The number of the beast

Yup, 666 (cue spooky music)

Ok, cut the music. I need to make this quick.


Please do not mistake this twist of logic for anything other than what it is, a bit of foolishness.

“Let the one with understanding solve the meaning of the number of the beast”

Hmmm, as an engineer I am trained to ask, “where have I seen this pattern before?”

Well it is often found as the ratio of 2/3 or .666 (pointedly convenient truncation 🙂 )

Hmmm, how could 2/3 possibly be relevant to the number of the beast?

Well if I think of man in a classical sense of having three facets body, soul and spirit then two thirds of man might be represented by that number sequence. If body and spirit are represented by the flesh and the mind then the missing third is the soul, or the God essence (breath) in man.

The possibilities are endless (as is the number sequence 😉 )

The beast is not a man creature. There is no soul to redeem. ( All you right wing hysterics really want to see that birth certificate now 😉 )

The mark of the beast is the conversion from a complete redeemable man into the reductionist matter and spirit as taught by “the spirit of the age”.

Without an immortal soul man has no ultimate fear of God since the worst He can do is reduce to nothingness. No pain, no foul. We eliminate what C.S. Lewis referred to as the horror of a Christian universe.

We can justify this interpretation by claiming that because calculations done in ancient times used whole numbers, fractions were represented in powers of 10 to simplify the calculations (similar to the way integer math is sometimes done in programming to speed up calculations).

I may start a sect.

4 days late.

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East meets West

I had a thought while standing in church last Sunday.

Some folks might think that’s radical.

The thought I had was imagining God looking down at the entire congregation, and really seeing them (as He may do).

I should mention that I attend a moderately sized church so we are talking about 600-700 people in a predominately Liberal Democratic state with a predominately Conservative Republican demographic (fundie).

Anyway, I imagined the diversity of each individual concept of the One True God we were all worshiping. Each of these perspectives shaped by their own experiences and understanding. Just like the diversity of clothing we wear, we bring our understanding of the God we imagine to the act of worship. As I thought about this I realized that I had always just imagined everyone saw the same God I did, like we all saw the same cross on the back wall. I also imagined we had the same beliefs since we were all in the same church listening to the same sermons. I don’t think that’s true now because I realize we each have differences in how we interpret those sermons as the Holy Spirit highlights areas each of us need to grow in, and because we bring different experiences to the table. Put another way we have different pasts and different futures that the actual One True God is working with.

As the week has progressed I’ve seen more diversity in Christian perspectives on the web as well. I saw people who seemed to believe you had to be a narrow minded and bigoted conservative to be a Christian (well actually that perspective was usually a definition supplied by liberals). I have also seen very broad, all inclusive, feel good, no consequences everybody goes to heaven Christian perspectives (as a narrow minded and bigoted conservative I am able to supply the alternate view 😉 ).

I guess what I’m saying here is that we do a heck of a job with US and THEM, but the thought I had last Sunday was that God doesn’t see it that way.

He sees HIS.

Imagine if you will that we are sitting in the back seat of the universe as Christ is bringing us to His Father’s mansions. Do we really want to make Him pull over?

That was never fun for me.

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Faith and works

This is a gnarly problem.

We are saved by faith not works, BUT faith without works is dead.

Now the truth is I have a working understanding of this apparent contradiction through Romans 6 (thanks men’s breakfast 😉 ), but I have had trouble expressing what that working understanding is.

Lately I have been reading Virtue Reborn by Tom Wright, a book I highly recommend for any C.S. Lewis fans. Bishop Wright seems to have made an effort to follow in Mr. Lewis’s footsteps (consider some of his other titles Simply Christian and Surprised by Hope ), and he does a good job of retaining Mr. Lewis’s flavor while providing his own tasty morsels.

In any case Mr. Wright provided me with a flash of insight into that problem as I read his book. It helps if you think for a moment about Chaos (I also recommend Chaos: Making a New Science as an excellent non-technical primer) which gives us a feel for the idea of sensitive dependence on initial conditions. We frequently say “life is Chaotic”, and it really is both figuratively and technically. What I mean by this is the perspective, or the attitude we bring to a situation can (and often does) have a profound impact on the outcome. Put another way, our initial conditions can define the path we take as we deal with issues in our lives which causes the results to vary wildly.

