Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A Missionary To A Pagan Culture

For the past six years, I've been living as a Christian missionary in a pagan culture. I have been trying to, like Paul, "be all things to all people," in order to gain their confidence, but some things are impossible to imitate. I cannot match the indigenous people's lack of dress or profane speech, and so my behavior is sufficiently different to theirs that they distrust me. What is different is often feared, and this group of people has been doing things one way for a very long time, and are comfortable with it.

One example of this is their longstanding tradition of having a festival of lights during the darkest part of the year, something they hold in common with many other cultures around the globe. The people I'm ministering to are very prone to loneliness, depression and suicide because of weak family relationships. Monogamy is unheard of, and due to the excessive variety of sexual partners, almost none of the mothers know who the fathers of their children are. Without the affection provided by two parents in a stable relationship, the children grow up to seek comfort elsewhere. At certain times of year, the inability to find or form constructive relationships with other people becomes a crushing burden that leads to reckless self-endangerment.

The native people, in an attempt to encourage their society's most depressed not to commit suicide, have developed this yearly festival into a season where everyone acts unnaturally cheerful toward friends and strangers, to cheer them up. This may have backfired, because participants still only spend extra time with people they already like, whereas those who are not interacted with by the celebrants are apt to feel even more left out than usual, and experience this as social ostracism. The suicide and depression rate therefore remains high. There is a real need for these people to hear a message of hope.

It is interesting to note that this region's light festival didn't begin as a social intervention to address the ills brought on by social isolation of its inhabitants. In fact, the holiday began much longer ago.

The holiday is so old that most people greeting others with it no longer speak the language it was first introduced in, which makes for a strange irony. The indigenous peoples greet each other a happy "shav kippur," which roughly translates as 'happy insufficient sacrifice day.' It's very curious that people should have at any point been happy about a sacrifice that wasn't good enough, but after studying their religion, I've discovered that there is a legend associated.

Long ago, a half-human god had come to these people and promised to help them get to heaven. The people were offended at the idea that they needed help. But when the half-human, half-god being tried to offer a sacrifice for the people, it was not good enough to open heaven for the people. This meant that they had to work for it themselves, and they found meaning and purpose and satisfaction in trying hard to do good to put in the rest that was needed to get to heaven. After all, if the sacrifice had opened heaven to everyone, then everyone would be equal, and that was an obscene concept to this society which was dependent on a caste system where everyone knew who was superior and inferior to them.

Because of the insufficient sacrifice, man's pride was restored, and to pagans who view themselves as the authors of their own fate, this was very very good news. For this reason, they inaugurated the feast-day of the insufficient sacrifice, and placed it at the time of year when men were most likely to doubt their own greatness.

The celebration, naturally, is full of debauchery.

For much of recorded history, the way Insufficient-Sacrifice-Day has been celebrated includes such things as:
  • shuttering local businesses from being able to buy and sell
  • heavy drinking
  • mob violence
  • pagan religious rites including human sacrifice
Over time, due in part to the gradual improvement in this society's morality due to the influence of Christianity, the open debauchery has graduated from the mainstream to the fringes. The majority of the culture doesn't celebrate the old ways, with mobs running through town making sure businesses stay closed. In fact, because there is so much money to be made in supporting the festivities with religious iconography and clothing, businesses largely stay open during the holiday. The human sacrifice still occurs, sadly, in greater numbers than ever before, but curiously, there has been an increase in religious activity of non-state religion, without the barbaric practices. It seems obvious to me that these observances are attempts to draw support away from the more traditional worship and gain converts from those who have gone along with the insufficient-sacrifice celebration without understanding what it's about.

Nowadays, the way that the feast-day of the insufficient sacrifice is celebrated is as follows:
  • Openly deceiving children about the existence of a deity not a single adult believes in.
  • The promise of gifts as a reward for good behavior, to encourage moralism.
  • The expectation of gifts, as if they are deserved, to encourage entitlement.
  • Drunken revelry, among the youth, especially.
  • The singing of religious hymns, relentlessly, everywhere in public.
  • Decorating one's home with images of barbaric human sacrifice
  • Many arbitrary traditions that have cropped up over time but (of) which nobody knows why they are celebrated.
  • Excessive eating.
  • Openly insulting those who don't wish to participate or be made a party to it.
  • Threats of ostracism of family members and friends who don't participate to others' liking.
And much more. 

By now, you might have figured out that I'm speaking metaphorically about 'Christmas.' But perhaps you're confused about some of the references or symbolism. To help with that, it's important to realize the perspective I'm coming at this from:

- The pagan culture is the Anglosphere, the West, or for simplicity, America.
- The traditional religion here is taken to be roman catholicism.
- Christianity and catholicism are not the same.
- The insufficient sacrifice is a reference to the fact that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is seen in roman catholicism as not being sufficient, once for all, to wash away all sin. Instead, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that every time the Mass is performed, Jesus is re-sacrificed, and even goes so far as to say that the Mass itself is 'propitiatory,' i.e. that it saves you from hell by appeasing God's wrath. Source: CCC 1365-1367 specifically. In the view of the RCC, Jesus didn't save anyone -- Jesus just got you most of the way there, and your own good works are necessary both to secure and maintain your salvation. This robs God of the glory that He deserves as our Savior, by saying that man can save (or not) himself by his own deeds. It also tacitly states that Jesus is not God -- if He were, His sacrifice would be infinite in worth--there would be nothing anyone could add to it to perfect it.
- "Christ-Mass" was celebrated largely as a religious holiday a few hundred years ago, and revelers (yes, they did get drunk) demanded that businesses be closed, upon threat of looting.
- The holiday has since entered the mainstream, where non-catholic churches participate, either out of ignorance of the history of the holiday or meaning of the mass, or because they hope that some good may still come from it if they can "control the narrative" and persuade people "what christmas is all about."
- And the way that the holiday has been celebrated has changed due to Christianity. Whereas roman catholics, without the Holy Spirit, were given over to orgiastic immorality in celebration of the holiday, back in England, America, on the other hand, was majority Protestant for the first 150 years or more, and, consequently, the presence of true Christians at all levels of society moderated the way that people were encouraged to celebrate. 
- I implied that Christianity is a minority religion, not endorsed by the state, whereas roman catholicism is.....because that's the truth.

And thus, we have the present strange state of affairs.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

An Old Poem I Wrote

In the ABAB rhyme scheme, this is one of the more cohesive personal works of poetry I've produced, which makes me quite pleased. First written 4 1/2 years ago, it accurately represents the general point of view that I've had for more than ten years, since beginning to pray under starlight and contemplate my life in that setting.

