All Things Shining is a Wicked Book Indeed

Dreyfus and Kelly (D&K) connect their book, All Things Shining, with Melville’s book, Moby Dick.  Right underneath the title on the cover is a little image of a whale and Moby Dick is referenced throughout the book and they devote a full chapter to Melville’s whale tale right before the concluding chapter.  In All Things Shining, D&K lament that today’s secular age is remise of sacredness – missing all the shining things of a sacred world.  Their claim is that the lives of Homer’s Greeks and the Christians of Dante’s time lived lives rife with meaning in a bright and shining world – unlike our world today, which is an abyss of dark nothingness (nihilism).  Melville has shown D&K the way back into the bright lights of yore through Moby Dick, the book that Melville recognized to be a “wicked book,” but one that left him feeling as spotless as a lamb after having written it.  (143)[1] The “evil art” of Melville is rather obscure in his writing, and he might not have even consciously known what the wickedness was that he had written, and even D&K who seem to know exactly what the hidden evil of Moby Dick is struggle to clearly name it as they sift the lives and motives of the characters on the “hunt for the mighty sperm whale.”[2]  The way forward as discovered by Ishmael in Moby Dick is to find your own polytheistic truths and live in them in joy and in sorrow. (188)  Though D&K try to hide their malevolence in lengthy, rambling, quote-filled chapters, they directly call for an all-embracing dive into an old-school life of polytheism within our modern, technologically driven age.  They give this invitation void of any moral compass besides one’s own passions and subjective standard of morality.  I sense that what D&K have written is far more wicked than what Melville wrote because they directly call us to surrender ourselves to the gods – to be carried away (whooshed up) by them to wherever they want to carry us before the drop that will inevitably come as the sacred wave crashes. (220)

Mastodon Leviathan Album 2
This image reveals more of the complete picture of Mastodon’s Leviathan album that is a concept-album based on Melville’s Moby Dick

 

This “whooshing up,” D&K say, is when “[t]he most important things, the most real things in Homer’s world, well up and take us over, hold us for a while, and then finally, let us go” (200).  The name for this in Homeric times was the word physis which “was the name for the way the most real things in the world present themselves to us” (200).  D&K consider this whooshing up to be the sacred breaking into our world and shining for all to see and they explain that “[w]hen something whooshes up it focuses and organizes everything around it…” so that “everyone understands who they are and what they are to do immediately in relation to the sacred event that is occurring” (201).  Of course, the best that they can come up with as an example in our modern age is sporting events, when some player does something unimaginable during play… I guess I’ve just never been whooshed up when watching others play sports.  I have had such wooshing experiences at live rock shows in small clubs (when a crowd wide mosh pit erupts in unison or everyone’s face melts at a guitar solo that must be from the rock gods on high – though I’ve never had this moment at an arena or large festival show though – only small, shoulder to shoulder club shows, so I can kind of get what D&K are talking about in terms of responding in a way without thought to the physis overtaking the bystanders).

D&K’s focus seems to be on the wooshing that takes over a group of people as one individual in their midst is wooshed up by the gods.  They do not entertain the individual being struck by the sacred in a moment of isolation in nature (maybe floating in the middle of lake under the star lit sky) or while reading a book or watching a movie alone or laying on the floor listening to an album start to finish with headphones on and eyes closed – these are the times that I am overcome the most by a force outside myself that I could recognize to be sacred.  I don’t quite understand why their focus is on all things shining in crowds – apart from sports giving people a communal meaning their main wooshing up example was Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech on the National Mall.

This group response is where their evil really lies… because they have no absolute and objective standard of morality in their polytheistic endeavor.  D&K admit that there can be madness in the crowds, but they say we must be courageous and leap in to experience this polytheistic path. (220)  They understand that things can get turnt[3] “in new and more shining and meaningful ways” or maybe… “Sometimes, by contrast, one dances with the devil” (220).  Because we’re just getting wooshed up (overtaken by a force of the gods) in their paradigm of finding meaning, they explain that it is “[o]nly by having been taken over by the fanatical leader’s totalizing rhetoric, and [after having] experienced the dangerous and devastating consequences it has, does one learn to discriminate between leaders worth following and those upon whom one must turn one’s back” (220).

