August 8, 2014

The Jesus Myth – part 1: Tomb Raiders (cont.)

Posted in Jesus, Religion, Salvation tagged , , , , , at 3:51 PM by E. M.

Jesus myth2We’ve been examining some of the more popular myths and theories used by Satan and his minions in an attempt to discredit and/or deny the resurrection of Jesus. However since these myths are in blatant opposition to the truth and the historical evidence of the resurrection, they tend to be improbable at best or ludicrous at worse.

We looked at two of them in the last post. This time we will examine one of the silliest, followed by one that could eventually prove to be the most dangerous of all.

Myth 3: The Swoon Theory

This one is my favorites – primarily because it’s the most ridiculous. This myth purports that Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead, because Jesus never actually died! The “Swoon Theory” states that Jesus didn’t DIE on the cross; He just fainted (swooned) due to the extreme pain. Because He was so weak and brutalized, the Romans mistook His fainting spell for death and plopped Him into the tomb. Therein, the cool air of the tomb revived Him. He then walked out of the tomb, retired from the ministry, shacked up with Mary Magdalene, and sired a whole bunch of children who went on to be the progenitors of the royal families of Europe.

No, I’m not making this up. My imagination is not that fertile.

So let’s look at all the things that are wrong with this idiotic theory. First of all, the Romans didn’t just start crucifying people the week before they hung Jesus on the cross. They were EXPERTS in this form of execution and they knew how to tell if their victim was dead. When a person dies, their blood separates into the red cell platelets and the relatively clear plasma. The soldier who stuck a spear in Jesus’ side at the end of the crucifixion wasn’t being sadistic; he was making sure Jesus was dead! When blood and “water” (plasma) came out, it proved His death.

As we saw a couple posts back, crucifixion has a devastating effect on the human body. The nerves in the hands and feet are irreparably damaged, the lungs fill with fluid, most of the major organs fail, and the heart ruptures. According to the Swoon Theory, not only did these injuries NOT kill Jesus, it only took the “cool air” of the tomb to heal him enough to hop out of His burial clothes. Then He managed to hobble over to entrance of the tomb on unusable feet, push the boulder out of the way with useable hands, sneak past the aforementioned Roman Guard, and go stud Himself off to Mary Magdalene.

It looks like people have been wasting their time in spas and clinics all these years. Apparently nothing heals and refreshes like cool tomb air!

So does anyone actually take this nonsense seriously? Believe it or not the answer is yes! In fact variations of the “Jesus wasn’t dead when they took him off the cross” variant is the prevailing theory in academia (and Islam) and has been popularized in such mainstream books as Holy Blood Holy Grail, and Da Vinci Code. And if that isn’t proof that contrastive thinking leads to brain damage, I don’t know what is.

Myth 4: The Pristine Corpse

This last myth is actually quite a bit different from the others. It is the most inconspicuous, and seemingly innocuous – but it has the potential to be the most harmful. It’s not a direct assault on the truth of the resurrection, and I’m not even certain that it comes from Satan (although he can and does make use of it where possible).

This myth is tacitly endorsed and encouraged by Christians, which likely makes it the most controversial and uncomfortable. In fact, I’ve never presented it to a Christian who did not find it disturbing if not offensive. It will be especially repulsive to any reader who is religious. The best way to present it is to examine a few post-resurrection narratives from the Bible:

As I wrote earlier, when Jesus rose from the dead, the first person to encounter Him was Mary Magdalene who had come to the cemetery to tend to the body. When she first encountered Jesus, she mistook him for the gardener and only seemed to know who He was when she fully recognized His voice. Later the disciples were out fishing when Jesus called them to shore for breakfast. They seemed to discern His identity only (apparently) because he miraculously produced fish for them, which is something he had done before. On another occasion, Jesus joined two of His followers on a 7 mile walk, and they just assumed He was a stranger visiting the area. It was only after they invited Jesus in for dinner and he broke the bread, did they know who He was (presumably because they saw the nail prints in His hands). Lastly, in the famous “Doubting Thomas” incident, Jesus abruptly appeared in a room full of disciples who thought He was a ghost! Only after He submitted to Thomas’ request to examine His hands and feet did they know it was Jesus.

