Everyone a Pastor

13 10 2010

Following a man has always been easier than following God.  Even so, he is still only a man.  If we closely emulate his strengths, then we may closely emulate his faults.  But, choose whom we will to follow, our leader never goes to Hell on our behalf.  He goes there for himself, and we go to our own fate.

Following a man has always been so much easier than taking responsibility for our own faith, that we have an innate tendency to venerate our spiritual leaders, as though they were anything better than just another lost soul.  He is but one man among peers.  We sent him off to get his education.  He returned to impart his wisdom to us.  If he taught us for an hour every Sunday, then we sat through fifty-two hours of sermons per year and five-hundred-twenty hours each decade.  By our early thirties, we would have listened to 15,600 solid hours of preaching.  If there were anything left for him to teach us that he had not already discussed, then we ought to dismiss him for his negligence.  We ought, by all rights, to have learned enough to be our own preachers.

Can you say “amen” to that?

To borrow the cliché, our man of the cloth is all too often more cloth than man.  He looks good in the pulpit, but his character tends to be shallow.  It is his fault for expecting to be the shepherd of his flock.  Only Christ is the shepherd.  It is our fault for putting him on a pedestal, as though the platform were raised for his honor, and not merely so that we could see him better.  We should call no man “father” except our Father in Heaven.  A pastor is a peer among equals.

When a layman commits adultery against his wife, we condemn him, but we are not shaken.  When a pastor does such a thing, our church splits, some leave that church, and some leave all church, entirely.  When a pastor falls, we are shaken.  Yet, a pastor is just a theologically educated member of the congregation.  But, so are we.

He distances himself from his people.  He needs that air of infallibility.  If he related to us as one of us, then we might see his faults.  We hold him in such a critical esteem, that his would be the first faults we found, even before our own.  Yet, he is only a man, and he is only human.  Considering the pressure, considering the lack of moral support, and considering the lack of mentoring, one might conclude that the pastor lives an act.  He must, even if he is sincere.  He lives the best that he can, and he hides the rest, or he loses his job.  Such is the fact of the matter.  In this, there grows a weakness.  Quite possibly the shakiest faith in the church is the one that stands behind the pulpit.  The weakest in the group stands to be the backbone.

The disparity between the pastor and the laity is a two-part problem.  Firstly, the pastor has no pastor.  The second problem is like the first, that the congregation has no congregation.  We do not work on Sunday, but the pastor might only work on Sunday.  We turn to him for guidance, but he has no one.  He does not sit in church every Sunday and listen to anyone’s sermon.  He is alone.  God is his only guidance.  Even so, God should be our guidance, also.  He is called to speak the truth, but so are we.  He is called to reach the lost, but we are, also.  We are pastors to a lost world, but we act like spectators.  Our message is as bad as our worship, being nothing but lip service, and only a lip service within the walls of the church building, at that.

We are the preachers who do not preach.  He is the laity that does not listen.  We have led him through his fear for our approval.  We have failed to follow, because we have not emulated him to the world.  We watch him like a television.  We sing a few songs.  We chat a little, and then we go home.

We are only peers among pastors.  No man is above us.  No one is beneath us.  We are all responsible for working out our own faith, with the fear and trembling of a man tottering above the flames of Hell.  Only one man has paid the price for us, and he isn’t the pastor.  Only I am responsible for finding my salvation.  We are in this together.  We are judged separately.

Every single one of us has some insight that you lack.  Every single one of us needs support that only you can give.  We are all pastors.  We are all laity.  We were all lost.  We are all found.





Erosion; a Dialogue Among Rocks

20 02 2010

Imagine, if you will, three similar worlds placed upon each other like sheets of paper, arranged so that their homologous features matched. 

 The top sheet is a picture of a timeless world.  Mountains dot its landscape, and great rocks thrust into the sky.  Trees cling to the sides of cliffs, their roots wrapped around boulders, and vines blanket them like a comforter.  A lone steep road ascends the side of a crag, winding its way up to the top, where a city sits in full view of the surrounding mountains and valleys.  This is not a defensive location, for the city has no enemies.  Nor is it a location of convenience, for its engineers were clever enough to be able put it on any terrain whatsoever.  It rests upon that crest like a beacon, because the denizens of the lone farms and ranches nestled in the nooks and dells throughout the land love to be able to gaze upon it, where it flickers like a nest of stars that haven’t learned how to fly across the sky yet.  On one horizon, the stars gather in retreat from the advancing dawn.  On the other horizon the sun hides just out of sight, gently illuminating the morning sky.  This world is held forever in a state of perpetual dawn.  Its clocks are always wound.  Its creatures are never hungry.  Its rocks are not eroded, nor are its metals corroded.  The entire place is pristine, like a new car, fresh and green, without blemish.  It even has that new-Earth smell.  A blanket of fog nestles in the lowest ravines, dripping dew upon its herbage.  Cascades of waterfalls make their way down the sides of rock faces.  It is near one of these streams that a man first appears.  He stares in awe at the world around him.  Then he sees the city, and he feels it beckoning to him, so he begins a slow ascent up the winding road cut into the face of the rock.

