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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Say "No!" to both determinism AND free will


Western philosophy prefers a metaphysics that operates only by forces both hidden and obvious. Things work the way they do from laws of mind and matter due to laws of necessity. It is ultimately impossible to sustain a philosophy of freedom of choice within such a framework. It results in an inevitable determinism and a mere illusion of free will.

Indeed it creates an all or nothing debate of Free Will versus Determinism. And I, typical of my humbug attitude, reject both determinism AND Free Will.

Only God has free will. But He did not use His free will to create a universe that runs only on determinants. But by His free will, God can and did create a universe out of absolutely nothing. That is truly free will! (!!!!)
You cannot do that on any scale that comes anywhere close. Furthermore, in His free will, God created a universe with multiple axis and multiple forces creating an environment filled with various opposing options held in perfect balance. Within that context human beings, created -- not identical to God but rather -- merely in His image. And I say "merely" as if that were not something awesome even thought it is unspeakably awesome. Being made in God's image, we were NOT given free will, but FREEDOM OF CHOICE. We cannot create options in balance like God does, but we can choose from among the options that do exist and tip the balance.

There is no way to prove or disprove the following statement: We cannot determine if the biology of the human body represents the entirety of our conscious entity or of the human body is merely the physical apparatus that houses our conscious existence and sustains its interface with the physical universe. It is possible that the soul is a non physical existence not subject to the laws of physics but housed in a physical biological body subject to all the laws of physics. This is something we cannot determine as true or false. If it is true, that has astounding implications; if it is false, that too has astounding implications.
 
Indeed this is how God is sovereign. He does not over rule or control our free choices. Instead He controls the options held in physical balance and the outcomes if tipped settle into a new balance -- PERIOD. God created a universe where it is inevitable that reasonable conscious people will eventually run out of agreeable evil options from which they can choose and will eventually see the need to be voluntarily won over to love and arrive at a place where love will win over the unreasonable heart and our freedom of choice will then be used to fully and freely participate in the options that remain in full force of our own faculties while in concert with the love of God. Freedom of choice is NEVER violated and God's sovereignty is never in danger. Full and entire reconciliation IS the only inevitable destiny. It arrived at both by the determinants of the physical world and the freedom of choice of the non physical soul.
 
God does not cause all things, He causes all things to work together. Do not say yes to determinism. Do not say yes to free will. Say yes to freedom of choice to tip the balance determined by physics tipped by love or its absence.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I believe in absolute truth. However, the only absolute truth we can ever have personally in this life time is that we will never have anything but an inkling of absolute truth.  The Apostle Paul told us, and so we should not be surprised, that until the day comes when we all reach the fullness of Christ, we most certainly will be tossed too and fro by every wind of doctrine and we are at risk of being manipulated by the cunning manipulations of those who have a hidden or even unknown agenda.

Get used to it; and hang on. We are not there yet and all conclusions are for the moment, tentative to an unknown degree.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A message about the number 3 in the Bible

A message I gave on October 24, 2010. It is the first message I have given in about 6 years. In many ways it is merely a typical message, and it is a bit awkward around the edges but I received many requests that I make it available to my online friends.



Wednesday, October 13, 2010

To be like Christ.

Since my Bob Jones days I have abandoned the theology of certainty and fundamentalism. I prefer a theology that is uncertain, a theology of appreciation for the array of possible perspectives wherein I feel no obligation to give any one of them final loyalty. In many ways  my loyalty is to the undefined  person of Christ, not my concept of Christ. The array of possibilities in various concepts simply helps me with tools to grab hold of it all.

Compassion reaffirms the value of another's existence. It is not a doctrine, it is an experience that runs the gamut from concept to mystery and lands upon a nonverbal delight subtly larger than I can manage.

Sure I have a theology that is highly conceptual and in many ways I am having a blast thinking and interpreting and studying such things. But these things are worthless when compared to the brief and quiet moment when one stops to realize ... He lives in me; He thinks I am lovely. I am so fortunate that somehow in ways I can never adequately explain He emerges in me resonating in the image of Him that is me. And by this grace that leaves me speechless, it is my destiny to discover just how much like Him I can really be. I can then look up to see my neighbor and my neighbor is just like me and intended for that same destiny.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Kids and divorce

People in a pastoral role are often asked if a divorce will hurt or help the kids.

Our culture has so indulged itself in lies about relationships and life that even those who genuinely put forth a concerted effort are destined to fail. Nonetheless, I say the only appropriate cause of divorce is when a spouse is abusive or controlling. Life works out the way it works out. It is not always fair and often arbitrary and random. And that is NOT bad news.

Our responsibility, if we accept it, is to become the sort of people we can become who effectively respond to the circumstances we find ourselves in. An effective response means changing circumstances when possible with decisions that properly belong to us but it also means accepting the circumstances when THEY do not change and yet we still need to have an effective response within the circumstances even if others refuse to change. But too often we refuse to accept life the way it is. We would rather complain about how IT is unfair or how OTHERS are not doing what they are supposed to do.

People put forth so much wasted effort trying to become the kind of people they would like to be as they hope to avoid too many obstacles but they put forth little to no effort becoming the people required by the circumstances and the real obstacles that are not going away. For example, many parents adopt a style of parenting that makes sense to them -- a style they like and can believe in -- a style they imagine to be biblical or recommended by a respected psychologist. How foolish and self centered is that!

Parenting is not about YOU, its not about being biblical, its not about "correct methods," its about who you AND the kids are and who you as a parent need to become in light of that. We need to be the sort of parents that are effective in a way that meets our kids needs and does not indulge them with what they do not need. All  kids need certain consequences -- some more than others, all need discipline -- some more than others, graciousness, encouragement, mercy, justice. Balance is required. If it is out of balance your kids are either indulged or abused. A good parent is willing to master a wide array of skills incorporating a wider variety of management methods than they personally enjoy or like. When you parent your child, your responsibility is to use the method that achieves balance, not the method you prefer or that others approve. It requires openness to see if this is really working for the kids. When it is not working, do not complain about incorrigible kids, switch to a different method - say one that is effective with incorrigible kids.

I want to be a nice guy, but some people take advantage of nice guys. So I am prepared to be an advantage takers worst enemy and be not at all nice. In so doing I might behave in ways even I dislike if that is the way of behaving that can effectively stop the advantage taker in their path from violating my boundaries. Truth is there have been a few times when my daughter or my wife discovered I can be difficult deliberately and intentionally. And I am not deterred if that creates an impression of me they do not like. Being liked is an indulgence for those whose boundaries are insecure.

Similarly, do you feel your spouse does not appreciate you? Well then, you need to become the kind of person who is learning how to effectively win the appreciation of a person who does not give appreciation easily. If you can learn to do that, you will grow in wisdom and strength as a person. You might also need to learn how to effectively call out that lack of appreciation in a way that is experienced as empathetic and healing to whatever scars keep them from being appreciative. An unappreciative spouse could prove to be a great gift in your growth. The required effort might throw a monkey wrench in your plans. So be it.

Do you feel your spouse is unattractive or uninspiring? What a marvelous opportunity to discover what it is that makes every person precious and lovely to the core. You may even discover that by shallow standards, those who feel they are genuinely regarded as truly precious actually become far more attractive and involved.

Most importantly, lets not kid ourselves. None of us are easy to live with. If our kids and our spouse are the sort of people seeking ways of being effective with us, we will need to embrace a number of faults in ourselves they do not appreciate. If we have modeled effective behavior we have also armed those around us with the means of effectively confronting us.

Life is an opportunity, not to pursue YOUR dreams, but to respond to life as it is. The sort of expertise that emerges with that attitude will be highly valuable to you and others because it gives us the skills we really need, not just the skills we admire. It will create a you and an us that is so genuine to who and what we actually are.

Statistically kids are better off without having to deal with parents who cannot find a way of successfully embracing their reality. The main reason is that a failed marriage models foolish and ineffective ways of responding to life and ways of adopting acceptable excuses for blaming others rather than accepting responsibility to be the only difference your circumstances really require. That is how it hurts the kids, it becomes their normal.

