Holy S - - - !
Holy S - - - !
By Dan Eumurian
The last course I took at Kent State University was Aesthetics, the philosophy of art. It was the summer of 1974. I had enrolled at Kent two summers earlier, and was about to receive the Bachelor of Music in Music Education degree. The professor was Dr. Robert A. Dyal. I had previously had Dr. Dyal for Introduction to Philosophy. He called himself a "former evangelical." He had earned his master's degree at a theologically conservative school, but had abandoned his evangelical beliefs and become a "panentheist." Panentheism teaches that God is in everything, unlike pantheism, which teaches that everything is God. Dr. Dyal believed that Jesus had earned the title "Son of God" thru his radical obedience.
I had no real background in philosophy. Mr. John Mason, the Sparta Senior High School teacher from whom I had taken speech and Latin classes, was planning to offer Philosophy the following year. He liked to quote his former professor, who would say, "Meester Mason, vot iss the reeally reeal?" I had, however, come across a little book by Francis Schaeffer entitled Escape from Reason. This at least got me interested in philosophy, and I was more than ready to push what little I had learned on Dr. Dyal and my fellow students. Accordingly, my Sparta High classmates had put the saying under my picture in our senior yearbook, "I'm not arguing with you. I'm telling you."
Dr. Dyal had chosen to teach us contemporary philosophy rather than the classics such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. We read an essay by Susan Sontag entitled "Against Interpretation." Dr. Dyal took us to an art exhibit and showed us a tree stump. This, he said, was art undisturbed by humans. My thought was that we have all disturbed nature and need forgiveness and guidance from the Author of nature.
My best friend in aesthetics class was Bill Gaffney, a nominal Roman Catholic who was studying to be an architect. Bill kindly told me that when I would raise my hand and speak up, the rest of the class would just tune me out. One exception took place on a day when I brought to class an article on art from the Christian magazine "Eternity." A fellow student named Barbie grabbed the article like a drowning person grasping a life preserver. "I was a Jesus freak," she said. Apparently no one had ever told her that you don't have to turn off your brain or your artistic sensibilities to become a Christian. On another occasion, Bill told me that I had cheated: Dr. Dyal had backed me into a corner and I started using religious jargon. On the other hand, Bill said, I had backed Dr. Dyal into a corner and he had started using philosophical jargon.
The crisis came one day when a tall student named Peter, sitting to my right in the back of the room, stood up and addressed me. "I'm sick of your half-baked ideas!" he said. "I believe in the S - - - tist Philosophy of Life. We're all the bowel movements of the Prime Mover."
Many years later, I came up with the following. I hope someday to be able to share it in person with Peter. If you want the short form, read the beginning and the end. If you're offended by the language, I apologize, but I would also refer you to I Kings 16:11 and Philippians 3:8 in the Bible.
The S - - -tist Philosophy of Life
By Dan Eumurian
Peter, the problem with you is, you don't know s - - -.
Fact is, everybody in the world is full of it.
If you really believe that your fellow human beings are s - - -, you'll probably treat them like s - - -. If you're just using "strong" language to shut me up, you did shut me up--for the moment. Perhaps strong language is the weapon of the weak.
We certainly didn't create ourselves, but we act as though we did. I grew up believing that God created the universe in six 24 hour days around 6,000 years ago. I'm now somewhere between Evolutionary Creationism (www.BioLogos.org), also known as Theistic Evolution, and Intelligent Design, with a few ideas of my own. One of the latest thinkers to weigh in on the subject is famed Yale computer science professor David Gelerntner. https://www.thecollegefix.com/famed-yale-computer-science-professor-quits-believing-darwins-theories/ I like the fact that the word "evolve" can be a transitive verb: I can evolve a plan for getting rid of the clutter in my house. Accordingly, God can evolve the universe, using the Big Bang, the laws of physics, the principles of variation and selection, and so on, as part of his plan to create the universe. Maybe we need to go beyond scientific terminology and use analogy--part of the subject of my master's thesis in philosophical theology--to describe how we got here, what we're here for, and where we're headed.
Despite our contingency or createdness, we seldom if ever listen for the voice of our Creator. It's like a child receiving a Christmas present, tearing it open and breaking it, rather than thanking the giver and learning how to use it properly. Ironically, in her August 24, 2019 article "The Garden of Eden: A New Beginning, Not Sinning" on the Progressive Christian branch of Patheos.com, Danielle Kingstrom summarizes Dr. Alexander Shaia's book The Garden of Eden: A New Beginning, Not Sinning by saying, " Adam and Eve did not sin in the Garden of Eden, they opened their eyes. They grew up." https://www.patheos.com/blogs/daniellekingstrom/2019/08/the-garden-of-eden-a-new-beginning-not-sinning/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Christians+For+a+Better+Christianity&utm_content=43
If we're honest, we will probably all admit that we've failed to meet our own standards for ourselves, not to mention our spouse's, family's, friends' or Creator's standards. I've had friends who were atheists and refused even to read material that challenged their thinking. Thus they opted out, one might say, on the "variation" element of variation and selection, a principle of evolution. Baba Brinkman, a Canadian atheist and rapper, wrote to me years ago, " I will never be a follower of Jesus. I don't see anything particularly special about him compared to Krishna or Mohammed or Buddah [sic]." I referred Baba to Sharing Your Faith with a Muslim, by Abdiyah Akbar Abdul-Haqq, and Building Bridges: Christianity and Islam, by Fouad Elias Accad. Later I came across an encounter entitled "Ravi Zacharias speaks with a founder of Hamas," which can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmRCsXRassg. Baba's failure to distinguish among mutually contradictory religious leaders could be seen as a failure to "select," another violation of an evolutionary principle.
In his book Losing Faith in Faith, preacher-evangelist-musician-missionary turned atheist Dan Barker refers to the cross of Jesus as "an emblem of humiliation, agony and death" (p. 202).I see it, reverently, as a flush lever. Jesus, God focused into human form (see Your God Is Too Small, by J.B. Phillips), locked himself onto our sins like a soap molecule grabbing onto dirty grease, and washed away the sins of everyone who puts his or her faith in him.
If we don't take advantage of this "flush lever" or "soap molecule," however, we're stuck with our sins. When the Great Coffee Maker comes for his mug of steaming java, he'll find a cup filled with nothing but filth. He'll take it personally, since his provision for cleansing and good filling cost him the life of his beloved Son.
In short, at the end of her or his life, every human being will look into eternity. If they have chosen their own path and rejected the loving provision of their Creator, they will see nothing but separation from God and everything that is good, and indeed, the wrath of God remaining on them (John 3:36). Their one word response might be... "S - - -!"
If, on the other hand, they've tuned into the good news of forgiveness, redemption, reconciliation and restoration provided by Jesus, they will see all the rewards for faithfulness that a powerful, loving Deity could give his beloved children. They will see that their unbelief, rebellion, sins of commission and sins of omission have been detoxified and transformed into fertilizer. I'm guessing that they would be forgiven if they would exclaim... "Holy S - - -!"
© 2019, Dan Eumurian, La Crosse, WI, www.PianosNSongs.com.
This essay may be shared in its entirety, with attribution. Thoughtful comments welcome.