Friday, November 9, 2012

Victory over Death

  by GJ Gillespie

THIRSTING for quench
Hydra's many heads
Come down from heights
To spit upon the deep

Cut short by lofty defenses
That force inevitable retreat
Sure as children manifest
An innocence that keeps

All pre-historic monsters
Are at a loss for words
At the sunset of the years
When resistance is complete

The gentle of the earth
Lost among the beasts
Twitch lips to murmur truths
And pose with those who sleep

From sullen beds
The meek will awake
To greet a wonder
Too glorious to speak

Arise mighty recompense
Judge both strong and weak
Commence that promised kingdom
Spread out like a feast




Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Force of Reasoning: Insight from Physics on the Nature of Argument

By G J Gillespie

“Nothing exists except atoms and empty space; everything else is opinion.” -- Democritus (460 -- 370 BCE) 

Aristotle, the most famous debate coach of the ancient world, wrote his textbook The Rhetoric to teach students the art of persuasion. Key to Aristotle’s philosophy was the importance of learning to reason carefully. Humans in his view are the “rational animal.” Unlike any other creature, human beings have an unique capacity to draw conclusions from the evidence. We are driven to make sense of a fragmented world. We look for patterns in what happens around us and hope to predict what will happen next. 

The fact that the universe is intelligible permits scientific discoveries. Scientists apply reasoning to discover physical laws that govern our universe -- such as  Isaac Newton’s inverse square law of gravity (the closer you get to a point, the stronger the force). Usually truths that advance culture are established only after a long period of debate among the experts who fight over various proposals and hypotheses until a majority acquiesce.  The ability to debate is an essential part of what it means to be human. We question accepted ways of doing things. We argue over ideas to shape the direction of our future.  We present interpretations of what is observed, until others offer better explanations.

The controversial theories of Newton were vigorously challenged by his opponents at first.  But, he was able to prove his contentions by scientific experiments -- which became strong evidence in support of the new perspectives.  Newton’s reasoning eventually led to the discoveries such as the steam engine and electricity that made the industrial revolution possible. All social progress follows a period of reasoned debate by advocates who are able to convince the majority to take a shared position.

More recently physicists have debated the nature of fundamental particles, stellar objects and cosmic forces. The existence of black holes, (Overbye) the Higgs Boson – the theorized “God particle” (Weinberg) -- and mysterious dark matter and dark energy (Kahn) (thought to make up 95 percent of the universe) spurred heated debate among cosmologists – until recent scientific experiments confirmed that these properties actually do exist. Before the experimental evidence gave weight to the theories experts were all over the map, each taking a different stand. After the arguments were settled, most of these scientists moved to occupy a single spot on the landscape of knowledge. It may be that discoveries in quantum mechanics will lead to new technologies we might currently find hard to even imagine. contribution to the study of reason based on ancient Greek and Roman teachers and developed in the twentieth century is the movement metaphor. This is the belief that reasoned persuasion is best explained as movement from diverse points on a plane to a single spot. To persuade an audience is to move them closer to our position. We advance ideas to sway others. Reasoning is a force we use to convince others. So, the comparison between an argument and physical properties in space and time is natural.

In advanced mathematics and physics, the idea of an imaginary space is called a manifold. An object in a manifold has a velocity that propels it across a plane from A to B. An arrow represents the velocity. The distance between A and B is called the order of magnitude. 

We see that the geometrical concept of a manifold is very much like an argument. An argument has a line of reasoning that is like the arrow of velocity: A (support) - - > B (claim). Like gravity or the nuclear force inside atoms, reasoning in an argument is the force that binds support to the claim. Without the binding force of reasoning, the bits of supporting material float chaotically -- appearing as random data that make no sense.  When we add reasoning in the mix, the bits of data cohere to form a pattern that makes sense. Children playbooks ask the reader to connect dots to create a picture of a cat, horse or in this case, a goose. (Connect the Dots). Reasoning is connecting the dots, pulling together bits of information to form a bigger picture. After hearing a persuasive argument, the audience will have an “Ah-ha” moment. “Now I get it!” 

The principle of connection in reasoning is like the velocity of movement of physical objects in space. Reasoning channels the energy in the support to propel an argument forward. The amount of ground that is covered from A to B, that is, how firm the connection between the support and the claim is established is the magnitude of an argument. arguments have high magnitude – meaning that when we add up a variety of supporting evidence it leads us to accept the claim. Just as high magnitude stars shine bright in our physical universe, so once we hear a strong argument, it dominates our thinking. Opponents find strong arguments difficult to dismiss, refute or ignore. We may look to the bright ideas of a strong argument to guide our thinking, exactly as ship captains of the past looked to the stars for navigation.

On the other hand, weak arguments have low magnitude, or weak persuasive force. These are dim bulbs that fail to enlighten. The support does not lead decisively to the claim. Just as the connections between the bits of support along the line of reasoning in a strong argument are difficult to break, a weak case is easy to tear apart. An opponent can point out that the support is insufficient, flawed, or irrelevant. The reasoning in poorly constructed arguments may be so fuzzy that the argument fails to make a clear mental picture.  The idea falls flat. The audience is unmoved or maybe even confused.

Again, the simple model of an argument can be visualized as the connection between two points on a two-dimensional plane: Support - - > Claim.

We can add other more complex models of how arguments flow. The chain model is a continuation of the simple model in which once a claim has been proven, it functions as support for a larger claim one after another. Each point is logically connected and builds on the point before.

Support - - > Support - - > Claim

The cluster model is a collection of independent reasons that each lends support for the claim.  

      Support - - > Claim < - - Support 

If it is true that persuasion is like momentum in space and time perhaps we might apply other physical laws to rhetoric as well?  Let us take the movement metaphor deeper by comparing reasoning to physical forces. Reasoning as Force in Argument Space

A force in physics is said to be the strength or energy that causes an object to undergo a change in speed, direction, or shape.  There are four fundamental forces that govern the universe: gravity, electromagnetism, weak nuclear and strong nuclear.  These forces rule how planets, moons, stars and galaxies interact.

Similarly there are four fundamental forces that bind points together in argument space: reasoning by generalization, analogy, cause-effect and authority.  Like physical laws, each force of reasoning also has logical laws and rhetorical principles that we can use to predict the persuasiveness of an argument based on them.

Modern rhetorician Richard Weaver lists the four types in a hierarchy from the most ethical to the least ethical.

Argument from:

1. genus or generalization.

2. similitude or analogy.

3. circumstance or cause and effect.

4. testimony or authority. (Weaver)

Starting with the weakest and moving to the strongest form of reasoning, let us consider how each compares to the fundamental forces.

Gravity is like Authority

Gravity in the physical universe is a force that pulls matter together. It shrinks the distance between objects. The more mass of an object, the stronger the gravitational pull it exerts. The effects of gravity also depend on proximity since attraction increases the nearer you are to a massive object.  This is known as the inverse square law: the intensity is inversely proportional to the distance from the source. Even though the sun is one million, three hundred thousand times larger than the earth, we are held to the ground by the earth’s gravity because we are closer to the earth.

In the argument universe, reasoning also is a force that pulls debate matter together. The first example of the pull of reasoning between forms of supporting matter we will consider is reasoning by authority. These are arguments which rely on the strength of a trusted external source. 

We might say that the pull of authority in the rhetorical universe is like gravity in the cosmos.

Ideas that are shared by credible authorities possess persuasive weight for listeners. When an audience hears testimony from experts or eyewitnesses, or is given the conclusions of published scientific studies, their thinking will move closer to the position advocated.  Just as the inverse square rule of physics shows that proximity increases force, the closer an audience is to the position of an authority, the stronger the persuasive force. If the authority is perceived as a role model or is highly respected, an audience will find it difficult to dismiss.

Reasoning by authority draws upon collective wisdom of philosophers or sages in producing artifacts like sacred scripture or founding political documents such as the Constitution or Bill of Rights.  The sway of cultural authorities (religious leaders, artists, writers, sports or film stars) is especially powerful. The findings by scientists in published studies using the scientific method may be inescapable. Like the effects of gravitational fields spreading across the cosmos, reasoning by authority is a pervasive force across the argument universe.  If authorities are on your side, you will probably win the debate.

However, an advocate who simply cites an authority and is done with it -- who fails to provide other arguments to back up a claim -- will probably have a very weak persuasive impact. Because Weaver believed that "an argument based on authority is as good as the authority," he placed authority as the weakest argument type in his hierarchy. (Johannesen)

Similarly physicists say that gravity is the weakest of the four fundamental forces.  Out of the millions of celestial objects floating in space a smaller body must be close to a more massive object before the force of gravity is felt. In the same way, audience members must be close to the authority who is recognized to have persuasive weight. In other words, he or she must already be in the orbit or pull of that authority's influence.

While we are familiar with the force of gravity in our everyday lives, a second fundamental force is invisible to us. Yet it turns out to be essential for our very existence. Analogy is like Weak Nuclear Force

Second, let’s consider how weak nuclear force is similar to reasoning by analogy and the creation of original metaphors.

