Sunday, July 16, 2006

What's so important about faith?

Many people look at the Christian gospel, and are completely incredulous. Romans 3:22 says, "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe." John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:18 says, "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son."

Why is faith so important? What is so special about faith? Why is it that faith is the dividing factor on which everything hinges - that those who believe are saved and those who do not believed are condemned? How does a just God make everything hinge on faith?

There are many people who, on the world's standards, are very good. Yet they will spend eternity in hell unless they repent and believe. The Christian gospel asserts this. Not having faith is apparently a major offense to God. But many ask, why would it be? What is it about faith that makes it so important?

And sadly, most Christians have done a pretty lousy job at providing answers for these questions. Many times they will respond with, "You just have to believe, brother!" That's true, but 1 Peter 3:15 says, "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." Faith is not blind. Real Christianity is not blind faith. In fact, I would guess that many have bought into some pernicious perversion of Christianity - a form that requires blind faith - and by doing so, they have quit thinking and thus have been given over to a depraved mind. So, now, in their minds, they're saved, but in reality, they are depraved and are no better off than unbelievers. Meanwhile, they drive away honest intellectual seekers by their blind faith, anti-intellectual attitudes.

Let's go way back ... all the way back to the beginning.

In Genesis 2, we see the story of the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were created in the image of God, and all was good. Sin had not yet happened. The Garden of Eden was a place of perfect peace. The Hebrew word is "Shalom." Shalom - the peace of God. To get an understanding of the word Shalom, I encourage you to check out this website: http://www.therefinersfire.org/meaning_of_shalom.htm. Shalom is an awesome word. Peace, completeness, health, blessing. None of these adequately defines shalom, but all of them describe shalom.

So, Adam and Eve sinned and screwed up the Shalom of God. And after them, so have we all. But check out the second generation. Genesis 4:1-12 describes the account of Cain and Abel. Here are verses three through seven:

"In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the LORD said to Cain, 'Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.'"

You know the story. Cain did not respond well to God's rebuke. Cain murdered his brother Abel.

In Hebrews 11:4 it says, "By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith, he still speaks, even though he is dead."

So apparently the difference between Cain's sacrifice and Abel's sacrifice is that Abel's sacrifice was done in faith.

But why would that matter? Why would God care about faith? So what if Cain didn't have much faith or any? Why didn't God give both Abel and Cain participation ribbons? Why wasn't Cain's sacrifice accepted as it was?

Faith matters to God. Here is the reason.

God is real.

God is our Heavenly Father - our Creator. He loves us with an everlasting love. He holds the whole universe together by His powerful word. He is transcendant. He is highly exalted - holy and awesome and magnificent. He is also immanent. He is close - as close as your next breath. In fact, He is so real, that His breath gives life. In fact, Genesis 2:7 says "the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." He is real, and He is the authority on "real." He is the great "I AM." He is Yahweh.

Perhaps some of you haven't gotten it yet. Perhaps some of you haven't gotten it, but you're buying into it. Don't do that! Be intellectually honest. Don't embrace blind faith; that is very dangerous. Think this through, but "trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding."

Since God is real, and He is the kind of God that He is, it is fitting and proper to acknowledge Him, to honor Him, to worship Him. Failing to do this would be like failing to acknowledge and honor a person who deserves acknowledgement and honor. It is a sin of omission.

When I am at a social gathering with my wife, and I meet someone new, I shake hands and introduce myself, and then I introduce my wife. Truthfully, there have been times that I have not introduced my wife, and she has let me know that failing to acknowledge her presence is not right. Likewise, failing to acknowledge and honor our Creator by not having faith is sin. It wouldn't be a sin, if He really didn't exist. But He does, and so it is. That's why, "everything that does not come from faith is sin." (Romans 14:23b) That's why "without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (Hebrews 11:6) That's why God is just to give His righteousness to sinners who have faith, and why He is just to condemn sinners who do not have faith.

So God did not look with favor upon Cain's sacrfice, and as a result, Cain became angry, and his countenance became downcast. He was mad! He didn't approach God properly, and He became angry that God stood up to him, and told him to do what is right. Cain was big on his rights. He wanted that participation ribbon. We can speculate that he was a radical egalitarian. If God was going to look with favor on Abel, he better darn well look with favor on himself too! He may have even convinced himself, while he was plotting Abel's murder, of God's injustice. "How dare He treat Cain with such special treatment! How unjust!" Whatever the reasons, we know that Cain was angry, that his face was downcast, and that he killed his brother.

When God confronted him, he said, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Typical attitude of modern capitalistic Christians. Typical attitude of ... well ... me. We, like Cain, care about Numero Uno. I look at those in the ghetto, and I rant, "Parents should be doing their jobs!" As true as that is, what am I really doing to cultivate Shalom in the ghetto? What am I doing to cultivate Shalom with my neighbors? It is easy to sit on the Shalom that others work for in my safe, nice, little church group. But there is a world out there - full of strife and sin. How am I, as an ambassador of Christ, cultivating Shalom out there? It is easy to rant. It is not easy to be socially competent and effective, while maintaining the integrity of the Scriptures.

Shalom. God's peace. A peace that passes all understanding. Completeness. Wholeness.

Cain cared more about himself than he did about Shalom.

Many people think, "Sure! I'm all for peace. Shalom! Shalom!" These people should consider the fact that they're going to have to ante-up. Many people prefer peace, but are unwilling to fight for it and defend it. They want justice, but they will cave in under pressure to be "politically correct," rather than to really step out in faith - putting themselves out there - taking risks - being vulnerable - even being willing to sacrifice their lives in order to defend God's Shalom. This is a big sin in the postmodern world. And sadly, it is a big sin in the postmodern church - a church that mimics the surrounding postmodern world in practice - but with Christianese rhetoric sprinkled on top. And like I said previously, this is my big sin. How often have I hardened my heart, when I clearly heard the voice of God encouraging me to step out in faith and to be vulnerable with my heart. Sadly, most of us simply do not love God with all our hearts. For this, I pray that God would give me grace to repent.

At the same time, what a vision! We don't have to be like Peter Gibbons (from "Office Space") - living out "trite meaningless lives" - selling our souls to the vanity of postmodern political correctness. We have been given a cultural mandate to labor for the Shalom of society. Teachers, engineers, scientists, historians, news reporters, politicians, soldiers, firemen, policemen, architects, artists, landscapers, musicians, coaches, social workers, judges - whatever the vocation is ... how cool it would and can be if we dedicated it all to the glory of God - to the cultivation and defense of God's Shalom - to the establishment of justice, peace, tranquility, and love. A society where God's praises are sung, God's Presence is enjoyed, God's Word is studied, God's principles are honored, God's justice is established, God's family enjoys sweet fellowship with God and with one another. A city set on a hill. The light of the world. The salt of the earth.

The alternative option is murder, rape, pillage, slavery, depravity, injustice, postmodernism, ignorance, stupidity, rage, anger, hostility, unforgiveness, perversion, and faithlessness. What I hope we see is this: By failing to be assertive in the cultivation and defense of Shalom, we are by default contributing to the antithesis of Shalom.

That's why we need a Savior.

36 Comments:

Blogger MarcoConley said...

John 3:18 says, "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son."
-----

I'll eat my hat if the Last Judgement amounts to whether or not you truly believe, with faith, that you know the name of God's son. And if it really is like that, then the God who set up the whole process is evil.

The "Do You Have Faith" system of 'justice' is like going into court and having the judge say "We're not going to look at any evidence of what you've done or haven't done. We're not going to hear any character witnesses. We're not going to talk to any DNA experts. Your whole trial is going to come down to this: Do you know the name of the little dwarf who can spin straw into gold?"

If you don't know... you're condemned.

If you can shout out the name "Rumplestiltskin!", you will be set free.

---

Maybe the afterlife really is like this-- I can't prove it's not. But if it is, then God is an evil, injust entity who likes to torture lovable Buddhist grandmothers.

If the "People who refuse to accept Jesus deserve to go to hell" view of the afterlife is correct, the surely the holiest, most God-like human to have ever lived was Adolf Hitler who had the courage to send non-christians to death camps, just as God has set up his own eternal torture chamber in the place of Hell. Imagine the surprise of all the non-christian jews who were gassed, only to wake up in the afterlife and find that God has even more pain in store for them than Hitler did. If the "Rumplestiltskin justice" intepretation of the bible is true, then I charge that all of existence is one enormouse Crime Against Humanity, and the perpetrator is God.

.....

Obviously, I don't really believe a word of this. And I don't really think Christians believe it either. You don't have to listen to Jesus very long before you get the vibe that he didn't seem to be a very angry guy. I have no doubt that he'd be pretty upset about the idea that those who doubt him are condemned.

By the way-- fun fact for anyone heading for a Rumplestiltskin justice: Be sure to remember remember that "the name of God's one and only Son" is probably pronouced Yahshua or something similar. Just like how Jehovah should actually be pronouced Yahweh. Maybe "belief" is all that is important and pronunciation doesn't matter, but if God is really sending good people to hell just because they lack belief, I wouldn't want to risk it. You might want to take a permanent marke and write it on your hand, just in case you have hands in the afterlife.

I would argue that it's not a sin to forget to introduce your wife-- your brain just can't help it. You don't WANT To not introduce her, you love her. You just.. didn't. You didn't stop and think "Should I introduce my wife?" and decide against it. You didn't even have a choice in the matter, it just didn't happen. You should apologize, you should try to be sure it doesn't happen again, but it's not sinful.

Furthermore, at least it's easy for you to believe your wife exists. Imagine being married to the Invisible Woman--- maybe she's next to you and may she ain't. She can't very well get mad at you for not introducing her-- you didn't know she was there. Sure, you knew she MIGHT have been there, but you didn't think she was, so you didn't introduce her. There's no call for her to get mad at you for that-- if it was so important to her that you introduce her, she should have made herself visible or shouted out "Hey, I'm here!" in such a way that she removed all doubt of her presence from your mind.

6:22 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

There it is ladies and gentlemen: The antithesis. The gospel is a stumbling block for Jews and foolishness for Gentiles, but for us who are being saved, it is the power of God.

I shall respond more fully later.

6:57 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

The "book" of Jude, which is one chpater long, is a letter of solemn warning of the doom that will come to godless men. Verses 10 and 11 read,

"Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals - these are the very things that destroy them. Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam's error; they have been destroyed in Korah's rebellion."

There is profound mystery in the gospel that I do not fully comprehend or understand. But at the same time, there is profound beauty, mercy, justice, love, and wisdom in the gospel. Therefore, we must seek wisdom, and seek to understand everything that we can, but beware of speaking abusively against whatever you do not understand. God is just; rest assured of that. God is holy. And God is merciful. As terrible as God's wrath will be for unbelievers, we can trust that God has not abandoned justice.

But if you speak out against God for pouring out His wrath on sinners, then you are evil and you will be punished accordingly.

There is something wonderful, amazing, and convincing about Jesus Christ. Maybe people have lost the sense of wonder and amazement because His name is so often misused. When that which is holy and special is treated with contempt, then people are given over to depraved thinking. That is why it is a sin to take the name of the Lord our God in vain. Also, maybe the hypocrisy of those who profess to follow Christ has caused Christ to lose credibility. Romans 2:24 says, "As it is written: 'God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.'" Obviously, Satan also blinds the spiritual eyes of unbelievers, so that they can not see and be saved.

