Saturday, May 14, 2011

Evil, Suffering, and Death: Developing a Framework of Hope in an Age of Nihilism, Pierre Gilbert PHD

At the Christian Medical and Dental Society Annual Meeting in Winnipeg I attended Pierre Gilbert's lecture, Evil, Suffering, and Death: Developing a Framework of Hope in an Age of Nihilism.  Part of Pierre's presentation was addressing the issue of 'exerocism' and 'demon possession'.  Many of the doctors and psychiatrists in CMDS and EMAS had worked as missionaries in countries where 'demons' were very much apart of the cultures of indigenous people.  Witchcraft and evil and magic were part of the 'medicine' of the local people of Haiti where CMDS doctors responded recently to the Haitian crisis.  As worldviews and as understanding of disease process it is important as practitioners to be able to separate what is useful from what is not.  In my own work with addiction I know that many of my patients perceive their addictions as 'demon drink' for instance and certainly the crack addicts eventually beginning to experience visual hallucinations and 'shadows' which they relate to as 'demons' or 'ghosts'.  Gabor Mate's book about addiction was titled "Hungry Ghosts" as that descriptions comes out of the experience of the addict themselves.
Pierre Gilbert began by saying that in western culture there really is not that much 'room' for demons and yet he is aware of increasing numbers of ministers and individuals seeking a faith based 'cure' to their experience of 'possession'.  He described a number of anecdotes which turned out to be classic psychiatric illness which had been misunderstood.   He felt that the reason for the confusion lay with the increasing confusion of postmodernism.
What follows are the rough notes I took of a part of his lecture:  I've just begun reading his book Demons, Lies and Shadows: A Plea for a Return to Text and Reason (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Kindred Productions, 2008).  As promised it goes further than the lecture and elucidates so many points time demanded he just touch on. A fascinating philosophical and theological read.
I found Pierre's observation about philosophers and social scientists amusing for he said,  to paraphrase that 'unlike other fields of study philosophers have the greatest tendency to get together and talk to each other in their own room without consideration of others or the world at large."   Because they're only speaking with themselves they often come to the most extraordinary conclusions which then become fashionable untill after a while everyone realizes they don't work. Then they get a new idea and that becomes the new fashion.

