Evolution – Interesting but Unsturdy

I have been hearing a little murmur about Ben Stein’s new film Expelled (due out in Feb 2008). The movie is quite simply about the problems a few scientists who question evolution are facing at this point in time – from their own colleagues. Basically, if what Ben says is true – I cannot support that type of mentality – it’s too harsh (namely to take away one’s livelihood because he questions you). But this is the claim of the movie.

That has got me thinking about something – can science be connected to ideology? I look at some of the claims of evolution and wonder that at times. Take for example, we all come from nothing – that random chance explosion that created the conditions for life to exist here. Or that, we evolved from ape’s (an animal we put in zoo’s). I think some of this leads us down a path of human meaninglessness.

Stein is claiming, or so it would seem on his site, that the holocaust was aided by the existence of the ideologies of Darwinism. I am not sure (history needs to define this) but I can see some of the rationale. If Hitler thought we were ‘animals’ and could be treated like such – then he might feel justified in wiping some of the species out for the benefit of another more evolved species (ie: survival of the fittest to some extreme). I mean, looking now in retrospect at Hitler’s actions – why did he do what he did to 6 million Jewish people? What reasoning did he use? God? No God? Humans as ‘less than’?

But for me, this is the problem with evolution on some ideological level (I know we can all say it’s not supposed to be used that way). Ideologically I think it opens the mind to possibilities about humanity that can truly de-value it. If I come from nothing – what does that make me in the end of the day? And under who’s authority am I now ‘something’? I am an animal, I am a species, what makes me special? Am I even special? And if I am not special, can I be hunted for food? Can I be caged?

It’s truly problematic (the ideology part) and if the science community thinks it does not matter then they are far too removed from reality altogether. You see the things science can discover and un-earth, well, we humans use that stuff in our societies for both our betterment (ex: medicine) or for the worse (ex: pollution). Humans are governed by ideology in all societies on this planet – whether that’s gov’t, tribal, or religious law systems – nonetheless – they are paradigms of society. Science is filtered through that lense – and enters the ‘ethical realm’ of reality.

Nuclear energy reminds me of a vicious dog we can own. It can be your ‘best friend’ or your ‘worst enemy’ – but what it does need is direction. I see this with science in general once it enters our living reality. Evolution is not exempt from the backlash it can cause by stating categorically ‘humans come from chance’ – since humans have to decipher what the ‘hell’ that means. Now some might find meaning in that and others might find despair in that – but it means something to everyone. Dahmer went on the record to state that he committed his atrocities because he could view humans as animals via evolution – he might be crazy mind you – but that was his way of internalizing this view (sound a little like Hitler?).

I think it is plausible we came from something – I am not a scientist – but I live in the real world. Evolution, whether we like this or not, does create an ideology in some people’s minds and usually it errs on the side of hopelessness…it’s like telling someone ‘we never loved you’ and pretending all will be rosey – it’s that kind of despair for some. Plus I have a tough time believing I came from an ape (or chimp), or the idea of ‘survival of the fittest’, or we came from ‘nothing’…it just all smacks of ‘not real’ compared to human realities I face each day (and have for 32 years).

Basically, if evolution is 100% true as a science (and ideology) then life will lose its meaning at some point and society – instead of getting better – will get worse. This is not a prediction based on nothing – but based on the human experience.

Division – Salvation by Math

Division is all about taking one thing then dividing it into 2 things (or a few things). The idea is to seperate for the sake of understanding what one thing can be (in parts). There is another meaning to this word that I am all too familiar with – the division of the church from the world – the ‘believers’ and the ‘unbelievers’ – and it usually ends with seperation of the human race into parts/labels.

But is division such a Christ-like idea? If I have to ask WWJD – well what does it show him doing in the gospels? Was Jesus divisive? I think there are examples in the synoptics of a speech Jesus gives about division (the lone time this is done) but with regards to following him and how this can cause problems in families (and this to his disciples who were part of a Jewish historical context – and the whole Messiah thing – well yeah it caused some division). But that’s one speech – and that’s about it on the concept of division (the actual word).

But the church has at it’s core the idea of division and has very well made it the centre-piece of the gospel message (its an ‘us’ and ‘them’ thing). The church believes in division and that it is good somehow; it’s righteous somehow. Yet I have a tough time finding the seperation from the world as major an idea as the churches have taught over centuries. Could it be that the focus of the faith is misinformed?

