Monday, August 22, 2005

There's a Fly in my Car!

Don'tcha just hate it when a housefly manages to get into your car? It buzzes around, pestering you incessantly until you finally have to swat it ... or at it. It's actually rather dangerous to swat at flies when you're driving 60 mph. I usually roll the windows down and attempt to coax the little booger out the window. "Here little fly, it's just open air, you won't die ... really you won't."

For whatever reason, my thoughts inevitably turn to how fast the fly is traveling. If the fly is flying from the back of the car towards the front, then relative to the ground, he is traveling 60 mph + the speed of the fly. But from my point of view the little guy is flying just fast enough to keep me from swatting him into oblivion. I guess if we could be viewed from a stationary object (if there is such a thing) looking down on the earth, and my car were traveling with the earth's rotation, the fly would be flying his speed + 60 mph + approx 800 mph. That's pretty fast. And, I suppose if my little motorized conveyance could be viewed from outside the solar system, the fly would be moving his speed + my 60 mph + approx 800 mph of earth rotation + approx 67,000 mph that the earth rotates around the sun. Whew! Assuming, of course, that all of the directions are the same (otherwise we'd be both adding and subtracting). All of that is without considering a host of other factors, not the least of which is how fast the universe is moving "away from itself".

So how fast is the fly flying? It depends. How fast the fly is flying is relative to the observer. As far as I know, Einstein was the first to document that speed (really velocity) is relative to one's frame of reference. I would imagine that now, early in the 21st century, most of civilization, at least those in the west, understand the relative nature of speeds & distances at least at some elementary level.

Perhaps, then, it is to be expected that relativistic thought would pervade our thinking processes. Certainly the evolutionary model as a thought process has become pervasive. Why not the relativistic model? Maybe it's natural for culture to borrow from science. Perhaps. But is it valid?

Post modernism, at least if I understand its rather loosely knitted postulates, attempts to assert that truth can only be known relative to one's cultural point of reference. That collectively we understand truth relative to the culture in which we live, and individually we understand truth in terms of the experiences that we've had. The post modern mindset proposes that one cannot extricate one's self from these influences and therefore one's view of truth is relative to them.

I'll not deny that culture and personal experience have an enormous amount of impact on the way that we think. One must be ever mindful of one's frame of reference when evaluating a given subject or situation. But does it naturally follow that truth cannot be ascertained outside of this reference? I don't think so.

If truth cannot be known apart from one's culture and experiences, then how does one evaluate the following statement:


"I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes unto the Father, but by me."


Jesus' bold, even earth shattering statement leaves no room for relativistic analysis. It doesn't appear, at least to me, to be immeshed in any culture. In fact, the statement quite frankly transcends time and culture. It simply is. If you'll pardon the term, it sounds rather absolute to me.

I've been studying a movement dubbed the "Emergent Church" (or "Emerging Church"). This movement, a mere dozen or so years old, questions the existing models of "doing church" in favor of new, or really really old, traditions that engage the post modern mindset. I was quite excited at first. I missed the Jesus movement of the 1970's. I was busy, ahem, building my testimony. So I was excited to be on the brink of a new movement of God.

But what I have found is a movement that not only engages post modernism, but embraces it. With that I have a problem. Post modernism, and the associated weaknesses thereof, seems 180 degrees out of phase with Christianity. Truth, in the traditional Christian mindset, is not a moving target that shifts with the cultural winds. It just is. We may not know everything there is to know about it, but not knowing doesn't alter its veracity. It just is.

There is a dark side to post modernism: its dogmatic absolutist viewpoint that modernists, absolutists, fundamentalists, or whatever "ist" that is in vogue, are all evil intolerant beings and do not deserve attention in the least as they have nothing worthwhile to say. The post modernist has accepted all points of view except that of the traditional (modernist) Christian. The Emergent Church seems to have embraced this dark side as well.

I suppose that I am a fundamentalist because I do not believe in evolution. Maybe I am even considered an absolutist because I believe in the correspondence theory of truth. I guess that I am a modernist because I am not a post modernist. I don't know. The labels seem arbitrary and nonsensical to me.

I just believe, at the end of the day, that the speed/velocity of the fly can be known. I may not have all of the information necessary to calculate the speed/velocity of the fly. The information, once obtained, may not even be of value. But there is One who does know:

God.

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