14 August 2012

Why No Time? 2/2

Anyway, this is what I'm dealing with. It's no big deal...just consumes a lot of time and energy. One of the advantages of punching a time-clock is that you go home and don't have to worry about your job anymore.
God willing by dropping this electrical job and perhaps/hopefully dropping this other job...I will have more time. Some might balk at this and suggest I'm breaking a commitment. There's no contract, it was tentative agreement. I'm very careful about how I commit myself. And I don't do this in a shady or ambiguous way. I'm cautious. There are just some people that I don't want to work for and you don't always know that right away.

I don't like breaking it in a willy-nilly fashion, but there are a clients that you realize sometimes...there's no pleasing them. You'll never be done with them. The job will be complete and they'll keep contacting you trying to get you to come back and change this or twist that. There are many people who try to get you to do things not spelled out in the contract. It's fine if you're working time and materials, but if it's a contract, they're basically tricking you into doing stuff for free.
There have been other cases where not only do they try to milk me and squeeze me for a bunch of work they're not paying for, but some folks are just bestial and awful to be around. There have been a few retired steelworker types that I worked for a day or two, finished the job, and then when they called me back...turned them down. They're astonished, but... I don't care to be around them and listen to their filth and all the while feel like I'm being taken advantage of.
Working for people is all about trust. They have to trust me and I have to trust them. If that isn't established pretty quick after meeting, then it's not likely to develop and the working relationship will always be strained and uncomfortable.
I usually don't take a lot of money up front...often none. I just want to be paid regularly, usually on Friday's. I'm trusting they will pay me, and they're trusting that I will do the work properly and show up everyday etc...
By keeping the payments frequent and small....it lowers the level of trust that's required. Neither of us are out a lot of money, nervously hoping the other person comes through. And if they don't pay me...I leave.
Thankfully that's never happened.
If I worked retail, then it would be necessary for me to deal with the unpleasant customers. But since I work for myself, I can say no.
And to these two projects....I'm saying 'no'....and hopefully this will give me more time.
But then again it may not. I have a large job looming on the near horizon. This project will keep me occupied for the better part of a year and I stand to make more money than I ever have before. I'm remodeling the interior of a 3-storey office building.
But...the time demands will be intense, especially during phase 1. I have drawings, plans, and inspections to deal with and a push to get the 1st floor done as quickly as possible. It's an office space and I may need to work 6 days a week for many weeks. I'll be raking in the money, but again...no time.
Actually if it were up to me, I'd pass on the jobs, write full time and live on much less money. Because if this comes together there will be even less time to write. It's a blessing in terms of paying the bills, but with all my heart....I don't want to do it.
But I'd be a fool to turn it away without some other means of income.
Some might say...well this is Providence. You're not meant to write essays and articles at this time. This is God's way of showing you this.
That very well could be the case.
How to interpret that?
One could say....because I'm off-base. What I'm doing isn't pleasing to God and He's shutting me down so to speak.
It could be.
But does that mean that God loves and blesses such 'ministries' as Coral Ridge, American Vision, Chalcedon, Wallbuilders, the ACLJ, Vision Forum, TBN, and Liberty University?...because they bring in millions of dollars?
I don't think so.
Sometimes God punishes by keeping truth from the landscape. I'm thinking of Jeremiah 23 (an awesome chapter) and Hosea 4.6.
Sometimes the false teachers flourish and those speaking truth are all but ignored.
These passages reveal God in a way that frankly American Christians recoil from. The idea that he sends judgment and withdraws the oracle of truth from the land (in this case the Church, not America per se) so that it is destitute and increasing its sin....that's not a vision of God the Joel Osteen's, Joyce Meyer's, Rick Warren's, or even many Reformed thinkers would wish to contemplate. If it comes from more Conservative circles, they think that in order to prevent it, prevent the decline and God's withdrawal....we need to Sacralize the land.
I think the idolatry of Sacralism is what leads to it.
Anyway, I'm hardly the 'oracle' of God. But if I'm speaking truth then, the words function in that manner. Maybe God will use a myriad of people like me to help make a Remnant more manifest? That's my hope.
But maybe He won't.
Maybe He'll use others and my time is not yet...or perhaps never will be.
Interpreting Providence is pretty tough. I'm often astonished at the audacity and certainty with which some proceed in this matter.
So if I get a bunch of work...does that mean I'm not 'meant' to write?
Maybe...maybe not.
Just in case anyone is wondering....will this mean I can save a bunch of money and take time off? No. We're not talking that kind of money. I'm talking enough money to get caught up on bills, save a little money for when the car breaks down and start working on paying the mountain of delinquent medical bills I have. I don't really care that they're late. Frankly I view many of them as criminal extortion, but that's another matter.
So in the meantime, I'll keep plugging away writing 1/20th of what I would hope.
The money might allow me at times to take a few days off, once I get passed the initial time-pressured phase.
God is Sovereign.
I have to remember that as I'm covered in dust laying under some porch, nailing joists together...or running wire in an attic....or splicing pipe in someone's basement. Though I don't want to be there....at that moment I can take comfort in knowing that's where God wants me to be.
Not that I 'mind' the work. I don't mind getting dirty, building and fixing things. I don't enjoy it, but I don't mind it. But it's not what I want to do. If I could turn back the clock, I could have finished college and got a job as some kind of academic. I think how nice that would have been. But would it? There's no institution interested in what I'm about.
Such thoughts are futile. I'm meant to be where I am. That doesn't mean I haven't made mistakes and that I'm culpable for the consequences of those mistakes...but in terms of Overall Providence....I'm where God wants me to be.
That doesn't mean I can't pray and hope my situation changes. He may want me to be somewhere else tomorrow.
Right now today, I'm writing this because I'm free this morning and I praise God I can do so.


