Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Did Jesus Make a Mistake?

Scripture says that Christ was "without sin", but does that mean he made no mistakes? Are mistakes the same as sins? If not, it seems logical to expect (since He was the same in all other things) that Jesus made mistakes.

Assuming He made mistakes, what are some possible examples? Cutting a board too short while helping his father do carpentry? Bringing home the wrong material when his mother sent him shopping? Giving back the wrong change when paid for a job?

How about using words, phrases, and stories that would be misunderstood and misused 2000 years after his death?

The greatest of orators and writers are not capable of ensuring their words will communicate their thoughts perfectly -- because human language is inadequate to do so. Christ used Aramaic that was later translated into Greek that was later translated into English. Now, we quote it as Scripture (no pun intended), weigh each syllable, and deeply contemplate every verb.

- Did he make no rhetorical mistakes, including his use of words, terms, examples, hyperbole, etc.?
- Was his Aramaic technically accurate?
- Was he naturally an expert in the use of concise rhetoric?
- Were every one of his words miraculously "protected" by God to ensure exact translation of his thoughts 2000 years later?

Or is it possible that some of his preserved words include terms, phrasing, examples, hyperbole, slang, poor translation, etc. that should not be taken quite so literally?

Is it possible that the only message that is really important HAS made its way to us properly -- to love God and others -- and that many "Christian" dogmas are best attributed to the human (animal) instinct for tribal exclusion and survival?

Steve

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Deeds?

I was raised to believe that accepting Him was Christ's requirement -- not deeds. As I age, I'm not too sure about that.

In his portrayal of the day of judgment, Jesus pictured people from all nations gathered before him, separated into "sheep" and "goats." (Matthew 25:31-46) To the "sheep" he says, "Come you blessed of my Father, for I was hungry and you fed me..." In their astonishment they ask, "When did we do that?" and he answers, "When you did it to the lowliest of my brothers" (and sisters). Conversely, to the "goats" he says, "Out of my sight, you who are condemned, for I was hungry and you did not feed me..."

Sounds like "deeds" were what Christ used to separate the sheep from the goats -- regardless of the animals' theologies.

And then there was the Rich Man and Lazarus -- deeds again with theology not mentioned.

What about, "It's harder for a rich man to enter ..." (regardless of his theology)?

Christ spent a lot of time and effort teaching about self-sacrifice. He spoke little about following the right theology. So why do we have dogmas that reverse this pattern? Have we created a feel-good dogma that allows us to "have our cake and eat it too"? "Accepting", "believing", etc. are far different (and easier) than "self-sacrificing" -- yet such self-sacrifice for others is not only what Christ taught, but demonstrated by his ultimate example.

As we drive our nice cars, eat our steaks, landscape our yards, and "accept Christ as our Savior", we might consider the possibility that Christ's self-sacrifice was not only redempting -- but exampling. Perhaps his command to "Take up your cross and follow me." meant far more than to just "accept Me as your Savior".

Steve

What Do I Want For Christmas?

You ask me, "What do you want for Christmas? What can we give you this year"? If I say, "Nothing!" you buy something anyway. So here's a list of what I would like:

Pajamas for a little child, food to feed the poor.
Blankets for the elderly, and I'll ask a little more
Perform good deeds and let me know, or volunteer your time.
These last are worth a fortune, and they needn't cost a dime.

I have too many things now, vases, candles, tapes and clocks.
I have my fill of garments, ties, underwear and socks.
Candy is too fattening, games I've more than 20.
I don't need trays or plates or cups, and knickknacks I have plenty.

I have no walls to hang more pictures; I have books I haven't read,
So please take what you'd spend on me and help the poor instead!
Just send a Christmas card to me and tell me what you've done;
I'll open them on Christmas Eve, and read them one by one.

It won't cost as much for postage as a package sent would do,
You'll need no wrapping paper, ribbons, ink or glue.
And I'll thank God you listened to what I had to say,
So we could be the instruments to help someone this way.

- Unknown, but wise author

Steve

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Coffee Cups

A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life. Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups - porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite - telling them to help themselves to the coffee.

When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said: "If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress.

Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. In most cases it is just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups... And then you began eyeing each other's cups.

Now consider this: Life is the coffee; the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain Life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of Life we live. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee God has provided us." God brews the coffee, not the cups..... Enjoy your coffee! "

The happiest people don't have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything."

Live simply. Love generously. Leave the rest to God.

- Author Unknown (but wise)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Passing of the Torch

The passing of the torch from one generation to another results in a peculiar form of schizophrenia in the elders that few escape, including me. The "laughable stereotypes" of today were real and powerful behaviorial conditioners of yesterday.

We do not recondition very easily. I find myself having to rely upon my intellect to overcome certain elements of my conditioning quite often -- but, let's not automatically assume all that's "new" is better than the "old". This is not always the case.

In short, we should chose our path based upon the best available facts and not allow our tribal instincts and conditioning to have the last say -- regardless of our generational zeitgeist.

Steve

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Gospel

Oh death, where is your sting?

Oh grave, where is your victory?

Good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

Steve

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

There is only one sin.

Some say the worst and most common sin is the sin of pride--not relying on God. I disagree.

I think the worst and most common sin is the sin of being lazy and selfish. It appears to me that most people (including myself) choose to rely upon God when they should be relying upon themselves. They rely on God to help the hungry, when (with self-sacrifice) they could provide that help. They rely on God to help the poor, when (with self-sacrifice) they could do it.

They rely on God to do many good things and hope to vicariously benefit from it because they "prayed". This attitude makes it easy for us to rely on Christ sacrificing his life for us, but hard for us to take up our cross and follow his example.

Sin? I believe there is only one sin -- with many manifestations -- the failure to love (care for others).

Steve

Monday, December 11, 2006

Faith, Belief and Hope

There are fundamental differences between belief and faith. Belief relies upon the evidence, (such as exists for men walking on the moon). When the evidence is too weak for belief, but not too weak for hope, faith is an option. Belief does not require a choice. Faith does.

