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.

IT'S GOING TO BE GREAT! TRUST ME

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

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April 26, 2010

Its All Your Fault

Posted in What's the Point? tagged , , , , , , , at 12:15 PM by E. M.

In the last post we looked at the mechanics behind the origin of the universe and used all kinds of science-y concepts to explain how something can come from nothing (with the explanation that what we think of as “something” really is “nothing” because…oh, just read the last post. I don’t want to go over it again).

We have an explanation of all the “stuff” in the universe, but what about us? Apparently there is something special and unique about man.  The Bible spends a couple chapters and verses here and there about the creation of the universe, but it has volumes of information about the make up of humanity.  In Genesis 1:27, it is said that we are made in God’s image (well actually it only says that the first man and woman were made in God’s image.  Technically, the rest of us are in their image.  I’ll deal with that in a future post).

What is it that makes humanity so special?  What do we have over the rest of creation?  The ability (that most of us have) to think – understand and apply knowledge – definitely puts us in a different category than the vast majority of matter in the universe.  But many animals also have the ability to think.  Some people even believe that dolphins are more intelligent than humans.  Of course that doesn’t explain why they keep getting caught in those tuna nets.  How smart do you have to be to swim around a net?

If we bear any “resemblance” to a being whose nature is composed of principles (God), then that means our true nature – the real“us”, is made of principles (we discussed this a few posts ago). Unlike God however, our principles are NOT always and completely Right and Just (listening to a politician or lawyer for two minutes will bear that out).

The principles that make up our nature are unique to the individual.  Your principles are the first cause of your personality.  Everything that makes up your personality, temperament, reactions, values, and psychology are an effect of your core principles.  I can think of few causes more worthwhile than discovering and living out your individual principles.  Here is a link that will greatly aid you in this endeavor.

Incidentally, my principles are “understanding” and “sharing” – At my core is the desire to understand things and then to share what I understand with others.  Hence, this blog.

Whatever our individual principles are though, it is important to keep in mind that our basic nature is NOT always and completely right and just.

We are also different from God in another very important way: God gave us free will.  Free will (or volitional will) means that we have the ability to intentionally act outside of, or contrary to our nature.   So while it is not in our nature to be right and just, we can choose to be.

Interestingly, this is not an ability that God has.  That’s right; God does not have free will.  Before you accuse me of sacrilege, consider the implications.  If God could choose to not be always and completely right and just, then He would no longer be the First Cause of creation.  Which is impossible according to the law of non-contradiction.

Ok, so why would God create humanity this way?  Apparently God has some special purpose for us.  We intrinsically know this.  We know that we have a “higher purpose”.  It causes us to ask, “what’s the point?” and not be satisfied until we get the answer.

God wants something from us.  Dare I say, He desires something from us.  But how can a perfect being have desires?  Does that mean that God is lacking something?  Isn’t God “complete”?

Yes, He is complete, but there is something that a being who lacks nothing can desire without diminishing His completeness – He can desire more of what He already has! (I’ll address this next week)

The Biblical narrative makes it clear that God wants us to choose Him.  More specifically, He wants us to choose to love Him.  We’ll explore why God wants us to love Him and why our love is so important to Him in next week’s post.  But for now, we’ll go with the supposition that God wants us to love Him, and that this desire is Right (since that’s God’s nature).  Let’s look at the mechanics and implications of God creating us with the ability to love Him.

As we saw in this post, love is not an emotion; it is not an involuntary feeling or reaction.  Love is a choice.  In order for a choice to exist, there has to be at least two options in existence, as well as a being of volitional will to make the choice.

So God, being Just, must present a just situation in which His creation can exercise the choice to love Him.  For this situation to exist, God would have to:

  1. Create a being with free will.
  2. Present the choice to love or not love Him.
  3. In the purest sense, not interfere with, or act on the choice until after the choice is made. (There are circumstances where God can intervene prior to a choice being carried out in response to justice, but the vast majority of the time, He has to allow the choice to be carried out before He can act).

The only way we can truly love God is if we have the option not to love Him.  This is a choice we constantly make.

This situation offers an answer to the classic question that many skeptics (and believers) have about God which I promised to address in the post on love: “If God is a God of love, how can He allow [universally acknowledged “bad thing”] to happen?”  In light of what we understand about God’s nature and ours, a more valid question would be, “how could a God of love not allow them to happen?”

In addressing this question, I am excluding “natural” calamities such as hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, getting mauled by a bear etc.  There is a reason for these situations that we’ll tackle later, but for now I’m limiting the answers to evil initiated by man, against man.

All evil and abhorrent actions that people commit – war, violence, assault, molestation, theft, betrayal, cruelty etc, are all the result of choices; specifically the choice to act in an unloving manner to others.  And God cannot justly intervene (in most cases) until after the choice is carried out, because anytime before the choice is executed, the person has an opportunity to intentionally change his or her mind and not commit the act!

