June 30, 2010

Justifiable Guilt

Posted in Terminology tagged , , , , , , , at 1:44 PM by E. M.

BRAIN DAMAGE RUN AMOK

We’ve been examining how the dispensations are God’s contrastive process of showing how His plan of righteousness is the correct one.  In the last post, we saw that Adam and Eve failed in the first dispensation primarily because they chose to justify themselves over God when they committed a wrong act.

Our history on earth is played out through the dispensations.  But why does it have to be this way? We’re human beings with a free will right?  What if we decide we don’t want to play God’s dispensation game?  Can’t we just ignore our wrongs and refuse to justify anyone?   (In other words, can’t we all just take on the mentality of politicians?)

Well, for better or worse, that isn’t really an option.  When God created Adam and Eve in His image, certain traits and knowledge about existence were irrevocably passed on to us.  For example, we inherently know that existence exists.  We know that contradictions cannot exist.  We know that every effect has a cause, and we know that the concepts of right and just are absolutes.

Though while we tacitly acknowledge that righteousness and justice are optimal, also we know that we are not always and completely right and just.  Therefore, we know that at some point we’ll screw up.

We inherently know when we do something wrong because our brains are wired to detect contradictions.  Even if we try to deny it consciously, our subconscious  (or “unaware brain”) still detects contradictions and inconsistencies whether we want it to or not.  Our subconscious makes sure we know when we do wrong by making us feel guilt.

We feel guilt because our inherent awareness of justice tells us that the “wrong” we just did unbalanced the scales and we’re on the wrong side of justice.  We’re at a deficit.  We owe something.  Guilt is our “you need to pay” alert.

But we don’t like feeling guilty, so we want to make it go away.  The problem is that we can’t make the “wrong” we committed go away (because it already happened), so the only relief from guilt that we can hope for is some kind of justification.

Justification is the act of rendering an action “just”.  If an action is justified, then it is considered fair and appropriate.  No one owes anyone anything.  The scales are balanced.

There are essentially two categories of justification, which I call the “Justification of God”, and the “Justification of Man”.  Justification of God means that we get justification God’s way by being contrastive and/or allowing God to guide us into righteousness.  We justify righteousness (God) over ourselves when we are wrong by acknowledging the “wrong”, and then turning from it and embracing “right”.  This is called repentance.  Repentance leads to “salvation” which is the process by which God renders us justified. We will examine salvation in detail when we look at the sixth dispensation.

But as we discussed earlier, being contrastive is painful, perhaps just as painful as the guilt we’re trying to get rid of.  That’s where “Justification of Man” comes in.  Justification of Man means we render ourselves just in spite of our wrongs.  When we justify ourselves, we are being intentionally comparative.  We create some rationalization for our wrongness that allows us to unilaterally declare that either the “wrong” we did wasn’t really wrong, or that we had a just reason for committing it.

Lets say, for example that I make a mean or hurtful comment to someone who doesn’t deserve it.  Instead of apologizing, I justify myself by saying that I’ve been under a lot of stress, or that I get irritable without my morning coffee, or that the remark wasn’t really hurtful and the person I offended needs to “lighten up”.

The problem is that Justification of Man is a contradiction.  The “wrong” really happened.  The scales are still unbalanced and a penalty is still owed, thus the guilt is still there.  Self-justification is self-delusion.

Although we can try (with great effort) to deny this reality with our conscious mind, we cannot fool our subconscious.  The subconscious only sees reality.  It is immune to our delusions, skewed perspectives, rationalizations, social constructs and irrational views. The subconscious is the source of our feeling of guilt because it always sees the reality of our wrongs.

Since our brains function according to electro-chemical feedback loops, this internal conflict between our conscious and subconscious minds can result in actual physical degradation of the brain.  So technically, when we engage in Justification of Man, we are intentionally causing ourselves brain damage (this actually goes a long way toward explaining the mentality of politicians).

