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 Post subject: Book I wrote
PostPosted: Tue Mar 17, 2015 12:31 am 
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So, after a year of work, I finally took my master's thesis and got it completely rewritten from scratch on a popular level. The title is Making Divine Simplicity Simple: Rediscovering Who and What God Is. My hope is that people who aren't familiar with the doctrine, and evangelicals in particular, will find the argument here compelling enough to take it seriously again.

I would be interested in any thoughts anyone here has. In it's current form, it is just shy of 57,000 words. The 12pt Ariel single spaced font puts it at 116 pages. I would guess in normal publication typesetting it would be around 230 pages. Again, I emphasize that this is a popular level treatment of a subject that quite possibly can't be so treated. But I've tried all the same!

So without further ado, you may read the result of the last several years of my academic life's work here! :mrgreen:

(Note: any criticism is welcome, and while I think I've gotten all the typos, if you discover any, please let me know so I can remove them. I did not have an editor, and it is very hard to edit your own material! :p)

edit: updated link to new edition fixing typos pointed out in discussion below

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Indeed, the Lord Jesus, when He prayed to the Father, "that all may be one. . . as we are one" (John 17:21-22) opened up vistas closed to human reason, for He implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons, and the unity of God's sons in truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself. ~ Pope Paul VI, Gaudium et Spes 24.3


Last edited by theJack on Thu Mar 19, 2015 9:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Book I wrote
PostPosted: Tue Mar 17, 2015 9:13 am 
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It would be quite interesting to discuss the book, but since my posts are delayed due to moderator pre-approval, it would be a boring process. Nevertheless, a few comments might be useful.

You assert in the first chapter that according to some people if an objection is raised against the concept of "divine simplicity", it must be immediately discarded as an incorrect objection. I don't know if this is the platform you take, but if so, it would make any discussion futile. A concept cannot be treated as an axiom before it can be logically and rationally established that it truly merits to be treated as a fundamental axiom. Another remark is that many of the divine attributes need a rigorous definition before they can be meaningfully used. These include the so-called omnimax attributes. For serious consideration one cannot rely on the imprecise definitions of "omniscience is: to know everything that can be known", "omnipotence is: to be able to do everything that can be done", etc... A third one is that God cannot be defined in a totally negative manner, like "God is not this and God is not that", it needs some positive attributes before one can speak meaningfully of God. Also, if one cannot speak of God in a direct manner, if everything must be taken allegorically, then no discussion can take place.

Finally, no obvious contradiction can be brushed off as a "mystery". If something is contradictiory, it cannot be "rescued" by declaring it a "mystery". These were just a few preliminary remarks. Let's see if a discussion can take place.


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 Post subject: Re: Book I wrote
PostPosted: Tue Mar 17, 2015 10:20 am 
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Hi Larry,

I'm sorry your posts are on moderation. I hope whatever brought that about has been resolved such that the delay can be lifted soon. The delay probably bothers you far more than me, so if you have thoughts, I'd appreciate them.

Regarding your comments here, I'm a little confused when you say that I assert that "f an objection is raised against the concept of 'divine simplicity', it must be immediately discarded as an incorrect objection." I made no such claim. The closest I could find was in my introductory remarks on Part One, I said this:

    Because the arguments in its favor are so powerful and so foundational, it has been used to govern and test much of everything else said about God. So if some idea ended up contradicting DS, far from challenging DS, it was considered proof that the new idea was false!

This, though, isn't at all what you said. If that's where you were getting the idea from, I would encourage you to reread my words a little more closely. Other than that, I agree that terms need to be better defined, that God isn't described in solely negative language (but we certainly have to make serious use of negative language) and that we can't write off contradictions as mysteries. I think most, if not all, of that is addressed in the text of the book.

So do let me know if you find anything of special interest. Thanks much. :)

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Indeed, the Lord Jesus, when He prayed to the Father, "that all may be one. . . as we are one" (John 17:21-22) opened up vistas closed to human reason, for He implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons, and the unity of God's sons in truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself. ~ Pope Paul VI, Gaudium et Spes 24.3


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 Post subject: Re: Book I wrote
PostPosted: Tue Mar 17, 2015 3:24 pm 
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TheJack wrote:
Regarding your comments here, I'm a little confused when you say that I assert that "f an objection is raised against the concept of 'divine simplicity', it must be immediately discarded as an incorrect objection." I made no such claim. The closest I could find was in my introductory remarks on Part One, I said this:

    Because the arguments in its favor are so powerful and so foundational, it has been used to govern and test much of everything else said about God. So if some idea ended up contradicting DS, far from challenging DS, it was considered proof that the new idea was false!

