The Problem With Existence

The Problem With Existence

Rene Descartes, for many or at least for himself, solved the problem of existence with the well-known statement “I think therefore, I am”.  But, did he answer the problem  of existence?  Actually, he didn’t because he never explained existence.  Yes, I know that I exist but the knowledge that I exist does not in itself explain existence, it assumes existence.  For many, they assume existence as a materialistic biological presence that we experience with our senses.

The problem with existence is that its comprehension is beyond the ability of human knowledge.  You cannot put existence under a microscope, nor can you apply the scientific method to it.  Therefore, it must remain in the realm of the subjective mind.  For all we know we may live in a matrix that was created by a superior intelligence, i.e. a computer program, or we could be a projection of a deity’s mind.  Maybe existence is simply an illusion of a brain in a vat or a mass of information that fell together in some mystical way.  For many, all of the above could be true except for the ones that use the word deity.  For they are allergic to the idea of God and believe that existence can only be made up of dirt (materialist).

When studying existence we run headlong into huge gaps in human knowledge. Gaps that most likely will never be filled[1].  This demonstrates the fallacy of the so-called ‘God of the gap’s’ argument.  The gaps in human knowledge are so vast that science will never be able to fill them with anything but speculation and vague theories.  Therefore, it does not really matter what you fill them with unless you’re an atheist who has had your imagination cut out by years of secular brainwashing, a lobotomy that has made atheists into monist who believes that reality can only be made up of one thing.  This has resulted in them being some of the most closed-minded people in the world. On the other hand, the duelist can believe in a multitude of realities and worlds. He can believe in the world of matter or in the world of spirit. He can believe in worlds beyond the worlds, which for now, are unable to be imagined by the human mind.  If the duelist at the present time cannot prove the existence of these worlds, it may simply be because he does not have the proper instruments to prove it.  Before the telescope and the microscope humans did know about the very small or the very huge in our universe.  Of course, all that happened before some began to believe that they knew everything.

The Christian faith holds out the possibility of many worlds. Christians believe that God  formed the creation which is made up of the seen and unseen. This opens the possibilities of many forms of existence and many worlds. Some scientists have come close to this when they postulated a  hypothesis known as the string theory, which basically says that there are 11 dimensions in the universe. However, as it stands right now there is no physical evidence for this theory; at best, there are some mathematical equations that seem to support it. The most that can be said about it, is that it is an interesting theory.

When it comes to existence, my conclusion is that we have two choices. We can in embrace the mystery of the universe in faith that there is more than we can see with our present tools and that existence will always remain a mystery to some degree, or we can embrace the monist view of materialism believing that everything is simply dirt (material as we understand it today). Before choosing one, we ought to be careful and think through the consequences, because your choice will greatly impact your existence. In many ways, it could be the biggest decision of your existence.

[1] Some true believers, believe in infinite progress and believe that humanity will find the theory of everything. My reply to them is not in this world. To believe that a finite being can have infinite knowledge is an allusion created not by science but by the religion of science-ism and a blind faith in the doctrine of continuous progress.

Reason, Faith and Certitude

Reason, Faith and Certitude

“From about half-past ten in the evening until about half-past twelve … FIRE … God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, and not of the philosophers and savants. Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace.”[i] Blaise Pascal

Reason will never take you to the certitude of God.  If it’s pure, which it never is, it regularly leads to doubting.  On the other hand, love will always lead to trust (faith) and acting on faith will lead to certitude.  However, in the end certitude is a gift of God, given to those who love Him and have true faith in the Christ.  The apostle John says, “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son” ( 1 John 5:10).  In chapter  two of his letter John refers to this inner witness as an anointing of truth.

Moreover, Jesus also speaks about faith as a revelation from the Father.  When he asked his disciples who they believed he was, in Matthews gospel, the conversation reads like this; “Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:16-17).  This inner witness that Jesus speaks about is the revelation in the believer’s heart through the spirit of God, which gives them certitude that Jesus is the Christ.  It is this revelation in the believers heart that is the rock on which Christ would build his church[ii].  This measure of faith cannot be accessed by reason alone or any human effort.  It is a gift of God given to all true believers.  It is being born from above.  It is given to all who truly put their faith in the Christ and love God.  It is for the pure in heart

This inner witness, that Jesus is the Christ, is not the same as the promise which Jesus made to his apostles that they will be led into all truth (John 14:16).  The all truth promise was made to his apostles who form the foundation of the new temple of God (Eph 2:19-22).  The early church looked to the apostles as the ultimate authority in matters of the faith and except for a few Gnostics heretics, never claim, “the all truth promise”.. It is obvious, that if every Christian had received “the all truth promise” there would have been total unity and no division in the church from the beginning, to which we know there is, and therefore was not the case.  Plus there would have been no need for the first-century church to ask the apostles questions about the faith, as we see early Christians do in the New Testament.  Many of the writings in the New Testament are made up of the apostles answering questions that were sent to them by individuals and churches.

From the above we gather that when John said, “all of you know the truth”, he was taking about the fact that believers had received through the gospel the revelation that Jesus was the Christ. (1John 2:20-21).  There is no reason to separate this faith experience from the acceptance of the gospel and hearing the word of God preached, for that Word or Gospel is the bearer of the Spirit. This simply means that if a person hears the good news preached and believes it, the Holy Spirit will confirm their faith in their heart that Jesus is the Christ resulting in a certitude giv

[i]  Pascal’s conversion experience was recorded on a small piece of paper and sewed into the inner lining of his coat and was found after his death. It read, “The year of grace 1654. Monday, 23 November, feast of Saint Clement. . . From about half-past ten in the evening until about half-past midnight. Fire. The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. Not of the philosophers and intellectuals. Certitude, certitude, feeling, joy, peace. The God of Jesus Christ. My God and your God. Forgetfulness of the world and everything except God. One finds oneself only by way of the directions taught in the gospel. The grandeur of the human soul. Oh just Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you. Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy. I have separated myself from him. They have abandoned me, the fountain of living water. My God, will you leave me? May I not be separated from him eternally. This is eternal life, that they may know you the one true God and J.C. whom you have sent. Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ. I have separated myself from him. I have run away from him, renounced him, crucified him. May I never be separated from him. One preserves oneself only by way of the lessons taught in the gospel. Renunciation total and sweet. And so forth.” (pp. 95-96

[ii] it is incorrect to assume that the rock was Peter or Peters faith. The rock is the revelation that Jesus is the Christ given to believers by the Holy Spirit.

