The Simplicity, Beauty, and Power of TRUTH.

Our world is noisy with so many different perspectives all claiming to possess the TRUTH. For the critical thinker, this begs the question as to how can they all be correct.

The modern answer is to make TRUTH relative. Our culture expresses this as “Truth is whatever you believe it to be.” or “Each person has their OWN TRUTH.”

While I understand how they resolved the tension, the result is that truth is deemed as INTERNAL and SUBJECTIVE rather than EXTERNAL and OBJECTIVE.

But I think we can do better.

Its actually much easier than having competing truth claims.

Scripture seems to indicate that all TRUTH is God’s. “The sum of your word is TRUTH and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” (Psalm 119:160), and it also even goes so far as to say that TRUTH is personified in Jesus: “I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life…” (John 14:6).

Those are big claims. But for modern people, the question is how in the world is that possible?

How can the Bible be the source of truth about how an internal combustion engine works?

How can the Bible be the source of truth, especially when it conflicts with what Science has proven?

I think this is where religious people start becoming weird (and believe unbelievable things), and where the unnecessary rift grows between people who really want a reasonable explanation of things.

THIS IS HOW I SEE IT.

  1. TRUTH and God are synonymous.
  2. No single person can possess all the Truth.
  3. Therefore all people have some truth (This enables us to function in the world),
  4. While all people lack the truth (Thus we are curious and are always learning and progressing)
  5. All people are ONLY responsible for those aspects of TRUTH they possess.
  6. If they believe something to be true, they are MORALLY obligated to live according to it.
  7. If a person ignores any truth that they possess, there is a corresponding decline in their life in direct proportion to the amount of truth they failed to apply.
  8. If a person applies the truth they possess, there is a corresponding benefit to their life in direct proportion to the amount of truth they apprehended and applied.
  9. Thus all people can possess and benefit their lives by pursuing and applying truth.
  10. This process of pursuing and applying TRUTH for the sake of progress is a THEOLOGICAL pursuit. It is how a person follows after God. Or tries to find God. Even if they don’t define the pursuit as such.

We see this in the simple areas of life and leisure, to the most complex areas of science, finance, and theology.

It seems God is in it all, behind it all, and benefits all who enlist in the process, and brings headwinds for all who ignore it.

No one is exempt. No one is morally superior, for all must apply the truth they possess. All possess the truth they humbly pursue and are able to apprehend.  With greater amounts of truth come greater responsibility for self and others.

It’s quite beautiful. It’s satisfying to know that no one is left out, and those who strive for truth really do receive a commensurate benefit. Those who ignore always bear the consequences in their life. It’s wonderful to see such pure justice in the world.

Nearly every problem then becomes a TRUTH PROBLEM. It is something we Don’t Know, or something we WON’T DO.

Test it. I’ve yet to find an exception.

This doesn’t eliminate competing truth claims. But if both sides are pursuing truth, then they will ultimately resolve into the same place. If they are only interested in being right, then the pursuit of truth is already abandoned because they have presupposed they possess all that is true. Thus only stumbling and strife results, not progress. Politics, Religion, Social, Economic, and Racial tensions, are all examples of the abandonment of the pursuit of truth.

You see, God is clearly observable in the world. He is being pursued and followed and ignored. We just never see him or hear him when that still small voice tells us to floss our teeth.

But if you see him there, you will see him everywhere. And that is pretty cool.

http://www.kevenwinder.com/oblivious

Spoiled Goodness

Sometimes I have thoughts that ruminate in my thinking for a long time before they gel into a more cohesive paradigm.  This blog reflects such a thought.

It starts by considering the difference between “goodness” and “badness.”

The confusion over this issue has created some problems in our culture, especially in relation to how “church goers” are conditioned to relate to the rest of the world.  Meaning that the common message is that the world is bad, and that Christian people should be good and distinct from badness, and thus the church becomes known for everything it is against.

So this got me thinking about the reasons I eventually had to leave the cultural church. The reason is that even the best church delivery systems only work based on the following fundamental premise:

“Nearly everything you have ever done is wrong. Your motives, your actions, your outcomes. But if you give your heart to Jesus, and join our system, he will change all that around and you will begin doing everything right.”

I don’t believe this is true. For starters, it’s not accurate. It’s also not observable by looking at the church system.