Learning to be content in any circumstance is not a form of spiritual lobotomy or Buddhist like detachment where you don't care what the circumstances are. It is instead a deep engagement and embracing of reality meeting it head on and accepting the challenge in the confidence that God is with you and you are thereby sufficient to any circumstance so that you really have nothing to complain about -- merely a number of opportunities you had not anticipated.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Is it obedience vs disobedience or is it love that brings growth in grace?

As I see it obedience vs disobedience is the wrong axis. Obedience merely conforms to outward behavior even if the heart is delightfully engaged. It also causes the person to shrink into diminutiveness and hesitancy in their personality development failing to make their own decisions. It stunts our genuine growth. Disobedience, on the other hand, rebels from within. It gets us to be stupid and gets us to shoot ourselves in the foot. So as I see it both obedience and disobedience are totally useless when it comes to spiritual maturity because they both relate to externals and growth is an internal dynamic not an external one.


As I get older, I do not find it gets easier to obey. I've been involved in a maverick approach to Jesus for quite some time. So as I get older I find myself even more absolutely opposed to allowing anyone to place their expectations upon me concerning what I am going to do. As a Christ follower I find instead that I get so engaged in pursuing and discovering what I have come to value through my abiding with Jesus as genuinely good for its own sake that I simply have less and less time to stop to think about if I am being compliant to any one's articulated expectations or standards.

This next paragraph may come across as shocking. If you cannot say it wholeheartedly for yourself I understand and appreciate your concerns. If God does not like what I am doing, as far as I am concerned that is His own damn problem. He should have considered the consequences of how He would feel about my behavior when He gave me my own heart and my own mind and my own ability to make my own decisions and told me to be fruitful and multiply and take dominion over the earth. He did not make me as smart as He is nor as capable and I refuse to accept any expectations from Him that reach beyond the nature of who and what I am as His creation. If He is thinking of going back on the deal, then to hell with Him. Besides, although I am willing to own my own behavior as mine for better or worse (Jesus taught me to do that and it is far more valuable than I had first imagined), God is fully responsible for His own disappointments. I refuse to accept any of them. If He does not enjoy living inside me, then He is free to leave!

As time goes on I am loosing track of any sense of any list of external requirements. Seeking to live by the "law of love" requires only only to be mindful and honest with my motives and to be actively engaged in a motive that has the well being of God and the entire universe as its purpose. It also requires an honest willingness to discover the truth about what really secures that well being. That purpose has been in a process of ongoing remodeling by the resurrection power of the indwelling Christ. As time goes on I am given more over to that sense of purpose and less to questions of right or wrong.

As I understand it, my "growth in grace" is the freedom to not have it all figured out correctly while I am in the process of becoming someone who totally agrees with God about how lovely and meaningful all of His creation is and as I discover how life can be a celebration of opportunity to live in a way that upholds such an awesome and unsearchable preciousness as is found in the person of God, the faithfulness of Christ, the beauty of God's image in each of us and this amazing universe we have as place to exist and know each other.

So I turn to another axis. Is this love? Is it really love? Wouldn't it be beyond awesome to see even more of the value that love brings into this creation? And so as I grow in grace I stretch my grasp for even more of unsearchable love.

Warning: Reading the bible can be harmful or just useless

WARNING:
I read the bible often and I read it using numerous translations. It is the one book I read and reread more often than any other. So it is a strange thing for a pastoral care giver to say. Reading the bible can be useless. It can make you believe lies and harm your spiritual well being. How could such a thing be so?

Have you ever stopped to realize how it is that controversies, abuse and long standing perspectives can each create emotional and intellectual blindness.

CONTROVERSY:
People who are caught up in a controversy identify and attach certain vital values to their position. It can become difficult if not impossible for them to empathetically acknowledge those same values being genuinely shared by others who do not also align themselves with the same side of a controversy. Loyalty to an important value can add complications that distort our ability to have an objective perspective. For example: pro life people often cannot see how pro choice people might really value human life and pro choice people often cannot see how pro life people might really respect boundaries.

Be it freedom, family values or whatever. We can develop the habit of reacting immediately internally to anything that resembles a threat to what we value and the way we have come to understand how that value is honored. In some ways this is unavoidable. When those we love have been harmed, our personal experience compels us to value the things we believe will protect them in the future. They are too valuable for us to let go for even a moment. When meaningful possessions have been lost, stolen, or damaged our personal experience compels us to value the things we believe will minimize such losses. We develop, as it were, a story inside our minds that explains this value and identifies its enemies.

What we might not notice, however, is that embracing this story unquestionably prevents us from recognizing some valid aspect of truth that is subtly or significantly different. Over time we even become insensitive to subtleties often failing to recognize them. It is as if upon hearing that which we associate as "the wrong view" triggers in us an immediate rejection.

ABUSE:
When we have been abused or violated -- it makes little difference if such abuse is imagined or real -- we have a strong tendency to reject ways of thinking embraced by our abusers and can also hold on to ideas we imagine keep us safe.

TRADITION:
Long standing perspectives, even ones we disagree with have a strong tendency to operate within a rut. Many people, for example, who do not read or trust the bible have grown so accustomed to hearing certain verses quoted and explained by Fundamentalists that even though they reject the bible and the Fundamentalist teaching, they still might perceive that verse as indeed teaching what the fundamentalist claimed it to be clearly saying. Traditions create within us a rut where our mind takes an uncritical trip through an interpretation remaining unaware of all the forks in the road where a different direction could be a valid choice. Unaware of the alternatives, the traditional view takes on an assumed obviousness. The words or the specific bible verses commonly used to undergird the tradition become triggers that automatically set our thinking into the rut.

THE BIBLE CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE:
Personal and denominational beliefs are filled with, and influenced by both an adherence to and a rejection of many controversies, abuse and traditions. This can make reading the bible difficult. So many passages say something we have become too desensitized to hear, or invoke ideas too common so that a fresh reading that allows a new perspective becomes difficult or seem to assert some idea we experienced as abusive.

Many who have left abusive religious organizations, or left traditions they no longer embrace have found that reading the bible only reinforces what they left. It can take months and even years before they can read the bible again and not see something different than the clear but abusive or traditional meaning. Very often, the meaning seems so clear that those who reject a particular tradition might also feel it necessary to reject the bible altogether.

This is not because they are stupid, it is because they are human. Human beings, in order to accomplish more complex thought, develop certain habits of thought without having to always reinvent the interpretive wheel. If we have a bad thought habit, it can take time before we realize it is the habit that is at work rather than the, so called, obvious meaning. We have to shake loose from bad interpretive habits before we can read the bible anew.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Jesus is confused

Colossians 2: 13 -15 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

I picture myself in my mind weeping before Jesus and apologizing for having failed Him by violating so much of what he proscribed. And as I venture in a moment of disrespect to actually look up at His face I see Jesus looking at me and apparently deeply confused saying, "Son, I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Should we ever argue about doctrine?

Notice how the entire Chapter of Romans 14 does not make sense unless we acknowledge that our faith, though nurtured by God, is nonetheless to a huge degree a matter of personal opinion. How we make sense of this journey we are on is never more than a personal opinion. It is good enough for God that while on the path of the Gospel where we abide in Jesus that we at least have an opinion. This is about being on the journey and abiding in Christ, not about demanding that my understanding of that path is technically more correct to that of others.


This brings up the question, what does it mean to stumble? Do we cause a person to stumble simply because we have an opinion they disagree with or dislike or find uncomfortable? Didn't Paul who wrote Romans 14 also say many things others disagreed with, or disliked or found uncomfortable? I think that when we teach things or insist on things or argue for things that cause people to abandon the journey, that is when we cause them to stumble. I think the idea is that so long as someone abides in Christ, so long as they remain engaged, then they are headed to a destination that NONE OF US has yet reached. It simply makes no sense to engage another in such a way that it knocks them off that path.

Sure some opinions are indeed better than others, but when it comes to righteousness, peace and joy -- well then it really makes little difference whose personal opinion is technically better.

One thing is for sure, personal opinions are only useful to the person who holds them. They can possess some use value when shared for others to consider. But when used as a shibboleth to create an US who are by definition accepted by God and a THEM rejected by God then it goes too far.

