"What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but an absence of self-criticism." - G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Phil... I mean, Francis Collins in NGM

I read Francis Collins book "The language of God" recently and found myself really resonating with his position regarding the relationship of Science and Faith. I was happy to discover this short interview in National Geographic recently. It's pretty brief, but he gives an interesting set of answers to a variety of pertinent questions. Below, I have posted a portion of the interview, but I found the entire interview to be pretty interesting. You can read the whole thing by clicking on the link above.

I am tempted to disable comments so I can be like Matt, but I just can't bring myself to do it. I know we run the risk of spreading this conversation out all over creation, but that's what blogging is all about, right? So Matt, if you want to enable commenting on your post as well, go for it.

So having said that, here's Phil... *dang it!* I mean, FRANCIS Collins:

Horgan: Free will is a very important concept to me, as it is to you. It's the basis for our morality and search for meaning. Don't you worry that science in general and genetics in particular—and your work as head of the Genome Project—are undermining belief in free will?

Collins: You're talking about genetic determinism, which implies that we are helpless marionettes being controlled by strings made of double helices. That is so far away from what we know scientifically! Heredity does have an influence not only over medical risks but also over certain behaviors and personality traits. But look at identical twins, who have exactly the same DNA but often don't behave alike or think alike. They show the importance of learning and experience—and free will. I think we all, whether we are religious or not, recognize that free will is a reality. There are some fringe elements that say, "No, it's all an illusion, we're just pawns in some computer model." But I don't think that carries you very far.

Horgan: What do you think of Darwinian explanations of altruism, or what you call agape, totally selfless love and compassion for someone not directly related to you?

Collins: It's been a little of a just-so story so far. Many would argue that altruism has been supported by evolution because it helps the group survive. But some people sacrificially give of themselves to those who are outside their group and with whom they have absolutely nothing in common. Such as Mother Teresa, Oskar Schindler, many others. That is the nobility of humankind in its purist form. That doesn't seem like it can be explained by a Darwinian model, but I'm not hanging my faith on this.

Horgan: What do you think about the field of neurotheology, which attempts to identify the neural basis of religious experiences?

Collins: I think it's fascinating but not particularly surprising. We humans are flesh and blood. So it wouldn't trouble me—if I were to have some mystical experience myself—to discover that my temporal lobe was lit up. That doesn't mean that this doesn't have genuine spiritual significance. Those who come at this issue with the presumption that there is nothing outside the natural world will look at this data and say, "Ya see?" Whereas those who come with the presumption that we are spiritual creatures will go, "Cool! There is a natural correlate to this mystical experience! How about that!"

Labels: , ,

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Meat robots

I'm turning off comments on this post, as the debate is currently taking place across about three different threads already (taking in morality, free will and the existence of God - boy, do we like to make life difficult for ourselves!). It's really no more than a look-this-is-quite-interesting post anyway.

The following is from an article about consciousness by Steven Pinker in Time magazine. His argument is that mind/body distinction is a fallacy, and that thought, feelings and experience are no more than physical processes. The whole thing is worth reading, but I thought I'd quote the end comments he makes:

"...the biology of consciousness offers a sounder basis for morality than the unprovable dogma of an immortal soul. It's not just that an understanding of the physiology of consciousness will reduce human suffering through new treatments for pain and depression. That understanding can also force us to recognize the interests of other beings--the core of morality.

As every student in Philosophy 101 learns, nothing can force me to believe that anyone except me is conscious. This power to deny that other people have feelings is not just an academic exercise but an all-too-common vice, as we see in the long history of human cruelty. Yet once we realize that our own consciousness is a product of our brains and that other people have brains like ours, a denial of other people's sentience becomes ludicrous. "Hath not a Jew eyes?" asked Shylock. Today the question is more pointed: Hath not a Jew--or an Arab, or an African, or a baby, or a dog--a cerebral cortex and a thalamus? The undeniable fact that we are all made of the same neural flesh makes it impossible to deny our common capacity to suffer.

And when you think about it, the doctrine of a life-to-come is not such an uplifting idea after all because it necessarily devalues life on earth. Just remember the most famous people in recent memory who acted in expectation of a reward in the hereafter: the conspirators who hijacked the airliners on 9/11.

