Archive for April, 2010
Is God a Control Freak or a Caprecious Slob?

Obviously I don’t believe that God is either one. Donald Miller in his blog asks “Does God have a specific plan for your life?” He basic answer is no. The reason for it is not because of certain passages in the Bible that seem to advocate it. The reason he thinks the answer is “no” is because he does not believe that God is a control freak. I agree that God is not a control freak, but that hardly selects for a God who does not work in the details. Thus my title. Suppose we ask the question again, “Does God have a specific plan for your life?” I answer that I think He does because I do not believe that God is a capricious slob. I don’t suppose that would carry much weight (other than a certain rhetorical flare). What we decide about God cannot be determined based on our ability to frame our preference to mock the alternative. If we want to know whether God is the god of deism that creates the world and lets it run in a completely uninvolved way or whether he controls every detail of life, or some place in between, we should consult that text where he has most clearly revealed himself to us – the Bible.

I think Donald makes some good point in here but it seems that he could have worded it better. I will revisit those things I thought he did well at the end of this post. For, however, let us first go to scripture and see what God has to say about himself.

1 Sam 2:6-7 The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. 7 The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts.

Just thinking about this passage for a bit is amazing. Think of all the ways in which people have died. From dying in one’s sleep of old age to a stray bullet from a drive-by shooting, to an old land-mine from a war long done, to a bee sting on someone who is allergic, to the drunk driver who careened across the median into a car headed to Bed Bath & Beyond, all of it is from the Lord. God has the right to bring any of his children home whenever he desires. He is sovereign over it. The same is true in the giving of life. From a couple who has been trying to get pregnant for 20 years and is finally successful to the septuplets to the boy in 2005 who survived three abortion attempts, God gave life. The same is true with regard to the poor and the rich. Think for a moment of the breaks that some people have, the rough life that others have, the circumstances into which some are born, the way other impact and shape their life. These things the result in either poverty of riches are from the Lord.

Ps 135:6-7; Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. 7 He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses.

Ps 104:21-30These all look to you, to give them their food in due season. 28 When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. 29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. 30 When you send forth your Spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.

Matt 10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father

Animals are under God’s sovereign care. In many different places scriptures declares that their food is from him. Their birthing and their death is from him. The point in mentioning the sparrow in Matthew 10 is to say if this is true of animals, how much more does God care for people?

Things that are normally considered as “chance” are from God:

Prov 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.

I feel the need to qualify this passage. For some reason we think that if God is sovereign over such things then we can use them to determine what God’s will is for our life. That kind of thinking, however, actually denies God’s sovereignty. It assumes that God is obliged to answer us through such means. The fact that he is sovereign means that he is not obliged to do so. On occasion he may (see Jonah) but is is sovereign, not only as to what side of the dice are up, but also over whether that result will correspond to a question we ask.

Ex 3:21 And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty,

Ezra 7:27 Blessed be the Lord, the God of our fathers, who put such a thing as this into the heart of the king, to beautify the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem,

Proverbs 21:1 The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.

Gen 45:5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.

God even has our hearts. He can place favor in the hearts of the Egyptians toward Israel. He can put favor into the heart of the king to beautify the temple. God even has control over our sinful acts as in Gen 45:5. It says that God sent Joseph into Egypt. But how did God do that? Through the acts of Joseph’s brothers. In fact this is exactly paralleled in Gen 50. Moreover, Acts 4:27-28 says, “for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” Thus even the sinful acts of the Romans and Jews in the death of Christ was predestined by God.

I feel the need for another qualification here. This sovereignty of God does not remove our volition or responsibility. Even though God brought Joseph into Egypt through his brother’s sinful acts, yet God was praiseworthy and they were responsible. What they intended for evil, God intended for good. They did what they wanted to do and had evil intent and are therefore responsible and guilty. God brought Joseph to Egypt to save many lives and so is praiseworthy.

Finally, God is said to control all things.

Rom 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Eph 1:11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,

This is just a small sampling of passages that describe the various ways in which God is sovereign. It is no small theme. But let us return to Donald’s post. One of the points that he makes is that some people who think that God has a specific plan for your life do nothing while waiting for God to reveal his will to them. I am 100% with Donald on this. Whether or not God has a specific plan for our lives, it is clear that he does not usually reveal that specific plan to us. He has given us principles by which to live. As Donald notes God has told us what is good and what is bad, what is right and what is wrong. But God has not revealed to us when he plans on bringing us home (although he does have a plan for it). So we ought not try to guess when and how God is going to do that. We should just live our lives by the principles that he has given to us.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. We cannot use our freedom as a license to sin, but we are free none-the-less. Don’t cower in fear not knowing what God has planned for your life (as if you could thwart it or he would be angry with you). He has given us all that we need to live this life in the freedom provided through His Son. So, as Donald says “He loves you, so draw in the inspiration of the knowledge of His love. Draw a purple horse, a red ocean, a nine-legged dog, it doesn’t matter. Lets stop being so afraid.” But also when hard times hit, don’t think that God has abandoned you, for this too is from the Lord. When difficulties arise, do not be afraid that you are alone. God is working all thing together for the good of those who love him, who are the called according to his purpose.

Enjoy this life with the freedom God intended. In the mean time God will continue to bring people into your life by whom he desires to touch you. He will raise presidents up and create situations in which we live and by which we will change as we live in it. He will continue to shape the circumstances of your life, convict you with his Spirit, speak to you through people, challenge you in situations all to conform you to the image of his Son and to work his good pleasure in your life. Let God be God. Fulfill your purpose by glorifying God and enjoying him forever in the freedom he has given to you.

Six Myths About Christianity – Part 10

Continuing my review of the November Watchtower article “Exposed: Six Myths About Christianity,” I’d like to remind my readers that the full text of the Watchtower article is in blue with my comments in black. The first two points on the history of the Trinity can be found here. I now continue with the church fathers.

.

Third, it is simply not the case that the Trinity was invented in 325 AD

Consider what the early church fathers thought about the deity of Christ:

Ignatius of Antioch (110 A.D.):

We have also as a Physician the Lord our God Jesus the Christ the only-begotten Son and Word, before time began, but who afterwards became also man, of Mary the virgin. For ‘the Word was made flesh.’ Being incorporeal, He was in the body; being impassible, He was in a passible body; being immortal, He was in a mortal body; being life, He became subject to corruption, that He might free our souls from death and corruption, and heal them, and might restore them to health, when they were diseased with ungodliness and wicked lusts.” ( The ante-nicene Fathers, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, Vol. 1, p. 52 .)
“For our God Jesus Christ, was, according to the appointment of God, conceived in the womb by Mary, of the seed of David, but by the Holy Ghost.”( Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians 4:9)
“…God Himself appearing in the form of a man, for the renewal of eternal life.”( Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians 4:13)
“Continue inseparable from Jesus Christ our God.”( Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians 2:4)
“For even our God, Jesus Christ, now that He is in the Father”.( Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans 1:13)

Clement of Rome:

“Brethren, we ought so to think of Jesus Christ as of God : as of the judge of the living and the dead”.(2nd Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians 1:1)

Justin Martyr ( 140 A.D.):

“the word of wisdom, who is himself God begotten of the Father of all things, and word, and wisdom, and power, and the glory of the begetter, will bear evidence to me”.(Dialogue with Tropho Ch.61)
“For Christ is King, and Priest, and God and Lord…”(Dialogue With Trypho, 34)
“…He preexisted as the Son of the Creator of things, being God, and that He was born a man by the Virgin.” (Dialogue With Trypho, 48 )
“We will prove that we worship him reasonably; for we have learned that he is the Son of the true God Himself, that he holds a second place, and the Spirit of prophecy a third. For this they accuse us of madness, saying that we attribute to a crucified man a place second to the unchangeable and eternal God, the Creator of all things; but they are ignorant of the Mystery which lies therein” (First Apology 13:5-6).