If God does not allow them that opportunity, then He is interfering with free will.  If He interferes with free will, He is nullifying choice and preventing love (which a God of love cannot do).

Furthermore, if God punishes someone before they do evil, He is being unjust.  If He is unjust, then He is not God (the First Cause).  God cannot act outside of His nature (right and just), so He cannot punish evil before evil happens.  Just like a police officer cannot arrest you for murder when you decide to murder someone.  You are not a murderer until you actually kill someone.  Only after you commit the act can you be judged.

So, the reason why God allows evil to be committed is that He wants us to choose love, and He can’t justly interfere with our opportunity to make the right choice.  However, He can, does, and will justly and completely punish all the evil that has ever been committed in due time – as only a just judge would do.

As for the reason there is evil in the world – you see the reason every morning when you look in the mirror.  All the evil in the world is the result of choices people make to not love each other and God.  Evil is not God’s fault.  It’s ours’.

Next week we’ll look at why God wants us to love Him.  The reason behind this desire is not only the answer to “what’s the point?” it is also the answer to the meaning of life.  No big deal.

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April 19, 2010

Creation – Something out of Nothing

Posted in What's the Point? tagged , , , , , , at 12:43 PM by E. M.

WARNING – this post is a bit longer than usual and its chock full of scientific stuff. Depending on how technical you are, it may take a couple of reads to sink in. I apologize in advance for any resulting aneurysms.

The physical universe is the result of a First Cause.  The First Cause is defined in the information source known as the Judeo-Christian Bible.  The Bible calls the First Cause “God”

Up until now, I’ve reduced the origins of the physical universe into immaterial concepts like “information” and “principles”, and described the universe itself in terms of its governing rules such as causality and thermodynamics.  But we don’t just experience the physical universe conceptually.  We can touch it, taste it, hear it, smell it, and see it.  Its fair to ask , when will I finally talk about the more tangible aspects of the universe ?(or how can you answer “what’s the point?” if you never get to the %&@$# point?!)

I hear you.  In this post I endeavor to give a practical answer to how the physical universe could come into being from the First Cause.  Once we reach the end of this post, hopefully you will understand why I had to give so much seemingly “vague” background information first

Now, according to the Bible, God simply spoke everything into existence – “And God said let there be light”, and suddenly light existed. (And God said, “let there be colon cancer”, and the first McDonalds opened).  This seems rather fanciful, but lets take a systematic approach with this and start at the beginning.

The basic building block of matter is the atom.  Everything we see, mountains, trees, oceans, even our physical bodies are made up of trillions of atoms too small to be seen without powerful scientific equipment.  As the picture at the top shows, an atom consists of a nucleus at the center, and one or more negatively charged particles called electrons that orbit the nucleus at high speeds.  The picture above is he common way atoms are presented because it makes them easy to visualize, but he proportions are WAY off.

The size ratio of the nucleus to the orbit of the electron is about 100,000 to 1.  In other words, if the nucleus were the size of the head of a pin, the orbit of the electron would be over 100 meters away.  If we were on a football field, and the head of a pin (nucleus) was at the 50 yard-line, the electron’s orbit circumference would be the end zones on either side!

The VAST majority (99.99999~%) of an atom is…nothing.  Empty space.  Ok, so if the building blocks of matter are primarily empty space, then why do physical objects seem solid?  That’s because of the electrons. Due to their electric charge, they repel the electrons in other atoms and groups of atoms (molecules).  Remember in grade school when you’d have two magnets that would stick to each other because they had a different electrical charge, but when you’d turn one over the similar charge would make them repel each other?  Like that.

So then, when you have an object made of billions of atoms and molecules like the chair you’re sitting on, the repellant force of all those electrons is so great that it seems solid, when it encounters another object made of billions of atoms and molecules (like your butt).

The more electrons present in each atom, the more solid and dense an object seems, which is why iron, which has 26 electrons is more solid than water, which has 10 electrons, and which is more solid that helium, which has two.  But in reality, this “solidness” is an electro-magnetic illusion because, again, the vast majority of an atom is nothingness.

But wait, it gets worse.

An electron itself is almost without mass.  Electrons “behave” a lot like light (which has no mass).  Many scientists believe that the apparent mass that an electron has is only inferred form the electro-magnetic energy created from its fast orbit of the nucleus.  So in essence, the particle responsible for the phenomenon that makes objects tangible is not “real”

But wait, it gets even worse.

The nucleus (composed of particles called protons and neutrons) does have definitive mass.  Protons and neutrons are each made up of three sub-atomic particles call “quarks”.  Quarks are so small that they cannot be observed by scientific equipment.  We only know they exist based on secondary evidence.  This puts us in the crazy world of particle or “Quantum” physics.