Steve

Friday, December 08, 2006

Your best shot!

Your best shot is the only shot you get. If there is a Creator, and if He's fair, then your best shot is all He will require -- regardless of where your bullet hit the target.

Steve

Friday, December 01, 2006

Motes and Beams

We can all sit back in our ego chair and judge people according to our own sliding scales -- but what right (and qualifications) do we have? Who are we to criticize other servants of God?

Do you know if they have an endocrine disorder? Do you know if they were sexually abused as children? Do they have severe financial problems? Do you know if they have ADHD, OCD, or chronic depression? Are they fighting alcholism or PTSD?

These problems (and many, many more) can result in behavior that self-righteous people can use to point fingers and call deficit. It is only by the grace of God such self-righteous people are not doing the same.

You say, "try harder". Hell, we've all tried harder -- haven't you?

Before we abuse, critize and accuse -- let's walk a mile in their shoes. Or, to put it in more Biblical terms -- let's manage our beams and leave other people's motes to their Creator.

Steve

Monday, November 27, 2006

"... the soul of man never dies."

For most people, "life" after death translates to "continued awareness" after death. Or, as the old song stated, "... the soul of man never dies".

Until recently, this was a concept for which there could only be a supernatural explanation. Today, we know that thought, memories, and (probably) consciousness is the result of energy. While we do not yet have the ability to preserve the energy patterns that make Dick and Jane who they are, we expect such patterns exist. The awesome detailed mapping, storage and retrieval of such a complexity is far beyond our (present) abilities, but the possiblity is certainly conceivable.

Could it be the Creator "remembers us" (stores our program) when we die -- and retrieves it later? As we understand it, energy cannot be destroyed, so could this give new meaning to "... the soul of man never dies"?

Steve

Monday, October 09, 2006

Sin, Law, and Worship

As Christians, we can argue that we are more than animals -- but we cannot claim to be less. If we leave God out of the picture for a moment, our behavior is 100% the result of two factors, genetics and conditioning -- same as that for any other animal. From the time we are conceived to the time we die, we behave in the way our species evolved (or was created, if you prefer) to survive -- and we can do that as well as any other animal. It we were any less adept, our species would have went extinct.

Physically, we are nothing special. In fact, we are physically inferior to many other species. We are more clever, but that does not make us any more special to hound dogs than it makes hound dogs special to goldfish. If there is anything that makes us "better", or more "special" than other animals, it will have to be something more than our bodies or brains. So, what else is there?
I believe it is our ability to deny our selfish instincts and conditioning. No other species has ever been observed to do this. We know a bitch will sometimes sacrifice her life defending her litter. However, this is purely instinctive and required for the perpetuation of her species. It is not a sacrificial decision she makes.

We've heard stories of dogs that "gave" their own life for their human masters. This sounds like a sacrificial decision, but is it? It certainly is a sacrifice, but was it one the dog decided upon -- or was it the result of the dog's genetics and/or conditioning? Dogs are descended from wolves who live, hunt, and fight together as a pack. It is their instinct to defend each other. Dogs make wonderful companions and protectors because we become members of their pack. Although it may appear to be a "choice" on their part to sacrifice themselves for us, it is not. A dog's sacrificial behavior is due to it's hardwired instincts.

Only one species of animal can "decide" to deny its survival instincts and/or conditioning for the sake of another animal -- Homo sapiens. God said that He made our species in His image. If the only way we uniquely differ from other species is in our ability to sacrifice ourselves for others, that must be what "in His image" means. It would explain why love (which requires self-sacrifice) is such an important issue in the Bible , to the point of being exemplified by Christ's sacrifice for us on the cross.

So, what does this "unique-in-the-animal-world" ability to sacrifice ourselves for others have to do with "sin"? I believe that without this ability, sin would not exist for us -- no more than it does for my Beagle hound, Sadie. It's the "much is required from those to whom much is given" principle. God chose to give our species, not Sadie's, the ability to be concerned over the welfare of others. Along with that ability came the responsibility to use it.

Where do we find this responsibility addressed in the Bible ? We find it in the "laws" He gave our species. We understand that the laws were given (as Jesus pointed out regarding the Sabbath) for our sake. Their purpose was to be benefit us -- not to benefit God. They served to protect us from ourselves. They instructed us to deny our natural, selfish animal instincts for the sake of our neighbor.

One of these laws instructed us to not steal. Why? There is nothing "wrong" or "sinful" about our desire to have our neighbor's boat. It is as natural as it is for Sadie to want another dog's bone. It is a normal and natural example of our God-given animal instincts. We don't consider Sadie a "sinner" if she steals another dog's bone. Why should we consider a man a sinner if he steals his neighbor's boat?

It's a sin for us Homosaps because we were given the ability, and therefore the responsibility, to deny our natural instincts for the sake of others. If we do not deny those selfish instincts, we will steal that boat (if we can get away with it). Why would that be a sin? Is it because we break a law? I don't think so. It would be a sin because we hurt our neighbor. To steal his boat, or to bear false witness against him, or to murder him, or to commit adultry with his wife, or to put sugar in his gas tank, or to do any other harmful thing to him is a sin because we hurt him -- not because we broke the law. The only purpose of the law was to prevent us from hurting him. If we love him as we love ourselves, a law against stealing his boat is not needed.

As Paul pointed out, the law was a schoolmaster. It chose a few selfish acts that would hurt others and forbid us to do them. It taught us to love our neighbor instead of hurting him. It did not forbid us to put sugar in our neighbor's gas take, yet we know that would be wrong. Why? Because we know that would hurt him. We don't need a law to forbid it, and we won't be "let off the hook" just because such a law does not exist. This is why Christ could summarize the commandments into loving our neighbors as ourselves.

