Archive for November, 2009
Six Myths About Christianity – Part 1
Nov Watchtower The November edition of the Jehovah’s Witness’s publication “The Watchtower” has as the feature article, “Exposed: Six Myths About Christianity.” Some of these I would take exception to, and some of them I would agree with (perhaps with some modification). Over the next few posts, I will be interacting with some of its claims.

The first section is introductory and so will my comments be.The major heading will be the section title with which I am interacting. In blue is the original text. All other text is mine.

One Myth Leads to Another

“Look out,” wrote the apostle Paul to the Christians living in the latter half of the first century C.E. What was he warning against?”Perhaps there may be someone who will carry you off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men.” -Colossians 2:8
Despite Paul’s warning, from the middle of the second century C.E., some Christians began using concepts borrowed from ancient philosophers in order to explain their beliefs. Why? They wanted to be accepted by the educated people of the Roman Empire and thus make more converts.

There are several things on the table already. First, one of the things that makes responding to Watchtower publications difficult is the broad strokes and lack of citation. Moreover, when there is citation, it is rarely from source material. Ad Fontes! was the cry during the Reformation. It meant “To the Sources!” That will be my cry as well as I work through these “Six Myths.” Who borrowed? What did he borrow? Where was it borrowed? There are only vague references that may impress the reader, but they leave the student frustrated as he tries to validate their claim.
Second, it is true that some Christians did change their theology on account of the surrounding philosophy. But it is also true that some Christians did not change their theology. It is not enough to say that some changed. That means nothing unless we can demonstrate that the doctrines under question were in fact changed. This may not be so easy to do. In any controversy there are going to be at least two opposing positions. Which one was “the original?” Which one represents a change?
The matter is further complicated when it is claimed so early. The Ante Nicean Fathers doesn’t give us much time in which to work. If there was an Ante-Nicean controversy, then these two parties disagreed with each other very early and there may not be enough time to discern, from a historical perspective, which was the prevailing view (if any). This is why exegesis is so important. But suppose a “standard” can not be established to decide who deviated? In this early state of flux may not one of the parties have adopted pagan beliefs in the process? Yes, which brings me to my next point.
Third, there is much that needs to be done to sustain a charge of borrowing. Consider:

And it will be necessary not only to ask whether there are similarities between these theological systems and various philosophical projects, but whether those similarities entail borrowing, dependence, and synthesis. The fact that there are occasional similarities between two schools of thought is neither here nor there. (John Piper, Justin Taylor, and Paul Kjoss Helseth, Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity (Crossway Books, 2003), p 44.)

Anyone familiar with biblical scholarship should instantly recognize this. Attacks against scripture have been made on almost every conceivable topic. From the Mosaic law borrowing from the Hamurrabii Code to the Flood account borrowing from the Gilgamesh epic, to the creation account borrowing from other ANE sources to the crucifixion and resurrection being fabricated from the myth of Isis and Osiris, to God’s immutability being a rip off of the Greek Stoics. There are no lack of charges. But similarities mean almost nothing. One has to demonstrate borrowing, dependence, and synthesis.
Fourth, it is worth noting that for every claim of borrowing, almost the exact same charge can be leveled against the other side. Is the world constant or changing? If you answer one or the other you will find yourself in the company of either Heraclides  or Parmenides. Epicureanism or Platonism? Hedonism or Asceticism? Since there were always waring philosophical parties, then any charge of borrowing can easily go the other way.

Justin Martyr, one of the most famous of these Christians, believed that God’s Spokesman had manifest himself to Greek philosophers long before the arrival of Jesus. According to Justin, and like-minded teachers, the contribution of philosophy and mythology to Christianity made this form of religion truly universal.
Justin Martyr’s form of Christianity became very successful in gaining converts. However, the adoption of one myth led to the creation of others and produced what is is now commonly believed to be Christian doctrine. To expose these myths, compare what the following reference works say with what the Bible actually teaches.