But God's grace is bigger than all of those things, and therefore, men are without excuse. Today, if YOU (not the whole world) hear his voice, do not harden your heart.

You said, "The 'Do You Have Faith' system of "justice" is like going into court and having the judge say 'We're not going to look at any evidence of what you've done or haven't done.'"

Not so! Not at all. Will not the judge of the universe do right? Romans 2:6-11 is true: "God 'will give to each person according to what he has done.' To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being that does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism."

At the end of Ecclesiastes, Solomon sums up in 12:13,14 - "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil."

So, you see, what we do matters. Many people in the world are confused about this - probably again because many people in the church - or perhaps more appropriately in many situations - those who THINK they are in the the church have got this all backwards. They talk about justification by faith and salvation by grace, but they don't know what they are talking about. Again, Jude has harsh words for these people in Jude 4: "For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord."

We are not saved by works. Asserting that you or anyone else can be saved by works is heresy that comes from the same arrogance of Cain. Think about it. Cain offered God a sacrifice. It was not like he completely ignored God. He sought to worship Him. But there was obviously something wrong with his attitude. He was not acting "in good faith" like his brother Abel was. I can imagine Cain being incredulous at God's response: "What gives God? I am a good person. I offered you a sacrifice. I would help old ladies across the street if we had streets and Adam was preoccupied."

We are not saved by works. But, good deeds are the mark of those who are saved. Marco, you oppose the Christian gospel so vehemently, because deep down, you think that people are pretty good. Your conclusions would be right, if that fundamental assuption was right. But that fundamental assumption is completely wrong. Furthermore, God has made that clear to you, but you have suppressed the truth of God, and have exchanged the glory of God for a lie. Thus, you have been given over to depraved thinking. Repent! God loves you! Why will you die?

You seem to hold Jesus in relatively high esteem. Yet, you hold the Scriptures in very low esteem. As we have previously discussed, this is entirely inconsistent, because Jesus, who I will remind you lived 1500 years after Moses, held that the Mosaic Scriptures are the Word of God - and that it is true. Jesus also spoke out often against those who didn't have faith. How often did Jesus express indignation at the lack of faith of people? He also preached about hell often. As compassionate as He was, He made radical claims of being the only way. So, you have to make a choice. You can't consistently hold Jesus in high esteem, but then disregard the Old Testament, disregard Jesus' teachings about faith, and disregard his warnings about hell. You would be more intellectually honest to think of Jesus as a madman or something worse, than to speak positively of him, while rejecting the Old Testament.

But something inside you says, "Don't speak negatively about Jesus." Let me encourage you to obey THAT voice.

Hebrews 3:7-8a - "So, as the Holy Spirit says: 'Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts....'"

I'm praying for you. Shalom, friend.

7:52 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Marco,

You said, "she should have made herself visible or shouted out 'Hey, I'm here!' in such a way that she removed all doubt of her presence from your mind."

And obviously, if faith matters so much, then you think God should do the same thing.

I want to address the irreverence and the flippant attitude of this assertion. You have no idea who you are messing with.

Have you seen "A Few Good Men"? There was that great scene at the end of the movie, when Tom Cruise was interrogating Jack Nicholson in that final courtroom scene.

Tom Cruise said, "I want the truth!" Jack Nicholson responded, "You can't handle the truth!"

If God fully revealed himelf to you today, the TRUTH would be seen clearly for what it is, and you would probably crumble. Hebrews 10:31 says, "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

Yet without the revelation of God, people are depraved.

So what do we do? And what does God do?

God gives us glimpses of His glory. He woos us with His presence.

How do we respond to that? We had better respond well. Because everything could very well hinge on that.

Two reasons come to mind concerning why God does not reveal Himself in all His glory.

One: He is merciful. For many people, if God showed up in all his holiness, they would dead. God is not willing that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance.

Two: I think He is testing you. Will you seek Him? He has given you all kinds of clues. He has given you glimpses of His glory: Through creation, through His word, through His people, perhaps through me. Now, what are you going to do with that? Will you reverently and earnestly seek His face, and ask Him to reveal His glory to you? Are you willing to risk your life, and come into the Presence of a Holy God - that God would do with you what He will - and that you would simply bow to His Lordship and ask Him to change you? Or will you flippantly disregard the Creator of the Universe, and embrace a "trite meaningless life?"

8:41 AM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

Lots of interesting points:


About works vs faith. I _do_ like the idea that it's not works that get you into heaven, it's being good. Naturaly, good people do good works, so there's a correlation between the two, but a good person who somehow can't do good works is still making the cut into heaven.

What I dispute is that what makes someone good is believing in Jesus, and what makes someone bad is having doubts. Balderdash, I say. People who doubt Jesus are no worse than people who believe in him. Belief and morality have nothing to do with each other. I can still be a Christian and be a bad person-- most people admit that. I can still be a Buddhist and be a good person-- some christians deny this.

And what a dangerous idea that is. Our government, right now, is running concentration camps around the world-- secret prisions where at least 40 people have been tortured to death, that we know of. Surely, if we believe all Muslims are bad people, it must be just a tiny bit easier to accept this sort of thing.
--

The equating of belief and morality is such a dangerous idea. It's just a short leap from this idea to the idea that all non-believers are evil. After that, you can gear up for some Crusades, Holy Wars, and Genocides.

The idea that people who don't share your beliefs are necessarily evil sinners is not right. It is not the idea of a just God. It is the idea of suicide bomber terrorists. Flying planes into towers must have been pretty easy, knowing that the inhabitants were non-believers.

The idea in John 3:18 is one of the most dangerous ideas in the Bible. And the bible is chock full of dangerous ideas.

You say "Marco, you oppose the Christian gospel so vehemently, because deep down, you think that people are pretty good."

Oh, you couldn't be more wrong. I may sometimes doubt that people are fundamentally evil, I may sometimes even wonder whether Good and Evil (with capital letters) exist outside of the human mind. But I never believe people are good. People are very, very dangerous. And pound for pound, ideology is one of the most dangerous things in the world. Nationalism, Patriotism, Religion... More people have killed for ideology-- trying to do what they saw as Good, than have ever killed for reasons of selfishness. Postmodernism takes a lot of criticism, but you have to admit, postmodernists aren't a particularly violent lot. Mostly they sit around and read books all day.

"You seem to hold Jesus in relatively high esteem. Yet, you hold the Scriptures in very low esteem."

Well, given the whole of Judeo-christian thinking, Jesus seems like a pretty okay guy. But I'm just guessing. Somebody came up with the "Let he among you who is wihtout sin cast the first stone"-- and it's a great line, and whoever came up with it deserves mad props.

On the other hand, the bible is filled with people who claim to speak for Jesus. There were two dozen gospels running around in the second century-- all of them claim to know what Jesus said, did, and meant-- but they manage to disagree quite a bit. Even the four gospels in the bible don't agree about lots of things. By the time we get to Paul-- he's just making it up as he goes along. He never met Jesus, but he doesn't let that stop him for getting in debates with the people who actually knew jesus. And by the time we get to Revelation, we've come full circle, and the unique elements that appear to have been Jesus have been ignored completely, it's hellfire and brimstone again, and we find ourselves right back in the book of Daniel.

If you and I both read "Jesus said X", you believe Jesus said X, because the bible says so. And you believe X because Jesus said so.

I on the other hand decide for myself whether X is true. And then I decide for myself whether I think Jesus said it. And lastly, I decide what I think of Jesus based upon all of that.

So, it's very easy for me to dismiss the bulk of the old testament as fables from an ancient tribal people that's more superstition that spirituality. Jesus is entitled to his opinion too-- I don't know exactly what it was, because all I have are the novelizations that were written 50+ years after his death... but it's safe to say he was an adherent of Judaism.

Of course I'm allowed to applaud Jesus for some of his opinions, but not share others. Is there any politician or religious leader alive today who you agree with 100% on every single thing they've ever said?

"You would be more intellectually honest to think of Jesus as a madman or something worse, than to speak positively of him, while rejecting the Old Testament."

Nah. Liking the old testament doesn't make him a bad guy. Lots of good things about the old testament, so long as you don't get too hung up on things. I'm sure if I'd been a first century jew, I'd have believed in the old testament too.

Granted, I'm giving Jesus the benefit of the doubt. I'm assuming that the things I strongly disagree with weren't really said by him, but are just people putting words in his mouth. When you read all the gospels, rather than just the measly four that the proto-catholics liked, it gets easier to see what is universally agreed to be jesus, and what is only some versions of jesus opinions of jesus. I'm always amazed that protestants don't show more interest in the apocrypha-- you don't let the catholics dictate your faith to you-- why do you still let them dictate your bible to you?

--
"I think He is testing you. Will you seek Him?"

See.. this is exactly how the "people who don't believe are evil" logic works. Everyone should believe. People who don't believe are ignoring God. They refuse to seek him. They refuse to investigate. They are lazy, and closed-minded. So they deserve what they get. But it's lies.. all lies!

Few people have sought God more than I have. I've spent a lot more time reading the bible than most christians you'll find. I've read the parts of the bible that didn't make the cut. I've read the Tao Te Ching, the Bhavada Gita. I've talked to priests, to mormons, to jehovah's witnesses, and to everyone in between. And philosophy. And way more physics than I could ever say.

So, trust me-- there's not lack of seeking him. I've been beating the bushes, calling out "Alle, alle auch sind frei". I still wake up each day pretty convinced that after I die, I will experience absolutely nothing. No tunnel of light, no hellfire, no halos and harps. No even a void. Just nothing. My atoms will go on to new things, just as the particles of moiture in a cloud can take the form of a bunny rabbit for a moment, and then blow away in the wind in the next moment. I may be remembered for a while-- a few decades if i'm ordinary, a few millenia if I'm famous, but soon it will be as if I have never lived.

I wake up every knowing that the universe doesn't care about me. It doesn't have love for me, it doesn't even have wrath for me. It does not care about me one way or the other. My fate will be dictated not by love, or even by justice, but by the random jostlings of random microscopic particles, all moving around according to a simple enough equation that does not in any way take into account my happiness or sadness, good or evil, justice or mercy.

Perhaps some day I'll get married. My wife will claim to love me, but really, she's just seeking out certain neurochemicals her brain has evolved to seek out. She will remain with me as long has it makes her happy. The day something clicks in her brain to change that, she will leave me. I will claim to love her, but really, I too will be doing the exact same thing, no matter how real that love feels to me.

Tommorrow I could be killed by a hurricane, or a car, or a criminal. There is no god that is going to save me, no matter how good I am or how much I want him to. The equations will be run, just as they always have, and whether I live or die tommorrow, I remain utterly alone. There is no one out there watching over us. There is no one coming to save us.

Tommorrow I can see a movie, or I can read a book, or listen to music. It's all been done before, and nothing I do will matter for very long. There's a certain freedom in this, but the phrase that comes to mind is: meaningless! meaningless! Everything in meaningless.

In the world I live in, these sad, depressing statements all appear to be true.

You quote A Few Good Men:
"Tom Cruise said, 'I want the truth!' Jack Nicholson responded, 'You can't handle the truth!'"

I laugh at Jack Nicholson. God is a pleasant bed-time story-- a lovely little tale your grandmother whispers in your ear that fills you with comfort and security. It's an very easy truth to handle. Try living a day with my truth.