Polycarp (70-160):

“Now may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the eternal High Priest Himself, the God Jesus Christ, build you up in the faith…”( The Epistle of Polycarp to the Church at Philippi, 12)

Iranaeus (120-202):

“In order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Savior, and King…”(Irenaeus Against Heresies, 1.10.1)

180 A.D. “But he Jesus is himself in his own right, beyond all men who ever lived, God, Lord, and king eternal, and the incarnate word, proclaimed by all the prophets, the apostles …The Scriptures would not have borne witness to these things concerning Him, if, like everyone else, He were mere man.” (Against Heresies 3:19.1-2)

This is but a small sample of many more quotations on the deity of Christ from many other church fathers. The belief of Jesus as God was as wide spread as it possibly could be from the earliest of times. It is simply false to suggest anything different.

The 2 Year Anniversary of the Monthly Love Meditation

May Day is coming up in a few days and over here at Peace and Loveism, it’s a special day because on May 1st, 2008 we had decided to initiate what we came to call the Monthly Love Meditation. What this event entails is for participants to take some time out of the first day of every month in order to still their minds, melt away any distracting thoughts that may arise, and focus on the energy and consciousness state of boundless love. By positioning our awareness solely on love, we are able to radiate and project this energy out into the matrix of human consciousness thanks to the reality of interconnectedness. By dedicating a few moments of the day towards this experience, we are able to do our part, no matter how small it may seem or be, in the further evolution of human consciousness to a higher level.

A Few Words On Love

There is much that can be said about love. However, what we will focus on here is how love operates as a state of consciousness. The level of consciousness that we call love is very close to being unconditional, unchanging, and permanent. It does not fluctuate nor does it depend on external factors. Love is a state of being. It is a forgiving, nurturing, and supportive way of relating to the world. It is not intellectual and does not come from the human mind. Love radiates from the heart. It has the capacity to accomplish great feats because of its purity of motive. At this level of consciousness, the capacity to discern essence becomes predominant. The core of an issue becomes the center of focus.

As reason is bypassed, there arises the capacity for instantaneous recognition of the totality of a problem. Reason only deals with particulars, whereas Love deals with entireties. This ability, often called intuition, is the capacity for instantaneous understanding without resorting to sequential symbol processing. There is a major paradigm shift in those things which seemed real, which now seem unreal and vice versa. This level opens to door to benevolence, mercy, and forgiveness through understanding and by being nonjudgmental.

Meditating on Love

After nearly 2 years of having this meditation event, we believe it is reasonable to say that it has had its positive impact on the growth in the transpersonal consciousness of humanity. Even if the impact is small, every bit helps for the evolution of the global consciousness. It is our hope that you all will be able to set aside a few minutes of your day towards focusing on the higher level of consciousness we call love. Still your mind. Let distracting thoughts melt away. Fill your body with radiant positive love energy and then project it outward into the matrix of human consciousness. Do this for yourself. Do this for humanity. Remember, we are all in this game of life together.

XFiles: Destination Hell

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 15.)

Last week, Geisler and Turek told us a fairy tale without a happy ending, about a king who disguised himself as a commoner so that he could discover the true feelings of the young maid he’d fallen in love with. This week, they take the supposedly real-life equivalent of that fairy tale, and give the ending not just one, but several grim twists. First, though, they have to make their little rhetorical point about how the Bible is the “box top” to the jigsaw puzzle of life.

We said that if we could find the box top, we’d be able to answer the five greatest questions that confront every human being. Since we now know beyond a reasonable doubt that the box top is the Bible, the answers to those five questions are:

Eh, I’ll summarize: our origin is “God did it,” our identity is “we’re made in God’s image,” the meaning of life is “we were put here so we could make choices that would send us to heaven or hell,” morality is “keeping God’s commandments and spreading the Gospel,” and our destiny is… Well, that’s the rest of this post.

To understand Geisler and Turek’s take on the “eternal destiny” of unbelievers, we need just a bit of a digression. One of the internal inconsistencies in the Christian gospel is the conflict between the humble, loving, self-effacing deity/king of last week’s fairy tale, and the barbaric, unjust, and downright evil concept of Hell, as originally taught in the early church. Various theologians have been trying, since almost the dawn of the church, to find some way reconcile Jesus’ teachings on the subject with the kind of God Jesus also taught. The results have been mixed at best, and it’s not uncommon for later generations to produce a theologian who sees the need to give it another go.

C. S. Lewis is one of the more recent apologists to try and come up with a way to make Hell work in the context of a loving heavenly Father. As he explains at great length in his book, The Great Divorce, Hell is not a place “where the fire never goes out,” nor is it a “lake of fire” that God has “prepared for the devil and his angels,” or at least not literally. Lewis’ Hell is a state of mind, in which sinners are tormented by their own thoughts and feelings, which they refuse to abandon. Heaven could be theirs at any time, but they stubbornly cling to their own evil ways, and thus are personally and exclusively the sole cause of their own agony.

Interestingly, even though this is not at all what was said by Jesus or by any of the apostles, the Lewis Hell seems to be gaining the status of Scripture in conservative Christian thinking. It’s a fascinating study in the evolution of Christian mythology because we can see new “eternal truth” forming in real time, 2000 years after Christ, by conservative Christians seeking some rationalization that will make them more comfortable with the contradictory things their religion teaches. Geisler and Turek give us an inside look at a doctrine in flux, as they present both Lewis’ “damned-because-I-want-to-be” Hell and the original, damned-because-God-damned-you Hell that Jesus taught.

C. S. Lewis said it best when he wrote, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there would be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it…”

You say, “God doesn’t send anyone to hell!” You’re right. If you reject Christ, you’ll send yourself there.

You say, “God will just annihilate those who don’t believe.” No, he won’t. Hell is real. In fact, Jesus spoke more of hell than he did of heaven… God is too loving to destroy those who don’t want to be in his presence. His only choice is to quarantine those who reject him…

You say, “God will save everybody!” How? Against their will? Some people would rather be ruined than changed. They’d rather continue their rebellion that be reformed. So God says, “Have it your way. You may continue your rebellion, but you’ll be quarantined so that you can’t pollute the rest of my creation.”

You see how the Christian doctrine of Hell is being molded and re-shaped to fit the sensibilities of modern, pampered, well-fed Christians like Geisler and Turek? In Jesus’ day, Hell was a place of torment, where the worm does not die and the fires are not quenched, and the sinner cries out for just a drop of water to cool his tongue and relieve some of the agony of the fires around him. Nobody goes there unless God (or His angels) throw them in. Lewis, however, wants to turn that into a self-inflicted mental state whose very substance is drawn from “self-choice.” God is not only off the hook, He’s completely out of the picture, deliberately excluded by the sinner himself.

Geisler and Turek like the sound of that, so they declare that it’s exactly right to say that God does not send anyone to Hell. But then, contrary to both Lewis and themselves, they declare that God does send people to Hell, as a method of quarantining them away from His other children. In fact, according to G&T, God doesn’t even have any choice in the matter: He has to send people to Hell. Evil, you see, is more contagious than goodness and righteousness. Evil has the power to make good people turn bad, but goodness does not have the power to infect evil people and them good.

Kinda makes you think about the relative strength of good and evil, eh?

You say, “You Christians just want to scare people with hell!” No, we just want people to know the truth. If that scares them, maybe it should.  We certainly don’t like what the Bible says about hell. We wish it weren’t true. But Jesus, who is God, taught it, and for good reason. It seems to be necessary. Without a hell, injustices in this world would never be righted, the free choices of people would not be respected, and the greater good of a redemption could never be accomplished. If there is no heaven to seek and no hell to shun, then nothing in this universe has any ultimate meaning… We struggle through this life for no ultimate reason and Christ died for nothing. WIthout heaven and hell, this incredibly designed universe is a stairway to nowhere.