This, though, isn't at all what you said. If that's where you were getting the idea from, I would encourage you to reread my words a little more closely.

Well, hard as I try to parse the sentence: "So if some idea ended up contradicting DS, far from challenging DS, it was considered proof that the new idea was false!" means exactly what I said - with somewhat different words. If you would explain why my understanding is incorrect, I would appreciate it.

TheJack wrote:
Other than that, I agree that terms need to be better defined, that God isn't described in solely negative language (but we certainly have to make serious use of negative language) and that we can't write off contradictions as mysteries. I think most, if not all, of that is addressed in the text of the book.

Of course I will continue to read the book.

TheJack wrote:
So do let me know if you find anything of special interest. Thanks much. :)

Now, I have encountered an interesting problem a very long time ago concerning the concept of DS. It relates to the concept of omniscience. The problem is the "precedence" of the actual states of affairs, and God's knowledge of those states of affairs. In other words, which caused what? If God's knowledge is primary, and our actions are the results of that knowledge, then there is no meaningful freedom of will. As far as I know no one holds that view, people hold the opposite view. Namely people assert that God knows what we do, because we do it. And if that is the case, then God's knowledge of our actions is contingent upon those actions. Since the idea of DS denies that God has a separate "part" of knowledge, that God's knowledge is inseparable from his essence, therefore you face the problem that God's essence is contingent.

Speaking in abstract terms, we face the problem of a perfect equivalence of "the actual states of affairs" (let's call it simply "A") and "God's knowledge of those states of affairs" (let's call it "B"). If "B" is a perfect description "A", then there are 4 logical possibilities:

1) A was caused by B
2) B was caused by A
3) some external agent caused both A and B, and made sure that they are equivalent
4) we have an incredible lucky coincidence, where A and B somehow are equal, without any causal relationship.

No one holds either 3) or 4) to be true to my best knowledge.

How do you resolve this problem? If you address it in your book, I would love to see your solution for it. I will reach it eventually, but you could help me to find it quicker. Thanks. :)


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 Post subject: Re: Book I wrote
PostPosted: Wed Mar 18, 2015 9:40 am 
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Larry, I approved this post but be aware if I sense you are hijacking this thread for your own personal issues I won't allow it. Stay on the topic.


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 Post subject: Re: Book I wrote
PostPosted: Wed Mar 18, 2015 1:36 pm 
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TheJack wrote:
So, after a year of work, I finally took my master's thesis and got it completely rewritten from scratch on a popular level. The title is Making Divine Simplicity Simple: Rediscovering Who and What God Is. My hope is that people who aren't familiar with the doctrine, and evangelicals in particular, will find the argument here compelling enough to take it seriously again.

I would be interested in any thoughts anyone here has. In it's current form, it is just shy of 57,000 words. The 12pt Ariel single spaced font puts it at 116 pages. I would guess in normal publication typesetting it would be around 230 pages. Again, I emphasize that this is a popular level treatment of a subject that quite possibly can't be so treated. But I've tried all the same!

So without further ado, you may read the result of the last several years of my academic life's work here! :mrgreen:

(Note: any criticism is welcome, and while I think I've gotten all the typos, if you discover any, please let me know so I can remove them. I did not have an editor, and it is very hard to edit your own material! :p)


Jack, from someone who is not a conservative evangelical Christian to someone who is, congratulations on writing such an excellent book with such wonderful clarity.

And may I say that I found some of it truly and deeply inspiring, surprisingly to me for a philosophical book from a conservative evangelical Christian.

I haven't read it all, I am going through a busy time these days for the next few weeks, but I will read it all. I haven't read it carefully enough yet to consider whether or not what you say about Divine Simplicity is true, and whether or not that matters, but the parts I have read I found fascinating and brilliantly clear. You have a great ability to write about technical matters in non-technical language for a non-technical audience. I seriously think you should consider writing a book challenging Richard Dawkins' God Delusion book, in a similar way. I'm sure there are others, but I doubt if they are written so well with such clarity of thought.

