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Are You Making The Most Out Of What Makes You

I recently submitted an article for consideration in a Christian Magazine. The submission guidelines advised to send a short bio telling them who I am. I started jotting down a few things and had more difficulty doing it than I thought I should. I first listed the things I thought were valuable such as accomplishments, degrees, experience, etc. As I was doing this I had to question, “Do these things really described who I am?” Are the awards on the wall or the accolades of admirers really the things that describe who we are?

In ancient Rome, friendship had a different meaning than it does today. People saw others as either above them in social status or below them in social status. Friendship was based upon how close that status was and whether both parties agreed upon the statuses. Status was everything. The higher ranked status would provide services or money to the lower ranks and the lower ranks would provide services to the upper ranks. Even the poor had service to offer for the money the wealthy would provide them. They would cry at their funeral. The more money given the louder they would cry.

This is so foreign to our culture it almost sounds funny but I have to think that we may not be all that different. We may have simply changed the roles a little. Rather than developing formal patron/client relationships, we informally set expectations on each other based upon our relationships. We rely on each other for social acceptance, support, and friendship. We develop these relationships on how much value we place on knowing the other person. The sad part about this is that knowing this, we end up accentuating the parts that make us more attractive and devaluing the parts that society deems less attractive. This creates almost an inbreeding of ideas and moves some valuable traits into oblivion.

How about we stop the cycle? We cannot do anything about how other people value us. But why should we change ourselves to fit the known models of attractiveness? I am not talking about refusal to change our appearance because we want to. I am talking about refusing to change our appearance because somebody else wants us to. But that is not as easy as it sounds because those lines blur quickly.

What makes us valuable is not what other people value. It is not even really what we think we value as we have been affected by our societies teachings. It is much deeper than that and it is what defines who we really are. To understand this, I offer the following questions.

  1. Do you think that the accomplishment of a goal is more valuable than the journey to get there?
  2. Does other people’s opinion shape your direction?
  3. Do you truly appreciate each breath you take as the gift it is?
  4. Do you see others as a means to an end or as partners on the way?
  5. Do you find joy in the experiences of each moment or does it take specific things to provide fulfillment? What are they?
  6. Are you willing to change your direction if the goal you seek is not what you thought?
  7. Does the definition of beauty come from what you feel or what you see?
  8. Is there room to grow?

There really isn’t a right or wrong answer to these questions. They are designed to reveal fundamental elements about character. Character is what truly defines us. Maybe before we do a physical makeover we should first consider a character makeover.

Every breath is a moment of life that cannot be repeated or restored. Every hour wasted on somebody else’s values is slavery for that hour. If we allow those things to cause us to act, we are no better than taking up space. You are better than that. We are better than that. We were given the most important and priceless gift in existence from God himself. We were given the freedom to choose.

We have value because of that. Our choices on how we use that create our character. The God of creation, who decided what color each leaf will change to and from, also built the framework inside of us that gives us the ability to define our likes and dislikes. Whether we are choosing a flavor of ice cream or whether we want to paint or write poetry, it is all because of his gift. Believing ourselves to be of so little value that we let other people choose for us misses the opportunity to understand the creator a little bit and also to let the world see our talents.

Write your own bio each day by choosing what you are each day. Make it show your true character so people can see the real you. Don’t hear the words of others and make them your own if they do not fit you. Make your voice the voice that represents you and not somebody else’s voice inside you. Let the creativity of character do what it was supposed to do and show the beauty and glory of God.

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Not With A Bang, But With An Entitled Whimper

I was in a Del Taco several years ago and saw an elderly woman at the counter ordering food. As I got in line I overheard the conversation with the clerk. There was something the clerk had missed in the order and the elderly woman was going over the order again however she was becoming very frustrated because of the mistake. The clerk repeated the order back and the woman stopped her abruptly at the missed item and said “No, I wanted two burritos and four tacos. Don’t argue with me. I have been ordering Mexican food since before you were born!”

This somewhat comical statement brought out a sad notion in our world today. There is a not so subtle intrinsic belief that “We are right and everything else is wrong”. Our justification of this stems from a philosophically flawed argument that truth in and of itself is a variable. If we can redefine truth, we will always have truth on our side. This provides the ability for even opposing views to both be seen as right. The flaw is simple; one cannot equal two no matter how much we wish it so. At some level there needs to be absolute truth to act as the baseline. Rather than risk the chance of being called wrong by comparison to that baseline, many people choose to accept the argument without addressing the flaw. This breeds the larger problem of feeling we are right and thereby continues the birthing process to an even larger danger for the world. That danger is “Entitlement”.