Think, too, about why we sometimes remind ourselves that "life is short." It is an impetus to extend a gesture of affection to a loved one, to bury the hatchet in a pointless dispute, to use time productively rather than squander it. I would argue that nothing gives life more purpose than the realization that every moment of consciousness is a precious and fragile gift."

Labels: , ,

Thursday, January 25, 2007

SERIOUSLY, where is this God anyway?

Trying to ease back into the blogosphere. The recent movement has been happening here. Matt is quite confounded by my position that we have some choice to make in regard to our stance towards God. The argument goes, that if we are expected to make a choice, we must first have some information to make a choice from. In Matt's mind, the information is just not there. It's a valid point. I'm not sure I have a convincing answer, but I'll put some thought to it and blather on as usual. I also hope to get around to responding to a bunch of other interesting posts that have popped up in here recetly. It's exciting to see the amount of thoughtful discussion we've had going on here recently. Keep at it!


Saturday, January 20, 2007

Did you know...

If you use Google Reader, Bloglines, Netvibes or any other such reader, this blog has an RSS feed for the comments:


Now isn't that handy?


Friday, January 19, 2007

Out for lunch...

Going to be taking a little break from the blog scene. I have some things going on in my life that require some attention. But don't you fret, I'll be back to argue with you people soon enough. Thanks for all it has been so far.


Monday, January 15, 2007

The story so far

I'd just like to thank Alex for allowing me to post on his blog. I promise not to make too much of a mess, do my share of the washing up and keep the music down.


As my first post on 'In Search of High Places' I thought I'd go with something I've just published on my own site, as it seems quite relevant.

Here it is:

Since this post on the Dilbert blog, a debate has been raging across the blogosphere concerning issues such as morality, meaning, the nature of life and the existence of God. Millions* of words have been written in the ongoing argument for and defence of both atheistic and theistic views on the matter.

(*This may be an exaggeration)

Below is a summary of the two main positions reached on morality and meaning, which I’ve lumped together for what will hopefully become obvious reasons.


Morality = instinct; later codified to become social norms, to aid the smooth function of society

Meaning = means something / is significant to me.


Morality = accordance with God’s will; either ignored or imperfectly realised by human beings

Meaning = means something / is significant to God (and therefore each of us).

The crux of the whole thing is the existence of a certain kind of God. If God doesn’t exist, or is simply unconcerned with the business of humanity, then the human-centred approach is the obvious answer. If God does exist, and is concerned with us, then the God-centred approach becomes the answer.

So: ultimately questions of morality and meaning come down to the issue of

a) God’s existence

And (assuming that the answer to this is positive)

b) God’s nature.

It’s sometimes suggested that only one side of this debate has any work to do. However, neither of these positions can claim special status. To many atheists the primarily non-supernatural nature of life is fairly self-evident. Anyone wishing to challenge this position must argue for the existence of God. Equally, to many theists the existence of the divine is also fairly self-evident. Anyone wishing to challenge this view must argue for the non-existence* of God. The onus is on both sides to put forward arguments supporting their position.

(*In order to argue that something doesn’t exist it’s only necessary to demonstrate the weakness of the arguments for it – as positive proof of non-existence is almost impossible.)

Further Reading:

- An Insomniac
- Freemania
- Imagined Community

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Free Will, Responsibility, and Openness

Greg Boyd has written an interesting post on his view of free will, openness and moral responsibility over at his blog. In light of our current conversation on free will I just wanted to toss it out for consideration. Greg writes:

to the extent that we deliberate about decisions, weighing the different possibilities before us, we may assume the future is genuinely open. Indeed, we need to presuppose it’s open in order to deliberate about it (which is why I argue that everybody presupposes [and thus unconsciously believes] the open view of the future is true, despite the fact that they may sincerely think it’s false!

Read the entire post here.

Labels: ,

Monday, January 08, 2007

Free Will makes NYT

Interesting article here. Then discussed further here. Scott Adams also has yet another post on this topic here.

To get an idea of where these articles are coming from here's a few pertinent quotes.

