Saturday, June 27, 2015

Going Deeper with a Civil Debate on Gay Marriage

The most important lesson I ever learned in life was to 'look both ways before you cross the street'. In that one lesson, I learned that you follow the truth no matter where it leads. We don't simply pick and choose our beliefs. Now not everything is as clear as whether or not a street is safe for crossing. But the concept of discernment still applies.

This is why I've been so disappointed in how people have supported their views on both sides of this recent SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage. This is not going to be another article on supporting or objecting to the decision.

Anias Nin said, "We don't see the world as it is, we see the world as we are." The debate on this issue may well tell us more about ourselves than whether or not it is right or wrong to allow gay marriage.

So here is a summary of the arguments that I've seen both pro and against the SCOTUS ruling:

  • The Bible says it is wrong
  • The Bible says don't judge.
  • Love Wins
  • Live and let live.

The Bible Says It Is Wrong

Imagine arguing from the Koran to a group of Christians to support ANY idea and maybe you'll start to see the problem. That group of Christians is going to say something along the lines of "So what? We don't believe in the Koran." THIS is the chief problem with Christians using the Bible as their primary reference point when speaking to a secular crowd.

Secondly, these folks often quote Leviticus 18.
22 Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.

But Leviticus also says that people should not wear clothing made of two kinds of material, men shouldn't cut the sides of our beards or get tattoos.

Deuteronomy 22:8 says that a fence (parapet) should be built on one's roof to prevent someone from falling off.

Without going into the woods, these Christians pick and choose Scripture, not understanding how to make distinctions between the Mosaic law and the Law written on a believer's heart (Heb 10:16).

They also don't seem to understand the idea that Israel was a theocracy. The Mosaic law was a prescription exclusive for Israel not something God was prescribing on all nations.

Well what about Paul's statements in the New Testament? Romans 1:24-27 clearly indicts homosexuality. I couldn't agree more. However, Paul also says that slaves should not seek freedom, singles should not seek to be married, and in whatever state you find yourself in, you should remain because Christ was coming back soon. Many Christians try to interpret "soon" as to mean within the subsequent 2000 years but if that were the case, then why couldn't slaves seek freedom in their life times (as an example)?

If all this sounds like I'm not a Christian and don't believe in the authority of God's Word, that is not true. Without going any deeper, let me simply say that there are multiple ways to look at the inspiration of the Scriptures. I find that the Christians making these mistakes, aren't aware of them.

Since space doesn't permit me to expound, try a Google on "Plenary inspiration", "Dynamic inspiration" and "Red letter Christians" for some deeper insights. Also, check out how C.S. Lewis viewed Scripture and you'll see that I'm at least in good company.

And by the way, please don't use the fact that there are multiple ways to view the inspiration of Scripture as an excuse to simply conclude that the whole issue is subjective and therefore give yourself an easy way out to simply pick your own morality. It just isn't that easy.

The Bible Says Don't Judge

First off, when people say this, they are usually judging the person on the other end as being 'judgmental'. But secondly, the Bible does NOT say don't judge. It says, "Judge not lest you be judged" in Matthew 7:1. The very next verse says that in the same way you judge, you will be judged. The rest of the chapter doesn't say you can't take a speck out of someone else's eye because you have a beam in yours. It instead says, first take that beam out of yours and THEN you can take the speck out of your neighbors. So it is saying don't judge hypocritically. Feel free to inspect Matthew 7:1-5 for yourself:

1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Love Wins

Lots of times, people who say don't judge, think that you are opposed to gay marriage simply because you hate gays. After all, this is how they pick their morality. They try to rule anything or anyone they don't like as being wrong. They essentially set themselves up as a god because if you think about it, only an all powerful God gets to choose truth. Imagine living as God and getting to choose to make that road you are going to cross clear simply because you really want to cross that street.

Unfortunately for these people, unless you can get them to view morality as a human views that street, you won't be able to talk to such people. They will simply dismiss you as a hate-monger and then either ignore you or insult you.