Sub-atomic particles are unimaginably small – so small in fact that the laws of physics become fuzzy and cause these particles to behave very strangely.  The Copenhagen Interpretation and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle show that sub-atomic particles have no definitive independent locality or even existence when scientists are not observing them.  In other words, sub-atomic particles cannot be said to definitively exist unless an intelligent being is actively looking at them!  If that does not freak you out, then you didn’t understand it.

Quantum physics is so odd that it even disturbs the scientists who study it.  Niels Bohr stated, “Anyone who is not shocked by Quantum theory has not understood it.”

Richard Feynman said, “Of all the theories proposed in [the 20th Century], the silliest is Quantum theory…the only thing that Quantum theory has going for it, in fact, is that it is unquestionably correct.”

So in summary, what can we say about physical matter via the atoms that make it up?

  1. 99.9~% of it is nothingness
  2. Its physical tangibility is an electro-magnetic illusion
  3. The tiny fraction of 1% of it that actually is “real” doesn’t exist unless an intelligent being is thinking about it

So……….we know that the universe exists, but nothing in it is what we’d define as “real” on a fundamental level.  What do we do with this information?  Why, analyze it of course!

Do we know of anything else that exists and is immaterial, consists primarily of electronic energy, has a dramatic effect on what we call physical matter, and only exists as a product of intelligence?  We do.  We’ve discussed it before. Information!  Or more specifically thought.

Ok, brace yourself…The universe and everything in it  is nothing more than a thought in the mind of God! (granted, a really, really complex thought, but still…)

The metaphysical ramifications are staggering.  Everything we see as physical existence – stars, planets, mountains, oceans, birds, bees, flowers, trees, the Grand Canyon, and Disneyland, are all figments of God’s imagination (ok, I won’t blame God for Disneyland.  That’s just not fair).

Everything exists because God is thinking about it.  Including us.  (I wonder what would happen if God stopped thinking about it?  Never mind.  This post is theoretical enough as it is).

With this in mind (no pun intended), God speaking everything into existence is not so far fetched.  In fact, it kind of makes sense, especially if His spoken words correlate perfectly with His thoughts.

Think about dreams you’ve had at night or fantasies your created in your mind.  You dismiss them as not being real, but in essence, they work on the same principles as divine creation.

PLEASE note that I am NOT getting all New Age-y on you and saying that we can create or alter objective reality with our thoughts in the manner that books like The Secret (and some popular Televangelists) say you can.  We are not God.  We do not have the nature of the First Cause.

But then…what about us?  We’re different from anything else in known creation.  We have volitional will.  We can intentionally act apart from God’s will and initiate situations that He may not want to happen.  How and why did God create us this way?  I’ll tell you in one week…

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April 12, 2010

Love is a Three-Way

Posted in What's the Point? tagged , , , , , , at 9:21 AM by E. M.

The TrinityBased on human understanding, we know that the First Cause of existence is “right” and “just”; righteousness and justice describe the nature of the First Cause.   The Judeo-Christian Bible gives us more details about the First Cause (God).

Most of the characteristics that we attribute to God (merciful, holy, compassionate, all-knowing, all-mighty, etc.) are the effects of His nature.  But one of the most prominent characteristics of God in the scriptures as well as popular culture is “love”.  One of the first Bible verses kids learn is “God is love”.  If you asked the average person to describe God’s most prominent trait, they would most likely say that He is “loving” (followed by “really old”,  “really loud”, and “possessing an obscenely large beard”).

Even those who doubt or deny the existence of God acknowledge love as His defining characteristic.  On more than one occasion I’ve had some disgruntled person ask “If God is so loving, then why does He allow [universally acknowledged “bad thing”] to happen?”  (FYI – I will actually answer that question in two weeks)

So what exactly is “love”?  Asking that question leads to a diversity of subjective answers ranging from “a strong affection” to “about $50 an hour”.   But since we’re talking about God’s love, we need to go to the Bible to get His definition.

The first Biblical mention of the word love is in Genesis chapter 22, where God commands Abraham to take his precious son Isaac, whom he loves more than anything else in the world. . .  and climb to the top of a mountain and kill him as a sacrifice of faith.

Granted, on the surface this seems like an odd way to introduce the concept of love to the reader, but this event is intimately tied to the ultimate example of God’s love which is highlighted in the most famous verse in the Bible; John 3:16

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son so that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

According to many Biblical scholars, the sacrifice of God’s Son took place on the same mountain where Abraham was to sacrifice Isaac.  God stopped Abraham before he completed the sacrifice, but by being willing to faithfully carry it out, Abraham prophetically acted out God’s ultimate act of love.