Jesus seems inclusionary to me on a surface level – even the parables are about ‘what we should be’ and ‘what we shouldn’t be’. This same person was known to be amongst the ‘sinners’ of his day and it’s not presented as a problem – more like something of importance. His form of seperation always seems to reflect the movement away from values to that of vices; this is what caused problems for the person.

The church seems to think what causes problems for the person is not so much the vices (but it is mentioned over pulpits) but the idea of accepting faith (this is the foundational step in evangelism). This is where the division of ‘us’ and ‘them’ all starts – when one group can say ‘I am saved’ on the basis of some acceptance vs. the non-acceptance of another of that same label or idea. Kinda makes me wonder – why do we want to be part of a faith that goes out of its way to seperate people on the basis of judgments we are not allowed to make (ie: salvation of a person)? Seems like wasted air to me.

I have been talking with OSS about this for some time (in blogs) and we have bantered about that idea ‘anyone can be saved’ – since salvation is part of the actions we take to a better life. For example, if I am having marital problems with my wife what is going to ‘save’ that relationship? I could pray, read the bible, attend church a lot, or even be an awesome worshipper – but does any of that solve the problem? It might lead me there (via humility) but I still have actions (decisions) to do to save that marriage. And that’s the way we know life actually works – we make a decision to do something different – and things can change. Why is so impossible to believe someone that leads a ‘good life’ is actually following the pattern Jesus showed us – Christian label or not?

This is where I part with one of the capital tents of the faith I am a part of since division for the sake of division is fruitless. I am friends with people from various backgrounds and for me to believe since they never accepted my faith they are doomed –  that is stupid. I know full well what the problems concerning them are – and accepting Jesus’ sacrifice never comes up as one of the problems they are experiencing. No, we are talking about problems with decision making, perspective, focus of life, knowing the options, determining value vs. vice, developing relationships, responsbility, etc.

The real division is how we look at salvation in this faith. But isn’t the very idea of salvation to ‘save someone’ (which seems inclusionary to me)? Maybe salvation can find its way into our lives in some tangible way? Which moves away from division but to addition.

Responsibility…Joy & Pain

I really like the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 – it’s all about the concept of responsibility and our role in that (mainly concerning other people but also towards God – kind of a hand in hand thing). I will explain some of the parable and what I see it meaning.

“entrusted his property to them”  (vs.14)

This can be seen a few ways actually – but scripture is pretty confident God created the world and has also disseminated His teachings…so what are we entrusted? I think we are entrusted his teachings and how we enact those in the places we live (the world).

“each according to his ability” (vs. 15)

The master gives each person what he can handle – or are called only to account for what they know and understand. One gets 5, another 2, and another 1…it’s not all the same but neither are we all the same maturity- do what you can with you’re given/with what you learned.

“settled accounts with them” (vs. 19)

At some point God calls us into account for our actions and what we did with what we learned. I don’t know how this all works mind you – just know that we were ‘entrusted his property’ and we’re asked to be responsible with it…I have no problem whatsoever with God calling me into account for the way I used His teachings, how I treated others, or cared for the ‘world’ around me.

“You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things” (Vs. 21, 23)

The parable is about this single thing – being responsible and it’s various levels. Jesus seems to want us to be ‘good stewards’ of each other and good about the teachings we read (ex: mercy, justice, peace, faith, hope, etc). The responsibility falls upon us as to what we do with what we read – how we enact and elaborate on these ideas – it doesn’t fall on churches, communities, or parents – but ‘I’ (singular). And this isn’t a ‘bad thing’ – responsibility is a ‘good thing’ – it helps us mature in life.

“‘I knew that you are a hard man…So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you” (vs. 24-25)

Oddly enough the person that does nothing with what he is given knew the master’s character and yet still did nothing. Or maybe it was the master’s percieved character that was the probem – caused the person to be ‘afraid’? Fear, in this story, is not the great motivator – but the great de-activator. The other 2 say nothing about the master’s character whatsoever – but enjoyed the fact they were entrusted something (maybe they saw the master as kind?).

“‘You wicked, lazy servant!” (vs. 26)

B-I-N-G-O. This person is ‘lazy’ – and knew better – yet still did what they did. I know this person, I have been this person from time to time. And for what I lacked, I lied to others about.