Hurting our neighbor is the way we "sin". We don't sin by wanting our neighbor's boat or our neighbor's wife. That's part of the "natural man" -- which (as Paul understood) we have little or no control over. We sin when we pander to those animal instincts and take our neighbor's boat or wife. To use another example, we can be angry and "sin not" -- or we can be angry and hurt someone. It's not the anger that's a sin -- it's the hurting someone.

So, what about the first commandment -- the one about giving it all up for God? I believe it is the most misunderstood commandment of all. It is the commandment that has dictated 95% of all Jewish and Christian behavior since it came from the mountain. Our "worship" of God makes up 95% of our "service". It provides 95% of all the words to our hymns. So, what's wrong with that, one may ask? Nothing at all -- if a desire for such "worship" is the reason He gave us the commandment.

We Christians have always considered the "loving God" half of Christ's summary far more important than the "loving our neighbor" part -- but does God? Does He want us spending 95% of our time and efforts on our knees with our hands and voices upraised in praise -- with a mere 5% left over for loving our neighbor as ourselves? If his goal is simply to be "woshipped" for worship's sake, then yes -- but, I don't believe that's the case.

I can understand our desire to worship the Creator "simply because". After all, He's an awesome God. But, I don't think it's the end He has in mind. I don't think it's why He told us to have no other God's before Him.

I believe He requires 100% of our love and obedience for one reason, and it's not to stroke his ego. I believe He requires us to follow the first command to ensure we follow the second. As Christ said about the Sabbath, He made the laws for us -- and I have no reason to believe the "first and greatest" was an exception. If we follow the first, we have no choice but to follow the second.

If we understand that, it will make us change some things in our behavior as Christians. We will be forced to redefine our idea of what it takes to "worship" God. We will worship Him by caring for our fellow man. We will serve Him by feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. We will praise Him in song by singing words that bring hope and comfort to others. Our prayers will change considerably, from "Help us" to "Help us help others".

If we understand what makes us sin, we will put the emphasis where it belongs -- upon loving each other rather than upon obeying laws or traditions of men. If we understand how failure to "love thy neighbor" defines sin, we will understand the real (and probably only) reason it would be a sin for the pastor of the local Baptist Church to drink a beer while preaching a sermon.

Steve

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Would I Use Torture?

I prefer everyone to like me, but if the following prevents that ... then let it be. I prefer to be honest about myself.

-- Once upon a time, I studied to be a zoologist. I think like a zoologist. I tend to see humans as clever animals.
-- I'm an Okie who drives a pickup and owns guns.
-- I lean towards situationalistic Christianity.
-- I am moderate in most things, including politics and religion.
-- I'm an ex-cop.
-- I tend to be intolerant of people who are willfully selfish, cruel, and ignorant.
-- I'm a father/grandfather who loves his (and all) children.
-- I believe in doing unto others as I would have them do unto me.

Feel free to use any or all of the above facts to explain the following:

If I was sure beyond a resonable doubt that someone knew (and refused to tell) how to save the life of a child (mine or anyone else's) -- and I had that person alone -- the odds are pretty good that I would find out what he/she knew. Just as when I was a cop, it would be minimum but adequate. I would do unto that person what I would have them do unto me.

The majority of "Christians" probably believe this is wrong, and that I would be disobeying Christ. I disagree, but I'll be honest. If I believed it would be disobeying Christ, I would do it anyway and find me a new religion.

The life of a child is far too precious to play dogma games with or to forfeit on "interpretation" and "opinions". If I err, I chose to err on the side of the child. This has nothing to do with what I believe about a government's use of torture. Apples and oranges.

For those who believe Jesus would never harm anyone --- Christ said, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight ...”

Christ is not the pacifist many require him to be. There is a time when Christ would have his servants fight. I believe one of those times would be to save the life of a child (by tying a "millstone" around the perps neck and throwing him in a river if necessary).

If you believe Christ is God, then you'll have to agree that he harmed humans in the past -- and it appears that he is planning to harm humans again. This does not define a pacifist. If you require a pacifist king, I think you'll have to look elsewhere. My opinion.

Granddad

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The "not us".

The "not us" will either be inconsequential or a primal, instinctive threat that must be reduced to a non-threat by subjection, assimilation, or elimination.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The "not us".

The "not us" will either be inconsequential or a primal, instinctive threat that must be reduced to a non-threat by subjection, assimilation, or elimination.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Nakedness

My wife and I have a young grandaughter who has a tendency to strip off and run around naked every chance she gets. There is nothing shameful about it to her. We and her parents are in the process of teaching her different. Of course, we don't use the word "shame", but the message is the same.

So, where does shame about nakedness originate? Certainly not with that child. It originates with us -- the adults. We pass it down from generation to generation.

Many believe clothing was invented (a la Genesis) to maintain sexual modesty. Tain't exactly true. (Our imagination provides us with sexual views of people that are far superior to their nakedness.) Clothing was invented because we naked apes required it to survive in climates we migrated to.

However, those coverings had to come off for Homo sapiens to do the zugzug -- so nakedness became associated with having sex. As our species developed restrictions against having sex, we developed parallel restrictions against being naked. So now, we're stuck with teaching our children that it's shameful to allow others to see certain parts of their bodies -- or to fart, belch, or eat their salad with the wrong fork.

As Joe South sang, "Oh the games people play!"

Monday, August 14, 2006

Me?




Your wings are BROKEN and tattered. You are an angelic spirit who has fallen from grace for one reason or another - possibly, you made one tragic mistake that cost you everything. Or maybe you were blamed for a crime you didn't commit. In any case, you are faithless and joyless. You find no happiness, love, or acceptance in your love or in yourself. Most days are a burden and you wonder when the hurting will end. Sweet, beautiful and sorrowful, you paint a tragic and touching picture. You are the one that few understand. Those that do know you are likely to love you deeply and wish that they could do something to ease your pain. You are constantly living in memories of better times and a better world. You are hard on yourself and self-critical or self-loathing. Feeling rejected and unloved, you are sensitive, caring, deep, and despite your tainted nature, your soul is breathtakingly beautiful.