I have the right! I am empowered. I am strong! I am able to make my own decisions! These phrases sound similar to those coming from a four year old at bedtime as well those coming from some four year college campuses. Even if we are right, empowered, strong, and capable, we are not inherently entitled. The ability to do something does not give us the right to do it, especially when it is regarding something that is truly a privilege.  But that is not what society teaches. As we crawled from the primordial ooze we somehow pulled ourselves up and caused our own evolution and are better for it, we came out of the cave and foraged through the muck of responsibilities and reached a self centered conclusion that somehow privilege is actually a right.

On New Year’s Eve, a lesser known actress became a better known actress. Natasha Leggero made a poorly chosen comment stemming from a poorly worded Campbell’s Spaghettios add via Twitter. Campbell’s add appeared to make light of the invasion of Pearl Harbor. They responded with an apology almost immediately. Leggero’s comment made fun of the veterans of that day and their age. It was in extremely poor taste, poorly timed, and something that was very disrespectful to the veterans that survived that day. Since that comment her celebrity status has increased mainly due to the amount of hateful responses. I read through several responses on a website and they ranged from death threats to pornographic projection mostly centered on vulgar statements about her lack of intelligence. Her view is that she was entitled to make the comment. The responders view is that they are entitled to their hate speak. The reality is that they are both wrong and both filled with the fallacy of entitlement.

There is a moral grey line in comedy that sits between acceptable and offensive. Comedians push the limits of that regularly to gain fans. The morality of it cannot be defined here but the question of whether it is a privilege or a right can be. Legally we may have the right to say something but do we morally have that right? Does it make it okay just because we declare ourselves entitled? Where is the line between right and responsibility? Is it acceptable to offend or hurt others so we can feel better about ourselves or for that matter make money just because our current understanding of the first amendment says it is legal? Her comment was intended to be funny. It was not and it came across as mean spirited. It would be similar to joking about a lung cancer patient having problems breathing. The responses to it however were horrific. People were alluding to her death and desires to rape her. They were offended or hurt by her comments so they felt entitled to offend and hurt her. Where is the reality check here? Have we raised the level of entitlement so high that a person with a computer and an internet access now has the right to profess ideas that should never be thought because they were able to sign on? Where does it end?

If people go through their lives absorbing the problems around them and not finding true resolution, there will always be a time where they are fed up and feel entitled to their moment. It may manifest itself in disrespectful comments to a psychologically damaged internet posts in response or even to a woman screaming about ordering tacos. If we do not realize that life is a privilege and not a right, and that we are responsible for our choices, and that the only way to fix bad ones is to actually fix the problem and not the blame, we will never find peace. Settling for approximations of peace and holding tight to our legal rights is a good way to a bad end.

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Is Full Disclosure Required For Truth?

Was it gay bashing or freedom of speech? Was it posturing or proclaiming the word? Was it clear and concise or was it not well thought out? And probably the most important question, did it deserve the backlash it received from either side. Phil Robertson made a series of bad choices that led him to a crossroads he may not have foreseen. The first was to be candidly interviewed by GQ magazine. As strange as that sounds, it has a strong resemblance to Jimmy Carter being interviewed by Playboy Magazine and expecting to be seen in a positive light when asked about impure thoughts. When walking through a mine field it is best not to tap dance.

Another bad choice was to discuss racial history and how another race did or did not act. How could his understanding in high school offer any value? At the very best he could have dealt with this topic by saying he was naïve at the time and was not aware of problems. But frankly why interact on the subject at all if he was that naïve? If he could not help the situation by offering true insight, why engage?  What is the real point of asking any celebrity their view on things they are not experts on? And why would they answer? As confusing as this may sound, this wasn’t the real firestorm in his interview.

The next bad choice involved answering questions on homosexuality. One side is saying his statements are hate speak and another says it was freedom of speech. In reality, it was neither. Phil tried to make light of the concept by equating an anus to a vagina. This is ignorance. Diminishing the importance of sexuality in our culture to a choice of human orifices shows that he is unable to speak cogently on the subject.  His next set of statements regarding sin and the slippery slope idea that homosexuality somehow leads to bestiality and multiple partners or group sex is no better. The only thing that Phil proved is that he should not speak on the subject. His attempt to use scripture to support his view showed only that his ability to communicate biblical truths in complicated areas is not a strong skill.

