANTHA MCGIRR
Vox Clara interviewed Dr. Guinness and Michael Ramsden after their talk on the Q: Now there’s a movement towards making the Church trendy, but you’ve Stanford campus. The following is a transcript of that interview. Questions for Dr. Guinness: What advice do you have for us Christians on campus, given the strong influence of postmodernist thought on intellectual discourse? GUINNESS: There are three great issues for the Church in the West, and they can be summed up in three words: integrity, credibility, and civility. Integrity deals with the question of whether we have faithfulness in the modern world, which has in many ways distorted the Christian faith. Credibility is the particular challenge of the Church to the university world: do we have articulation of the faith that is persuasive to educated people? As for civility, we live in a world with many different people from a variety of backgrounds, so can we have respect for those differences? Q: Regarding civility, you spent part of your childhood in China and have been exposed to a variety of different cultures. As students, we know and interact with people from many cultures and who have different sets of values. In such a pluralistic world, how do we show the relevance of Jesus to all people?
GUINNESS: Civility involves the question of how we get on in the public square, and there are three visions of how this is done in America. The first is the sacred public square, where you privilege one faith, which is obviously unjust to people of all other faiths. And when the religious right pushes for this, there’s a huge reaction against the Church. The other extreme is the naked public square, where a secularist removes all religion from public life. I would argue for a civil public square, where people of all faiths are free to engage in public life on the basis of their faith but in a framework of what’s understood to be right for people of other faiths too. I think America should model a civil public square for the rest of the world. As to how we relate to others, as followers of Jesus, we love everyone. We have to listen to people and discover where they’re coming from and what their aspirations are, and then relate the Gospel to wherever this man, woman, or child is coming from. With a world as diverse as ours, it’s more difficult than it has been in the past, but it’s not impossible.
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argued that this actually makes us more irrelevant. How do strike a balance?
GUINNESS: Part of the character of the modern world is its view of time. Modern people tend to ignore the past and get obsessed with the future. Actually, the future is coming towards us at warp speed and we concentrate only on the present, so we idolize things like relevance. We want the latest and greatest; everything else is so yesterday. For example, innovation is an American buzzword. I once heard an economist say the most innovative thing in the financial world in the past twenty years has been subprime mortgage derivatives. They were innovative, but disastrous. Many Christians don’t tend to consider whether innovation is good or bad, whether it’s Biblical or non-Biblical. They just encourage thinking out of the box. They don’t think critically. That’s the challenge: to remain Biblically faithful while still engaged in the modern world. Questions for Michael Ramsden: There’s definitely a hunger for apologetics, but it’s hard to learn about your faith these days in Christian schools and universities. 19
What needs to change? RAMSDEN: We live in a culture that believes there are no answers, and, if there are no answers, then what’s the point of asking the questions? We don’t even know what the questions are. Therefore, we’re not thinking as we should. But if you actually look, there are some amazing answers to these difficult questions. They’re out there, but they need to be read or listened to or studied. We really need to encourage people to do that because that will make a massive difference. I think churches are starting to realize there’s a hunger because, whenever someone comes in and starts answering these questions, nobody wants to leave.
And I also think many of our church leaders, going through university, weren’t forced to think about that themselves. One needs to ask “How do I think about my Christian faith in relation to the world while I’m in the world?” Q: You’re the director of ministry for RZIM in Europe right now. Where do you see Europe going spiritually in the next fifty years? RAMSDEN: If population trends are extrapolated, Europe will be the most Muslim continent in the next fifty years. The response of some is that we need to secularize Europe, and that will inoculate us against Islamic ideology. Christians say
SAMANTHA MCGIRR is a sophomore majoring in English and minoring in Human Biology. In her spare time, she enjoys running, tutoring middle school students, and watching reality television.
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that the Christian gospel had a part in giving birth to the spore of democracy, so let’s recover that. It’s hard to say because there’s a huge interest in God, as well as a great openness, so anything could happen. We could end up with a secularized Europe, or an Islamicized Europe, or there could be a Christian Renaissance, and Europe could be a strong Christian continent again. Making a prediction is very hard because anyone who’s studied history knows all sorts of events can happen that can cause trends to shift very rapidly. No one predicted the fall of the Berlin Wall three or four years before it fell, but certainly a series of things happened very rapidly, and the change was huge.