According to physicist Micahio Kaku, the weak nuclear force is

“responsible for radioactive decay. Because the weak force is not strong enough to hold the nucleus of the atom together, it allows the nucleus to break up or decay. Nuclear medicine in hospitals relies heavily on the nuclear force. The weak force also helps to heat up the center of the Earth via radioactive materials, which drive the immense power of volcanoes. The weak force, in turn, is based on the interactions of electrons and neutrinos (ghost-like particles that are nearly massless and can pass through trillions of miles of solid lead without interacting with anything). These electrons and neutrinos interact by exchanging other particles, called W and Z bosons.” (Kaku)

In addition to permitting subatomic particles to interact and release energy, Kaku says the weak nuclear force causes the fusion that fires the sun and stars. Just as the weak force causes light to shine making it possible to see around us, an apt analogy in an argument is enlightening. While light is actually part of the electromagnetic spectrum; it has its source in the weak force. When the landscape is dark, travelers can look to stars in the night skies as glimmering points of navigation. In the same way, analogies are points in the rhetorical skies that guide our thinking – especially when an audience is unsure.

Without the weak force human life on earth would be impossible. Likewise since "all language is metaphorical," without metaphor and analogy language would be impossible. When we consider how new metaphors are generated we see more similarities between reasoning by analogy and the weak force. 

The weak force is said to permit “quantum tunneling”, the strange ability for particles to jump through otherwise impenetrable barriers. Electronics applies the principle in the working of transistors for radios and diodes in television screens. According to quantum mechanics, matter exists as both a wave and particle. This is the wave-particle duality. One interpretation of quantum tunneling is that particles are able to pass through barriers in the form of waves of energy. Once crossing over, the energy on the other side is the same, but the amplitude (power) is reduced.

Quantum tunneling is like an analogy or metaphor in that the persuasive energy in one body of matter “crosses over” to another unrelated body of matter. Normally an impenetrable barrier of logic separates the two material objects being compared since there is a literal difference. Like a person walking through a wall, or ghostly neutrinos shooting through miles of solid lead, original metaphors do the impossible. They spark never before heard of insight.

Reasoning by analogy permits the rhetorical energy (meaning) to jump the barrier of logic by relating the two objects figuratively. The persuasive energy now flowing in the second object follows the same recognizable pattern that exists in the first -- although the amplitude is reduced, making analogy a weak form of argument. No one is forced to accept it -- although they may be more willing to listen to our other arguments.

Some destinations are so distant from the position of the audience that we must inspire them to follow where our line of reasoning leads. It may take a creative analogy to make them receptive.  In this way, analogy in our argumentation may be a kind of “quantum tunneling” that transports our ideas through the thickest mental defensive walls. 

While the logical jump made by the analogy may generate a persuasive insight for the audience, they are not bound to accept it. Analogy lacks the binding force of a literal comparison in an example. The persuasive power of analogy and metaphor comes from generating what Kenneth Burke calls “perspective by incongruity”. (Burke) An apt metaphor gives new thought patterns that surpass everyday thinking and inspires emotional support for accepting an argument. 

Consider: “My love is a red, red rose.” There is a logical barrier between “a rose” and the “my love”. Reasoning by analogy bridges the barrier with emotional energy. The same wave pattern in a rose is transferred to the love, which is now understood differently by the viewer exposed to the analogy.

The tentative nature of analogy makes it the next weakest form of argument after relying on authority alone. It is always possible to point out false elements in any comparison or to offer competing analogies for opposite positions.  Logic does not force an audience to follow the direction that an analogy implies. They are free to reject it in favor of a competing analogy. Similarly, physicists say that the weak nuclear force has a field strength that has less magnitude compared to other fundamental forces. The weak force is said to be unable to produce “bound states” and lacks “binding energy” necessary to force objects together at the atomic level. 

Analogies at best are ways for catching attention and framing an issue, useful for winning over the heart of an audience. Subtlety may be exactly what is needed. Just as the weak nuclear force is responsible for earthquakes by heating up the molten core of the earth, so an inspirational analogy is able to shake up thinking. Cause and Effect is like Electromagnetism

Third, we can compare the fundamental force of electromagnetism to reasoning by cause and effect.  The essential characteristic of causation is the idea of movement between related materials.  Showing that something is caused by a related effect in a sequence produces the power of the argument.

We show that when one thing is observed, it is followed by another thing in such a way that the first caused the second. We can speak of a"chain of causation" to explain how complex events emerge. One thing leads to another and to another. Persuasive force is therefore generated by showing a relationship between cause and effect. In other words, the energy of our thinking moves from the cause to the effect to a conclusion that we are trying to prove.

An advocate is using cause – effect reasoning when he or she argues that because people exposed to secondhand smoke have higher rates of lung disease, secondhand smoke causes lung disease. Thus, smoking should be discouraged.  We can see a flow of rhetorical energy from the cause (breathing secondhand smoke) to the effect (lung disease) leads the audience to accept our claim that smoking should be curtailed.

This flow of mental energy is similar to the physical force of electromagnetism. Electricity can be explained as the flow of electrons or energy between groups of related matter.  We know that every atom has an electron cloud. The electrons sometimes break free and move to other atoms meaning that electricity is basically the movement of energy. Inventor Thomas Edison defined it as "a mode of motion" between charged particles. 

The force of cause and effect can in the same way “charge” the matter of our arguments, filling them with persuasive energy. Just as electricity is the movement of particles that possess either negative or positive charges, so in a debate our points will be positive or negative – positive matter seeks to attract the thinking of the audience to your position, while negative matter seeks to repel them from the position of your opponent.  Likewise, the atoms in the matter of magnetized objects are lined up, creating a magnetic field that can attract or repel. 

While other forms of reasoning besides cause and effect can also be used to create positive and negatively charged matter in a debate, when a debater wins causation arguments, he or she can be assured that the thinking of the adjudicators will be lined up with their own. Causation in this sense is a persuasive force that binds your arguments together to make them receptive to the minds of the audience.

Usually we speak of causal relationships as increases in probabilities rather than absolute links. Rarely do we know for certain that one event is caused directly by another. Instead, a debater is on firmer ground to say that the there is an increased probability of the relationship holding true. Smoking increases the probability of cancer. We say that rhetoric (or persuasion) is concerned with probabilities and logic is concern with certainty.

A type of logic called a syllogism can prove the certainty of a conclusion. If the premises are true, we can be certain of the conclusion. All men are mortal. Socrates was a man. Therefore, Socrates was mortal. If the premises (all men are mortal and Socrates was a man) are true, we are certain of the conclusion (Socrates was mortal). Again, the energy of the premises flow to the conclusion.

However, most controversies that are debated are unlike classical syllogisms. Most of the time we can only get the audience to agree that more than likely, or probably, we are giving them the best explanation or plan of action. We can not be certain, but we arrive at a level of probability good enough to take action.

The probabilistic nature of cause and effect reasoning is analogous to physics, since quantum mechanics – the study of how energy works on the subatomic level – is governed by what is called the “uncertainty principle”. The uncertainty principle says that we can never be certain of the position of an electron. Physicists can make a good guess where the electrons will most likely be present, but they cannot say exactly.  Physicists have a choice: either they can measure where an electron is or how fast it is, but not both at the same time. We are inherently uncertain about the quantum realm of the subatomic world. In the same way, when it comes to predicting the future or measuring the relationship between what causes effects to occur, we are never certain. The best we can get when debating social policy is statistical probability. Again we find a parallel between the forces of reasoning and the forces of nature – which makes sense since our minds are part of nature. Generalization is like Strong Nuclear Force

Finally we turn to the fourth fundamental force, the strong nuclear, and compare it to reasoning by generalization. Strong nuclear force is what holds atoms together. It binds protons and neutrons to form the nucleus of an atom. On a smaller scale, the strong force also binds the subatomic particles (quarks and gluons) that make up protons and neutrons.  It is the strongest of all physical forces. When this atomic bond is broken it results in an explosion of massive energy -- utilized by nuclear power as well as weapons.

In terms of argument space, just as the strong force holds matter together in the physical universe, so generalization holds our arguments together. And according to Weaver, generalization -- or argument by what he calls genus -- is the strongest argument type.

There are two ways an advocate might reason by generalization: setting down key terms or philosophical principles, and by giving examples of a general class.  By referring to general principles or values favored by an audience, the advocate draws them to accept a specific case.  For example: a speaker might appeal to such values as "All men are created equal," or "Democratic forms of government are best".  Then he or she might say: We know that slavery is wrong because all men are created equal. Or: We oppose dictatorships because democratic systems are ideal.

Pointing out that a case supported by universal moral principles is a form of deductive reasoning. The debater draws conclusions based on larger premises already accepted by the audience. Once the premise is accepted, the conclusion follows. Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: "Now that is the wisdom of a man, in every instance of his labor, to hitch his wagon to a star, and see his chore done by the gods themselves." Debaters will likewise hitch their wagon to the star of great moral principles and let the force of those truths win the day. (Emerson)

Besides looking to lasting principles, the second way that a speaker makes a generalization is by citing typical examples that illustrate the general idea. Generalization by example works like this: say I have a sack of apples hidden from my view. If I reach into the sack and randomly select an apple to examine it and discover that the apple is rotten, I will generalize that all of the apples in the sack are rotten. Examples that illustrate a larger group are powerful.

The most effective speakers know that vivid examples and dramatic stories are at the heart of argument. Until it is clear to an audience that people are affected by some larger harm, it will be difficult to persuade them to accept a solution. For example, why should we curtail video games? Because it hurts the psychological development of children. While this point could be supported with a statistic or scientific study, examples of harmed children will add emotional weight to the argument. To make the point memorable, a speaker could tell the story of specific children harmed by video games. In this way stories embody a thesis.