"A bevy of experiments in recent years suggest that the conscious mind is like a monkey riding a tiger of subconscious decisions and actions in progress, frantically making up stories about being in control."

“If people freak at evolution, etc.,... how much more will they freak if scientists and philosophers tell them they are nothing more than sophisticated meat machines, and is that conclusion now clearly warranted or is it premature?”j

"According to deep mathematical principles, they say, even machines can become too complicated to predict their own behavior and would labor under the delusion of free will."

"Dr. Wegner said he thought that exposing free will as an illusion would have little effect on people’s lives or on their feelings of self-worth. Most of them would remain in denial. 'It’s an illusion, but it’s a very persistent illusion; it keeps coming back,” he said, comparing it to a magician’s trick that has been seen again and again. “Even though you know it’s a trick, you get fooled every time. The feelings just don’t go away.'"

"Dr. Silberstein,... noted that every physical system that has been investigated has turned out to be either deterministic or random. “Both are bad news for free will,” he said. So if human actions can’t be caused and aren’t random, he said, “It must be — what — some weird magical power?” People who believe already that humans are magic will have no problem with that."

I'd have to say if the supernatural is ruled out, I am forced to agree. For any serious scientist with a priori denial of the supernatural the idea of free will must go by the wayside. This is no surprise to me. What does surprise me is when I talk to some of my atheist friends who affirm the truth of their free will yet deny the possibility of the supernatural. If at some point information surfaces that effectively disproves the possibility of the supernatural, I will be first in line to sign up to the theory of our supposed lack of free will. I don't see how we can have it any other way.

The naturalist would say we are comprised of mindless chemicals which are the source of every thought we think and every impulse we feel. By extension that would also have to encompass every 'choice' we think we are making. The very idea that you are 'yourself' is an illusion. The idea that you have control of your body is an illusion.

This raises a question. For most, the idea that we do not have free will would require us to fundamentally change how we view reality. From our birth we have been taught that we are responsible for our actions. We are told we can make good decisions and bad decisions. We are told we are responsible for our actions. If it is indeed true that we do not have free will, what do we do with the entirety of our up-bringing that has embedded in us the idea that we do? This is not just a problem for the theist. Any thoughtful Atheist who is taking the time to read this should consider the implications of this mindset. If we have no free will, everything you believe to be true is pure illusion. You are an illusion.

I have to admit, as a theist, that's a pretty tough pill for me to swallow. I would have to fundamentally change they way I view the world to accept this idea.

A parallel situation occurs for the atheist with regards to the resurrection as articulated here by Matt:

The resurrection, on the other hand, assuming that Jesus went from death to life because he was the son of God, is completely alien to my experience of the world to date, given that on every other witnessed occasion the dead stay dead. Accepting its truth would require me to fundamentally change the way I think about the world - raising the required evidence to an extremely high-level. Even the evidence of my own eyes (which are prone to mistakes) wouldn't be enough.

It's as if Matt is stating exactly my feelings, only I feel them towards the notion that we have no free will.

Though I'm sure there are other options the discussion we have been having so far leads me to this decision: Is is more likely that my life experience has been correct and that we do have free will, thus opening the door to the supernatural. Or is it more likely that my entire life is an illusion and what we can see and test in this universe truly is the whole show.

To accept my problem above we must accept that free will = supernatural. Some will disagree with me. I'd like to hear why.

It would seem that the naturalistic wold view can do nothing but devalue us, whereas Christianity affirms our worth and explains it's reality. I don't mean that to be petty name calling. I mean it simply for what it is. Naturalism affirms there is no God, no objective morality, no objective beauty, love is just chemistry and our free will is an illusion.

I have a hard time with that. I also have a hard time with the possibility that miracles exist. I've never seen an overt "heavens being opened in front of me" kind of miracle. However, just because I have never seen one says nothing of it's possibility. I want to believe that I have free will. I want to believe that love is real and more than 'just' chemicals. I want my life to have meaning, worth and value. From everything I've learned to date Christianity preserves these longings that we all have better than any other system out there.

