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Romanticism and Existential Philosophy

This is an interesting piece on romanticism and existential philosophy

Philosophy Is Not A Luxury

I have bee recently reading a book called “Irrational Man” by William Barrett. It was originally written in 1962 and it is generally recognized as the book that introduced the Existential philosophy of continental Europe to America. You may be familiar with existentialists, perhaps even without knowing that they were existentialist. Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Soren Kierkegaard are some of the big names in Existentialism. Martin Heidegger is another.

As I have read about these late 19th and 20th century thinkers they appear to me to be an extension of the Romantic Movement of the early 19th century. The Romantics, as I have described in this blog, were reacting to what they saw as the excessive intellectualism of the European Enlightenment. They believed that humankind had developed an untenable hubris in relationship to its ability to understand everything. The bottom line…

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Blog and writing news, Christian hedonism, Enjoying God, Sanctification, Worship

The One Design of the Christian Life: Enjoying God

One design you are to pursue to the end of time – the enjoyment of God in time and in eternity. Desire other things so far as they tend to this; love the creature, as it leads to the creator. But in every step you take, be this the glorious point that terminates your view. Let every affection, and thought and word, and action, be subordinate to this. Whatever you seek or shun, whatever you think, speak, or do, be it in order to your happiness in God, the sole end, as well as source, of your being.”

John Wesley, Plain Account of Christian Perfection.

Through my many years as a Christian, I’ve found that this is the real crux, the real design, and the real goal of the Christian inward life. While we have many responsibilities and desires, it always leads back to this one thing – enjoying God in this life and the life to come.

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The Launch of Life-Ecstatic

1 Thessalonians 5:

23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

This is a key verse and, if read both in its context and simply, implies that God may “sanctify” a Christian “completely”, keeping the whole soul and body blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. It continues to say that God is faithful and “he will surely do it.”

Can we see what it says? It says we may be “completely” or “entirely” sanctified. For any person who has come to life in Christ Jesus (AKA, a Christian) this is a pretty stunning promise.

Psalm 16:

5 The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
7 I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
8 I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures [delights] for evermore.

It’s with these two verses that I relaunch my faith blog under the name Life-Ecstatic. The word “ecstatic” is used as a noun for mystics and as an adjective for experiencing joy and excitement. I’ll be using it in both these respects, pointing toward a ‘valid’ mysticism that belongs to the Christian life, a mysticism that’s about ‘devotion’ (that alone should give you a clue where that’s going to go) and speak about the single goal of every Christian’s life, which is joy in God. My blogs will go around qualifying why I see it that way and encouraging Christians to bring all of their life onto one single focus, one single goal.

I’m of the firm belief that many Christians feel pulled this way and that way with the mass of information, books, blogs and teachings out there. Yes, my one is another one. But, I’ve found that when you’re able to pull your focus toward one thing, there is fruit and direction in your life. Pursuing “joy in God” is another way of saying that our central goal is to “worship God”, but I don’t use that language because the word “worship” has become quite vague for many of us.

To come back to the beginning, it’s this ‘joy in God’ that leads us to sanctification, the outcome of that inward desire of the Christian to live a holy life before God and man. “Holy” means a life of perfect love, the kind of love Jesus had. It doesn’t mean we dress in strange clothes and hang out on a mountain in solitude, but solitude is certainly a way of getting to the goal! So how all of these sorts of things interconnect will be the main themes of these blogs.

My blogs on business, current affairs and so on will be housed at my website.

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Blogs (Faith), Business, Life-Ecstatic (Faith)

What is the Main Purpose of Business?

In my usual meanderings through the Internet I’ve recently come across work from Jeffrey Van Duzer, the business school dean at Seattle Pacific University and a former corporate attorney. He has some interesting things to say, including that maximising profit is not the top priority of business.

In today’s culture, that’s quite a statement! It seems that you really only have two choices when it comes to work and business: (1) Make a lot of money or, (2) If making money doesn’t appeal to you, do something else.

For many, many people, they are very good at what they do but they struggle to buy fully into the culture of the day, and for good reason! It seems, however, that sensible people who are sensible about business and money often feel as if maybe they’re called to something else, since they can’t “play the game” as the world plays it. This leads to us also viewing work and business in a negative light.

But Van Duzer doesn’t say this without offering a healthier alternative worth pondering:

“Probably the most controversial aspect of this view of business is that it relegates profit maximization or increasing shareholder wealth to a means and a constraint rather than a purpose. That doesn’t mean profit is not important. In the business school, we still teach how to run profitable businesses, but profitability is what you need in order to attract the capital that enables the business to do what it should be doing, which is to serve in the ways I mentioned.

“(These are: business… helps provide meaningful and creative work for people to do, which is part of how people express their God-given identity. Two, it produces goods and services that enable communities to flourish.)