Are you noticing a pattern here? It seems that after the resurrection, people have a difficult time recognizing Jesus. Why is that?

The popular theory is that the resurrected Jesus had such a “glorious” form, that even His closest companions were blinded by His heavenly appearance. This idea partially stems from our human tendency to disproportionately value physical appearance (which has its roots in comparative thinking).

But why would Mary mistake this “heavenly” figure for a cemetery gardener? The Jewish laws against touching dead things would relegate that job to only the lowliest of people. And why would a “glorious” Jesus scare the crap out of the disciples when he appeared?

While the “glorious” resurrection visage may be a possibility, I’m going to argue against it by looking at a couple verses that describe what Jesus suffered during the crucifixion.

The prophet Isaiah wrote that Jesus would have his beard torn off by His torturers. If you’ve ever known anyone who had a full beard and shaved it off, you know that they look quite different than before. In an even more disturbing prophesy, Isaiah, wrote that the beatings Jesus received during the crucifixion were so brutal that his face no longer looked human!

And now we come to the myth. The common assumption about Jesus’ appearance after the resurrection is that the only physical evidence that He retained from the crucifixion are the nail scars on His hands and feet, and the scar from the spear He took in His side. Other than that, He looked exactly the way He looked before Calvary (if not better).

But the reason for that assumption is NOT because the Bible says or implies that those are the only scars Jesus retained, but because those are the SPECIFIC wounds that Thomas required as evidence!

There is no logical or Biblical reason to think that Jesus didn’t retain ALL the scars from His suffering – Including the massive scar tissue from having his beard ripped off and some degree of facial deformity and additional scarring from the beatings.

If this is true, it would explain the reactions of His followers. It would make sense that Mary would think a disfigured man in a cemetery would be the gardener, and someone would such aesthetics would understandably make the disciples drop a brick in their robes if he suddenly appeared out of nowhere. And while part of the reason the men on the Emmaus road invited Him to dinner may have been a matter of middle-eastern hospitality, they also may have been taking pity on what they thought was an unfortunate stranger.

But why would Jesus choose to retain ANY physical evidence of His horrific death, let alone such disturbing ones? The answer may come from a story I once heard:

There was a little girl whose mother would drop her off for school every morning.   However, the other school children would tease the girl about her mother, because the mother’s face had been badly burned.

One day the little girl asked her mother if she would start dropping her off a couple blocks from the school so that the children would not see the mother and the girl would be spared their teasing.

“I’ve never told you the reason I look like this have I?” The mother responded. “The accident that caused my burns happened when you were a baby, but I think you’re old enough to know now.”

“One day, after you had fallen asleep in your crib, I went outside to do some gardening. After a while, I smelled smoke. I looked up and noticed that the house was on fire! It turned out that there was an electrical surge near your bedroom that caused it, and it was burning out of control.”

“I rushed into the house in a panic. I could hear you crying so I knew you were still alive, but there was a wall of flames between me and your room. I covered myself a best I could and charged in. It was very difficult to get to you and my coverings and clothes began to catch on fire.

“When I finally got to you, I covered you as best I could and shielded you with my body as I ran out. I could barely see due to the smoke so I had to keep my face uncovered. By the time I made it outside, I had third degree burns over most of my body, especially my face. But it didn’t matter, because you were safe. Saving you was all that mattered.

From that point on, the little girl was no longer ashamed of her mother’s looks. In fact, they became a point or pride and comfort. Because now, every time she looked at her mother’s face, she saw the evidence of how much she was loved, and how much someone was willing to sacrifice to save her.

It could be same for that those who choose Salvation and the Meaning of Life. If so, they may spend eternity looking at the face that shows evidence of how much they are loved and how much was sacrificed for their redemption.

But why do I consider this myth so dangerous? On the surface, the worst outcome would simply be the fact that we embrace an incorrect physical image. The problem is that any level of delusion, especially in regards to Jesus and the importance of His redemptive work, can open the door to Satan’s favorite tactic – deception!

In this case, it’s the deception of idolatry – a deception that could eventually cause the LOSS of the Meaning of Life! I’ll explain more in the next post…

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October 25, 2013

The Law Myth – part 3: Grumpy Old God

Posted in Religion, Terminology, The Dispensations, The Law tagged , , , , , at 2:57 PM by E. M.