  • I’m not particularly fond of this expression - I start to itch -it’s wholefully inadequate - reductionist
Jean - Francois Lyotard - pioneered the use of this expression.  Wrote a book.  Intellectuals were all over this like rottweillers on poodle
Jawues Ellul was ignored - said social scientists could hide themselves in room and tell each other stories - warned against this - despite his warnings - intellectuals began to characterize western society as ‘postmodernity’.  Collectivity began to do this
Alvin Plantinga’s definition
  1. rejection of notion of objectivity (classical foundationalism)
  2. rejection of the notion of absolute truth
  3. rejection of meta narrative
  4. Rejection of Judeo Christian  moral God
  5. Exultation of the self and moral autonomy
  6. And they lived happily everafter????
We should be Happy
Post modernists say we have it all. We should be happy.
We have a ‘unified field theory’
(They don’t sound or look well. They don’t seem happy)
  1. There is no absolute truth ?  (A contradiction in terms)
  2. No evil in the world?
  3. No absolute moral code? (There is plenty of moralism in our media)
  4. Postmodern where it doesn’t matter - okay in spheres that don’t seem critical to us in religion and sexuality
  5. Modern where it matters - ‘who needs a post modern engineer?  (who wants a post modern doctor?  who wants a postmodern bank account)
  6. No metanarative?  - What about materialism? Evolution, secularism, pluralism, new age spiritualism.
  7. Self confidence of post modern society is illusion and delusion
Cognitive dissonnance is structural and fabric - can’t go on for long at risk of society and individuals.  We are deeply sick.”that only a deeply sick society can consider such phenomena as abortion, divorce...sexual promiscuity, substance addiction, and teenage suicide as unavoidable”  Society is depressed - Tony Anatrella “Non a la societe depressive (1997)
Age of Confusion - post modernism is a Rejection of Christianity.
  • it’s is an expression of man’s (C. L. Lewis ‘s) “bent” towards Pantheism
  • Rejection of Christianity
It is rebellion against Christianity and Return to Pantheism
I call postmodernism a SENSUAL PAGANISM
  • no kids - largest self genocide in history of the world
  • no to personal responsibility
  • No community
  • No personal and no moral God
  • Nihilism - like to feel good about their nihilism - hence a jargon and philosophy that is so confusing
  • Doesn’t explain Love, doesn’t explain good
The Mystery of the problem of good
Pascal’s The God Shaped Hole inside ourself
Western civilization is dying - most obvious sign is we are unwilling to reproduce.  In US million birth per year.  Canada 100,000.  Russia more abortions than live births.
“No nation or group of people can believe that death is the end of it all and survive. Societyes that procoaim deatth as the abolute and cannot survive. They commit suicide In fact industrial societes that carry this kind of idology have a reproduction co efficent near zero - pierre chaunu
We live in society that worships present, doesn’t view the past and doesn’t project into the future. ‘Living without being anchored in past and no meaningful view of the future”
When crisis strikes it creates profound sense of difficulties
An absolute present plus Existential Crisis = Hopelessness
Victor Frankl  - what man needs above all need a purpose to live
human needs hope
real hope is impossible where the present fills our entire horizon and there is no future.
How do we fight this cloud of hopelessness
Fighting Hopelessness
  1. The Importance of Hope
  • fight cynicism
  • value of life
  • “cloud of hope”
Roadmap to Hope
  1. Hear of the drums of relativism - our society constantly beats drum of relativism and that christianity is a cultural artifact - if we fail to see the ‘virus’ it will erode our life
  2. How do we gain knowledge about God?
Experience versus Revelation
Mother Theresa versus Hitler versus at top of empire state building - without warning I push them off - both hit ground same time - what can we learn from god from this experiment - in right and jsut universe - mother theresa should slow down and Hitler should accelerate. That’s not the way things work.
God is a God of law
God pays no attention to human piety
God is inflexible.
this is what Job concludes
In Judeo Christian experience we are not to develop our idea of God only from experience but from scripture as well
Faith is to act and live on the basis of what we know is true despite what we experience
How do we develop this kind of confidence? We develop it from history
C.S. Lewis - either Jesus was a raving lunatic or else he was precisely what he said. There is no middle way - (Problem of Evil)
The help of the Holy Spirit
Back to the Demons
A: Why is it so confusing?
-a hypothesis
  • a limited database (in my book I studied  genesis 1-3, corinthians and mark and developped foundation I would use in real world with people who seemed demon possessed.
  • They exist
  • What is the nature and extent
Gospel of Mark
  • Satan = Nuissance
  • Demons are empty shadows
First Corinthians
  • audience - belief in magic
  • a piece of meat is a peice of meat and doesn’t carry magic
A: James 5 - Major Illness - sober approach to this
B: An Interview
  • fellowship with demon?  - have they sought fellowship with demons
  • signs of mental illness? If it looks like mental illness consult
C: Prayer -
  • 1. Casting out of demons - pray with oil and cast out demons - based on the data the assumption I have is that the demon has gone.
  • 2. Prayer of healing
D:  Two possibilites
-Demons dissipate - Restoration
Symptons remain - consultation with psychiatrist
E: Two typical cases - given antipsychotic drugs - symptons dissappearance - unless demons are allergic to antipsychotics it must be mental illness
F: Difficult cases -
Questioning our Identity
If we don’t go back to classical age of Christianity we can’t have hope
Of all the people on the planet we are the ones who should be most hopeful.

I've included this here because part of the 'predjudice' promoted in the 'anti Christian' movement is that Christians are somehow 'stupid' and that they really 'don't think'.  In contrast I 've found at the CMDS that Christian doctors are the most thoughtful.  Certainly the history of medicine and science shows that Christians were at the forefront of science in the same way that Einstein was not an aetheist.  Even today neuroscientist Mario de Beuregaard in Spiritual Brain discusses the findings of sciences as they apply to human behaviour and constrasts the 'truth' of science with the confusion of 'pseudosciences' which often 'misuse' information  for political gains.  Maybe it's because I work with dope smokers but I so often encounter this everything goes sloppy mindedness in that realm whereas at CMDS I hear real 'clarity of thought'.

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