These two defining “love” moments in the Bible have two important things in common; they involve sacrifice, and they are done for the benefit of another (for God in Abraham’s case, and for all of humanity in God’s case).

A sacrifice is the giving of a value without personally getting anything in return.

So, Biblically speaking, love is giving a value for the benefit of another without the expectation of getting anything in return. There’s more exposition on this idea here.

God’s love is not only crucial to answering, “What’s the point? (and we will finally get to that answer in 3 weeks.  I promise), it also has a defining impact on another vital aspect of God’s identity.

John 17:24 states that love existed before the universe itself.  That presents us with something of a problem.  From the definition we have, it looks like love requires the existence of at least two persons – the giver of love and the receiver.  We usually refer to this as a “relationship”, but the Bible does not use that word.  The Bible calls the love interaction a “fellowship”.  However this complicates things even more, because a definitive model of fellowship requires at least three persons, each loving another directly while receiving love indirectly from the third person.  (Here is a link that explains fellowship in detail).

So love existed before the universe and requires no less than three persons.  But we know that the only thing that existed before the universe is the First Cause.  There is only one logical solution to this dilemma: if the First Cause is love, and love requires at least three persons, then the First Cause must be three “persons”.

Once again, the Biblical description of the First Cause reflects this aspect of God’s nature.  The Bible gives implicit evidence that God is three persons – specifically called the “Father”, “Son”, and “Holy Spirit”.  This concept is called “The Trinity”.

The Father is called God throughout the Bible.  The Son is called God in John 1:1-14, 1 John 5:20, Titus 2:13, and Romans 9:5.  The Holy Spirit is called God in Acts 5:3-4, and 2 Corinthians 3:17-18.  All three are credited with the creation of the universe; The Father in Psalms 102:24-25 and Job 38, the Son in John 1:1-3 and Colossians 1:16, and the Holy Spirit in Genesis 1:2, and Job 26:13.  More detail on this subject is available at this site.

It bears mentioning that despite the Biblical evidence, several religious traditions strongly disagree with the idea of God being three persons for various reasons.  Fortunately I’m not religious, so I’m not terribly interested in why the idea of the Trinity runs afoul some religious traditions.

Yet and still, it is reasonable to ask why God is presented both as a singular mind AND three persons in the Bible.  How do we resolve this?  Well, if the Trinity is the First Cause, then all three persons must have the exact same nature – right and just.  If all three persons are always and completely right and just, then they are always and completely in perfect, harmonious agreement.  Thus they speak and act as one, whether presenting themselves individually as Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, or when they present themselves corporately as “God”.  What goes for one goes for all.  They only seem to differentiate in role and hierarchy, and they’ve all obviously agreed to assume and maintain their roles.

So we’ve added some significant depth to the identity of the First Cause that has hopefully deepened our level of understanding of the principles and providences that existed before the universe.  And that’s all well and good, but I have admittedly been dwelling in the realm of the theoretical and existential up to this point and said very little about the practical matter of the physical universe itself.

Yet all the things we see, hear, touch and experience are “real”, not theoretical and conceptual…right?  So enough about what the First Cause is, lets talk about the BIG effect.  What is the universe and how did the First Cause, well, cause it?  We’ll get into that next week.  The answers are guaranteed to surprise you, or your money back.

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April 5, 2010

The Bible – Special Delivery

Posted in What's the Point? tagged , , , , , , , at 11:53 AM by E. M.

Based solely on human understanding, we’ve concluded that the nature of the First Cause is the principles of “righteousness”, and “justice”. We’ve also seen that the Judeo-Christian Bible meets the qualifications of an additional information source from, and about the First Cause (God) because it agrees with what we already know about the First Cause and it demonstrates its supernatural origin.  But why would the Fist Cause want to supply this information, and to whom would it be intended?

Asking these questions assumes that the First Cause is intentional, which assumes that the First Cause has a volitional will, which assumes that the First Cause is intelligent.  Are these assumptions correct?

The Bible definitely presents God as intelligent (possessing knowledge and having the ability to productively apply it) and that God is intentional.  This matches what we already know, because we have previously discussed the fact that information exists, and intelligence is on the causality ladder between principles (first causes) and information.

So why would an intelligent being want to provide information about his or herself?  Logically, to let other intelligent beings know who he or she is.  And why would the intelligent being want others to know who they are? Well, if they are just (which we know the First Cause is) then there must be some value gained both for the intelligent being in being known, and for the recipient of the information in coming to know the intelligent being.

What are the values gained?  I contend that for the recipients (us) the value is the answer to question, “What’s the point?” But what value could the First Cause get from us knowing this information?  The First Cause gets its greatest desire fulfilled! We’ll address that in next four posts…

In the meantime, its logical to assume that God gave us the Bible because He wants to be known by other intelligent beings (with this in mind, I could argue that God does not want most politicians and Hollywood celebrities to know Him.  But that would be mean).