The Death of Religion

The Death of Religion[1]

The Christ event, the death and resurrection of Christ, symbolizes many things like the end of the old order and the beginning of the new  “It represented a new way of approaching God and a new and better covenant. However, many fail to see that the first part the equation, the death of Christ marked the end of religion as a way to approach God.  So, we could say that when Christ died, all religion died with him, along with all of its idols.”  In view of this statement, I thought it good to give the readers a working definition of what we mean by religion.

The most common idea that comes to mind when we hear the word religion is one of ceremonial and other worldliness.  However, when we look deeper we begin to see a sense of religion in just about everything we humans say and do.  We see it in our devotion and ceremonialism in regards to our professionalism and nationalism.  Robert D. Brinsnead goes so far as to say, “To be a person is to be religious, because a person is by nature homo religious.”  One man said, “that a man’s religion is his ultimate concern” and we all have an ultimate concern.

We can also understand the word religion in a narrow sense to mean an institution that forms the foundation of a society and gives it the moral fabric that holds it together[2].  Religion as an institution can be created by humans as in the case of the world’s great religions like Buddhism,  Islam, and modern Christianity, or it can be a divinely created religion like ancient Judaism or primitive Christianity.  It can be organized like the great religions around the world, or unorganized like American civil religion or New-Age religion.  It may even take the form of non-religion like atheistic communism, which itself has become a religion.  It is religion in the form of institution that we will be discussing in this article.

From the above we can gather that we can never be completely free from religion in its broadest sense and probably not in any sense of the word.  However, we can strive to be free of bad religion in every sense of the word.  We might say that anything we do or say that does not lead to life is bad religion.

If you didn’t notice, let me draw your attention to the fact that in talking about religion I did not classify primitive Christianity as a religion.  I did this for the simple reason that it is not a religion but rather a way of life.  Jesus Christ never founded an organized religion nor did he intend his followers to fabricate one.  In fact, Jesus’ intent was to destroy religion as a mediator between God and man.  Therefore, primitive Christianity in the first century, like its Lord, stood against all institutionalized religion.  It called upon all men everywhere to cease building the institutions of religion, which is a call for man to stop making idols and to start having a living relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  The command of God in the gospel is that all men must come out of religion into his Son (II Cor 6:14-18).  This calling out of religion includes modern Christianity, which is a total subversion of primitive Christianity.

In order to understand the degree of this subversion, we must further understand the contrast between modern Christianity and primitive Christianity, the latter we will refer to from now on as the Faith.  We will see from this contrast that the Faith was subversive to all religion and that modem Christianity is nothing more than a total perversion of the true Faith, which we will see has very little in common with religion in any of its form or institutions.

As we begin to observe organized religion, you will begin to see a common thread that runs through all religion.  That thread is that religion is the mediator between man and his absolute.  In some cases, this absolute is God, in others it is an idol.  An idol is anything made by man and exalted by man as his absolute.  This would include ideologies and theological belief systems that have been created to serve him in his understanding of God and reality.  Given time these systems usually are exalted to be absolutes.  When this happens they become idols and men soon found that these systems of belief that were intended to serve and liberate them, have in fact enslaved them[3].  The religious traditions and institutions that he has made to serve him by giving structure and form have become his master.  A modem example of this enslavement to an ideology is Marxism.  First, you have the ideology that was meant to enrich mankind.  Then you have the subversion of it by the followers of the founder.  Then you have the institution that enslaves while claiming to be the perfection of the ideas of its founder.

This subversion and movement away from the founders intentions can be seen equally well in the Christian movement.  The Christian church in its institutional form has watered down and has even subverted the teachings of its Lord to make them and itself acceptable to the masses.  This perversion is often done under the cloak of evangelism and the love of souls.  However, the truth about of the matter is that the institutionalized church loves numbers because it loves power and the status of the numbers.

Subsequently, in order to protect and propagate itself, the institution must also exalt itself to a place of being the sole mediator between its members and their absolute.  It usually also claims the right to invest the authority of mediation on certain sacred people, places, codes, and times.  Thus we have the creation of the distinction between the sacred and the profane.  As long as the institution has control over the sacred, it has a tremendous power over its followers.  It is in this area of distinction between the sacred and the profane that primitive Christianity became hostile to all religion.  For it proclaimed that in the resurrection of Christ, that God had declared all things clean or sacred, for He is the Lord of all things and all people.  In this act of raising his Son, he forever abolished the distinction between the sacred and profane.  Therefore, this act of God is also the abolition of all religion, which raises the question; can one believe in the resurrected Christ and religion at the same time?

We have already made the statement that religion mediates though the channels of sacred people (priests or clergymen), sacred places (temples, shrines, etc.), sacred laws (creeds, theological systems, laws, etc.) sacred times (Sabbath day, Sunday, etc.).  However, when we look at primitive Christianity we see an amazing absence of these sacred mediators.  Instead, we find that there is only one mediator between God and man, and that one mediator is not a religion nor any of its forms of mediation, but rather a man.  “There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men.  The testimony given in its proper time” (1 Tim 2:5,6).  If we build on this teaching of the apostle Paul, we must conclude that when Jesus Christ appeared, all religion ceased to mediate the presence of God.  In other words, when Jesus came to life, all institutionalized religion was put to death along with all its forms of mediation.  At least in the mind of God.

It was religion and its laws that judged Jesus to be the accursed one, but God reversed that judgment by raising him from the dead and declaring him to be the just one.  In justifying Jesus in this mighty act of raising him from the dead, God condemned to death all religion, placing it in the old order of things that was done away with through Christ (John 19:7,  Col. 2:13-17).  He also shows in this act that the real intent and purpose of the Law (religion) was to point people toward Christ and to bring them to faith in the perfect revelation of God which is Jesus Christ (John 1:17, Gal 3:23-25).  In restoring Law [religion] to its proper place and fulfilling it by his very presence, Jesus dismantled one of the main forms of mediation of religion.  In religion law rules as the absolute.  In the Faith it is the living Christ that rules and we could go so far as to say that his standard of rule is not a written code but rather the well-being of man (Mark 2:27).  When God raised Jesus from the dead and enthroned him at his right hand, He dethroned all religion.  The living Christ has replaced all religion (a system of law or theology).  To be involved in making new laws, religions, or systems of theology, is to stand opposed to the living Christ.

