An overview of an insightful exchange with Brett Stevens at Amerika.
Readership: The intelligent, observant, and aware.
In October, I wrote a post describing my understanding of the Calvinist doctrines of Limited Atonement and Unconditional Election: Unconditional Atonement, Limited Election (2019 October 18).
In this post, I cited an article by Brett Stevens that he had posted on Amerika the day before, Meditations on Evil (17 October 2019), which described the nature of “evil”, and discussed the misnomer of “good”.
Later the same day, Brett Stevens highlighted my post and introduced the term “Solipsism” in his post, How Religions View Solipsism (18 October 2019).
“I both agree and disagree [with Σ Frame], which will surprise no one. The article is well-written and makes some solid points, one of which is that most people are in the grips of solipsism, which the author describes as “spiritual self-reliance”. We heartily agree there.
However, in my view, spiritual self-reliance is the only way to find God; the question is not self or God, but how disciplined the self is, because a mentally disciplined self (i.e. clear, realistic thinking; we are not speaking of cleaning your closet or eating your vegetables here) will naturally find God, since God is a part of reality, and therefore, will become evident the more is understood.
For people with less understanding, the “leap of faith” (roughly: life is good, therefore it has a source of good, therefore God) works, but many now are intensely vested in science and logical thinking, and for religion to work for them, they must be able to derive it inductively in a manner similar to logical inferential leaps much as one would make when refining an experiment or testing a rule.”
My writings tend to explore the inductive, inferential approach to faith, but despite its similarities with Gnosticism, this exercise is done in faith. My motive for taking this route is that I need to give my mind something to chew on – a method to process and interpret the truths that I apprehend by faith in my heart. Otherwise, I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. But when my mind can map out a spider chart of cause-effect relationships, then I am better able to discern the nature of God’s work in my life and utilize my will – which are all necessary parts of “working out” my faith. I believe my approach is part of my own unique experience of knowing God.*
Steven’s article highlighted an issue of confusion surrounding the concept behind “spiritual self-reliance”. This is a term I made up to mean one’s stubborn refusal to rely on God. Stevens’ idea of “spiritual self-reliance” might be paraphrased as being the independent process of “coming to terms with one’s self”, or “working out one’s faith”, and he identified my description of “spiritual self-reliance” as something he would call “Spiritual Solipsism”.
I examined his arguments and addressed the confusion in a follow-up, The Evils of Solipsism (2019 November 19). In this post, I came to the conclusion that my concept of “spiritual self-reliance” and Steven’s concept of “Spiritual Solipsism” were both, in fact, the same thing as the age-old Biblical concept of Sin.**
This correlation strikes me as being noteworthy, because we both came to the same conclusions but from different perspectives. Stevens is coming from (what I suppose would be) the perspective of Nihilistic Philosophy, and I came to those conclusions from a subjective, mystical, analytical approach, which might be considered the same as, or similar to, an Existential Philosophy.***
The interesting takeaway from our exchange is that Nihilism and Existentialism are at the opposite extremes of philosophy, yet both views agree on the issue of Sin being a problem.
That’s incredible! But to those with a strong faith, perhaps these conclusions are not very surprising.
* Note 1: I believe this is at least one example of Stevens’ concept of “spiritual self-reliance” — man coming to terms with himself and sorting out his spiritual needs in the journey of Life.
** Note 2: Stevens didn’t respond to my follow up post. I will tentatively interpret this as a tacit agreement.
*** Note 3: If any of my readers go looking for an Aristotelian deduction, either from me or Stevens, you’ll probably be disappointed, because the arguments are not logical, but rather intuitive. You have to understand the issues at play and arrive at a realization of the conclusions from your own contemplations. If you haven’t yet explored this exercise, it is well worth the time and effort. If you are a Christian, then you should already be on this!