Please be gracious in understanding that it's difficult to convey exactly what you mean while adhering to a specific meter (A: iambic pentameter, B: iambic tetrameter). 'Anxious' and 'kiss her' come to mind. Nevertheless, enjoy the poem!

Ode to An Outdoorsy Wife

Come, let me read you a tale from the heart
And soon you will quite understand
How a person like me could consider it art
How the mind works inside of a man

Dusk, when the sun sinks below all the trees
Is my favorite time of the day
Why should it be that the sweet evening breeze
And the night sky incline me to say,

"God, I am thankful to be here this night
And I love what I see with my eyes. 
Please give me grace that I walk in the Light
And to not fail to strive for your prize." ?

Nature, I reckon, inclines me to worship
The One who created it all
One day, yet future, a songbird in courtship
My bride it shall also enthrall

For if we would ever be joined in one flesh
We can't be too different, you know
As husband and wife, our interests should mesh
And our differences help us to grow

No doubt, she'll be unlike myself in most ways
But I figure we both can agree
That a walk in the evening outside on most days
Will us both inspire genuinely

There's something quite soothing 'bout being outside
And it's something that I want to share
With a wonderful woman--my sister, my bride
I am anxious until I get there

For now, it's just me and my awesome Creator
Conversing on star-studded nights
The hills and the trees are a natural theater
The world is afire with lights

It is easy to see when the sun is up high
And the colors are vibrant and stark
But the light that I seek is a different design
It is one that will shine in the dark.

It is true that I'm never truly alone
My Savior is with me always
But until that day when He bids me come home
There's something inside me that says,

"Lord, let me grow and become a good man,
So that one day a woman will find
That our mutual love could be part of Your plan,
That I will be hers and she mine

Let her be someone who like me loves mountains
And let her also love You
Give me the strength to love like a fountain
Always outpouring anew."

I hope against hope that I'll find her one day
And that when I do, I don't miss her
So until I am ready, I still watch and pray
Until finally, I get to kiss her.

Artful, perhaps, is the mind of this writer
Full of God, nature, women and more
Against loneliness, romance is a fighter

But it's God who foreknows what's in store.


Thursday, November 2, 2017

Repost: Don't Die Twice for A Straw Man

From about 4-5 years ago, this reflects my thinking on common atheist objections to Christian morality.

"Don't Die Twice for A Straw Man"

Who would die for one of those, anyway?

I was having an online discussion with an atheist I've had occasional back-and-forths with for a few years, and he trotted out this line:
I don't want my philosophy to comfort me, I want it to tell me the truth at all instances.

When I see a dying, starving person, I don't want to see a person going to heaven. To me, that is one of the most sinister lies and I wouldn't want my children to believe this about a person in strife. Strife is a REAL thing, and for me, it is something that does not end in heaven or hell. Truly, I am only comforted by atheism to know that the REALITY of life, including a dying and sick world, is a real one. I can't do anything about this dying and sick world except be my best, but at least I know it isn't a fight of devils and angels--rather in humanity's control.

I believe life comes once, I don't want to be a good person because I will be tortured and my skin burned off if I don't. That's not morality for me.
You know, I suspect he thinks this would upset me most because it supposedly reveals the hypocrisy of people of faith. Namely, that of supposedly being concerned with people's "greater good," to the point of ignoring their earthly needs. He thinks faith breeds fatalism, with regard to making the world a better place. What really upsets me is that he still has this wrong view of faith, despite months and years of telling him the truth.

Here was my full response:
I can tell you what, [opponent], when I see people dying it doesn't comfort me to see people going to hell. That's what motivates me to reach out to them with the Gospel lest they perish in vain.

[Opponent], being a good person won't get you into heaven. You're already going to hell because you're INCAPABLE of being a good person. This is what you don't get. We Christians don't behave morally because God threatens us. We do good in grateful response to the fact that He saved us from hell even though we did not deserve to go to heaven. If you think we do good to bribe God you are mistaken. That's not Christianity, that's works-righteous false religion. Don't die twice for a straw man.
Every day, 200,000 people die. Realizing that so many people are slipping into eternity without you having even the slightest opportunity to do anything about it is distressing. It's not comforting at all. What is comforting in moments of realizing that, is that God is sovereign. Simply, He's in control. You don't have the responsibility over all those people. God will ensure that there are Christians strategically placed just where He wants them, to be salt and light for a dying world. And guess what? You are the one that He's handpicked to do just that, where you are.

So the understanding that the world is perishing and I have a part to play in saving it motivates me to be more aggressive in spreading the Gospel. I'd gladly take the risk of being seen as "one of those crazy Christian nutjobs," than to make people feel comfortable even as their eternity is in peril. My conscience won't let me accept quietness. I must speak.

What saddens me so much is when guys like him say that they don't think it's legitimate to be good because otherwise you'll be tortured. I TOTALLY AGREE! That IS illegitimate! And it isn't the Christian way! We don't do good because God is threatening us. We do it to repay Him with gladness for everything He has given us. We honor Him out of love, not out of mortal terror. I wish my opponent would understand this...

I think he chooses to believe that because it makes it easier to reject the Christian faith. But if you're offended by something that isn't actually Christianity, and you turn around and reject Christianity, you've made a terrible mistake.

The Straw Man Fallacy is the logical misstep of misrepresenting what you're arguing against. Then you defeat this 'straw man' and claim to have defeated what you were arguing against. But if you don't ever attack the actual position, you can't ever defeat it, and so you're never justified in rejecting it. That's the mistake my opponent made above. He's right to reject what he describes, because a belief system that makes God out to be an extortioner is clearly false. Sadly, he makes the error of asserting that this is the Christian faith, and this is not so.

I said 'don't die twice for a straw man,' because hell is referred to as the "second death." (Revelation 20:14)

It's not worth it to go to hell because you insisted on believing a lie. The character Yossarian in the novel Catch-22 was having a debate with a lady friend of his, and though they were both atheists, the woman was upset at how Yossarian characterized God--angry, mean, stupid, evil, etc. Yossarian reaches a compromise by saying, "the God you don't believe in is not the same God that I don't believe in." (That's paraphrased).

My atheist friend, the god you don't believe in is not the God I believe in. Repent and live.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Submission to Authority and the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850

July 4th Post

Suppose you were compelled by law to take some action you deemed immoral, or face incarceration and fines? While we seem to be trending that way with Orwellian crimespeak in some quarters, this has happened before.

If you thought you would have to decide whether you thought owning slaves was right or wrong, if you lived in the 1850s, and opt out of participating in it yourself, you thought wrong. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 not only required law enforcement in Northern states to apprehend escaped slaves (and paid them a hefty bonus for it), but:
"In addition, any person aiding a runaway slave by providing food or shelter was subject to six months' imprisonment and a $1,000 fine" (Article on Wikipedia)
If you let a runaway stay on your property, or if you gave them a cup of water, without reporting them to the authorities, you could be fined the equivalent of $30,000 in today's dollars AND thrown in jail. 

