by: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
—– Original Message —–
To: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
Sent: Tuesday, June 24, 2005 4:02 PM
Subject: Paradox and Truth
My goodness. I am moved by the large amount of time and energy you have invested in your response to me. I, too, enjoy a good interaction. Please consider my responses below to be my opinion and not the result of years of focused study in any single field. I do not have any interest in a style of intellectual debate where opponents claim that their own position is the best one or the right one. And I do not have any interest in attempting to defend a fixed position, either, even though it will appear that I have views that are 180 degrees out from yours. So here is my perspective on several points.
I feel that the times we live in are both exciting and weird. I see polarization on many fronts. I am not a fence sitter. I feel VERY strongly that in any polarized situation the “answer” or the “resolution” transcends and includes BOTH parties. Often the needed perspective is spoken by the soft voices. This is a general principle that I feel a great deal of passion about.
It is now popular for the conservative right to demonize the judicial system through name calling such as referring to “activist judges.” It seems to me that when a judge does not serve the agenda of the social conservatives, that’s when they suddenly become an activist judge who is going beyond his or her jurisdiction. This is part of the dark cloud of threat and intimidation coming from the conservative right, and it seems to be getting louder and louder. Toe the line or you are going to get hurt. Now judges in American are starting to be murdered.
I consider the act of evoking God and religion for political gain (power) to be an act of serious evil. The story of Christ’s temptation in the wilderness has something to say about this. President Bush may be sincere. If so, I consider him to be sincerely misguided and limited in depth of character and insight. Carl Rove who guides Mr. Bush, is a master manipulator who has devoted his career to the acquisition of political power. Carl Rove knows how to use religion to achieve his political objectives, yet he is not a religious man himself. Together, they have been very successful at using all the right buzz words to influence the actions of countless Christians across this country. Perhaps Mr. Bush takes the attitude that the end justifies the means in this regard.
The problem with considering any text to be the final word on spiritual matters is that text is fixed while the spirit is alive. When something is alive, that means it moves, breathes, transforms, and changes. The spirit speaks through the heart in a way that is living and appropriate. Text can serve as guidance but can never replace inner authority. Those who worship text are those who surrender their power to external authority. Surrendering power to external authority may be appropriate for certain stages of human or spiritual development. But it is not the only stage or the final stage. Religious extremists tend to say their book is the best book whether it be the Vedas or the Koran, or the Bible. This seems childish to me.
There is a place for absolute distinctions. One is either pregnant or not, male or female, up or down. At a higher dimension, there is a place for both/and. From space one can view our planet and see both night and day at the same time. A Mobius strip appears to have two opposite surfaces. Yet if you examine the Mobius strip closely, you find that there is actually one continuous surface. Paradox. In nature and in life there are many paradoxes. I notice that those who grasp the bible most tightly are those who have a low tolerance for paradox. These are the same people who let themselves be swept up by beliefs that lack common sense.
Absolute certainty, in spiritual matters, leads to a certain kind of hardness. This is not an open receptive condition. This is not a strong or sustainable condition and is not a characteristic of the heart. It leads to violence. History shows this. When the armored crusaders climbed over the walls of Jerusalem and slaughtered its inhabitants, they caused blood to flow in the streets. Justifications for this are no better than justifications for the extremist violence we see constantly on the news today. This sort of thing occurs when people let themselves get caught up in wacky ideas in the name of God and righteousness.
While you may see this period as one in which your good Christian values and the principles of our nation are being threatened, I see something different. I see this as a period in which our nation is moving to the political right and the loud, mean people are gaining more and more power and claiming that God is on their side. Fear is on the rise. I would like to put a sign on my car that says, “there is nothing more American than dissent” but I am afraid that somebody will thank me by smashing my windshield. What causes people to get loud and mean? When people are centered in the mind and not the heart and they think they are under attack, they get crazy. This is a good description of the conditions that breed fundamentalism.
I can appreciate the concern in those who feel disturbed by secular humanism. (I do not consider myself a secular humanist by the way.) I can appreciate the need and the desire in the human heart for something absolute, something unchanging, something that one can always count on. I see how the idea of a world built only of relativistic values can be a frightening and distasteful idea. You can imagine the development of two schools of thought, the absolutists and the relativists. Soon they crystallize their positions into opposing religions and try to kill each other, both insisting that they are right and the other is wrong. Silly isn’t it. Neither side is able to see clearly, because they are busy denying their own blindness and exaggerating the faults of the other.
Okay, time to stop. Your thoughts?
From: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
(Steven) My goodness. I am moved by the large amount of time and energy you have invested in your response to me. I, too, enjoy a good interaction. Please consider my responses below to be my opinion and not the result of years of focused study in any single field. I do not have any interest in a style of intellectual debate where opponents claim that their own position is the best one or the right one. And I do not have any interest in attempting to defend a fixed position, either, even though it will appear that I have views that are 180 degrees out from yours. So here is my perspective on several points.
I feel that the times we live in are both exciting and weird. I see polarization on many fronts. I am not a fence sitter. I feel VERY strongly that in any polarized situation the “answer” or the “resolution” transcends and includes BOTH parties. Often the needed perspective is spoken by the soft voices. This is a general principle that I feel a great deal of passion about.