“For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him” (vs.29)

This is the point of the story. If we want to gain more in life – we need to be willing to enact the teachings we learn and live via them. At some point we will find we have gained a lot from life and it feels ‘great’ or we will ‘continue to share in our master’s happiness!’. But if we do not use these teachings, and just leave, and ditch morality – even what we have will soon be gone – and we will be left with nothing and this is painful (weeping and gnashing of teeth).

I see this as Jesus teaching people about living according to God’s teachings, helping others, and via that process we are built up. Then in that process we realize just how responsible we truly are and if we can ‘live up to our words’. We have been promised something – and it’s these teachings – and to those who find their meaning – see these teachings as ‘priceless’. But in the same breath – we are to use them and not hide them – cause who hides treasure from their friends?

Murder & War – Definitions at War

Regarding war – you are assuming that all taking of human life is murder” (Shane)

Yup. If there is more to taking a human’s life than I know at this point making it not ‘murder’ – explain away. Is not murder the killing of another human? (SVS)

I will not say warfare is good, but you can not equate it to murder” (Shane)

I don’t understand why though? What happens in war that is so different from murder? They look alike, the hatred is alike, and the outcome is alike. Why can’t war be the human’s lowest common denominator – not something normal for humans (or maybe it is?)? (SVS)

Cause war helps define that little tidbit from Romans ‘no there is none that do good’. (SVS)

I have to highly doubt that was what God wanted for us…yet if we can make some lee-way for the war idea – how come it’s so hard to do it for another aspect of murder (even abortion)? Interesting huh. (SVS)

**I have given this even more thought, this idea will not die (or be murdered if you will) yet, but how do we distinguish between what happens in war and actual murder?

Explain It To Me…

You see in the Gospels, Acts & the Epistles that they (are) called to place their faith in Christ” (Shane)

This is a very dicey one that I am looking at with more fervor these days…was Jesus asking them to ‘follow him’ (as a rabbi) – and that he pushed their focus onto the One God – and his teachings were part of that vehicle (even as a messiah)? Cause it is rather odd that Jesus never calls himself equal to God in any of the gospels until John. Fact is, none of these gospels were actually together as we have them today and were likely used singularily in the community lucky enough to scribally copy them. So if someone only has Matthew (for example) – would they still get Jesus as son of God (only begotten from God) or as a messianic rabbinic figure? And if they followed that – wouldn’t they be quite alright?

Someone explain me to me how this whole salvation/sacrifice/atonement thing works and why it works? Why do we need the sacrifice? What does the sacrifice do? What does it all mean for us? Why do we have to accept the sacrifice if we play no part in it?

Rich Young Ruler – A Lesson in Ethics

Matthew 19:16-17

“And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

(1) Good: The passage is peppered with this word – from the person asking, to Jesus, to a reference about God (ironically enough – good with one less ‘o’). Seems to be the human query for time immemorial.

(2) Life: Life is the other word that is both asked and addressed in this passage – but eternal life can also be looked at as meaning ‘fulness of life’. Life is the other thing we humans are trying to figure out.

What the person wants to know is how do we define ‘good’? In this passage Jesus said the ‘One’ (God) is good (1st commandment). This is the premise of where the definition of ‘life’ will get its meaning.

How do we obtain ‘eternal life’? Jesus says plainly ‘keep the commandments’ or adhere to those ideas within them to enjoy life. A simple summation of the commandments is love God and love your neighbor – in this ‘life’ can find it’s enjoyment/fulness.

But there is a 3rd thing being alluded to here – God’s words are good – and participating in keeping the things God has talked about is good (or is your part in participating with God). There is only ‘One’ who is good – but he did allow those things to be written and remembered – so we could find our way to serving goodness and giving/getting more from life.

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Games Without Frontiers

War and faith – where should we stand regarding this? I just watched a program which talked about this idea and was in favor of the idea of participating in war (even used the Luke scripture as back-up). I have to ask the obvious – where is the proof this is true? The word ‘sword’ (a weapon of war) is used 8 times in the gospels – so here they are.

Matt 10:34 – “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

Matt 26:51-52 – “And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.”

Mark 14:47 – “But one of those who stood by drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear.”

Luke 2:35 – “and a sword will pierce even your own soul–to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

Luke 21:24 – “and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”

Luke 22:36 – “And He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one.”

Luke 22:49 – “When those who were around Him saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?”

John 18:10-11: “Simon Peter then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave’s name was Malchus. So Jesus said to Peter, “Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?”