So here's the question:

Is it right or wrong to give food and shelter to a runaway slave in this situation?
Is it right or wrong to decline to report a runaway slave if you know of one?

For some, one might be easier than the other, and for others, the reverse. I could see how one person might feel ethically compelled to provide food, feeling that it is a violation of James 2:15-16 to refuse their neighbor in need. I can also see how someone else might feel justified not telling the authorities so long as they provided no aid, because at least then they wouldn't be in violation of the law, so they might think. I could see how some might provide aid, and tell the authorities afterward. I could see how some would delay to tell the authorities. And I could see how some might defy the law on both points, utterly.

But I would like to point out that regardless of which way you're convicted, the difference between a Christian and a Republican (you know, the anti-slavery party) lies in how you would respond when you get caught.

Do you: flee? Go down guns blazing? Have your friends bust you out of prison? Lie when questioned? No.
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Romans 13:1-7

So what does the Christian do? He exercises his discernment in helping those he can practically help who are indeed in need. He exercises his conscience in deciding to report himself to the authorities. And if he is caught, he submits to the arrest without unlawfully resisting the government's right to detain. In all of this, he obeys God's law, choosing to ignore human government when it compels him to do evil, but submitting to it when it acts in accordance with God's law. 

And that means that even though the crime is no crime, for which he is arrested, the government is still legitimately authorized TO arrest, and the Christian rejoices that he is counted worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus.  Acts 5:41

The Christian obeys the government's authority. This includes the authority to imprison, fine, and execute you, even under false pretenses. But he does not recognize the government's authority to compel him to commit evil. At this point, the Christian takes a stand and lets everyone know that his fidelity to God is what compels him, so that even in his persecution, he might witness to unbelievers whose hard hearts God has determined to soften by means of the unjust spectacle.

In other words, you could say that, while you're not obligated to obey the government if it tries to make you do evil, you're obligated to obey the government even if the government's actions are evil. The fact that it's perpetrating injustice doesn't render our submission to its authority voluntary. If this were true, then we would never be in submission to government, because government is composed of men and men are sinful, so government will always be acting sinfully to some degree. We simply can't justify rebellion based on how bad our government is. We justify disobedience to the government when our obedience to the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2) requires us to refuse a command to the contrary. This is the Christian ethic of civic responsibility.

I'm posting this on July 4th because there is a tendency toward uncritical patriotism of country, among Christians, pseudochristians and conservatives in America. Too often, in practice, the country itself is held up as the highest ideal and that which most richly deserves our honor and commitment. But this ignores the fact that in both the present, future, and past of this country have included laws which punish good and require evil, which Christians cannot gloss over. The highest ideal is the Law of God. The fact that no one, and no country, can aspire to that naturally brings up the doctrine of Soli Deo Gloria. You can't do it, and that's precisely why you need God. His glory is the highest good, and thwarting those who seek any other glory is His specialty. Submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:6

May this country indeed return, or this somewhat abstract exercise is due to become painfully practical as it ceases to be a thought-experiment and becomes our daily reality.

The practical reason why we must respond Biblically, not politically, to unjust government -- a far distant second to the primary reason that we should obey God because we love Him and desire to obey because it is right to obey, and His Spirit in us compels us to do right -- is that while God doesn't guarantee national blessing, He only promises to bless nations that follow His precepts, so when things don't work out when your primary objective is political victory, don't be surprised.

Consider this, instead.

“Although slavery is not uniformly condemned in either the Old or New Testaments, the sincere application of New Testament truths has repeatedly led to the elimination of its abusive tendencies. Where Christ’s love is lived in the power of His Spirit, unjust barriers and relationships are inevitably broken down. As the Roman empire disintegrated and eventually collapsed, the brutal, abused system of slavery collapsed with it—due in great measure to the influence of Christianity. ... New Testament teaching does not focus on reforming and re structuring human systems, which are never the root cause of human problems. The issue is always the heart of man—which when wicked will corrupt the best of systems and when righteous will improve the worst. If men’s sinful hearts are not changed, they will find ways to oppress others regardless of whether or not there is actual slavery.”~ John MacArthur


I credit Todd Friel, John MacArthur, and the endless parade of Christian martyrs for persuading me of the correctness of this Biblical approach to government law and order.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Meaning of the Terms "Conservative" and "Liberal"

There's a reason why terms like 'conservative' and 'liberal' sometimes serve to confuse political discussions. It's because those words are adjectives -- another word for adjective is a "noun modifier." In other words, nothing is conservative or liberal in and of itself, but with respect to something that can be conserved or loosened. Let's look at the terms:

Conserve: to conserve, restrain, hold back, maintain, preserve, hold fast to, etc.

Liberally: profusely; Liberate: to loosen, set free, relinquish control over, etc.

From what I remember, the Founders made a distinction between the concepts of "freedom" and "liberty." The short summary is this: total individual freedom, a 'state of nature,' is not true freedom at all because it's unstable. The strong eventually conquer the weak and impose their own rules. By contrast, liberty is freedom with some minimal, reasonable restrictions on the individual, that makes society safe for individuals to exercise their freedom, enabling them to be more free than they would be otherwise, without those restrictions.

Back on topic: Conservatives wish to conserve something, but Liberals wish to relax, or be free from those things. But what is that thing?

This is where I wish to make an important point. Conservatism and Liberalism mean different things in different countries, because their different histories, by definition, mean that that which would be conserved varies based on the established historical culture of those places.

That's why, in Iran, conservatism means Shia Islam. In Saudi Arabia, it's Wahhabi Islam. In Spain and Italy, it's Roman Catholicism. In the US, it's Protestant Christianity. In the UK, "conservatism" is just slightly more pro-capitalist liberalism. In Russia, it's Communism, and in China, it's a mixture of that and, religiously, ancestor-worship is the traditional spiritual belief. So on and so forth.

The US differs from the UK, despite their common language and some similar facets of culture. While they have a similar theological history, their political culture is very distinct. The UK was a Constitutional Monarchy since the good old days when King John signed the Magna Carta. It still is, but the monarchy is much weakened in its power. The US, on the other hand, has never had a king. It has always been a mixture of a Republic (leaders decide the laws on behalf of the people) and a Democracy (the leaders are chosen by the people). The democratic aspect of this is deeply embedded in American society because of generations of asserting the ideal of individualism. In America, the political unit is the individual. This is in turn supported by the theological teachings of Christianity, which says that all people are made in God's image and are responsible for themselves.