Result of Claim Your Wings quiz.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Hate the sin, love the sinner.

What do offensive words such as Cracker, Kike, Nigger, Slope, Chink, Faggot, Spic, Fundy, Towel-head, Trailer Trash, Blanket-Ass, Gook, Honkey, Wetback, Tree Hugger, and Sinner have in common? They are words that humans have used to identify the "not us" within our species.

Nature is competitive. Natural selection is a reality for all species. Therefore, evolution (or God, if you prefer) provided animals with the instinct to be wary of the "not us" within their own species.

Non-human species usually kill the "not us" (or at least run them away). Homo sapiens do this also, as with war. However, humans have another tool to eliminate the "not us" -- assimilation. (Some other species do this to a lesser degree.) If the "not us" can be turned into the "us", the threat goes away and the pack is strengthened in numbers. Native Americans are a good example. They have been either eliminated or assimilated to the point (most) others do not consider them a threat (although they still feel the eyes watching them).

So, to "hate the sin, but love the sinner" is seldom possible. Assimilating others is seldom done out of "love" -- it's done instinctively to eliminate what may be a threat to the pack. So, while we really DO hate the sin ("not us" behavior), we instinctively fear (rather than love) the sinner (and the faggot, the fundie, the atheist, the Democrat, the Republican, and all the other "not us").

Friday, August 04, 2006

Words in the Bible

Biblical writers, later interpreters, and even Christ were products of their zeitgeist. In other words, they used language in a way that was common to their time.

Words like "know", "faith", "belief", and "love" took on multiple meanings which prevent their precise interpretation. Examples of such can be found in today's newspaper, let alone in ancient writings.

The only community that requires precision of terms is the scientific, and it did not exist (as we know it) in first century Palestine.

Here's an example of how imprecise the word "love" is in the English language:

"Sanskrit has ninety-six words for love; ancient Persian has eighty; Greek three; and English only one. English speakers do know the 96 forms of love - they just jam them into one word! That is why we are all confused over what "love" is, since we have dozens of definitions for it!" - N.S. Gill, Ancient/Classical History

What does this mean when reading the Bible? It means the message the Biblical author wanted to convey may not be exactly what the English word, "love" means to us.

It also means one must be careful about any article of faith that relies heavily upon a single word. Factors such as contemporary idioms, language-to-language inadequacies, and cultural bias, all make interpretation of a Biblical word suspect -- even in the original Greek. Context must be considered and sanity checks performed to have any chance of getting the same message in our heads as the one that originated in the author's.

Failure to do this is part of why we have a million or so different denominations -- overuse of the microscope and underuse of logic.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Grandfather's advice to parents.

Sex is free and easy today. Stigmas and spiritual consequences do not rein in the sexual behavior of children as much as it once did. I'll offer a little grandfatherly advice.

Use the instincts of your children to influence their behavior. All people, including children, have one instinct that trumps their instinct for sex -- self-preservation.

A child who is convinced that having sex poses a personal threat will be far less likely to do so. Schedule them with a physician and let them learn the possible physical consequences. Schedule them with a case worker who deals with unwed mothers. Schedule them with an unwed mother who regrets her behavior. Schedule them with a person who suffers from an STD. Schedule them with a knowledgeable and compassionate "holy man" who can advise them of spiritual consequences. Use whatever positive peer pressure exists in their environment -- church, abstaining groups, etc. Use family -- grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. Present a united family front.

Use these outside resources because familiarity breeds contempt -- and your children are very familiar with you. Going to these lengths will also impress upon them the importance the subject is to you. That, along with your love, will make a difference.

Understanding and fearing the possible consequences will help ensure your child will abstain from sex entirely, or at least take adequate precautions. Be pro-active. Have a plan early and work it in time. Do not complacently give them your advice and hope it will be sufficient. Give it your best shot and they MIGHT make it to adulthood just fine, sex-wise.

Last, but certainly not least, the example you set (and have set in the past) will be a major factor.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Immortality

Our bodies, our thoughts, our memories.

All are fundamentally expressions of energy. Perhaps immortality is simply the Creator retaining a record of each person's unique expression of energy -- than at some point reconstructing them (us). Accurate retention would mean we would never be lost. Accurate reconstruction would mean we would live again at His pleasure. Could this define the soul?

When did you get your soul?

We are genetically programmed to perpetuate our species. Some say your "soul" is but an expression of your program that refuses to accept your ultimate mortality. We Christians think differently, but ...

Few people would fuss over using embryonic stem cells from cattle. We are not instinctively protective of other species, nor do we think about cattle having "souls". Would we be as adamant about the issue if humans had no soul -- just a biology? Probably not.

Using that premise, let's consider the soul in relation to the biology. Let's step through some reproductive stages just for fun and consider when your soul may have appeared.

(1) At gametogenesis (ovum/sperm production), does the male sperm deliver the soul to the egg (or vice versa)? Was your soul within the DNA of one of these haploid cells?

(2) At fertilization? When haploid becomes diploid (zygote), did the joining of the pronuclei spark your soul? (This is where many would claim it happens, but later monozygotic twinning or chimerism throws a kink into this theory.)

(3) While a blastocyst (early cell division of the embryo before implantation)? This is the IVF/stem cell stage. Was there a critical cell mass required for your soul to exist?

(4) At implantation when the blastocyst hatches out, implants itself in the womb, secretes hCG, and "rescues" the corpus luteum? This is what signifies a "successful" pregnancy. Is this when your soul appeared?

(5) During the embryonic (first 8 weeks of gestation) stages of morula, blastula, and gastrula? Most major organs (including the brain) are formed. The heart starts beating and the blood type is established. Did your soul come with your brain, your heart, or maybe your blood?

(6) During the fetal stage (from 8 weeks until birth)? Everything matures. Only major event left to occur at birth is "the breath of life", which triggers rapid changes to the pulmonary and circulatory system. Did your soul arrive at that first "breath of life" (as my mother believes)?