The observation Mr. Wright made was that the “why” of good works matters. Mr. Wright explains in his book that the classical or Aristotelian approach to moral action (virtue) is self centered. How can “I” be good enough. In fact he points out the classical view has a heroic aspect in which the good doer demonstrates a superior behavior. To this view Mr. Wright incisively contrasts the Christian approach to moral action (Virtue Reborn) in which the good doer is not self centered (as in what can I do, how should I behave) but is instead Christ centered (as in, what is God’s will). This subtle difference is the humility empowered by the knowledge that it is not what I do that makes me acceptable (justified by faith). The outward action may be the same in terms of gross behavior, but the nuance of what is conveyed has a profound influence on both my own heart and the hearts of those around me. The justification I have accepted causes me to seek to do God’s will in the world, not as a mere rule follower, but from a heart filled with the love I know as the result of His love for me. If I have not responded to His love with a desire to please Him to know Him and be as He is, then have I truly accepted His sacrifice as my justification? (faith without works is dead).

As Christians we already known this, but hearing the explanation was for me an “AHA!” moment.

So I had to share.

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Yesterday was the men’s breakfast. We have been in Romans for the last two years (well I started going two years ago and they were already halfway through 🙂 ). I really like this group.

The thing I like about this group has a lot to do with the guy who leads it. His style is very open and he is more than willing to let the conversation stray into challenging waters. I’m sure the age and maturity level of the group helps too. That is not to say everyone who goes has been at it a long time or even that the same individuals show up at each breakfast.

I say “we” because I feel like I belong here. I’m part of the give and take of personal interaction. We are a fellowship and that is what we do when we meet.

I attend the regular Sunday service with my wife, but it isn’t the same. While it is important to come together and stay connected to the larger group, we don’t have the time for deeper interactions on Sunday because it just isn’t conducive to that kind of socialization. Using school as a parallel, Sunday is like the lecture hall where the material is presented and our smaller more personal gathering is like a study group where we review and digest the material, making it our own. Do not infer from this the men’s breakfast is a rehash of Sunday service, the congregation hasn’t been stuck in Romans the last two years. 😉

In this same vein the men’s breakfast is a place where I can practice my faith. What I mean by that is I can “fly with a net” there. There is a cross section of people who are willing to be my test subjects just as I am willing to be theirs. We learn from and put up with each other in a “safe” environment where we are all guided by a common commitment to Christ.

This is very important to me because sometimes I feel like one of those electrons on the outer shell. I may be part of the atom, but it feels like the bonds are weaker where I tend to spin. I’m not very dogmatic about biblical infallibility (though I believe the bible is the standard by which to measure) or even what it means that Christ was fully human and fully God (though I believe His atonement is the only basis for God’s acceptance of me). I don’t believe that people are saved by “magic words”, and I don’t fully understand the tension between behavior and grace or election and will (though sometimes I think I do). I have real problems with evolution but understand that it is not the real issue. I self identify as a “fundie” but sometimes it seems like I’m either a liberal in fundie clothing or a fundie in liberal clothing.

Maybe I’m just a troublemaker. Some time ago we were discussing “disputable matters” and I chimed in that prostitution was a disputable matter (’cause we seemed to be hardening the denominational lines). I was actually thinking of Rahab since she was both a harlot and a heroine of faith. I then went looking for OT injunctions against harlotry. Apparently Levites can’t marry them and fathers are not supposed to force their daughters into that line of work.  Beyond that it would seem this was (is?) a valid occupation for unmarried females. As far as I can tell you can’t be an adulterer or a fornicator but prostitution is okay if that’s how you make a living (depending of course on local legal custom). Finally the group leader asked if I was really defending prostitution or making a point (smart man). My point was that we need to be very careful when we start defining the boundaries past which we will not fellowship. Sometimes less really is more.

And they let me come back 🙂 Now that I think about it I have no idea how much headway they made before I got there. Still, they welcome me back.

What it comes down to is these things can be very simple for some people and very complicated for others. Maybe it’s simple for those people who can just trust God but complicated for the people who feel compelled to try to understand why. Some of us look for signs and others wisdom.

My wife doesn’t have much problem with her faith, she doesn’t worry about it. She worries about other things 🙂

She says I’m deep, but I think that just means I’m in over my head.

That’s why I really like this group. They keep me from drowning.

