Concepts: John Van Huizum`s Achilles Heel ~ “Moral Pronouncements”

Since I have been critiquing John van Huizum’s articles (here-and-there), he came across as someone who took a position to comment on the “right[s] and wrong[s]” done in politics — just one example to make the point. In April of this year, John had an article entitled “About Correcting Mistakes.” In the article he uses words like “disaster,” “correct,” “imbalance,” and the like.

Or John’s “critique” of Sharia Law, and his asking if Christoper Hitchens was right. This makes no sense in light of the following article about Alan Watts, who really teaches that ethics have “no intrinsic value.”

My point being that while I may continue to critique John’s articles, know that whenever he accesses some behavior as wrong, or one that should be corrected — as in the political left and right — he is undermining his own case by a) not having an ontological or epistemological basis for his positions, and b) is proving the superiority of the Judeo-Christtian ethic over other views. In other words, me dealing with bad thinking is in futility, and john’s positions on a way politically, economically, or morally for someone to go is also in futility. Here is the article referencing Alan Watts:

(Click to enlarge)

I will give and example from my book, more specifically from my chapter on Eastern philosophy where I include a debate/discussion I had with a Zen-Buddhist apologist:

I wish to illustrate with a conversation (unfinished by the way) between myself and a Zen Buddhist.  This conversation can almost happen with any religious Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, or the like.  The conversation takes place after an interesting post by the person on his blog about self-defense, the Dalai Lama, WWII, and the Buddha. I will post my reply to his original thought, and then he responds, followed again by me.  (Keep in mind I am using our “blog” names, they are almost like “handles” like in the movie Top Gun):[1]

  • My initial engagement

Does the idea of “violence” as a moral good or a moral evil truly exist in the Buddhist mindset? What I mean is that according to a major school of Buddhism, isn’t there a denial that distinctions exist in reality… that separate “selves” is really a false perception? Language is considered something the Buddhist must get beyond because it serves as a tool that creates and makes these apparently illusory distinctions more grounded, or rooted in “our” psyche. For instance, the statement that “all statements are empty of meaning,” would almost be self refuting, because, that statement — then — would be meaningless. So how can one go from that teaching inherent to Buddhistic thought and say that self-defense (and using WWII as an example) is really meaningful. Isn’t the [Dalai] Lama drawing distinction by assuming the reality of Aristotelian logic in his responses to questions? (He used at least three Laws of Logic [thus, drawing distinctions using Western principles]: The Law of Contradiction; the Law of Excluded Middle; and the Law of Identity.)  Curious.

  • They Call Him James Ure, responds

You’re right that language is just a tool and in the end a useless one at that but It’s important to be able run a blog. That or teach people the particulars of the religion. It’s like a lamp needed to make your way through the dark until you reach the lighthouse (Enlightenment, Nirvana, etc.) Then of course the lamp is no longer useful unless you have taken the vow to teach others.  Which in my analogy is returning into the dark to bring your brothers and sisters along (via the lamp-i.e. language) to the lighthouse (enlightenment, Nirvana, etc.)

  • I respond

Then… if reality is ultimately characterless and distinctionless, then the distinction between being enlightened and unenlightened is ultimately an illusion and reality is ultimately unreal. Whom is doing the leading? Leading to what? These still are distinctions being made, that is: “between knowing you are enlightened and not knowing you are enlightened.” In the Diamond Sutra, ultimately, the Bodhisattva[2] loves no one, since no one exists and the Bodhisattva knows this:

“All beings must I lead to Nirvana, into the Realm of Nirvana which leaves nothing behind; and yet, after beings have been led to Nirvana, no being at all has been led to Nirvana. And why? If in a Bodhisattva the notion of a “being” should take place, he could not be called a “Bodhi-being.” And likewise if the notion of a soul, or a person should take place in him.

So even the act of loving others, therefore, is inconsistent with what is taught in the Buddhistic worldview, because there is “no one to love.” This is shown quite well (this self-refuting aspect of Buddhism) in the book, The Lotus and the Cross: Jesus Talks with Buddha. A book I recommend with love, from a worldview that can use the word love well.  One writer puts it thusly: “When human existence is blown out, nothing real disappears because life itself is an illusion. Nirvana is neither a re-absorption into an eternal Ultimate Reality, nor the annihilation of a self, because there is no self to annihilate. It is rather an annihilation of the illusion of an existing self. Nirvana is a state of supreme bliss and freedom without any subject left to experience it.”

  • My Final Response

I haven’t seen a response yet. Which is fitting… because whom would be responding to whom? Put another way, would there be one mind trying to actively convince the other mind that no minds exist at all?

