May 28, 2012

Know Thy Enemy – Part 1: The Devil You Say?

Posted in Satan, Spiritual War, Spiritual Warfare tagged , , , , , , , at 12:39 PM by E. M.

NOT QUITE

“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist” – Verbal Kint, “The Usual Suspects”

The seed plot of the entire Bible centers around a war between those who support God’s plan, (and the redemption of man from the effects of Original Sin), and those who oppose it.

The Bible takes for granted that we accept the existence of God.  This is because God’s existence is self-evident. But there is another supernatural personage whose existence the Bible also expects us to take for granted: man’s adversary; the personal, intelligent, powerful, and malevolent spiritual being called the Devil and Satan.

The very idea of “the devil” usually elicits eye rolling, and condescending smirks. Many people put him in the same category as Big Foot, unicorns, and the Loch Ness Monster – an insignificant figment of myth and legend embraced mostly by the lunatic fringe.

Even when Satan is acknowledged publically, it’s often in a satirical manner such as the depiction of a guy in a red suit with a goatee and pitchfork. Or he’s simply dismissed as a psychological boogeyman for weak-minded people.

Looking at the matter objectively, Satan’s place in the Biblical narrative appears to be that of a character necessary to complete the dramatis personæ of the story – the villainous plot device needed to create the drama – he’s the Bible’s arch villain, he’s perpetual boogeyman; the Darth Vader, the Moriarty, the Svengali, the Vodemort, the Hannibal Lecter, the Dick Cheney.

One could argue that with the inclusion of Satan, the writers of the Bible merely utilized the classic story telling components that have existed since man first tried to get his kids to go to sleep at night.  You have:

The protagonist (God)

The antagonist (Satan)

The theme (the viability of God’s Plan)

The journey (the Dispensations)

The conflict (Original Sin, and Justification)

The resolution (Redemption)

The prize (Heaven and Earth)

The MacGuffin (Us)

(However, I would contend that it is not the Bible that is mimicking man’s story, but rather all of man’s stories mimic THE story of God’s plan that began with the creation – the classic story telling elements that are present in every epic narrative we’ve ever told or heard appeal to our hearts and spirits on such a deep and fundamental level BECAUSE they reflect the story of our existence and destiny.  This is something I plan to explore in more detail after we finish with the Dispensations.)

With all this in mind, the question is, should we really give significant attention to the idea Satan?

I would say yes.  Why?  First of all, the Bible makes it clear that he IS real, and since we’ve already shown the validity of the Bible, then it would be safe to say that if it says he’s real, then we should take his existence seriously!

Secondly, we should pay attention to Satan because if you choose God, you are at war with him!

And even if you are not on God’s side, you’re not off the hook.  As we’ll see in upcoming posts, Satan hates humanity.  ALL of us.  Depending on your level of antipathy towards God, Satan will either consider you a pawn, a spoil, or a useful idiot.

The Bible clearly expects us to pay careful attention to Satan, and our understanding of his identity is the key to deciding our success or failure in our encounters with him.

We are expected to know that Satan is real and is the source of our struggles

Sin entered this world when Satan tempted the first man and woman to disobey God.  Since then, he has continually been the catalyst for spreading evil throughout the earth.  We must understand that our temptation to do evil comes from satanic influence on our fallen flesh.  But we have the will and the authority to resist.

We are expected to know that Satan is our enemy

The temptations that we receive from Satan are appealing.  They seem to be beneficial and pleasurable in the short term, but we have to understand that any temptation of our flesh will lead to negative consequences.

We are expected to know Satan’s method

We are all unique individuals with different strengths and weaknesses.  We need to be mindful of our vulnerable areas because these are the places that Satan attacks.  He has a specific and effective plan of attack tailored to our weak points.  We know Satan’s method of attack in these areas of our lives because he assaults us the same way over and over again!  How often do we find ourselves asking “Why do I keep making the same mistake again and again?”  The areas where we continually fall are our points of vulnerability.  We have to make the conscious effort to protect ourselves.  Speaking of which…

We are expected to resist Satan

Whether we like it or not, we are not passive participants in spiritual affairs.  God expects us to take an active role in defending ourselves and having victory over our adversary.  God gives us the authority, and the Bible tells us how.

Satan employs one of two deceptive strategies when it comes to our direct confrontation with him.  His primary strategy is the “I’m not really here” approach.  He tries to get us to think that all the negative thoughts and actions he uses to influence us are really coming from us instead of him!  The result is that we blame and condemn ourselves while ignoring him.