Is there any similarity between what you say about Divine Simplicity and Taoist conceptions of the Infinite? That struck me as I was reading your book, but I don't know enough about either to come to as clear an opinion as you probably have, assuming you know something about Taoism. I'd love to know what you think about this.

You asked us to point out any typos we notice. Here are a few which appear to me to be typos or not expressed as you would wish:


Page 92, the last part of the second-last sentence and the last part of the last sentence of this paragraph:
Quote:
The atheist could say, “Of course, you are right. Dawkins’ argument is foolish as far as it goes. But it does seem to rest on an important idea that you theists aren’t taking seriously. It seems that our complex universe either just exists on its own without explanation or else it was created by a very complex God who just exists on His own. Even if we grant that God’s complexity is just the complexity of ideas and wisdom and power, He is still highly complex—far more than you and I are. But if you are allowed to just claim that God, for some mysterious and unknowable reason, can exist without need for explanation even though He is complex, then why can’t I say the same thing about the universe? I mean, why can’t I just claim that our complex universe, for some mysterious and unknowable reason, just exists anyway without need for explanation? Maybe if your complex God has some property that you can’t identify that lets Him just exist even though He is complex, then matter itself might have some similar property even if I can’t identify it just lets it exist even though it is complex! And since we know for sure that matter exists, then why should be bother suggesting a God to create it?


And this last sentence on page 1 doesn't seem to make much sense to me:
Quote:
This brings the idea is that God is not composed of parts us to the basic idea behind
Divine Simplicity:.

And I don't think you meant to end that sentence with a colon and a full stop.


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 Post subject: Re: Book I wrote
PostPosted: Wed Mar 18, 2015 3:06 pm 
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Typo: p.28. "pin" should be "a pin". Second use of the word in that paragraph.

Typo p. 36: delete "it" in first sentence just under the cartoon.

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 Post subject: Re: Book I wrote
PostPosted: Wed Mar 18, 2015 5:25 pm 
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ColdComfort wrote:
Typo: p.28. "pin" should be "a pin". Second use of the word in that paragraph.

Typo p. 36: delete "it" in first sentence just under the cartoon.


On p. 45 in the sentence begining "So, again, everything that I have, " you need ' a source 'rather than just ' source'. BTW I am reading but will keep any comments til I finish.

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 Post subject: Re: Book I wrote
PostPosted: Wed Mar 18, 2015 9:04 pm 
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ColdComfort wrote:
ColdComfort wrote:
Typo: p.28. "pin" should be "a pin". Second use of the word in that paragraph.

Typo p. 36: delete "it" in first sentence just under the cartoon.


On p. 45 in the sentence begining "So, again, everything that I have, " you need ' a source 'rather than just ' source'. BTW I am reading but will keep any comments til I finish.


p. 55: mispelling of form just before the word Humanity. p.82: delete "in" in sentence " Suppose I hold a penny up" I should have sent a PM for these.

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 Post subject: Re: Book I wrote
PostPosted: Thu Mar 19, 2015 9:49 am 
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I finished the book last night. It's very good. Thanks for making it available to us.

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 Post subject: Re: Book I wrote
PostPosted: Thu Mar 19, 2015 10:42 am 
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Larry Laffer wrote:
Well, hard as I try to parse the sentence: "So if some idea ended up contradicting DS, far from challenging DS, it was considered proof that the new idea was false!" means exactly what I said - with somewhat different words. If you would explain why my understanding is incorrect, I would appreciate it.
You are ignoring the immediately preceding sentence. The reason the new ideas were considered false was that the arguments in [favor of DS] are so powerful and so foundational.

Jack's complete paragraph - which you for some reason chose to cut in half - assumes that there are such arguments (which he provides in the book), but does not claim that they are axioms in the sense that the law of non-contradiction is an axiom.

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 Post subject: Re: Book I wrote
PostPosted: Thu Mar 19, 2015 1:18 pm 
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Closet Catholic wrote:
Larry Laffer wrote:
Well, hard as I try to parse the sentence: "So if some idea ended up contradicting DS, far from challenging DS, it was considered proof that the new idea was false!" means exactly what I said - with somewhat different words. If you would explain why my understanding is incorrect, I would appreciate it.
You are ignoring the immediately preceding sentence. The reason the new ideas were considered false was that the arguments in [favor of DS] are so powerful and so foundational.

