Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Broken Guide

Tom Carver was angry, and more than a little perplexed. He had searched for her by every avenue he could think of and found nothing, But it was impossible that someone would not be on the system. They could not buy food or  hold a job or get medical care.

It had all started four days ago. He was sitting in a coffee shop, ordering his usual breakfast.Then he noticed her. She was alright looking, though nothing really special. But the thing that drew his attention was that she was reading an actual paper-and-print book. Why would anyone want such a thing? Surely all the literature and information in the world could be found on the system.

He was curious enough to go over to her table. They talked about books and other things. This included her strange religious beliefs about God becoming a human being to show people what God was like and save them from the penalties for their wrongdoings. She invited him to a meeting of her group, and he was curious enough to consider it. She then took a piece of paper and wrote down the street address of the meeting. She told him to be sure to keep the paper if he wanted to come. This made no sense at all, because once he entered it in his zone on the system, it would be there permanently until he deleted it.

During a break at work he asked the system about the woman's religion. He got an immediate response of negative reports and arguments against it. That night he watched the queued videos he had requested on his full wall screen. But in the middle, where he did not remember ordering it, there were pictures of a current, casual relationship. Romantic moments shared and good times enjoyed. The next day, when he checked his vids, he found a full porn download he had not requested. He was puzzled. When he tried to go to the meeting anyway, the system directed him to a strip bar, with no sign of a religious meeting anywhere.

And now he could not find her on the system at all. Then he remembered the slip of paper.

With some effort he found the place. The service gave him a lot to think about. Afterwards, he ran into the woman. "Interesting service," he told her, "but I had a hard time finding it."

"That's not surprising," she replied, "we've tried preparing people, but they don't believe us. You have to experience it yourself."

"But why?" he asked.

"The system started out with a number of people advertising their products," she explained. "But somewhere, someone took over. They are very low profile, so we do not quite know who they are, the government, some business cartel, or something else. They give people what they want, but they also work to control them and keep them consuming products. But they are against Christianity or any other definite belief because it produces in people convictions they cannot control."

"But how can you live off the system?" he asked.

"We are not really 'off the system'; nobody is," she replied. "They are smart, and they do not want to produce martyrs. But we are limited and tend to get stuck with the worst, lowest paying jobs and are kept from positions of power. But when someone tries to investigate our beliefs, the blocks go up. So you need to decide whether you want to continue the investigation. There is a cost involved."   

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

To Confront or Not to Confront

One of the difficult questions in community is when to confront another believer. I have seen situations where people confronted others on every issue, no matter how minor. This can lead to a situation of mutual recrimination that is the opposite of community. But I have also seen cases where almost nothing was ever dealt with and things were allowed to fester until they exploded. There is a place for love to cover a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8; Proverbs 10:12; 17:9). This is important, because we are all sinners (Romans 3:23; 7:14; 1 John 1:8-10), and to hunt out every sin of everyone is nothing but a recipe for strife. But there is also a point when things need to be dealt with (Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 5:1-5; 2 Thessalonians 3:11-15). Now this must be done with gentleness, with a view toward restoring them (Galatians 6:1; Hebrews 12:12,13; 2 Corinthians 2:5-11). But it is often a difficult choice which way we should take in a given case. We need to carefully weigh the effect on themselves, others, the community, and those outside the community if the behavior in question is allowed to continue unchallenged. But we should not be to quick to jump to one extreme or the other. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Illustrations and Analogies

How are we to understand the descriptions of God in Scripture? Are they literal or figurative? There are those who claim we can know nothing about God except by analogy. On the other extreme, there are those who see God in a highly physical manner. There are also sceptics who take this view as a basis for rejecting God, claiming He is nothing more than a glorified man. What is the correct understanding?

God as God is not visible to human beings (1 Timothy 1:17; 6:16; Exodus 33:19,20). This is one of the reasons that God became a man in Jesus Christ, that we might know what God is like (John 1:18; 14:9; Colossians 1:15). But God as God is a nonphysical Being who transcends our physical world (Jeremiah 23:24; John 4:24;  Luke 24:39). Now there are places where the Scripture uses analogies to describe our relationship with God. However, it is frequently clear these are analogies. We do not see a hand coming down from heaven to bring the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 13:3). Nor do we expect to see the eyes of the Lord running about on the earth (2 Chronicles 16:9). Nor does it make sense He would literally have wings (Psalms 91:4). Also, God appears in various forms. This makes sense if He is going to meet with us. Sometimes He appears in a human form, which is, in my understanding, generally the Son, in anticipation of His becoming man (Genesis 18:1-22; Joshua 5:13-15; Isaiah 6:1-3). But He also appears in a burning bush (Exodus 3:1-6), a pillar of fire and cloud (Exodus 13:21), or a thick cloud and fire (Exodus 19:16-18). However, this does not mean He is physical by nature.

