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Jesus On Anxiety


Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. – Matthew 6:34 

Limit our worries about things that change with time. Limit such worries to only 1 day or a short period of time. We have sillily spent too much time, thought, strength, and emotion on temporary things, which do not last and will not present in the eternality. Stop! Stop focusing on these things. Turn our worries to about things that can not change by time.Be a wise man, invest our time, thought, strength, and emotion on pursuing Christ, who remains the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Pursue him! Seek Him! Seek His kingdom and His righteousness. My friend, that is what you should be anxious about.

Why training


In a small talk on martial art, my colleague who practices Jiujitsu told me that without training one’s instinctive actions are almost always wrong in a Jiujitsu fight. His statement resonated within me. I would even argue that it is universally true that one’s natural instinctive actions are mostly wrong: not merely in the field of Jiujitsu or martial art for that matter, but also in chess, art, sports and whatever scientific disciplines, and also, not merely for some people, but for everybody. This might sound extreme, but let me explain.

Instinctive actions refer to those that a person spontaneously does without through thinking. The opposite are thoughtful actions. Natural instinctive actions were obtained naturally as opposed to through specialized training. At the most basic level, if an ability was not obtained by birth then it was more or less through training. Training is necessary in order to make a person good at doing something.

How does training make a person good at something?

Obviously, training will supply some domain knowledge. But this is only a very small portion of its benefit. Knowledge alone won’t suffice to make one good. For instance, you wouldn’t swim well if you only read books on swimming. You wouldn’t punch/kick like Bruce Lee by only watching his movies. The major benefit and the main purpose of training is to un-learn your natural/previous instinctive actions and replace them with correct/improved ones. It is only when this purpose is fulfilled that you can say you are good at the thing.

Now the question: Why are our natural instinct actions mostly wrong? I mean, why are we by nature bad at doing anything, and why on earth do we have to go through training in order to become good? I believe you may answer this question scientifically, and actually I believe someone may find some level of answers in any scientific discipline: philosophy, culture, sociology, psychology, biology, chemistry, physics, you name it, but I tend to think that ultimately the fundamental answer lies in man’s Total Depravity. God IS good, as the Bible reveals. Rejecting God, we sinners forsake the Good Himself, and consequently nothing truly good remains within ourselves.

This depravity is “total”, meaning that it exists profoundly everywhere: not only in our spirits and morals, but also in our physical bodies, our capabilities, our thoughts, and even our free wills. In Genesis chapter 3, God cursed the ground for man’s sake. As a result, the physical world has gone against its head — human race — as the latter against their own head — God. The Adam, who previously could enjoy various fruits in the Garden of Eden, now had to eat bread in the sweat of his face and to work in toil for all the days of his life because thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee. All these mean that the entire universe is in a state of corruption and vileness and that any dynamic process is by default going toward a more corrupt, vile, and useless state. It is only by hard work that men could locally and temporarily reverse this process a little bit. This is the fundamental reason why training is necessary.


在关于上帝的话题里,一个常常被提及的问题是:上帝能否造一个他举不起的石头?这个问题针对的是上帝的全能属性(omnipotence)。若上帝是全能的,他应当可以造出任何事物,包括他举不起的石头,因为如果上帝不能造出这样的石头,那么他就不是全能的;但全能又意味着全能者可以举起任何东西(否则就不是全能),如果存在这么一块上帝不能举起的石头,那说明上帝不是全能的。对这个问题的回答无论是“能”还是“不能”,都会陷入到自相矛盾的逻辑中。

这个问题被称为“全能悖论”(Omnipotence Paradox),常被人用来质疑以致反对基督教,因为基督教所信仰的神是“全能的父,創造天地的主”。已经有很多人尝试解决这个悖论。比较流行的观点认为,我们之所以无论回答“能”还是“不能”都会陷入自相矛盾的原因,源于“全能”的概念,因此着眼于“解决”这个概念进而提出各种解法:
1 全能者不存在;
2 全能的概念不存在;
3 全能其实就是“大能”的强烈型说法;
4 逻辑不能限制全能者,全能者可以超越逻辑做自相矛盾的事;
等等。

