October 30, 2012

Treehuggers or “Green” Ethics

A few passing thoughts on the environment and stewardship of God’s Creation. I will state clearly that, at first, I couldn't have cared less about the environment, environmental issues and all the rhetoric and sensationalism that came with the environmental issues that arose during the 80's, 90's and 00's. I was especially mocking and sardonic towards all of the global warning nonsense, and justifiably so as it now appears to have been misinterpreted data that was purposely misinterpreted to make certain people inordinate amounts of money via things like carbon credits (this means you Al Gore). I will now state that I have begun to back off of my aggressive stances towards the people I viewed as rich hippies and misguided treehuggers.

I have more thoroughly examined the truth of Scripture in conjunction with certain environmental issues and have now come to somewhat different conclusions. Firstly, God gave us the Earth and everything in it to be stewards of it. It is His but he has allowed us stewardship (Leviticus 25:23-24). As it is not truly ours we are obliged to not abuse the Earth itself nor the things in it like people, animals and eco-systems (which I now believe are non-sentient organisms). This would be no different than if my neighbor lent me his tools and kids and I trashed or abused them before giving them back.

Based on Scripture I believe God is very concerned with His creation and this is shown in many passages of Scripture (Matthew 6:25-30). We know unequivocally that creation holds together or exists as mentioned in Colossians 1 because of God. The very Christian eschatology or end times of humanity is directly tied to the idea that there will eventually be a new heavens and a new earth. Ravaging the earth carelessly is not glorifying God, it is regarding God’s creation too lightly and is a form of disrespect to God.

So how should I feel about environmentalists? I believe activists have taken a good moral principle and politicized it to selfish and self-serving ends. Poor intentions, poor motives and even more poor theology (or total absence of it). As for meat processing plants or industrial slaughterhouses of the Midwest, they sicken me as they are mechanized callous killing machines that only a dehumanized godless society could produce in its blind groping for the almighty dollar. I must also mention strip mining / open-pit mining that obliterates entire zip codes into tiered “benches”. The truth is that if there were no government regulations, faceless mega-corporations would not be held accountable and we would have large open-pit mines littering the countryside. We would probably also have billions or trillions of gallons of oil floating in our seas and oceans.

We must never forget that the Creation is God’s just as we are God’s. Therefore we are literally obliged by Scripture to do the right thing and attempt to preserve the environment and do as much as we can to deal with the know real issues that would devastate the earth just was we would to protect our neighbors family and property. To do any less is a complete lack of respect and a disregard of things that are not really ours even though they've been entrusted to us. Frankly, this is just an irresponsible attitude and is not Biblical. Unfortunately, this is exactly the way more and more people are becoming in our society. Instead of people being responsible for their actions, everyone has now become a victim that is entitled to something.

October 28, 2012

The Righteous Life In Christ

Ah yes...another ethics post to help us understand what is ethical. For the Christian, a post to help them understand what is righteous, who is righteous and what is the ultimate measure of righteousness...as if we do not already know the answer.

The topic of this post will be virtues or specifically Virtue Ethics. The very first thing that strikes me about virtue ethics is that is not an ethic of action or what a Christian would consider being based in actions or works. Virtue ethics can affect how a person behaves but it is not based in what they do per se, it is more of what they are. Virtue ethics emphasizes the role of one's character and the virtue(s) that one's character embodies for determining or evaluating ethical behavior. Virtue ethics are also called Aretaic Ethics or ἀρετή which is Greek for excellence or being the best one can be. Living up to one's full potential for the purpose(s) that they were made for. It is an idea of excellence that is ultimately bound up with the fulfillment of purpose or function and an act of living up to one's full potential. For a Christian, this means being Christ's disciples or being little Christs.

Virtue ethic is an ethic based more in the character of the one that has it or it is more interested in being rather than doing. I see a direct correlation to Christianity that is unique to Protestant Reformed Christianity but no other religion, not even that of Roman Catholicism. It is a state or condition that is not works-based. This virtue-driven idea that is based in being is remarkably Biblical, and specifically points a finger to Reformed theology and not denominations of the faith that are works-minded theology/doctrine like the Catholic Church. Sola fide fits nicely within this description. Once Christ is accepted in faith, the rest comes as a gift of grace. It is an ethic that is more concerned with what you are not what you're doing. The change is internal if it is anywhere. The internal change is the area of the Holy Spirit that is the down-payment or guarantee (ἀρραβὼν) (Ephesians 1:14) for salvation in a believer’s conversion.

Literally, the seed of God remains within the believer to gestate to become a full-blown  Christian (1 John 3:9). Through an act of faith we assent to what Jesus Christ did on the Cross and is then are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. This indwelling literally changes the inward person to make them Christ-like or more Christ-like in character. The believer is not driven by some sense of duty or moral obligation at this point. They are literally ontologically changed internally in character that, over time, manifests in a complete change at the surface of the person in a metamorphosis. The inward change literally becomes who they are and over time, their character and virtue can rub off on others drawing them to the Christian faith through appealing behavior. Fruits of the Spirit. Fruits don't pick themselves, they must be picked which implies they would be enticing enough to an observer that they would actually approach and take hold of it themselves. As I have read in other sources, a virtue ethic dovetails really nicely with the idea of justification and subsequently sanctification. The irony I believe is that the person’s virtue changes because of the presence of Christ, through the Holy Spirit in the person’s life not through anything they initiate on their own. The believer only believes what Christ has done to atone for their sin.

The Bible also tells us that:

"Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Rom. 8:5-6

As Christians we are called to develop virtuous lives that are measured up against Christ’s as the benchmark for our own. Christ who indwells us through the Holy Spirit. We are told in the Bible this is the gauge of whether the Spirit is truly within us. Are we in Christ or not?

"You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness." ~Romans 8:9-10

From a biblical standpoint that means we must first be virtuous before we can behave virtuously and that virtue must ultimately originate in God since God is the wellspring for Christian behavior. The wellspring of that virtue for man is Scripture.

Proverbs 23:7 ~ "...as a man thinks in his heart, so is he."

We must think Godly before we can be Godly. We must think holy before we become holy. We see this very point, that the Bible is the wellspring of virtue (holiness) and it is also God in written form in the following two verse. Therefore they reciprocally support one another. God is indeed the source of virtue and that virtue is  encapsulated in the Bible. So by reading the Bible/Gospel we become more holy, therefore more virtuous...like Jesus Christ.

John 1:1 ~ "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

1 Peter 1:16 ~ "...for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."

We therefore see that virtue ethics need to be matched up to a set of moral principles for it to work efficiently and effectively…and this is exactly what we see in the Bible. Jesus prayed in John 17:17:

"Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth."

The Bible also tells us we must feed on every word of God.

Matthew 4:4 ~ "...It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."

I also suspect that this is why we are first exhorted to believe in Christ and then we are immediately exhorted to cling tenaciously to Scripture. We even see directly in Jesus’ actions that He always referred back to Scripture thereby acting as an example for us to do the same. Especially, when we are confronted by the system of the world (κόσμος) or the Devil. It is a virtue based, not action based existence that finds its constant guidance in the Scriptures. Jesus Christ embodied the virtuous (righteous) life that the Bible outlined because the Word was God (John 1:1). The Bible (interestingly enough) is the very revelation of the mind of God and a written revelation of His very being which contained His pathos (passion/emotion), His logos (logic/reason) and yes, even his ethos (character/credibility).