Instead, I believe the following premise is much more biblical:

“Nearly everything you have ever done is right as far as you could tell. You didn’t turn aside and go after wrong things, you were actually pursuing the right thing, but in the wrong way. Following Jesus will enable you to get both the means and the end you are seeking, but not how you imagine it.”

For many fundamentalist, this idea is way too loose, because they believe a person is corrupt to the core. But this begs the question: “How can a person be corrupt to the core with out first being good to the core?” Goodness must be present if it will ever be spoiled into badness.

But I don’t believe we do bad things! (Now don’t get your knickers in a twist, let me explain.)

We don’t do bad things, we go after good things badly.

The greedy businessman was pursuing financial independence (a good thing), but did so by hurting  and neglecting others.

The addict was pursuing physical pleasure (a good thing), but the excess destroyed him.

The lier was seeking approval (a good thing), but couldn’t see that people don’t approve of dishonesty.

The church system is so toxic, it only functions by convincing people to not be bad. It requires a straw-man belief that the world is evil, sinful, and something God hates, when the bible says the opposite. The church teaches that sin is the opposite of virtue, when in reality it is the opposite of Faith.

So church-goers are often tormented with their badness, and they live their lives trying to separate themselves from all that goes in that junk drawer. It’s a life of fear. It’s a silent oppression that is imposed by the system. It keeps them focused on another world where they can be free of the badness. It’s a faith of escape.

But if we can reset the compass, then maybe true North isn’t the farthest place from badness, but our badness is necessary so it can be correctly employed into greatness.

I believe that is something the world would like to hear.

Who is the Kingdom person?

If you ask most people who are deeply steeped in what I call “cultural Christianity” most of them will tell you that a Christian is someone who has “accepted Jesus into their heart.”

Of course no where in scripture is that the recipe for how to become a Christian. In fact Jesus seemed to only ask people to “Follow me.”  Which is another way of saying follow my example and my teachings.

When Jesus was asked in Matthew 22:34 what the greatest “Commandment”, or in other words; “What’s the most significant thing you teach? Jesus answered not by forsaking all that Judaism was offering to people, but by summing up the essence of Judaism (which is his teaching-Christianity) by saying all the (moral/covenantal) laws hang on these two things:

  1. Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind.
  2. Love your neighbor as yourself. (Treat others as you would have them treat you.)

Almost every world religion share this truth and part 2 is echoed in almost every moral code established in societies since the beginning.

Let me make these observations:

  1. Following Jesus is not an “on/off” switch. It’s more like a dimmer switch. This means that the most devout person will still make decisions that stem from parts of their thinking where they don’t really believe in Jesus.
  2. This is also true for the person who says they are not believers in Jesus. They will make decisions out of the desire to “do the right thing”  and in doing so they will follow Jesus’ teaching without thinking about it in those categories.
  3. Since both believers and unbelievers are both “partial unbelievers”, what is the determining factor for who is “Kingdom type of person?”

(Note: most fundamentalist interpret the Kingdom of Heaven as a place we go, rather than the life and world we create now-which I think is a misinterpretation. Jesus seemed to be telling a story, not about how to get people to heaven, but how usher Heaven into the world already and that at over time the two will be indistinguishable.)

So back to the question in #3.

Jesus told the most religious people of the day (who also shared this “Exclusive evacuation strategy”): “Tax collectors and Prostitutes will go into the Kingdom before you will.”

In other words, there are more kingdom type people among tax collectors and prostitutes than among you religious oppressors.

In fact, he told a story about two sons (Matt 21:28-32) who he asked to go and work in the vineyard. The first said, “I’ll go.” but then didn’t go work. The second son said “I won’t go.” but thought better of it and went. And when Jesus asked which son did the will of the father (Followed the teaching) they obviously answered (the one who went and did the work).

So it really isn’t about a persons’ profession of faith. It doesn’t really matter if you call yourself a Christian or not.

  • Christians often make claims and then do the opposite. Hypocrisy is the stain of all religious people.
  • Or a person can not make the claim, and then live the right way. (this is the trend for most modern people)

Which is better?

  1.  Claiming to love God but failing in your following.
  2. Or to have doubts about whether God is real, but striving to live the best you know how?

If you answered 2, then I think you are a kingdom person. Because the most sincere people I’ve ever met, both believers and unbelievers, share a humble solidarity with each other around their doubts and imperfections, and a quiet trust that if there is a God, then he sees their heart.