Jim C. said...

Hey John,


I apologize in advance for abruptly steering the conversation off onto a completely different tangent but I thought you should take a look at this.

It was written by someone who used to be a small celebrity in Catholic circles who eventually rejected his religious beliefs and is now an atheist.

When I think about your story I see many similarities. You both used to be ultra-conservative Christian rightists who have since abandoned that position. You both read copiously and draw heavily on life experience in order to shape your thinking. Of course, the main difference between you two is that you decided to remain faithful. He didn't.

Anyway if you have a chance I recommend taking a look at it and (hopefully) sharing your thoughts.

Jim C.

Protoprotestant said...


Boggling isn't it?

Frankly, as I've toyed at times with Eastern Orthodoxy or something like it.....it would ultimately mean not only apostasy in terms of the Biblical Gospel but apostasy in terms of Christianity.

All the threads would come undone and I would be left destitute.

Being where I have been....if I actually apostatized, I would probably kill myself.

I would be some miserable and out of my skull. If you don't believe there's a God, then this world is full of injustice and lies. I guess I would either park it on a barstool, take up a gun and go on a rampage...or just end it.

Nihilism is really all I would have left.

I'm really quite surprised that more mass shootings and things like that aren't happening. It's only God's restraining hand that keeps it from happening every moment of the day.

Because if this world is just nihilistic...why not? Eat and drink for tomorrow we die. Why not die today?

My wife says I remind her of Thomas Hardy's Jude. Not that I have apostatized like Jude did...but that Jude (and of course Hardy who created him) saw what was happening, and experienced what happens when you learn much, think much and yet won't play by the rules. It's hard not to end up bitter and isolated.

Though my writings may seem bitter and I am filled with frustration and sorrow...... I also possess something that neither the apostate blogger nor Thomas Hardy had....hope, joy, and peace.

Jim C. said...

Hey John,

I'm not saying I disagree with you but allow me to play the devil's advocate on this one.

First of all when you said "if you don't believe there's a God, then this world is full of injustice and lies." Is this what you meant to say? You and I both believe in a sovereign God in control of the universe and yet we both acknowledge the existence of evil. In fact, many nonbelievers use the popular "argument from evil" to criticize the idea of an all-good, all-powerful God. How, they say, can God just sit there and allow all these injustices to happen? Why doesn't he intervene? Either it's because he's indifferent, impotent or just not there. I'm sure you've heard this countless times before.

Also, I've heard the argument before that connects lack of religious belief with nihilism. I suppose it has some merit but the logical outworking of it could cut one of two ways. On the one hand one could resort to gross epicurean excess and drink him/herself bloated/go on a killing spree, etc. or they could get an education/raise a family/make money/cure an illness, etc. Either way, they'll be dead within a hundred years and nobody will care by that point. At least if they opt for the latter they'll at least derive some fulfillment even if it's fleeting and that's better than none at all.

In other words, even though the universe is objectively ateleogical people can nevertheless create their own purpose in life and live by it. Again, I'm not saying I agree with them but this is the sort of thing they would say in their defense.

Again, let me know if I've misconstrued what you've said.


Protoprotestant said...

You're certainly permitted to disagree as long as I can argue back!
Yeah let me clarify. Since we believe in God, we can account for the injustice and lies. It's due to the presence of sin.
But if you don't believe in God...how can you account for it? Or anything?
Right I was just talking about the Holocaust with my oldest son and explaining how this is a key event that is used as a fulcrum in so many different discussions. And the one you cited...if there was a God how could he let this happen?...was one we discussed.
And you're also right that some people, embracing atheism...still go out and conform and maybe even try to better the world. But philosophically they cannot justify this behaviour. Psychologically it may give them a sense of worth, but they can't justify it. If we're just slime, and that's what we'll become again...what's the point?
I suppose someone like Dawkins might say evolutionary progress is an innate platform for ethics. But if survival of the fittest is true and being 'the fittest' is morally right....then Hitler's happiness and exercise of being the 'fittest' could be argued as ethically good.
I think (and this is just me) that optimistic atheists must embrace a positive view of progress and ethics to keep themselves from going mad. Philosophy is against them and frankly so is history.
I do think nihilism is about all you're left with. Whether that manifests itself as Hitler, a punk rocker, a mad gunman, or a druggie in a back alley....it doesn't really matter.
I guess what I would say to one of the 'positive' atheists is....I don't like you and since there's no God.......bam!
I shot him dead. He doesn't like it but can't explain why. If he wants to say it's wrong, then he has to account for 'wrong'...some kind of transcendent non-empirical concept.
I think there are some atheists that are socially speaking...good people. All I'm saying is, it doesn't make sense. In fact 'good' makes no sense in that context. At best a concept like 'goodness' is a social convention. Maybe goodness in my social construct means I kill you because I don't like the way you look.
Now I know they would argue against what I've said, and if you want to continue (in the role of advocate)....go for it. I probably should spend some time looking at Dawkins' books and things along those lines. I haven't been terribly interested, but I have heard him on BBC and NPR. I'm always very interested to hear how they argue. So like I said, I know they would have a response...if you know what it is beyond what I've said here...please share.