Jack's complete paragraph - which you for some reason chose to cut in half - assumes that there are such arguments (which he provides in the book), but does not claim that they are axioms in the sense that the law of non-contradiction is an axiom.


Jack is not a Catholic but most of us here are. DS is an article of faith. Any reasoning that contradicts the dogma then ought to be rejected but even that position wouldn't make discussion futile as you put it. But that's not his position in any event.

Which leads me to one of the few thoughts I had where I might differ from Jack. DS is foundational as he says. To abandon it leads to all sorts of errors if not impiety. God creates of necessity. God knowledge or will is dependant on ours. I'm surprised to learn from Jack that such ideas are widespread among Christian writers.

Scripture alone is not and cannot be decisive on this issue. Neither is reason alone. The same is true for the dogma of the Trinity. On that issue and on DS what can only be decisive is the teaching of the Church.

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 Post subject: Re: Book I wrote
PostPosted: Thu Mar 19, 2015 8:27 pm 
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Thanks very much, Daisy and Cold, for catching those typos. I've now fixed them.

Daisy wrote:
Jack, from someone who is not a conservative evangelical Christian to someone who is, congratulations on writing such an excellent book with such wonderful clarity.

And may I say that I found some of it truly and deeply inspiring, surprisingly to me for a philosophical book from a conservative evangelical Christian.

I haven't read it all, I am going through a busy time these days for the next few weeks, but I will read it all. I haven't read it carefully enough yet to consider whether or not what you say about Divine Simplicity is true, and whether or not that matters, but the parts I have read I found fascinating and brilliantly clear. You have a great ability to write about technical matters in non-technical language for a non-technical audience. I seriously think you should consider writing a book challenging Richard Dawkins' God Delusion book, in a similar way. I'm sure there are others, but I doubt if they are written so well with such clarity of thought.

Is there any similarity between what you say about Divine Simplicity and Taoist conceptions of the Infinite? That struck me as I was reading your book, but I don't know enough about either to come to as clear an opinion as you probably have, assuming you know something about Taoism. I'd love to know what you think about this.

Thanks for your comments here. I'm glad the material is clear. That's the whole goal of the book (assuming, of course, in the attempted clarity I've not taught error!). As far as Dawkins is concerned, I'll wait until you get to chapter 13, as I address some of his material there. ;)

Regarding the Tao, it think favorable comparisons are justifiable. The devil is in the details, of course. One major difference as far as I understand it is that the Tao is regarded as "empty." With exception to a few mystics, I don't think theists would say that. Further, the Tao is not considered personal, whereas the term "person" allies to God even more truly than it applies to you and me in Christianity. So the differences are significant. Yet I don't think that we should be content with noting the differences to ignore what Taoism does teach. I have found in discussion with Hindu and Hindu-influenced friends that Divine Simplicity makes God more intelligible in some sense. There is a mysticism naturally implied by DS that I think eastern religions embrace. As I say in the book, I regard much of DS as a matter of general revelation, so I'm not surprised to see ideas very much like it in the deepest of eastern thought. And I have found that useful in evangelistic work.

----------------------------

Larry, Cold and CC understood my points exactly. I'm not presuming DS and using it to reject all other ideas, nor am I saying the Church has done that. I'm saying that DS is proven to be true, and since it is true, then any ideas that directly contradict or more commonly entail ideas that directly contradict this known truth are to be rejected. I'm obviously not making a bare assertion out of that. The entire book constitutes an argument for DS, and Part One in particular. Part Two, which is the bulk of the book, takes up a range of objections one by one and considers them in some detail. So we aren't talking about a flippant dismissal here.

As far as your question of free will, see chapter 11. As to God's knowledge, you've phrased it incorrectly. God does not know things because they are, but rather things are because God knows them. Read the chapter in question and you'll see how that statement not only does not contradict human freedom but actually upholds it (and, I think, is the only way to truly uphold it).

ColdComfort wrote:
Jack is not a Catholic but most of us here are. DS is an article of faith. Any reasoning that contradicts the dogma then ought to be rejected but even that position wouldn't make discussion futile as you put it. But that's not his position in any event.

Which leads me to one of the few thoughts I had where I might differ from Jack. DS is foundational as he says. To abandon it leads to all sorts of errors if not impiety. God creates of necessity. God knowledge or will is dependant on ours. I'm surprised to learn from Jack that such ideas are widespread among Christian writers.