 Now, let us return to our stack of papers.  The world on the bottom, though a manifestation of the one on the top, is a very different place, indeed.  Somewhere between the top page and the bottom page, the forces of entropy kicked in, reducing the bottom page to a manner of Hell on Earth.  All of the mountains from the first page were eroded until they were nothing but completely flat valleys.  Then the valleys were eroded until they washed into the sea.  Boulders eroded into pebbles, which eroded into gravel, which turned to sand, then silt and then clay.  Hurricanes started in what once was the Atlantic Ocean, traversed unhindered where the American continent used to be and traveled on into the Pacific Ocean.  Being a very liquid sphere, it became not unlike Jupiter, with its everlasting cyclone.  The miniscule particles of sediment were stirred up into a colloid, a suspension of solid within a liquid, causing the dirt and water to mix into a dangerous quagmire.  The sun had reached the end of its life, and, for a time, there seemed some uncertainty as to whether it would consume the Earth or blow it into outer space.  It had done a little of both, tearing the planet apart and turning it inside out, bringing its molten core to the surface.  The stars fled from the sky and blinked out, and the sky was pitch black.  The Earth was void and without form.  It was ready for God to move upon the face of its darkness and create new heavens and a new Earth.  But this was the last page.  This world was timeless.  It was into this darkness that a man appeared in mid-air and fell into the quagmire, where he promptly began to sink into its quicksand, drawing ever closer to one of those eternally burning pockets of magma.

 Somewhere between those pages was another.  This middle page was the story leading the top page to the bottom page.  This one was not timeless, and, in a sense, it was not just one page but many.  In truth, these worlds when put together formed a book.  The mountains were only halfway eroded in the middle page.  The creatures were hungry but not dead.  Somewhere in the middle of this life-death world was a hill that had once been a mountain but was not yet a valley, and a significant portion of rock had been exposed.  A force of humanity had hewn rock from its place and changed its shape, relocating it ultimately to the head of a grave.  A very large mass of people gathered around it to pay their respects, never noticing the neighboring grave, which had also been freshly filled.  This grave was marked by no headstone, for its only respecter could afford naught but to roll a nearby boulder to the place of the head.  The crowd, then, could hardly be blamed for trampling rudely upon the recently deceased, though they might have noticed the one mourner beside it.  If they had possessed eyes to see such a thing, they would have seen the personage of a deceased one arise from his grave and walk slowly up into the sky, traversing a road in a different world, making his way to a certain city.  By all appearances, he would be walking up thin air into the sky, where once a mountain had been.  Likewise, if they had the eyes to see, then they would have noticed a personage falling from his grave into the bowels of a dead planet, sinking into an invisible mud.  He would by all appearances be falling through a valley floor that had not yet washed into the sea.

 When the crowds dispersed, aged and died out, a vandal visited the gravestone, changing one letter to another.  We might imagine those two stones lying side by side, one carved by human hands, the other carved by random chance.  One stone looks at the other and notices his regular shape, and the letters and numbers scrawled across the surface.  He at once recognizes the fact that something apart from the forces of nature has affected his neighbor.  We might pretend that the two stones had a discussion on the matter.

 “By Jove,” says the boulder, “You have a very distinguishing mark upon you!”

 The gravestone awakes from its slumber and mumbles, “It’s just erosion.  Random forces of nature have made me this way.”

 “But,” the boulder protests, “there is writing on you!”

 The gravestone immediately dismisses this.  “It is nothing but an illusion.  It only looks like the work of an intelligent hand.  I just happen to be the one rock among millions that happened to erode intelligently.  It’s a statistical inevitability.”

 “Look, rock,” said the boulder in frustration, “I know very well what a natural rock looks like.  I know what the forces of chance would produce, and you aren’t it!”  The boulder peered closely at the other and read, “R. I. P. H… Charles Darwin… 1809–1882.”

 “What?!” replied the gravestone, offended, “That’s supposed to say R.I.P.”

 “Well, it used to, but somebody messed with it…hey, how do you know what it’s supposed to say?  I thought you said it was written by random chance.  That’s like rolling the dice and saying that it’s supposed to give you ten, or flipping a coin and saying that it’s supposed to be heads.  If it’s random, then it’s not supposed to be anything in particular.”

 “Yes, but I was the lucky rock that eroded into the message, ‘R.I.P.’

 “I wonder what the H means,” mused the boulder.

