Nature and Grace

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Philosophy sounds boring, but is a very deep profession.  The truth is, everyone is a philosopher to some degree.  Have you ever thought about why you think?  Have you ever considered how you think?  This is called epistemology.  Many philosophers have taken up this study.  They study whether or not there is a supernatural realm and whether or not we can find it.

 Thomas Aquinas described the world as having two realms, the concrete and abstract, the upper story and lower story.  Contained in the upper story is all things unseen, love, grace, God, heaven.  Within the lower story are things like man, earth, and nature.  The upper story is the supernatural and illogical, and the lower story the rational and material.  Basically, man can fully understand the lower story but is unable to comprehend the upper story.  Thus, it is easy to see how man would either obsess completely over the supernatural, or focus only on the material.

There are different views people interpret the material and supernatural realms through, and these views were introduced by philosophers such as Herodotus, Parmenides, Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle.

Herodotus thought that nature was constantly changing, and thus almost impossible to understand.  The truth of nature in his view was not objective, but changed constantly.

Parmenides, on the other hand, believed that nature was fixed, but that our senses could not get truth from nature.  Instead, man must rely on reason to discover truth.

Socrates was another case altogether, for he completely dissected the process of thought until he arrived at the conclusion that he really knew nothing.  His method involved questioning of oneself and one’s beliefs.

Then comes Plato, who was a student of Socrates.  He believed that the world had a layer which could be perceived by the senses, and a layer that could only be perceived by reason, a world of universals.

Aristotle was one of the first to believe that the world of universals is one that man can know.  By studying nature, particulars, one can find truth, universals.

Finally, Aquinas organized the universals and particulars into the upper and lower stories of the world.  He divided the lower story into cognitive and empirical thought.  Cognitive thought is that which man has always had, intuition.  The knowledge of sin, instincts, and law is cognitive thought.  Empirical thought is that which is taught through education and experience, such as how to read and write.

The upper story could not be found through empirical or cognitive thought but through revelation, revelation by God.  This reveals to man the things of heaven, the things which “the angels wish to look into.”

During the Platonic period, man was focused completely upon the things of the upper story, or the things of grace.  Man and nature were almost completely disregarded as unimportant, while God and grace were the only things reflected beautifully in architecture and art.  This all changed during the Renaissance, when nature was incorporated into art and architecture.  Eventually, nature was held above grace, impacting theology and philosophy.  Philosophy was no longer based on revelation, but became based on the thought of man.

The Reformation finally brought the balance of nature and grace that the world had been wanting.  The beauty of nature was still incorporated, but grace was the overlying theme.

That is my overview on the history of epistemology and the “upper story” and “lower story.”  I hope you learned something new!

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Truth?

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For thousands of years, philosophers have been trying to discern what truth is.  In the 20th century, science and logic were the foundation for truth for Western Europe and the United States, before that, truth was taken from the Bible.   In modern day 21st century America, there is a claim that truth is relative.  In this post, I would like to explore what life would be like under each type of truth and the consequences of it.

If truth is relative according to post-modern thought, then truth comes from the mind of man.  This is a frightening concept.  Each person would have his or her own set of morals, and two things which are contradictory would both be true.  For example, Billy says that it is wrong to murder because it hurts someone else.   Bobby believes that one’s actions are not necessarily wrong if they hurt someone else.  These men have two different philosophies and beliefs about truth.  Bobby does not think actions matter at all, because he believes that there is no divine person who judges him because of his actions.  Billy believes murder is wrong because he believes that it is wrong to hurt another human being and he believes that he will be judged for his actions by a divine person.  Imagine the chaos if every person in the world had completely different views about what truth is.  No one would get along, and there would be complete anarchy or complete tyranny.  Furthermore, how could a deity exist in a world where man invents truth?  One man could invent a deity for himself, and another would believe that no deities exist.  Who would be right?  This type of world could not exist for long, for man would eventually destroy himself.

If truth is completely based on science and logic according to modern thought, then truth comes from what man can observe.  There would only be a deity if a deity revealed himself to man and morals would be based on what is found in the natural world.  The origins of the universe would be determined (in a perfect world) by what humankind would observe for himself.  All spiritual things would be denied, for the spiritual world cannot physically be observed.  Man would be the ruler of the universe.  Most likely, mankind would get progressively better until man became superhuman.  At the end of time would be a perfect Utopia, where all living people would flourish.  Furthermore, nothing would happen to man after death, he would just rot in the ground.  The problem with this thought is that man would have the ultimate authority, and man would determine what truth is.  This would evolve into post-modernism, where all truth is relative.

Finally, if truth is determined by a deity, such as in the Bible, then truth goes beyond man.  The universe would have been created by this god or gods.  The god(s) would determine morals based upon his/their character(s).  The end of the world and the fate of humankind would also depend on the god(s).  This is different depending on the religion.  According to the Christian religion, God is a good, loving, and just God.  He has set the rules of what is wrong and what is right, and the punishment for doing wrong.  Because no human could ever attain God’s perfect standard, God came to earth in the form of a man and endured the punishment of mankind so that those who trusted in his sacrifice would not have to suffer.  According to Islam, a Muslim must work to get to heaven, and follow the seven pillars of morality.  In Judaism, because God is perfect, the Jews must follow the law and make atonement to God when they break the law, some Jews believe that the Messiah has already come, Jesus, other believe that God has not yet sent a savior.  Those are just three of the many religions, and the description of each is very simplified.

Personally, I believe that YWH, Jehovah, created the universe by the power of his word.  Because man is imperfect and could never be “good” enough to earn eternal life in heaven, God sent his only begotten son, Jesus to save mankind.  To see my full explanation of the gospel, go to my post, What Every Young Woman Needs To Know.  I also believe that someday this earth will be destroyed and God will create a new, perfect Earth, like He says in the Bible.  As to whether or not man has free will to choose God, I believe that in the hardness of the human heart, we would not freely choose God, so he has to send his Spirit to open our eyes and accept His gift of salvation.

I hope this post wasn’t too long!

Emma