Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Relation of Science and "Religion" in Popular Society

"What is the motivation for trying to take a religious philosophy and influence what goes on in science?"

Let's answer this question.  For one, I want to say I agree with quite a bit about what Neil Degrasse Tyson thinks about science education.  Science education should be well-funded for the public school system in order to have educated and literate generations.  This is the functional purpose for the common good that public schools offer us.  Now for a point of disagreement...yes, "even atheists" do what he said they don't, and a cursory examination of history will show that for being a non-religion, atheism can be violent, extreme, very ANTI-religion.  One popular example of organized atheism violently against Christianity in particular comes in the form of the Reign of Terror in France.


Where do I agree with Tyson?  Having been in the science classroom and dealt with science education, I would definitely say that while state standards are high, often it is individuals' standards which are low.  I made due with what I had during my brief stint as a long-term substitute and even had to rewrite a portion of the textbook on evolution and history of life because it was just so bad!  I also had high standards, helping Chemistry students move from balancing chemical equations (somehow they had been told to do so WITHOUT using ratios) to the Combined Gas Law.  I even had students in freshman biology understand Punnet Squares and genetics enough to do a 3 trait square.  Furthermore, I am not a happy camper when it has come to the defunding of space travel and the taking of resources from scientific research in that area.  I am also very interested not just in technology, but in the work being done in green technology and ways to make such moves sustainable.  So something needs to be gotten out of the way right now...I'm not suggesting any move in science curricula right now.  In fact, I'd say that the real issue here is metaphysics and its confusion with science and religion.  Let me explain.

Let's point out the elephant in the room (at least to me):  Other fields of study in science.  Clearly Tyson allows for his love of economic growth in this country (a form of Nationalism) drive why he believes science should be done properly.  Of course he believes in science for other reasons personally, but he conveys it pragmatically.  That's the first.  The other, he doesn't bring up how mad he is at math, English, and sociology in the science classroom.  Clearly these are not necessarily science proper and should be abandoned.  Of course, Tyson would never suggest that.  This actually makes science a sort of medieval philosophy stand-in, being as it were, the "Queen of the Sciences" in its own right.  The modern mythology is one of pure scientific progress (listen to how many scientists talk about the scientific endeavor) that operates only from reason and evidence.  But let's be real...it doesn't.  And on top of the fact that any progress in science is only particular for the given time period until it is shown to be false.  Surely evidence would tell the ancients that the earth was the geometric center of the universe...point of view, common experience of moving objects, etc.  Science of the day would clearly favor an Earth-centered system...period.  Hell, it matched the senses too!  But reality was, eventually it was overturned by further investigation...and here is where this idea of science as pure reason and evidence runs into problems.  What is evidence?  How much evidence do we have?  The main reason science can speak with such authority has to do with its privileged place (and not unjustly earned) in society.  Religion used to do this as well, then philosophy, and finally science.  All have had their time in the sun, and it would be foolish to not think that new discoveries will constantly overturn many things we have known.  Thought Absolute Zero was the lowest we could get things?  Sorry, wrong!  Thought human anatomy was most likely finished with its work?  Sorry, wrong again!  The list can truly go on and on.  But here is the problem...many people including Tyson are confused about what science does.

Does science tell us how the world works?  No...it tells us about an event being tested. Don't believe me?  Did you see the sun rise yesterday?  Ok, did you see the sun rise the day before?  Now, this doesn't seem too big of a deal until I get to before you were born.  Did you see the sun rise then?  No you didn't!  Aw snap!  How do you know it did?  You were told it by an authority and/or you took it for granted as happening in the past as it happened today.  Usually a good assumption.  How old is the world according to modern geology?  4.53 billion years you say!!!  Well I can safely say I've only been able to directly observe the sun rising 6.84 x 10^-9 of the time, or 0.000000684% of the life of the Earth.  Those aren't good odds to base a probability on...but we ALWAYS do.  But wait, you might say this is a reasonable assumption, but I want to ask why?  Why not think the earth has always existed and the sun always risen as happens even when we don't see it?  You postulate a beginning to our planet, but there are also different competing theories about that...and the fact is not one of them needs to be correct.  Think about that.  It's not just the nebular hypothesis vs some other theory of our planet's formation, it could be a ton of different hypotheses and yet there is only one reality.  And even if this is true that we know this in a progressive way, what is to stop us from having a different revolution in understanding?  Newton rocked the universe of physics, and was concurrently rocked by Einstein...who knows what rocking will be done in the future?  The truth of the matter is that science is an induction of particular events to a universal statement of the world, and it is never absolute.  This is why we need to put explanations derived from science into theories.  Theories are models to explain the different observations and experiments we have drawn from science.  This is awesome and needs to be done, but first and foremost, Dr. Tyson and many others who have this view of religion and science are absolutely in error about how science really works and its relation to the world.  At this point, atheistic apologists will add "but that's what makes science so much better than religion, it can change based on evidence."  Frankly, that just means science is eternally ignorant and this argument is arrogant about its ignorance.  And its willingness to change about certain things that touch on fundamental aspects of the methodological turned metaphysical naturalism of science leaves me in doubt.  

Moral superiority cannot be based on knowledge of ignorance alone.  Even the willingness to change means you'll change at the first hint of evidence or rather how strong it is based on your own idea of what is "strong."  The same can be said for many people and their belief or non-belief in God.  Whenever I hear an atheist or agnostic talk about "there's no evidence for God" I'm always taken aback at the statement...if I could put God into a test tube and show Him to you, you'd doubt His being truly God...same thing if I put God to another test...this would destroy His personhood and make Him just a natural law or something.  What evidence are you talking about?  Seriously, think about what evidence you are talking about.  If you are purely a materialist who uses materialistic methods of epistemology, you have de facto written out supernatural entities or causes...no amount of evidence can overthrow that starting point save direct address, and even this might lead you to consult a psychologist or psychiatrist first...maybe with good reason depending on how often that actually does NOT happen.  Although, perhaps it can be done, but the threshold at which this occurs is fuzzy.