But why create the Bible to get this information out?  Wouldn’t it make more sense if God just parted the clouds and yelled “Hey!  I’m God!  Bow down and worship me you grubby little monkeys!”  Actually, He did (granted, He didn’t say the “grubby little monkeys” line). God spoke verbally and directly to man in the past (and will do so again in the future), but men still refused to understand God or accept His answer to the question “What’s the point?”  We’ll explore these interactions more in depth in upcoming posts, but for our present age, the Bible is our determined information source.

Of course the point of any information source is to be understood by the intended audience.  This idea often prompts some to interject the artificial objection to the Bible that I like to call “The Many Interpretations Fallacy” (aka – The Battle-Cry of the Intellectually Lazy).

Basically, the perpetrator says, “There are soooo many interpretations of the Bible, we could never be possibly sure what it really means.  How do you know your interpretation is correct?  Now put that Bible down, American Idol is on!”

There are indeed many interpretations of the Bible (Charles Manson has one that shows he’s Jesus), but there is only ONE correct interpretation of the Bible – the one that God intended!  All other interpretations are wrong, so they are irrelevant.  Our challenge is to discern that correct interpretation.  This discernment is greatly aided by knowing God’s nature, will, and plan for humanity.  This blog endeavors to help in this cause.

To that end, one could fairly say that based on the information in the Bible, God is much more than just the principles of “right” and “just”.  Isn’t God a “person”? Doesn’t He have a personality, intelligence, feelings, desires, values, temperament, love, compassion, mercy, etc.?

Yes, he does.  The Bible says God possesses all of those qualities. But remember the rules of causality – those traits are all effects of the cause.  God’s “person” is an effect of being always and completely right and just.

In my next post I want to address one of God’s fundamental characteristics.  The implications of this characteristic are critical in understanding an extremely important aspect of God’s identity.  Next week, we’re going to discuss Love

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March 29, 2010

Content, Contradictions, and Cookies

Posted in What's the Point? tagged , , , , at 11:54 AM by E. M.

The very idea of the Bible as a reliable source of information on virtually any topic is controversial.  After all, nothing induces more visceral and irrational reactions in people than the subjects of religion and politics.  But I try to steer clear of politics because these days the political landscape has become the intellectual equivalent of a college football rivalry.  And as for religion – specifically the topic of the Judeo-Christian Bible, irrationality occupies both ends of a polarized spectrum.

Fortunately, I am not religious.  So although I tend toward the idea that the Bible is reliable, I attempt to make my points with logic and rational thought (this blog being a macrocosms of those thoughts), and hopefully many of the irrational thoughts on both sides will be addressed to some degree as this blog progresses.  Nevertheless, I do want to use this post to address a few of the most common irrational objections to the Bible by relating the essence of some past conversations that I have had with rationality-challenged people.

The first (and perhaps silliest) one I will tackle is the argument that the Bible cannot be trusted because it was “written by men”.  It goes something like this:

Irrational Idiot: “How can you believe the Bible is true?  It was written by men!”

Me: “Your high school math book was also written by men.  Do you not believe math is true?”

Irrational Idiot:  “That’s different!  I can show that the contents of my math book are true without relying on the contents of the book itself.  Plus I’ve experienced the truth of mathematics”

Me:  “I can show the exact same things about the Bible.  In fact I have this nifty little blog where I do just that.  But if you’re relying on personal experience for truth, then what about your history books?  They were also written by men.  Do you not believe that any history occurred before you were alive to experience it?”

Irrational Idiot: “ Well history…um… its documented, and history books are on a different level of reliability because…uh, because…”

Me:  “Yeah.  Why don’t you go outside and play now?”

Our entire system of education and intellectual pursuit is based on information and truth gathered from reliable sources and relayed from one set of human beings to another.  The idea of rejecting the Bible on this basis while accepting other information sources on the same basis is utterly hypocritical.  And as my last post showed, the supernatural origin of the information in the Bible is demonstrable.

Equally silly are those who dismiss the Bible because of its age:

Irrational Idiot: “You can’t trust the Bible because its ancient!  It was written over two thousand years ago by primitives!  We know so much more now.”

Me:  “If that’s the case, then why do you trust anything you know now?  People who live two thousand years from now will have the same argument about us.  And two thousand years after that, what those people know could be dismissed for the same reason.  By your logic, no one can ever know anything for sure because people in the future will always know more.”

Irrational Idiot: “uh…”

Me:  “Here, have a cookie.  Then later you can take a nice long nap!”

Irrational Idiot: “Cookies and a nap?  Wheeeeeeeeeee!!”