我们通常所理解的“全能”就是“无所不能”,即:全能者,可以做到任何事,世界上不存在他做不到的事。解法1,与基督信仰直接冲突,它的错误将在下文中进一步讨论。解法2,首先与事实不符,其次它是自相矛盾的,因为如果没有“全能”的概念,我们又如何能讨论其存在性呢?解法3,实际是对“全能”概念的否认,与2相同。解法4,在理论上打开了一个潘朵拉盒子,由此可能衍生出很危险的观点,比如:神可以给你救恩但同时又不给你,神可以是信实的但同时又是说谎的。

其实,正如一些人所指出的,真正的问题出在这块特别的“石头”上。它是“全能者举不起的”。如果我们把这句话里的“全能者”替换成“可以举起者”,那么这块石头就是“既可以举起又举不起的” — 一个显然自相矛盾的概念。使用这样的概念,全能悖论本身其实已经隐含了自相矛盾,这就是我们即不能回答“能”也不能回答“不能”的原因。明白了这个“玄机”,我们可以很容易地“制造”出许多类似的“悖论”,比如:一个大于1的负数是否大于0?这个问题和全能悖论在逻辑上的本质是一样的,不同的地方是:荒唐性在这个问题上更显而易见。如果我们同意:因为“大于1的负数”不具备实质性的意思(nonsense),所以“一个大于1的负数是否大于0?”是个没有意义的问题,那么我们就应当接受:因为“全能者举不起的石头”不具备实质性的意思(nonsense),所以全能悖论是个没有意义的问题。显然,我们不能仅仅因为“大于1的负数”不具备实质性的意思,就推出“大于1的数”或“负数”不存在;同理,我们不能因为“全能者举不起的石头”不具备实质性的意思,就推出全能者不存在的结论。这就是上面解法1的错误之原因。

基督徒也许并不特别在乎全能悖论。然而,上帝的全能属性却是一个让基督徒常常感到头疼的概念。一方面,基督徒承认上帝是全能的,另一方面,我们似乎又不得不对上帝的全能加以人为的限制来“维护”上帝其他的属性。举例来说,我们也许听到过的这样一种说法:上帝的全能其实并不是无所不能,有些事上帝就不能做,比如,上帝不能撒谎,上帝不能不圣洁,上帝不能不公义,上帝不能再造出一个上帝,等等。这种说法在有意无意中把上帝的全能属性牺牲掉了。如果我们接受这样的观点,我们就不能不放弃“全能”原本的定义(即:无所不能),实际上也就蛮横地否认“全能”。还有一种说法是:上帝的全能是真的无所不能,但有些事上帝不是不能做,而是不愿做,比如,上帝不是不能撒谎,而是不愿撒谎,上帝能够做到不圣洁,但他更愿意圣洁… 这种说法八面玲珑,似乎既维护了上帝的全能属性,又维护了上帝的真实,圣洁,公义,等其他属性。然而从下文我们可以看出这个的说法实际隐藏着很大的问题。

如同在全能悖论里,矛盾不是真的出在“全能”的概念上一样,神的全能属性让我们基督徒感到头疼的原因也不是出在“全能”的概念上,而是在我们所定义的“真实”(truthfulness),圣洁,公义… 的概念上。当我们判断真实与虚谎,圣洁与污秽,公义与腐败,完全(perfection)与罪孽…时,基督徒常常不自觉地以自己的标准为绝对的法度来衡量人和上帝。堕落人的法度必然要和神的属性冲突,这是种种矛盾的缘起。

什么是真实?圣经里从未教导我们说上帝有能力说谎,而是说,他就是真理[1],因此一切与上帝相违的便是虚慌。一个说有就有命立就立[2]的神,说出的话怎么可能会与事实相异呢?!人的话要以事实为基础,但神的话却是事实的基础。事实之所以能真实可靠,是因为我们的神是“万有都本于他,倚靠他”[3]的神,并且他真实可靠的话成为了事实存在的基础。“全能的上帝能不能撒谎?”的问题等同于“全能的上帝能不能不是真理?”的问题,后者进一步等同于“真理能不能不是真理?”的问题,最后这个问题显然是没有什么意义的,所以最初的问题也没有什么意义。