 


[1] I use quite liberally in this exchange two resources, they are as follows: Michael J. Murray, ed., Reason for the Hope Within, 212-214; and, Ernest Valea, “Possible difficulties in Buddhism,” Many Paths To One Goal? Found at: http://www.comparativereligion.com/Buddhism.html (last accessed 8-11-09), the main site is: http://www.comparativereligion.com/index.html

[2] “One who has taken a vow to become a Buddha.” David Burnett, The Spirit of Buddhism: A Christian Perspective on Buddhist Thought (Grand Rapids, MI: Monarch Books, 2003), 329.  “Celestial” Buddha’s and bodhisattvas are said to be able to assist in guiding believers towards salvation as supernatural beings.  These bodhisattvas vary in their rolls and offices as the many gods of Hinduism, from which Buddhism comes.  See: Michael D. Coogan, Eastern Religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Toaism, Confucianism, Shinto (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2005), 133-139.

So, even the act of “loving,” or love itself as expressed in concern, the well-being of others, and the like, are all illusory. Not only that, but these concepts all keep the believer in pantheistic religions captive to this delusion rather than getting out of the cursed “wheel of reincarnation.” The words John used are laden with ideas of a moral wrongs, as if there is a plum line in the universe in which John is accessing and thinks others should hear the Cthulhu siren call of and apply to their thinking as well. C.S. Lewis dealt with this well when he talked about his atheistic days:

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too ~ for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist ~ in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality – namely my idea of justice ~ was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco, CA: Harper San Francisco, 1952), 38-39.

You see, John is baking a cake and eating it too. He is espousing atheistic Buddhism in his life, but BORROWING ethical stance made only in the Judeo-Christian worldview (see exchange at Harvard during Q&A with students, to the right).

Put another way, I had a professor of philosophy who was herself Hindu, which has a similar view to Buddhistic ideas of Karma — since Buddhism was birthed from Hinduism. During the class time that dealt with “evil,” she concentrated almost exclusively on Christianity. I pointed out that other worldviews (atheism, pantheism, and the like) all have to deal with this problem. She responded that they do not. Odd. In a paper I wrote in response to this — after eviscerating her position in class — I point the follwing out, and in the below are examples I used in class with this double masters holding professor [actively] trying to get kids to reject Christianity in class. This response went through some “evolutions” to end in my seminary level paper I wrote, “New Age Pop Culture“:

  • Pantheism

Now that we have defined what the Law of Noncontradiction is, lets apply it to some basic Eastern thinking.  All Hindus, Buddhists, New Agers (etc), are pantheists.  The term Pantheist “designates one who holds both that everything there is constitutes a unity and that this unity is divine.”[1]  Most pantheists (Hindus, Buddhists, New Agers, etc.) would hold that physical reality, and all the evils it produces, is merely an illusion.  This holds true for the personality of man as well.  This distinction explains why, in both Hinduism and Buddhism, the personality is seen as an “enemy” and is finally destroyed by absorption into Brahmin or Nirvana. Not only is the material creation absorbed, but human existence are either an illusion, as in Hinduism (maya), or so empty and impermanent, as in Buddhism (sunyata), that they are ultimately meaningless.

But is an impersonal “immortality” truly meaningful when it extinguishes our personal existence forever? Is it even desirable? As Sri Lanken Ajith Fernando, who has spoken to hundreds of Buddhists and Hindus, illustrates:

“When I asked a girl who converted from Buddhism to Christianity through our ministry what attracted her to Christianity, the first thing she told [me] was, ‘I did not want Nirvana.’ The prospect of having all her desires snuffed out after a long and dreary climb [toward ‘liberation’] was not attractive to her.”[2]

In the end, man himself is a hindrance to spiritual enlightenment and must be “destroyed” to find so called “liberation.” As Dr. Frits Staal comments in an article entitled, “Indian Concepts of the Body,” “Whatever the alleged differences between Hindu and Buddhist doctrines, one conclusion follows from the preceding analysis. No features of the individual[‘s] personality survive death in either state”[3]

With the above in mind, take note of a major problem that faces the pantheist visa viz, “that there is no reality except the all-encompassing ‘God’.”  Using the Law of Noncontradiction we can see that this is a nonsensical statement that is logically self-refuting.  If everything is illusion, then those making that statement are themselves illusions.  There’s a real problem here.  As Norman Geisler pointed out, “One must exist in order to affirm that he does not exist.”[4]  When we claim that there is no reality except the all-encompassing God, we are proving just the opposite.  The fact that we exist to make the claim demonstrates that there is a reality distinct from God, which makes this key doctrine of pantheism a self-defeating proposition.  It is an untruth – by definition.