In addition to individual examples to support a larger point, we can look to the structure of a story or drama to organize our analysis. Narrative structure follows a theme. A theme is a generally recognized course of action among humans that is similar to what happens in a drama or play. Themes form the basis for literary novels and films.

Usually a dramatic theme follows this pattern: A victim is being hurt. Good guys are trying to save the victim, but they must overcome the action of the bad guys. Besides good versus evil, another theme might be social progression – that society is gradually improving over time as old forms of thinking are worn out and new ideas take hold. Dramatic themes like these glue together all the supporting material forming an overarching narrative that makes sense of the data for the audience, binding together all of the particular elements of our persuasive matter – just as the strong nuclear force binds the subatomic particles of physical matter.

Communication scholar Walter Fisher proposed the narrative paradigm of argument, claiming that all meaningful communication is a form of storytelling. He contends that "since human beings comprehend life as a series of ongoing narratives, each with their own conflicts, characters, beginnings, middles, and ends, arguments will also follow a narrative pattern. An argument is essentially a story." (Fisher), then, is the atomic bond that makes the composite information in our speech cohere.

Quest for the Dark Matter of Argument

Overall, the four types of reasoning compose the universe of ideas just as fundamental forces shape time, space, planets, and stars.  Still, mastering the techniques of argument making may never be enough to automatically pull an audience into our sphere. Persuasion is a mysterious art rather than a precise science. With the advent of quantum mechanics scientists are also learning that reality is more mysterious than once imagined.

Physicists recently have discovered that the cosmos contains more mass than is accounted for by visible matter that we see around us. Most cosmologists have come to believe that visible matter is only about 5 percent and that 95 percent of the mass of the universe is made of “dark matter and dark energy.”  Dark matter may be based on a new kind of physics we have never experienced.

We could apply the concept of dark matter to public debate when we realize that what is said -- the matter that is exchanged in the communication between speakers and listeners -- is only a small part of the force that influences how an audience comes to believe. Most of the pull on our thinking is from unconscious information and cultural values that an audience brings to the setting. A speaker trying to influence an audience will take into account the weight of the “dark matter” of unconscious presuppositions and cultural values by lining up his or her arguments with the unstated assumptions hovering in the room. Harnessing this dark matter may require setting aside analytical reasoning in favor of intuition, creativity and poetry.

In summary we see that expanding the movement metaphor to include a comparison between physical forces and types of reasoning gives insight into how persuasion works. Just as the discovery of the four fundamental forces led to practical technologies like the steam engine, the electric light, transistors, and x ray photography applying these analogies from physics to rhetoric will aide our persuasiveness.

                •Like falling into a gravitational field of a celestial body, taking the side of authorities near to the heart of the audience will make arguments difficult to resist.

                •Like quantum tunneling, apt analogies, creative metaphors and comparisons have the surprising ability to break through walls of resistance, permitting an audience to see the light of our perspective.

                •Like a jolt of electricity, revealing the chain of cause and effect that make up a controversy will charge our case with power.

                •And, like nuclear forces inside atoms, tying our case to universal principles -- justice, equality or freedom -- and by storytelling -- we will strengthen the binding force of ideas.

With the continued promise of new discoveries, there are countless more comparisons between physics and the human mind. As nuclear physicist Isidor Rabi predicted:

“I don’t think that physics will ever have an end. I think that the novelty of nature is such that it’s variety will be infinite – not just in changing forms but in the profundity of insight and the newness of ideas.”  (Rabi)

Democritus, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, (date accessed: July 23, 2012, < > )

Overbye, Dennis, "Astronomers Discover Biggest Black Holes Yet", New York Times, December 5, 2011. (Date accessed: July 26, 2012, < >)

Weinberg, Steven, "Why the Higgs Boson Matters", New York Times, July 13, 2012.  (Date accessed July 26, 2012. < >)

Kahn, Amina, "Dark Matter Filament Found, Scientists Say, Los Angeles Times, July 4, 2012. (Date accessed: July 24, 2012. < > )

Connect the Dots: Free Printable Pages, Date accessed: 7 26, 2012. < >

Weaver, Richard, The Ethics of Rhetoric. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1953. 56.

Johannesen, Richard L., Rennard Strickland, & Ralph T. Eubanks, Eds. Language Is Sermonic: Richard M. Weaver on the Nature of Rhetoric. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1970. 216.

Kaku, Michio, Parallel Worlds, A Journey Through Creation, Higher Dimensions, and the Future of the Cosmos, Anchor Books, A Division of Random House, Inc, New York, 2005. 80.

Burke, Kenneth,  Permanence and Change: An Anatomy of Purpose, Los Altos, CA: Hermes Publications, 1954.

Emerson, Ralph Waldo, The Atlantic Monthly; April 1862; American Civilization - 1862.04; Volume IX, No. 54. 502-511

Fisher, Walter R. Human Communication as Narration: Toward a Philosophy of Reason, Value, and Action. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1989.

Rabi, Isidor -- cited in Zukav, Gary, The Dancing Wu Li Masters, Harper Collins, 1979.  345.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Trinity of Argument

By GJ Gillespie

We see in my other essay that the Toulmin Model of Inductive Arguments might be compared to the Christian trinity in that Reasoning is like the Son, Evidence is like the Father and the Claim is like the Holy Spirit.

Here I speculate that three basic types of arguments may also be analogous to the trinity.

First consider the three types of arguments: Arguments by rational analysis, arguments by credible authority and arguments by emotional narrative.

Incorporating all three elements of the triad is necessary to form the strongest possible argument case. Yet at the same time, each element possesses unique persuasive force that stands alone. There is unity in diversity in pure eloquence. When we look closely at the nature of each facet we find a correspondence with the three persons of the Christian trinity, shedding new light on the nature of effective rhetoric.

1. Arguments by analysis or sequential thinking may be associated with the divine Logos, the Word of God or the Son of God.

Analytical arguments require information processing on the left side of the brain.

There are two kinds of analytical arguments. The first are arguments by definition or genus (based on reasoning from generalization).

"All arguments made through genus are arguments based on the nature of the thing which is said to constitute the genus," according to rhetorician Richard Weaver who placed this form at the top of his hierarchy for ethical debate. (Weaver, Richard, The Ethics of Rhetoric. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1953. 56).

Here the speaker appeals to rational principles or values which if accepted lead to conclusions.

"All men are created equal," or "Democratic forms of government are best".  We know that slavery is wrong because all men are created equal. We oppose dictatorships because democratic systems are ideal.

Appealing to powerful principles in proving a point is known as deductive reasoning. The debaters draws conclusions based on larger premises already accepted by the audience.  Utilizing deductive reasoning is like a ship captain looking to the North Star to guide a sea voyage.

A debater also uses left-brain thinking in making a second form of argument based on seeing cause-effect relationships.

"Since oil fracking pollutes ground water it should be banned." "We should reduce the size of government since lower taxes and fewer regulation spurs economic growth."

When an effect is attributed to a cause the mind begins with particular information that lead to a conclusion sequentially.

Argument from cause flows like an electrical current in an electronic device. Like cause-effect reasoning the persuasive power flows from a generating source to a destination which illuminates the light bulb.

Cause effect arguments are based on inductive reasoning -- when a speaker begins with diverse data or evidences which taken together make sense in the conclusion. The components of these arguments are particle-like -- the bits are fit together to form a coherent whole.

2.  Argument by Authority may be associated with God the Father.

These are arguments which rely on the strength of a trusted external source. Weaver offered the maxim "an argument based on authority is as good as the authority."

(Johannesen, Richard L., Rennard Strickland, & Ralph T. Eubanks, Eds. Language Is Sermonic: Richard M. Weaver on the Nature of Rhetoric. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1970. 216.)
We do not accept the proof because we "think it through" ourselves. Rather we are persuaded by a conclusions of a credible outside source who we trust.

Ethos or ethical appeal--as defined by Aristotle --is probably the most powerful form of persuasion. When an audience respects the source of the information the conclusion advanced is usually accepted. We will be move moved to accept the position of an expert in a field with advanced degrees more readily than the opinions of a child or criminal. 

Expertise is a test of evidence. We ask, does the source have the qualification to make this claim? Can we trust this source? Highly credible authorities are difficult to dismiss since we are drawn by the persuasive force of their reputation and experience. Like smaller celestial objects attracted to the gravitational pull of a more massive object such as a planet, star or black hole, we are pulled in by the gravity of a expert's views.

When we take the whole universe into account, we see that only some objects possess a gravitational field. Most objects, such as a small asteroid or a single person, have a very weak gravitational attraction. In the same way, in the universe of a controversy only some sources have strong attraction. A speaker or writer will seek to discover which sources out of thousands have the rhetorical mass necessary to pull listeners into persuasive orbit.

In this way, referring to authority is as natural as gravity. It keeps our feet on the ground. By taking on the mind set of an authority the tentative thinking of listeners is brought into focus. Learning from authorities is essential for human interaction. Children learn from parents, students from teachers, novices from mentors and we all are influenced by opinion leaders in our social sphere. Humans are necessarily social creatures who, like our ancestors ten thousand years ago, look to tribal leaders for guidance.

The wholly other God the Father is the most powerful authority imaginable. In the old testament we see that God issues the ten commandments to Moses. The ancient Hebrew community accepted the commandments because of the authority that issued them. Sacred scriptures of various religions -- as well as founding legal documents of a nation such as the Declaration of Independence or the US Constitution -- are accepted on the basis of authority.