If the first strategy does not work, then he goes in the opposite direction.  He leads us to obsess on him and give him an undue amount of attention.  He tries to convince us that he is responsible for everything that goes wrong in our lives, including things we have caused ourselves, events that are merely happenstance, and even things that God initiates in our lives for the long term good.   The result is that we feel that Satan has more power over us than he really does.  We become fearful of him and think that we have no hope of overcoming him.

Why does Satan try to deceive us in these specific ways? Because if he is successful in getting us to believe either of his strategies, then we will fail to do the one thing the Bible tells us will defeat him – fight! (this is a war remember?)

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. – James 4:7

If we don’t acknowledge Satan, or feel that he is invincible, we won’t fight against him as the Bible command us to do and we will not have the victory over his machinations through God.

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

The only way to lose the battle against our adversary is to not fight him.  Satan goes though great pains to make sure that he can execute his schemes without resistance because he knows that we have the ability to be victorious over him through the authority that God has given us.

But if everything I wrote in this post is true, it just leads to many more questions.  Where does Satan come from? What does he want? Why does he hate humanity? Why does God allow him to exist? How powerful is he?

The next few posts will further explore the origin, identity, and methodology of Satan as well as how to overcome him.

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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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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February 18, 2010

Causality (or, why ask why?)

Posted in What's the Point? tagged , , , at 12:04 AM by E. M.

I was informed that the brevity of subject matter in Monday’s post caused it to ring a bit hollow.  In light of that, I’m temporarily breaking my once-a-week posting pattern and adding my post on Causality early.  This does not represent a lessening in my trademarked laziness.  Consider it an aberration.  Normalcy ensues again next Monday

In my last post I began discussing existence by defining the two cardinal rules that govern it – causality and non-contradiction.  The rule of non-contradiction simply states that contradictions cannot exist; something cannot be AND not be at the same time.  Existence can’t exist and not exist.  So since we know existence exists, we can go on from there (I know.  I can’t believe I wasted an entire post on that either).

The second rule is Causality or “cause and effect”.  This rule states that for every effect, there is a preceding cause, and that cause is independent of, and greater than the effect (“greater than” means that at the very least, the effect could not exist without the cause).

We all intrinsically believe in cause and effect and rely on it to make sense of our world.  Whenever you ask the question beginning with “why?” you are essentially asking for a cause.  For example, whenever I throw my head back and yell “Why are people so stupid?!” (which I inevitably do anytime I call customer service, read the comments section on a political website, or drive in Los Angeles), I am observing an effect (abject human stupidity) and looking for the cause (my current theory is that stupidity is exacerbated by  a combination excess fast food, and subliminal messages played during the broadcasts of manufactured “Reality TV”.  Research is ongoing).

Everything we see is an effect of a cause, and that effect may be the cause of a subsequent effect.  For example, my birth is an effect of my parent’s relationship (from what I’ve been told, this “effect” was greatly aided by half a bottle of cognac and an improperly inserted IUD…but I digress), and their relationship is an effect of their births, which were an effect of their parents’ relationships, and so on, each relationship and birth going further up the “ladder of causality”.

We can also see from a cosmological standpoint that our lives are an effect of the anthropic (human life optimal) nature of Earth’s environment (distance from the Sun, composition of the air, the water cycle, et al.) which is an effect of the Earth’s formation, which is an effect of our solar system, which is an effect of the Milky Way galaxy, etc.

However the cosmic ladder of causality does not have an infinite regression. We know from science that our physical universe is finite; it had a definitive beginning (I’ll get into that in detail in the next post).  So at some point, the elements (effects) that make up our universe (time, space, matter, and energy) did not exist… and then they did.  This initial effect had to be due to a First Cause, or “causeless cause” – a cause with no preceding event.  A cause, which by definition is independent of and greater than the effect (the universe).

It is vitally important that we identify, define, and do our best to understand this First Cause, because whatever it is, it is the source of everything we see, know, and experience.  The answer to “What’s the point?” is intimately tied to the First Cause

Based on what we know from science and human understanding, what can we definitively say about this First Cause?  I’ll begin to discuss that in the next post.

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February 15, 2010

Existence Exists – and other brilliant observations

Posted in What's the Point? tagged , , , , at 1:16 PM by E. M.

How do you go about explaining existence?  Well I suppose you have to start at the beginning – actually you’d have to start BEFORE the beginning, because whatever existence is made of, it can only be coherently explained if it adheres to some type of rules that are consistent and irrevocable, otherwise there would be no basis to explain it.

Sure, there are some who say that we can’t prove that anything exists; that the only thing we can know for sure is that we can’t know anything for sure (these are people who occupy Hippie communes, the space beneath freeway overpasses, or Philosophy chairs at universities).

