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Friday, September 29, 2006

It's Good to Talk

 
















“It’s good to talk.” So went an advertising campaign in recent years for a telecoms company. It is indeed good to talk … “Jaw-jaw is better than War-war" as the great Sir Winston Churchill said pithily.

Communication, language specifically, is one vital element in our distinctive humanity. Thinking is inconceivable (literally) without language, social interaction is enhanced by language, God is praised in words or heeded to in silence.

Is it good to talk to everyone? I believe so, yes. Even when facing a hostile presence? Still I say yes. A story is told of St. Nicholas of Japan that one of his first converts was an enraged xenophobic Samurai warrior, a certain Sawabe intent on decapitation who was disarmed with the saints Godly words.

So should we talk to aliens? These scientist believe so … Dr. Alexander Zaitsev, Charles M. Chafer, and Richard Braastad. Of course. attempts on a small scale have already been made as the linked article explains. However, the low powered beacons and artefacts so far sent into space will probably prove to be proverbial needles in vast haystacks. Something more grand is being talked about with M.E.T.I., (Messaging to Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence). So far we have been listening but not really talking. Intelligent life may be rare even if life itself is rather common. Why, therefore, should we not talk?

Back to St. Nicholas of Japan. He didn’t flinch before Sawabe, he engaged. Some may think this counsel hopelessly naïve. After all, any alien intelligence we encounter in our galactic chatter will almost certainly be vastly more intelligent and advanced than ourselves … which is OK if our partners are benevolent but what if they harbour malice or even merely think that we are flies to be swatted for the sake of a greater harmony and tidiness, (after all we don’t have a very good track record on this planet). Of course, there are risks involved but are we really going to be silent, cowering in the corner in the cosmic vastness, mean spirited and hoping that no one will notice us? I hope not. It’s time to talk. Posted by Picasa

15 comments:

Steve Hayes said...

Well, it will be time to talk when we find anyone out there to talk to.

But in the meantime, we could surely practise among ourselves?

Father Gregory said...

Of course Steve but sometimes I think that humanity needs a tangible bigger context for our conversations. Human arrogance (even the arrogance untouched by religious sensibilities) is a small town preoccupation.

Steve Hayes said...

But we have Moses and the prophets!

Father Gregory said...

... and a lot more besides. There is only one Truth.

Mike the Geek said...

Indeed, odds are they are likely to be far more advanced than we are. There's no particular reason to assume they are all that more intelligent. I also suspect they are quite rare,

By all means, send the message. Keep the nukes, though, just in case! Not that we can beat them, but they probably wouldn't want a trashed planet. Who knows. If they're friendly, the foriegn missions budget may need some serious upgrading.

Father Gregory said...

Dear Mike the Geek

Have you read "The Sparrow" by Mary Doria Russell? Together with "Children of God" (the sequel ... less good in my opinion) this is a piece of theological SF in a class of its own.

The Jesuits send a mission to a planet and even though they come equipped with a Godly realism, they soon get caught up in a spiral of horror which no one could possibly have anticipated. The aliens are not evil as such ... just utterly different.

Ian Duncan Lee said...

Father Gregory wrote:
Of course Steve but sometimes I think that humanity needs a tangible bigger context for our conversations. Human arrogance (even the arrogance untouched by religious sensibilities) is a small town preoccupation.

Dear Steve Hayes and Father Gregory, why do you both have such hypocrisy condemning Zionism, which is Jewish nationalism, and Protestants as heretics, yet you fail to condemn your own Eastern Orthodox Nazi Church that committed genocide and war cimes in the name of Serb nationalism and Russian nationalism.

NATIONALISM is a RACISM.

The fall of the Byzantine Empire was due to NAZISM by the Greek Orthodox Melkite Patriarches (especially the Antiochian Orthodox Patriarch) who directed mass murder of Copts and Arameans.

It is an open secret that the Serb illegal occupation of Yugoslavia and genocide on the Albanians was endorsed by the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchate of Belgrade and his fellow Patriarches.

This is why the whole EO world, laity and clergy was siding with the Serb war criminals who broke every international law.