--

So I have to laugh when people ask me "Will you seek him". I have to giggle when people claim that I only refuse to believe because I want to-- because I'm closed-minded or cold-hearted. And I have to be a little offended when a religion tells me that lack of faith is some sort of immorality, as if one could choose what one will believe as easily as one chooses what they will order for dinner at a restaurant.

6:35 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor, and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease. Where there are tongues, they will be stilled. Where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part, and we prophecy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappers. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now, we see a poor reflection, as in a mirror. Then we shall see face to face. Now, I know in part, then I shall know fully - even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love, but he greatest of these is love." - 1 Corinthians 13

Far too often, I believe that people like me really make things difficult for people like you. I fear that I am often "a resounding gong, or a clanging symbol." It is easy to talk the talk, but it is the lack of fruit produced by love in the church that the world simply finds unbelievable.

More later....

10:59 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Marco,

So... you know who I am. We've been debating for what ... eight months? You have been this big mystery to me. I thought that you were like some guy in his 50's - living up North somewhere. I did know that you were from the South, but for some reason, I had the impression that now you were living up North.

Yea... I talked to your cousin today. Apparently, she had tipped me off before about your identity, but I had completely missed that.

Anyway, on the nature of faith:

You are still missing some key ideas about justification and sanctification by faith.

You said, "What I dispute is that what makes someone good is believing in Jesus, and what makes someone bad is having doubts. Balderdash, I say. People who doubt Jesus are no worse than people who believe in him. Belief and morality have nothing to do with each other. I can still be a Christian and be a bad person-- most people admit that. I can still be a Buddhist and be a good person-- some christians deny this."

You are missing it. Not that I am any better than you. I have Christian rhetoric down pretty good, but in my heart and in my life, I often miss it too. With my mouth, I will often speak Christian rhetoric. But in my heart, I all too often have pride: "I'm a pretty darn good Christian - certain a cut above the average Christian." I am a very arrogant man. God have mercy on me - a poor, wretched sinner.

Having doubts is not the one sin that makes someone particularly worse than someone who believes. John 3:18 says that "whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son."

I am stressing that "already" word to make a point. We are by nature, wicked sinners who are worthy of nothing more than God's just wrath. That is reality. By nature, we are already objects of wrath.

It is not as if we were by nature pleasing to God, but then we blew it by not having faith. No. We have lied, cheated, stolen, hated, lusted, and in many other ways have demonstrated selfishness, self-gratification, perversion, and evil. God is not obliged to do anything to us except judge us according to His holy and just nature. That is reality.

If you don't acknowledge that, then, in your mind, it makes perfect sense that John 3:18 would only describe a wicked and evil god. If God sent good Buddhist grandmothers to hell, He is evil, and we shouldn't follow Him.

Granted! If God ever sent anyone who was really good to hell, He would be evil.

But people are not good. People are lost, wicked, evil sinners. God is just to judge us.

But He is also a God of grace, who sent His Son to absorb the wrath of God - the just for the unjust - that a way may be opened for sinners to be saved. If they will simply believe - and thus confess their sins and confess the Name of the LORD, then they shall receive mercy and be saved. They will be given a new nature. This saving faith is life transforming, and anyone who does not have a transformed life ought to question whether or not their faith is of the saving kind.

But since you object so strongly to the gospel, what would you suggest that God should do? What would you do if you were God? Would you be holy to begin with? If not, then you would be evil. I have no question that you would be merciful, but I would question how you would satisfy the demand of holiness, while showing mercy? So, what would you do? Would you wink at sin?

I hope that thinking this through will prove to be a humbling experience for you. The Christian gospel is the only story that really makes sense of a loving, holy, merciful, and just God. Int he gospel, the justice and holiness of God is satisfied without compromise. And at the same time, God demonstrates His love, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness. Every other religion screws this up. But in the bloody ordeal of the cross, we see the justice and mercy of God at the same time.

It does not take a whole lot to convince people that non-believers are evil. The reason for that is simple: It doesn't take a whole lot to convince people that all people are evil. Since, non-believers are a sub-group of people, once you convince someone that people are evil, then it necessarily follows that non-believers are evil.

But, in our postmodern culture, we often convince ourselves that the evil people are out there, and we fail to recognize evil within our own hearts, and I am just as guilty as the next guy.

This is where the law of God might really help us, if we would use it properly. Take the 10 Commandments. Now, I know that you don't acknowledge several of the 10 Commandments, but I'm sure that you acknowledge the inherent goodness of some of the commands. I would think that you recognize the goodness of the commands not to steal, lie, and murder for example. Perhaps you even recognize the goodness of the command that says, "Do not covet." Now, just looking at those commands, have you ever broken any of them? Haven't you broken all of them - many times? Even if you didn't act on your disobedience, but you entertained disobedience in your heart and in your mind, you should remember that Jesus said that those who hate their brother are guilty of murder. Those who look lustfully at women have committed adultery.

So, it ought to be abundantly obvious that we are all sinners. Failing to recognize this, we often stick our heads in the sand, and I'm just as guilty as the next guy.

You talk about the danger of "holy wars" and "crusades." Well, I think that war is hell in general. "Secular wars" are no better than "holy wars." (Not to mention that secularism is in itself a religion. Remember that I have defined religion as "a set of beliefs, doctrines, and ideas that command a certain measure of allegiance and respect." Given this definition, secularism is a religion - albeit a contradictory, postmodern, and otherwise unholy religion.

But look at WWI, WWII, and Vietnam. Secular wars have proved to be just as bloody - and even more so - than religious wars.

If we are to fight in war, then our cause must be righteous; it must be just. If not, then to fight in war is a sin.

In other words, if you can't take another man's life in the name of God, then you shouldn't be taking another man's life at all, for we are to do everything in the Name of God, for His glory and His justice, that His Kingdom might be established in the hearts of men.

This doesn't mean that throwing a bunch of religious language into our political rhetoric makes our wars just. But doing so, would deceive many people - especially Southern rednecks - into thinking so. So, I can understand you being concerned about the nature of my rhetoric. I pray that God gives me the grace and the courage to stand up to the modern ignorant and zealous Christian. Ignorance combined with zeal is a very dangerous thing. Sadly, most Christians (as well as most secularists) are much more ignorant than you and me. What do you suppose we should do about that?

As for your depressing statements (which I will address in detail later if I have the time), I would say this: You don't know the future. You don't know that it will turn out all bad. And, remember, you had previously talked about a philosophical idea that says, "It can't be ALL bad." Therefore, you have reason to hope! Don't give up on hope! Giving up on hope is a sin, because hope effects your actions. Those who have hope, live and act in a particular way. To give up on hope could mean giving up on breakthrough - when the said breakthrough might have happened if you had but held on to your hope just a bit longer. So, don't give up on hope. God is good! He loves you friend!

Shalom.

5:11 PM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

"I thought that you were like some guy in his 50's"

I have a list of rants. The 23rd is: "You are as young as you feel--- and I feel OLD." I make a much better 50 year old than I do a 27 year old. If you think I'm inappropriate at this age, you should have met me when I was in kindergarten.

"I had the
impression that now you were living up North."

Well, I'm a Northern born and bred. Granted, I was born in the South. Granted, my parents and their parents and their parents were all Southerners. But just as two brunette parents may sometimes have a blonde child, so too it appears that a native Oregonian can be born to two Southern parents. I have distinct memories of myself in elementary school working hard to purge myself of any hint of an accent-- I suppose I just knew it would come in handy sooner or later.

----

On wars-- I agree with you that many variants of secular fanaticism do qualify as religions in many respects. Nazism, Fascism, US Racism, Anti-semiticism-- these were all subsets of Christainity--- or variants or sects of it. Totalitarian Communism was definitely an atheistic religion-- if you can use that term.

The important take-home lesson is that the world's greatest atrocities have never been committed by people trying to do evil. Purely evil doers just don't have the level of altruism necessary to put together a good atrocity. The Nazis, the Totalitarian Communists, the Ku Klux Klan, the 9/11 bombers: these weren't selfish people, they were self-sacrificing people, who were willing to work hard for what they thought was good.

It's an amazing fact that it is the good-seeking altruists who are the most dangerous. If I ran an educational system where I overtly tried to indoctrinate people (which I wouldn't), this is the first and most important think I would try to indoctrinate them with. Be afraid of the people who are CERTAIN they know what Good is-- they are the ones most likely to try to hurt you.

If you want to define religion as any belief system at all, then sure, count Postmodernism. But it's got to be high in the running for lowest body count in history. "I'm confused" and "I don't understand what's going on" don't make for very good rallying cries for armies.

Of course-- postmodernism has its own cross to bear: it leads to a sort of existential depression. Humans seem to be need causes to fight for, and we crave simple answers to big questions . When we don't have them, we don't do so well.

Ironically, maybe horrible wars are a good thing. Maybe they're something humanity enjoys so much, that they're worth it. If you talk to people who were alive during world war 2, they don't get sad and sullen when they describe that period, they light up, they talk about it happily, as a time when life made sense. Sure, many died, and many more were traumatized-- but the whole rest of society seems to have enjoyed the whole experience so much. Being alive in a combatant nation during World War II was like being a superhero-- you felt you personally got to help save the world (whichever side you were on).

Maybe war isn't evil-- maybe it's just a very dangerous eXtreme sport that humans like to play. I wouldn't know. I'm not a very good example of a human-- I've never really understood them, despite having lived among them for so long. But I do know that the Christians are a lot more dangerous than the postmodernists.

---

On salvation:

Okay, granted-- perhaps we're all evil, and so maybe we all deserve to be tortured in hell, and so God isn't sinning by sending non-christians there. I personally think that's a stretch-- I may not be perfect, but I don't deserve to be tortured for all eternity. I have a hard time imagining that ANYONE deserves that.

BUT, let me turn it around. Let's suppose everyone really is evil and deserves to be damned. In this case, it's true, God would not be guilty of unjustly torturing good people-- for there are no good people.

But this fact can't help out God's defense attorneys-- because if this is how the world works, then God is not guilty of unjustly pardoning evil people, while refusing to pardon other just-as-equally evil people.

If the Governor of Mississippi went on television tommorrow and annouced he had decided to issue a pardon to every inmate in the state whose first name was John, but would sentence to death anyone who wasn't named John, we would surely agree that the Governor is being unjust. If the President agreed to pardon anyone who was white, but no one who was black, we would accept that it is WRONG to do such a thing. To save some people but condemn others based upon a triviality.

Even if we do assume that everyone is guilty, that can't explain why it's suddenly okay to pardon those who, through luck, ignorance, brainwashing, or through wisdom have come to believe in Jesus. To give the one group with infinite joy and the other group with infinite suffering, when people in one group are no better than people in the other-- the whole process is cruel and arbitrary and unjust.

--

The thread I hear whenever people talk about the "God had to send Jesus to pay for our sins" is that somehow or another, God is not omnipotent. Though Christians won't admit this directly, the idea is that somehow or another, God isn't FREE to choose who goes to heaven and who goes to hell-- rather, there is some higher, more fundamental "law of (meta)physics" governing what God can and can't do. That Jesus's suffering PAID for our sins-- that only because of that was God able to welcome us into heaven, and if Jesus had not died, then God could not have saved us.

The implication is that God somehow "can't" save us unless we believe in Jesus.
---

It's as if a Judge tells me "Shout 'Rumplestiltskin' and I can let you go free. But know that I _wish_ I could everyone go free, but unfornately, the law says that I can only free those who know the name Rumplestiltskin". It easy to imagine that the Judge is a good guy.