Also, "religion" or even that "dead philosophy" can actually give grounding reason for the drive and study of the world with science.  I love science because I believe not only that a rational being designed and made the world, but that He made it intelligible and that my being the image of God involves the deification of nature by our rational investigation of it using our logos.  I also have a view to the future, both involving stewardship and a fuller vision of the world and its future, one based more solidly than on some ethical empathy for a person I don't know either across the world or in the future.  On top of that, the practical element still is at the forefront of this thought.  The idea of technological (not necessarily scientific) progress is integral to our being human beings who are told to be fruitful.  This is reason enough to not simply discard religious thought from the scientific enterprise...and if you're lucky, we could include math and linguistics in this discussion to.  But no history, oh God help you if I find history in my science class...DANGIT!  Geology!!!  

POSTSCRIPT:  In the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham a little while ago, Nye said there was no distinction between operational and historic science.  Please refer to ATHEIST Arthur Strahler's book Understanding Science from Prometheus Books for your thorough education about the philosophy of science and the necessity of the distinction.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Subcultures - or Why the Rhetoric of One Often Sounds Like the Opposite Group

Of course one can read the above picture and disagree with what it says about either subculture you belong to (or of course, if you belong to neither it doesn't apply to you).  Of course Christianity views the resurrection of the dead as being something totally different than zombies.  Of course most Atheists don't believe that nothing existed before the big bang because energy and matter cannot be created nor destroyed according to our understanding of physics.

Now let's get real...this is bumper sticker stuff...it sells but doesn't communicate anything other than, "we're part of the same subculture, HIGH FIVE!!!"  Rarely does this mentality lead to unbiased discussion and dialogue, regardless of how rational we might view ourselves (sorry Free Thinkers) or how enlightened we view ourselves (sorry, well...all groups actually).  The same stupid rhetoric sneaks its way into EVERY subculture that finds itself at odds with either the larger culture or another subculture...look on Youtube comments if you don't believe me.  I've seen ad hominems attacking people on the right or left politically regardless of whatever country you are in.  This is a failure of logic, and really represents an inability for a given subculture to have honest discussion outside of their own group...and we ALL do this.  My response, "get out more."  For example, I've watched a Youtube video that claims one possible reason most game show hosts are conservative is that they are rich, old, white guys.  What is being implicitly stated here is that rich, old, white guys have more of a chance of being conservative.  While I think this is a thinly veiled modus ponens fallacy (or Affirming the Consequent)...or at best he's reaching for a correlation/causation thing which I don't think can be demonstrated with mathematical accuracy.  Of course in the interest of fairness, one can find conservative examples of logical fallacies.  That being said, look at the comments of his video?  They are mostly logical fallacies!  Very few people respond back who disagree for several reasons.  Typically, what will happen is what I like to call, the "atom bomb accusations," or a list of ad hominems targeted NOT TO THE PERSON who is being disagreed with necessarily, but meant to evoke an emotion of detestation and distrust of the message through name-calling and show-stopping.  These often take these words in the modern era:

1) zealot
2) racist
3) bigot
4) homophobic
5) socialist
6) fascist
7) extremist
8) intolerant

And the list goes on.  Sometimes of course, someone truly is one of these labels, but if you're going to call someone that, truly demonstrate it before you drop it.  And to those who read and follow these, do us all a favor...learn some logic and don't be swayed by these labels before you make up your mind.on a given issue.

Now, I'm off to a dog and pony show (not literally).  here's a video of logical fallacies and examples to keep you busy!!!


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Philosophy is Dead...I'd Like a Second Opinion!

This is an interesting video regarding the relationship of philosophy to science.  I want to respond eventually with an in-depth analysis of the main issue.  The simple fact is that modern Scientism can't seem to be self-critical of its own methods or even whether it does or does not "progress."

And a Cloud Took Him Out of Their Sight

It's that time again...40 days after Pascha/Easter - The Feast of Ascension.  

"Raised to the glory and authority of God, the Man-Christ still remains man in the truest sense of the word and also the man-model to be attained by all who believe in Him.  By believing in His co-suffering with us, which at the same time is His power that permeates and elevates our being, the believers ask Him for His 'mercy,' according Him all the glory: 'Lord have mercy.'  In this expression one finds also the acknowledgement of Him as our Master and that this Master is infinitely merciful and loving, and therefore approachable for us" (Staniloae, Dumitru. The Experience of God III:152).

"It shall come to pass in the latter days
    that the mountain of the house of the Lord
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
    and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,
    and many peoples shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
    and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go the law,
    and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." - Is. 2:2-3 ESV (Vesperal reading).

Troparion: O Christ God, You have ascended in Glory, / Granting joy to Your disciples by the promise of the Holy Spirit. / Through the blessing they were assured / That You are the Son of God, / The Redeemer of the world! 

Great talk on the Ascension by Fr. Thomas Hopko.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Duons - A "Second" Genetic Code

This is already old news, but I did find this discovery fascinating...and potentially game-changing in how we understand cellular activity and regulation.  No commentary, but it's getting a little harder to not see the genetic code (now codes) as having no analog to "information" science.

God's Not Dead - Faith and Skepticism Podcast Addendum

Never have I found such peace to think about the past few days than a scummy motel in a very small town in Northern Illinois.  I'm alone, and I feel great to be so.  The world can be so demanding, and I don't have my thoughts organized, my heart stilled, and I end up worrying and stressing about things I either cannot fix or are outside of my control...and this is deadly, for can we add any hour to our life by worrying?

To start with, I sit here rather than with my friend who is awaiting his marriage in several days.  Currently he sits with his fiance who is in the hospital.  True love consists not in how we handle the good times and sexual desires that accompany them, but in how we bear the cross that the one we love suffers and carries.

One might wonder why I put a video to several selections from the desert fathers of Egypt (and some non-Egyptian) about prayer and the heart/mind.  The reason will show itself as this discussion continues.  On Tuesday night of this week, I was privileged to again partake of good discussion with Nathan Reese and Jason Ramey on the Faith and Skepticism Podcast.  They had invited me to do a podcast a few weeks earlier on the development of the Christian canon of Scripture along with another Christian named Sam who lives in the Twin Cities, and Dr. Robert Price.  The discussion was good, albeit short, but was civil, respectful, and genuinely communicated as best as scholars sometimes can given the breadth of a topic.  The most recent podcast however was dealing with "Christian pop-culture" generally, and the film "God's Not Dead" (see earlier review).

