Abortion, Evil and Dehumanization

Abortion, Evil and Dehumanization

I have been reading “Lucifer Effect:  Understanding How Good People Turn Evil” by Philip Zimbardo and thought that you might be interested in this quote.

“Dehumanization is one of the central processes in the transformation of ordinary, normal people into indifferent or even wanton perpetrators of evil. Dehumanization is like a cortical cataract that clouds one’s thinking and fosters the perception that other people are less than human. It makes some people come to see those others as enemies deserving of torment, torture, and annihilation. Dehumanization is one of the central processes in the transformation of ordinary, normal people into indifferent or even wanton perpetrators of evil.[1].”

Dehumanization is one of the favorite tools of political propagandists who have embraced identity politics. They identify groups or sometimes create groups to divide; then they demonize and dehumanize the groups that stand against their ideology. All this is for the purpose of gaining power. This process always begins with name-calling and the branding of groups of people with derogatory labels.

This dehumanization is fostered by propaganda that portrays the others as an enemy of humanity, for example in the area of abortion, they often do this by comparing the unborn to something less than human. Their use of the word ‘fetus’ echoes this. Why not just call it a child? This method that makes the victims, the enemy, was used by the early abortionist to convince the masses that they had to destroy human life because the planet was being overrun by humans and that the masses would ultimately starve to death from a lack of resources.[2] On a smaller scale, the propagandists attempt to convince women that somehow their unborn child was going to steal their life and thus is an enemy of their freedom. In addition, they dehumanize infants in the womb by referring to them as just a bundle of cells comparing the unborn fetus to a ball of’ snot or a tadpole.

[1] “The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil” by Philip Zimbardo.

[2] The very opposite has turned out to be the truth. Fewer people are starving now than ever in the history of the world.

Is There a God

Is There a God

People that I have talked to or those that have read my blog, know that I believe that faith in the existence of supreme intelligence or consciousness is a self-evident truth.  A self-evident truth is a truth that a majority of men recognize through natural instincts.  That is, by men who have not had their reasoning corrupted by false beliefs and ideologies.

Some might raise the objection, ‘if the existence of God is self-evident, why are there so many that do not see it?’  Jesus said, “some people have eyes but do not see”.  Sometimes overexposure deadens our sensitivity to a thing.  We are often actually insensitive to our senses until they are impaired in some way.  We seldom think about seeing out of our eyes until something threatens our sight.  When we look out a window, we will not often see the glass unless we focus on it.  The reason being, we have given our full attention to the things we are watching outside the window.  However, if the window is dirty or has a crack in it, we see it immediately.  The problem with modern man is that he is too focused on things to see God.  This lack of sight is encouraged by our capitalistic and materialist culture that focuses people more on the physical than the existential and metaphysical realities.

The source of much unbelief could be contributed to the culture and environment that one grows up in.  Some men grow up in families and cultures that are anti-metaphysical and are dominated by the materialistic mindset.  If one grows up in such a culture, they absorbed a state of rebellion against God as normal or they are simply indifferent towards spirituality, without even knowing or understanding why they do not believe in God.  They literally have had their minds washed of the idea of God; literally they have been brainwashed and immersed in doubt to the point that unbelief seems normal for them.

They are ignorant of God because they have neglected the knowledge of God, (secular culture) and have failed to follow the natural revelation of God in nature that leads people to faith in God.  They trust in exalting reason about what is reasonable.  Reason is a wonderful thing, but it has its limits and it has the propensity to become the handmaid of our passions and our will and for some men, reason has become a sick lady infected with finiteness and sin which has led to total madness.

It was for this reason that the scientific method was created to help keep science honest.  However, we are beginning to see that the problem is too hard to deal with through laws and methods because mankind uses reason to get around the law.  Mankind needs grace to deal with sin and to keep reason honest.

When I give a reason for something, I must subsequently give a reason for the reason and then a reason for that reason.  This regression would be infinite until I came to the end of reason itself.  We have one or two choices; to follow the regression of reason to the end of reason or follow it to a first cause.  If you are an atheist and deny that the first cause is ‘Intelligent’, your problem becomes insurmountable.  You will inevitably end up denying reason or make it the first cause and in that, you have made reason god and might I add, an exceedingly small god.  Moreover, reason will find its end when it comes up against itself, for how can reason explain itself without arguing in circles or chasing its own tail.  “I believe in reason because that is what reason says to believe.” or “I believe in reason because my philosophy professor said I should believe in it and he learned it from Plato, who learned it from reason”.