Jim C. said...

Hey Proto,

It looks like you adhere to a transcendental/Van Tillian line of argumentation on the issue of evil; that is, God must exist because of the impossibility of the contrary. I'm not sure if you would phrase it that way but you've at least said here that for evil to have an objective existence once cannot epistemologically presuppose eliminative materialism.

Some atheists have responded to this by holding to a modified, non-reductive variation of materialism. They believe that matter is ontologically primary but they also allow for the existence of non-reducible categories. They would go on to say that even though materialism in its strictest form is absurd it doesn't follow that a God must exist.

I think you're correct when you point to evolutionary progress as a standard for ethics and go on to say that natural selection/survival of the fittest can be problematic from an ethical standpoint. An atheist may respond by saying that invoking Hitler/Stalin is arbitrary and that "evolutionarily fit" does not necessarily entail Nazism, Communism, mass murder or dictatorship. They may say that showing compassion to the weak increases the overall fitness of a society as a whole, which in turn benefits the individual. Utilitarianism plays a key role in this: the greatest good for the greatest number.

You also said, "At best a concept like 'goodness' is a social convention. Maybe goodness in my social construct means I kill you because I don't like the way you look." The response to this is quite simple: your killing someone because of their appearance is an individual act that violates social convention and is therefore evil. Of course, the problem with consensus-based ethics is its foundational arbitrariness. For example, Aktion T4 in Nazi Germany permitted the execution of mentally disabled people and the only ones who protested were Catholics and some Protestants. The rest of German society was convinced that killing them was the humane thing to do. Was it therefore okay? Who's to say?

With regard to the biblical God both you and I presuppose, some atheists would point to the atrocities commanded in the Old Testament and on that basis criticize divine command theories of ethics, etc. "How can God command people to turn the other cheek and not do so Himself?" some would ask.

Hopefully this provides further depth to this discussion. Again, I apologize for going off on this tangent since it had nothing to do with the subject of this thread.


Protoprotestant said...

My response was too long. I just started a new post.

Now we're not off topic! (wink)

Anonymous said...

Concerning the Holocaust, and atheists explanations for "morality", in light of the philosophical issues you two are discussing, may I suggest you read "The Holocaust: Where was God?" by Art Katz. It's good theology, too. God surely seems "evil", unjust, or uncaring to non-regenerate people wondering why "bad" things happen to "good" people. The light of eternity, righteousness, and covenants--God's perpective-- put it in a non-human godly perspective. Very good for discussing these issues with atheists and unregenerate. The wonder is why we are ALL not cinderized already! But check out Art Katz on the topic. There is a website for his writings. He has gone to be with the Lord a few years ago.

Protoprotestant said...

I have heard that name somewhere...but I can't think of where. That would be interesting. (It's kind of expensive! I'll have to see if I can get it through the library)

I've certainly read Weisel and for years I was quite interested in Wiesenthal and all things to do with ex-Nazis. ODESSA was fascinating to me and I made a point to look at a few related sites while in Europe. There's quite a rich trove of related movies as well.

But I would be interested in finding someone who offers a bit of theological insight and interpretation. What little bit of Christian interpretation I have read, I have usually found to be lacking...often tainted with American or political assumption...and though correct in general assessment also morally problematic.

I also think that most American Evangelicals really cannot answer the theological and moral questions concerning the Holocaust. Their doctrine of sin and its consequences and/or their doctrine of God is deficient. My kids and I were talking about that tonight as we were looking at Pharaoh in Exodus....God was hardening his heart. Exodus itself provides some interpretation....Evangelicals are okay with that as long as it applied to a nation like...Egypt. Though they wouldn't like it if applied to America. But then when we turn the NT interpretation and elaboration in Romans 9...most American Evangelicals say, 'no thanks' and jump ship.

I think the Holocaust though unpleasant is a good event to spend some time considering. It really is a wedge issue on several fronts....ethics, history, theology, even the basic question of theism. The Holocaust represents an extreme that must be dealt with. The more you know about it....can help as we wrestle with it ourselves....and when we engage others.