Bottom line is yes there are Westboro Baptists who actually HATE homosexuals. They are the scourge of the earth. But there are also those who think it is wrong who have nothing but compassion for homosexuals and deep down hope that they are wrong, especially if the homosexuals don't change.

Live and Let Live

This argument says that if someone's difference in values and ethics doesn't negatively impact others' lives, we should leave it alone. In one sense I can agree. But how far do we take this? If my house is on fire, the least compassionate thing you can say is "I don't want to ruin his day so I won't tell him". On the other hand, if you are delusional and THINK my house is on fire but it is not, then telling me, even driven by sincere compassion is going to be at least an annoyance on my part.

So how about we try and measure truth?

You say, well when it comes to morality, truth is relative. Quantum mechanics says that an object's specific location cannot be measured by the observer. One can measure either velocity or vector but not both simultaneously. But the limitations of the observer doesn't suppress science. So why should it suppress our attempts to search for truth in morality?

I think we can look at biology, psychology, social studies, history and philosophy to enlighten our understandings on this issue. Amongst Christians, we can also look at Scripture, but are you willing to go deeper subjects on subjects such as epistemology & hermeneutics? Maybe we'll never be able to pin the truth down but we won't know unless we try.

So instead of heated debates full of expletives and unfriending people on Facebook, who is up for having a CIVIL conversation on this subject (and others)? Maybe we'll ALL learn something.

At the deepest level, I think this debate really boils down to the following: Do you believe that personal happiness is the ultimate purpose of life or do you believe that there is a deeper purpose that transcends even that?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Embracing Mystery

Faith is embracing mystery with conviction. Fundamentalism is when people, who in the name of faith, claim certainty.

Harold Camping was a man who was so bent on certainty that he insisted that he knew more than even his savior did by claiming to be able to predict the end of the world…. twice!

As a meticulous student of the Bible with a special fascination for numerology, Camping sought to uncover the date for the end of the world from the Scriptures. He predicted May 21, 2011, and after failure, October 21 as end dates.

To his credit, he DID apologize for his failed attempts to predict the apocalypse.

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. - Matthew 24:36

It doesn’t take a person as studied as Camping to see the point of this verse. So why did Camping seemingly ignore the point?

We draw comfort from the delusion of knowing. We think that if we KNOW how to live and how the world works then we are empowered to protect ourselves from possible calamities. If I KNOW that all that I have to do is go to church and be a good person then it helps stave off worries about death, or at least a possible consequential afterlife. If I KNOW there is a God and believe Him to be someone who rewards good, then I can live my life in a neat little way, putting God into a box that requires Him to reward me, sealing my life in a neat little ‘cocoon’ of certainty.

Faith is about having a conviction for what I BELIEVE, not what I KNOW. In religion, insecure people grab a hold of certainty in the name of faith. People who use faith to quell certainty are seeking a god of their own making, an idol. Such is the knitting of a security blanket, producing a life attempting to escape reality through delusions of a comfort zone.

The wisest response to the uncertainties of life is humility. To claim to have all the answers is to embrace pride. I advocate that we embrace questions. Faith is a series of questions, whose answers wait to be explored.

Reason can be a pernicious tyrant, imposing itself even over our own will. Maybe this is why so many people abandon it. Follow the truth no matter where it leads, remembering that the greatest obstacle to truth is self.

Monday, September 9, 2013

I am a traditionalist

I AM a traditionalist. Like the early church of the 1st century and the church that developed throughout history, I traditionally believe that we should love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. Because of this love, and God’s love for us, I believe that we should love our neighbors as ourselves. I believe in the historic tradition of the church that confesses that the God incarnate who revealed Himself to us, demonstrated such love with His life to save us as we give Him our lives in faith. THAT is tradition. The rest is just man’s rules.

What do I mean by ”the rest?”