But if you then learn that the Judge is the one who WROTE all the laws in the first place-- his excuse that I'm "just following the law" doesn't hold water.

No matter how you swing it, the "Belief -> Salvation" idea is full of holes, contradictions, and problems.

One of my favorite lines in Jesus Christ Superstar is when Judas (having killed himself, been forgiven, and now singing in heavnen) says to Jesus:

"You'd've managed better if you'd had a plan.
Why'd you choose such a backwards time in such a strange land?
If you'd come today you would've reached a whole nation.
Israel in 4 B.C. had no mass communication."

It's such a valid question. If your goal is to do create faith so as to save people-- then why were you only doing miracles for backwoods hicks 2000 years ago, instead of doing them now, where six billion people could instantly see them.

Jesus did miracles all the time. Yahweh did miracles all the time. And not just pretend miracles like rainbows or trees-- no no, walking on water, lights and booming voices, burning bushes, pillars of smoke, water into wine, loaves and fishes, and ressurrections.

God clearly has no qualms about using miracles to induce belief. The apostles doubt every five seconds in the gospels, and Jesus produces miracle after miracle after miracle for them.

Now-- my question is this: if my salvation really is predicated upon my belief in Jesus, and if God really does love me, then why have I, to my knowledge, never seen even a single miracle.

God clearly has the power. God clearly has had no qualms about miraculous-induced belief before. God clearly is supposed to love me.

But no miracles for me, eh? I'm going to hell because I don't believe, and God could help me believe, but.. he doesn't. Doesn't seem very just to me.

Faith CAN NOT be the recipe for salvation.
--

"what would you suggest that God should do? What would you do if you were God?"

Glad you asked. I've thought a LOT about this.

You know, in baseball, the official scorekeeper can assign "errors" to players in the field that should have done something different. The official scorekeeper might be a 70 year old on crutches-- the scorekeeper couldn't have done what the outfielder did-- but the scorekeeper, physically weak though he may be, can still point out where the outfielder makes errors.

I'm a mere mortal. I can't create universes, I can't design the laws of physics. But from my pleasant vantage point on the sidelines, I do think I've noticed a couple errors the Almighty's made, and a few things he could do better.

Pain comes to mind. You didn't have to invent pain. You don't HAVE to have a universe with pain in it. Suppose we simply made the human mind unable to perceive pain, just as a dog's mind is unable to perceive hue. The would be a better universe. Without pain, there is no sin, no matter how much free will you have.

Free will also comes up a lot in discussions of what God should and shouldn't have done. Supposedly God has some good reason for it, but it seems to me it was a big mistake. If you give a gun to your child, aren't you really responsible when they shoot the kid next door while playing Cops and Robbers? In giving humans free will, the blood of every sin in history is partially on God's hands.

Of course, those are the "big ideas". I can tell you lots of ways that me and my scientist buddies are actively working on fixings God's typos. God's ultimate creation has a lot of bugs.

Simple things like: God's ultimate creation has a lot of bugs. Our eyes don't work right. Evolution can explain why we need glasses, but what's an intelligent designer's excuse? The creator of quantum physics couldn't figure out focal length-- seems improbable. Fortunately, the scientists figured out a solution for this problem-- and within fifty years, no one's going to have to wear glasses anymore.

.7% of us are born with Diabetes. Our bodies kill off our own Beta cells, and we can't make insulin anymore. That shouldn't be there, it wouldn't seem. When God was typing up the ole' human genome, he hit the guanine key a couple times when he meant to hit the adenine key. It's a mistake... Fortunately, we're on the problem. We've got a stop-gap solution already, soon, a cure.

Or here's a simple booboo. If you don't want your creations to know about good and evil, don't create magic fruit that will give them that knowledge, and then leave them alone with it. If I create a computer program that will delete every file on my hard drive and then run it and it erases all my files-- I can get made at it if I want to, but it's really just my own fault-- I knew what was going to happen. (Now, I cut this version of God some slack, because at the time people who wrote that story, God didn't have the power of foresight. He couldn't see perfectly into the future any more than Zeus or Marduk could.)

Now, I am just a human. We haven't figured out how to create universes (yet). We haven't even figured out gravity yet. Canst I draw out leviathan with an hook?? no. So maybe there's a reasonable explanatiion for all these things. I'm open to the possibility.

As I'm fond of saying: The pearly gates are a place of Judgement. A place where one's deeds are examined, weighed, judged. There, the decision is made whether one is good or evil, whether one's actions were justified or cruel and arbitrary. And if I should die, and find myself at the pearly gates... God has a lot of explaining to do.

5:21 AM  
Blogger ecw said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:46 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Marco said,

"But this fact can't help out God's defense attorneys-- because if this is how the world works, then God is not guilty of unjustly pardoning evil people, while refusing to pardon other just-as-equally evil people."

This is human argument made by a sinner who is by nature an object of God's just wrath. It is as bad as Saddam Hussein giving his judge a lecture. It is an equally evil sinner giving the Just Creator of the Universe a lecture about justice.

God is not an egalitarian. According to His Sovereign grace, He has elected people to receive grace and mercy. In doing so, His justice has not been neglected, for the price for those peoples' sins has been fully paid for when Christ died on the cross. In Christ, we, who beieve, now stand redeemed.

More later.

5:03 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Believing in Jesus is not like having a special first name or being white or black or shouting "Rumplestiltskin." Believing in Jesus is what we have been born to do. There is something about the nature of God and the nature of man that suggests and confirms that we are to trust in Christ.

This past few days, I went camping with my family, and my Dad, sister, brother, and I all went canoeing one day. Now, my sister wanted to canoe with me, and not my dad, because my dad always seems to swamp his canoe at some point during the canoe trip. So, when my dad said, "You're coming with me." My sister was like, "No!" My dad responded, "You have to trust me." Now, my dad is somewhere in quasi-faith - in the valley of decision - but seeming pretty content not to make a decision. So, I said, "Hmmm... a father wants his daughter to trust him."

Of course, the whole situation, given my dad's canoeing record, was amusing. But, the point remains that parents (at least good parents) want their kids to trust them, and work to earn their children's trust. Trust is really important.

Imgagine what a relationship would look like if a good man was not trusted by his child. It would be one thing if the parent was a drug addict, dishonest, abusive, etc. But if the father is a good man and he loves his child, and the child just will not trust him, how sad would that be?

Trust is absolutely essential especially for babies and little children. There are many things that a parent knows that the children don't know. If the child refuses to trust and asserts, "I'll figure it all out on my own," well, their lives could be in danger. There are times when a father has to punish a child who was about to cross the street without looking both directions, or when they are about to touch a hot stove that they do not recognize as hot. Trust is important.

We, with all our knowledge, only see a glimpse of the big picture. Therefore, it behooves us to trust in the all wise and all powerful God to take care of us. This does not mean we shut off our brain, but that we recognize our own limitations.

Trusting in God is a very humbling experience - which is why many people don't do it. By trusting in God, you invite God to shine His light into your heart, and when He does, sin is exposed. So, in our deceitfulness, we look for reasons not to trust God. People impugn God with wrongdoing and/or deny His existence so that they don't have to go through the suffering and humiliation of having their sins exposed for what it is. They deceive themselves into not trusting in God. But God is good. When He exposes sin, He also offers us His hand to lift us up. When we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us, and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.

God does reveal Himself to people. He has revealed Himself to me. He will reveal Himself to you if you invite Him to do so. But be ready, because when He comes into your life, He takes over. He starts overturning the tables of the idolatry of our hearts. He insists on being Lord.

Ask, and you shall receive. Knock, and the door will be opened. Seek, and you shall find.

6:55 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

On pain and suffering:

For the honest intellectual seeker, this is one of the most common and, in my mind, strongest arguments against the gospel. However, that does not mean that the said seeker is right when he declares, "Since there is pain and suffering in the world, then God is not real, God is not just, or God is not powerful." Any of those conclusions are false.

So, how do I reconcile an all-loving and an all-powerful God with a world where pain and suffering exist.

First, let me give the bottom line. I do not have all the answers on this one. However, I have some answers, and I have some suggestions that may or may not be true. I shall offer these.

For one thing, we are all sinners. As sinners, sometimes we suffer pain as a result of God's wrath or as a result of God's discipline. This is not always the case, but many times, it is. But according to the Christian gospel, all of us deserve to spend eternity in hell for our sins. So, going through some pain and suffering is sometimes punishment of some kind from God. We are sinners, and we deserve it.

But this is not always the case. Case in point: Job.

I can't fully explain why we have to go through pain and suffering, but I can make this observation. People who live a fairly charmed life - free of pain and suffering - often don't have a clue about compassion, love, charity, grace, and empathy for their fellow man. Surely, you've met the type. Without experiencing any pain, many people are spoiled brats. They think the world revolves around them, and they have no real concern for people. But someone who has been through pain can empathize with others going through it. I believe this is one way that God works all things out for the good of those who love Him - who have been called according to His purpose.

Even those of us who have not experienced a whole lot of pain are careful to walk in empathy and compassion just by hearing the stories and seeing the pictures of others who have walked through suffering. For example, most of us are very adament about not letting another holocaust happen in our world because we have heard the stories and seen the pictures of horrific, unjust human suffering. Having seen these pictures, most of us are better people than what we otherwise would have been.

I know what you're thinking: "What?! So God let all those people die so that we could learn a lesson?" Well, that's not quite what I am saying. I am saying that God has used the evil and the atrocity of the Holocaust for His redemptive purposes. We can rejoice that everything that happens, happens for a purpose, and God uses it all to establish His glory. God uses the worst evils of the world for His own purposes.

Case in point: The cross. Nailing - not just an innocent man - but the perfect Son of God to the cross - that was evil. But God used that - and it was in His Sovereign plan - to provide the way of salvation for all who believe.

It is interesting that Job, who was a righteous man, suffered immensely until the point when he started praying for his "friends." I am convinced that Job's prayer for his friends wasn't a little, "Dear God, please bless my fellow dudes. Amen." No. Rather, Job was praying with deep sympathy and compassion that was only possible because he had gone through suffering.

Compassion, empathy, love - these are what makes us human. God could have created a world and a species without pain, but then I think we wouldn't be human. Compassion and love wouldn't mean anything to us. We might as well be robots.

This is not a complete response to the question of pain and suffering, but it is the best that I can do. It is Scriptural. I don't have all the answers on this one, but I still trust in Him.

God bless you.

3:56 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

"It's an amazing fact that it is the good-seeking altruists who are the most dangerous. If I ran an educational system where I overtly tried to indoctrinate people (which I wouldn't), this is the first and most important think I would try to indoctrinate them with. Be afraid of the people who are CERTAIN they know what Good is-- they are the ones most likely to try to hurt you."

Do you really thing I'm out to hurt you? What about your Bible believing cousin? Is she out to hurt you?

I would submit to you that those who are apathetic and who sell out to that which is politically correct and politically expedient - those are the people who devalue human life. I am insisting that human beings are human beings - created in the image of God with value. Thus, we should love one another.

Those who don't stand for this creed end up selling out to the political machine of the world - where mammon rules - and where people are merely objects that are dispensable if they happen to get in the way of my lust for power and money.

Unfortunately, many who confess Christ, have done exactly this, but still insist that they are "good Christians." Perhaps, it is those kind of people that you don't trust.