3.  Arguments by Narrative may be associated with the Holy Spirit.

Telling a story which encapsulates your argument is persuasive since it appeals to emotional meaning that is processed on the right side of the brain. We are captivated by vivid stories or analogies that clarify an abstraction in our mind. Here the speaker appeals to the intuition or "heart knowledge" of the audience. It is the Pathos of Aristotle's classical proof.

Rather than sequential, bit by bit reasoning of cognitive analysis, intuitive thinking is "all at once" insight that comes from deep places of human unconsciousness.

Blooms cognitive domain is well known. But, he also referred to the affective domain of emotional meaning. Some people have high IQs, or intelligence, others have high EQs, or what is called emotional intelligence.

Weaver categorizes emotional arguments as those that appeal to similitude, analogy or metaphor. Poetic forms of expression often can say more than the propositions of rational thought since right brain holistic information processing permits "pattern recognition".  This is the creative side of human consciousness.

It is said that all language is metaphorical. New words are generated on the right, emotional side of the brain where similarities between diverse objects and experiences are perceived.

"My love is a red, red rose" is a metaphor that compares a plant to a person. Rationally such a comparison may be groundless, but emotionally the poetic image is appealing.

While rational proof and the proclamations of authority is "particle-like" when bits of data are added up to form a whole, narrative arguments are "wave-like" or "fuzzy". Waves of emotion carry the listener to the conclusion. We believe because of the gut level, all at once pattern recognition of emotional intuition.

Story telling is the most effective way to stir emotional in an audience. An inspiring narrative may make the point better than any argument from reasoning or authority alone. hearing a vivid, emotional story our consciousness is transformed on a deep level. Like the revelation of the Holy Spirit, intuitive arguments provide insight that we know is true. We are convicted or enlightened.

The intuitive, emotional pathway to knowing leads us to valid conclusions unattainable by the digital, left sided thinking of reasoning.

Electric pianos have two master keys. One switch is labeled digital and the other analogical. When the digital mode is on, the piano sounds like a traditional piano. When the analogical switch is on, the music may sound like a drum, guitar or violin.

The difference between digital and analogical information is like the difference between music played on a CD and a vinal record. Some music lovers prefer vinal records because the life-like imperfections remind them of a live performance. The perfectly clear CD technology eliminates the random imperfections of authentic human experience.

In the same way, arguments by narrative express analogical meaning that permits a speaker to slip past the rational defenses of the audience and get to the heart of an issue.

Traditional formulations of the trinity assert that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and from the Son. Applied to our model this could be taken to mean that effective emotional arguments must follow careful reasoning that is also consistent with trustworthy authority. In this way, creative thinking expressed as narratives, metaphor or analogies must proceed from established reasoning and authority.
Moreover, we could consider that creative insight that produces works of poetry, music or art usually come after our rational analysis or effort is exhausted. We may think about a problem or work of art rationally and turn to the mentoring of some authority for instruction in our chosen field, but our own unique heartfelt discovery of truth usually comes afterwards. In this way, creative emotional expression proceeds from reasoning and from authority. A good story will be primarily grounded in reasoning as well as used by authorities.  

Overall, all three types of interconnected arguments will be present in the most persuasive cases. For example, the persuader will present some rational arguments, perhaps citing statistics, or show that advantages of a proposal outweigh the disadvantages. The speaker will refer to the positions of authorities respected by the audience. Finally he or she will tell stories, provide analogies or make creative metaphors or employ poetic figures of speech. Taken together this triad of proof make up the essence of eloquence.

GJ Gillespie

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Triune Inductive Proof Matrix

By GJ Gillespie

There are three basic parts of an inductive argument: A claim is supported by evidence and reasoning. In other words, Evidence (data, supporting facts and opinions) plus Reasoning (the warrant, analysis, rational link, explanation) equals Claim (thesis, conclusion). (Toulmin model)

All three must be present and operating with equal weight in supporting relationship for an argument to be probable or strong. Each part must be equally valid.

  •  A speaker will make observation of the evidence, then using his or her reasoning powers will advance a claim. The reasoning process leading to a conclusion is called Proof.
  • Going from data directly to conclusion is intuition-like Inference. Or, evidence may lead directly to the claim--with the reasoning inferred–similar to an enthymeme.
  • A firm conclusion requires both the heart felt conviction of truth and the process of rational analysis to confirm that the conclusion is possible, plausible and probable.

Analogy to the Trinity

Perhaps these three elements in an inductive argument are analogous to the divine persons of the Christian trinity? The trinity is conceived as the three divine persons existing as one God, equal in substance but distinct in their relationship to each other. The Orthodox formulation maintains that the Son proceeds from the Father and the Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son.
“When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness of me,” John 15: 26. Earlier in this chapter Jesus says that the Father sends him.

This triune interaction is the only possible way to distinguish between three equal points in a space without any other reference. The pattern forms a unique and irreducible relationship between the three. By unique I mean that there is no other combination of relationships between three equal points that are possible to indicate that each point is distinct. By irreducible I mean that all three elements must be present for each to remain recognizable. The relational structure permits unity within diversity. The same qualities of coherence seem to apply to a strong argument.

Analogy and its Implications

We may consider that the Claim is like the Holy Spirit, Reasoning is like God the Son, and Evidence is like God the Father.
  • Claim is the Spirit (Revealer of truth, Spirit of Truth, liberator for action, life giving power, the essence). Notice that the Claim proceeds from Reasoning and from Evidence exactly parallel to the doctrine of the trinity in which the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.
  • Reasoning is the Son (Logos, the Word, making known the Father, making the mysteries of life and cosmos understandable, like light in darkness).
  • Evidence is the Father (Source of meaning, originator of truth, Ground of Being, Creator of diverse array of data in the cosmos, mysterious wholly other.)
  • When the claim is inferred without reasoning, the process is analogous to natural revelation. “The law written on the heart.” (Romans chapter one.)
It is possible to come to the claim without evidence and rely only on reasoning. This is analogous to divine revelation. (The Bible, Word of the prophets.)

Ideally, both evidence and reasoning are equally employed in proving the claim. Evidence backed up by reasoning forms a line of thinking that is stronger in proving inductive arguments.
All three elements will usually have equal weight for the argument to be persuasive.

Fallacies as Heresies

Fallacies in argument may be analogous to theological heresies that fail to accept all three persons of the trinity, stressing one over the others.

  • Monism that sees God as one only is like accepting a claim without any evidence or reasoning, failing to rationally account for the diversity of evidence.
  • “Jesus only” is like refusing to provide evidence to support a reasoned understanding of a claim or equivocal reasoning for a vague claim.
  • Polytheism or nature worship is denying importance of reasoning. It is having an irrational leap of faith in your beliefs, ignoring contradictions, going from one bit of evidence to the next without credible analysis.

More similarities between inductive proof and trinity

Using our reasoning ability to draw conclusions about truth from our experiences in the world is what makes human communication distinctive. Each of the three elements implies the others, exactly like the theological formulation of the trinity: beginning with the claim we can naturally infer both the evidence and reasoning, beginning with reasoning we can infer the evidence.

Evidence by itself without any rational explanation or linked to a specific claim may not inherently imply anything. But a piece of evidence does seem to call for analysis and some conclusion about it. A poll showing that 52 percent of respondents favor one candidate for president (evidence) taken by it self does not imply any conclusion necessarily. But, such a statistic might suggest in the mind of a reader reasoning and a conclusion. The statistic might imply the generalization that in a democratic society the will of the majority should rule. A natural conclusion might be the candidate favored by the larger poll number will win the election.

In the same way theologically, “I am in the Father, and the Father in me,” (John 14:11) and “I and the Father are one,” (John 10:30) are scriptures that show that Christ and the Father are equal and intimately related, just as reasoning and evidence merge in rational thought. In the natural world, the existence of a son implies the existence of a father. A father implies a son (or at least a child.)

The Holy Spirit may be thought of as the single unifying purpose or essence of the Father and the Son. The Spirit makes the Father known to worshipers. Through the Spirit the presence of Jesus is experienced. Just as evidence and reasoning lead to a single claim of truth, so the Father and the Son send the Spirit of Truth into the world.

A claim founded upon compelling evidence and reasoning is a powerful motivator for action. “Your house is on fire!”(evidence). People who remain in a burning house usually die (reasoning). “Get out of the house now!” (claim) The power of the argument comes in the claim. The Spirit of God is his power in the world. The Spirit “convicts of sin,” or motivates action, just like a well argued policy claim calls for action.

The single sentence of the claim is “short hand” or embodies both the evidence and the reasoning without having to re-state either. When a neighbor in your back yard is yelling, “get out of the house!” he or she may not need to explain the reasoning or evidence for the claim. The claim by itself implies both. In this example at least, the support is “present” in the claim without being directly stated. In the same way, the Father and the Son are present in the Spirit.

The work of the Spirit functions as “short hand” for -- or represents -- the Father and the Son, signaling the central purpose of each of the other persons of the trinity in the world. It is through the Spirit that we know the Father and the Son. The Spirit reveals the Father and the Son, just as a valid claim will imply its backing in evidence and reasoning.

This triune inductive argument matrix, therefore, suggests that the Spirit may be thought of as God’s thesis statement for humanity. Just as a thesis summarizes the entire content of an article, the Spirit reveals the heart of God. The matrix also reminds us that the process of thinking inductively -- beginning with evidence, moving to reasoning and leading to a conclusion -- must be coherent in forming a single unity called an argument.