That final statement is brutally wicked.  Was Germany whooshed up by Hitler?  Um… Yeah.  But what if Germany had won the war?  Would Hitler then have been “the devil” when we know that the victor writes the history books?  Were many whooshed up into a violent frenzy during the multi-day LA Race Riots?  Um… Yeah.  Was the violence, arson, and looting justified?  Who gets to decide and why?  Were many whooshed up when they followed Jim Jones into his Kool-Aid suicide massacre?  Um… Yeah, and many realized they danced with the devil, but the doors were blocked by gunmen and it was too late to find a different partner to woosh them up into a new and shining dance.  Was Ishmael and the others whooshed up by Captain Ahab’s fanaticism to kill the beast?  Um… Yeah, but only Ishmael survived the whoosh!

The people who got whooshed in the examples I just provided were people who, according to D&K, hadn’t yet “acquired the skill” to let themselves “be overwhelmed” by the gods yet possess the “discrimination” to keep themselves from getting “drawn in by the rhetoric of the fanatical and dangerous demagogue” (221).   But remember, there is no way to “acquire this skill” until one has already “been taken over by the fanatical leader’s totalizing rhetoric, and experienced the dangerous and devastating consequence’s it has” (220).  An “evil art” indeed.

What D&K are selling is still essentially nihilism, which is what they are trying avoid, since they recognize nihilism fails to provide meaning in life.  They don’t et that their pitch is still nihilism.

By what standard is one to know if he is dancing with the devil or with the gods?  These whooshing forces were never all good in the Greek pantheon of the gods.  And since D&K aren’t really asking us to accept the Greek gods as being real, again I’ll ask the question but in a slightly different way, by what standard are we to judge what is good and what is evil?  The standard is one’s own opinion.  We can pick and choose what we follow..  In the end, this is still nihilism, a nihilism that has each man be his own god… because it’s truly each individual person who gets to say what whoosh is right and what whoosh is wrong, or if there is even a whoosh to be had at all.

What happens when there are two whooshing parties who come into direct contradiction with one another in terms of who they are and what they are to do and they each consider the other party to be whooshed by the devil?  Well here, we just landed back at what D&K want to avoid, sitting in the contemporary world with “no ground for choosing one course of action over any other” (15).   They offer that there are many gods that can whoosh us up and let us see the shiny good things as they really are, but we’re the final judges of what is shining or not.  Since we’re still the judges of what is right and wrong and what is sacred and shining in the D&K model of finding meaning in life, they’re still dealing the Nietzsche pill of being free to do what we whilt, which I prefer to label as Anton LaVey chose to name it – Satanism.  And in this label, we get the grandest understanding of how evil D&K’s book is – All Things Shining – because as Christians we know that Satan dances among us as an angel of light.  (2 Corinthians 11:14)

Satan deceives through telling lies, but his lies are tricky to recognize, because they’re steeped in truth.  In other words, his lies come to us in partial truths.  It is in this sense that I do try to approach all things as shining.  Every worldview and every culture and every religion and every zeitgeist has some elements of truth within them – I’m rather certain of this.  Christians would do good to point these truths out from time to time.  Since Christ’s claim is true that he is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), then all truth is God’s truth, no matter where it is found.  Where truth is found, declare it, use it, put it in its full context of which it is fully and directly revealed from God in the Bible.  The Apostle Paul did this when he quoted the philosophers of the Athenians (Acts 17).  We can do this too, but we must realize that when we seek the shiny things in life in this manner, we must always cling to the truth of Christ so that we are not deceived into the lie that all is one, and one is all, and that all that glitters is gold.[4]

The nuggets of truth that I am referring to that permeate all of the world are reflections of the Creator within his Creation.  In the Christian account of everything the world is now fallen from its very good original state at creation, but that does not mean that all is now evil within it… there is much that is good and much to be enjoyed and praised and thankful for within God’s world.  Through man’s natural knowledge that there is a God, known from what he has created, from God’s law written on the hearts of all men, and from God’s love for all of his creation in which he showers both the righteous and the wicked with good gifts in this temporal realm, the sacred things of beauty and truth bubble up all around us.  It is in this sense that I highly appreciate D&K’s call for us all to develop the “skills for responding to the manifold senses of the sacred that still linger unappreciated at the margins of our disenchanted world” (222).  It is here in the margins that I have seen people tend to embrace and enjoy the full freedom of being who they want to be, being their own god creating their own little kingdoms, and with their creative juices unstifled by the restrictions and conformity of society they really do shine and stand out among the herd, and people are drawn to such whooshed up individuals and they find their identity and meaning in such communities.   From my Christian perspective, they are letting the image of God that they bare (as broken as it may be) shine as they show off their creative abilities and flair, as they reflect their Creator that they may not personally know in the slightest.