And, of course, to some degree, we have all sinned, and sold ourselves out. We are encouraged and pressured to do so all the time. Many people make their bottom line the bottom line of the company for which they work. And most of the time, the company has not vested interest in the welfare of people.

Therefore, I am not about a utopian scheme. Indeed, we shouldn't trust anyone who tries to sell to us a utopian scheme.

I'm about a confessing scheme. That's the true church. The true church is not a utopia - far from it. Believe me; I know. FAR FAR from it. The true church is a place where ignorant, broken, sinful people come together to worship God and to love one another. It is a place where people confess their sins - one to another. And then when we deal with each other in all of our wretched sinfulness. And the miracle is that God uses this screwed up organization known as the church to bring healing (emotional, spiritual, even physical) to peoples' lives.

In a utopia, there is no confession. In church, we have confession.

Don't let the church's hesitancy to be who they are supposed to be (a confessing people) stop you from the inheritance being offered to you in Christ.

4:37 PM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

About the existence of pain-- I really don't think there are any answers for this question-- not in this life. Maybe God's just not omnipotent, and somehow even he can't stop pain. Or maybe there's a purpose to it. Maybe we're all playing a giant video game and pain was our idea of an experience we somehow wanted to have, not unlike the crowds that line up for scary movies or nauseating amusement park rides. The point it, I look the creator of this universe square in the eye and say in a Cuban accent: "Lucy... you got some 'splaining to do"
---

Responding to your last comment...

It is true, the apathetic have their own way of "hurting". There's an emptiness, etc. The apathetic will depress you, and they don't tend to get up very early in the morning, so if you want the calvary to ride in and rescue you, the apathetic aren't the people to look towards.

But on the plus sides, the apathetic aren't very big on the genocides and purges and prison camps. It takes a lot of organization to pull off a good holocaust-- only passionate people who are working for "good" have that kind of dedication.
---

Perfect example-- if the Christians ran the country, where would the gays be? Freely walking the streets flouting their homosexual agenda? I doubt El Presidente Falwell would stand for that. There'd be camps. Prison camps if we're lucky, death camps if we're not.

If you ran the country, would I be free to sit and have this pleasant conversation here, on a public website, where my vicious lies could corrupt the young?

"For example, most of us are very adament about not letting another holocaust happen in our world because we have heard the stories and seen the pictures of horrific, unjust human suffering."

Ahh, you bring up a great point. Just how committed our the good people of America to avoiding another atrocities. Well... we have a prison camp-- that's a start. If you want a good atrocity, it's gotta start with a prison camp.

We have children there, you know. We had a 10 year old there-- it's a fact. Of course, we don't have ten year olds there anymore-- now the youngest in the camp are 14, but.. since it took four years to achieve that, I'd hardly call it progress.

We torture people there, you know. To death. The technical term is "died during interrogation" and there are 108 such cases that we know of. "died during interrogation" is a great term-- a lot better than "tortured to death", but unless the population of people we're interrogating consists exclusively of the terminally ill, I think it's just two different ways of the same thing.

The people in our prisons are a real problem. Saddaam had the same problem. If you let them go, they'll just go back to their homes and talk about how you tortured them, and that's not going to be good for business. On the other hand, if you want to put them in the US prison system, you have to have a trial of some sort, and you have the same problem, because then you have to actually prove their guilt in a court of law-- and nobody wants that.

Of course, one possible solution is to just gas the whole lot of them. The American military already considered that, and they worked out a plant for gas chamber construction and all the other logistical issues of offing large groups of people. Of course, word of the plan leaked, and the military says it's just their job to plan for all eventuality, and gas chambers do take a little bit of planning.

I doubt very seriously we'll actually implement that plan-- but the point is, 21st century Americans had no trouble at all working out all the details just in case someone wants to turn our fancy new prison camp into an even fancier death camp.

This week, the whole world is calling for Israel to stop bombing Lebanon. The whole world except the US and Britain.
http://blog.dave.org.uk/archives/indyjul21.jpg

The whole world urged them to stop the killing.. Our government's reaction has been to speed up our shipments of bombs to Israel.

We are the most christian nation in the world (Vatican city being a close second), which is under the rule of the most christian executive branch in its entire history. Thank god there's no one more christian than us.

Of course-- all this is no reflection on Jesus himsefl, any more than the Nazis were a reflection on Darwin. I'm just saying-- when they break your door down in the night, pull you out of your house, arrest you without a trial, lock you up without a lawyer, gas your race, and murder your puppies-- they will do so because it's the "Good" thing to do, not because they're apathetic humanists.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Many interesting comments...
Clearly, as smart as you are, you do not know the nature of our enemies. They want to kill you. You don't have a family and you seem like a fairly depressed person, so perhaps you don't care much about that. Maybe you should get married and have children, so that you have more reason to live and love life. But, on the other hand, maybe you should find God before you get married. It can be a pretty messy situation if - midlife - you or your spouse becomes a Christian. But if you had a family, then I could say that these terrorists are not just trying to kill you, but they are trying to kill your wife and children as well.

And you are trying to make the case for apathy?!

Is it possible to wage a just war against terrorism? Or are there only two extreme options: the path of the Nazis or the path of the apathetic?

How about the path of the assertive and just?

I fear that the apathetic have way too much power. I fear that you and I will end up being oppressed under an Islamo-fascist government (if we are allowed to live at all; perhaps you will be so allowed; I doubt that I will). You apathetic socialists liberals are screwing everything up. Its not that you are doing anything wrong; its that you aren't doing anything! We have a committed and patient enemy who actually believe that if they die while killing Israelis or Americans, they will be caught up in glory - glory, of course, is an orgy with 72 beautiful virgins who want to have sex with you all the time.

It can be argued that if the Christians hadn't fought the Muslims in the Crusades, then all of Europe would have fell to Islamo-fascism, and that America would look like Iran.

I don't suppose it might mean anything to you that Israel was attacked by Hebollah first. Why would it? You don't care about Israel. You are apathetic.

What if Lebanon attacked America? Would you feel a little bit different about it then? Maybe not, because America is so big.

But there are some places in Israel that are only about 15 miles wide! It they ever fail to keep a clear watch, they could be overrun in a day!

Does Israel have the right to exist free from fear of Islamic terrorists who are committed to their destruction?

Does Israel not have the right to defend herself when they are attacked by the said terrorists?

But, this is all a fulfullment of prophecy. In the last days, the whole world will turn against Israel, and will pressure everyone else to turn against Israel, because the whole world is doing it. It is an evil and wicked thing to care about the opinions of the depraved people of the world.

Hezbollah is a terrorists organization. The whole world ought to be condemning Hezbollah, and helping Israel to defeat Hezbollah. But, unfortunately liberal secular socialists make up the majority of opinion of the world, and they are on the side of the terrorists (although many of they would never admit it).

I predict that the US will not long support Israel. Bush's ratings are down. I am not happy with him. Neither are many others. So, it looks like the Democrats will win the next election. Then America will turn her back on Israel. Then we might even fund Hezbollah and other Islamo-fascists to help destroy Israel.

But Israel will not be detroyed. God is looking after her.

4:06 PM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

"Maybe you should...have children"

Maybe some day I can adopt. But I can't imagine creating life-- there's just too much pain in the world, and if you're to be believed, there's a good 50-50 chance that my children would wind up with eternal infinite misery. God has created life to live in this world despite this pain. I will not repeat his error, until I become convinced it is not an error at all.

"Clearly, as smart as you are, you do not know the nature of our enemies. They want to kill you."

Of course they do. But I know that if Jerry Falwell were Supreme Leader of the US, he would want to kill me just as much as the Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Khamenei would.

It's not that I'm arguing Hezbollah are nice guys-- it's just that I'm not so convinced Israel are such saints.

"And you are trying to make the case for apathy"

Oh, I don't know that I'm arguing for apathy per se. I think I'm more arguing for uncertainty. A good healthy dose of the realization that we don't have it all figured out, and that the difference between the other guy and me might be a lot less than I want it to be. A good understanding that the greatest evils will probably be done by good people trying to do good things.

Apathy reminds me of the Physicians' motto: "First do no harm". If you can't do something nice, try not to do anything at all.

Apathy may be the beginning of wisdom, but not necessarily the end. Obviously, we would hope people could eventualy move on to actually helping the world. help solve a problem, proceed first by observation, then by careful, measured intervention.

"Or are there only two extreme options: the path of the Nazis or the path of the apathetic? How about the path of the assertive and just?"

haha, but that's the thing. The Nazis believed they WERE on the path of the assertive and the just. Hitler was not Stalin-- he was just trying to save the world against a dangerous terrorist organization. Obviously, the Jews weren't the threat to him that he believed they were... perhaps there is a lesson in this. :)

"if you had a family, then I could say that these terrorists are not just trying to kill you, but they are trying to kill your wife and children as well."

But you see.... the Iraqis weren't trying to kill my wife and children. My wife and children are FAR more likely killed by an american than an Iraqi. If I'm going to look at the raw statistics of it, the person in the world most likely to murder your wife is.... you. It is inconceivable, but it an inescapable mathematical truth. (obviously, this goes for any married person, not you in particular.) If my number one goal is to prevent my wife from being murdered, the number one thing I can do to accomplish this goal is... to never marry her in the first place.

Obviously, we make our decisions based on meaning and happiness, not murder statistics, or else no one would ever get married.

The biggest threat to my wife is not some far away fanatic in a third world country, it is the crime right at home or a lack of of healthcare.

"We have a committed and patient enemy who actually believe that if they die while killing Israelis or Americans, they will be caught up in glory"

And what do you believe happens to good christian american soldiers who die killing Iraqis? Something a lot better than a few measey virgins.

--

"I don't suppose it might mean anything to you that Israel was attacked by Hebollah first."

There have been so many retaliations and retaliations for retaliations that it's impossible to remember who struck first. Any eye for an eye leaves everybody blind.

It's not that Israel is bad-- they're just human. They're scared and they're angry. If I was in their situation, I doubt I would be able to do anything any differently than they are.

But.. see, I'm NOT in their situation. To use a parental analogy (which I loathe)-- if you're 8 and your your twin brother punches you, I don't BLAME you if you punch him back. That's the natural response.

But your mother, who has some objectivity and some distance from this conflict, should step in and stop the fight-- not give her favorite son a big stick in order to administer a more effective smackdown.

Bush's idea to seize the people he doesn't like, lock them away in a dungeon without a trial, and torture them-- this is not a new idea for a new kind of war. This is the oldest idea, and in implementing it, he's lowered us to the same kinds of tactics used by our enemies. In winning the battle, he's losing the point of the war.

Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib-- I fear the things we know, horrible as they are, there may be just the first tip of the iceburg signs of an executive and a military that has succummed to the old siren song of barbarism. I feel like a German citizen during World War II, I worry that when it's revealed all the atrocities my nation has committed in the name of these wars, I will have to spend the rest of my life trying to explain to those younger than me why I didn't do more to stop this.

9:57 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

I doubt very much that Jerry Falwell would want to kill you. I honestly think that - politically speaking - I'm more radical than he is. And I don't want to kill you. I want to be your friend. I have thoroughly enjoyed these months of discussion and debate. An evening at Barnes and Noble - perhaps with your cousin - would seem like a pleasurable time.