Why do we feel that truth is delivering every thought that is in our mind? I think plenty of things that make me incredibly smart. Not the thoughts themselves, but knowing when to keep them internal and not say them. The biochemical and neurological events that interact with our sensory organs cause information to enter our brains. Our ability to perceive that data properly is based upon a variety of factors ranging from education, experience, physical health, vitamin deficiency or excess, and amount of sleep. The ability to coherently formulate a complex argument depends on all of those things working together well so we can filter the data that our senses provide. Basically just because we think something, does not make it right, viable, worth saying, or even a good idea. Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. Popularity does not make this process easier.

This issue is not about free speech or about hate speak. It is about a man put into a situation where he made statements that should have been filtered better. And because of that, people are choosing to be very, very opportunistic and throw stones at each other. Both groups are saying in a way that the other side hates them.  When are we going to get to a point where we can put aside our differences and realize that everything thought does not need to be said in order to be truthful. When can we start to bridge the communication gap and get past the intolerance, on both sides? When will be able to reach out and tell a person that God loves them and we do as well and truly mean it? When will we be able to talk openly, respect each other, and not claim hatred over petty words? When will we begin to see that God does not care so much what we think, but cares greatly what we do?

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If Men Are Superior To Women, Then Why Are Men Born From Women?

I sat and watched her fidget and do menial tasks when she was clearly upset about something. She was a fellow student in seminary who had dreams of pastoral leadership and quite frankly was far more gifted than I in several disciplines. But something had clearly rattled her. When I asked she told me about a man in one of her classes who made broad statements to her about how she would be unable to perform certain duties within the church because she was a woman. I told her that was interesting; I didn’t know we had had a clairvoyant in our school but realistically the only thing that would make him correct is if she believed he was.

I think she understood my point but the truth is that the problem here was far larger than my angled quip could solve. There is so much history and tradition infused in the interpretation of the actual text that sifting through it just to reach consensus seems arduous at best. It confuses and angers both genders and at times has even split churches. What I can’t figure out is why.

I guess that is not quite true. I understand the history and see how the pieces to the puzzle have built the labyrinth we now have, I just don’t understand why we don’t tear a few walls down to let the people trapped inside out. Should we blame the old boys club or the male dominated denominational structures? How about blaming women directly for accepting the roles? How about blaming society for adopting a model that the church echoed so easily? How about we blame the Apostle Paul for his misogyny and self centered directions? For that matter, why don’t we just blame God himself, after all it is his book we got it from? Or better yet, how about we take the blame off the table, we re-evaluate, re-vision, re-think, and somehow build a model that not only gives the people hope, but helps heal the evils of the past.

The first step is to understand what the scripture really says. I am not going to attempt a full commentary on Paul or even list out the parts in Ephesians, Galatians, or Corinthians that address this. I don’t think that is needed because there is a larger hermeneutical issue here. The biblical text was never intended to be used in the support of a categorical syllogism to limit the ability of a gender to fulfill their desire for service to God. We cannot take Paul’s statements in one book, add them to statements in another, and conclude that he was misogynistic and that the church should not allow women to lead. This process creates a philosophical and hermeneutical error before we even begin. There is no code in the text and it is not a puzzle to be solved. As clearly as I can put it, if you have to stand on an old chair facing north east while thinking of something angelic to get the meaning out of the text, you are doing it wrong. Instructions given to the church on how to administer the church were aimed at specific churches with specific problems. Whereas that may give information that should be used in modern churches to help administer them, it cannot be taken as a singular contextual statement aimed at the church model 2000 years later without understanding the individual churches in a holistic manner.

Paul’s work was aimed at the unification of believers around the gospel of Christ. He was not setting up a universal church structure. He traveled from town to town and delivered the gospel. That was his focus. He wrote to the churches he had been to with corrective action and support for the furthering of that gospel. He was almost annoyed with administrative items. His statements about those types of items were curt and simplistic. It was almost that he was trying to get past the arguments with the first idea that came into his head. If we take those as direct mandates from God as how women are to be viewed, then not only are we contradicting other scripture that clearly shows equality, but we are placing our own selfish desires in front of God’s and denying his overall requirement to seek justice and love mercy.

We have done such a disservice to God in this arena. I have heard so much heretical garbage proclaimed in the name of tradition that has caused people to accept the inexcusable as the norm. And when we do try to push against it we end up with solutions that are almost as offensive as the problem. I have heard pastors proclaim that Paul was actually elevating the status of women from their even lower place to where we claim he said they should be. That kind of reminds me of a support for slavery from the 1800’s. Sometimes I feel more passion against the church than for it.