In the end Christians need to embody virtue itself since Christ is virtue. The irony is that we don't even do it, it is done to us through the Holy Spirit. If it was our work it would allow us to boast. The Bible tells us this is not true. All of our virtue therefore comes from Jesus continually, therefore our righteousness does to. We need only step out of our own way and let Christ reign for us through us to reach excellence or ἀρετή

October 26, 2012

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Communist

Okay, I thought I was only going to post once on politics before election day 2012 but it appears I was wrong. Specifically, I am dealing with political ethics in this post not politics proper. I will state outright that I will struggle to keep an essay about political ethics both objective and on-topic. It is my firm belief the even good Christians get sucked in way too deeply when it comes to the Right and Left arguments in American politics as stated in my previous post. The unbiblical and progressive types lean liberal in America. These are not stereotypes etched in stone but more often than not this is the way the cards fall.

Unfortunately, the flip side of the coin is the Right that has been hog-tied to the Evangelical base since the 1980’s because of the Christian Coalition, Christian Right and other church/state amalgamations. It has become so bad that those who cannot think for themselves now see evangelical Christian and Republican as interchangeable and in my case, nothing could be farther from the truth. Then we have the Tea Party which is a complete anomaly that neither side fully understands because they don’t seem to fit within the false dichotomy set up by the two-party system in the United States. I adhere to neither side as I now view the American two-party political system as a vast socio-cultural satanic Hegelian dialectic (thesis, antithesis, synthesis). Democracy should work in theory but it wasn’t necessarily meant to be just a two party system. The current social/cultural dialectic is inevitably heading towards a toilet even when we have a Republican in the driver’s seat as most Republicans are actually centrists anyway and centrists are just closet liberals or more properly: Moderate Liberals.

To me, in theory there should be political ethics but I do not believe forms of economic theories are necessarily good methods of governance. This is one of the things people miss totally when the words “socialism” and “communism” get bantered around in society and in the media. First, these are not first and foremost political theories/systems, they are economic theories/systems. It is primarily political systems that utilize these economic ideologies...often times unethically for selfish egotistic needs like getting re-elected and lining one’s pockets. If one looks closely enough they will also see that both sides eventually work towards the same ends. Both pretty much have subscribed to Keynesian economics that has continually mounted debt against the American taxpayer with no intent to pay it off. This is unethical as it places the burden of debt on our children.  To me this debt is unethical because it is unbiblical.

That being said, when we look at Liberal politics we see the underlying premise to be Marxist in origin or leans heavily towards Socialism which is the means of production (and education) is controlled by the State. The truth is that in some cases the Government is actually now closer to outright Communism or Fascism. In the end this path leads to the human becoming a number and when the might juggernaut of Marxist philosophies begins to act it does so in uniquely twisted Marxist utilitarian way that seeks to do the most for the most people but does it in a way that benefits the Mother Country.

The irony of Communism and socialist theories is that it can be traced back to the work of 16th century English writer Thomas More and his work Utopia (1516). Which ironically was a story written about a fictional land and named the way it was because of the following reason.  In the Greek the word οὐ or U means "not". The word τόπος means "place". The suffix -iā is typical Greek ending for a place name. So what we have is a word construction that means: No-place-land or more properly understood…a place that really does not exist. A name Thomas More gave to the ideal and imaginary island nation. So if we follow my logic in sequence the Liberal mind finds socialism the preferred political system (if not outright communism or fascism if given their way). This theory or premise finds its roots in an imaginary island that does not (or cannot) exist. The Liberal/Progressive mindset therefore believes in something similar to The Island of Misfit Toys on Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.

At the other end of the spectrum are Libertarians who appear (in there very extreme condition) nearly just as dangerous to biblical morality and biblical premises as the communists as they flirt on the line with anarchy or social disorder and moral ambiguity. As a matter of fact, in some of Libertarianism’s more radical permutations, “freethinkers” and anarchy are actually condoned. Freethinkers being people who believe that there isn’t evidence to support the existence of supernatural phenomena (i.e.: atheists, non-theists)

Sadly, many Christians are jumping on board with the Libertarians not realizing they are making deal with the Devil when they do so with the more activist of this persuasion. To avoid the looming "Red Threat" they swing like a pendulum all the way back in the other direction. Moderation is the key folks, even our parents told us that. Too much of one thing is never good...everything in moderation. They do so because of a knee-jerk reaction to abuses of power in the two-party system. At the core of the Libertarian philosophy may be economically conservative principles but they have extreme socially liberal views. These socially liberal views do not dovetail nicely with Biblical principles. What we end up seeing is that in the core of the Libertarian philosophy is an egocentric isolationist.

What is interesting about libertarianism as opposed to Marxist theory is that it is not an economic system per se but an actual philosophical/ethical system.  Of course the more one reads about Libertarianism the more one is hard-pressed to actually apply the moniker “ethical” (in its proper morally upright meaning) to this philosophy. As stated on Wikipedia, prominent Libertarian historian George Woodcock has said that libertarianism is: “A philosophy that fundamentally doubts authority and advocates transforming society by reform or revolution.” Sorry, this isn’t biblical either (Romans 13)…unless of course you are a Social Gospel adherent or Liberation Theology heretic reading you Bible improperly. Sadly, what I fail to see in any descriptions of Libertarianism (as with Marxist philosophies) is any positive mention of God. What I see instead is a conspicuous absence of positive allusion to the Almighty. As a matter of fact, both of these systems at the base of their philosophy deliberately try to kill God off by superseding Him with the powers of man through the State in one shape or form. Without God, there can be no true ethos in man. In these systems, man has supplanted God. This is my belief why, in the end, they will be failures. It is also the reason I have divested myself of my political baggage and other meaningless earthly political paraphernalia. I will affect a change in this world through the Gospel and the teaching from and of Jesus Christ. Time has born witness to the fact that the systems of man are doomed to dust heaps of history. This will be the end result of all the current political systems including the ones in the United States. In the end, God allowed for kingly rule and governance but they were only poor imitations of the Real Thing.

October 24, 2012

Ethics, Ideologies and Election Day

I am publishing a quick essay for all readers today…to ponder the ideas of Communism, Socialism, Conservatism and Libertarianism before that grand ceremony of Election Day in the United States of America’s great experiment with Democracy.

It is my humble opinion based on conversations and online posts (that include Facebook), many are too easily swayed by media propaganda on both the right and the left and do not really think for themselves. It sorely needs to be understand that the philosophy and underlying principles that make the machine of politics run are financial. It is not so much the moral underpinnings of the candidates. The bottom-line is that most are steered by their pocketbook and wallet. Bill Clinton said it the best when he tactlessly said, "It's the economy stupid." In most cases, underneath political philosophies are economic ones both on the Right and the Left. It's essentially how government regulates business and how your taxpayer monies get allocated that defines the difference between the political ideologies, sides or positions. Liberals believe in growing government through higher taxation and leans towards socialism. At its extreme end we find Marxism/Communism. A moderate Libertarian believes the opposite. The extreme end of Libertarianism is anarchy. Somewhere in between lies the Republican and a marginal form of capitalism or something similar. There are a load of other variations but you get the picture.