NOT AN ACCURATE REPRESENTATION OF GOD

NOT AN ACCURATE REPRESENTATION OF GOD

We’ve been looking at some of the myths about the Law and the 5th Dispensation.  In this final post on the subject we’ll discuss a set of myths that are both pervasive and controversial – the idea that God’s Law is meant to make us feel bad about stuff that makes us feel good.

The myth is that God is a cosmic kill joy who gets perverse pleasure out of telling us “Thou shall not…”    And the perception is that all the stuff God doesn’t want us to do are things we find enjoyable.  It’s almost like He set us up to fail by telling us not to do things we are naturally inclined to do.  But is this true?

We’ve seen over the last two posts that the rules of the Law are not meant to be repressive or religious.   But they actually have positive intentions – namely helping prepare the world for the advent of the Redeemer.

So where does this myth come from?  Frankly, much of it is self-serving.  Because of our nature and our tendency toward pride, we tend to desire things that are evil.  Evil leads to destruction.  God is not being repressive; He’s trying to protect us from destruction by identifying our evil tendencies and steering us away from them.

But since we don’t like anyone telling us that we are wrong, it’s easier to cast God in a negative light than admit that we like being evil.

The myth is also acerbated by religion. Mystics heap up additional religious laws on men in order to stifle uniqueness and retain their power.  But these superfluous rules aren’t from God.  Worse, since people ascribe them to God (because they believe the mystics who claim to speak for Him), they begin to believe that in order to follow God they have to be in constant compliance with innumerable arbitrary rules.

Sometimes well intentioned non-mystics are guilty of this too.  Ever hear your grandmother say things like “cleanliness is next to Godliness”, or “God helps those who help themselves”, or “an idle mind is the devils workshop”?   Being tidy, self-reliant, and focused are nice attributes, but these rules didn’t come from God, and ascribing His name to them doesn’t make them Biblical.

But let’s focus on the area that has been the biggest source of the “God is a big ol’ prude” myth – Sexuality.  The myth is, that generally speaking, God doesn’t like it when we have sex.  It’s a low, dirty desire that we mammals are cursed with and He’d just as soon we not even speak of it.  It should only be done for the express purpose of procreation.  And even then, it should only be done in a locked room.

In the dark.

Missionary style.

Completed as quickly and quietly as possibly.

And we should bath ourselves in bleach afterwards.

Honestly, the source of this myth is rooted in the very detailed sexual morality rules of the Law.  Its clear that God only approves of sex in the marital relationship.  BUT within the confines of marriage, sex is encouraged.

Sadly, well-intentioned (and some not so well-intentioned) people made the myth that “God hates sex” even more pervasive by going overboard in enforcing sexual morality and vilifying the sex act in any form.

So if this is a myth, how does God really feel about sex?  I would contend that God thinks sex is pretty damn awesome!  Why? Well, first of all He created it!  He created it to feel good to us!  And He created us to desire it!

After God created the first man and woman, He told them to “be fruitful and multiply”.  He commanded them to have sex!  He basically said “Adam, here’s your wife.  Eve, here’s your husband.  Now go get some!”

Moreover, the fact that the Song of Songs in even in the Bible proves that God delights in the joy of our sexuality.  The entire book is about a bride and groom who physically desire one another and delight in sex.  Here’s a snippet of the grooms description of his bride’s body.

How beautiful are your feet in sandals,
O prince’s daughter!
The curves of your thighs are like jewels,
The work of the hands of a skillful workman.
Your navel is a rounded goblet;
It lacks no blended beverage.
Your waist is a heap of wheat
Set about with lilies. Songs of songs 7: 1-2

To get the full impact of this passage, it’s worth mentioning here that the word “navel” is mistranslated due to the desire of the translators to be polite.  Notice that he’s working his way UP her body in the description.  There is an, ahem, “opening” on the female body between the thighs and the waist. . . but it ain’t her navel.  I’ll just leave it at that.

But if God thinks sex is so awesome, why are we only allowed to do it with the person we’re married to, and them alone?  That’s actually not a valid question.  God doesn’t see sex and marriage separately. The “marriage ceremony” we do today is a man-made tradition.  To God, sex isn’t something you do with the person you’re married to.  The sex act is what makes you married!