Moreover, where institutionalized religion rules there must also be a sacred group of people to teach and enforce the law, for the profane or common people as defined by religion, have no right to handle the sacred law.  Thus we have the need for the professional clergy that is set apart for the sacred.  However, when we look at primitive Christianity we find no evidence of a professional clergy that was set apart from other members of the community of Faith.  In fact, we find evidence that would contradict and even condemn any professionalization or sacralization of any group in the Christian movement.  The message we find in the New Testament is that in Jesus Christ all men are equal and have equal access to God through the one mediator, Jesus Christ.  Therefore, the apostle Peter could refer to all believers as priests of God (I Peter 2:9).

In the act of making all believers priests, God has forever done away with a separate or professional priesthood or clergy system.  In his book entitled “The Church” the Catholic theologian Hans Kung says, “all human priesthood has been fulfilled and finished by the unequal final, unrepeatable and hence unlimited sacrifice of the one continuing eternal high priest.  The perfect self-offering sacrifice replaces all cultic sacrifices offered by men; the perfect priest replaces all human priests” (page 469).  In commenting on 1 Peter 2:4, Kung says, “the word ‘priest’ ” occurs again here, not used in the sense of an official priesthood, and not in reference to the one high priest Christ, but applied through him and in him to all believers.  The WHOLE people, filled by the Spirit of Christ, becomes a priesthood set apart; all Christians are “priests”[4] (page 475). In making all Christians priests, God has made them equal and has forever destroyed the religious concept of mediation through sacred groups of men or women.  In this we again see a marked distinction between religion that promotes a sacred group of men and primitive Christianity that makes all men equal before God.

Religion tells us the temple or Holy Place is the place where man will find and worship God.  In religion the temple or shrine is the symbol of the presence of God.  However, when we turn to the New Testament, we find the very opposite message.  In fact, the first Christian martyr, Stephen, was killed for telling religious people that God does not dwell in earthly dwellings made by man (Acts 7:48).  The apostle Paul proclaimed the same message when he visited Athens.  “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples (church buildings) built by hands” (Acts 17:24).

In His polemics with the Pharisees, Jesus contrasted the physical temple in Jerusalem with his own body. In this, he was claiming to be the new temple of God.  No longer would men find God in earthly temples made out of brick and mortar, but now they would find him in a person.  As God dwelled in the physical body of Jesus, He now dwells in the spiritual body of Jesus, which is made up of all that believe in Jesus as their Lord (II Cor 6:16).  This group of people is referred to in scripture as the church.  In the Bible the word church is used to denote a people, never a building.  This is why the apostle Paul could refer to the church as the new temple of God in the new order.  From this it becomes obvious that the only place that God dwells in all of creation, is in the only thing that was created in his image, that is man.  God dwells in our brother and only in our brother.  Therefore mankind and only mankind is sacred.  What we do to our fellow man therefore, we are actually doing to God.  This is why Christians put such a high importance on human life.  This is why we must go to the aid of our brother; for helping our brother is helping God (Matt 25:26).  We that are brothers in Christ should remember this teaching when we begin to tear each other apart in the name of truth.  What truth is more important than our brother?

We also see in religion an emphasis on sacred times.  Both in Judaism and paganism we find a distinct separation between the sacred and the profane in regards to time.  In paganism, the times vary greatly. In Judaism, we find the Sabbath day or the seventh day set apart with a number of additional feast days as the sacred times for the Jewish people.  However, when we turn to the New Testament, we find the distinction between times abolished in Christ.  In the new order in Christ, all time becomes sacred because it all belongs to Christ.  For he is the creator and Lord of all time (Col 1:15-18).

The apostle Paul in writing to Gentile Christians that had been converted out of paganism, exhorted them not to go back to religion by observing special times and days.  “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not Gods.  But now that you know God or rather are known by God how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles?  Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?  You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!  I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you” (Gal 4:8-11).  He goes on to say, “therefore, do not let anyone judge you by what you eat, drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a new moon celebration or a Sabbath day.  These are a shadow of the things to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” (Col 2:16-17)  Some have misunderstood this passage thinking that Paul was saying that the reality behind the Sabbath was Sunday.  However when we look at the passage in its context we quickly see that the reality behind the Sabbath was not just another or different sacred day, but rather the person of Christ himself.  It is Christ that is the final and perfect rest for the people of God. (Heb 3:7-11).

By Through Christ, God has made all times sacred by entering into ALL of time in the person of His son Jesus.  In everything that Jesus did, he did it to the glory of God.  Therefore, everything he did was worship to the Father.  In this, Jesus demonstrated that God is present in all times and activities.  For in Jesus (God with us), God has entered into the very times and activities where Christ was involved.  In this God was telling us that the everyday and ordinary has become sacred.  Therefore, Christians no longer worship God at a particular time or place, for they worship him at all times in everything they do (Col 3:17).  This also means that our work, play and even our rest is worship to the Father, for we see Jesus involved in all of these things making them acceptable to the Father.  Christians do not come together to worship God in the traditional sense but rather to encourage and to exhort one another unto good works, which is worship in its true sense (Heb 10:24-25).  The good works that we do outside of our meetings are the highest form of worship for the spiritually mature.  Putting the emphasis on coming together to worship God in a sacred place at a sacred time is a digression back to religion and a movement away from God.  Note Herman Ridderbos, “Paul: An Outline of His Theology” (Page 481).

The modern church’s emphasis on corporate worship with its ritual, form, and structure is a move back to religion and an effort to take God out of the everyday or ordinary and place him back into the sacred.  Great attention is given to create the atmosphere that will give the worshiper the sense of the presence of God.  This sends the message that God is somehow more present in this religious atmosphere than in the nonreligious everyday.  It matters little whether the religious atmosphere is created by icons, ritual, esthetics or emotionalism; it all represents a return to religion.  When religion does this, it presents God as the totally other, that is, totally removed from the everyday, a God that must be approached through sacred people and sacred places.  However, in the New Testament we see a very human God that draws close to man in the everyday.  A God who has come among his people in the form of a man.  A God to whom all have equal access.  A God that is near and can be called on in any place and at any time.  A God that has hallowed the everyday with his presence.

Moreover, religion makes worship something you do in a sacred place and is directed toward God.  In contrast, when we look at the Faith, we find that worship is something you do in the everyday and is directed toward God through your fellow man.  “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (Heb 13:16)  “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27)  From this we can gather that true religion and true worship is something that is done in the everyday and has very little, if anything, to do with what the modern church calls worship.  True worship is loving your brother and sharing the message of God’s love with your neighbor.