American Conservatism, then, is extremely unique because no other country has over a hundred years of history at its foundation that supports the political position that says that every individual has the right and responsibility to make their own decisions, provided they are not immoral, without any other person interfering with their ability and prerogative to do so.

That's why Conservatism in the US can be boiled down to a single phrase, as far as it concerns the relationship between the individual and his government: personal responsibility.

This is the functional secular definition that most people on the political right conceive the term to mean. It's how come Catholics, Mormons, Jews, and even Atheists can be politically conservative -- and not just in name, but genuinely have many opinions in common with genuine conservative Christians.

To be more specific, however, American Conservatism, understood historically, means the maintaining of Biblical Christian principles in all areas of public and private life.

That's my working definition. It, once again, can be agreed to to an extent by people with other philosophies. "Biblical Christian principles," without the faith, are often borrowed by those with less internally consistent views, because of their inherent usefulness. That doesn't make them true, but because they are true, they are inherently worthwhile to pursue, in ways that are sometimes obvious and sometimes revealed after a time, and so atheists can often see the value in limited government, and Catholics can express strong convictions about the value of human life and the blessing of doing marriage God's way. In this way they are conservative in ways that Christian conservatives can agree with politically, but the ultimate reasons are different. The Christian is concerned with glorifying God, and does not get lost in secondary causes. We stand for what is right not because it seems practical, but because even if it does not, we trust that God knows best and we want to glorify Him by our obedience.

This is all to distinguish between holding political positions that are consistent with Biblically conservative Christianity, and being reborn by the Holy Spirit so that, as a natural outgrowth of your continuing sanctification, you follow God's principles from the heart.

The liberal view, meanwhile, would be, rather than maintaining those principles, loosening and/or abandoning those principles.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Let's Play A Game: Popular Songs As Summarized by Puritans

This gets worse as you go down the list.

Point 1: While Puritan is often used contemporarily as a derogatory term, it is a historical term that refers to English Reformers specifically, and, since then, conservative protestants specifically. You could be considered a puritan for having a less liberal attitude about what is proper language, behavior, dress, etc than the wider culture. In some sense, all Christians should be puritan.

"In the world, not of the world" - (John 17:14-15) - comes to mind often when I observe contemporary culture through song or television. There is no sign of self-awareness, by content producers,  of the fact that what they project is not affirmed as good by everyone who sees it, and this is very ironic. I often reflect on the significance of language, attitudes or beliefs which are taken for granted, and feel increasingly more isolated from and marginalized by the culture I live in. I suspect many believers can say the same.

For those who do not, I'd like you to consider a few highly popular recent songs that many young people sing along to and enjoy, I suspect uncritically. I wondered how a Puritan might characterize the lyrics if he heard them, and if it would shock some modern listeners, if only because of their numbness to what they're actually singing along to.

In other words, this is how I would describe the songs.

Carly Rae Jepsen -- "Call Me Maybe"
Young girl improperly pursues a man after lusting over him, boasting over how many other suitors she has had.

Adele -- "Hello From the Other Side"
Older woman mourns the dissolution of a past relationship, desperately trying to reconnect with a man she was once intimate with, because she is lonely and afraid of "running out of time."

Ellie Goulding -- "Love Me Like You Do"
A girl so overcome with lust that she spends the whole song begging a man to take advantage of her sexually.

Taylor Swift -- "Wildest Dreams"
A cynical woman holds no hope for a stable relationship, merely wishing that a man she fornicated with will remember her from time to time.

Sia -- "Chandelier"
A girl who is the 'life of the party' admits that she's becoming an alcoholic as a result of how much she drinks to keep from feeling the pain of her raging depression and emptiness.

Tove Lo -- "Habits"
Woman describes how she became a chronic drug user, prostitute, and developed an eating disorder after a break-up with a man she was very emotionally involved with.

Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj -- "Side to Side"
A profanity-laden song performed on the Dangerous Woman tour which featured a concert that was targeted by a muslim terrorist. Graphically describes a variety of sex acts, encourages pursuing sexual relationships against the protests of one's friends, and is named after a post-coital gait characterizing some young women.

There's a theme here.

Nearly all new songs that chart describe, whether in positive, negative, or ironic ways, unhealthy romantic relationships...if you can even call them romantic.

I could unpack this in a lot of different ways, but let me make a few short points and be done:

1. The lifestyle promoted by these lyrics also describe terrible consequences for mental and physical health, one's sense of identity, the ability to be content, and the ability to form healthy relationships.

2. If you listen to this sort of music un-ironically, you're allowing yourself to be influenced by it. Does it paint a picture of something you wish to emulate? Please be selective about the messages that you listen to. Especially if you're Christian.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. Philippians 4:8

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Spurgeon on Prayer

     “There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech. We should be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering through meditation on His Word spiritual strength for labour in his service. We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them. . . . Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God's Word. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. From such folly deliver us, O Lord. . . .”

    "It is interesting to remark how large a portion of Sacred Writ is occupied with the subject of prayer, either in furnishing examples, enforcing precepts, or pronouncing promises. We scarcely open the Bible before we read, “Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord;” and just as we are about to close the volume, the “Amen” of an earnest supplication meets our ear. Instances are plentiful. Here we find a wrestling Jacob—there a Daniel who prayed three times a day—and a David who with all his heart called upon his God. On the mountain we see Elias; in the dungeon Paul and Silas. We have multitudes of commands, and myriads of promises. What does this teach us, but the sacred importance and necessity of prayer? We may be certain that whatever God has made prominent in his Word, he intended to be conspicuous in our lives. If he has said much about prayer, it is because he knows we have much need of it. So deep are our necessities, that until we are in heaven we must not cease to pray. Dost thou want nothing? Then, I fear thou dost not know thy poverty. Hast thou no mercy to ask of God? Then, may the Lord’s mercy show thee thy misery! A prayerless soul is a Christless soul. Prayer is the lisping of the believing infant, the shout of the fighting believer, the requiem of the dying saint falling asleep in Jesus. It is the breath, the watchword, the comfort, the strength, the honour of a Christian. If thou be a child of God, thou wilt seek thy Father’s face, and live in thy Father’s love."
    ~ C H Spurgeon

    I have a personal belief now, developed years ago and after many long nights of prayer, that there is no mystical way in which prayer benefits the Christian in spiritual growth. But I think I can finally understand how Spurgeon could make such a big deal out of it. Since God doesn't audibly talk back to us, the nature of a prayer conversation will begin with thankfulness and supplication, and progress to drawing on memorized Scripture passages (i.e. "meditating on the word") to "talk it out" with God, explaining your reasoning process and in that process coming to discoveries that refine your conduct of speech: you realize that how you were asking could have been wrong/fully motivated, so you alter your requests and acknowledge that He knows best and maybe you oughtn't get what you ask for. You "happenstance" come across new or more profound Theological truths than you had in mind before, simply by thinking about the truths you know. This lets you grow in spiritual wisdom. I think the strength of an active prayer life is an active thought life.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Spurgeon: "I thought I was doing it all myself"

Born, as all of us are by nature, an Arminian, I still believed the old things I had heard continually from the pulpit, and did not see the grace of God. When I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself, and though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me...I can recall the very day and hour when first I received those truths in my own soul—when they were, as John Bunyan says, burnt into my heart as with a hot iron...