Scripture alone is not and cannot be decisive on this issue. Neither is reason alone. The same is true for the dogma of the Trinity. On that issue and on DS what can only be decisive is the teaching of the Church.

I'm sure you'll understand where I disagree with the second part of your post, Cold. ;)

I think your Church is right on its affirmation of DS. I don't think that's because of any special teaching authority but because your church has been gifted with some incredibly brilliant minds that are capable of reason. Anyone who follows their arguments will see the truth of them. Take me as one example. I reject the authority of your magisterium and I promote DS in ways that I think tend to be persuasive.

But with that said, yes, those ideas you cite are VERY common among Christian writers. It's really depressing how many very highly trained Christian philosophers, especially evangelical philosophers, believe them. William Lane Craig, J. P. Moreland, Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swineburne, Jay Richards, Nicholas Wolterstorff, Bruce Ware, Thomas Morris, and a host of others. And that's why I wrote the book, to start combating these ideas in the evangelical world.

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 Post subject: Re: Book I wrote
PostPosted: Fri Mar 20, 2015 11:12 am 
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TheJack wrote:
As far as Dawkins is concerned, I'll wait until you get to chapter 13, as I address some of his material there. ;)

I did read at least some of what you said about Dawkins which is what prompted me to suggest that you write a book challenging Dawkins, not just a chapter but a whole book devoted to challenging The God Delusion. I think you would make a very good job of it.


TheJack wrote:
As I say in the book, I regard much of DS as a matter of general revelation, so I'm not surprised to see ideas very much like it in the deepest of eastern thought. And I have found that useful in evangelistic work.

I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "a matter of general revelation". Where does this general revelation come from, and how would it have been imparted to Eastern thinkers thousands of years ago?


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 Post subject: Re: Book I wrote
PostPosted: Fri Mar 20, 2015 4:41 pm 
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Daisy wrote:
I did read at least some of what you said about Dawkins which is what prompted me to suggest that you write a book challenging Dawkins, not just a chapter but a whole book devoted to challenging The God Delusion. I think you would make a very good job of it.

Ah, I see. Well thank you much. I'll look into that. I'll confess that I haven't read the book. The excerpts alone have been enough to send me into so many eyerolls that I get dizzy, but perhpas it'd be worth writing up something. Thank you again. :)

Quote:
I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "a matter of general revelation". Where does this general revelation come from, and how would it have been imparted to Eastern thinkers thousands of years ago?

"General revelation" is equivalent to what you might call an article of reason. It is that which can be known about God apart from prophecy. As such, it is something for which all people are held accountable. Paul seems to have this in mind when he says,

    For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. . . .
    For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel. (Rom. 1:18-21; 2:13-16, NKJV)

Or, again, the psalmist declares, "The fool says in his heart, 'there is no God'." In short, there are some things about God that are obvious to anyone who is honest and dilligent enough to stop and think about them. His existence, His goodness, His sovereignty, that He is Creator, that He is neither man nor animal nor mineral, that there is only one such God, and so on.

Against this is what is called "special revelation," special because it is made known through specific prophecy or teaching. So the fact that Jesus is the Christ, the fact that those who believe in Him have everlasting life, the fact that He was born of a virgin, the fact that God is a Trinity, etc. These are things that are not knowable by unaided reason and the observation of this world alone.

So my point is that DS is a matter of general revelation. It is something that all people everywhere should agree on, not because the Scripture (and your Church) declares it, but because it is plainly true. To disbelieve it is not merely to be a heretic, but it is to be irrational.

If all that's true, then I'm not surprised that eastern thinkers stumbled upon the idea. Many of them were any but irrational. There were some very intelligent people who thought deeply about these matters. Granted, not guided by special revelation they went off the rails, so to speak, in some important areas (which I mentioned in my previous post). But the basic idea, I think they actually were able to make some real progress and get a lot of things right. In fact, one of my frustrations with my evangelical friends is that, in rejecting DS, not only are the rejecting general revelation, but they are making it unnecessarily difficult to talk to eastern oriented thinkers about our faith. If they were to embrace DS, they would be much better equipped to talk in language and to speak to ideas and concerns and even desires of the eastern mind (to the extent that such a thing exists). At least, that's been the case in my own experience . . .

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