Labels: ,

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Write me a message in the sky

The search has been a heated one this week. Many, many good thoughts being considered from all sides with no end in sight. One particular thought that I'd like to spend a little more time on is the question below posed by Matt Murrell.

Matt says: Given the importance of accepting Jesus, and living a life modeled on God, why carry out the resurrection in a way that seems deliberately designed to sow doubt? Why not have Jesus appear to more people? Why no grand dramatic signs that, why not conclusively proving the truth of the event, would at least give more people pause for thought?

It's certainly a good question. Much hangs on the answer. If the answer is that any person who wishes to live eternally with God must first hear the name Jesus, understand perfectly who He was and why He came then pray the sinner's prayer, that by default leaves vast swaths of humanity beyond hope since they just happened to be born in the wrong place. What of those who hear some kind of gospel presentation but it is given in an offensive manor? What of those who are raised in a 'Christian' home but are abused by it's application?

This situation comes down to two questions: What does God want of us, and how does He go about getting the desired response?

What God wants from us is a relationship. He want's us to trust Him. Like I've stated elsewhere God is love and love gives. Love seeks to delight in others. The more you feel love the more it overflows into the world around you. Since part of the very nature of love is giving, or 'overflow', is it any wonder that He creates other personal beings such as ourselves and the angels?

Also stated earlier, is the fact that love must be chosen for it to remain love.

Is it possible that though God's love was always obvious from the start, we as a human organism have often chose to reject that love causing a general culture of rejection? Because each us has to live with the consequences of the choices that were made by those that came before us (a very different concept than inherited sin), we now live in a culture that is increasingly hostile to the idea of God. It is the sum total of humanity's free choices that leave us in the cultural situation we are now in.

So where does that leave us? Could God not simply slash through our culture from time to time with an absolutely certain message for each person on earth? Then again, what's to say that He needs to? He knows each of us better than we know ourselves. He knows exactly what is needed to give each of us enough information to either respond to Him or reject Him.

I was somewhat joking with Matt earlier when I said that "your not dead yet", in response to a similar question as the one in this post. God knows the story of our life from start to finish, or in the openness view, He knows every possible story of our life as if it was a certainty. He knows the core of us. He knows our spirit. He doesn't just see the choices we make, He knows the 'why's' behind them. He knows where we are coming from and He knows what we are looking for.

In the same way I don't want to 'shock and awe' my son into a relationship with me, neither does God. But the protest can then be made, "but you are actually WITH your son! Where is God that we are to see Him?"

My response may seem quite weak to the seasoned atheist, but it's my answer none the less.

He's everywhere. You just need to be willing to see Him.

Having a little son has given me a glimpse of God's love that I had previously never known. Watching the tenderness between mother and child fills me with a warmth that defies description. Is it possible that God would be less than this love? I see Him by living with Him. I believe that offer is open to any of us. We just need to be willing to take the first step.

Megan would surly give her life to save our son. Is it possible that God's love would he be less than that? If Jesus's life is any indication, He will break down the doors of hell itself to rescue any who seeks Him. Anything less would make him unworthy of the worship we are called to give.

Labels: , ,

Friday, January 05, 2007

Did Jesus really rise from the dead?

The following was put together by Jonathan Jong. Many thanks to you sir. I was planning on tackling it myself by it would have taken me a week to type what Jon hammered out in about an hour. From here on it is all Jon (end alex) (start Jon)

OK, I think this will be a rather long post and I don't know how well-written it will be. Apologies beforehand. A lot of this material can be found in John Barclay's essay in "Resurrection Reconsidered." Barclay hold the theology chair at the University of Durham, taking over from the legendary James Dunn.

The matter of the historicity of the Resurrection is a complicated one, certainly far more complex that trusting four people 2000 years ago. The best New Testament scholars in history have disagreed over this matter, which goes to show that it's not a simple matter of "weighing the evidence." There is, as Barclay says, no such thing as an uninterpreted fact. Keep that in mind as you read this post.

Let's look at what we have to work with. The NT material on the resurrection is twofold. First, there are the four gospels (as Matt pointed out). Mark was written ca. 67-70, followed by Matthew and Luke (ca.70-80), followed by John (ca. 90-100). The second (and more important to me) is 1 Cor. 3:5-7, written in the mid 50s.