You might want to read that twice. G&T are claiming that without Hell, life would have no meaning, injustice would never be righted, and there would be no respect for free choice. And they also say that they don’t like what the Bible says about Hell. That may be partially true, since they clearly like what Lewis said better than what Jesus said. But while they certainly don’t want to be seen as being the kind of people who condone the eternal torture of the wicked, they’re clearly Hell’s fanboys, given the extremes they go to in order to try and make Hell sound like a good thing.

As for Hell being the only possible means by which injustices are righted, let’s think about that. What does Hell do to right injustices? What does quarantining the diseased do to right injustices? If you’re going to say that Hell rights injustices by torturing the evildoer, then let’s just go ahead and admit that we’re teaching a God who throws people in Hell for the purpose of torturing them. And then let’s admit that when God allows people to avoid Hell by believing in Jesus, the injustices they’ve committed go unrighted.

As for life having meaning without Hell, maybe Geisler and Turek should talk to some of their fellow Christians who do not believe in a literal, real Hell, and ask them if they do, in fact, find any meaning in life. Never mind asking atheists, who have no problem finding all kinds of meaning in life, without an evil sock-puppet god to threaten them. Just ask other Christians if their lives have meaning, without Hell.

They’re getting a bit warmer when they say that “redemption” is pretty pointless without Hell. After all, who needs a Savior if there’s nothing to be saved from, right? And this, I think, gets to the heart of the Christian ambivalence towards Hell. The doctrine is as horrid and barbaric today as it was when Zoroaster first invented it, but it’s an essential part of the Atonement myth. Jesus’ death was brutal and inhuman, so in order for it all to “make sense,” there must be some even more brutal and even more inhuman consequence that he averted by allowing himself to be crucified. Christians need Hell to help them continue to deny that Jesus’ death was as pointless as it was savage.

Chapter 15 ends with Geisler and Turek using a straw-man “atheist” to argue that life has no meaning, allowing them to retort that they have evidence that life does have meaning. It’s the same old game plan of pretending that Christianity is the only source of real meaning in life. Pure marketing bullshit, of course: not only are there other philosophies that find meaning in the universe, but Christianity isn’t very good at the meaning it does claim to provide.

Think about it: how intellectually and morally destitute does a religion need to be before it has to resort to Hell as an essential source of meaning? We’ve got a loving heavenly Father Who loves us so much that He wants us to be with Him forever in a two-way, intimate, personal relationship so close that marriage is only an approximation of the believer’s relationship with God. And oh, by the way, He has created a special place of fire and endless agony that is the ultimate eternal destination of most of His beloved children. And that’s the meaning of life.

Seriously?

Christianity finds meaning in mythic accounts of Ultimate Blessing and Ultimate Punishment in some far-future “next world,” and that’s because it sucks so bad at recognizing the meaning and purpose that are already present in this one. Ask a Christian to explain what meaning or purpose they find in this life, and they’ll fail. They may try to answer, but their answers will all be stories about things they believe happened in the invisibly-distant past, or the invisibly-distant future, in some world outside of our own. Ask for the present, material, here-and-now meaning and purpose of life, and they can’t do it. Not only does Christianity fail to teach them how to recognize materialistic meaning and purpose, it encourages believers to actively ignore even the possibility such things could exist.

And that’s basically where Geisler and Turek end the main body of their book: clinging to Christianity because they cannot acknowledge or even perceive the meaning of life outside their own narrow and superstitious world view. Their hypocritical boasts echo hollowly in a vast intellectual and moral wasteland, proclaiming that their confused and self-contradictory “evidence” has demonstrated “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the Bible is Truth and that it takes more faith to be an atheist than to be a Christian. Any honest reader will walk away unconvinced, unless of course he would prefer to be as deluded as Geisler and Turek. For those who truly yearn to believe, Geisler and Turek’s rationalizations will work as well as any other, I guess.

But wait, there’s more: the book has three Appendices: “If God, Why Evil?”, “Isn’t That Just Your Interpretation?” and “Why the Jesus Seminar Doesn’t Speak for Jesus.” Stay tuned.

The Lord our God the Almighty Reigns

Psalm 8:4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

2 Chron 6:18 Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you

Job 11:7  “Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?

Job 23:16 God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me;

Revelation 19:6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.”

Knowing Our Hearts: Creating Coherent Electromagnetic Fields

There is an incredible amount of knowledge that we as humans can gather up from the plant kingdom with a heart-centered approach. By gathering information directly from the “heart of nature”, we are able to realize the interconnectedness between humanity and the planet in a way that may conjure up themes from films such as Avatar. As more scientific research comes forward concerning the abilities and properties of plants, the more we learn that there are so many things that the plant kingdom is able to teach us, especially concerning harmony and balance.

A book that came our a few years ago entitled The Secret Teachings of Plants: The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature details these things in a very elegant way and shows us that the ancient shamanistic tales of oneness, interconnectedness, harmony, and balance with respect to humanity and nature’s relationship are indeed true. The human heart is significantly more important than most people realize, and in order to spread awareness of this reality, secret excerpts from the book will be provided to show just how important and sophisticated the heart truly is.

The Physical Heart: The Central Nervous System Heart:

Between 60 and 65% of the cells in the heart are neural cells. They’re the same kind and function in the same way as those in the brain. The neural connections between the brain and heart cannot be turned off. Information is always flowing between the two. The heart is directly wired into the central nervous system and brain, interconnected with the amygdala, thalamus, hippocampus, and cortex. There four brain centers are primarily concerned with emotional memories and processing; sensory experience; memory, spatial relationships, the extraction of meaning from sensory inputs from the environment; and problem solving, reasoning, and learning.

The heart makes and releases its own neurotransmitters as it needs them. By monitoring central nervous system functioning, the heart can tell just what neurotransmitters it needs and when in order to enhance its communication with the brain. The heart also has its own memory. The heart stores memories which affect consciousness and behavior, how we perceive the world. They most often have to do with specific emotional experiences and the meanings embedded within them. The more intense the emotional experience, the more likely it will be stored by the heart as memory.

Neuronal discharge in the brain–the oscillating pattern of informational pulse release in the amygdala, hippocampus, thalamus, and sometimes the neocortex–is in phase with heart and lung cycles. These discharges are state-dependent. In other words, changes in heart activity–blood pressure, timing of beats, wave pulsations in the blood, hormone and neurotransmitter creation and release, and more–all shift the functioning of these areas of the brain. Information embedded within cardiac outputs directly reaches many of the subcortical areas of the brain involved in emotional processing. The kinds of information that the heart sends significantly shifts functioning of the amygdala thus affecting emotions and other subcortical centers of the brain. The kind of activity displayed in the central nucleus of the amygdala has been found to be dependent on input from the aortic depressor or carotid sinus nerves. Heart researcher Rollin McCraty comments, “Cells within the amygdaloid complex specifically responded to information from the cardiac cycle.”

Single neurons in the brain alter their behavior in response to the signals received from each heartbeat. In response to cardiac input, complexes of neurons in the brain change their grouping and firing patterns. They alter their behavior in order to embed the information received through cardiac function and send it into the central nervous system. The information embedded within cardiac pulses alters central nervous function in behaviorally significant ways. There is, in fact, a two-way communication between heart and brain that shifts physiological functioning and behavior in response to the information exchanged.

Analysis of information flow into the human body has shown that much of it impacts the heart first, flowing to the brain only after it has been perceived by the heart. What this means is that our experience of the world is routed first through our heart, which “thinks” about the experience and then sends the data to the brain for further processing. When the heart receives information back from the brain about how to respond, the heart analyzes it and decides whether or not the actions that the brain wants to take will be effective. The heart routinely engages in a neural dialogue with the brain and, in essence, the two decide together what actions to take.

