Wednesday, November 11, 2015

"Do as you will": Are Libertarians the Anti-Christ?

Compare these two statements and see if you are not at least a little alarmed by their similarity:

      "Do as you will." This is the only ethical command in Satanism.

       "As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others."

Juxtaposing these raises two questions for me: 

Is there any difference between the essence of libertarianism and this demonic command? 

Is the libertarian EXPRESSED philosophy really any different that the Democratic and Republican REALIZED philosophies of fighting to do whatever the heck they want, no matter what Da Good Book says on the subject?

One charitable response to the questions above is that libertarianism is more naive than diabolical.

Another is to reduce  "anti-christ" is some grand villain, "a Caesar, Napoleon, Lenin, Hitler types that show up regularly: one who taps into the lure of deep longings for unity, order, fruitfulness residing in the human heart. The issue then becomes the means to those ends, a kind of bait-and-switch. There's always violation in the means because the extension of power to bring about an attractive vision will violate the vulnerable outside of submission to the true Christ" (astute observations by Kyle Phillips on Facebook post).
This is a commonly held view today, and amongst the first century followers of Jesus. But Da Good Book corrects this misconception in two ways:

(1) First, 1 John 2 gives a direct correction to this thinking: "Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now MANY antichrists have arisen." As Colin Brown used to say, "If your ideas don't fit with scripture, too bad for your ideas." 

(2) Second, the antichrist is not simply a grand villain, but a "spirit": "Every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world." (1 John 4:3). The most simple rendering of the Greek "antichristo" into English, in my opinion, is "the in-place-of-Christ." With that simple translation, I think you'll easily see the connection to your teaching about idolatry: anything, good or bad, that one substitutes in place of where Jesus should be. Do you catch my meaning, or would you like examples of this? 1 John calls this a spirit and I think it is connected to things "above" and "below" the ceiling and floor of material existence, the principalities and powers that make puppets of people who walk in their own will ("flesh"). (3) I think we do a dangerous disservice to the body of Christ to think of the "devil" as a figure with a red Halloween costume: "Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness" (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). The many things we put in place of Christ are more likely to be almost-Christian looking and therefore more powerful deceptions. For example, when I run into someone who can quote all the latest, hot almost-Christian authors around the country who are hot because they are saying something edgy and controversial, not because they are standing-under the Word of God. The head game almost-Christianity we live among can be an in-place-of-Christ where one's pet theology is the source of identity, security and personal meaning instead of Jesus himself. And, then, there is the distinct possibility that church-as-we-know-it (as opposed to church-as-God-wants-it) is a substitute Jesus, if you read the bumper stickers: "Come to the first church of what's happening now! We got the best band! We got the funniest 'pastor'! We have what your kids need!" I wonder if people really understand the threat to their children. I smoked my first joint at an unsupervised youth group outing (pre-Jesus). Sex, drugs, rock-n-roll--yes, these are obvious in-place-of-christs. But what about all the people who never open their Bibles or pray or do any of the 53 one-anothers of the New Testament. 

Republicanism, too is an in-place-of-Jesus for many almost-christians. It is chic, hot, cool, and edgy to move to "do as you will"--just as Satanism itself is hip. We could lose a whole generation of almost-christian leaders to this thinking, "Do as you will." To that I answer my own question with this: Satan appears, not in a red devil's suit, but as an angel of light to deceive and destroy every single follower of Jesus, if possible. The hater of our souls is at work destroying and crushing, maiming and pillaging. As C. S. Lewis rightly warned us, materialistic almost-christians are blind to what's above the ceiling and below the floor, the upstairs principalities and powers, and the downstairs mob. They operate most freely in our land that once was free, among our nation which is all so rich yet ever poor.

When I wrote this post, I immediately began to take the log out of my own eye by posting on most the doors and every mirror in our house this A - B - A coaching sheet for Ingrid and me:

         A: Do whatever God wants, quickly, no matter what it costs. 

                B: Do NOT do whatever you want. 

         A: Do whatever God wants, quickly, no matter what - period. 

"Do not focus on what is SEEN but on what is UNSEEN. What is seen is temporary and therefore passing away. What is unseen is eternal and therefore last forever" (2 Corinthians 4). Open the eyes of our hearts that we can see You, Lord Jesus, AND the hater of our souls who seeks like a lion to maim, pillage and destroy.

