Archive for July, 2010
Six Myths of Christianity – Part 13

I have been doing a review of the Watchtower November 2009 magazine on Six Myths of Christianity. I have some new material on which I want to interact, so I’ll just finish this review in one long post.The most significant part of this for me is the first section which finishes up my treatment on the Trinity. So without further ado…

The Case for the Deity of Christ

When Colossians 1 it is rightly understood, far from being a proof text that Jesus was not divine, it actually becomes powerful proof of his divinity. He is the creator of the all things (v 16). He is the sustainer of all things (v 17). This section is actually structured chiastically to highlight Jesus as the Supreme Lord of all. He is Lord of the first creation (things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities) and he is Lord of the second creation (the church). He is the image of God (v 15) in him dwells the fullness of God (v 19) in him “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (2:9).
The term “God” (theos) is applied to Jesus many times.

  • Jn 1:1-3 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” Jesus is said to be God. The Jehovah Witnesses insert the term “a” in vs 1 to make it read “the Word was a god.” But there is no indefinite article in the Greek, and it is not grammatically merited here. The definite article (ton) in Greek is used to signify the subject of the sentence. The term “God” occurs many more times in John 1 without a definite article, so why do the Jehovah Witnesses not translate it as “a god” the rest of the time?
  • Jn 1:18 “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” This is a difficult passage textually, but on the balance I believe the ESV has it right.
  • Jn 20:28 “Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” The notion that Thomas is cursing is simply unthinkable for a first century Jew. Grammatically Thomas is addressing Jesus and no one else. He calls him God. When others were wrongly identified as god they were quick to correct it (Acts 14:15; Rev 19:10). Jesus, far from correcting Thomas, commends him!
  • Romans 9:5 “To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” This too, on the balance, is the preferred translation.
  • Titus 2:13 “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,”
  • Hebrews 1:8 “But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.”
  • 2 Peter 1:1 “Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

The grammar of both this passage and Titus 2:13 demands that “God” and “Savior” both refer to Christ.

  • 1 John 5:20 “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”

Old Testament Passages that refer to God (YHWH) are quoted as applying to Jesus in the New Testament:

  • Malachi 3:1 ““Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.”
    Luke 1:76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways”
  • Joel 2:32 “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.”
    Romans 10:13 “For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.””

There are many more arguments and passages that could be marshaled to support the deity of Christ, but this is intended only as a short review of a Watchtower publication and not a full treatment on the subject.

The dogma that Constantine championed was intended to put an end to dissensions within the fourth-century Church. However, it actually raised another issue: Was Mary the woman who bore Jesus, “the Mother of God”?

FACT:
The Trinitarian dogma is a late fourth-century invention
The full deity of Christ is stated time and again in scripture. The deity of the Holy Spirit is likewise affirmed. The Father is claimed by all to be God. The consistent teaching of Scripture is that there is one God. Finally, it is clear that the Father is not the Son, or the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Son. These are the elements of the doctrine of the Trinity. These truths have been confessed in the earliest witnesses. This is the teaching of scripture. This is the teaching of the ante-nicean fathers. This is the teaching of the church down through the ages.

MYTH 5: MARY IS THE MOTHER OF GOD

What is the origin of the myth?Veneration of the mother of God received its impetus when . . . the pagan masses streamed into the church. . . . Their piety and religious consciousness [that of pagans converted to Christianity] had been formed for millennia through the cult of the ‘great mother’ goddess and the ‘divine virgin “-The New Encyclopedia Britannica (1988), Volume 16, pages 326 and 327.

This is more of a Roman Catholic matter, so as a Protestant, I won’t spend much time on this point. It is worth pointing out again that the Watchtower relies on secular sources that are hostile to Christianity rather than going to the sources. It is humorous to read different secular sources; some suggest (as above) that Christianity adopted its views from the pagan goddess concepts while others suggest that Christianity has been covering up her goddess roots. Which is it?

What does the Bible say? ”You are to conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. . . . And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God.” -Italics ours; Luke 1:31-35, The New Jerusalem Bible.

That passage of Scripture clearly states that Mary was the mother of the ”Son of God,” not of God himself.

They assume what they need to prove, namely, that the Son of God was not God. Moreover, it bears mentioning that Catholics do not believe that God came into existence when Jesus was born.

Could she have carried within her the One whom ‘the heavens themselves cannot contain’? (1 Kings 8:27)

Paul seems to think so “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col 2:9).

She never made such a claim.

She never claimed she was giving birth to the archangel Michael either.

It is the teaching about the Trinity that has sown confusion over the identity of Mary. By proclaiming her Theotokos (a Greek word meaning ”God-bearer”), or ”Mother of God,” the Council of Ephesus, in 431 C.E., set the stage for Mary worship.

This is a slippery slope argument that does not touch on the truthfulness of whether or not Mary gave birth to Jesus (who is God).

The city of Ephesus where this church council was held had for centuries been at the heart of idol worship celebrating the fertility goddess Artemis.

So it was that many aspects of the worship of the image of Artemis that ”fell from heaven,” such as processions, were integrated into Mary worship. (Acts 19:35)

In fairness to Catholics, they draw a distinction between paying honer to Mary and the worship of God (although clearly that get confused in practice in some circles).

Another practice that crept into Christian teaching was the use of images of Mary and others in worship.

Compare these Bible verses: Matthew 13:53-56; Mark 3:31-35; Luke 11 :27, 28 Mary was the mother of the Son of God, not of God himself.

A distinction that does not take the full evidence into account. If A=B and B=C, then A=C.

The Trinity myth gave birth to the worship of Mary as the Mother of God

The Trinity does no such thing. If Jesus is God he is worthy of worship. This does not mean that we should worship his mother Mary or his father Joseph or his brother James, or the donkey he rode into Jerusalem. Only God is worthy of worship (the fact that Jesus receives worship in scripture is another indication of his deity). It is the Jehovah Witness myth that steals glory from God by refusing to bow the knee to Jesus.