Now that we understand that it is primarily economic principles that shape one's political ideology we must then understand what is done with the money within that respective political ideology. It has been said that “money is the mother’s milk of politics.”  I couldn't agree more heartily. Most people don’t realize that in the United States and even more in Europe, about half of what they really earn is taken in by the government in taxes. As in federal, state, and local income taxes; Social Security, taxes on products such as gasoline, “pass-along” taxes such as the tax on the electricity that keeps your food cool at the grocery store and so on. These are taxes passed along to you by your government because of wrangling (or lack thereof) on both sides of the aisle. 

This then brings me to my first question: Should rich people pay a higher percentage of their income or wealth in taxes? Although I do not believe we should lower their taxes, I certainly don't agree they should be taxed more or penalized for their wealth. This appears to be the liberal philosophy to solving many of the deficit ills we currently face in our nation from inordinate overspending by the government itself.

The idea that the rich should pay a higher percentage of tax based on their surplus of their wealth is nothing new. According to my research and reading I will need to give my answer on why they should or should not pay more taxes based on deontological ethics or the idea that people are obligated by duty to do something ethical. My answer also needs to be based on utilitarianism which says the thing that does the most good for the most people is the proper ethical thing to do.

To do this we must first understand why people are taxed or what the ultimate good or goal is of government taxation. Regardless of the ethical or unethical purposes the tax money is used for, more often than not they are to be used in public services such as health care and education and other useful or benevolent purposes. Many of these purposes are utilitarian and based in virtue also. We see pieces of Romans 13 in this too. These things seem to add, not take away from society as a whole. Is the money usually mismanaged by the Government in the process of doing this? Of course it is but more often than not, a lot of it is funneled to the proper channels.

In a deontological (duty) manner it can be understood to be a good duty to care for the poor. As for the idea of equality I have already sort of reviewed this in my series of posts on the Kingdom of God called: The Least of These. God wishes us to be equal, the first will be last and the last will be first. Surprisingly though, in terms of wealth this seems an awful lot like “redistribution” to equalize money on individuals. The fact is that not all are really created equal in terms of money and this is more or less what we are asking of the rich when we do purposely over-tax them to distribute their wealth to the “less fortunate”. Although the Bible encourages this it appears to be a conditional proposition. When we see the redistribution we see it for the purpose of perpetuating the Kingdom of God, not a human kingdom or hegemony and it is being asked of people that wish to be Christian or are searching in those quarters or that area. When we redistribute for the sole sake of giving all equal economic footing we are doing it without Biblical intent.

The question then becomes: Is equality through taxing rich proper or ethical? The reality is that taxation of any form is still redistribution of money. If we redistribute or tax the wealthy too much we redistribute money to thinly…then many suffer not just the few at the bottom. There is balance that needs to be maintained.

This then leads to the deontological thought (duty): Do we have a duty to help society as a whole even when many will not help themselves? It’s one thing to allow people to work and never get ahead, it is another to tax rich people just to support the “lazy” poor who voluntarily refuse to work or do not try to change their station in life because they know they will get a hand-out from a heavily socialized government. The truth is that the 2nd Plank in the Communist Manifesto actually advocates a disproportionate tax for the rich or what is called a heavy progressive or graduated income tax. This creates an incentive for people to stay in a lower tax range and stunts economic growth. In the end it encourages mediocrity. Reminder: This is continually pushed and encouraged by the liberal philosophies. This is not the equality we properly understand in the Constitution as “all men are created equal”. Nor is the equality we read of in the Bible because it is a forced equality...not a voluntary one. This is economic equality to level the playing field for all is much too close to socialism for my taste.

Although many will claim that the Bible caters more towards this socialistic governmental or economic philosophy (spreading the wealth around so that all are equal and comfortable), what they are missing is the main underlying point on is: That the governmental and economic ideas like in the Bible were meant to under gird a rule by God directly. It was supposed to be a Theocracy in the Bible not a Socialist Democracy or purely socialist arrangement. Once you supplant God at the top we set ourselves up for a whole host of evil and malevolence. Power without influence and sway of God always turns to corruption in the end (Romans 1-3).

Conversely, John Rawls in A Theory of Justice argued that social inequalities should be arranged so that the greatest benefit is gained by the people with the fewest advantages. As I said before, although this seems inherently fair and appears as justice/just, the idea of divesting oneself of wealth and giving it to the poor works well in the context of God’s Kingdom--but we are not fully in God’s Kingdom yet, are we? Jesus’ exact statement in Matthew 19:21 said what?

“Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

It is specifically in reference and framed within the idea that (1) Jesus is immediately to be followed and (2) The return is salvation (i.e.: treasure of heaven). Sinful man devoid of the mind of Jesus Christ does neither. We therefore have a corrupt social system supported by a corrupt political system. This applies to both sides unless under girded by Biblical ideals and obedience to Scripture...which many do not.

Doing this based on Rawls' philosophy (therefore godless) is neither and it appears purely secular. Men with power and a limited moral compass never ended well in history…even in the Bible (or should I say especially in the Bible?). What’s even more interesting is that we see specific instances of people doing God’s will accumulating wealth like Abraham. Sometimes enormous amounts are mentioned such as that of David and Solomon. It is when Solomon and David go rogue of God’s will and stray from God’s plan in disobedience that corruption, and other nasty side-effects enter the fray not only individually and personally but by proxy to the nation through their governments and social systems. We even see the same of the priesthood and religious elite of the Old and New Testament.

I guess, in effect the only way I can see my way clear to accepting more stringent taxation on the rich is if it is going for the purposes of God or the plans of God. In today’s day and age, determining that would be difficult as we are so far out of touch with the Bible and Biblical principles. We certainly cannot trust the Government. I am thinking more along the lines of a church appropriation of the money in a tax/tithe situation. Then again, the Roman Catholic Church did this until the Reformation (and after) and it corrupted them also.

In the end, the resources I read point me towards the idea of virtue ethics or the building of a human’s or person’s character. Until we build people up morally and ethically there will always a discontinuity. Corrupt constituents vote for corrupt politicians. We need only look at modern politicians and their constituents.

Conversely, in terms of taxes, if rates are moderate it encourages competition or an environment in which to compete or better yourself. If a person is encouraged through this method to improve their character by working to get ahead, it can be construed as a virtue ethic. The Bible does not encourage sloth, it encourages work.

Proverbs 6:6 ~ “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!”

Proverbs 12:11 ~ “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.”

Proverbs 14:23 ~ “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”

Work improves one’s character by encouraging them to improve by working harder. In working we mimic God in His work of Creation and the things He does in the Creation every single second of every single day. Be Holy for I am Holy. As for taxing someone more for having worked harder to gain an advantage, where is the justice in this? If one knew they would be penalized for succeeding, where would be the incentive to even try to succeed? High or penalizing taxation would virtually eliminate this mentality.

As for the pass along tax…all I can say is, “out of sight, out of mind”. People do not even know they are getting a “back door” tax. It is invisible to them. Taxing people for every single purchase they make hardly seems fair unless it is done all to the glory of God as a form of offering/worship to God first. "Pass Along Taxes" eventually force a tax on everyone and anyone that makes a purchase regardless of size. The Government already imposes taxes like this on many things and some are more visible than others. The higher the tax becomes the more visible it becomes.

