The Pursuit of Happy Meals

“And what to drink?”

“A Diet Coke.”

“Will that be all, sir?”

“That’ll do it.”

“Okay, sir, let me repeat the order: two large cheese-burger, a side of freedom fries, a Diet Coke, and a medium ice cream cone.”

“Not freedom fries, just freedom.”

“A side of freedom, sir?”

“Right.”  There was a brief pause as the man without a face presumably entered the order into the register.  In theories of rhetoric, it is widely believed that a detailed description of a particular scene will generally facilitate vivid mental imagery.  This in turn will cause a greater impact on the reader or audience.  So while the man without a face is entering the order, allow me, like a good writer, to take this moment to describe the scene for you—before the story gets ahead of itself and has to wait for itself to catch up.

The sky was like an ocean that a giant, who prefers particularly creamy tea, had filled with the proportionate amount of milk for a brew that size.  That is to say that the sky was, as it usually is, a light shade of blue.  Can you picture that?  Under the blue sky, there was a horrifying, ceramic clown head—certainly no excuse for a face—held up by two purple metal poles, with a bright shiny speaker like a bad root canal in its mouth.  The man without a face was speaking through this speaker.  He had a young, innocent voice, almost childish.  Beside this head and speaker was our gentleman’s red convertible.  The gentleman’s convertible had converted itself so that the top was down, since, as we have noted, the sky was blue.

“Okay, sir, and would you like to oversize© that today?”  The man without a face interrupted our description.

“Do I not sound American to you?”

“Very good, sir.  Do you want the toy that comes with the meal?”

“The toy?  What is it?”

“It’s a car, sir.”

“Oh, gee, um, I would, you see, but I’m a busy man.”  He was hesitant at first, but then he gravely added, “I don’t have time to play with toys.”

“Sir, I really think you should take the toy.”  He spoke sincerely.

“I’m telling you I don’t have time!”  The gentleman was a bit annoyed.

“Sir, do you have any young ones, sir?”

“One.”

“A boy or a girl?”

“What difference does it make?”

“Maybe your little boy or girl would like the car.”

“Hm…I suppose that’s a valid point.  Hold on.  He’s right here, let me ask him.”  The gentleman turned to ask his son whether he would like the toy that comes with the meal.  “He says he wants it.  Throw it in I guess.”

“Throw what in where?”

“The toy!  Throw the toy in with the meal!”

“Oh, I’m sorry.  I don’t throw things sir.” The gentleman didn’t even respond.  “It’s a matter of policy.  A Cadillac or a Corolla?”

“What makes you think an eight-year-old boy is gonna know the difference between a Cadillac and a Corolla?”

“I’m sorry, sir, but if you’re only eight years old, then by law I am prohibited from serving you in the drive-through.  It’s a matter of policy.”

“My son, you idiot!  Not me, my son!  I’m a forty-year-old proletarian breadwinner, past his prime, and suffocating in my bleached-perfectly-white collar of choler, which grows tighter every day!  I only have half an hour to take little Jimmy out to lunch before I have to drop him back at his enriching grade school and return to my tiny, sweaty little office.  I don’t have time for—”

“—would you like that for here or to go?”

“To go, you idiot!”

“Sir, I really think you should eat it here.”

“You what!”

“It’s just, people usually tend to enjoy it better here.  Especially—”

“Enjoy!  People usually enjoy!”  The gentleman was hysterical.

“—Especially when they order a side of freedom.”

“Did you not hear a word I said?  I don’t have any free time at all.  The most I can afford to do is take the freedom to go.”

“But sir it doesn’t work that way.  It’s a matter of–“

“–Give me one, clear, practical reason why I should stay here.”

“Sir, there is a play land out back.”  He nearly pleaded.

“I’m too old for play lands.”

“No sir, it’s not that kind of play land.  I really think you would enjoy it.”

“The nerve you have!  It wasn’t long ago that your average, decent man would be ashamed even  at the thought of a play land for adults.  Now, thanks to the clever Freudian intellectuals and what have you, they’re proud to shout about the sort of thing freely from loudspeakers in front of children!”

“Sir you misunderstood me.  It’s not a play land just for adults either.  It’s a play land for everyone.  All ages, all kinds.  It’s something that Freud could never have dreamed of—and that man certainly knew how to dream.  But this has nothing to do with dreams.  It’s real.”