But can we take the message from Romans 14 too far? Didn't Paul rebuke Peter for distancing himself from gentiles when the Jews showed up? Didn't Paul rail against those trying to bring law back into the church at Galatia? It seems that the ONLY stumbling blocks Paul is concerned about are those we use to clutter the pathway where someone is already abiding in Jesus. However, when people create alternate routes that deny the simplicity of the gospel or cause them to stray from the path, Paul sought to absolutely clutter that alternate path with objections intended to make them abandon that alternate pathway.

The way I have made sense of Romans 14, however has the prerequisite of recognizing that all understanding, even the understanding we have of Jesus is personal opinion. Peter confessed to Jesus, "You are the Christ the Son of the Living God!" Peter knew this to be true by revelation, but Peter's behavior afterwards demonstrates that although Peter knew it to be true, he clearly misunderstood what it means to apply that truth or how that truth changes everything. The confidence we have in Jesus, or in the bible, or in the reality that Christ abides with us, is not based on how we conceptually understand and justify that confidence but rather in how that confidence inarticulately resonates as so true deep in our hearts. Do not do that which sabotages a brother's or sister's experience of that deep down inside resonating confidence in the unconditional love of God being communicated as they abide in Jesus.

I would also see a danger in misapplying the teaching of Romans 14 as a way of that allows us to control those whose behavior and expressed opinions complicate sectarian subcultural opinions. It is not a message to shut up and keep your differences of opinion to yourself.

But lastly Romans 14 leaves me feeling that those who think their faith is more than just a personal opinion ARE often the very ones placing a huge stumbling blocks in the path. Those who are convinced that their opinion was given to them directly by God, those who believe that their understanding was given to them by revelation from the Holy Spirit and is therefore THE CORRECT BIBLICAL TEACHING and no longer a mere personal opinion, these are those who seek out a greater control of the traffic patterns on this path to God than is necessary and in doing so unwittingly push many off the path where they had begun to abide in Jesus.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Are Christians experts on God and life?

It is a strange thing how some Christians feel that simply being a Christian means they now understand the things of God and the secrets to living a good life.

But think about it. Do you have any relationships at all? Does having any of those relationships automatically make you an expert in sociology or psychology or anthropology or philosophy or anything else without an honest effort toward a credible education? So just because we have a relationship with God, why does that automatically cause us to know things we have not explored with a well developed and authentic understanding of? Just because we believe and have the ability to read and think for ourselves does not make us bible scholars.

OK so the spirit of God talks to you. Does this somehow make you into a person who understands the intricacies of communication or how language works or how conceptualization takes place in the brain and so now you can avoid assumptions unawares? Or is this an experience of the mystery of the closeness of the lover of our souls? Does He speak to instruct us in fine details or to assure our hearts that we are His?

Sorry, but there is no substitute for an excellent education. However, all this notwithstanding, the knowledge that is really important in the Christian life is the authenticity of one's heart given to Christ and the genuineness of experience that can belong to any one who remains present with Christ, who walks with Him and who allows the wonderment of life in Christ to be embraced with fondness. It is not about having answers it is about having the connection.

If it is answers you want, you are on your own. So long as you are in Christ whatever answers are genuinely working for you are good enough for now. If you want better answers then develop the skills to differentiate good answers from bad answers and prepare to be often mistaken even if well intended. All the answers any of us have will never be more that what we are capable of understanding anyway.

I have given a great deal of time in my life to become an educated person. The more I learn the more I discover that what we think we know may not necessarily be true. Every answer creates even more questions and reality over time becomes even more unmanageable. There comes a time when the real value of education is that it gives you various ways of managing life while it keeps you from settling into self-discovered answers that fall apart when you work them through to their logical end.

Love each other, love yourself, love God -- life is good! Who needs more than that?

Friday, July 16, 2010

If theology has limited value what about philosophy?

Philosophy is for people who find it interesting. It can expand the mind but it can also blind us. I cannot claim to be well versed in the numerous nuances of various philosophies that have captured the fascination of those who have made it a life quest. Nonetheless, I personally view philosophy as a game of lenses. It is helpful to discover that one can embrace different lenses that alter the way you make sense of and respond to things. But ultimately, philosophy eventually becomes an exercise in optical illusions. You begin to see things in a way that seems to confirm your philosophy and at that point philosophy becomes a blind anchor and you are no longer free to sail.


Therefore, philosophy is most useful in being able to demonstrate that there are actually numerous intelligent ways of making sense of things. Indeed, when interpreting the bible, I do not regard an ancient Jewish concept of reality to be superior to a modern twentieth century Western paradigm. All cultural perspectives are merely useful for those on the same page, they are never perceptions of reality, they are only aftereffects of cultural development. Nonetheless a more proper interpretation of scripture will be possible (never certain) by attempting to appreciate the horizon of reality from the point of view culturally owning the author.

If you seek to interpret words, philosophy can be a great tool to help you learn to adopt temporarily a modality you do not personally embrace. However, if it is reality you seek, philosophy is the illusion you are finding it.

And yet, it is impossible to live without a philosophy of some sort. The brain insists on organizing observations into coherent concepts that allow us to live spontaneously while minimizing the potential dangers and maximizing the potential rewards. My philosophy is very anchored in the idea that reality is solid but perception is not. Reality is bio-semiotically an arm's distance away. It cannot be inspected directly. I am lost in an ocean of filtered perception where there is no shore. For me this is why I am so comfortable resting in the presence of Jesus. Ultimately reality is His problem, I live by faith in His abiding love.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Don't be cultic

The bible says, many things. What it explicitly says is biblical, but how I make sense of how it applies or what conclusions are to be drawn is just me influenced by the bible. I cannot embrace the bible without bringing to it myself and shaping an understanding for myself. But the moment I equate my understanding of the bible with the bible itself, I have become a cult. I have become my own authority independent of what God has breathed.

All theology is man made, even mine. Good theology is man made as is bad theology. The only healthy attitude about theology is found by balancing these two principles into an irresolvable conundrum:

1) Rightly divide the word of truth
2) Let God be true and every man a liar

No matter what you think you will always be wrong in some way, large or small, that you are either incapable of appreciating or have yet to learn.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Theology and Greek thinking


The problem in theology with Greek thinking is not that it is philosophical or that it is Greek. No human being can make sense of anything without relying upon a combination of an individually developed sense of "how reality works" influenced by the inescapable bias of the cultures and sub cultures that have contributed to their personal development.

Nonetheless, just because it is impossible to avoid bringing your personal philosophy into your theology, we need to appreciate several problems caused by doing so. Today there are two problems that stand out to me:

(1) Too many theological thinkers feel that just because they have developed a concept that "fits together well" and that stands the test of remaining coherent, that they must therefore be on to the truth. Systematic Theology was born this way. They have not considered the possibility that reality might be an "optical" illusion. One might be able to make complete coherent sense of reality in more than one mutually exclusive way. If that is so, then there is no way to differentiate which philosophy is the "correct" one. The best you can do is find a view that is useful for now. Maybe being absolutely correct is not our need. Trying to get there only puts us into an unworkable double bind of needing to know a truth we cannot ever validate. Thinking we have succeeded runs the risk of an arrogance that will be most obvious to those who have a different but equally marvelous coherent view of reality.

(2) But the biggest problem is that most theological thinkers are unaware of how philosophy has colored their sub-cultural view of scripture. Ignorance of this influence keeps us blind to the fact that reality IS an optical illusion. Every culture is satisfied with its unique perceptions. Classic Christian theology was developed centuries ago under the influence of those cultural biases. Western bias has evolved considerably since then. Christians are often ignorant that our typical Christian view is based on an earlier western view. The tensions that exist between the Christian thinker and the secular thinker is not always the worldly mind opposing the spiritual renewed mind. It is more often the contemporary culture in opposition to an older stale version of its paradigm. We hold loyal to our grandfather's reality because we falsely believe it more properly reflects our Christian values.

Knowing the themes and structures of how your reality fits together and where it came from is better than not knowing that you have a perspective on reality that came from somewhere. On the other hand, it is not helpful to have an incoherent impossible view that you can't change because you refuse to investigate or develop your sense of reality.

