Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Eternal


Listening to atheists, it's clear they have no problem with something being uncreated and eternal. After all, atheists insists that all things come from “natural” processes of other material things, clearly leaving us with the notion of eternal matter. What they don't like is the existence of the eternal, supernatural God.
Richard Dawkins is famous for asking Christians, if God created the universe, then who created God? While he congratulates himself with that question, he stammers and falls when asked, if the universe created all that we see, who created the universe? The answer seems to be, well, it always existed. Only, it didn't.
Science has concluded that there was a definite beginning to the cosmos. Arno Penzias won the Nobel Prize for discovering that beginning in the cosmic microwave background. That is where the concept of the “Big Bang” came from. Of course, defining what the bang involved, is pure speculation. No one was there and it can't be observed. But cosmologists all agree there was a beginning to the cosmos. Giving rise to the question, who lit the fuze?
Atheists insist that no one lit the fuze. It just happened. But that sounds too Tooth-fairy or Santa Clause for me. It sounds like a pat answer that shuts off further discovery, if I'm to be completely honest. If I find a broken chair in the middle of my living room floor, a good number of feed from the dining room where it would normally be, I would assume some force had brought the chair to the living room, acted upon that chair and left it in the condition in which I found it. When I ask my child what happened, he might tell me, “It just broke.” The intent of my progeny is to cut off further inquiry into how it might have found itself in the living room or what force acted upon the chair in what manner to destroy it. No, the idea that the cosmos began by “just happening” is a foolish, close-minded, unscientific answer.
A similarly childish answer is another I've heard from Dawkins, “we're working on it.” I'm wondering, how, exactly, are you working on it? How do you 'work on' figuring out how something 'just happened' without a guided cause? And, if that unguided cause needs to follow natural processes? I might presume the “we” is “working on” what natural process exists that will spawn something from nothing. And while the ambiguous “we” is at it, why don't “they” figure out how such “natural processes” came about to begin with, without an intelligent source to form them.
This is the ultimate point where the God-deniers find themselves thoroughly painted into a corner: Design comes from intellect, a distinctly non-material essence. You can't even call intellect a “thing.” It isn't. Intellect defies definition, really. Is it the sum of all the things we know? No, it's not. A baby has intellect that guides the very process of gathering knowledge. Intellect is provides us the means we use to decode language and even create language (such as American Sign Language or even Klingon, a fictional language in Star Trek). Intellect is evident all over among the human race. Books convey information for building knowledge, as well as fictional adventures to allow our minds to soar to different places, times and worlds. Machines, build by the use of intellect shorten work, increase productivity and ease our lives. Music, from instruments crafted from hair, wood, metal and hide, using mathematically precise notes, chords and tempo express emotions, stories and experience.
Intellect created all those things we enjoy. Yet, no one would say that our intellect was, thus, created by a banjo or drum or ink and paper. No, our intellect brought the material together to make the ink and page, the letter and meaning to communicate our message. So, nothing created our intellect, right? It just happened.
To hear an evolutionist, one day, an ape-like creature just decided to stand up. And grow feet. And, for no reason, began thinking in abstract ways, drawing pictures and then figuring out ways to make ink, paper, etc. And, amazingly, these ape-like creatures all seemed to develop different, and very complex communication matrixes, forming different languages, all complex from the day they appear in archeology. Equally amazing, these complex languages are accompanied by societies that could perform successful brain surgery and erect buildings we can't reproduce today, with all our high tech engineering.
It just happened.
No, that's a foolish path to follow. Nothing 'just happens.' We know that an effect has to have a cause. We know that an intricate design that serves an observable purpose had an intellect that designed it for that purpose. And we know that intellect does not sprout from nothing. There must be a source that gave the intellect. And, whatever that source, it necessarily must be the ultimate, uncreated source of all things. It must be eternal.
The choice for us then is this: Do we reject God as the ultimate, eternal, uncreated source who has the intellect and power to cause the universe to come into being and design its natural processes, and sustain them? Or do we elect to reject the idea of God in favor of eternal, unguided matter that cannot create intellect, leaving us with a madman's reasoning that we can observe reliable laws that follow set designs for operation, but conclude they formed randomly and without any purpose?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Iron Man 3 - The End Of Man

For those who haven't noticed, the current superhero movie trend is, essentially, our culture re-creating the god myths in a modern context. And with it, we should question, what is the chief end of man?