Am I saying that I do not believe in reason?  No, I am simply saying that reason has its limits and be careful not to ask too much of her.  She is not infallible and without a proper foundation to reason from, she is like a man trying to ride a wild horse, she can kill you.  Reason is a gift from God and was given as a tool to help us find our way on our journey.  If we corrupt her, we do so at our own peril.  If we make her into God, we bring the wrath of God upon ourselves.  “You shall not have any other gods before you.”  We make reason into god when we turn reason into rationalism.  The difference between reason and rationalism is that reason knows her limits, rationalism does not and in this, rationalism is unreasonable and even stupid.

 

Christian Division and Atheism

Christian Division and Atheism

I have run across many unbelievers that feel that the division in Christianity weakens its argument for the existence of its God.  However, the opposite might be true. Division over many subjects about God should be expected, seeing that we are talking about an infinite God that is beyond human understanding, because of this, a difference of opinion in many areas would be normal and expected.[1]

Yes, Christianity is divided on a number of issues however most agree on the essence of the faith outlined in the Apostles Creed. Even the majority of the so called cults could confess their faith in the doctrines proclaimed in the ancient Creed, for the Creed simply set forth the basic facts[2] of what the Bible teaches. Christians for the most part (except for some far-left liberals) agree on the basic points of the Creed. However, some are not in agreement as to their interpretation of some of those points. This is where the division begins to creep in as it does in any discipline which is based on facts. Facts must be interpreted and it is in the interpretation where the division comes in[3]. For the most part, Christians agree on their facts.

Facts are claims or ideals corresponding objectively with something that has existed in reality, independent from one’s interpretation or a point of view. For example, I point to a stone on the ground and say that is a stone. Of course, if it was a banana it would not be a stone. Facts also must be identifiable by the right word or label to be understood. However, a fact can be qualified and interpreted by one’s world view or ideology, e.g. the resurrection is a fact of history for the Christian, but not for the atheist. Now, the atheist might believe that Jesus lived and died, but deny that he was resurrected because he does not believe in the supernatural. This would lead us to say that some aspects of a fact can be questioned while accepting others. This rejection or acceptance can be based on one’s point of view.

A good example of the power of viewpoint is a person walking into an empty room without any furniture and saying the room is empty. Yes, from a pragmatic point of view it is empty however, from a scientific point of view it is filled with air and atoms. The reason that the person said it was empty was that he was dependent on his sense of sight. If he was asked the question if there was air in the room he would take a deep breath and reply yes. If the individual was blind, he would have to depend on his sense of touch to determine whether there was anything in the room and it would take an extreme amount of time to make a judgment. However even after the judgment was made, he would have to admit that he did not know for sure because during the time it took him to touch and feel everything in the room someone or something could’ve entered the room, e.g. an insect.

The question arises then what point of view could be called the truth? The one based on sight, the one based on science or mathematical probability, the one based on personal experience (inhaling the air in the room) or touch? It would be an interesting exercise to figure out which of the forms of knowledge would best reflect the human condition and best serve that condition.

Another question that might be asked is, what would the effects of a presupposition about existence have on the person walking into the room?  How would a presupposition affect their vision of what’s in the room? Is seeing believing or do you have to believe to see? Would you ever find something microscopic without being told that something was present? Because of this, what worldview or viewpoint would be more open to that infinitely small and infinitely big, materialism or theism?

[1] Atheist are as divided in their opinions about many things as the religious note John Gray’s book “Seven Types of Atheist”.

[2] The Apostles Creed is based on twelve statements that Christians believe are facts.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son Our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.

[3] Two examples of this is science and philosophy.

The child-like faith in Reason by John Gray

The child-like faith in reason

Belief in human rationality requires a greater leap of faith than any religion, argues atheist John Gray.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard religion being described as childish. It’s one of those uncritically accepted ideas – perhaps I should say memes – that have been floating around for generations. Even many religious people seem to accept that there’s something at least child-like about their faith. Believing in God, they sometimes say, is a bond between human beings and an infinitely wiser power – we should trust in God just as we would a loving parent. When they hear this, our evangelical atheists feel vindicated in their crusade. In their view, nothing could be more childish than a relationship in which human beings are utterly dependent on a supernatural power. For these atheists, putting your trust in such an imaginary being is the essence of childishness.

Speaking as an atheist myself, I can’t help smiling when I hear religion being mocked in this way. Looking at the world as it has been and continues to be at the present time, it’s belief in human reason that’s childish. Religious faith is based on accepting that we know very little of God. But we know a great deal about human beings, and one of the things we know for sure is that we’re not rational animals. Believing in the power of human reason requires a greater leap of faith than believing in God.

If human beings were potentially capable of applying reason in their lives they would show some sign of learning from what they had done wrong in the past, but history and everyday practice show them committing the same follies over and over again. They would alter their beliefs in accordance with facts, but clinging to beliefs in the face of contrary evidence is one of the most powerful and enduring human traits.