同理,上帝是圣洁,是公义,是完全,是爱…。是我们人要对照上帝来判断我们是否圣洁,公义,完全,是否有爱心,而不是上帝要以我们头脑里的各种标准来确认他的属性。“全能的上帝能不能不圣洁?”,“全能的上帝能不能很腐败?”,“全能的上帝能不能再造一个上帝?”…,这些问题其实就是问:“圣洁能不能是污秽?”,“公义能不能很腐败?”,“造物主能不能是被造物?”…,如同“数字1能不能是零?”的问题一样,都是没有什么意义却有点离谱可笑的。

是上帝按他自己的律法来审判人,而不是人按自己头脑里的律法来审判上帝。“上帝不能撒谎”,“上帝不能不圣洁”,“上帝不能不公义”,“上帝不能再造出一个上帝”等等说法无意中把上帝降卑于被审判的地位,是不很严谨的,不与圣经完全相符的表述。我们基督徒应当说:神是真理,神是圣洁,神是公义,神是造物主,等等,来表达相应的意思。我个人认为,这不仅仅是一个表述的改进,更是思维的归正。我们的世界观,价值观,人生观等一切基础的观念应当被重建于圣经之上,然后我们就会比较正确地理解神的启示和这个世界,就不太容易被一些问题所轻易困惑,正如使徒保罗所指出的:属灵的人能看透万事[4]。

神是一切善之本体。奥古斯丁的《忏悔录》中有一段话用诗歌式的语言充分说明了这一点。载录如下:

骄傲使人虚张声势,不知,我的天主,独占鳌头的只有你。
奢望使人寻求名誉光荣,不知,名誉光荣永远是你的专利品。
权者的铁腕,固然是可怕的;可是,天主,该怕的只有你一个。何时,何地,何如,何人,可以消灭你的权能?!
浪漫之徒渴求吻爱,岂知,你美丽的光明,无上真理的爱,是最有益的。
好奇心带着科学研究的色彩,可是,你贯通一切。
愚拙以简单天真为面具,可是,什么比得上你的简单呢?不是你比什么都天真么?麻烦罪人的,就是他们的事业。
懒惰以寻求安静为名,可是,在天主你以外,哪里找得到持久的安静?
奢侈自以为丰富,可是,你是不朽之乐的不竭源泉。
浪费自以为充盈,可是,你是众善的无穷宝库。
吝啬贪多务得,可是,你拥有一切。
嫉妒想争先,可是,你在一切之上。
发怒想报复,可是,谁都比不上你报复的公正。
恐惧急于守护它所爱的东西,然而意外的危机临头,它就要长吁短叹;可是,对你是没有意外的,突如其来的。谁能把你和你爱的豆剖瓜分呢?在你以外,哪里找得到一个安全之所?
忧虑为了它丧失的和使它满足的东西,常左右踌躇;它满望如同你所有一切,什么都不能予以剥夺。

灵魂的堕落,在于离开了你,贪图外物;当知脱离了你,它不会找到什么清明的东西。

是的,元首,荣耀,权柄,真爱,知识,美妙,安宁,丰满,无限,…,都是上帝的,当这些善(good)与上帝脱离的时候,我们所拥有的各种自以为善的东西还有多少是“清明”的呢,漂亮的外衣下面不过是,骄傲,虚荣,腐败,自私,无知,愚拙,懒惰,奢侈,浪费,…,各种的恶而已。

愿我们的思想回归圣经,回归众善的本体,因为“耶和华本为善”[5]。愿神的真理掌握我们!

[1]约14:6
[2]诗33:9
[3]罗11:36
[4]林前2:15
[5]诗100:5

(本文最初发表于纽约华人教会(CCCNY)年刊《耕》2012期。经教会允许,原稿重发于作者博客)

God and Logic


Is God logical?

Is God illogical?

Does God transcend logic? Is God beyond logic? — I never get my head around the concepts such as “transcend logic” and “beyond logic”, but people use them. I seriously suspect that they are simply sugar-coated “illogical”s.

Does God have a different logic system than men’s? — I tend to regard the “different logic” basically the same as “beyond logic”.

It’s a bit disturbing to me when people talk about God using these terms casually. Whenever they cannot explain something regarding God that is apparently contradictory in logic, they resort to terms like “God’s version of logic”, “beyond logic”…

Let’s not forget: God is the Word. The Word is Logos. Logos is actually… Logic. This is God’s own revelation of one of His attributes. For this, the entire Bible testimonies with its perfect consistency and precise reasoning.