Interestingly...In the case of taxes on things like cigarettes, it is actually punishment taxation (strangely similar to a Muslim: Jizya or even a Zakat) for an unhealthy addiction. You can have the addiction/belief but you will be penalized for it. This I am actually not opposed to as it would deter people from pursuing a deadly habit that killed people like my father. As for the religious aspect of this type or tax I would be against it as it would favor one religion over another. I simply bring up this comparison of Cigarette taxation to Islamic taxation because the parallels of “punishment through taxation” struck me odd at the time of writing.

So when you go to vote, keep these things in mind. These are realities we contend with everyday an rarely realize we do. Instead we allow people to manipulate us because they think we’re stupid. In some cases this might be true…hopefully not in yours. Do your homework. You need to know what your candidate believes and doesn't believe. Understand that just because they are a Democrat or Republican does not make them a good or bad person per se but it is a good indicator where their economic philosophy lies. If you know where their economic philosophies lie you know where their priorities because money makes the world go 'round. Therefore their political/economic philosophies directly influence your life and that of your family's for better of for worse.

Contrary to the mindless and vapid mantra of the MTV generation to get out and "Rock the Vote". I encourage you to intelligently pick you candidate based on the facts, not mindlessly chase a cardboard cut-out character because of media stoked emotions about a manufactured personality (which is what most politicians are anyway).


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"Progressive tax - Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_tax>.
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"The Ethics of Taxation | Issue 90 | Philosophy Now." Philosophy Now | A Magazine of Ideas. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2012. <http://philosophynow.org/issues/90/The_Ethics_of_Taxation>.

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October 23, 2012

Leap of Faith: Why Do We Believe What We Believe?

[This is the 1000th post on SoulJournaler!]

{*insert sound of cheers and wild applause here*}

Here comes another one of those deeply philosophical posts. If it's too much just bail on it. If not, stick with it and it will be worth the payoff in the end...I needed something grand for my 1000th. 

Doubt is called into play in Descartes’ Meditations (of First Philosophy). On what can be called into doubt Descartes states that we should withhold assent from anything uncertain just as much as from anything we can clearly be seen as false. If we are unsure, it should be subject to question(s). Perceiving is not just a pure passive registration by the senses. Descartes says that implicit in all perception is judgment of giving assent. We are drawing inferences or making decisions based on data. At times they can become confused or fuzzy but by the application of ideas that are clear and distinct these confused aspects can be corrected. In the end people are asked to reject faith without reason and accept a faith in reason and this is hardly a biblical stance. That so many will build off of Descartes premises makes for mixed results, many of which run way wide of Scripture. Descartes calls for what can only be construed as radical individualism. This is strangely like the American (cowboy) persona. We are called to doubt all unless one can be sure distinct and clear. Although Descartes will argue for the existence of God, his line of thought will eventually be used to preclude or dismiss God completely in favor of what can be experimentally verifiable in things like empiricism. As this line of thinking progresses through the decades and centuries that follow his Meditations that support atheistic and agnostic presuppositions. It is strange to think that thoughts of Descartes would be used so vehemently to disprove God's very existence by people that read his philosophy. Descartes who actually believed in God enough to form a critique of reasoning to justify His existence. It is his discovery of Cogito Ergo Sum or “I think therefore I exist” is a concept impossible to doubt and is, therefore, absolutely certain. It is from this point that Descartes proceeds to demonstrate God's existence and that God cannot be a deceiver. Later philosophers will use his theories to build their own godless ones including people like Hegel and Marx.

Faith of course is just the opposite. Fideism or faith as it is to be understood by a Christian is a term used in epistemology (study of knowledge) which says knowledge in faith is independent of reason. There can be intermixing variations of doubt and faith but for clarity I will maintain the extreme distinctions between the two. Faith assumes reason - faith are hostile or antagonistic to each other and faith is superior at arriving at particular truths (existence of God). To assuage doubt man needs to either turn to reason or faith to resolve the problem. Empiricism and existentialism says that we cannot rely on faith, yet the Bible and the Christian faith tells this is exactly what we can and need to rely on for the only thing that matters: Eternal Life. Since the modern world thinks in terms of empiricism and existentialism and requires truth or proofs based in a posteriori evidences (evidences through sense experience like sight, sound, touch, etc) …it is therefore epistemologically (knowledge) incompatible with one of Christianity’s basic tenants. Salvation is through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8).

We can try as much as we want through reasoning and the cosmological, teleological, anthropological and ontological and other logic arguments to prove God’s existences, it will only get us to the threshold of fideism and the need for faith. As a matter of fact it will require a “leap of faith” (a la Søren Kierkegaard) to cross the perceived chasm between the two. As the Bible says, it will require the Holy Spirit. The sole empirical “evidences” for God have been revealed through General Revelation and Special Revelation. For the empiricist or scientific type, General Revelation is just science, nothing more. Special Revelation for them does not even exist.

Although God may be evident in the Creation to a Christian because His fingerprints are all over it, an empiricist will usually only see the product of chemical reactions and scientific phenomena (physical evidences). It all boils down to how you interpret the data. As such scientific types will require a posteriori evidences to prove God’s existence. God, ironically who is a priori (before sense experience). As for Special Revelation, the empiricist will dismiss this knowledge of God as somehow empirical also and will attempt to explain it way through empirical means since Special Revelation is outside the given framework of their thinking. They limit themselves to the a posteriori. Therefore anything a priori (like God) is beyond their ability to grasp properly because they are coming to it with their very observation capabilities skewed. They have precluded and lopped off half of reality and can only view a priori through an a posteriori lens making God invisible or deny Him outright as non-existent...as many like to say, He is a “fairy tale”. The reality is that they are self-limiting their knowledge on purpose and this amounts to a myopic worldview and creates a false dichotomy. Said another way, if we use only empiricism, rationalism or reason as the sole avenue to God, we will never find Him. This is because many of the things of God are spiritual in nature and therefore spiritually discerned outside General Revelation (1 Corinthians 2:14).

There are things involved in the belief of God called risk and uncertainty because salvation and belief of what Jesus did for us is to be based in faith alone (Sola Fide). Whenever there is uncertainty and risk, there is bound to be doubt as man is sinful and usually...dumb (from sin). Man can devise as many possible avenues he wants to find God. The proper way find and understand Him starts in fideism and once found we are to use reason and rational (theological) based in what He has given us to understand Him (Jesus and the Bible), to love Him and to have a relationship with Him. The very premise of a relationship assumes knowledge of something whether it is in faith alone or faith and theological reasoning combined. We cannot have a relationship with a fairy tale. Our reality is a relationship with a real person. Our reality is based in relationship, just as the basis for the Trinity or Godhead is an existence based in relation. Without relational familial attributes, the Godhead cannot exist. The Godhead is exists in a relational manner...so too would be God's relational creations that are made in His image. Therefore our truest evidence of a true relational Triune Godhead is a cognizant relational or familial grouping of people in the will or worship of God with the mind of Christ/God. A family, a Church, a Church Family...κοινωνία/koinonia.

Not much of a leap is it? A leap would imply we needed to do something. It's like jumping into your father's arms as a child. Risky? Yes and no. Did you ever think your father would miss you and you would fall? Hardly. We believe and have faith because we trust. We trust because we have a relation based on knowledge of our loving counterpart not necessarily because there is some empirical physical evidence of that relationship. He is a Counterpart who is, among other things, a Father, our Savior and ironically...a Comforter.