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Wives, submit to your husbands

What the heck does this mean?

I was sitting at the table last night eating dinner with my wife of 27 years when she looked over and asked me if I wanted her to be submissive. Sensing a trap I […]

All joking aside, that really happened (not the sensing a trap, I always miss that part).

Since I’ve been out of work I have a lot more free time to waste on the internet. So I started this blog in part to improve my writing skills, which if you’ve read any of this you know it hasn’t. Anyway, I read somewhere that the secret of good writing is to read a lot of good writing then forget where you read it, so I have also cruised other blogs and found some interesting people and some capable writers.  As a “bible thumping” christian I seem to end up reading a lot of favorable and unfavorable stuff people write about Christianity (I’m pretty squarely in the favorable camp). One of the hot button issues is this Ephesians 5:22 thing about female submission.

We Christians are sometimes embarrassed by the whole anachronistic, club wielding, troglodyte attitude it seems to convey. Some of us form whole doctrines and sects around this passage (this is a different and usually more severe problem). The truth is I don’t think much about it. I’ve been a Christian for awhile now (almost 40 years) and I admit I tried the

you’re my wife, you’re supposed to submit

thing once or twice in my first marriage. I don’t know who that works for, but it didn’t work for me, and since I’m not as dumb as I look I figured I must not be doing it right so I gave it up. For the record that wasn’t what did in the marriage, we had much more serious problems.    Moving on.

As I have been reading, commenting and thinking about husbands, wives and Christianity the problem of this passage has come back. So if I believe (as I do) that the bible is inspired by God then I should be able to resolve the intent of the passage within the context of the book (deftly sidestepping any issue of infallibility). Said another way the intent of Ephesians 5:22 should fit into the general message of the bible and feel like part of the whole.

Some basic principals we should be able to agree on about the bible, as Christians we are encouraged to:

  1. Love one another.
  2. Esteem each other above ourselves.
  3. Submit to each other.
  4. Live in peace with each other.

Pretty simple non-controversial  respect each other , love your neighbor as yourself kinda stuff. Probably not a bad idea for married people who, let’s face it, will have some difficult moments in interpersonal relationships to deal with. Charity, as they say, begins at home.

So what is this “wives be subject to your husbands” thing? Why a distinct difference in husbands and wives? Husbands, by the way, are entreated to give themselves up for their wives.

It gets worse. By the time we get to the end of the chapter Ephesians 5:33 we find:

But each individual man among you must love his wife as he loves himself; and may the wife fear her husband.

Yeah, that’s healthy.

Or is it?

The question is can mutual love and respect be reconciled to Ephesians 5:23 and 5:33? I think it can, bear with me.

Someone told me once it is important to take things in context. As it turns out this section of Ephesians starts with the imperative to be subject to each other (#3 in the list above). Not only that but this whole chapter deals with how we are to live. If you think of these suggestions as a sequence they are:

  1. Submit to each other.
  2. Wives submit to your husband.
  3. Husbands love your wife.

I can see this as a recipe for dealing with interpersonal conflict, and I think it works like this. Step #1

  • Submit to each other

When things are working and we have no issues or issues are resolved without conflict we are naturally submitting to each other, the rest of the stuff doesn’t even come up.

A side note here: Any man who doesn’t listen to his wife is missing a big part of being married. She is there to help (and you need it). I value my wife’s role as sanity check in our relationship (and I believe she values mine). When I think about doing something I’m not sure of, I can ask my wife about it to see if it passes the “sniff test”. Sometimes even when I don’t ask her she usually has the good sense to point out I’m doing something stupid and I’m even stupider if I don’t listen. When we agree about stuff I’m very confident it is the right thing to do because we have very different perspectives and talents. So the whole doormat, milquetoast, insipid act should be nipped in the bud. I want a partner not a rubber stamp, just say no!

But sometimes things don’t go smoothly and we both get stubborn and fleshy and human at the same time. In that situation we go to step #2

  • Wives submit to your husbands.

The reason for this is that by and large men are larger (bigger faster stronger) than their spouses, and the women seem to like it that way.  When I was in school the physically fit alpha males got dates and the nerdy beta’s got directions (where to go). I’m not complaining, things worked out for me and we all grow up, but this is still a consistent pattern. The point is it makes a lot of sense in an impasse with someone who outweighs and outguns you to acquiesce. Every kid in the playground either knows or learns this. When you are confronted with a situation where continued escalation will bring you to a place where you can’t win (I know the truth is in that case you both loose but we’ll get there) the wise choice is to give in, seek peace, bring it down a notch.