It began with Superman, a Moses/Jesus character (more on him when I review his movie). Then, in the 60s we got Stan Lee introducing characters like Iron Man. Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) is a deeply flawed man, a war profiteer who comes face-to-face with the horrors he helped make. And while Stan created this character in the midst of Vietnam, the billionaire weapons contractor hasn't become any more sympathetic in the last 50 years. When he's given a choice to make a super weapon for an evil army or die, he takes the scraps and gives himself a third option: Iron Man. He busts out of prison in a high-tech suit, capable of decimating his opponents.

This is like so many of the Greek or Roman gods. A brash, arrogant man with unlimited power (intellect, in this case), who, through a humbling process, gains a new understanding (a new heart?) and sets to defend humanity from evil.

We celebrate this and cheer the idea of a hero who will, even at the last minute, show up to save the day in a blast of energy and impenetrable armor.

The first film did a great job of showing Tony as a wealthy playboy who gains a startling wake-up call. He is given a new heart (a glowing one that keeps him from dying as a result of his own weapons--a symbol of his own sin?). And, because of this new heart, he is changed and begins turning from his old womanizing ways to be the hero that covers him.

The second film, he all but eradicates major war and terrorism. He boasts that he has successfully privatized world peace. But there's something dark at work. His new heart is powered by an element that will kill him. Unless he finds a different way to power the arc reactor in his chest, he'll die. Seeing no solution, he tries to return to his wild ways, reaping the consequences of his rash behavior. His friends turn on him and he's put on house arrest. He's also forced to confront his father, via an old film clip and other documents. He has to accept that he's not the genesis of his own greatness. He needs to turn to his father, against whom he rebelled and still regarded with private disdain. Then he up and creates a new element, cures himself and saves the world.

Now to the third. We've seen him in Avengers, which might have been Iron Man 2.5. Briefly, in that he learns that he needs to lay himself out there, without an armor and put his life on the line for others. And he does. But it leaves him frightened. He can't sleep. He builds an endless army of wildly different armors. He adapts an armor that can fly to him, piece by piece. And he frets about protecting the "one thing he can't live without," Pepper Potts, his steady woman. So, he's changed. He no longer chases women. He's proved he'll lay down his life for others. He's saved himself several times over. But he fears that he can't control everything. He can't always protect the one he loves.

The movie doesn't answer this with anything as dramatic as the first film, where he had to confront and repent of his weapons dealing and his cavalier profiteering. It doesn't have him reach back and recant his rebellion against a father and be humbled, recognizing he didn't come up with all of this on his own. No, this one doesn't involve him finding an answer outside of himself at all. Quite the opposite. He finds that HE is Iron Man, not the suits.

In all, Iron Man 3 is a satisfying popcorn blockbuster film. It's fun to watch. It has some good humor. I think Robert Downey Jr. is a wonderful actor, able to pull you in to a story and make you like him (even when he's being a jerk). There is no doubt he was an inspired choice for the role of Tony Stark. But, while I like the Iron Man movies, 3 just solidifies an atheist view. We are our own creators. There is no God. Morality is subjective. We change because it's what the circumstances require, not because we will be held to account by a higher power. Submissiveness is never exalted. Tony will, hopefully, do what's right. Because he certainly won't take orders from anyone other than himself.

So, with Iron Man 3, what is the end of man? Does he need something outside of himself to provide peace when the panic attacks come and life's problems are seemingly too great or too fearsome to handle? Or is the end of man that we're ultimately on our own and need to raid a hardware store and build our way out of trouble? And then, essentially, become gods, able to handle any threat? Tony Stark's answer seems to be the latter. Which should provide Christians with a lot to discuss in regard to God's sovereignty vs. man's ability.