(Thomas) Before we can begin a discussion, it is important to define the topic. You reference “exciting and weird” times. I am assuming we are speaking about the culture war which includes: the sexual revolution (gay marriage, abortion, pornography, prostitution, man-boy love, and the acceptance of all sexual expression public and private), the Secularization of society, (the rejection of the Judeo-Christian ethic as the basis of the legal-cultural system, In God We Trust, 10 Commandments, Prayer in School, removing Christ from Christmas), the characterization of all political events in terms of Liberal and Conservative framework (George Bush as corrupt agent for the MIC, Iraq motivated by Blood for Oil, its entry manipulated by lies, the Patriot act as a ruse by power-hungry manipulators to control and suppress the public, and a conscienceless government that tortures POW’s in secret and in defiance of international convention).
These issues each press upon our souls, and motivate us to advocate for a solution that resonates with our sense of ethics and propriety. Each problem requires a unique solution, and the “answer” or “resolution” to the “polarization on many fronts” depends on the specific context of the conflicted issue as well as the frame of each person. The above issues involve complex blends of objective circumstance, personal preference, and Absolute Truth.
In my worldview, I believe that God has a vision of His perfectly manifested world at every moment. I believe He allows men to act out their desires and create a world that conforms to their inner visions. But, I also believe God intervenes in the creation and affairs of men. I believe He speaks into the hearts of men, just as He allows the tempter to also speak. Thus, the political-social realm is a melee of competing voices, human and spirit, where each man believes he is following his own free will, and in a sense he is. No man is required to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit or Satan in his life. And yet, if in fact both voices are speaking and pulling on a man’s heartstrings, the desires and aversions that spring into his heart are as much a part of a person’s personality as the habitual voices of a man’s human passions.
As you mentioned, the topic we are confronting is the “resolution” to the “polarized situation” in the world surrounding us in the early 21st Century. The easiest resolution to this problem is the found by asking, “What is God’s vision for man at this moment?”
According to my worldview, man can choose to manifest any outcome within his power. But, every possible choice does not correspond to God’s perfect vision, His perfect will for each moment. Thus, while man responds to each new situation, and creates a new reality each moment, he must continually be aware of God’s leading in the making of choices.
As humans we are free to make choices that contradict God’s intent for an abundant, prosperous, and joyous life. Such a consideration causes us to question whether God’s plan and vision of a perfect world interferes with our free will. I believe God is able to thread the needle of remaining sovereign, while still allowing true individual choice. I believe God has a vision of a perfect life extending out from every person, at every moment. But since we continue to choose alternate paths to His, God continues to intervene by placing roadblocks in our path to guide us back toward His center.
We will experience consequences for each of our mis-steps. Undoubtedly, the consequences of minor errors in following His path produce smaller feedback signals than those that might precipitate from violating the 10 Commandments. Regardless, I do not believe God is motivated by punishment and offense about people “doing it right”. I believe man “doing it right” is a reflection of the state of the human heart. When we “do it right”, we fall into an automatic resonance with God and His way. The caricature of a judgmental God is one possible view, but I do not believe that perspective is an accurate representation of His character. God’s way is the best; the one where the most pleasure and least pain results personally and corporately. By giving ourselves over to His Lordship, we become capable of operating in harmony with God’s vision for our lives and His pathways of lawful action.
Two truths cannot exist which actually contradict each other in the same space and time. Logic and Law dictate that at least one must be a partial truth, or truth mixed with error. A soft voice may speak truth, but a liar can imitate the posture of truth as he pretends to carry the authority and peace conveyed by Truth. Truth need not speak loudly since its life is eternal. The unwavering consistency of Truth breaks through all resistance with sufficient time. Truth lies at the base of all structure, giving a functional definition to Law and nature. Truth is simply “what is”.
Later in the discussion you bring up the concept of “paradox”, and I wish to address this issue in the context of Truth, since the resolution of the concept of paradox can only be grasped in comparison to the concept of Absolute Truth.
We encounter the concept of paradox when two phenomena (or ideas) are both true, but appear mutually exclusive. The paradox resolves when we recognize that mutually exclusive phenomena and ideas are simply relative truths; that is, principles or ideas that have applicability limited to a local space and time. Thus, their contradictory appearance has no effect on the existence of Absolute Truth.
The non-Christian antagonist will commonly use the appearance of paradox to argue against the validity of scripture by presenting two Biblical concepts that appear to support opposing conclusions. This form of argumentation is meant to show the unreliability of Biblical Scripture.
Thus, the Christian apologist must seek to understand how to define the domain of applicability of each scripture. By separating out the lessons of scripture into their own areas of life-applicability, they are then seen as non-contradictory. By so doing we have resolved the problem of Biblical paradox.
In the realm of opinion about politics and religion, mutually exclusive opinions both appear true from a particular perspective. But as stated above, mutually exclusive opinions are only true to the extent that they conform to the Truth of the larger and superior system which governs all domains. All opinions about right behavior are not Absolutely True. But, every opinion can be validated by choosing a limited, exaggerated or distorted dataset.
