Thursday, January 30, 2014

Dallas Notes: The Genius of Jesus (Ohio State University, January 1, 2013)

The Genius of Jesus

[Note: I have adapted the notes below from html slides that are available on Dallas' website.]


Any system of education that ignores the moral and religious nature of the student is fundamentally defective
I don't have time to tell you all the things I don't mean by the things that I will say :-)

1 Ohio State Veritas: Theme: The Genius of Jesus
•Human beings are responsible for their future.
•They determine what their future will be and who they will be by what they do now.
The Human Burden: To find an adequate knowledge basis for life.

2 What is Knowledge?
the only point of taking classes is gaining knowledge
Our ability to represent things as they are, on an appropriate basis of thought and experience. Knowledge involves truth.
NOTE: We must define knowledge in such a way that it does not presuppose answers to substantial questions. For example, does not presuppose secularism or naturalism, or their opposites.
We have defined knowledge today in such a way that the most important matters of life cannot be knowledge.

3 What is Truth?
A thought or statement is true if what it is about is as that thought or statement represents it.

4 The University’s Role
•“Standard 1:A of the WASC handbook is: Integrity in the pursuit of truth.
•The first sentence under that standard is: “An institution of higher education is, by definition,dedicated to the search for truth and its dissemination.”
•Later: “Those within an educational institution have as a first concern, knowledge, evidence, and truth.”

5 Belief
We are in tension b/t truth and desire
•Belief is readiness to act as if what you believe were true.
•We often believe what we don’t know and even fail to believe what we do know. Such is human life.
We know a lot of things we don't believe b/c our will is set against it
•Leadership requires followers to believe that leaders KNOW, that the leader has TRUTH.
•Thus, mere rumors of knowledge are often used by leaders to govern belief and action in individual and group life. – Remember Enron,etc.

6 "Our contemporary society with its..."
•Our contemporary society with its “news” is a thriving rumor mill: rumors touted as knowledge by “experts.”
•The danger is that our beliefs and our policies will be based on mere rumors of knowledge, and not on knowledge.
•Rumors of knowledge originate from those who have authority in our culture.
•But they often are responses to desire and will, not necessarily to truth.

7 The Four Great Questions Of Human Life
• The nature of reality?
what you have to deal with. what you run into when you're wrong.
truth enables you to harmonize your life with reality
• Who is well-off?
– Blessedness
– The Good Life
• Who is a “really good” person?
• How to become a “really good” person
Buddha, Plato, Freud, Derrida, Oprah, etc. etc. Of course these questions should always be open to the most serious and searching inquiry.

8 The University Gives Answers To These Questions
•Not in a straightforward and responsible manner, but by how it proceeds.
•By what is regarded as ‘adequate’ teaching and research in the various fields, or ‘adequate’ course content.
•For example: that expertise in no field of knowledge requires knowledge of God.

9 The Three Stories About Our World
•The Theistic Story: everything derives from a personal God who is ultimate
•The Nirvana Story: everything derives from a reality that is undifferentiated – the realm of “no thing.”  ‘New Age.’
•The Materialist Story: the physical universe itself is the only ultimate reality.

10 Agnosticism
•“I don’t know” is the default position from The Three Stories.
•It looks innocent, but it really isn’t because it doesn’t just mean “I don’t know,” it means we can’t know!
•And to defend “we can’t know,” is as tough a job as defending one of The Three Stories.

11 The Historical Power Of Jesus
•Arguably the most influential person inhuman history—who else?
•Book: “What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?” (Kennedy)
•Current influence on people in other religions. (Nov. ’02 issue of Touchstone magazine)

12 Why So Influential?
•Because of His answers to the four great questions of life.
•Especially:
–His vision of reality, and
–His teaching about how we can become the persons we ought to be.

13 Jesus On Reality
•Reality is God and his kingdom.
•The ‘Kingdom’ of God is the range of His effective will.
•It is where what God wants done is done.  
•As your ‘kingdom’ is the range of your effective will.
Atheists are embarrassed when they feel grateful and have no one to be grateful to. -- Chesterton

14 The Trouble With My Kingdom Or Yours
•It cannot run on its own.
•Kingdoms in conflict.
•The impossibility of being who we ought to be by our own efforts and devices.
•We must have grace, from others, from God.
•Only life in His kingdom harmonizes the lives of human beings.

Only loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength can enable us to love our neighbor as ourself
God invites us to live in a spiritual reality in which all of the aspirations of the human heart for welfare and being a good person can be realized.
Jesus understood what would make life work, that the basic problem for human beings is to find a spiritual home in which they can know that they are eternally cared for and from which they can care for others
Can't we all just get along? Obviously no because we want our way and we can't find a larger kingdom in which to live with others

15 What Is Morality?
A shared (public) understanding, with associated emotional postures, concerning which types of persons are to be (or are not to be) admired, approved, imitated, encouraged and supported, without regard to whether they prosper or are able to accomplish what they desire.

As long as we take humanity as the ultimate reference point, we won't be able to be moral
the historical power of Jesus came from the fact that he knew what to do and could enable people to do it. He provided a morality that would actually make people good

16 The Good Person: A Matter of the Heart
The morally good person is a person who is intent upon advancing the various goods of human life with which they are effectively in contact, in a manner that respects their relative degree of importance and the extent to which the actions of the person in question can actually promote the existence and maintenance of those goods.
a lot of people don't love themselves, to say nothing of their neighbor
in a consumer culture, the pursuit of pleasure is confused with the pursuit of happiness
Jesus refines 'love your neighbor as yourself'
Love one another as I have loved you.
Greater love has no one than this, that they lay down their life for their friends
do I love my neighbor? am I learning to?
if we follow what is the good life with 'how do you become a good person?' that is where, above all, Jesus shined

17 How To Live It
•By serious inquiry and personal testing.
•That will require honest comparison of Jesus and his teaching with others.
You have to regard Jesus as someone who is seriously dealing with the facts of life. 
•And surrender of ‘what I want’ as ultimate point of reference
•If there really is a better way, Jesus would be the first to tell you to take it.

18 Truth Will Not Set You Free!!!
•One of the most misquoted lines in human history.
•The statement is: “If you continue in my word <put it into practice> then you really are my apprentices; And then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31)
•Free from inability not to do evil.
We know a lot of good but systematically don't do it
We must see Jesus as providing the most essential knowledge about the most important areas of human life (switch from seeing him as nice)