I see no leap here...only a relationship based in trust and commitment to one another. Just like a family. Just like a parent to child and child to a parent. Just like a marriage. At the core of which is a self-giving sacrificial: ἀγάπη/agape love. A love of a parent to a child: στοργή/storgē. A love of of loyalty to family and friends: φιλία/philía. And even a love strangely passionate and deeply emotional with pangs of longing for one when they are absent from our lives: ἔρως/érōs

October 20, 2012

Institutions of “Higher” Learning

Another sad commentary about our time and a more painful truth about where we are heading in this fallen/falling country...

The following is not a commentary on conservatives vs. liberals in politics but those in Theology. Those that want a polarizing diatribe of mind-numbing political ideologies can go to other sites. Although much of what I will say here could be said the same about the political realm I will defer that topic to others. I personally believe human politics and human wranglings in general are like cheering for plastic soldiers in a miniature dirt war when there is a much bigger and more important war taking place in the spiritual realm.

In the wake of the liberal/fundamentalist tensions that began after the Civil War and continued until the 20th century (and now), the older divinity schools such as Harvard and Yale, and even Princeton Theological Seminary, were lost to liberalism to a greater or lesser degree (pun intended). Many more followed suit in their pursuit of academic arrogance, godless views and the wisdom of this age --which isn't even wisdom  a la 1 Corinthians 1-4. In their stead a new network of conservative educational institutions arose beginning with the Bible Institute movement whose emphasis was more theological and ministry-oriented than in the arts and sciences. By their nature Bible colleges are usually associated with evangelical, and/or Pentecostal denominations. Most are biblical, although even now these institutes are under attack by godless people with godless ideas.

Liberal Christian "experts” and Christian "scholars" after the19th century (and after the abuses of the Church both Catholic and Protestant for centuries) felt the need to adapt to the anti-Christian heterodoxy and the “cult of reason” sentiments that surfaced in things like the French Revolution. In a so-called attempt to save Christianity from itself, scholars tried to rescue Christianity from irrelevance by putting it on a Procrustean Bed and proceeded to amputate the Faith until it became invalid theologically. What remained when they were done was no longer Christianity but a syncretistic “Christianized” new age pantheism that mostly relied on reason, rationalism and virtually no metaphysical/supernatural elements. This thereby precluded or removed the true God from the picture-who is Jesus. At least the Jesus we read of in the Bible that is fully man and fully divine. He was replaced with a new age hippy with robes, long hair and fingers in a peace sign.

I've reflected on the relationship between faith and education and I unequivocally believe that secular higher education is detrimental to any Christian's faith. What is really sad is the most so-called seminaries are no better and are basically godless establishments and dens of unbiblical dissemination. The spiritual and theological challenges faced by the Christian student who is seeking a higher education are formidable. Having now spend the better part of the last ten years in both I can attest to this fact.

Higher education can be a good thing. It can also be an evil thing. The difference resides in the intents, ideologies and presuppositions of the educators and the institutions they are associated with. I did a book review one time on a book that dealt with the more modern version of this liberal/fundamentalist split called: The Struggle for America’s Soul: Evangelicals, Liberals, and Secularism. In the book we see a myriad of reasons the division exists including the integration of the liberal mindset into institutions of “higher learning”. The author Wuthnow posits it is also something more. It is when these institutions adjoined themselves with political ideologies due to a potential for fiscal windfalls that we see a corruption en masse of entire institutions (Wuthnow 56).

When these institutions are then used to intellectually validate liberal ideas it gave them much more credence in the secular public eye along with academia and in the halls of power (government). The courts are therefore influenced by this sweeping cultural current and begin passing laws that affected not only society but how the Government controls things like (ironically), education and believe it or not, religion. Because the courts themselves eventually moved towards liberalism and a precedence of positive law instead of moral law, we then had the representative government and court system working against the will of Christian constituents. There was the Establishment Clause that insisted on a division of Church and State (which isn't even in the Constitution). Because many institutions of higher learning are dependent on Government funding, these institutions did/do what was/is necessary to assure said funds continue to arrive in their bank accounts. When you have a secularized government breathing down your neck and a liberalized court system passing laws that leaned liberal…it behooved the institute to do what would keep the money coming it. So they continued to promote liberalized ideas. Unfortunately, these liberalize ideas are usually morally ambivalent if not relativistic in their outlook. Therefore they are not conducive to a Biblical worldview. Compound this with special interests promoting anti-Christian agendas in secular colleges like Sharia Law and we end up having a witches brew of godless rhetoric and politics to use against Christians in secular colleges.

Since these liberalized institutes or so-called abodes of “higher learning” are the ticket for many youth/students to meaningful and lucrative employment, many will sell themselves to the institute to have their names on their diplomas and have the names of their colleges on their resumes. In so doing many students/graduates make a “pact with the devil” and sell their souls to secularism and moral relativistic philosophy under the guise of getting higher education. It takes an incredibly stalwart Christian to keep their bearings in the spiritual no-man’s land of modern colleges and universities.

Thankfully, as the liberal philosophies of the late 19th century were taking off in many universities and colleges. Sound theologians and Biblical educators had the sense to begin to combat the onslaught of poor unbiblical teaching (and poor teaching in general) by starting non-denominational Bible colleges to offer the new generations another option for education besides the secular universities and apostatizing seminaries like Harvard and Yale. D.L. Moody of the Moody Bible Institute had called the students coming out of these colleges “gap men” to stand between laity and the liberal educated people who had essentially corrupted teachings of Biblical Christianity. People like A.A. Hodge and B.B. Warfield also stood their ground in the increasing inundation of not just Liberal Theology but also a massive groundswell of secularism sweeping through the entirety of higher learning (Cairns 479-481).

Having said all this, higher education is dangerous only if one is foolish enough to go to a college without first doing their homework on what that given institute espouses and what underlies their teaching philosophy/ideology. That along with a weak spiritual underpinning in a Christian’s life could spell disaster. If a college’s presuppositions preclude God’s existence one can expect to be taught a body of knowledge based on an ideology absent of God. Any time God is absent, the potential for apostasy multiplies a thousand-fold. It is most beneficial for a Christian to attend a college that will allow for them to keep as close a relationship to the God of the Bible as possible. Today's secular colleges and liberal seminaries are just not conducive for this outcome.

As for the new science and other knowledge by these colleges and new discoveries being made, these are good things since anything of God’s creation is good. Unlike the Roman Catholic Church’s condemnation of people like Copernicus and Galileo, knowledge, discoveries and theories that take God and the Bible into account help a Christian round out a Biblical worldview. As long as these discoveries are understood from a Biblical pretext I see no danger. I believe that science and the Bible are very much compatible. If science and higher learning had spent as much time in the last few centuries trying to match themselves together with Christianity rather than fighting Christian thought, the modern colleges and academia would be much different place. Instead of worshiping God though, academia ended up worshiping their own intellect and putting it on a pedestal. Their educations, degrees and accolades of their peers became their idols. Their own “intelligence” became their God.