Thus, relative truths continue to hold an excessively exalted claim on men’s minds because of the limited nature of our ability to comprehend and perceive the entirety of the universe. In turn, we cannot conclusively identify and declare Truth in any life situation, although we can be sure that Truth exists. Likewise, with sufficient parallax and lawful logic, we can be very confident that we have identified truthful principles and right action in a given circumstance. Even so, God is the only one who can declare Truth with absolute certainty; this knowledge should keep us all humble in our relations with our fellow man, and keep us in a properly submissive posture toward God’s authority and guidance. As men, we must judge and act on our best evaluation of truth at each moment, but our certainty should be tempered with that deference to the High authority which governs us all.
The appearance of contradictory motive, opposing beliefs, and paradox provide excellent opportunities and tools to take our examination of truth to a new and deeper level. Only when the Truth is found, and acknowledged, will the warring factions in our world lay down their arms and unite in embracing a common perspective.
You and I hold opposite opinions about Truth. We are both examining the arena of the religious-political debate, and how it applies to our individual and group lives. On some level, we both wish to mold the larger society to conform to our conceptions. We both have strong opinions about the rules that govern life, but we strongly disagree. You, as a self-proclaimed Liberal, 70% Secular Humanist, New-Age oriented thinker, believe that certain moral laws (mainly the sexual sins) should not be legislated because God’s character is not one which executes harsh absolute judgments against sexual “sin” as described in the Bible. While I, as a Christian, believe that moral (sexual) standards should be legislated for the health and civility of the society.
Both of these opinions cannot be True on the level of natural Law since Truth inexorably imposes its terms on all of humanity. Truth speaks softly, but with irresistible tenacity. Thus our disagreement about the fundamental nature of Truth can be best understood as a reflection of the conflict that always rages in the heavenly realms between the two primary opposing spiritual forces.
If our concepts about life deviate from Truth, that opinion can only sustain itself because of our limited vision. Erroneous opinions can self-validate because of the human tendency to focus on generalizing data which supports that belief, man’s ability to delete data which opposes one’s life-thesis, and our capability to distort life observations to conform to our preconceived worldviews. These barriers to perceiving reality in Truth may provide a temporary insulation from the facts of life, but they will eventually fall. In the meantime, the debate rages; each of the polarities loudly declare their position and exalt the data and perspective which validates the propriety of imposing their particular view on the larger society.
Again, we resolve a paradox by defining its domain, and understanding the generalizations, deletions, and distortions that allow one, the other, or both to be held with sincerity but in opposition to God’s vision. Objective reality has only one self-existent presence, but it can be viewed from many perspectives. Thus, when a Democrat or Republican declares his worldview, and says that the other is wrong, he may be correct. But he may be wrong because he has overvalued the objectivity of his data and the logic that validates the truth of its conclusion. Such error is common, and leads to pride.
Recapitulating: God’s perfect will exists at every moment, but we can violate it by choosing a path that opposes His perfection. The fact that two opposing ideas can both be true in their own cultural sphere simply means that they are functioning within isolated spaces inside a larger system that includes them both. Speaking with “soft voices” is simply a common courtesy that portrays the posture of the speaker’s confidence in his truth. Speaking from a position of ownership and strength gives the speaker the aura confidence and respectability. Presentation is important, but by itself it is insufficient to be used as proof of efficacy. Truth is best spoken to an adult/peer by giving him the opportunity to adopt the gift of Truth, rather than being forced to accept the dogma of Truth as a slave. A child must simply be instructed to follow the way of Truth; disobedience and destruction is curtailed by various forms of positive reinforcement and aversive stimuli.
(Steven) It is now popular for the conservative right to demonize the judicial system through name calling such as referring to “activist judges.” It seems to me that when a judge does not serve the agenda of the social conservatives, that’s when they suddenly become an activist judge who is going beyond his or her jurisdiction. This is part of the dark cloud of threat and intimidation coming from the conservative right, and it seems to be getting louder and louder. Tow the line or you are going to get hurt. Now judges in America are starting to be murdered.
The implication of your comment is that conservatives are violent and imposing their will upon the American public. I disagree. I have confronted this issue at length in my commentaries to you. An Activist judge in the Conservative/Christian vernacular is one who uses a New Age, Secular, or Eastern, etc. moral framework to judge a circumstance, when the historical understandings of the principles involved in this social transaction were historically Judeo-Christian ethics. In other words, the “Activist Judge” label is given to those who have usurped the role of the legislature in defining the legislative intent of those laws to further the agenda of the Secularization of America.
(Steven) I consider the act of invoking God and religion for political gain (power) to be an act of serious evil. The story of Christ’s temptation in the wilderness has something to say about this. President Bush may be sincere. If so, I consider him to be sincerely misguided and limited in depth of character and insight. Carl Rove who guides Mr. Bush, is a master manipulator who has devoted his career to the acquisition of political power. Carl Rove knows how to use religion to achieve his political objectives, yet he is not a religious man himself. Together, they have been very successful at using all the right buzz words to influence the actions of countless Christians across this country. Perhaps Mr. Bush takes the attitude that the end justifies the means in this regard.
To the extent that the purposes of God are fulfilled by the political operatives of our day, they do good works. To the extent that they are deluded, or cover their mal-intent with the cloak of God and religion, they serve the purposes of evil. But, to simply categorize the invocation of God’s will in political speech as wrong, inappropriately limits the obligation of men to further the kingdom of God on earth through the agency of government.