This is a good example of vague references. Lots of accusations, no references. Ad Fontes! It is well known that Justin leaned heavily on philosophy. God’s Spokesperson revealing himself to philosophers? I am no expert on Justin, but I don’t remember anything about a “Spokesperson.” I am not saying they are wrong, I just have no way to verify since there is no reference. I have to read all of Justin’s work in order to find what they are talking about. Perhaps they talking about Justin’s treatment of Logos? Justin taught something akin to the saying that “all truth is God’s truth.” He believed that God would reveal truths to people besides the Jews (but not in the same way as the Special Revelation they received.) In that sense, I agree. But did he mean something more? What is the specific charge? Where in his writings can this borrowing be seen? Which of the ancient writings did he borrow from? It is interesting to note in passing that Justin  held that many of the philosophers actually borrowed from scripture. As a protestant, none of this is terribly concerning because we do not hold the church fathers to be authoritative. We are free to accept or reject their teaching based on scripture. It is more a matter of historical accuracy.
Scripture is our standard, so as I work my way through this series scripture and proper exegesis is king. That said, I will also look at history and philosophy in order to help provide balance to the analysis. History is not an authority for me, but it should be handled accurately.

Encore: Unapologetics 101

[Originally posted as "Unapologetics 101" on July 27, 2007.]

Before we get into a detailed analysis of I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, I wanted to take a minute and look at the most fundamental and important principle for effective refutation of Christian apologetics. Debating apologetics can be a tricky matter: Christians have 2,000 years of experience in rationalizing their beliefs, and generally know better than to allow themselves to be pinned down to anything that would settle the matter fairly and objectively. There is, however, one inescapable fact, with one inevitable consequence, which can be used to force Christians to face reality no matter how much they would like to twist away from it.

The inescapable fact is this: God does not show up in the real world, not visibly, not audibly, not tangibly, not for you, not for me, not for saint or for sinner or for seeker. Many people, of course, have already pointed out this fact, and tried to use it against Christianity, with little or no effect. For 2,000 years, believers have been rationalizing their way around that one. That’s why, for maximum effectiveness, we need to combine the inescapable fact with the inevitable consequence.

If God does not show up outside the stories, superstitions and subjective feelings of men, the inevitable consequence is that we have no alternative but to put our faith in men rather than in God. If I promise you that God will put ten solid gold coins under your pillow tomorrow morning, and you believe that this is true, who are you believing, me or God? If those coins are not there tomorrow morning, who lied, me or God? When men say things on God’s behalf, and make promises that God is supposed to keep, you can either believe them or disbelieve them, but the word is the word of men, even if men attribute it to God. You can believe in what men tell you about God, but if you do, you are putting your faith in men. There is no alternative, since God does not show up to give you anything else to believe in.

This is an important point, because Christians tend to believe that they are doing something noble and spiritual when they believe Christian teachings. Because they believe that the Bible is the word of God and that Christian teachings in general are the teachings of God, they count their belief in these teachings as a mark of loyalty towards God. God does not show up in the real world, however, which means that when they put their faith in these teachings, they are not putting their faith in God, they are putting their faith in the fallible men who brought them these teachings and told them they were from God.

Psychologically, it makes a big difference to the Christian whether he is defending faith in God, or only defending faith in men. The most effective approach to unapologetics, therefore, is to keep directing the believer’s attention to the inescapable fact that God does not show up in the real world, and that the inevitable consequence of God’s universal absence is that all these apologetics for God are the words of men. Believe in them and defend them if you want, but you’ll be defending men, and not God, if you do.

Encore: Is it wrong to say there is no evidence of God?

[Originally published as "Pharyngula: Another round in the Kleiman/Myers skirmish" on July 17, 2007.]

PZ Myers has another go at those who claim that it’s wrong to criticize someone else’s belief in God. In so doing, he voices a frequently-expressed opinion that, in my view, does a bad job of (should I say it?) “framing” the debate.

I am saying precisely that belief in god is wrong because there is no empirical or theoretical support for it; there is a concatenation of myths leavened with post-hoc justifications for them, which is not the same thing.

There’s something unsatisfactory about saying that there is no evidence for God. After all, we learn new things all the time. Just because we say “there is no evidence for God” doesn’t mean that evidence might not exist somewhere. It just means we haven’t seen any (yet).

To me, that argument comes up short. Science is based on truth, and if there’s one thing we know about truth, it’s that truth is self-consistent. More than that, the self-consistency of truth is the way–the only way–we tell the difference between what’s correct and what’s false. To be consistent with the truth is to be true. To be inconsistent with the truth is to be false.

The problem with God, as conceived of by Christians, is not just that there’s no evidence for Him, it’s that He’s inconsistent with the evidence we do have. If there were an all-loving, all-knowing, all-wise and all-powerful God who wanted a personal relationship with each of us, badly enough to literally die for it, then the most fundamental and obvious consequence would be God showing up, on a regular basis, in the real world, to actually participate in that relationship. What we see in real life, believer or not, is that this does not happen. The things we see in the real world are blatantly inconsistent with the consequences which would result if the Gospel were telling the truth about God.