Conversely, if these new things are learned and there is an attempt to harmonize this new knowledge with I biblical mindset, I see nothing wrong with accepting this new knowledge. The danger is accepting this new knowledge with godless presumption. When institutions attempt to do it without the acceptance of the existence of God they become spiritually dead. They are doing no different than the Corinthians did when we read of the philosophies and wisdom of the age in 1 Corinthians 1-2. The seminaries that do this are especially shameful as they actually have the Bible right before them to observe and read these passages. They are without excuse. At least secular colleges can feign ignorance in the absence of Bible and pretend to be blind. 

In the end it is all about the Gospel.


Cairns, Earle Edwin. Christianity Through the Centuries: A History of the Christian Church. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub., 1996. Print.

Wuthnow, Robert. The Struggle for America's Soul: Evangelicals, Liberals, and Secularism. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1989. Print.

October 19, 2012

Back To The Front

[I'm re-posting this almost exactly a year to the day. Surprisingly, I thought last year was really bad and couldn't have gotten much worse. I was wrong. The last three or four months have been hell on earth and show no sign of easing. I suspect we are close to wherever the Lord wants us as the battle has now become dogged and pitted against us. School is nearly done. Ministry job offers are more serious. Impact in ministry is more profound as I am being taken much more serious when expounding on the Bible in and outside the Church. We/I know that people are being reached with the Gospel. Then comes the counterinsurgency/counterattacks: Injuries, alienation, health, deaths, stress, loss, financial dilemmas, family ...everything. The enemy is in a Battle of the Bulge or Tet Offensive with us right now. Resistance is coming from all over but unlike last time there is some concerted help that comes from unexpected places. Christian friends and even some non-Christian acquaintances are helping out through what appears to be sovereign grace at work. Still...the continuous rounds from the enemy continue to pound our position. We never really left the war we just have been deployed to a new front or are getting hit on yet other unexpected ones.]

The commands from above remain the same...

"...repack, restock, redeploy...prepare to move back to the front. There are no reinforcements coming. It's up to you son. May the Lord God and His grace go with you. Move out!!!"

"Yes Sir"

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Battle Fatigue 2012

I am not necessarily sure why I chose to actually advertise this but it seems somewhat appropriate for now. It’s almost as if I feel compelled to fire back at the powers and principalities that are tormenting and provoking. Frankly I must be nuts because I probably am inviting more attacks in the form of snarky comments and mockery. So be it.

The last time I wrote like this I sensed that we are barking up a tree that the “powers and principalities” do not like. Now I know we are on the right path. We're encountering nothing but resistance. I also believe simultaneously that the Lord is trying to have me learn something from it all too as He is Sovereign. The obvious assaults have surfaced ever since we started the giving more of our time to ministry, occasional preaching , teaching studies and ironically, started posting some of the "Hard Sayings" on SoulJournlaer (i.e.:progress in the ministry). My family and I are literally in a spiritual and physical version of chess with hand grenades. Every time my wife or I make a move we are being hammered as if someone or something heads us off at the pass. When we run into these obstacles it literally is explosive. At the risk of sounding paranoid…I will continue.

People that should probably not be able to do the things they are doing and know the things they are knowing are working wittingly or unwittingly against us. Some are close enough to know inside (personal) information about us and use it to work against us. It is as if they are being fed the ammunition belts of information and spiritual mortar to rattle our foundations. The emotional shrapnel is beginning to impede each and every step we try to take. The drain is actually becoming physical. We often feel run down at the end of some of these days that are the equivalent of a meat grinder. Our response has been the same, forge ahead and no retreat. Lean into the obstacle head down, grunt and head-butt if necessary to get through. We have no choice, we know the repercussions of disobedience.

It has gotten to the point that even those that believe they are helping sometimes cause more damage than they fix. I realize many believe they are doing things with the best intentions but even people with good intentions can cause harm. Through no fault of their own, the motives or actions of others have become suspect. It is a nasty situation when you cannot be sure who or where the enemy fire will come from next time. It is really really hard to discern whether or not what looks like help or the hand of grace today will become an impact from the fist of wickedness tomorrow (or a knife in the back). Until we work through the individuals one-by-one on a case-by-case basis, my wife and I have hunkered down. Life is has become a lonely and isolated place. Luckily we were warned that when we make any progress in the ministry it will be a hard won battle with casualties. We have pulled in our friends and circled the wagons so to speak but stray projectiles are getting through and causing damage.

This is spiritual…and it is war right now. [insert mental images and mental audio of battle here]

Edification from others is turning to condescension. INCOMING!!!
Exhortation is turning into put-downs or demands. MAN DOWN, MAN DOWN!!!
Advance-Retreat-Advance-Retreat-HIT THE DECK!! DIG IN!!!

If it appears I have exaggerated it is because the help and hell are so blurred right now that some of these things are indistinguishable from one another. To some extent we have resorted to reading into things as an act of self-preservation and it has made relationships strained. We don’t like trying to read and discern people and would rather take them at their word but I do not believe that is not possible right now and still be able to play it safe. We run the risk of reading people incorrectly when discerning whether they are friend of foe.

I personally would compare it to spiritual blindsiding. Many times these things come at us in a series of events or with a staccato frequency (like machine gun fire). It is a literal crossfire that is often a mix of hostile and friendly fire. At times it feels as if we just need to duck or sprint for cover because we cannot tell if the snipes are coming from in front or from behind us since there are too many to tell them apart at times.

This stinks. (not the word I wanted to use but this is a Christian web site)

We expected the attacks from the outside and to some extent we even expected them from within. The ones from within though are coming from sources we did not expect and are coming from all quarters in a criss-crossing pattern. We/I feel confused because we/I cannot tell which fire is coming from where - friendly or hostile. It feels like we are waltzing through a mind field with clown shoes on right now while copper and lead whizzes past our heads.The only assurance of clarity, peace of mind and truth is in the Bible and prayer right now. Everything else is suspicious until its source and motive has been discerned. I sense the battle lines are drawn and every inch of ground that is now taken for the Gospel will be met with dogged resistance. We now need to figure out whether it is time to go on an offensive or fall back to defensive position and dig in our heels. We’re opting for the latter. It’s starting to feel like we need to plant our pike in the ground and challange whatever it is to charge us.

My issues mostly stem from spiritual sources, of this I am convinced but although these are the sources the end results are manifesting in financial areas and others. Like I said we are under siege and bulwarks are buckling. I need prayer from you folks.

I personally pray (alone and with my wife) until I've broken a sweat (literally) and the only words that continue to pop into my head is "sin" and "Bible". The rest has been left to us to figure out...so I give the information to others I trust so they can decrypt it and the best answer that has come up is.... that we personally need to teach others of the gravity their sin so the Spirit can convict them. This in turn will urge them to the only answer they have available to them...the Holy Writ...the Bible. It as if God is giving us/me bits and pieces and then telling us to "go figure it out". All the while we’re trying to discern if this is God, our sin haunting us, or Satan's brood (vipers).

I realize there are others like us that have it as bad if not worse and we pray for them too. They are brothers and sisters in arms. All of a sudden the spiritual realm that I have barely acknowledged in the past or treated in a passe manner is wreaking havoc and  inflicting real damage in our lives and we are a little bewildered by it all. We are often figuratively fighting the darkness to assure whatever is there does not come forward...but if it does... 