Outside of some areas of science, human beings rarely give up their convictions just because they can be shown to be false. No doubt we can become a little more reasonable, at least for a time, in some parts of our lives, but being reasonable means accepting that many human problems aren’t actually soluble, and our persistent irrationality is one of these problems. At its best, religion is an antidote against the prevailing type of credulity – in our day, a naive faith in the boundless capacities of the human mind.

The belief in reason that is being promoted today rests on a number of childishly simple ideas. One of the commonest is that history’s crimes are mistakes that can be avoided in future as we acquire greater knowledge. But human evil isn’t a type of error that can be discarded like an obsolete scientific theory. If history teaches us anything it’s that hatred and cruelty are permanent human flaws, which find expression whatever beliefs people may profess.

In Europe before and during World War Two, persecution and genocide were supported by racial and eugenic theories, which allowed some groups to be demonized. These theories were pseudo-science of the worst kind, but it wasn’t this that discredited them. They were exposed for what they were by the defeat of Nazism, which revealed the horrors to which they had led. Subsequent investigation has since demonstrated that such theories are scientifically worthless. But the habit of demonizing other human beings hasn’t gone away. The same minorities that were targeted in the past – Jews, Roma, immigrants and gay people, for example – are being targeted in many countries today.

Across much of Europe, the politics of hate has returned with the rise of the far right. From one point of view, this isn’t surprising. The lesson of history is that in conditions such as those that exist in some parts of Europe, old bigotries and prejudices become more virulent and more dangerous. When incomes fall, jobs are scarce and there’s no prospect of improvement, those who appear different tend to be scapegoated and blamed for society’s ills. What may seem more surprising is that Europe’s elites are so complacent. Dark forces are on the move again, and yet as far as those who govern the continent are concerned, business goes on much as usual.

This complacency testifies to another enduring human flaw – sticking to a project when it has become self-defeating in its effects. Pushing ahead with ever greater union when large parts of the continent are suffering massive social dislocation fuels the very divisions the European Union was supposed to overcome. If Europe’s elites were even half-way reasonable, they would put their grand project on one side and focus on dealing with this danger. But like true believers everywhere, they’re convinced the only thing wrong with their dream is that it hasn’t yet been fully realised. Everything suggests they’ll push on until the entire edifice they’ve constructed cracks under the strain.

Science may yet confirm what history so strongly suggests – irrationality is hard-wired in the human animal

The refusal to see clear and present danger shows that the idea that human beings base their beliefs on their experience is just a fairy-tale. The opposite is closer to the truth – shaping their perceptions according to what they already believe, human beings block out from their minds anything that disturbs their view of the world. Psychologists who examine this tendency – sometimes called cognitive dissonance – have speculated that refusing to face the truth may confer an evolutionary advantage. Screening out unpleasant or disturbing facts may, in some circumstances, give some people a better chance of survival. But at the same time this tendency leads us all into one folly after another. Many regard science as the supreme embodiment of human reason, but science may yet confirm what history so strongly suggests – irrationality is hard-wired in the human animal.

Certainly, unreason can be tempered by the hard-won practices of civilization, but civilization will always be a precarious achievement. To believe that human beings can be much improved by rational argument is to assume that they are already reasonable, which is obviously false. The old doctrine of original sin contained a vital truth – there are impulses of irrational destructiveness in every one of us.tn-1970) was a philosopher, logician, and social reformer

This was the conclusion of the economist Maynard Keynes – by any standards one of the most brilliant minds of the last century. In his memoir My Early Beliefs, Keynes described how he renounced the faith in reason he’d had as a young man in Cambridge. Commenting on his friend the logician and social reformer Bertrand Russell, Keynes observed: “Bertie sustained simultaneously a pair of opinions ludicrously incompatible. He held that human affairs are carried on in a most irrational fashion, but that the remedy was quite simple and easy, since all we had to do was carry them on rationally. IMAGES

Today’s believers in reason are caught in the same contradiction. To imagine that we can become much more rational than we have ever been, if only we want to be and try hard enough, is itself thoroughly irrational. It’s an example of magical thinking, an expression of the belief in the omnipotence of human will that psychoanalysts identify as the fundamental infantile fantasy.

There’s something deliciously comic in the spectacle of people railing against unreason being themselves so obviously in the grip of a childish delusion. But we shouldn’t be too hard on our anti-religious evangelists. Evidently they need their simple faith in reason – it seems to be the only thing that keeps them going. That doesn’t mean we have to take them seriously. The notion that human life could ever be ruled by reason is an exercise in make-believe more far-fetched than any of the stories we were told as children. We’d all be better off if we saw ourselves as we are – intermittently and only ever partly-rational creatures, who never really grow up.