What do you think? When did you become a "living soul"?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Faith is a Sacrifice

There is a common thread that runs through the Bible -- self sacrifice. It defines love, and I think it defines faith. In fact, I think faith is an expression of love. Let me try to explain.

If I, like the poor widow, give more than I can afford to another, it is self-sacrifice and it is love. If I give up my anger and hatred toward my enemy, it is self-sacrifice and it is love.

Faith requires self-sacrifice also. We accept something to be from God, not by it's evidence, but by, as the Bible calls it, "the foolishness of preaching." Logically, doing such a thing certainly appears to be foolish. We sacrifice our requirement for proof to accept something unprovable.

This seems to be our Creator's M.O. If there was only one objective piece of evidence that could be demonstrated, shared, and scientifically tested, faith in God would not be so illogical.

The rich man in Hell wanted Abraham to send Lazarus to his five brothers with a warning. He figured the only way they would believe the warning would be to see someone raised from the dead. Abraham's response seemed to say that anyone who could not be persuaded by scripture (faith) would not be persuaded by someone rising from the dead. (I don't quite understand why this would be so. I can't imagine my faith not being strengthened by talking to someone who rose from the dead. Perhaps it has something to do with wheat and tares.)

In effect, love without works is dead. Love is demonstrated by sacrifice. Faith is, without a doubt, a sacrifice. Therefore, faith may be a demonstration of love -- the most important requirement God places upon mankind. If so, it would explain such scriptures as, "By grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves." and "Abraham's faith was counted to him for righteousness."

Friday, July 14, 2006

A Conceptual Question

Here's something I've been wondering about.

It's obvious that both the female egg and the male sperm have a form of life but no one would call either a “person”. At conception, when they unite to form a zygote, is that a person? I've always said yes, because from that point on it can be nothing else – but after a little thinking, I wonder if that is always true.

Let's assume for a moment that the zygote is a person and let's call that person Larry. Now, we all know that a zygote develops into a two-celled embryo through meiosis (cell division). However, every now and again the first cell division does not produce a two-celled embryo but rather a second zygote. These two zygotes, if nothing happens to them, will develop into what are called monozygotic (identical) twins.

Did Larry suddenly become two persons? Was he two persons to begin with? Was he even a person at all? Let's set those questions aside for the moment and assume that the second zygote is also a person whom we'll call Harry.

It is entirely possible that one or both of these zygotes could divide again to produce triplets, quadruplets, quintuplets etc. The same question applies as to whether one person can became two, three or more persons. When does a person become a person?

These questions are difficult enough but now it becomes even more complex. Rarely, the two zygotes (Larry and Harry) merge back together again into a two-celled embryo called a “chimera”. Who is this new embryo? Is it Larry or is it Harry?

This new embryo, this chimera, let's call it Larry, develops to term and is born. There is now no question at all that Larry is indeed a person. But here is the odd thing, some of the Larry's organs carry his genes but other organs carry the genes of his twin brother Harry. Larry may even have Harry’s blood type as well as his own. Biologically, Harry continues to exist within Larry (or perhaps it is Larry within Harry).

If a unique person with a unique soul begins at conception, what can be said about Larry and Harry?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Today's Rich Man and Lazarus.

In our world today, who is the the "Rich Man" and who is "Lazarus"? I'll give you my guess (since I know you really, really, really want to know).

"Rich Man" is anyone whose assets exceed his needs.
"Lazarus" is anyone whose needs exceed his assets.

I've been both "Rich Man" and "Lazarus". When I was "Lazarus", many "Rich Men" passed me by. When I was "Rich Man", I passed by many "Lazarus"s.

How about you?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Contempt

Contempt of another person is egotistically ignorant -- whether of a child with Down's Syndrome, a "believer", a poor person, or a murderer. We might win the game, but the prize belongs to the roll of the dice -- not to us.

We are not self-made. We are the product of our genetics and our conditioning. Anyone born Hiltler will be Hitler. Same for Einstein, Mother Teresa, or your's truly. We can abhor or praise a person's behavior, but it's disingenuous to abhor or praise the person. We do what we do because we are who we are.

As Joe South's old song said, "Before you abuse, criticize and accuse, walk a mile in my shoes."

To feel contempt for another is like the Queen of England looking down her nose at a poor single mother. It is wrong on many levels.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Will the Real God Please Stand Up?

Who is the "real God"? Is He the maniacal mass murderer described in the Old Testament? Is He the loving Father of the New Testament who told us through His Son to "love your enemies" and "turn the other cheek"? Is He both?

I really don't know, but I hope He's closer to the NT version.

One thing I'm pretty sure of is that He's the same today as He's ever been. He's unchanging -- and He didn't do, nor cause to be done, the multiple atrocities and slaughters listed in the OT. We (Homo sapiens sapiens) did.

Animals are selfish. Animals are territorial. Animals are tribal. Animals are driven by their genome to survive and perpetuate their species. Homo sapiens are animals.

Unlike God, we do change -- but on an evolutionary time-line; in other words, very slowly. I doubt if one can find an atrocity that was committed in the OT that has not been repeated in every century since that time, right up to and including the one we're in now.

Joshua and Moses were conquerors. They (violently) stole land and assets (including women) from others. There were certainly not unique human leaders. My Native American ancestors had millions of square miles of their land (America) violently taken from them. Other notable land-grabbers in history would include the following:

Genghis Khan [Mongolia]
Alexander the Great [Macedonia]
Tamerlane [Turkestan]
Cyrus the Great [Persia]
Attila the Hun [Hun Empire]
Adolf Hitler [Germany]
Napoleon [France]
Mahmud of Ghazni [Afghanistan]
Francisco Pizarro [Spain]

In each and every case, the land theft was accompanied by horrible atrocities done by humans to humans. Humans do not need a God to direct their atrocities. They are very talented at committing them on their own.

About the only thing God may be seen guilty of is allowing an animal (mankind) to evolve into such a talented killer.