“Oh, I’ll bet!  I know exactly what this has to do with!  I’m taking my freedom to go—thank you very much—and when I get home from work, I’m yelping about you for false advertising!”

“Do you have time for that sort of thing?”

“You better believe I do!  I have time for whatever I want.  It’s a free country, isn’t it?”  The question was clearly rhetorical, but the gentleman seemed almost unsure.

“I don’t know.  Do you feel free?  I thought you came here looking for freedom.”

“Here?  Here is the last place I’d look for freedom!  That’s why you’re advertising is false.  You tell the public that you can offer them life, freedom, and the pursuit of happy meals, but then when someone asks you to deliver, all you can talk about is some imaginary play land.”

“I told you it’s not imaginary.”  He pouted.  “They serve apple pie.  Part of the healthy-eating act.  You can probably smell it from there.”

“A fantastical play land, floating in the sky, where they serve healthy-eating apple pie.  I’d sooner die.”

“Sir, it’s no such thing.  If you would come in, I could show you it, and you’d understand.  Or really…I can’t say if you’d understand, but you’d definitely believe what I’m telling you.”

“No thanks.  Nothing could be so spectacular that it’s worth the time it would take me to park the car in this sketchy part of town, climb every last one of those brown-tile steps” (of which there were two) “and creek open that slimy smiley-face-door to come in.  That’s not to mention the danger of leaving my car unattended around here.”

“I assure you, there is no need to worry about your car.  There is a car that comes with the meal if you need one.  But what I want to show you is a lot better than that.”

“You’re full of lies.  If I leave my car here someone will hot-wire it and drive off.  Don’t think the internet wouldn’t here about that!  I’ll write everything.  I’ve also heard you’re culinary methods are unethical.  I’m reporting animal abuse and auto-theft.”

“It’s true that our products use a lot of resources.  But I assure you nothing is wasted.”

“I knew it!  You’re killing perfectly innocent cows, aren’t you?  You ought to be ashamed!”

“No, sir, not cows.”

“What then?”

“Men.  Actually, just one man. One perfectly innocent man.”  He was entirely frank.  “That’s all it took, but many others followed him on their own.  All volunteers of course.”

“Look, don’t mess with me.”  The gentleman’s tone changed drastically.  “I have a gun.”

“Sir, it’s the freedom.” Both parties were dead serious.  “You see, it’s hard to come by.  You can’t just get it to go.  It’s a matter of policy.”  By this point, the gentleman had realized that this was no ordinary drive-through.  He and his son had gotten a little lost on the way over, when they came to this place instead of another.  He had assumed the whole ‘freedom’ thing was just some kind of joke.  A funny name for a menu item, exaggerating just how wonderful the potato squares must be, or something like that.  Now, however, it clearly must have been more literal.  Frighteningly so.  He would have left right then and there, were he not overwhelmed with a morbid kind of curiosity.

“You’re killing men?”

“For freedom sir.  That’s why it doesn’t cost anything.  It comes with the meal.”  This was indeed how it was listed on the menu.  “But as a courtesy, if you do order the freedom, we ask that you be willing to go next.”

“To go next?  What do you mean?”  He was afraid to ask.

“To follow the man.”

“But I want to get away from The Man!  That’s why I’m asking for freedom in the first place.”

“No, I mean, you must be willing to die, just like the innocent man was.  You won’t have to die, not really.  Certainly no one will force you to die if you don’t want to.  You just need to be willing to die if you order the freedom.”  This was the most ridiculous thing that Jimmy or his father had ever heard.  There was something eerie too about the way it was said.  The gentleman could have sworn that the man speaking had suddenly become possessed.  Or perhaps it was the ceramic clown head itself that was possessed.  Perhaps he, his son, and that horrific, haunted head were really the only ones there, and this mysterious acousmata, this dire, disembodied voice was insinuating something much more dreadful than anything he could imagine.

“I’ll take my meal now.  How much do I owe?”

“Nothing sir.  But would you like the freedom?”

“Yes, but to go please.”

“You can’t have freedom to go.”  Was that the man talking or the ceramic clown head?

“What on earth could be in this ‘freedom’ that makes it worth all that?”  He laughed uncomfortably.