Please pray for my family so I have time to spiritually reload. It is all becoming a little much and fatigue (battle) is setting it as this is all extremely stressful. We end each day with a 1000 yard stare. When we’re down the evil of this world seems to kick us in the face and knock our teeth out adding insult to injury. We are praying for fresh “reinforcements” in prayer. We are also praying for “supplies”. I know that we serve a Sovereign God and King and are loyal to Him. I know in the end He will overcome all. Unfortunately, right now we live in a Kingdom that is in rebellion against our King and therefore we are hated for honoring Him. We see glimmers of promise in this and know things are going be alright but right now life is giving us a real attitude and I worry about my wife and children over the long haul as this does not appear to be easily resolved.

Writing about this has helped me be more "at ease".

"Pray. Rest and trust in the Lord. Carry on. Sooner or later the enemy line will break. The Lord is on our side. Reinforcement is on its way...."

"Yes Sir, yes Lord."

October 18, 2012

Reason Kant Be the Ultimate Reason for Morality

Deontological Ethics or ethics that put duty over the end result. These are ethics that the majority of Bible believing people follow. The Bible from God outlines proscribed behavior to produce a known (to God) outcome based on His sovereign will. We obey his commands we are inevitably blessed. If we disobey--cursed. This is the basis for our post today. Follow the rules and commands laid down by an omniscient and omnipotent God and one is better off.

Enter mankind and his so-called ability to "know better" in the form or rationalizing and reasoning modern philosophers and we begin to enter an intellectual quagmire that becomes more confusing the deeper we get into it.

One of the statements that immediately jumped from the page on Deontological Ethics from  Immanuel Kant is his conclusion that:

Nothing in the world—indeed nothing even beyond the world—can possibly be conceived which could be called good without qualification except a good will”

Kant continues along the same path of thought by stating something to the nature…

“…that the consequences of an act of willing cannot be used to determine that the person has a good will; good consequences could arise by accident from an action that was motivated by a desire to cause harm to an innocent person, and bad consequences could arise from an action that was well-motivated.”

Kant then states that a person needs to act out of respect to a moral law or duty to do so. Therefore, only thing that is truly good in itself is a good will, and a good will is only good when the one who wills chooses to do something because it is their duty.

The very thing that unsettles me about this dense prose is this…Kant manages to make all these statements about “good” and “will” and then narrowly defines the only good thing in itself is the will to do good based on a duty to do so….but never once mentions God directly. Although Kant is deontological in his approach he does not subscribe to the theory of Divine Command that demands that morality requires faith in God (or by default God’s existence). Although Kant will involve the idea of absolutes and God elsewhere in his writings, they do not appear to be contained here. Instead of placing the categorical imperative (a way of evaluating motivations for action) firmly in God’s lap where it belongs, he places it in man’s lap through acts of reason. According to Kant, a categorical imperative denotes an absolute requirement that asserts its authority in all circumstances, both required and justified as an end in itself...therefore it needs to be universal.

Kant devised a principle-based ethic, based not on a religious system but directly on or in reason itself (Rae 71). In other words, an axiom, a universal law or absolute universal moral basis needs to exist for this to be true yet Kant does not claim an absolute Source of morality (Moral Law Giver) and claim we cannot even know if God exists through reason yet this is exactly what he used to make these claims. He then disingenuously places a basis for morality on an abstraction like pure practical reason that can be separate from all empirical experience. If reason can exist free of all empirical experiences/sources, reason can then find its origin in a non-empirical source or a transcendent source. Yet by Kant tells us that we with human minds can’t truly know God or something beyond the senses without faith or fideism.

In the end, Kant’s convoluted reasoning argues for an a priori source of absolute morality although he never mentions God to be this unmentioned source. So where does it come from? He therefore inadvertently asks people (that will potentially accept his theory) to accept the idea of a transcendent a priori idea or morality based on a non-transcendent source of reasoning: Human Reasoning. This is either paradoxical or contradictory. I’m not sure which but I suggest it may be the latter of the two.

What we see from Immanuel Kant is a transcendent idea without a transcendent source or anchor. It is like having a fish exist without water. He is making statements defending ontological distinctness between God and reason but his logic doesn’t seem to remain ontologically distinct. He’s making ontological distinctions through human reason. He is also trying to find God in humanity, not humanity in God. To me this seems impossible as all things have their very being in God including humanity, reason, morality, ethics and values.

Kant is also asking us to see an abstraction like morals to exist without an ontological support for it which I personally find untenable. Morals exist but they are being separated from the very thing that allows them to exist (at least from this Christian’s viewpoint-Hebrews 1). Morality is separated from God in his theory. Kant’s reasoning tells us the source for his idea for morality is in his reason, therefore centers on a man. The Bible tells me that the source of morality and reason is God as God himself is morality and reason itself and without him none of this would exist. Morality and ethics can exist without human beings but they ontologically can’t exist without a fundamental/foundational ontological source (God, Super-mundane being) which Kant seems to have conveniently ignored. It seems to me this line of reasoning figuratively puts the cart before the horse, or more accurately: Is a cart without a horse.

October 14, 2012

Bricks Without Straw & The Taskmaster's Whip

My life has become a strange bridging of parallels between Moses and myself. I continue to find parallels in my life story and that of Moses in the Pentateuch. They are parallels that have been pointed out to me by the Holy Spirit Himself. As I/we am/are struggling through another of the bleakest and forlorn periods in my family's and my life, I struggle to figure out how I am to deal with the garbage that is being hurled at us nearly daily. It feels like I am in a hot LZ. The pressure has become unmerciful and I often feel that God has abandoned us. It is exactly because of this anxiety and spiritual isolation that I am convinced He is indeed there due to that very fact. It is when we think that He is conspicuously absent that God is often the most present moving mountains and channeling rivers to redirect the entire path of our lives. It is in these pockets of desperation and despair that I am given what amounts to flashes of intense inspiration. Ideas or thoughts that point me directly to incidents in the Bible that directly parallel my current crisis I am trying to overcome. They are like the ringing of the blacksmith's hammer striking hot metal pulled fresh from the furnace. The sparks of new life and divine creation seem to spring forward from the bludgeoning pressure from above. Impossible demands, insurmountable workloads, unfeasible deadlines, contradictory or illogical marching orders, irrational expectations, stress, work, frustration, isolation, too much to do too little time...bricks without straw...

The life, times and trials of Moses continue to come to the forefront every time I think I am down permanently for the count. I suspect it is the Spirit doing so too. Events in Moses' life that are uncannily identical to my life now. The two that keep coming to the forefront are the narrative in Numbers 11 and Exodus 5. What is even more ironic is that I needed help from friends to determine with the Holy Spirit was trying to reveal to me in these passages about my life. This obviously is directly in line with the story-line behind Numbers 11 and the bringing forth of the 70 elders/leaders from the tribes to assist Moses. I suppose this too is no accident as it is too much of a coincidence. In both Exodus 5 and Numbers 11 we see an impossible situation from a human point of view. This is similar to my current situation. My immediate future and that of my family is in God's hands.  What I also know are things impossible from a human point of view are not impossible for God. As we all know there are no coincidences in a Sovereign God's universe, only plans of a sovereign God coming to fruition. In series I present the passages...