The capacity of the human mind to perceive reality is limited. People who study such cognitive processes see it as highly reductive. There is simply no way anyone can ever perceive reality correctly. We see reality in a model that is sufficiently representative (or not). Coherent views are better than incoherent views and best when they seem to work. That is the best you can do.

My own theology is a theology of conundrums and possibilities. I am very comfortable with certain conclusions but I try to be aware of other views that I do not personally embrace lest I forget that I am blind to what I have learned to ignore and super sensitive to what I think makes sense.

Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God. Of this I feel certain. But when I explain what that means I can never see how much of my explanation is stuff I make up simply because it fits so well with my view of reality. I am not planning on abandoning my pursuit of philosophical awareness. I just do not want to kid myself that it accomplishes anything more than adding more coherence to a view that could still be of limited use value. If I want to know truth, really know truth, my quest will fail if truth is merely propositional.

As has been said "God only knows." So in my quest to know the truth, I am satisfied to be known by God. If I cannot nail down the absolute truth for myself, at least I can have a relationship with the only one who does.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Theology is useful but ...

I wrote this quickly after reading a theological essay and discussion on facebook written by someone whose love for Jesus I respect but whose theology I differ with. He used various scriptures to demonstrate how it is that God knows all, infinitely and perfectly. He knows the beginning and the end and everything in between.

His view is definitely the majority view. There are fewer who would agree with me. But since I see this differently, even using the same scriptures, I decided to focus on these ideas and the concept of theology itself for this blog entry.

Perfection in scripture has to do with maturity not flawlessness. The fact that the domains of meaning in European languages for words like “perfect” include multiple concepts for maturity, completion and pristine flawlessness does not give Western Christianity the liberty to insert our semiotic functions back into the text written from a Hebrew culture.

Infinity is a radically misunderstood and thereby abused theological concept that typically gets applied with an exclusively Greek concept upon God. Western thinkers who are not stellar mathematicians usually confuse the application of “infinity” with the application of “universal”.

Here is an example using set logic. You could have a barrel filled with an infinite number of cats and another barrel filled with an infinite number of dogs. For the sake of argument let us say we could find an angel that knows the name of every cat but not the name of any dog. Do you realize that such an angel would have both infinite knowledge and infinite ignorance and still might not even know enough to function? Infinite does not mean universal; it never has and never will. When we apply universal concepts to the word “infinite” as translated from scripture when the original word does not necessarily mean “infinite” to begin with, we start concluding things the biblical text never meant to say. The infinity of God was always a common concept in Europe even before Christianity or Judaism became common in the West. But this paradigm rose to become the majority opinion in Christian thought through the heretic Augustine who embraced it as part of his admitted love of Greek philosophy and, I believe, the influence of his Manichean past.

“All” in scripture does not always mean literally all. There are few verses in the bible where the word is used where we can always assume its extreme meaning. In fact a serious study of ancient Hebrew linguistics reveals interesting constructs like expressing certainty of the future by placing it in the past tense AND using the absurdity of extreme language as a way of temporarily isolating a facet of wisdom through hyperbole that later ought to be returned to a position of balance. Reading biblical texts as if they carried the same linguistic principles of implication as their translated counterparts in our linguistic structures will insert our linguistic culture into the text.

Just because God knows the beginning and the end does not mean He also knows everything about the middle. By what right do we judge verses that speak of God's surprise (Jeremiah 19:5) as merely anthropomorphic but insist that platonic philosophy as applied to God is not anthropomorphic? I would argue all concepts of God are incapable of escaping anthropomorphism.

God is clever enough to start a process contained by physics so that without regard to random anomalies all options reduce to one outcome. Take, for example, shaking a sand sifter. One starts with all the sand in the sifter and ends with all the sand below the sifter. Even a human can know the beginning and the end without the need to know exactly which hole in the sifter each grain of sand will fall through.

An all knowing God is experienced by most people as impersonal. He knows what He knows for no better reason than that is what Omni-capable gods do.

How perfect and infinite and extreme are the qualities of God? No one knows, words cannot express, scripture was never trying to be that precise. God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. All theology is man made, even mine! Do we worship God because thoughts about Him boggle our mind? Is He worthy of worship just because he is considerably more impressive than we are? God has a lot going for Him and I for one find it totally unimpressive that He can rise to the occasion of His own abilities. Indeed He would be worthy of condemnation if He failed to do so. Comparing Him to us is an unfair contest and it lacks the integrity authentic worship requires but certainly inspires an insecurity that works against the trust that Christ in us makes us fully sufficient for all things. God's capabilities whatever they may be are certainly sufficient to the task, which is fortunate but unworthy of worship unless you focus on ability more than character and beauty more than substance. What makes God worthy of worship is that in spite of all the advantages He possesses in being a far superior being, He has nonetheless chosen to make love the primary purpose of His existence. Love is His character and the primary power by which He will rule and reconcile the universe.

He remains perfectly mature because His love demands it of Himself. It is generated out of His integrity not simply because He is intrinsically flawless. His knowledge is past finding out, but not because He simply exists that way, but because His love compels Him to pay attention to His beloved so as to take it all in. His knowledge is generated out of His attentiveness, not simply His essence. He knows when the sparrow falls not just because He has the cheat sheet implanted in His intrinsic attributes, rather He knows because He sees it coming and watches empathetically as it happens and fully observes the aftermath. God is actively present in the process.

Scripture discusses a God who is the equivalent of love. We are the ones more focused on how we interpret it to describe Him as Omni-capable. And we license that focus by abusing the text. When theology is more of an academic autopsy of God that blocks our way to an inarticulate encounter of His presence, it has become no longer useful. Theology is necessary but can never be more than useful because any coherent concept, even at the level of mystery, remains nonetheless only a human concept. Let God be true and every man a liar, even the theologians, even theological thinkers such as myself.

True Christianity is not found in theology or biblical interpretations. Any interpretation or way of thinking that encourages you to embrace the Christ who dwells within the believer is a useful theology. Common fundamentalism and evangelicalism are, in my opinion, woefully undereducated in the languages, concepts and ideas relevant to what they so confidently talk about. Their theology ultimately leads to nowhere. My faith is not in my concept of God. It is in the mysterious inexplicable dynamic growth derived by grace through the indwelling presence of Christ that operates in ways I cannot possibly understand, describe or search out.

If I find a way of talking about it that encourages others to embrace and abide in Christ too, then it is a useful concept. But the moment I or anyone teaches an insight from scripture that encourages anyone to sustain loyalty to that concept, then that is the moment we have abandoned the inexpressible God and have swapped Him for a concept and have become preachers of a false gospel. Our life is not in scripture, it is hidden with God in Christ. There is good and bad theology. But the mastery of theology is an illusion that seduces us toward division based on differences in human capacity to appreciate the realities too wonderful to be contained in any human mind.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The false gospel of fear mongers.

I have been studying Hebrews chapter 10 in the Greek this morning. It is part of my study of passages traditionally translated or interpreted to preach a fear based warning.

For example a typical translation of Hebrews 10:26 & 27 might be: If we willfully sin after knowing the truth we are left with no sacrifice for sin. Instead we have a fearful expectation of a judgment and raging fire that consumes enemies of God.

This is then used to teach that Christians who continue to sin deliberately will be cut off from the benefit of the sacrifice of Christ and will have put themselves into a condition where all they have to look forward to is hell.

There is always more than one way to understand a cluster of words. But it is interesting how the options change in different languages. The entire chapter is contrasting law with grace in general. And specifically it contrasts the difference between how Levitical sacrifice and the sacrifice of Christ impact the guilty conscience differently.

The law was not a final agreement but rather served to foreshadow a better way. Had the Levitical sacrifice been so sufficient that only one was ever needed, then guilt would be able to move on. But under the old sacrifice system, the fact that sacrifices were regularly repeated inadvertently serves as a constant reminder of sin. It keeps us focused upon sin and we never escape the dynamics of guilt. The only way to escape the resulting reminder of guilt is to self-righteously deny sin.

But the sacrifice of Christ makes perfect forever those who are in the process of being made holy. If what is stated in verse 14 is true then the typical warnings preached from verses 26 & 27 are a contradiction and a lie.