The godlessness that believers so often complain about is just that: “God-less-ness.” Hairlessness is the absence of hair, purposelessness is the absence of purpose, and godlessness is the absence of God. The Gospel says that God ought to be present, but the world is, as everyone admits, essentially godless. That’s not just an absence of evidence, that’s evidence which is inconsistent with the Gospel being true.

In the interim…

Folks, I apologize for the sparcity of posts lately. A combination of time-consumers both at work and at home is leaving me with a serious shortfall in my available time and energy, which I hope will be resolved in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, I’m going to try scheduling some re-posts of material from the early days of the blog, in hopes that someone will find it fresh and rewarding.

Take care.

Selflessness, Unity, and Happiness

The remarkable ability for humans to be able to create their own reality in which they are self-aware individuals with free will to affect this reality in a number of ways is astounding to many. The person that ultimately decides on how you feel is yourself. You have the power to be happy or sad. You have the power to elevate or decrease self-esteem. You have the power to project anger or love. As confirmed by many recent studies, the innate ability for each one of us to have a tremendous amount of control over our lives and destiny is becoming very apparent.

In an effort to perhaps see if there is anything to the ancient idea that surrounding one’s self around beauty is healthy, a study by the University of Montreal has found that emotions can either increase of decrease pain experienced by a person, depending on whether the emotion is positive or negative. In the study during the fMRI process, individuals were shown a series of images that were classified as either pleasant (i.e. summer water-skiing), unpleasant (i.e. a vicious bear) or neutral (i.e. a book). Dr. Mathieu Roy who was part of the study had said that “We found that seeing unpleasant pictures elicited stronger pain in subjects getting shocks than looking at pleasant pictures.” Previous research by Dr. Roy has demonstrated music’s soothing of pain felt by an individual listening to it. With this information known to us now, it is possible to alter one’s life by focusing on the positive and sidestepping any situation where something of a negative nature may be, in order to not experience that pain that would automatically come with experiencing something unpleasant. By focusing on the positive and beautiful aspects of reality, not only will we feel better psychologically, but physiologically.

An aspect of our psychological makeup that sometimes ends up dominating our lives is worry. Worrying is one of those elements of life that can send us into an anxious state of existence and lead to significant stress, if not alleviated soon enough. The good news is that worrying is something self-inflicted that can be changed by altering how we react to an action or situation. According to a Boston University study, “children of centenarians—who usually inherit both longevity and personality traits from their parents—are on average more outgoing, agreeable, and less neurotic.” By being less neurotic, these individuals are able to manage and alleviate stress and anxiety more readily. What’s more is that each one of us has the power within us to react to an action or situation in whatever way we wish. The choosing of worry and anxiety as being the reaction can come at first as a habit or impulse, but given the amazing property of the brain’s neuroplasticity, such impulses can be modified to first use reason and rationality before an emotional response is dialed and locked into. If you lose your car keys for instance, do not let worry engulf your mind. With the mind clouded by such emotions, the anxiety will only build and the recollection as to where the keys may be may become more difficult. It it helps, stop and take some deep breaths first. Remember, the power to control how we react to any given situation is within our hands. Happiness is a choice at first, that becomes a part of our makeup after time. We have the potential to be in a perpetual state of happiness. The choice is ours.

More wonderful news comes from the Journal of Consumer Research which published a study where it was found that low self-esteem and materialism are two sides of the same coin. Of course, this may seem obvious to some, but it helps to go a bit more in-depth with this finding. The relationship is causal in nature, which leaves no doubt that there is a direct connection between the two. In the study, it was found that low self esteem increases materialism, and materialism can also create low self-esteem. Another finding was that as self esteem increases, materialism decreases. Even a small action towards the raising of self-esteem decreases one’s level of materialism in a very dramatic way. Further studies have shown that the richest countries are not necessarily the happiest ones. Consuming products and services can never satiate the void that may exist in a person’s life like high self-esteem and happiness can. Experiences, such as meeting new people and doing occasional “spring cleanings” of one’s living spaces and environment can elevate one’s self-esteem and decrease the level of materialism felt by a person. Again, like with the previous elements discussed, the power is within us to make this change within our lives. We just have to have the will and determination to create this change within us. Higher self-esteem means a higher level of happiness that will ultimately be felt by the transpersonal consciousness of humanity.