In this way, all things are shining for a time.  Apart from God, however, there is no light – only darkness.  And God’s patience is running out.

 

[1] All parenthetical numbers are references to the page numbers within All Things Shining by Dreyfus and Kelly that was published in 2011 by Free Press.

[2] A line I stole from the epic song, “Nantucket Sleighride” by Mountain.

[3] Slang for “get really wasted and have a ton of fun” according to Urban Dictionary, but I’ve heard it used by many in Gen Z to refer to something very akin to getting whooshed up in a communal sense (and it sounds so much more lit to get turnt than to get whooshed).

[4] “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin lyric reference.

The Christian Account of Everything Compared to Naturalism’s Account of Everything

This blog post will compare two worldviews: the Christian account of everything and the account of everything according to naturalism.  These two worldviews will be compared in four categories: view of the Creator, view of creation and Creator-creature relations, view of salvation, and the ethical implications for creation from these previous viewpoints.

Transhumanism

View of the Creator

According to the Christian account of everything, God has always existed; he is eternal and exists in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  All things that now exist came into existence out of nothing through the Father’s spoken word and are held together by his Son.  (Genesis 1-3, John 1:1-4, Colossians 1:15-20, and Hebrews 1:1:-4)  The narrative of Creation in Genesis (as well as the rest of Scripture) indicates that God is a personal being who was very much involved in the creation of all things.  This is indicated by the design and plan of the days of creation, in which God created in a particular order of creating boundary markers within his creation with a progression of creating life within those boundaries for the care and safety of his creatures (Day 1 – Light and Darkness/Day 4 – Heavenly Bodies, Day 2 – Land, Sky, Water/Day 5 – Creatures of the Sky and Water, Day 3 – Vegetation on the Land/Day 6 – Creatures of the Land, including humanity).  He is still very active in his care for his creation.

According to naturalism’s account of everything, all things have arisen purely by blind chance.  Order has come out of chaos.  Life has come from non-life.  Minds have come from mindless matter.  Laws of nature have simply emerged (or have always been) and are assumed to be held in consistency by nature itself.  Nature is all that there has been, all that there is, and all that there ever will be, though this cannot be empirically observed, it is a position held on faith that nature when given enough time will impersonally bring about all that we currently experience through a process named natural selection.  In short there, is no Creator.

View of Creation and Creator-Creature Relations

One’s view of nature is directly tied to one’s view of the Creator.  In the Christian account of everything, nature is best understood as having been created with a proper distinction between it (creation) and the Creator.  The Christian view of creation comes from what God has divinely revealed in his Word about his creation, which is that his creation was originally created – very good!  God’s creation as it stands now is not as God intended it to be.  Through the free-agency of his creatures (first by Satan and his angelic followers and Adam and Eve and now us) who rebelled against God’s will for his creation (the boundary markers of the law that were set out of love for the safety and well-being of all God created), creation itself has been wrecked with sin, death, and evil and stands far from the very good origins of God’s creation.

According to naturalism’s account of everything, all is chaotic and in a state of constant change.  Naturalists who hold true to their account of everything must admit that there is no purpose or meaning in a world that is the product of mindless, random selection, and constant motion.  There is no Creator-creation distinction/relationship; all is nature; all is matter.

View of Salvation

The Christian account of everything has a view of salvation in which God enters into his creation through his Son who became a part of creation through his assumption of a human nature into his personhood.  It is through the Son that God has reconciled all of creation to himself and it is through his Son that one day all things will be restored to God’s original plan (theologian’s debate if this will be a recreation of creation or a new creation, something akin to a Creation 2.0, but it is clear in Scripture that all things will be made new at Christ’s return with a freedom from sin, death, and the devil forever for those who are God’s children through their faith in the Son and his saving work!). (Revelation 21-22)

It is in the view of salvation that naturalists take many divides.  Some naturalists are intellectually honest with their account of all things and recognize that death is the finality of one’s conscience existence; there is no salvation; there is no life after death.  Such naturalists may tend to find a form of salvation in living one’s best life now (YOLO – “You only live once.”).  Anton LaVey’s philosophy of Satanism is an example of this naturalistic view of the world and life and is the prescription for how to best live this life to one’s maximum pleasure.  LaVeyan Satanism is very much hedonistic materialism in which salvation is found in a freedom from social and religious constraints that hinder one from indulging in their carnal desires.