Watch the news. Such atrocities are not over, and won't be over as long as one person/tribe/country has something another needs/wants. As my wise brother Richard puts it, "We do what we do because we are what we are".

The OT scribes tried to whitewash Josuha's and Moses' beastial behavior (which, unlike other animals, they were capable of recognizing) by shifting the blame to God -- thus creating the terribly cruel OT God. Some still use God that way today (e.g., Islamic extremists).

However, it is more in vogue today to justify human territorial grabass with ideals such as Manifest Destiny, Democracy, "freeing the oppressed", and such whitewash, ad nauseam.

In the mean time, where is the "real God" and what is He doing? Don't know. Your guess is as good as mine. Taking notes?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Evidence of God

There are many things in science (such as gravity) we accept sight unseen -- if there is measurable and demonstrable evidence for their existence.

The evidence for God is not measurable nor demonstrable (by any agreed-upon method). To some, that means the evidence does not exist, so by extension, God does not exist.

For those who have heard God's "voice in my head" or experienced some other "Godly" event, the lack of measurable and demonstrable evidence for there being a God is no longer the only consideration. The experienced event becomes evidence -- of something -- for that person.

It may turn out to be evidence of a brain tumor, someone slipping LSD into their sugar, or of a God. Some causes can be converted from subjective to objective (like a brain tumor). Some will forever have to remain subjective (like my 1968 LSD trip -- or God).

Friday, June 02, 2006

Is God our "Father"?

Jesus taught us to call God 'Father'. Was He wrong?

Certainly not. We just need to keep things in perspective. Jesus anthropomorphized our Creator as a "father" to make it easier for us to relate. A father (to humans) is (ideally) a male alpha who loves, protects and provides for his offspring. This is the image Jesus wanted us to have of God.

However, being a spirit without gender, God is more accurately an "It" than a "Him". He may be considered a spiritual "father", but He is neither male nor female, nor has he ever been a physical father. He is a spirit and we must worship Him in spirit.

He is our "father" in that from Him we have life. In Him we are nurtured and disciplined. We trust Him to care for us with His love and wisdom. In other words, we rely upon Him to be to us as a good father should be to his children.

I had a wonderful, loving father. This makes it easy for me to pray, "My Father, who art in Heaven". Unfortunately, there are human fathers who are real bums. This taints the word "father" in their children's minds. Such children may find it easier to honor their Creator by thinking of Him (It) as their Lord, God, Great Spirit, Mother, etc., rather than "father".

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The God Particle

The fact that we cannot see, feel, hear, taste, or smell our Creator does not mean he does not exist. For most of human evolution, no one knew electrons existed (but their effects could be felt).

We do not have the technology to present a "God Particle" for testing, but I (and most of our species, past and present) have felt its effects. We can deny it or cling to with whatever is currently the vogue in psychology to explain it away. I choose to do otherwise.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Martyrs

Ignatius of Antioch was reported to have said, "For though I am alive as I write to you, still my real desire is to die." Traditional history says he got his wish.

We honor martyrs. So do certain Palestinians and Iraquis. We consider it the untimate sacrifice -- but is it really? Which is more of a sacrifice, to sacrificially die for one's faith -- or to sacrificially live for one's faith?

Could it be that some would rather die than live the lifetime of self-sacrifice for others that is required by Christ? If one's belief in a paradise after death is strong enough, why not? Why stick around and feed the hungry, clothe the naked, etc.? Man, that's work!!

I know I'm just a mortal and have no right trying to represent my Creator. With that said, I'll offer this -- I can't help but believe that our Creator would prefer having one Mother Teresa living a life of sacrificial love over having a thousand martyrs dying a sacrificial death.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Ghandi, Jesus, and Pacifism

Ghandi taught a country the value of non-violent protest against injustice.

Was he teaching a father to abstain from all violence in defense of his children? I'm not too sure about that. It's possible his teaching of pacifism did not include having a father do nothing violent to prevent an evil person from cutting the throat of his daughter. If this is not so, I do not think he was a good example of Christ's teaching.

Christ allowed HIMSELF (when He was ready) to be slaughtered. Would He have passively allowed a child to be slaughtered without picking up a stick? Somehow, considering his "millstone" statement and his temple temper, I doubt it. He seemed to have a big problem with the strong oppressing the weak.

The Creator gave us the instincts we have for self-preservation and for the preservation of our species. Then He said they were good. If we had not used them, we would not be here to discuss pacifism.

If the Jews had been absolute non-violent pacifists, Christ would never have been born, because his ancestors would have went extinct long before. Christ would not have come if David had refused to send that stone flying between Goliath's eyes -- because the "linage of David" would have ended beneath Goliath's big feet.

The requirements of love always have and always will preclude absolute pacifism.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Favorite Quotations

In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.

God is not averse to deceit in a holy cause.

Happiness is a choice that requires effort at times.

I would far rather be ignorant than wise in the foreboding of evil.

It is easy when we are in prosperity to give advice to the afflicted.

It is not the oath that makes us believe the man, but the man the oath.

It is the nature of mortals to kick a fallen man.

Words are the physicians of a mind diseased.

- Æschylus (525 BC - 456 BC) Greek Playwright

Sacrificial Love vs. Idealized Pacificism

Idealized pacifism is choosing to suffer for suffering's sake. It is a misguided attempt to ensure one's own righteousness. It does not require doing anything for anybody, nor is it concerned with the harm done to third parties. It is not love.

Sacrificial love is being willing to suffer for the sake of others. It will die for a friend as well as an enemy. It is love, and love will strive to remove that which causes harm to others -- be it hunger, poison ivy, someone who harms a child, or a rabid terrorist.

The Boy

The boy whispered, "God speak to me".
A bird sang, but the boy did not hear.

So the boy said, "God, I want to see you".
A star shone but the boy did not see.

So the boy yelled, "God perform a miracle!"
A baby was born, but the boy did not know.