Jesus taught things that are timeless truths… His teachings are devoid of anything dictating whether or not we have stained glass windows, acolytes, liturgies, music, organs, guitars, pews, coffee, candles, multimedia and light shows, or even church buildings.

Christ taught us that we should build upon a rock so that when the storms of life come, our house will withstand the onslaught.

When a storm hits the natural world, trees with shallow roots are uprooted while those with deeper roots are left standing. Just as a storm ‘shakes’ up a tree to determine whether or not it has what it takes, Christians should test everything we believe and practice against Christ’s teachings. If anything doesn’t pass the test, do we have the courage to abandon such beliefs?

The picture of the sanctuary that you see here…. is not found in my religious traditions or dogmas…. It is not something physical that I believe in, but something that I live in…. it is within my soul, the true temple of the living God.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Religion of the Skeptic

Skeptic or religious, I am convinced that no matter which path one takes, faith is necessary to sustain the assumptions of either side.

This is obvious with religious people. I would submit that it is obvious in part because they admit faith underlies their presuppositions. But I would submit that skeptics fool themselves with the delusion that they have escaped from faith and miracles.

The religion of the skeptic teaches that the material world is all there is and that it was formed from random, mindless processes. In their world, the earth just so happens to be far enough away from the sun for the oceans to not boil, yet close enough to not freeze. This happened by a lucky accident.

The earth has an iron core, with liquid iron flowing around this core to form a magnetic field that shields life from harmful rays of the sun. This is yet just another fortunate accident.

Thanks to chance, the apparent god of the skeptic, the earth’s axis just so happens to be at the perfect angle to ensure that we get four seasons, otherwise life as we know it would cease.

Thankfully, the plants that evolved on our planet, just so happen to produce oxygen, as opposed to a poisonous gas.

Author Whittaker Chambers, who left communism in the late 1930s, wrote this as he watched his young daughter eating. Chambers began to focus on the young girl’s ear:

The thought passed through my mind: “No, those ears were not created by any chance coming together of atoms in nature (the Communist view). They could have been created only by immense design.” The thought was involuntary and unwanted. I crowded it out of my mind. But I never wholly forgot it or the occasion. I had to crowd it out of my mind. If I had completed it, I should have had to say: Design presupposes God. I did not then know that, at that moment, the finger of God was first laid upon my forehead.

Read more:

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Giant Heart at the Center of the Universe

Reason, isn't so much a truth detector, but a potential falsehood detector. I say *potential*, because a falsehood may be reasonable under certain presuppositions.

You might ask, why can't we measure those presuppositions with reason? Many times you can, but there is a depth beyond reason's reach. This depth, reaches into the metaphysical. A paradigm is very difficult to evaluate if it is built upon metaphysical presuppositions. Sure, you can use reason to determine whether the paradigm is consistent, but you can't validate metaphysical presuppositions with certainty.

Let me give an example. It is probably too simplistic but generally, you can say that there are at least two assumptions that one can build a worldview upon. One says that man's most natural inclination is to do good, while the other says his natural inclination is to do evil.

A worldview built upon the former says that crime and socially malevolent behavior are caused by environmental and sociological factors. This worldview therefore emphasizes rehabilitation over punishment.

A worldview built upon the latter says that crime and socially malevolent behavior are natural to man. He therefore needs a deterrent and incentive system (the popular focus incorrectly tends to be more on deterring then incenting in my view) to 'do the right thing'.

How does one test which view on man's nature is correct? Although I do believe that induction and deduction can be used to give credibility to one over the other (as a Christian, I believe in man's sin nature), ultimately these two assumptions are metaphysical in nature because they can not ultimately be proven via a 'smoking gun' litmus test.

Unfortunately, we can't avoid building paradigms upon metaphysical presuppositions. And by metaphysical, I don't simply mean "religious", I am referring to any belief that is beyond empiricism's reach.

So how do we choose a paradigm when our only choices are metaphysical? Metaphysical choices require nothing less than faith.

