Dwight Lucas

Colloquium de Humanitate

May 15, 2024

On Inequality: §3: Human Death

Some thinkers have pointed to physical aspects of human weakness. Other thinkers have stressed how skill outweighs weakness. But if we remember how we started this discussion—on the certainty of death and the questionable occurrence of making the self weaker voluntarily (sometimes in the face of death)—physical weakness is not the most intriguing aspect of humanity. Of course, it might baffle some when a human dies for other humans. Yet, it is not unfathomable why a person would sacrifice his or her life in such a manner. However, it is harder to understand why a person would die for something that is or someone who is invisible. Indeed, dying for a cause that renders no physical benefit is harder to grasp. It is one thing to let a bear kill me to protect my family. It is another thing to let a lion tear me into pieces for an invisible God. In Annals, Tacitus says,

Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths [the death of Christians]. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.

The violent deaths of Christians are no secret to historians. Still, what stands out from these usual and cruel Roman punishments are the gestures of giving away strength— giving the self to the killer—for something invisible. After Christians were killed in gladiator games, there was probably not any trace of a visible blessing. The mutilated corpses on the ground, for most, probably seemed like the reward for Christian belief. Thus, one advantage humans have over animals is the expression of sacrificing the self for an invisible cause.

May 10, 2024

On Inequality: §2: Human and Animal Strength

We can see that humans, in a sense, usually lack some things that animals possess. Most would agree that such things are animal instinct and strength. Yet let us look at strength for a moment. Now, first we have to be clear about how animal strength differs from human strength. Most would say the strength of a beast or animal is a kind of brute force—raw, pure, or undeterred in form. However, brutish may be too simple of a term when speaking of animals. Brutish implies that animals do not reason when they use this strength. Or the term implies nothing mixes with such strength. Yet we see animals reason frequently, such as when an animal calculates if they can defeat one animal or a pack of animals. If an animal calculates it is outnumbered, the animal will usually retreat. Thus, animal strength is not unadulterated or void of reason; a logical and calculated thought mixes with such strength. So, perhaps, this brute force refers to, more so, the physical strength of an animal. In this case, we should agree that animals with more muscles or body mass are, indeed, stronger than humans. Yet this difference in strength is not noteworthy. Such a difference exists, though in a lower range, in human society. For instance, a bigger or more muscular human will usually win in a physical fight because of his or her strength. However, some better questions we could ask relate to the opposite of strength or power: powerlessness, fragility, or the desire to become weak. We should ask why would humans or animals give away their strength? Why would humans or animals sacrifice their lives? For who or for what would animals or humans sacrifice their lives? Do animals and humans sacrifice their lives for some unwritten cause or principle? Some studies have shown that animals behave in a manner that suggests they are willing to die for their herd, colony, pack, or young. In such actions, an unwritten principle or cause exists. Yet even in such animal sacrifices, there seems to be a connection to the physical world—the temporality of the circumstance. Humans (perhaps, with the aid of language) have been able to express that it is possible to die for something metaphysical—something unrelated to the temporal world.

May 6, 2024

On Inequality: §1: Humans and Animals

Indeed, many contest how humankind began. Some believe humans evolved from monkeys, chimpanzees, or another primate. I am hesitant to believe my ancient ancestor looked anything like a monkey. People argue about if humans first walked on two feet or on all fours, what tools they must have used, and how they hunted for food. As intriguing as this approach to investigating humanity sounds, many will confess honestly that much of the conclusions based on such prehistoric evidence about the beginnings of humankind are vague, opined, and inconclusive. Thus, as we look at the human, it is safer to assume that "the human was what it is." Through this present observation, we can collect sufficient data about the inward and outward developments of humans.

Solomon, perhaps, gives us the best objective view of the human, and he does not go back to prehistoric times to make his point. Solomon says, "As for the sons of men [humans], God tests them so that they may see for themselves that they are but beasts" (Ecclesiastes 3:18). Solomon emphasizes that little exists to distinguish between the life and death of humans and animals. He also says,

For the fates of both men and beasts are the same: As one dies, so dies the other—they [humans and animals] all have the same breath. Man has no advantage over the animals...All go to one place; all come from dust, and all return to dust. (Ecclesiastes 3:19-20)

For understandable reasons, some believe humans are better off than animals. However, if we look at the beginning and end of human life on earth, human life does not distinguish itself that much from animal life. Of course, humans have romantic relationships, go to school, secure careers, use technology, establish governments, and achieve various things for themselves and society. Still, the end of life on earth for humans, regardless of how successful this life is, is death. If people think humans have an advantage over animals, but this advantage relates to only earthly and temporal things, this advantage quickly disappears as a vapor. And, perhaps, the only advantage that humans have over animals is knowing how certain death is.