My Conclusion

(1) The 4 gospels all tell the same story about Peter cutting off a Roman guards ear with the sword. Not once in any of those gospel chapters (Matt 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, John 18) does Jesus admonish Peter for his action (ie: bravery or courage). Rather Matthew seems to sum up the idea very well ‘for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword“. This seems to be the point of those 4 stories concerning the involvement of the ‘sword’. Also, from a theological standpoint, Jesus does heal the person immediately who was attacked by the disciple – so I am not sure Jesus wants his disciples to participate in violence whatsoever nor does he condone its outcomes.

(2) Matthew 10:34 is not troubling and talks about ‘sword’ in regards to how family and community units will be ‘divided’ over the Jesus issue. Luke 2:35 is used in a very similar way concerning sword meaning ‘dividing’.

(3) Luke 21:24 seems to be a prophecy about a certain time in which war will break-out – likely concerning 70 AD? Again no admonition to fight in the battle – but more or less flee for your lives – vs.21 “Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city“.

I am not sure we will find a place in the gospels where war is a sanctioned idea for a Christian person – since what land are we fighting for first off? America? Israel? Canada? Britain? Australia? Just where is this elusive Christian land base? Seems to me there is none.

Also Jesus appears very much on the side of this dialogue (regarding violence) as something not for the disciple nor does he/she need to train in it. I find it hard to define when war would be acceptable within Jesus’ teachings – since it actually shows up nowhere – even when his life is on the line.

The best justification a Christian can use is the Tanakh references to war and that is about it. But Israel is a nation (and it appears so in those books) and like every other nation/country will have to fight wars now and then. Christianity is not a nation/country – and never has been – it is a faith system (and appears that way in the gospels and letters). I have to say ‘no’ to war – it’s a barbaric idea based on power of one people’s over another.  

Learning Over 2 Years in Discussing God

involves endless clicking on hyperlinks to God… never really arriving at a destination, but nonetheless engaged in a lifelong journey through truth, not towards it.” (Jolly Beggar)

I like this – it speaks about the openness of one’s faith (and maybe this is how it should be?). In the past 2 years I have come to a few conclusions also – in the same vein:

(a) Why do I always need to be right – when I am so wrong. I have a limited understanding of God.

(b) I state my opinions and experiences and what I have learned about faith in God – but these are not absolutes. Each person varies in what they learn about God (from God). There is no one way to heaven or hell – just like none of us are the same.

(c) Not knowing the answer is an answer – and can be the most honest one.

(d) No one person should lord it over another concerning theological viewpoints – since we all hold limited viewpoints. The one that does this serves themselves.

(e) Faith that becomes closed is dead. Faith that is for sale is cheap and worthless. Faith that is exclusive is becoming the ‘broad road’. Faith that hurts another is selfish. Faith that follows only the system is a waste of good intellect. Faith needs to remain in the process of open-ness and searching- anything less is a lie we tell ourselves to make us ‘feel good’.

(f) All of us are a community of faith – sharing what treasure we have one with another – so we can have more fulfilled versions of God.

(g)  Faith is only as real as you allow it to be.

(h) It matters what we do with ‘truth’ and not what we think is ‘truth’ – it changes what we defend (ideas or people?).

(i) God is not looking for a defender – but we are looking for something to give us meaning.

(j) The ideas the church structure has defined narrowly (prayer, worship, fellowship, etc) are not at all simple and exist outside of buildings.

(k) God is love and when God is not love God is dead

I’ll leave it at that for now – God knows I could be here all day.

Things New and Old

“And Jesus said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” (Matthew 13:52)

This is an interesting thing Jesus says in the first parables of Matthew – actually at the tail end of the sower, tares, mustard seed, leaven, hidden treasure, costly pearl, and dragnet of fish parables. I read that and wondered – what point is being made here?

I read it over and looked for the meaning but I am guessing it is tied to the idea “I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world” (Matt 13:35). So what’s the frequency, Kenneth? Well, here’s my take on it.

The emphasis on ‘bringing out of our treasure things both new and old’. The treasure would have to be the things we gained during our faith experience and that impact our very ‘being’ (those values and insights learned). These ideas are like treasure to us – and value is placed on things both ‘new and old’ since they can both have meaning. Old memories or antiques have meaning as does something new we get. So the entirety of life is important here – not just today or tomorrow – but what we have learned in the past also.