A Point of View is broadcast on Fridays on Radio 4 at 20:50 BST and repeated Sundays

An Article for Believer’s on Abortion

An Article for Believer’s on Abortion

A Call for Repentance

The Bible says that God created mankind in his image and no one images God more perfectly than an innocent baby born or unborn.  Jesus said their Angels always behold the face of the Father. In view of this, I must take the position that abortion is an attack on the image of God. The scriptures portrayed God as a God of life who hates death.  Therefore, I find it incredible that people who claim to be believers can believe that it is God’s will to put a new life to death.

It is obvious to a clear-thinking believer that the men and women that commit abortions are ideologically possessed and cannot be justified for any reason other than the life of the mother is clearly threatened by the pregnancy.  In the Christian world view, all life is sacred  and the taking of any life without justification is murder and reflects the spirit of Cain who was a murderer from the beginning.  I hereby define murder as an unjustified killing. Therefore, I must define the majority of abortions as premeditated murder.

Now, God has given the right to categorize all living creatures to man, except for human life which he specifically says was created in His image. To put human life in another category or downgrade it to a lesser form of life is stepping over the line that God has created, which is sin. No man has the authority to do this and that is exactly what men do when they start debating over when life begins and the right and wrong of abortion. Shortly after conception takes place the life of a human being is marked genetically as an individual and in the image of God and therefore it is a grave sin to destroy it.

Moreover, there is absolutely nothing in the Bible to justify the idea that the unborn child is something less or different than a child after its birth.  Before the birth of Jesus, Jesus is referred to as a child and John the Baptist responded when still a fetus to the voice of Mary when still in the womb, demonstrating that even a fetus has consciousness which is the main characteristic of God.

Some among us do not believe that an unborn fetus is a life, but if it’s not a life what is it? Science believes it’s a life and Christians from the beginning have considered it a life.  All the women I have known during their pregnancy talk as though it’s a life so you could say language makes it a life. In most states, if someone murders a pregnant woman, they are indicted for two murders. So, in most states, the law says that the unborn are people that have a right to live. Again, if it is not a life what is it? Just a blob of cells and flesh? If that is what it is, the only difference with an adult and the unborn is the size of the blob of cells, because it has all the same genetic makeup as an adult human being.  The only difference is its age and size.

When a people no longer can discern that abortion is contrary to nature and to the God of nature, there is something deeply wrong. To accept abortion, people must be ideologically possessed and demonically influenced. If God is to judge the world in righteousness and justice, there must be self-evident truths. His existence is self-evident and there are certain sins that are self-evident, otherwise, God could not be just in his judgment. I think it is evident that abortion is one of those truths that is self-evident because it is contrary to nature and to the God of nature. It is one of the things that God has written on the hearts of all men.

This also raises the question of corporate guilt. Do people who support abortion share in the guilt of those directly responsible for preforming abortion? The indication from Scripture is yes.  The apostle Paul says, “Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.  They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.  Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them” (Rom 1:28-32).  “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.  For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:

Wake up, O sleeper,

rise from the dead,

and Christ will shine on you.”

Eph 5:11-14

If you are a believer and are practicing abortion or supporting it in any fashion, I would strongly suggest that you change your mind and repent.

How Are We to Interpret the Bible Literally or Figuratively?

How Are We to Interpret the Bible Literally or Figuratively?

The simple answer to this question is that you should read it the way the author intended it to be understood by the original readers.  This approach should be based on a number of things such as the immediate context, the overall context of the Bible, the historical context and the basic rules of language.  However, one big problem occurs when we read the Bible in a literal fashion, without realizing that we are reading a figure of speech or figurative language.  There are over 200 figures of speech in the Bible[1] and these forms of language should be interpreted accordingly to rules of language and common sense.  Failure to do this could lead to gross errors of interpretation.

In general, “A FIGURE is simply, a word or a sentence thrown into a peculiar form, different from its original or simplest meaning or use.  These forms are constantly used by every speaker and writer.  It is impossible to hold the simplest conversation or to write a few sentences without, it may be unconsciously, making use of figures.  We may say, ‘the ground needs rain’ that is a plain, cold, matter-of-fact statement; but if we say the “ground is thirsty” we immediately use a figure.  It is not true to fact, and therefore it must be a figure.  But how true to feeling it is!  How full of warmth and life!  Hence, we say, “the crops suffer”; we speak of “a hard heart,” “a rough man,” “an iron will.”  In all these cases we take a word which has a certain, definite meaning and applies the name, or the quality, or the act, to something other with which it is associated with, by time or place, cause or effect, relation or resemblance.” [2]