Technically there is no such thing as “sex before marriage” because sex IS marriage.  The act of sex is the consummation of the marriage covenant.  So technically, in God’s eyes, you married the first person you had sex with (I’ll give you a moment to recover from the horror).  And you are committing adultery with any person you have sex with subsequently.  So you see why God wants us to take sex seriously?

God is strict about sex because of the tremendous value he places on marriage and what it symbolizes.  The joy and ecstasy of sex is God’s earthly representation of what Heaven is going to be like!  Kind of makes you anxious to get there, doesn’t it?

And as mentioned above, the rules of the Law are God’s way of protecting us from ourselves.  Again our tendency is toward evil so we have strong desires to be sexually immoral.  But the consequences of that immorality is destructive.

Promiscuity, infidelity, and adultery are emotionally devastating.  They break hearts, break up families, and ruin childhoods.  Sexual immorality can also lead to physical damage (disease) and physical dependency – the neurochemicals released during sex are identical to the ones released when addictive drugs are used.  God intended this function to bond you physically and emotionally to your spouse.  But illicit sex leaves you empty and constantly in search of your next “fix”, be it at the local bar or in front of a computer screen.

Lastly, let’s tackle the big controversy (at least in the eyes of contemporary society) – homosexuality.  I’m not going to sugarcoat the subject, because God doesn’t.  God calls it an abomination.  It’s listed as one of the effects of intentionally disregarding God and our inherent knowledge of Him.  Is this because God “hates” homosexuals as some zealots proclaim?

No, it goes back to how important marriage is to God, and how He defines it.  God defines marriage as the sexual covenant between a man and a woman.  Period.  And He considers anyone or anything that intentionally perverts that definition an affront to Him.  I know that’s not politically correct, but I kind of doubt God is terribly concerned about popular opinion.  The question is, should God conform to the whims of His creation, or should His creation conform to Him?

I won’t argue with someone who says they were born with a desire for someone of the same sex, any more than I would argue with someone who says they were born with a bad temper, or a predisposition to substance abuse, or even a desire for heterosexual promiscuity.   The issue is not the desire.  It’s what you choose to do with that desire.  We are creatures with free will – AND the responsibility that goes along with it.

The bottom line is that homosexuality is a sin in God’s eyes – like every other sin we all commit.  It has the same source, the same consequences, and the same remedy.  Presenting it as anything more or less than that is misrepresenting God.

Now that we’ve addressed some of the major myths of the Law, it’s time to focus on the major outcome of the Law – the advent of the Redeemer.  Considering the extraordinary and eternal impact of the event, it’s safe to say that the Redemption of man is the most important even in our history.  Understandably, this advent is the most well described event in the bible.  In fact, much of this description was detailed hundreds of years before He even arrived!  We’ll begin to explore all this next time.

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August 7, 2013

The Law Myth – part 1: Generous Oppression

Posted in Religion, Terminology, The Dispensations, The Law tagged , , , , , , , at 12:24 PM by E. M.

A mild over-reaction to the Law

A mild over-reaction to the Law

In the 5th Dispensation, God gave His nation, Israel a volume of commands and instructions collectively called the Law.  The particulars of the Law are very detailed and specific, and Israel’s compliance with them was non-negotiable (they were commands after all).  The Israelites were promised great blessings and prosperity if they obeyed the Law, and severe punishment if they disobeyed.

In the last post we saw that one of the purposes of the Law was to help men understand God’s standards of righteousness and what constitutes sin.  And while there is much in the Law regarding morality, there are also detailed rules on things like personal conduct, property rights, ceremonial procedures, worship instructions, food safely, litigation, hygiene, and medicine.

Many of the commandments of the Law can sound pretty strange and overly restrictive to modern ears, and when filtered through contemporary agnostic perspectives, can lead to misunderstandings about the nature and purpose of the Law.  In this post, I want to address some of the myths that arise from these misunderstandings.

A few years ago, I was having a discussion with an atheist friend about God and the Bible (its funny how atheists claim they don’t believe in God, yet they always want to talk about Him.  I don’t believe in Santa Claus yet I almost never bring him up in casual conversation).

