September 19, 2014

The Jesus Myth – part 2: Holy Idoltary

Posted in How to be Right, Jesus, Religion, Salvation tagged , , , , , at 1:10 PM by E. M.

Holy IdolIn the last two posts, we looked at some of the myths surrounding the resurrection of Jesus. The final resurrection myth was actually the one accepted by most Christians – the idea that Jesus rose from the dead looking the same (if not better) as He did before His death; bearing relatively minor evidence of the traumatic torture He endured (namely the nail and spear marks).

On the surface, this may not seem like a big deal. After all, the Bible doesn’t dwell much on Jesus physical appearance before or after His death. So why should we?

The truth is we shouldn’t. But the problem is that we do!

It’s in our nature to want to “humanize” God. Making God into the epitome of the human ideal makes us more comfortable with Him. However anything that does not conform to reality can ultimately lead to deception. This post will explore the implications of this.

Believe it or not, many Christians today are guilty of worshiping an idol. What’s even more shocking is that the worship of this idol is not done in secret or behind closed doors; no, this idol is openly and brazenly worshiped in Christian churches! His likeness is painted on the walls, and his image takes a prominent place in our minds. We sing songs to this idol and pray in his name. Church leaders tell us we should strive to be more like the idol in our everyday lives.

We call this idol “Jesus”, but the Jesus that has been popularized by contemporary culture (and much of the contemporary church) is not necessarily the Jesus of the Bible.

When you close your eyes and imagine Jesus. What do you see? If you are like most Christians, you see a tall, thin, handsome Caucasian man with a beard and long brown hair dressed in a white robe and sandals. Guess what? You’ve just pictured the false idol!

Why do I make this claim? Well, while we do not know exactly what Jesus looked like when He was on earth, we can be sure that He looked nothing like the image derived from European medieval and renaissance art.

Jesus was obviously not Caucasian. He was a middle-eastern Jew and would thus have had the skin tone and ethnic features of a middle-eastern Jew. We have no information about His height, but it is very doubtful that He was thin. Jesus was a carpenter by trade. He probably spent the better pat of 25 years working with His legal father Joseph learning his craft; which included cutting and lifting heavy planks of wood and stone. That kind of life does not lead to a slight build. Long hair on a male was not acceptable in that culture , and we know from the Bible that Jesus was not handsome.

Imagine instead, a stout, fairly muscular middle-eastern man with average to below-average looks, short think black hair and a beard. Now put him side by side with the “Jesus” you previously imagined. What a contrast! But as I said before, His physical appearance is only a minor and superficial aspect of the idolatry. The more damaging aspect is what many imagine the nature of Jesus to be.

The “Jesus” that is usually worshiped in church is warm and fuzzy magic human teddy-bear. He is gentle, harmless, and kind. He is cajoling, forgiving, and accepting. He is mild-mannered, passionless, and bland. He is weak, abused, and impotent. Isn’t this what we are told He is; “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild”?

Yet in the scriptures we see a Man who commands the respect of rough-hewed fishermen; whose very presence leads them to give up their lives and follow Him . We see a Man who boldly walked into holy buildings and claimed He was ushering in the Kingdom of God . He viciously insulted religious leaders , and claimed He knew their doctrine better than they did .

He taught many with the authority of God , but deliberately denied others access to key knowledge . We see a Man who physically assaulted thieves in the temple, threatened to drown anyone who harms a child, and knocked down soldiers with the force of His voice.

We see a Man who loses His patience, gets exasperated with His friends. He insults a woman who has a sick daughter and she has to ask repeatedly before He will heal her. He lets a good friend die to prove  point . He tells us that His presence will cause division in our lives; that following Him will make you hated and despised. He promises  suffering and tells followers they may be killed for serving Him.  He taught about Hell and punishment twice as much as He taught about Heaven. He is a Man who loved tough, fought fiercely, cared deeply, and died passionately.

This is the real Jesus. He is complex. He is hard to deal with. He sometimes makes us uncomfortable. He’s a little scary. He’s rarely seen in modern churches, and most Christians scarcely know who He is.

How did this happen? Why has the Jesus presented in the scriptures been sanitized, sterilized, neutered, de-clawed, and emasculated?

Religion!

Many Christians have made the same mistake the Pharisees made. They’ve embraced the aspects of Jesus that they liked (love, peace, compassion, kindness), and ignored the parts that make them uncomfortable (passion, judgment, holiness, exclusivity, wrath, accountability).

All that is left is an artificially sweetened shell of the real thing; the milquetoast hippie served up to many Christians on Sunday morning.

But why is it so important that Christians see Jesus as He really was?  If one accepts the death and resurrection that leads to salvation, does it really matter how accurate our view of Jesus time on earth is?

Absolutely! The spiritual landscape post-resurrection is not a passive one. The Great Invasion may have ended with Jesus being ultimately victorious; But Satan has not stopped fighting! Although there is nothing he can do change the outcome of Jesus’ work, as we saw in the previous two posts, he can still do damage by preventing as many people as possible from receiving salvation and being discipled as Jesus commanded. And deception about Jesus is an effective way to do it.

The reason is that a false idol leads to a false world view, and when the harsh reality of the real world meets the false expectations of that imitation worldview, can result in a failure of faith.

As Jesus promised, the Christian life is not easy. Christians will have to endure all manner of despair, frustrations, ordeals and calamities.

If a person is led to believe that salvation leads to a life filled with nothing but sweetness and joy, what will happen when a conflict arises that tries their faith? Their world will shatter! They will feel helpless and lost.

Satan can step in and lead them to doubt God. He asks them “if Christians are wrong about God’s “goodness”, what else they are wrong about? Is there even a God at all?  Satan can take up residence in those doubts and lead them down the road to ultimate rejection of God and His plan.

On the other hand if we are willing to accept the reality that Jesus said that life would be difficult, then when those difficulties actually arise, there will be no crisis of faith because expectations match reality!

Most importantly, Jesus holds Christians accountable to know Him as He really is! The bible is clear that when all is said and done, only those who have a relationship with the real Jesus will take part in the meaning of life. Those who intentionally followed a false Christ will be left out.

In the next two posts we will take a contrastive look at the real mission and message of Jesus versus the version that is popularized by the secular and “spiritual” world

 

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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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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.

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May 18, 2010

Jellybeans of Righteousness

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

THIS IS YOUR MIND . . . YOUR SWEET, DELICIOUS MIND.

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.

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