 “Nothing,” the gravestone snapped, “It doesn’t mean anything, because it wasn’t authored by anyone.”

 “Does it mean Heaven,” thought the boulder, but then a new idea ocurred to him, “or does it mean Hell?”

 “I said it doesn’t mean anything!” the gravestone shouted.

 “Nonsense,” said the boulder, “It’s too well organized to not mean something.  Someone did this to you, and they must have meant something by it.”

 But the two rocks would not agree.  With time, the gravestone eroded into just another rock, and its letters crumbled away.  Then it said nothing, meant nothing, and looked not at all like a rock that had been deliberately shaped by human hands.

But this is all pretend.  Rocks do not discuss the meaning of life, for they are just rocks.  It is people, living and breathing and exibiting far more design, which demonstrate this kind of nonsensical discussion.  They see their own order and claim it a matter of random chance.  They see aberrations in that order and call it disease, a thing which was not meant to be.  Yet, though they can see that the aberration was not meant to be, they refuse to see that the  healthy person was meant to be.  Having been endowed with a design, having been meant to be anything at all, we demonstrate the existence of the one who meant it.  Otherwise, we cannot claim that a sick person should have been healthy any more than we can claim that a coin toss should have been heads…unless we thought we had rigged the toss, but, then, there comes the intervention of an intelligent design.

 Back to our book, again, we see that the pages have been disturbed.  Someone has picked up our unbound book and read through only the first page.  After finishing that page, the reader placed it on the bottom of the stack and never finished reading the second page.  Now, our story of the universe starts with degeneration without a perfect starting point.  The beginning is mysterious and unexplained.  Humpty is falling from a wall upon which he never sat.  The story begins with the fall.  In our new version, the sun has already risen, and a tiny crack has already formed in the wall of the city.  A particle of sand has moved a little down the stream.  The world starts as nearly perfect as it could be, except that it is already on the second page before we’ve really begun. 

 Then we come to what would have been the end.  Billions of souls perish in the darkness of the end of the world, and there is no transition from there to the first page again, even though it is the next page.  An intraversable chasm sits between the first and last pages, and the people suffering in one cannot get to the other.  Yet, mysteriously, the new last page is full of people.  Those fortunate enough to live on this page have no fear of slipping to the second page, because there is none.  They started with the second page, and now they’re on the new last page, the beginning of things, when all was perfect and new.  All that was old has passed away, and now there is a new heaven and a new Earth.  This will not perish, because this is now the final page of the story.

In the meantime, we shall erode like rocks while arguing whether we have been shaped by an intelligent designer.





Managing the Forced Dilemma

23 01 2010

They want to kill us, and we want to live.  This is the problem at hand, that Muslim fanatics in this world aim to destroy as many of us as possible.  The question is how we are to stop them.

Every person has a list of priorities.  When we let someone take something from us that we value highly, this is only for the sake of something that we value more highly than what we lost.  A man in Beirut was assigned to guard Bathist headquarters.  He was not disloyal, nor was he willingly derelict in his duties when he let PLO terrorists inside to steal paperwork and set explosives.  He did it for a note and a lock of hair.  He did it to save his kidnapped wife.  A forced dilemma was set before him.  He could sacrifice his job and his employer’s property, or he could sacrifice his wife.  It was the essence of any effective diplomacy.  If you want a thing that someone values highly, then you offer him something that he values more highly, or else you threaten to take it away.

There are those who value our destruction highly.  We must bribe or threaten something that they value even more if we wish to have diplomatic leverage.

Eve was not generally a disobedient woman when she took the forbidden fruit.  If she had been, then she would already have been fallen.  Therefore, it stands to reason that she was not without loyalty to her God, and she did not disobey for disobedience’s sake.  When the matter came down to the fire, she valued her vanity higher than her loyalty to God.  The snake appealed to the higher priority, and the lesser one was sacrificed in the process.

A man may value his job, may wish to be appreciated for his work and may wish to be esteemed by his coworkers.  However, he may also wish to relax, and this priority may be higher on his list.  Everyone has a list of priorities, and no two things are of equal value.  When put to the test, when forced to choose between two things, a person’s prioritization determines the outcome.  The homeless bum does not wish to be homeless, but, very often, his desire to avoid strenuous work is a higher priority.  A homosexual does not necessarily want to be a sinner or face possible wrath in the afterlife, but his desire to live the homosexual life is a higher priority.

Life is all about priorities.  We can all say that we want to be good people.  We can all say that we want to do the right thing.  Even the common criminal could say it, but the will to do the right thing is a lower priority than the desire to indulge in someone else’s property, some defiled lifestyle or some manner of vengeance.  One might easily say “I can’t help it.  That’s just the way I am,” when we want to do the right thing but never actually do it.  Of course we want to do the right thing, but we value something else even more.