Next: The Trinity of Argument

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dandelion Wine

by G J Gillespie

Finding destination
Surging through our breast
Hurtling with watchfulness
Past lights of blur
Fleeting signs manifest
In the rushing blackness
Feeble progression

Stop now for a drink
Sleeping off the dreams
Boundless desires
Loom like candy cotton
Ready for a fix
Stations of refuge
Fill us with elixir

The gods know satiation
And angels dance on pins
Dandelions blow parachutes
Into our field of view
Showing ghostly attributes
Until weeds crowd out our breath
And the final sip is due





Monday, June 25, 2012

Of Many Worlds: Comments on the Nature of God in Christ"Fifty years ago, the universe was generally looked on as a machine … When we pass to extremes of size in either direction --whether to the cosmos as a whole, or to the inner recesses of the atom--the mechanical interpretation of Nature fails. We come to entities and phenomena which are in no sense mechanical. To me they seem less suggestive of mechanical than of mental processes; the universe seems to be nearer to a great thought than to a great machine." 

Astronomer James Jeans --
cited in Kowalski, Gary, Science and the Search for God. New York: Lantern Books, 2003. p 19.

Comments on the Divinity of Christ

We believe that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God.

The Scriptures declare:
His virgin birth
His sinless life
his miracles
His substitutionary work on the cross
His bodily resurrection from the dead
His exhalation at the right hand of God.

For centuries believers have affirmed these propositions concerning the divinity of Christ. We recite this creed at my church.

In this essay I discuss why these ideas are profound. Let's take a look at each proposition.

1. Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God: Communication is at the Heart of Reality

To think more carefully about the creeds, we might ask: What is the nature of God?

What can we assume God is like?

First we believe that God must have the powers of a person since only a person loves.

If God were a force or principle that would make him less than a human person -- less than yourself -- and thus unworthy of your attention. It would be strange to praise the force of gravity.  Or to make an electrical field into a god. That would be like the ancient practice of idol worship when people built gods of material objects.  

God must be at least as special as a human person, aware of what is happening and able to experience relationships. 

Only a person can love. Whatever created us must be at least as good as a person.

It is much more likely to say that God is not only personal but more personal that we can understand. Divine personhood is of a different category than we observe in daily life because God is more personal than is imaginable. We could say that God is supra-personal. 

Christian teachers tell us that God is three persons in one being -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Three co-equal persons in one nature. When first encountered, the trinity seems strange, but turns out to be essential for consciousnesses to exist. Let me explain. creed statement that Jesus Christ is the Eternal Son of God affirms that communication and community is at the heart of reality -- or is the source of reality as the Ground of Being. There is communication within the nature of God. The Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father and the Holy Spirit loves the Father and loves the Son and so on forever.

Or as scripture says, "God is love."  The communication going on within the nature of God is self sufficient. His love is with out reference to any created person. Even if God never chose to create a universe, he would still be love.

Everyone knows that love must be the meaning of human existence. In a letter to a woman who wrote asking for a word of inspiration for her son, physicists Richard Feynman near the end of his life replied: Tell your son to stop trying to fill your head with science — for to fill your heart with love is enough.

(Sykes, Christopher Simon, No Ordinary Genius: The Illustrated Richard Feynman, 1996, by, p 161.)

Christianity gives a rational source for this love in the ultimate love that goes on in the nature of God. The book of James states in 1: 17 that: "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."

Humans benefit from the outplaying of divine love when we share the gift of conscious awareness, enjoyment of relationships and contemplation of beauty and the experience of joy. doctrine of the trinity diverges from polytheism -- or belief in three gods -- since the three persons are of one substance. Rather the triune nature of God reflects the same semiotic processes that make any meaning possible in each mind. Semiotics is the study of how symbols produce meaning. All linguistic processes require a sort of trinity of the mind -- a connection between a person's thought, the objects observed and the symbols or words used to communicate.

Communication scholars Osgood and Richard's Triangle of Meaning uses the terms Reference, Referent and Symbol. Another theorist, Charles Sanders Peirce uses the terms Sign (words or symbols), Object (thing experienced) and Interpretant (person making observations).

A conscious person contemplates a referential object or idea and the meaning that is achieved in this process gives coherence to the subject and object as a unified whole. A person becomes aware of meaning when the referent that is sensed is understood by language. So, we have a person, a referent (idea, object, experience) and the language or imagery that connects them.

These semiotic models resemble the Christian doctrine of trinity explaining the communicative nature of God. Here there are three persons each playing a role in the Being of God. God the Father is like the Object or Referent. The Son of God is like the Sign and the Holy Spirit is the Interpretant. The parallels fit neatly since any kind of consciousness demands a triad of three in oneness.

It turns out that the connection mesh well because, as philosophers of religion have pointed out, these and other triads of the mind were inspired by the trinity as conceptualized by Augustine and then Hegel. Peirce is said to have been greatly influenced by Hegel. 

Anyway, the concept of three in one equal but distinct seems to provide a workable method for understanding how the mind works in creating meaning. There are crucial features which make the trinity the only candidate to explain how the conscious mind produces and shares meaning.

We do not think of the trinity as belief in three gods any more than we think of the triangle of meaning as three separate properties. All three are equal and necessary for meaning to be realized. Yet, each is unique and separate at the same time. There is a "three in oneness" in both the divine trinity and semiotic triangle. Perhaps we could say that God is a cosmic Triangle of Meaning, a fountain head of all meaning and real communication.

Notice also that meaning requires community -- or the coming together of persons in a common bond of shared language and culture. The individual person only gains the resources of language from the community. An isolated individual without a community would never acquire language or the power of semiotic thought. Child abuse cases demonstrate why community -- or at least three persons -- is required for language, love and meaning to exist. As a normal child grows up he or she acquires the third leg in the triangle by "borrowing the minds" of adult, taking on the perspective of parents or role models, mimicking their identities to achieve their own. In this way a child grows up as both an individual and a member of the collective community. This is called inter-subjectivity -- taking on the perspective of others to gain ones own.

Without community -- or the three-in-oneness principle -- there can be no shared meaning, communication or love. Therefore viewing God as a single mind -- what is called monism --denies the possibility that God would have a consciousness required to love and be loved.

When we consider that the trinity is incomprehensible we are reminded of the mysteries of recent discoveries in quantum mechanics.  Paradoxical features of quantum reality have been proven by scientific investigation. Light for example is both a wave and a particle at the same time. This counter-intuitive property is known as the wave--particle duality. Just as strange, subatomic particles are able to exist in two (or more) places at the same time. These are not illusions or metaphors but physical realities on the microscopic scale.

The physicist Niels Bohr once said: "Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it."  (Gribbin, John, Mary Gribbin, In Search of Schrodinger's Cat: Quantum Physics and Reality, University Press, 1984.)

Richard Feynman, who understood the physics of quantum mechanics better than anyone, concluded that actually: "Nobody understands quantum mechanics." (Rosenblum, Bruce and Kuttner, Fred, Quantum Enigma, Oxford Press, 2006, p 80)

When Feynman made his famous diagram he said that there are some properties of quantum reality that are so strange that we don't even have a metaphor to contain them. We know by objective experiment that these paradoxes are real (not theory) but we are unable to intuitively conceive of them without great mental effort.

"Our imagination is stretched to the utmost," he said, "not, as in fiction, to imagine things which are not really there, but just to comprehend those things which are there. (Richard Feynman, The Character of Physical Law, 1965. )

Here is the Feynman diagram which attempts to graphically illustrate quantum mysteries that take place on an unimaginably small microscopic scale.  The stuff that forms our world is made of positive and negative electrons interacting with packets of energy called quanta that travel forward and backward in time (could be what this means).
In the same way that certain realities about the physical universe are nearly impossible to conceptualize, the closest metaphor that a human mind might grasp about the divine nature is to say that God's consciousness is like the love between a father and a son in a family. Christ as the "Son of God" alludes to the inheritance rights of a first born son of ancient Hebrew culture, the one who has equal legal standing with the father and acts in his stead. Two persons with one substance.

In this sense, Christ the Son of God becomes the necessary intermediary between the wholly other God the Father and human beings in the material universe. Like the yellow light between a red and green light of a traffic signal, we now have the possibility to mediate our limited consciousness with divine meaning and know something about God through the person of Jesus Christ. 

In fact, traditional Christian belief attributes the creation of the universe to Jesus Christ -- the one who is wholly God and wholly human at the same time. While this doctrine of the dual nature of Christ  -- who is the simultaneously divine and human Creator --  like the trinity seems strange at first, the divine-human dual natural may provide an explanation for how the information of the universe came into being. 

With the advent of Quantum Mechanics, especially the Copenhagen School which argues that reality requires conscious observation, physicists have introduced us to a strange world that at its core is, in the words of Shakespeare, made of the airy stuff of dreams. Rather than the hard stuff of everyday experience, really most basically exists because information is being perceived by some kind of Interpretant.

So we might ask who dreamed up the universe? Who provided the informational scaffolding that holds up time, space, matter and fundamental forces?

Quantum theory argues that there must be a conscious observation of particles before those particles become reality. It takes conscious activity to "collapse the superpositions" of the virtual particles to physically make the universe real.  This observer can't be the all knowing God the Father exactly since he would presumably already be aware of all positions. It would take a mind that is limited, like a human-like mind to make these observations within the physical universe.