UNCHAINING THE MIND JOSE ARMANDO PEREZ-GEA
On October 9th, Stanford AHA! hosted an event titled: “Away with All Gods: Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World” as part of a national tour promoting Bob Avakian’s provocative book of the same title. This article is a response to the discussion. Stanford Atheists, Humanists and Agnostics (a.k.a. AHA!... the acronyms that our organizations create never cease to amuse me) invited Sunsara Taylor to speak about how believing in God is dangerous for humanity. Taylor started by narrating her life story, how she was a Christian when she was young, her first doubts in high school, and her first encounter with an atheist. The only thing that she remembers from that experience is the pity she felt for the atheist, “I felt so sorry for that woman. She was missing out on meaning, she was missing out on morality, she was missing out on awe and wonder, she was missing out on humility, and most of all she was missing out on salvation.” After the laughter of the audience, Taylor presented her current beliefs on why religious people are missing out on life. I will go over her beliefs one by one. “Most people on this planet are missing out [on being atheists].” True; most people in the world consider themselves members of a religion. “They are missing out on a rational understanding of the world, why it is the way it is.” False; some of the greatest scientists through history were deeply religious, such as Descartes, Newton, Einstein and
Francis Collins, the recently retired head of the Human Genome Project. “They are missing out on the method of science and the process for discovering things about the world and opening up new mysteries and the awesomeness and wondrousness that comes with that.” False; the first Western European universities were created with Papal authority from monasteries and cathedrals, and indeed the scientific method grew from the monotheistic concept of an intelligently created universe which could be rationally studied. “And they are missing out on the meaning of morality that can be found upon actually understanding the world.” False; religions as a group have developed some of the most advanced systems of morality and ethics based on millennia of understanding the world. After listing a number of tragedies and evil actions, from wars to terrorism, Taylor continues by presenting one of her strongest reasons for atheism. “Day after day, we learn of all kinds of terrible tragedies that would make no sense if there were an all-knowing, allpowerful, and loving God looking over and looking out for human beings.” This question has been
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raised throughout Christian history. The most convincing explanation that I have been able to discover is based on the question of why God created us. God, because of His infinite love, decided to share with us the most precious gift, His love. So that we can achieve this most perfect love, God gave us the freedom necessary so that we can choose to love Him. It is this free will that allows us to do evil actions. And even if God can strip us of this gift at pleasure; without the gift we would be unable to love Him, and therefore the purpose of our existence would no longer be achievable. As Taylor mentioned during her presentation, if God were the author of all the evils that our free wills commit, then God
Humans, according to the Biblical narrative, are set apart from the rest of God’s creation because God made them in His image.
“would indeed be a vicious, sick, twisted, and truly monstrous God. There is no sane or decent person who would want to bow down to such a god or follow such a god and it is very fortunate that no such god exists, and very liberating to finally come to that realization.” Are we not fortunate that our loving God created us to share in His love and graced us with the free will necessary to love Him? 21
A friend told me an allegory that would be perfect for this conversation. A man once went to a barber to have his hair cut, and in the midst of their conversation, the barber told the man, “I don’t see how God could exist; every day I walk down the streets to get here, and I see robbery, poverty, suffering, disease, and suffering; if a loving God were up there, surely He would eliminate these things.” The man thought for a moment, and replied, “I don’t see how barbers could exist; every day I walk down the streets to get here, and I see men with long hair and scraggly beards; if barbers really existed, surely they would cut the hair of these men.” Just as going to the barber to get our hair cut is an act of our free will, so loving God and His creation is also an act of our free will. I have often wondered why some people like to quote out of context. While it might be excusable when a person skims a book, it’s inappropriate when a person is trying to critique
one. Taylor stresses in her talk an out-of-context quote from the fifth chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. As is commonly done, Taylor quotes verses 22-24: “Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord…” skipping verse 21, “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.” She insisted that this proved Christian discrimination against women. It is a shame that she did not read the next verse, 25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” or the next eight verses after that, which deal with the way in which the husband is to submit to the wife. Recall that Christ loved the church to the point of death. If this intensity of love is not a high expectation, then I do not know what is. However, there is one part of Taylor’s beliefs that gives me immense hope. “[T]he sense that people have of looking out at the world and seeing the suffering, the poverty, the disease, the wars,
the rape; all of these needless and harmful things people do to each other. People do have a desire for a way to be good in the midst of this; and that is very important, and I think that can be a source of fuel for profoundly good things.” If the self-professed “militant atheist”, who spends her time crusading against religion, believes that there is an innate nature in humans that guides us to do good, then she believes in a universal good. God has been called many things through Christian history; Divine Providence, the Trinity, the Truth, the Beautiful, and also the Good. Our Father loves us too much to care which of His names we use to refer to Him. And if one of His beloved children decides to obey Him by thinking of Him as the Good (which God unquestionably is) and doing what the Good through her conscience tells her to do, then I am sure that God will be guiding her as a loving Father guiding His child.