MYTH 6: GOD APPROVES OF THE USE OF IMAGES AND ICONS IN WORSHIP

What is the origin of the myth? “Images were unknown in the worship of the primitive Christians . .  . The admission of images into the church in the 4th and 5th centuries was justified on the theory that the ignorant people could learn the facts of Christianity from them better than from sermons or books.”- Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, by McClintock and Strong, Volume 4, pages 503 and 504.

What does the Bible say? ”You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of any- thing in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them.” (Exodus 20:4, 5, The Holy Bible-New International Version) The apostle John wrote to first-century Christians: ”Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” -l John 5:21.

Are images, as the churches claim, simply a means of approaching and honoring what they represent? “At first,” stated The Encyclopedia of Religion, ”images may have served primarily didactic [teaching] and decorative purposes; at least, they were defended on such grounds. But soon they came to fill admittedly devotional functions. This was especially true of the icons that became a prominent feature of Eastern Orthodoxy.”

However, the prophet Isaiah rightly asked: “To whom can you compare God? What image can you contrive of him? ”-Isaiah 40:18, The New Jerusalem Bible.

Compare these Bible verses: Isaiah 44:13- 15; Acts 10:25, 26, 17:29,- 2 Corinthians 5:7


FACT:

God does not approve of the use of images and icons

This too is primarily directed at Catholics so I haven’t much to say. I agree that scripture does not approve the use of images in worship.

REJECT MYTHS, STICK TO THE TRUTH

What can we conclude from this brief review of myths that are still taught by many churches?  These ”tales [Greek, my'thos] artfully spun” cannot rival the simple and comforting truths of the Bible. 2 Peter 1:16, The New English Bible.

Therefore, with an open mind, do not hesitate to compare with God’s Word -the source of truth-what you have been taught. (John 17:17) Then, this promise will prove true in your case: ”You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”-John 8:32.

There has been precious little in this article to demonstrate their claims of myths. When their textual sources have been examined the Watchtower has been found to have misrepresented the author at times and relied on late authors rather than the original sources. When their historical claims have been examined they have been found to have severely misrepresented the historical scene. When they argue against certain doctrines, it is painfully obvious that they don’t even have a grasp on what they are trying to refute (e.g. modalism vs the Trinity). When their biblical claims have been examined they have been found to selectively list texts out of context. When the fullness of scripture is examined in its proper context, it turns out that the Jehovah Witnesses have been spinning their own myths through the whole article.

1 Timothy 1: 3, 4, 6-7 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths . . . 6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

2 Peter 2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.

Divine Gossip Column

Sometimes I think the way we do church is kind of like a divine gossip column. We go to listen to sermons. Why? Hopefully the answer is, we go to listen in the hopes that the preacher may accurately proclaim God’s word to us. If that is the case, the next question is why? Why do you want to hear God’s word? Is this the same reason that you pick up people magazine at the supermarket? You just like hearing what Brittney Spears is up to and what Bradjolina are saying. If I ask, “What are you going to do with that information?” your response is going to be “nothing.” “I’m not going to change my life or anything, I’m just curious what the rich and famous are saying.” That ought not be how we approach God. We had better not be listening to sermons as some kind of divine gossip column where we can peak into the life of God but never be effected.

Atheists on “Letter from Hell”

This week I happened across an atheist forum where they happened to be discussing a video reenactment of “Letter from Hell.” The comments were conflicting. On one hand there were comments that indicated that it was a scary and horrible thing:

“This video “A Letter From Hell” is a truly frightening, scare-the-kids-into-believing ‘message’. A warning: It will both anger and sicken you.”

“But seriously, that’s got to be the sickest, most vile, disgusting, shameless attempt to manipulate children I’ve ever seen. How can anyone think that would be a good thing to show to kids?”

“That really would be child abuse to show that to a child. Disgusting.”

On the other hand there were comments that mocked it as childish and not scary in the least.

“THAT was supposed to be terrifying? Really? I’ve had sandwiches more terrifying than that!”

“I’m guessing this is supposed to be aimed at young adults old enough to drink and drive, which would make them what, about 17 or 18? Are they telling me that a modern seventeen year old would find this even remotely scary? A seventeen year old who, in all probability, would have been watching Terminator films at twelve, playing Resident Evil and listening to thrash house goth metal or whatever passes for music among the young and disaffected these days?”

“Christian kids must be really immature. I’ve sent this around the world for the enjoyment of others. Would this have scared me? WAHAHAHAHAHAH! Yeah, right!”

Well, which one is it?

There was a third group that basically bashed the Christian God as an unloving fear-monger who sends people to hell for not worshiping him. For the most part the responses were just an emotional spewing that had all the appearances of teenagers rebelling against their past just because it is a popular thing to do. No substance. There was no demonstration that they actually understood what they were mocking. There was no real interaction with answers that have been given to these objections for centuries. Just a hormone-laden reaction that exalts in rebelling. Still, there is something in here to which they are reacting that needs to be addressed.

I was wondering as I read those comments, “Do they also think it is fear-mongering to tell your children not to stick knives in the electrical outlets because they might get electrocuted?” Do they consider it child abuse to tell your children not to go into the street or they could get hit by a car? Warning people about real dangers is not fear-mongering, it is what any loving person would do. If you know about such things and do not warn people, that is neglect and abusive. It is the parents that do not so instruct their children that are thrown into jail for neglect.

Rom 1:14-15 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. [15] So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

We are under obligation to others to share the gospel. Despite what bitter atheists may say, we are guilty of spiritual neglect and abuse if we do not say something.