As people we should pursue manifesting God’s will at all times in both in our public and private lives. But, even our most sincere efforts may be wrong, as there is no way to absolutely ascertain God’s will in each of our initiatives. But if we are sincere, and we are following our highest sense of Truth, we should proceed with our action without embarrassment or fear. But, if time and wisdom shows that we have violated some important life-rules, then an apology and change of course is the appropriate response.
Whether Carl Rove or George Bush is sincere in his leadership, we will leave that judgment up to a more exalted court of the heart and mind. In judging them, I have to take each issue of policy and execution separately. In general, I have not attributed the low character accusation to George Bush that are common epithets of the Left. Instead, I have framed his actions as being motivated by a serious concern for the welfare of our nation. I may be wrong with regard to his character and motivation; nevertheless, I see how his actions could produce good results in many cases that have been condemned by the Left.
(Steven) The problem with considering any text to be the final word on spiritual matters is that text is fixed while the spirit is alive. When something is alive, that means it moves, breathes, transforms, and changes. The spirit speaks through the heart in a way that is living and appropriate. Text can serve as guidance but can never replace inner authority. Those who worship text are those who surrender their power to external authority. Surrendering power to external authority may be appropriate for certain stages of human or spiritual development. But it is not the only stage or the final stage. Religious extremists tend to say their book is the best book whether it be the Vedas, the Koran, or the Bible. This seems childish to me.
You imply that using Biblical text as authoritative condemns its words to being static in their available insight and guidance. My experience contradicts that statement diametrically. I believe the universe is governed by a body of Law which is a set of archetypal principles established by God; and these principles, laws, and archetypes are unchanging. But, humanity experiences only a thin cross-section of the totality of the law in our daily lives. We are required to act properly in circumstances where our knowledge about the ethics of that situation can be limited. Thus, a global knowledge of Biblical text, plus a commitment to listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit, gives us a standard of reference, as well as a living accentuation of the teaching of Scripture.
The multifaceted nature of life requires looking for both the universal and individualized solution to every situation. The rich variety of circumstances we face demands of us unique responses to each situation. The Holy Scripture provides the word-equivalent of a static standard for an entire system. But, limited vignettes of life require the possibility of customizing scriptural applicability to the individual’s situation. The archetypal and static wholeness of the entire Biblical text, The Word, must in some way be brought to immediate relevance. It is through the quickening of our hearts by the Holy Spirit that our mind is illuminated to identify right thought, speech, and action in each moment. The stagnancy you abhor about the static interpretation of Biblical text is shared by the Spirit. It is the Spirit which interprets and illuminates the relevant text and lesson for each moment. God’s Spirit speaks to man, but many spirits compete for man’s attention. By studying the Bible, meditating on its word, and praying for understanding, we become sensitive to the voice and guidance of His Holy Spirit. The Bible requires an interactive process to be brought to life, but for those who yield themselves to its guidance it brings them the Words of life.
(Steven) There is a place for absolute distinctions. One is either pregnant or not, male or female, up or down. At a higher dimension there is a place for both/and. From space one can view our planet and see both night and day at the same time. A Mobius strip appears to have two opposite surfaces. Yet if you examine the Mobius strip closely, you find that there is actually one continuous surface. Paradox. In nature and in life there are many paradoxes. I notice that those who grasp the Bible most tightly are those who have a low tolerance for paradox. These are the same people who let themselves be swept up by beliefs that lack common sense.
I have addressed the issue of paradox and its resolution above, and I refer back to that discussion to give a clear definition to the word as I use it. A Mobius Strip is not a one sided piece of paper in actuality. Rather, it merely meets one of the criteria of the definition of “one-sidedness.” Simply because one can draw a line where both sides of a piece of paper are marked while drawing a line from a starting point to the returning point without lifting the pencil, does not meet all the criteria of a one-sided paper.
A one sided paper would have no edges with a dimension of depth, and it would have no opposite side. Certainly a Mobius strip when transited perpendicular to its longitudinal “Mobius axis” (i.e. across the line drawn on the strip), contains four sides, all occupying various displacements in a 3 dimensional universe. The topographical manipulation illustrated by the Mobius Strip may be an interesting twist that creates a certain sense of paradox, but looking at the larger picture reveals that the 3 dimensional universe is not negated in its supremacy by the manipulations of the 2 dimensional sub-system. This non-paradox is a perfect example of the fact that there are no true paradoxes. All sub-systems coexist and submit to the dominion of the larger whole system in which they reside.
In the case of the Bible, if it is true, reflects the most fundamental of all systems, the mother of all archetypes and proto-patterns. It is the holistic expression of all law and history. The Bible could be views as only a collection of words, analogies, history, and instruction. But the larger dimension that it reflects cannot be seen in its totality by the human vision. Thus, given our limitations as humans, we learn about the properties and extent of the larger system by becoming familiar with each of the pieces of that larger system.
As we live life, we find ourselves in situations which have elements of many of the sub-systems we studied in the Biblical metaphors. Having learned the language of Biblical symbolism and archetype, the Holy Spirit can speak to our hearts using those symbols to guide us in right and Godly action. The variety of human circumstances makes it impossible to elaborate an exhaustive list of rules that should govern man’s behaviors and relationship. Such a list, if it was truly exhaustive would in fact be static. But, the Bible is not such a static command-set. Instead, its holistic-archetypal nature allows it to be the standard by which the Holy Spirit can reference and resonate in men’s hearts, and thereby give language and guidance to the movement of Spirit in his heart.