We non-pacifist Christians want to establish peace in the world. But we believe in establishing peace, by making peace, not by being apathetic, and not by trying to be diplomatic with terrorists. That is the big difference between conservatives and liberals in this country. Liberals believe in diplomacy. Conservatives believe in the Reagan way. We believe in standing up for our righteous convictions with confidence that as we stand up for that which is right, God will back our cause.

And so this is really an issue of faith. Social liberals without faith in God either operate with misplaced faith in the so-called "goodness" of people (even terrorists or they are operating in fear - that if we don't appease the terrorists - then the terrorists will punish us with more terrorism. This is the mindset of most of Europe. It is totally depraved twisted thinking, and it is the result of continued rejection of the gospel. See Romans 1. These people have been given over to a depraved mind.

So, while liberals chant, "Peace in our time!" some of us are saying that we really ought to learn from Winston Churchill. Do you want peace? Then you have got to fight the terrorists. We have to beat them. We must totally defeat them.

And given the righteousness of our cause, God will back us as we go forth in faith.

But godless liberals - for whatever reason - are trying to go about this war (which is WWIII) in the manner that Neville Chamberlain tried to deal with Hitler. It is foolish and dangerous.

How many millions of lives would have been spared if the people would have listened to Churchill?

How many millions lives will be lost because people are insisting on being diplomatic with terrorists?

Please, learn the lessons of history. Please, recognize your own limitations, and put your trust in the Lord. You don't see the big picture, but He does. He is worthy of your trust.

10:55 PM  
Blogger elvis777 said...

Just for the record, Hezbollah means "God's political party". They are fighting for god also. Is it the same god of the christian god ?

Who is betting on the right horse ?

4:13 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Joe,

Do you actually believe that Hezbollah is carrying out God's will (justice)? Or are you just playing "the devil's advocate?"

But if we take it to that level (which we really should), then you have to read and believe the book of Genesis. Throughout Genesis, starting in Genesis 12, we see that Israel is God's covenant nation - that they would be blessed by God - that they would be a blessing to others - that God will bless those who bless them and curse those who curse them - that all nations of the earth will be blessed through them. To a large degree, that prophecy has already been fulfilled. Where it hasn't been completely fulfilled yet, it will.

Throughout Israel's history, they have been attacked, persecuted, enslaved, and had its people viciously and unjustly killed over and over again. What is with the world and their anti-Semitism?

We really ought to study Islam's history as well. First of all, they started as a cult. Mohammed was a crazy man, who happened to be a descencdent of Abraham, and who apparently was an epileptic. He advanced his anti-Christian creeds by the sword from the beginning. Quite different than Christianity's history.

Christianity was advanced by bold men of peace in the face of intense persecution. See the Book of Acts. Christianity was advanced by love and by the preaching of the gospel. Even as they were persecuted, men and women stayed faithful - even to the point of death - testifying to what they had seen and heard. Jesus and the apostles did not advance Christianity by the sword.

So, this should give you an idea of the people with which we are dealing. They are religiously and zealously committed to Israel's destruction; thus they are under a curse. They are a part of the biggest cult of human history. They totally reject the Christian doctrines of grace and justification by faith. Thus, they are extremely proud and self-righteous people. I pray that God would open their eyes, and that they would come to the saving knowledge of Christ. In the meantime, Israel certainly has the right to defend herself from wicked terrorists who are committed to her destruction. The whole world should be coming to Israel's aid, but at very least, they should stop calling for a cease-fire. Again, the people of England should have listend to Churchill and not Chamberlain. Likewise, the world should listen to me, and not CNN, the UN, the liberals, or the vast majority of the Europeans.

7:18 AM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

But see-- if you start talking about the Middle East by beginning with the premise that Israel is better than Palestine because Jews are better than Muslims, then you've got a problem from the get-go.

The 1947 establishment of modern Israel was an illegal injustice that will go down in history with the forced migration of the native americans to reservations. If we went round approtioning land based on whose god promised whose ancestors what land in 1500 B.C., imagine what a mess we'd have.

Of course, now we just have a big mess. The point is-- Israel is not necessarily "the good guys" in this situation, nor are they necessarily the bad guys. All we have is a big mess with reprisals for reprisals for reprisals going back for nearly seventy years. It's not a war of the sinful versus the righteous-- it's more like south-central los angeles gang wars.

An eye for an eye just leaves everyone blind. I don't know the solution, but I know that the war that's going on now is step further from peace, not a step towards it.

7:56 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Marco,

Its been more than 70 years - both in recent history and, of course, in ancient history. (Abraham lived around 2000 B.C. by the way).

It is a mess. You have no solutions. For all your intelligence (and you are very intelligent), you don't have a human answer. That is why you and I and everyone else needs God. We need to trust in the Lord with all our heart, and lean not on our own understanding. Cause He sees the big picture. He sees what we can't see. He knows what we don't know. We see but a small glimpse of reality. He sees it all. He is worthy of our trust.

This doesn't mean we quit thinking about things. We need wisdom.

You say that "an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind." It doesn't leave the victors blind. When you mix apathetic masses with ambitious evil people, you get evil people in control. That's why the Holocaust happened. And it took a whole lot of assertion and blood to defeat Hitler and all the evil for which he stood. But it was the right thing to do, and the world is a better place for it. If we had listened to the peace-niks in the late 30's who said, "Its not our war; we should have no part of it," Hitler probably would have won.

So, the left looks at Israel, and says, "Poor people, you are stuck in a mess. Just learn to play nice with your neighbors. Even if your neighbors are wicked terrorists who are committed to your destruction, you have to play nice. Don't retaliate when they attack you. If you do, they might punish you with more attacks. Violence beges violence."

Easy for you to say. You don't live in Tel Aviv.

Check out this website: http://www.mideastweb.org/briefhistory.htm

Israel's history did not begin in 1948. The idea of their being a distinctive and separate "Palestinian" people is one of the biggest - if not the biggest propaganda lies sold to the international community in the 20th century. In truth, there are Arab Palestinians (formerly commonly known as Jordanians) and there are Jewish Palestinians (known as Israelis). The "two-state solution" has already been attempted. The results of compromising with terrorists is the mess that we have now. Compromising with terrorists is never a good idea.

Prophecy is being fulfilled.

In the midst of the mess, I pray that people would hear the small, still voice of God. We need His guidance, His wisdom, His protection. Thankfully, He is Sovereign. He is in control. And He is using this situation for His glory.

Perhaps, He is using this situation to expose how people can not come up with a solution by themselves. Perhaps, He is using this situation to provoke people to call on His Name.

I don't know. But I do know a few things. One: Jesus is the way. The gospel must go forth. Two: Israel has the right to exist, and any terrorists who try to deny them that right need to be brought to justice - and that swiftly.

11:13 PM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

For someone who distrusts sinful humans, you are so trusting of the US military and Israel. When a conflict is between terrorists and the chosen people of god, it's easy. But to me, claiming to be the chosen race is every bit as insane as claiming virgins are the reward for matrydom.
---

It's easy to quote World War II-- where attempts at peace were impossible. But for every World War II, there is a Cold War-- where diplomacy did, in the end, save the world-- despite all the hawks who INSISTED we must strike first against the Soviets (and there were many). And there's a World War I-- where four years and ten million lives where thrown away for nothing, and the only thing that was accomplished was infection a whole generation with a seed of hate that made World War II possible.

---

When you tell me a bad person will have nuclear weapons in two months if we don't do something-- I'll go along. But you better know what you're doing...

And if it turns out you didn't... this puts us all in a difficult position of trying to figure out whether thie mistake was due to sheer imcompetence or sinister deceit. It all comes down to how intelligent you believe our government is. If they are utter morons, then perhaps they believed everything they say. If they are too smart though, then their actions can only be explained through intentional deceit.

What a horrid dilemma-- trying to decide if your leaders were competently deceitful or incompetently dishonest. Are you a glass-half-empty person or a glass-half-full person? And which type of person believes in which type of government.

And the fact that there could have been a case made for a "War of Liberation" rather than a "War of Urgenet Self-Defense" does little to assuage my fears. If I give you a math problem and you guess the answer is 7 only because seven is your lucky number-- I have no confidence your abilities as a mathmatician-- even if it does turn out that there might have been a GOOD reason to choose 7.

3:38 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

In the spirit of the original subject of this particular thread, I would like to submit the idea that there are authentic Christians who are full of faith and who I deeply respect who are total pacifists. They quotes Jesus: "Those who live by the sword, die by the sword." They are not apathetic. Nor are they self-righteous and foolish (like so many Hollywood leftists). I don't happen to agree with their analysis and conclusions, but I still have deep respect for their faith.

I appreciate your frustration with the Bush administration. This is how I look at it.

Firstly, there were WMDS. Saddam did gas thousands of his own people with these WMDS. Also, I believe that he hid many of these WMDS (possibly made deals with people like Zarqawi, gave them to Syria, etc).

Secondly, there were a bunch of UN resolutions that the Iraqi government did not live up to.

Thirdly, the US government played up the WMDS and exagerrated the truth or straight up lied in order to sell the war to the American people. While lieing is bad, let us consider for a moment what was going on. In Bush's mind (as well as in the mind of a large number of Americans), we needed to be in Iraq for several reasons. But Congress is full of people who serve themselves and the far left lobbyists, and not the American people. So, they didn't have the politcal will and the backbone to go to war. But going to war was the right thing to do. So, the Bush administration sold the war with the WMDs argument. And I don't even know that this was dishonest. I have no idea what was going on in the Intelligence reports.

Anyway, we can debate this until the 2nd Coming, but the unfortunate reality is that we had all kinds of right reasons to go to war, and unfortunately our nation is filled with a bunch of Neville Chamberlain admirers. So, Bush did what he did. Right or wrong.

But why did he do what he did? I don't believe that Bush is looking to oppress the American people. I believe he did what he did to serve America and to bring terrorists to justice.

I do not have that much fear that George Bush or the US government is looking to oppress me. I am more concerned about justice for terrorists and criminals, the welfare of the unborn, and socialist liberals who want to institutionalize envy and take my stuff. Not to mention the fact that liberalism is an anti-Christian religion that forces me to go way beyond tithing even though I disbelieve and loathe their secular/religious/postmodern beliefs.

...

The Cold War was very different than the War on Terrorism. And in point of fact, it took some tough talk from Reagan to peacefully bring down the Soviet Union.

But, c'mon! Whatever the Cold War was (and we could get into a big discussion about that), do you really think that we can negotiate with Ahmadinejad and those like him?

How many cease fires have we had in the past 80 years? What has been the result? Israel has lost more and more land, and the terrorists have grown more and more bold about wiping Israel off the face of the map!

Like I said. There are two big things that I insist on:

1. The gospel must go forth.
2. Israel has the right to exist, and anyone who tries to interfere with that fundamental right needs to be brought to justice - and that swiftly.

We are in WWIII. We all should rally to Israel's side and help her to defend herself.

The government of Lebanon needs to call on the international community to help them bring Hezbollah to justice. But they're not doing that; they are simply calling on the world to tell Israel to stop and lecturing the world that if Israel doesn't stop, Hezbollah will grow in power. It almost sounds like a threat. The government of Lebanon are like American liberals and most Europeans: If we don't negotiate with the terrorists, then they will punish us. They would do better if they manned up like Reagan. If they did, they would have American and Britain support bringing down Hezbollah. Surely, they know this. But they don't really want to bring down Hezbollah, because they really don't like Israel. So, officially, they distance themselves from the Hezbollah party, but under the table, who knows how much they are supporting them!