April 25, 2024

Proof II: Taste

The Christian form of proof also relies on tests and experiences. Scripture says we should "taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8). Most people would agree that tasting differs from eating. Tasting usually requires us to take a little food and test its flavor. Eating involves taste, but primarily centers on satisfying hunger. Tasting involves a test. In addition, each person who taste tests usually has different words to describe the flavor. To put it differently, everyone can experience God, but perceive and describe him in different ways. Nevertheless, such tasting takes on a different form since we are discussing God. When we talk about tasting God, we are not talking about tasting him with our tongue. But how can we taste God? A little further in the same area of Scripture mentioned earlier, it says to "fear the Lord" (Psalm 34:9, 11). Scripture gives this command directly after it tells us to taste the Lord. To put it another way, we can taste God by allowing ourselves to fear him (reverence or honor God extremely). Such tasting appears to be the benefit of many blessings from God. Fear of God, just as our perception of flavor, takes on many forms. Still, it appears Scripture prompts us to taste with fear. Then, after a person is satisfied with how something tastes, he or she can move on to eating.

April 24, 2024

Proof I: Test and Experience

What is proof? Some people might say proof is something you can see. However, how can a husband prove he loves his wife? How can a man prove he doesn't fear someone or something? Of course, one might answer that a person can easily display actions (convincing behavior) that give evidence of love or courage. But such evidential actions can be deceiving. A man can buy his wife flowers. But to believe that such an act proves love would be the thinking of a simpleton. A man might stand up to a person who is terribly dangerous. Yet this man stands up to this dangerous person while clutching a knife in his pocket. Outwardly, the man is fearless. But the man's shaking hand over his knife, if we could see it, would tell a different story. Now, these examples show how observed actions are not always reliable forms of proof. The hidden nature sometimes is the actual source of proof. And this hidden nature of proof is because proof is not necessarily what we see with our own eyes. Proof can fall into two other categories: (1) Things we can test for validity and (2) Things we experience. For instance, if a husband wants to really prove he loves his wife, his love must go under some test. In this case, the test of the husband's love can take multiple forms. Time and age can test his love. Stress can test the love of the husband. Temptation can test the husband's love. However, when the husband passes such tests, his love is proven to his wife. Likewise, the man holding his knife in his pocket may actually be unafraid of the dangerous person. His shaking hand may be from never using a knife on someone before. Yet he is unafraid of the actual situation he is facing and unafraid of the terribly dangerous person standing in front of him. But how can we believe this man when he tells us he is unafraid? If we were to believe him, we would have to believe his experience. Sometimes, we have to believe in the experience of the Other. To put it differently, we sometimes have to take someone else's word for it. Some people might think taking someone else's word for the truth of things is foolish, especially with things such as the existence of God, truth, love, and justice. However, it appears it is a normal practice for people to take someone's word for things. We usually believe people when they tell us the price of something. We believe people when they say they will do something. But it seems when we discuss religion, the Other's experience is harder to believe. Yet, what if the other category of proof—tests—accompanied such an experience? Could we possibly gain proof by testing the experience of Others ourselves? That is to say, instead of taking a person's word for something, could we test it for ourselves? Now, this can be a dangerous activity, especially for actions that go against a person's creed or standards of morality. Such danger (as perceived in the person who feels the danger) is also an experience. Understandably, no one should ask another person to try their gods if such testing would cause the Other to experience harm (i.e. idolatry—as perceived in their experience). Still, this is where we should arrive at some form of proof, in that proof is something more buried in the conscience of each person. And proof is connected more with experience and testing than we have grown accustom to. This means that sometimes it is only the individual—who is truthful with their Self—if they have a true experience with something or someone or have tested something to the point where their belief would constitute proof.