Of course we don’t want to die in a nuclear inferno.  We must find that thing that the enemy wants more than our destruction if we are to survive.

Iran is working on making nuclear weaponry.  This is not for energy.  They have enough crude oil to provide them with plenty of energy.  This is not for defense.  They don’t need provocation.  The people in charge over there just want us dead.  We make fools of ourselves when we threaten sanctions.  We could starve their economy into oblivion, but it wouldn’t touch their nuclear ambitions.  We in the West put such a high priority on the almighty dollar that we can’t imagine other people not shaking in fear when money is at stake.  If they don’t stop their uranium enrichment, then we’ll stop buying their stuff.  Money, for the terrorist, is just a means to an end.  The bad guys in this case aren’t looking for prosperity this side of the grave.  Some of them are, but the martyrs aren’t.  When a man is willing to blow his own flesh to a thousand bacon bits just to kill you, one might wonder what a person could possibly offer or threaten to convince him to stop.  If Iran gets nukes, then Iran will use nukes, and unless we can find something more important to the Ayatollah than paradise, then this is the unavoidable end.

How did we come to the point where a weak nation with one bomb could cow a superpower with many bombs?

It’s all in the priorities.  We wish for prosperity.  We wish to live normal lives.  We wish to think well of ourselves.  We want people to like us.  We want to avoid conflict.  We want to close our eyes and make it all go away.  A few nukes from submarines and the Iranian threat could be gone by tomorrow.  It could be gone forever, but we have a higher priority, which is the preservation of human life.  Much as the crazies want to kill us, we don’t want to actually lash out and hurt their people.  But, even if we did, the question to ask is whether those madmen value their own peace and security above our demise.  To this, the answer is a resounding no.  If they wanted to live in peace, then we would not be in this situation to begin with.

They want paradise.  Can we take paradise away from them?

Much as people whined about the war in Iraq, it had the worthy effect of casting doubt as to whose side Allah is on.  If I’m going to blow myself to bits for God, then I’d better be absolutely certain that I’m really on his side.  There’s no sense in losing Paradise with a misdirected waste of life.  Then, the Muslim must be in a bit of a bind in that department.  Allah doesn’t make his intentions very clear on the specifics.  When the Muslims lose war after war, the favor of their god is in doubt.  When that happens, the dynamite belt might just be a blast-off to nowhere.

But the defeat of a Sunni regime is no deterrent to a Shiite.

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  We know that.  They know that.  At least, people are conscious of their own evil.  Show a man his shame, crush a woman’s pride, reveal that sin and do what you like, you only illustrate something that nags universally at the back of the human mind.  We are a bunch of sinners.  Promise a man his get-out-of-Hell-free card, and he’ll do anything for you.  We are all aware of our shortcomings.  The suicide bomber doesn’t don that belt because he’s a faithful Muslim.  He does it because he knows he’s screwed up, big time.  Death by jihad is to him an automatic win, despite his failures.  Overcoming sin is a higher priority than life, itself.  Losing life means losing everything.  When you kill yourself, you give up on friendships, family, prosperity and everything else.  It means you don’t get that promotion, that sunny weather, that cup of coffee, or anything else.  What does the terrorist want?!  He wants to be absolved of his sins when his own efforts are clearly in vain.  He wants to be forgiven by God for all of the wickedness that stains his soul like grease on a new white dress shirt.  Every other thing is a lesser priority.  Nothing trumps it.  There is no higher priority to use for diplomatic leverage.

That man needs Jesus.

Once, so long ago, there was a martyr who gave his life in a battle to absolve all sin, but the sin that he absolved was not his own.  It was yours.  He died the martyr’s death so that we, who could not get into Heaven by merit, could still get into Heaven.  That martyr was Jesus.  He is that automatic pass to Paradise.  It is only through him that we are saved.

Because an exploded sinner is just a sinful mess.





A Mirror Among the Ugly

16 01 2010

How do you tell someone that he’s ugly?  You do it very, very gently.  If you’re his friend, then you’ll probably never tell him.  If you’re his mother, then you’ll lie.

They live in a house without mirrors.  Over the bathroom sink hangs a picture of the Mona Lisa.  On the bedroom door hangs a full-length picture of Audrey Hepburn.  They brush their teeth and shave in front of these images, making believe that they are really seeing themselves in a mirror.  They eat breakfast with tarnished silverware, and they drive to work with the rearview mirror adjusted away to avoid accidentally seeing themselves.  Unfortunately for them, their workplace is an uncontrolled environment.  They can’t help but occasionally glimpse themselves, reflected in the bathroom mirror or a shiny surface.  They are the ugly.  They are everyone.