Theologians grappling with how an infinite personal Being might interact with the world say that when Christ became incarnate he did not lose any of his all knowing attributes since God is immutable or is incapable of changing. Instead the incarnate Christ took on human nature in addition to his divine nature. Theologians maintain that in order to act in the physical universe -- and interact with humans -- God "condescended' from the first moment of creation taking a "covenantal" or human like perspective in addition to his all-encompassing divine perspective.

Pehraps we can think of God in Christ "condesending" in the way that the author of a story "enters into the story" by imagining the perspective of his or her characters. The author is aware of his or her own world, but for the purposes of creative writing imagines that he or she is a body acting in the story. The author may even communicate with characters, telling them what to do in his mind. Similarity, characters sometimes "take over" a story and choose to act in ways independent of the authors initial will. 

Divine condescension -- God getting into the story -- explains how an omniscient mind would not collapse all positions in the universe at once.

Once a particle is observed its "wave function" become set for ever. For example if a photon is consciously viewed as a particle is becomes a particle forever. And, counter intuitively, the observation effect works backward in time. Once it is observed as a particle, it has always been a particle or always been a wave caused by the observation in our time.

The fact the consciousness forms reality is called the "quantum enigma" and suggests that the acts of a mind is necessary for physical reality to exist. Some physicists discount the enigma by assuring us that the effects only occur on a very small scale that is invisible to the macro world we live in. But, Rosenblum and Kuttner point out ignoring this proven feature of physics isn't enough since the macro world is made up of the microscopic world. "Quantum mechanics applies to everything", they argue. (Rosenblum and Kuttner, p 15)

If God is all knowing, then all of the positions would already be observed. But, if God limits his knowing, in the same way that my wife working on a painting for two hours limits her knowing what is going on with current events on the internet. An artist condescends by focusing attention on the artifact being created. It is a limiting of the mind that permits novel information or patterns to pop up. The nature of the final artifact, such as a story, poem or painting, is never quite what the creator imagined at the start. This is the mystery of creativity. The exciting effects of limiting a mind and letting the artifact take over. 
The creative act requires discipline of a focused mind, wholly committed to seeing the vision for the art fulfilled. 

Perhaps God is acting in the same way that the human artist,
sculptor, poet, composer or painter "gets into" the created work, focuses on it intensely, sometimes so intensely that everything else in the world fades away. The artifact becomes the center of attention above all else, even sleep or eating.

It could be that God chooses not to collapse all superpositions because he is playing along -- as if he were a human-like actor in the universe, limiting his all-knowing mind for a time to see what emerges.

While some have argued that the universe evolved to the stage of the first human who looked back on it to create it retroactively or that this first observer was Adam of biblical narrative, it seems more plausible to accept that the conscious observer is God the Son exactly as set forth by scripture such as the book of Colossians 1:15 -- 17. 

"The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Christ as the Word of God spoke the universe into being, providing the information that makes up the structure of reality. In addition, the semiotic-like mind of Christ holds all things together like grammar holds the meaning of a sentence together.  Christ is the universal "Logos" or underlining meaning behind all that we experience.

Or, put negatively, with out God we lack the grammar to understand meaningful patterns in the data of experience. Some non-Christians believe that the realization that there is no linguistic-like binding force behind phenomena is key to enlightenment. They will say that we need to extinguish this desire to see an encompassing oneness or nothingness. 

The Christian creeds offer a life affirming perspective. Ultimate reality isn't nothingness. But, is a Person. And all that we experience is a divine artifact. The creeds permit us to hear the rhythms of a celestial music. Behind reality rings the Music of the Spheres. The composer is an awesome, creative God. 

Unsurprisingly, string theory -- one of the newest candidates to explain cosmic origins -- also refers to  a musical metaphor. This proposal of theoretical physicists suggests that at the smallest scale -- 10 meters to the negative 33 (ten with 33 zeros after it) -- there are tiny "strings" that exist at the border of time of space. The vibration of the strings forms larger scale objects. When the string vibrate at one frequency, a carbon atom emerges. At another frequency, helium atoms or other material properties pop into existence. In this view, the "music of the spheres" literally forms reality.

The string is not really a physical object since it is so small even time and space break down. It appears more like an idea or a mathematical algorithm. Could these strings be the expression of thoughts of the communicative, triune God as laid out in the creed? Such a perspective would be an eloquent explanation. The mystery and beauty of universe is the outplaying of a musical score,

Physicist John Archibald Wheeler argued that the universe can be rendered down most basically to information. That everything -- it -- comes down to bits. This is the It from Bits theory.

"[I]t is not unreasonable to imagine that information sits at the core of physics, just as it sits at the core of a computer. It from bit. Otherwise put, every 'it'—every particle, every field of force, even the space-time continuum itself—derives its function, its meaning, its very existence entirely—even if in some contexts indirectly—from the apparatus-elicited answers to yes-or-no questions, binary choices, bits.

'It from bit' symbolizes the idea that every item of the physical world has at bottom—a very deep bottom, in most instances—an immaterial source and explanation; that which we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes–no questions and the registering of equipment-evoked responses; in short, that all things physical are information-theoretic in origin and that this is a participatory universe.
(John Archibald Wheeler 1990: 5)
What good is it to say that information exists without a mind to process and contemplate it? While Wheeler took a monist perspective of eastern religion that each person is really part of a divine consciousness without realizing it, the Christian will say that the observation of information that forms the bits that make up reality come from the mind of the Triune God. This mind is surpra-personal and capable of great love.

Could this mind that produced the cosmic information be a "Universal Consciousness"? Could the universe have a mind and we are simply part of that mind? That is unlikely. 

Think back to the triangle of meaning. For the perception of information to make sense, to produce meaning, there must be three in one. Three aspects are required for information to exist: We need information, perception of the information and an object that the information is about.

But, if "all is one" -- the expression of a single mind only -- then there would be no place for information and no need to communicate about it to anyone.

Usually artists and writers are interested in how their art form will be appreciated by others. Great artists or writers have large audiences of admirers. That is what makes them great.

Love requires communication -- first in the community that makes language possible, then between at least two persons. There must be interaction between persons. 

While the monist universe could not be the source of its own information since information requires the semiotic triad, the Christian perspective is that God is One, but God is also Three at the same time. Three in Oneness. It is from the communication within this Being that the information we see in the universe comes to exist. In fact, we are made up of this information.

All we know, including ourselves, are artifacts of a divine mind that stands far outside of the universe. We are made in God's image, able to participate in the appreciation of the beauty of universe and -- most important -- form loving relationships. To love and be loved. 

Traditional theology posits that humans also take part in the development of the universe since God chooses to use us in his restorative work. God loves each human being and has a plan for each person. We are God's handiwork created to enter into relationship with him and can know his plan for our lives.

When we accept that Jesus Christ is the Eternal Son of God we are saying that our lives and the universe have meaning that is back-lit by an after glow of a love that is so great it forged the explosion of the Big Bang.  As astronomer James Jeans once suggested, the advent of quantum mechanics makes the universe appear more like a thought than a mechanical object.  Its the thought that counts. are beneficial philosophical implications to viewing the universe as a grand thought of a loving Being instead of a blind mechanistic object.

Our reality becomes an artifact of beauty and mystery that can be experienced meaningfully. Our world can be enjoyed like a work of art.

"And God said, 'Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good...'" Genesis 1: 3, 4a.

This passage supports the information theory basis for reality. God chooses to permit information to enter his consciousness. He then speaks this information meaningfully which results in the appearance of a world. Finally, he evaluates or experiences it.  Could this progression mean precisely that God's conscious conception of primordial-information is what led to the collapse the wave function and the birth of reality? 

At its core, matter, space, time and fundamental forces rest on divine algorithms that make up universal complexity. But, since the Creator is more like an artist than an engineer he observes that it is good. This is the inner information states of aesthetic experience. The universal as an artifact of the communicative Triune God is embedded with experiential meaning that can be enjoyed by persons. 

The mind of God is then able to contemplate the information as an artist might appreciate his or her handiwork, producing the phenomenological response of subjective knowledge that forms the basis for values and aesthetic appreciation.

Instead of mechanistic, digital processes we might expect in a dead, static cosmos, we find that the universe is a grand thought that rings with analogical information more like cosmic poetry or music than mathematical equations.  God's experiential observation become a fountain for all beauty.  And we can drink from this fountain.

We do not confuse the universe for God. Nor do we think of ourselves are part of the divine mind unaware. Rather, the universe is like a house that is inhabited by a charismatic owner. The personality of this owner fills the physical house with immaterial joy. Our mind is like his, just as a child's mind is like a parents -- similar but not identical.

So on one hand there is the measurable information of objective science, physics and psychology, while on the other the subjective appreciation (phenomenology) of beauty, love, truth and religious meaning.  By knowing the mind of Christ, human beings now have a trustworthy path to enter into a knowledge of true values and beauty. This experiential appreciation of the cosmic information then forms the basis for arts and ethics and authentic religious experience. Reality exists because the Triune God speaks it into being in accord with information theory. Since it is highly valued by his omnipresent observation we know that it is a thing of beauty and love.

Accepting Christ as the eternal Son of God and Creator of the Universe provides an infinite reference point upon which meaning can be realized. Instead of a "castle in the sky" without any firm foundation, language has a solid ground in the consciousness of the Creator. The Mind of Christ which exists at every point in space and time then experiences his creation, from the most minute micro level to the cosmic macro level, imbuing it with value. Likewise, God as our Creator knows each person fully, providing the possibility of knowing our true selves as well. We can join in the observations of this divine mind, thus experiencing eternal joy, love, acceptance and purpose.
Faith is turning toward God. Away from the absolute cold in the abyss of nothingness, and toward the warmth of God's love. We might turn just a little bit toward God. That may be enough. We can learn to hear the music of the spheres.