For other naturalists, salvation is found in evolution, an ever occurring progression of improvement (or that is the hoped-in product of nature’s constant state of change – improvement of life).  Some have taken up an active role in this evolutionary progress and have embraced transhumanism – a movement that actively seeks to speed evolution to a new humanity through the joining of human life with technology.  Transhumanism’s highest aim is the implantation of one’s mind into a machine so that one’s consciousness can “live on forever” beyond the limitations of one’s physical body of death.  This is a form of material salvation, though it betrays the fact that one is more than mere physical matter, because transhumanism’s salvation is ultimately found in the preservation of one’s immaterial consciousness.

Ethical Implications

In the Christian account of everything, God is the ultimate standard of morality.  He is good, and it is from God’s eternal state of immutability that we can appeal to an absolute standard of right and wrong for Creation.  For humanity’s ethical role in the grand scheme of all of creation, God has placed us here to be stewards of his creation.  We are to use our God given abilities, including our reasoning capabilities, to care for God’s creation and to cultivate it to its betterment out of love for God and for our neighbors and for our fellow creatures.

In the naturalism’s account of everything, there again is a divide that occurs depending on one’s view of salvation.  For the naturalist who recognizes that there is no salvation; ethics is boiled down to the four-word mantra of Allister Crowley (the Beast) and Anton LaVey, “Do What Thou Wilt.”  There is no God above, no hell below; eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we all die!  For the naturalist who sees salvation in evolution, ethics becomes utilitarian- what best serves survival.  This survival could be centered on the whole of humanity, within a particular collective of humanity, or within the individual.  There is no standard of absolute right and wrong, morality is subjective.

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89. Re: You Are CONTRADICTing Jesus

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Andy responds to an email he received from a lady claiming that he is CONTRADICTing Jesus by saying other religions are wrong.

Here’s the email:

“Hello! My name is Summer; I’m a woman from Oregon. After reading about the Contradict movement, I do have a couple comments/questions for you. I do believe that you are CONTRADICTing the teachings of Jesus; it seems that you are saying Christianity should be the only religion on planet earth. Thing is, Jesus taught that we need to coexist with everyone on the planet. Matthew 22:39 says to love your neighbor as you love yourself. That’s just one verse out of many of the teachings of Jesus that says to not persecute others based on the things that they have done or are currently partaking in.

If you truly wanted to convert people to Christianity, you would have patience with those that do not agree. Shunning them and telling them their way of thinking is wrong is not how to break through to anyone.

It is very confusing to me that after reading the Bible, and the words of Jesus, that you think “it would be wonderful if you could simply (and legally) replace all those COEXIST bumper stickers with another that reads CONTRADICT.” That’s the opposite of what is expected of Christians.

Christians are “persecuted” because of things like this; it makes it look like you think you are better and above everyone else.

Also, the fact that some people never found Jesus’ skeleton is NOT proof that he ascended into the heavens.”

Contradict Movement: https://www.contradictmovement.org

Andy Wrasman: https://www.andywrasman.com

Why did you use a crucifix in Contradict?

crucifixAt least a few times a year I receive a question asking me why I chose to use a crucifix in my Contradict logo.  Protestant Christians sometimes avoid Contradict because to them the crucifix represents Roman Catholicism, a belief system that openly teaches that our works are involved in our salvation, a doctrine wholly opposed by the Reformation that led to the birth of Protestantism.

These Protestants are expressing a popular understanding, but I think it is incorrect.  Many people have come to associate the crucifix to specifically represent Roman Catholicism, but I see no reason why it must only represent Roman Catholicism.  Many people don’t even know that there are Protestants who think the crucifix shouldn’t be used by Protestants in fear of mingling Protestant doctrine with Roman Catholic teachings.

I come from a conservative Lutheran background theologically and am a member of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.  I was never taught such a distinction concerning the use of a crucifix.  Lutheran churches I attend typically have a cross that does not have Jesus hanging on it, however, some congregations in my denomination do have Christ on the cross in their sanctuaries.  I hear that in Europe, it’s most likely that Lutheran churches will have a crucifix.