Faith is volitional. In other words, we believe what we want to believe.

So why are left in such a predicament? Why are the answers to life's ultimate and most important questions left to the subjectivity of our volition instead of the meticulous scrutiny of empiricism? It seems that there is something in life that
is testing our hearts more than our minds. And since things can't ask questions, that "thing" is a being...

At the center of the universe is a giant heart...

Friday, August 19, 2011

Talk Nerdy To Me

Question: What is the largest number?
Answer: There is no such thing.
Question: How do you know?
Answer: Because no matter what number you can imagine, I can think of a number that is larger
Question: How do you KNOW this? Have you thought of every number?
Answer: Impossible

Do two infinite lines on a plane ever intersect? The answer is no, but I ask, "How do you know without examining every point on such lines?"

There is truth that can only be reached via the mind; truth that is inaccessible to empiricism. We could call this an "empiricism trap".

"Logic traps" also exist. Before the hare can pass the turtle, it must go half-way.
After all, you can't go 100% of the distance until you go half of the distance. So
let's say that the hare needed to travel 1 mile to get to the finish line. Before
traveling 1 mile, it has to go .5 miles. Before arriving at .5 miles, it has to
travel .25 miles. Before arriving at .25 miles, it has to travel .125 miles, Before
.125, it has to go .0625 miles. Before .0625 miles, .03125, etc.... At that rate, it
will never reach 1 mile.

There must be truths outside of the limitations of empiricism. Truths that only reason can touch. And, there must be truths outside of the limitations of reason
which only empiricism can touch.

"The infinite, even if it exists in reality, can only be represented through our
imagination." Marcelo Gleiser -

This is why I say that atheism is the failure of the imagination in bridging the gaps between empiricism and reality.

And notice that this whole posting uses reason. Reason necessitates its limitations. How surprising it might be to many that reason therefore births faith.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Quest For Divine Authority

In George Barna's latest book, "Future Cast", he says that Americans share these views about the Bible:

  • 84% of Americans consider it Sacred.
  • Less than 45% strongly believe that the Bible is totally accurate in all it teaches.
  • 26% believe in a literal interpretation.
  • 60% believe that the Bible is accurate and without error.
  • 18% believe the Bible is Inspired, but that it contains some factual and historical errors.

So what IS the Bible? Is it the very Word of God? Is it merely a book written by men? Is it even historical? Is it somehow a guide for our lives?

I always challenge people who reject the Bible's spiritual authority to give an alternative explanation of its existence. I make this challenge because I find that most skeptics have never even thought about the question.

But much of what skeptics say about religion in general can be tested against the Bible. I've heard them say that religion exists for the following reasons:

  • Wishful thinking
  • Crutch for the weak-minded
  • Social manipulation

Wishful Thinking

This idea is that people believe because they want to believe. Freud espoused this idea that we all had a psychological need for a father figure so we dreamed up the greatest father of all in God.

A great theme of this blog is formed in the simple question of "Why?". Why would we have such a need? Freud would appeal to evolutionary survival reasons. In a cruel world that sometimes forces us to our knees in order to survive, we want our "Daddy" to come and save us. It is comforting to think that there might be a Divine father who cares for our best interests and looks out for us.

Although I'm skeptical of evolution (I DO believe in natural selection. You can read about my beliefs on origins in this previous post), one does not have to be an evolutionist to believe in survival. I don't argue against wishful thinking projecting a belief in God. However, there is another way of looking at this truth that flips it on its head.

St. Augustine wrote about a God-shaped hole in our hearts. That hole is so large it can only be filled by God. He suggested that this hole was a longing in our hearts. It is one that can be connected to survival but transcends it. I see it in myself simply in longing to know and love someone greater than myself. I see it when I am enraptured in a love expressed via worship for Him.

What is more is that I have experienced that love as a recipient. Sure, you can try to argue this away as psychological projection.... perhaps it is but even so, it doesn't change what I have experienced and it certainly makes my life better.