“It may be asked, how are we to know, then, when words are to be taken in their simple, original form ( i.e. literally), and when they are to be taken in some other and peculiar form ( i.e., as a Figure)? The answer is that, whenever and wherever it is possible, the words of Scripture are to be understood literally, but when a statement appears to be contrary to our experience, or to known fact, or revealed truth; or seems to be at variance with the general teaching of the Scriptures, then we may reasonably expect that some figure is employed. And as it is employed only to call our attention to some specially designed emphasis, we are at once bound to diligently examine the figure for the purpose of discovering and learning the truth that is thus emphasized. From non-attention to these Figures, translators have made blunders as serious as they are foolish. Sometimes they have translated the figure literally, totally ignoring its existence; sometimes they have taken it fully into account, and have translated, not according to the letter, but according to the spirit; sometimes they have taken literal words and translated them figuratively. Commentators and interpreters, from inattention to the figures, have been led astray from the real meaning of many important passages of God’s Word; while ignorance of them has been the fruitful parent of error and false doctrine. It may be truly said that most of the gigantic errors of Rome, as well as the erroneous and conflicting to call our attention to some specially designed emphasis, we are at once bound to diligently examine the figure for the purpose of discovering and learning the truth that is thus emphasized”.[3]

One of the most common forms of figurative speech is the metonymy and yet it is misunderstood or ignored by the majority of people.

A metonymy is a figure of speech in which an attribute of a thing or something closely related to it is substituted for the thing itself.  Thus, ‘sweat’ can mean ‘hard labor’, and ‘Capitol Hill’ can represent the U.S. Congress.  Another common use of metonymy is when substitution of the name of an attribute, or adjunct for that of the ‘thing’ meant is employed such as; Suit for a business executive or the Track for horse racing or Washington for the government.

One of the clearest biblical examples is found in the writings of Luke. Luke, both in his gospel and in the book of Acts, uses metonymy in regard to the spirit and the gifts of the spirit. When understood this clears up a number of difficult passages and concepts of Scripture.

In Luke 11:13 Jesus said, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”  If you were to take this passage literally you could gather that the Holy Spirit is given through the media of prayer.  However, there is no example of this in Scripture and it contradicts other passages of Scripture.  This should cause a person to look for a different explanation other than the literal one.  Of course, the interpretation that makes the passage fit the context of the overall Bible is the best and it is metonymy.  Therefore,  in the text, the word spirit is used to denote the good gifts of the spirit and not the Spirit itself.  This interpretation is confirmed by comparing the parallel passage in the Gospel of Matthew 7:11 which reads “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

This example of Luke’s use of metonymy is crucial in the understanding of Luke’s usage of metonymy in regard to the Holy Spirit and its gifts in the book of Acts.  It becomes extremely important in our understanding of Acts 2, 10, 11 and 19 which is a historical record of the birth of the church and the first conversion of the Gentiles into Christ and later on in Acts 19, to our understanding of the re-baptism of the disciples in Ephesus where the gifts of tongues are referred to as the spirit (metonymy).

The foundation of the new creation was created when Jesus gave his Apostles the Holy Spirit, laying the foundation, it was completed when the fellowship was immersed in the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost in Acts 1-2.  The gifts of the Spirit were given as a witness and evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence and confirmation of God’s will and word.  “ God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Heb 2:4). In this passage, the Holy Spirit is metonymy and is used for the gifts of the Spirit.  Note that the plural is used in regard to gifts indicating that the author is not talking about the Spirit but rather the gifts of the Spirit.[4]

All of this is especially important when it comes to the conversion of the Gentiles and the acceptance of the disciples that were rebaptized in Acts 19.  The tongues were a gift of the Spirit to confirm their conversion.  There were actually two confirmations of their conversion, the speaking in tongues and the laying on of the Apostle’s hands which demonstrated the acceptance of the Apostles.  So, we have the witness of the Apostles and the witness of the Spirit.  The Apostles bore witness by laying their hands on the disciples.  The Spirit bore witness by giving these men the gift of tongues.  All this is in keeping with the promise that Jesus made to his disciples that what they bind on earth will be bound in heaven.

What about the meaning of the expression, ‘baptism of the Holy Spirit?’  First of all, we must get rid of the liquid theology that images the Holy Spirit as fluid or liquid.  When the Spirit is imaged as a liquid it is done figuratively to emphasize the activity of the Spirit and it is not to be taken literally.  Similar figures of speech that can be used in regard to God such are metonymy’s or similes, like breath, wind or force, but He is literally not any of those things.  The same is true when we refer to light as a particle or as a wave.  Light is literally not a particle or a wave it simply behaves like them in some fashion.  We literally don’t know what light is.