For Protestants and Roman Catholics who have the crucifix, it’s a reminder of what Christ suffered for us to pay for our sins.  It falls in line with what Paul said about resolving to only preach and know “Christ and him crucified.”  Of course Paul also explains that “Christ died for our sins, was buried, and raised on the third day.”  Roman Catholics and Protestants alike who display crucifixes instead of empty crosses, confess that Christ was also raised from the dead, and that in fact he is not suffering anymore!  Having Jesus on the cross in no way implies that he is still suffering, or is dead and still buried, just as an empty cross doesn’t signify that he is risen.

Here’s a quote from Luther and how he viewed the use of a crucifix:

“It was a good practice to hold a wooden crucifix before the eyes of the dying or to press it into their hands.40 This brought the suffering and death of Christ to mind and comforted the dying. But the others, who haughtily relied on their good works, entered a heaven that contained a sizzling fire. For they were drawn away from Christ and failed to impress His life-giving passion and death upon their hearts.”

Luther’s works, vol. 23 : Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 6-8

As to my reasoning for picking a crucifix, I chose a crucifix to be used in the Contradict logo because it shows that Jesus died for our sins.  That message is not conveyed with the word Contradict, but with an image of Christ on the cross at the end of Contradict that message is more likely implied.  In our day and age, the cross has lost its punch.  Few people know how brutally torturous the cross was as an execution device. Having an image of Christ on the cross reminds us that the cross isn’t just a fashion symbol, or piece of jewelry, or an expression of art, which it has far too often become in our modern society.

I also don’t think many non-Christians are aware of a Roman Catholic and Protestant divide over the crucifix.  We are divided not over the use of a crucifix, or the message that it conveys that Christ died for our sins, but instead we are divided over the doctrines that the Roman Catholic Church has rejected, namely that we are saved solely by the work of Christ alone.    For those who are aware, or not aware, of this unnecessary divide, they will certainly see from the Contradict Movement website, my blog, Reconnect podcast, or YouTube channel, or my book, Contradict – They Can’t All Be True, that I am not teaching Roman Catholic doctrine.

I also like that the last image of Contradict is one of Christ dying for our sins.  All Protestants will confess that Christ’s death is central to the Gospel, as is the resurrection.  So I don’t see this image being counter to the message of Scripture, but instead a reminder of the depth of our depravity, that the Lord of heaven had to take on flesh in the person of Jesus Christ and bear the full weight of our sins through an agonizing death on the cross of Calvary in order that we might have forgiveness of sins.

Finally, and not as important as conveying that Christ paid for all of our sins, I think the crucifix is more aesthetically pleasing (artistic) in the Contradict logo than an empty cross.

Contradict Black Final
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79. Stop the Hateful Contradict Movement Now!

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(Right click and “save as” to download)

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evangelism-table
Andy has a website called Contradict Movement, where he sells stickers that spell Contradict using various religious symbols.  He also sells Contradict Gospel tracts to accompany these stickers and his book, Contradict – They Can’t All Be True.  Links are also given to his blog, Youtube channel, and Reconnect Podcast.  All of these resources are purposed to equip Christians to defend the good news of Jesus Christ in a pluralistic age.

Periodically, Andy receives messages that call for him to stop Contradict Movement, because it is a distortion of what Coexist actually is and that Contradict is a hateful movement!

In this episode, he shares the following email and the several back and forth replies that followed:

“I’m not sure I understand your message or your goal for this “movement”.  The Coexist Movement is simply a call for peace among religions.  Pointing out that different religions are different seems to be a mute point. Why go against a peaceful movement to point out our differences? No one is claiming that all religions are the same. We know that all religions are diverse and different from one another, we are just trying to coexist peacefully and respectfully. Will you please stop this movement? You are making a bad name for Christians everywhere, making Christianity the “hateful religion”. Please stop.”

Contradict Black Final

Show Links:

Bush, Hillsong Pastor, and Pope Saying Muslims, Jews, and Christians Worship the Same God (Video)

Swami Vivekananda at Parliament of World Religions Saying All Religions Are True (Video)

Unitarian Universalist Church In Their Own Words (Video)

Bono of U2 Rocking Coexist Making It Popular (Video)

The Not So Peaceful History of Coexist (Video)

Peacemonger and Their Religious Pluralism Stickers (Video)

Excerpt of Contradict – They Can’t All Be True (Book by Andy Wrasman)