In a world where there is no God, I'm not sure truth matters any more. If there is no God, than the chief goal of man is to have a good time, a good experience. After all, in such a world, man would be the highest being, seeking no one higher to serve. So if it feels good, do it. And if a belief yields a good experience, it would no longer matter whether or not it was true or a delusion.

I am NOT suggesting that I believe that I am living in such a delusion and asking skeptics to leave me alone. If there IS a God, this experience is based upon reality and reality is a slave master exacting its own demands...

So does the psychological need to believe prove that theism is a delusion or is the need to believe actually God-given? It is funny how life presents us truths that can always be looked at in two ways by reasonable, educated and wise people on both sides...

Augustine would suggest that this God-shaped hole has been placed in our hearts as a compass... a way that points to God. Make a note of this the next time life leaves you feeling like there has to be more.... Think about this when that last drink, sexual experience, accomplishment, or big ticket item purchase just isn't enough... And suffering is this truth's megaphone...

Crutch for the weak-minded

The crutch argument is wishful thinking extended to suffering and worry. We seek security even in the good times and a refuge in life's storms. What better rock can we look to than a divine one?

Like the wishful thinking argument, I would not deny the logic of this position... I would only question being dogmatic about its reality. Once again we see life presenting us with truth that can be interpreted in two ways. Does the need for a Divine refuge exist because we are self-deceived or is it a way for God to speak to us in the midst of our anxiety and suffering to say, "HERE I am"?

Does the need disqualify theism, or does God give us the need in the first place? I am convinced that such questions can never be answered within the circle of reason. Reason isn't a truth detector. It CAN be a lie detector but only if the lie is inconsistent with its presuppositions.

Reason simply tests the consistency and coherence of a belief. This idea is expressed in science in the form of objective positivism as demonstrated by the physicist Neils Bohr:

There is no quantum world. There is only an abstract physical description. It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about nature... -

In other words, it is one thing to test whether or not something is logically consistent but it is quite another to say whether or not a logically consistent argument is true.

This does not invalidate reason, it just shows us that reason is not enough. So what lies beyond reason to touch truth?

I have come to learn that profundity can be described as when a complex question surprises us with a simple answer. Love is the answer.

Love rends us objective. It removes the internal biases that taint our interpretations of life, leaving us selfless enough to see the truth even when it makes us uncomfortable. I would suggest that the crutch argument applies to both sides and that truth armed with love only threatens the skeptic's crutch... After all, doesn't the skeptic need the crutch of disbelief in order to sustain a life submissive to no one higher than the worship of self?

I am still trying to unravel all that this means and can write no more about this discovery except to challenge my reader to seek the truth in love...

Social manipulation

This argument says that religion was invented as a means for the tribe, monarchies and governments to manipulate the social behavior of the masses. Since the "arm of the law" is limited by police and military power, a divine power was conjured up who never sleeps, never tires and sees all even that which is done in secret.

I won't deny that many religions might exist because of this need. However, anyone who has read the new testament, will have a hard time reconciling this explanation to its content.

We repeatedly see in the New Testament this idea that man should obey God even over the law when there is a conflict.

27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, 28 saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!” 29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. - Acts 5:27-29
Why would anyone wanting to conjure up Christianity for social manipulation purposes, write such a text?

Logic has found a lie...

Concluding Thoughts

In conclusion, I'll say that in regards to the Bible, I'm not going to go any farther... I have some deeper beliefs that I have learned to only share with people who are ready. I know when a person is at such a level by their level of questioning. In other words, I have a "if you don't ask, then I don't tell" policy regarding some of my deepest beliefs.

I see Jesus purposefully withholding truths from those who weren't ready. He seemed to determine this by the level of hunger as indicated by the presence or absence of questions from the potential seeker.

Besides, God doesn't reveal all. Instead, He puts Himself just out of reach as to give us a challenge, something to seek. Seek Him with all of your heart and the truth will come.