Tuesday, May 31, 2005

God's Gold Standard

I "look through the glass darkly", (which includes my best shot at intrepreting scripture). With such a foggy view, I cannot be trusted to see the absolute nature of all truths. If only God would wipe the fog away from the window -- but for reasons only He knows, he chooses not to. Until he does, I'll squint my eyes and do my best to "see" the "truth" through that window (scripture, life, etc.), but logic says I cannot trust my view to be 100% correct.

This less-than 20/20 sight is the foundation upon which our beliefs are built. These beliefs then govern our consciences, which we use to either accuse or excuse our behavior.

I have seen a view through that dark window that appears to say people will be tortured in a terrible fire for eternity if they do not choose Chist as their Savior -- and I wonder about all the people who have never had an opportunity to make that choice. Should I accept that not-quite-clear view as absolutely correct, or would a clear view show something a little differently?

I have seen a view that appears to be my Creator telling me not to lie, regardless of what harm the truth might cause. If the window was just a little less dark, would this view be a little different?

Many images can be vaguely seen through that dark window. Mankind has used their interpretations of those vague images as foundations upon which to build complicated belief structures (traditions of men).

I have chosen to simplify things for myself. Of all the foggy images I have seen through God's dark window, one seems to be at least as clear as any other. Love.

It appears that the Creator loved His creatures and wants them to love each other in the same way. I have chosen this to be the "Gold Standard" with which I compare all other foggy views through that dark window. If a view meets the criteria of love, I'll accept it as is. If not, I'll file it away as a view my Creator will have to further explain to me some day.

This greatly simplifies things for me. The spirit of love behind a law becomes more important than any foggy interpretation given for it. If to "never lie" fails the Gold Standard test of love, I choose to believe "never lie" is a faulty intrepretation.

As I am relatively ignorant of the Creator's absolutes, I have no choice but to be relative in my beliefs. Making the best of this situation, I choose to relate my choices to love.

Friday, May 27, 2005

When Lying Is Not a Sin

God does not want us to cause harm to each other. He despises all acts (including lies) that are used for selfish gain at the expense of others.

Scripture examples of how lies are used to do this include:
  • Sowing discord among brethern
  • Hiding hatred
  • Slander
  • Personal gain
  • Hating others

God hates anything we do that selfishly and intentionally causes harm to another person, whether it be lying, stealing, adultry, or putting sugar in our neighbor's gas tank.

God did not give us the commandment, "Thou shalt not put sugar in thy neighbor's gas tank", but I am convinced He would not approve. If every possible wrong we could do to each other was listed in a book, my tractor's front-end loader would be unable to lift it.

God had a point to make -- and that point is to "Love your neighbor as yourself". You would think we could take it from there, but we get hung up on the words He used (the law) and miss the point (the reason for the law).

"Thou shalt not exceed the posted speed limit" is a law that is established by states to protect their citizens. When I was a police officer, I was allowed in certain circumstances to break that law. Why? To protect citizens. It was not the law that was most important -- it was protecting citizens.

God's gave us His laws for the same reason, to protect us from ourselves. It is not the laws that are sacred, it is the purpose for the laws -- and that purpose is to prevent us from harming each other. Unfortunately, there are some who get this backwards. They feel that God's laws are more sacred then God's reasons for giving them. This makes them preach that God's laws must be obeyed at all times, regardless of the consequences. That's like not allowing an ambulance to run a red light when transporting a critically injured person to the hospital.

Most of us who break the state's speeding law do so for selfish reasons.

Most of us who break God's lying law do so for selfish reasons.

Most of us who break God's stealing law do so for selfish reasons.

However, protecting others is the goal for all of these laws, and if there comes a time when breaking them would best serve that goal, breaking them becomes the new law.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Faith, Belief and Knowledge

Knowledge requires empirical evidence. One cannot choose to know or un-know something unless they illogically deny the evidence of their own senses. An example of knowledge would be that I know I have two hands. I have no need for faith nor belief when I have knowledge.

