Sunday, 30 January 2011

Pascal's Wager

Also known as Pascal's Gambit is a suggestion posed by the French philosopher, mathematician and physicist Blaise Pascal that, even though the existence of God cannot be determined through reason, a person should wager as though God exists, because living life accordingly has everything to gain, and nothing to lose. Pascal formulated his suggestion uniquely on the God of Jesus Christ as implied by the greater context of his Pensées, a posthumously published collection of notes made by Pascal in his last years as he worked on a treatise on Christian apologetics.

The philosophy uses the following logic (excerpts from Pensées, part III, note 233):

1. "God is, or He is not"
2. A Game is being played... where heads or tails will turn up.
3. According to reason, you can defend neither of the propositions.
4. You must wager. It is not optional.
5. Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate
these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.
6. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is. (...) There is here an infinity of
an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number
of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. And so our proposition is
of infinite force, when there is the finite to stake in a game where there
are equal risks of gain and of loss, and the infinite to gain.

The wager is described in Pensées this way:

If there is a god, He is infinitely incomprehensible, since, having neither parts nor limits, He has no affinity to us. We are then incapable of knowing either what He is or if He is....

..."God is, or He is not." But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up. What will you wager? According to reason, you can do neither the one thing nor the other; according to reason, you can defend neither of the propositions.

Do not, then, reprove for error those who have made a choice; for you know nothing about it. "No, but I blame them for having made, not this choice, but a choice; for again both he who chooses heads and he who chooses tails are equally at fault, they are both in the wrong. The true course is not to wager at all."

Yes; but you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked. Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose. This is one point settled. But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is.

"That is very fine. Yes, I must wager; but I may perhaps wager too much." Let us see. Since there is an equal risk of gain and of loss, if you had only to gain two lives, instead of one, you might still wager. But if there were three lives to gain, you would have to play (since you are under the necessity of playing), and you would be imprudent, when you are forced to play, not to chance your life to gain three at a game where there is an equal risk of loss and gain. But there is an eternity of life and happiness. And this being so, if there were an infinity of chances, of which one only would be for you, you would still be right in wagering one to win two, and you would act stupidly, being obliged to play, by refusing to stake one life against three at a game in which out of an infinity of chances there is one for you, if there were an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain. But there is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite.

Pascal begins with the premise that the existence or non-existence of God is not provable by human reason, since the essence of God is "infinitely incomprehensible". Since reason cannot decide the question, one must "wager", either by guessing or making a leap of faith. Agnosticism on this point is not possible, in Pascal's view, for we are already "embarked", effectively living out our choice.

Trust God and Fly

When God leads you to the edge of the cliff,
trust Him fully and let go,
only 1 of 2 things will happen,
either He'll catch you when you fall,
or He'll teach you how to fly!

Friday, 21 January 2011


Someone once asked me if during the 1990 "coup" attempt in Trinidad by the "Jamat Al Muslimeen" group if I had been asked to choose between my changing my religion and death which would I have chosen? I immediately answered "death!"

It is easier to be a martyr than a saint.

Of course, when I think about it I would not want to die and leave my children behind. My dad died when I was seven years old... and I grew up ok, I guess. However, once God gives me this responsibility (children) how do I know that He would prefer me to die that take care of them.

What I know of Islam, it is a religion of dedication and love. The culture is different from the European and American cultures, so there are many who do not know, understand nor care for what it stands for.

Little is said about the great Salahudin. This was a great Arab king who was revered by the Crusaders. Oh! He was muslim. It was general knowledge at the time that European ambassadors to Ottoman Turkey would not stay more than a year. Excess time among the muslims and they would convert (willingly) to Islam. It is an attractive religious, if you give it thought.

I have many muslim friends and I would shed blood for them. I respect their faith and they respect mine. I truly believe that. They may never want to enter a church. But that's OK. I don't want to attend their Juma. We worship the same God, so why should we fight. Judgement is God's. NOT OURS! They might be better servant to God than I am... or maybe it's the other way. Only God knows.