XFiles Weekend: C. S. Lewis and the “Law of Human Nature”

(Book: Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis, chapter 1, “The Law of Human Nature”)

One of the most widespread arguments against atheism today is the claim that we know God exists because we all possess some kind of inherent knowledge of a universal and unchanging moral law, implying the existence of a universal and eternal Law-Giver. C. S. Lewis may not have been the first to make this argument, but he gives it an almost prototypical presentation in the first chapter of Mere Christianity, and it’s a safe bet that most modern proponents of the “moral law” argument took it directly or indirectly from Lewis. In a very real sense, then, we have an opportunity to study the roots of a major pillar holding up modern apologetics. And not surprisingly, we’re going to be most interested in the very large cracks at its base.

Last week, we spent some time exploring the consequences that would result from selfish creatures being able to anticipate the consequences of different actions, including the social consequences, and we saw how this would produce a natural and even inevitable functional morality. In essence, it’s just a set of guidelines: certain types of actions, in certain contexts, produce certain types of consequences, and therefore we selfishly want to pursue the actions that are most likely to produce the consequences we feel we would enjoy. No single set of rules can cover all possible combinations of circumstances and actions, of course, so any moral code will suffer from a certain number of ambiguities. Also, different individuals and subcultures have to act in different environments, which naturally introduces a certain amount of variation in the moral codes that evolve. Overall, however, we all have a lot of needs and wants in common, and thus our moral systems will naturally evolve a fairly common core set of values.

Lewis, unfortunately, isn’t starting from this kind of forward thinking. He starts from the assumption that moral law comes from a Creator God, and then looks for evidence he can use to support that conclusion. In other words, he’s indulging in backwards thinking: given the conclusion you want to reach, find some plausible-sounding chain that ends up where you want to be.

Lewis, however, is far too gifted a writer to present his argument as such an obvious rationalization. Instead, he presents it as though he were “discovering” some kind of real-world truth. It’s quite engaging, really: starting with observation and proceeding step-by-step to his conclusion, taking care that each step is carefully linked to the one before. It’s this realistic-sounding, pseudo-scientific approach that gives Lewis’ writing its appeal, and makes it sound like he’s really onto something. If we look closely, however, we can see that he achieves this superficial appearance by a careful selection of evidence and a biased interpretation of that selection.

He begins with the observation that people quarrel:

Every one has heard people quarrelling. Sometimes it sounds funny and sometimes it sounds merely unpleasant; but however it sounds, I believe we can learn something very important from listening to the kind of things they say. They say things like this: ‘How’d you like it if anyone did the same to you?’ — ‘That’s my seat, I was there first’ — ‘Leave him alone, he isn’t doing you any harm’ — ‘Why should you shove in first?’ — ‘Give me a bit of your orange, I gave you a bit of mine’ — ‘Come on, you promised.’ People say things like that every day, educated people as well as uneducated, and children as well as grown-ups.

What Lewis finds significant about such exchanges is that neither party is expressing a merely personal objection, as in “Hulk no like, Hulk smash!” Rather, the accuser is appealing to a standard of behavior that they expect the other to know about. And likewise the defender appeals to some kind of common standard, or to some circumstance justifying an exception to the standard. This is perfectly normal and natural, of course: two selfish individuals, arguing over which particular context ought to be applied to their actions, so as to lead to the desired social consequences. But Lewis wants us to see this as something bigger, as some kind of transcendent Mystery.

Quarrelling means trying to show that the other man is in the wrong. And there would be no sense in trying to do that unless you and he had some sort of agreement as to what Right and Wrong are: just as there would be no sense in saying that a footballer had committed a foul unless there was some agreement about the rules of football.

Now this Law or Rule about Right and Wrong used to be called the Law of Nature. Nowadays, when we talk of the ‘laws of nature’ we usually mean things like gravitation, or heredity, or the laws of chemistry. But when the older thinkers called the Law of Right and Wrong ‘the Law of Nature’, they really meant the Law of Human Nature. The idea was that, just as all bodies are governed by the laws of gravitation, and organisms by biological laws, so the creature called man also had his law — with this great difference, that a body could not choose whether it obeyed the law of gravitation or not, but a man could choose either to obey the Law of Nature or to disobey it.

You see what I mean about backwards thinking. Lewis wants to reach the conclusion that God gave mankind a moral law, and that wicked men sinfully choose to disobey that law. So far, all that he has really looked at, in terms of real world evidence, is the fact that people quarrel. From this simple observation, and in blatant disregard of simpler and more natural explanations, he leaps to the conclusion that there must be a Natural Law of morality that, unlike other natural laws, men have the power to choose to disobey (thus making them sinners in need of a Savior). And he backs this up with an appeal to authority: “the older thinkers” called it a Law of Nature, and they ought to know, of course, because they’re older thinkers. Which older thinkers, he doesn’t say.

This law was called the Law of Nature because people thought that everyone knew it by nature and did not need to be taught it. They did not mean, of course, that you might not find an odd individual here and there who did not know it… But taking the race as a whole, they thought that the human idea of decent behaviour was obvious to everyone.

He goes on to justify this conclusion on the grounds that if there were no Law of Right and Wrong, then “all the things we said about the war were nonsense.” Apparently even C. S. Lewis was not above using patriotism as a club with which to thump anyone who disagreed with his conclusions. But I digress. The more important point to consider here is whether it is really true that people do not need to be taught this so-called Law of Nature. Does Lewis really mean that morality is unlearned? That nobody gives any moral upbringing to their children? Is the Bible wrong when it admonishes parents to teach their children good morals? Is the book of Proverbs a complete waste of time?

Lewis here is combining an observed truth (people understand the social consequences of their actions) with utter foolishness (“people do not learn morality”). Morality is very definitely a learned/acquired concept, as shown by the influence of culture and other environmental factors on the type of morality you develop. Take polygamy, for example: was it immoral in King Solomon’s time to have 300 wives and 600 concubines? Tip of the iceberg, that. People learn morality both from explicit teaching and from experience. I doubt that many of us got lessons in Sunday School about proper etiquette while on a raiding party in World of Warcraft, but be greedy and grab the best loot a few times and see how long it takes you to learn moral lessons about the social consequences of online behavior.

