Category Archives: Religious

Reflections on The Lord’s Prayer

As is usual for me, I include the recitation of The Lord’s Prayer while saying grace before my midday meal. Included in the prayer process was my reflection on what I had done, as well as what more I should have done, earlier this, and for the balance of the, day.

I thus had occasion to further reflect on the injunctions of the prayer. This article will constitute some of those reflections.

My version of the prayer is the Protestant version, to wit:

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power,
and the glory, forever.

Though not fully the chronological process of my reflections, it might assist in separately considering each of these passages. Hence these are grouped and considered as follows:

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

For thine is the kingdom,
and the power,
and the glory, forever.

These passages distinguish between the divine realm and the secular realm. Moreover they emphasize the surpassing superiority and dominance of the former over the latter, in holiness and virtue as well as in power.

While the kingdom of God is eternal and dominates all, God’s will is not yet “done on earth”; rather, what is done on earth now is corruption and constantly accelerating decay. When God’s kingdom does come, then his divine will will triumph over and terminate the decay and then abolish the corruption with which we are now afflicted.

Give us this day our daily bread,

Most of us are imbued with a belief in entitlement to a vast panoply of blessings, many, if not most, of which we do not need. But, being invested with minimal power over our conditions, we are thereby precluded from possessing the capacity to secure the benefits of all of the blessings for which we aspire. We therefore should be ever attentive to and thankful for the blessings that we do receive. For we are often too oblivious to those blessings that we regularly enjoy.

and forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.

Corresponding to our self-absorption in what we do not possess is self-absorption in the perceived injuries afflicted on us by others. Rather we tend to forget or overlook those injuries our action or inaction has caused. In both cases of self-absorption we display our lack of humility. We instead must incorporate a constant awareness of our proclivity to error and selfishness. While obsessing excessively on any particular error or set of errors is destructive — by diverting our mental energy and capacities from positive action — engrafted acknowledgment of our propensity to error promotes our humility, and avoids our overconfidence, in the choices presented to us; thereby are we cautious in our consideration and selection of those choices.

and lead us not into temptation,

Scripture confirms that God does not lead us into temptation. Rather our failure to seek the strength of God to resist vice and instead pursue virtue is the cause. Succumbing to temptation can exist in many forms: it can exhibit itself in the active pursuit of vice; consist in cowering in the face of vice being perpetrated on others; and in using our time, energy, and capacities in trivial activities rather than employing them actively and industriously toward positive objectives. Regardless, we must recognize that we are but humble servants in the service of God’s mission of the realization of God’s Kingdom, recognizing God’s divine law as the inspiration and objective for all our actions.

but deliver us from evil.

While combined in the Prayer with the preceding phrase, these are two diametrically-opposite conditions. Temptation is a force we experience internally. Evil is a force that we externally encounter. Evil is not merely a concept, or an absence of righteousness, but an independent force of immense power, one that can only be subjugated by God’s surpassing power. While all are subject to being enticed by temptation, virtually all who are exposed to evil are buffeted by it, with only those most depraved being actually enticed by it. Despite its clear signs, revealing the malevolent force behind them, and the realization by most that it must be rejected and countered, only God’s strength allows effective countering.

What do these reflections teach us? Much! But perhaps the most-important lesson, at least to myself, is the implication proceeding from these reflections.

Scripture mandates our participation in social life, for the promotion of divine values by their exhibition in our own actions and the consequent encouragement of their incorporation into the actions of others. Yet our combination with society can expose us to potential contagion from corruption. In both individuals and societies at large this phenomenon has been frequently observed; while exposure to unrighteousness does not automatically cause us to adopt those precepts, our regular and repeated knowledge of them often anesthetizes us to them and provides us no excuse when we fail to resist them. There thus exists this constant tension and imminent danger.

How then to avoid, or at least minimize, the conflict within this conundrum? Perhaps the most-effective method is to minimize our exposure to the broad and encompassing programs of both large private and public associations — thereby avoiding the temptation to attempt to influence those policies — until their adverse impact on us is observed and experienced.

Once we observe and experience those adverse impacts, then we appreciate action at reformation is essential. Until then we can focus on our own efforts at the promotion and promulgation of righteousness without our time, energy, and capacities being diverted therefrom by attention instead to the action of others.