Did I say every kid in the playground? The girls might not have this same experience when playing with girls (well today they do but I’m not sure that classifies as advancement). If the girls have not learned this unfortunate truth someone should tell them – thank you brother Paul.

Remember step #2 only applies when we are both out of control and step #1 is not reeling us in. Submit to each other comes first.

Finally if we are both so out of control that even self preservation no longer holds sway we have the ultimate directive – proceed will all haste to step #3

  • Husbands love your wives and give yourselves up for them as Christ did the Church.

Men do not under any circumstances treat your wife like a male peer at this point. Your responsibility if it goes to the edge is to get hold of yourself and give up, yield, stop, quit, take a breath, go for a walk, anything but take it to the next level. If you give in to that urge you may regret it for the rest of your life (which could be sooner than you think if you plan on going to sleep in your old bed again). And in this context wives LET HIM GO. Respect the fact that he is bigger than you and remember he is human too. That word “fear” in Ephesians 5:33 is one of respect, just like I respect God. I know He loves me and only wants my good, but He is still Almighty God and I will do well not to try to put a stick in His eye.

Now that makes sense to me and it doesn’t contradict anything else I know about how I am to conduct myself as a Christian, my self worth or my partner’s.

I’m gonna ask my wife about this.

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Teacher teacher

Interpersonal relationships are paradoxical. What I mean by this is that they are both simple and complex at the same time. For example a simple action like a kiss on the cheek can have very complex results.

I think the complication arises from the interaction between what we may physically do or say and how those words or deeds are interpreted by the observers. At some level communication (the basis of interpersonal relationships) involves the translation of internal thoughts and emotions into physical reality which are observed then interpreted back into internal thoughts and emotions by the recipient.

This process has a lot of room for the introduction of error. There is the internal translation which is subjective and may be internally inconsistent (we don’t always say what we mean). There is the physical transfer of information through word and deed which can be heard incorrectly or observed imperfectly (inflection and body language count). Then we have another subjective internal translation operation which usually has very different parameters than the initial operation (we also know we don’t always say what we mean 🙂 ).

As a result I believe we can classify interpersonal communication as a natural process with sensitive dependence upon initial conditions (chaotic?). What this means is that we may get wildly different results from the same actions depending heavily on very subtle differences in both the initiator and receiver of the communication.

Having convinced myself of the hopelessness of actually being able to successfully express myself, let me continue 😉

The point of this blog is that my own internal attitude has a lot to do with the effectiveness of my communication, and since the thrust of this blog is Christian Walk my intent is to focus on the way I, as a Christian, attempt to convey what I perceive as truth to other people, both Christians and non-Christians.

I don’t think that I am unique in having the experience of trying to tell someone, even someone I care very much about, how they are doing something wrong. I’m going out on a limb here but I would hazard a guess that anyone with a significant other has been on both ends of that experience. Without additional risk I believe I can say that the regularity with which the outcome is unpleasant is also a common experience.

So what occurred to me is that my internal initial condition has a lot to do with the effectiveness (correlation between intent and result) of my communication. It further occurred to me that one of the differences between the times when this communication has actually been effective and when it has spun wildly out of control was when I was commiserating as opposed to instructing. A critical difference in that initial condition is the distinction between dealing with a peer vs dealing with a student.

Through subtle and not so subtle body language, inflection and word choices I may convey an attitude of superiority without really intending to. This is especially true with those whom I care deeply about because I want the best for them and frequently think I know what that is.

I need to think about who I am and how I am relating to the person with whom I am trying to communicate if I don’t want to come across as judgmental or condescending even when that is the furthest thing from my mind.

James 3:2 “If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man […]”

I would like to be a perfect man, then I could tell everyone how its done.

So you should have nothing to worry about ;-).

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So many changes so little time

I found a scientific (Department of Systems and Biology at Harvard Medical School) blog about evolution the other day. It was an interesting read. The post was a rebuttal of an argument (irreducible complexity) against evolution that is part of the foundation of Intelligent Design.