The difference between the two  is only that one has come to a place where they can separate out the teachings of Christ from the fouled up delivery system (cultural church), and the others are still concluding that they are the same thing and for good reasons keep their distance.

Can I encourage you to consider that all along when you have sacrificially done the right thing even though it was hard, that you did so not just with integrity to yourself, but you did so with integrity to God, even though you may not have known it at the time.

But now its my hope that the next time, you will be able to perceive him in the process. To see the king behind this kingdom you’ve been building.

How bad do you want to PREVAIL?

Nearly 20 Million people have seen the video above. Watch this now!

What does that tell you?

This video captures so well just how much effort is required to overcome the gravity in the world.

I was thinking about Jacob and the story of how he wrestles with God and refuses to turn loose of him until he receives a blessing. This tenacity ends in his hip socket get popped out of whack, but it also ends in a unique story of God relenting and man prevailing. (Genesis 32:22-32)

How bad do you want to breath? How much do you want breath? Again the bible amazingly ties breath (pneuma) to spirit. (John 3:8).

I think 19 million people completely understand this, even though they may not define it using biblical categories.  They know that success is equal to thriving in life. It means well-being for ourselves and all those we touch. It expands our ability to benefit the world. It is liberation.

The aspect risking it all for the sake of this kind of spirit is what this is all about. It’s not about getting paid. It’s not about being a big shot.

It’s about living authentically. living with Spirit.

How bad do you want it?

http://www.repotnow.com

Mother’s Day

We all have a mother.  Every single person was incubated in a womb of woman.

It’s strange when you stop and think about it.

But we know that the gestation process is different than mothering, although it certainly starts there.

Some mothers are cruel.

Some mothers are so selfish.

Some mothers pick favorites among their children.

Some mothers use their kids to live out their own failed attempts at life.

Some mothers are over protective.

All mothers are imperfect.

But,

Some mothers are so generous and self sacrificing. It’s humbling.

Some love their children more than they need them. It almost makes you weep.

Some mothers light the path so their children can find their way in life.

Some mothers are not afraid to give their kids wings.

We are all a by-product of our mothers.

For those who had mothers who just didn’t get it; who hurt you; abandoned you, or who competed with you, let me say first that I’m sorry you have had to experience that. Remember they likely didn’t have a good model to work from either.

Let me also add, that we all have two families. The one we can’t control, and the one we can control. You can recapture some of what you have lost in your second family, be it with your own children, through adoption, or through great friendships.

Don’t let your future be determined by your past.

For those who had great mothers, try and and share with them just how much you appreciate all they have done for you.

Let me stretch this a bit more.

Mother’s never die. 50% of our DNA comes directly from them. We are formed by them physically, emotionally, spiritually, and in countless ways. Their teaching manifests itself in our daily lives, and as such a part of them continues to live within us.  We honor them by reflecting those parts of them that the world needs to see.

There is no reason our conversations with them should ever end.

Thanks Mom, and to all the mothers out there, thankyou for making our world so great.

God Bless you.

 

Belief is NOT the problem. Certainty is.

I’ve been traveling for the last couple of weeks in California and then in Aspen. As I go about, I’m always meeting new people and learning about the diverse lives we all live.  I’ve been focusing on this idea of belief for a long time and the vivid ways it is displayed in our every day lives.  While I’m not focusing exclusively on religious belief, i’m not excluding it either.

I was watching Bill Maher on HBO and the subject of religion came up as it often does. Bill often couches his atheism with a very legitimate question: “What is so wrong with a person saying, ‘I don’t know…’?” When asked if there is a God or a real Heaven or Hell, he simply says “I don’t have the evidence to warrant that belief, so I don’t know.” But then he goes on to point out that 27% of Americans believe God had something to do with the outcome of the Superbowl, which he thought was a pretty pathetic belief. So in just one moment he went from uncertainty, to certainty.

Now I really like Bill Maher and think he is a great thinker, but the problem isn’t limited to atheists. Just examine the beliefs of most Christians and it will make a lot of sense why so many outsiders reject their beliefs.

How many really believe Elijah was swept away in a whirlwind? How many really believe in the miracles of Jesus? His virgin birth, and hold to the idea that that his miracles still happen? No one living today was there to witness any of that, so what is the evidence for believing it?

And when the skeptic asks, why the believer’s life is no better than his own, and why his diseases aren’t healed, and why the mondern day church has little influence (light) and bears even less transformative power in the culture (salt), the answer from most believers is simply; “I don’t know.”