The podcast could have been better, but some things were brought up which would best be answered in another medium.  The philosophical arguments of the film were not really covered, and that is fine.  I would much rather have talked about a stronger argument for theism being the intelligibility of the created world through abstract and reasoned concepts such as numbers and shapes apart from and applied to physical reality with precision and accuracy that involves both "real numbers" and "irrational numbers."  This is one of the most pivotal questions in my opinion for the operation of a science that has a grounding in true reason and reality (through both the Logos and our being created His image and thus given the gift of reason).

Among two issues that arose, both during the podcast, and after (not recorded) revolved around how youth in a conservative Christian culture come to terms with being gay.  There were also discussions involving how a conservative Muslim family is portrayed in the movie and what the intention was on the part of the filmmakers.

One of the speakers suggested that it was in the movie as fear-mongering.  Perhaps, but I think a more accurate and full view of the characters should involve the young Chinese student.  Obviously the movie at the end shows all of them, the Muslim girl, Josh, and the Chinese student at a Newsboys concert singing about God. This is a message in my opinion that the message of the Gospel transcends cultural boundaries.  It is meant for the whole world and can be liberating (the message itself, not necessarily how it is practiced) which is also why the pastor had an African friend present with him.  All ethnic groups were represented in a Christian light.  At the same time, perhaps it was not the best choice to portray the father beating and casting out his daughter, but I will still defend that the movie shows him as a figure to have compassion on. His world with regard to his daughter is ending.  She converted and left the faith which was an anchor for him.  Many immigrant cultures understand that apart from religion, language is the key to holding onto an identity of where they came from, and sadly this cultural influence is often severely diminished if not wiped out in 2-3 generations, regardless of how strict the family is.  The father is attempting to hold onto the truth and culture he brought with him...he SAYS AS MUCH at the beginning of the film to his daughter.  He also weeps for her, which humanizes him.  He is not following Sharia like a terrorist...he isn't honor killing her.  He is reacting I would argue more from a minority group who feels threatened in this country and culture rather than that it is meant to draw hate mongering from the viewers.  Islam, while I believe it to be incorrect, has a tremendous intellectual and philosophical tradition, and this should be respected for anyone who ever delves into such a topic.  The situation with these characters was actually more nuanced in my opinion than originally appears.

The second however was with regard to whether or not Christians do this, and it was reapplied to both atheists and/or homosexuals.  I will unabashedly say that this happens...it is a fact.  Christians can be sinful and do immense harm just like any other sinful human being (contrary to what the film seems to show about them).  At the same time, understanding homosexuality in youth and atheism or religious conversion/deconversion in general is highly complex and cannot simply be boiled down to either "they should be like they were born to be or are" (which runs a fine line to saying I should continue to be a codependent because it is who I am either genetically, epigenetically, or behaviorally) or "they are just into drugs and rebellion."  The prior argument is often given with little thought to the insanity of it being applied to other factors of life consistently, and the latter argument ignores that it is often just a sign of something else much deeper and personal.  Many factors such as abuse, early experimentation, societal or peer influence, hormone imbalance, etc. could lead to such a decision, lifestyle, or predilection.  In fact, there could be the shock and horror that they are "convinced(!)" of another way or disagree with yours or their parents.  There is simply not enough known about it to predict or explain it.  Nevertheless, my point in the podcast was, and still is, that these are human beings created in the image of God.  Truly if we saw them as struggling with and "choosing" a sin at this age, they would be considered "the least of these" and deserving of love and mercy.  On this point, Dan was spot-on.  But the problem is by saying "the church does this" or even Christians saying "the other side does it too! ("they" do it as well), this is the equivalent of complaining about how to build a bridge without realizing that people need to cross it anyway to get the the hospital on the other side.  Our children are our children, regardless of what they choose...this is mercy and forgiveness more in keeping with the father of the parable of the Prodigal Son.  When the son asks for his inheritance, he asks for his father's bios, what was HIS to take.  He's telling his father he really would be happy if he would just feed the worms already (btw, the older son does this as well).  When the son goes off to a far-off land...the father doesn't chase after him...he lets him do what he believes he needs to do.  The father has done his due diligence to teach his son right from wrong, but the final decision is the son's.  There is a point where, victim or not, born this way or not, we are ALL accountable for our choices and actions....and this is where the desert fathers come in.

Many might be surprised that there are homosexual bishops and monks...but it makes sense.  Marriage is not about who we love in terms of either sex or friendship...it is about complimentary companionship and bearing one anothers' cross so we can learn to die to ourselves.  Marriage and monasticism (that "curse" of celibacy) are two paths to the same goal.  The monks and the bishops (chosen from the monks) have both the highest control over the church, and help to illuminate us and support us through prayer.  The idea or thought that "we are just now discovering that homosexuality is lifelong" is thoroughly refuted by any study of the desert fathers and their view of temptation, addiction, and the logoi of the human heart/mind.  Ask ANY priest worth his weight who has been at his job for a while and I will be willing to bet a dollar to a donut hole that he understands life-long temptation better than anyone...and not just the ones dealing with sex.  In fact, the fact that homosexuality was struggled with is present in the early desert fathers.  There are sayings with regard to spending the night in a brother's cell, or not growing a beard (thus appearing more feminine), and even the story of St. Anthony the Great's temptation of a young Nubian/Ethiopian boy in his bed, which communicate that the desert fathers were intimately familiar with struggles.  Sex and sexual temptation is just one aspect of the passion of concupiscence or lust.  There are also the sins of anger (irascibility) and also vainglory.  The fact is not that the youth are sinful because they have such desires...this is their cross to bear, just as for another, extreme anger is theirs, another might be bereft of homeland and parents, or not having limbs is another's.  We are ALL sinful, for there is no one who is without sin, even the Mother of God herself had original sin!  But we are loved by God and shown a way that is to true love of both God and neighbor, and ultimately ourselves, for we are to find humility in the fact that we are equally if not more sinful than any other human being.  Our sin and its depth however can drive us to despair, this is true...but Christ entered into our humanity to experience our temptations and touch all of our essence, thus restoring His image in us.  There is no sin beyond forgiveness, save "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit," which is the rejection of the very gift that can save and heal.  It is not forgiven, because God will not force this salvation on us...for love cannot be forced.