Knowledge of certain actions of others can be invaluable, when their righteous character is observed, by inspiring us to emulate them. But most actions of other do not partake of this character and thus divert us from our optimal productivity. Temptation is always present to divert us from this course, but this is when the knowledge and straighten of God is required.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Sanilac County, Michigan USA
22 July 2022

The Entropy of Waterscapes

Some prefer a pristine, unimpeded view of a waterscape. Others prefer a more natural vista, with intervening flora merging, intermingling with and enhancing the liquid expanse; this latter ensemble would be heartened through the spontaneous birth and growth of trees and shrubs composing this augmentation. However, they risk assault by critical comments upon why they would allow this disarray to occur.

One might respond that they prefer the variety and the severing of the monotony of an unobstructed view. Possibly, though, it can be more than this.

Perhaps, instead, it might be one manifestation of a visceral revulsion toward entropy. Employing myself as an example, and reflecting now, it appears I may always have maintained such an implicit mental framework: for I have long favored and gravitated toward the maintenance of diverse and distinct cultures. And an unobstructed waterscape might be styled as bland, and thus might be a reinforcing factor; for an inclination opposed to a too banal and undifferentiated vista of existence might be distressed when confronted with such a scene.

Such a critical aversion to an unobstructed and unbridled view of a waterscape can be viewed as simply the most immediate manifestation of such a perspective. For limitless, unconfined water is the very definition of entropy. Throughout the Scriptures, the sea constituted the very definition of chaos, and the clearest, most proximate example thereof.

Such a characterization is apt regardless of whether the surface might be violent or calm. For, if the former, though dramatic, yet is the exemplification of disorder, while, if the latter, wholly lacking in any discrete structure. Thus, only the introduction of terrestrial elements into the setting is capable of providing the variety necessary to counteract this inherent entropy.

 WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
03 Apr 2017

Eternity

 

To some, at least, eternity seems a fearful prospect, a terror of another kind:

A future without completion, conclusion or end. Constant missions — even if new and different, substituting and replacing concluded errands — and, thus, challenges.

Now certainly God has informed us that, for some at least, they will be afforded the opportunity to “enter God’s rest”. And if the body will be changed, so still will the mind — as even the mortal mind is bade to experience renewal of itself — and this could enable a comfortable adjustment to and grateful acceptance of this unexperienced prospect. Yet, by definition, we cannot now transmute our perception into such a state or presently comprehend such an altered consciousness. Consequently, while perhaps it is truly a rest, we still have no way now of so assuring ourselves — and therefore remain in tension.

But are there are other prospects that are equally fearful?

We here treasure and embrace our intimate temporal pursuits and associates (or at least some). Frequently, if not usually, we take for granted those which are closest and most constant because their presence seems so natural and elemental.  Only with the prospect of the absence or loss of them do we then appreciate their impermanence, and suffer trepidation and anxiety; we implore that the presence of the pursuit and the creature be extended indefinitely, to provide us the opportunity to better and more fully enjoy them. One wishes then he had had more occasion, perhaps indefinitely, to enjoy the object of this pleasure; and this sentiment can assert itself despite, or perhaps because of, one not neglecting the opportunities he had had to extract a meaningful degree of this pleasure — as the greater the uninterrupted involvement, the greater the perception of this presence as inextricable from one’s own existence.  The absence then would intolerably agitate and unsettle, causing one to wonder how they could possibly now adjust and strive onward.

This propensity is generated or enhanced by our inability, or reduced ability, to attune to anything but the present. We by definition can interact only with the present since the past (as far as meaningful to us) no longer exists and the future is unknown. Our senses and sensibilities then can only observe, examine, understand and appreciate that with which we can connect, either tactilely or visually. Since only the present state is “real” to us, then a lofty obstacle, perhaps insuperable, is imposed to truly appreciate a departure from the status quo.

Yet, would not this, the inclination or propensity to avoid mental acknowledgment of the possibility of an interruption of the status quo, be tantamount to eternally experiencing it?  Would one truly conceive that one’s delights should be extended but not perpetual, that there should be some ultimate terminus to them? It does not seem that the mind would conceive of such a scenario nor that it could discern any good reason for such a perspective.  While it may be unnatural (if not impossible) to contemplate perpetuity, is it not likewise unnatural to contemplate transience and mortality?

Perhaps, then, eternity is not such a fearful prospect after all.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
14 Aug 2015

The Life of Faith

Yes, a Life of Faith is a conundrum.