The point of the chapter is that Old Testament sacrifices must be repeated and never ever get to the point where the debilitating focus upon guilt can go away. For those who do not turn to self-righteousness to cope with this ever returning guilt, there is frequent discouragement. If such a person were to discover that simply one sacrifice of Christ secures their eventual perfection, trust in that reality will resolve the impossible to appease guilt response.

It has been wisely said that you can never go home again. The old days shall remain forever gone. When you try to return it is never the same it is forever different. In light of this, every believer will from time to time face doubts especially in the earlier years. During that doubt their mind inevitably returns to their former beliefs.

If you happen to be one of those who formerly found the repetition of sacrifice a constant source of discouraging guilt, there is a danger that after experiencing freedom in Christ, if you entertain doubts and try to go back to the former sacrificial system, you will discover it is not the same. Previously the repeated sacrifices worked for a moment to remove guilt but because it kept you focused upon your sin, guilt would always return and it was discouraging. But now after having known freedom in Christ, you will discover that the repeated sacrifices do not remove any guilt at all, and the guilt that used to return in a discouragement will also change. It will become a dread that you are cursed and lost. You have nothing to face in the future except the rage of God.

Verses 26 & 27 are not teaching that this is indeed the danger you face, they teach that this is indeed the way you will be thinking.

The lesson to be gained is this: Anyone who has had a coping mechanism of a repeated ritual that appeases their sense of guilt will find that embracing the perfection secured by Christ once and for all removes from them any need for ongoing repetition of that ritual. But if they begin to doubt they will find they cannot successfully return to the old ritual. Trying to do so will result in a complete break down of the impact of the old ritual and they will be left in a state of dread.

These verses are not a warning to the Christian to stay away from deliberate sin. It is a heads up of what to expect your distorted thinking will anticipate if you slip in your faith. If you previously held to a legalistic approach that was working for you, then you have a background that anticipates the destiny of lawbreakers. Those ideas are well ingrained within. And those ideas will torment you.

The solution is to remember the earlier days when the one sacrifice of Christ was truly all you needed. It made you a person of authentic sympathy and service because the possession of the hope of securing perfection in Christ was fully sufficient. So verse 35 encourages those whose faith has slipped to return to faith in the sufficiency of the one sacrifice. If you can nail down this idea that the sin problem is SOLVED even though the process is not yet complete, you will experience once again the great confidence and it is a rich reward.

It is in some ways a sad reality that for those who know the freedom of Christ, moments of doubt takes them to a place far worse than they have ever been before. They are exposed to the maximum dread of failure. It throws you into an experience where all confidence dies and all that remains is dread.

But do not lose heart. That dread is NOT your destiny it is only your perspective of doubt tormenting you. There is no greater freedom from guilt than to know that Jesus has settled the issue completely.

We all struggle with sin from time to time. Knowing the sufficiency of Christ allows us to leave sin in the past and to press on toward the perfection in which we hope. Should we lose sight of this hope after having known it, we do not simply return to a former way of thinking, we actually enter a tormenting perspective that is triggered by another occasion of sin.

Beloved, Jesus is sufficient, the question is settled, the guilt is gone, the perfection is promised, and the hope is real. God loves you and has perfected you forever!

What a shame that religious fear mongers seek to take a verse of honesty from the bible and seek to use it to scare us into obedience. I prefer to know Christ crucified and to pursue holiness through the motivation of love. I have no room for fear of destruction in my spiritual journey.

Grace and peace be yours in Christ now and always.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Getting in your own way

Not only is bad theology dead, good theology is also dead. When nuances of perception and understanding mean more than the inexplicable mystery of the indwelling Christ your religion has trumped your Christianity.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

What IS Christianity?

An anthropologist correctly calls it religion, a psychologist correctly calls it relationship, but for me the essence of Christianity is the mystery of the indwelling Christ.

Some Christians want to deny it is a religion, but that is not entirely honest. No matter what identity you hold, it is impossible to avoid the anthropological dynamics. You cannot be a democrat or a republican, a teacher or a student, an American or a Korean, a computer programmer or a chef without adopting various behaviors with forms and functions motivated by various ideological concepts to connect you with that culture. So, as much as we might want to deny it, Christianity IS a religion and cannot stop being one because it will always show up in your life through forms, functions and expressed ideas.

Some Christians claim it is a relationship usually as part of the denial that it is a religion. And yes it is a relationship too. Even an atheist has to admit that the christian relates to God as if they had an ongoing relationship. Since a relationship involves mutual dealings, connections, or feelings that exist between two parties, Christianity is certainly perceived by Christians as a relationship of sorts. But that is still not what makes Christianity what it is at its most basic essence.

Christianity is the mystery of Christ in you, the hope of glory. The regeneration of the Holy Spirit the redemptive grace of God is brought to the believer through the indwelling Christ. That reality is hard to describe, hard to conceive, impossible to do so it can't be a religion in that sense. It also is difficult to relate to because in so many ways it involves God doing things from within that we neither understand, comprehend, nor are certain how to deal with. So it is more than just a relationship.

The transformation of the Christian is the result of the nurtured presence of Christ within. It results in a character that grows when allowed to but chokes when we try to control it, explain it or prove it. Who we are becoming in Christ-likeness will only happen because it will be the result of Christ within. It is this mystery that is the essence of Christianity.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The personal touch of God's favors.


When people talk about the little favors God orchestrates on their behalf, they assume they are giving glory to God for the little things? But I think at a deeper level they are trying to convince themselves and others that God is real.

Most Christians are unaware of how offensive such talk is to those who suffer. No harm is intended but they fail to realize it comes across as a self-absorbed, contrived proof of God's presence in the life of a spoiled child. Those who do not believe in Jesus know that although life is at times a struggle, nonetheless, pure randomness and the simple nature of things means that often things work out real well.

As a Christian, I find this belief troubling and harmful to the gospel. Why would a God who wants to develop within us the character of Christ be spoiling His children with such spiffs when they have not yet learned to be content in whatever state they are in? That seems counterproductive in exactly the same way ineffective parents inadvertently bless the world with spoiled brats.

Is such talking biblical? How common is this sort of activity by God in the bible? We are asked to give thanks for all things but this is because there is great benefit in adopting that attitude toward every situation as it converts circumstances into opportunities by redirecting outcomes toward a better end as the result of a better focus. But what is particularly embarrassing and scandalous in this perspective is that we often hear Christians thank God for specific little favors as they remain shockingly oblivious to just how unfavorable the situation actually is for others.

This sort of unbiblical talk turns God into our fairy godfather. Forgive my cynicism but the people I have known in my life who often talk as if they are always being touched by God's little favors are the very ones whose affairs are in disarray. They are the ones making bad decisions given to foolishness. Often they are the Christians who have mean streaks and look down at those less fortunate as their personal ethics slip. But worst of all they lack empathy for the way others suffer who could have really used a favor or two if God was in the doing little favors business.

I contend that God is active today PRIMARILY from within us. Our gospel is a message of Christ in you, the hope of glory. Most alleged manifestations of His presence are - at best - just stories spun as coherently as possible to simply help us feel more loved by God or - at worst - intended as a spiritual name dropping exercise as we brag about how God pays particular attention to us.

Why do Christians fail to see this makes Christianity appear to be little more than a joke of self deception? I have noticed that this magical talk, so void of empathy, seems to be most offensive and prolific when Christians who do not see each other regularly come together for retreats and other special gatherings. When I attend such conferences I find within me a compelling desire to get away as quickly as I can from those Christians deeply steeped in the concept. This makes me suspicious that this style of talking helps us feel like we are getting back to God.

I toyed with rejecting this perspective for several years but it became crystal clear to me after an incident in 1987. I had occasion to be driving a car belonging to a Christian businessman to run an errand for him. He had a habit of often sharing how God does tiny little favors. The owner of the car had an annual income several times larger than mine. Furthermore, at that time I was working to pay off an uninsured medical debt of over $13,000. A series of lung collapses required a portion of my right lung to be removed. That debt was part of the reason I did not own my own vehicle. As I was on that errand another Christian person ran a stop sign and broadsided me. I ended up in the hospital to have my lungs checked out and the car was totaled.

