May 25, 2010

Deafening Pride

Posted in How to be Right tagged , , , , , , at 12:08 PM by E. M.

The meaning of life is to be one with God, which means we have to become like God.  God’s nature is always and completely Right. We can intentionally make progress toward being more right by examining every belief we have and actively trying to prove them wrong.  This process is called contrastive thinking.  The Biblical term for this mindset is “humility”.

The opposite of contrastive thinking is comparative thinking.  Comparative thinking is the process of actively trying to prove yourself right.  It is the unwillingness, or inability to consider the possibility that you could be wrong.  Comparative thinking is the state of justifying yourself without regard to whether or not you are actually right.  While contrastive thinking is difficult and makes us uncomfortable, comparative thinking is comfortable and makes us feel good about ourselves.  There is a Biblical term for comparative thinking.  That term is “Pride”.

Throughout the Biblical text, God strongly advocates humility and condemns pride.

But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “ God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)

When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2)

A man’s pride will bring him low, But the humble in spirit will retain honor. (Proverbs 29:23)

The essence of this philosophy is echoed even in our own interpersonal social relations.  Most people respect someone who has the strength to admit they are wrong, learn from it, and grow from the experience.  But no one really likes an unapologetically prideful and arrogant jerk – except teenage girls (and adults with the mentality of a teenage girl).  However, God has a much more practical reason for His position on pride and humility.

Remember that it is God’s desire that we choose Him so that we can be one with Him for eternity.  Thus is it logical to assume that He would want to aid us in our endeavor to become like Him by being more right.  And since God has all the Right information, the best way to aid us would be to provide that “righteous” information to us.

In order to hear and accept righteousness from God, we obviously have to be willing to hear and accept it.  This requires our willingness to be contrastive, because as we saw in the last post, it is highly likely that much of the information we have in our heads is wrong and needs to be corrected and replaced.

But in the words of one of my favorite quotations, “the surest barrier to truth is the assumption that you already have it”.  If you believe (or have convinced yourself) that you already possess righteousness and are unwilling to consider that you may be wrong (i.e. you are prideful), then you will reject any righteousness that God tries to provide you and you will remain “wrong” and further from what God desires.

God values humility (contrastive thinking) because it is the only method by which we can ever be more right.

It is the only way we can accept His righteousness.

It is the only way we can be more like God.

It is the only way to successfully fulfill the meaning of life.

It is the only way that God can get what He desires.

God condemns pride because pride makes all these things impossible.

This brings us to an interesting question.  If the key to being like God is to be humble, then does that mean that God is humble?  The answer is yes.  In fact, it could be said that our entire history on this planet is God’s process of contrastively showing that His plan for humanity is Right.  More details next week.

Remember to subscribe to this blog to receive new posts when they are published

May 18, 2010

Jellybeans of Righteousness

Posted in How to be Right tagged , , , , , at 2:08 PM by E. M.


The point of our existence; the meaning of life – is to be like God so that we can be one with God and share in God’s perfection and joy.  The Bible details the mechanics and methodology of this concept, and we will begin exploring them a few posts from now, but as we did when discussing and identifying the First Cause, I want us to understand the process of being more like God through logic, reason, and systematic analysis (hey, that sounds like a great subtitle for a blog!)

God’s nature is Right and Just.  In order to be like God, we would have to be right and just.  God is always and completely Right and Just because He has all the information in existence.  We do not have all the information in existence.  Individually, we only have some of the information in existence.  So the best we can hope for presently is to be completely right in the small sub-set of knowledge we possess and progressively add additional “right” knowledge.

The problem is that a lot of the information we currently have is not “right”.  Right now you have a set of beliefs in your head about all kinds of things, politics, religion, social welfare, health, economics, the best place to get a good steak (that would be Jockos in Nipomo, California by the way), and you are certain that what you believe is correct, otherwise you wouldn’t believe it.  But when we look back over our lives, we will see a litany of things that we once believed were right, but that we later discovered were not.

For example, when I was 16, I was convinced that Tanya Robinson loved me and that she was only dating our high school quarterback in order to make me jealous.  I later realized my error (few girls try to make a second-string line-backer jealous).

