Friday, February 15, 2008

Is Life Just a Game?

It was the bottom of the 9th inning, the score was tied. The batter had 2 strikes on him. The pitcher throws, the batter swings.... "Stike three, you're out! Game over!"

The rules for a spring training baseball game differ from an official game in that a tie doesn't warrant extra innings since the game doesn't really matter anyhow.

At the heart of Christianity, stands the crucifixion of the divine purpose maker. At the heart of secularism, stands the crucifixion of purpose itself.

Faith is the belief that meaning has been imposed upon our lives. Faithlessness is our attempt to make up our own meaning.

War is not a battle of men, but of ideas. The peaceniks attempt to wage peace with the idea that they can rid the world of ideas. After all, a world without ideas is not worth fighting for. The problem is that such a world is also not worth living for.

Does life have a purpose, and therefore a purpose maker, or are we gods, creating our own purpose?

If its the latter, then the game doesn't count.

"If you are really a product of a materialistic universe, how is it that you don't feel at home there?"
--C.S. Lewis - Encounter with Light

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Security Blanket Religion

Do people want a religion that is true or do they just want a religion that comforts them and helps them live life?

I believe it is more of the latter.

I recently read on Barack Obama's web site, regarding faith (BTW, the faith section of his web site is very anorexic) that he believes that faith has been wrongly used to divide people when it should unite people (a paraphrase gleaned from his "Audacity of Hope" book).

But truth, divides. It divides people into "right" and "wrong", black and white. Now unlike most people who would agree with me, let me go out of my way to say that I don't LIKE this but it is undeniable. Yes, it would be nice if we could all be right in the end but such is not reality.

If I look both ways before crossing and see a bus coming, its either me OR the bus, not both. I can't ignore it and proceed crossing the street knowing we'll both get to our destinations in the end.

But I see a different standard set for matters of faith. It seems that people don't expect faith to follow the same rules of the world that we live for. Faith has become unhinged from reality. And no wonder, reality can be cruel!

Believe me, I don't want a cruel faith, but I want a true faith over a comforting delusion. After all, the questions that faith asks are the most important questions one can ask in life.

Is there a God?
If so, who is this God?
What does it mean to live in a world where there is a God?
How shall I live as a result?
What is my life's purpose?
Does life even have a purpose?
If there isn't a God, then what?
Why can't I make up my own purpose?

I think that the reason people have unhinged faith from reality is people don't really believe in faith. Deep down inside, people see it as a delusion that helps us get through the cruel parts of life (suffering and death). People see it as a belief that helps stabilize the mind in the midst of a storm, but does nothing to stabilize the ship itself.

I would have fallen into this trap, had not Christianity presented me historical claims. Bill Maher most recently attributed the claims of Christianity to UFO citings. He obviously knows very little about Christianity. Christianity could have been dismissed by the Romans very easily. All they had to do was to produce the body of Christ. They could have taken it out of the tomb had it been there. But it wasn't. And to think that this little band of disciples could have stolen the body while it was heavily guarded by the Romans is just as crazy, especially when you realize that those same disciples died for the faith that they wouldn't really have believed in.

How could someone like Maher miss such glaring questions? Maybe he doesn't WANT to believe. Maybe his lack of faith is also a security blanket.

Any faith that has no unattractive attributes should be held in suspicion, for life itself has beauty and warts....

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Intentional Mysteries

I talked about the power of the question in the last post. In fact, this whole blog is about balancing the extremes of human nature by just getting us to think more.

However, as G.K. Chesterton once said, "There is a thought that stops all thought." Here is such a thought. Are the grey areas of life intentional mysteries? And if so, are all those mysteries waiting to be discovered or are some intended to be persistent mysteries to serve as the guard rails of life.

Do we sometimes focus on learning things at the expense of living itself? The Greeks thought that knowledge was virtue, but is it? Some of the most horrific shootings in our nation have occurred at institutions of education and higher learning.

"Knowledge is a deadly thing when no one sets the rules" - King Crimson

The Power of the Question

There is power in the question that asks enough to get the mind to think. There is power in the question that leaves enough mystery for the recipient to discover. There is power in the question that leaves its mark not at the end of sentences, but at the beginning of truth.

Mystery plays hide n seek for us, waiting, even wanting to be discovered.

Why do you seek truth?
Why do you seek purpose?
Why does it bother you if your life doesn't have purpose?
Why are you sometimes empty?
Why is it that sadness even touches the rich and the famous, who seem to have all we might seek?
Is there power in the question?

The most important questions we can ask are about ourselves. Question yourself.

As Socrates once said, "An unexamined life is not worth living."