Heart-Brain Entrainment:

When the brain entrains to the heart, connectivity increases between brain and body. Conversely, the location of consciousness in the brain leads to an increased disconnection between brain and body. When one shifts into heart-oriented cognition, mental dialogue is reduced.

Sympathetic and parasympathetic nerve pathways and the baroreceptor system directly link the heart and brain, allowing communications and information to flow freely. Messages flowing from the heart to the brain during this shift to coherence significantly alter the brain’s functioning, especially in the cortex, which profoundly affects perception and learning.

Thus a new mode of cognition is activated: the holistic/intuitive/depth mode. Heart researcher McCraty comments, “[heart entrainment] leads to increased self-management of one’s mental and emotional states that automatically manifests as more highly ordered physiological states that affect the functioning of the whole body, including the brain. The practitioners of these heart focus techniques report an increased intuitive awareness and more efficient decision-making capability that is beyond their normal capacity from the mind and brain alone.”

Shifting the focus of consciousness to the heart–and away from the forebrain–results in entrainment of large populations of cells in the forebrain to cardiac functioning (rather than vice versa). These populations of forebrain cells begin oscillating to the rhythms produced by the heart, and the perception of those populations of cells, the kinds of information they begin to process during entrainment, is very different from what they process when entrainment is not occurring.

The human brain operates in a state that is far from equilibrium; it, like the heart, is a complex, nonlinear oscillator. Every day, there is an incessant stream of incoming data–material to “think” about. These incoming signals cause the system to constantly shift from one state to another in response to the incoming signals. The system constantly wobbles in and out of dynamic equilibrium, reestablishing a new homeodynamic every time it is perturbed. The neurons in the brain are nonlinear, oscillators themselves, and can be influenced by extremely weak perturbations. They are very sensitive to such perturbations, for they, like all nonlinear oscillators, use stochastic resonance to boost signal strength. A shift in the heart’s electromagnetic field is a perturbation that the brain has been evolutionarily intended to respond to. And when the heart goes coherent, the brain immediately begins to respond.

Coordinated interactions across extracellular space lead to long-range, coordinated dynamics of heart and brain function during heart/brain entrainment. When brain neurons entrain to the heart’s ECG activity, the timing of neuronal firings alters, and research shows that the timing of neuronal firing conveys several times more information than the firing count. Analysis of electroencephalogram readings shows that the heart’s signals are strongest in the occipital (posterior) regions of the brain and the right anterior (front) sections of the brain. The brain’s alpha rhythms also synchronize to the heart, and their amplitude lowers when they do so. The brain’s alpha rhythyms are the fastest of the brain’s electromagnetic waves. Their amplitude is lower when brain arousal is lower or when a person concentrates on external sensory phenomena rather than on abstract analytical or symbolic thoughts.

After heart/brain entrainment, when a combination of both heart and brain waves are taken by electrocardiogram, what is seen is that the brain waves ride on top of the heart waves. Not only are they oscillating together; the brain’s wave patterns are, in fact, embedded within the larger field of the heart.

Hippocampal activity increases considerably when cognition is shifted to the heart, heart coherence occurs, and the brain entrains to the heart. Focusing on external sensory cues activates hippocampal functions, since all the sensory systems of our bodies converge in the hippocampus. The increased demand on hippocampal function stimulates stem cells to congregate in the hippocampus and form neurons and neuronal complexes. The reduced cortisol production that occurs during heart coherence directly enhances hippocampal activity as well. The hippocampus, in other words, comes strongly online. It begins sifting the electromagnetic fields the heart is detecting for embedded patterns of information, eliciting meaning from background information. The hippocampus then sends information about those meanings to the neocortex, where it is encoded as memories. The more that sensory focus is on external environments, the more activated the hippocampus and its analysis of meaning becomes.

Shifting attention to any particular organ–in this case, the heart–increases registration of the feedback from that organ in the brain. This increase is measurable in electroencephalogram patterns. The shift to heart awareness initiates an alteration in body functioning via physiological mechanisms that operate through neural registration of organ feedback on the brain.

This kind of synchronization does not occur spontaneously, unless people habituate heart-focused perception. Since we have been habituated to the analytical mode of cognition through our schooling, taught to locate our consciousness in the brain and not the heart, this type of entrainment must be consciously practiced. (For most of us, heart-focused perception is not a natural mode of processing information, though it was for ancient peoples and sometimes still is for indigenous cultures.) Even though the brain entrains with the heart through heart-focused techniques, the brain tends to wander in and out of entrainment. Because of the brain’s long use as the dominant mode of cognition, this entrainment is not permanent. Practice in entrainment helps the brain and any other system to main synchronization for longer and longer periods of time.

Impacts on Health and Disease:

The heart is the most powerful oscillator in the body and its behavior is naturally nonlinear and irregular. One measure of the irregular, nonlinear activity of the heart is called heart rate variability or HRV. The resting heart, instead of beating regularly, engages in continual, spontaneous fluctuations. The heartbeat in young, healthy people is highly irregular. But heart beating patterns tend to become very regular and predictable as people get older or as their hearts become diseased. The greater the HRV, the more complex the heart’s beating patterns are and the healthier the heart is.

Quote:

Complexity here refers specifically to a multiscale, fractal-type variability in structure or function. Many disease states are marked by less complex dynamics than those observed under healthy conditions. This decomplexification of systems with disease appears to be a common feature of many pathologies, as well as of aging. When physiological systems become less complex, their information content is degraded. As a result they are less adaptable and less able to cope with the exigencies of a constantly changing environment. To generate information a system must be capable of behaving in an unpredictable fashion… Certain pathologies are marked by a breakdown of this long-range organization property, producing an uncorrelated randomness similar to white noise.

-Ary Goldberger

What is especially telling is that when the heart is entrained to the brain’s oscillating wave-form, rather than vice versa, the heart begins to, over time, lose coherence. The more the heart entrains to the brain, and the longer it does so, the less it displays a variable HRV, the less fractal its processes are, and the more regular it is. It is, in fact, entraining to a linear rather than a nonlinear orientation. It is not surprising then that our culture’s focus on a type of schooling that develops the brain to the exclusion of the heart, that fosters thinking instead of feeling, detachment instead of empathy, leads to disease. Heart disease is the number-one killer in the United States.

When any system begins to lose this dynamical-chaos aspect of its functioning and becomes more predictable, it begins to lose elegance of function. It, in fact, becomes diseased. Heart disease is always accompanied by an increasing loss of nonlinearity of the heart. The more predictable and regular the heart becomes, the more diseased it is. Loss of heart rate variability, for instance, occurs in multiple sclerosis, fetal distress, aging, and congestive heart disease. To be healthy, the heart must remain in a highly unstable state of dynamic equilibrium.

Given all this, it is not surprising that unhealthy emotional states (major depression and panic disorders, for example) correlate with changes in HRV as well as alterations in the power spectral density of the heart (power spectral density refers to the range and number of electromagnetic waves produced by the heart).

During major depression and panic disorder, as in many pathological heart conditions, the heart’s electromagnetic spectrum begins to show a narrower range, and beating patterns again become very regular. This narrowing and increase in regularity also show direct impacts in the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Sympathetic nervous system activity and tone tend to increase, the parasympathetic to decrease. These are all signs of increasing heart disease, as a disordered heart cannot produce the extreme variability and flexibility that is normal in the healthy heart. Since emotional experience comes, in part, from the electromagnetic field of the heart, a disordered, narrow, noncomplex electromagnetic field will produce emotional experiences, like depression and panic attacks, that are themselves disordered, narrow, and restricted in scope.