Let me be clear that I am not a scientist or a mathematician. I am an engineer, and we deal in simplifications. As I read the post this statement struck me:

“…try to get your head around over 3 billion years of a meandering multibranched process of accident, failure and occasional success.  In particular, it’s hard to keep in mind that the advantage that leads to increased evolutionary success can be very very small; often so small that it’s extremely hard to measure.”

The thing is, trying to get my head around something complex to turn it into an algorithm is what I do. So I started to think about it and I realized 3 billion years just isn’t that big a number, ~95 quadrillion (10^15) seconds. For the record the estimated probability for monkeys typing Hamlet is 10^360,783 to 1 (that’s a big number!). The reason that number is so big is because when you stack probabilities they are products not sums and they get ridiculously large pretty fast.

3 billion is ~1/4000th of the US GDP.

3 billion is about 1/20th of Bill Gates personal fortune.

3 billion years is only 750 thousand times recorded human history.

3 billion is only 666 times the period that humans have been on the planet.

To get a feel for the scale of the value 3 billion consider that 3 billion is roughly the number of calculations a typical PC is capable of making in about 1.5 seconds (assume 2 Ghz clock and single clock cycle instruction budget for simplicity). This is relevant because if you are reading this you have a feel for how long your computer takes to start up and within an order of magnitude you now have a feel for how many operations it takes to just get your computer ready to use.

This is relevant because the complexity of this time limited, “meandering multibranched process of accident, failure and occasional success” cannot be significantly less than the complexity of starting a computer (one would assume it is orders of magnitude more complex).

But wait we have 95 quadrillion seconds right? Except that we need to consider the time scale of an evolutionary operation.

My understanding of the process is that some small evolutionary change occurs randomly in a population. This change produces a slight survivability advantage in the organism which eventually causes the distribution of that feature in the population to replace the original population (the speed of this replacement being somewhat proportional to the strength of the advantage). This advantage, it is noted in the blog, may be very very small which (it seems to me) would require a very very long time for population replacement (ever run a life sciences simulation?).

But wait there’s less…

As it turns out the real action didn’t start until the last 20% of that 3 billion years! What that means is it wasn’t until the Cambrian age a mere 600 million years ago that these permutations began in earnest.

So I think I can get my head around 3 billion and it doesn’t pass the sniff test. There just isn’t enough time.

Around the time I became a Christian Lucy was discovered. She was a big deal back then because the charts on hominid development had to be changed and what I had been taught as scientific fact in high school turned out to be just scientific theory. Not only that but I’ve also learned that when new discoveries disrupt existing theories (on which the current academics have built their careers) they are not so warmly embraced for expanding our knowledge as one might think. Apparently we have not evolved very much past teaching that the sun revolves around the earth if that’s what the prevailing wisdom happens to be.

Postscript: I kept thinking about this and did a little more digging (yuk, yuk). As it turns out the time frame we are talking about is around 200 million years (the first mammals). The process of developing humans from the first mammals had to occur in this period. Recently some archeologists claim to have found human remains dating back 400,000 years. If we assume the evolutionary cycle (which has apparently been stable for that long) is on that order of magnitude then we only have enough time for 500 evolutionary cycles in that 200 million year period. Since 500 changes is a fantastically low number the only other explanation to fit the evidence is that the rate of change must have started very fast (short cycle periods) with a fairly rapid reduction of changes and a large expansion of the period for each cycle. A logarithmic function could model this kind of behavior where there is a steep rise that rapidly changes to a long slow increase. With the appropriate parameters this approximates a step function.

The thing is I’m not sure this model (based on the known parameters and very forgiving of the concept of a random walk) is really so much different from creation. If you have a better way to make the data fit I’m all ears.

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Christianity and the Borg

You will be assimilated – A quote from any instance of the Borg

Zombies are scary. They seem human (mostly) but cannot be reasoned with. Sometimes (depending on the mythology) they may be capable of logic (I Am Legend), even at superior levels (the Borg), but that just makes them more frightening. They are frightening because they are usually trying to make you just like them, and that’s unreasonable.

Let’s take a little sidebar and talk about logic and reason. Things may be perfectly logical yet perfectly unreasonable. Wiki explains the difference like this:

Reason and logic can … be thought of as distinct, although logic is one important aspect of reason. Author Douglas Hofstadter, in Gödel, Escher, Bach, characterizes the distinction in this way. Logic is done inside a system while reason is done outside the system by such methods as skipping steps, working backward, drawing diagrams, looking at examples, or seeing what happens if you change the rules of the system.