A week or so after the dust settled, the owner of the car came into my work area beaming with a huge smile saying, "Praise God, I just love how He orchestrates blessings and has a purpose for everything. Just before that accident I had my eye on this penny stock I thought was about to do very well, and everything I have was tied up. But God brought a check to me for the totaled car just in the nick of time for me to dump it into that stock! I held on to it for only three days and sold it for more than twice what I bought it for and now the stock has gone back down."

I responded, "Are you saying God deliberately used one of his numerous puppet people to slam your car with me in it just so you could have even more money making opportunities? Help me out here, are you saying God is good and I can trust him or are you saying God is an ass who arbitrarily knocks people around for the benefit of those already doing well and I had better watch it?"

This perspective is totally superstitious and completely unbiblical. God is not a respecter of persons. And it is extremely rare for his rain to fall on the just and the unjust by any means other than the natural result of his creation of a universe where things work as they do irrespective of who benefits.

Even God accepts full responsibility for the potential confusion and injustice in how he favored Jacob and dismissed Esau. It is mentioned several times in scripture specifically to clarify the confusion. The texts help to differentiate how things work in general as contrasted with God's sovereign plan. His decision to redirect favor had absolutely nothing to do with the people involved but rather it was focused upon the overall plan to further God's purposes in bringing a Messiah. The fact that it works out well for Jacob is, for Jacob, simply fortunate. He was in the right place at the right time.

You cannot convince me God is helping one child find a good parking spot in front of the shopping plaza in trivial answer to prayer while behind the building another Christian is crying out earnestly to God as she is being raped but finds no favors to deliver her from the moment? Telling such stories is prompted either by ignorance, habit, self absorption, or disregard for how God is perceived by those who hear of His horrible injustice, messed up priorities and inconsistencies. I contend that outside of the overall plan of sending a Messiah this sort of thing simply never happens.

As a professor at a community college I am in an environment where people feel free to express their reactions to Christians. And they have a lot to say about it when free to speak where it won't offend the Christian who might hear it. They are far more sensitive in sharing this reaction than Christians are in assessing how it comes across. These people need the love of God but the only Christian God they know about is one who chooses favorites as He spits on the unfortunate.

Christians who mean well do not realize we paint ourselves into a credibility corner with this one. God has definitely created a world in which many wonderful things can come our way, praise be to God. The world is designed in a manner, provided we love, that can provide an abundance for all. It is very sad and a testimony to our cultural greed that most of the population of the earth knows very little of such abundance.

But for now, during this age God speaks to us through His Son, and that Son abides inside His people. You have the mind of Christ; He does not live in you without His mind. You have the life of Christ; He does not dwell within without life. This is the time when we experience the renewing of our mind. The externals are no longer the priority. The only way God orchestrates anything in this present world is by the difference living in His people can make. If we do not make a difference in this world, God will remain inactive.

Don’t passively sit by as you take in all the favors you assume God sends your way. Rather allow the indwelling Christ to mature the character of love within you so that you bring the favor of God’s love into a world in desperate need of the redeeming quality of that love.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Law, righteousness or love.

We know that the law is for lawbreakers. But we often fail to realize the corollary that righteousness is for judges who judge lawbreakers. For all others there is simply love.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The value of being human

Being human is such an awesome opportunity, even God wanted to become one.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The nature of the bible

Although the bible claims that scripture is God-breathed and that men spoke as they were given "utterance" by the Holy Spirit, nonetheless the bible nowhere claims to NOT be the product of human authors through whom God breathed and moved.


Consequently our expectations, interpretations and such are a dishonest distortion of the actual text when we treat it as if it is the pure unmitigated Word of God that fully transcends its anthropological dynamics. THAT idea is NOT taught in the bible. In fact, most places where the bible makes reference to "THE WORD OF GOD" it is a reference to His promises, not to scripture. We begin to ascribe qualities to the text that it does not claim for itself. We force upon ourselves a belief that it secures an understanding we neither need nor can lay claim to.

If our understanding of WHAT the bible actually is sustains a balanced view of its textual reality, we can simply let the bible be what it is. And a huge part of WHAT it is cannot be estranged from its human involvement that has had an unknown impact on the results. It therefore must be read with an awareness that it will not be the "Word of God" as we might want it to be or expect it to be, rather it will be the "Word of God" in ways we had not expected.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Consequences

Consequences are related to acquiring wisdom. But it is interesting to note that the longer consequences last, the less likely they are to result in wisdom rather they result in giving up. The best consequences are those that are decisive, clearly connected to the behavior that created them as outcomes, non negotiable and resolvable by changes in behavior. Other than that, consequences only serve to indulge the anger of those inflicting them.

The goal of consequences is the hope of wisdom. This is what determines if consequences are motivated by love or motivated by hate.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Perspective

A relationship with God never bypasses your personal perspective, it merely influences it slowly over time and nudges it in directions. In the end it is you and you alone who supplies what you find as "the meaning."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A very painful lesson

It is a painful and disappointing lesson in life to discover that our Christ-likeness has everything to do with our response to circumstances and nothing to do with our circumstances.

Monday, April 12, 2010

How can I know God's will without being deceived?

In my opinion the person who asks such a question is deceived already. God does not have THAT KIND of will for your life. God does not care if you take this job or that job. The options before you are not made up of selections only one of which is the will of God and you have to figure out which one that is. Your life is before you and there are many options. YOU ALONE MUST CHOOSE FOR YOURSELF WHAT YOU WILL DO!

The only thing that can help us to make good decisions is to learn wisdom. Make decisions and accept responsibility for those decisions and pay close attention to how they work out or don't work out so that over time you can make better and better decisions as you develop a better ability to predict likely outcomes.

The will of God for your life will never be a bypass to learning wisdom. God's will has more to do with the quality you bring to the process when considering options. God cares a great deal about the love and ethics you bring to bear in that consideration and cares not a wit about what that decision ends up deciding. God cares about the quality of the process. A quality process will often make mistakes but wherever a quality process ends up, that will be a good enough place to be in until it is time for the next decision.

But is it exactly where God wants you to be? The question is irrelevant because the only place God wants you to exactly be in is in Christ. Everything else - absolutely everything else - is optional. So long as you can have a relationship with God in Peru, you can move to Peru if you decide to. There will be consequences to that decision and to a reasonable degree you should consider what those consequences might be and make your decision based on the consequences you are willing to risk.

Sad to say, but for some people and for some periods in history the options are very bleak. What is God''s will for a person sitting in a concentration camp, or an electric chair? What is God's will for a person growing up in a ghetto whose subculture is abused and discriminated against? What about the person growing up in some obscure jungle? There are not very many viable options for such people. Many of them will suffer and die early no matter what they do.

People looking for the will of God are setting themselves up to be manipulated by those who think they know how YOU can find God's will. They are being set up to pursue the difficult decisions in life using a style that will forever sabotage the development of learning to make good decisions for themselves wherever they actually have the freedom to choose. Freedom to choose means personally taking responsibility for the potential outcomes of those choices inasmuch as they can be reasonably predicted.

It is a lie that God has a will for your life that includes ANY decision where you have to figure out what God's will might be. In that rare moment where God has a decision He wants you to make, it is God's problem to make His will clear. So, if God does not appear to you in a dream or a vision or send a profit or an angel to tell you which option to take, you are on your own.

There is no such thing as a decision God wants anyone to make where God has not been totally clear as to what that decision is. Until such time as God makes it absolutely clear, do not abdicate your responsibility to make your own decisions.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Science and the Bible are very compatible when you drop the straw

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.

These verses speak to me of the person of Christ taking preeminence over the scriptures AND the universe. I am committed to the idea that all truth is authoritative. To interpret one truth in order to dismiss another truth is a commitment to being silly and ignorant. Truly - ALL interpretations are straw men. Let God be true and EVERY MAN a liar.

It is foolish for Christians to pit the bible against science. You can only lose. If you are not careful you might lose your faith when all you really need to lose is your interpretation.

It is foolish for the scientist to pit science against the bible. The only way you can do that is to adopt the straw man interpretation embraced by Christians. You will destroy the opportunity of faith and violate science because a scientist has no business substituting a straw man for the real thing. What the bible is and how the bible is understood ARE 2 very different things.