Citations for Davenport Article: Augustine. “Lectures or Tractates on the Gospel According to St. John.” Nicene and PostNicene Fathers, First Series. Vol 7. Trans. John Gibbs. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1888. Chesterton, G.K. Orthodoxy. p. 167. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1995. Chrysostom, John. “Homilies on S. Ignatius and S. Babylas” Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series. Vol 9. Trans. W.R.W. Stephens. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1886. Chrysostom, John. “Homilies of St John Chrysostom on the First Epistles of St. Paul the Apostle
to the Thessalonians.” Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series. Vol 13. Trans. John A. Broadus. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1886. Holy Bible. Revised Standard Edition Ignatius. “Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans.” Ante-Nicene Fathers. Vol 1. Trans. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1885. McNamara, Jo Ann. Sisters in Arms: Catholic Nuns Through Two Millennia. p. 689-690. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996. The Sixteen Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne. Accessed 10 Nov. 2008. <http://www.catholicapologetics.info/library/onlinelibrary/martyrs.htm>
JOSE ARMANDO PEREZ-GEA is a junior majoring in Political Science and Public Policy, with a secondary major in Economics. Los Angeles, Mexico City and London are a few of the places he calls home.
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HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES ON JOY MICHAEL DAVENPORT These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:11
WHILE SPEAKING TO HIS DISCIPLES DURING THE LAST SUPPER, JESUS TELLS THEM THAT HIS TEACHING AND ministry, which is about to lead him to be arrested and crucified, is meant to bring them great joy. Christians have always embraced this paradox of Christ’s Passion and his joy, and seen the results of his promise to make their joy full in the fruit of his death and resurrection. They have always understood that true joy comes from the promise of encountering God in heaven, and that any earthly joy is a reflection of that heavenly promise. No earthly sorrow can shake their confidence in it. Even before Christ, joy was intimately connected with God for the Jewish people. Numerous Psalms call on the Israelites to “Make a joyful noise to God” (66:1) or ask God to “Restore to me the joy of thy salvation” (51:12) when they had gone astray or were suffering, in addition to many other Old Testament references to God as the source of joy. But as with so many aspects of Jewish tradition, Christ shines new light on the subject of joy by his teachings. After sending out seventy of his disciples in pairs to prepare the towns for his coming, they return rejoicing that “even the demons are subject to us in your name!” His reaction is telling,
“Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.“ In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea Father, for such was thy gracious will” (Luke 10:20-21). Jesus first makes a point of placing the source of all our joy in our hope for salvation in heaven, a tradition carried on by Christians throughout the ages. Then he himself reacts with joy, the only specific mention of Christ rejoicing in the Gospels, to the fact that they have the hope of heaven. St. Augustine drives this point home when commenting on the verse from John 15 above, “And what else is Christ’s joy in us, save that he is pleased to rejoice over us? And what is this joy of ours which he says is to be made full, but our having fellowship with him?” (Tractates 83) He goes on to say that Christ’s joy is united to true Christian joy, in that both have their source in the grace
Stanford Journal of Christian Thought
he bestows. Christ’s most startling teaching on joy comes in the midst of many such teachings during the Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven” (Luke 6:22-23). Here so many earthly discomforts are not only to be endured, but to be rejoiced over. This is the truth of the radical joy of Christianity; its foundation is so secure that no earthly threat can shake it. With confidence in the salvation won by Christ in his Death and Resurrection, the early Christians were able to face bloody persecution, not begrudgingly but with great joy. The accounts of the joy of the early martyrs, beginning with Stephen and including Peter and Paul and most of the Apostles, confused and confounded the Jewish and Roman peoples after them. One such example is St. Ignatius of Antioch, the bishop of that city, who was sentenced to be devoured by beasts before the people of Rome. He continued to teach and write letters on his way to Rome, looking forward to his martyrdom and telling the Christians in Rome, “I shall willingly die for God, 23