There is one other category of justification that is a hybrid of Justification of God and Justification of Man.  In this form of justification, man acknowledges his wrongness and guilt to varying degrees, but instead of contrastively seeking God’s righteousness, man attempts to make things right by balancing the scales through his own efforts.  He tries to make his guilt go away and appease righteousness (God) by performing “good works”.  This type of justification is called “religion”.  In many ways, it is the worst and most damaging justification of all.  We’ll discuss it next week.

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June 22, 2010

Dispensation 1 – Paradise Lost

Posted in The Dispensations tagged , , , , , , , at 1:18 PM by E. M.

Shortly after God made Adam, he took him on a tour of the rest of creation.  “This is all amazing,” Adam said, “What are you going to do next?”  “I’ve decided to make you a companion,” God replied, “I’m going to make her from your body, so you’ll be completely compatible in every way.  She’ll always respect and admire you.  She will always say exactly what she means at all times. She’ll respond to every situation with logic and rationality, and she will quickly accept accountability when she is wrong.  She will have faith in you, be supportive, and always give you the benefit of the doubt.  She will consistently be on time for events, she’ll never hide her insecurities behind vanity and when you have a conflict, she will always let you have the last word.  “Wow”, Adam said, “She sounds great!  What will this cost me?”  “In order to create her” God replied. “I’ll need a lung, your left foot, a piece of your heart and liver, a kidney, and three vertebrae.”  “That’s an awful lot to give up” Adam said, ”What can I get for a rib?”

(yeah, I know its corny joke, but its my blog so I can be corny if I want)

Our history on this planet can be seen as the story of God contrastively showing that His plan for man’s righteousness is the only one that will work by presenting every reasonable scenario in which man could choose righteousness on his own.  These scenarios are called dispensations.  In each dispensation, man is given the opportunity to choose God’s way or his own – to either justify God or justify himself.

The first dispensation would logically be a “pure” scenario in which man was in a state of complete innocence – A state in which he had no “baggage”, no preconceived notions, no historical influences, no childhood trauma or growing pains, etc.  This first dispensation should address the question, “If man was a completely innocent being with a volitional will, but no knowledge of good or evil and no moral biases, would he, of his own volition, choose righteousness (God)?”

This of course is the familiar narrative of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis chapter 3).  God creates the first man and woman in His own image and places them in paradise.  They have just one rule: they are not to eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  The result would be death.

They now have a choice – don’t eat the fruit and live forever in blissful innocence/ignorance, or come to know good and evil with the result being death.  (This whole situation seems odd at first glance, but it is actually logical and just.  We’ll explore it in an upcoming post.)

Of course, in order to make it a fair choice, you’d have to have someone present a counter-argument to God’s position.  Thus enters the serpent.  Now some people get hung up on the idea of the talking snake.  But considering the fact that in the previous two chapters of Genesis God creates the entire universe by just thinking about it, a talking snake seems like a comparatively minor phenomenon.  And for the record, there is reason to believe that it wasn’t a “snake” per se.

The grammatical root of the word translated “serpent” is “nachash” in Hebrew, which means “one who whispers an enchantment”, or “to shine”.  As a proper noun, it would be translated “The Shining One”.  I believe this is an allusion to the being known as Satan, who was also called Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12-15) the “light bearer”.  This idea is also referenced in Revelation 12:9.   “Nachash” later became synonymous with slithery reptile in Hebrew vernacular.

Of course I may be overcomplicating the whole matter and it could very well have just been a tree snake with an excellent vocabulary.  Either way, for our purposes its taxonomy is not as relevant as what it said.  It basically implied that God was wrong.  Adam and Eve would not die if they ate the fruit.  In fact they would be more like God in that they would know what good and evil was.  This was a clever mix of facts and lies that we we’ll discuss later.

In any case, Eve bought the spiel and ate the fruit.  She gave some to Adam who followed suit.  And presto!  Original sin.  Right?