How can we seek such humility?  How can Christ save others through this very humility?  Because the image of God pointed to Christ in our minds reflects His love to all from out of us.  As St. Seraphim of Sarov said, "acquire a peaceful spirit, and around you thousands will be saved."  Perhaps in this we find the strongest evidence for the existence and LOVE of God (and this is something which Dostoyevsky portrayed with Elder Zossima), by the fact that in a world of selfishness, destruction, sin, hate, etc...there is genuine love for those who not only cannot return it, but who don't because they hate...that is a genuine miracle.  The sad fact is that we look at all the bad in the world, saying "God cannot exist," or "God cannot be a God of love and mercy," and yet when we see a genuine saint or person who gives love to one in need, we feel the need to rob this answer from God and make it simply a humanistic endeavor.  Job wasn't given an answer that he wanted, but he did get an answer...and while it was not in his desired way...it was the right answer to his question.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Sixty Minutes Special on Mount Athos

This was made a few years ago, and it always catches me about how beautiful the island is.  On top of the book (Mountain of Silence) by Kyriakos Markides which was written while he was still a secularist, Mount Athos has come alive to a level that makes me want so much to visit it.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Why Being a Theologian Means I Can't Enjoy Movies

Three movies hit theaters this year that deal with religious or theological material; Son of God, God's Not Dead, and Noah.  I've seen all three, and only one has my vote as a truly good movie...and it isn't what many of you might expect.  

1) Son of God:

First of all, let me say that I'm not against making movies about Jesus, and in fact there are even movies that play with interesting ideas and topics.  I love the Gospel of John with the guy who played Desmond from Lost as Jesus (sorry, he's Desmond to me).  It was the Gospel of John in video form, and was very well done.  I similarly actually enjoyed and thought about The Last Temptation of Christ (HEAR ME OUT!).  I thought it tried hard to deal with Jesus as a human being and it didn't necessarily deny His divinity.  In fact, what bothered people I think the most about it was that He married Mary Magdalene, but it portrayed a man in his 30's who may very well have wanted to follow the command of God to "be fruitful and multiply."  It showed that the last temptation was actually like the first...come down from there, you don't have to go through the suffering.  In the end, He actually didn't, but it was truly the "last temptation."  

But as for Son of God, I'm sorry, I know the Bible series it is taken from has done very well, but I thought I couldn't connect with Him as an actor, I thought some of the interpretive moves were both unnecessary and cost interpretation at other times.  I also wasn't impressed with Mary Magdalene being "one of the guys."  And not just one of the guys, but pretty much enough to tell Thomas to shut up at one point while they were getting the boat ready to go across the lake...wow, that's 1st century Jewish feminism :-x.  At least with the Gospel of John she learned and tagged along only at the very end...with Son of God, you'd think all the disciples were celibate and didn't have wives who tagged along, but they did and should have featured more prominently if they were going to include her in all the scenes.  Overall, bad...I really didn't feel it even gave me something to find that was new in a good way, or old in a faithful way to the text or the culture.

2) God's Not Dead:

Wow.  I don't know what to say about this one.  Highly simplistic with pretty much every character becoming a Christian by the end, and one of the lamest "text someone God's not dead" at the end of the movie.  A friend who is a pastor had that texted to him, and he responded back rightly, "well, He was for at least 3 days."  The movie came across as mean spirited at times, including killing the main atheist character (of course spoilers...pansies!) after he converts.  Yes, this shows Providence at work, but it was very forced. 

Unlike Son of God however, there were a few glimmers of redeemability (word?...eh, I'm a theologian, we make up words all the time!) in it.  For starters, the movie did hit at a good point, which was that the problem of evil is one of the strongest arguments against God's existence.  It is!  However, the movie didn't really address the reality of WHY it is such a powerful argument - namely it is existential.  The problem of evil is always presented with something akin to a bystander who asks the question of evil and the goodness of God, but let's be real, you ask it not because you necessarily care about nameless and faceless hypothetical humans...you care about your friend who lost their child, your mother who has cancer, your child who was killed in a car accident, the thousands of people who die in an earthquake and who move us to emotional response!  These are things that happen "in the body" and "to the body."  The movie hits on that, but neglects to mention that the God who allows for that Himself enters it and asks the SAME THING at the cross - "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"  Because the movie spent so much time in the mental or emotional realm it didn't really solve this problem in a true way.  I also disagree with showing every atheist as a jerk...there are many who are yes, but there are also honest and moral atheists and Christians who act like the back-end of Mr. Ed!  This was also not dealt with, as THAT is also an argument used against Christianity.  The second scene I loved actually was the grandmother who had advanced dementia who answered Dean Caine's character...the Devil doesn't make us suffer sometimes to hide that we are in a prison...until it is too late.  This was actually a very philosophically profound statement without EVEN MEANING TO BE!  In fact my jaw dropped when I heard this part of the movie!  Other than that...I could have left it and been just as well off.  The philosophical arguments were "meh," and pretty much just ended up in being general arguments for God, not necessarily Christianity...and btw, at the end of the movie, not everyone stood up....the ugliest kid was still an atheist...yes, I noticed that movie.

3) Noah:

Alright, I know people are probably wondering why I actually loved this movie...so here goes.  This movie received an INSANE amount of criticism early on (see for example Answers in Genesis' review which actually misses so much of the point of the movie).  Yes, Tubal-Cain wasn't on the Ark.  Yes, Lamech isn't killed by him.  Yes, Ham and Japheth's wives are on the ark with them (technically they are already conceived when they enter the ark...or at least will be in almost no time).  Yes, the Watchers are not in the biblical text, but really pay attention to the theology of the movie...for being made by an atheist...he gets it!  Here's what I am referring to:

Creation via evolution?  Maybe - that is one part of the movie, but other parts show a possible difference in that narrative...indeed, if it was true, then the view of humanity being guilty and animals not would make very little sense, because "man" ate meat and blood of animals, not Noah or his family - yes, that IS in the text...humanity is not allowed to eat meat until AFTER the flood in the biblical text.  The movie also points out that man's technology is not inherently evil, man is!  They turned the gifts of the watchers (Kaballah or Enoch as far as text goes could be what was being referred to here) into weapons to kill each other and decimate creation.  Rather than care for it as caretakers, they just flat out raped the land!  Man is portrayed as full of passions!  And yet there are two takes to it.  The children of Cain, and Tubal-Cain himself says "I am in Your image!"  He is correct!  And Noah who feels that the flood is to wipe out the wicked and that he and his family is to be left because they are helping the animals and are "good," finds out when he visits the camp at one point, that HE is also in their image...they share a common fallen humanity!