(Steven( Absolute certainty, in spiritual matters, leads to a certain kind of hardness. This is not an open receptive condition. This is not a strong or sustainable condition and is not a characteristic of the heart. It leads to violence. History shows this. When the armored crusaders climbed over the walls of Jerusalem and slaughtered its inhabitants, they caused blood to flow in the streets. Justifications for this are no better than justifications for the extremist violence we see constantly on the news today. This sort of thing occurs when people let themselves get caught up in wacky ideas in the name of God and righteousness.
We can never have absolute certainty about anything in the creation. We each have perceptions about objective reality, and we form opinions about the rules that govern the creation. Those opinions are usually formed by input from parents, personal experience, experts, myth, and religious texts. Some people attempt to rigidly regulate their lives according to their holy book. They take single scriptures or concepts and apply them broadly to their lives. The Militant Islamic interpretation of the Koran is the most obvious example. Such faith bubble universes are not easily extinguished once established since the group ethic tends to self-reinforce its own self proclaimed accuracy.
Life requires that we adopt a belief system, and trust our lives with its accuracy; and if we judge incorrectly, our survival may be in jeopardy. But as certain as we are about our survival strategies and the rules governing life, we still may be wrong. The same is true about our concepts of God. We may believe something sincerely, but be actually incorrect. Even a scripture which actually is from God, such as the Bible, cannot be absolutely proven to be true or applicable to any given situation. Nevertheless, as adults we must choose to be points of moral accountability in our work, play, family, society, and government. Each person must do his part to enforce the rule of law.
Thus, even though we cannot have absolute certainty with regard to the Godliness of our moral code, we must defend when the invaders attack. The person who follows the anti-war religion (the “Anti-warist”) takes the position that all war is evil. He attempts to explain war as a result of man’s spiritual delusions. In a sense he takes peace, non-violence, or non-war, as the primary good or the axiomatic perfection of life. But, peace is a result of proper interpersonal relationship, just as war is the result of violation.
Many people take the stand that religion is the basis for war, and they often use the Crusades as an example to validate their thesis. But, they seldom note that the Crusades were the Western World’s response to Islam’s forceful conquest of the majority of the known world. The doctrine of Islam demands that the whole world be placed under the control of Allah; and if necessary, force is acceptable.
The Crusaders fought for centuries to regain territory taken by the Muslims in 25 years. It was not a religion-inspired aggression that drove them to expel the Islamic invaders. The Muslims took land by force, and the Crusaders responded with equal and opposite force, driving them from their conquered lands, including the attempt to retake Jerusalem. The Crusaders were under no moral obligation to leave the conquered lands under Islamic control. The principle of equality and balance justifies their actions. It is hypocritical to allow the Muslim invaders the over take Europe, and then condemn the Crusaders for attempting to free that land from the aggressors. The Islamic religion actually authorizes the use of force to overtake a nation for Allah. In contrast, the standard of Christian behavior is to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Jesus gave His disciples the “Great Commission” to go and share the gospel with all people. The obvious difference in method of gaining converts clearly identifies the religion with the moral superiority.
The Militant Muslim’s doctrine and prophecy of a world that submits to Islam, actually leads people to engage in war. But, Christ’s teachings move us away from war and toward peace. The peace of submission to the force of an aggressor nation is the peace of suppression and tyranny. A nation is justified in using force against those who credibly threaten or violate its boundaries. God created a world where animal passions drive men, and a natural world which moves men and mountains in the direction of the larger force. He created us, and charged us with the mission to be fruitful and multiply and subdue the land. There are times when non-violent protest produces excellent result, but in the face of warring armies it usually produces only enslavement and death. Force is required to resist the dominating force of tyranny, and quell the dispersing energy of anarchy.
War is not the enemy. The enemy is human nature and the spirits that goad humanity into self centered satisfaction of desire. War will never end as long as peoples and nations lust after the territories of others. Islam wishes to return to the Caliphate and the possession of the land taken in the 7th Century. A land once occupied, imprints itself on the territorial memory of a people. No peace is possible between the Christian and Islamic world as long as the Muslim heart is committed to forcefully subjugating every human under the sword of Allah. Until the Muslim’s heart is won to Christ, he will continue to war against the Christian.
It is not appropriate that the Christian submit to the Muslim, nor is it appropriate that all men relinquish all spiritual allegiance. The world will only experience peace when all men worship the True God. I believe that as long as any world religion possesses a seed of hatred toward the God of the Bible, that strife will continue on this Earth.
Most world religions are benign; they fall into the pattern that Jesus Christ said was acceptable, “He that is not against me is with me”. But, the Militant Islamic religion, and possibly all of Islam, is actually opposed to Christianity. Thus, the world will continue to war, and yes religion will be a significant factor in justifying and giving that warfare an emotional drive. But, the aggressor in this conflict will not be Christianity; it will be those who oppose the reign and rule of Christ on this Earth.
As Americans, we are fighting a war in Iraq whose justification has changed. As Americans and Christians, I believe we can say that our motivation for the conflict was never unrighteous. Initially we entered Iraq under the assumption, and worldwide belief that Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction; we knew he had chemical weapons because he had used them. It seemed likely that he had biological warfare capabilities, and there was a fear that a nuclear program would give him a power no rogue tyrant government should possess. Some sources (e.g. “Disinformation” by Miniter) claim that in fact our premises for war were true.