Let's look at 1 Cor. 3:5-7 first. In this pericope, Paul hands down what he calls "tradition", and speaks of Jesus' death, burial, resurrection and appearances. That Paul speaks of "tradition" handed down to him strongly implies that this is the stuff told to him upon his conversion, ca. 36. We're talking mere years after Jesus' ministry.

NT scholars who do not believe in the resurrection (e.g., Crossan, Ludemann) rightly point out that Paul does not mention an empty tomb. So, Paul could have referred to a "spiritual resurrection." That is, he could have believed that Jesus' soul went to Heaven, while his body was in a pit somewhere with other criminals. (They don't think Jesus was buried.) However, Paul specifically mentions burial, as if that was important (and it is, considering how most criminals were chucking in a mass grave). Also, this "spiritual resurrection" idea relies on Greek concepts of body-soul dualism. Jews didn't belive in body-soul dualism. Resurrection, for the Jews, was strictly bodily resurrection. There could have been no resurrection without an empty tomb. Now, Crossan and Ludemann would counter by saying that perhaps the Jews were influenced by Hellenistic ideas. Maybe, but there's really no way to know. The rest of the NT appears to be severely Hebrew (not Hellenistic) in thought, though.

And then there's the gospels. Crossan et al. point out that there are many discrepancies among the biblical testimonies, and I agree. But eye-witness testimonies are (as a psychologist) notoriously unreliable. One would expect different testimonies to differ (sometimes markedly!) in the details. However, the basic idea that Jesus rose from the dead is not a detail. Eye-witnesses make errors on the details of a crime, but do not err on whether a crime was committed or not.

And there's the issue of women. Why would anyone make up the story and use WOMEN as the primary eye-witnesses? It's not the thing you'd do if you wanted your story to be credible.

The claims that Jesus rose from the dead were circulating very early on in Christian history, and it was really easy to verify the claims of an empty tomb. It is unlikely that the early church would make such audaciously false claims, if they were easily falsifiable. Some say Jesus' body was stolen. If so, by whom? If the Jews/Romans stole it, why didn't they disclose this to stamp out this new religious movement? If the Christians, why would they die for something they knew to be a lie? Others say Jesus feigned death and crawled out of the tomb. Any historian who knows anything about crucifixion can tell you how unlikely that is.

Finally, the resurrection appearances. Crossan and Ludemann claim these to be hallucinations of three orders. Firstly, mass hallucinations. Secondly, hallucinations of expectation. Thirdly, hallucinations of guilt. To support the first, many people appeal to Jungian psychology...which is no longer taught by psyhchology faculties because it is unscientific. Mass hallucinations of such detail do not occur. Secondly, there is no reason to think that the disciples were expecting a resurrection. The crucifixion would have proven beyond reasonable doubt that Jesus was NOT the Messiah. For the Jews, crucifixion was tantamount to a curse by God. It is the supreme mark of divine disaproval. There are, as such, no crucified martyrs in early Judaism. Even if the disciples did expect some sort of vindication for Christ, it would have been translation a la Enoch, not resurrection. Early Jewish eschatology posited a single general resurrection upon the coming of the Messiah, not a special resurrection of an individual, followed by a long wait, then an eschatological general resurrection. The disciples were faces with the resurrection and then had to radically modify their eschatology (and their theology, in fact). The third suggestion (hallucinations of guilt) just shows how unscientific these suggestions are in general. How unfalsifiable is a claim if two opposites are predicted to have the same outcome: Those who expect resurrection see it, and those who do not also see it. Very Freudian!

All things being equal, I think the chances are good that Jesus died, was buried, and was raised in the flesh. The tomb was empty, etc. There is a very good recent book which paints both sides very well by NT Wright and Dominic Crossan (whom I already mentioned). It's a dialogue. Look it up on Amazon.