Making art: pointing others to the unseen, eternal so they can take their eyes off the seen and temporary

Julia Owens​ and Jeff Rogers​, I think I had an epiphany why you and my brother AJ urged me to un-quit writing, and I saw through fresh eyes yesterday that I'd like to talk to you about soon. I have always thought of Bible teaching in the semi-scientific terms that I was reared on in college and seminary, but only yesterday, 20 years after completing it, realized the impact that the Sheffield Ph.D. program had on me as an artist. Somehow, and I'm not sure how this is, my brain went from being a "disciplined scientist" to being an undisciplined artist. I refused to write regularly partly because of burnout from writing 5 books after the Ph.D. dissertation while keeping down a full-time job, and partly because of my self-chosen trip into the desert to detox from the religion people have made up about Jesus in our country. Julia and Jeff, you are two of the most disciplined artists I know. Julia you structure a schedule in an almost Kant-like style to make art. Jeff, you are so prolific, but you have God on your side so that is no fair: you live in Kentucky and the art you make is framing the art God made. What do I need to do to become a disciplined artist? Block the time and just do it? I am coming out of the desert and about to start writing again after a 10+ year hiatus. I'm glad I quit. I am glad you wouldn't let me quit entirely. Abraham Lincoln said, "If I had 8 hours to cut down a tree, I would spend the first 6 sharpening my saw." I've been sharpening my saw for 10+ years, and I'm about to cut me some wood, baby. I'm about to unleash a torrent of art I paint with words. I think I have 4 or 5 books left in me. Ingrid Dodd​ would like me to "go fishing" or something because I'm driving her crazy with all this gathered, pent up energy. Let the paint fly, says he. I have returned to my studio as of today. (Clifford Schroeder​ I messaged you the wrong address for my blog--correct one above; Wes Foster​ I may have given you the wrong address at Panera Seminary yesterday--see above).

Thursday, November 5, 2015

When does life begin? An alternative Christian reading of Scripture summarized

Regarding the issue of life in the womb, and my reading of Scripture on this issue summarized briefly: 

(1) I will defer to the scientists on what their view of life is and is not, and when it does and does not begin. They have their presuppositions about a lot of things that color all they see, and the great weakness of the scientific approach to knowing anything, in my view, is the huge blind spot about how presuppositions (which come before any experiment or hypothesis or theory) color all they later see. If you have the presupposition, for example, that all that is real can be proven by the scientific method of falsifying a null hypothesis, then you miss out on a lot of the really good stuff in the world like love, beauty, justice, truth, Jesus--while these are all real, they do not validate their own existence under a microscope. There are other kinds of knowing. 

(2) If, for example, you presuppose that truth coheres with itself, and corresponds to experience, and that it is stranger than fiction, then you could equally believe that life begins at conception, or that my life began when my mom and dad met, or that my life began when my Spanish conquistador great grandmother married my Blackfoot-German great grandfather (by reductio ad absurdum argumentation). 

(3) All that said, my concern is different. The question is not when life (Iiving cells) begin to form (clearly, at conception), but when a living soul is born according to scripture, AND the scriptural difference between murder and killing. 

(4) With regard to when a soul is born to life in my reading of the Bible:
(a) The Hebrew word ruach and the Greek work pneuma in the Old and New Testaments are correctly interchangeable translated "breath" and "spirit." This is based on the presupposition in much (most?) of the ancient world that a human soul is born when you breathe (your spirit/breath comes into you), and it your spirit leaves when your breath leaves, because they are somehow mysteriously and inseparably tangled together, physical and spiritual. 
(b) There are numerous examples of where the Bible describes the death of a person in terms of "they gave up their spirit/stopped breathing." No one would have thought otherwise. It is never argued for in the Bible because it didn't need to be--it was so understood that the structure of various languages all support this same connection of breath with spirit with a human soul being born and then leaving to another place with the breath that leaves. 
(c) The "life begins at conception" reading of the Bible has little to go on by comparison. This reading claims "God knew me in my mother's womb" is proof that abortion is murder, but that has to overlook the writer's intent to express, "I am deeply and truly known by God from beginning to end in a way no one else knows me. And, how does this apply to the issue of murder? The Bible also says that God knew me before there was time--if we make the same application to the issue of murder as the womb scripture then we have to argue that every murder is a multiple murder like one of those time-traveling Hollywood movies: if you killed my grand-father you also killed me and so you are a multiple murderer and qualify for the death penalty in many states (don't get me started on that). 
(d) When I read the Bible, there is nowhere to be found a discussion of the issue of abortion. Jesus does not mention the issue. Nowhere in the New Testament is the issue mentioned. Best we can get to there from both sides is an argument from silence. 
(e) The attraction of the life-begins-at-conception reading of scripture--and I speak as one who had argued it most of my Christian life, but no more--is a PHILOSOPHICAL argument masquerading as a scriptural reading. And it is attractive because It is more consistent, philosophically speaking, and avoids the fatal flaws of the viability argument. 
(f) To summarize, in my reading of the Bible, a human soul is born at birth when they start breathing (the "spirit" enters into them), and human life ends when we stop breathing/give up our spirit. I don't doubt that "science" is surely right that what is in the womb is alive and growing, and there is no question that it is on its way to being a breathing human, all being well. I don't doubt that God has always known me, and has foreknowledge of me before I was born--I receive that message that I am known intimately and loved deeply, as are each and every person. 