And what of the fall?  Was the movie Gnostic because it portrayed Adam and Eve as glowing?  NO!  This is actually an OLD tradition, even in Christianity!  "Before he dressed himself in the garments of skin man wore a 'divinely woven' attire, his psychosomatic dress which had been woven with grace, with the light and glory of God" (Panyiotis Nellas, Deification in Christ, 52).  This is found in St. John Chrysostom's homilies on Genesis with regard to the prelapsarian state.  Similarly, Nellas says based on the thought of St. Maximus the Confessor, "if we understand the 'nakedness' as transparency, we can say that the body of Adam was so simple that it was in reality transparent, open to the material creation without resisting it in any way, and without the world offering any resistance to the body - the world had been surrendered to it.  The human body, while maintaining its own peculiar constitution and separate identity with regard to the world, was nevertheless not divided from it at all" (ibid., 52-53).  St. Gregory the Theologian, St. John Chrysostom, and St. Maximus the Confessor all say this.  They have a body, but they reflect the glory of the very image they are created in!

So we have humans in Eden reflecting the glory of God in innocence, eat of the fruit, are cast out and need to eat by the sweat of their brow, are called evil for raping the land and eating meat, using the gifts of technology for violence against the creation and their fellow man...how is this "anti-Christian?"  That is biblical through and through!  When Ham picks the flower in the beginning of the movie, he is told by Noah that by picking it, it can't fulfill its function - in fact, the idea is that creation has a full goal that man is to help in seeing through!  It anchors environmentalism in a vein that allows for a deified way of seeing creation that an atheistic mentality just cannot fully appreciate without becoming a dead paganistic materialism.  We as Christians are to care for the Earth because it is a trust given to us, and the resurrected Christ didn't recreate His body, but rose in it...so any view of the end of the world that thinks that fire is only that which destroys doesn't understand the purifying role of fire (good lecture by Fr. Thomas Hopko on the meaning of Christianity and the Apocalypse btw).  In fact, when Tubal-Cain kills animals on the ark, I pulled back almost in horror!  It was said that if one died, a piece of creation was lost forever...and you see it happening!  It should horrify us to know about the extinction of animals or plants...but it should equally horrify us at the death of a human created in the image of God!  The death of any human person is a tragedy...without the resurrection of course!  

I even like how Noah experienced the "dark night of the soul," where he was confused as to his role...and he became a king douche!  Even a man of God is not perfect, and God does test often by NOT talking or revealing things to a prophet.  At one point, Noah points out the bad in his family to his wife who saw only the good...but he left out his judgmental and unmerciful self.  It wasn't until he spared his grandchildren at the end where his role as the Christ figure was fulfilled.  God smiled on that in the movie...and it was one of the most "Christian" moments...it is mercy and forgiveness which Noah forgot.  Tubal-Cain was the man who makes his way into the wedding without the garment.  He hasn't washed himself of his former ways...he revels in them, and sullies his host's home as a result.  One of the odes of the Canon of Holy Saturday Matins in referring to the type of the resurrection with Jonah has him say to those of Ninevah, "by observing vanities and lies you have forsaken your own mercy."  No one in the world is perfect or good apart from God...this is stated in the Gospel, when Christ says, "no one is good but God alone."  The ark is meant to house the "innocent," but it was lack of mercy that cost "niel" (or Nile?) her life in the movie.  Ham even showed more mercy and forgiveness for his father for that...those of us who claim to be in the Church should not hold it over others or judge them...that judgement belongs to God alone.  We are to be judged by what we have done "to the least of these" for in doing so, we do it to Him.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Christ is Risen!

It's still Pascha technically...so indeed He is risen!

The major moment on Holy Saturday in the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great when the purple of Lent becomes the White of Pascha and the Resurrection...and no, not Holy Trinity...sorry :-(.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Round Table on St Maximus - Dr Adam Cooper

Another discussion of St. Maximus' work on anthropology and its cosmic dimensions.

St. Maximus the Confessor - My Main Man!

January 21st - St. Maximus the Confessor (30th Monday after Pentecost)
Hebrews 12:25-26, 13:22-25
Mark 10:2-10
Life of St. Maximus

Troparion: Let us the faithful fittingly praise the lover of the Trinity, / the great Maximus who taught the God-inspired faith, / that Christ is to be glorified in His two natures, wills, and energies; / and let us cry to him: “Rejoice, herald of the faith.

St. Maximus the Confessor is one of my favorite saints, and the saint I took as my patron when I was Chrismated.  He is best known for his defense of the Dithelite Christological position (Christ had two natural wills) but has been very prevalent in recent Orthodox theology, both for his anthropology and spirituality, and also for his cosmological musings based in Neoplatonism but with a decidedly Christian take.  He expounded on numerous philosophical/theological topics from Scripture, including the idea that the logoi or "ideas of the Mind of creation" (one Logos who is Christ as the Logic of God, and that creative logic in creation as logoi through which the Logos pushes creation to a telos or goal).  St. Maximus' ideas of humanity are very interesting, and the tie of humanity and rationality to Christ as the cosmic incarnate Mind of God is something that has been toyed with in modern Orthodox forays into science and theology, even if the Neoplatonism is jettisoned in favor of phenomenological approaches (Nesteruk) or post-modern metaphysics (Yannaras).

I highly recommend reading some of his work and actually "chewing" on it.  Take some time and think about it...meditate on it.  Two approachable collections are The Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ from St. Vladimir's Seminary Press (their "Popular Patristics Series") and Maximus the Confessor in the "Classics of Western Spirituality" collection.  Some of his other work that has been published and translated to English are The Life of the Virgin Mary and Questions and Doubts.  One musing on some of his work is here.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

31st Sunday after Pentecost - St. Macarius the Great
John 20:11-18 - 8th Matins Gospel
Colossians 3:12-16
Luke 18:35-43

Troparion: Dweller of the desert and angel in the body / you were shown to be a wonder-worker, our God-bearing Father Macarius. / You received heavenly gifts through fasting, vigil, and prayer: / healing the sick and the souls of those drawn to you by faith. / Glory to Him who gave you strength! / Glory to Him who granted you a crown! / Glory to Him who through you grants healing to all

The life of St. Macarius can be found here, and a meditation on his sayings can be found here.