Why settle for knowing about God when knowing God is possible? 

An alternative universe is open to us when we say yes to Christ. Everything changes. We find peace, meaning, purpose, freedom from guilt and drink from the headwaters of all beauty. 

Exploring an Alternative Universe

One technique for developing faith is the experiment of "suspension of disbelief". This is a first step toward experiencing reality as a follower of Christ. 

For a set time you may choose to accept that perspective that you are an artifact of a loving, all knowing Being who wants to know and communicate with you. 

Try it out for a while and see if it makes sense. If a communicative God exists behind reality and at every point in time and space, it should be possible to tap into the lines of communication that is flowing in that Being.

Prayer is simply talking to God. Request that he help you believe and reveal himself to you. Then wait for the feedback in some event or inner knowledge to confirm your faith. 

Interaction with Christian friends during this experiment also helps if you know some believers.

An essential part of this experiment in faith is to read up on the Word of God in the bible to get acquainted with the mind of Christ as he interacted with people. Find a bible and read the Book of John and be open to hear the voice of God speak to your inner life.

NOTE: post a comment below and I will pray for you about your new faith journey. 

2. The Scriptures declare: His virgin birth -- When Myth became Fact. 

From the stone age storytellers have shown religious longings. Stories of a god-like hero who comes to save a community appears cross culturally for thousands of years. Instead of rejecting religious longings, we can think of these age old desires for faith as signposts leading us to faith in the historic person of Jesus.

Carl Jung introduced the idea of archetypes that appear cross culturally that tap into unconscious truths that each culture shares. These archetypes seem to be built into the structure of the mind, like a deep structured grammar, like an empty space that seeks to be filled. 

We can think of the virgin birth of Christ as a fulfillment of ancient longings.  Unlike the gods of folklore and myth, Christ was actually an historical person. Yet, the story of his birth follows the structure of any good narrative type.

We all enjoy a good story. But, we usually are even more impressed when a good story is also non-fiction or is "based on actual events".

The narrative of Christ's birth seems like the birth of other divine-like heroes of mythic times.

But, there are curious departures from the expected archetype. Unlike the mythological heroes who are portrayed as a descendant of the gods, Jesus is both fully God and fully human. No other "incarnation" of other religions (such as the Hindu gods who only appear as humans) have this quantum mechanics-like dual nature.

The Greek and Roman folktale figure Hercules was the son of Zeus and a mortal woman -- making him half god or a demi-god. The Hindu Krishna is fully divine and only takes on the appearance of a human.  The ancient emperors of China or ancient Mesopotamian kings were likewise fully divine.

Here the dual nature of Christ makes him stand out uniquely from the other gods of myth and folklore. when the formulation of the trinity adds something new that resembles quantum paradoxes.
Literary scholar C.S. Lewis argues that myth is a kind of deep structured grammar imbedded in the human imagination that unlocks truths that social progression is unable to realize otherwise. In When Myth became Fact, Lewis holds that literary images such as the divine hero told in prehistoric stories are necessary mental forms to help future generations understand what God was doing in history. He says that stories that formed the basis for pagan religions prepared our minds to accept the coming of Christ as an historical reality. The voice of imagination acts like an antenna for actualities to come.

"The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact," Lewis argued. 

"The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens — at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences. We pass from a Balder or an Osiris, dying nobody knows when or where, to a historical Person crucified (it is all in order) under Pontius Pilate. By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth: that is the miracle." 

(C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970), 66-67.) 

The myths about the demi-gods and heroes our age old longing for an accessible encounter with the divine have been fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ. The stories of the mythic gods prepared us for accepting Jesus as God in fact. 

What is exciting about Christianity is that it fulfills all the best parts of all of the other religions.  We see Jesus as a fulfillment of the pagan stories of the divine savior. We can think of God as a human person with a body.

God's Spirit fills every point of space, fulfilling the faith of tribal animists who believe that spirits indwell natural objects such as trees or mountains. The Christian shares the believe that nature is filled with a Spirit, but God's Spirit isn't part of nature. God's mind created and observes nature and so when we encounter nature we are close to God.

God is the one transcendent, unknowable Spirit (Hinduism, Buddhism) who is accessible to our imagination and language in the person of Jesus.

We also have a basis for knowing about the nature of God from scripture, which we believe is God communicating through the consciousness of inspired writers. These writers were influenced by their cultures so interpretation is still necessary.

Inspiration is not dictation. We say that the bible is composed of "the Word of God in the words of men." We trust the 27 books New Testament as well as the 39 of the Old Testament and look to these for insights of God's will. Here are recorded the stories and teachings of men and women who had a close relationship with God and revealed his thinking about humanity.

If a personal God exists we would expect that this Being would try to communicate with us. The bible is our most accessible message from the Divine Being. 

A prophecy in the Old Testament foretold the coming of a universal savior who would be born of a virgin.  “Behold the virgin shall conceive and give birth to a son, and he shall be called Immanuel, meaning, with us is God.” (Isaiah 7:14) For God to be with us as a human we would expect a dramatic departure from the ways of biology as we know it.

The idea that Christ was conceived differently than any other person in history is unsurprising when we consider that Christ was the "Second Adam", or the human being who came to reverse the contamination of Adam's sin which lead to the current state of universal brokenness in society and nature. In other words, the DNA of Christ had to be unique from all others to break the inherited proclivity for radical separation from God's mind. Human DNA is in a spiritual state of brokenness along with all features of this universe. takes the mind of the incarnate Christ to repair the universal brokenness by his perfected divine-human dual nature. In other words, Christ needs to observe each feature of the universe, from the subatomic, to the everyday to the cosmic universal. In his observation he judges it and refines it and redeems it. Our spirit or inner being is saved when we respond to the observation of Christ by accepting his judgement and salvation. 

His observation makes us into the people that he wants us to be. An ordinary person would be unable to transform us by this intense quantum level observation. Only Christ, who is the Creator and fellow human, the dual natured God-man, is able to observe our constituent information and reform that information by his evaluation.

Unlike the natural "selfish gene" of biological reproduction which seeks to foster survival of specific traits, Christ's morally perfect DNA introduced the "unselfish gene" in human society which fulfills the purpose to heal universal brokenness and save humanity.

The doctrine of the virgin birth is necessary to create the unique God-man Jesus. He had to differ from ordinary humans to break the fundamental brokenness of time, space matter and society. Christ introduces the true evolutionary leap in human development that permits us now to be reborn into his family line that will signify the future of saved humanity. 

Although we say that Christ is fully human, Christians believe that Jesus is a unique person in the history of the world. We believe that his conception was likewise an unique event.  Just as the Big Bang started from nothing but the will of God, so the virginal conception of the Savior was a divine act without natural antecedent.

In the same way that virtual particles pop into existence from apparently nothing, so the random superpositions of subatomic particles could be re-arranged by the will of God with a different statistical algorithm to produce a unique fertilized egg in the womb of Mary. Since at its core all objects and phenomena are information, this information pattern could be re-arranged by God for a specific purpose of producing the perfect human DNA of the embryonic Christ who would then grow up to possess the redemptive consciousness needed to repair the universal brokenness.
By sending the virgin born Christ, God was injecting a healing quantum serum into the veins of civilization. We all need our flawed genetic condition treated by this "unselfish gene" therapy. We experience this radical salvation of our inner most being when we become a part of the family of God.

3. The Scriptures declare: His sinless life -- Universal Brokenness has its Root in Flawed Human Consciousness.

“We cannot grasp the true meaning of the divine holiness by thinking of someone or something very pure and then raising the concept to the highest degree we are capable of. God’s holiness is not simply the best we know infinitely bettered. We know nothing like the divine holiness. It stands apart, unique, unapproachable, incomprehensible and unattainable. The natural man is blind to it. He may fear God’s power and admire His wisdom, but His holiness he cannot even imagine.”

- A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy

That we live in a broken universe is a physical fact. After the Big Bang when time, space and matter began to cool, different features we observe cascaded into existence. Once everything existed in a microscopic super hot primordial. As things cooled, each of the fundamental forces were formed -- gravity, the strong and weak nuclear forces and the electromagnetism. Each force "broke off" from a more unified state before, putting us in the middle of a physically broken universe.

In the same way, human society and psychology is broken. 

The brokenness may go deeper. It seems that human consciousness may have contaminated the universe with a backward in time effect that limits the potential that the Creator intended.  Flawed human consciousness -- that is there is something quite wrong with how we observe, think about and then act toward the world, ourselves and others which leads to suffering, hurt, conflict war, alienation and death.

Sin is a word that means offense. It is an attack upon God's inner observation of the outward expression of reality. 

A world without sin would have harmony between this inner observation of information and its outward expression. The idea and its expression fit together to form something beautiful. For example, a great work of art inspires awe in the mind of the observer. The inner aesthetic observation is perfectively tied to the artifact.  In a similar way, the act of seeing natural beauty -- an orchid, mountain lake or child's face -- is ennobling.  The experience of seeing the perfect connection between the act of conscious observation and the reality observed produces a feeling of harmony. There is no information that is disconnected. This is what sinlessness is like. 

