Archive for November, 2012
The Desire Burns To Know What Truly Matters

sun in clouds

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon…
I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain mine or your own without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true.
I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day.
And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

Oriah Mountain Dreamer, The Invitation

Atheism & the Death of Logic

I found this article in one of the magazines I get at work, and I thought I’d comment on certain parts of it.

Being an engineer, I value logic a great deal. Give me a free body diagram any day over needless emotional drama. But in watching the continuous political debate unfolds on TV, I’ve grown increasingly concerned over the past few years with what seems to be a movement away from facts, logic and science.

I agree. This is very lamentable.

In years past, the true kooks of our society busied themselves with tales of conspiracy. Did man really walk on the moon? Were UFO aliens abducting people? Was a secret society controlling all of the planet’s governments? Today, the tin foil hat segment of society seems to have grown into something scarier—an almost mainstream political persuasion that has taken hold of certain aspects of the far right.

Again, I agree with most of what he says. He begins to tip his hand a bit with the last sentence.

If you would have told me 10 or 15 years ago that we’d be debating evolution or the scientific method, I’d have laughed it off. But it’s no longer a laughing matter….

At this point the author has jumped from a reasonable lament regrading the lack of clear thinking into, apparently, an illustration of what a lack of clear thinking looks like. Other similar statements from the past may have been “If you would have told me 10 or 15 years ago that we’d be debating the flat earth view I’d have laughed it off.” Or, “If you would have told me 10 or 15 years ago that we’d be debating geocentrism I’d have laughed it off.” Or, “If you would have told me 10 or 15 years ago that we’d be debating the speed of light I’d have laughed it off.” Or, “If you would have told me 10 or 15 years ago that we’d be debating spontaneous generation I’d have laughed it off.” On and on we could go. One of the operating assumptions of science is that it does not have it all figured out. The very reason that science shows progress is that we are not content with the status quo. We are not content with prevailing theories. Especially in the field of engineering, we are always trying to find a better way to do something – faster, lighter, cheaper. While applied sciences like engineering are different from historical sciences, no branch of science operates under the assumption that it has it figured out and that there can never be changes. Most of the changes are small and incremental, but some evidences require a wholesale abandon of the existing theories; they require a paradigm shift in how we have conceived of the world to this point in time.

The scientific method itself is a dynamic process. Normative sciences do not have the same method of investigation as applied science, nor does historical science and the hard sciences share the same method. Contexts require different methods. Moreover, even within these fields there is debate among scientists as to what that method should be. Is this author not conversant with the various schools of the philosophy of science? A good scientist will not be afraid of challenges to the prevailing theory; he will just follow the evidence. What worked under Newtonian physics is no longer seen to be sufficient for understanding the quantum world. While I subscribe to the scientific realist school, I think there is a great deal of weight in what the instrumentalists have to say.

One of the rather disappointing things I have seen from certain scientists is that they try to artificially limit the kind of evidence that they will consider. Since he mentioned evolution, let’s consider that. Attempts have been made to rule out intelligence as a possible force. Why? Archaeology and anthropology, like evolution, are historical sciences and they regularly make use of intelligence as an explanation. People as strong in evolution as Richard Dawkins, in line with Francis Crick, still allows for the possibility of intelligence of the form of directed panspermia.

A recent study published in the American Sociological Review found that among self-identified conservatives, trust in the scientific community fell more than 25% between 1974 and 2010. Meanwhile, the level of trust remained consistent for both self-described liberal and moderate voters.