Nevertheless, our motives for continuing to fight the war have changed. We now see our role as liberators and agents of democracy. We may have at one time supported Saddam when it served our purposes to prevent the expansion of Iran in the early 1980’s. But that history does not invalidate our moral authority to liberate the Iraqi people. In short, our cause in Iraq is just, and the Iraqi people may have a democracy which will allow them to choose their own leaders and laws. But, given the dictatorial tenets of the Islamic Sharia Law, they may self impose a religious tyranny. It remains to be seen whether democracy and its liberating force is stronger than the constraining force of Islamic religious edict.
The maximum benefit of democracy can only be experienced by a Christian nation, because Christ transforms every man’s heart. This new Christ-man desires to Love God, and treat every man as he treats himself. The importance of Loving God has been minimized and made ineffective or destructive by wrongly interpreting this command. When men love God, they follow His actual, true, and right commands. Man’s love of God can be distorted by false doctrines, directives, desires, and moral systems. When men are given false permission to engage in unGodly acts, they produce painful consequences and unintentionally violate their fellow man. The resulting pain of violation precipitates retaliation. The cycle of retribution never ends until one or the other repents, renounces his violating behavior, and commits to a future life of True Godliness.
Likewise, when men believe false doctrine that restricts them excessively, their joy of life diminishes. Christ promised us a full and abundant life. He promised a life of Liberty. But the offer of liberty can be misinterpreted as an authorization to engage in license. Without studying the whole of Biblical Scripture, we have only a dim view of the required specificity needed to live a life of liberty that steers clear of the violation of others.
Those who have exalted the notion of “war is evil” under all circumstances have idolized this concept and in essence made it the central tenet of their new religion. They mistake the fact that God has included war as one of the processes which we may use to manipulate the circumstances of life. War is not unGodly, nor is it the enemy. War is a tool; it is a process of negotiation when all other rational forms of discussion have failed. War may be used by righteous people to overthrow tyranny, and, unrighteous people may use war to advance their selfish or deluded oppression of the earth.
The spiritual forces that promote erroneous doctrine and unrighteous behavior among men are the true enemies of mankind. Banning war will not produce the justice and peace that men desire. War will only end when all men embrace the absolute Truth of God. It is man’s job to win the hearts of men by witnessing and educating others in the ways of their God. The Islamic model of forceful conversion is a satanic shadow of the true way of the God. God wants men to come to Him by a free choice, desire, and love for Him. Peace will thrive among men when their hearts follow God’s Way.
The Muslims have a fixed idea about righteousness; it is erroneous and unGodly. They wish to impose their religion on an unwilling world. But, defense of territory is a requirement to maintain liberty and survival. Thus, our opposition to invasion embraces a code of righteousness. This repulsion against domination and slavery has a natural resonance with the human soul and it resonates with most positive religions, and innate standards of personal comfort held by people and nations. Thus, a foundational drive pushes us to defend and retake territory. When a nation is invaded, and the territory is defended, it is called war. A sufficiently aggressive enemy cannot be resisted with passivity and non-participation. Thus, at the point of hostilities, both nations are fully invested in acting out their conceptions of righteousness. But, one or both nations may be wrong in their concepts. In some cases, the unrighteousness of a nation’s motives are trivially obvious: the Germanic desire to establish the 3rd Reich in Poland, France, Italy, etc. reveals the base and deluded desires which can drive a nation to war. The more subtle motives which can initiate, or perpetuate, war are as follows:
1) The attacker who believes the land was theirs and should be returned. 2) The defender who believes that sufficient time has passed to transfer the title fully, and therefore ownership of the land should be defended.
In other words, aggression dictates defense. Everyone must develop a mature belief system with regard to the possession and defense of territory. Every person must learn to defend emotional and physical territory. We must develop and act on our concepts of territory, even though we live in a world of at least partial ignorance. The Secularist, Pacifist, Islamist and Christian all have conceptions of territory and ownership; and each can be violated. There is a time for war and a time for peace. There is a time to give our neighbor our coat when he takes our shirt. Life is the fundamental territory, and the processes of life are largely about learning how to properly defend, expand, and balance our physical, mental, emotional, and soul territory with that owned by self, others, and God.
(Steven) While you may see this period as one in which your good Christian values and the principles of our nation are being threatened, I see something different. I see this as a period in which our nation is moving to the political right and the loud, mean people are gaining more and more power and claiming that God is on their side. Fear is on the rise. I would like to put a sign on my car that says, “there is nothing more American than dissent” but I am afraid that somebody will thank me by smashing my windshield. What causes people to get loud and mean? When people are centered in the mind and not the heart and they think they are under attack, they get crazy. This is a good description of the conditions that breed fundamentalism.
Fear is the emotion people feel when they are under a perceived threat. You believe that Christians are now becoming mean and operating as a God-justified gang, and you feel fear. You believe that Christians have become more fundamental in the current period, less feeling, more convinced of the “rightness” of their ideas, and willing to hurt you because you disagree with the current political-social agenda of the Christian Right.
Proverbs 28:1 says it well, “The wicked flee when no one pursues, But the righteous are bold as a lion.”