Belief does not require empirical evidence. However, it does require evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. When someone has evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, they automatically believe -- it's not a choice. If they do not have such evidence, they will not believe. One does not choose to believe or disbelieve in anything, because belief will automatically follow the evidence. An example of belief would be that I believe I have an appendix. I have no empirical evidence (unless I pull out my Leatherman and start digging), so I cannot know that I do. However, the circumstantial evidence is such that I have no reasonable doubt. I cannot "choose" to disbelieve that I have an appendix -- I could only choose to deny my belief. This is where most people get belief and faith confused.

Faith does not require empirical evidence. It also does not require evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. One can choose to have faith in something when the evidence is not sufficient for either belief or knowledge. Faith can co-exist with reasonable doubt -- knowledge and belief cannot. Because the evidence is insufficient, faith is not automatic like knowledge and belief. It requires a person to choose to accept something when the evidence for that something is insufficient for knowledge or belief. An example of faith would be choosing to accept a Biblical scripture, such as "pray for each other so that you may be healed" (in James). If the doctor has said there is no hope, a person can choose to have faith in that scripture (see where the "hope" comes in?). He cannot "know" prayer will heal without empirical evidence. He cannot "believe" prayer will heal because he does not have evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. However, he can choose to have "faith" based upon what evidence is available (the Biblical passage).

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Essential Beliefs

A person once asked me, "What are the beliefs that you believe are essential to being a Christian?"

My reply:

Over 2000 years have passed since Christ walked the earth. Only God knows how many hundreds of thousands of years we humans had a working brain before then.

During those hundreds of thousands of years, there have been hundreds of thousands of beliefs that people were born into and accepted.

How many of these folk had any opportunity to know such things as The Nicene/Apostle's Creed or the "Plan of Salvation"?

We'll all know the truth someday -- and I believe it will involve Christ and His sacrifice on the cross for us. At that time, I expect it will not be the essential things we believed during life that matters as much as it will be the essential kind of heart we had.

"He has showed you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?"

Micah 6 Verse 8

Monday, May 23, 2005

More On Love

God's true love is rare and counter-intuitive for H.Saps (and all animals). If we love God the way he loved us, we will make personal sacrifices for His sake. We won't just sing "hallelujahs" to Him while our brother is hungry or our sister is thirsty. We will sacrifice ourselves for others as He did -- thereby loving Him with all our hearts.

I don't believe our Creator is on an ego trip and needs stroked. He can cause the rocks to praise Him if he so chooses. What He wants is for us to have the kind of heart for which we were made in His image. We worship Him, we love Him with all our hearts, by loving our neighbor as ourselves.

This kind of sacrificial love is really the only attribute that separates us from our cousins in the animal world. My old hound dog Jake might give his life to save mine, but it would be due to genetic programming. It would not involve a conscious decision to deny his own instincts, knowing he would be committing suicide. Only we can do that, as Christ did for us.

Christ's death was a conscious decision that violated any and all instincts for self-preservation his mortal genetics demanded of him -- even as he prayed, "if it be possible, let this cup pass from me!".

He set the example, and that example is followed by us H.Saps every day. The little old lady in a nursing home who painfully limps with her cane down a hallway with her arthritic knees to help someone else is following Christ's example.

The "narrow way" which few find? I believe it is involves the one thing that separates us from other animals -- that part of us He made in His image. The ability to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of others. Most everything else will be traditions of men.

Unfortunately, many think they "love God" with their constant worship and praise -- which they subconsciously do to ensure they stay in good with the Big Guy. In other words, their "love" for God is really their "love" for themselves -- which is very natural, but is not really loving God nor their neighbor.

Origin of Good and Evil

The natural evolution of the purely human concepts of "good" and "evil" started with the instinctive need to ensure specie survival.