We have got to stop defending our traditions and understand that God cares more about our actions. The person who should be leading the church is the best qualified person, regardless of gender. If a man says he cannot learn from a woman, then the problem is with him, not them. Don’t get me wrong, there are clearly different roles intended for men than women. I will never be a mother nor have the nurturing skills that mothers have. But that in no way says that a woman should be silent in church. Simply put, those that feel women should be silent in church should do so themselves before they ever consider speaking.

Changing the world starts with changing ourselves. If we are unable to see through our own walls we build, the image of God we want to show cannot be seen by those on the other side. Sometimes we need to tear down the walls to find truth.

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You Are Being Lied To

My wife and I were buying a digital camera a few years ago at Best Buy. The salesman was very knowledge and answered all of our questions about the camera and what it was capable of doing. We purchased it and took it home and almost immediately found it did not have the majority of features that were promised. We took it back and there was a different salesperson working. We explained what we were told and what features we expected and the salesperson explained this model did not have those, as a matter of fact, the models that did started at twice the price we paid. He asked who helped us and when we told him, he advised that person doesn’t work in the area and should not have told us those things. It was clear to us he was just trying to make a sale. We were lied to.

There is possibly nothing more infuriating than being lied to. It is not an attack on our physical bodies that we can protect against, it is much worse. It is an attack on our minds and center of value. A lie proclaims dominion over you and determines what should and should not be known by you. It tells you that you are not intelligent enough to handle or would not respond well to the truth. It sets you up to be stolen from or have you hurt in other ways. Lies are egregious evil that can hurt worse than weapons. So why do we accept them as part of our daily lives?

You are being lied to.

The information process in our world has a lie factor built into it. It is almost a form of philosophical entropy. We allow ourselves to be lied to regularly and accept it as common course. We even begin to find value in it and establish it as a different truth. We then create a level of social protection around it and defend it as acceptable because it is someone’s version of truth. Human willingness to accept lies is ingrained in our social DNA so we have begun to form rights for practitioners giving them special status. We forget something though that is paramount to the subject.

We are being lied to.

Issues that affect our social constructs are given life by compassion and then petrified by dogma filled with perspective and viewpoints. Some of these views and perspectives are built on foundations that crumble when challenged but are still given credence. Human rights are a perfect example. The concept of natural law and the fairness to all dates back to Aristotle and describes an expectation that equality stems from a genetic level not a social order. This is supported by things such as the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights which states “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” I whole heartedly agree and support this along with most of modern culture. The lie however becomes visible when we realize that our modern culture does not really practice this. We remove these rights from an unborn child by redefining them to “fetus”, as if somehow the medical term magically changes these beings to a non human status. In reality we want to support human rights where it is convenient and practical but not at the expense of our current legal rights. The statement is intended to support all human’s rights, the actions however only support some human’s rights. Legal rights are not necessarily human rights, in between them the difference lies.

We are being lied to.

Sexuality is another example. Human sexuality has evolved over the last millennia, not so much is specific practice, but in social understanding. It has walked hand and hand through social evolution from a restricted practice monitored by social mores and customs to the forefront of the civil rights debates. Anthropological studies show the transformation of sexual practice from its roots as a survival mechanism for procreation to a more involved social custom and contract. Alternative sexual practices such as homosexuality are now addressed within the cultural norms and have validity in social settings. The issues quickly cross questions and rather than merely social acceptance, the questions move to individual rights. However, sexuality is not a right, it is a privilege. Whether the intention is for procreation or the intention is for pure pleasure, there are no guarantees because it is not a human rights issue. It is a social contract and not something that can be mandated or regulated. Creating legal rights does not create human rights.

We are being lied to.

Advertising and commercialism are two of the bigger offenders. When you see an ad for a car, you are not given the value involved in the features contained so you can make a decision of personal value verses monetary value. You are given the image of a perfect life with all the rewards and desires a person could seek. None of these things will be in the trunk of the car, but you are sold on the idea they are included. Your wisdom and intelligence are questioned if you do not purchase certain brands and your chance of finding the right mate get less if you don’t where the right cologne.

We are being lied to.

What would happen if we stopped listening to the lies, and started telling and expecting the truth? What would our society look like if we were honest with people about their sexual and moral choices? What would our economy look like if we stopped buying the dream and purchased items based upon actual value?

Are you tired of being lied to?