The reality of the world that we live in differs from the ideal such that we are surprised by brief episodes of beauty that we encounter. To see beauty we need to turn our attention to unspoiled natural landscapes or to great works of art or literature to get glimpses of perfection. 

Ultimately we encounter perfect holiness when we encounter the person of Jesus Christ.  He embodies sinlessness. By getting know know Christ some of his holiness rubs off. By identifying with his life, death and resurrection we over come the effects of sin and begin the process of being changed into his likeness.  

Teologian A.W. Tozer refers to the quality of holiness almost as a luminous presence or fire that we can enter. We can gain knowledge of the holy.
"The original root of the word holy was of something beyond, something strange and mysterious and awe-inspiring. When we consider the holiness of God we talk about something heavenly, full of awe, mysterious and fear-inspiring. Now, this is supreme when it relates to God, but it is also marked in men of God and deepens as men become more like God. 

"It is a sense of awareness of the other world, a mysterious quality and difference that has come to rest upon some men - that is a holiness. . . . Theologians long ago referred to it as the numinous, meaning that overplus of something that is more than righteous, but is righteous in a fearful, awe inspiring, wondrous, heavenly sense. It is as though it is marked with a brightness, glowing with a mysterious fire." ( I Call it Hersey, Chapter Five, "Holiness is Not an Option", by AW Tozer, 1974)

The radical brokenness of the universe -- which affects our own ability to think -- cuts us off from experiencing the presence of holiness. We are blind to the light of God's moral perfection and may not even realize that our existential nature is offensive. When we do approach his awesome presence we rightly experience mystery and overwhelming awe.

We sense a disconnection between our own "ought" and "what is". We aspire to live up to certain ideals, but fall short. We experience alienation from our own set of values. That which we know is right and desire to do, we do not do. 

Saint Paul, author of the book of Romans in the bible, put it this way:

"I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. . . . What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
The holiness of God mends the brokenness and begins to conform the inner information that makes up who we are -- the genetic. linguistic and cultural information pattern -- with the reality of our lives. The Holy Spirit fills the gap and applies the redemptive work of Christ on the cross to abolish the effects of sin. We must bask in the gaze of God. When we permit his consciousness to observe our inner being, our sin is burned away and we are transformed into his image. 

As the "new man" to replace the "old man", the mind of Christ makes up for the universal contamination of Adam's sin that spreads to all known reality both before and after. Christ is the first person born with out sin and he himself never sinned. That is because the inner information of his being is in perfect harmony with God's observation of the outward expression of his life. Christ has led the way into a new kind of human existence marked by holiness. With God's help we are able to take this holy path towards Christ-likeness. We have hope to live without the effects of sin. In part now and fully one day. 

4.  His miracles: Authenticating Proof of the Trustworthiness of Christ we consider that all reality is ultimately information miracles become plausible. Time, space, matter, living organisms, even our thoughts are information patterns that could be expressed as a mathematical algorithm. Therefor if those algorithms could be re-written, the outward expression of reality would change.

Now if the divine Logos sustains the universe at each moment by his conscious observation then it is possible for him to choose to re-arrange the constituent information to produce new effects in the physical world. Just as changes in computer code produces different graphic effects on a screen. 

Christ performed miracles as recorded in the New Testament to prove that he was the Son of God. Two of his best known miracles was turning water into win and walking on water. Study of the stories show that details of the miracles were meant to convey larger truths. The wine from water signaled the beginning of Christ's mission which would end with wine served at the last supper and in the new Jerusalem of heaven. Walking on water symbolized God's control of physical forces such as entropy and death. 

Christ's greatest miracle was his resurrection from the dead. You have to admit that if this happened, it would prove that Christ was God in human flesh. point is that lots of prophets and holy men in history have made fantastic claims about themselves.  Only Jesus Christ lived a life to confirm that his claims were true. 

The Christian does not have a problem believing that on occasion God intervenes to influence the flow of cause and effect in our universe -- and even in our personal lives. God might perform a miraculous healing of a disease or ease a physical hardship. God might reveal to another person a "word of knowledge" about another person to inspire faith in a new believer. 

While miracles are uncommon they do exist. There are many testimonies of God healing people and providing tangible help in times of need, including healing of diseases after prayer. 

Unlike pagan concepts of magic, prayer is asking for the divine mind to act. It is God who has the power to cause an effect, not the supposed power of the person praying. Although there are personal benefits from composing a prayer such as helping the person imagine what he or she really wants, we should not think of prayers for miracles are mechanistic formulae like taking a drug. Such prayers are more like going to the top in an organization to get an immediate answer from the boss. The CEO may answer your request. He or she is not automatically obliged. 

Besides requests for healing or to meet some physical need, it is possible to ask God to reveal himself in your life. He may act in such an uncanny or surprising way to convince you that he is indeed real. 

Consider his words in John 14:1-8 comforting his disciples at the last supper the night before his death on the cross. Here he claims to be the "I AM" or the divine mind that created the universe. He also offers to help seekers find the way to know and experience God through him."Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us. Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father."

5. His Substitutionary Work on the Cross

A question to consider is: how do you deal with guilt? Perhaps you hurt another person or chose to do something that you knew was wrong and the memory troubles you. 

Do you try to put guilt out of your mind and ignore the feelings of self condemnation? That doesn't work well. 

The existence of God adds to the mix. He is the standard of perfection, making our own limitations for goodness apparent. When we approach the holiness of God we may realize the extend of our own faults and tendency to do wrong as never before. 

The reality is that we are alienated from our own best intentions, from others and ultimately from our Creator. Alienation from God is called sin. It is the root of human wrong. We could say that sin has short circuited our hardwiring. 

Guilt is a symptom that the human condition is broken and needs repair. 

Is there a way to resolve personal and spiritual guilt? Christ offers a solution to guilt. 

Everyone in the western world has seen images of the cross and Christ dying on the cross. We might wonder why the paintings and films showing a man tortured to death on a post could be so meaningful to believers. 

Essentially the idea is that Christ took our place on the cross. That is his death stands for our own. The cross of Christ makes possible the destruction of human guilt. 

Paul in his letter to followers of Christ in Rome said: 

Rembrant helps in Crucifixion
"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

"Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ...

"For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!" 

When we contemplate the execution of the Son of God -- who was the eternal Word of God -- being nailed to death on a wooded post and cross bar the believer will say: "He took my place. Christ died in my stead."

In his painting of the crucifixion, Rembrandt put himself in the scene, helping to hand Jesus on the cross as a reminder that his sins caused the Lord's death. 

The imagery goes back to ancient times when the Jewish tribes practiced animal sacrificial rites. Moses taught that certain animals should be offered up to God in spiritual ceremonies. The Hebrew priests of Yahweh  would kill goats, bulls, calves or doves, burning the meat and using the blood in purification rituals. 

At the annual Day of Atonement the high priest would lay his hands on the heads to two goats, confessing over they the sins of the people that year. One of the goats would be killed, it's blood used in ritual. The other, known as the "scape goat" would be chased into the wilderness, banished from the people. 

Paul and other New Testament writers argued that the ancient sacrificial system pointed to the reality of the final sacrifice for sin in the crucifixion of Christ. 

Identifying guilt with the sacrificial animal -- then killing the animal -- could be explained as a form of symbolic projection that relieves a person by psychological catharsis. Aristotle believed that tragic plays in which heros died violent deaths had a healing affect on audiences. 

The bible seems to say that the death of Christ on the cross was something more than catharsis. It along with the resurrection opened up an new reality analogous to the big bang creation of the universe. Now all things are new. The old life is gone. Absolute meaning is now accessible. 

Remember the Triangle of Meaning. Words stand for things. Symbols represent referents. Just as the sacrificial animal killed in the days of Moses represented the killing of the offenses of the people, so Christ as the Word of God, the universal Logos (meaning behind the universe) has taken our place, blotting out our sin and killing our guilt. 

We could say that the gospel -- the "good news" about the work of Christ -- is the ultimate message, encompassing all other messages. 

All language is substitutionary. Symbols take the place of objects. Each symbol is "sacrificed" when it gives meaning to a referent in the sense that the word is now limited by the concept of the object (referent). 

The Word of God -- the person of Jesus Christ -- steps into our world to give us meaning, purifying us of sin and resolving our guilt. His death and resurrection gives us a new identity. We are free from the burden of past wrong doing. 

And amazingly, the cross of Christ has a forward in time effect. Not only are past offenses forgiven, but Christ has promised to save us from any future sin which we may commit.  This promise is called grace and reminds believers that our salvation is independent on our own ability to live a perfect life, but on the perfect work of Christ on the cross. 

This semiotic view of human salvation requires the work of Christ just as grammar is required to give meaning to language. He is the missing part that makes sense of our world. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. put it this way: 

"I would urge you to give priority to your search for God. Allow his Spirit to permeate your being. Before the ship of your life reaches its last harbor, there will be long, drawn-out storms, howling and jostling winds and tempestuous seas that make the heart stand still.  If you do not have a deep and patient faith in God, you will be powerless to face the delays and vicissitudes that inevitably come. Without God life is like a meaningless drama in which the essential scenes are missing. But, with God we are able to rise from the nocturnal bosom of life's most depressing nights to find radiant stars of hope above. Saint Augustine was right: "You have made us for yourself, oh God, and our hearts are restless until we find our repose in you." 

( Martin Luther King, Jr. Strength to Love, "Three dimensions of a complete life." 1968. )

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