From all this, we can conclude that religion, instead of bringing or drawing us closer to God, actually distances us from God.  But if this is the case, how do we explain this phenomenon?  How could a faith that started out as a simple way of life turn into a religion?  How could God be taken out of the ordinary and placed back into the sacred? The answer is that the Christian faith was subverted by religion and human wisdom.  The tracing of the evolution of this subversion is beyond the scope of this article.  However, for those who would like a complete treatment of this subversion, I recommend “The Distancing of God” by Bernard J. Cooke and “The Subversion of Christianity” by Jacques Ellule.  These two books will forever change the way you look upon the Christian religion.

[1] This article may help some to see that religion and faith in God are not the same. A person can question religion without questing the existence of God. In like manner, a person can believe in Jesus Christ and yet reject many aspects of the Christian religion.

[2]  Some of the new atheist type have postulated that religion has nothing to do with shaping the morality of a culture. This position is so ridiculous that it’s not worth commenting on.

[3] These idols can consist of ideologies, pseudo-religions like scientism and political ideologies like nationalism, etc.

[4] Hans Kung

Understanding the New Atheists

Understanding the New Atheists

For the last few years I have been trying my best to understand the new atheist movement and all of its ranting and raving against God and religion. Then it dawned on me,  that I could not understand them because we were not talking about the same things. The god and religion that they are ranting against is not the God I believe in or the religion I practice.

The majority of them talk about a god that I believed in at one time and a religion I was a part of when I was a young man. However, I no longer believe in that god nor do I practice  that religion. It took a number of years on my journey to find The Wholly Other; or should I say for him to find me and to lead me out of the forest of religious idols I was lost and hiding in.

Looking back on my journey it is hard to understand why it took so long to be found by the Lord seeing that  “We live and move and have are being in him”[1], though he, himself has no being, for He is being[2], i.e. He does not have existence rather he is existence[3]. Therefore, there really is no way to argue for his existence for he does not exist in the way we think of existence. So, what are we arguing for, or against?[4] I will get back to this later.

I found that not only do the new atheists have a different vision of The Totally Other, they (at least the majority) had a different vision of religion, which is as narrow as their vision of the God symbol. They seem to believe that all religion is the same, which in their minds means that all religion is bad. Of course, it does not take much thought to realize that the word religion is a word that points to a concept which is as deep and broad as the ocean. Therefore, when the new atheists start bashing all religion and lumping it all together it makes me wonder how much real thought they have put into their subject. I have found some so allergic to the word religion that they cannot even admit that religion can be good or bad. This strongly points to the level of maturity of so many in that movement. They take a thumb full of the ocean and believe that they have captured the ocean. I am not saying this in malice but I believe that many these people have some deep problems.

You may have noticed that  I have tried to avoid using the word God, the reason being that the word has been so vulgarized and distorted that it has lost any value in helping us to understand the mystery that I refer to as The Wholly Other. The distortion of the God symbol is one of the real problems with religion.

Religion should help us in our journey to The Totally Other. However, instead of helping it often hinders by giving us false ideas of God, these false images in ancient times were called idols. The problem with idols is that there is no image or thing in reality or in the mind of humanity that can picture The Totally Other. All images of God created by humanity whether in mind or in stone, are idols because they are too small and distort the symbol we use for The Totally Other, i.e. God. The false ideas of God in turn solicits a false responds e.g. the new atheists.

This means that the atheist that has a pure heart may be closer to having a correct view of God than many believers. That is, if he has no image of God in his mind[5]. You see nothing is better than the something if the something is wrong. This is why I call the something that you cannot image or speak about, The Wholly Other, The Uncreated One, I Am or maybe Nothingness? I do it to keep people from creating a false image of God that is too small.

Of course, the problem is that for both believer and atheist, religion stands as a mediator between them and The Wholly Other. You see, for the atheist to argue against God he must have an image of that God in his mind. Whatever image he has in his mind is simply an idol. This is the only reason why they can form an argument against it for no argument can be formed against the Wholly Other for he lies beyond all argument. The majority of men will never get beyond the idols of this world whether they claim to be atheist or theist, i.e. their God is too small. I often wonder how humans could become so corrupt that the scripture would tell us that every imagination of their heart was corrupt, I now know; their God was too small, they were idolaters.

The theist often creates a God in their own image and then projects that image into heaven. The atheist then comes along and says that is not God and they are right. It is an idol that can be manipulated and controlled by man. It is the god of the religious man and the atheist. A god that  is created for the opium of the people; or as a tool to control the herd. On the other hand, the deist created an aloof impersonal God that is somewhere out there beyond everything, located in some distant heaven, too aloof to be involved with his creation. Of course, any god that can be herded into some small corner of space and time is just too small to be the Totally Other. It also is an idol[6].

The high theists of the world know The Wholly Other, since they know, that they know little or nothing of being much less than non-being. They confess that they are quite ignorant of the Total Other. They understand, as Isaiah the prophet also understood; “His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.” To them the word God is a symbol which stands for the limits of their knowledge. This knowledge calls for humility and they are careful not to over speak on the subject of the deity. As one old seer said, those that don’t know speak and those that know do not speak.

You may ask, “Are you saying we can know nothing of non-being?”  No, I am saying that you can only know what He has revealed to you. How does He reveal Himself? One way is through nature and the study of it, that is science. The study of nature has reviewed how great and powerful the Wholly Other is and how different he is from humanity. This knowledge should create awe and wonder in ones spirit, which is true spiritual worship. Unfortunately, many that study nature end up worshipping nature, failing to see that she is an arrow pointing to that which is beyond her. As the seer says when the prophet points at the moon the majority look at his thumb. For many science and religion has become the study of the thumb.