All this is from memory because I don't have my notes and stuff with me. So, I apologize for any errors made.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, January 04, 2007

What I've learned from my atheist friends

I can see the logic explaining the ‘goodness’ or ‘badness’ of certain human actions in terms of ‘what’s good for the tribe’ . We all want to survive and be happy. In order to survive we need each other. We need to be able to live together. We need social codes to keep us from killing each other. As we evolved our social codes have been ingrained in our psyche. Therefore our conscience is simply the echo of that code, much like instinct in animals. Sure you can disobey that social code, but once you begin doing that the society as a whole begins to suffer creating a backlash against the perpetrator(s). That is why you ‘ought’ to follow the moral code. What’s good for all is good for you.

Seems like a neat little package does it not?

I don’t know what this does for man’s quest for meaning. I’d suppose you could say that is simply an evolutionary by-product as well.

Our sense of beauty sure is an interesting little add on. Maybe that helps us seek out appropriate spaces to dwell in. Perhaps it is simply the collective ‘memory’ of the tribe. I don’t know. That one is wierd.

All miraculous events are simply psychosis or delusion. The miracles are always the easiest to get around, because ‘obviously’ they just don’t happen.

Well that pretty much wraps up the whole God problem. We truly are a beyond all odds accident. This entire rant I have just composed is simply chemicals in my body doing what they do in response to the stimulus of it’s surroundings. Funny that the organism that I call me has the ability to look out at it’s self and make statements about it’s self. I don’t want to go to far with that one. That’s kind of wierd.

At any rate, as I now know there is no God I can live my life free from his ‘oppressive’ rule structure and simply seek to enjoy all I have before me! Sure others around me are hurting and need help, but I don’t want to spend all that much time doting about them. I have my own program to run! The only thing that is telling me to help them is ‘instinct’ anyway. And what is instinct? MINDLESS CHEMICAL REACTIONS BABY!!! All I need to do now is honor the social code ‘just enough’ to get by. Or be very sneaky when I violate it. If I can pull that off, it’s all good... for me that is!

Labels: ,

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

On New Years Day

It seems we don't get snow like we used to in Minnesota these days. It was a joy to experience a bit of it on New Years Day.

Labels: ,

My picture of God Part 2

Here now I will try and paint a picture of the God that I believe in.

God it eternal. He is the basic Fact of all existence. He created all out of the wellspring of his creativity. He created personal beings as well. We know of the Angels and we know of Humanity. There could be more, but we are not told. So far as our story is concerned these are the only two free willed beings created. This begs the question, why were the angels and humans created? The answer is short yet profound on the deepest level. Love. We are told that one of the attributes of God is love. Perfect love. A quality we as humans can only experience distorted reflections of.

The best example I can think of out of human experience is my son Adrian. Megan and I have a truly fantastic relationship. We know each other and delight in each other on a very deep level. In that sense our love is quite deep. As our marriage progressed we continued to feel the desire to welcome a new life into our relationship. A son was born. Our love for each other and for Adrian has increased. Love gives. Love is beautiful. God is Love.

So far the story is quite nice. God is Love and he created us out of Love for Love. Gives you the warm fuzzies, ay? But can Love be real if there is no possibility to reject it? If I could insert a chip into my wife and have her respond to me with love at ALL times would that be love? Or would that simply be me doing what I want through her body? True love requires freedom. It requires risk. It requires a choice.

We are told the choice to reject God was first made in the heavenly realms by the most beautiful angel of them all. That is to say his potential, for good was the greatest of all created beings. Likewise his potential for going wrong was the inverse of his potential for good. He chose to try and make himself like God, to create for himself his own standard of conduct. His focus turned inward. He and a host of other angles rebelled.

God also created man. How and when we were created is a story I will leave for another time. Again we were created to delight in God and for him to delight in us. We are told that man quickly chose not to trust God and to go his own way. This breach of trust is known as the fall of man. In the time before the fall God walked amongst men. The relationship was one of unspeakable beauty. Man was given dominion over all the earth. He was placed in the seat of authority. The whole earth was his to rule. Yet since man chose not to trust God that relationship was broken — by man's free choice.

The dominion that Man was given over all the earth was forfeited. Satan now took dominion. The scripture writers tell us that Satan is the prince of this world and the god of this age. God is shown throughout history as genuinely warring against him, though we are also told the end of the story is assured.