Both Scripture and logic  — as by definition the relationship of a mortal with the divine is necessarily one of qualitative inferiority — dictate the adoption of humility as a dominant character attribute.  We are enjoined to be humble; in addition, since Scripture characterizes Christ’s submission to crucifixion as the ultimate in humility  — and as we are charged to be Christ-like  — it is clear that humility must be our guiding principle.

Yet we know that God is omnipotent and omniscient.  If we strive to emulate, then we will be inclined to gradually impart an aura of boldness to our actions and efforts to glorify God; we also magnify our confidence by our greater proximity to God’s greatness and our joy in our hope of growth toward these elevated attributes. But, in this enlargement of our attitude, do we not also risk smiting our humility with a mortal blow?

In addition to the question of the mental perspective is that of the actions which flow from it.  As we not only are commanded to glorify God but thirst to do so, we necessarily don a mantle of animation while endeavoring to exploit every opportunity with which we may be presented; if we are called by God, then we yearn to optimize all the capabilities, and occasions for their employment, with which we are blessed. These trials, though, demand optimal focus and concentration; efforts to surmount our mortality are not casual nor perfunctory. However, in focusing and concentrating on the modest contributions we might make, do we not only risk but also experience distraction of our attention from listening to and reflecting on God?

Yes, it is all challenging and a conundrum.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
01 Sep 2014

 

Unity = Difference ?

 

Reading 1 Cor 12:12-26 this morning reminded me of a comment last night at our Lenten Study session to the effect that individual interpretations of Scripture are permissible and sanctioned; this would, I suppose, be consistent with the “Priesthood of Believers” principle. This passage from First Corinthians does appear, to some extent at least, to corroborate this opinion.

All the disparate members of a body remain part of it. The whole does not have an identity nor is it viable without its different parts. Unity then exists in difference; and the difference in opinion is an inherent part of and sustains the entity.

But is this not because we are congenitally and inevitably imperfect? We may strive but are unable ever to attain perfection. Yet perfection remains the goal and Eph 4:13-16 instructs us that maturity and growth into a unity remains the objective. Thus, difference of opinion would then cease to exist.

Growth beyond difference of opinion consequently is the ideal dynamic. Yet in this world it remains but the standard upon which we should focus and toward which we should strive, with the affliction of differing interpretations being that with which we are presently encumbered.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
3 April 2014

Religious | PHILOSOPHICAL VISTAS

Category Archives: Religious

Reflections on The Lord’s Prayer

As is usual for me, I include the recitation of The Lord’s Prayer while saying grace before my midday meal. Included in the prayer process was my reflection on what I had done, as well as what more I should have done, earlier this, and for the balance of the, day.

I thus had occasion to further reflect on the injunctions of the prayer. This article will constitute some of those reflections.

My version of the prayer is the Protestant version, to wit:

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power,
and the glory, forever.

Though not fully the chronological process of my reflections, it might assist in separately considering each of these passages. Hence these are grouped and considered as follows:

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

For thine is the kingdom,
and the power,
and the glory, forever.

These passages distinguish between the divine realm and the secular realm. Moreover they emphasize the surpassing superiority and dominance of the former over the latter, in holiness and virtue as well as in power.

While the kingdom of God is eternal and dominates all, God’s will is not yet “done on earth”; rather, what is done on earth now is corruption and constantly accelerating decay. When God’s kingdom does come, then his divine will will triumph over and terminate the decay and then abolish the corruption with which we are now afflicted.

Give us this day our daily bread,

Most of us are imbued with a belief in entitlement to a vast panoply of blessings, many, if not most, of which we do not need. But, being invested with minimal power over our conditions, we are thereby precluded from possessing the capacity to secure the benefits of all of the blessings for which we aspire. We therefore should be ever attentive to and thankful for the blessings that we do receive. For we are often too oblivious to those blessings that we regularly enjoy.

and forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.

Corresponding to our self-absorption in what we do not possess is self-absorption in the perceived injuries afflicted on us by others. Rather we tend to forget or overlook those injuries our action or inaction has caused. In both cases of self-absorption we display our lack of humility. We instead must incorporate a constant awareness of our proclivity to error and selfishness. While obsessing excessively on any particular error or set of errors is destructive — by diverting our mental energy and capacities from positive action — engrafted acknowledgment of our propensity to error promotes our humility, and avoids our overconfidence, in the choices presented to us; thereby are we cautious in our consideration and selection of those choices.

and lead us not into temptation,

Scripture confirms that God does not lead us into temptation. Rather our failure to seek the strength of God to resist vice and instead pursue virtue is the cause. Succumbing to temptation can exist in many forms: it can exhibit itself in the active pursuit of vice; consist in cowering in the face of vice being perpetrated on others; and in using our time, energy, and capacities in trivial activities rather than employing them actively and industriously toward positive objectives. Regardless, we must recognize that we are but humble servants in the service of God’s mission of the realization of God’s Kingdom, recognizing God’s divine law as the inspiration and objective for all our actions.

but deliver us from evil.