Some may say that this Wholly Other dwells in a cloud of darkness and mystery. Why does he hide Himself? Why does He not reveal Himself? Well, I do not think He is the problem, I think the trouble lays elsewhere. Could it be that He is so awesome and so glorious that in our present form we cannot approach Him without melting into nothingness. This unapproachableness is pointed out in the bible when God tells Moses, “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20)

There is the real possibility that the darkness that hides the Wholly Other is the darkness that is in the human heart. Jesus said, blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God”. Now by pure in heart I do not think Jesus is talking about not having impure thoughts e.g. lust, greed, etc. but rather having the right focus of one’s own being. He refers to this as the single eye. “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matt 6:22-23).This may be why children find it easy to see God until their parents or their culture (which includes religion) fill their eyes with darkness and forces them to see the world through dark colored glasses. It is no wonder Jesus said “unless you convert and become like little children you will in no way, enter the kingdom of God.” So, let’s stop blaming God and the devil for our bad eyes and poor sight.  For that matter let’s stop blaming our parents and culture and accept responsibility for the condition of our own heart. Our hearts are filled with darkness because we have made God too small and are about the business of building idols.

Then, there is the Bible. What is the Bible? The Bible is a collection of writings from men who were searching for the Totally Other. It is the history of their journey and their interaction with the Uncreated One. It records their successes and their failures. It shows them as groping, sometimes searching as a lost children would search for their parent and slowly, in due course growing into adolescence. The Bible also reminds us that the story is not over and that adulthood is still away off.

What about the contradictions and mistakes in it? Would you not expect to find a few anomalies and problems in any writings trying to explain the Total Other? It is a book of symbols that point to something that is on the border of human knowledge, known yet unknown. The Bible itself is a symbol which claimed to be both human and divine. The divine part is perfect in doing what it was created for, which is the building of souls as they journeyed towards the Totally Other.

However, there is a consistent theme and a trend that run though the whole of Scriptures, which connects all of its parts, though sometimes overshadowed, it is always there. It is the central symbol of Scriptures and God’s people throughout the ages. We could summarize that one central symbol with the word ‘someone’. Someone is coming, someone is here and someone is coming again.

The someone of Scripture is the Promised One, the Anointed one, the Messiah or Christ. The one who would save the people from their enemies. Their greatest enemies being sin and death. The Scriptures gave clues to help people recognize this someone. It said that he would be extraordinary and different from other men. His words would be different and his life would be different, he would be Other like the One who sent him.

One man has said that it takes extraordinary evidence to prove an extraordinary claim.[7] The scriptures say that the someone in himself is the extraordinary evidence that the Total Other has given to man. This someone is the final and perfect symbol that points to the Total Other. He spoke like no other man and lived like no other man. When he spoke things happened, people were healed, water was changed into wine, storms were stilled and the dead were raised. No man has ever had so many people believe in him and at the same time has had so many hate him and despise his teachings. He truly is the extraordinary man, the someone sent from the Totally Other. This totally other man is still calling people “To come follow me”.

[1] Acts 17:28

[2] When I say He has no being it might be better to say he is super being. We live and move and have our being in Him, but we are not Him.

[3] Existence is beyond our comprehension though we apprehended it through our own existence and the existence of things around us.

[4] When humans argue for or against the idea of God they are arguing for or against a human construct that at best can only point to the One that stands behind it. Therefore we spend a great deal of time arguing about the idea of God. Now it is true that some ideas of God surely are better pointers than others but all fall short of the reality. This is true in science as well, for there is no theory of reality that is reality. The map is not the territory.

[5] It is unlikely that most atheists have no image of God in their minds, because if so, they would have nothing to argue against.

[6] The true God is super personality and has a knowledge of everything going on in creation. Therefore, he is more like the God that Jesus’ images than the God of the Deist. Jesus says, “that he knows every hair of our heads.” His  nature is reflected by Jesus referring to him as “Father.”

[7] Unfortunately, Carl Sagan did not define what extraordinary evidence would look like. For some skeptics, there would never be any evidence of any kind or  enough to prove the existence of God.

 

The Making of an Fundamentalist Atheist

The Making of a Fundamentalist Atheist

Mark Twain once said ” there are reasons, good reasons and the real reason.” What is the real reason for your faith or lack of it?

I have noticed lately, that there seems to be an increase in the number of atheists I run across.  Most of whom are white educated males.  To be honest, for the life of me, I cannot understand why anyone would want to be an atheist. In fact, I’m always asking them the why question.  In reply, I usually get something along these lines; it is the reasonable position. In reply, I generally respond with another why question. Their answer is often; science has proven it.  My reply is how?   I seldom get any answer, and if I do it is usually an appeal to a pseudoscience. The truth is that there are no scientific arguments against the existence of God.  Science does not make arguments against Gods existence. The question of Gods existence is outside of the realm of scientific inquiry.[1]

I had a few atheists tell me that scientists don’t believe in God, therefore this is proof  it’s  not reasonable to believe in God. This statement is absolutely false.  Einstein is one of the foremost scientists of the last century, and he was a believer in a deity[2], though he did not seem to like organized religion. Still another great modern scientist who is a believer is Francis Collins lead scientist for the human Genome project. The truth is that as far as the hard sciences go, it is about a 50-50 split.[3]  Even if 95% of scientists did not believe in God it would not prove that God did not exist. 95% of scientists believed the sun rotated around the earth before Galileo, they were wrong. In fact, they were the ones that convinced church leaders to censor Galileo. At one time 95% of scientists believed that the empty space in the universe was filled with a substance they called ether, they were wrong. We should be cautious about counting the noses of scientist in determining the truth.

Still other atheists have said they’re “just trying to follow the truth.” Of course, following the truth is a noble undertaking if there is such a thing as truth. However, without a cosmic order can there be any real truth?[4]  If our thoughts and actions are nothing more than the interplay of atoms in our brain, how can there be any truth in the traditional sense? The best that one could hope for is a pragmatic utilitarian view of truth, i.e. whatever works. If this is the case, belief is superior to unbelief because people of faith are happier than unbelievers. Note the book “The Happiness Hypothesis” by Jonathan Haidt.

When everything is said, thought-through atheism is simply a negative faith that cannot be proven.  It is based on suppositions that cannot be proven or disproved.  Atheism can only raise questions about the existence of God, but it can never prove its negative position. When you look at its evidence for its suppositions, they just do not exist.

In view of this, I decide that there must be some other reasons besides ‘reason’ for people embracing this negative faith, so I began to look for an answer.  The following is what I came up with.  Some of my answers border on science and some on psychology. I freely admit that I am biased for faith in a deity. One reason being I believe faith is healthier for the individual and sociality as a whole. I have given evidence to this in previous writings.