So the boy became angry and screamed,
"Let me know you are here!!!"

God bent down and touched the boy's shoulder,
But the boy brushed the butterfly away.

Unknown

Won't it be Great?

Won't it be great when Homosaps finally evolve to where they no longer feel the need for borders?

Won't it be great when Homosaps no longer instinctively hoard for "us and ours"?

Won't it be great when Homosaps no longer instinctively fear "them and their's"?

Have we all been endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights -- or was that just Americans?

Won't it be great when Homosaps equally share the earth's wealth, resources, opportunities and responsibilities?

Won't it be great when the Family of Man finally is able to beat swords into plowshares?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Thou Shall Have No Other Gods Before Me

I imagine God is more concerned with the message than the messenger. If, when Moses was on Mt. Sinai, the golden calf had offered the message to the Isralites God wanted them to have, things may have been different. However, the golden calf probably represented an Egyptian (man-made) message God did not approve of.

"Thou shall have no other gods before me" is probably more about the Creator protecting his message than his ego.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

ME! ME! ME!

We know that the Law is spiritual, but I am carnal. My instincts scream ME! ME! ME!

What I believe are the right things to do, well, I don't do a lot of them as I should. And, what I believe are the wrong things to do, well, I've been guilty of doing a lot of them anyway.

I know that in me, that is, in my flesh (genetics), dwells selfishness and other unloving things.

I love God's laws with my mind, but another law battles against my mind. The law of the flesh.

O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

God have mercy on me a sinner.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

A Woman Pastor

I believe that God gave a circumstantial prohibition against female leadership in Christianity -- along the lines of, "if it offends, don't do it".

If, as was the case during biblical (and most of post-biblical) times, women seldom if ever were allowed to exercise leadership roles over men, it would not be expedient for a woman to lead.

It would cause more harm than good if the flock would not follow -- regardless of how qualified the woman was as a shepherd. The commandment for a Christian leader is to "feed my sheep". That's a little hard to do if the shepherd can't catch 'em.

However, in a congregation where there is no angst about or objections against a woman leader, I doubt if God cares about the sex of the shepherd. If the shepherd can efficiently "feed" God's sheep, I imagine He'll be pleased.

There are personal issues both men and women have to manage in order to be efficient leaders. Many are the same for both sexes. Some, like the evolved instinct of most primates to require a male Alpha will create extra problems for a woman leader.

Considering the fact that almost all of recorded human history demonstrates male dominance, the Alpha male is probably the norm for our species. (However, bonobos -- who are as closely related to us as any other primate -- accept females as Alphas.)

I fully understand the feelings some have about this because of my SBC (and social) heritage. What I believe intellectually sometimes clashes with what I feel emotionally. After six decades I still feel uncomfortable in a congregation that has a female pastor. In fact, I would probably feel uncomfortabe in a nation with a female President.

However, I choose to allow my logic to overrule my emotions in this (and many other) instances.

Friday, April 14, 2006

A Little Personal History

As a Christian, it was the "I believe!" and "I know!" stuff that hamstrung me for years -- because I was painfully aware that I didn't really believe that much and knew even less. It was tough for someone who had grown up in a tight, fundamental Christian environment. And then, I began studies to become a biologist (zoologist). Whoa!

I felt I had to just accept the fact that I was destined to be what I called a "nervous agnostic" and quit trying to believe things that were unbelievable. But I never lost the desire for the goodness that Christ represented to me.

Eventually, with the help of understanding what the words "know", "believe", and "faith" really meant, I figured out that I didn't have to "know" or even "believe" anything. That -- and realizing 98.6% of religion was simply traditions of men -- was an epiphany for me. (Studying ethology helped to nail down the "traditions of men" thing.)

I could then judge the worth of "Christian" things by their merit without so much fear that I was some kind of failure because of my lack of knowledge or belief. I could then accept Christ because I chose to based upon my hopes and desires, not because I was compelled by knowledge, belief or fear.

And you know something? I think that's all anyone can do -- which makes me think it's the way the Creator intended things to be.

(By the way, the "Christ" I accept is the same one my great-great-great-great Cherokee grandfather accepted. You know, that Great Spirit that my old grandfather had never heard called by the name, "Jesus".)

Monday, April 03, 2006

Can we increase our faith?

Our faith grows as God wills it to. It is not something we can grunt and groan and make bigger.

In Romans, Paul tells us that God has allotted to each a measure of faith. That's why we cannot take credit for having "more" or "better" faith than anyone else.

There will be some for whom God has provided sufficient (personal) evidence for that person to graduate from faith to belief. (Remember, a person can choose what they wish to have faith in, but they cannot choose what to believe or disbelieve. This will be determined by the evidence.) If the evidence God provides is sufficient, what started out as faith (based upon hope) can end up as belief (based upon evidence).

For many though, by His will, all that can ever honestly be claimed is faith -- no matter how small. All of humanity can take that faith (no matter how small) and use it to accept the things of God. "By grace are you saved through faith ...".

What we can do is to choose this day who we are going to serve based upon our hope and whatever measure of faith our Creator has given us.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Prayer

The Bible tells us that the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much.

Are these adjectives (effectual, fervent and righteous) prerequisites for a prayer to "accomplish" much? I know I don't meet the "righteous" one.

Guess that's why I'm glad the Holy Spirit makes intercession for me with groaning which cannot be uttered. I'm pretty sure He's righteous, and that His prayers are effectual and fervent.

Only problem is -- odds are -- He tends to pray for what I need, not what I want.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Few Versus the Many

It is usually foolish for a person to accept an accountant's evaluation of electronic theory over that of an electrical engineer. Few do this.

It is usually foolish for a person to accept a theologian's evaluation of evolutionary theory over that of a evolutionary biologist. Many do this.

What's the difference between the two? The first threatens few. The second threatens many.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

More on Faith

Words like faith and love have picked up a lot of deceptive meanings over the centuries. Their inaccurate (but assumed) definitions bring much unnecessary harm to many people. The Bible advises us that Satan is the "Father of Lies" and confusing people about what words like faith and love really mean has to be one of his greatest successes.