March 20, 2024

Common Sense

It appears to be mere common sense that "god doesn't exist." This is one claim of "the skeptic." However, should people be so quick to trust common sense? Common sense—in the "sense" that a notion is agreed upon by an accepted consensus—does not guarantee correctness. It is the fatal mistake of "the skeptic" to equate common sense (agreement) with correctness or agreement with truth. Common sense is merely agreed on ideas or values. But since it is nearly impossible to claim that everyone agrees on everything or always agrees on the right things, common sense is not as certain as some may believe. In fact, plain common sense alone cannot prove a truth. Neither does common sense explain or debunk the existence of God.

The kind of evidence demanded by the proponents of common sense requires consensus. Such consensual evidence is evidence that is "common"—agreed on through set parameters and pre-stipulations as means to facts. Nevertheless, facts are things done or in existence, which are known to be true, not agreed on. Yet, if such existential truth must be agreed on in order to be "sensible" or true, we no longer discuss facts or common sense, but a common ideology—an agreed way to explain the world and phenomena. But evidence does not have to fit an ideological constraint to be true. Evidence speaks for itself. So, it may only be one person who believes in a fact. This person may not have common sense, but can have all the truth in the world.

December 15, 2023

Omnipotent God

Of course, one might think God is not omnipotent because evil occurs in the world. But what is one to think when Scripture appears to back the impotence of Godthis kind of weak god who is only powerful when it is convenient for the believer. Such a weak god, to some, is mentioned in Judges 1:19. As it states, "And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron" (Judges 1:19). On the surface (and, indeed, one must look under the surface to gain any real understanding of things), it appears that God could not defeat these "inhabitants of the valley." "The jokster," in this case laughs so much to disregard that the "becasue of"the clause that must give something a proviso, an attached agreement regarding relationdoes not have to necessarily apply to God. In other words, the "because of" in the passage is implicative of Israel's behavior without the complicity of God. But cynicism usually keeps one from realizing apparent things of this nature. Some even say jokingly, "The Israelites should have served a god of the valley instead of a god of the mountains." Nevertheless, in this jokeapart from its apparent cynicism, which is typical today, is a kernel of wisdom. That is to say, Israel, at its highest point (which is to "be in the mountains"), served God and did not depart from following his commandments. They did not fear the enemy because they were "high" spiritually, relying on God for their strength and protection. However, at their lowest (which is to say "in the valley, the mire, and the junk"), Israel did not trust God. They were scared of their enemies. Theyin a Peter-like waylooked at the boisterous winds and waves around him (Matthew 14:30), which were, for them (the Israelites), the chariots of iron. Now, if we look at the story of Peter walking on water and compare it to this passage, we should ask, "Why did Peter sink?" Peter didn't sink because God lacked the power to help him walk on water. No, Peter sank because he took his eyes off of Jesus. Likewise, when the Israelites took their eyes off of God, they looked at the iron chariotsthey began to sink in their own "blood of disbelief."

Indeed, those who do not believe in God will sink in a like manner. Herein the passage about Judah and the iron chariotsis a story not only about God's chosen Israel, but about anyone who does not rely on God for everything. Anyone, even God's people, apart from a total reliance and adherence to his commandments, will sink just like Peter. They will lose the battle in the "valley" just like Judah. Nonetheless, this "battle"this contention for something preciousis not for something physical, at least in the greatest sense, but it (the battle) is for the soul of the human.

November 18, 2023

The Mystery of God

In Revelation 10:6 we see a phrase: "that there should be time no longer." This has been translated as "not yet." Or, it is also understood to mean "should not yet be" on earth. But what is this time it refers to? Some believe this time refers to another verse in Revelation 16:17, where it reads, "And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, 'It is done.'" That is to say, it is finished. These words, of course, are the same words uttered before Jesus died (John 19:30). This "time" also refers to a passage where the prophet Daniel writes, "And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven and sware by him that liveth for ever that it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished" (Daniel 12:7).

This time is also referred to as the mystery of God, the secret of God. The apostle Paul mentions the mystery of God (Romans 11:25; Romans 16:25-26), and he refers to it as being revealed "by the scriptures of the prophets according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith" (Romans 16:26). But it is in Ephesians, where the apostle Paul is more explicit in his enunciation of the mystery. The apostle Paul says the mystery is "That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel" and this is "the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 3:6,9).