Secondly, we must understand that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not the same as the indwelling of the Spirit.  We see the baptism of the Holy Spirit taking place in Acts 2; however, Christ gives the Spirit to dwell in his disciples in John 20:21-23  “Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you!  As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”  And with that, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit[5].  If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”  In this, Jesus gives the keys of the kingdom of heaven to the Apostles[6].  Later he promises them that when the Spirit would come into the new creation, they would receive the power of the Spirit.  The Spirit coming on the New Creation in power is the baptism of the Spirit which is a historical event and not a personal experience.  Making it a corporate immersion into the Spirit of God such as in Matthew 3:11 “…He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”  The Baptism of the Spirit is the pouring out of the Spirit on all flesh or people, that is Jews and Gentiles (Acts 2:17).  In this, the new creation is filled with the Holy Spirit and the power of the Spirit.  The word ‘fill’ is a figure and is used to denote the degree of power the Spirit has over the community.  It’s like Paul’s usage when he commands people to be filled with the Spirit[7] as a person is filled with new wine denoting the degree of control that it has over the community.

The expression baptism (immerse) is used as a metonymy to explain the degree of influence that the Holy Spirit would have in the new creation, in contrast to that of the old creation.  In the Old Testament, there were a few archetypal figures that possessed the Holy Spirit, like David and the prophets.  However, in contrast under the new covenant, or in the new creation, everyone would possess the Spirit and be empowered by it.  That is, they would be immersed or overwhelmed by the Spirit as a person is overwhelmed by the water when immersed in water[8].  A similar metonymy is used by the apostle Paul.  In the book of Ephesians when he talks about being filled with the Spirit and compares that experience with being intoxicated or controlled by wine, someone that is drunk with wine could be said to be metaphorically controlled by it, so it is with the person who is filled with God’s spirit  They are overwhelmed and controlled by the Spirit.

A general truth in regard to discerning whether the Scriptures are talking about the indwelling of the Spirit or a gift from the Spirit can be seen in the terminology of the Spirit ‘coming on a person’, or in contrast the Spirit entering or ‘dwelling in a person’.  When the Spirit comes upon someone it takes control of them and uses them.  The expression does not refer to the indwelling of the Spirit.  For example, in the book of Numbers 24:1-3, the Assyrian false prophet Balaam had the Spirit of God come on him.  It is obvious that the writer is not talking about the indwelling of the Spirit but the Spirit coming on him to give him power to fulfill the purpose of God at that particular time.[9]  The Spirit coming on a person has to do with the Spirit giving the gifts and power to fulfilling God’s purpose in one’s ministry.  On the other hand, the idea of the Spirit dwelling in a person is for the purpose of justification and sanctification.  “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Phil 2:12-13, Also note Rom 8:9-17)

[1]Bullinger, E. W. Figures of Speech Used In The Bible (Kindle Location 139). Kindle Edition

[2]Bullinger, E. W. Figures of Speech Used In The Bible (Kindle Locations 181-183). Kindle Edition

[3]Bullinger, E. W. Figures of Speech Used In The Bible (Kindle Locations 181-183). Kindle Edition

[4] Rom.1:11-13 “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong- that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”

[5] This is going back to the creation story of the first man who God breathed his life into. In the disciples, God breaths the life of new creation.

[6] It is atonement and forgiveness of sin that opens the door of the kingdom.

[7] Eph 5:17-18. “Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.  Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.  Instead, be filled with the Spirit”.

[8] When we say that a person is immersed or baptized in his work or hobby, we understand that to figuratively mean that they are engrossed and overcome by it.

[9] Num 24:1-3 “When Balaam looked out and saw Israel encamped tribe by tribe, the Spirit of God came upon him  and he uttered his oracle.”

Believing Science, Believing Theology

Believing Science, Believing Theology

Have you ever wondered why humans view the world, the way they do?  If you have noticed, they have quite a diverse opinion on just about everything.  In many cases even the thing they agree on, if you were to ask them to think a little deeper, they will begin to disagree.  It seems that thinking in itself does not bring about a unity of opinion.

If we honestly trained our minds to separate a fact from our opinion, which is our interpretation of the facts, we could at least agree on the facts.  You could say that facts are like stones that are lying on the ground.  They have no inherent means other than they are stones lying on the ground.  Similarly, the ground that they are lying on also is a fact.  However, when a human comes along and picks up the stones and begins to ask himself questions about them, such as how, when and why, i.e. to give an explanation of the facts, we then have moved away from the facts and have moved into an interpretation of the facts.  The problem with many people is that they cannot discern the difference between what is their opinion or their interpretation of the facts, and what the facts themselves truly are.

The discipline of science is an effort to determine what interpretation of the facts best represents the facts.  Of course, this is conditional on the scientific community agreeing on what the facts are, but sometimes theoretical science cannot accomplish this merely because the facts are unobservable.  Sometimes scientists must first create an instrument to prove the existence of the facts and then they must have a system to guard their interpretation of the facts. The process that they use to do this is called the scientific method

The same principle applies to theology.  Theology is or should be about the business of sorting out what interpretation of God best reflects the facts.[1]  Like science, this is contingent on the community recognizing certain facts and having the tools to find and interpret those facts.  In the case of Christian theology, the fact would have to be the words of the Apostle and what could be inferred about God from nature and person of Jesus Christ.  One problem we have with theology is that things inferred are not necessarily facts, but more resemble an interpretation of the facts. However, this problem is often found in science as well.