1. It starts with the identification of behaviors that are beneficial and detrimental to survival. All species do this by trial and error.

2. With the kindly assistance of natural selection, all species establish the intraspecific behaviorial parametrics and boundaries (what behavior is allowed and what is not).

3. And then . . . H.Saps attained the unique ability to conceptualize "beneficial" and "detrimental".

4. And then . . . H.Saps attained the unique ability to communicate concepts -- vertically with their offspring as well as horizontally with their peers.

5. And so . . . H.Saps obtained a tool for behaviorial control other animals do not have -- intellectual intimidation. They can use this tool (along with physical treats) to help ensure individual behavior is beneficial to the whole.

The Bible calls this state of cognizance, "The knowledge of Good and Evil", and depicts it as (forbidden) fruit on a tree. In an oddly mysterious way, this verbage is right on target. H.Saps' position on the "evolutionary tree" is what determined their ability to know "good" from "evil". If we had never attained the ability (ate the fruit?) to conceive of "good" and "evil", most of us would have been far happier campers.

Just another observation. Most Christians consider the first great commandment, "Thou shalt love thy God" to outrank the second, "Love thy neighbor". I kinda think it's the "loving thy neighbor" that's most important to God (and to our species). This would mean that the first commandment is given to ensure the second will be obeyed. In other words, we are far more likely to love our neighbor if God commands it than if our neighbor does -- and by "loving our neighbor", we help ensure the perpetuation of our species.

This would help explain why our Creator is a jealous God who allows "no other God before Me". He doesn't trust any other Gods' ability to ensure the perpetuation of our species.

Just a little brain wandering here.

Thursday, May 19, 2005


There are too many conflicting images, descriptions, translations and ideas about "Hell" in the Bible to allow a clear understanding. About the only flag that (almost) universally gets saluted is the statement, "I'd rather not go there."

Acceptable behavior is required for the survival of a species and is enforced rigorously -- improper behavior is a threat. H.Saps are uniquely aware of their mortality. They are also uniquely able to envision a continuation of life after death. This provides them an extra tool in their behaviorial control toolbox. They can now use the threat of punishment after death to help ensure acceptable behavior during life.

Assuming there is an afterlife, one has to wonder what punishment will actually be administered by our Creator -- versus how much misinformation has been invented by our species for crowd control.

Faith and Works

Christ used too many examples of people caring for each other for me to think it's an option. The rich man and Lazarus. The good Samaritan. The "for as much as you've done" scene in the after-life. I've never counted them for comparison, but I wouldn't be surprised if he spoke more times on helping others than he did on faith.

I don't believe we can "work" our way into our Creator's favor. I don't believe he pays by commission. I do believe he looks at the heart (which we can't do) and rewards according to how hard we try to do what we believe we should. That way, our reward will not be based upon how much we know, how smart we are, how theologically educated we are, or whether we were lucky enough to born into the right family with the right "religion" during the right era with the right genetics, etc. Our conscience will either excuse or accuse us.

By the way, this does not mean that what Christ did was unnecessary. It just means that what he did, he did for all -- not just a select and fortuitous few -- which is what I believe is the true Good News.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

What God Hasn't Done For Me

I'm approaching my sixth decade of life. In some ways I've not lost as much as Job, in other ways I've lost more.

I spend a few nights each month sitting on my porch, sharing the stars with my old hound dog Jake and a bottle of Southern Comfort -- because of nightmares and thoughts about things I've seen, things I've done, and things I've lost. God could fix this by giving me amnesia, but he hasn't done so, yet.

I stood at the end of a bed in '72 and watched as Frank, my Dad, gasped for almost an hour before he took his last breath. He was a man who had taught me many wonderful things, including how to sacrifice one's self for the sake of his family. I loved and respected him more than any man I'd ever known. God chose to not cure him of prostate cancer, in spite of my many prayers.

I watched helplessly as Joretta, a kind and wonderful sister, died from complications of her pneumonia in '74. She was only 37. God took her in spite of my prayers.

