Dabar [theme]

He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou find refuge: His truth is a shield and buckler
Psalms 91:4

Be it ours,when we cannot see the face of God, to trust under the shadow of His wings. C.H. Spugeon

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Primum non nocere

Matthew 7:12 (NKJV) Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. "The Golden Rule is the distilled essence of that ‘fulfilment’ the obligations of man to fellow man; and the requirements or expectations of the man to fellow man relationship as decreed by God (Matthew 5:17) and which is taught in the sermon".
“Woe to those . . . who, when they have to receive by measure from men, exact full measure, but when they have to give by measure or weight to men, give less than due”

Primum non nocere means "First, do no harm."

There is a passivity to the negative approach (First, do no harm) which when applied to the concept of the Golden Rule lends itself to the establishment of a posture of non-action. The assumption of the positive application of the Golden Rule is that the other person desires my action or intervention with my understanding that what I believe 'good' is for me is universally applied to all others. In the extreme instance, my decision to invade and dominate your culture is in your best interests as I believe, if in your position, I would desire you to invade and dominate myself

The assumption of a need for rescue, my actions with regard to an other's salvation or my actions with regard to an other's flourishing or well-being (conatus) must be linked to a expressed desire or visible need on the part of the other for that salvation or rescue. Matthew 5:42 "Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you." Attempts without that understanding can lead to opposition and opposition of a nature quite possibly violent in its response.

George Bernard Shaw criticized the golden rule, "Do not do unto others as you would expect they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same."

"The Golden Rule is a good standard which is further improved by doing unto others, wherever possible, as they want to be done by."

This concept has recently been called "The Platinum Rule". Philosophers such as Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Bertrand Russell, have objected to the Golden Rule on a variety of grounds. The most serious among these is its application. How does one know how others want to be treated? The obvious way is to ask them, but this cannot be done if one assumes they have not reached a higher level of understanding or acceptance of their need. In the justification of the Golden Rule as applicable to all people in all situations, there must be given consideration for the effects of that action with regard to future endeavours in evangelism or aid of any kind. Applying the Golden Rule as a law of justified action must consider the reasonable and important truth that all peoples have intrinsically the right to freedom and are equal in dignity. Justice is equated with maintaining and ensuring that the health and well-being of individuals within society as respecting that freedom is kept and acts as the final cause or explanatory reason for action.

The proper point of the law (Golden Rule) is not to force upon or subjugate to the destruction of the will of another, but to offer the opportunity for honor and dignity to be restored to the individual and that dignity to reflect upon the glory of God as it is felt in the person as an inherent characteristic and a desired outcome of relationship. It is at that instance when a person decides to accept the 'good' from anothers resources; at anothers initiative; with an understanding of the possibility of harm, (pride must be replaced by humility & gratitude) that they have made a freewill decision and therein lies the strength of the gift and the promotion of the 'good' for the recipient.

The Golden Rule is about selflessness. It does not require specific actions with regard to each situation, but requires an understanding of the nature of the need and requires action in a manner which expresses care and value for the individual over and above any reservations or prejudices. It requires sincerity (clean, pure, sound ,of "one growth", not mixed), mercy (non-requited aid, unwarranted compassion, '...the quality of mercy is not strained'.), and love.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Conatus; Freewill

If faith is defined as “belief in something concerning which doubt is still possible”, then every individual must decide their answer to the question What is truth? by discerning from the choices for action the best proposition seeking to ensure survival in light of the living out of what and how that truth is sought and lived in their life. The decisions that are made with regard to the answering of the question What is truth? are continually providing and maintaining a groundwork or springboard for living in the reality of the existential plight, realizing the personal responsibility for acts of freewill having weighed the consequences of that action against the possible repercussions. In “The Will to Believe” James stated the thesis as follows: “Our passional natures not only may, but must, decide an option between propositions, whenever it is a genuine option that cannot by its nature be decided on intellectual grounds…” The dilemma is created and complicated by the existence of the lack of certain knowledge, the rational and intellectual grounds for decision making. This lack of certain knowledge must be compensated for and in its absence fortified by belief, however its justification will remain weak as seen by the world around us because there is, “No intellectual preamble (that) can be used to make the supreme question less than an expression of faith.”

