The Opposite of Faith is Offense

"Blessed is the one who is not offended by me."

--Jesus (Matthew 11.6)

"The possibility of offense is the crossroad, or it is like standing at the crossroad. From the possiblity of offense, one turns either to offense or to faith..."

--Søren Kierkegaard (from Practice in Christianity)

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12 thoughts on “The Opposite of Faith is Offense”

  1. Some more SK on "the offense"? Fasten your seat belt!

    "When Christianity came into the world, it did not need to call attention (even though it did so) to the fact that it was contrary to human nature and human understanding, for the world discovered that soon enough. But now that we are on intimate terms with Christianity, we must awaken the collision. The possibility of offense must again be preached to life. Only the possibility of offense (the antidote to the apologists' sleeping potion) is able to awaken those who have fallen asleep, is able to break the spell so that Christianity is itself again.

    "Woe to him, therefore, who preaches Christianity without the possibility of offense. Woe to the person who smoothly, flirtatiously, commendingly, convincingly preaches some soft, sweet something which is supposed to be Christianity! ... Woe again to him who thinks God and Christianity are something for study and discussion.... Oh, the time wasted in this enormous work of making Christianity so reasonable, and in trying to make it so relevant [my italics]!

    ".... Christianity ought not to be defended, at least not on the world's terms... It is we who must choose: either to be offended or to accept Christianity.

    "Therefore, take away from Christianity the possibility of offense or take away from the forgiveness of sins the battle of an anguished conscience. Then lock the churches, the sooner the better, or turn them into places of amusement which stand open all day long!"

    -- From "The Offense", in Works of Love: Some Christian Reflections in the Form of Discourses

  2. Safe trips to and from the grocery store, or (from my childhood minister) -- "belief" in a never before seen chair's ability to keep me from hitting the floor -- both depend utterly on previous empirical experience with furniture and travel. Belief in any God or religion requires that I float across a non-empirical vacuum into the realm of metaphysics. Just because you say or believe it is not nonsense does not make it so. And by the same reasoning, I cannot empirically "disprove" your beliefs. What I can say is that they are neither logical nor rational. In making Something (e.g., the principalities & powers) into Everything (Stringfellow), you logically end up with Nothing.

  3. I think you would find Wendell Berry's little book, "Blessed Are the Peacemakers: Christ’s Teachings About Love, Compassion and Forgiveness" very intersting. It is a little book with a powerful punch of how little of the Gospels are actually lived by professing Christians in this country. His own confession is he loves them, yet they make him so uncomfortable...the way they should make us all feel.

  4. Sam, I'm trying to understand your point. You seem to take issue with what I wrote, but I can't tell where, if you are. Can you help me out? I would say in the meantime though, that to make empiricism into an ultimate frame of reference is too a move made by metaphysics.

  5. To say that it is impossible to prove empiricism empirically (I think that's what you are saying) tells me nothing, since it is the "box" we all live within. We have no other frame of reference. We are limited to this reality, not another we wish to fabricate.

    I "believe" in empiricism (and behave in certain ways) only to the extent that I have experienced life in this reality. Because I have never been aware of, or experienced, a "credible" god -- unknown or serendipitous outcomes in the future, however unpredictable, can only be guessed at by relying on present or past experience. I understand this because of my own history, but ongoing I do recognize it as "belief".

  6. " I understand this because of my own history, but ongoing I do recognize it as "belief"."

    I make this point about faith to understand the life of being human better. In the car analogy, I could approach my trip under the auspices of "certainty". Great. But then I shouldn't wear a seat belt; doing so contradicts certainty. The beauty of this human quality--faith--is that it faces fully, the impossibility of knowing before hand, what exactly will be on the other side of the horizon. I may have all the faith in the world in my car, other drivers, etc., but I'm wise for wearing my seat belt; there's still an absence of knowledge I must live with. As a culture, it seems like we keep striving for certainty in an environment where faith is a better strategy: when certainty is in operation, people are afraid to let in doubt and questions (see Thomas Kuhn) whereas, when faith is in operation, doubt and questions have room to flourish. A lot of Christians mistake certainty for faith.