In '97, I held my first grandson (Tanner) in my arms after he died at birth. As I held that little dead boy in my arms, my son saw me cry for the first time. God chose to not save that little guy in spite of my prayers.

In '99, my family was hit by the most powerful tornado ever recorded. God didn't make that tornado miss -- (but he spared our lives).

A short time later, my second grandson (Tyler) was found to have leukemia. I'm sure God knew I did not want that, but it happened anyway. (However, Tyler is doing great. Perhaps God has chosen to answer my prayers for him. )

I lost another sister in '01. God did not cure her cancer -- or the animosity we held against each other at the end -- that I now regret. I can only wish he had.

In '02, I lost my dear 92 year-old mother. My wife and I had cared for her in our home for over 20 years. For the last five of those years, she had Alzheimer's. I would go to bed, hearing her pray to Jesus for relief. She got to where she sometimes forgot who I was (but she never forgot Jesus). I would hear her cry because she thought I was Frank. She thought that I (as Frank) was sleeping with another woman (my wife). God didn't fix her mind before she died, although I prayed daily.

I live with chronic pain from old surgical scars and adhesions. God hasn't fixed them yet.

I live each day in dread of the hammer falling again, and I know it has to sooner or later. What will it strike next --my dear wife, my wonderful children, my precious grandchildren?

I get this mental picture of someone leaning back in their chair and asking the question, "Then why in hell does he still worship such a God?"

I've asked myself that question many times. I'm educated in the sciences and know how illogical much of "religion" is -- so, why don't I just give it up and throw my Bible and my faith in the dumpster?

Is it because of my conditioning? I doubt it. My childhood church-going was kind of hit-and-miss, although both Ma and Pa were Christian (in the real sense of the word).

Is it due to a fear of Hell? Nope -- but not because of any merit on my part. I've done some pretty bad things. I just don't believe in what my Cherokee/Choctaw ancestors would have called, "The White Man's Hell". Punishment, yes -- eternal screaming, no.

Is it because I want to live forever? Absolutely not. I'd like to see my loved ones again, but life has not given me a desire to live forever-- quite the opposite. Like that old Blood, Sweat and Tears song goes, "If it's peace you find in dying, well then let the time be near." Just bury me with my old dog Jake and let us both rest in peace.

So what's left? Only thing left is the evidence -- personal, mostly subjective -- but real as rain to me. Real enough to keep me defending Him, even after He chose to sit back and allow me and my loved ones to suffer. Real enough to keep me from just flipping Him off as either a sadist or a figment of my imagination. I could discuss some of this "evidence", but such evidence is mostly subjective and some of it so personal it would embarrass both of us.

- Do I know there is a God? No. I do not have the empirical evidence required to know He exists.

- Do I believe there is a God? Not by my definition of belief. If the evidence is strong enough, a person has no choice what he/she believes. I cannot "choose" whether or not to believe in England. The evidence is just too strong.

- Do I have faith there is a God? Yes. Faith is a choice to accept something as true -- based upon hope and available evidence. I hope He exists, and I have enough evidence (for me) to accept His existense. I choose to do so.

A preacher asked my dad on his deathbed if he "knew" he was "saved" and would go to Heaven when he died. My dad's answer will be the only one I'll have -- "I hope so." God has not given me all that I asked for. However, there is one thing He gave for sure -- He gave me hope.

Monday, May 16, 2005

What We Accept

What determines what we accept are three things -- conditioning, evidence and desire (I'll call it CED).

Conditioning is what we get from our life experiences.

Evidence can be both objective (empirical) and subjective (dreams, answered prayer, etc.).

Desire is basically sourced by our instincts. We desire to survive, have sex, eat, etc.

This natural "trinity" governs how we think -- and the package is very dynamic. It can change with a phone call, a dream or a scientific breakthrough.