Hezbollah needs to be destroyed. If Lebanon won't do it, Israel has the right to do it.

7:29 AM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

The theory that Saddaam somehow smuggled his nuclear weapons out of Iraq at the last moment is an interesting conspiracy theory I hear from a lot of people. But it misses the whole point--

if the whole purpose of our invading Iraq was to stop those weapons from falling into the wrong hands, but our incompetence and failure to secure the boarders lead to those (non-existent) weapons getting out of the country anyway, then the whole thing is a collosal failure all the same, and now we're worse off than we were to begin with.
--
"Secondly, there were a bunch of UN resolutions that the Iraqi government did not live up to."

So if a court finds someone guilty but hasn't yet decided on the sentence, it's okay for a mob to haul them out of jail and hang them? In throwing away the UN legal system and instead resorting to unilateral aggression, we lost any claim we could have had to legality.

I haven't really decided if Bush lied or whether he was just the victim of his own wishful thinking. We know he and his advisors have wanted to occupy the middle east for years before he was "elected". Hopefully, he and his government just wanted a war so badly that he let himself believe it.

The alternative is that Bush lied. That is utterly unexcusable. You don't lie to the people and to the congrss to start a war-- not in America. You just don't. If you do, it's treason, period.

I don't care how badly you think there needs to a war-- you don't do it. The people make the decisions around here, and if you intentionally deceive them, you are guilty of attempting a coup. Even if you're right.

If the police fabricate evidence to convinct a person who really did commit the crime-- it's still against the law. If a witness gives false testimony, it's perjury-- even if the defendent really did do it. If a president tells the american people lies to trick them into going to war, he isn't a president anymore, he's a unindicted criminal who's staged a coup.

I tend to think that there's more incompetence than deceit in the Iraq fiasco, but maybe I'm just being optimistic.

"Hezbollah needs to be destroyed. If Lebanon won't do it, Israel has the right to do it."

Bombs can't destroy Hezbollah-- every bomb they drop is a seed that will grow in to ten more people who hate Israel. When someone kills your father, or your mother, or your child-- you will spend the rest of your lives telling anyone who will listen about how evil the killers were.

If you want to destroy Hezbollah, there's only two choices. Peace or Genocide. Everything else is just senseless "eye for an eye".
---

"I don't believe that Bush is looking to oppress the American people. I believe he did what he did to serve America and to bring terrorists to justice."

And I believe lynch mobs in the South genuinely believed they were bringing criminals to justice. But we don't do things that way. Everyone's entitled to their day in court. Even a murderer. Even a Nazi. Even Saddaam. And even those hundreds of people we have locked up in secret prisons across the world.

In 200+ years, we never had secret prisions. Those were for Stalin and Saddaam, not for us. When the Nazis came, we didn't betray our principles and start torturing people-- we stayed true to the American way. When the Soviets were there, we didn't run secret prisons and lock up anyone suspected of being a communist-- we believed in the rule of law.

Now, a couple of amateurs operating out of third world countries show up, and we're willing to light the bill of rights on fire? Now we'll have soviet-style secret prisons, after hundreds of years of never ever sinking to that. Now we'll start torturing people, after centuries of insisting that torture is wrong. Now, we won't let people have lawyers, we won't let people have trials, after centuries of standing true to our values.

Bush has done more to destroy American than all the terrorists in all the world ever could. The terrorists can just blow up a few of us-- less than our killed in cars on a regular basis. Only we have the power to destroy our way of life.

--

About Israel-- explain this to me. How can your race dictate your rights as a citizen? Everyone has accepted this as wrong. Even the government of South Africa doesn't do this anymore. But in Israel, your race dictates your rights. They are a theocracy, and, no.. not a christian one.

Now, I have sympathy. Years of bombs will jitter your nerves a bit, and the words of Gandhi or Martin Luther King are hard to swallow in war zone. But, let's just remember, this isn't a conflict between a humanitarian democracy and a evil terrorist. This is one group of racist religious nuts fighting another group of racist religious nuts.
---

And do consider this:

If you meet a man who tells you what a good person Jesus was and how he was part of God's plan for us. If tells you the story of the virgin birth, and tells you he believes it, and you should too. If he tells you that Jesus led a perfect life and was utterly free of sin, and then he tells you of all the miracles Jesus performed...

And then if he tells you he's being persecuted for his beliefs by a group that does not respect jesus, who believe jesus was a heretic. Which side are you going to support: the people who regard Jesus heretic, or the people who rever Jesus?

As you've no doubt guessed, Israel is the side that regards Jesus as an outlaw heretic and the Muslims are the ones who rever him, tell of his virgin birth, his miracles, etc.

Obviously, this doesn't figure into my thinking at all. But I'm always amazed that Christian fundamentalists and Islamic fundamentalists, so close together theologically, have such a hard time getting on the same side of things. They have the same position on issues like the role of women, evolution, homosexuality, the death penalty, free speech, etc. Both feel their greatest enemy are the ever-more-popular secular culture that is slowly taking over the world. If the Christian theocracy came to power, surely the nation it would most resemble would be Afghanistan under the Taliban, except of course for the minor differences of Jesus-vs-Mohammed.

--
Unlike most liberals, I actually like the world war analogy. I don't much think it's World War III-- that was more of a Democracy-vs-Totalitarian Communism dispute. By my count, this is the fourth world war, and it's not just against the Isalmic nations, but it's against all the parts of the world that haven't become part of the global economic international culture. The outcome of this world war will be a one-world state-- the same nameless one-world-state that now exists in all of north america and europe.

Have I told you Marco's plan for winning the fourth world war, beating all the Iran's and North Koreas out there? It's pure genius.

Here is how it will happen. We will beat the Islamic Fundamentalists the same way we're beating the Christian fundamentalists. Pizza. McDonald's. American Idol, Clint Eastwood and Mickey Mouse. Quake and Doom and Grand Theft Auto and The Sims. Pirates of the Carribean and Napoleon Dynamite.

If we want to beat Iran, all the bombs in the world cannot solve the problem. But if we give them free cable tv, free internet, and all the KFC they want, all we have to do is sit back, wait 20, and suddenly there's a whole new generation of Americans who just happen to be living in Iran.

On the whole, I think this will be a good thing. Wars in the traditional sense won't be possible anymore. It's easy for us to bomb Germany in 1940-- who do we know from Germany. But now, a war with germany is unthinkable-- how would I get replacement parts for my Volkwagon? We can't bomb Japan-- I need to see the next season of my favorite Anime series.

So don't root too hard for US to take out the Islamic theocracies. The same things that will let us beat them are the same things that will stop us from ever making Southern Baptists Christainity the official religion of the United States.

That's why, despite all the incompetence, Iraq may yet turn out okay, and if it does, it will have been worth it. One of my favorite Presidents is Wilson. If Clinton had come to me and told me directly that they had a well-thought-out plan to liberate Iraq even if they didn't have nukes, I'd have gone for it. (not that Clinton is going to make my top ten list of favorite people, mind you).

Peace really can be bought. The comedy movie "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka" has a bit that illustrates this very nicely. In the film, we meet Kalinga, leader of a militant Black Panther-like group that once dreamt of overthrowing the US Government. The movement once had five hundred members, but now, Kalinga is the only one that remains.

Kalinga tells the story of the demise. One day, he and his 500 members armed themselves and went down to the Federal building to take over. But they were hiring that day. The brother walked in with guns-- walked out with jobs. The brothers weren't mad anymore-- they were too happy with their fancy new medical insurance.

You think the army won World War II? It didn't. Europe had been having a war every 20 years for centuries. The Marshall Plan won World War II.

You think Reagan won the Cold War? He didn't. Gorbachev won it, and Levis won it. Mickey Mouse and McDonalds won the cold war.

If we win in Iraq, it won't be our military might that does it, it will be our playstations and our MTV.

2:08 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Marco,
You have many valid concerns, and many intelligent ideas. But any "solution" that fails to address the problem of sin is no real solution. The greatest commands of the Bible is to love God and love your fellow man. We are to treat each other as people of great value - people created in the image of God. Your materialistic solution devalues human life. In fact, you depend on people being sinful idolaters. Your solution depends on people caring more about "Numero Uno" than it does about justice. In fact, you are invested (with your money and with your heart) in people selling out - giving up their very humanity. When people care more about Napolean Dynamite and pizza than they do about the sanctity of life, that is not something to celebrate. In a world where that is the rule (and it is coming), you and the majority of the postmodern secular masses will end up being fiercely opposed to the faithful who stand up for true justice. The faithful will forever be a thorn in your side, and you will think you are acting justly by punishing the faithful - perhaps even to the point of death - all the while thinking that you are doing justice. This is why Jesus said that a time is coming when many will put the faithful to death - thinking that by doing so, they are doing God a favor.

Your vision of a completely secular, godless society is in and of itself a religious idea. It is a Satanic idolatrous idea. You should repent of it.

On the other hand the word of the Lord (which will last forever) asserts that people are valuable - that we are not to covet - that we are not to be dragged away by the wordliness of the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. That by doing so, we offend God and fail to love our neighbor. We fail to establish justice. That we have all sinned in this manner, and are therefore worthy of God's just judgment. Yet, the Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in love and faithfulness. He is slow to anger, and quick to love. He is forgiving. And He sent His Son to this sin-sick world to teach us His ways. But He did more than that. He paid the ultimate price. He gave His life for us - the just for the unjust - that we may be forgiven and that we may be justified - that we may have life abundant and eternal in Him. Moreoever He has left us His Holy Spirit (which is real). The Holy Spirit testifies to us. The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, of righteousness, and of the coming judgment. The gospel is not some fable; it is reality. I can boldly proclaim the gospel, because I know that God has prepared the whole world for the gospel and the gospel for the whole world. As we believers seek to do good and love our neighbors and establish justice and preach the gospel, God will draw His chosen elect to Himself. Others will persecute us fiercely, because they hate God. God is Sovereign over all Creation, and by His grace, His mercy, His power, His goodness, and His love, we shall overcome. We shall overcome postmodern secularism - which completely fails to answer any of the most meaningful questions of life and whose contradictory creeds devalue human life. We shall overcome Islamo-fascism - a deceitful creed that fails to recognize the doctrine of grace and the divinity of Christ. We shall overcome racism - which asserts that one group of people are somehow less than another group of people.

By God's grace, we shall model charity, kindness, and sacrificial love. We shall do humanitarian work in New Orleans and in Pakistan and in Botswana and in the Sudan. We shall piss off corrupt politicians who neglect justice and expose them for what they are.

This is a call to sacrifice and faith. And if people would embrace Christ with all their hearts, we would overcome and establish justice and peace.

But if we continue in our self-centered, apathetic, just-give-me-more pizza and movies, while people suffer under despotic Islamo-fascist terror, then the blood of the victims of the said terrorism will be on our hands, and God will hold us accountable.

The fear of the Lord, not self-centered apathy, is the beginning of wisdom.

Wise up.

2:04 PM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

"Your vision of a completely secular, godless society is in and of itself a religious idea. It is a Satanic idolatrous idea. You should repent of it."

Well, far be it for me to deny having idolatrous ideas-- my christian friends have routinely told me this. My atheist friends routinely call me a spiritual hippie filled with fuzzy ideas that are devoid of logic. I tend to think that if I'm criticized in the same week for being both too spiritual and too idolatrous, then I must be doing something right.