Consider the entreaty, “Let’s be reasonable” as opposed to, “Let’s be logical”. The request for reasonableness is an appeal to the broader picture while the request for logic is an appeal to reductionism.

Coming back to zombies, their logic is a closed system, cold and inhuman. Any reasonable (warm blooded) human being would resist assimilation in order to preserve their humanity even if they were the last person on earth (if we are to believe the writers). This allusion to the temperature difference between cold (dead) logic and warm (even passionate) reason is an important one.

Some humans would rather become zombies. There is a logical reason for this 🙂

Jessica Stern, in the introduction to her book Terror in the Name of God, identifies a phenomena referred to as “doubling”. In the context of her book this is a separation between the original self and a new (morally disengaged) self, and she goes on to cite references to that psychology. My own introduction to the concept came through Eric Hoffa’s True Believer which I read in high school (so I should have known better, but I digress). In a nutshell the doubling process is used to escape the pain experienced by the original self.

Ms. Stern is careful to point out that the “doubling” phenomena is sometimes a positive and essential aspect of meaningful contribution in some professions including medicine, psychology and military service. I believe it is important to recognize this positive purpose because my cosmology sees evil as the corruption of original purpose.

When The Buddha “woke up” some 2800 years ago he taught that the self was the source of all psychic pain and that the way to peace could only be found in the renunciation of that self. If you have read (almost) any other post on this blog you already know that this religious truth is universal.

As Christians we are taught to deny ourselves, to crucify our flesh, to die with Christ in order to be free of the natural man so that we might live in the spirit.

I think there is a subtle difference here that I would like to explore.

I think the difference is whether we escape the pain of self or we endure the death of self. I think this is the difference between killing ourselves (our humanity) and submitting to God, between maintaining and yielding control.

As Christians we learn that the self must fall to the ground like a seed. That it must be buried and resurrected in a new life. We are further taught that new life, if it is allowed to grow, will bring forth fruit. Fruit of the most wonderful and satisfying variety. Fruit that is living and full of life, fruit of the Holy Spirit of God.

We are also taught that we don’t grow that fruit, but that God Himself is the one responsible for the increase. All we can do is provide the seed and maybe some fertile earth (since we are but dust). He grows the fruit, not us. Just like He chooses our gifts. The fruit and quantities of it are different for different members. They are, dare I say, diverse just like the life He has created.

The peace of God is not the peace of the cold and lifeless death of self, it is the peace of life fulfilled, of love and righteousness. The peace of knowing and believing that the pain of the world has been addressed, that real Justice has been and is being served.

That brings me back to zombies. They die but are never resurrected. Zombies can’t grow fruit because they are still dead. My pastor commented in a sermon, that some Christians are like farmers that go into their fields and tie fruit onto their trees. Are these Christians really submitting to God or are they working in their flesh to be the image of life? Jessica Stern points to current and historical documentation that what makes highly religious believers into terrorists is their unwillingness to wait for God to work, their conclusions are logical but the results are unreasonable.  The result is zombies, either foul rot or cold plastic and both are equally scary.

Some people are warm and caring, even to strangers. They reveal the love of a Living God.  Zombies are cold and lifeless, they seem less than human. They have the empty clang of the noisy gong and are mostly incapable of reason because they have escaped instead of dying.

Can we be Christians and loose our reason? Can we truly reveal the love of the Living God without our humanity, the reflection of his image? The Lord Himself entreats us to reason with Him, and goes outside our logic to reveal that He will make us clean. The Lord does not assimilate us, He resurrects us. In Him we have life, warm and vibrant.

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Love the Lord your God

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind “Luke 10:27

I was wondering about the great commandment. What does it mean?

Loving your neighbor is a bit more straightforward because, after all, here they are I know what I’m doing. Loving God is maybe a bit more abstract because, after all, “… you are a God who hides himself…” (Isaiah 45:15).

Now Christ does say in John 14:15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command”, but that’s more like a result (no argument that there is a key relationship here). This idea that our love of God drives our motivation to please Him is repeated elsewhere and I get that, but what drives our motivation to love Him? How do we understand what it means to love Him?