The ensuing history of man recorded in the Bible shows man continually ignoring God and wreaking incredible horrors on each other in the process, but at the same time God is shown continually pursuing us. A very small remnant is shown as hearing his voice and responding to him. What do they hear from God? I love you. Love me by obeying me. Be holy as I am holy. Repent of your sins and I will forgive you. Soon you hear echoes of a far distant future. There will come one who will ransom man from his bondage. This verse was penned by Isaiah 700 years before the birth of Jesus.

See, my servant will act wisely;
he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
Just as there were many who were appalled at him —
his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man
and his form marred beyond human likeness—

so will he sprinkle many nations, 
and kings will shut their mouths because of him. 
For what they were not told, they will see, 
and what they have not heard, they will understand.

Who has believed our message 
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, 
and like a root out of dry ground. 
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, 
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by men, 
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. 
Like one from whom men hide their faces 
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he took up our infirmities 
and carried our sorrows, 
yet we considered him stricken by God, 
smitten by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, 
he was crushed for our iniquities; 
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, 
and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, 
each of us has turned to his own way; 
and the LORD has laid on him 
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted, 
yet he did not open his mouth; 
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, 
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, 
so he did not open his mouth.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away. 
And who can speak of his descendants? 
For he was cut off from the land of the living; 
for the transgression of my people he was stricken.

He was assigned a grave with the wicked, 
and with the rich in his death, 
though he had done no violence, 
nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, 
and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, 
he will see his offspring and prolong his days, 
and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.

After the suffering of his soul, 
he will see the light of life and be satisfied; 
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, 
and he will bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, 
and he will divide the spoils with the strong, 
because he poured out his life unto death, 
and was numbered with the transgressors. 
For he bore the sin of many, 
and made intercession for the transgressors.

Isaiah 52:13-15 - 53:1-12 NIV

700 years later the God of all creation slipped into this world as one of it's own. The God who set the stars in the heavens became one of the most vulnerable of all his creation — a human child. He grew in strength and knowledge and around the age of thirty he began his ministry. He was tempted by Satan in the desert. Satan recognized him but he did not know why he had come. Jesus then came out against the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. He warred against sickness and demon possession. He embraced the rejected of society. He met people where they were. He saw a need, He met the need, He told them the kingdom of heaven was near. He was filled with compassion and love, but he warned of the fate of those who rejected God. He warned of the fate of those who rejected Him.

Those in power found a way to have Jesus arrested. In the ensuing trial they pressed Jesus regarding his identity. The high priest asked him "are you the Christ, the Son of God?" Jesus replied, "It is as you say". Charged with blasphemy they turned him over to the Romans to be tortured and hung on a cross. We can imagine Satan's jubilation (perhaps active part in said act) as the one who frustrated his desires for power is brutally tortured and killed. He has defeated whatever it was God had come to accomplish. (This is just me here, I could be wrong)

As evil cannot understand the act of sacrificing for love, so also, Satan was blind to the sacrificial love God showed in His death. (There is much mystery here. I do not understand much of it)

Three days later the God of this world walked out of the tomb and demonstrated his mastery over death, effectively defeating Satan's hold on this world and ransoming humanity from his grasp. For us to be reconciled to God a price had to be paid. God paid it for us. Though we rejected him and became filled with all manor of jealousy and pride, he continued to fight for us. He did not come here to leave us as he found us. He came to give us life in it's fullest. He came to start a new work. For those who fall down in gratitude before him he begins a personal transformation.

He started a new work in me 8 years ago. As I have continued to seek him and follow him I have been changed bit by bit each day. My desire for self pleasure has decreased, while my love for others, even those I find very distasteful has increased. In my old life I sought any possible avenue to justify my actions. As I have come to understand God's unceasing love for me, all I can do now is seek ways to honor Him out of my helpless gratitude for my undeserved position as his adopted son.

He is love. He is beauty. All evil is the result of a violation of his character. He is love. He is beauty.

Labels: ,

Monday, January 01, 2007

Metaphorically Speaking

More deep thoughts brought to you by Ian over at Imagined Community. Also, Matt has a very interesting one going on over at his place.

Happy New Years everyone! Remember to write 07 on all your checks!