Christianity is based on the honest reaction of a God telling his people they did not pass muster and needed a scapegoat to take his wrath. He then provided his son as that scapegoat. Honestly, this makes little sense to me. I don’t see how that God can or needs to require this type of sacrifice. I do however see I am not being lied to. He is not selling me his brand or trying to prove his point and he never asked me to sign off on his plan. He is being utterly clear. I think that is where the confusion exists. We are expecting a lie and instead are told what we need to do. I for one can accept not understanding far easier than I can accept being lied to. I can accept a hard truth much easier than a gentle lie.

Stop being lied to, demand truth. Who knows, maybe the world will change one last time.

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The Dream Of Happiness May Stop You From Sleeping

My first real job after college was on at a bank. I remember speaking to a man who had been denied credit that he felt he desperately needed. The reason he assumed he was denied was that his wife was Vietnamese. As I began to ensure the man that his wife’s country of origin had no bearing on the banks decision he interrupted me and wanted me to know we could reverse the decision because she was not really Vietnamese. She was actually from the Philippines. I wasn’t sure whether to be frustrated with the man’s acceptance of racism in the world or feel sorry because of the tragic damage he must have received to accept that this type of thing could occur. Either way, this man’s dream of happiness was greatly affected by his circumstances.

Urie Bronfenbrenner was a developmental psychologist who postulated the Bioecological Model. It describes how child development does not happen in a vacuum and is affected by the environmental influences around them. In those influences there are many layers of individual environments that each contains their own set of roles and rules that are followed. The concept is basically that our development process is multifaceted and can grow with whichever environmental structure has predominance at the time, not as a whole system but as a sum of the individual systems. I would say this process continues through our lives. The man I spoke with had obviously learned in some environment that racially motivated decision making was acceptable and could be done correctly if the right information were provided. That in no uncertain terms is horrific.

We use this process in all that we learn, even something as simple as being happy. Each person has an internal definition of what happiness is based on their environmental development and whether or not we can achieve those is based upon our individual circumstances. We respond by creating levels of happiness based on what we can achieve at any one given time. We then struggle to achieve that or more appropriately our approximation of that to find this allusive goal of happiness. This is an eternal quest and is greatly affected by the circumstances around us. People with greater resources are more likely to achieve goals centered around resources more quickly but they are not as a group happier for it. This echoes the problem at the core of the definition that can only be solved by understanding one thing.

Happiness as a whole defined by modern thought does not exist. It is an unattainable goal not because we are not able to reach our individual approximations, but because we are. The fact that we reach them and keep looking for more explains that the goal we reached was only a wrung on the ladder and not the destination. It was a step in the journey and not the end. It is similar to Zeno’s Dichotomy Paradox. If each goal attained creates another, the final destination is only arrived at when we stop. Our individual goals may be easier than some peoples and harder than others. Whether we reach them or do not reach them is based upon our actions but the attainment of those goals in and of themselves does not mean we are happy. A person who is unhappy is not suffering from poor goal setting and a lack of motivation. They feel the way they do because they realize the goals have not provided more than a momentary chemical rush of endorphins or electrical activity in our brain and fleeting euphoria, not lasting happiness.

Rather than recognizing that the problem is in the method, we continue to tweak the goals to try and achieve the end sooner. We substitute convenience for rationality and consider it progress. We lower our standards and call it higher thought. We will never achieve what we can not substantiate and we will never find peace without quelling the storm of our desire.

Happiness is a dream we cannot achieve.  Joy and fulfillment are real possibilities. If we begin to recognize our method is faulty and remove the constraint of achievement from our thought processes, we can begin to understand that the circumstances affect our responses but not our outlook. This is not a semantic argument. Joy and fulfillment are not synonymous with happiness. They actually counter it. Regardless of circumstance, joy can be understood. It is not centered on what we achieve but what we hold true inside. It is based on value and not perception. It is built by character, not reward.

As a Christian, these attributes are impossible without God. Character is not built without a model to copy. Joy is the fundamental response to God for his promised redemption. Truly achieving these without God is impossible as well, but trying to substitute happiness for them is simply settling for second best and then not even being able to get that.

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Does God Really Care What We Believe?

A man stood on a street corner and waived a bible in the air as if a mug at Octoberfest proclaiming the “eternal truths” of that bible as he saw them. He was wearing the same clothes he had slept in and worn the last several days. He had a story that was full of sorrow about drugs and loss, pain and regret, and sin and consequence. He had given up a home, a wife, a family, and his health for moments of pleasure centered on small crystals and a small tube. He had changed all that but unfortunately it was a little too late for many of those broken things to be fixed.  His name was Roger. I felt for him and offered him some food and water; he gratefully accepted and rewarded my kindness with a healthy dose of his beliefs.  He said the world had taken so much away from him but couldn’t take away his beliefs.