In many pathological conditions, the heart’s electrophysiologic system acts as if it were coupling itself to multiple oscillatory systems on a permanent basis. In other words, it behaves as if it can’t make up its mind, and its cells no longer beat as one unified group. Instead, the group begins to split (broken-hearted), pulled this way and that by different outside oscillating attractors. Holding the consciousness to one state of being, the verbal/intellectual/analytical mode of cognition, of necessity produces a diminished heart function, a shallower mix of emotional states, and an impaired ability to respond to embedded meanings and communications from the environment and from the self.

Conversely, increasing heart coherence and heart/brain entrainment has shown a great many positive health effects. Increased heart coherence boosts the body’s production of immunoglobulin A, a naturally occurring compound that protects the body’s mucous membranes and helps prevent infections. Increased heart coherence and heart/brain entrainment also produces improvements in disorders such as arrhythmia, mitral valve prolapse, congestive heart failure, asthma, diabetes, fatigue, autoimmune conditions, autonomic exhaustion, anxiety, depression, AIDS, and post-traumatic stress disorder. In general, in many disease, overall healing rates are enhanced.

One specific treatment intervention study, for example, found that high blood pressure can be significantly lowered within six months–without the use of medication–if heart coherence is reestablished. And as heart/brain synchronization occurs, people experience less anxiety, dpression, and stress overall.

Lack of cognitive focus on the body (habituation to the verbal/intellectual/analytical mode of cognition) results in disconnection and increased disorder in organ function–and is the foundation of many diseases, including heart disease. When attention is focused on different sensory cues (e.g., heartbeat, respiration, external visual stimuli) physiological function shifts significantly and becomes more healthy. It becomes even more healthy when specific kinds of emotions are activated: feelings of caring, love, and appreciation enhance internal coherence. The more confused, angry, or frustrated a person becomes, the more incoherent their heart’s electromagnetic field.

In the healthy heart, the varied and complex emotional mix we experience each day–generated by contact with our internal and external worlds–produces a range of heart rate patterns that is nonlinear and constantly shifting. Communications are embedded within these shifting mixes and patterns, communications from and to our bodies, our loved ones, the world at large. The narrower the range of the electromagnetic spectrum, the more regular the beating patterns of the heart and the less “hearty” we become.

Heart Communication with the External World:

Biological fields, as Renee Levi comments, are “composed of vibrations that are organized, nor random, and have the capacity to selectively react, interact, and transact internally and with other fields.” “Our body and brain, Joseph Chilton Pearce remarks, “form an intricate web of coherent frequencies organized to translate other frequencies and nestled within a nestled within a nested hierarchy of universal frequencies.”

Living organisms, including people, exchange electromagnetic energy through contact between their fields, and this electromagnetic energy carries information in much the same way radio transmitters and receivers carry music. When people or other living organisms touch, a subtle but highly complex exchange of information occurs via their electromagnetic fields. Refined measurements reveal that there is an energy exchange between people, carried through the electromagnetic field of the heart, that while strongest with touch and up to 18 inches away, can still be measured (with instruments) when they are five feet apart. Though of course, our (technological) ability to measure electromagnetic radiation is very crude. Electromagnetic signals from living organisms, just like radio waves, continue outward indefinitely.

Thus energy, encoded with information, is transferred from one electromagnetic field to another. In response to the information it receives, the heart alters its functioning and encodes in its fields, on a constantly shifting basis, its responses. Those responses can, in turn, alter the electromagnetic fields of whatever living organisms the heart is engaged with–for this is a living, ever-shifting dialogue.

The heart generates the strongest electromagnetic field of the body, and this field becomes more coherent as consciousness shifts from the brain to the heart. This coherence significantly contributes to the informational exchange that occurs during contact between different electromagnetic fields. The more coherent the field, the more potent the informational exchange.

A coherent heart affects the brain wave pattern not only of the person achieving coherence, but also of any person with whom it comes into contact. While direct skin-to-skin contact has the greatest effect on brain function, mere proximity elicits changes. A sender’s coherent heart-field is measurable not only in a receiving person’s electroencephalogram, but also in his or her entire electromagnetic field.

When people touch or are in close proximity, a transference of their heart’s electromagnetic energy occurs, and the two fields begin to entrain or resonate with each other. The result is a combined wave created by a combination of the original waves. This combined wave has the same frequency as the original waves but an increased amplitude. Both its power and depth are increased.

The signal of transfer is sometimes, but not always, detected as flowing in both directions; this depends to a great extent on the context of the transfer and the orientation of the sender. When a person projects a heart-coherent field filled with caring, love and attention, living organisms respond to the information in the field by becoming more responsive, open, affectionate, animated, and closely connected. Just to illustrate this in real life, this is something that anyone who has ever experienced the effects of MDMA and other empathogens knows all too well and can attest to this reality.

The importance of caring on outcomes in healing has been stressed in a great many cultures and types of healing professions. Healing practitioners that consciously produce coherence in the electromagnetic field of their hearts create a field that can be detected by other living systems and their biological tissues. This field is then amplified and used by the organism detecting it to shift biological function. When these loving, practitioner-generated fields are detected and (naturally) amplified by ill people, healing rates of wounds are increased, pain decreases, hemoglobin levels shift, DNA alters, and new psychological states manifest.

Thus, the best outcomes are dependent on the state of mind of the healer. Extreme importance should be attached to the kind of intention a practitioner has as he or she works. The more caring the practitioner, the more coherence there will be in their electromagnetic field and the better the healing will be.

When we are cared for or care for others, the heart releases an entirely different cascade of hormonal and neurotransmitter substances than it does in other, less hopeful, circumstances. Falling in love causes a tremendous expansion of the heart, a flood of DHEA and testosterone throughout the heart and body, and a flow of other hormones, such as dopamine, all of which affect adrenal, hypothalamus, and pituitary hormone output. More Immunoglobulin A, or IgA, is also released, stimulating the health and immune action of mucous membrane systems throughout the body.

The receiver’s receptivity to the practitioner’s heart-field also plays a part in the outcome. The more open he or she is to receiving caring, the more he or she will entrain with an external electromagnetic field. However, the elegance of the practitioner in creating and directing a coherent electromagnetic field to the patient is of more importance than the sufferer’s receptivity. In addition, the practitioner-generated field must be continually adjusted.

Since the heart’s electromagnetic field is nonlinear, healers can alter the makeup of the field through a constantly shifting perception of the patient. As the healer shifts toward coherence, nor surprisingly, there is an alteration in his or her own cortical function. At this point, pesronal perception also alters considerably. The healer’s cognition is, as McCraty puts it, “dramatically changed.” This altered perception is by nature extremely sensitive to the fabric of external electromagnetic fields and the information contained within them. As the practitioner’s perception and their facility in using it deepens, it is possible to use it in a highly directed fashion to extract more meaning from the patient and his or her interior world. As the patient’s electromagnetic field alters, as it will from moment to moment throughout the process, the kind of caring, attention, and love the practitioner sends and where it is directed can be adjusted, making it more highly sophisticated in its impacts. Since the healer’s electromagnetic field is so personally directed and shaped to fit the unique needs and electromagnetic field of the patient, the patient’s sensitivity to the process increases the more it occurs. Anyone can, and will, responds with significant shifts in their electromagnetic field if the practitioner’s technique is elegant enough.

If the practitioner entrains him or herself to the patient’s ECG or EEG, their heart can take on the disease patterns in the other person–beat and EEG pattern, and so on. Self-reflection will show the practitioner the pattern of disease in the patient, and by altering their own pattern back toward health, the practitioner can determine the processes, the steps necessary to produce health in the patient. But beyond this, the patient, in a state of synchronization, will tent to “follow” the leads embedded in the practitioner’s electromagnetic field, moving toward health.