    I would differ on empiricism. Isn't it a method of understanding "our box" rather than the box itself?

  7. "The beauty of this human quality--faith--is that it faces fully, the
    impossibility of knowing before hand, what exactly will be on the other
    side of the horizon."

    I have never met a Christian who did not believe in life after death. It is acknowledged as a certainty, and it is a "fact" that is the very basis for your faith, as well as your "hope". No matter that we will never have any way to verify this. I would be much more comfortable hearing once in a while from Christians who admit that exercises such as this forum are but fancy ways of staring into the dark.

    As for empiricism and our "box", from where we exist we can never know the difference.

  8. Sam, I enjoy your thinking. I for one, don't know with any certainty about "life after death". And any sense of it I might have, doesn't stem from the biblical account of Jesus' life. Ultimately, and regardless of a religious text, I have to trust in the ultimate contingency of this all. At some point I have to decide for myself whether my life, and human life in general, is a coherent presence in the midst of this reality we're thrown into. So yah, I'm happy to stare into the dark with you- without any desire to convert you. (And as I said, Christians typically mistake certainty for faith.)

    Empiricism, I would add, isn't as clear cut as its made out to be. Implicit in its use is a coupling to the reductionist framework, and that understanding the unfolding of the universe is best conceptualized by mechanics. Hence someone like Pinker is out to prove that our experience of mind is an illusion since mind can't be conceptualized by mechanics, whereas brains can. Other neuroscientists disagree without turning to "God" for answers.

    Another interesting observation about the reductionist frame work and its relation to complexity: All cells it's learned, operate through molecules- the underlying mechanism of cells. Yet at the level of molecules themselves, there's isn't anything there that indicates or even necessitates cells. It was an observation such as this that sparked Stuart Kauffman's imagination for scientific inquiry, and as a theoretical biologist, is one of the pioneering scientists in creating a new framework of understanding called Complexity. Here the questions are based on seeking how things have become more complex from simpler structures. Also, notions of creativity- besides mechanics- are considered: all without needing to turn to religious considerations. Also based on observation.

    As I said Sam, I enjoy your thinking. I'm putting together a new blog that explores some new ways of seeing things- all from within our "box". I hope you'll check it out once in awhile to see if something strikes your fancy or your ire. Clicking on my name should get you there.



  9. Thanks, Mike.

    So there is no empirical evidence of life after death, and
    probably never will be. But we are told we must "believe" and have "faith". Why? What exactly is the transaction here? I must have
    faith and "believe" something unverifiable, or else (Pascal's Wager) I admit the
    obvious (I cannot know, nor can anyone else) and change some fate awaiting me in
    a place I have no evidence exists? Who exactly set this game of existential
    Russian Roulette up, and how have so many human beings over the centuries fallen for it?
    The parameters seem suspiciously similar to rules and laws in THIS plane of existence, which is what causes me to doubt.

    The "must believe in life beyond the grave without proof" doctrine seems to be what Jesus Christ preached. Christianity's litmus test. It is more foundational, even, than the "need for and acceptance of" a savior. I suspect that all people of every religion doubt in their heart-of-hearts most of what they profess to believe. That's because we are all more similar than not.

    No human being has any choice in their own creation, so how can
    they be held responsible (and culpable) for what they do or do not "believe"
    about what happens after they die? We simply do not know. I honestly do not understand this, and though
    I harbor no ill-will toward religious people in general, I have the
    impression that many do not really think about their lack of logic in their quest for meaning beyond the grave.

    To your other point, then, the thing which bothers me most about empiricism is that Entropy seems to be a universal law of physics, and yet Evolution appears to be going in the opposite direction. Maybe it's a micro/macro POV, the same as the empty space in and between atoms. Scientists seem concerned that the Universe is so large and "if it's just us, that's an awful waste of space", but there appears to be the same magnitude of emptiness at the quantum level, and we are not bothered at all by that.

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