Exodus 5:4-14 ~ But the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why do you take the people away from their work? Get back to your burdens.” And Pharaoh said, “Behold,the people of the land are now many, and you make them rest from their burdens!” The same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their foremen, “You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as in the past; let them go and gather straw for themselves. But the number of bricks that they made in the past you shall impose on them, you shall by no means reduce it, for they are idle. Therefore they cry, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.’ Let heavier work be laid on the men that they may labor at it and pay no regard to lying words.” So the taskmasters and the foremen of the people went out and said to the people, “Thus says Pharaoh, ‘I will not give you straw. Go and get your straw yourselves wherever you can find it, but your work will not be reduced in the least.’” So the people were scattered throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw. The taskmasters were urgent, saying, “Complete your work, your daily task each day, as when there was straw.” And the foremen of the people of Israel, whom Pharaoh's taskmasters had set over them, were beaten and were asked, “Why have you not done all your task of making bricks today and yesterday, as in the past?”

Numbers 11:4-15 ~  The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” The manna was like coriander seed and looked like resin. The people went around gathering it, and then ground it in a hand mill or crushed it in a mortar. They cooked it in a pot or made it into loaves. And it tasted like something made with olive oil. When the dew settled on the camp at night, the manna also came down. Moses heard the people of every family wailing at the entrance to their tents. The Lord became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. He asked the Lord, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors? Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.”

These passages are only a portion of the overall stories but we get the gist of the story by reading them above. In Numbers 11, Moses is about to break under the strain of all the people whining and carrying on. He is literally suicidal as we see from the remark, "If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me." We of course know that God already has a plan here to ease the torment of Moses, the picking of the seventy. Those that have aligned, whined and maligned Moses are in reality pitting themselves against God. They will inevitably suffer God's wrath for their impetuousness and selfishness.  I find myself in a similar situations against similar people. People that profess to be good people or Christians but in reality their words and actions speak otherwise. So I endure and wait. 

In Exodus we see something similar. We see Pharaoh aligning against Moses. Again we see a godless man aligning against God's man, therefore aligning against God Himself. We know how Pharaoh's story ends and it is not pretty. As a matter of fact it is quite ugly. We also know what becomes of Moses. It takes awhile but not only does Pharaoh cave-in to Moses/God demands and His exact terms...in the end Pharaoh and the Egyptians come to know the Hebrew God, the great I AM through Moses and God smiting them with the Plagues.

The story-lines in Numbers 11 and Exodus 5 are about deliverance by God in impossible situations for man. They are about problems that from the human level are absolutely insurmountable but for God...well, as in the case of Numbers and Exodus, God already has a plan established to remedy the problem no matter how painful it is. It is just up to us as sinful fallible humans to be patient and wait on God's timing. When the pit looks the deepest and the night looks the darkest--God will deliver us. The sea will part and the enemy will be vanquished in a way that we couldn't have foreseen. In the meantime it may cause us pain, discomfort  and may at times be incredibly difficult but if we just hold on an persevere through the suffering an persecution....a promised land awaits those that are obedient and faithful. We see similar language in the Book of Revelation for those that persevere coming persecution.

I will note that I realized I have been turning inward to deal with this problem and the problems just intensified. One then goes inward away from God and burrows into a sinful mind. This can only lead to circular or orbital pointless thinking, fretting and anxiety. This is no good. I will also note that as soon as I turned outward to others for help, God increased the possibilities and avenue to get away from the problems, burdens and the proverbial Pharaoh(s) that were plaguing my life. In both of these instances with Moses, it is not until he receives help from outside that conditions begin to improve. In Numbers 11 he must turn first to God and then to the elders chosen by God, in Exodus 5 it is Moses turning to God and obeying God even as the foreman nearly attack Moses for the punishment they suffer from their oppressors. 

Even here I see an even more intimate parallel to my situation. In some of the current problems I face I am figuratively being asked to make bricks without straw. To do things without the resources I need to get the job done. I tell my taskmasters that I am shorthanded and out of proper resources and I am generally told to get work done or do more with less. This is made even worse as my work output is not allowed to diminish. Otherwise I will be demeaned even more. Because I cannot actually meet the demands of the environment I am it I am being punished for not meeting the elevated demands which are already unrealistic. Further more the demeans change constantly, sometimes on a daily basis because of the whim of the Pharaoh in my life. His taskmasters then further degrade and flog me. I have no control over those resources as they are controlled  and withheld by those issuing these insane edicts. At times I break mentally under the load and I have not other place to draw strength from then the one that has gone before me and experienced that same pain and the same anxiety. Not Moses, oh  no, the one Moses foreshadowed....Jesus Christ. He has carried this and many other Crosses for us all. I need only take His yoke and I will find rest from this.

I know deep down inside that the powers of darkness lurk around the edges of depraved, rebellious and sinful people's minds. Sometimes within them in terms of possession. Satan is not always the impetus of all the evil men create but that serpent of old won't be far away when the evil is in full sway. I know that the system of the world that Pharaoh rules in in reality currently under the control of the Devil. It is not surprising that it would hammer on those that are God's. We suffer because the system of the world hates God and therefore hates us.We struggle not despite our intimacy with God...but exactly because of out intimacy with God. 

Fortunately, in the end I know that God does have control of all things. There is no power over me that hasn't already been given to my taskmasters from above. God is allowing this for whatever reason. To teach me, to test me...who knows? Perhaps not to punish me but for no other reason than to make others realize things like: The God Andy believes in is, well...God. I pray I do not lose my mind or my Christian witness in the process.

In both of Moses situations (an mine), the immediate presence of God doesn't guarantee and immediate solution....but a solution comes. God never abandoned Moses and nor has He abandoned me. Even the people that are in this situation are say things to me like, "your God has you here for a reason". These are unbelievers people! Unbelievers can see the things that is happening to me and know it is wrong but even they can see something else in the mix. The hand of something larger than us all. The hand of God. 

For now I will serve Pharaoh if it be the will of God. But if it not be the will of God...than Pharaoh be damned. The tip of the taskmaster's whip that scars, stings and rips at my flesh is painful...but it's temporary. The crushing wrath of a just God is excruciating and it is eternal.

In the case of the story concerning Pharaoh, God's purposes come to fruition and it bodes extremely poorly for Pharaoh. It comes not long after this episode with Moses and the incident of making bricks without straw. It ends in Pharaoh's demise at the hands of a Sovereign God. God doesn't like arrogant and pretentious men messing with His children. Sometimes life can be downright unfair and painfully difficult. God never ever promised a pleasant journey, only a pleasant destination. Peter alludes to this in his first epistle.

1 Peter 4:12 ~ Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

So, in the end, this much I know. This is all preparation for the scourging and burn-offs that are coming in the future. I realize now that my schooling is about to end that the hardest days are not behind me but rather in front of me. I cannot just walk out "there" and do ministry. There will come a day when problems now will pale in comparison. God knows the oppression of His people and can hear their cries in heaven. He will deliver His people. I also realize that a change to turn the tables on what is happening in my life and my family's is coming really soon. It will be big and it will be momentous. It will issue forth directly from the hands of my Lord and it will be to the eternal benefit of my family and I. I know for a fact that Jesus will deliver my family and myself from this temporary affliction....because He has already done so eternally on the Cross. The promises of God are kept on the broken back of the Savior. Eternal life comes from the dying breath of God's Son. I am merely imitating Him in these trials as I continue to try and die to self.
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