Nevertheless, at the time we held our presently acknowledged “wrong beliefs”, we were absolutely sure that they were right.  Thus it is logical to assume that some, if not many, of the things that we now believe right, are actually wrong, and we may be convinced of their wrongness at a future date (except for Jockos.  They really do have the best steaks on earth).

So what’s the solution?  Jellybeans! (Stay with me).  Picture your mind as a bowl full of red and blue jellybeans that represent everything you know and believe.  The blue jellybeans represent the beliefs you hold that are right, and the red jellybeans represent the beliefs you hold that are wrong.  So how do you become more right?  Simple, you take out the red jellybeans (wrong thoughts) and replace them with blue ones (correct thoughts).

But we have a problem.  Remember, we think that all the beliefs we currently hold are right, even the ones that are wrong!  We think all our jellybeans are blue.  We’re mentally colorblind.  Now what do we do?

What if I told you that color was not the only difference in the jellybeans?  What if I told you that the red jellybeans all have a tiny bump on them that could only be discovered under careful scrutiny, but all the blue ones were completely smooth?

In this case, the way to make sure you get rid of the red ones and keep (and add) blue ones would be to take EVERY jellybean in the bowl and examine it carefully for the bump.

In the real (non-jellybean) world, this means that in order to be more right, you need to take EVERY thought and belief you hold and actively try to prove it wrong (examine it for the “bump”).  If you can’t prove it wrong, then you can be comfortable that it is right, but if you do prove it wrong, then you discard it and replace it with correct information.  This is called contrastive thinking.  Thinking contrastively involves looking for a flaw in your thought process.  This flaw is usually a contradiction.

The opposite of contrastive thinking is comparative thinking – actively trying to prove yourself right.  The reason that comparative thinking is inferior is because it assumes that all the jellybeans are blue (and we know that is not true), while contrastive thinking presumes the possibility that red beans exist.  Contrastive thinking does not mean that you assume you are wrong.  It means you are wiling to consider the possibility that you could be wrong.

Comparative thinking is the source of just about every conflict.  Think about it, every argument you’ve had with another person is a matter of you thinking that you are right and trying to prove it (comparatively) to someone else who has a different idea but also think that they are right.  You both get angry and frustrated because neither of you are wiling to back down from your position.  Unless someone is willing to admit that they may be wrong, the situation either escalates out of control, or the “we agree to disagree” stalemate is called (which basically means you both just wasted your time).

But imagine if two people in conflict decided to be contrastive instead of comparative.  If two people had a difference of opinion and each person discussed the ways that their beliefs could possibly be wrong, then there would be no conflict, no anger, and no frustration.

Imagine it on a larger scale.  What if every group, religion, or nation that had a conflict with another decided to be contrastive?  What if each side tried to prove their own beliefs, intentions, opinions assumptions and aspirations wrong?  The result would be . . . world peace! (I cannot take credit for this particular piece of brilliance.  I first heard it here),

So with all these nifty benefits, how come people are not more willing to be contrastive?  Because it hurts!  No one wants to think that they are wrong.  We like being right!  It gives us comfort, order, and security.  Plus, it easy!  Even young children easily master the art of comparative thinking.  How many 4-year-olds have you ever heard say, “maybe candy is not my best dinner option”?

Being contrastive takes strength, discipline, and emotional maturity.

There is a term in the Bible for contrastive thinking.  That term is “humility”.  An examination of the Bible will show that God holds humility in high regard for some very important reasons.  We’ll explore them next week.

Remember to subscribe to this blog to receive new posts when they are published

May 11, 2010

No post this week

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:48 PM by E. M.

Sorry folks, between my travel schedule and studying for final exams, I won’t be able to put up a post this week.  I’ll have a new one out next Tuesday.  Promise

May 4, 2010

The Meaning of Life – aka “Here’s the Point.”

Posted in What's the Point? tagged , , , , , at 11:05 AM by E. M.


This post will finally address the question “What’s the Point?”  The answer to which is also the meaning of life.  It’s not even that hard.  I don’t know why it’s given philosophers so much trouble over the centuries.

To be fair, we’ve been given a significant advantage in answering this question.  We know that God is the First Cause of existence, and He’s given us a book that, among other things, lays out the narrative for why we exist and what our ultimate purpose is.  This book is the Judeo-Christian Bible.