Lewis’ argument is beginning to show the discrepancy between the conditions proposed by his argument and the conditions that actually exist in real life. In his argument, there is one moral law, given by one Law Giver, that everyone knows inherently and without being taught. There are a few individual exceptions, according to Lewis, but the rule is One Law to Rule Them All. The real world, however, is different: people do learn morality from experience, and there are different moral codes for different groups of people, according to the different conditions that exist for each group. Already the cracks are showing in Lewis’ argument, and he’s just getting started.

Lewis does recognize this problem, and he attempts to deal with it:

I know that some people say that the idea of a Law of Nature or decent behavior known to all men is unsound, because different civilisations and different ages have had quite different moralities.

But this is not true. there have been differences between their moralities, but these have never amounted to anything like a total difference. If anyone will take the trouble to compare the moral teachings of, say, the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Hindus, Chinese, Greeks and Romans, what will really strike him will be how very like they are are to each other and to our own… I need only ask the reader to think what a totally different morality would mean. Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of double-crossing all the people who had been kindest to him.

Be careful what you wish for. I remember a chapel service in the Christian college I attended where we watched a movie based on a book called Peace Child. It was a missionary story about evangelizing a tribe of occasional cannibals who regarded treachery as a virtue; when they first heard the gospel, they thought Judas was the hero because he betrayed Jesus! Would that be a “totally different” morality, by Lewis’ definition?

The trick here is that Lewis is making a false dichotomy: either all moralities are the same morality, or else each morality must be totally different. That’s like saying that either all languages are the same language, or else each different language must be totally different. But look, there are nouns and verbs and adjectives in Greek and Norwegian and Spanish; grammatically, it’s striking how much they have in common. Does that mean they’re all the same language, which everyone knows because it was written in their hearts by their Creator? Isn’t it really more likely that common needs give rise to similar solutions?

Lewis’ big failure here (and elsewhere) is that he fails to consider simpler and more plausible alternatives. This is one way we can tell that he’s driving towards a pre-determined goal, guided by backwards thinking, instead of using forward thinking to expose the ordinary consequences of sentient behavior. He wants to reach the conclusion that there is one Moral Law, given by one Law Giver, and so he glosses over the fact that we have a number of very different moralities, even if we look just at the Old Testament vs. the New vs. modern Christian culture. Not totally different, of course, but different enough that they’re more consistent with a natural, consequences-based morality than they are with a supernatural, One Law morality.

Adventures Into The Higher Dimensions of Reality

Reality is multifaceted with many different dimensions encompassing its totality. These dimensions range from the densest manifestations of Consciousness to the most subtle planes of existence. The most familiar to us is the 3rd dimension of space followed by the fourth dimension of time. After that, the less known, although just as real, plane of reality is the 5th dimension, otherwise known as the astral plane, given its subtle state of existence. The astral plane in particular is the dimension of Reality that enjoys quite a bit of awareness concerning its existence, aspects, and purpose, as far as the nonphysical planes are concerned. However, this is not the only non-physical dimension of Reality that exists. Beyond the astral, there are planes of existence that are so incredibly incomprehensible by the human brain that words simply fail to accurately describe their existence. However, just as we are able to see the shadows of the 4th dimension but not be able to see the actual structures of the fourth dimension while in the third dimension, so too, can we experience existence within the higher dimensions of reality, but be unable to describe them in all their splendor.

What is meant by higher dimensions is that there are planes and levels of Reality that exist above the four-dimensional space-time and the fifth dimensional astral plane. These are called by many names, which include the “spirit realm”, “summerland”, “astral plane”, and so on. They are the dimensions that are invisible to human sight (minus the atrophied “third eye”) and are not quantifiable, as of present, by scientists (and perhaps they will never be because of a universal impossibility). It should be noted that certain theories in quantum physics, such as string theory, support the reality of a multidimensional universe.

No reality is as important to realize than the ultimate reality. Therefore, this article will explain, as best as is possible in English words, the higher dimensions and vibrational levels and higher levels of consciousness. The information put forward has been amassed from experiences within the higher dimensions of Reality via deep meditative trance states. Entering the astral plane is quite simple and easy compared to entering the higher dimensions, and the astral plane may perhaps be the farthest that many will be able to travel, in reference to experiential existence. However, the potential exists within all, to be able to finally have enough clarity and exist at a high enough level of consciousness, to where it is possible to experience the ultimate transcendental bliss.

Higher dimensions are similar to the astral dimension, but exist at much higher levels of consciousness and vibration. Each level is a completely separate area, but occupies the same space; this is how dimensions exist in Reality. Between each level is a sort of “buffer zone”, a transition area, if you will. The buffer zones separating different planes in the astral dimension are much easier to traverse and get through than the ones separating the higher dimensional levels. It can be said that each level of consciousness has its own dimension. The higher we get in this dimensional consciousness sequence, the more subtle our energy body is. The higher the level, the more abstract, metaphorical, allegorical, and symbolic it becomes. It can be said that we are existing within all dimensions all the time. However, depending on how progressed our energetic development is (our) spiritual growth of consciousness), the reflections of our subtle energy bodies will be either stronger or weaker.

Higher dimensions require higher awareness. This is why it is very difficult for most people to go beyond the astral dimension, either through the dream state or through willful astral projections or OBEs (out of body experiences). You must be calibrating at a higher energetic frequency with respect to consciousness in order to get to these highest dimensions, or levels of consciousness. If you become the state of love, or become the state of joy, for example, you will be able to traverse these indescribable levels of ultimate reality. It appears that this is a sort of safeguard so that beings/localized fields of consciousness with a lower state of consciousness can not enter into these higher dimensions.