I know we love Him because He first loved us and I agree, but that answer is not really the question I’m asking.

So as I thought about this I thought, “what it is about God that I love?”

As I continued to think I also remembered a Muslim friend of mine telling me something about the “attributes” of God. Here is site you can go to and read some of what others have listed as His attributes. This was how I understood why I loved God, and could see the emotional connection to what is so much more than a rule.

I love truth – I really love it. The understanding that comes from truth makes complex things simple and hidden things plain. I think I love truth the most.

I love wisdom – This is related to my love of truth. Knowing the reasoning of things, I really love that. Seeing wisdom documented centuries ago that is still wisdom today makes my spirit leap in my body. I love it.

I love Justice – I don’t mean I want Justice, I mean injustice grieves me, it hurts my soul to see it, there is a disquiet, a moral outrage to injustice. I think I love Justice because I hate injustice so much.

And that is what loving God means to me. The things about God like His purity, His faithfulness, His compassion, His goodness. Those things are the things I desire, they are the things I want to emulate, the things I want to posses.

We understand that the people we love usually have qualities we find admirable, that we wish we had ourselves. Loving God is like that. Do you love mercy? You love God. Do you love compassion? You love God.

We love Him because of His attributes, who he is. When we think about the things about God that we love, that we wish we possessed, that we find admirable we see that we do in fact love Him.

And that is why the first commandment is first. It is only when we understand/experience our love for God that we have the desire to love our neighbor.

Rules are policy and policy is dehumanizing (the letter kills).

Loving God gives us the desire to love our neighbor and that’s what makes us the humans He meant us to be (the spirit gives life).

Anyway that’s what I thought.

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The bible tells me so

Jesus loves me this I know  – for the bible tells me so.

This post is about why reference to scripture and the Christian bible in particular is valid in discussions of the human condition.

Regardless of where you come down on Christianity or the doctrine of biblical infallibility it is a simple fact that for the better part of the last 1500 years the compendium of writing that comprises the Christian bible in various translations has provided a common context and language in the west for the deepest problems of human existence. Few people would argue against the moral imperatives of the ten commandments or the sermon on the mount and the validity of their claims on the lives of men. In fact it is well known that the teaching of the Christian bible shares a high degree of correlation with other great spiritual writing in both eastern and western traditions. I would argue that the fundamental issues of the human condition have not changed radically in the last 2500 years. If the teachings of The Buddha are still relevant (as I believe they are) then based on the correlation of these religious teachings no less the Christian bible.

Some may argue that science has enlightened us so that we can move beyond the superstitions of the ancients. Not only is this idea refuted by the ancients themselves: the fool has said in his heart there is no God (Editor: he is like a man who sits in a tree and cuts off the tree instead of the branch), but the idea itself is logically inconsistent. Science is limited to the realm of the physical and therefore is incapable of definitive statements in the realm of the metaphysical.

Some would point to the excesses and inhumanity practiced in the name of God both in the past and present as proof the teaching of the bible (among other writings) represent the worst rather than the best revelation of the divine. This logic is equally flawed, ignoring as it must that those practices are also identified and condemned in the bible (among other writings) as common human corruption. Will you blame the revelation for the sins of men when it clearly warns them of the danger and outcome of their wickedness?

To discount the authority of the bible is to ignore centuries of successful application of its wisdom to the lives and struggles of men. To discount the relevance of its message is to ignore the discourse of centuries of both the learned and unschooled exploring how man is to find his way in this world and beyond. Denying the bible its say in matters of the human spirit is like disallowing the works of Shakespeare from a discussion on English literature.

The bible speaks from experience and has earned its place at the table.

Footnote: To eliminate potential confusion about the statement that science cannot make definitive statements about the metaphysical, following the “law of least surprise” I use the term “science” here as it is commonly understood today (see wiki)

Science is in modern use, “often treated as synonymous with ‘natural and physical science’, and thus restricted to those branches of study that relate to the phenomena of the material universe and their laws, sometimes with implied exclusion of pure mathematics. This is now the dominant sense in ordinary use.”

Science by this definition excuses itself from areas of study that are not based on phenomena of the material universe. Since God claims to be spirit and truth, definitive statements about Him are outside the boundary implicit in our understanding of the word “science”.

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