  • Reincarnation

Another belief that is accepted by all Eastern philosophies as well as the New Age movement is that of reincarnation.  I will explain the concept with some examples, after I define the term.  Reincarnation is a “belief in the successive rebirth of souls into new bodies, as the soul progresses toward perfection.”[5] 

Some examples of this “karmic law” are warranted: first, lets assume I beat and abused my wife horribly, treated her like the dirt on my shoes, I would be storing up some pretty bad karma.  When I come around for my next human life, after, of course, traveling through the insect, and animal lives, I would come back as the woman being beat.  This is karma’s answer to evil, which is really no answer at all.  In fact, it perpetuates evil.  How so?  It necessitates a beatee,” which mandates a “beater.”  Karma, then, creates a never-ending circle of violence, or, “evil.”  In addition it states (emphatically I might add) that we choose our current destiny (or events) in this life due to past life experiences and choices.  This is why the holy men in Buddhist and Hindu nations generally walk right by the maimed, injured, starving, and uneducated, and do not care for them.  This next true story drives this point home.

Ron Carlson, while speaking in Thailand, was invited to visit some refugee camps along the Cambodian border.  Over 300,000 refugees were caught in a no-man’s-land along the border.  This resulted from the Cambodian massacre under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in the mid-70’s (which is known as the “killing fields”) and then subsequently by the invasion of the Vietnamese at the end of the 70’s.  One of the most fascinating things about these refugee camps was the realization of who was caring for the refugees.  Here, in this Buddhist country of Thailand, with Buddhist refugees coming from Cambodia and Laos, there were no Buddhists taking care of their like-minded brothers.  There were also no Atheists, Hindus, or Muslims taking care of those people.  The only people there, taking care of these 300,000[+] people, were Christians from Christian mission organizations and Christian relief organizations.  One of the men Ron was with had lived in Thailand for over twenty-years and was heading up a major portion of the relief effort for one of these organizations. Ron asked him: “Why, in a Buddhist country, with Buddhist refugees, are there no Buddhists here taking care of their Buddhist brothers?” Ron will never forget his answer:

“Ron, have you ever seen what Buddhism does to a nation or a people? Buddha taught that each man is an island unto himself. Buddha said, ‘if someone is suffering, that is his karma.’ You are not to interfere with another person’s karma because he is purging himself through suffering and reincarnation! Buddha said, ‘You are to be an island unto yourself.’” –  “Ron, the only people that have a reason to be here today taking care of these 300,000 refugees are Christians. It is only Christianity that people have a basis for human value that people are important enough to educate and to care for.  For Christians, these people are of ultimate value, created in the image of God, so valuable that Jesus Christ died for each and every one of them.  You find that value in no other religion, in no other philosophy, but in Jesus Christ.”[6]

Do you get it now?  It takes a “Mother Teresa” with a Christian worldview to go into these embattled countries and bathe, feed, educate, care for these people – who otherwise are ignored due to harmful religious beliefs of the East.

Another example is a graphic one, but it drives the point home.  While at home on my day off, my work calls me in due to an emergency.  I cannot find a sitter for my youngest son, so I call a family member, say, uncle Steve.  While I am at work, uncle Steve rapes and sodomizes my son.  Should I call the authorities??  If I am a believer in reincarnation, then I must realize that this “evil” is an illusion, number one, and number two, this “evil” was brought on my son most likely because of something my son did in a previous incarnation.  Something my son did in a previous lifetime demands that this happened to him in this lifetime.  (Or something I did, or my wife did, whomever.)  Only recently have some Indian people rejected reincarnation and started to kill the massive infestation of disease-ridden rodents that inhabit India’s cities.[7]  These rodents carry and transmit many diseases as well as destroying and infecting large portions of food that could have made it to the starving population.  Most, however, continue to nurture or ignore these disease-carrying animals in the belief that they are a soul stuck in the cosmic wheel.  This is just one example of a horrible religious practice that is part of the many destructive practices that are hurting precious people.  The caste system mentioned before is another that promotes and encourages racism, malnourishment, lack of education, and death.

  • Pain & Suffering

Another problem in pantheism is God’s inability to deal with or solve the problem of evil.  In fact He is the cause of it… remember, pantheists believe all is God.  Pantheism may try to ignore this problem by claiming that sin and suffering is an illusion (maya), but let’s bring this philosophy down to the real world.  Try to convince a man dying of cancer or a mother who just lost a child, that evil and suffering are merely illusions.  Even if evil is an illusion, the illusion itself is real.  In either case, evil exists.  As Geisler asked, “If evil is not real, what is the origin of the illusion?  Why has it been so persistent and why does it seem so real?…  How can evil arise from a ‘God’ who is absolutely and necessarily good?”[8]  The answer must be that if pantheism is true, God cannot be good, and He must be the source of evil.