One week-night, when I was sitting in the house of God, I was not thinking much about the preacher's sermon, for I did not believe it. The thought struck me, "How did you come to be a Christian?" I sought the Lord. "But how did you come to seek the Lord?" The truth flashed across my mind in a moment—I should not have sought Him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek Him. I prayed, thought I, but then I asked myself, How came I to pray? I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures. How came I to read the Scriptures? I did read them, but what led me to do so? Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that He was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, "I ascribe my change wholly to God" (AUTOBIOGRAPHY, pp. 164-5).


Monday, June 19, 2017

Spurgeon: "Calvinism is the Gospel"

I loved the short quote in this, the first time I heard it. It encouraged me, because I had been researching Calvinism and was unsure whether it had been believed through history, or was a recent invention. What had "big-name" pastors and preachers of the past said about it? Spurgeon was a name I'd heard mentioned positively in the theological circles I'd been crossing into. So this served to unify my understanding, and conclude that "these guys are on the same team. We are on the same team."

If anyone should ask me what I mean by a Calvinist, I should reply, "He is one who says, Salvation is of the Lord." I cannot find in Scripture any other doctrine than this. It is the essence of the Bible. "He only is my rock and my salvation." Tell me anything contrary to this truth, and it will be a heresy; tell me a heresy, and I shall find its essence here, that it has departed from this great, this fundamental, this rock-truth, "God is my rock and my salvation." What is the heresy of Rome, but the addition of something to the perfect merits of Jesus Christ—the bringing in of the works of the flesh, to assist in our justification? And what is the heresy of Arminianism but the addition of something to the work of the Redeemer? Every heresy, if brought to the touchstone, will discover itself here. I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor.

The website I chose to use for the source text is Please read the whole sermon, called "In Defense of Calvinism."


Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Relevance of Plato's Forms to Interpreting Human Emotion

My personality preference per the Myers-Briggs personality test (one of the only useful things ever produced by secular psychology) strongly favors 'intuitive thinking,' which is to say that I don't identify with my emotions. I wouldn't say that I'm "not emotional" or that I "don't feel emotion." On the contrary, in some ways I'm much more sensitive to / aware of my own emotional state because I relate to emotion as something that happens to me. It is not me; therefore, I have to first interpret what I am feeling, and then consciously choose how to act on it. It is very perplexing to me to see others behave according to a philosophy of "I feel like I should do x, therefore I will do x."

Most upsetting is when I have had opportunities to observe young men express a tendency to be turned on by the 'challenge' of seducing a woman who is already in a romantic relationship with someone else. Rather than respecting the people in the existing relationship, such adolescents are even more interested in "taken" women than those who are single. This evidently transcends gender, because it takes two to cheat.

But suppose you don't find pursuing things that are 'off limits' acceptable.

Whether you operate emotionally like the example above, or are more like me, let me offer, for your consideration, a different way of thinking about it. 

I found myself, once, contemplating the meaning of the good feeling I had when I had the opportunity to observe a Christian couple interacting with each other. The following is based on those thoughts:

Rather than focus on the obvious downside (“bummer, one less fish in the sea”), seeing a happy couple in a good relationship should give you encouragement because they, by their very existence, demonstrate that a committed relationship between young Christians can work. The obvious extrapolation of this observation is that "if it works for them, it can work for me." Instead of being disappointed when you see a beautiful woman who’s “taken,” the Spirit enables you to draw enjoyment from their enjoyment by being glad that God is strengthening their bond and using them as a lamp for His glory, and look forward to the day when you can experience the same joy, personally.

I want to make clear that what one might like about a young Christian couple ought to be the fact of their relationship itself and not an attraction to the woman (or man) in the relationship—getting these two confused can lead to catastrophe, and I think that inappropriate approaches to people in relationships, both by Christians and nonchristians, is one of the root causes for a lot of strange relationship problems that exist. I acknowledge that you, as a typical man, might initially recognize the woman as an attractive person. Sin is when that becomes lust—the desire to have HER for yourself. What your Spirit-led emotions [should, of you're growing in holiness] find to be attractive about seeing her, happy, in a loving bond, is not her but the fact that she is happy, the fact that someone like her can be happy, and the fact that there can be such a loving bond that can generate such happiness.
Let me briefly explain Plato’s forms. Plato used his brain of brains to wonder about things like definitions—what makes a thing the thing that it is? Is it arbitrary convention or is there an abstract concept that defines it? Let’s give an example: a chair. What makes a chair a chair? Is it that it has four legs, or three, or five? Is it its shape or its material that it’s made of, or its size? Why do we recognize every new chair that we see as a chair, and not as a completely new thing, since not all chairs are exactly alike? Plato would hold that there is a form called chair that defines “chair-ness,” and describes what it means to be a chair. Chairs are destructible and material but forms are eternally existent and immutable. Every chair possesses the form of “chair-ness,” and that’s what enables us to recognize it as a chair.  This is all a complicated way of getting to my point, which is this: I am attracted to the form of marriage. It is recognizable only in actual examples of marriage, but each actual marriage possesses some quality of “marriage-ness” that points to the form marriage, which is what I’m attracted to and desire.
When I see a happy marriage between two Christians, it is not THEIR marriage that I desire. But there is something in their marriage that points to, that “reminds” me of some quality of the ideal of marriage, and it is THAT that I want. So when I see something in this ideal of marriage displayed in an actual marriage, it gives me hope because it shows that it’s not just an unreachable abstract idea, but a concrete reality that isn’t impossible to achieve—they did, and that means that you can have it too. That’s why I can be turned off to a particular woman upon realizing that she’s in a relationship (this is true. I would almost consider it a spiritual gift, but I suspect it’s just biology or psychology), yet turned on to/by something more abstract about her that isn’t HER, but a quality that she possesses that I yearn for in my own life. I don’t want their relationship. I want a relationship like theirs. And what that really means, in Christian theology, is that I want an earthly relationship with a woman that as closely mirrors the heavenly relationship, that God has with His Church, as possible.

So, young person, when you 'feel something' upon seeing or speaking with other attractive people, do you automatically assume that that's "desire" (for them), and wish to 'follow your heart?' Or do you assume you are experiencing lust, and this produces internal turmoil or a difficulty interacting with other people in the Body of Christ?