Another common objection is that the Bible is unreliable because it contains contradictions.  This one is so common that its veracity is taken for granted. Yet, it’s difficult to find anyone who claims, “Everybody knows the Bible is full of contradictions” and can actually name some contradictions.  But this, like many other modern axioms is just an excuse to be intellectually lazy.

Of course if the Bible really is full of contradictions, then that would be very problematic because we know that contradictions cannot exist so the First Cause could not be the originator of such an information source.

There are plenty of books and websites on alleged contradictions in the Bible, and there are plenty of books and websites that refute these contradictions. (here is a website that presents both)  For the most part, what look to be contradictions in the Bible are usually errors the readers makes in context, language, vernacular, culture, assumptions, and/or translation.  Here is an example that includes all the errors:

The Bible says that God is love (1 John 4:8), and that He loves everyone (John 3:16), but the Bible also says that God hates:

“As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated” – Romans 9:13.

This looks like a contradiction, but it isn’t for several reasons.  First, “love” and “hate” are not contradictory terms.  In our vernacular, hate is antithetical to love, but even that concept is rendered suspect by the commonly referred to idea of the love/hate relationship.  The verse would only be contradictory if it said that God did not love Esau.  Furthermore, the word translated “hate” in the verse is the Greek work “miseo”, which means to “love less”.  So the verse actually says that God loved Jacob, but He loved Esau less.  And since the Bible never claims that God loves everyone equally, there is no contradiction.

Of course I’m not being exhaustive in my defense of the Bible in this post because I don’t have the space, and as you can probably tell from the tone of this post, I have very little patience for dealing with superficial arguments.  But as I said, this blog will progressively serve as my proof points.

Now I’ve postulated that the First Cause gave us an information source that gives us more detailed information about Him.  But this begs a more fundamental question: Why would God want to give humanity this information?  Stay tuned…

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March 22, 2010

And now, a Word from our sponsor

Posted in What's the Point? tagged , , , , , , at 9:48 AM by E. M.

The First Cause of existence is made up of the causeless principles of “Right” and “Just”.  That is all we can know about the nature of the First Cause based solely on human understanding.  Anything else we come to know about the First Cause has to come from a source beyond human understanding; that source would preferably and most accurately be the First Cause itself.

IF the First Cause was to give information about itself to humanity, how would we be able to know that it was authentically from the First Cause and not just some mindless gibberish that someone made up and introduced to a naïve and susceptible portion of the population, turning them into irrationally devoted fanatics (you know, like the “Twilight” books)?

First of all, the information source would have to accurately and consistently reflect what we already know about the First Cause.  It would have to acknowledge that the universe is finite (had a definitive beginning), and that the First Cause is greater than and outside of the physical universe.  The information source would describe the First Cause as immaterial (spirit), supernatural, transcendent, and eternal.  It would have to present the First Cause as possessing all the information in existence (all-knowing).  It would also have to show that the First Cause is always and completely right and just (that righteousness and justice form the core of all else that the First Cause claims to be).

The second, and perhaps most important criteria from an authentication standpoint, is that the information source would have to have self evident proof that it has a supernatural origin, so that no one could claim that it was the result of natural (human) volition.

It just so happens that one such information source exists.  This information source claims to originate from the First Cause itself.  It presents the First Cause with all the attributes that we understand it must have. This information source authenticates its supernatural origin by presenting information that originates from outside of time and space.

This information source is commonly known as the Judeo-Christian Bible. The Bible refers to the First Cause as “God”

The Bible presents God as a transcendent, eternal, all-knowing spirit whose nature is always and completely right and just.  The Bible proves that it has a unique supernatural origin because it does something that no other book can do – it tells history before it happens with 100% accuracy.  Examples of some of the many sites that explain this in detail are here and here.

Now I know what a few of you are thinking right now – “AHA! I was wondering how long it would be before this Bible-thumping Jesus freak abandoned all pretense of reason and rationality and started trying to force God to fit into the logic of existence!  Release the hounds!”

Well, please remember that I spent seven posts proving the existence of God without using the Bible.  Why? Because as my “About Me” page says, I believe that God is true, and if He is, then He should be provable using objective measures.

Of course the Bible is not without controversy, and while it is not the express purpose of this blog to serve as an extensive source of textual criticism, it would only be fair to address some of the common concerns that many people have about the Bible.  And I’ll begin doing just that in the next post.

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March 15, 2010

The Principle Answer

Posted in What's the Point? tagged , , , , at 11:32 AM by E. M.

Note: this post borrows HEAVILY from Modeling God.  Specifically here, and here.  For more in-depth information on the concepts presented in this post please go to the links presented.