Happiness is on par with joy, as far as states of consciousness go. True happiness is like an ecstatic sensation permeating one’s entire being. Thanks to the reality of interconnectedness and oneness, this happiness can be felt by all of humanity. All one must do is simply be happy. A study published in the British Medical Journal has found that happiness is “contagious”, but in the good sense of the term. Their statistics claim that “Knowing someone who is happy makes you 15.3% more likely to be happy yourself, the study found. A happy friend of a friend increases your odds of happiness by 9.8%, and even your neighbor’s sister’s friend can give you a 5.6% boost.” The feelings and emotions that we feel on a daily basis have effects that extend beyond the self, but also affect others as well. The opposite is true as well. If others are experiencing elevated states of consciousness, they too are experienced and felt by us, even if in a small way. The feelings of one, have the ability to become the feelings of all, even if in minute amount.

The above demonstrations of selflessness, unity, and happiness will hopefully encourage readers to map out their own destinies by being in control of the emotions and environment, for the benefit not only to themselves, but to everyone in the human family. Data released from the World Values Survey has discovered that the level of happiness is rising all around the world. The data comes from surveys taken in 1981-2007 that show the happiness index rose in an overwhelming majority of the nations that were studied.  It is a reality that our consciousness has the ability to create our reality. It is a reality that we have enormous control over our destiny. It is a reality that we are all an interconnected whole, in this game of life together.

Transforming society through music

800-white2

Diving into the treasure chest of socially-transformative things, one can find music as being a significant source of potential towards the positive social transformation of human society. One has to only look to the past to see how great of an impact music has had on society. From ancient primal percussion and song to the Woodstock festival, music has continuously shown that it is the language of emotion, social unity, and revolution. By realizing just how powerful music is towards changing our world, we can use it as a tool towards benefiting ourselves and society as a whole, in the hope that the global transpersonal consciousness will continue to progress towards the positive end of the spectrum of consciousness.

From one’s own noticing how music is able to stir up the emotions deep in people, much can be understood. However,  with the added knowledge about the amazing reality of cymatics, it has become quite apparent to me that perhaps one of the greatest and most powerful tools for a social transformation is music. Cymatics is essentially the study of vibrational frequencies manifested as sound and seen as form, usually on a solid metal surface. The observations of these sound structures involve the use of some fine material, such as salt upon a flat and solid surface, in order to be seen. The higher the frequency, the more intricate the pattern. Highly complex patterns can also be seen on a water surface. The study of sound waves upon such mediums demonstrates the idea of sound being an intimate aspect of all physical manifestations, such as insects, plants, animals, planets, and the universe. Better understanding of cymatics will be able to make way for the implementation of practical approaches to creating greater harmony in life by becoming more aware of those unconscious vibrations that we constantly enliven throughout our day. Cymatics shows how vibrations interact to create the world we experience. It also brings to light hidden principles which underlie all natural processes. Understanding these principles can help us to better understand how reality operates, thereby clarifying our outlook on life. This understanding brings new meaning to the term “good vibes”.

Sound waves are able to directly impact the growth cycle of a plant. Sound frequencies in the form of music such as that by Beethoven has been proven to help promote quicker growth for crops. South Korean scientists, who played classical pieces including Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata in rice fields, say they have identified plant genes that can “hear”. This comes as a finding complementary to the discovery of Plant Consciousness being a reality. In specific terms, the study found that sounds at specific frequencies – 125Hz and 250Hz – made genes rbcS and Ald more active, whereas sound waves at 50HZ made their less active. Certain sound frequencies, when compiled into musical form, seem to have a beneficial impact on a plant’s growth. The conclusion that can be made is that any form of sound waves, be it spoken word, musical song, or otherwise, will directly impact the growth and being of a plant. Naturally, if this pertains to plants, then even moreso to humans, as I have remarked on in previous blog articles. Music has the power to move a person’s being like very few other forces. It is something that can transcend mere words and talk and express itself directly through feelings, emotions, and sensations.