Steve Hayes participates on soc.religion.christian (SRC), like his brother, Matthew Johnson. Both of them supported this violent Orthodox genocide on Albanians who are Catholic and Muslims. Its in PUBLIC RECORD.

And Steve Hayes (who is from South Africa) himself NEVER condemned Matthew Johnson. Do check the Google Group Usenet archives for the newsgroup, soc.religion.christian and soc.religion.christian.bible-study.

You will see MAtthew Johnson's and Steve Methodius Hayes advocate such Anti-Christian violence, which is RACIST, TERRORIST and NAZI.

I cannot understand why the Eastern Orthodox Church dares to act in defiance of international law and still continuously defends the Serb war criminals and mass murderers. Yet these hypocrites with impunity condemn Israeli "occupation" and allerged war crimes.

Most Eastern Orthodox Churches arrogantly continue to defend Nazism of the Serbs, Russians and other EO governments and this includes Serb Orthodox Patriarchate and Russian Orthodox Patriarchate.

The Nazi Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Aleksy II who is the puppet master behind Vladimir Putin declared his support for the genocide on the Chechens and illegal occupation of Chechnya.

Go to any EO blog, forum, or church newspaper or even visit an Antiochian Orthodox Church parish, and you will be surprised vast majority of its faithful are Nazis who support Serb/Russian war criminals aggression towards innocent Kosovo Albanians/Chechens.

So, you can see, Father Gregory, your best friend Steve Hayes is actually a RACIST as he has never condemned the Serb occupation of Yugoslavia, especially occupying Kosovo and trying to colonise it by ethnic cleansing.

READ Steve Hayes own postings on Usenet forum SOC.RELIGION.CHRISTIAN. Go to Google Groups (groups.google.com.my) and do a search on their vast archives that recorded the racist postsof Steve Hayes and his fellow Eastern Orthodox brother, Matthew Johnson.

Why are the Eastern Orthodox, especially Antiochian Greek Orthodox behave like hypocrites so much that they refuse to condemn the vile racism, colonism and terrorism done in the name of the Eastern Orthodox Church (even endorsed by Serb/Russian patriarchates), yet they condemn Zionism and Israel freely?

Ah, yes! most Eastern Orthodox are Anti-West, Anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic, anti-Protestant, Islamophobic. The most racist of all EO churches will be the Greek Orthodox Church which is a NAZI organisation. They hate the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights

I condemn the Greek Orthodox Church for these heresies:

1. Praying to icons/pictures, which is a idolatry
2. Praying to saints, which is also idolatry
3. Marian worship, which is idolatry
4. Advocate RACISM, eventhough St Paul said "In Christ, there is no Jew and Greek"
5. Advocate HYPOCRISY, eventhough Jesus condemned hypocrites.

Father Gregory, I invite you and Steve Hayes to come to the the USENET forums, ALT.RELIGION.CHRISTIAN.EAST-ORTHODOX so we can discuss whether the EO is a true Church or a heretical organisation that broke away from the Catholic Church in 1054 C.E. Their reason for breaking away is pure Greek racism (HELLENISM) by the Ecumenical Patriarch.

Ian Duncan Lee said...

Father Gregory wrote:
Of course Steve but sometimes I think that humanity needs a tangible bigger context for our conversations. Human arrogance (even the arrogance untouched by religious sensibilities) is a small town preoccupation.

Human arrogance is common among all the Eastern Orthodox Patriarches, especially the Serb Patriarchate of Belgrade that directed the genocide on Kosovo Albanians in order to occupy Kosovo and deny its inhabitants self-determination.

Compare Kosovo to Palestine.

Serbs believe they are God-chosen race, just like the Jews believe so. THis is why in every Eastern Orthodox country, NATIONALISM is very high, despite we all know NATIONALISM=NAZISM=RACISM and also equally Anti-Christian since Jesus forbid it when he said "my kingdom is not of this world"

Orthodox Cathecism is any Orthodox race, Serbs or Russian or Arab can certainly murder a non-Orthodox, while a non-Orthodox is bound by high standards of international law and cannot murder an Orthodox.