Since every human being should have the chance to be able to experience the highest levels of Reality, a simple tutorial of sorts is provided below for the purpose of assisting you with taking an adventure into the higher dimensions of Reality. The easiest way to shift your consciousness to these levels is through consciousness-raising meditation.

  • Use a deep relaxation technique, then attain a full trance state
  • Stimulate all primary energy centers (chakras in Sanskrit)
  • Use extra brow and crown energy center stimulation exercises
  • Raise energy through your entire body, through all your primary energy centers in one smooth action to the crown center while breathing inward
  • Hold awareness in the crown center and feel energy flowing into there all through the inward breath and all through the following outward breath.
  • Flick awareness back to your feet and repeat at the start of the next inward breath.
  • Continue this for about ten minutes or until you start seeing colors or a tinting in your third eye vision behind your closed eyelids. Purple is the best color to see for this, but any primary color is a good sign. If you see nothing, continue anyway.
  • Using your body awareness, generate a continual “Ommm” sound in your heart energy center. Then, slowly move your awareness of this sound into your throat energy center, and then to the third eye center, and ultimately, to the crown center. Let it spread and fill your entire head. Try your best to maintain this sound for a few minutes.
  • From behind your closed eyes, look for a distant point of light or a small pattern of light that is brighter than anything else you can see. Gently lock onto this and hold it firmly in your mind’s eye.
  • Shift your position of awareness towards this and feel yourself moving towards it. Feel yourself inside of it. Realize and feel a strong connection of spiritual love with it. Love it with your whole being and wish to be there.

What you will experience once in these highest dimensions of reality will be attempted to be put into words below. However, there are no words to express what you will experience. I would ultimately fail at describing them and I have attempted to use words in the past, only to find that I am unable to do this and still fully express the experience of being in the highest dimensions of all reality. If I were able to telepathically send you the emotions and feelings that I had experienced while uniting with the Source, I would. However, below will be my best attempt to describe and explain the most awe-filled planes of existence. There are several levels above the astral plane and so I will briefly attempt to describe what you will experience, and indeed have experienced in every experience you had inbetween lives.

  • You never want to go back
    • This feeling is universal in the highest dimensions of reality. You never want to go back to the lowest levels of experience, which are the physical levels of the observable universe. It is impossible to wish to want to go back and you will only come back by your physical body pulling you kicking and screaming back.
  • Colors are surreal
    • The colors you see are so much more then they ever could b in the physical reality. To get an understanding of this, I suggest watching the film What Dreams May Come to see this played out on the screen.
  • Thoughts are expressed in true manifestations
    • Thoughts appear and disappear as solid kaleidoscopic crystalline patterns of living light and sound.
  • Time is non-real
    • Depending on which one of the higher dimensions you are in, you feel as if time either is stopped, or does not exist at all and never has there.
  • Reality is opposite of the physical dimension’s constants
    • Reality is fluid, kaleidoscopic, and abstract to the extreme.
  • Consciousness manifested into creations
    • The highest energetic frequencies are manifested into observable creations that are able to be interpreted by the mind’s eye as angels, fairies, and other wonderful/phantasmagoric beings.
  • Communication impossible
    • Meaningful communication with thought-words is not possible and not how it exists in the highest levels. Feelings of love, happiness, understanding, and empathy are how communication is done.
  • Peace and Love
    • The highest levels are filled to the brim with infinite and unconditional love and universal peace, since these are the levels of consciousness that had manifested these dimensions in infinity in the first place.
  • Individuality is nonexistent
    • You lose all feelings of being separated from everything and everyone and individuality is lose. Oneness with the Source and all that there is in reality is your new true nature of understanding.
  • The Light of Divine Love
    • In the spirit dimension where all loved ones from the same soul groups reunite, there is an indescribable brightness of light that is not able to be described in physical appearance, but in the energetic vibrations of soothing, healing, pure, and divine love.
  • Reality is more real than physical reality
    • You experience the ultimate reality and therefore, you will see that the reality being experienced in these highest levels of consciousness is even more real than the physical reality you can touch, taste, see, smell, and hear. You will be forever convinced after this that the physical reality you are living in and experiencing at this very waking moment is not as real as these highest levels and even perhaps, a bit fake and created for a certain purpose.

Adventures into the highest dimensions of Reality are experiences that are completely awe-inspiring and leave the traveler at a loss for words in order to describe what he or she has experienced. Nevertheless, the energetic signatures of the experiences stay with the person for as long as they live. These are not experiences that can be forgotten easily, for they transcend any sort of experience that is possible within the physical planes of reality. Go out and elevate your state of consciousness so that you, too, will be able to experience these life-changing moments of infinity for yourself. There is absolutely nothing to lose and so so much to gain.

Our Nature & the Attraction of Sin

Our enemies try to attack us by making us do what comes natural. “Do what feel right.” “If it feels so good it can’t be bad.” Our nature is evil, so if the enemy can get us to do what comes naturally, he has already won.

Jer 13:23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also can you do good who are accustom to doing evil.

Romans 3:9-13 No one is righteous, no, not one; no one understands no one seeks for God.

Isa 53:6 We all like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way.

Eph 2:3 [We] were, by nature, children of wrath like the rest of mankind.