The freewill decision, to believe, have faith, seek truth, or any freewill decision, made by ourselves or others involves the anticipation of; and responsibility for an answer. The answer will be determined in part by the show of faith espoused in the resultant action and the subsequent justifying of the cause and effect relationship. We live in an arena not entirely of debate and thought, but an arena where action and reaction collide, where what we consent to and what we do not consent to intermingle with the pain and pleasure experienced as the result of the repercussions of decision-making and life's arbitrary happenings. At times we cannot put to word an adequate answer for Why? for How come? for What if? for... Faith and pain clash and leave behind dumbfounded and deafening silence. An answer without the understanding of the depth of pain or understanding the shallowness of thought reflected in the answer recommends 'silence as a virtue' and more often then not is the best option.

The depth of the issue of truth requires the even greater depth of an answer to the question What is truth? The will to believe in a higher power which controls destiny and manages the universe is an inherent mental acceptance made by most people. Some view life as being determined, a fate awaits all and its inevitability is unavoidable. There are Christians who believe the same, although they will disguise it as predestination or predetermination. I admit to a level of exaggeration solely for effect, but as I see it, it is the realization of the full impetus of the pendulum swing in thought to believing in a God who micro-manages the universe and places man as a mere puppet, manipulated by a God who chooses randomly and unpredictably those who are saved and those who are condemned. This viewpoint is not without validating Scripture references used by many to justify this mindset.

What I find disturbing is the many Scripture references allowing for the existence of a God who wishes relationship with people through their willing participation in His creation, in His story, by their assent to the conditions and terms of that relationship as outlined by God. It is in this aspect, this assent, the approbation, the determining to believe in a course of action which includes the propriety of God to act without regard for satisfaction or pleasure in the immediate that faith shows its greatest strength and impact. In the freewill decision to believe, however that is imbued in the conscious thought of man, there is removed the rational and conceivable perceptions of what God can look like and act like and more aptly a faith and belief in God is revealed that shows the fullness of fidelity, dedication and love of God through the most radical and yet fundamental expression of God, that being Jesus Christ. Freewill expresses the power of faith and belief by its option for choice. This is where faith and pain resolve their differences, in the belief in God who chose the pain to instill the faith, to pour out His love, to steep us in His presence via the paradigm of the cross, to empower the will to believe that Jesus represents the truth of God, that Jesus is the truth.

If Jesus’ willing sacrifice is the depiction of the truth about God, then the moral considerations, those things we sacrifice as an expression of our convictions, those beliefs that are the anchor of our faith, these are of the deepest and most crucial to our effective proclaiming that Jesus 'is the way, the truth and the life'. If placing one’s faith in God, is in essence trusting an authority that constricts the legitimate scope of human free will, this expresses the worst of faith. Faith exists not as a relinquishing of responsibility for one's life choices to any external authority, for whenever one sacrifices one’s authority they create a schism to being authentically human. To be man is to be a free agent acting as the the highest possible authority for constituting the values, meanings, and choices that define one's life and in that authority choosing the equal moral responsibility to ourselves and others by submitting to the greater good of choosing love for others over self-interest, even the self-interest of reward. For, if reward is the object of the self-sacrificing behaviour then self-interest is still the underscoring and predominate expectation of those actions.