Two Philosophical Legends - Debate about God and the Argument from Contingency

This is a legendary debate (though edited here) between two philosophical legends; Fr. Frederick C. Copleston SJ and Bertrand Russell.  The point of the debate revolves around the Cosmological Argument and is based upon contingency (a posteriori).  Fr. Copleston is best known for his 9 volume A History of Philosophy (there are 2 more volumes in Europe, one on Russian philosophy and the other on French philosophy), while Russell for his contributions to logic and his essay "Why I am not a Christian."  Listen and learn from the brilliance of two great philosophers.

Two of the Most Influential Theologians in Christianity

Saturday January 18th, 30th Sunday After Pentecost - Sts. Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria

Ephesians 5:1-8
Luke 14:1-11
Life of the Saints

Troparion: You shone forth with works of Orthodoxy and quenched all heresy, / and became victorious trophy-bearers, hierarchs Athanasius and Cyril. / You enriched all things with piety and greatly adorned the Church, / and worthily found Christ God, / who grants His great mercy to all.

I know this is posted technically on the 31st Sunday after Pentecost and that the saint today is St. Macarius the Great, but as an academic theologian and an intense studier of the Ecumenical Councils, I just wanted to talk a little about these two theologians and how they have influenced Christianity, and where you might find their writings if you are also interested in learning about them.

St. Athanasius was a Bishop of Alexandria in Egypt, one of the traditional 5 patriarchates and (while he was an archdeacon) was a major defender of the full and equal divinity of the Logos/Word to the Father at the first Ecumenical Council in Nicea (325 AD).  His opponent was Arius, a priest in Alexandria who preached a radical unitarian monotheism and interpreted the philosophical theology of St. Justin Martyr in ways that treated the Logos as created because Justin said the Logos was the first thought of God.  For a good discussion of Arius and his views, I would recommend former Archbishop of Canterbury's "Arius: Heresy and Tradition."  As for St. Athanasius, one can find information about him (and all the councils) in Leo Donald Davis SJ's "The First Seven Ecumenical Councils: Their History and Theology," and his writings are available on the Catholic site New Advent.  His chief theological works are three, and comprise a sort of theological trilogy, starting with "Contra Gentes" ("Against the Pagans/Gentiles"), "On the Incarnation," and "The Life of Anthony."  He moves from an apologetic, to a theology and worldview of reality, and finally leading to a biography of his teacher with an emphasis on the lived out theology present in "On the Incarnation."  One of his chief statements (which does not begin with nor end with him) that lies at the heart of the Orthodox understanding of the incarnation of the Logos is "God became man so that man might become god." 

St. Cyril of Alexandria was also a bishop of Alexandria and presided over the Third Ecumenical Council, this time held at Ephesus (431 AD).  He ran up against the bishop of Constantinople, Nestorius, who denied the title "Mother of God" or Theotokos to the Virgin Mary.  Alexandrian piety and theology did not allow for the separation of Christ's humanity from His divinity, so that St. Cyril would say that Christ is "one nature of the Word incarnate."  Later after the council, he would make some peaceful headway with the Syrian churches and speak of the human and divine natures as distinct, and one can see in a letter he writes to Nestorius three of the 4 later Chalcedonian phrases that would be chief in the final ordering of Christ as one hypostasis (person) with two natures (physis/ousia).  A good account of his theology (as well as Nestorius' recreated theology) can be found in Father John McGuckin's "St. Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controversy."  St. Cyril's later work which followed the Council of Ephesus can be found in St. Vladimir's Seminary Press' Popular Patristics series ("On the Unity of Christ").  Father McGuckin's emphasis on recreating and explaining Nestorius' theology leaves no room for doubt that he uses the same term at all times in two different ways (Prosopon - the outer appearance of an essence) when he says there is "one prosopic union of the two prosopon."  I highly recommend this book.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Just Thought This Was a Fun Share!

For the last few months I have been on a heavy physics kick in terms of fun side hobbies.  When I was an undergrad, I wasn't that good with physics beyond mechanics, but partially because of the heavy mathematical element involved in electricity and magnetism and quantum physics.  I very much understood (or attempted hard to understand) the principles, but it was that darn math...though I've wanted to tackle some of the math again.  It took me two tries at Calculus 3, maybe I can review and start learning some differential equations and actually take on some astrophysics classes on iTunes U...Lord knows I've had a black hole class I've wanted to delve into.

A Review of Neil deGrasse Tyson's Presentation on Intelligent Design and Science

The above video is a presentation given by Dr. Tyson in 2006 at a conference called Beyond Belief and it is his perspective on how he sees religion in the form of Intelligent Design and how he believes it influences science negatively.  While I very much respect Dr. Tyson as an astrophysicist of highest repute, I also must say, "no, no, a thousand times no" to his presentation. 

The presentation proper is called "The Perimeter of Ignorance" and treats Intelligent Design ideas in science and its history as a form of "God of the Gaps."  I will try below to give rough estimates of time in the video so if you are following along with Dr. Tyson's presentation you are familiar with what I am replying to.

At about the 3 minute mark he makes the first of several mis-statements and what I would consider to be errors.  He references religious terminology used when the Eagle Nebula is expanded upon and we see a bit of the cosmos, but that such terminology is not used when the underside of a tarantula's belly is magnified.  I for one don't know why he says that because the intense magnification of such a sight is incredibly impressive and can have the sort of beautiful ordered chaos that is visible in some of the most brilliant nebulae. 

The point of Dr. Tyson's presentation is made clear in the first five minutes.  He intends to contribute to the discussion as a dissenter of Intelligent Design in a realm other than biology.  While my personal feelings about different Intelligent Design ideas may or may not be discussed, there are some philosophical and theological issues raised by Dr. Tyson that I cannot ignore. 

He starts off with Ptolemy and his work on geocentrism, and some notes penned in his margin for this work in which Ptolemy speaks of Zeus and ambrosia while he thinks about the heavens.  Dr. Tyson speaks of this as religious awe at the edge of scientific knowledge.  Dr. Tyson is in error on this fact, for what Ptolemy speaks of in one language and sets to paper is in a sense him getting into the mind of Zeus and the gods.  It is not that it is at the edge of his knowledge, but rather WITHIN his speculations and observations of nature where he believes he has the greatest connection with the divine. What Dr. Tyson calls here "intelligent design" in one of the most brilliant minds of science is ABSOLUTELY CORRECT!  What he gets wrong is where the thought comes into Ptolemy's mind!  It isn't just a note at the edge of his reason and knowledge because it was in the margins...the margins of works are often comments and further thought about what has already been discussed!  He is contemplating in a religious way what he believe he knows from observation and speculation!  It is this idea that Dr. Tyson does not seem to grasp when dealing with this subject.