The more accustomed people become to responding to coherent electromagnetic fields generated through a practitioner’s heart, the more rapidly they are able to physiologically respond when they detect a coherent electromagnetic field. The more interaction two living organisms have, the more imprinting that occurs on their hearts, the more alteration there is in their electromagnetic fields, the more shifts that occur in heart function. Since this element of healing is almost absent in conventional, technological medicine, patients are not used to responding to coherent electromagnetic fields as part of their healing. In fact, the electromagnetic field of most medical healers is extremely incoherent, since they have been trained to use their brains to the exclusion of their hearts. The ill are immersed in incoherent electromagnetic fields throughout their healing process in hospitals, which, in and of itself, is a strong contributing element to the kinds of outcomes hospitals and physicians produce.

Cussing Pastors

I was recently asked what I thought about pastors that cuss in the pulpit. I thought I’d give my thoughts here.

First, most of the passages that talk about curses or swearing have to do with oaths and vows, or blessings and cursings. They have nothing to do with swear words as we normally think of them.

Second, we need more balance in our thinking. I have been frustrated for a while by Christians who rate movies by nothing other than the number of cuss words the film contains as if there is nothing else we need to be concerned about. (They also will count the number of acts of violence and similar explicit sins). But more important to me is the worldview that is present. This is harder to pick up on, but because of that it is also more dangerous. A movie may promote a thoroughgoing nihilistic worldview, but if there are no swear words it is given a thumbs-up by these Christian film critics. A movie that speaks in a deep and difficult way to the nature of mankind is booed because of some swear words while a film that speaks of faith in a way that undermines the true gospel is praised as a must see. We should be more discerning than that.

The passages listed below deal more directly with the issue, but even here the prohibition is broader than mere swear words. Corrupting speech or filthy speech can be done without using any of the four-letter words. Crude joking and obscene talk can occur quite readily without using the banned word list we normally think of. When it comes to cussing probably the closest thing to it in scripture is as follows:

Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Ephesians 5:3 “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”

Colossians 3:8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.

I imagine that there is far more foolish talk that occurs in churches than obscene, yet both are forbidden. Neither is helpful to the proclamation of the word, so I would avoid both. I fear that just like our view of movies, we place far too much stock in the explicit when it is the core of the ministry that matters most. Ironically, I think this imbalance is due, in part, to having too low a view of sin. Because we only think of the explicit kind of sin as sins we have an imbalance in our thinking. Obviously pastors should not be sinning in the pulpit, but I believe that every person in every church (pastors included) sin every Sunday during the service. All of it is wrong. We ought to give the same weight to something as scripture gives to it.

Third, cussing is culturally defined. What passes for “harsh” speech is audience dependent. Some are more easily offended than others. Churches in the inner city will be different from churches in rural settings. What is taboo to one generation may be free game to the next. All the “sex” sermons that are so popular in American churches today would be completely out of place to an older generation or in a more conservative culture (like much of the middle east). The words of the prophets and Paul and Peter and Jesus are far more offensive that what our culture is used to. In fact I think we are too easily offended.We need to not play the victim so readily. I think we, as Christians especially, should be able to put up with some cussing. This does not mean that I approve of pastors cussing; they of all people should be above reproach. So consider this a two-tier approach:

To the pastor: Stop being a cause of stumbling in some. Conduct yourself in a way that will most glorify God. Since most cussing is done in flippant circumstances it does not correlate well to Paul in Gal 5:1 since the gospel was at stake in that letter or Jesus’ rebukes because the Pharisees were shutting the kingdom of heaven to their listeners. These were serious issues that require strong words. It is hard to see how that cussing glorifies God when it is done in light-hearted situations that do not demand strong words.

To the church member: Don’t be so picky. There are far weightier things that pastors do wrong that are often overlooked because they are not “explicit.” If your pastor has these weighty things in place, then grant him grace in this area and encourage him (encourage, don’t nag) to do better. Far better to be in a doctrinally solid church that ministers well to its members and is active in its community with the gospel and ministries of mercy where the pastor cusses than to be in some shallow do nothing church. No church will be perfect, choose in a biblically balanced manner.

XFiles: The Fairy Tale Maid and the Snuff Porn Savior

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 15.)

Few things in life are as handy as a good rationalization. No matter where you start from, and no matter what the actual facts are, a good rationalization will always take  you to wherever you want to be. That’s deeply satisfying, if not strictly honest or wise.

The problem is that when you’re faced with a big problem, you sometimes feel the urge to draw on two or more rationalizations, to try and reinforce your position. That’s generally a bad idea. Rationalizations are not the truth, and do not benefit from the perfect self-consistency that is the hallmark of real-world facts. As soon as you start piling on different rationalizations, you begin to expose the inherent inconsistencies between them. Geisler and Turek provide us with yet another good example in this week’s installment of IDHEFBA.

We begin with a fairy tale romance, inspired by Kierkegaard (as interpreted by Philip Yancey).

The king was like no other king. Statesmen trembled before his power. No one dared breathe a word against him, for he had the strength to crush all opponents. And yet this mighty king was melted by love for a humble maid.

How could he declare his love for her? In an odd sort of way, his very kingliness tied his hands. If he brought her to the palace, and crowned her head with jewels and clothed her body in royal robes, she would surely not resist… But would she love him?

It’s a classic dilemma, at least for those in positions of extreme power: you want to know someone’s true feelings, yet you can never know whether the other person’s responses are due to genuine affection or whether they merely feign affection out of respect and/or fear of your great power. Not to give away the plot or anything, but the king here is supposed to stand for God.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. God is supposed to be able to see so deep into the human heart that he knows thoughts we ourselves don’t even know we’re thinking. But work with me here. It’s a rationalization. It doesn’t have to be consistent with the facts as long as it takes us to a desired conclusion via some sort of narrative plausibility.

So where were we? Oh yes, the king’s dilemma. Fortunately, the king is a genius. He thinks real hard and decides to disguise himself as someone else, and then see if the maid will fall in love with him for himself, without knowing about his royalty or power. Unfortunately for the folks at Disney Animation, the story ends there. There is no “happy ending,” because the point of the story is to make us believe that Jesus is really God, in disguise, coming down to us commoners, as a commoner, to see how we really feel.

Let’s pause here for a moment and give Kierkegaard his proper credit. This is a brilliant idea. Ok, perhaps it’s a bit obvious, but sometimes it takes genius to be the first to notice the obvious, and that’s really what we have here. If you’re an omnipotent God, and you want to know what people really think about you when you are, so to speak, not around, all you have to do is take on a more humble form, and then go spend some time with them, in person, in two-way face-to-face interaction.

So props to Kierkegaard. This is exactly what a real, loving God would do—and exactly what the Christian God does not do. If your goal is to find out how the commoner really feels, and especially if you want to give her a fair chance to decide whether she loves you or not, the best and only way to accomplish your goal is to do what any suitor would do: come courtin’ and spend time together. Thus, we can confidently conclude that the God-king of Kierkegaard’s story does not exist, because He does not show up to spend time with us. Thanks Søren!

Ok, back to Geisler and Turek. Our two intrepid apologists, naturally, intend that we should assume that Jesus was God in disguise, showing up in person (once!) because He’s looking for unbiased opinions about Himself. That might work for the small circle of people who actually met Jesus (assuming Jesus actually were God incarnate), but outside of that immediate circle, you lose the whole point of the exercise.

The point of the exercise, in Kierkegaard’s fairy tale, is that the God-king wants to obtain the commoner’s true opinion uninfluenced by His awesome reputation. Outside of the small circle of people who actually met Jesus, though, our opinions about Jesus have no alternative but to be based exclusively on—guess what?—his reputation. That’s all he left behind. He’s not here any more, and God does not show up in real life. Everything we know or think or feel today regarding Jesus is what we know, think, and feel based on what other men say about Jesus. Plus, if He had to come down among us in order to assess our reaction to Him, what will He do now that He’s gone? Either He didn’t really need to come down in the first place, or else His departure has left Him unable to fulfill His mission with regards to the rest of us.