Anyway, as with most discussions I have with atheists, her point was not to gain knowledge, but rather to point out something so illogical or abhorrent about God that it would justify her decision not to believe in Him.  In this case, the discussion veered toward the Law and how “oppressive” it was to women and how it advocated slavery (therefore I must be crazy to believe in God because He’s such an a-hole).

At best, this argument showed that like most atheists, she had barely more than a superficial understanding of the Bible, and was so quick to let her shallow perceptions color her beliefs that she failed to do the due diligence required to truly understand the subject matter (sadly, this is a trait that many Christians share, which is why they have trouble handling these arguments).

Although the Law does have commandments that specifically address women, they are hardly oppressive.  In fact, the Law was revolutionary in the fact that it guaranteed women certain rights that were unheard of in that part of the world during that time.  The Law gave women rights in a divorce, it mandated special care for widows, and allowed women to own land, and it gave women the right to inherit land and property (all without any input from Gloria Steinem).

As for “slavery”, the issue is a matter of contemporary nomenclature.  The slavery mentioned in the Law is not chattel slavery as we think of it today, rather its more like indentured servitude.  For example, if you owed a man a debt that you couldn’t pay, under the Law, you would work for that man and your wages would incrementally relieve the debt.  Once the debt was paid, you’d go free (incidentally, this is the same arrangement you have with your credit card company).

There are many other so called “oppressive” aspects of the Law which, while unprecedented during the era, would be simply considered common sense today.  Under the Law, certain animals are considered “clean” and “unclean”.  This is based on which animals are most likely to carry and cause disease.  God was trying to keep the Israelites healthy, not be a diet Nazi.

People with certain diseases like leprosy or open wounds were considered “unclean”.  The Law requires that they be separated from heath society and sanitized – things that are considered standard procedure for quarantine of communicable diseases and infection treatment to this day.  So if the Law is oppressive, then so is your doctor!

Of course this is all well and good, but all this still begs the question, why did God give the Israelites all these rules as a part of the 5th Dispensation?  If the purpose of the 5th Dispensation is to usher in the advent of the Redeemer, what does Israel get for all their troubles?

Rewards!  If they follow the commandments of the Law, Israel was promised fantastic material prosperity!  Prosperity that would make them the envy of all the other nations in the world.

But again, what does this have to do with the purpose of the 5th Dispensation.  It’s all about Israel’s intended role as God’s ambassador nation.

Here how it was to work, God gave Israel the Law, which gave them the standards to follow that would make them a healthy, equitable, and civilized society.  The Law also gave them ceremonial rules that would memorialize the advent of the Redeemer in advance (more on that in the next post).  As Israel obeyed the Law, they would become wealthy and prosperous.

Other neighboring nations would see their prosperity and say, “hey, how’d you guys manage to get all that stuff?”  This would give Israel the opportunity to tell them about God, the Law, and the Redeemer.

If the neighboring nations submitted to the Law, they too would become prosperous, leading their neighbors to ask about their wealth.  Submission to God’s Law would grow exponentially, and by the time of the advent of the Redeemer, the entire world would be ready for Him, and God could quickly implement His plan.

But there was also a flip side.  You see, God had to set things up so that if Israel disobeyed God’s Law and acted unrighteous and unjustly, they would be cursed as spectacularly as they would have been blessed for obedience.

The reason for the harshness of the curse is they same as the reasoning for the great blessing – They were God’s acknowledged representatives on earth.

If other nations saw Israel acting immorally without any consequence, they would assume that God was ok with their evil behavior.  So God had to punish disobedience severely so that the nations would know that evil was not acceptable to Him.

Sadly, Israel chose the path of disobedience to the Law more often than not.  Thus much of the details of the 5th Dispensation in the Old Testament consists of the sad narrative pattern of Israel screwing up, God punishing them, Israel repenting, God restoring them, and then Israel going right back to screwing up.  Ultimately resulting in the tragic screw-up where they failed to acknowledge the Redeemer and failed the dispensation.

I mentioned before that in addition to the rules regarding health and conduct, the Law contained many commandments that were sacramental in nature – dealing with blood sacrifices, the priesthood, etc.  These rules are often confused for religion, because frankly, they look like religion.  But they actually served a very practical purpose in preparing people for the advent of the Redeemer.  More on this next time.

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January 22, 2013

Know Thy Enemy – Part 7: The Devil’s Advocates (cont.)