All right, I’m (finally) ready to identify the First Cause of existence.  Lets begin with a recap.  Information is transcendent and time-less, and can have a dramatic affect of the physical world.  Principles are the first cause of information. Principles are qualitative (subjective) and quantitative (objective) values.  The First Cause of existence must consist of causeless principles; principles that require no preceding cause.

The qualitative principle that defines the First Cause is “Right”.  The concept of being right is causeless.  At the most basic qualitative measure, something is either right or it is “not right” (wrong) – yes or no, true or false, etc.

The First Cause cannot be wrong because “wrong” is actually a measurement of how “less than right” something is.  In other words, “wrong” cannot exist without “right” existing first. You wouldn’t know that something was wrong unless you had something “right” to compare it to.  (We know that “Spam” is wrong, because filet mignon exists).  And, of course the First Cause cannot be right and not right because we know that contradictions are impossible.

Not only is the First Cause “Right”, it is always and completely Right.  How?  Well, since the First Cause consists of principles, and principles are the first cause of information, then the First Cause is always completely right because it has all the information in existence.

The First Cause must also be a quantitative principle.  That principle is “justice”.  Justice is inherent balance. Justice states that if a value is taken, it must be replaced exactly.  Or if a value is given, then it must be paid back in the same proportion. (On a physical/cosmological level, justice is the first cause of the second law of thermodynamics).

Like “Right”, justice is causeless.  Balance (or stasis) is inherent.  As in the “right” example above, we wouldn’t know what injustice, fairness, or balance was unless justice/balance existed to compare it to.  The First Cause is always and completely Just because, again, it has all the information in existence to insure complete balance.

Now before you start scratching a hole in your head, realize that we all believe in the causeless nature of Right and Just.  We all believe that things are either right or wrong.  Even moral relativists who claim that there is no right or wrong contradict themselves because they believe that moral relativism is “right”!

We all believe in justice.  We prove it anytime we say, “that’s not fair!” We know justice exists and we rely on it as motivation for all our actions.  When we do something, we know that there are consequences which we expect to conform to a code of justice.  We work because we feel we justly deserve compensation.  If someone does something nice for us, we believe that they should be justly thanked.  If someone does something wrong to us, we believe they deserve to suffer just punishment.  Even those who intentionally do wrong and commit injustice recognize “right” and “just” by their intentional violation of it.

So, in summary, the First Cause of existence is Right and Just.

And that concludes this blog, thank you and goodnight.  Watch your step on your way out.  Be sure to tip your waitress.

Oh…you’re still here.

I know what you’re thinking – “Is that it?!  Is that all the First Cause of existence is?  A set of $@%# principles?!  The great force that birthed this grand universe, the cauldron of creation that flung the galaxies against the black of space, that formed the great nuclear furnaces we call stars, that holds atomic structures together and caused the formation of the fantastic metaphysical complexity known as life… is nothing more than the abstract principles of “Right and Just”?  Is that all the First Cause is?  Really?

No.  I’m NOT saying that’s all the First Cause is.  I’m saying that’s all we can know about the nature of the First Cause based solely on Human understanding.  Anything else we know about the nature of the First Cause has to come from a source beyond human understanding.  Logically, the best source of additional information about the First Cause would come from the First Cause itself (and since we know that the First Cause is Right and Just, we can probably trust what it says about itself).

But does the First Cause actually “say” anything about itself?  As a matter of fact, I believe it does…

More Next Week

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March 8, 2010

Spirit in a Box

Posted in What's the Point? tagged , , , at 12:33 PM by E. M.

The First Cause of the physical universe is causeless, supernatural, transcendent, and eternal.  The First Cause of the physical universe can only be described in non-physical terms…because the First Cause is non-physical.

This shouldn’t actually be all that surprising, because when contemplating the answer to “What’s the point?” (the question that started this whole thing), we intuitively know that whatever the “point” is, its outside of our physical selves.

The tough part is that we naturally tend to define how “real” and substantive something is by its physical proof.  We rely on proof that we can see smell, touch, taste, and/or hear.  But if the First Cause of the universe is non-physical (immaterial) AND greater than the material universe (the effect), then we’re going to have to become comfortable with the idea that some of the things we consider immaterial may actually be more “real” than what we can experience with our physical senses. (Don’t worry; when we get to my April 19th blog post, that sentence will make complete sense.  Probably).

What kinds of things are immaterial, transcendent, and time-less, yet are substantive enough to have a dramatic effect on the physical/material world?

In a broad sense, I’d have to say that the answer is “information”.  Let’s use something in close proximity to demonstrate what I mean – your computer system.  The system in front of you works because of functioning hardware and software.  Hardware is, of course, the physical/material parts of the system – the monitor, the CPU, mouse, keyboard, etc.  But all that hardware is nothing more than expensive paperweights without software.  Software is the information and rules that tell the hardware what to do and how to do it.  Software has a dramatic affect on the physical.  This information makes the physical “work”.