Or have I persuaded you of the wisdom of questioning what it is you think you're feeling, and, regardless of conclusion, determining to guide your emotions to focus them, productively, on pure and noble goals, such as motivating you to pursue (or patiently wait for) a beautiful marriage of your own?


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Good and Righteous. Bible Study to Define Terms

If you've ever wondered why these two words would be, curiously, given distinct meanings in places like Romans 5 (below), you're not alone. I have wondered, too, and therefore, I think my study to figure it out may help you understand the purpose of the Author of Scripture in using this peculiar language.

Righteousness and Goodness: A Biblical Word Study

The way I think of these words now is probably very different from the way a typical person uses them, because I think of them in Biblical terms. Without getting too technical, let me spell out the distinction between them, and then give some verses to back up my point.

Righteousness is one of two things: godly behavior (what we would usually think of) OR the positional righteousness that saints have because of the Cross--namely, that God considers us to be perfect like Jesus even though we're not, because we've traded places with Him so that our sins could be dealt with separately from us.

Goodness in the Bible can be something we do as humans, indicated by Galatians 5, but it is appropriate to translate the word 'good' as perfection, which is consistent because goodness as a fruit of the Spirit is something that we don't manufacture on our own, but it comes from God.

Here's my super-simplified idea: No one is good, but some are righteous. Lemme show you my proof-text:
Romans 5:6-8
For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodlyFor scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 
This verse used to make no sense to me. What is the distinction between righteous and good? And why is righteous seemingly placed below good on an apparent grading-scale of holiness?
The verses arrange it like so: ungodly-->righteous-->good. If righteous and good aren't the same thing, then what do they mean? And here's the answer:

Good Means Perfect
Mark 10:17-18
17 Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”
18 So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. 19
Jesus isn't saying that He's undeserving of being called good. On the contrary, He's subtly implying that since the 'rich young man' of this passage recognized Him as good, that He IS God. This is yet another example of Jesus' sense of humor, as I see it. But notice what He says--no one is good except God. And God is perfect. So this passage identifies the Biblical word "good" as equivalent to our modern English definition of the word "perfect." Consider this, and we'll look at another example of the same.
Genesis 1:31
31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
Logically, since there was yet no sin in the creation, everything was still sinless, and thus perfect. So the use of 'very good' at the conclusion of the creation account is to be understood as 'totally perfect.' If I understand the scholarship, the word translated 'very' in the Hebrew signifies completeness, lacking nothing.

Of interest, since I now have the conclusion that good = perfect in Biblical terminology, I wondered if this would hold up concerning Galatians 5 where one of the fruits of the Spirit in believers listed is 'goodness.' I looked up the word in GotQuestions and cross-checked the word in the Mark 10:18 passage with the Greek interlineary provided by BibleHub and verified that the exact same Greek word was used. Agathosune is the Koine Greek for 'goodness' as read in the New King James Version (the one I prefer to use on BibleGateway because it's less cluttered with hyperlinks), in both locations, and is understood to mean selfless acts for the benefit of others.

What really nailed it down for me was the James 1:17 passage that GQ included which said that "every good and perfect thing comes from God above" (paraphrased the ending), which affirms that goodness doesn't come from us but God, since God, being the only perfect being, is the only One who can cause goodness to be done in the earth. 

Out of curiosity, I searched the BibleHub database for the Greek word translated as 'perfect' in that passage, and it is teleion, which appears to be the Greek counterpart in this passage to the Genesis 1 Hebrew word "very." Look at the 7 uses in the New Testament listed and see if you agree. I think a safe definition for teleion would be "completeness." Don't you?

Righteousness Means You're Not Righteous

I'm just being cheeky, here. But when you consider that righteousness is a word that comes with certain qualifications, you realize it's not a word that confers any opportunity for pride to a person. Not in itself, at least. The word "self-righteous" means that you think you are righteous in and of yourself, and this is wrong. The correct way is to be "God-righteous," to be considered righteous by God's standards. So how can we do this?
Isaiah 64:6
"all our righteousnesses [not even our sins!] are like filthy rags."
Titus 3:5
we were not saved because of any righteous acts we did.
Romans 3:21-26
21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
I highlighted the key part. Do you see that God, when He justifies the repentant sinner, GIVES His righteousness to them, through Christ? This means that God considers us righteous, but it's not our righteousness that we have, it's HIS righteousness. So that's why it's called 'positional righteousness.' We are righteous by virtue of our relationship to God, and not by any special ability to be good that we inherently have which other people do not. In fact, the whole point is that we don't have the ability to be righteous by ourselves, that's why God has to give us His righteousness. Otherwise we couldn't be saved. That's why the doctrine of substitution is so important.
2 Corinthians 5:21
-- "He made Him, who knew no sin, sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."

Transcript of the above video

The Greatest Gospel verse in the Bible, 2 Corinthians 5:21:

"He made Him, Who knew no sin, sin for us,
that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."

Lemme unpack those 15 Greek words.
He, God, made Jesus sin.
'Whattya mean He made Jesus sin?' Only in one sense:

He treated Him as if He had committed every sin ever committed by every person who would ever believe,
though in fact He committed none of them.
Hanging on the Cross He was holy, harmless, undefiled,
Hanging on the Cross He was a spotless lamb.
He was never for a split second a sinner.
He is Holy God on the Cross.

But God is treating Him -- I'll put it more practically -- as if He lived my life.
God punished Jesus for my sin, turns right around and treats me as if I lived His life.
That's the great Doctrine of Substitution, and on that doctrine turned the whole Reformation of the Church; that is the heart of the Gospel.

And what you get is complete forgiveness, covered by the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

When He looks at the Cross He sees you, when He looks at you He sees Christ.


None of us are good. The good we do is by the power of God.

None of us are truly righteous. Those of us whom God considers righteous have the righteousness of Jesus Christ credited to us, we have no inherent righteousness of our own.

Good to know, huh? :) I hope this was an interesting and informative read. And now you'll know what I mean in future posts if I refuse to use the words good or righteous to refer to someone...or on the other hand, what I would mean if I do use those words.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Repost: "Closer to Truth" (PBS). What Is It Like For God to be God?

From about 3-4 years ago.

The guy Robert Lawrence Kuhn who does the docu-show Closer to Truth on PBS-2 at 9:30 am weekdays was devoting this episode to asking the question, 'what does it feel like to be God?' I find the episodes where he asks philosophical questions of theologians to be by far the most interesting, because it actually gives the interviewees an opportunity to set the record straight. I like newscasts that choose to interview experts for their take on stories for the same reason -- they are free to give their unrestrained opinion and so you're much more likely to get the truth straight from them rather than the host of the show--if only for the reason that the host is trying not to be biased.