This type of contradictory thinking is the realm of post-modernism and relativism; a silly and intellectually bankrupt school of thought to which I do not subscribe.  I agree with Plato; that the only thing we can know for sure is that existence exists – A is A.  After all, if existence didn’t exist, then we could not think about it.  I know I exist because I can ponder (think about) my existence.  “I think, therefore I am”, to quote Descartes (whenever someone wants to show how profound they are, they quote Descartes).

But I’m getting ahead of myself, because even the action of thought is preceded by the system of rules that governs the thought process.  In order to explain existence, you have to start with the rules that must govern existence.  In order for these principles to be in place before the beginning of what we know as “existence” they would have to be self-evident, immutable, and omnipresent.  They would have to be obvious in every aspect of existence, with nothing in existence able to bend or break them.  They would be the cardinal rules of existence from which all subsequent rules of science and logic would emanate.

I submit that there are two such rules: Causality, and Non-Contradiction.  Non-contradiction is the easiest, so I’ll address it in this post.

The rule of non-contradiction simply states that contradictions cannot exist.  Something cannot be AND not be at the same time.  I can’t be happy and not happy.  I can’t be 6 feet tall and not six feet tall.  The Empire State building cannot be in New York and not in New York.  Pretty simple, obvious, and self-evident, yes?

For our purposes, the non-contradictory explanation for existence is that existence can’t exist and not exist.

This is the primary reason why I reject relativism, because relativism is based on a contradiction.  Relativism states that there are no absolutes.  However, when one says, “there are no absolutes” they are actually making an absolute statement (that there are absolutely no absolutes). Relativism says that absolutes don’t exist yet they rely on the existence of at least one absolute as the basis for their theory (this is the contradiction that eventually leads to them living under freeway overpasses).

Next week we will look at rule #2, Causality

February 8, 2010

What’s the Point?

Posted in What's the Point? tagged , , , , , , at 12:23 AM by E. M.

Seriously.  What’s the point?  I’ve found myself asking that question of life more and more as time goes on… and I’m not alone.

We’re born, we learn how to walk, we learn where and where not to poop.  Our parents teach us to not stick a fork in electrical outlets and to never be in a room alone with uncle Lester.  Then they send us to school where we learn to manage our emotions and expectations while memorizing a bunch of stuff, 20% of which is actually useful (to this day I have yet to gain any benefit from knowing how to find the square root of a number).  Then we’re off to college and if we’re driven (or masochistic) enough, graduate school.  We go on to find a career and a spouse.  We start a family, buy a house, go on vacations, punt the kids out of the house to start their lives, save for retirement, then idle away our remaining years in an RV or a motorized scooter while waiting for the sweet release of mortality.

Seems rather horrifying when you look at it, but it’s the path we’re all primed to go on.  It’s the socially acceptable way to live life.  But it’s only utilitarian.  School, work, kids, and saving accounts are a means to achieve a certain level of survival, comfort, and security, but they are not a “purpose”.  They aren’t “the point”.  If they were, then those of us who manage success on this path wouldn’t be so overcome with the drive to find higher meaning in life.  We wouldn’t still be asking, “What’s the point?”

Everywhere we turn, we are confronted by those who tell us to look “beyond ourselves” to satisfy the need for purpose.  They tell us purpose is found in leaving a legacy, making an impact (whatever that means), and making the world a better place.  This usually comes in the form of a cause we choose to support.  These generally consist of “ending” something like hunger, homelessness, or a disease.  Or “saving” something like a bird we’ve never seen,  a rain forest we’ll never visit, or the whales.

Really? “Save the whales”?  Is that it? Is my life to be defined by how many 80-ton, krill sucking leviathans are left behind when I die?  This can’t be the point.

The problem is, try as we might, we can’t escape the question.  We all ask, “what’s the point?” with our actions even if we don’t do it verbally.  When we don’t get an acceptable answer, we try to anesthetize ourselves against the question or distract ourselves from it with alcohol, sports, music, food, vacations, sex, shopping, fantasies, and all the other indulgences and excesses that stimulate our various glands and mental pleasure centers (I should add “church” to this list).

But once the adrenaline, estrogen, endorphins, testosterone, and digestive enzymes have subsided; once the bills (or bail) has been paid, we’re back to the question we’ve been asking from the start.  What’s the point?

We all want to know “what’s the point?”  We want to know why we’re all here.  We want to know why EVERYTHING is here.  The first priority of this weekly blog is to address that question.  But before we can answer the question “what is all this for?” We need to ask “What IS all this?”  What is existence?  It’s a good question.  Lets start there…

(see you next week)