Software is information.  But even the most powerful software is immaterial.  If you take a blank disk or other storage device, weigh it, then load it up with all the software that it can hold, and weigh it again, you will find that it weighs exactly the same as before.

Information is weightless.  It has no mass.  If information has no mass, then it transcends the physical world.  Information is also time-less because according to Einstein, time can only affect objects with mass. (Remember, whenever someone wants to show how smart they are, they always reference Einstein).

“Information” is as broad a concept as “the universe”.  In fact, like the universe, information is an “effect”.  So to get a better understanding of it, we should use the ladder of causality that we used on the physical universe.  We need to find the “causeless” cause of information.

Information is an effect of knowledge.  Knowledge is an effect of intelligence.  Intelligence is an effect of the ability to understand.  Understanding is an effect of thinking.  Thinking is an effect of interpreting stimuli.  The ability to interpret stimuli is governed by qualitative (subjective) and quantitative (objective) principles (values) that we apply to the stimuli.

The interesting thing is that since humans are thinking beings (for the most part), we conform to the computer systems example above.  The most valuable part of the computer – the most “real” part if you will, is the software, not the hardware. The “real” part of the computer system (software) is immaterial and transcendent.

And so is the real “you”.

What makes you, you is not “hardware”; not the physical body you occupy that is slowly wearing down, losing elasticity, gaining liver spots and losing hair.  The real you; the things that make you special and unique  – your personality, your intellect, your understanding, your memories, your experiences, your knowledge, your talent, your will…all your information – the real you is “software”.  Your software makes your physical body function and tells it what to do.  Your physical actions are just an effect of your will.

If the real you is software, then the real you has no mass.  The real you is immaterial and transcendent.   The real you is eternal.  There is a term for this.  Its called “spirit”.  The real you is spirit.  The first cause or your spirit are principles (we’ll address this more at the end of April).

The First Cause of existence is also spirit.  The First Cause of existence is “principles”.  But unlike the first cause of your spirit, the First Cause of existence must consist of causeless principles; principles that require no precedent cause.  Are there causeless principles?  And if so, what are they?

More answers in one week

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March 1, 2010

Where and When

Posted in What's the Point? tagged , , , , , at 1:18 PM by E. M.

So here’s where we are – we know that existence exists, and we know that one of the cardinal rules of existence is causality.  We also know through the rules of causality that the finite universe in which we live had to have a First Cause (a cause without a preceding event).  And we know that the First Cause has to be supernatural since there is no natural way to have energy and matter come into existence out of nothing.  What else can causality tell us about the First Cause?

Under the rules of causality, not only must the cause be greater than the effect, but it must also be independent to, or “outside of” the effect.  So the First Cause of the physical universe has to be outside of the universe (the technical term for this is to say that the First Cause is “transcendent”; it transcends the physical universe).

The universe consists of time, space, matter, and energy.  We dealt with matter and energy in the last post, now we need to address time and space. Space is locality.  Space defines “where”.

Ok, so where exactly is “outside the universe”?  Well that’s actually not a valid question because “where” implies that the First Cause occupies some specific location or space…and “space” is a part of the physical universe that the First Cause must be outside of  (if you just said “huh?” you’re probably not alone).

Our perceptions and senses are rooted in the physical universe so it’s tough to wrap our minds around the idea of something that exists without being in a “where”.  We can only conceive of transcendence conceptually.

But wait, it gets worse.

“Time” is also a part of the physical universe, so the First Cause has to also be outside of time.  Time is how we perceive and measure events sequentially (first one thing happens, then another, then another, etc.). We perceive time in a linear way – everything has a beginning, middle, and end.  Think of the time-lines your school teachers would draw on the chalk board during your history lessons (I apologize for any trauma these memories may cause you).  Time defines “when”.

But since the First Cause is outside of time, it does not have a “when”.  From our perspective, it has always been.  It never “wasn’t” and it will never “not be”. It has no beginning, middle, or end.  It simply…is.

The First Cause is eternal.  The “where and when” that the First Cause occupies is referred to as “Eternity”.  Again, this is something that we can only conceptualize. We have no ability to perceive it with our senses.  We can only conceive of eternity in the abstract (or as a cologne I wore in high school that did not make me nearly as popular as I had hoped.  Although it was a significant step up from Old Spice)

So far I have been examining the First Cause as it relates to the physical universe, but all the terms I’ve used to describe it (causeless, eternal, transcendent, supernatural, etc.) are all non-physical.  What if its because the First Cause is non-physical (immaterial)?  If the First Cause of existence is immaterial, what are the implications?  More next week.

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