Only proud people fail to question themselves. They are vocalists on American Idol, who think they are divas but are really God awful. They are bloated with self esteem, living in a delusion that serves themselves at the expense of themselves.

They are the ones that believe in themselves.

Ask why until you have to ask who....

Monday, February 11, 2008

Deep Thinking Can Bring Unity?

I have a friend who is a brilliant Political Science major. One day, as he was describing his conservativism to me, he inspired my response of "You're so conservative, that you're a liberal!"

This friend's conservative views lead him to many of the same conclusions as his liberal counterparts, but for different reasons.

For instance, he was suspicious of the motivations for some of our war efforts. He is critical of the corporate influences on politicians and elected officials. However, he is no pacifist or socialist. It seemed to me that his deep conservative principals led him to some conclusions that would be shared by liberals.

I see the same thing in theology. Most Christians don't know theology at this deep level, but theologians understand that there is a cleavage between Calvinism and Armenianism amongst Protestants.

One of these rifts occurs on the issue of salvation. Calvinists believe that a believer can't lose his/her salvation, while Armenianists believe that they can.

However, I have noticed that a person that the Armenianist can describe to have once been a Christian but has since lost his/her faith, will be described by the Calvinist as having never been saved in the first place.

While both sides disagree theologically about the person's past state, they both AGREE about their present state! While both parties disagree in theology and therefore in theory, they agree in practice to treat the person as a nonbeliever!

This has got me to wondering. Could it be that many, if not most of our divisions could be dissolved if only everyone thought deeper about the issues? Could it be that shallow thinking causes more disunity than deep thinking?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Balancing a Unicycle

I'm a unicyclist. Whenever I find myself falling forward, I can correct myself by pedaling forward faster. This seems counter-intuitive. If I don't want to fall forward, why would I pedal forward faster?

Balance, perfection even, is gained through paradoxical methods. If one travels east on this round ball of earth far enough, one will find that he's arrived at a destination west of his origin.

If we seek to gain our life, we will lose it. If we lose it, for Christ's sake, we will find it.

A second thing that the unicycle has taught me. I cannot control the seat. It is free to move forward and backwards. This is scary! But I can completely control the wheel. Unlike a bicycle, I can pedal that wheel backwards and stop it on a dime just by stopping my pedaling.

I can use this control over the wheel to completely guide the seat. THIS is why when I feel that seat moving forward, pedaling forward faster will correct the imbalance.

Coach Lou Holtz once said, "Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it."

Don't worry about the things you can't control. Worry about the things you CAN control. They are the gifts of life.

Having the Right Questions

Reporter William Lobdell, looks at how the stories he covered affected him and his spiritual journey.

I thought I'd offer my thoughts to the questions that he raised.

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Why do good things happen to bad people?

Why does God get credit for answered prayers but no blame for unanswered ones?Why do we look for truth in answers when these answers historically don’t come from such deep questions? Isn’t the truth found in questions?

I see a world that looks like God is hiding. But like a parent who plays hide n seek with a small child, when its that parents turn to hide, they hide in a place where they can easily be found as long as the child is looking.

I believe God answers all prayers. Some of his answers are “yes” and some are “no”. This may not be an attractive proposition, but this unattractiveness is proof that I’m not wishful thinking.

Reality itself’s most axiomatic truths are unattractive, in the form of suffering, death and taxes.

As C.S. Lewis once wrote:
"Reality, in fact, is always something you couldn't have guessed. That's one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It's a religion you couldn't have guessed."
--The Case for Christianity

I don’t claim to have all the right answers, just the right questions.

Why do we believe in the miraculous healing power of God when he's never been able to regenerate a limb or heal a severed spinal chord?

As a Christian, every healing that I’ve ever seen God perform was to serve a greater purpose of authenticating His word. Just one example is when Christ tells a bed-ridden man, in the presence of many observers, including the religious leaders of his day, that his sins are forgiven. Then, to authenticate His ability to forgive sins (a quality only given to God alone), he proves it by telling the man to rise up and walk.

Healings are very rare today, but I hear them most loudly and convincingly described, from missionaries in countries that have never even heard the Gospel, in authenticating the Word of God being proclaimed.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Facts are Meaningless

The following link is a news article describing how blue eyes are a result of a mutational gene which turned off a gene which causes human eyes to be brown. The article states that at one time all humans had brown eyes.,2933,327070,00.html

The article reeks of evolutionary interpretations.

However, the article can be interpreted in two ways. And I believe this second interpretation makes much more sense.