While combined in the Prayer with the preceding phrase, these are two diametrically-opposite conditions. Temptation is a force we experience internally. Evil is a force that we externally encounter. Evil is not merely a concept, or an absence of righteousness, but an independent force of immense power, one that can only be subjugated by God’s surpassing power. While all are subject to being enticed by temptation, virtually all who are exposed to evil are buffeted by it, with only those most depraved being actually enticed by it. Despite its clear signs, revealing the malevolent force behind them, and the realization by most that it must be rejected and countered, only God’s strength allows effective countering.

What do these reflections teach us? Much! But perhaps the most-important lesson, at least to myself, is the implication proceeding from these reflections.

Scripture mandates our participation in social life, for the promotion of divine values by their exhibition in our own actions and the consequent encouragement of their incorporation into the actions of others. Yet our combination with society can expose us to potential contagion from corruption. In both individuals and societies at large this phenomenon has been frequently observed; while exposure to unrighteousness does not automatically cause us to adopt those precepts, our regular and repeated knowledge of them often anesthetizes us to them and provides us no excuse when we fail to resist them. There thus exists this constant tension and imminent danger.

How then to avoid, or at least minimize, the conflict within this conundrum? Perhaps the most-effective method is to minimize our exposure to the broad and encompassing programs of both large private and public associations — thereby avoiding the temptation to attempt to influence those policies — until their adverse impact on us is observed and experienced.

Once we observe and experience those adverse impacts, then we appreciate action at reformation is essential. Until then we can focus on our own efforts at the promotion and promulgation of righteousness without our time, energy, and capacities being diverted therefrom by attention instead to the action of others.

Knowledge of certain actions of others can be invaluable, when their righteous character is observed, by inspiring us to emulate them. But most actions of other do not partake of this character and thus divert us from our optimal productivity. Temptation is always present to divert us from this course, but this is when the knowledge and straighten of God is required.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Sanilac County, Michigan USA
22 July 2022

The Entropy of Waterscapes

Some prefer a pristine, unimpeded view of a waterscape. Others prefer a more natural vista, with intervening flora merging, intermingling with and enhancing the liquid expanse; this latter ensemble would be heartened through the spontaneous birth and growth of trees and shrubs composing this augmentation. However, they risk assault by critical comments upon why they would allow this disarray to occur.

One might respond that they prefer the variety and the severing of the monotony of an unobstructed view. Possibly, though, it can be more than this.

Perhaps, instead, it might be one manifestation of a visceral revulsion toward entropy. Employing myself as an example, and reflecting now, it appears I may always have maintained such an implicit mental framework: for I have long favored and gravitated toward the maintenance of diverse and distinct cultures. And an unobstructed waterscape might be styled as bland, and thus might be a reinforcing factor; for an inclination opposed to a too banal and undifferentiated vista of existence might be distressed when confronted with such a scene.

Such a critical aversion to an unobstructed and unbridled view of a waterscape can be viewed as simply the most immediate manifestation of such a perspective. For limitless, unconfined water is the very definition of entropy. Throughout the Scriptures, the sea constituted the very definition of chaos, and the clearest, most proximate example thereof.

Such a characterization is apt regardless of whether the surface might be violent or calm. For, if the former, though dramatic, yet is the exemplification of disorder, while, if the latter, wholly lacking in any discrete structure. Thus, only the introduction of terrestrial elements into the setting is capable of providing the variety necessary to counteract this inherent entropy.

 WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
03 Apr 2017

Eternity

 

To some, at least, eternity seems a fearful prospect, a terror of another kind:

A future without completion, conclusion or end. Constant missions — even if new and different, substituting and replacing concluded errands — and, thus, challenges.

Now certainly God has informed us that, for some at least, they will be afforded the opportunity to “enter God’s rest”. And if the body will be changed, so still will the mind — as even the mortal mind is bade to experience renewal of itself — and this could enable a comfortable adjustment to and grateful acceptance of this unexperienced prospect. Yet, by definition, we cannot now transmute our perception into such a state or presently comprehend such an altered consciousness. Consequently, while perhaps it is truly a rest, we still have no way now of so assuring ourselves — and therefore remain in tension.