“Well, I’ve known many people to get a lot out of it.”  The cashier’s innocent, childish tone resumed.  “One fellow, much like yourself, sir, was in a bad marriage, a bad job, and a bad mountain of debts, and this changed everything.”

“So it’s a loop-hole?”  The gentleman had been meaning to get a divorce, quit his job, and file for bankruptcy, but who has the time?  If this ‘freedom’ could take care of all that without any rigmarole…

“—Sir, I didn’t finish.  In that fellow’s case, the marriage, the job, and the mountain of debts still went on just the same.  This only took the bad out of them.”  The gentleman was confused, but he didn’t know what to ask.

“But why do I need to die?”

“You don’t.  Like I said, someone else already volunteered for that position.”

“That’s right.  I forgot.  I only need to be willing to die.  Well then, what if I—how about this: if you give me this freedom…to go…then I’ll be willing to die for now, but then, since no one will force me, I’ll just—if anyone asks, I’ll say—”

“—Sir, that’s not how it works.  Don’t you get it?  That’s what the Freedom is.  It’s complementary—a down right gift, really.  Someone perfect died for you—he died to fix your whole situation—and if you accept that he was willing to die for you, then you’ll be willing to die for him as well.  It’s only natural.  And that right there is the gift, that’s the freedom.  This fellow with the bad marriage, he didn’t suddenly escape from a civic bond imposed on him by the law.  He was liberated from a self-imposed kind of bondage.  For years, he’d been protecting himself from his wife’s attacks.  She was spending all their money, taking advantage of him, robbing banks, and chewing with her mouth open just to annoy him.  A wicked woman, there’s no doubt.  He had nearly lost his mind to paranoia over the next thing she might do to injure his precious self.  But when he accepted Freedom, his perspective slowly changed.  Little by little, he began to realize that he wouldn’t be worried if she came at him with a knife (much less if she spoke with food in her mouth) since he was willing to die.  That’s the gift.  It’s not a loop-hole.”

“But that doesn’t sound like a gift at all.  It sounds like a malady.  Depression or maybe Gothism.”  The gentleman hardly cared to realize how late this all was making him and Jimmy.  Maybe he wasn’t in such a hurry after all.  People often act like their in a hurry only to make themselves seem important.  However, this sort of pretense always betrays itself as soon as something more interesting comes along.  At the moment, this prospective death seemed more interesting than affectations of business.

“The Goths certainly did have something about them, but it wasn’t depression.  An honest monk in a monastery, what do you think he has to live for?  Just this bizarre, mysterious gift.  A gift that consists in being taken from rather than being given to.  An anti-gift, if you will.”

“But freedom is a commodity, not a liability (excuse me, but I’m a business man).  A market is only really free when it has a surplus.  If people don’t have any disposable income, then competitive marketing doesn’t exist, since everything must be sold for essentially no profit.  What I mean to say is that if you take away my car, my time, and my life, I won’t be a freeman—I’ll be a slave, a sucker, and a specter.”

“Not at all—”

“—Let me take it a step further.  Freud suggests that the ultimate legal tender for the economy of human affairs is…something you alluded to earlier.  What I mean is…to be blunt…the man with the most mates is the freest.  In that light, I’m almost tempted to think it a shame…about the play land and all…”

“Let me tell you something.  (I’m speaking to you now not only as your personal cashier—however honorable a title that in itself might be—but also as your fellow human being.)  I once thought exactly the way you just described.  I tried having a surplus of everything.  The modern world insists, after all, that these sorts of lower appetites must be satisfied, if we are ever to be free from pain.  But for some reason I found that the more I possessed, the more I was in turn possessed.  Each commodity was also a liability, and at that, a debt twice as great as its own worth.  The lower pleasures I satisfied, the impulses I acted on—these began to control me.  I believed that pleasure was the way to happiness, and so I was compelled to pursue pleasure, and I could be happy doing nothing else.  In short, I believed in Freudian psychology, and that belief was precisely what made it a reality for me.”  The man without a face had a bachelor’s degree in philosophy.  This job of cashier, as some readers may be aware, is one of the most highly sought after vocations of people in that field.  One can understand why.  The faceless philosopher went on:

“But it was one day while eating a happy meal that it suddenly hit me.  It was a fly swatter slightly misguided by an old man without his glasses.  He apologized right away and explained that he had been aiming for a fly that he had heard buzzing in my general direction.  For my own part, I didn’t hear a thing.  But after that happened, I got to thinking about my life, and I realized that I had been calculating my net worth all wrong.  A surplus was exactly what I needed, but not of money or luxury or sex.  I needed a surplus of something else.  I couldn’t really say what it was, but I knew at that moment that whatever it was must be inversely proportional to the kind of worth I’d been pursuing in the past.  Maybe it was a surplus of hope, or something like that.  A surplus perhaps of reason to act.  When we have no such surplus, we can only act to maximize our own pleasure.  But if we have extra reason to act and to exist, we can do both freely.”

“But Freud suggests reasons to act—”

“—Not reasons so much as causes.  Neo-Freudian and popular psychology assumes that human behavior is caused by external events.  That may be true of any individual who believes it, but I have found reason to act in spite of those events.  I have reason to relinquish every pleasure and still be satisfied.”

“And what reason is that?  A dead man?  Is that your reason?”

“It is now, but when I first accepted freedom, I didn’t really understand—”

“—I’m sorry to say that this sounds like the most morbid bit of hogwash I’ve ever heard.  Which reminds me, I forgot to order a drink for Jimmy.  But as to your philosophy, I must say that I will never follow any ideology related to death.”

“Then you are an ignoramus.  Every ideology is related to death.  But let me tell you, when I first came upon this whole philosophy, it had nothing to do with—”

“—Buddhism doesn’t have to do with death.  It’s about inner peace, rebirth if anything.  Come to think of it, Buddhism is about freedom too.  The freedom found through meditation.”  The happy meal seemed a long ways off.

“That’s still related to death.  Call it rebirth if you like, call it anything really, death is still death.  But when I found Freedom, or rather, when Freedom found me, it had nothing to do with death.  It was the farthest thing from death.  Some sentimental people like to suppose that the opposite of death isn’t life but love.  I can’t say I know whether that’s true, but I do know that love his how I found freedom.  These days I feel like I kind of have a surplus of reasons for living.  I’m free to do things that don’t satisfy me at all, and even then, to be completely satisfied.  I used to be a helpless romantic, but now I’m ashamed to admit I’m a helpless altruist, and there’s nothing else I’d rather be.  I wish I could say I figured this out on my own, but really it was all a big, embarrassing mistake.  You see there was this one girl, well…you don’t really want to hear this, do you?”

“Not really.  I’d actually just like my meal now.  You can leave out the freedom.  It’s honestly more than I bargained for.  I’ll take just the happy meal, just the happiness to go, please.”

“Very good, sir.”  He spoke with a cold civility.  “I hope your son is a licensed driver.  It’s a matter of policy.”

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What’s Unique about Christianity?

Below you will find an essay of mine on the topic of Christian grace.  Please understand that this piece was originally intended for a different audience and therefore has some discordancies with the usual nature of this blog.  In my opinion, the writing style is rather ugly, but I do believe the inquiry is worthy of consideration, and therefore have concluded on posting the piece anyway.  It’s rather accessible (accessible is a word which here means “easy to read and understand”), which I imagine is a bit of a relief for some readers.

Here it is:

Christian Grace

The story is often told about the casual yet profound comment that C. S. Lewis made during part of some colloquial discourse at a British religions conference (“Did the Writers…”).  Lewis is said to have walked in on a few of his colleagues as they were arguing about what one unique contribution Christianity alone could claim to have added to the massive net of ideologies that make up the religions of the world.  When he heard them arguing, C. S. Lewis is said to have passively and whimsically responded that the answer was grace.

Of course C. S. Lewis didn’t mean that Christianity is altogether the only religion with a concept of grace.  Indeed, one would be hard pressed to find any major religion that does not have some concept of grace.  Grace is an essential part of the human mind, and therefore, must also play a very important role in human religion of all traditions.  But what C. S. Lewis may have been getting at, and may have had good reason for so thinking, was that the particular formulation of grace found in Christianity is the most strikingly distinguishing feature that sets Christianity apart from other religions.