Sorry to be the bearer of what only seems like bad news. But we are all lost in a puzzle that no one has found the solution to. Finding God is like finding and taking possession of the envelope inside of which is the solution to every mystery. Yet upon opening the envelope we discover it is written in a language we are only beginning to comprehend.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Don't turn the bible into a joke

When we blindly insist the bible is not intimately entwined with human process we turn the message into a joke. What was intended to be a message of hope becomes a lie to ensnare the foolish soul.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

GoD and DoG

Beautiful song and artwork by Wendy Francisco


Wendy has an offical website for this song here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The nature of the "NEW" heart

I do not really believe there is any difference between the NATURE of the old heart and the new heart. They differ not in substance but in what they embrace. One embraces a lie promising survival, the other embraces love being assured survival is not the issue. What makes the new heart NEW is the indwelling Christ who redemptively assures us to trust that the agenda and risks of love are always better than the lies we cannot survive. We are not left to ourselves while overwhelmed. But the way the human brain works, this is something that cannot work by mere theory, it has to be tested and found true through various scenarios. It is a growth process of trust and a renewing of the mind away from a self-centered pessimism to the confidence we will all be just fine in the love of God.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Repair or Demolish?

What follows is a guest article written by Darin Hufford and posted on his blog May 20 of 2009.

I am finding more and more that people are suffering from a religious cancer that has eaten up nearly every healthy part of their spirit. Oddly enough, our religion, with its iron fisted teachings and oppressive practices is actually NOT the primary source of this cancer. Religiosity and spiritual tyranny are merely offshoots of a more serious and deadly malignancy. The very source of all these things has to do with our picture of who God is.

The reality is that the picture of God that most Christians in America hold in their heart, is masknot only corrupt and inaccurate; it's outright untrue to the very core. It's an entirely different person altogether. This is not something that can be fixed or repaired. Most people attempt to slowly and methodically correct their misperceptions one at a time in hopes that when they're finished, they will have the real God. In other words they believe that they actually have the real God in their mind, but they've misjudged Him in a few areas, and once those areas are corrected, all will be fine. While this may be true for some people I have found that for many more, it's not even the tip of the iceberg.

For countless Christians, their view of God is so twisted and fictitious that it's not even God at all. They have yet to meet Yahweh. The god they have been worshiping is not even an impersonator of Yahweh. He is something different altogether. He's a different person with a different heart and different motives and expectations. Nothing about him has anything to do with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He cannot be altered or restored into Yahweh. It just doesn't happen that way.

The bottom line is that a striking number of sincere people have been duped and brain-washed into joining a cult. They go into it thinking that they are going to meet and begin a relationship with Yahweh Himself, but almost immediately they are handed an impostor. It was the typical bait and switch move, and they fell for it hook, line and sinker. A yearfake later, they are serving, worshiping and trying desperately to please an impostor.

Some people may read this and say to themselves, "Where was Yahweh when one of His children was truly seeking Him? Why didn't He step in and show them the truth?" My answer to this is that He did. Over and over He did, but most of us disregarded those checks in our spirit about what the preacher was telling us. He spoke over and over during sermons saying, "That's not right.....that's not Me" and if you recall, you heard Him loud and clear. Most of us purposefully numbed ourselves to Yahweh's voice because listening to it could cause us havoc in our relationships we had built within the confines of the Cult. We actually knew Yahweh in our heart, but we willingly traded Him out for something that would drug us and ultimately kill us.

Once we break free from the Cult, many of us follow the same predictable pattern of those who went before us. We try our best to salvage certain aspects of the Cult because, "It wasn't all bad." We do this because there is still a place in our hearts that just doesn't get it. There is still something within us that believes we can have our Cult and Yahweh too. We're not ready to admit that we have been wrong about pretty much everything for all our lives. This is perhaps the biggest obstacle I see people wrestle with. To believe in Yahweh, means that they have to admit that they've wasted their entire life putting time and energy into a fraud. Most people I know are not willing to do that. This is why they cling to their cult-god so tightly and attempt to give him a personality makeover in hopes that he will somehow become Yahweh.

I have found in most circumstances, a complete divorce from the cult-god is necessary. Getting to this point is the hard part because most people are terrified of what might happen if they were to actually abandon the god they grew up with. They also fear the in-between time where they won't have a god at all. This is precisely why most of us opt to fix the cult-god rather then leave him altogether. Unfortunately, fixing him is not an option, so divorce and complete abandonment is the only option.

The problem is, for many people, leaving the cult-god is like a battered wife attempting to leave her controlling and abusive husband. Almost supernaturally she finds herself drawn back to his embrace. Amazingly, people spend the first half of their life trying to hold on to their belief in their terrible cult-god and then they spend the second half trying to let go. Leaving is easier said than done. battered Relationships like these usually end in violence or death. Most abusive wives hate their situation but they aren't ready to leave. This is also true for people under the control of the cult-god. They're unhappy, but many times they're not unhappy enough. In my experience, a person never escapes the cult-god until they hate him to death. This is one reason why the institution programs every Christian to live in absolute fear of "becoming bitter or angry." They know it's the last step before a person leaves.

Understanding that the god many of us have grown up with is not Yahweh, is key to our healing. It makes it go twice as fast because you aren't dealing with a thousand things you have to forgive Yahweh for before you can love Him. It's must easier to walk away from the cult-god and come to Yahweh then it is to turn the cult-god into Yahweh. This is confusing for most people because when they asked God into their heart, they actually received Yahweh; however, almost every teaching after that was a description of the heart and character of the cult-god. This is why many people make the mistake of thinking they are one and the same. For healing to take place, it's imperative that you be able to separate the two. You must leave the one and embrace the other.

This is why we are seeing the recent phenomena of people leaving their churches. This is happening throughout America and the world on a massive scale. Studies, reports, and articles about the decline in church attendance have surfaced from all of the major news organizations. Meanwhile, the "Christian world" is at a total loss for what to do. People aren't leaving because they found a better church; they're leaving because they found a better God. They tried bringing their new God to church on Sunday, but they were sternly rebuked and told to shut up. Eventually they had no other choice but to leave the institution altogether.

The hierarchy of the institution is now scrambling to adjust to the mass exodus, and in doing so they are desperately seeking ways to keep the people they still have. Predictably,they attempt the same feat of giving the cult-god a makeover in an effort to fool those who stayed into thinking he is Yahweh. Those who never knew Yahweh will buy into it, but for those of us who have met Him, nothing will compare. Knowledge of Yahweh causes a mandatory freedom to spring forth in a person's life. Being trapped in a building once a week, under traditions, rules, and priestly control is contrary to the DNA of the Spirit of Yahweh. Knowing Him requires freedom. If you give up the freedom; you give up Yahweh. They are one and the same.

Darin Hufford Darin Hufford

Copyright © 2010 The Free Believers Network, used by permission

Monday, February 15, 2010

Church outside the walls

No comment from me, but here are four trailers promoting the documentary.

part 1


part 2


part 3


part 4

focus

No one has ever sinned any less because they were genuinely concerned about not sinning. However, those who care a great deal about love sin less without giving it any thought.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Does the question exist?

Atheists, theists and philosophers of all sorts have argued for and against the existence of God for centuries. The often-smug rhetoric from both sides reveals a significant contempt for what they perceive as the lack of intelligence in the opposing camp.

In online forums and college campuses you can easily find arguments and quick retorts in an atmosphere of a spoken or unspoken, "You are an idiot," assessment. But I find myself asking how can both sides be so shallow as to perceive themselves so brilliant and their antagonists so void of brains? I think both sides fail to discuss this question intelligently.

In fairness it is not actually their fault, because neither side has widely considered the possibility that the question lacks the proper prerequisites for being asked let alone discussed. It is as if both sides get so caught up in a need to defend their personal view that they fail to consider the viability of the question itself.

The question of God's existence cannot be resolved intelligently. So my purpose herein is to discuss the question itself. I want to examine its implications and offer an argument that the question cannot ever be answered for reasons that have nothing to do with whatever the correct answer might be.