On Galileo he does get right that Galileo was kind of a jerk, but apart from this, he misunderstands Galileo's "Letter to Christina."  Galileo's statement about the use of reason with regard to science and the world is ALSO INTELLIGENT DESIGN because it grounds reason's ability to discern ANYTHING about the cosmos in the creative hand of the Mind of God. 

On Newton, Dr. Tyson respects the man above almost any other scientist.  There is a reason for this of course, because Newton was a mathematical genius and to hear Dr. Tyson say he was "plugged into the machinery of the universe" I have nothing but agreement about.  Where Dr. Tyson is VERY wrong about is the language used in the "Principia" which is claimed that no reference to God is found.  The fact of mathematical expression when referencing the movement of two bodies IS Newton's use of intelligent design language, for his very view of natural laws would have their language in mathematics.  Math is the language of God to Newton, and that Dr. Tyson missed this fact of Newton's philosophy astounds me.  Why does Newton use doxological language at the edge of his understanding?  Because mathematics is the language of God for what is known, and doxological language is the language of man when we don't fully know about God's work in nature.  Newton would find Dr. Tyson's critique of his work and his invocation of intelligent design astoundingly missing the point. 

Further on at about the 13 minute mark, Dr. Tyson goes off on a tangent about the belief in a personal God for a small percentage of the elite scientists of the National Academy of Sciences.  He is right, that is big news, but nowhere is a discussion of the why present.  He rightly dismisses Dr. Kraus' idea of simply educating the public scientifically will make this belief go away, but he does hit on the reality that it is not the general public that should be examined, but the top scientists.  Why do they believe in a personal God?  This is something I hope to provide an answer to after this review ends.  15% of the most brilliant minds in the nation accept a personal God (strange he only considers scientists brilliant minds with this statement).

Dr. Tyson further goes on to address Christiaan Huygens (did a lot of work on Saturn's rings and also discovered Titan) and his work discussing the possibility of life on the known planets.  Dr. Tyson's comment about Huygen's use of math for issues of gravitation and motion of planets is not something I would disagree with, but again, this would be seen as the language of God.  Such a fact should not surprise Dr. Tyson if he would be familiar with the philosophical predilections of such scientists or even the mindset of the time.  You can't go around and call things "the Law of Gravitation" which can be thought of mathematically (an ideal) and not be surprised people realized an ideal mental thought can predict and describe the external world...why WOULDN'T you think of God???  The issue is Dr. Tyson's INABILITY to recognize mathematics as the language of doxology to religious scientists. 

Laplace is then brought up.  Ultimately Laplace brought calculus to physics and planetary motion in order to figure out how small tugs from other small and large bodies affect the relationship of motion between two bodies.  This was of course, infinitely better than doing two body problems for every conceivable relationship in the solar system.  However, Dr. Tyson brings up the story of Laplace and his interaction with Napoleon where Laplace said he had no need for the hypothesis of God when dealing with physics. 

First of all, let's discuss where Dr. Tyson goes with this observation.  He believes that when "you have God on the brain," you get to a limit, invoke God, and move on without contributing anything else to that field.  This is problematic on several fronts, because it isn't like Newton simply went to the pub and just drank for the rest of his life, or sat watching reruns of the Golden Girls.  For all his brilliance, he also began projects in OTHER fields than just mathematics and physics.  This is something people who believe the universe is a coherent system do, and when one challenge is done, why stay within that field?  After all, other times, scientific advancements are done by people outside of a given field because the scientific establishment is too hard headed to change (Wegner and Continental Drift anybody?).  "Philosophy of Ignorance" is used to describe Intelligent Design and "Philosophy of Discovery" is used to describe science.  This is an absurd construct which seems to be drawn from one apocryphal story about Laplace and I find mind-blowingly arrogant.  Further discussion and investigation about the life of Laplace shows that he tended towards Deism or Atheism even though he was raised a Roman Catholic, and that even near the end of his life, he was interested in Christianity and discussed God with another astronomer Jean-Frederic-Theodore Maurice (Swiss).  The other suggestion of the apocryphal event has more to do with a "when" in time that God acted rather than simply setting the rules going at the beginning. 

It seems to me that scientists often are not thinking either philosophically or historically, because Laplace did indeed still find the question about God an interesting one and did not seem to find the belief destructive of the scientific enterprise. 

Moving from his conclusion based more on ignorance than on historical investigation or philosophical grounds, Dr. Tyson moves into a discussion of different golden ages for civilizations in terms of their growth, apogee, and/or decline.  He calls these times where a nation excels in discovery "Naming Rights."  While not necessarily in Dr. Tyson's mind, I can't help but remember what a friend had told me when she said a European statue sat in South America as the "discoverer of the Pacific Ocean."  All I could think of was, "yes, because the natives closed their eyes every time they looked West."  This is not what he is thinking about, but there does seem to be a potential for abuse of this term. 

This idea he carries to such areas as the discovery and naming of heavy elements, the internet, postage stamps, and stars/constellations.  With regard to the last one, 9/11 came up and his relation to the Twin Towers on that day.  This leads to a discussion of President Bush and his statements of distinguishing between the terrorists and us with a loose Bible quote (Psalm 137:4) about how our God named the stars.  Of course then Dr. Tyson mentions that many of the names of stars are Arabic, and of course Dr. Tyson recognizes that was not Bush's point.  The reality of what President Bush meant was more theological in a nationalistic way than in a historical way.  Now, why Arabic names?  Well, Dr. Tyson does describe the period of Baghdad's intellectual growth in the Middle Ages.  While much of what he says is true and represents the great creative power of the human intellect, he then brings up the Islamic theology of al-Ghazali who said mathematics was the language of the devil.  He brings up further philosophical codification of Islamic principles and then says that their culture collapses. 