What really comes through when you think about Kierkegaard’s fairy tale romance is how radically different reality is from the fantasies Christians have about their allegedly loving and humble deity. That fantasy is not enough for Geisler and Turek, though, who launch from this unfinished fairy tale right into a gruesome account of Jesus’ suffering, with a morbid fascination that goes into enough bloody detail to border on the pornographic (in the snuff porn sense of the word).

The connection, in Geisler and Turek’s mind, is the idea of Jesus as “The Suffering Servant.” Jesus, being a mighty King in heaven, is supposed to have humbled himself so that he could walk among us, not as our king, but as our servant. That’s the fairy tale connection, the link to a romantic young man willing to go to any lengths to approach his lady love. But there’s no happy ending here. Christians also have to rationalize Jesus’ brutal and violent death, and that’s where things get just a little creepy.

Remember, the original premise is that the whole point of becoming human was so that God could get an unbiased expression of how we feel about Him. He sets aside all the awesomeness and power and glory and so on so that we make up our minds about Him without being unduly pressured or swayed by His reputation. But that rationalization collides head on with the one that tries to explain why Jesus died such a violent death.

Geisler and Turek’s rationalization for the cross is that Jesus didn’t just take on the form of a servant, he became the Suffering Servant. That’s “Suffering,” with a capital Pain. Even though they open with a parable about how God wants our honest and unprejudiced response, they then proceed with a literal blow-by-blow description of every bruise, every wound, every tiny hot sliver of agony experienced by Jesus, in order to impress on us how cruel and unfair it would be for us to fail to offer our love to him in return.

Yeah, no pressure.

I’ll spare you the two-and-a-half pages of sadistic glory that Geisler and Turek use to (pardon the expression) drive home their point. But you get my drift. Christians are in denial, and have been for 2,000 years. Their religious leader ticked off the wrong guys, and they came down on him with predictable vengeance, and he lost. His disciples have never accepted that, and have come up with all kinds of rationalizations for why things turned out the way they did. The rationalizations are confused, contradictory, and downright creepy, and they blindly overlook what a real God would really do if He were truly willing and able to participate in a tangible, personal relationship with us.

Up next: Geisler and Turek promise to share with us the “box top” to the jigsaw puzzle of life. Stay tuned.

Success By Living A Heart-Centered Life

There are many ways put forward in society as to how to be successful in one’s life endeavors. Although it may not be the most talked about method, perhaps the most powerful and effective method is the heart-centered approach to life. The literal heart is an incredibly powerful and energetic generator of feelings, as the latest scientific studies involving the heart are showing. A change of heart truly does change everything. For success to be possible, one has to have a healthy relationship with their Self. The ego’s influence should be minimized to where self-centered behavior is superseded by the loving behavior of selflessness. The first step forward towards success requires only one thing…courage.

Courage is a level of consciousness where exploration, accomplishment, and determination are all able to be experienced by an individual. When we are locked into lower levels of consciousness such as apathy or fear, the world is seemingly hopeless, sad, frightening and frustrating. Once a person transcends to the level of courage, life is seen as exciting, challenging, and stimulating. By experiencing courage in our lives, we suddenly have the willingness to try out new things and deal with the changes and challenges of life. Facing fears and character defects is now possible. By being courageous, we are able to identify our fears. We are also able to identify repressed emotions. After identifying them, we are able to express them, which creates a state of psychological healing that is very beneficial to our continuous self-growth.

Attaining this level of courage requires that there be in existence a healthy relationship with the Self. Without such a relationship, we will be unable to identify our fears because there is no true communication with oneself concerning our true feelings about things, such as what we are afraid of. Meditate and go inward to discover the answers you seek about your Self and with enough perseverance, you will discover them and be able to transform your life in a most positive way.

Success comes with leaving fear behind. Transcend fear and replace it with love and compassion. The fear experienced about the negative “what-ifs” will otherwise come to be manifested as an actual reality by way of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Our thoughts shape and create our reality and so this should come as no surprise. Have compassion for yourself first and then extend this compassion to others because you can not give what you do not have.

A critical factor in being successful in our life goals is the dropping of any feeling that you have to get someone else’s approval for something that you do. You will stop seeking approval when you stop fearing disapproval. You will stop fearing disapproval the moment you stop disapproving of yourself. This requires you to stop judging yourself because of your imperfections. Nobody is perfect and such a mentality can do very little towards any sort of positive self-growth.  If we stop worrying about what another person’s subjective opinion of us is, we will be able to set ourselves free of the self-imposed shackles that have kept us from fulfilling our full potential. You care about what others think of you because you fear that you will be judged by them. The solution to this fear of being judged is to stop judging yourself. When you are affected by the opinions that others have about you, the thought-pattern that you are creating is one that says, “your opinion of me is of greater value than my opinion about myself.” It should be clear as to how this can be a debilitating thought-pattern.

The higher the attractor field, the greater the attraction. People who seem to emanate a higher energy level such as one of joy will act as attractor fields for others who are not calibrating at such high levels. Perhaps more importantly, the old adage of “like attracts like” will is seen as being very real and is the simple formula for success. By way of the law of attraction, if you project positivity, positivity will find its way back to you. Success becomes the result.

There are two basic emotions and states of consciousness that drive all that we do: fear and love. All anger must be filtered through the heart and transformed into compassion. Understanding that seemingly-negative feelings people express are fear-based is one way to develop compassion and understanding. Remember that love conquers all. Love can overpower and transform fear. Light can conquer darkness. By making the consciousness shift from fear to love, you will be able to experience much greater success in your life, especially if you’re looking for an honest, secret-free, sincere, heart-based life experience. Remember that nothing is able to push away real genuine love that is heart-centered.

The key to success lies in having a heart-centered life experience. In all that we do, love should be the guiding stream of consciousness, not fear.  We should avoid projecting negative energy by way of our thoughts and emotions because this will hinder our self-growth and shifting of consciousness. Of course, it is not a simple undertaking but in order to have a life filled with success and great interpersonal relationships, a heart-centered approach should be taken. Given the reality of oneness and interconnectedness, not only do we benefit, but also those to whom we are expressing our heart-centered feelings towards. Live love and enjoy the wonderful rewards such a life experience has to offer.

XFiles: Targeted recruiting

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 15.)

We’ve made it at last to Chapter 15, the traditional “altar call” with which many preachers end their Sunday sermon. Without any hint of intentional irony, Geisler and Turek are going to end I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an Atheist by urging us to have faith in Jesus. And they base this appeal, not on verifiable evidence or rational logic, but on emotion. And a rather selfish emotion at that.

A young man is brought before a judge for drunk driving. When his name is announced by the bailiff, there’s a gasp in the courtroom—the defendant is the judge’s son! The judge hopes his son is innocent, but the evidence is irrefutable. He’s guilty.

What can the judge do? He’s caught in a dilemma between justice and love. Since his son is guilty, he deserves punishment. But the judge doesn’t want to punish his son because of his great love for him.

There’s a lot that’s wrong with this story already, parable or not. For example, the honest thing for this judge to do would be to recuse himself from the case. There’s a clear conflict of interest here, and whatever decision the judge makes, it’s not going to be impartial. For the judge to proceed is unethical and unfair, both to society and to his son.

Secondly, notice what a terrible parenting philosophy is expressed in that last line. The judge loves his son, therefore he does not want his son to receive a fair punishment for his genuine offenses? Whatever happened to “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him”? Not that I would recommend corporal punishment, of course, (there are much better alternatives available), but still, if a parent has to object to the idea of punishing his kid, then there’s something wrong with either the punishment or the parent.

The story doesn’t stop here, of course. The judge is about to do something “wonderful.”