On this, someone may, however, ask: Does God have to be logic? Does God have to be constrained by whatever limitations that logic imposes?

The answer is in fact very easy to find out because it is the same as that for the following questions: Does God have to be truthful? Does God have to be constrained by whatever limitations that truth imposes? Does God have to be loving? Does God have to be constrained by whatever limitations that love imposes? …

Yes, the answers are: God is love, God is truth, and… God is logic.

It is not because we human are logical that God has to follow certain rules in order to be logical. It is exactly because God is logic that we human have logic!

Have you ever pondered on questions: Why do not animals have logic? Where does our logic originally come from? Why is (correct) logic so precise and reliable? The answers should be obvious.

Whenever we encounter apparent conflicts in the Scripture, try finding flaws within our thoughts, rather than resorting to the concept of “God is illogical” or whatever sugar-coated variants.

On Courage


Courage is not fearless but going on with fear.

Courage is not boldness where fear is not appreciated.

Courage is even not bravery but its soul.

Courage is in fact the son of fear of nobler object. The opposite is thus cowardliness, which is the son of fear of the ignoble. So, courage is the triumph of noble fear within a person.

The greatest courage is certainly connected to the noblest — God. “fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28) thus are we taught by the Wisest.

“Fearless” people may boast that they look down upon death (of flesh). But they are not really without fear. As Aristotle rightly put it: …while it is true that the suicide braves death, he does it not for some noble object but to escape some ill.

The grandest courage is born of fearing God. The latter is, however, never lack of or separated from loving God. It is out of the true fear and true love of God that one can obtain true courage.

Lying is usually of no courage for the reason as Montaigne brilliantly put: A liar would be brave toward God, while he is a coward toward men; for a lie faces God, and shrinks from man. But if lying originates from fearing God, like what Rahab did, it is then true courage.

True courage is not exactly an ability of doing what others rarely dare to do, but of honestly facing and condemning the evil within oneself. The latter cannot be fulfilled without the help from the above. Thus courage is more about witnesses than self-achievements, and it is never heroism.


Practical Garbage Collection, part 1 – Introduction.


There are many convincing articles on the importance and/or usefulness of statistics. I am writing this one, however, for explaining instead of convincing purposes. I try to rationalize the role of statistics in the modern world as you perhaps have already appreciated. My doing so takes a somewhat philosophical approach, analyzing statistics as a cognitive method, describing what statistics is in its bare essence, what it does, and in what ways it benefits us. My goal is to provide a more general and fundamental perspective, which as a topic seems quite under-explored.

My analysis starts off from a common intellectual activity: understanding. Understanding how things in this world work is in general very difficult. What we can directly do is sensing: see, hear, touch, taste, and smell, all these give physical sensations that cause cognitive signals. Such signals are not understanding, they are observations. Understanding is to obtain or create knowledge of relationship between different objects or concepts. From observations to understanding lies there a complicated yet poorly-understood mental process.

By what approaches do we understand?

There are two basic approaches. One is deduction (deductive reasoning), the other is induction (inductive reasoning). Either one has its own strength and weakness. Deduction can lead to very deep and precise understanding, but it needs a basis to start the derivation. The basis, in more familiar terminologies, is called premises or axioms. Deduction cannot do anything to the basis, which is its Achilles’ heel. In principle, understanding by deduction can be only as good as its basis, which means not that deduction cannot increase understanding, but that the outcome of deduction is determined by the basis. A good basis is often very difficult to find.

Induction draws conclusions from observations, instead of a priori basis. Often than not, conclusions by induction is somewhat shallow and imprecise. The problems facing induction are: (1) how to make/collect relevant observations, (2) how to reveal the relationship between objects or concepts from observations. Both problems are in general very difficult to solve.

(So there is NO easy approach to understanding. That plus the fact that our sensations does not directly result in understanding is why understanding is in general very difficult.)

Statistics is a tool for induction. It provides a spectrum of methodologies from collecting and sorting data, presenting data, to revealing relationships hidden in data. Despite of the broad range, what it does in essence for improving understanding is establishing a probability-based relationship between different objects or concepts. This is where the importance of statistics stems. Nowadays, it is much easier to generate a huge amount of data, thanks to the advanced information technologies, than to understand the data, and so statistics is ever more important for improving our understanding.

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