Jesus makes it clear what this mystery is to his disciples after he resurrected from the dead. The explanation of this mystery is recorded in Luke 12. After Jesus explains to his disciples how Scripture foretold that Christ must suffer death and be resurrected from the dead, he says this: "And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his [Jesus Christ's] name among all nations, beginning in Jerusalem" (Luke 12:47).

Now, what does this mystery tell us today? Well, we must first ask ourselves, why would there be another need for an additional mystery? One mystery revealed to us, especially if it is the mystery of God Almighty, should be enough to satisfy our spiritual needs. Thus, one should not attempt to create another derivative mystery, which lacks the power and meaning of the mystery at hand. Still, we can gain from an understanding from the pattern of this wonderful mystery: that the salvation of God through Jesus Christ is for all people; there is no one left out. Likewise, perhaps, we can learn to not keep people out of opportunities, privileges, rights, etc. that were meant for everyone. Indeed, the mystery of God is not primarily a socio-economic statement. However, such a statement, this idea that God does not discriminate against who gets his salvation, invites us all to see that things beforehand thought to be only for one group of people are actually—when revealed—for all people. Such a revelation may have to come from external spiritual and psychological help.

Furthermore, it is the grace—the grace of God—that is extended in an unconditional movement toward our souls. Of course, there is a conditional "counter movement" we must make to accept God's movement towards us. Still, the first move (even the move toward humanity by Jesus Christ) did not require a prior move toward God. That is to say, "God loved us because he loved us." We cannot logically say, "God loved us because we loved him." Indeed, Jesus was sent to humanity on the basis of the former "love statement." With that said, if we look at the unconditional movement of God's love, grace, and salvation toward us, what does or should this prompt in our souls? What is God prompting us to do? What type of move, without a "preconditioned" ploy, should we make toward others who should have the same opportunities, privileges, and rights as those who already enjoy these things?

November 10, 2023

His Yoke Is Easy

Of course, Jesus says, "My yoke is easy" (Matthew 11:30). But why does his yoke not always feel easy? It may come from not understanding what is really being said in this passage. Indeed, dying and going through persecution and challenges do not seem easy. Still, let us look at the passage more closely. First, yoke, here, means servitude. Scripture is not talking about an actual yoke. It is talking about a posture of service towards Jesus Christ. Taking on the yoke of Jesus Christ is doing what he commands us to do. Second, "easy," here means to be mild, pleasant, or manageable. The latter definition may serve us better here. Nonetheless, all three meanings are important. I believe we understand this statement better when we compare the yoke of Jesus to the yoke of the Pharisees. When Jesus said these words, Pharisees were making it hard for people to be "holy." This "holiness" was, of course, the self-justification of works instead of faith. Therefore, the Pharisees had a bunch of ordinances, customs, and laws other than the more important laws of showing mercy and loving our neighbors. It was in this context (this sense of comparison) that Jesus says my yoke is easy. In other words, Scripture could be saying, "Following Jesus is way easier than following some man-made way of doing things." Or, "It is easier to follow Jesus than to follow what the preacher on the TV says to do." Or, "Follow Jesus instead of 'fill in the blank.'" When Jesus says that his yoke is easy, it feels as if he is inviting us to make him not only number one in command, but the only one in command regarding our spiritual salvation. If we do this, it appears that our spiritual journey will be easier. Of course, this does not mean we will have it "easy," in the sense of this physical world. Trials, persecution, and death will still occur. But we can be sure that the road to our salvation will be clear and straightforward.

November 4, 2023

Love, No Fear

You may have heard someone say that fear is the opposite of love. This belief usually comes from a passage in the Bible. It reads, "For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline" (2 Timothy 1:7). This belief may also come from the words of the apostle, John. It reads, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear..." (1 John 4:18). Now, fear may or may not be the opposite of love. But let us just say it is. How would fear be the opposite of love? Well, if love is, as we said before, obedience to the commands of Jesus Christ, fear would have to be its opposite. What would fear be here? It would be disobedience. Yet, how can we equate fear with disobedience? Well, if we think that the commands of Jesus Christ take courage, it might be easier to understand the relationship between fear and love. Jesus loved God so much that he obeyed him, even when it meant dying on the cross. Did dying on the cross take courage? I think any rational human would agree that to die on the cross willingly would require a lot of courage. Likewise, when Jesus Christ commands us to do things, it takes courage. But if we really love him, we disregard the consequences, even if the consequence is death. So, fear has no place in such a love as this, a place of perfect love.