In this essay, I will examine the validity of Lewis’ claim from this understanding of what he meant.  I will begin by discussing what is meant by the “Christian doctrine of grace,” and then briefly hold it against a small number of other religious and cultural contexts to begin to discover what, if anything, is truly unique about it.  This will by no means be a sufficiently thorough exploration to merit a definitive answer to the inquiry into the uniqueness of Christian grace, but it will begin to unpack some of the unique principles that distinguish Christian grace from other formulations and indeed Christianity as a whole from other religions.  This essay, then, is a brief inquiry into the identity of Christianity in the context of the larger world.

And so we must begin by asking: what is the Christian understanding of grace?  It seems this should be a rather elementary question that can be answered simply by paging through the Christian Bible, and indeed such a method of exploration should merit the most definitive answer to the question, but the issue has been made foggy by the many interpretations of the text that have been made throughout history.  Much of the Christian theological debate about grace is centred around the complexity of “covenant theology” (Mackinnon 143-145).  Covenant theology is the highly prevalent Christian doctrine that the Bible consists of two covenants: (1) the Old Testament Covenant, or the Covenant of Works and (2) the New Testament Covenant, or the Covenant of Grace.  Throughout history and across different denominations, these two different covenants have been assigned varying levels of importance.

The Covenant of Works, which is found in the Old Testament, is the covenant that God formed with his people by which they could acquire salvation through good deeds and obedience to his laws.  In the Old Testament, we find a God of justice and order, the very epitome of what the ancient Greeks referred to as dikê.  He is a God of rules, and one who punishes disobedience.  This is the basis of the Covenant of works; in many ways it is much more anthropocentric than the Covenant of Grace, in that it is focused on what humans do for their own salvation.

The Covenant of Grace is more theocentric.  This covenant, found primarily in the New Testament, is the promise that salvation is gained through grace.  In the New Testament, we find a God of love and grace.  In this sense of the word, grace means not only propitiousness, but unmerited acts of love towards humanity.  Grace, in the New Testament, is ultimately about the forgiveness and atonement that God grants humanity out of his love.

In Christianity, these two covenants have largely been at odds with each other, and much of the work in Christian theology has been spent in trying to understand how these two dichotic facets of Biblical dogma are to work together, or to what extent one ought to be rejected in favour of the other.  Malcolm H. Mackinnon traces some of the historical development of covenant theology in the first part of his article “The Weber Thesis Reconsidered.”  Mackinnon writes that while Calvin himself initially stressed a doctrine of sola fide, or “faith alone,” and thus rejected the Covenant of Works (considering the new testament a replacement of this), much of Calvinism differed greatly from its founding father, especially concerning this issue.  In general, the Puritans were obsessed with works, and not out of an irrational quest for phycological comfort as Weber had supposed, but as a result of the actual content of their doctrines, which rejected much of Calvin’s theology.  This is how Mackinnon explains the protestant work ethic (Mackinnon 143-145).

However, it should also be noted from Mackinnon that the extreme opposite end of the spectrum can be found in Calvin and, to some extent, in Luther.  Calvin saw the notion that one could earn one’s way to heaven through works as heretical and even blasphemous due to the way it belittles God.  For Calvin, the human will is incapable of doing good because it has been infected with evil since the fall.  God mysteriously foreordains salvation to an elect few, for reasons that humans cannot understand, unrelated to human deeds.  To claim that a human will can practice benevolence—or let alone earn its way to heaven—in spite of its fallen state is to claim that it is capable of divine action (Mackinnon 152-155).

But in between these two extremes was a covenant theology that tempered grace with justice.  Such a theology can perhaps be found in Perkins, who asserted that God requires humanity to work and act righteously, but out of his grace, accepts the very strife for righteousness as righteousness itself (Mackinnon 156).  In this way, human works are still insufficient and require grace, but they are also a necessary part of sanctification.  Indeed even Calvin, in his complete rejection of the Old Testament Covenant did not all together reject the works themselves.  Calvin insisted that works were merely an inseparable part of sola fide justification because anyone who truly wished to be forgiven and saved could not help but naturally do good deeds in response to God’s grace.  However, Perkins furthered this concept in that works were not only the natural response to Gods grace, but also a necessary requisite part of God’s grace in that they were the material which God graciously accepted as perfection, provided they were performed sincerely.