When speaking about social transformation, it is my opinion that for grander and faster social transformation, more music and dance events should exist that are centered around peace, love, happiness, and all-round positive energy. Since sound waves create form, depending on the emotions that the musical harmonics stir up in people, it can have beneficial or contrarily unbeneficial results. One has to only look five decades into the past to see social transformation through music in action. It has been done before and can be done again. In fact, it is occurring constantly. The music that is enjoyed and listened to by society reflects in a way the society’s collective consciousness. Much can be interpreted by one’s musical taste. Depending on the emotional state of the individual, he or she will gravitate towards or repel from various musical styles and harmonics.

Music is something that is perhaps universally enjoyed. In such a reality, each individual has a unique power within their being to do their own part in facilitating social transformation towards a positive and bright future. By listening and becoming unified with positively-oriented musical harmonics, a person will feel more positive themselves and radiate this positivity towards everything and everyone they meet, which will them spread out into the global transpersonal consciousness of humanity. So go on, make music, listen to music, attend music festivals, raves, and other dance events. Let music move your being towards higher states of consciousness. Feel the bliss and ecstasy of positive harmonic frequencies go through your body. Project the same high energy and positivity outwards to others. With music, social transformation can occur no matter what one’s language understanding, beliefs, or location.

Nuda Scriptura

“Sola Scriptura!” was one of the battle cries of the Reformation. The Reformers were correcting the abuse of authority in the Catholic church who held that the church had the final authority. They paid lip service to scripture, but it was a general rule not to let the Bible into the hands of the laity. Moreover, even the select few who did get to read scripture, their interpretation of it had to conform to the teachings of the church. No matter how clear the Bible was on a matter, final authority of interpretation went to the church. There was no way to prove that the actions or doctrine of the church were wrong. They were the authority.

Thus the Reformers brought a much needed correction by placing the authority in God’s Word rather than in the church. However, some protestants have gone too far and preach a kind of nuda scriptura. In short, nuda scriptura says that I have no need for the church at all. It is all about my private interpretation. One critic of the Protestant approach to scripture is that, “private judgment is the idea that the supremely normatively binding judgments on the conscience can only come from the individual himself.” It is unfortunate that many evangelicals would say, “That’s right! Church councils cannot bind my conscience!.” Steve Hays has addressed this very objection saying:

“Scripture is the norm. Individual judgment is fallible, and it can also be sinful. (Same thing with collective judgments, e.g. ecumenical councils). If I’m a married man who has an affair, and my pastor tells me I’m living in sin, he’s right and I’m wrong. In this case, what makes his judgment “normative” or “binding” is that it’s true, and what makes it true is that it’s true the norm of Scripture. . . . A minister is authoritative to the degree that he rightly teaches and applies the word of God. His authority is strictly derivative. <http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/06/nuda-scriptura.html>

The key to avoiding nuda scriptura is to recognize that individual interpretation can err just as church councils can err. As I have taught classes in Bible Study Methods many times, one of the things I always mention is that after we have done our homework in the text itself, we need to check our work against some good commentaries. If we have come up with an interpretation that no one else in church history has seen in the text, then there is a good chance we are wrong.

But there is more than that. Ephesians 4:11-14 states,

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

It is not simply that it is a good idea to check your interpretation (it is) but God has specifically established the church and given to the church these gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers and preachers. We are not meant to do this alone. We are suppose to live in a covenant context. We are suppose to encourage and challenge and read and understand and grow in a covenant context. And in this covenant context there are teachers and preachers to whom we are suppose to listen. God’s purpose is that through their teaching we would “all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.” If it is everyone for his own, then we will be “children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” Bear in mind that this is not the same as the unquestionable authority of the church that the Reformers rebelled against. After all, “A minister is authoritative to the degree that he rightly teaches and applies the word of God. His authority is strictly derivative.” May we once again value a robust covenant context and a robust biblical leadership that will strengthen the church all the way around.

Nuda Scriptura

“Sola Scriptura!” was one of the battle cries of the Reformation. The Reformers were correcting the abuse of authority in the Catholic church who held that the church had the final authority. They paid lip service to scripture, but it was a general rule not to let the Bible into the hands of the laity. Moreover, even the select few who did get to read scripture, their interpretation of it had to conform to the teachings of the church. No matter how clear the Bible was on a matter, final authority of interpretation went to the church. There was no way to prove that the actions or doctrine of the church were wrong. They were the authority.