Humans have an innate ability to hold onto their beliefs regardless of circumstances. They may be strong, they may be weak, they may be caustic or fluid, they may be centered on a god or an anti-god or a god in absentia or even no god at all, but they are held on to like they are the last breath in our lungs. Even when they are crushed, they are soon replaced with more beliefs. They serve as almost a personal accomplishment or validation of a job well done. Once we have secured them, they comfort us by their existence, whether right or wrong. We act as if the belief itself makes us knowledgeable whether or not we have ever studied the subject we believe something about. We present and defend our beliefs attempting to provide them as fact we have proven and at the same time reduce opposing beliefs to rubble offering the superiority of our own.  It becomes almost a game. Walt Disney was a master at this. He caused a world of children to “believe” so Tinkerbelle would come back to life when the film already contained the conclusion whether children believed or not.

I used to take my mother to the doctor who was treating her for Parkinson’s and it was almost funny how he would relate to me. I have a 10,000 foot understanding of the neurochemistry involved in that disease so when he would describe how the neurotransmitters Norepinephrine and Dopamine are inhibited when neurons die or are impaired, I would understand. But it was almost like he was asking my opinion on his diagnosis and treatment. I am positive that was just his way of making patients and family members comfortable but it illustrates the point well. Just because I have a small amount of knowledge about that disease my beliefs about treatment and diagnosis are worthless.

Our understanding of belief redefines the word to agreement. We hear something, see something, or experience something that we cannot explain or rationalize in our current belief system and we either agree with it and import it into our system or we dismiss as not being valid enough to be agreed upon. Somehow we gain internal approval by filtering items through our belief system and filing them where appropriate. We do this with God most of all.

But does God really care what we believe?

God is not something we should believe in, he is something we should follow whether or not our experiences, systems, or beliefs tell us we are right. God is really not concerned whether or not we agree with his practice. An assessment of his instruction whether concluding for or against is similar to me telling my mother’s doctor I concurred with his diagnosis and treatment protocols. I could have gone to school, learned everything about medicine I needed, evaluated here test results myself and then offered my sign off but if I had done that, she would have passed away sooner and long before I completed medical school. With God, all lifetimes combined would not be enough time to draw in the education needed to offer a valid opinion.

God does not care if we believe in him; he cares if we follow him. I think I get that. If I am starving and in need of food, a person believing that God will take care of me is far less valuable at the moment than a person doing what God requires and offering food. Tangible action outweighs philosophical belief any and every day. Character is not affected by belief, it is defined by action. I for one prefer a strong character over a strong opinion.

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Are Christians Really Just Deluding Themselves?

If I were to say that Atheists are stupid, I would be labeled intolerant, disgruntled, biased, arrogant, and many other things that frankly I do my best to avoid. However some militant atheists such as Richard Dawkins feel that I as a theist am stupid, dimwitted, foolish, and many other things that frankly I do my best to avoid. But do they have a point? I mean realistically I am asking Atheists to have an open mind so I should as well. I believe in something that has no empirical evidence, requires me to act in ways that are completely contrary to my normal thought process, asks me to sacrifice myself for the sake of others, and ensures that I will be persecuted to some extent while alive. I have to admit the evidence weighs against me.

Historically my kind have offered responses to this that I would love to grab hold of and swing for the fence against these heinous accusations but I find they leave me empty at times. If Christians are going to respond to views like Dawkins, we need to be able to provide a defense for the hope that is within us. This is not just a theoretical polemic based upon the advent of the Spirit in time of need; it takes thought and preparation ahead of time which Dawkins feels we do not use.

Dawkins argues in his book The God Delusion that “God’s existence or non-existence is a scientific fact about the universe discoverable in principle if not in practice”. He feels that even if we cannot prove for or against the existence of God, we should be able to do much better than a 50% chance of being correct. I disagree with these hypotheses. If human science is able to open the door and find the man behind the curtain, then there must be a curtain, a door, and a place for the man to stand. In other words, if we are using tools common to the human realm, how can they determine something outside the human realm? If the best we can offer is not 100% accurate, than replacing faith with reason is faulty.