In my opinion, this latter theology seems more becoming of the Bible than the other more extreme views.  Even in the Old Testament, we find many references to God’s love and prophecies of his grace.  The ritual of slaughtering animal sacrifices for the atonement of sin, for example, shows us that even the Old Testament Covenant has some understanding of grace and the insufficiency of human works.  Additionally, we find mention of the importance of works in the New Testament, particularly in Paul’s letters to the churches. Indeed, the Bible is filled with examples of the two covenants working together rather than in opposition of each other, and I propose that the unique complementary function of these two covenants is precisely the source of Christianity’s distinct identity.

In Cristiano Grottanelli’s article, “A Comparative study of the stories of Ruth, Charila, Sita,” we are presented with a model of how various religions have successfully made use of both the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of grace (or their particular analogue of these covenants).    In the context of the three myths or stories that he presents, Grottanelli makes the interesting claim that “grace” (or mercy) is the same thing as “justice” (Grottanelli 22).  This is because each of the tales is about a kingly figure, who, out of his generosity, solves a crisis that a helpless woman is made to undergo.  Grottanelli contends that because the kingly figures are royal, and “generosity is a duty for him who is master over all” (Grottanelli 21-22), their exercises of generosity, or grace, are also exercises of justice.  Hence we have a primitive framework for the way in which grace and justice can work together found in several different traditions.  However, this framework is merely that—a framework.  While we might suppose that generosity is, at least in the human context, a duty of the able, the postulate gets a little shaky when applied to the divine context.  While a king’s benevolent display of generosity to a person in need may be called “mercy” in a human sense (particularly a royal sense), it is not so in the divine sense that we find in Christianity and many other religions.  The ancient Greeks saw generosity, particularly as it related to hospitality (xenia), as a part of one’s obligation to justices (dikê).  In this sense, the kings’ generosity is not really a gift of something undeserved.  Grace, in the sense of the New Testament Covenant, is about pardoning of debt, and so this model of generosity does not suffice to entirely reconcile grace with justice in the way that Christianity demands.

Another take on reconciling grace and justice can be found in David Kaylor’s article, “The Concept of Grace in the Hymns of Nammalvar.”  In his article, Kaylor examines whether grace is, in the Tiruvaymoli, spontaneous or a response to human devotion and deeds.  Kaylor concludes that grace is primarily spontaneous but submits that there is evidence for both cases found in Hindu literature.  Kaylor maintains, however, that all references to grace as a merited gift (that is grace, not in the Christian sense, but in a sense which excludes the undeserved aspect of it) are doxological rather than exhortative in their essential meaning, and therefore are less applicable as formal doctrine.  In many ways, this entirely spontaneous nature of grace is similar to Calvin’s formulation, where grace, while not entirely spontaneous, is at least mysterious and entirely unrelated to human acts.  However, the most essential element missing from this model is justice.  Obviously there are very formidable dogmas of justice all throughout Hindu traditions, but there is no instance of reconciliation between it and grace.  For this, we must turn to Christianity.

In Jesus Christ we find a means by which God, who is entirely just in nature, pardons sin without infringing on the integrity of his justice.  Because of God’s just nature, man’s sin should result in his metaphysical inability to remain in God’s presence, but this debt is paid through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, by which absolute justice is expressed simultaneously with absolute love.  From this model of reconciliation between justice and love should naturally flow, I think, the Christian reconciliation of covenant theology.  As we begin to understand, to some small degree, the kind of infinite love that God has for us and the sacrifice he makes for us, works follow naturally (as Calvin would have it), but also, as we begin to do better works and imitate Christ’s love, we begin to understand that love better (as the Calvinists would have it).  Hence, the two covenants of covenant theology perpetuate each other.  As Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a twentieth century theologian, wrote in his book The Cost of Discipleship, “only those who believe obey, … and only those who obey believe” (Bonhoeffer 20).

As beautiful and unique as this doctrine is as a whole, it is also important to note that no part of it is found exclusively in Christianity; it is, rather, the manner in which all of the elements are combined that is unique to Christianity.  We need look no further than our own Indo-European language to find the origin of most of the components of the doctrine.  For example, the concept of a saviour who heals a large group of people from an ill brought on by misbehaviour can be linked to the ancient Greek concept of a soter, from which we get the word “saviour” and even the Christian theological word “soteriology.”  The theme of death and resurrection if also a ubiquitous part of world religions, an example being Adonis (on which, see C. S. Lewis, Miracles).  And of course, grace and justice are scattered all across other religions we have already referenced in this essay. But what is unique about Christian grace is that it is the culmination of each of these principles in a way that pieces them all together.  The fact that the component parts of Christianity are so deeply engrained in human thought should come as no surprise to us; indeed, as academics and humanists, we are required to expect human thought to be true, and so the fact that it is filled with the make up of Christianity gives Christianity all the more merit.