“The dominant paradigm says the purpose of business is to maximize profit and increase shareholder value. This approach turns that upside down.

“Profit is like blood in a body. If blood isn’t pumping through your body, we don’t have to talk about your purpose, because you’re dead. Similarly, if profit isn’t flowing through a business, we don’t have to talk about the business’ purpose, because it’s bankrupt. Few of us get up in the morning and say, “Today I’m going to live to circulate blood.” Blood is important, but it’s not our purpose, and similarly for profit.

(Quoted from the website Faith and Leadership)

With my craft, ghostwriting, I’ve often wondered how I can run a profitable business when my heart is actually to just serve people; do stuff for people; use my talents for the community; and enjoy meaningful work. I’ve never been that excited about the bottom-line, about making the money, but more about all that other stuff. But yet I’ve known, somehow, that making money is something I should be interested in doing. Van Duzer’s putting this in a way that really makes sense to me.

It’s worth exploring this more, I think!

Blogs (Faith), Life-Ecstatic (Faith)

Matthew and Money: Our Covetous Culture


Ever noticed how, in our culture, we’re basically taught and brought up to never be content? All our advertising, our schooling, the media, and the business culture, all tells us that we have to be ambitious for more. It’s all about competition and comparing ourselves with others, looking at what they have and wanting that for ourselves.

We grow up in a covetous culture.

This is the world’s endless and restless pursuit of money and power. I don’t say it’s necessarily wrong to be competitive (that might require some explanation) but what I am saying is that discontentment is never satisfied, no matter how much money or power you have.

Proverbs 23:4-7
Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it. When you set your eyes on it, it isgone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings, like an eagle that flies toward the heavens.
Do not eat the bread of a selfish man, or desire his delicacies; For as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, “Eat and drink!” But
his heart is not with you.

I don’t know about you, but if I let just a little bit of this covetous, discontent culture seep into my thinking and my heart, I’m restless for days on end. You might not think you’re a very covetous person, and in fact neither did I, but I never understood why money was a constant problem in my life. Why it was I felt like I just was never doing well enough and providing well enough. The answer? I would look at what many others had and covet. Sure, I wouldn’t steal, but I would make it a life goal to get to the place where I could afford such things too. And that, in fact, means that money was very much my master.

In my last post we saw that the context of Matthew 6: 19 – 24 is, in fact, about the contrast between generosity and coveting (not so much a contrast between generosity and stinginess, although that’s definitely in there.) This context of coveting continues in verses 25 to 34, a set of famous verses which I think have often been taught outside of the correct context of coveting.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Now, what do we see here, given the context? The anxiety Jesus condemns is an anxiety around coveting, not about legitimate worry.

This makes sense of Jesus’ saying that “life is more than food” and the “body more than clothing.” It’s about what we’re pursuing. If someone I know gets to eat all the good food, drink all the good wine, and buy all the good clothes, my heart can very easily covet all that – I also want all that for myself and my family. I also want the nice house and the feeling of security that all that stuff brings.

We all do, don’t we? Many of us spend time on Pinterest pinning all this stuff that we want. Liking nice clothes is different to making the nice clothes our goal in life. It’s not just about the dangers of materialism, it’s about our sight – where we’re looking. What we look at is what we will go after. Remember the previous verses? Those with a bad eye are full of darkness. They’re always looking at wealth and what others have and having all that is their endless, restless goal in life. (Some are calling this affluenza.)

Now this thing of legitimate worry needs to be expounded. We’ll do that in the next post.

Blogs (Faith), Life-Ecstatic (Faith)

Matthew and Money: Generosity is Always Right


Currently, in my series on what Jesus has to say about money – and how He lived it – I’m working through Matthew 6. You can see previous posts in this series here.

Matthew 6: 19 – 34 is a well known section of scripture that deals with this topic. But we’ll just look at verse 19 – 24 for now.

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Verse 19 and 21 I think are self explanatory. But the question is, how do we lay up treasure for ourselves in heaven? It’s interesting that material objects on earth – such as money – are able to gain us heavenly / spiritual reward from God. It’s all about how we use it – for generosity or for ourselves?

So is it a sin to spend money on ourselves? Of course not. But verse 22 & 23 put this in better context. And might I add, the context is important – I’ve heard these scriptures used to talk about why we shouldn’t look at pornography when the context has nothing to do with that sort of stuff!

In Hebrew culture a person with a ‘good eye’ was / is one who sees the needs of their neighbour and does something about it. In other words, a generous person. Now you might think that an ‘evil eye’ is then about the opposite – being stingy – turning a ‘blind eye’ – but in fact it’s about going even further – seeing your neighbour and coveting what they have.