Eastern Orthodox treat unbelievers like animals--look at Russian human rights record as per the U.S. State Department, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty Intl and World Evangelical Alliance reports?

So stop condeming Zionism, Protestantism and Catholicism and look at your own NAZI organisation, the GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH, YOU HYPOCRITES.

David Darling said...

As the Pink Floyd song goes: "All we have to do is keep on talking." It surely can't do harm to signal our interest and good intent with a message to the stars.

As far as any pitfalls to drawing attention to ourselves is concerned, I suspect we're already well known about. Any smart ETs more advanced than us will have the Galaxy pretty well mapped out for Earth-like or, more generally, "bio-friendly" planets and be keeping a close watch on our activities!

Would a super-intelligent species be interested in communicating with us? Probably not - we wouldn't have much to tell them. I suspect, in any case, that some kind of "Prime Directive" is adopted by advanced ETIs to prevent disrupting our culture and natural development.

Exo-religion, however, be a fascinating subject!

Isaac said...

Father bless,

While I don't want to rule anything out completely, I do wonder how sentient life matches up to the biblical revelation of the uniqueness of humanity as made in the image and likeness of God. The whole creation was subjected to futility and death as a result of Adam's sin. Would this not also mean that death reaches to them?

It seems to me that much is made of the possibility of life on other planets by those who have rejected Christianity especially, because for them it would be a vindication of atheistic materialism.

Have you heard of Fr. Seraphim Rose's theory about the obsession people have with "aliens" and "more advanced beings"? He believes that many UFO sightings/abductions are nothing more than demonic deception. He postulated that when Antichrist walks the earth such unearthly "visitors" will come and offer worship to him, in an effort to deceive all of mankind.

If we want to speak purely of empirical science-- we are alone. There is absolutely no evidence of anyone else out there, and the more we learn about the immense complexity of life the more we realize how unique and how rare we are. It is best probably to not focus on such things that really don't further our pursuit of salvation.

Your thoughts?

Father Gregory said...

Dear Isaac

Life per se is likely to be extremely common through the Cosmos. The only alternative is to consider the alternatives:-

(1) Natural laws only apply on earth and nowhere else .... this violates every known principle of science.

OR

(2) God creates life quite independently of any natural process AND he chooses to do that only on earth.

In respect of (1), it is not an option to suspend laws of the natural order in respect of one planet for then we might ask why God could not have created an earth without a molten core and saved millions from the baleful effects of earthquakes and volcanoes. Of course, then we would have to deal with a planet unshielded by a magnetic field and regularly irradiated by solar flares and cosmic rays. No, (1) is not an option.

In respect of (2)

Even the Incarnation required a human "yes" and a human womb. Genesis 1 itself refers to "let the earth bring forth ...." etc. The created order has its own agency in respect of creation. So, WHEREVER the ambient conditions in the Cosmos permit life, there God MAY create it. The only brake on the the implications of that argument concerns the second part ... that God CHOOSES only to have life created here. This may indeed be possible but the key question is this ...

Is it a NECESSARY condition of salvation that humanity be unique as a contender for the image of God theology? (Of course, microbes could exist elsewhere without any apparent need for theological reconstruction).

I am claiming that this is not a necessary condition. Other possibilities suggest themselves without abandoning one iota of Orthodox creation theology.

(1) We are not the only "image of God" out there. God may have created many sentient species that bear his image .... and some that don't. None of this erodes the unique significance of Christ for us or for them .... the "for them" applies so long as we realise that it was the Logos with the Spirit from the Father who initiated the Incarnation ... not Jesus himself.

(2) God deals with each form of life on its own terms. There are many worlds and it is mark of his generous love and power that his creative power is so fecund. This also is the Logos.

As to Fr. Seraphim Rose .... I'm sorry but I have read "Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future" and I was not at all impressed. Indeed I doubt I have read another "work" that has made me alternately laugh and weep so much. He is VASTLY overrated author.



With this ambiguous earth
His dealings have been told us. These abide:
The signal to a maid, the human birth,
The lesson, and the young Man crucified.