True facts, provable with empirical, demonstrable evidence are rare -- even in science. For every foundational fact, there are hundreds of extrapolations, probabilities and just plain guesses that are built upon that foundation. The foundational fact lends credence to these, but does not ensure they are correct. (Yes, Virginia, scientists use faith every day -- they just don't want to call it that.)

We each choose what we want to accept based upon our personal CED. This CED may closely resemble another person's (such a child with a parent), but it will always be unique to the individual. For any person to adjudge another person's CED by their own is egotistical, arrogant and frankly impossible.

The Christ said, "Who art thou to judge another man's servant?" I would humbly add -- or belief.

Truth is, when considering all that is and how it got here, no one knows for sure. That does not prevent (nor should it) a firm faith or belief in a Creator or a lack of one.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Proper Worship

I would like to think that most of our success in pleasing our Creator rests upon His broad shoulders instead of our own.

If there is any one "correct" way to worship Him, I doubt if anyone knows it, due to the limitations of our human understanding.

The fact my little grandson reaches up to Granddad with love and trust means far more to me than whether or not he has his shoes tied properly.

The Conscience

Evolution has equipped the human animal with a set of instincts required to best ensure genetic perpetuation. These include the following:

Lust and sex
Anger, hate & fear
Territoriality, possessiveness
Sociality, parenting, family and tribal ties
Growth of emotions during ontogeny

This hard-wired programming is 100% selfish, even if some associated behavior may appear altruistic.

The brains of homo saps evolved to the point they could understand how the behavior of others could be an asset or liability to their existance. My old hound dog Jake also evolved to this point, which is why he licks my hand and growls at other, strange dogs.

Homo saps' conceptual ability developed beyond old Jake's. So did their ability to communicate beyond the growling stage. Thus, rules of conduct (laws) were established by the alphas, enforced with associated penalties, tweaked as necessary and passed on to succeeding generations. All this was still nothing more than a fancier, but still selfishly instinctive attempt to ensure self-perpetuation. Social behavior was controlled by cause and effect -- not conscience. At this stage, the concept of "sin" was as foreign to humans as it was to all other animals.

But then ...

At some point in their evolution, homo saps developed a behavior modifier unknown to all other animal species -- a conscience. (Picture the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden). From this point on, the alphas had another, even better tool to control behavior -- guilt -- which was found to be at least as effective as threats of punishment. Unacceptable behavior could then be given labels to elicit feelings of guilt -- "bad", "evil", "sinful".

It wasn't the selfish instincts that were "sinful" (even though many "religions" have ignorantly labeled them as such. It was the failure to keep those instincts under control as defined by the "laws".

However, in spite of control exercised by the neo-cortex in terms of morals, ethics, good intentions, etc., when sufficiently threatened we revert to type – and reverting to type means animal-instinctual.

Is there such a thing as real "love" -- an unselfish concern for the welfare of others? I think there is. Are we able to deny our own instincts to the point we can truly be altruistic? I think so. If these are possible (and I choose to think they are), I believe they would have to transcend the natural and require input from the supernatural. Zoologists do not see such unselfish and potentially self-harming behavior of value in perpetuating a species.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Knowledge vs. Belief vs. Faith

- Knowledge requires empirical, first hand evidence.

- Belief is binary/digital. There is no such thing as "a little belief" no more than it is possible to be a little pregnant. Belief will follow the evidence -- as the evidence changes, belief will change. If the evidence is sufficient, one will believe -- if it is not, one won't -- and for that reason, one cannot choose what they believe.

- Faith is a choice to have hope in something based upon evidence that is insufficient for belief.

Lucky for us, what God requires from us is faith.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The Reason They Kill

The naked apes by other names
Will beat their chests exactly the same.

"We do it for God!" they're quick to cry,
Then gleefully watch their enemies die.

It's not for God these deeds are done.
It's not for God that wars are won.

"We're monkeys no longer!" the humans claim,
But the reason they kill is still the same.