Our enemies strategy is to get us to follow our impulses and do what comes naturally to us. So they will try to appeal to our fleshly desires. Sin usually has a certain attraction to it. If sin were presented in all its vile filthiness, we would not be attracted to it. But it tries to hide its true nature. Proverbs 5:3 says:

Prov 5:3 For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil,

Further in chapter 23 verse 31 it says:

Prov 23:31 Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly.
If the truth of the matter were presented in all its fullness, we would not likely go after it. By committing this adultery, your marriage will be broken, your children will not respect you few will trust you. This woman you are after will eventually hate you and you will be alone in this world. This is not the way to happiness, but the way to destruction. This wine is strong and smooth but if you indulge you will become sick and wake up in pain. You will drink away your job and loose the ability to really experience this life for you will always be in under the cloud of a drunken stupor. If you were granted insight into what your life would be by so indulging, you would not say “Yes, that is what I want my life to be.” Yet all of that is hidden in the temptations that comes our way.
The Church Militant

The church militant is all the believers currently on earth. “Militant” does not refer to aggressive or hard-line people. It does not refer to some extreme kind of Christian in the same way the media uses the term “Islamic militants.” Rather, you and I are still engaged in battle. We still fight the good fight. But we struggle, not against flesh and blood, “but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” We are indeed engaged in battle, but it is a spiritual war.

Ephesians 6:12 says that we wrestle not against flesh and blood. I think this is where the church has gone so horribly wrong in events like the Crusades. It is complex I know, but at least this much we can say, Christianity does not spread by sword. The old proverb is still true, “a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” Christianity comes by way of the mind. Repentance means change of mind. Expansion of territory in the kingdom of God come not in physical territory with physical weapons, but when the hearts and mind of people are captured by Christ and he becomes their all consuming passion. Coercion of any kind – whether physical threats, empty promises or the glitz of entertainment – will not make a man a Christian. Only the pure preaching of the gospel can give new life to a man.

XFiles Weekend: It’s more like “guidelines”

(Book: Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis, chapter 1, “The Law of Human Nature”)

We’re ready to start the main body of Mere Christianity, but before we delve into what Lewis calls the “law of human nature,” let’s take a moment to do some forward thinking. Let’s start with a species that is intelligent enough to have some understanding of cause and effect, so that they can anticipate the probable consequences of their actions, and choose the ones which will have the most favorable outcomes. Let’s further suppose that these beings possess enough empathy to communicate with each other, to recognize each other’s feelings, and to anticipate what sort of feelings others are likely to feel in any particular set of circumstances.

Given this as a premise, plus the assumption that each individual wants to achieve the most favorable possible outcomes, what consequences would we expect as the members of this species interact with each other and with an environment that contains both dangers and opportunities? If we look at a few specific scenarios, I think a clear general trend will emerge.

Let’s start with Ogg, Glog, and Berk, three members of a clan of these beings. In the first scenario, each one is fending for himself, looking for food. Ogg manages to catch a squirrel—not really a satisfying meal, but better than nothing. Glog, however, decides it would be easier to steal Ogg’s squirrel (or demand a part of it) than to catch one of his own, and the two begin to fight, allowing Berk to sneak in and steal the whole thing while the first two are distracted. Berk gets a meal, but now Ogg and Glog are both mad at him.

Second scenario: a moose wanders into the clan’s hunting grounds. It’s too big for any two or three hunters, so the clan gathers all of its hunters into a full scale hunting party. Ogg and Glog join in the hunt, but they deliberately don’t let Berk in on it because they’re still mad about the squirrel. The hunt is successful, and all the hunters, including Ogg and Glog, get a good, satisfying meal. Berk gets some too, as part of the clan, but by the time the hunters have finished, all the choice bits are gone and he has to make do with leftovers.

We could spend quite a lot of time exploring this particular set of scenarios, but these two give us a good starting point. Notice first of all the consequences of competition versus cooperation. The competing hunters had to settle for smaller prey since each was operating on his own, and the results were poor. Also, as Berk found out, certain behaviors had social consequences: by putting his own selfish interests ahead of those of the rest of the clan, Berk lost social esteem, and found that he received less benefit from intra-clan cooperation than the other hunters did.

The cooperative consequences were much better: the group could work together to bring down much bigger prey, thus providing much more food for each individual in the tribe. It wasn’t a matter of “I’ll give you some of my squirrel and then we’ll both have an inadequate meal,” it was “wow, that was some moose, I couldn’t eat another bite.” Competition is inevitable, and not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, but the potential rewards of cooperation are frequently far better.

What we have here, then, is the evolution of a rudimentary moral system, i.e. a set of guidelines that help us categorize behaviors into those which promote conflict and competition versus those which promote cooperation and mutual benefit. We can call these guidelines “evil” versus “good,” but that’s just a label. The main significance is that we recognize and encourage the behaviors that we anticipate will bring the most desirable outcomes.

And speaking of labels, notice we’re not necessarily talking double-entry bookkeeping here. Ogg and Glog didn’t write down “Debit: one stolen squirrel; Credit: one missed moose hunt.” They got mad at Berk, and regarded him as a “Them” in the age-old categories of Us versus Them. It’s much simpler and more commonplace to categorize people according to how you feel about them. Can you imagine if we had to make all our decisions about how to treat people on the basis of adding up every interaction we’ve ever had with them, assigning a positive or negative score to each, and then adding up the total to see if it ended up on the plus side or the minus side?

It’s much easier, and more instinctive, to simply put labels on people, and then base your judgments on how you feel about the label: liberal vs. conservative, believer vs unbeliever, freshman vs. senior, dude vs. babe, black vs. white, homo vs. hetero, etc. And here’s the trick: if we’re talking about people that know about feelings like this, and who can anticipate that certain behaviors will put them in certain social categories, then that in itself becomes a “moral” guideline. We want to do things that will benefit us; we don’t want to do things that will cause us to end up in an unfavorable category (like Berk did).

We can make several predictions based on the above evolutionary scenario. First of all, we can predict that different groups will evolve different moral standards, though with a lot of common ground based on our common experience (i.e. we tend to have fairly predictable feelings about being robbed, assaulted, threatened, and so on). This is a perfectly natural outcome resulting from the immediate material consequences of certain types of competitive actions, regardless of the culture in which they occur.