You see, both sides are expressing confidence in those things they believe are in the most conformity to the truth. Both sides employ a lens through which they see the world and that lens is shaped by their beliefs. If a belief is altered, improved, or changed, then the entire worldview shifts incrementally.

That is called progress. But it is also a conversion from false assumptions toward truth. Something from which the whole world benefits.

The issue isn’t about who is a believer and who isn’t, because all people are believers in something. It is really about the basis for that belief and if it can be proven to be true. If you believe you will have a bad day, you probably will. If you believe God is inspiring you through everything in the universe, then He probably is. If you believe there is a scientific explanation for everything, then there probably is. But all presuppose belief or faith.

If a person doesn’t believe in the existence of God or a real Heaven or Hell, then what is their consequence of unbelief? Is it realistic for that to manifest itself before death? Is there really a moral difference between believers and non-believers? History says “No!”

If a person does believe in a real God, his word, his judgement and his redemptive plan, then how do they explain showing up week after week into a church system which is losing ground with the culture they are supposed to be redeeming?

How do they explain pouring billions into buildings, salaries, and programs that benefit primarily believers? All the while the world suffers. Do we need pastors, buildings and programs more than we need cures for disease, poverty, and orphans?

You see both camps have what they see as a legitimate basis for belief. The rub is always in their CERTAINTY.

Regardless of the beleif a person subscribes to, it is the assumption of CERTAINTY that makes that belief unbearable to others who don’t share that perspective. Christians manipulate Jesus’ exclusivity claims to exclude every perspective but theirs. Scientists faith in emperical evidence, while valuable, is often hypocrytically relaxed when they venture into theorhetical cosmology.

One oncologists is certain a drug will reduce cancer, while another sees only its caustic side effects. One religion focuses only on the afterlife while another on this present life. Each person is certain of their own way. How is that possible?

So the take home for us is simple. Believe what soever you will, but don’t get so confident in your certainty. Rather, begin to warm your hands to the fire of other perspectives and test them in light of reason and practicality. If something claims to be the truth, then test it by all the means available to you. If it is true, then it will stand up. Like mathematics, the true answer to a sum is obtainable by all people so long as they do the work correctly. Those who take short cuts or don’t really care, should never expect to have the truth. The point is to pursue truth, knowing we will never possess all of it, but that we will incrementally be transformed by those portions we do.

The by-product of testing truth assumptions is authentic humility. It is the recognition that all people are only partial believers at best. A dialectic of opposing values or claims at truth. People with amazing capacities of discovery and goodness, with amazing capacities of blindness and evil. Humility is something our world could really use more of.

When we grasp this, we begin to function as equals and peers (though uniquely different), and not in sectarian ways. When unity and diversity coexist, something really amazing takes place–progress. That is not only the goal of science, but the hope that is supposed to be called the Church. In fact, I’m willing to bet that wherever in the world this humble-type testing is taking place, we are witnessing the footprint of the real church, the collective of individuals who share a common focus and love for truth and each other

Salvation, Righteousness and Confusion.

I was thinking about a great theological discussion I had yesterday with my friend and it occurred to me that the contemporary “Piperesque” idea of imputed righteousness has been grossly over exaggerated in modern Christology.

My best guess is that it stems from the “holiness” ideas where God’s perfect righteousness is a pre-requisite for man if he is to enjoy the presence of God. (BTW, countless biblical stories and the incarnation seems to dispute that idea.) Plus I think it is linked to salvation as it is understood that without this righteousness (which is imputed at the moment of conversion) becomes the defining basis of faith in the new believer. This is why they think they can’t apostatize, because it isn’t their righteousness they are living on. (Gal 2:20)

Thus, in this perspective, the moment of conversion must be critically defined, calculated, and grasped in order for it to be fully transformational and reach the soteriological benchmark. And so salvation is the sole focus of most churches. It is a mystical conversion and a person lives a Christian life only by revisiting it, thus the role of sanctification in their life becomes truncated (revisit the elementary things of God, Heb 5:13), because they are already at max righteousness if they have appropriated Jesus this way.

That depicts most modern Christianity doesn’t it? But is that necessarily the case?

Scripture seems to paint a different picture.