Your concepts about Christianity being a religion that promotes fundamentalism and meaness has been fanned into a significant level of paranoia inside you because you are looking through the lens of the Left. This perspective is intentionally distorting Christianity and has the agenda of removing Christianity as an influence in the public debate. The “Separation of Church and State” is simply the battle cry and slogan of the Left to create a reflexive rejection by the masses of any Biblical-Christian influence in government and society. One of the motivations that drive the Left to demonize Christian ethics is that that Biblical morality is the major stumbling block that prevents our society from adopting free sexual license as a cultural standard.
As long as Christians are in the majority, or can have a significant social voice, they will always promote sexual restraint. God has warned people to properly exercise their sexuality; marriage being a sanctified and endorsed place for its expression. But, man’s heart wishes to follow his desires and use it as a free and common expression of friendship or passion.
The Left wishes to ban Christianity from the public sphere, relegating it to a purely private experience behind church doors and private expressions. And, if it reaches that point the next step will be to demonize those who study, or believe the Christian message because it contains “hate” ideology, and thus creates “poisonous” attitudes.
The current attempt to “winterize” Christmas is only one of the most recent attempts to remove Christ from the group consciousness. This battle has joined the other famous examples of banning the 10 Commandments, Crosses, Prayer, Bible Reading, etc. in the public. This is not the mark of a tolerant heart-centered public. Such ideology and social action is an attempt to remove an entire religion from the public sphere, and amazingly, this intolerant cultural cleansing is done in the name of tolerance.
This perspective segues well with my worldview. God has ordained evil to war with good and Godliness. The war allows for choice and victory. I am not paralyzed by a world that has within it such struggles; I simply recognize that evil will always attempt to overcome goodness, and I view the Left as an unwitting agent/pawn of evil. But, also I recognize how the challenges of the Left can be worked together for good. I do not believe that the Right necessarily knows how to execute public policy, or interpret scripture, with 100% Godly accuracy. In other words, the challenge of an opponent, the diversity of opinion is good for the purpose of purification in Godliness. But, this does not mean that I support the Left in their efforts. No, I believe of the two perspectives that the current positions of the Right come much closer to embracing the vision that God has for our nation and His people.
I’m sure you feel the same way, that your fear is justified, that the conservatives are in power, and the values you hold dear are under attack. I understand your fear, your vision of a Christianity that is out to suppress your freedom to dissent. And, if my perspective is correct, then your fear will not abate as long as you cannot see the true heart of the Christians in this land.
Christianity is a life-giving religion; it regulates men’s minds and brings them into their hearts, a concept opposite to your fears. The Militant Islamists truly are the people we should fear, as they hate people who oppose their agenda, and use murder as a tool to advance their agenda. They truly are fundamentalists in the sense of the word that identifies people who take small segments of scripture to justify their evil and distorted perspective on God’s intentions.
Secular Humanism, atheism, New Ageism, and the Bacchus-collage of lust, greed, and pride are probably more at the heart of the current culture’s raucous expression. People justify their positions by attempting to appropriate the imprimatur of Christian holiness to their venture. But, the person, administration, or country which uses the name of Christ falsely has no effect on the underlying truth of Scripture and its ultimate life-giving goodness.
The fanatic who kills in the name of Christ is more likely the product of a poor education in Christianity than the product of a strong and righteous religious background. People can behave cruelly and use scriptures to justify their actions; but it does not prove God endorses their choices. Calling oneself a Christian does not immunize a person from mental illness and delusion. Rather, claiming the Lord’s authority simply puts a man under a higher standard of judgment.
The answer to fundamentalism is not to ban religion or Christianity. Instead, erroneous or proof-texted justification for evil should be exposed as a superficial interpretation of scripture. The hologram of the Bible is not easily interpreted; still, its words give life and purify the mind and heart, even though the process takes an entire lifetime.
Public debate about scripture has the possibility of identifying erroneous scriptural interpretation and moderating it. Throughout history we have seen heresy, fundamentalism, and proof-texted error moderated out of the church doctrine by its confrontation with reality. In other words, God uses the Secularist, Scientist, and Skeptic to bring realism to the simpleminded person of faith and imperial theocrat. The Bible offers itself to a continued revelation of the larger Truth intended by Scripture. The underlying Truth never changes, but man’s understanding of that truth grows with time.
My first assumption is the Truth of Scripture. I look at paradox with an eye to understand how Biblical Truth can be rationalized in the face of apparent contradiction or teaching which appears inhumane or unjust. I look to identify a context which gives scripture a heart and a head.
The skeptic is committed to proving that Scripture is wrong. He uses the thesis that any appearance of error or paradox dispels the notion of infallibility. He seeks to diminish the authority of Scripture in men’s personal and public lives. The Christian and Skeptic’s agenda run counter to each other, as they should. These two opposing views will compete for men’s hearts until God manifests Himself as King on this Earth.
If you wish to be on the side of the skeptic and hold that polarity, you may make that choice. Still, I invite you to take a walk on the Christ-side. Only a relatively small amount of joy can be reaped from the skeptic’s position of the intellectual-faith divide. I know it would require a miracle, but if you seek, God would eventually open your mind to be able to show you how you could justify the Truth of the Bible being the inspired word of God that gives life.