unless you hinder me. I beseech of you not to show an unseasonable good-will towards me. Suffer me to become food for the wild beasts, through whose instrumentality it will be granted me to attain to God. I am the wheat of God, and let me be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ” (Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans 4). St. John Chrysostom later, in preaching on this early martyr, described his effect on fellow Christians by saying, “They derived no little comfort when they saw the martyr hastening to death with so much readiness, as is consistent in one called to the realms which are in the heavens, and by means of the works themselves, by the readiness and by the joyousness of that noble man, that it was not death to which he was hastening, but a kind of long journey and migration from this world, and ascension to heaven” (Homily on St. Ignatius 4). This joyousness in martyrdom is not unique to Ignatius or the early church but is a constant thread throughout Christian history, even to today. A more modern example is the joyful song of sixteen Carmelite nuns as they were marched to the guillotine during the French Revolution: “Give over our hearts to joy, the day of glory has arrived, Far from us all weakness, seeing the standard come; We prepare for the victory, we all march to the true conquest, Under the flag of the dying God we run, we all seek the glory; Rekindle our ardor, our bodies are
the Lord’s, We climb, we climb the scaffold and give ourselves back to the Victor.” Sung to the familiar tune of the Marseillaise the nuns stunned and quieted the normally raucous onlookers as they were joyfully and willingly executed for refusing to give up their vows. These two examples of responding in joy to the sentence of death have been multiplied many times in the history of the Church and, added to the countless other smaller sufferings borne joyfully by Christians throughout history, they paint a vibrant picture of heavenly joy in the face of earthly torment. It is not the teaching of Christ to actively seek suffering, since suffering in itself is not the source of joy. Since the days Christ walked the earth, Christians have always sought to alleviate the suffering of those around them. In a homily on 1 Thessalonians, St. John Chrysostom draws out the true relationship of suffering and joy. “They have afflicted you, he says, and persecuted you, but the Spirit did not forsake you, even in those circumstances… [I]t was not of the nature of affliction to produce joy, but of the suffering for Christ’s sake, and of the Spirit bedewing them, and in the furnace of temptation setting them at ease. Not merely with joy, he says, but “with much joy.” For this is of the Holy Spirit” (Homilies on First Thessalonians 1:6). So while suffering is not naturally a source of joy and of itself can drive a person to despair, suffering
borne for Christ’s sake, following His example on the Cross, brings the grace of the Holy Spirit on the afflicted, refreshing them and reminding them of their true joy in heaven. Yet this suffering is not simply overwhelmed by grace making room for joy; it is transformed into something effective. St. Paul wrote to the Colossians, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col 1:24). Even though Christ’s sacrifice is far beyond anything any person could offer and more than sufficient for the salvation of the world, suffering for His sake has some real benefit for the body of Christ, the Church, and in this Christians can find great joy. Throughout Christian history, it has constantly been taught that true Christian joy is centered on Christ’s joy, the joy of salvation. As he told the disciples in that upper room, this joy of salvation was made full by the grace of God, through Christ’s death and resurrection. Christians can take great joy in the pleasures and beauty of this world, as they reflect the beauty of the Creator. When those natural joys seem lost there is a deeper source of true joy, which may even be increased by accepting the loss of human comforts. In his book Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton compares this Christian joy to that of the ancient pagan who took great joy in the things of this world, but in the “core of the cosmos he is struck cold,” like many modern thinkers of his day and ours. He concludes that “Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian” (Orthodoxy 9).
MICHAEL DAVENPORT is a graduate student in Physics, who enjoys playing all types of sports, particularly ultimate frisbee. 24
Vox Clara, Vol. II, Issue 1
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Thank you for reading Vox Clara. It is our sincere hope that you come away enlightened about Christianity. Whether you are a skeptic, seeker, or believer, we encourage you to continue exploring the faith. We leave you with these closing thoughts.
Hence joy is not a virtue distinct from charity, but an act, or effect, of charity: for which reason it is numbered among the Fruits. - Thomas Aquinas
And what else is Christâ€™s joy in us, save that He is pleased to rejoice over us? And what is this joy of ours which He says is to be made full, but our having fellowship with Him? - Augustine
Nothing you can do can make God love you more. Nothing you can do can make God love you less. - Mark Burlingame
Blessed shall you be when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of manâ€™s sake. Be glad in that day and rejoice; for behold, your reward is great in heaven. - Luke 6:22-23a 27
Published on Mar 4, 2009
The Autumn '08 Issue of Vox Clara, a journal at Stanford University dedicated to exploring the intersection of Christian thought and contemp...