I'm taking the day off. Well, I took yesterday off too. But, the next two days will involve real work. At least they better. As part of my day off I was doing some reading. My older brother gave me a few books when he came up for a visit and I am enjoying them so far. They are a series called Foundations of Faith produced by RELEVANT that include works from past Christian Church Fathers. The one I am currently reading is by Blaise Pascal. He was a scientist (yup, that Pascal) and is considered a great religious philosopher. The bio provided in this book describes him as "one of the most important authors of the French Classical Period, and today is considered one of the greatest masters of French prose." So far, he seems like quite a cool guy. He died at the age of thirty-nine. I'm amazed at everything he accomplished in such a short time.
But, what I really wanted to get to was an interesting quote from his writings. It has made me think, and feel free to discuss it through the comments. I promise to reply. This man really was a genius and this is not a summary of his positions in any means, but I found truth in this statement.
135. The struggle alone pleases us, not the victory. We love to see animals fighting, not the victor infuriated over the vanquished. We would only see the victorious end; and, as soon as it comes, we are satiated. It is the same in play, and the same in the search for truth. In disputes we like to see the clash of opinions, but not at all to contemplate truth when found. To observe it with pleasure, we have to see it emerge out of strife. So in the passions, there is pleasure in seeing the collision of two contraries; but when one aquires the mastery, it becomes only brutality. We never seek things for themselves, but for the search. Likewise in plays, scenes which do not rouse the emotion of fear are worthless, so are extreme and hopeless misery, brutal lust, and extreme cruelty.
Disclaimer: this response goes fairly far off-topic, or at least it would appear to most as off-topic. I start talking about the problem of evil in the world (theodicy) and evolution and stuff like that. Steer clear if you have fixed opinions on these topics that you don't want changed or challenged.
I'll offer my response with what I got from this passage from Pascal. It is true for me that I seem to derive pleasure from the struggle. I really do enjoy debating things, and not always to prove a point. I know that most people will choose corn over peas, but I still fight for peas because they are perfect. I think that may be why I really enjoy spending time with other people; there is no destination. I am not trying to get to some "place" where our friendship will be complete or right or something like that. You are always moving to something else, some other depth or away from it. Everything is changing and in flux. I like that.
I like constants too, but sometimes I don't like them as much. While studying for my Science and Religion test I read a very interesting article ["An Irenaean Theodicy" by John H. Hick] (Science and Religion was very close to my favourite class this semester, it was between that and my Paul class). It was talking about the problem of evil in the world and trying to answer the question of why God would create a world like ours. Most people (okay I shouldn't say "most people," that's not a very good term I think. I don't want to infer that the majority is either correct or incorrect or something like that... sorry for this tangent. I should either clarify that with "From my experience" or "I have been told that." Alright I'm done. To continue... ) have the view that "free-will" is enough to explain the evil in this world. Now, with the acceptance of evolution becoming more widespread in Christian scholarship (widespread may not be a good term to describe it... but it is there), there has been a reworking of our theology surrounding this issue. Think about it for a second, free-will could account for all the moral sin found in the world today, especially in light of a perfect creation that falls because of its free-will. But, if you have a creation that starts with pain and is born into an "evil" world, how is that the "fault" of that creature's free-will? I have heard it said that God created us like that because he knew that we would sin if given the chance, but we needed the chance to be good "worshippers" (you might have heard it said that our worship would not be glorifying to God if we were just robots, unable to make the choice between worshipping and not worshipping. That is the argument that I am refering to). This seemed quite weak to me, and rather undeveloped. I have also heard it said that we really shouldn't question the way that God made the world, seeing at it is the creation of a good God and his ways are higher than ours. I understand that (I'm sure I've said it before, especially when discussing Job or Ecclesiastes). But, sometimes it is good to want more.
Anyways, Hick looks at the idea that God created us in a two-step process of sorts. First, he created us with the capacity and intelligence to know him and then created a reality where we would come to this through a process. Okay, so to break that down in a better way, we have two ideas here. The first is that we were created with the ability to know God. But, to give us a choice between knowing God and not knowing God we were created without that knowledge "implanted." This here is basically the free-will idea, but with the twist of no "fall" so-to-speak. We were not created as perfect beings that then fell out of relationship with God, we started with no relationship. (Like my disclaimer said, this might be waaay out there for you. Don't worry, I don't necessarily believe this as for sure the way it is. But, I am always trying to get a better picture.) Now, if we were thinking totally in this free-will way, we would say that it was our free-will that made this world such a horrible place. In essence, our free-will would be what is affecting God's good creation. Here is where the second part comes in though. If we believe that God created this world with a purpose, and that purpose is come to know, love and become like God (the idea of becoming like Christ. Hick uses the idea of being created in God's "likeness" as the process part of our creation. You can think of this as sanctification too), then we need to think in terms of a process. We need to start somewhere and get somewhere else. A purpose or goal is like an arrow, you start somewhere and go to somewhere else. The start of our arrow would have to be a being that does not look like God and the end would be someone who looks like Christ. (If you want to find fault with Hick's idea, this next bit is probably your best bet... unless you have found fault before this.) Hick then goes on to basically say that the bigger the arrow the better. Or in other words, the bigger the change the more glorifying to God we are. This is then how you would explain the harshness of the world around us. To try to use a metaphor effectively, a rose born out of a harsh tangle of wild rosebushes is more beautiful than one cultivated from a flowerbed. Likewise then, a Christian born out of the harshness of our world is somehow better than one created in a garden of Eden.
This is sort of hard for me to grasp or accept at times. I don't want it to be true. I want a world where everyone and everything is not polluted by sin and pain. And, I don't want to think that our world is somehow better because of sin and pain. That is just difficult to see for me. But, I want to bring this back to Pascal a bit. He wrote "To observe it with pleasure, we have to see it emerge out of strife." Maybe there is some truth to that then. For God to truly observe us with pleasure, we have to emerge out of strife. Like a gift made from a sacrifice. See, I really don't like this. I don't want to see God as at all, in any way, as having to create our world like it is to get us in the "best" form. I just don't like it. But, maybe it is correct. I think I would rejoice in heaven more if I persevered through intense struggle and didn't turn my back on God rather than never seeing opposition of any kind. But there is a part of me that just doesn't like that. I don't just want to fall back on leaving it up to God because he knows best, but I still have to accept that. And really, I think that so much of Jesus' life points to something like this.
I don't think I have actually answered any questions, and hopefully I have not created so many for you that you cannot look at them. An overload of thinking or philosophy or theology is not a good thing. But, maybe you got something out of that mess. And all of this from a really short paragraph in a book. Amazing isn't it.