Dawkins argues that the existence of an advanced being that is more complex than human beings would require either an even more advanced being to create him or that a more advanced process would need to create that being. This starts with an assumption that all things need to be created or evolved. This is a carefully constructed false alternative fallacy. For a mind to be truly open about God, we need to be willing to accept options that are outside of our parameter set.

He argues that the Bible is “just plain weird”. It is “a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents”. I would have to agree. It was clearly not written by a single author or even complied by one. It has structural elements that span two millennia and was complied over the better part of one. But what does that have to do with God or Christianity. If my intention was to do a Book Review on the text I understand his concerns, but whether the ancient writings are collected in a book, online, PDF’s on my laptop, or scrolls in jar somewhere, that really doesn’t address their information.  He says that the God of the Old Testament is “arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak”. That sounds an awful lot like a schoolyard bully trying to control a conversation through an ad hominem abusive argument, not a scholar looking to gain wisdom. I guess my challenge is I don’t see much explaining why my beliefs are stupid, dimwitted, and foolish. I do see an awful lot showing Dawkins doesn’t like them. I can live with that.

There are arguments that have validity that question my views. I am nowhere near arrogant enough to dispute that. But questions do not make me stupid, they actually should help to either reinforce my beliefs or help realign them.  I believe in the God who communicated his message for man through scripture. Unless I am willing to say that I have a lock on all scriptural understanding, which I am quite unwilling to do, I have to accept that questions can only help me.

One question centers on Theodicy. It centers on the problem of evil and destruction in our world and the question of how an omnipotent and omniscient God could allow this. It argues against the assertion that God is all powerful, all knowing, or benevolent if he allows these things. This question calls out the same issue with Dawkins original hypothesis above. For us to claim God is not these things that befit the character of God, we are saying we fully understand how God is involved with the world, how he interacts, and we are judging that as not correct thereby claiming dominion over God and reducing his godhood. The question appeals to an outside governing agency to determine that God’s actions are either right or wrong. The problem is that if they are truly able to determine that, he is not God.

Another question comes from the idea that Jesus is the only way to get to God. The idea is that it is narrow minded to require all people to accept this single view point when there are a plethora of religions to choose from. A young pastor I once new felt that this argument had weight. He began to accept the idea that as no concrete scientific evidence exists for the assertions of the Biblical texts, than no religion should be excluded and all ideas should be embraced. He felt this larger more inclusive view better represented a god he would want to believe in and gave up his pastoral role and began to build out his own religion centered on this new god. Redacting the text by virtue of what is popular is nothing more than creating fiction. Calling it loving and inclusive makes it sound nice but does not reduce the fact that it is still creating fiction. The biblical text requires faith in God to be in right relationship with God. Emasculating that God on the account of our inability to reconcile his justice with our desires is rebellion and not faith. We can call it harsh, we can question the purpose, and we can even say we don’t like it. The moment we choose executive privilege to rewrite it is the moment we stop believing in it and elevate ourselves to godlike status.

Many other questions exist but none prove the idea that Christian belief in God is sub intelligent. The answers may be difficult and may not even best represent the God they are meant to represent. But believer are not less intellectual because they exist. If we are unable to openly discuss the idea that God exists outside of our ability to control, we only discuss what we control and that will never be God. It is not wrong to question God, in a lot of ways it makes sense. If we do however, we need to be ready for the answers and not expect they will fit in the boxes we want them to. Abusive rhetoric will not change that. Asking God why makes sense, listening to his answers makes even more sense.

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The Absence Of Evil Can Never Be Good

There is an idea in modern pop culture that tolerance is a virtue and that anything that is not supportive of others actions is bigoted and judgmental. This sounds nice and leads rather seamlessly to Universalism. This concept involves a universal reconciliation between all of humanity and God and so the beliefs of all religions even anti religion are acceptable and included. This more inclusive approach is favored by many. It is certainly easier to say “go in peace, be warmed and filled” than to get involved difficult questions. But does that do anything to address the problems in our world today?

There are far too many pseudo philosopher/theologians using religion to try and get rich with half baked pithy arguments. I know that sounds harsh but the world does not need more Joel Osteens, we need to stop caring more about how we can best navigate the quagmire of mendacity and grime in our world to get rich and self satisfied and start finding ways to clean it up. In our desire to be politically correct, we venture down the path of blending all actions into the realm of acceptable in the sight of God. They become baptized in a sense and no longer something that we need to change, or at least change with any urgency. We downgrade evil from horrible to just not preferable. If we just say we are working on it that is enough. That is the problem, if the sum total of our philosophical journey is to claim that evil is not a real problem, we have not changed anything. We still are forced to swim in the sewer we have created. The toughest part is no matter how loud we scream, yell, call it something else, and try to spin doctor it into oblivion, the truth is simple. If we take God out of the picture or reformatted him into our own versions, the world is never a better place.