Not so fast.  While this is the traditional view of what constitutes original sin (i.e., the transgression that got the first couple booted from paradise and made all their descendants the rebellious miscreants that we are today), there is reason to believe that eating the forbidden fruit was only a part of original sin – and not even the most significant part.  I base this on three things.

1.  God did not immediately bring judgment and end the dispensation after the fruit was eaten.

2.  In and of itself, eating the fruit didn’t offer a just opportunity for Adam and Eve to choose to be comparative or contrastive, because they didn’t know what good and evil were until after they eat it.

3.  God’s actions immediately after they ate the fruit show that he was much more interested in their reaction to the sin that the sin itself.

So what happened after the fruit was eaten?  Adam and Eve suddenly had knowledge of good and evil (and public nudity) and they hid from God.  Did God immediately rain down wrath?  Nope, he asked them questions.

God asked Adam where he was and what he did.  God was not looking for information.  He obviously knew where Adam was, what he did, and what the ramifications were.

Adam and God both knew Adam was wrong.  The only variable in this situation, was how would Adam react?  Would he be comparative or contrastive?  God asked questions in order to give Adam the opportunity to either justify himself, or justify God – to keep his new red jellybean or replace it with a blue one.

Adam could have said, “God, I messed up.  You told me not to eat the fruit and I did.  It was all my fault.   I promise not to do it again.  Um, could you make me a pair of shorts?”

But instead, Adam justified himself and blamed God for creating Eve! He basically said, “yeah, I screwed up, but it’s your fault God!  If you hadn’t given me this harpy, I never would have been tempted to eat the fruit and I’d still have my rib!”

God then turned to Eve who also justified herself and threw the snake under the bus.  God didn’t ask the snake anything because, lets face it, no one likes snakes.

Once both of our progenitors showed themselves completely unwilling to accept a shred of responsibility (way to set an example for the kids Mom and Dad), God declared the first dispensation a failure by bringing judgment and an eviction notice on the first couple.  So it’s on to the next dispensation.

Now I’ll admit that many of the elements in the Eden narrative seem a bit incredible, (no more incredible than the whole “speaking the universe into existence” preamble, but still).  So what do we do with this story?  We basically have two options, its either symbolic/allegorical, or it literally happened.

If it’s an allegory, then no further analysis is necessary.  It’s just a nice little moral fairy tale about resisting temptation, the corruption of the innocent yadda, yadda.  No different than Pandora’s Box or any similar fable.  It presents universal wisdom that we can interpret or euphemize in any way we choose.  Some religious traditions do just that.  The problem is that some of those same religious traditions also believe in a literal Jesus, and according to Luke 3:23-38, Adam is a part of Jesus’ genealogy.  Not sure how they navigate that contradiction.

But if the narrative is literal (and I have no reason to believe it is not) then the ramifications of this first dispensation are staggering and give us a lot of terms and ideas that need to be defined and analyzed before we can move on to the next dispensation.  These include, good, evil, life, death, knowledge, sin, curse, etc.  We’ll start the analysis next week by looking at why doing wrong requires justification.

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June 14, 2010

A Plan for the Ages

Posted in How to be Right tagged , , , , , at 1:00 PM by E. M.

We know that the only way for a being whose nature is NOT right and just (us) to be completely righteous is to choose to take direction from a being who IS always and completely right and just (God).  The only way to do this would be for us be humble and reject comparative thinking (pride).  When we are humble/contrastive, we choose God’s way over our own and justify Him over ourselves when a conflict occurs.  When we are proud/comparative, we choose our own way and justify ourselves when we are wrong.

God has a plan for humanity that is right and just.  As we saw in the last post, a righteous God would have to show that His plan is the only one that is completely right by using a contrastive process to prove that all other possibilities are wrong.