But are there are other prospects that are equally fearful?

We here treasure and embrace our intimate temporal pursuits and associates (or at least some). Frequently, if not usually, we take for granted those which are closest and most constant because their presence seems so natural and elemental.  Only with the prospect of the absence or loss of them do we then appreciate their impermanence, and suffer trepidation and anxiety; we implore that the presence of the pursuit and the creature be extended indefinitely, to provide us the opportunity to better and more fully enjoy them. One wishes then he had had more occasion, perhaps indefinitely, to enjoy the object of this pleasure; and this sentiment can assert itself despite, or perhaps because of, one not neglecting the opportunities he had had to extract a meaningful degree of this pleasure — as the greater the uninterrupted involvement, the greater the perception of this presence as inextricable from one’s own existence.  The absence then would intolerably agitate and unsettle, causing one to wonder how they could possibly now adjust and strive onward.

This propensity is generated or enhanced by our inability, or reduced ability, to attune to anything but the present. We by definition can interact only with the present since the past (as far as meaningful to us) no longer exists and the future is unknown. Our senses and sensibilities then can only observe, examine, understand and appreciate that with which we can connect, either tactilely or visually. Since only the present state is “real” to us, then a lofty obstacle, perhaps insuperable, is imposed to truly appreciate a departure from the status quo.

Yet, would not this, the inclination or propensity to avoid mental acknowledgment of the possibility of an interruption of the status quo, be tantamount to eternally experiencing it?  Would one truly conceive that one’s delights should be extended but not perpetual, that there should be some ultimate terminus to them? It does not seem that the mind would conceive of such a scenario nor that it could discern any good reason for such a perspective.  While it may be unnatural (if not impossible) to contemplate perpetuity, is it not likewise unnatural to contemplate transience and mortality?

Perhaps, then, eternity is not such a fearful prospect after all.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
14 Aug 2015

The Life of Faith

Yes, a Life of Faith is a conundrum.

Both Scripture and logic  — as by definition the relationship of a mortal with the divine is necessarily one of qualitative inferiority — dictate the adoption of humility as a dominant character attribute.  We are enjoined to be humble; in addition, since Scripture characterizes Christ’s submission to crucifixion as the ultimate in humility  — and as we are charged to be Christ-like  — it is clear that humility must be our guiding principle.

Yet we know that God is omnipotent and omniscient.  If we strive to emulate, then we will be inclined to gradually impart an aura of boldness to our actions and efforts to glorify God; we also magnify our confidence by our greater proximity to God’s greatness and our joy in our hope of growth toward these elevated attributes. But, in this enlargement of our attitude, do we not also risk smiting our humility with a mortal blow?

In addition to the question of the mental perspective is that of the actions which flow from it.  As we not only are commanded to glorify God but thirst to do so, we necessarily don a mantle of animation while endeavoring to exploit every opportunity with which we may be presented; if we are called by God, then we yearn to optimize all the capabilities, and occasions for their employment, with which we are blessed. These trials, though, demand optimal focus and concentration; efforts to surmount our mortality are not casual nor perfunctory. However, in focusing and concentrating on the modest contributions we might make, do we not only risk but also experience distraction of our attention from listening to and reflecting on God?

Yes, it is all challenging and a conundrum.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
01 Sep 2014

 

Unity = Difference ?

 

Reading 1 Cor 12:12-26 this morning reminded me of a comment last night at our Lenten Study session to the effect that individual interpretations of Scripture are permissible and sanctioned; this would, I suppose, be consistent with the “Priesthood of Believers” principle. This passage from First Corinthians does appear, to some extent at least, to corroborate this opinion.

All the disparate members of a body remain part of it. The whole does not have an identity nor is it viable without its different parts. Unity then exists in difference; and the difference in opinion is an inherent part of and sustains the entity.

But is this not because we are congenitally and inevitably imperfect? We may strive but are unable ever to attain perfection. Yet perfection remains the goal and Eph 4:13-16 instructs us that maturity and growth into a unity remains the objective. Thus, difference of opinion would then cease to exist.

Growth beyond difference of opinion consequently is the ideal dynamic. Yet in this world it remains but the standard upon which we should focus and toward which we should strive, with the affliction of differing interpretations being that with which we are presently encumbered.

WAYNE A. SMITH
Forester Twp, Michigan USA
3 April 2014