 Within everyone grows an innate evil, an ugliness that we try not to look at.  We do not, cannot, see ourselves for whom we really are, because we live our lives from the inside out.  A thing seems right because we want it.  A thing seems wrong until we do it.  Our house has no mirrors.  At work, people see us, and they react to what they see.  It shows us some reflection of ourselves.  But they only see us on the outside.  They are the reflection of our fully clothed selves, and we look away from that image, even.  We are as beautiful as we like to think we are.  So long as we never see ourselves, we can live in that fantasy.  All who know us may see us as arrogant jerks, but we remain unaffected.  We avert our eyes.  We break the mirror.  We try to buff the ugliness out of the shine.  We blame the lighting.

 God has sent to us a full-length mirror, and we stand naked before it.  It is the Holy Spirit, and it shows us what we are.  The fools among us shudder and walk away, trying desperately to forget what they saw.  Some of us stand and stare in shock for a while, only to convince ourselves that what we see isn’t so bad.  Others accept the image, realizing that they do not rise above the ugliness of the world around them.  Your Mom was ugly.  Your Dad was ugly.  You followed the trend.  Your friends are ugly.  Your dog is ugly.  At least the whole world is ugly, too. 

 But God has not sent this mirror simply to make us feel bad about ourselves.  We need that mirror in order to change what we can.  We use it so that we might not walk out the door with toothpaste in the corners of our mouths.  We use it to improve ourselves.

 Cooper’s Looking Glass Self is the principle that even when we look in a mirror, we do not see ourselves for what we are.  All we see is some person staring blankly at a mirror.  We use other people’s reactions to us to shape our self-image.  They see us in a natural setting, smiling naturally, reacting naturally.  Unfortunately, our friends usually don’t tell us everything we need to know about ourselves.  They’re often not brave enough to tell us when we’re behaving badly.  Worse yet, our ugliness gets filtered through theirs.  All we see is any extra ugliness that exceeds theirs.  Anyone who shows us the wickedness of our ways we malign and ignore.  We refuse the image they show us of ourselves, because we do not like it.  It does not fit what we’d like to imagine.

 Christians are often accused of being judgmental.  This, more often than not, is a complete lie.  We have been through that fire, are still going through it, being shown our flaws in painful high-definition by the mirror of the Holy Spirit.  We don’t have the luxury of living our fantasy.  Those of us who haven’t gone through it are those who do not have the Holy Spirit, and, therefore, have not really accepted Christ.  If you want to play that role and be that Christian, then you’re going to look in that mirror, and you’re going to go through that fire.  You get to peer into that image and see that wart, that pimple and that crooked nose.  You get to see your arrogance, your selfishness and your shallowness.  On the plus side, you get to work on fixing it.  You don’t have to stay that way.  On the minus side, you can’t pretend you’re beautiful, when you’re not.  It’s no wonder the world calls us judgmental.  In us they see a reflection of themselves, shining off of the sheen cast by the work of God in our lives.  They will look upon us, and they will hate what they see.

 We did, too, at one time.  Some of us still do.  No one is perfect.

 So, how do you tell a man that he’s ugly?  If you want to be his friend, then you don’t.  He won’t brush his hair if he doesn’t know it’s a mess.  He won’t pluck the dangling booger from his nose if he doesn’t know that it’s there.  In fact, anything true is potentially useful.  People don’t use truth to hurt themselves.  We reflect upon people by hinting at them what they really are.  The Holy Spirit reflects like a mirror, abruptly and plainly, holding nothing back and sugarcoating nothing, but neither does he mean any of it for harm or insult.  Likewise, we should speak the truth in love, gently, not to insult but only to help.

 In return, we can expect to be thrown to the floor and stomped on.  Such is the life of a mirror among the ugly.





The Other Omission and Commission

7 01 2010

By now, you may have read in other sources that there are two kinds of sin, the sin of commission and the sin of omission.  One is the transgression that you do, and the other is the thing that you didn’t do but should have.  However, there is another side to this story, for there are two unfavorable responses from God, along these lines.  There is a curse by commission, and there is a curse by omission.  There are the plagues that demonstrate a deliberate intent on God’s part, and there are the diseases that exist as a result of God’s lack of intervention.  We preach so easily on God’s love that we neglect his wrath.

As described in the previous post, there is old age that comes as a result of random effects from our environment, but there is also a more potent aging that comes from a deliberate function within our bodies to kill us.  On the one hand, we are weakened by God’s lack of intervention, by his doing nothing directly to heal us or maintain us in spite of our environment.  On the other hand, we have a deliberate mechanism to hasten our demise.  The same can be said of every disease.  Much as sickness looks like a shortfall of intelligent design, the tapeworm and the virus demonstrate definite design.  Unless the Devil has gotten into the business of bioengineering, which I am reluctant to accept, we might reason that God was in that detail.  This is a very hard idea to handle.