I call this the Next Dimension Unavailable (NDU) argument. It helps to have a name for arguments so we can refer to them without having to recite them, and since this is my argument, I guess I get to give it a name. My argument is an analogy taken from basic geometric concepts.

It should go without saying that if God exists then he does and if he does not exist then he does not. So I will have to assume, for purposes of avoiding nonsense altogether that if a god created the universe, then it would be necessary for him-her-it to exist in a place other than the universe and that he-she it comes from a place beyond the constraints of the universe we see and know. So lets look at some peculiar aspects for properties of objects that occupy space in the universe.

We will start with a geometric point in a zero dimensional world. Any such point does not exist in space it merely exists. It is simply a point without any location. It is just a point and nothing else. It has no depth, height or width; it is just a point. However if that point is also part of a 1 dimensional world, all we can perceive in the one-dimensional world is the line that point is on.

Now lets move to a two dimensional world that would possess both height and width. The X, Y coordinates of such a world help define what we call a geometric plane. Note, however, this plane is composed of an infinite number of points. But notice, every single point in the plane possesses all the same intrinsic properties of a point in a 1 dimensional world. A point on a plane can even be part of a line in that plane.

There is nothing intrinsically special about a point in a plane that uniquely differentiates it from a point in a one-dimensional line. The properties of both points as points are identical. There is no property within a point in the plane to indicate that the point is actually part of the larger plane. To even be aware of the fact that the point is in a plane can only be seen from the perspective of the plane. However the plane cannot be seen from the perspective of just the point or the 1 dimensional line.

Nothing that occurs within the plane ever alters any one point within the plane in a manner that changes any of the point's intrinsic properties. No point possesses any property that gives evidence that it in fact is a point in a plane. No point in a plane possesses any properties that give evidence of any event occurring in the plane outside of that point. In fact, were an event in the plane to change the features of a point, the point could not perceive these changes in any manner inconsistent to what can change its features on a line or simply as an independent point. Let us go still a bit further and move into a three dimensional world.

A cube or a sphere can be defined using an X, Y, Z coordinate system. Spherical geometry tells us that the three dimensional world is made up of an infinite number of planes. Every single plane in a three dimensional world possesses the exact same properties as any plane in a two dimensional world.

In fact, there is no property of a plane that can ever, from purely within the plane, demonstrate that the plane is indeed part of a three dimensional world. As above the three-dimensional world can see the plane, but the plane cannot see the three dimensional world. It makes no difference what, if anything, is occurring in the three dimensional world. The plane will never know it. Even the line created by the intersection of two planes does not require the awareness of both planes to define it. The line itself cannot define or reveal the two planes that intersect at the line.

So even if a line did exist, there would be nothing about that line that could prove it was caused by something occurring in a greater dimension. That possibility could be nothing more than a possibility. Can you say, "string theory?"

We can go on, but it is not really necessary. It is sufficient to note at this time that multidimensional geometry recognizes that lower dimension have properties that are never altered or violated by introducing greater dimensions. Lesser dimensions contain no evidence concerning events taking place in greater dimensions. Such events can only be possibilities. Indeed, it is not possible for conclusive evidence to even exist. This is quite without regard to whether such events actually take place or not. A point cannot prove the existence or non-existence of a plane and a plane cannot prove the existence or non-existence of a sphere.

Now let us extend this insight into the question of God's existence. If there is a God who created the matter that exists in space, then this God must exist in a dimension greater than the three-dimensional space we are familiar with. If this is the case, then space, as we know it, cannot be altered in any manner that forces a proof for the existence of any object that does or does not exist in a greater dimension. This would be true even if changes in three-dimensional space were actually caused by forces in the larger dimension acting upon three-dimensional space. From the perspective of three dimensions, it cannot graduate beyond being only a possibility. Any effect caused by an object in a greater dimension would have an impact identical and indistinguishable from the impact of the object limited to the intersection of the greater and lessor dimensions. Just as the intersection of two planes creates a line, that line, nonetheless, cannot prove the existence of the two planes that form it without access to a three dimensional perspective. Of course, if God does not exist, or even if a greater dimension does not exist, then there could be no evidence of that non-existence regardless of what principles we rely upon.

So we are left with this. If God does exist in a greater dimension than the three we can see, then there would have to be no conclusive evidence of that in our lesser three dimensions. Furthermore, If God does not exist in any greater dimension; there could never be any evidence of that non-existence either. Therefore, regardless of if God exists in a greater dimension or not, multidimensional geometry requires that in this dimension, there could be no evidence of it either way.

Since it is impossible for the evidence to exist regardless of what the truth is, it is futile to search for it. It cannot be found. The absence of the evidence fails to prove anything either way; the question is unanswerable.

We may not want to admit it, but the truth is that theists who believe in God and atheists who have no belief in God arrive at their position for no other "reason" than that they are personally comfortable taking the risk of that standpoint. I call it "faith."

Even though plenty of unintelligent arguments have been offered by theists and atheists to advance their personal opinion, neither position is in and of itself particularly intelligent nor particularly stupid. It only becomes unintelligent when we attempt to prove our position. We can continue to argue like fools or we can accept the responsibility to attribute our position to mere personal choice. Whatever the truth is on this question, the evidence that could confirm that God exists can only be found in a greater dimension than we have access to. That evidence is therefore unavailable.

So the question cannot be asked with the hope that anyone could authentically answer it. I say the question does not exist as an authentic question.

Priorities

Knowledge is better than ignorance. Vision is better than blindness. Connection is better than isolation. Nonetheless, in spite of how genuinely important these things are, they are not greater than faith, hope, and love.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Why do people make bad decisions?

There are many reasons, but I think a huge one is that when you do not live loved, your view of the the world, yourself and the risks of life are such that the decisions you make are very good decisions provided that is the way reality actually works.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Understanding Grace

Grace is God giving you exactly what you deserve and need in light of the awesome value that still remains after overlooking the sin in you that has nothing to do with the real you. Our foolish loyalty to sin cannot change the incredible beauty of being made in the image of God. How foolish it would be of God to fail to notice how lovely the outcome of redemption. I am grateful God is no fool. His eye spotted the diamond in the rough and set out to make it glisten.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Love of God

Uncovering the meaning of foreign words in dead languages is not easy and I cannot claim to have done it with anything close to perfection. But I have tried over the years to read key "biblical" words in a variety of contexts in their original language - even outside of the biblical texts and sometimes preferring what I found to what I was taught at bible school or what I read in theology texts. So I offer the following as my mere opinion.

The Hebrew word "chesed" often translated "kindness" or "love" is not a word for emotion but rather a word that denotes "actions taken to beget an outcome related to a meaningful committed intention." In this sense although love is something you can "feel," what you feel is a secondary characteristic. The primary characteristic of this "love" is the committed intention, leading to actions, and resulting in an outcome.

In Greek, the word "agape" is so churchified that it has become meaninglessly magical. In the bible it does not always refer to God's love and it in no way indicates a love only God is capable of. Before the Septuagint the word was capable of denoting an almost pitiful condition. It was the Greek word to use if one had made a commitment and conditions change so that, much to one's regret, they still have to keep their promise because they are fond of their reputation. This certainly does not describe the love of God and this is not the only circumstance in which the word was used. The word was used to describe values that motivated commitment or choice.

I believe "chesed" is the concept behind the love of God and that when the love of God was spoken about in Greek, that none of the words for "love" in Greek captured the meaning so well. "Eros" was romantic love and sexualized, focused upon attraction. "Phileo" was brotherly love and often focused upon taking sides in a dispute with no care for which side is right. "Storgay" is familial love and denotes attachment, favoritism and loyalty. This leaves "agape" which is the only word left in Greek strongly connected to commitment, so it was chosen as the word to use when translating the Septuagint.

The tradition endured over time. When Semitic people spoke of "chesed" in the common language of the day they used the Greek word "agape." They also used the word "agape" in its pure Greek sense as did Jesus when he said, "men won't come to the light because they love darkness more than light because their deeds are evil." Jesus was speaking of their commitment to self-centeredness.

We love when we authentically want what is truly best, are committed to act in such a way that will best secure that outcome. This will involve, secondarily, a great variety of emotions in both the one who loves and the one loved.