Some may feel that it is not ethical to analyze someone’s beliefs, looking for a psychological basis for them.  However, atheists have been doing this for hundreds of years declaring that the believer’s faith came from an emotional need to have a father figure, which believer’s then projected into heaven to watch over them. Note that in Fauerbach’s, “The Essence of Christianity” it is actually when atheists analyze people’s faith in God, that they are simply attempting to look at faith scientifically. They are analyzing it by using the law of cause and effect. I have no problem with that, as long as they apply the same principles to their non-belief, which they seldom do. Of course, this lack of self-examination is an indication that their faith is  based more on dogma than reason.

Before looking at what I believe causes people to become atheists. I would like to say that in many ways I do respect the negative faith of many atheists.  Many atheists have more convictions in their world view than many believers have in theirs, and many unbelievers are men of integrity and excellent moral character.  I have a number of friends who are atheists and find them to be good friends. Of course, all this does not prove that atheism is true

What is the root of Atheism?  I do not have all the answers to this question but there is one thing I know atheists are made and not born.[5]  Children by their very nature are mystical and multi-dimensional.  So, what causes people to lose their sense of wonder and of the spiritual?  What causes men to suppress their spiritual nature?

The Christian Factor

One of the main roots of unbelief is Christianity itself, for it teaches that God is a good God.  This is fine for adults; however, as some children grow up, they begin to see that the world is filled with suffering and evil. This causes confusion in the child’s mind which cannot be reconciled with the ideal of a good God and a world fill with suffering and evil. For the immature mind the only way to reconcile the apparent contradiction is by renouncing reality or to deny God. The majority of people do a little of both however, there are some children who choose to deny God.   Of course, the problem of evil and suffering are subjects that much ink has been spent on by theologians and philosophers with less than satisfactory answers.

The best answer that I’ve found is that suffering in itself is not evil but rather it’s a part of a perfect environment to serve God’s purpose of building, growing up and maturing people.  Suffering in the form of pain serves to warn us when our body is in danger of being permanently hurt or injured. It also warns us that things may be out of order or out of balance biologically and even socially. Therefore, it gives us the opportunity to change and grow.  If you think of suffering in this light, it’s hard to look upon all suffering as evil.  It only becomes evil when you add the human will to the equation. When a human inflicts suffering and pain on another human unnecessarily, it then can become evil.  Even if one continues to look upon suffering as evil this view in itself is not evidence that God does not exist.  It would simply imply that God is not all good and that the God of the Bible is not the true God.

The Environment Factor

 Family environment can also contribute to the loss of faith.  If one is brought up in a home of unbelief or in one of little spirituality, where sacred things are seldom spoken about or totally disregarded, your chances of being an unbeliever are higher than if you were raised in a spiritual atmosphere.  If your early experience of religion is negative for instance, having parents who are religious, but hypocritical, may have a negative impact on you or having a clergyman whom you didn’t like may also contribute to unbelief.  There is some strong evidence that an overbearing father or an abusive father may have a cynical impact on people’s faith.  This seems to be especially true for males. The hostile and negative feelings they have for their father are transferred to their heavenly father.  It’s interesting to note that the apostle Paul tells fathers not to provoke their children to wrath. Could it be that an over bearing father could be the source of much unbelief ? In science this is called psychological transfer.

Many others may lose their faith when they attend a college and fall prey to an atheist professor and a hedonistic environment. Young people are impressionable, and a highly educated professor can surely put doubts in their youthful minds.  However, if they do lose their faith, it will most likely not be the reasoning power or the knowledge of the professor but rather the indoctrination of the environment created by the materialistic university atmosphere. Being spiritual is not cool on most college campuses.  Intellectual ability seems to have little to do with people’s faith position.  Emotions and environment are the biggest players in whether or not one has faith.  After they make a choice of belief’s, then reason is used and intellectual information is compiled to support and justify a position, which is accepted by faith, whether negative or positive.

The worst college environment for making atheists is a religious school where the professors and the majority of student body live like the devil, but teach morality and religion. This kind of environment creates an emotional doubt which is deadlier to faith than intellectual doubt.  It was in this kind of environment where I began to question my childhood faith. However, in my case, I did not lose my faith in God, but in the institution which claimed to represent Him.  I am thankful for a good friend who pointed out to me the difference between faith in the Great Spirit and human religion. As faith is often misplace, so it is with doubt. When religion does evil, it should raise doubt in the religion not God.

The problem that often surfaces during the college years is one of wrong presuppositions. Young people growing up in semi-religious and even very religious homes often have a naïve supposition that religion has all the answers, or at least it ought to. When they attend college, they suddenly realize that it does not and in some cases their faith is shattered. Of course, the truth is that all human knowledge has what I call brackets. Brackets are question marks and contradictions that cannot be understood, at least at this time.  In religion, we call them mysteries, in science they’re called anomies and in philosophy they’re paradoxes. Young people of faith need to be taught that faith has its brackets.

In the college environment, there are certain fields of study like psychology, which are still being deeply influenced by Sigmund Freud’s atheism. Atheism seems to be a prerequisite for becoming a psychologist or a psychiatrist in many people’s thinking.  If you elect these fields of study it will become harder to maintain your religion; not for intellectual reasons but rather because of the environment which the people in the field create. They create a world without God, and it is difficult to live in their fictional world for very long without damaging your faith.  If you think )  you are immune to this kind of environmental influence stop kidding yourself.  You are living a delusional life. It has been shown repeatedly that many people who are taken hostage in time will  begin to sympathize and even convert to their captor’s ideology. When you give yourself over to a materialistic world view, you have been taken captive and most likely, will convert. If you are a College student, my advice to you is to watch out what kind of world you choose to live in. The apostle Paul said, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. (Col 2:8)

On a larger-scale, it is obvious that if you are born in a culture like Russia where atheism is the state philosophy, it is more likely that you will be an atheist. However, even after 70 years of the state trying to eradicate religion, faith still remains strong in Russia.  It has been estimated that as  many as 80% of the Russian population  believe in God.  This strengthens the position that man by his nature is homo-religious, i.e. by his very nature he is religious.

Biological Factor

Even in the realm of the spiritual minded there will be varying degrees of God-consciousness.  Case in point is the scholar and the mystic.  The religious scholar may have a hard time understanding the mystic, and the latter may even question the faith of the scholar. Here within the confines of faith you have the same experience that you see between the atheist and believer. Could the problem be genetic?