Having said all that I did, it saddens my heart to hear that the annual inter faith meeting between the Pope and Muslim religious leaders has been cancelled due to the current issue in the middle east that the Pope has gotten himself (rightly so) involved in.

A quick synopsis is that: there was a killing of an individual for converting to Christianity in Pakistan. This led to a Muslim cleric denouncing violence. He was killed for his stand. The Pope chimed in on this and other issues, including the bombing of a Coptic church where 23 christians were killed, saying that governments of Muslim run countries are not doing enough to protect Christians from opression. Now there is a huge firestorm of muslim leaders who are saying that the Pope should stay our of their internal politics.

I support the Pope in denouncing violence, and I thank God that we in the Caribbean do not face such troubles and issues.

For those who wish to know about current opression of Christians worldwide check out OPENDOORS.ORG.

Monday, 17 January 2011

The New evangelisation

The Archbishop of Port of Spain, Edward Gilbert recently released an article on New evangelisation. Of course, he noted the Carnival Band being put out by St Anthony's Parish. Saying that:

"the national reaction to the decision even among religious leaders has already raised consciousness about Carnival. It is no longer sufficient just to criticise some elements of Carnival. The Church must become proactive by taking positive action even in a small way to show that it is possible to celebrate culture while respecting ethical standards.

Will these examples of risk taking necessarily work? Time will tell! The point is that the various levels of leadership had the courage to try something new to address increasingly challenging situations."

His Grace also noted that it not enough to inform the people, we need to show the love of Christ:

"The Catholic Church has a long history of preparing excellent documentation on various faith issues. What is needed now is an effort to provide a faith experience for the people to help them develop a personal relationship with the Lord."

It is indeed the best way to bring people to Christ.

I can't help but thinking that one of the things that drew people to the church in the early days was the gifts of the Holy spirit. People lived with the threat of being killed by the authorities but they still wanted to be part of the movement. And the movement was alive with miracles. We need leaders who truly believe in miracles and live with the constant expectation of them.

Lord, strengthen my faith that by my life I may draw others to you!

Friday, 14 January 2011

The Sincere Padre Pio Spiritual Child

My wife and I were chatting about being a spiritual Child of Padre Pio. She said that she had read somewhere that to become a spiriual child of Padre Pio you must sincerely desire it.

What is it with this word "sincere"? It means that you truly feel something. Lets think abit about the volkswagon ad where the guy saves his pennies and gets another job so that he could buy one. He sincerly wants that car, but is he overreaching? Is he obsessing? It is true that you should not let others opionions sway your heart when you want something. Sometimes you may even become obsessive.

But what if I truly want that volkswagon and I odn't know how to get it or I decide that I cannot hold two jobs to get it. Am I still sincere in my thoughts? What if I want to be Padre Pios spiritual child but do not make time for the meditative prayer that is required? Does that make me lazy or insincere?

You know the great thing about God is that even if I am lazy, He loves me. Even if I am insincere, He loves me. I am asured of His love no matter what.

However, Padre Pio is our family Saint and so we should do something to honour him... and we must make the effort, even if we are not truly sincere. Just like children, we must do by rote until we can do by understanding.

what is necessary to become a spiritual child of Padre Pio:

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Thoughts on the Carnival Band

So there are many who are all upset about this Carnival Band. Catholics and Non-Catholics. It is important to note that Non Catholics don't like the church and anything we do... so their point of view really does not count in this issue.

I for my part am willing to find out about the experience. I will give it a chance. Will it be a good one or will it fail like the Bajan's priests attempt at a cropover band some years ago? Only time will tell.

You know King David danced in a loin cloth in front of the Ark of the Covenant (Samuel 6:14). I will not condone the nakedness of Carnival and I think that this effort is for the Glory of God so I look foward to seeing how it turns out.