I once heard a story about how a podiatrist had told a creationist that he believed he was seeing the proof of evolution in his patients. He told the creationist that over the many years of his practice, he was noticing one of the toes (I presume the little tow, but I don't rememember for sure) of people get smaller over time. He believed this was evolution and that eventually humans would lose that toe.

The creationist objected, saying if losing a toe is evolution, we're all in trouble. Show me a toe that is being added to a foot, and then you might have a point!

The same can be said for a mutation that turns OFF a gene. That's a LOSS of information, not a gain. Because of the LOSS of information, the Koala bear is going extinct. It is more susceptible to disease because it no longer carries sufficient amounts of recessive genes to its offspring to give some of them the viability to adapt.

Without going deeper into the subject of origins, let me just point out that evolution can only point to instances where genetic information is being lost, not gained. If this were not true, we'd all stick our heads in microwaves hoping for a mutation to expedite the evolutionary process!

Facts by themselves are meaningless. They have to be interpreted. The interpretation process usually (perhaps always) leaves us with a fork in the road. That fork allows us for at least two plausible options.

"Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true!" - Dan Castellaneta

Do you see how our will (volition) comes in to play as we set about to discern truth?
Of course, some people don't even want to believe in truth itself:

The ability to delude yourself may be an important survival tool.
- Jane Wagner

Who we are is a prerequisite in in determining what we can possibly know.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Other Esteem

"I believed I could fly. I believed I could touch the sky. Then I jumped off of a building. And I fell straight to the ground."

Ok, those aren't exactly the words...

If you've ever watched American Idol, you've seen the dangers of the self-esteem movement, as aspiring stars deluded with the self-confidence that told them they sounded like a cross between Baby Face and Billy Joel, sounded more like a cat in heat.

Hitler believed in himself. Read excerpts of Mein Kampf if you don't believe me. And as G.K. Chesterton noted in his book, "Orthodoxy", lunatics also believe in themselves. In fact, the problem with a paranoid person is that they ONLY believe in themselves. Its not that they have lost their mind, its as if all they have left is their minds are they have abandoned everything EXCEPT reason.

Brittany Spears believes in herself and look at the emotional and mental mess she is in.

Another song lyric says, "Learning to love yourself, is the greatest love of all." Kurt Cobain loved himself so much that he was willing to go so far as to commit suicide and therefore hurt others who loved him in order to escape the pain.

My Christian faith, typically casting a counter-cultural worldview, teaches in the concept of what I call "other esteem":

"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself." - Philippians 2:3

Far from obsequiousness, this passage suggests that we should give our lives away to others. Christ taught:

"And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it." - Matthew 10:38-39

I know non-christians often exhibit a phobia of Scripture quotations, and no wonder. Many times Christians quote them to cast judgement. But that is obviously not my intent.

I just want to suggest that the self-esteem movement is equivalent to someone who had a golden egg who was soooo intent on not losing that golden egg that they squeezed it until it cracked in their hands.

Esteem others and find that you are now more fully human! Start with me! Send me an e-mail and tell me how great I am! LOL!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Saved From Ourselves

You can call it cynicism if you want, but what Christianity calls "the curse of sin" is manifest in that the more popular (hence the wider the net is cast) something is, the more watered down it generally becomes. In other words, there is an inverse proportionality between quality and appeal. If Wisdom was common, it wouldn't be valued. It is valued because it is uncommon. I see this effect in commercialization.

Just compare popular music to what music schools study. In other words, the music that the pop culture values is dramatically different than the music that educated musicians tend to value. I'm not trying to be a snob nor am I casting judgement on people's preferences. Believe me, there are plenty of three chord pop songs that I love (the latest is Celine Dion's "What Do You
Say"), but from an educated musician's standpoint, I recognize them for what they are. They are great for getting my toes to tap and putting a melodic hook in my head, but they are far from
bastions of creativity or musicianship. The more creative music becomes, and the greater the displays of excellent musicianship are present, the less popular the appeal of such music tends to be.

As a guitar teacher at Cedarville University, ( and at a local music studio, I frequently encounter young students who want to learn commercially popular music. I am able to teach them these songs when they are at a beginner level, but as they advance, I have to gently steer them away from most of this music because it ceases to present significant challenges required for their growth as musicians.

So if "the curse of sin" as Christianity calls it truly exists, then as Walt Kelly once said, "We have met the enemy and He is Us".

How do we get saved from ourselves?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Plane on Treadmill

Recently, Myth Busters did a show dedicated to the question of whether or not an air plane can take off if it is on a treadmill that is moving at the same speed in the opposite direction.

I guess this question has been hotly contended on both sides.

What was the result of the test?