Here were the interesting points, (I took brief notes) and I'm sorry if I misspell any of these names:

Brian Leftow was first, and made two points:
1. God is not temporal--he doesn't experience time like us, and He doesn't exist within His own time-continuum outside of ours. But logically, God does have something that is like temporality, in the sense that certain aspects of His knowledge are prior to/precede others. Leftowe referenced mathematical theorems as the example, where the axioms are logically precedent to the conclusions derived from those axioms. In this sense, some of God's thoughts must be "after" others in a sequence, but this continuum is not time, but possibly 'time-like.'
2. God does experience negative things -- the idea that a perfect being cannot experience grief, for example, is not necessary to believe -- just as He experiences positive things, but these don't cancel out. The negative is mitigated by His knowledge of its purpose in context--the end for which those negative (emotions, let's call them) are felt, by Him.
John Polkinghorne pointed out that the accessibility of Christianity lies in that we can -- uniquely among all faiths -- know what God is like in the person of Jesus Christ. I was pleased at this. Unfortunately, Mr. Polkinghorne accepts evolutionary history, but the point he made about trade-offs can still be applied to many questions of good versus evil. He said that the requirement for natural selection (he used the term evolution) to occur, mutations in germ line cells, necessitates mutational mechanisms, which as a consequence can cause errors in somatic (body) cells, which lead to cancer. Prior to this (explaining natural evil) he had mentioned the tried-and-true answer for the reason we have free will -- that moral evil is a necessary outcome when beings are free to choose what they will do. Freedom is necessary for love, and freedom guarantees the possibility that love will be rejected, and a refusal to love God is by its very definition sin. So freedom results in sin. In explaining why there is good and evil, the answer is that God decided that a world where people can love and in which there is evil is better than a world which does everything God tells it to, yet in which there is no such thing as, no capacity for love.

Gregory Ganza made a very interesting proposition, and that was to address the question of whether God, knowing everything, would get bored. I think, personally, this is probably the heart of the question when people have trouble fathoming an infinite mind that knows everything there is to know. It's the same problem I have with it--not a problem of belief but one of understanding. I have a hard time imagining what enjoyment I could get if I was incapable of learning because I had learned everything there was to learn, and the only thing left was to repeat what I had already done. But Ganza (Ganzell?) changed the direction of the answer--instead of talking about God's knowledge, he addressed the emotional enjoyment of God, something (that is, emotion) that is easy for me to overlook, being someone who tends toward using thought as my prior way of approaching things, rather than how I feel about them. But Ganza used marriage as a model: that he continually learns more about his wife, as a temporal person, BUT then there's an aspect in which he gets enjoyment from just dwelling on what he already knows about her, in just cherishing their relationship as it is. And for God, that enjoyment is infinite. So would He get bored? Not if you can imagine a man in love getting bored thinking about the woman he loves. And since God refers to Himself as a husband and His faithful followers as His bride, I think I can now gain a fuller appreciation, being a man, of how it may be for God to experience existence. Only that my piece of understanding is infinitesimally smaller than the whole sum of God's reality.


Monday, June 12, 2017

What Made the Red Planet Red? A Theory of Planetary Colonization and What Could Have Been

I have an idea about the possible explanation for how distant, habitable, yet lifeless planets fit into a Biblically Christian framework of cosmic history. It’s based on the three points I mentioned already—the distance, the habitability, and the lack of any evidence of other sentient life among them. I’ll unpack them. First, why should there be any planets that could be habitable by humans, other than Earth, if humans were only planted on Earth initially? It seems like a simple conclusion that, given enough time, we were expected to live on them as well. Otherwise there would be no point in them being habitable, from a purposeful-universe-by-design perspective. But why should they be so far away? Well, the universe itself is vast, so if there were no habitable planets in distant reaches of the universe, then large parts of it would by definition be uninhabitable. And how then could mankind fulfill its role of exercising dominion over all creation?—assuming, with reason, that the Dominion Mandate would be extended from just the Earth to encompassing all of the universe, at some point. It does appear to be the intention that humanity would have,upon fully developing the Earth, have been given dominion over the stars as well, and told to spread out to distant planets so as to govern the entire universe that God created. But something prevented this from happening.

The reason that other planets don’t have life is very simple. It’s not just that we haven’t found it, or that it’s sparse throughout the universe, but that it isn’t there. There are very good reasons for believing that no intelligent aliens exist, or life of any kind beyond the Earth for that matter. Here are a few:

  • Sentient aliens would either have spirits or not. If they did not, they would have no hope of life after death. Why would God create self-reflective beings like humans but make them otherwise just like an animal, denying them eternity? And if they did have a spirit, then are they perfectly sinless or sinful? If they are sinless, then they suffer from the Curse which is over all creation, which is unjust to them—what did they have to do with Adam’s sin? And if they are sinful, then they are also fallen, and according to the developed concept of a kinsman-redeemer, needed God the Son to be born as one of them, live a perfect life on their behalf, and die in their place for their sin. So Jesus would suffer and die an untold amount of times for an untold amount of aliens. But the Bible said He died once for all. Is this reasonable? Alternatively, if the Bible doesn’t only restrict the Atonement to humans, (though none of the language implies this to be true), then how would aliens learn about it so as to believe and be saved? And why should humanity have been the one place where Jesus came to be incarnated, and not one of the multitudes of other alien races? These are all important questions to consider before accepting that alien life can coexist, even as a concept, with orthodox Biblical Christianity.

 Continued after the break...

Friday, June 9, 2017

Usage of the term Glorious

God is glorious, we know that. But the word 'glorious' is often used for such things as a beautiful sunset or other thing that causes us to be amazed. I wondered, linguistically, what the connection is. Because if 'glorious' means 'possessing glory,' it would definitely apply to God, but I'm uncertain that it would be a wise thing to say of material things or human events. On the other hand, if 'glorious' means 'revealing the glory of God,' then it can both apply to God and things. And more than in the former case, the word must necessarily refer to everything, because everything in creation reveals the glory of God (Psalm 19:1-4, Romans 1:18-20).

I like that. An unbeliever may certainly use the word 'glorious' with different intention, but for me, since everywhere I look I can see God's glory revealed, I can happily declare that the sunrise, the stars, and even "mundane" things like a cold shower or a political victory, are glorious, because they all point back to God, for the one paying attention.