Bacteria can fall to one side or the other.  Some of them make us sick because they happened to be in the wrong place.  Sometimes there might be some ambiguity as to whether the toxins that they produce were a deliberate attack on our health or a means for some other function.  However, there exists an entire category of microbes that fall into the classification of gram-negative cocci, which can be described in no other way than that they exist to make us sick.  Specifically, they exist to make the promiscuous among us sick.  Remove these organisms from the body, and they die very quickly.  They have no natural home outside of a human.  The Evolutionist might not have trouble explaining this one, but there is a certain spirochete called syphilis that defies a naturalistic explanation.  It appeared suddenly, from seemingly nowhere, with no relatives, to infect an entire army of French soldiers after their conquest of a single Italian city.  One might say that sickness is not a function of intelligent design, but the design of a microorganism is clearly evident.  While sickness caused by microbes does not always indicate deliberate intent, there can be no question that this microbe was specifically designed to cause sickness.  It is a curse of commission.

Diabetes, many cancers, hemophilia and other genetic diseases all find their causes in the omission of an intelligent design.  There was supposed to be a function in the body to keep a person healthy, but random change destroyed that function, and God did not reverse that change.  We are not hurt by what God did, but by what he didn’t do.  We can easily overlook the rest of the genome that still serves to keep us alive.  We could easily see that one little missing thing as a direct attack on our health.  However, what it all comes down to is the original curse, the Fall of Man, when disorder was allowed to come into the world.  The curse, here, is not that God brought things into disorder, but that he does not actively keep it in order.  Fortunately, he did build within us a great many functions to resist random change.  As time produces random change that ruins a person, it also produces random change that ruins humanity as a whole.  We accumulate this drift, and what doesn’t kill us makes us weaker.  If any random change is beneficial, then it is only because it happens to partially reverse one of the many harmful changes that came before it.  This is a losing battle we fight.

The tapeworm has intelligent design.  We thank God for the daisies and the roses, but we never thank him for the tapeworm.  I don’t think we’re even expected to.  Yet, as disgusting as this creature is, it is only acting in that great war of nature known as the food chain.  Nature is not our mother.  It is a battleground.  Animals devour each other and parasitize each other as a result of entropy and the constant battle to fight the drive toward disorder.  The virus is no different.  One particular virus appeared out of nowhere, with no known relatives and no known history.  It infected one man, who traveled the world and infected many others.  Some have said it was God’s punishment against homosexuals.  The first person to suggest this was a homosexual with that disease, known as AIDS.  God does not hate the homosexual.  Let’s make that clear from the beginning.  If he hated homosexuals, then they would all cease to exist in a moment, for there is nothing preventing him from making that happen.  His only concern is eternity.  Whether a person’s life is longer or shorter, pleasant or full of trouble, the only thing that matters is what they do with the rest of eternity.

I used to feel critical of people who saw trouble and disease as having come from God as punishment for human depravity.  I especially felt critical of anyone who might suggest that AIDS was a curse from God against homosexuals.  Then, one day, a coworker asked me where the virus came from, and we were both at a loss.  It could not be explained by evolution, or any natural means.  I had to shrug my shoulders and suggest that maybe God had produced it.  It was a paradigm shift for me.  In truth, it is the modernist philosophy ingrained in each of us that causes us to lash out at the idea that plagues and disasters befall us at God’s direction.  It is not the blacksmith that hits the anvil, we say.  It is the hammer that hits the anvil.  We like to think that the blacksmith does not exist.  The hammer just happens to be there, and it just happens to hit the anvil over and over.  In truth, without the blacksmith, neither the hammer nor the anvil would exist.  Without God, neither the homosexual nor HIV would exist.  The fact is that God does love the homosexual, and that’s why HIV exists.  The alternative is to wipe out all sexually immoral people, or else let them go to Hell without threat or warning, had he hated them.  The fact is that, if we are objective and totally honest with ourselves, then we must see that HIV has intelligent design, and, crazy as it sounds, it does, in fact, seem to have been targeting homosexuals.

There are those curses that result from our separation from God.  They exist because we change, and we don’t change according to his design.  We change as we will, because we and our world have been released to go our own way.  These are the curses of omission.  God is not our mechanic.  He does not keep us in order.  Then there are those curses that come about through causative agents containing intelligent design, like a virus or a worm, whose action against us is not accidental, but deliberate and part of the design.  These are curses of commission.  They happen because God does not want us to continue going our own way into oblivion.  He wants to get our attention, and he’s determined to do it even if it kills us.  Eternity is just on the other side of death, and we can’t afford to enter it heedlessly, as though it did not exist.