For example, we grunt and groan to "believe" things that are naturally unbelievable (like eternal life) -- because we feel God requires it of us. He does not require us to believe such things. To do so would be asking us to do what, in many cases, is impossible for us to do.

Unfortunately, this has led many to fight against or deny their doubts. Even more tragic, it has led others to become atheists. Neither is necessary, and it is certainly not what our Creator intended.

He asks us to HOPE for such things and to ACCEPT them by faith. There is a BIG difference, and understanding that difference will free our minds and bring peace to our hearts. We can then cease to make unreasonable demands of ourselves and others -- demands which bring harm to the cause of the Gospel.

Faith is choosing God because He is what we hope for, not what we are convinced of due to the massive amount of evidence. Faith requires us to accept things based more upon hope than upon evidence -- and that makes the world call us fools.

Some would say, "Faith is trusting without any doubt whatsoever and this is how you should pray."

I say that faith is the substance of things HOPED for. Until hope is realized, there will always be room for doubt. But that's OK, because by grace we are saved through our faith and not through our intellect.

I accept Christ as my Savior from eternal death, not because I'm intellectually convinced He is, but because I have enough personal evidence to hope He is.

I Agree

The following words are not mine, but I agree with them. They come from a person I only know as, "hortonthrockmorton".

I am a citizen and a taxpayer. I'm part of the "people" that this government is "by", "of", and "for." The President works for me.

I'm also a Christian. This President has been quite vocal about his Christianity and the role it plays in his politics. When the President behaves in a way that I consider to be inconsistent with Christian principles, it is perfectly legitimate for me to criticize him on those grounds.

When we were attacked by Al Queda, led by Osama bin Laden, under the protection of the Afghani Taliban, I had no objection to Bush taking military action against Al Queda and the Taliban. Neither did virtually anyone else in the world.

We had the sympathy and support of most of the planet. Bush had the opportunity to do real good, to forge a broad, global anti-terrorism effort, and to push the American people into supporting what would be a difficult effort to alleviate one of our most dangerous national security weaknesses - our dependence on foreign oil.

But what did Bush do? He squandered all of it on an unnecessary preemptive war that we now know was not about facing a clear and present danger, but was in fact an experiment in social engineering -- "Let's see if we can create a democratic, Western-friendly nationstate in Iraq and see how that changes the picture in the Middle East." What's more, he launched this social engineering crusade before our effort in Afghanistan was finished, and Afghanistan remains a problem even to this day.

Well, you know what? That is not good leadership. That is not Christian. I personally resent Bush and Cheney and their pro-Iraq war social engineering cabal for each and every American who has been killed or maimed (physically or psychologically) in Iraq. Bush and friends have innocent blood on their hands.

Polygamy

What we homosaps have labeled "polygamy" is what natural selection selected to ensure the survival of our species.

What many do not realize is that in nature, it worked both ways. Not only was the strongest male able to dominate the gene pool by mating with multiple females, but the strongest females would jump from one strong male to another to ensure optimal fertilization.

Those instincts are still very much alive and well within us naked apes. Our social (including religious) taboos slow us down -- but can't stop us completely.

Does this unnatural governing of optimal reproduction bode well for the genetic future of our species? Only time will tell.

The Dos and the Don'ts

As with our own children's training, our Christian behavior modification begins with a multitude of don'ts. They serve as our schoolmaster until we mature to the point we can understand the reasons behind them. Biblical laws were our spiritual schoolmaster. Mature, Holy Spirit-filled Christians who love others as they love themselves have graduated from spiritual law school.

Little Johnny was given the law, "Do NOT shove your sister!" Years later, an older and wiser Johnny shoved his sister VERY HARD -- and prevented her from being ran over by a train. The firm "don't" was negated by a loving "do". Both the "don't" and the "do" existed to ensure that he behaved in a loving way towards his sister.

Such is a mature Christian's relationship with the law.

I will follow the guidance of God's Holy Spirit within me. If following a law (Biblical or otherwise) causes harm to befall my brother or sister, I will disobey it -- and follow the greater law of love.

God Bless The USA

God bless the USA and all who dwell within.

What threatens the USA and all who dwell within? What is most likely to harm you, me, and our loved ones? Should we not expect our elected leaders to know the answer to that question -- and to prioritize their efforts accordingly?

A brief Google on the leading causes of death and disability in America would answer that question for anyone, including the President. For example, the odds of you, me, or our loved ones dying of contact with hot tap water is statistically greater over a lifetime than being killed by terrorists.

Virtually all of us will die from heart disease, cancer, drunk drivers, Alzheimers, poverty-related problems, and so on. Such things are the enemy, and logic demands that such things are where our leaders should focus the majority of their attention and our country's finances.

If terrorism or any other factor ever starts climbing the mortality tables, then prioritizing it will be justified. Until then, we can only hope that a leader will be elected who can understand the laws of diminishing returns -- and react less to the laws of the jungle.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Free Will?

Free Will is a logical (and ethological) impossibility. What we have is a simulation of free will, complete with choices and variables, etc. -- just like our American illusion of freedom. But having choices is not the same as having free will. Only with perfect knowledge would our wills be anywhere close to free, and even then our decisions would be constrained by the perfection of our knowledge. (Thanks, Geo).

We want to think we have free will because the alternative is instinctively unnacceptable. In order to feel safe, we need to feel in control of our destiny. Untimately however, our behavior, thoughts, beliefs, and choices will be made in accordance to our programming, both genetic and conditional. My hound dog is genetically programmed to track rabbits. She is also conditionally programmed to stay out of my recliner (at least when I'm around).

We respond to stiumli as do all animals in the manner which natural selection has deemed best suited for the survival of our species. For reasons we have yet to fully understand, this obviously includes the need we have to intellectually pursue answers to unanswerable questions.