Thus the Reformers brought a much needed correction by placing the authority in God’s Word rather than in the church. However, some protestants have gone too far and preach a kind of nuda scriptura. In short, nuda scriptura says that I have no need for the church at all. It is all about my private interpretation. One critic of the Protestant approach to scripture is that, “private judgment is the idea that the supremely normatively binding judgments on the conscience can only come from the individual himself.” It is unfortunate that many evangelicals would say, “That’s right! Church councils cannot bind my conscience!.” Steve Hays has addressed this very objection saying:

“Scripture is the norm. Individual judgment is fallible, and it can also be sinful. (Same thing with collective judgments, e.g. ecumenical councils). If I’m a married man who has an affair, and my pastor tells me I’m living in sin, he’s right and I’m wrong. In this case, what makes his judgment “normative” or “binding” is that it’s true, and what makes it true is that it’s true the norm of Scripture. . . . A minister is authoritative to the degree that he rightly teaches and applies the word of God. His authority is strictly derivative. <http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/06/nuda-scriptura.html>

The key to avoiding nuda scriptura is to recognize that individual interpretation can err just as church councils can err. As I have taught classes in Bible Study Methods many times, one of the things I always mention is that after we have done our homework in the text itself, we need to check our work against some good commentaries. If we have come up with an interpretation that no one else in church history has seen in the text, then there is a good chance we are wrong.

But there is more than that. Ephesians 4:11-14 states,

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

It is not simply that it is a good idea to check your interpretation (it is) but God has specifically established the church and given to the church these gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers and preachers. We are not meant to do this alone. We are suppose to live in a covenant context. We are suppose to encourage and challenge and read and understand and grow in a covenant context. And in this covenant context there are teachers and preachers to whom we are suppose to listen. God’s purpose is that through their teaching we would “all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.” If it is everyone for his own, then we will be “children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” Bear in mind that this is not the same as the unquestionable authority of the church that the Reformers rebelled against. After all, “A minister is authoritative to the degree that he rightly teaches and applies the word of God. His authority is strictly derivative.” May we once again value a robust covenant context and a robust biblical leadership that will strengthen the church all the way around.

Ashera Poles in Solomon’s Temple

Albert Mohler recently posted some comments in regards to a recent trend in some churches to include pets in the service. He has 8 (more or less cumulative) points that he makes against the practice and they are all good. But I have one more I’d like to add. Before I do that let me qualify some things. Seeing eye dogs are a different story. These dogs I would welcome in church since they are indispensable to their blind masters. In that case the dog is the means by which the person can come to worship. In the service they are functionally equivalent to a walker. Some may argue that these dogs too are a means to the people. They serve as a clever way to get the people into church. But this is to confuse what Jonathan Edwards identified as the difference between natural ability and moral ability (although Edwards framed the distinction in a different context). The seeing-eye dog serves to overcome a natural inability of the person to come and worship God. This is vastly different from other’s moral inability to come and worship God.

The point I’d like to make is very related to these qualifications. By being pet-centric we have ceased to be Christocentric. D.A. Carson, in his excellent book “The Cross and Christian Ministry” says:

Western evangelicalism tends to run through cycles of fads. At the moment, books are pouring off the presses telling us how to plan for success, how “vision” consists in clearly articulated “ministry goals,” how the knowledge of detailed profiles of our communities constitutes the key to successful outreach. I am not for a moment suggesting that there is nothing to be learned from such studies. But after a while one may perhaps be excused for marveling how many churches were planted by Paul and Whitefield and Wesley and Stanway and Judson without enjoying these advantages. Of course all of us need to understand the people to whom we minister, and all of us can benefit from small doses of such literature. But massive doses sooner or later dilute the gospel. Ever so subtly, we start to think that success more critically depends on thoughtful sociological analysis than on the gospel; Barna becomes more important than the Bible. We depend on plans, programs, vision statements—but somewhere along the way we have succumbed to the temptation to displace the foolishness of the cross with the wisdom of strategic planning.  Again, I insist, my position is not a thinly veiled plea for obscurantism, for seat-of-the-pants ministry that plans nothing.  Rather, I fear that the cross, without ever being disowned, is constantly in danger of being dismissed from the central place it must enjoy, by relatively peripheral insights that take on far too much weight. Whenever the periphery is in danger of displacing the center, we are not far removed from idolatry. (p. 25-26, The Cross and Christian Ministry by D.A. Carson, Baker Books)

That is spot on. Many have warned us about this for years. Do not displace the centrality of the word which proclaims Christ crucified for programs and fads and entertainment. Unlike a seeing-eye dog who can directly effect one’s natural ability to come to church and worship, the pet-centric service does nothing to effect the moral ability of an individual to worship God – that is what the now displaced gospel is for. As the saying goes, “If you only worship God for what he can give to you, then you are only worshiping yourself.” All this pet-centric service does is reveal which idols people harbor in their heart, it reveals the god they really worship. People who have zero interest in worshiping God and are subsequently drawn into a service only because of it being pet-centric only reveal their particular idol. Do the same for Harley’s or horses or supermodels and you will likewise reveal the idol of the newcomers.