The biggest difference between science and theology is the community explanation of what are the facts.  In science, the fact should be physical and be observable.  However, this is not true in many of the so-called sciences.  For example, in much of evolution science or in psychiatry the scientific method is not possible, which in some people’s minds raises the question of whether or not these disciplines are truly a science?  I would say in the most rigid way of thinking that they are not.  Some, to note the differences between the sciences, use the term soft and hard.  Hard sciences are those sciences that have physical facts to observe like physics or biology.  The soft sciences are like psychology and sociology.

In Christian theology, the facts are also physical.  Christians believe that at one time God revealed himself in Christ.  That Christ was physically present and worked miracles to prove his identity.  Like science, there was also a community of men that witnessed His existence and his miracles.  They claimed that they saw, heard and handled this fact from God (1 John 1:1-4).  Now if these witnessed and experienced events were going to be falsified, they would have by the very nature of the evidence, had to have been falsified in the current time frame of their happening.  They were not falsified, although there were attempts to do so.

In science as in religion, the facts are often one step, or many steps removed from the facts and cannot or have not been observed or experienced by most men.  In the community of faith, members believe that some men have observed the facts and therefore have a better knowledge of the facts than others.  This is not only true in the faith community but also in the scientific community.  Members of the scientific community, like the faith community, believe and accept by faith what the scientific community says about the facts, even though they have not seen the facts personally.  Not only do they accept the existence of unobserved facts, but they also accept the scientific community interpretation of these unobserved facts, for they have neither the facts nor the expertise to question them.

However, this process of acquiring knowledge for the faith community is not as different from the scientific community as some scientists would have us to believe.  The other day I was listening to an audiobook about Einstein’s theory of relativity and in the opening statement the authority, who is a Physicist, said that he believes that there were only a few men in the world that truly understood what Einstein was saying.  I have read similar admissions by other men in other disciplines.  I remember one, which pointed out that there were very few men that headed up any discipline that actually looked at the facts.  The rest of the members of the discipline gained their knowledge through the community, texts, and schools.  The majority of men believed not because of the evidence, but because they believed what the community taught them.  In the majority of these cases, the evidence is never checked by the students of the discipline.  In those circumstances, the majority of people’s beliefs are very much like those of religion, i.e. dogma.  When you look at it this way, there are very few men in any discipline that really handle the facts and observed them firsthand.  In essence, you could say that there are very few men that actually do science and the same thing holds true of those that do theology.  In Christian theology, we could say only the Apostles of Jesus actually did theology.

In science, as in theology, there are certain assumptions that must be made to carry out science.  Scientists must believe in the uniformity of nature and the law of cause and effect, otherwise, they could not do science.  They must believe in a pattern that can be found in nature, which can be analyzed and measured.  As Einstein said, “God does not play dice with the universe”.  Of course, it must be noted that some younger scientists believe He does.  Though that view is not the one that is accepted or used by the scientific community.  Mainly because it would destroy the community.

In Christian theology, the assumptions are that there is a God[2] and that God has revealed himself in Jesus Christ.  These assumptions are accepted as facts by the Christian community.  If you do not accept them, you cannot logically do Christian theology.  Of course, you could write about Christian theology as I write about science and I am not a scientist.  This may or may not be a disadvantage.  It is often hard for a fish in a bowl to see itself as others do.  Sometimes being in a discipline is very much like being like a fish in a bowl.  Those outside the bowl may have a clearer view of the fish and the bowl, than the fish that is inside the bowl.

I think this will help to understand why we often think, the way we think.  Our thinking seems to be largely dependent on our habits of thought; and our habits of thought depend to on a large degree, on the community that we belong to, or lack of one.  Now by the community, I mean formal and informal.  Formal communities are groups like a family, religious organizations, professional groups or political parties.  The informal communities are your friends, the books you read, and the places or the field that you work in.  In the broader sense the formal community will often influence the informal ones reading habits and other social habits of the individual.  In most cases, the community does a large amount of thinking for the individual, which is a hard pill to swallow for those that like to think of themselves as free thinkers.  The greatest amount of our freedom of thought comes from our freedom to choose a community that will greatly influence our thinking.

The implications of this are many.  One of the obvious ones is that it is the community that does the educating of the individual that comes into it.  The community imparts its view of the world, which all in the group will believe is the correct view.  Another obvious thing is that the community not only inputs its knowledge into the individual, but it also inputs its biases and its attitude, i.e. its spirit.  It is also obvious that it is very hard to change or correct a belief in a community.  It often takes the death of an entire generation, which allows a free flow of ideas.  So, what we gather from this the community can enlighten, and can also blind the individual. This is true of the scientific community or a community of faith, as noted in Thomas Kuhn’s book, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”.