Good and evil are polar opposites in the spectrum. They are not contingent factors and therefore do not depend upon each other. If one is removed you are not left with the other. In other words the absence of evil does not create good. Good is only created by direct action, specifically direct good action. This may sound circular but it is foundational. Mankind’s actions are neither inherently good nor evil, they are neutral. Christian theology states that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. This sin is inherited through our genetic makeup basically and traces back to Adam. I understand the theology and where it comes from but it is an attempt to explain a concept as opposed to map the genome. In other words the figurative language is not a viable statement to explain how a newborn is evil or good. The Bible explains that only God is good and thereby good is preexisting to man. The only way to do good is to follow the guidelines that God has set forth such as seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before him. By following his teachings we are able to do good. By rebelling against his teachings we become evil.

If we try to take God out of the picture, we no longer have a framework to explain what good is. If we remove the concept of evil, the only thing we have done is put blinders on, turned the music up and yelled out “La, la, la, la, la, la” hoping to drown out the noise of our conscience. Advising others to tolerate is nothing more than seeking approval by consensus. It really doesn’t matter how many people want to do it, it will never be good and the rebellion will always be evil. If we want to make changes to the world, we need to start with ourselves and stop glossing over bumpy parts. We need to seek forgiveness where needed and change. Arguing we are not wrong will never make a bad situation better.

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The One Who Proves God Becomes God

How do you prove the un-provable? How can you describe the indescribable? There is a large question in modern philosophy regarding the existence of God. Theists and Atheists argue the point using carefully constructed arguments. Theists use Ontological and Cosmological arguments. The Ontological argument starts with the assumption that there is a supreme existence even if that is measured only by determining that whatever man can think of, something else must be better. Cosmological arguments start with the assumption that something had to cause the existence of everything. Even if it was an explosion of atoms at the start of time, something caused that to occur and that thing must be God.  Atheists use Logical and Evidential arguments. A Logical argument would be similar to “God is perfect, perfect things are usually made up by people seeking validation for their imperfections, therefore God is made up”. An Evidential argument would be similar to saying that “God is perfect and good, and a perfect and good being would not allow evil to exist, therefore God does not exist”. These approaches whether internally consistent, fallacious, or truly logical are not the problem. The problem is in the argument itself.

Both of these approaches start with assumptions that require external validation to reach their given conclusions. Whether the arguments for or against God are logical, evidential, ontological, or cosmological, they all start with the assumption that we have the ability to define the parameters of the indefinable. If I discover something scientifically, I will weigh it, measure it, examine it, describe it, and provide my evidence for my conclusions using pre existing tools. Assuming my evidence holds true, my evidence becomes fact. I become the master of that evidence. That fact is disputable only by someone who can disprove my evidence or use of the pre existing tools in which case they become the master of that evidence. All of this would be subject to the scientific community for validation. That cannot work with God. By definition of the job, God is the supreme source and not verifiable by outside sources. Human logic can never encapsulate something that is outside the realm of humanity.

We approach the concept of God with a mindset that says we can understand him, we can figure him out. This is not just an atheist view. Christians approach God the same way. We assume the ability to understand God. So even in the most heinous circumstances, we force information into boxes to let ourselves sleep at night. We make claims on God by claiming we understand. Here is a perfect example. The story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac is utterly disturbing. It has historically been seen as a way of testing Abraham’s faith. We put an asterisk on the story by stating that God never intended to go through with it. I want that to be true as much as the next person but that is a conclusion inside a box initiated by the author of the book of Hebrews in the New Testament. The story does not give God’s motivation. It only provides circumstance. If anything, we should look at the story and say “Wow, I don’t get that. I will need to relay on my faith and know that God is just, but wow, I still don’t get that”. Instead, we package it, seal it, and pass it off as theology rather than accept the tension. That is the same thing Atheists do.

A relationship with God is based on faith. This faith says that no matter what we may see, feel, understand, perceive, or think, God is still God and worthy of our trust and eternal service. If we place conditions on the fealty, we switch roles and try to usurp the throne. If we try to do that philosophically through argument, the only thing we prove is that we become our own god, whether we conclude he exists or not.

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