Yes, there may be people in leadership positions who are using Christianity, or Christians, to further their own agendas. It has happened before, it may be happening now, and it will probably happen again. But, the misuse of Truth does not negate the validity of Truth. Our job, as righteous people, wanting to bring goodness, justice, and joy to the Earth is to confront error where we see it. You believe there is error in the Administration, and that they are doing things that run counter to the principles of Christianity. You may be right. Each of us must confront error when we see it. I encourage you to conduct your fight from the strong foundation of Christian doctrine. Your protest will have more power.
Come into the fold; accept your role as a thinker and philosopher in the Christian community. You have a good mind, and your words could be used to great effect in purifying the body of Christ. As a part of the body of Christ, you will have credibility and standing.
I invite you to study the Bible and begin to pray that God will reveal to your heart how the Bible is in fact True. When you engage in these two simple creative acts of faith, your heart and mind will eventually make a miraculous shift. You will be able to submit yourself to the Lordship of Christ, and be able to see a perspective which was previously veiled and unknown to you. And, to the best of my ability, I will help guide you if you are sincere in your search.
(Steven) I can appreciate the concern in those who feel disturbed by secular humanism. (I do not consider myself a secular humanist by the way.) I can appreciate the need and the desire in the human heart for something absolute, something unchanging, something that one can always count on. I see how the idea of a world built only of relativistic values can be a frightening and distasteful idea. You can imagine the development of two schools of thought, the absolutists and the relativists. Soon they crystallize their positions into opposing religions and try to kill each other, both insisting that they are right and the other is wrong. Silly isn’t it. Neither side is able to see clearly, because they are busy denying their own blindness and exaggerating the faults of the other.
You have rightly identified the polarities of relativism and absolutism as the two polar ends of the spiritual-philosophy spectrum. And yes, we as humans desire to bring solidity and predictability to our world in order to know how we should defend our family, home, health, and wealth. And, being realistic we live in a world where most life circumstances must be judged, and values applied, according to a unique blend of moral principles. This leads us to give credibility to the notion that all values or perspectives are relative, which in turn causes us to believe that nothing is absolute. The bottom line of the argument is that we live in a world built on an absolute foundation, where we must deal with circumstances using a very expanded world view to be able to include all the factors involved in any given situation, so as to be able to make the proper judgment in any given situation.
Thus, relativity is merely an appearance, a subset of the world operates according to absolute standards. Those who war with each other to implement a regime of absolutes usually see the world in simplistic terms. Likewise, those who declare that everything is relative do so from a naive assumption about the fundamental nature of the universe. The proper position is to look carefully at the world from the perspective of all the players involved in the situation, and then make a judgment.
An illustration of the “relative truth” is seen clearly in the conundrum of whether to lie or tell the truth by the phrase, “There are no Jews in the Attic.” A higher good often will trump another virtuous principle. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” These examples show how any attempt to deify any virtue above all others, and thus establish an absolute rule about how to act in every situation may result in error.
Thus, the most trivial analysis of human relationships will reveal the principle of relativity; the need to properly organize values according to the circumstance. The variety of situations in which we find ourselves each day clearly illustrates how we must find an appropriate synthesis of values to guide our actions. But sadly, the existence of the fact of relativity has been taken as an authorization to justify the elimination of the fact of absolutism. Relativity has been elevated to the status of the highest Truth about nature and spirit, when in fact, just like all virtues, it holds only one of the positions in the vast array of operative principles.
Einstein’s theories have made it clear that the laws of nature are modified according to the local conditions. As such, the existence and proof of the phenomenon of relativity is certain both as an objective experience and as a metaphor of human perception and values. Thus, the question is not whether relativity exists, or whether relativity actually has a valid place in the way that we make moral and value judgments. Rather, the question is whether there is also an absolute standard that operates in the background in addition to the relativistic play we see so clearly in the foreground of obvious life experience.
Your criticism of those who go to war to defend their position on relativism or absolutism is understandable. Still, there is a time for war, even though the reasons given by the two camps in a given situation may be erroneous. The absolutists often fall into the trap of being unable to see the larger picture of all the forces and factors modifying the proper judgment of a situation. And, the chauvinists for relativity usually do not see that their view is too small to recognize the absolute principles operating underneath the panoply of individual forces in a given circumstance. People can worship tolerance, privacy, choice, equality, relativism, absolutism, or peace as the highest ethic. But in fact, each of these values are minor gods in the pantheon of virtues. But, any of the virtues will show themselves inapplicable or of minor importance at times when we attempt to apply them universally. Such a perspective is a perfect functional definition of “relativity”, but it does not reduce the fact of an underlying absolute foundation to the universe.
In other words, there is no God but God, and it is He that governs which principles rule at each moment. No value or ethic can be properly applied universally without fear of it becoming an idol, a demigod, a contender for the high throne which only God Himself occupies. The consideration of absolutism and relativism directly addresses this issue of values-idolatry. And, the proper resolution of this consideration is a perspective which encompasses both absolutism and relativism as part of the actual largest whole.
The perspective of everything being relative produces a world of nonsensical contradictions and a universe without foundation. Likewise, the world where everything is absolute is so simplistic, rigid, and mechanical that little room exists for free will, choice, or even love. God has created a world founded on the absolute, which allows the relative. The balance between these two seemingly contradictory polarities is so fine and masterful that the existence of the polarity and balance speaks of the majesty and magnificence of God.
I look forward to your perspective.