Christians hate the idea of a God that curses.  We like to see him as God the redeemer, lover of our souls.  Plagues and curses are a thing of the Old Testament, almost as though that were a different god.  Jesus came to break the curse, but his kingdom is not of this world.  Every day we still die, just like we have since the very first man breathed his last.  The laws of Moses have not been overturned, and neither has the curse, this side of death.  But there is a hope that goes beyond the grave.  Our treasure is not in this life.  No pleasure, no gratification in this life is worth the cost of losing our treasure in the next.

It is for that reason that we are scared out of our wits by the specter of a biological weapon engineered by God, himself.  If you think that cancer is scary, then you have no grasp of Hell.  If the wost thing you can imagine is losing your life, then you have no hope of Heaven.





Parthenogenesis

22 12 2009

One of the most common ideas about the virgin birth, if not the most common idea, is that Christ was conceived of a human egg and a divine…sperm.  However, the earliest of Christians did not think this.

In the time of Christ, and in the time of the prophets who foretold of the virgin birth, it was solely believed that the man was the carrier of a fully fertile, “seed.”  The woman was thought to provide no genetic component, inasmuch as they knew of genetics.  She was the fertile ground within which the seed was planted.  In fact, the word, “semen,” literally means “seed.”  While we know that traditional reproduction involves the union of two lineages, they had thought that all life was patrilineal, descending strictly through the men.  What is the significance of this?  It means that, as far as all parties were concerned, Jesus was as unique a human as Adam was, being without any parents.  This is somewhat difficult, considering that the messiah was supposed to come from the line of David.  In a sense, he did come from that lineage, both through Mary and Joseph, but he was genetically not descended from either.  That was what people who believed in the virgin birth believed about Jesus’ bloodline.

Let’s look a little into this.  Here we have the problem of original sin, the belief that because we were descended from Adam we were born already condemned and full of evil.  The exact reason for this is not clear, but what was clear to the early church was that, if Jesus was not really descended from Adam, then he must not have had original sin.  He was the world’s third un-fallen person, ever, after Adam and Eve.  What they also believed was that because he was without Adam’s fallen nature, he was sinless, and therefore capable of atoning for our sin, like a bull without blemish.  To further add to this, he was the Son of God, which meant that he could atone for all sin for all time.  He was a new human, fresh out of the package with no spiritual inheritance, other than the one he received from his Father in Heaven.

Now, fast forward to the discovery of the human egg.  Upon the Christian world was thrust the burden of determining whether Christ was conceived without both sperm and egg, or just without sperm.  If he was of Mary’s egg, then he was absolutely born with all of the genetic flaws accumulated throughout history to that point.  If he was from her egg, then he was not the spotless lamb that people took him for.  People would say that sin and physical flaws have nothing to do with each other, but I would say that the two are intrinsically connected.  You cannot have one without the other.  Death is just a lethal accumulation of physical flaws.  Death is the wage that comes from sin.  Therefore physical flaws arise because of sin.  Had the original people remained sinless, then they would have remained perfect, free from injury, illness and death.

When the ancient Israelites were commanded to sacrifice a spotless healthy bull for the atonement of their sins, they were being commanded to select the beast based on physical traits to serve a spiritual purpose.  God did not command them to find a bull that was without sin.  He told them to find one that was healthy, and by inference far from death.  Sin is our divergence from the will of God.  Entropy, sickness, mutations and death are all physical divergence from the perfect state that Adam and Eve knew before the Fall.  Therefore, to be that perfect sacrificial bull, Christ had to be without sin and without physical defect.

The first thing to change this was the crucifixion and all of the torture that went with it.  As he accepted the sin of the world onto his shoulders, he also took the burden of death and destruction.  As he was physically ripped to shreds, he was spiritually ripped to shreds.  As he physically overcame death, he spiritually overcame sin.  The two go hand in hand and are inseparable.

What, then, shall we say?  Was he already suffering the wages of sin and physical injury before the whip crossed his back?  This could hardly be true.  If it were, then we would have no hope.  We would still be as damned as the day Eve took that fruit.  If a perfect sperm fused with an imperfect egg, they would not form a perfect human, but an imperfect one.  The early church put the hope of their eternity into the very fact that Christ had no human ancestors, and Mary was only his surrogate, adoptive mother.  They saw him as an original human, without original sin, come to take away the sins of the world.  I can say this with absolute certainty.  Why should we change from this perspective?  They were not wrong.  God save us if they were.





Tilting at Windmills

17 11 2009

Mr. Buck was a brave fellow, to be commended for his vigilance, warding off impostors and guarding the herd.  One should wonder what would happen if he had used his seven-point antlers to defend against actual predators, rather than other elk.  He fought off the weaker bucks, those endowed with fewer points and a lower crown.  He tolerated nothing but the best for the does: himself.  Then he encountered a defiant one, a buck made of concrete.  They fought through the night, neither acquiescing to the other.  At dawn, the morning’s sunlight found them both lying on the ground, dead as a doornail.