I brought this subject up at meeting of ministers and their wives and as expected I was met with some resistance… So I proposed a little experiment to test my idea. I asked each person to think about their earliest awareness of their God-consciousness and then asked them if theirs was stronger than their siblings.  Without exception, they said theirs  was  stronger than their siblings. Though the sampling is small about 20 people, it does give some credence to the belief in spiritual intelligence. Of course, like all forms of intelligence, it can be increased or diminished by its use or its lack of use. The lack of use could lead to atheism.

Therefore, it is quite reasonable to believe that some people who are born with the right-brain  structure have an advantage in sensing the deity.  This also explains why some believers experience God in different ways and to various degrees.  Does this mean that a person born with small antennas (metaphor) cannot believe in God?  No, it simply means that those folks need to work harder at it or learn to trust other men’s experience of God.  This kind of trust is need and used in every area of life, why not in the area of faith.   The reason this is hard for the atheist is that people blessed with a high degree of intellectual knowledge seems to believe that it is superior to all other forms of intelligence. In other words, their ego blinds them to the truth.    This seems to be confirmed by Scripture. ” knowledge puffs up and love builds up.”

The Pride Factor

The source of much atheism is human pride.  Many atheists use their atheism as a badge of their intellectual superiority.  This is very similar to the way some religious people use their religiosity to boost their self-esteem. Their religion allows them to think that they are more moral than others. Like the religious person, the atheist’s self-esteem begins to depend on their identification with unbelief and the sense of intellectual superiority it gives them.  In essence, they cling to their unbelief in order to save their souls for without their unbelief; they would be soulless. They would just be a part of the herd without an identity.  They refuse to call themselves agnostic for there is no glory or superiority in saying I don’t know and there are no arguments to be made to show their superiority.  What else can explain their choice of atheism over agnosticism, which is far more reasonable position than atheism.  This may explain why so many atheists are white, mid-class college educated males.  A group that is known for their pride, large egos and loss of identity.

Misunderstanding of the Difference Between Faith and Religion

I have also found that many atheists have a very narrow view of faith and religion. Their view is very  similar to the religious fundamentalist, both seem to have a hard time separating faith from religion.  This may be caused by a simple blind spot in the unbelievers thinking, but it seems to be dominant in much of their arguments against the existence of God.  I cannot help  however, to notice in their conversations and writings that most of their criticism of belief in God is really a criticism of religion. They fail to see that the hypocrisy of religion does not in itself offer proof that there is no God. It simply proves that there are hypocrites in religion.  Hypocrites play golf, but that does not mean that golf is a bad game, or it’s  only terrible when hypocrites play.  The bias of many unbelievers toward religion seems to blind them to the fact that religion is like every other endeavor of mankind; it can be good or evil depending on the nature of the men who are playing the game.

My experience has been that if the person is brought up in a cult or has a fundamentalist view of religion (like most young people), if they lose their faith in their religion or church, they may also become skeptical about God as well. The reason for this is that their faith was in their religion and not in God.  This confusion between God and religion is prevalent in churches that teach they are the one true church.  In these organizations, the church becomes an idol who veils the real God.  I have meant hundreds of individuals that have left these organizations.  Some became atheists,  although they never lose the belief that their former organization totally represents the Christian religion.  So, they believe  that if they can show the errors of the church or religion, then they have discredited belief in God.

However, misconduct of some churches and clergy now as in the past confirms that the bible is true.  For the scripture in fact teach that such organization would arise and bear bad fruit turning people always from Christ and real faith. The apostle Paul warns the church in Acts 20:29-31 “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.  Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” And again in 1 Tim 4:1-3, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars.  Whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.”  If one is going to judge the Christian faith, it would seem logical to judge it based on the life and teaching of Jesus and not on a group’s behaviors that may or may not be truly following Jesus.

You may be surprised that I am thankful for the atheistic criticism of religion. In many ways, it reflects the Spirit of prophecy as seen in the Scriptures. Jesus and all the prophets criticized religion for its hypocrisy’s and its empty rituals and traditions.  However, when the critics fail to see the difference between religion and God, they have stepped out on some very dangerous ground. Ground that cannot be defended by reason or science.

Moreover, as demonstrated by the Russian experiment, you cannot get rid of religion much less faith by atheistic education or even force.  If you suppress it in one place, it will break out in another.  You are just simply wasting your time and energy.  However, wasting one’s time is a matter of choice but destroying a person’s faith is a sad undertaking.

An honest unbeliever, Dr. E. Wengraf  once confessed,  “Every piece of anti-religious propaganda seems to me a crime.  I surely do not wish it to be prosecuted as a crime, but I consider it immoral and loathsome.  This not because of zeal for my convictions, but because of the simple knowledge,  acquired through long experience, that,  given the same circumstances, a religious man is happier than the irreligious.  In my indifference and skeptical attitude toward all positive faith,  I have often envied other men to whom deep religiosity has given a strong support in all the storms of life.  To uproot the souls of such men is an abject deed.  I abhor any proselytizing.  But still,  I can understand why one who believes firmly in a saving faith tries to convert others.  But I cannot understand a propaganda of unbelief.  We do not have the right to take away from a person his protecting shelter, be it even a shabby hut,  if we are not sure we can offer him a better,  more beautiful house.  But to lure men from the inherited home of their souls, to make them err afterward in the wilderness of hypotheses and philosophical question marks, is either criminal fatalisms or criminal mindlessness.”

The Factor of Evil

Often evil men use religion to cover up their evil, you might say they dress it up with religion. However, evil men also sometimes deny their evil by renouncing God.  In the last century atheists like Stalin and Mao, under the banner of atheistic communism have murdered over 100 million people. I am pointing this out not to count noses but to demonstrate that religion doesn’t kill people and atheism doesn’t kill people; evil people kill people. Immoral people will use any religion or ideology that will justify their evil. However, it is evident that some belief systems, including atheism are  more likely to be used to justify killing, than others. Evil people will also avoid and reject anyone or anything that might bring their evil to light.  The teacher said, ” This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. However, whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”  This helps us to understand why some men choose atheism, though this would represent a small minority.

The Factor of Human Nature

One of the basic causes of atheism is simple rebellion. Some men by their very nature are rebellious. You could say they were born doubters, doubting all authority.  Their doubting is not grounded in a superior intellect but rather in a rebellious nature and a strong appetite to do their own thing without any outside limitations; this included any limits imposed by a deity. In fact, some men are so rebellious they rebel against the limit placed on them by nature. In many ways the whole folly the human race is in rebelling against God and nature. The atheist wants to expel God and his law from the universe and many in science want to overcome nature as though it was our enemy.