Here is an interesting note from a blog with no relation to the Trinidad Carnival which I think could be relevant to the issue. It is about Partying:

Posted in Chaplydia's blog 2009-02-26
Inviting Jesus to the Party

The first miracle of Jesus was performed at a surprising place, a wedding. It was apparently a pretty big party because before the end of the party, the wine ran out. Mary approached Jesus to remedy the problem and while He did admonish her for trying to interfere with the program of God, He still acquiesced to her request.

There are several observations that one could make from this story.

The first is that even in our celebration, if we invite Christ, He will make it better.

When we invite Jesus into the places where we normally exclude Him, we may find that our view of that place changes. When we are not embarrassed or ashamed to take Christ to the party places of our lives we may see Him in a different light, and see how we behave differently as well. Even though Jesus is not a party animal, he did not spend His entire life in the synagogue. We see in Cana and other instances in Scripture that Jesus liked people and their celebrations. The Pharisees, in an attempt to discredit Him called Him a "winebibber" and gave the impression that He was not religious enough. That did not stop Him. He saw celebrations as part of human life. Our goal is not to stop celebrating, but rather bring Christ into the mix.

Second, Jesus did not promote asceticism. The idea that Jesus would turn water into wine and that He would party with his friends, tells us that monastic piety is not what the Christian life is all about. We do not have to abstain from all worldly pleasures; what we have to do is to maintain our loyalty to Christ in the midst of being human. This is much more difficult that avoiding anything that might be difficult to handle. Paul tells us that we can do "all things" through Christ who strengthens us" Php 4:13. Taking Jesus to the party, instead of avoiding it altogether, would be a better plan.

Third, we must include Christ in everything we do in order to live a fulfilled life. When we take Jesus with us to the party, we should also realize that He should be with us always. Taking Him to the places where we would not normally take Him enables us to begin to take Him everywhere. After all, if we are to become like Him, we cannot exclude Him from any part of our lives.

What party are you going to without Him? Where are the places in your life that you would ban Him from? Start thinking about that, and plan to take Him with you in the very places that you would never have Him go...just see what happens.

Rev Dr. Cheryl A Durham, Biblical Counselor, Discipleship Coach, Above and Beyond Discipleship Ministries, provides services for individuals and groups online and via teleconference.

Genesis 1 - the Catholic Carnival Band

Bobbie Lee Dixon does a more detailed piece in the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian on the Trinidad Carnival Catholic Mas Band called for 2011 Genesis 1:

To many the idea of any church launching a Carnival band may seem inappropriate...insane even. But Word and Associates, a Roman Catholic belief organisation, directed by chairman Derek Walcott, believes Christ in Carnival is anything but insane. At a launch on Tuesday held at the Queen’s Park Cricket Club on Tragarete Road, the organisers sold the idea of the organisation’s Carnival band—Genesis 1-Creation, to a room filled with corporate representatives, special interest groups, parishioners and the media.

The initiative has been blessed and condoned by the head of the local Roman Catholic Church, Archbishop Edward Gilbert. He was represented by Monsignor Jason Gordon, who described the move as an emergence into the culture to take back Carnival, and to bring it to a place where those who wished to celebrate the greatest show on earth without the excesses, could have a space where values based on fun existed.

Referring to the scriptures, Gordon stated that in Matthew chapter 5, God spoke of the salt of the earth.
“Salt isn’t a main course that you eat, it is there to bring flavour. Carnival has lost its true essence and this is the main challenge we are facing,” said Gordon. “We need to see the vitality, the goal and the creativity of the people. Carnival isn’t about wine and jam as we believe it to be. That is what has been portrayed for so long, that when we say Carnival, vulgarity, lewdness and alcoholism are the things that come to mind,” he added.