Works Cited

  • Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1998. Print.

“Did the Writers of the New Testament Get Their Picture of Jesus Right?”  Did the Writers of the New Testament Get Their Picture of Jesus Right? N.p., n.d. Web. 06 May 2013.

<http://www.christianity.co.nz/grace-13.htm&gt;.

Grottanelli, Cristiano.  “The King’s Grace and the Helpless Woman: A Comparative Study of the Stories of Ruth, Charila, Sita.”  History of Religions 22.1 (1982): 1-24. Web.  April 17 2013.

Kaylor, David R. “The Concept of Grace in the Hymns of Nammalvar.”  Journal of the American Academy of Religion 44.4 (1976):  Web.  April 17 2013.

Mackinnon, Malcolm H. “Part I: Calvinism and the Infallible Assurance of Grace: The Weber Thesis Reconsidered.”  The British Journal of Sociology 39.2 (1988): 143-177.  Web.  April 17 2013.

The Necessity of Reason

And so in these last two posts, we have arrived at the necessity of an omnipotent being within the scope of reason.  I here intend to address the question that I have hitherto answered only in part: Why reason?  Of course, it is ultimately impossible to give a reasonable answer to such a question because it questions the very scope in which such an answer would have to exist, but the question itself may nonetheless arise within the scope of reason.  That is, even a reasonable man may ask the question at some point, but to answer it, we must turn to the unreasonable.

It is here that I will, as I mentioned at the beginning of the first of these posts, venture into a less functional scope.  This argument will indubitably seem circular–it is–but it is not circular reasoning because it is not reasoning at all.  I am merely trying to identify the qualities and ramifications of the scope of reason, and then allow the reader to decide where he or she stands on the matter or identify the position that he or she has already taken.  The unreasonable is no matter of logic, but of rhetoric.

First of all, lets consider the functionality of our reason on a simple level: on the level of natural science.  We see patterns in nature all the time and consequentially draw the conclusion that these patterns will most likely continue to exist.  And after drawing that conclusion for which there is no evidence, we run “scientific experiments” in which we identify these patterns and come up with some sort of model that can be used to predict the physical outcome of a system assuming the identified patterns repeat themselves.  So far, to my knowledge, we have observed the patterns to hold true one hundred percent of the time.  “We have no reason to believe the sun will rise tomorrow,” but it always has.  In my mind, the remarkable thing about this is not so much the fact that the patterns exist (in fact, I could hardly say I’d be all that surprised if the patterns were disrupted one of these days; they are not absolute truths) but rather that humanity has been able to come up with working models of them.  The conclusion, then, from all this is that human reasoning is valid, at lest to some extent, if used properly.

Notice the circular quality of such a conclusion.  I am using some evidence that only has value within the scope of reason (i.e. beyond reason, it might not mean anything at all that humanity is able to create working models of patterns; a “pattern” is, as the naturalists would say, a human invented concept) and then applying it within the scope of reason (i.e. reaching a conclusion based on evidence). Therefore, I have, in reality, not proved anything here, but I have rhetorically identified the scope of reason relative to itself.  This is about all that can be done with a scope–it can be identified relative to other scopes.  But reason is the mother of all scopes, it is the “Omnipotent” scope, if you will.  It parallels in scopes what the omnipotent is in reality.  It exists relative only to itself; to be believed in or not.  For that matter, the omnipotent and the scope of reason are very much like an inseparable package: one must either believe in both or neither as he or she feels is best, but it makes no sense (admittedly within the scope of reason) to believe in one and not the other.

No one comes into philosophy disbelieving in reason just as no one comes into the world disbelieving in God or ethics, but hell has its reasons, and many would sooner deny that which is most naturally within them–their very heart–then bend their stubborn knees to an all powerful creator that would make himself to rule over them and take away their precious freedom.

Oh that precious freedom, some would sacrifice anything for it–even freedom.