November 3, 2023

What Does It Mean to Love God?

The apostle John says "God is love" (1 John 4:16). And some of us may now that "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Some of us may ask ourselves how can we return the love of God. Well, the love that God requires and wants from us differs from an earthly love. The love God wants requires action. The apostle John says, "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments" (John 5:3). The apostle John also says, "And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment" (2 John 1:6). In other words, following the commandments of God shows that we love him. Saying that we love him or showing it through our emotions is not the only way we express that we love God. We express our love for God by doing what he tells us to do. We love through obedience. The apostle John warns us that some may try to trick us, that Jesus Christ did not come to earth in human form (2 John 1:7). But why would he make this warning? The idea of Jesus not coming to earth in human form makes it easier for some people to disregard living a human life in subjection to the rules of God. That is to say, some might say, "If Jesus did not live a human life and follow the commandments of God, why should I?" But this is the very argument that people cannot logically say; Jesus came to earth and suffered in his humanity just like us and was obedient to death, but without sin (Hebrews 4:15; Philippians 2:8). Thus, living a life free from sin is fathomable. It is possible. Do not let others deceive you. Since Jesus came to earth and died for our sins, we are also dead to sin. Therefore, let us take off the old self and put on our new church clothes, so to speak.

November 2, 2023

Asking For Things

Today, we have a number of people who claim we should just claim things to have them. They say we should claim cars, houses, publishing deals, jobs, relationships, health, etc. Of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting these things in moderation. There is nothing wrong with believing God can provide these things. However, we should not confuse our will with the will of God. The physical things, especially when they are earthly (serve no spiritual ends), are not always what is in the will of God. God usually focuses on the spiritual side of life. To be sure, God never intended for us to be poor. But God is the same Jesus who said, "The poor you will always have with you..." (Matthew 26:11). Yet what does he say next? "But you will not always have me" (Matthew 26:11). This statement stresses that we are at our poorest when we do not have Jesus. In other words, Jesus highlights a deeper sense of poverty we can have. On the contrary, when we have Jesus, we are rich. Thus, physical things should not seem so important when we truly have Jesus. It is in this relationship, this space, that it is easier to pray according to the will of God, seeking the things he wants. And we can be glad knowing that Scripture is explicit in saying if we ask for something according to the will of God, we will receive it (1 John 5:14-15; James 4:3; Matthew 7:7-8; Psalm 37:4). This does not mean we will get everything we ask that seems like the will of God. Sometimes we do not know what the will of God is. But we have a hint or idea of what his will is. We know that the will of God is righteous. Therefore, we should pray righteous and earnest prayers, as the apostle James beckons us to do (James 5:16-17). Furthermore, we can have comfort in that when we ask for something and we receive it, that we actually asked something according to the will of God. Thus, do not stop asking God for things. Those who ask will receive. But remember to ask for the best things, things according to his will.

November 1, 2023

Trying the Spirits

"Beloved, believe not every spirit but try the spirits" (1 John 4:1-2). Everyone who says they are from God are not always from God. Also, we should not always believe people when they say they are speaking the words of God. We must, according to the apostle John, test and scrutinize every spirit. This "spirit" is the manifested spirit, so to speak, of an individual. This spirit can be godly or demonic. One sign the apostle John gives us to distinguish a godly spirit is its confession of the arrival of Jesus Christ. This arrival is in human form. Now, in what way can a person say that Jesus Christ did not come to earth in human form? Simply, all people who say Jesus was a real person but deny his Christhood oppose this godly spirit. The apostle John calls this spirit the antichrist. Confessing the Christhood in human form is the crux of the apostle John's statement. Of course, historical evidence does not allow many rational people to deny outright the existence of Jesus as a real person. But such historical evidence does not necessarily stop some people from denying Jesus' Christhood-his Messianic identity. Therefore, the antichrist is someone who detests not the existence of Jesus, but, more so, his Messianic character. Such antichrists deny that Jesus Christ, the human, has come and can save us all. With this said, we must think about what acknowledging Jesus' Christhood looks like?