I don’t know what this means. He is lamenting that there is a move away from facts, logic, and science. Presumably this fall in confidence in the scientific community from a certain sub-population is evidence of that. I’d like to know what the initial confidence levels were. Did group A have a moderate confidence and group B had an initial high confidence? Did the drop in confidence in group B bring it into conformity with group A? Should group B be commended for bringing their confidence level to an appropriate level? Why did one group stay constant and the other drop? Should B be condemned for being becoming more anti-science or should A be condemned for being gullible blind faith that does not change opinion based on evidence? Was there reason? Consider this article:

I am an engineer myself and I love science. I love the discovery, I love the logic and the rigor. But as an engineer I am also aware of the limits of science. I see statistics abused everyday to prove a point. There is a big difference between correlation and causation. I am dismayed at the same basic lack of reason as people get the latest popular science magazine and drool at what science has “discovered/proven” which is most likely going to be proven false. Mr. Heney is quite right in his general lament, but that is something that affects both conservatives and liberals. It affects both democrats and republicans who seem to rely more on rhetoric than on logic in their debates. It is something that affects both atheists and religious persons. Speaking of atheists, it is odd that Mr. Heney would target the religious right regarding logic when atheists have no basis for logic in the first place. They do not have an epistemology that can support it.

The Greatest Gift to Give Someone

two girls

The greatest gift you can give to somebody is your own personal development. I used to say, “If you will take care of me, I will take care of you.” Now I say, “I will take care of me for you if you will take care of you for me.”

Jim Rohn

Caring For the Poor

This post continues our examination of lending. (click here for Part 1 and Part 2). One of the fundamental issues that needs to be clear before proceeding too far into the question of lending is scripture’s injunctions to care for the poor. I want to briefly explore 3 levels of caring for the poor.

Give Them Their Rights

First, it is particularly heinous to withhold from the poor what is their right to begin with.

(Exodus 23:3 ESV) nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.

(Exodus 23:6 ESV)“You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in his lawsuit.

Few things are so heartless as to oppress the poor. I am reminded of a scene in The Matrix when Morpheus reveals to Neo that the machines were using people as batteries. It was intended to shock and horrify Neo and the watchers. How could anything so noble and full of potential as a human being be reduced to a mere battery? But exactly how are we different if we are partial in our judgements and pervert the justice due the poor or are guilty of usury against the poor?

Give Where There is no Expectation

Second, we should give to the poor when there is no expectation that we should so give in general. Certainly one should avoid a perversion of justice against the poor – we should avoid that with everyone. But even more, a person ought to give of their own to help the poor.

(Exodus 23:11 ESV) but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the beasts of the field may eat. You shall do likewise with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.

(Leviticus 25:35 ESV) “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you.

(Deuteronomy 15:9 ESV) Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the LORD against you, and you be guilty of sin.

Your field is your field. You own it, you work it, you enjoy the fruits of your labor. There is no expectation that you have to give anything from your field to another person. But while there is no expectation in general, the mercy of God compels us to share with those in need. It is not enough to simply go about your own business and leave the poor alone. Mercy insists on helping.

Give When Expectations are Reversed

Finally, scripture also encourages us to give even when the expectations are reversed.

(Deuteronomy 24:12-13 ESV) And if he is a poor man, you shall not sleep in his pledge. [13] You shall restore to him the pledge as the sun sets, that he may sleep in his cloak and bless you. And it shall be righteousness for you before the LORD your God.

It is expected that you give everyone justice; so make sure you give it to the poor. It is not expected that you give of your field to everyone, but mercy asks you to give of it to the poor. It is expected that people give you a pledge for something as a normal course of business. But for the poor, that pledge shall be returned to them.

“Be Holy As I Am Holy”

These three levels of caring for the poor simply flow from God’s character.

(Psalm 35:10 ESV) “O LORD, who is like you, delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him, the poor and needy from him who robs him?”

In Christianity, God’s character is revealed directly, not merely to be inferred from his commands. We see many places in scripture where God’s own heart is toward the poor and destitute. Humans are image-bearers of God. Although that image was marred in the fall of mankind, God is in the process of restoring that image through Christ. We are destined, as believers, to be conformed to the image of Christ which will perfect once more the marred image of God. As Christians, we must care for the poor. If you do not, then your life does not reflect what God said our life was destined to reflect. That should give us pause to consider whether we are really saved.