Leviticus 19:18, "You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord." No one will ever love God and his neighbour with any measure of pure, spiritual love, who is not made a partaker of converting grace. The proud heart of man strives hard against these convictions. One cannot avoid the supreme question What is truth? by admonishing each person to be “a being which is compelled to decide the meaning of being…” this leaves the meaning of being in the abstract—that “…man is freedom”— and fails to confront the fact that we do not live in the abstract. In the concrete reality of human life, the supreme question confronts us with a choice that decides one’s defining course of action, a necessary act of human freedom, designed to preserve the person and those elements of life necessary to survival. There exists a subterfuge or blind in the form of an ambiguity between freedom as conceived in the abstract and freedom as put to use choosing one’s initial life course in the dilemma posed by the supreme question. The true Christian has the law of love written in his heart and in this truth there lies the evidence of God. God is love and love is real. The parable of the Good Samaritan is a beautiful explanation of the law of loving our neighbour as ourselves, without regard to color, creed, or any other distinction. It establishes the kindness, mercy, and love of God our Saviour toward sinful, miserable man. We are this poor, distressed traveller. Satan, our enemy, has robbed us, and wounded us: such is the mischief sin has done. We have a dual responsibility in this, as having “...(an) equal dignity of being, (commissioned to love others as ourselves, and in this) possessed by my being-for-others and (the existence of) my being-for-myself (allowing my determined past and memory to affect my decisions) permit(ing)…(an opportunity to play) a perpetual game of escape from the for-itself to the for-others and from the for-others to the for-itself.” Our actions become the evidence of What is truth?. Our actions with regard to the distress and pain we see around us, give evidence to what we believe to be true in and about life. As believers we consider that Jesus loves us, has compassion on us, and gave his life for us; and having shown us mercy, he compels us go and do likewise. It is our duty, in our places, and according to our ability to succour, and to help and relieve all that are in distress and necessity. This too is truth.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Conatus; Truth

What is truth? Truth is conformity to fact or reality; correctness, accuracy, true facts, genuine depiction or statements of reality, that which is real, in a deeper sense; spiritual or ‘genuine’ reality. The question lies in the perspective from which truth is viewed, whether it is subjective, relative, objective, or absolute. The specific Greek word for truth in question or in THE question is the word aletheia; truth, true, truly, truth, verity. Vine's Expository says "truth" is used objectively, signifying "the reality lying at the basis of an appearance; the manifested, veritable essence of the matter". The word carries the absolute force of its meaning in Ephes. 4:21,"..., as the truth is in Jesus:...", this is indicative of the full sense of the rendering, the parting from a meaning denoting a mere ethical value system, to 'truth' as represented by Jesus Christ in the fullness of scope, expression and embodiment. This truth refers to the integrity, sincerity, grace and love of God as shown by His character revealed in Jesus. It cannot be overstated, underscored or emphatically expressed enough that the Word become flesh (Jesus) is the incarnate or personified exact resemblance of God.

John 14:6,'Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.' The search for truth, the quest to determine its form, to define its substance and content, to find the absolute relation of truth as reality to truth as genuine in life, has been the aggravation and bane of philosophers, clergy and many others. The reality of an absolute truth requires an acquiescence to a power or to the knowledge of a power greater than ourselves existing and with wisdom beyond our comprehension; therefore having judgement, equity and understanding of a nature giving it the authority to justly implement and administer reward and punishment. Within the concept of this authoritarian truth we find the plausible structure of a cell,...convictions are prisons... they separate and divide communuity by the moral and ethical strictures which a marginal population recognizes as authority and acts in accordance with the mandates expressed by that authority. They set aside personal agendas to live within the legal parameters established by that authority. The belief is that the greater good of the whole is enhanced by the acceptance of the governance based on truth, moral and holistic behaviour, and the personal sacrifice of non-virtuous behaviour which seeks to gratify personal desires for the greater good enhancing the lives of all.

John 8:32,"...and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Many searchers of truth do not recognize the freedom shown in observance of the truth. The pursuit of truth finds its significance in lives when they are lived out in the fullness of their intended existence free from the devastating effects of sin, “Properly understood…the desire to act justly derives in part from the desire to express most fully what we are or can be, namely, free and equal rational beings with a liberty to choose.” Freedom is not liberty to be enslaved to immoral behaviour any more than it is being enslaved to limited choices, a non-autonomous existence built on a framework of cause and effect controlling our actions. Freedom is the ability to function within the framework of societal, moral, ethical, holistic and spiritual parameters ensuring the health of the individual and the health of the community. Freedom is to be motivated to act in a manner consistent with a moral perspective dedicated to the survival of self and the community.

When there is no basis for truth, there is no basis for moral right and wrong. Justice becomes whatever works or whatever helps those in power or those seeking power to influence for personal gain and to maintain self-interest. Carnal hearts feel no other grievances than those that molest the body,their desires,their wants and affections and distress their worldly affairs and their personal quest for happiness. The loudest voices crying against intolerance are those same voices screaming their discontent as a result of their shame for their personal conduct in living outside standards of acceptable and normal behavior. Their cry for respect is the formation of their foundation for self-respect. Their desire is to eliminate the moral propriety expressed by God through their very nature and the voice of God as expressed though Jesus Christ. In Jesus and his Word we have a standard for truth and for our moral behavior.