The next move is in my mind a tremendous jump in logic and rationale.  He then moves to 21st century America and talks about how in Baghdad revelation replaced reason and the civilization fell...so let's show a simplified billboard saying "Big Bang Theory, You've Got to be Kidding me. - God."  This is very low hanging fruit.  He then moves to the idea of "God spoke and BANG it happened" on a bumper sticker and declares "Intelligent Design is a God of the Gaps."  I'm sorry, but you expect me to take your conclusion seriously when you point out bumper sticker theology as the serious intellectual challenge to atheistic minded scientism?  Please.  Then he goes off into "stupid design" and says how the universe wants to kill us...yet we're still here as a collection of self-aware star dust.  He has actually painted himself into a difficult corner to answer, which is why here?  Why do we exist then?  If what he says is true (and to a large extent it is), then how is no God a good answer to life?  This makes life and especially intelligent life anathema to the universe which is all there is.  He further addresses other earthly concerns to further illustrate how ludicrous it is that we exist (though when it comes to 3.5 billion years to make multi-cellular life, there's no life around to give a crap about that).

At 33 minutes 50 seconds is where his ultimate assumption comes out...true to the Enlightenment arrogance and ignorance that derives from fundamental worldviews that have not been challenged nor needed to be defended, he says, "hardly an efficient plan with us in mind."  If your story of events is true and the universe that hostile to our existence, I must ask how we can even exist?  That we do exist and that we still view God as being rational, loving, and just is something that every serious Christian has had to wrestle with.  Surely we are at enmity with creation...the Bible SAYS WE ARE!  Our own life experience SAYS WE ARE!  But we also recognize something greater and also realize that our very existence here is evidence of God PRECISELY BECAUSE of the universe Dr. Tyson addresses.  As per his earlier rant against Intelligent Design in scientists, I'd like to see his "math" on the likelihood of us existing for as long as we have, and then ponder that reality.  Of course, he won't, because he is showing his religious predilections here.  They are like his hand in poker being shown, and it is found wanting.  His view is no better in many ways than the very views he seems to decry (and as seen above, it is not as simple as he has presented it). 

His other "poor design" arguments are tired and old.  They assume that we must be superhumans who can survive no matter where we go with any adaptation to be considered perfect.  He also discusses what I would say is the result of a fallen world, one which HE HIMSELF ARGUES FOR by his constant discussion of how bad design is, BUT WE'RE STILL HERE AND CAN THINK ABOUT IT AND ANALYZE IT.  "The universe is not here for us" is both true and false.  After all, we should probably bow down to our true masters, the waterbears which are able to survive in the vacuum of space.  Of course, he won't admit to this because he is still an Enlightenment westerner who has benefited from the assumed values of Judeo-Christianity.  You start to really analyze that worldview with some of the other statements made and it tumbles like a house of cards. 

Even his discussion of reproductive organs is both laughable (it is funny) but totally misses the point that the stupid engineer of evolution DID make it.  So apparently it wasn't that big of a deal in all the history of life which he glosses over.  Not a good design, but apparently reality doesn't see the problem he does.  At 37 minutes and 30 seconds he says what is one of the most "audacious" claims, and it is interesting because he says that's what the religious person does, but he says that he doesn't want the religious person in the room telling him what they can't discover.  Please.  No honest Christian would say "stop discovering" even if they did think that.  Investigate all you want and what you discover?  Cool!  But don't BE SURPRISED if that reason you hold so high yet is the leftover improvement of our coming down from trees on a planet that hates life, in a universe that hates life, is insufficient to the task you have set for it.  THAT is the hubris of atheistic humanism as shown in the New Atheist camp.  I have the foundational views to push for scientific and logical investigation, but Dr. Tyson is left with a view of reason highly elevated but no foundation to stand it on. 

Dr. Tyson doesn't want them in the science classroom either, but apparently from what he has shared about his view, consistency and other things get in the way of "progress."  Yes, "progress," that scientifically vapid term that is left with no real substance when stripped of a formal/final cause.  We need discovery, yes, but I'm also not stupid because if he really studied the history of science he'd realize that "progress" is a loaded term (cf. Kuhn).  Following this is a discussion of Republican politics and how they deal with science, progress, and money.  Our future is going to depend on scientific discovery, but apparently the greatest danger isn't black holes, magnetic fields, or even nuclear or biological weapons, but religious thought. 

Some interesting points, but overall, not greatest content.  What is real, how can our senses determine that?  These are very important questions.  How can human reason understand the world through scientific endeavors when science only deals with particular events and we cannot move from the particular to the universal deductively and certainly?  Other good questions.  There is of course danger with fundamentalism or religious extremism...no doubt, but a truly incarnational view of God entering into humanity and entering into the world He made as one of us who are rational and embodied people should drive us to learn more about the universe as it is, and look forward to the day when Christ returns to put us back at peace fully with creation so that we can enjoy it and it can enjoy us in a way that is truly progressive and the fulfillment of all the natural laws and their meaning.  We see now through a glass darkly, or in the current scientific time-frame, a miniscule sand speck on a beach of time and we expect to figure it out and sit in judgment of those who believe that at the end of all of the discovery, God is there?  No.  We sit being given a world that we have some control over, and much we don't.  We need to respect where we are now, and avidly look to creation to see and learn about it, and to remain in awe of the creator who not only made it, but who also became one of us, walked the same earth, and who sits our human nature in heavenly places in His body...that is the true impetus of scientific discovery...understanding the mind of God in and through creation.  Glory to God for all things.

Glory to God for All Things

A beautiful hymn and prayer to the Holy Trinity giving thanks to all things.  It is easy to focus on that which is not going according to our plan and forget that God is always doing good for us, some which we know, and some which we do not know.  When faced with adversity we should ask what we can learn from our situation and how it humbles us in order to drive us to repentance, love, and patience.  When we hear of others who endure sufferings or are facing tribulations, rather than get angry at God or deny His very existence, instead realize that you might be someone's answer from God through your act of love and kindness. When someone wrongs you, forgive them, for truly Hell is to be found in the self-destructive nature of grudges.  We should all be able to say at the end and beginning of the day, "Glory to God for all things." 

In response to the tornado and mass destruction in Washington, IL this last December, many moved forward and showed love and compassion to those who lost their material possessions or loved ones.  May the Lord continue to show mercy to those who have been affected by such tragedies in the form of loving neighbors, friends, and family.  There is no law against such love in the eyes of God.