Friday, November 29, 2019

Blissful Ignorance 2

I was born at a very young age. And before I did anything else, I was born.

1. Of course God had been quite busy for quite an eternity before I emerged into the world. My existence is contingent. God's is necessary.

This is one of Aquinas' arguments for the existence of God that I like quite a bit. It makes sense to me although I don't consider it definitive from where I sit in the peanut galleries. It actually reminds me a little of Anselm's ontological argument for God, although in a more plausible form.

All that exists around me has a contingent existence. I know of nothing in my sense experience that has to be. But if the existence of all real things was only contingent, then it would be possible that nothing would exist. But if it were possible for nothing to exist, then nothing could ever come into being. Therefore, at least one thing must exist whose existence is necessary. And this, we call God.

Of course a cosmologist might respond that matter/energy cannot be created or destroyed. Does that make the existence of matter/energy necessary? I would respond that God created it. Then I am affirming by faith that it is not necessary even though it appears so.

Then there is the idea that particles can briefly appear and disappear as a function of quantum vacuum fluctuations. Some suggest that perhaps the universe is the result of one such fluctuation on the smallest of scales before the great expansion. Seems rather far fetched to me.

2. So I am a contingent being. What if my father had died in World War II? What if he and my mother had never met? The world would have gone on just fine.

I come from solid Hoosier stock. My mother and father were born and lived the early half of their lives in Indiana. Both sets of their parents were born and died in Indiana.

My mother's nineteenth century ancestors were Hoosiers, from the Sullivan area. Whether Shepherd,  Rich, Wall, Shelburn, or Wright, they were in Indiana by 1850. The Shelburns went back to a man who was in Jamestown by 1640. Family tradition is that he came over with Captain John Smith, although he is not found on any manifest.

The Shepherds were my mother's maiden namesake. They would seem to be Scots-Irish Quakers who came over from northern Ireland in the early 1700s. Family tradition is that they made their way to southern Indiana by way of North Carolina, I would guess from the Guilford County area.

My Grandfather Shepherd was a teacher at Frankfort Pilgrim College, a graduate of Wabash College in 1907. He was an orphan at 14 when his father died. His mother had died when he was six, in 1889. His father had been injured in the Civil War escorting an unruly soldier to the brig. A horse had stepped on him in a ruckus.

My father's family were also Hoosier settlers. His mother's family on all sides were Old German Baptists from Carroll County in the Camden area. They migrated from Germany in the 1700s. His father was of Dutch descent, coming over to New Amsterdam in the 1600s before the British took over and made it New York. You can still see the name Schenck in that part of Brooklyn.

My inherited pronunciation, by the way, is SKANK. I have since gone by SHANK to protect my wife and children. But my Dad used to tell people it was pronounced like "skunk" with an A.

3. Both my parents' family were deeply religious, deeply Christian, deeply holiness. One of my best friends in early high school was Derek Heinemann. He wrote in my yearbook that I was the most religious person he knew.

Both my grandfathers were preachers in the Pilgrim Holiness Church, a Wesleyan denomination birthed in the early 1920s out of a snowball of small holiness groups that grew out of revivals around the turn of the century. My father's dad was a church planter, an entrepreneur of sorts. He wasn't book smart by any means, and I remember him as a gruff, no-nonsense man. He was a firebrand, a man of law rather than grace.

My other grandfather pastored a number of churches during the Depression, when the college was closed. He was a teacher of end times prophecy, a thorough dispensationalist. A soft, humble man who was generally the last to get paid. He apparently only believed sex was for procreation.

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