Nobody Knows You As Well As You Do

lake sunset

Today we begin a new series of articles whose essence comes from musings that mystics throughout the ages have had and shared with humanity. Differing from our Uplifting Quotes series, these are more lengthy messages from individuals who have had some fundamental realizations related to the spiritual life through human existence and how to see Reality as directly as we can through the subjective human lens. Today’s mystic musing comes from Deng Ming-Dao, a Taoist Chinese American author, artist, philosopher, teacher who is best known for his book 365 Tao: Daily Meditations from which today’s selected musing is from.

Daily Meditation: May 20, Northern Hemisphere

No one is a supreme authority. People seek leaders, priests, gurus, and hermits thinking that someone has a precise formula for living correctly. No one does. No one can know you as well as you can know yourself. All that you can gain from a wise person is the assurance of some initial guidance. You may even spend decades studying under such an extraordinary person, but you should never surrender your dignity, independence, and personality.

There is no single way to do things in life. There are valid paths, even though they may differ from the ways of respected elders. Diversity is good for tradition. Too often, elders confuse dissent with disloyalty and punish people for the crime of having a different view. They are no longer in touch with Tao but instead mouth self-serving convention. Perhaps the panic of their own impending death makes them clutch. When the leaders become repressive, it is a sign that their time is drawing
to a close.

A saying about old masters was that they were like steel wrapped in cotton: They appeared soft on the outside but still held great power on the inside. We all hope for elders like that. But oftentimes, the old masters have lost their mandate of Tao. Then, when tested, they are merely brittle bone and fat. How can we respect such people?

Lending In the History of Redemption

It is worth taking a trip through scripture to consider what it has to say in the context of the history of redemption. Then from this biblical theology we can develop a systematic answer to the question of lending with interest.

The first instance of it occurs in:

(Exodus 22:25-27 ESV) “If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him. [26] If ever you take your neighbor’s cloak in pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down, [27] for that is his only covering, and it is his cloak for his body; in what else shall he sleep? And if he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.

The rest of the Pentateuch reinforces what is laid out in Ex 22:25-27 (see Lev 25:36-37; Deut 15:1-15; 23:19-20; 28:12-14, 44). The historical literature is largely silent with the exception of when Nehemiah castigates the nobles in Neh 5 saying:

I took counsel with myself, and I brought charges against the nobles and the officials. I said to them, “You are exacting interest, each from his brother.” And I held a great assembly against them [8] and said to them, “We, as far as we are able, have bought back our Jewish brothers who have been sold to the nations, but you even sell your brothers that they may be sold to us!” They were silent and could not find a word to say. [9] So I said, “The thing that you are doing is not good. Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies? [10] Moreover, I and my brothers and my servants are lending them money and grain. Let us abandon this exacting of interest.

The wisdom literature is also sparse with a clear condemnation in Ps 15:4-5, and a more cryptic message in Proverbs 28:8, “Whoever multiplies his wealth by interest and profit gathers it for him who is generous to the poor,” which seems to mean that profit taken through usury is fleeting. Among the prophets, Ezekiel reminds the people of God’s commands back in the Pentateuch:

(Ezekiel 18:5-9 ESV) “If a man is righteous and does what is just and right—[6] if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman in her time of menstrual impurity, [7] does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, [8] does not lend at interest or take any profit, withholds his hand from injustice, executes true justice between man and man, [9] walks in my statutes, and keeps my rules by acting faithfully—he is righteous; he shall surely live, declares the Lord GOD.

Finally, our Lord himself also spoke to the matter in Luke 6

(Luke 6:30, 34-35 ESV) Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. . . [34] And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. [35] But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.

I won’t take the time to exegete these passages at this time, no doubt this will come out in the discussions. I simply want to list those passages that speak directly to lending.
I have also seen some enlist the parable of the talents in Matthew 25.

(Matthew 25:27 ESV) Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.

Beyond these passages that speak directly to lending, we also have the passages that command us to care for the poor, passages that warn us against turning a blind eye to real needs.
(1 John 3:17 ESV) But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
(James 2:15-17 ESV) If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, [16] and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? [17] So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Certainly there are other passages that could be brought into the discussion, but this will suffice for now to give us a starting point in this exploration of lending.