But not a star of all
The innumerable host of stars has heard
How He administered this terrestrial ball.
Our race have kept their Lord's entrusted Word.

Of His earth-visiting feet
None knows the secret, cherished, perilous,
The terrible, shamefast, frightened, whispered, sweet,
Heart-shattering secret of His way with us.

No planet knows that this
Our wayside planet, carrying land and wave,
Love and life multiplied, and pain and bliss,
Bears, as chief treasure, one forsaken grave.

Nor, in our little day,
May His devices with the heavens he guessed,
His pilgrimage to thread the Milky Way,
Or His bestowals there, be manifest.

But, in the eternities,
Doubtless we shall compare together, hear
A million alien gospels, in what guise
He trod the Pleiades, the Lyre, the Bear.

Oh be prepared, my soul!
To read the inconceivable, to scan
The infinite forms of God those stars unroll
When, in our turn, we show to them a Man.

Father Gregory said...

I should have said that the last poem was by Alice Meynell, entitled: "Christ in the Universe."

Dissenter said...

Dear Fr Gregory,

I am not much of a scholar so I hope you will forgive me for a simplistic question.

Why was Lucifer able to sin if he was in “heaven” with God who “cannot look upon sin”? Does this imply that angels have free will and if they have how can God be seen as omnipotent yet not be the author of evil?

Father Gregory said...

The first question can easily be dispatched and we can concentrate on the second.

Yes, in Orthodox Christianity, angels have free will and, yes, Lucifer rebelled through envy.

The essential component of your second question concerns how God can create free will if free will can lead to evil. Is he not then (derivatively at least) responsible for that evil?

At this point we need to stop and recognise something. The post-Christian west is (mainly) a post-Calvinist west. In Calvinist theodicy (of the double predestination standard) the LEGAL metaphors of redemption (remember that Calvin was a lawyer) constrain God to control the whole of salvation history. It is this theistic absolutism that informs a Calvinist understanding of "omnipotence." If a soul is damned it is because God has presdestined that soul to be damned. This damnable doctrine is doubly heretical in Orthodox terms ...

(1) ... because it makes God out to be a monster ... even the devil himself.
(2) ... because it forever makes free will EITHER illusory OR a curse.

In order to gain an Orthodox understanding of theodicy, one has to free oneself completely of all of this and construe "omnipotence" in a very different manner.

Firstly as to God ... radical human freedom does not compromise providence because God is forever and perfectly adapting his action to our response.

Secondly as to us ... if I sin it is NOT because God has created me to sin, but because I CHOOSE not to live ACCORDING TO MY CREATED NATURE.

My created nature is NOT utterly depraved and corrupt (after Calvin ... and Augustine for that matter) ... but rather it is sublime and beautiful and good AS CREATED.

If I choose to live contrary to that how is God to blame? Would we rather have God create us as automata or inert moral agents? How is that Calvinist nonsense honouring either God or humankind?

It might be objected ... surely God could have created us without the possibility of abusing our freedom ... or even in perfect communion with him without freedom. Well, if we dismiss the nonsensical business about God acting contrary to HIS nature (which is Love and only love), then we are bound to say that freedom is inextricably bound up with love. To love is to be free. To be free is to love. The devil seduces with his own brand of freedom (rebellion against God) which is no freedom at all but rather the bondage of hatred.

Will sin one day be no more? Of course. Theodicy is conducted in a teleogical / eschatological arena. The conflict is prolonged because humankind must prove itself free of that dead end which is hell. Then hell itself will be destroyed because we will have won that freedom that Christ procurred for us in the resurrection victory of Pascha.

No Calvinist could have said that last sentence. Even if you have never been a Calvinist yourself, shake yourself free of that way of thinking for in a post-Christian sense only atheism is its logical outworking ... as indeed we have seen in the west.

(Atheism emerged in the Christian east NOT through the Enlightenment --- we never had that --- but rather through the anti-social degradation of Orthodoxy through Tsarism).

Father Gregory said...

Note to Alexander

All recent administrative posts removed. Comments cannot be amended once authorised. The new links remain of course. Thanks a lot!

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