Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Logic of Christianity 5: The God of Logic vs. Jeffrey Dahmer

Given the premise that the universe was formed via (logical, purposeful) ACTION, it is a simple deduction that SOMEONE with “logic” and “purpose” ACTED. This was an easy syllogistic deduction for the ancient Greek philosophers, as well. The fact that the Greeks used the same word (logos) to mean both “logic” and “word” is instructive. The ancient Greek School of Philosophy Stoicism (from around 300 BC) actually named God LOGOS—the ACTIVE logic that animates the universe. Christianity agrees. John 1:1-3 states: “In the beginning was LOGOS, and LOGOS was with God, and LOGOS was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through [LOGOS]; and without [LOGOS] was not anything made that has been made.” Before the time of the Stoics, Heraclitus (from around 535-475 BC), notices the link between “rational speech” and the “universe’s rational structure.” For him, LOGOS was that link.
The Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria (20 BC-50 AD), a contemporary of both Jesus and the author of the Gospel of John, writes of the Logos of God as “the bond of everything, holding all things together and binding all the parts, and prevent[ing] them from being dissolved and separated.” (Philo’s comments sound like an early recognition of the tendency toward entropy, as well as a recognition that Logos controls the tendency.) While the Book of Genesis was certainly not dependent upon Greek philosophy, it is striking that the very first chapter of the Bible presents creation in a “logical” order and claims that most steps in the creation and (logical) structuring process were tied to a creative “word.” Logic and Word go hand-in-hand in the formation of the universe, the Earth, and its inhabitants. Yet none of those inhabitants of the Earth were capable of exercising anything remotely resembling the LOGOS--the “rational speech” in comprehending and understanding the “universe’s rational structure” of which Heraclitus writes--until the advent of man. It is this (unique among carbon-based beings) capacity to exercise LOGOS that makes man “the image of God” (Genesis 1:26).
KENNETH BURKE’S PENTAD: THE JEFFRY DAHMER COUNTER-EXAMPLE Kenneth Burke teaches a five-pronged cyclical logical schema that advances the simple syllogism. He observes that there are five requirements for the performance of any “act”—whether the act is good, evil, or somewhere in between: Scene, Act, Agent, Agency, and Purpose. He calls these five terms his Pentad, and suggests that these terms form a logical “cycle.” Logically, if an Agent performs an Act within a certain Scene, the Agent would use only Agencies available in that Scene to perform the Act, for example. Therefore, the terms tend to be CONSISTENT, and any time there appears to be an INCONSISTENCY, the cycle is regenerated to produce MORE CONSISTENCY. To use an extremely evil example of action, consider Jeffrey Dahmer—the notorious serial killer, sex offender, and cannibal who raped, murdered, and dismembered seventeen men and boys, and engaged in necrophilia and cannibalism with their corpses. Despite the evil nature of his purpose, his actions were entirely CONSISTENT. The world would not have been shocked, then, if a news report of Dahmer in prison told of Dahmer murdering a fellow inmate, sexually abusing his corpse, and even cannibalizing his victim. It would have seemed consistent to the world who knew him. The AGENT (Dahmer) would be “consistent” with such an ACT (murder). And, while the SCENE had changed from Dahmer’s apartment (where many of his murders occurred), the prison scene would not seem “inconsistent” with a murder. The AGENCIES by which Dahmer murdered before his incarceration varied—blunt force, punching, strangulation, drugging, knives, etc. Some of these agencies might be available in the prison scene—no inconsistencies—but there also might be additional agencies that are found in the prison scene. The PURPOSE for which Dahmer murdered appear to be sexually related, with additional cannibalistic intent. Cannibalism in prison might have shocked us, but prison is often associated with the types of sexual purpose that Dahmer preferred—male homosexual purposes. In short, Dahmer’s ACT would be “logical.”