Genesis 18:19 describes God’s election of Abraham and his family to bless them all so they could keep the way of righteousness and justice. But what was the basis of such righteousness? It certainly wasn’t understood to be Christianity or imputed, it wasn’t even based on covenantal nomos (law), as this is the inaugural revelation of this covenant to Abraham, so he was keeping and applying something that was deemed righteous, but what was it? I would suggest a nomos based on imageo dei (image of God), more on this later.

Later in chapter 18 Abe negotiated with God that as many as 10 righteous people could dwell in sodom without its destruction. When in chapter 19 the angels decide to destroy the city they determine to spare or SAVE Lot’s family (my best guess is because they are a part of the promise of Gen18:19 by extension), but nonetheless, they are deemed righteous enough to be saved from the fire to be reigned down (I think this has metaphorical meaning too). But what we see next is nothing like the modern “imputed righteousness” of Christ.

The salvation came to the righteous and the righteous people are the ones who were willing to give their daughters to be gang raped by the men of the city. The righteous who were saved are the manipulative daughters who have a drunken sex fest with their dad.

This leads me to conclude that way too much is made out of righteousness in relation to salvation, yet we are told our righteousness must exceed that of the pharisees, Matt 5:20. Scripture seems to tell a story about God saving who he will, however he so decides (Deut 7: 7-9), and that Christ is at the epicenter of that process (Rom 10:13-17), whether archetypical as in the old covenant, or actual as in the new covenant, both appear to still be at work today.

Righteousness then is more evidentiary, and based upon word and law, which are promised to be written on the hearts of people bearing God’s image. That seems to be what we see in the whole world as we examine the presence of moral thinking regardless of religion, tongue or creed. The modern Christian mindset is that even the strictest knowledge and adherence to this embedded moral compass cannot save, and while that may be true, it doesn’t necessarily need to be true (For God saves who he will, John 6:44) but clearly this knowledge can and does produce righteousness even if it doesn’t produce the modern Christian idea of salvation. Just look at all the righteous people who do not subscribe to Christianity.

The question then is whether ones definition of salvation requires the presence of righteousness. It did for Sodom. But If it does for modern people, then it seems highly plausible that not only is that righteousness the effect of Christ (even imputed) if ones Christology will allow it, or else righteousness can come from someplace other than God. But that must then extend to those who are righteous but not naming Christianity.

Of course moralism is a risk in this system.

If not, then who can blame a modern Christian person for concluding they cannot apostatize, because the center of faith is not on ones righteousness, but on Christ’s. If righteousness only becomes REAL righteousness if they having a knowledge and  faith in Jesus, then Abraham and the fathers of the faith are not saved and they were not righteous people, and we are back to the Star Bellied Sneetches again.

Now see if you can see where I’m going in this next thought:

Jesus had the right to dissolve one covenant and inaugurate another and so he did (Heb 8:7), but he didn’t abolish the nomos (law), but rather fulfilled it (Matt 5:17). This new covenant is internal if the prophets are correct (Ez 36:26 Jer 31:31), and its non discriminating (women, men, Jews, Gentiles, all comers (Gal 3:28)).

If this is true then all people everywhere must “know” this law (know righteousness) as he has put it into hearts of flesh. And this is what we see. Thus salvation may not be about knowing Christ (for all know him), but about knowing his name or actually seeing him as the source behind it all.

Wouldn’t then every moral choice essentially be Christological in its essence? That is the goal and function of Christian thinking isn’t it? The question for modern believers is whether or not they will accept the possibility that following after that little “moral something” inside them (Do as you would be done to, Luke 6:31), is the same as following Christ. Most can’t or won’t go there.

Certainly Jews struggled with this idea that people of other religions could be saved by their God and especially those who were far out of the temple system and its methods. Sound familiar? Kind of like modern cultural evangelicalism?

Just how fixated should Christianity be on a salvation threshold, when even some who are certain they surpass and who do righteous deeds won’t be saved in the end (Matt 7:21).

See how this all fits together?

All over the map then are people who differ significantly on how they understand this, each claiming to be right. So for me there is hope in progressive revelation. New understandings will replace old ones in light of discovery and new knowledge. New wine will burst old wine skins. The person who preserves the ideas of the past will resist progress. Perhaps the unbeliever (the one lacking faith in Christ) is not the one who has yet to acknowledge Christ (for there are many seekers of spirituality), but the one who limits access to him by insisting on old ideas or by creating a salvation litmus test. That seems more likely to be the person who lacks a faith big enough to save people.