He reluctantly announces the sentence. “Son, you can either pay a $5,000 fine or go to jail.”

The son looks up at the judge and says, “But Dad, I promise to be good from now on. I’ll volunteer at the soup kitchens. I’ll visit the elderly. I’ll even open a home to care for abused children. And I’ll never do anything wrong again! Please let me go!”

At this point, the judge asks, “Are you still drunk? You can’t do all of that. But even if you could, your future good deeds can’t change the fact that you’re already guilty of drunk driving.” Indeed, the judge realizes that good works cannot cancel bad works! Perfect justice demands that his son be punished for what he has done.

So the judge repeats, “I’m sorry, Son. As much as I’d like to allow you to go, I’m bound by the law. The punishment for this crime is $5,000 or you go to jail.”

The son pleads with his father, “But, Dad, you know I don’t have $5,000. There has to be another way.”

I’ll spare you the full force of G&T’s fiction-writing skills, but in summary, the judge very dramatically gets down from the bench, takes off his robe, and hands his son $5,000 so that he can get out of jail free. In a presumably tearful and moving moment, the son accepts the money and realizes the point the authors of his story are trying to make:

There’s nothing else he can do. Good works or promises of good works cannot set him free. Only the acceptance of his father’s free gift can save the son from certain punishment.

At this point, we the readers are expected to identify with the son. We’re supposed to feel like we’re undeniably guilty and that we’re facing a just and fearsome punishment, and that God, our Heavenly Father is offering us a chance to escape the just consequences of our own deeds.

Let’s just think about that for a minute. This is the altar call. This is the fisherman casting his nets and seeing who he can reel in. This is 2,000 years’ worth of Christian experience in attracting the sort of believer who is most likely to respond and convert. And it’s targeted at people who identify with the drunk driver who, despite his undeniable guilt, wants to walk out of court a free man.

Who is likely to respond to this appeal? Is this going to attract the sort of person whose standards of morality and ethics are offended by a judge deliberately “gaming the system” in order to obtain benefits for some defendants that he would not bestow on others? No. This particular appeal is aimed at people who take selfish pleasure in the idea of escaping the just consequences of their own evil deeds. Makes you wonder about prison ministries, doesn’t it?

There’s lots we could say about the ethical, moral and judicial implications of the judge’s actions in this story. For example, are the judge’s actions good? If they are, why don’t we try it on all drunk drivers? Bring them in, and tell them that if they plead guilty, they will be assessed an unaffordably large fine, which some employee of the state will then freely give them the money to pay so that they can go home free. Wouldn’t that be great?

Or there’s the question of the judge’s degree of guilt for the consequences if his own actions. Suppose that, early the next morning, while returning from the bar where he was celebrating his narrow escape from justice, the son drunkenly swerves across the center line and head-on into a minivan, killing seven young schoolchildren coming home late from a multi-day field trip. Does the judge bear any moral accountability for enabling his son’s behavior and sparing him a jail term in which he might have had time to think about his situation and enroll in some kind of self-help program?

None of those ethical, moral, or intellectual issues are of any concern to Geisler and Turek. This is an emotional appeal. You’re not supposed to think about it. You’re supposed to dwell on your own feelings of guiltiness, and your own desire to escape justice. You’re supposed to be feeling the elation of believing that God has found some way to let you escape accountability for your own actions and choices, by appealing to the principle of “negotiable guilt.”

What’s the only way God can remain just but not punish us for our sins? He must punish a sinless substitute who voluntarily takes our punishment for us (sinless because the substitute must pay for our sins, not for his own; and voluntary because it would be unjust to punish the substitute against his will).

It’s a good thing we’re not thinking, and are merely wallowing in our own guilt and despair, because if we were thinking we might realize that this kind of “negotiable guilt” is about as corrupt a system as you could come up with. What on earth is the point of justice if it’s not going to punish those who are, in fact, the true perpetrators of the offense that’s being punished? What is the purpose of punishment if it is merely bad things happening to people who have done nothing to deserve them?

What we have here is neither a system of justice nor a system of morals. All we have are guilty people who are not being punished, and innocent people who are. Geisler and Turek make the stipulation that the victims have to volunteer (as though suicide were some sort of virtue), but does that really matter? If the whole system so corrupt that it harms the innocent to benefit the guilty, then is it really an act of virtue to volunteer to help?

Geisler and Turek drive on, oblivious to the moral implications of what they are saying.

Where can God find a sinless substitute? Not from sinful humanity, but only from himself. Indeed, God himself is the substitute. Just as the judge came down from his bench to save his child, God came down from heaven to save you and me from punishment. And we all deserve punishment. I do. You do.

Let’s try and look past the outright creepiness of those last three sentences and think back to the parable Geisler and Turek are telling. In the parable, the child is guilty, and the father/judge pronounces a sentence, and then personally pays the fine that he himself just imposed. But why the elaborate sham? Why not just say, “Son, tell you what, I know you can’t pay this fine, so you don’t have to. I’ll just let you go free.”

In real life we’d say, “The judge has no power or authority to do that; he has to obey the law.” The judge, you see, is not the source of the law, but is merely an officer of a higher authority. But Geisler and Turek are using this judge to represent God, who supposedly is the source of all laws and is himself the highest possible authority. What higher authority is there Who is telling God that He can and must harm somebody, whether or not they’re guilty? Who is the greater God Who is telling God that once some innocent person has suffered, it’s ok for Him to let the guilty off the hook?

In the story, the judge gives the son the money to pay the fine, thus subverting the law while maintaining the outward appearance of upholding it. In real life, this money would be paid to the higher authority, i.e. the state. If the judge is really God, though, then what higher authority does He pay the fine to? If He must pay it to Himself, then has the fine really been paid? If I write a check from myself to myself, has any actual money changed hands? Again, it’s a sham, a fake transaction designed to give the appearance of upholding the law while actually subverting it.

Amazingly, Geisler and Turek take it even further.

[A] perfectly just God must punish bad deeds regardless of how many good ones someone has performed. Once we’ve sinned against an eternal Being—and we all have—we deserve eternal punishment, and no good deed can change that fact.

As if their legal and moral system wasn’t already corrupt enough, Geisler and Turek now propose that punishments be based, not on the seriousness of the crime, or on the harm it causes to others, but on the duration of the person taking offense at what you’ve done. You and I, according to Geisler and Turek, deserve eternal punishment, not because we’re guilty of offenses we kept committing for all of eternity, but merely because the Person we’ve offended is an eternal Being. A truly amazing legal principle, and so self-evident. That’s why crimes against the elderly deserve to be punished so much more than crimes against infants, doncha know. (Sheesh!)

This is what superstition leads to. When you base your concept of justice and morality on the confused conclusions that primitive people jumped to whenever they didn’t understand how the world works, you end up with a confused and superstitious system of morality and justice. You end up recruiting people by offering them a chance to scam the system, using a ploy that benefits the guilty by punishing the innocent, who suicidally volunteer to help you pull it off by arranging their own deaths. And then you see what kind of people respond to this sort of appeal, and what kind of people you end up with in the church, and you wonder why they have such serious problems with morality and justice. Go figure, eh?

Not that Christians are any worse people than anyone else, of course. It’s not that the people themselves are bad (despite Geisler and Turek’s insistence to the contrary). But the church is promoting a corrupt moral system that is the foundational basis for everything else they preach, and they’re appealing to people based on that corrupt moral system. By responding and converting based on the appeal of that system, people are committing themselves to a path that cannot escape the corruption of its own foundation. Especially when it is continually preached, via pulpits, books, broadcasts, and Internet, as the core of what Christians believe.

Christians, like most people, are basically good, but even good people can be led astray by corrupt and superstitious systems. The first step in recovery is to acknowledge the problem. And this story of the subversive judge, and his unjust treatment of his own son, is a fairly typical example of the Christian problem.