Between karmic destiny and the god[s] of pantheism and its dealing with pain and suffering (and consequently the promotion of it) by claiming everything is an illusion just doesn’t make sense.  Mustn’t we live as if this illusion is reality?  Pantheists may pawn this inane philosophy on people, but no one can live it out consistently.  And when a large population tries, like in India, one can see the fruits it produces.[9]  The promulgation of suffering and the inability of the religious Hindu to stop and help a suffering child or the rampant infestation of disease spreading (crop eating) pests, etc., is all a loud explanation of trying to live an unlivable philosophical proposition.

I have debated many persons over the Internet that are pantheists that will laud the evils done by the Christian church.  In these debates I point out that these persons are in fact using the Judeo-Christian moral absolutes in interpreting history and delineating between “good” and “bad.”  For in Eastern thought, there is no “evil,” or “good.” If these people really believed it, they would come to realize there is no real good or evil!

The inquisitions, for instance, were merely the outgrowth of the victim’s previous lives – incarnations.  The Christian church, then, would merely be an instrument in perfecting these person’s karmic lives.  Therefore, when some here who are defending karmic destiny in other strains speak of the horrible atrocities committed by religion,” they are not consistently living out their philosophy of life and death.  The victims of the Inquisitions or Crusades then are merely being “paid back” for something they themselves did in a previous life. It is the works these people did prior that creates much of the evil upon them now. So in the future when people like John (a believer in reincarnation) says that Christianity isn’t what it purports to be because of the evil it has committed in the past, I will remind such people that evil is merely an illusion (maya – Hinduism; Sunyata – Buddhism) to be overcome, as karmic reincarnation teaches.[10]

In addition, monistic philosophies provide no explanation for the diversity within creation. If “God is truly one,” the only reality, then diversity (all creation) is by definition part of the illusion of duality. That includes all morality, all human hopes and aspirations. In the end, despite having an infinite reference point, we are left with only a destructive nihilistic outlook on life.  To think otherwise is to adopt or borrow portions of another worldview. As Charles Manson noted, “If all is one, what is bad?”

The desire of every Buddhist, for example, is to be free from the problems of life – to be free from pain and suffering. As the Buddhist saying goes, “As the water of the sea tastes of salt, so all life tastes of suffering.” Their goal is to develop a detachment from life.  Buddha taught that desire is the root of all evil. To exist is to suffer!  The answer to suffering is Nirvana (annihilation), which is achievable by successive reincarnation. Hence, Buddhism insists, “Those who love a hundred have a hundred woes. Those who love ten have ten woes. Those who love one have one woe. Those who love none have no woes.” The goal of life is to reach the stage of desirelessness. When one ceases to desire we have overcome the burden of life. How one is suppose to be desirelessness without desiring that quality is a problem few have any time (or desire?) to answer.

 


[1] Ted Honderich (editor), The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, (Oxford Univ; 1995), p. 641; “[T]he doctrine that God is the transcendent reality of which the material universe and human beings are only manifestations: it involves a denial of God’s personality and expresses a tendency to identify God and nature,” Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary (Random House Inc, 1999), CD, see: Pantheist.

[2] Ajith Fernando, The Supremacy of Christ, p. 241

[3] Somantics: The Magazine/Journal of the Bodily Arts and Sciences, Autumn/Winter 1983-1984, p. 33.

[4] Norman Geisler, Christian Apologetics. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1976), p. 187.

[5] Debra Lardie, Concise Dictionary of the Occult and New Age (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 2000), p. 218.; …“Proponents base their beliefs on the idea of karma, the Hindu concept of the force generated by the sum total of an individual’s actions, especially religious or ritual actions both good and bad.  Hinduism teaches that the lives of people are an accumulation of both good and bad karma.  The imbalance of this accumulation determines the circumstances for the next reincarnation life” (Ibid., pp. 218-219).

[6] Ron Carlson & Ed Decker, Fast Facts on False Teachings. (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House, 1994), pp. 28-29.

[7] From a show seen by the author [me] a few years ago on The Learning Channel.

[8] Norman Geisler, Christian Apologetics. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1976), p. 187..

[9] Rabi R. Maharaj, Death of a Guru: A Remarkable True Story of One Man’s Search for Truth (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House, 1977).

[10] From an on-line debate the author had.  You could also include the deaths of innocent civilians in the currant Iraqi war… these innocents that died by a misplaced U. S. bomb deserved so due to a previous life choice.  The critic of this war who is a New Age student of Eastern thought looses all power to criticize such “evil” acts.

To be clear… ethics [moral oughts and ought nots] finds no rest and peace in either atheism or Eastern thought

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