So how does God do this?  He presents a just scenario wherein man has the option to:

a) Contrastively choose God’s way over his own, or

b) Choose to be comparative and justify himself over God

If and when man chooses to be comparative, God can then eliminate that failed scenario and replace it with a new one that gives man another just opportunity to choose to be comparative or contrastive, (to either choose God, or justify himself), until man either proves that he is capable of choosing righteousness on his own, or shows that he cannot be righteous outside of God’s ultimate plan.  In each of these scenarios, God progressively deals with mankind in a different way based on what occurred in the previous scenario.  These scenarios are commonly referred to as “dispensations”.

Now I know that “dispensation” is a word that carries a lot of religious baggage that goes above and beyond just being a moniker for the different scenarios in which God has dealt, (and will deal) with man.  But I’m only using it is because it is convenient.  If the word and its various religious connotations makes you uncomfortable, then just substitute the word “ages” where appropriate.

The Bible seems to depict seven such dispensations.  Five of them have been tried, and man has failed to choose God in each one.  We are currently in the sixth dispensation (and there is reason to believe that we are nearing its end).  There will be one more dispensation following this one, after which all just and reasonable scenarios will have been presented and God can justly implement the meaning of life (Heaven).  For the rest of this year, we will be exploring these dispensations in detail.

Each dispensation is unique and non-repeatable for reasons that we will discuss as we progress.

So what qualities should the first dispensation have?  Since it is the first one, it should be the simplest.  It should give man the purest and simplest opportunity to choose God.  It should have minimal people, minimal outside influences, minimal information, minimal choice, and maximum innocence.

The first dispensation started with the first two people that God created.  The outcome of this scenario obviously had a dramatic impact on the rest of history.  Although it is a familiar narrative, some very important details are usually missed or misunderstood in popular culture.  We’ll examine it next week.

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June 2, 2010

The Humble God

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

The key to becoming like God is to be righteous.  We become more righteous by becoming more right.  The best way to become more right is for someone with all the information in existence (God) to guide us.  We can only accept that guidance if we are willing to be contrastive, otherwise known as humility.  But if the key to righteousness is humility, and God is completely righteous, then is God humble?  Does God think contrastively?  I say yes.

I believe that our entire history on this planet is the process of God contrastively proving that His plan for our righteous is the correct one.

God’s specific plan for our righteousness is called “salvation”.   It is the plan that He has had from the beginning, and its something that we will discuss in detail later in the year.

God’s plan is the right plan (because He’s God after all), but it’s not the only plan.  As we’ve seen in the last couple of posts, it is theoretically possible to become completely righteous by using contrastive thinking to get rid of all our wrong thoughts, and allow God to give us the right information to replace the wrong ones. Then as long as we choose to only do and say what God tells us for the rest of our lives, we could use our complete knowledge of righteousness to be completely just, and presto! We can walk up to God’s throne and say, “move over, there are two of us now!”

While this is theoretically possible, God knows that it is practically impossible, because only someone with a nature that is always and completely right and just would always choose to be right and just.  And of course man’s nature is NOT right and just.

With this correct information about our nature and our inability to always choose righteousness of our own volition, God could have rightly implemented his ultimate plan for us on a unilateral basis right after creation.   This would have been right.  But it would not have been just.

It would have been unjust not to allow man every reasonable opportunity and situation to take the righteous path of choosing God of his own free will, no matter how improbable.

If God would have unilaterally implemented his plan, man could justly ask, “well God, how do we know that your way was best?  If we’d been given the opportunity to do it on our own, how do you know we wouldn’t have chosen you?”

As long as there is even a hypothetical chance that man could choose righteousness outside of His plan, a just God has to allow man that opportunity.

As I said before, our entire history on earth is the story of man experiencing and living out God’s contrastive process.  Gaining an understanding of this process will help bring resolution to many of the questions and “mysteries” that many of us have about how and why God does things the way he does.

So far we’ve looked at why God has a contrastive process for our righteousness, next week we’ll examine how He does it.

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