What is truth? It is the radical choice to believe that at the foundational level to being human, to be in relation to other humans, requires fidelity to a moral framework designed by God, lived out in person by Jesus, exemplified by the disciples, and is being perfected in me.


The good, the good that we see, any good as defined by a person, that good that we would do is a derivative of the will to live; this will to live is defined and expanded in definition by the term conatus. Conatus is Latin: meaning, effort; endeavor; impulse, inclination, tendency; undertaking; striving. It is a term used to to refer to the innate inclination of a thing to continue to exist and enhance itself. This "will" forms the conatus of a body and its physical manifestation is the perceived "will to survive". In order that living beings may thrive, "they seek peace and fight anything that threatens this peace".

Conatus is also equated with "imagination", and states that a change in the conatus, or will, is the result of "deliberation". From all this, then, it is clear that we neither strive for, nor will, neither want, nor desire anything because we judge it to be good; on the contrary, we judge something to be good because we strive for it, will it, want it, desire it."

Survival requires adaptation and change to meet the volitional movements of all others seeking to survive and enhance their existence. There exists within us a 'vital impulse' which generates the power of that movement, the need to survive, to exist, to maintain equilibrium, balance, control, peace, security. Wills collide, cultures and people seek dominance, believing by their wisdom, knowledge, purpose or strength they are empowered, believing they are able to subjugate by the force of their will and the collective authority manifested by their superiority in any or all of the previous functions to assert their will over the volitional will of the lesser. The principle behind this derivative concept states that any given culture, "tends to persevere in its being, whether by dominating other cultures or by struggling against their domination."

My self-preservation efforts will always be thwarted by things outside of my control. We are finite creatures and cannot, in the end, control our destinies. People have tried this, even using violence, but they always fail in the end. But as my volitional range grows I'm able to calculate the causal chains that adversely affect me (or promote my existence) more and more deeply and deeply. My volitional horizon expands. I become the empowered, I attain to a measure of freedom from domination, fear, oppression. I become empowered to express, to create, to envision, to strive for perfection. I become free. I become 'free', not in the essence of being 'causally unconstrained', but in the essence that the realization of the choices I now have are increased by the opportunities to promote my self-interest. "...the very foundation of virtue is this very striving to preserve one's own being, and that happiness consists in a man's being able to preserve his being. "Yet, this very self-interest demands that you and I work together in mutual harmony:" "We can never bring it about that we require nothing outside ourselves to preserve our being, nor that we live without having dealings with things outside us...There are, therefore, many things outside us which are useful to us, and on that account to be sought." This is sought and found in community and is stated by this axiom, "To man, then, there is nothing more useful than man. Man, I say, can wish for nothing more helpful to the preservation of his being than that all should so agree in all things that the minds and bodies of all would compose, as it were, one mind and one body; that all should strive together, as far as they can, to preserve their being; and that all, together, should seek for themselves the common advantage of all."
'E pluribus unum'
Conatus will persue as an end cooperation and morality, not isolated self-interest. The complexity of the relational aspects of community are not evidenced by the tolerance, acceptance or ignorance of the members, but are found in the collective morality and virtue, ensuring the preservation and survival of the whole body in health and vigour. The determination of that health must be founded on an aspect which seems difficult to define; truth, the truth not as it exists for the self-interest of a person, but truth as it exists for the preservation of society.

The preservation of society is directly related to the threats against its survival. Nero fiddled while Rome burned. The by-words of a secure society or a culture experiencing a false sense of security are the words which reflect upon self-interest, the conceited view which declares the health of the individual subjugates the health of the whole, the declaration of the individuals rights to health, wealth and happiness at whatever expense can be incurred to ensure tolerance is placated. It is only when the appetite and desire of individuals desirous of pleasure and comfort affect the health of society creating pain that the threat of the tolerant view to truth is questioned. What is truth?