On a more basic level, many men choose atheism simply because they are too lazy and indifferent towards spending the time and energy to seek the truth.  I have found this to be the  prevalent cause of what you might call shallow atheism. Of course, the same thing could be said of believers that inherited their faith from the culture without putting it  through the test of reason.  However, if the truth about God is to be found one would have to expect it to be difficult, since learning physics is difficult and knowing an infinite God would even be harder if he did not simplify it somehow.  Of course, he did simplify it by revealing Himself in and through Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

Many of the ideas in this article are the same arguments used by unbelievers to criticize believers. All I have done is to simply reversed them.  This demonstrates that atheism is just a faith very similar to any religious belief.  Any psychological argument used to explain away a belief in God can be used to explain atheism. Both atheism and faith in God are based on faith. Both are metaphysical in their nature.  The atheist in many cases is actually more religious than the believer in God.  In any case, the new atheists are organized and are as committed to their non-belief as any fundamentalist religious people.  In the end, the debate is really who’s religion is right.

[1] The US National Academy of Sciences has gone on record with the following statement: ‘Science is a way of knowing about the natural world. It is limited to explaining the natural world through natural causes. Science can say nothing about the supernatural. Whether God exists or not is a question about which science is neutral.” Taken from “Who made God?, Searching For A Theory Of Everything” by  Edgar Andrews.

[2] Einstein did not believe in the traditional view of God held by Jews or Christians. He had a mystical view of God in which he had said more than once; he had a religion of one.

[3] According to the poll, just over half of scientists (51%) believe in some form of deity or higher power; specifically, 33% of scientists say they believe in God, while 18% believe in a universal spirit or higher power. By contrast, 95% of Americans believe in some form of deity or higher power, according to a survey of the general public conducted by the Pew Research Center in July 2006. Specifically, more than eight-in-ten Americans (83%) say they believe in God and 12% believe in a universal spirit or higher power. Finally, the poll of scientists finds that four-in-ten scientists (41%) say they do not believe in God or a higher power, while the poll of the public finds that only 4% of Americans share this view. Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey, conducted in May and June 2009

[4] Atheism has been pushed into a corner where they are obligated not only to deny the existence of God but also any other ordering principle in the universe, which might infer a deity. However from this position it is impossible to confirm in any reasonable way the concept of truth.

[5] Infants are hard-wired to believe in God, and atheism has to be learned, according to an Oxford University psychologist.  Dr Olivera Petrovich told a University of Western Sydney conference on the psychology of religion that even preschool children constructed theological concepts as part of their understanding of the physical world. Psychologists have debated whether belief in God or atheism was the natural human state…. Dr Petrovich said her findings were based on several studies, particularly one of Japanese children aged four to six, and another of 400 British children aged five to seven from seven different faiths. “Atheism is definitely an acquired position”, she said. The Age, July 2008 by Barnet Zwartz. www theage.com.

The Symbolism of The Christmas Tree

The Symbolism of The Christmas Tree

What is Christmas all about?  Well,  it’s about what you want it to be about.  It can be all about stress and anxiety but remember if it is, it is because you make it so.  You may have allowed the spirit of materialism to cloud your vision.  To me, Christmas is all about giving and children.  I can still remember the excitement, mystery and wonder of those early Christmases.  I remember knelling at the upstairs window with my sister looking for Santa Clause and his reindeer.  I remember the expectation of the coming morning and the excitement of opening the gifts.  I still love to see the grand kids faces as they open their gifts.  I especially enjoy watching the little ones playing with the Christmas paper.  They seem to be more excited about the paper than all the commotion around.

Of course, Christmas is also about the family.  It is one of those sacred days we in America have set aside for family and friends; a day in which we celebrate our families and our friendships.  Christmas is the last wall which separates us from being a total secular culture where nothing is sacred and all is profane.  I often wonder what our culture will look like when the desacralization is completed and there is nothing left of the sacred or the mystery and wonder that went with it.  When was the last time that you experienced some awe and wonder?

You know there is something else I like about Christmas.  I love the music.  It is so positive and up- lifting.  It speaks of hope, love and joy.  One of the main radio channels in our area plays nothing but Christmas music from Thanksgiving to Christmas.  I love the guy who thought that one up.  I’m sure the teens hate him and it must grind on the skeptics among us.  Even they must concede that it’s a welcome change from the noise and the depressing lyrics of modern music.

I guess I should get back to the title of this article “The symbolism of the Christmas tree.”  The pine tree is not a unique symbol to Christianity.  It was used by numerous religious groups as a symbol of eternal life.  Many of these groups might have borrowed the imagery of the tree of life found in the Paradise of God in the book of Genesis.  Unlike other trees, the pine tree does not depend on the seasons of the year for it to produce life.  It appears to be alive when everything around it seems dead.  It is shaped like a cone and points to the heavens and reminds us that life comes from above and is eternal.

Let’s take a look at the ornaments from top to bottom.  On the top of the tree we usually find an angel or a star.  Both are fitting symbols.  The angel represents the messengers that announced the birth of the Messiah to the shepherds in the field “they brought a message of good news and great joy.”  If you use a star, it symbolizes the star of David which symbolizes the Messiah to be born into David’s family.  It is not surprising; therefore, that Jesus is referred to as the bright and Morningstar.  The star, therefore, is the symbol of Jesus. As the Morningstar rules over the night, so does Jesus’s rule over his people.

Then we have the lights, (they used to be real candles) which stands for all of God’s people that are called by the Messiah to be the light of the world.  They are to take the message of giving and hope given by the angles to the entire world and be about the business of punching holes in the darkness of this world.  How is your light shining this Christmas?

It has been our custom to hang on the tree little symbols of our family members and family events that have taken place during the years.  It is a great way sharing and remembering our family history.  But it also symbolizes how our story and the story of all mankind hangs on the same tree of life.  Did you know that the tree of life in the opening story in the Book of Genius is a symbol that points toward Jesus? “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” (1 John 1:1-3).

Final, when we unwrap the meaning of the gifts under the tree we will see that they point to the great gift giver.  “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1;17)  This Christmas let’s learn the power of a thankful spirit.  Count the real gifts that God has given to you, your mate, your children and your friends.   Did you know that God blesses those that have a thankful spirit?

Have a merry Christmas and a great new year.

Grateful redeemed.

Lyle Duell