Next, we can also predict that there will be certain individuals who will find competition more personally advantageous than cooperation is: the schoolyard bullies, or the bloody tyrants. Their moral system won’t restrain them from harming others, because they’re big enough and bad enough to get away with it. By the same token, however, very few people will adopt such narrowly selfish moral codes because such codes benefit the bully/tyrant at the expense of others, leaving others with little reason to admire the code. The others will stick to seeing that sort of conduct as wrong.

We can also predict that evolved moral codes will tend to have different guidelines for those outside our own social group than they do for those inside our group. For example, the code may say that it is wrong to tell a lie, meaning that it’s wrong to tell a lie to another member of the same group. At the same time, it can be perfectly ok to tell a lie to someone outside the “Us” group (“Do you know where the Jews are hiding?” demanded the Gestapo leader…), and sometimes it might even be wrong not to tell a lie.

Finally, we can predict that moral codes will continue to evolve, as we continue to acquire experience and (hopefully) wisdom regarding which behaviors do or do not contribute to the most desirable outcomes. There may be a period when the bully/tyrant can build a society by imposing his own strength and will on a troubled and chaotic world, and his servants might very well see his tyranny in terms of “the divine right of kings,” assuming they’re better off with a strong bully on the throne than they are with dog-eat-dog anarchy and disorder. But such periods can end, as stability opens up new experiences in the benefits of cooperation, equality, and liberty. Despotism’s Golden Age can fade and tarnish, morally speaking. And likewise with slavery, sexism, and homophobia.

Thus, what we have in the real world are a number of moral codes, with common core principles that evolve naturally out of our common, human reactions to behaviors that are materially harmful to us or beneficial to us. These natural, real-world codes are further augmented by the anticipatory social awareness that helps us recognize which behaviors are going to promote cooperation (and consequent benefits) within our society, versus those which are going to put us into undesirable social categories and to provoke undesirable conflicts with those around us. And these codes evolve and adapt to the particular social and environmental circumstances of the groups that hold them, leading to regional and temporal variations from one another.

This is an extremely important concept for us to grasp, because not only does it spare us the superstitious mistake of ascribing “right” and “wrong” to some invisible legislator in the sky, but it also explains what “right” and “wrong” really mean, and how they are grounded in objective reality itself. When we say that murder is wrong, this is not an arbitrary and whimsical designation. It’s not that some celestial tablet-scratcher flipped a coin that came up tails. Murder is wrong because it produces undesirable outcomes in the real world: undesirable for the victim’s friends and family because they are grieved and hurt by their loss, and undesirable for the murderer because he has just put himself in the category of Dangerous Threats, and society will, if it can, work to eliminate him somehow.

C. S. Lewis, I daresay, isn’t going to see this. That’s going to seriously handicap his argument, because the alternative is actually a pretty sad little system. The alternative is to say that there is no real-world basis for right and wrong, that it’s just an arbitrary system made up by some celestial bully/tyrant, and the only reason we need to care about it is that He is strong enough and brutal enough to hurt us if we fail to play along. That’s not an ethical system, it’s autocratic mind games. It’s like saying blue is good and green is evil—neither color has any intrinsic moral qualities, good or bad, they’ve just arbitrarily been designated as one or the other. Is murder really no more intrinsically immoral that some randomly chosen color?

No. Real-world morality is not arbitrary. It arises naturally and inevitably from the consequences (including the social consequences) of our behavior. And God Himself cannot change that.

To Which Do You Belong?
Matthew 7:16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

This is just a sampling of the passages that speak to this issue. Do you get the feeling that Jesus is trying to convey a point here? In the kingdom of God, in the church, sitting in pews right along with everyone else will be false professors. Some of them may boast that they cast out demons and prophecy in his name, but God never knew them. At the end of of the age there will be a gathering and a sorting. The wheat will be separated from the tares, the sheep will be separated from the goats, the good fish will be separated from the bad fish, the foolish virgins will be left out, the good steward will be given more, and the wicked steward will be cast into the outer darkness, the wheat will be separated from the chaff, the fruit bearing trees will be separated from the non-fruitful trees.
And in each of these instances, there will be blessings and punishment. The unquenchable fire, the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, that is the end of those who are part of the visible church but who are not part of the invisible church.
Dear church attender, I urge you not to look to your right or to your left. I urge you to look at yourself. You may not make it. You may be deceiving yourself. You may have come to church all your life and you know the stories, and you tithe, and you serve on every committee there is, but if you have not come to the point of repenting of your sins and resting in Jesus alone for the salvation of your sins, then you are not saved.
Do not disconnect yourself from these passages. This is not about some group of people in 1st century Palestine. Jesus spoke about you. You are in these verses. It may seem a strange thing that you were in the mind of God when these verses were penned, but it is true. The only question is which group do you belong to? Are you the wheat or are you the tare that will be thrown into the fire? Are you the wheat or the chaff that will be burned?

XFiles Weekend: A peculiar prelude

(Book: Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis, preface)

I don’t want to get bogged down in the preface, but there are one or two points here worthy of comment, so I thought I’d put one more post into it. As we saw last week, Lewis hasn’t even gotten into the main part of his book yet, and already he’s running into problems with his basic premise. His goal is to “defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times,” a kind of “mere Christianity” that transcends personal bias and denominational bickering. And yet, as both ancient and modern church history show, this common core of beliefs is sufficiently elusive that its defenders have a hard time expressing what it is without falling into the No True Scotsman fallacy. Lewis, alas, is no different.

Lewis, to his credit, realizes that it would be an error to claim to defend Christianity while at the same time offering only a defense of his own personal or denominational faith.

The danger clearly was that I should put forward as common Christianity anything that was peculiar to the Church of England or (worse still) to myself. I tried to guard against this by sending the original script of what is now Book II to four clergymen (Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic) and asking them for their criticism.