What, then, should one make of the report from May, 1994, that Jeffrey Dahmer had chosen to be baptized in the prison whirlpool by Roy Ratcliff, a minister of the Church of Christ, and a graduate of Oklahoma Christian University? Did the AGENT (Dahmer) actually change? It is possible. Did the AGENT only cynically pretended to convert to Christianity, as a way of becoming more acceptable to society? That is also possible. These possibilities go to an explanation of the PURPOSE of Dahmer in being baptized. Is there anything pertaining to the “death” imagery of immersion baptism (death-burial in water-resurrection from the water) that makes baptism an attractive ACT for Dahmer? Does Dahmer’s earlier request for a Bible in his cell (something that was possible in his SCENE) indicate a change in AGENCY? What is happening? We will probably never know. And, it is unnecessary for me to speculate, here, to make my point. Six months later, Dahmer was murdered by a fellow prisoner, on a work detail. Whichever explanation is offered for Dahmer’s baptism, the common denominator in all explanations is LOGICAL CONSISTENCY. Whether or not the AGENT actually converted from serial murderer and cannibal to Christian, all explanations attempt to make logical scenarios. We are gripped by the logic of Burke’s Pentad.
THE PENTADIC VIEW OF GOD In huge contrast to the life-denying ACTS of Jeffrey Dahmer, the ACTS of the AGENT who was involved in the formation of the universe are immensely more life-affirming. While Dahmer destroyed life and consumed and abused corpses, the AGENT whom the Stoics called LOGOS generated life. From the simplest single-celled plant life to the most elaborate animal life, the LOGOS infused every life form with reproductive capacity, so that as one cell or even one life form aged and died, it was replaced with multiple regenerated cells or reproduced entelechies to keep the multiple life forms alive. Furthermore, in symbiotic complexity, as one carbon-based life form died, its cells were consumed and metabolized by other carbon-based life forms, to support life in all of its variations. The purely physical aspects of the universe were coordinated with precision to enable symbiosis to be sustained. The solar warmth combined with the Earth’s minerals and with water and oxygen to sustain life. What kinds of ACTS are CONSISTENT with such an AGENT? Logical, rational, life-affirming ACTS. What AGENCIES would be used by such an AGENT in performing such ACTS? Rational thought and communication, i.e. LOGOS. Whether the AGENT “spoke,” as Genesis suggests, or simply communicated the messages implicitly in nature, studies of genetic code, atomic theory, astronomic principles, etc. contend that this agent “communicated” in some fashion. LOGOS is rational communication. For what PURPOSE, then did the LOGOS perform life-affirming ACTS through the AGENCY of Communication? In other words, what PURPOSE would motivate an AGENT capable of ACTING to create and sustain life forms through the AGENCY of LOGOS to do so?
Abraham Maslow might term such a PURPOSIVE motive as “self-actualization.” The AGENT, called LOGOS by the Stoics created logically-reproducing life forms “because it could.” And, given the existence of human AGENTS who are capable of ACTION, themselves, we must assume that this self-actualization PURPOSE extended to the desire/PURPOSE of creating and sustaining other AGENTS who (like itself) were also capable of ACTION, COMMUNICATION, and forms of CREATION. From Maslow’s motivational theory, it is clear that motives include not only the ultimate motive of self-actualization, but also the social motive. If the LOGOS could create a being, similar to itself, capable of ACTION and COMMUNICATION, that LOGOS must also have a SOCIAL PURPOSE/motive. The SCENE, then, into which the LOGOS introduced humans was one that, while logical and systematic, lacked SOCIAL INTERACTION. It is altogether CONSISTENT that LOGOS THE AGENT used LOGOS THE AGENCY to self-actualize in the ACT of creating a LOGICAL UNIVERSE capable of sustaining LIFE, and leading to a SCENE in which SOCIAL PURPOSE motivated the AGENT to create a CREATIVE, COMMUNICATIVE, ACTION-BASED life form with which LOGOS THE AGENT could communicate.
So, here are the links in the syllogistic chain we have attempted, thus far, to forge: 1. Our syllogistic chain is of the variety found in Rhetoric (the enthymeme) rather than Dialectic. It is faith-based, in the Aristotelian sense. This is not blind faith; rather, it is faith based upon proofs and results in the agreement of possibility and probability. 2. This type of (rhetorical) proof is all that is truly left to us after the logical explosion that demolished Modernism and brought us Postmodernism. 3. Action exists in the world, as evidenced by the difference between human “action” and animal “motion.” 4. Action vastly predated the advent of humans, as the very universe yields evidence of rational logical action. 5. Since an AGENT ACTED using the AGENCY of LOGOS in the formation of the universe, we may logically analyze that action to be motivated by both a self-actualization PURPOSE and a social PURPOSE. We turn, next, to a consideration of what theologies, present in the universe, would best exemplify this logical description of God.