Proverbs 28:22 is a good examples of this. It says: “A man with an evil eye hastens after wealth And does not know that want will come upon him.” (NASB). So this scripture is talking about what we pursue. Are we pursuing the Kingdom and its kind of generosity? Or are we pursuing all those things everyone says we should have? If you’re generous your whole being will be full of light. But if you’re stingy and, worse, covetous, your whole being will be full of darkness.

Up to this point there has been no mention of our conventional wisdom that sounds something like: “I’m going to make lots of money so that I can be generous.” Many people, including Christians, pursue wealth with the apparent motive to be generous. It sounds all well and good but Jesus doesn’t exhort us to be generous when we’re finally wealthy. (If you keep saying “one day” I’ll give, I promise you, “one day” will never come – there will always be a reason to subscribe to “charity starts at home.”) Rather, we’re to be generous despite what we have. You’re not supposed to only have a ‘good eye’ when you have a good bank account. Having a good eye is meant to be a part of your character despite your bank account.

This leads me to believe that generosity is always right – even when it hurts. And it often does hurt. And it’s often very risky. We tend to think that generosity shouldn’t hurt because we think that the reward of moral living is easy living. In other words, the ‘right thing’ should never hurt; it’s supposed to make us feel better. So that’s why it’s popular to think that only when we have lots of money we can ‘afford’ to be generous.

I’m not saying that generosity always must hurt but only that we shouldn’t be surprised when it does. By definition, if all my generosity never actually costs me anything, how generous am I, really?’

Financial stability and coveting

Our culture’s ‘wisdom’ tends to preach that we need to accumulate until we have financial stability and freedom and then we’ll have the freedom to be charitable and generous. The reality is, however, if you aren’t generous from the beginning you’ll never be generous when your ship finally comes. If you don’t know how to manage your money with a good eye, and if all you know is how to feed your own stomach – and not be satisfied because you’re staring at everyone else’s food and wishing you were eating what they have (coveting) – all you’re ever going to have is an evil eye; and when you have plenty you will still demand more because you’re greedy, discontent and full of covetousness. Because your master is money, not God, and you are devoted to money.

But you cannot serve two masters.

Jesus now expounds on this context of an evil eye and coveting in the next piece of scripture, which we’ll look at next. And with this context in mind, this next piece of scripture says things I never realised before.

Blogs (Faith), Life-Ecstatic (Faith)

Matthew and Money: Today is the day of provision


As per my previous posts (part one, part two) I’m doing a little study on the subject of money and the book of Matthew. I’m very interested in seeing not only what Jesus taught but also how he lived. And Matthew was a tax collector, so I have a suspicion he might have written a bit more on this subject than the other Gospel writers.

I’m at Matthew 6, which starts with Jesus teaching on giving to the needy. The scripture is easy to follow: when we give to those in need, we’re not to announce it or glorify ourselves, announcing how wonderful we are to the whole world. We should not seek the reward of self-glorification but only seek the rewards that God gives.

Jesus then moves onto the Lord’s prayer and gives us an idea on how we should pray. In the Lord’s prayer he first establishes what’s important: that the Father is worshipped properly (“hallowed be your name”), that His Kingdom should come and His will be done, and then the line: “Give us today our daily bread”.

Note this: He doesn’t say give us our bread for life! Help us to stock up on bread! Give us the tools to make lots of money so we can have plenty of bread! He only says we ought to ask for bread for today.

My ESV Bible has a little note here and says it can be translated, “Give us our bread for tomorrow”. That doesn’t negate the point, though. If this is what Jesus meant, ‘tomorrow’ is still only one day. And we need to also look at what Jesus says later in chapter 6 (vs 34) – “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

This doesn’t mean one should not invest in a retirement fund or any of that kind of stuff. But when it comes to what we ask of God, we’re asking him to provide us our bread for today. In other words, we need to realise that we are, in fact, in a constant state of reliance on God.

This makes me think of Psalm 145: 5:

“The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.”

You might recall my first post on this topic where the subject of seasons in provision first popped up.

We live in a fallen world and even our investments can fizzle and become nothing. War can break out. Economies can collapse. When these things happen, we often blame God and wonder why we weren’t protected from them (as if, following God means we’re protected from a fallen world). The promise from God, however, is that He will give us today our daily bread. We’re reliant on him ultimately, and we better keep that in mind, because if we rely on the systems of this world we are guaranteed to be disappointed.

God will provide, however the provision may only be manna from heaven, not milk and honey. The latter may come in its time, though. Or it may not come in our lifetime. But whatever the case, we ask God to provide us our bread for today.

I want to avoid becoming a fatalist, but there is a sense that if we don’t have the money today then it may be that God is telling us we actually don’t need it today. But as the rest of Psalm 145 goes:

17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways
and faithful in all he does.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfils the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them.
20 The Lord watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.