Recently, I heard a theologian describe the word this way: that there is God's shekina glory, the physical manifestation of His holy presence in the material world -- that kind of glory strikes us sinners dead unless it is veiled (such as in a cloud, or behind the temple's curtain, or in Jesus' human flesh)
Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see
Hail incarnate deity
(Hark the Herald Angels Sing, by Charles Wesley)
And the kind of glory I'm talking about was described by this person as the ascribed glory of God. (Psalm 29:2). In fact, it was probably Steven Lawson, since he's the author of this article which was the top hit in Google. Upon reading the short article, I'm not persuaded the terms are exactly parallel, but he does support my distinction. Humans can 'glorify God,' but that is not to add to His intrinsic glory, it is merely to acknowledge the intrinsic glory that God has revealed.

I'm a categorical thinker, so I (simplistically) connect the terms glory and worship in this way:
  • God is glorified when anything in creation demonstrates some aspect of His greatness, by reflecting, or else contrasting, His attributes. Beautiful things imply that God is beautiful. Evil in the world suggests that God is better than the world and causes us to long for Him rather than what He's created, desiring the Giver more than the Gift.
  • God is worshiped when those who are in a right relationship with Him accurately recognize that which glorifies God and in turn voluntarily attribute this to Him, and in turn, exalt His Name by thanking Him for revealing to us the truth about who He is.

Every blasphemous sinner on earth glorifies God, just in more roundabout ways, and usually as a 'hostile witness.' But those whom God has predestined for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:5) have the privilege of not just glorifying God, but doing so willingly, out of love, and thus worshiping Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24).


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Knowing How Your Enemy Thinks Prevents Surprises

One of the greatest 'fringe benefits' of saving faith in Christ is that our minds, now Bible-informed, have amazing insights into psychology, if only by virtue of admitting what our true nature is. Because every Christian has confessed his own sinfulness to God, he isn't prone to attempt to justify his own view of himself as a great guy with only minor flaws. He can honestly address the fact that there is a "war in his members" (Romans 7:23) without excusing it, because he's already been given perfect forgiveness and doesn't have to fear the consequence of acknowledging his own evil. 

This enables him to honestly address his own mental state and to work more effectively at pursuing obedience to God and victory over sin, because he's not numb to the reality of the struggle.

Non-Christians don't have forgiveness and so their psychology tends toward one of two faults:

  1. Fail to acknowledge the evil in man. Rationalize that man is generally good, or that his flaws aren't really that bad--diminishing them as minor imperfections, and thus refusing to address them as problems needing to be solved.
  2. Acknowledge the evil -- but deny that it is evil, or is a problem in need of solving. This can lead to a fatalistic resignation to the fact that man is corrupt, OR a denial which necessarily leads to a celebration of the evil. Ultimately either one of these alternatives, for different reasons, reaches the same outcome: affirming or encouraging the indulgence in evil behavior. Examples include justifying promiscuity as a product of evolution (celebration), or being ambivalent in the face of having no way to justify arguing against pedophilia (fatalistic resignation), despite one's discomfort with it.

Without a Biblical worldview, your assessment of human nature will be wrong. Therefore, your conclusions about what man ought to do in order to fix his problems will be wrong. Therefore, you will not solve the problems, but potentially exacerbate them.

And that brings me to this repost of a treatise on the subject pertaining to the secular failure to correctly diagnose and treat the issue of Islamic terrorism. This is from years ago when I was in college the first time.

I'm a biology major, but because I need[ed] to round out my degree with 45 "upper-level" (that is, in the 300 and 400 range) courses in order to graduate, [I chose to] take Dynamics of the Arab-Israeli Conflict because I'd rather have something interesting than something guaranteed to be easy. As it is, it [was] one of my more enjoyable classes, when it comes to the workload.

In class [one day], I briefly spoke with another student on the topic of the final paper. The professor [wanted] each of us to choose a situation in recent history where there has been an ongoing rivalry between a sovereign state and a terrorist state or pseudo-state entity -- examples include Al Qaeda, the IRA, Pakistan-India, North Korea-USA, Hezbollah, Hamas, the PLO, etc, but not terrorist groups that are too amorphous to easily finger, such as the Muslim Brotherhood or the Weather Underground.

We [had] to write a paper on our selected rivalry and address, among other questions, whether the defensive state has successfully employed a deterrence method against terrorism by the other group, by making the latter "learn from their mistakes" and decide not to challenge the sovereign state again in the same way.

The other student I spoke to made a comment, in passing, that Hamas "isn't learning," that is, learning to stop challenging Israel lest it get 'punished' again and again. I challenged his assertion by saying that the assumption that every terrorist organization actually cares about self-preservation or other selfish things like power, money, influence, etc, is fundamentally flawed. In my view, Hamas is ideologically motivated by the political-religious system of Islam, and that this ideology supersedes what Western, humanist mindsets would consider "rational self interest."

The other student disagreed, responding that we can't assume that the other group is irrational. But he misunderstood me. I didn't mean that Hamas was irrational. Hamas is very rational, if its goals are indeed the destruction of the State of Israel at all costs, as its charter declares. If Hamas is just using religion as a means to an end, and doesn't actually care about ideology, then none of what it's doing makes any sense. If it wanted to exact concessions out of Israel, it wouldn't sabotage the latter's attempts to bargain with it by initiating new hostilities whenever possible. But if it is truly driven by not much more than an insane bloodlust for Jews, then its relentless animosity is perfectly well explained.

My peer wasn't having it. He was insistent that political organizations like these are not truly ideological, but only pretend to be religious. They, like atheist totalitarians of years past, merely use religious rhetoric as a means to an end, to justify its acts or drum up support among the masses. But I believe this is a severe mistake on his part. He, as an atheist, is unaware of his own biases. Not recognizing the insidious arrogance of his own view, he is projecting his own philosophy on others. Because all religion is man-made for the purpose of controlling people, surely then that must be the only use that Islamic terrorists have for religion as well. His inability to recognize that other people are not like him is unfortunate. It must also be recognized that the prevailing philosophies taught in American public education are some of the root causes of this lack of critical thinking ability.

Contrary to the misconception of my fellow student, religion plays a much larger role than just a means to an end, in many cases. For many people, it is not a means, but the end in itself. So failing to see that as even a possibility is a tremendous weakness in the atheist's analysis, and it hinders him from correctly interpreting world events. Even if the atheist is right and all religion is false, his hubris numbs him to being able to understand that others who take religion very seriously simply can't compromise on their ideological positions, even if it might seem more rational in that it would offer them more power, money, influence, or even personal safety.

The atheist fallacy is the subtle assumption that all other people in the world are really atheists at heart. It isn't explicitly spoken, but it shows itself when the atheist can't fathom how religious convictions can trump selfishness--because he foolishly sees the former as an outgrowth of the latter.

That is why foreign policies built on an atheist framework -- the West's, in general -- will never adequately understand the Middle East, and will never correctly predict the consequences of present and future meddling. In more than one way, then, for a proper foreign policy to develop, religion is the answer.