(5) The scriptural distinction between murder and killing is reflected in every legal code since. Both killing and murder are very serious, but they are not the same. There is no question that abortion is killing. I doubt that it is murder. When someone aborts, in my view, they are killing their fetus but it does not rise to the crime of murder, because the living fetus does not yet have a human soul (that doesn't come until breath). Abortion is has serious consequences, physically, emotionally and spiritually, but it is not murder.

Monday, October 5, 2015

"I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong." ~ Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, October 4, 2015

daily mass shootings? really?

264 mass shootings in our country this year. Almost one for every day of the year. "Mass shooting" is defined as 4 or more people killed not including the gunman. We can still say "gunman" and it is not sexist. We really don't need equal opportunity in this madness. We could also say "young white gunman" and it would be almost completely accurate. What is wrong with us? A mass shooting a day by white guys. Plus all the other violent, senseless deaths. A whole lot of hurting going on. I talked to a mom the other day whose son died 9 years ago this week. It was like it was yesterday for her. Don't we see the damage being done? 

There is a policy we can all agree on: never give a monkey a pistol. Is that bipartisan enough? Can we agree on that? If so, is it really so hard to see that MONKEYS WITH GUNS kill people? We can't eliminate monkeys, but do we have to make it so easy for them to have a gun in every hand with a bag full of extra bullets in case they run out?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

How We Can Make the Kingdom Come Sooner and Find the Unity We All Want

Okay, the title of this blog entry is meant to be provocative, but it comes from something I have a remembrance of that Bill Bright from Campus Crusade (may he rest in peace) said about a chapter of the New Testament. It went something like this:

"If we all practice the principles of Matthew 18, then three things will immediately happen:

1. Disloyalty in the body of Christ will cease.

2. The world will really see how we love one another.

3. The kingdom of God will immediately come on the earth."

Provocative, for sure. His predictions may not be true (and #2 surely oversimplifies and reduces love to a few behaviors), BUT his quote highlights the importance of:

(A) Forgiveness as a standard way of living with each other...over and over and over. "How many times should I forgive someone when they hurt me?" Peter asked Jesus. "Seven times?" Peter was obviously feeling Jesus on this forgiveness thing, but he had not yet grasped how radical Jesus was on this subject: "No, 70 x 7!" Forgiveness is a posture that puts us in a very vulnerable position toward the users and hurters out there. But, Jesus got that. How much more vulnerable can you be than naked and nailed up in shameful display in a public execution so that forgiveness of sins can happen?

(B) If someone wrongs us, we are to go to them one on one, just the two of us. This has two parts, and may be the most disobeyed command of Jesus by those of us who claim to follow him. The first part is that we are to go to them. Not wait for them to figure it. Not cut them off and cut them out. Proactively go to them. The second part is privately. We are not to involve someone else (or talk about it with others--gossip! slander!) until we have had a chance to work it through. A lot of times I discover in this Step 1, that I wasn't actually wronged but either that I had misinterpreted words or actions, or that what I thought had started the problem (their behavior) was actually a response to what had really started the problem: something I had done first that I was blind to.

(C) Step 2, if Step 1 fails (B above), is to take one or two others with you and all of you talk together with the person involved. This is not a tribunal or a grand jury. This is taking loving people to lovingly work out the normal friction that comes with broken people living with broken people. The log in my eye gets in the speck of your eye and irritates the heck out me :-). My log makes your speck look like a log to me. Sometimes it is your log that needs cutting out, sometimes mine. Wise, caring friends can help us sort it out. But, not always...

(D) Step 3 involves a larger group of 10 or 20: "If they won't listen, tell it to the gathering." The Greek for "church" is "gathering," and this usually happened in homes in the New Testament period, and surely did not involve the modern conception of a stage/performance/spotlights. Jesus is not talking about an auditorium where you shame and shun someone, but a living room where you have a family meeting.

(E) Step 4 needs some thoughtful application: "If they won't listen to the family gathering, treat them as you would a pagan or tax collector." Back then, Jesus' Jewish listeners would have avoided and mistrusted people who did not follow God (pagans) and those who had sided with the Roman military government (tax collectors). That is probably what Jesus is implying. Be wary and watchful of them.

All of Matthew 18 is very important and needs a lot of thinking on and acting on. I think we can all agree with at least that much about what brother Bill said.