No Baptists, no Pentecostals, no Eastern Orthodox, and certainly no Mormons (God forbid!). Just a careful selection of faiths close enough to his own beliefs to be “real true Christians” but different enough that he can convince himself that he is indeed presenting “the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times.” Indeed, he even convinces himself that he has been “of some help in silencing the view that, if we omit the disputed points, we shall have left only a vague and bloodless H. C. F.” (by which I presume he means “Historic Christian Faith”). The careful reader will notice, however, that he has “silenced” this view by omitting a substantial number of the disputes, leaving only minor disagreements to trouble him.

Curiously, even though Lewis sets out to prove a common, non-denominational body of “mere Christian” faith, he seems to judge true Christian spirituality in terms of one’s commitment to a mainline denomination.

Hostility has come more from borderline people whether within the Church of England or without it: men not exactly obedient to any communion. This I find curiously consoling. It is at her centre, where her truest children dwell, that each communion is really closest to every other in spirit, if not in doctrine. And this suggests that at the centre of each there is a something, or a Someone, who against all divergencies of belief, all differences of temperament, all memories of mutual persecution, speaks with the same voice.

One of the hazards of being a truly intelligent believer, as Lewis is, is that your intellectual gifts allow you to imagine some pretty amazing things and to arrive at rationalizations that make them sound plausible. Here is C. S. Lewis, Oxford don, talking himself into believing that the major divisions within Christianity are inspired, at their center, by a common spirit speaking the same things to all. Amazing. And notice, the “truest” children of each of these faiths are those who allow other men to tell them what to believe; the independent believers, who make their own judgments about questions of faith, are “borderline” and disobedient.

One would think that, if all these denominational divisions were an imposed burden on Christianity, then the goal of a true believer ought to be to pursue the “mere Christianity” instead of the denominational divisions. But, as Lewis himself admits, there are significant differences that cannot be swept under the rug, and indeed that he would not want to sweep under the rug.

[Y]ou cannot … conclude, from my silence on disputed points, either that I think them important or that I think them unimportant. For this is itself one of the disputed points. One of the things Christians are disagreed about is the importance of their disagreements. When two Christians of different denominations start arguing, it is usually not long before one asks whether such-and-such a point ‘really matters’ and the other replies: ‘Matter? Why it’s absolutely essential.’

So Christians have divided themselves into conflicting denominations over issues that really matter, and indeed are absolutely essential—and yet Lewis would have us (and himself) believe that at the center of each of these denominations is the same Spirit speaking with the same voice, whether the denomination is right or wrong about the essentials. What’s more, true believers need to be obedient to some denomination (whether or not it is right about essential issues), because failure to obey these teachings (even the wrong ones!) makes you a “borderline” Christian whose doctrinal objections can safely be ignored when compiling a list of beliefs “common to nearly all Christians at all times.”

I’m expecting some Lewis to build some pretty interesting arguments on top of this foundation, aren’t you?

Let’s move on. Lewis next announces his reluctance to address topics where he himself is not “in the front lines” as it were. Thus, for example, he intends to skip over any discussion of the morality of birth control, as he is neither married, nor female, nor a priest. Nor a priest? Hang on, it’s not because he thinks priests have some special knowledge about birth control. He just says it means he has no pastoral responsibility towards women, and therefore he’s going to take advantage of the opportunity to dodge that issue as well. Whew.

He next complains that the word “Christian” should be used only in the very specialized sense of someone who follows the teachings of the apostles, as the disciples in Antioch did. That one struck me as a little odd, given that I would have thought a Christian would be someone who followed the teachings of Christ, not the teachings of his apostles. That, however, opens up a whole lot of disputed points about what Jesus really taught and intended by his teachings, and Lewis would just as soon leave those out, in order to maintain the myth that there is a common set of core beliefs that have been held by nearly all Christians at all times. So “apostles’ teaching” it is.

He closes his preface by assuring us that he does not intend for “mere Christianity”, the common beliefs of all Christians, to become an alternative to denominations. Rather, he compares it to a hall—not an auditorium style “great hall” or anything, just an ordinary unadorned hallway, with doors leading off to the actual rooms.

I hope no reader will suppose that ‘mere’ Christianity is here put forward as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions—as if a man could adopt it in preference to Congregationalism or Greek Orthodoxy or anything else. It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in.

I think I know exactly what he means. “Mere” Christianity, the set of core beliefs that nearly all Christians have held since the beginning, is not satisfying. When you’re out in the hall, it’s just you and God. What makes the rooms interesting and attractive is that there are people there, people like you, people who are real. Maybe not in all the rooms, but just keep trying the doors until you find a group of people who are enough like you that you can call them true children of the faith. And if you still don’t succeed, find a door to an empty room (there’s lots!) and make your own denomination. Others will be along presently to join you.

The one thing you don’t want to do is to ask which door God Himself is hiding behind. Keep looking for that door long enough, and you’ll find the one that leads outside, where the sun is shining and the air is clean. There are people there, too, the “disobedient” and independent thinkers, or in other words, the free. Some are good and some are bad (just like inside), but they can come and go as they please.

But enough metaphor. Lewis has set the tone for his book, and it’s a rather peculiar tone: Christian unity is something to be praised rather than something to be pursued. Denominational divisions are a hindrance to the spread of the gospel, and at least some of the divisions are about genuinely essential matters, yet the goal is to pretend there is unity in order to get people into the hall, and from there into one of the denominations (right or wrong). And that’s ok, because even the wrong denominations are inspired by the same Spirit speaking to all in the same voice. Not that you should necessarily listen to what those other denominations are teaching, of course.

Where I come from, enticing people under false pretenses is considered immoral. If being honest about your faith means it’s harder to make converts, maybe there’s something wrong with your faith. Professor Lewis ought to have been bold and forthright about the conflicts and contradictions within Christianity rather than trying to produce an elegant and articulate cover-up. But that, it seems, is what we have to deal with here.