But what needs to be remembered – new is part of the paradigm. If our faith becomes stagnant and repetitive – then I am not sure what is being gained at all? We live for today also – and we need to continue learning things from our teacher. We need to elaborate also on what we have been taught or we do not understand what is so great about the ‘treasure’ we have (we will take it for granted).

Lastly, we also see it relating to the Tanakh/NT and our embodiment of those teachings. It may be ‘old’ writings but we are ‘presently’ living/reading them. So we also see how the writings need to be given ‘air to breathe’ or they are just useless words on a piece of paper. Maybe the true treasure is finding the meaning in those words, living them in our daily lives, and sharing that treasure with those around us.

Water into Wine into Mythology

I am currently reading Tom Harpur’s new book ‘Water into Wine’ and I am not sure what to think of it all. Pieces of it are really good (interpretation pieces) and part’s of it I think are very questionable (Paul’s mythology). So here is what I will put out there after 3 chapters of reading.

(1) Jesus is mythical – it’s an interesting idea – but I am not sure this is the case. I can see the virgin birth and a few other things being questioned as myth – but the actual person? He is similar to mythic characters – agreed – and maybe that adds to the stories – also agreed – but he does come off as a real person – and at that in a Jewish culture and community (which the writings also reflect – even if all we have is greek to go by). Maybe these scholars are missing something here in the historical study?

(2) The whole Mark, Matthew, Luke, and Q thing is tired and old. Mark is always first – and that’s the current concensus (agreed) – but this is a field still wide open. The argument Mark came first and Matthew copied makes sense. But the opposite does also – Matthew came first and Mark was a shortened version of it – with 2% changes – for a different crowd. And Q – hell if we know that exists – there is no proof whatsoever (nor a document found). I think this is all questionable and if someone stakes a claim on any of this for some new-founded idea – it is at the very least – worth questioning.

(3) The whole Paul see’s Jesus as myth is right from left field and makes no sense. I am not saying Paul doesn’t allegorize a lot and some of his stuff can be mystic – agreed. But I think Paul saw Jesus as a real person that lived on one simple basis – Jesus crucified gets mentioned a lot in his writings (and is in each gospel). Now if crucifixion was something from 100’s of years ago when Paul wrote – I might agree – however it was a known form of death during Paul’s life. If Paul is going to wax mythic on everything – he has a very stange way of doing it.

(4) The problem of Acts and Luke weighs in here. Luke seems to have no problem writing a gospel and an ‘acts of the apostles’ that clearly lays out Jesus was a person and that Paul knew the original disciples. This actually has to lend creedence to the idea since Luke is a 2nd generation believer who also seems to know Paul (mentioned in his letters and even uses the communion idea Paul does verbatim in his gospel). Luke copied the gospels – clearly – but who do we think he got them from…well if he’s honest in any sense – then possibly the first community of Christians. I think Luke is very strong evidence that a Jesus existed. Also if Luke wrote last and Paul mentions him in letters – doesn’t it go to figure the other gospels possibly existed (even Paul mentions problems with ‘gospels‘ – plural – in his letters).

(5) I like the idea of looking at the teachings from a more mythological perspective – not everything has to be literal – agreed. I like this – there seems to be something to learn here – and Harpur makes a great point about the ‘mysteries of God’ and ‘parables’ revealing deeper ideas about who God is. I can dig that.

(6) This whole mythology thing is based on the historical Jesus and builds from there (which I must say is quite the sturdy platform). I wonder – how much proof is there for a Peter, James, or John in 1st century AD? Or Paul? I mean, why stop at Jesus here – we have many names to peruse. If they all come up blank – then are they all made up also? Where did they come from then?

(7) Finally, my last qualm starts with Luke again. Isn’t it odd that Luke has name attached to a gospel at all – and Acts? I can see Matthew and John – but Luke – who was not even a disciple at all? I thought the idea was attaching names of prominence to these things – even Thomas carries some weight – who the hell is Luke I ask? Yet he has 2 written documents – more than all of the actual disciples in terms of volumne of writing. Isn’t that at all strange? And then we see Mark and Luke as travelling companions via Paul’s letters – were they writers for people? Is Mark Peter’s son – possibly that close to him – thus a gospel? Just maybe Luke was the author – and if that is so – then he wrote alongside Paul (or close to him). And if he copied – well – need I say more where this is going.

I am having as tough a time turning possible history into mythology – kinda like I would turning water into wine.