The Christian faith, unlike any other faith, is much like science because it is based on a physical happening.  That is the coming of the Logos (Christ) into flesh, his life, death, and his resurrection.  All of these things were observed by men.  These men, in turn, wrote down their experience and observation of the Logos in the book we call the New Testament. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.  The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.  We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:1-3).

Note in this scripture that the apostles’ beliefs were grounded in facts.  They claimed to hear, touch and see the man that they preached about. Their beliefs were not based on second-hand information learned from a book, but rather they were based on first-hand experiences.  All of the Apostles of Jesus, but one, were killed for their faith and yet not one of them recanted their belief in Jesus.  This seems to be better evidence than most scientific theories come up with and I have not heard of too many scientists dying for their theories.  Yet today you have people that believe that the Christian community has no right to preach the message of Christ because they did not witness it.  However, if that is the case how does a high school science teacher have a right to teach science which he has not personally observed?  What right would anyone have to teach that humans came from a common ancestor or that a lizard evolved into a bird?  Has anyone ever observed it actually happening?  No, they have not, and they will never observe these things.

The Apostles of Jesus observed Jesus and the miracle of his resurrection.  They also created a community of men that they left their knowledge with.  This community was then told by them to take that knowledge to the world.  Some have tried to explain this away by saying that Jesus never lived.  However, if that is the case how can you explain the existence of a community of thousands built around his death and resurrection, shortly after his death?

Some may respond by saying that religion believes in miracles and science believes in facts.  Before we take a close look at this statement, let us define our terms.  A fact is something that e exists in itself.  It stands by itself and needs no explanation or interpretation.  Let us use our original example of the stones, or rocks on the ground.  Let’s say that I was walking alone and saw some rocks laying on the ground.  The rocks on the ground are a fact and in that statement, the ground would also be a fact.  If you asked me how the rocks got there and I said I saw a truck dump them there, the placement of the rocks would be a fact for me, but not for you.  You see a fact must be a thing that is able to be observed.  Therefore, the placing of the rocks would be a fact for me because I personally witnessed it.  The placing of the rocks would be a theory for you based on my testimony.  Now the strength of the theory would depend on the credibility of the witness.  Now, a theory can never become a fact to you unless you had a time machine to go back in time to the point where the rocks were dumped on the ground.  The best you could do is try to find more witnesses that might confirm the witness’s testimony.  The more witnesses the greater the probability that the witness is telling the truth and that the thing really happened or existed.  You may increase the probability of how the rocks got on the ground, but you can never make a theory, a fact.  Even if you were to take a truck and dump thousands of rocks upon the ground, all you could do is increase the probability of your theory.  So, when you hear someone say that the theory of evolution has become a fact, you know that you are talking to someone that has some fuzzy thinking going on in their head.  You might ask them if they were there when it happened.

I think now we may be ready to talk about science, religion, and miracles.  We all know that religion believes in miracles, but do the facts bear out that science does not believe in them?   Before going there we need to ask, what is a miracle?  To me, a miracle is something that is super-natural i.e. beyond a natural explanation.  If this is true, science should not hold to anything that cannot be explained by natural causes, within the framework of uniformity of nature.  Yet, when we open a freshman science book, we are immediately confronted with the big bang theory of how the universe, time, space and matter, came out of nothing.  We are even told when it happened, some 17 billion years ago.  So, here we have a scientific theory that sounds very much like the first verse of the book of Genesis, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth”.  Now, here’s the kicker, science says their theory is science and Genesis is religion.  One view is scientific and the other is a belief in a miracle.  The miracle of ex nihilo-the creation of something out of nothing.  But how can one viewpoint be a miracle and the same viewpoint science?  Someone might argue that it has been observed that the universe is expanding, which proves the big bang theory and that the universe had a beginning.  But this would raise the question, “If the universe, space and time are expanding what did they initially expand out from if neither space and time existed?  Does the evidence for the big bang prove the miracle of creation?  Does it prove the existence of God?  I do not believe so.  However, it does leave the door open for something to exist outside of time and space, and that something could be God.  It would also leave the door open for that God to come into space and time, and even to alter it.  Otherwise, you have to believe that something came from nothing.

Is not something coming from nothing a miracle?  I would say it is one of the greatest miracles ever recorded.  If you can believe in something coming from nothing, then believing in the miracle of Jesus turning water into wine is nothing, for we see nature turning water into wine every day, Jesus just sped up the process.  However, something out of nothing? That’s a big one.

[1]  Some may say that Theology has no facts. But they have the facts of existence and consciousness.

[2] To some degree all of our assumptions are based on the primal assumption that we exist. Both the scientist and the theologian assume that they exist and begin with that as a fact.