So how do you find out what the ultimate point of the Bible is?  The same way you find out the point of any book; skip over to the ending.

Most people think that the Bible ends in an apocalyptic judgment where God takes off His shoe and hits the world upside the head with it (commonly known in the book of Revelation as Armageddon).  But Armageddon happens in Revelation chapter 19.  The Bible goes on for three more chapters after that.  The last actual event in the Biblical narrative is . . . a marriage.  The meaning of life is marriage!

For those of you reading this who happen to be married, relax and wipe that horrified look off your face.  I didn’t say the meaning of life is your marriage.  Rather it is the marriage mentioned at the end of Revelation – the marriage of Jesus Christ and His Bride.

This begs two questions:

1.  Who is the Bride of Christ?

2.  Why does Christ want a bride anyway?

Let’s start with the second question.  In the last post, we asked why God desires our love, and more fundamentally, why would a complete and perfect being have any desires at all?  We concluded that having desires does not necessarily mean that God lacks anything.  There is in fact one thing a complete being can desire – more of what He already has.  Ok, so what does God have that He could want more of?

In this post, we saw that because God is love, “God” has to be at least three “persons” (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) who have the exact same nature (always and completely Right and Just), thus they are in perfect harmony in thought, deed, and will; and in perfect, harmonious love.

So if you have three persons in perfect harmony, what could bring them more joy?  What could be better that having three persons in perfect love?

How about FOUR persons in perfect love?

God can desire to add a fourth person to the group.  That fourth person is “The Bride”.

So who is the Bride?  Well, the Bride would of course eventually be with God.  But in order to be with God, the Bride would have to be like God.  The Bride would have to be immaterial, transcendent, and eternal.  The Bride would have to have a nature that consisted of principles as its first cause.  The Bride would have to be spirit.  The Bride is . . . us!

Well, not all of us, only a certain segment of us who meet certain criteria; the primary criteria being our choice to love God, and all that’s involved in that choice.  After all, if the fourth person in going to be in harmony with the other Three, love would seem to be a rather fundamental prerequisite. This sub-set of humanity is also called “the Church”.  No, I’m not referring to the building down the street with the Cross on it, (or even necessarily to all the people who occupy it).  The Church consists of those who choose God under specific circumstances called “Salvation”.  We’ll cover Church and Salvation in detail later.

The entire Biblical narrative from Genesis to Revelation; the entire narrative of existence from beginning to end, is the story of the Father’s desire to produce a Bride for His Son; The Son’s efforts to make such a marriage possible, and the Holy Spirit’s work to make the Bride worthy of the wedding.

We can be a part of the Bride if we choose.  We can also choose not to be.  But the consequences of that choice are rather unpleasant, though completely just (I’ll discuss those “consequences” toward the end of the year).

Now if you’re a guy, don’t let the imagery of being a “bride” freak you out.  The term is symbolic (as is “Father” and “Son” for that matter) to help us better relate to concepts that may be a little difficult to grasp.  The bottom line is that God wants us to join Him, to be like Him, to be in harmony with Him, to be one with Him and add to His joy.  He makes this desire pretty clear:

Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are . . . “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. – John 17: 11, 20-21 NKJV

I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. – John 14:2-3 NKJV

We were created to be one with God.  We are meant to be like God.  That’s the point.  That’s the higher purpose that we all feel drawn toward.  We’re drawn toward it because it is what we were made for, and anything else we try to force fit into this desire and anything we try to replace it with leaves us unsatisfied, because anything else is less than what we were made for.

The point is to be like God, but there is a problem.  God is always and completely Right and Just.  Only someone completely righteous can enter God’s presence.  Only someone completely right (having all the information) can be completely just.  We are not always and completely right and just (not even close).

Now there are mechanisms that God initiated that can lead to our righteousness – things like the Church, salvation and grace (you know, all that doctrine I glossed over earlier), but I haven’t fully addressed those concepts yet.  For now, lets simply say that the meaning of life is to be like God, which is to be always and completely right.

In my next post, I want to highlight one way that we can actively be more like God by intentionally becoming more “right”.  The answer to “how to become more right” also happens to be the secret to achieving world peace!  The answer is . . . jellybeans!

I’m Serious.

See you next week

Remember to subscribe to this blog to receive new posts when they are published