Posted in Satan, Spiritual War, Spiritual Warfare tagged , , , , , at 8:25 PM by E. M.

Angels

ANGELS DON’T REALLY LOOK LIKE THIS (UNFORTUNATELY)

Unlike God, Satan is not transcendent.   He can’t be everywhere at once to rule his kingdom, but he has help.  When he fell, a great number of angels fell with him.

The Bible doesn’t give us a great deal of information about angels, and since human curiosity abhors a vacuum of knowledge, people have filled in the blanks with details and characterizations of angels, any of which are fanciful and/or completely wrong.

For example, there are no female angels; angels are always depicted as male (despite a very convincing argument by Victoria’s Secret).  Also, angels don’t have a pair of feathery wings.  A small group of special angels called Seraphim have wings – but they have six, and it isn’t clear that they look anything like bird’s wings. And they don’t have halos (I’m not even sure what the point of depicting them with halos was in the first place).

In the last post, I presented a Biblical passage which provides a rare look into the world of angels (good and bad).  In this passage from the book of Daniel, we see that there is an invisible war going on all around us that impacts our world (and that we can affect!).   In additions to giving us insight into God’s plan through the prophesy that the angels gives Daniel, this passage also gives us some interesting details about angels.

Angels are powerful

If you were to ever see an angel in all its glory, you wouldn’t feel comforted or enraptured by its beauty.  You’d nearly drop a brick in your shorts, just like everyone else in the Bible who encountered them! Angels operate on a level of power that we can scarcely understand and dwarfs anything we can come up with.  One angel killed 185,000 Assyrians one night after dinner!  There are NOT creatures that you want to mess with.

Fallen angels share Satan’s goals

Satan’s goal is to block and hinder the plan of God and all efforts to advance that plan.  The prophesies given in the book of Daniel are some of the most important in the Bible and reveal much about God’s plan. So it seems that the most powerful territorial spirit of that time went to battle in order to prevent Daniel from getting the prophesy (Persia was the most powerful world empire at the time).  Which brings us to the next thing we learn about fallen angels…

Fallen angels are territorial

When Adam and Eve committed Original Sin, their dominion of Earth was given to Satan and his crew.  We know from Daniel and other Biblical references that spiritual entities are often the power behind human leaders.

Its interesting that the “Prince of Persia” was the spiritual entity trying to block Daniel’s message.  Persia was the dominant world empire and Daniel lived during the height of that kingdom.  But note that the Angel with the prophesy stated that after he goes back to fight the prince of Persia, he will have to later fight the Prince of Greece!  The Greek empire conquered the Persians and became the subsequent world empire, but it wouldn’t happen for another 200 years after Daniel’s life!

There is a LOT going on in the spiritual world that we can only scarcely perceive.  And it leads to other provocative questions: has every dominant world power in history had an evil spiritual “prince” ruling over it?  Is there currently a “Prince of the Power of the United States” presiding over us right now (and is he from a red state or a blue state)?

And to bring it a little closer to home, since there are possibly billions of fallen angels out there (enough for each one of us), are you someone’s spiritual “territory”?  (Boo!)

Satan’s kingdom is fractured

As we saw in an earlier post, Satan’s desire to rule over the earth perfectly is constantly thwarted because men share his rebellious nature and his desire to rule.  Well, the same is true for his angelic counterparts.  Although they may share the same big picture goals, they fall into lockstep with Satan when it comes to ruling their particular principalities.  Note that when the prince of Greece succeeded the prince of Persia as the dominant world power, it wasn’t through an amicable transition of power.  It was the result of a bloody war that cost tens of thousands of lives! (Not to mention whatever battles took place in the spiritual realm)  And so it has been with just about every conflict between kingdoms.  Even as the world marches toward the Armageddon scenario where Satan’s own personal world rule is at its zenith under the Antichrist, there are still kingdoms that don’t fall into line.

So man and fallen angels have something in common in that they share Satan’s comparative goals to rule.  It would seen logical that they take advantage of this shared ambition to advance their common aspirations.  And in fact they do!  Evil spiritual entities have often been the power behind a group of mortals that have had historic designs on ruling this world.  We will explore how Satanic entities have used and been used by our old friends the Mysticsnext time

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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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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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