He emphasised that over the years Carnival has also, in many ways, gone back to the earliest years where class segregation was very visible. “This is reflected in our Carnival bands today with the all-inclusive sections. Carnival bands have become like gated communities because of the way society is today,” he alluded. He said people who enjoyed the culture were forced to escape Carnival each year to avoid the vulgarity and violence.

Gordon explained the band was dubbed Genesis 1-Creation, because before Carnival reached its present stage, it was a festival that was blessed and was innocent fun. He said the group was seeking to evangelise the culture—announcing the gospel through culture.

We are prepared for the flack
Accepting that not all may be sold on the idea of the church being involved in Carnival to bring about change, the organisers affirmed they were prepared to receive and deal with the “flack” they may get from other groups in the Christian community, and even within the Catholic Church.

Fr Joe Harris, of the St Anthony’s RC Church in Petit Valley—the man who initially had the vision—emphasised that the initiative may spark anger and outrage at first, but eventually when people recognised the benefits of it, they, too, may jump on board.

The difference
Asked how exactly will the band be portrayed on Carnival Monday and Tuesday, Walcott explained that there would be 12 sections with a maximum of 1,200 masqueraders, 100 per section, with a Carnival Queen and King—Adam and Eve. The band will also cater to children, in keeping with part of the organisation’s mission to family values. The all-inclusive band will not be providing alcohol.

The music will be chosen from a playlist guided by Fr Harris. So far, Denyse Plummer and David Rudder are among those whose music would be played come Carnival Monday and Tuesday when the band crosses the stage. Walcott also stated that as part of the organisation’s plan to reinstate creativity and clean enjoyment on the Carnival days, all 1,200 masqueraders would chip to music provided by three steelbands; Valley Harps, Simple Sound of Arima and Laventille Rhythm Section, to bring back the authenticity of mas. There will also be a live DJ on hand.

Affordable and enjoyable
The organisation also gave a sneak peek into what the costumes would look like, as a few models showcased the designs reminiscent of ole-time mas. A full presentation will be made at its all-inclusive fete to be held on February 20 at Green Meadows Santa Cruz. The designs, under the guidance of veteran mas maker, Wayne Berkeley, were done by Lisa Bhajan. Other renowned mas makers assisting the band include Rosalind Gabriel, Raoul Garib, Anthony Alleng, Martin Oliver, Francis Woon Sam and Felix Edinborough. Costumes would be priced at $1,000 and $2,500.


Catholic Carnival Mas Band in Trinidad for 2011

Here is a piece about the Trinidad Carnival Catholic Mas Band from the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian of January 5th 2011:

The first mas band produced by the Roman Catholic Church in Trinidad and Tobago will hit the streets of Port-of-Spain come Carnival Monday and Tuesday. Genesis 1—Creation is being presented by The Word and Associates, a new mas entity made up primarily of parishioners from St Anthony’s RC Church in Petit Valley. Committee members include Derek Walcott, Felix Edinborough, veteran masman Raoul Garib and Carnival bandleader Rosalind Gabriel. The band’s designer is Lisa Bhajan and veteran mas designer Wayne Berkeley is giving guidance on design quality and production.

The band was officially launched yesterday at the Queen’s Park Cricket Club (QPCC) Banquet Hall at the Queen’s Park Oval, Port-of-Spain, with Roman Catholic priests Fr Jason Gordon and Fr Joe Harris among those expressing support for the project. Organisers said the band would provide an opportunity for masqueraders to enjoy Carnival without the vulgarity. It is aimed at people who have “matured beyond the need to be high on alcohol to enjoy Carnival and life.” The band will feature 12 sections with a maximum of 100 masqueraders per section.

There will also be a King and Queen. Costumes will range between $1,200 and $2,500. On the road music will be provided by DJ Rene, Simple Sounds and Valley Harps. There are two mas camps for the band—one located at Stevens Road, Long Circular, obliquely opposite the Church of the Assumption in Maraval for payment and distribution of costumes, and at the production site in Belmont. Registration will take place at the mas camp as well as online.