What does this have to do with this blog? I don't know. I just thought the experiment was interesting....

Monday, February 4, 2008

Test for Echo - Part II

Continuing where I left off in my last blog, I would like to give one example of a system to which I am very knowledgeable about, and show how it seems to "echo" greater truths about life itself.

I am a musician, playing 6 instruments, teaching as an adjunct professor and serving as a worship leader. I have recorded three albums (see

I have found that one can roughly classify musicians (as well as people) in two general categories:

1. Visceral
2. Analytical

The visceral musician is creative and intuitive by nature. They have to to even be a musician since they struggle with structure.
These musicians are most comfortable with "flying by the seat of your pants" spontaneity and improvisation. Visceral musicians aren't very detail oriented. They tend to be your McCartneys, Lennons, Cobains, etc....

Analytical musicians are thinking musicians. They love music theory, reading music and therefore the detail found in musical scores. These musicians have a greater ability to become very proficient on their musical instruments and more likely to become virtuosos, but do NOT ask them to write music!

I have found that the best musicians, those who are both great songwriters, creative and expressive, as well as being virtuosos, have become thus by successfully combining and balancing both of these categories.

Kurt Cobain, in interviews, used to freely use self-deprecation when it came to describing his guitar playing. He wasn't a very good player, but fortunately, he didn't have to be.

A similar thing was said by Elvis Presley:

"I don't know anything about music. In my line you don't have to."

Because today's commercial music generally doesn't promote great musicians, it will be harder for me to point to current musicians on the scene as examples of this visceral/analytical balance, but if you were go back and look at Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen, Neil Peart, Prince (he's still on the edge of the current scene), you'll start to see this balance emerge in their thinking.

But beyond simply being a good musician, I've found both as a music teacher, and as a band leader, that my bands will work best if I combine these two elements. I do so by giving them chord charts which provide them structure (analytical), but not giving them the anal-retentive detail provided in a music score that gives soooo much detail as to not give them any room for interpretation, creativity, spontaneity and improvisation (Visceral).

Now someone may object to my line of thinking and reference classical music as being tilted heavily towards the analytical details that a music score provides. But many of the great classical composers that these musicians try to exepmlify, were known for improvisation and spontaneity in their musical expressions. I firmly believe that this side of music is a huge key in their genius. To ignore it is to imitate, but never truly capture the spirit of these genius composers.

So how does this apply to life? I see life as a balance between the analytical and visceral, or better said a balance between the absolute and the relative.

As stated in another blog, at a higher level (closer to every day human experience), life seems to echo relativism and experience.
But at its base/foundational levels, life seems to echo absolute truth.

Both sides, while they can be seen to be opposites, cooperatively converge and balance each other out.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Test for Echo - Part I

I believe that every "system" "echos" the deeper truths of life. By systems, I am talking about the thinking processes that support fields of studies and even hobbies including:

Sports (any sport applies)
Basket Weaving
Video Gaming
Music Theory
Literary Criticism
Computer Science
Auto Mechanics
Political Science
Architectural Design
English Composition (or any other language)
Technological Studies

In other words, I believe that as you dig deeper into any study, hobby, skill, profession, and begin uncovering the systems of knowledge that support these areas, you'll find truths that transcend the area and apply across life itself.

For instance, all of these areas require discipline. Life requires discipline. All of these areas require a degree of humility that drives a person to learn more about them. If you think you're already an expert musician, then you're not likely to study music.
From systems as diverse as economics, to body building, we see cost-benefit and "return on your investment" principals in action. "No Pain No Gain", a mantra of body building, applies to life itself. The best things in life come at a cost.

Even love is not free. The strongest expressions of love in any great love story come when one lover makes some sort of sacrifice for the other lover.

Henry David Thoreau -
- The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.

Most of the areas that I have listed can be reduced down to their axiomatic foundations. For instance, I have already stated in a previous post that the axiomatic foundations of computing is the binary language. I see binary as confirming that at the foundations of life itself, not just computing, we will find is a black and white, absolute truth. Where we do not yet see such absolutes, like in quantum mechanics, I believe we have not yet dug deep enough. In other words, at the sub-atomic level, our current scientific understandings tell us that we see a world that looks very random and indeterminate. We see a world based more upon statistical probability than certainty. I suspect that if science is able to allow us to eventually dig deeper, we will find a defined order that guides the activity that previously looked like anarchy to us.

One reason that I believe that all systems "echo" a larger epistemology, is because as a Christian, I believe that God communicates His revelation to all of us. For Him to do that, it makes sense that He'd use the presuppositional truths that hold up every branch of the tree of life itself.