He is the vigilant Christian, defender of the truth, the one who sniffs out heresy and exposes it.  He is dutiful, a credit to his faith.  We can hardly criticize such a person.  He does the Lord’s work.  But while he spends his hours weeding out the so-called Christians who use indelicate language or misread scripture, the world lies in wait.  They are the predators who seek to destroy us.  They are the greater threat, who seek ways to marginalize us, hide us, outlaw us, or even kill us.  While the world picks us off, Mr. Buck uses his seven points of theological prowess, not against the predator, but against other believers.  May the strongest theology prevail.

No, there is no wrong in the refinement of our understanding of God’s word; quite the contrary.  No, there is no vice in seeking to banish those who would poison the faith.  It is a virtue that most do not have.  However, as with most things, such vigilance can go too far.  Not only can it narrow our focus to those who profess to be believers, blinding us to the larger threat, but it also stands to pit us against a false threat.  Once in the habit, we can find fault in anyone.  This Christian used the word “piss,” when he should have said, “pee.”  Nay, he should have said “urinate.”  No, he should have used a code word, like “do number one.”  Bother, he should not have mentioned it at all.  Never mind that he’s trapped in the back of your car and barely holding on to his dignity.

This person baptized his infant.  Why, that’s not Biblical!  These people celebrate Christmas, a Catholic holiday that good protestants should avoid.  The Charismatics force acts of the Holy Spirit that have an eerie disturbing nature.  The Northern Baptists have emasculated God, giving him no room to work a single miracle.  The Calvinists blame God for everything.  The Lutherans act and talk just like Catholics.  The list goes on and on.

I did a little experiment, once.  I wanted to see how much evil one could pin against my blog if a person wanted to make a pariah out of me.  I was rather startled at how easy it would be.  Am I cutting my own throat in mentioning it?  I probably am.  Any of those people whom I am describing would certainly take this and run with it.  Therefore, I would start by saying that none of the following was intentional, nor does it imply anything about me.

1)  The name, Nonaeroterraqueous could be abbreviated to NATAs, or Satan, spelled backward.  I’m serious, folks.  This was never my intention.

2)  The name is eighteen letters long.  Eighteen is the sum of the digits 666.

3)  The symbol looks like three sixes put together (again, that was not the original intent).

4)  The symbol resembles the binary number 1110, which translates to the number eighteen, the sum of the digits 666.*

5)  The author’s name is Mark (that’s me), which sounds a lot like the mark of the beast.  Didn’t Revelation mention that the mark could be the Antichrist’s name?

Hopefully I didn’t just kill myself.  In fact, I probably did.  In truth, I’ve just given ammunition to the very people I want to address today.  If you found these reasons sufficient to condemn my site, then you are tilting at windmills.  You are clashing antlers with a concrete foe.  The enmity is purely imaginary.  There is nothing to it.  I know, because it is my own site.  I know what my own meaning is.  But you know what I’m getting at.  We’ve all encountered people who could read an evil meaning into every symbol and every mysterious word, and extract and twist condemning evidence from anything a person says or does.  I know what it’s like, because I used to be such a person.  I could be very good at this.

Christians come in two extremes.  There are those who would permit anything, and those who look to condemn almost anything.  The first group is wrong, but it isn’t what I’m discussing at the moment.  The second group is among my friends, and I don’t want them to self-destruct against imaginary enemies.  Our religion can either explode or implode.  Either we can destroy ourselves by including doctrine from every external system, or we can destroy ourselves by ripping apart anyone who believes anything unscriptural, or anyone who does anything even remotely questionable.

Argyle socks?  How worldly!  It’s the dress of heathens.

Saxophones in church?!  Those are the instruments of brothels!  (and how do we know this?)

Your skirt shows your knees!  That woman is wearing pants!

That preacher is a Post-Tribulationist!  That deacon thinks we have to be baptized to be saved!

Heretics!  The church is full of heretics!

Forgive me for my heresy.  I humbly beg it of you.  I cannot, nor will I ever, have a theology that is anything but wrong to some degree or another.  No one on this planet has a perfect theology.  No form of Christianity is entirely correct.  That which unites us is Christ, and no other.  It is his death and resurrection that brings us everlasting life, such that anyone who puts faith in him will not ultimately perish but have everlasting life.  He didn’t come into this world to condemn us.  Don’t do what Christ would not do.  He came that the world, through him, might be saved.

Lead the world to Christ.  Let Christ be the one to complete his work in us.  I humbly beg it of you.

*Correction: 1110 is binary for 14.  10010 is binary for 18…not that it matters much.