We know that people follow after such things, there is no mystery in that. These things do not have to be bad in themselves. Pets and motorcycles are not sinful in themselves. But they can become sinful when God is placed at the periphery and the pets take center stage. To re-order your service to be pet-centric is to encourage this sinful tendency. The fact that people will not come unless the service includes their pets reveal that the pet is their idol. If we can acknowledge that much, then we can ask the question whether God would condone the installation of Ashera poles in Solomon’s temple to encourage people to come?

Social Transformation: Something We Are All a Part Of

I’ve decided to create a new series of articles that deal with bringing about social transformation within the transpersonal consciousness of humanity. The topic of social transformation is of such an importance to me and many around the world, that it is only fitting to dedicate some time and energy towards manifesting positive and progressive change to the current framework and mindset of society. Social transformation on a global transpersonal level can only come about if we all work together to achieve such goals. At the very least, there must be a passionate and extropically-mindful group of individuals who see that humanity is still very young and is just now pushing out of the Stone Age of Consciousness and into a yet-to-be-determined future where the principles of oneness and unity are truly felt and expressed by humanity.

Social transformation can come in small and frequent shifts or in massive quantum leaps. No matter in what manner such positive and progressive change occurs, one can rest assured that the transformative process has been occurring ever since humanity began and most recently has been seen to be progressing faster than ever before. A college-aged individual today, when told of the existence of segregation of different races in America only five decades ago, will be dumbfounded that such an era even existed in such recent history where some elements of humanity believed in such peculiar things. It’s as if time is speeding up, or perhaps slowing down but we feel more is occurring in less time. The transformative process is constant, like the flow of a river. Those who see that there is so much more in store for the human consciousness than what is currently in existence; those who see humanity is still a toddler in the cradle of consciousness, can envision how much more can be changed, shifted, and evolved.

From Carl Jung’s research all the way to post-modern scientific studies on consciousness, it is seen that humans, the environment, the entire universe and perhaps multiverse is interconnected, both in seen and unseen ways. Whatever affects one aspect of reality, affects the whole of reality. In this manner, when even one person’s position of awareness is shifted, or just a handful of individuals’ perceptions of reality are modified, then these will directly affect the global human consciousness, as a whole. Each individual, no matter who he or she is, can influence the future of our timeline. There is no cause that does not effect. Influence is constant. No person should feel that he or she is unable to assist in the process of social transformation. Everyone is able to do his or her part. With ignorance being replaced with awareness, more and more people can become understanding of the current state of humanity and the positive and progressive potential that it has.

Our actions and reactions are like ripples in an infinite ocean, spreading out and affecting all that is beyond them. In this same way, even the simple existence within happiness, or the feeling of joy, can positively affect others and make others feel happy or joyful, as a Harvard University and UC San Diego study has demonstrated. As Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis, a physician and medical sociologist at Harvard who co-wrote the study said, “your emotional state depends not just on actions and choices that you make, but also on actions and choices of other people, many of which you don’t even know.” Not only happiness, but also ecstasy, love, and other higher states of consciousness directly affect others around us in positive ways, because of the universal reality that everything is ultimately One. The interconnected nature of all things and beings means that the higher the energy fields and consciousness states experienced by those around us, the higher our own energy fields and state of consciousness will be. This is the underlying understanding behind Peace and Loveism’s monthly Love Meditation, which has people raising their consciousness calibration to love for at least a few minutes once a month into the rest of the global transpersonal consciousness of humanity, thereby raising humanity’s overall consciousness itself.

So go on, and make a difference. No matter how large or small your actions, they will affect the reality around you. Never feel that you can not make a difference in a world with 7 billion people. Everything affects everything else. Social transformation is completely within our power. The destiny and fate of humanity is largely up to us. Will we make the constuctive and positively progressively choices to ensure a supramentally transformed and extropically evolved society? The decision is within our hands.