But with personality traits this become more complicated. We are told to love because God loves (1 John 4:19) and to be holy because He is holy (1 Peter 1:14-16). Also, we are called to be like Christ and like God in our behavior (2 Corinthians 3:18; Romans 8:29; Colossians 3:10), which makes no sense if there is no connection between the two. And it is the moral nature of God that Jesus became man to reveal. However, there are things in Scripture that appear to be descriptions given to help us understand God, even if they do not reflect His inner nature (Jonah 3 :10; Genesis 6:6; Exodus 32:14). But it is often difficult to know exactly where literal understanding ends and analogy begins. I am reminded of C. S. Lewis's picture of a dog observing human life. Some things would be true parallels, while other things could only be understood by analogy. I would therefore argue for humility. While it is important to know about God, it is necessary to realize we cannot fully understand Him (Romans 11:33; Isaiah 55:9; 1 Corinthians 3:18). But it is more important to know God through Jesus Christ than to understand everything about Him (Philippians 3:7-11; Jeremiah 9:23,24; Matthew 7:21-23).

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Touch of Humor - Observation

Why do we tend to sit in the back? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? Would it be better if everyone wanted to sit in the front?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Old Erich Proverb - Shortcut

Shortcuts to avoid all the problems of the Christian life often merely leave you lost and off the path.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Voice from the Past - Luther

Let us consider it certain and firmly established that the soul can do without anything except the Word of God and that where the Word of God is missing there is no help at all for the soul.

Martin Luther, 1483-1546, The Freedom of a Christian (translated by W. A. Lambert, revised by Harold J. Grim, Luther's Works, Helmut T. Lehmann, Muhlenberg Press, 1957, Vol.31, The Career of the Reformer: I, p. 345)

Is this true? What difference does it make?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Deducing the Universe

There is a way of understanding the universe that we have inherited from the Greek philosophers. This idea is that the physical laws work in a way that parallels mathematics. You start with a set of obvious premises, such as 2+2=4, that are transparently so. You then use these premises to deduce the rest of the system that necessarily follows from them. This does not mean all the answers will be easy; certainly this is not so in mathematics. But all the answers, no matter how complicated, are a necessary result of the obvious premises. The Greek philosophers and the early scientists believed the physical laws worked in the same way. While I do not believe such a concept could prevent God from intervening if He chose, intervention in such a clearly ordered machine seems intrusive. But it does eliminate any idea of God's providence, beyond setting up the original premises. Also, if human beings are outside the system and able to think and act independently, it is difficult to see how they could interface with the system. But if they are simply another part of the system, then all their thinking and beliefs are a result of what the system requires, with no necessary relationship to reality or truth. But is this concept correct?

Now we have not yet figured out what the basic premises are for the physical laws. But they do not look to be something simple and obvious. The current theory, which is not yet proven, involves strings vibrating in ten dimensions. This does not look like something that is obviously necessary.  But even if we can find the premises, we are left with serious problems in deducing the universe. We are faced with quantum mechanics, which says that when we look at objects on the smallest scale, we can only know probabilities. Then there is chaos theory, which says that under certain conditions small differences in initial conditions can produce major differences in results. And if those differences get small enough, we are once more faced with quantum mechanics.

The mathematical  model does not seem to reflect the world that is. I would like to suggest the alphabetical model. The alphabet also starts with a series of basic elements. These are put together in an orderly manner to make words, sentences, and works of literature. But the results cannot be logically deduced from the elements. You cannot start with the English alphabet and deduce Shakespeare's plays. And if you tried to deduce rules from the final product, in the end you would be left with probabilities. Now if the universe is not really deducible, there is room left for both God and human beings. And the options for how a universe which is not deductible came about are either an intelligent Creator or an explosion in a print shop.  But the idea of a deducible universe has serious flaws.