That said-- just because I'm reading the writing on the wall, don't think I'm its author. The secular materialistic capitalistic society has plenty of problems. It is soulless. But, with that comes some good things. End to wars, for example. An end to totalitarianism, an end to misogyny and racism and religionism. After reading the tea leaves, I'm pretty convinced that's where the world is headed, and I think that, measure for measure, it will be a better world.

Of course, it will not be a perfect world. That'll have to come later.

I recently finished an incredibly excellent book entitled "Blue Like Jazz: Non-religious thoughts on Christian spirituality". Definitely worth a read for anyone doin the christian thing.

It was very odd, because, I really liked the author, and he really reminded me of, well, myself. It's a funny thing, to read a book written by a Christian version of yourself. It's like a science-fiction world where there are parallel universe inhabited by "twin" copies of yourself that are almost identical, yet different in some crucial way. Invariably, the two worlds collides, and the two twins meet-- and one of them turns out to be Evil. Looking closely at myself and the author of this book, there's little doubt that I am probably the Evil Twin.

It was fun to read, because he and I have had a lot of the same thoughts, but in very different contexts. He talks about having a revelation in which he realizes that war and genocide and racism and hatred are all just symptoms of a larger problem: sin. As he sums up-- we're never going to fix the problems in Sudan until we can fix the person in the mirror. The problem isn't governments or treaties or the like-- the problem is the sinful nature of humans.

--

This same thought occured to me a long time ago. I didn't use the term sin-- but sin is as good a term as any. Humans do not work.

When you step back and look at the problems of the Earth, the solution is very simple. The humans have got to go.

Or, more accurately, the humans have got to be fixed-- improved upon. And we're well on our way. We can change the chemistry of our brains. More and more of our daily lives our spent in a symbiotic relationship with electronic equipment-- the computer screen is the retina of a new sense organ we have created for ourselves. If we can just go another few centuries without nuking ourselves back to the stone age, we ought to be able to solve the whole "Human problem".

And of course-- this doesn't have to have anything to do with religion. If God is out there, surely he is a god to all the aliens that must inhabit our universe, and surely he would be god to us, whatever we become, once our brains work right. Perhaps the successors to humanity will be able to figure out the whole God thing. And if not, perhap their successors will.

And in the year 9510, (if God's a comin', he oughta make it by then), whoever's around can all get together at Magido and have a nice big end-of-the-universe party with lots of fireworks.

I just hope that when then history's written, it can be said I had some small role in solving The Human Problem. There really isn't much point to being a mentaly ill (nay, "mad") scientist if you can't have at least some small role in the extinction of humanity and the creation of life from non-life. Sure, the hunch-back assistants are nice, and it's fun to be able to get away without combing your hair, but it's really the dream of creating a new type of intelligent being that really keeps you going. If you're not going to do that, you might as well just be a Mad Engineer or a Mad Computer Programmer.

3:10 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Marco,

The problem is with the heart, not the brain. Many smart people are wicked and evil. Many fairly dumb people are pure and kind. Technology can be used for good or evil. Using technology may or may not improve the human condition - depening on how we use it and with what wisdom we use it.

I tend to think that technology has cut us off from one another. Since we have TV, internet, DVD players, etc, most of us do a pretty bad job at loving our neighbors. We don't even know them.

I spent seven years living in the Marshall Islands. Kwajalein. Small island. I was told that back in the day (before TV invaded Kwajalein), families would come out in the evenings - at about 6:00 or 7:00 - go for a scroll - talk to one another. Then TV invaded. Technology did not much help the human condition when that happened.

More later....

3:21 PM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

Ahh, but there are so many wonderful things about television. And there are many. In fact, my 43 rant is that when people tell me that children are being raised by television, I reply "Well... it's better than who USED to be raising them".

You know, during the cold war, the US ran "Radio Free Europe"-- a series of radio stations that broadcast behind the iron curtain, to tell people about the world outside where they were. TV and now the net are Radio Free EVERYWHERE. After 5000+ years of the whole world being racist, we finally beat it in the 1960s. Why? What changed?

Television changed. Suddenly we had the technology to bring good speakers, speaking the truth, in to the homes of everyone. Suddenly, guard dogs attacking black activists could be shown to all the world.

Television allows us all to have shared culture. I can travel from New York to LA and anywhere in between , and I can find a group of people who like my favorite shows, play my favorite games. Before, everyone had different, conflicting cultures. if you ever left your home city, you were homesick the rest of your life.

Watching TV makes us smarter-- it's fact. The children today who have been raised on the internet are blowing the lid off all the previous IQ scores. IQ isn't everything, but it's got to help.

For every good parent out there that might be distanced from their children by technology-- there are a hundred authoritarian parents who used to have an iron hold on their childrens minds. Now, the shackles have been ripped asunder, and the minds of our children are free to read, to watch, to communicate-- to find their own way. to learn that race really doesn't matter-- no matter how racist your parents were. To learn that God loves all people, no matter how fire-and-brimstoney your parents were. To learn that women are equal, not second-class citizens-- no matter what your grandfather thinks about women in the workplace.

As you increase the amount of information we have access to, truth tends to win out in the long run.

Sure, all that information means we don't have as much in common with our next-door-neighbors as we did in the past. But we have so much more in common with every other human being in the developed world, that it's much easier to love them. 70 years ago, there were no Japanese who were in love with Americans or vice versa-- we just never got to know each other. Now, it's different.

In my online travels on Wikipedia, I not long ago came into contact with a 15 year old israeli girl. Like all 15 year olds, she's in love. With a 16 year old palestinian boy. They have never met. Their parents would never have allowed them to ever be in the same place at the same time. If their parents knew what they were doing, they would never be allowed to chat online ever. But they do chat, and in the weird way that online people sometimes do, they've "fallen in love with each other". I don't understand this phenomenon, but then so little of humanity makes much sense to me. But the point is, this is the way the world is solved.

My grandfather will hate "coloreds" until the day he dies. But these two middle-eastern teens got to know each other before they got to know they were supposed to hate each other.

It is a glimpse of the future-- and the future is beautiful.

4:30 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Marco,

I have admitted that technology can be used for good and that technology could be used for evil.

Your scheme to use technolgoy to undermine parental authority is good in one sense and completely evil in another sense.

I one time had a cop reprimand me because I was preaching the gospel to some teenagers, and apparently, this pissed off the parent of one of these teens who saw what I was doing. (This was in good ol' liberal, secular, God-hating Massachusetts). The cop insisted that I need to respect parental authority.

At this time, after some reflection, I realized that there are two types of respect. One type of respect is to be rendered to all people due to the fact that we are all created in the image of God. The other type of respect is the kind that must be earned. If a parent tells their kids to hate blacks, then the kid needs to respect his parents in the one sense and not the other sense.

And you and are I right to respect the said parent in one sense, and completely undermine them in the other sense.

Morality and justice are like calculus - complicated, yet absolute.

But you go to far. You are essentially telling sinful teenagers that its cool to rebel against their parents. In fact, you are saying that the hope of the future will only be found in kids rebelling against their parents.

This is wicked. Repent.

5:34 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Sorry my last comment was abrupt. I'm pretty busy right now. I shall respond more fully later.

5:52 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

I have to explain something about Israel being God's "chosen" people.

First of all, being "chosen" doesn't make them any better (or any worse) than the rest of the world.

In Genesis 11, the whole world was united against God. They were committed to their own ways and their own glory. The coming one world government will probably look a lot like the society that was united against God in Genesis 11 - only it will be much more technologically advanced.

So, God in His Sovereign wisdom and plan, confused their languages and separated the people and spread them out all over the world.

Then He picked one people group. Abraham was a man of faith, and his faith was credited to him as righteousness. God made an ETERNAL COVENANT with Abraham, that He would make Him into a great nation, that his name would be great, that He would bless those who bless him, that He would curse those who curse him, and that ALL PEOPLES ON THE EARTH WOULD BE BLESSED THROUGH HIM.

I capitalize, embolden, and italicize that last clause, because it is critical to understanding the nature of the God of Abraham - Yahweh - the LORD. He has always been a God of love for all people. It was in His plan that Israel should model for the world what a nation whose God is the LORD looks like. Moses even asserted in the law that the Israelites were to remember how they were mistreated in Egypt, and thus treat the "alien" justly and kindly.

The Israelites often screwed this up. In their pride and self-righteousness, they strutted around thinking, "Yeah, I'm all that. I'm a child of Abraham." Jesus hated this attitude and informed the Pharisees and those with that attitude that they totally missed the point. Not that Jesus was changing anything, but that they had totally missed it. (Incidentally, the prophets also asserted the same thing).

In Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, male or female, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

So, you see, the God of the Bible condemns racism. He always has. he always will. Religious people who are racists are in sin. They should be confronted. Their hypocrisy should be exposed for what it is.

But Israel is still God's chosen people - screwed up as they are. They have been chosen, and God is faithful to His covenant. He is not a man that He should lie, or go back on His word. He doesn't break His covenant. He is working everything out for His purposes and His glory. It is the glory of God to redeem sinners. He is gracious and compassionate to all people. He hates hate. He hates arrogance. He hates self-righteousness. But He has chosen to use Israel, inspite of all her sin, to teach the world about Himself. And only God could use such a screwed up people like the Israelites to reveal His glory to the world.

It is not as if God saw that the Israelites had all their stuff together, and thought, "Wow! I could really use people like that to show people how great I am." No. Rather, He stacked the deck against himself by choosing a messed up group of people like the Israelites. In the same way, Jesus wasn't impressed by the "wisdom" of the Greek philosophers. But He chose a group of unschooled, ordinary fishermen to accomplish His purposes in the world. I think He does this so that the world will see that it could have only been God. He is in the business of choosing the lowly of this world to shame the high and lofty - the foolish of this world to shame the wise. He conceals his glory from the wise and the learned, but reveals His glory to little children who gladly put their faith in Him. That's the kind of God that He is.

So, make no mistake. Racism is wrong, and should be fiercely confronted wherever it comes up. But Israel is a chosen people. And God has made a covenant with them. And He will fulfill that covenant.

Indeed, to a large degree He already has. Through Israel, the Messiah came. And the word of the Lord has gone out to the nations. In the end, people from every tongue and tribe and nation will all be gathered together in a glorious, multicultural worship service. It will indeed be beautiful.

I hope to see you on that day - if not sooner.

8:04 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

You said, "Well, far be it for me to deny having idolatrous ideas-- my christian friends have routinely told me this. My atheist friends routinely call me a spiritual hippie filled with fuzzy ideas that are devoid of logic. I tend to think that if I'm criticized in the same week for being both too spiritual and too idolatrous, then I must be doing something right."

C'mon. Is that really how you gage your sanity? The truth must be somewhere in the middle? You're smarter than that.

Let me give you a bit of advice. Do not put any stock in the opinions of depraved men. Fear God. Love God. Do justly. Speak the truth. Letting yourself being influenced by the world is good, when the world is right. But the world is very often wrong. To then find some middle ground between true justice and wicked, deceitful injustice, is evil.

This world is filled with sinful and stupid people. The truly just love the sinners and the ignorant people, but they also have holy contempt for sin and for willful ignorance.

4:27 PM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

Hey, if someone wants to consider themselves God's Chosen People, and by that they mean "We're here to help God do nice things to the world", that's fine. But when you want to enact of forced migration of a racial group because your God chose your ancestosrs to own the deed to that land in 1500 BC-- that's going too far.

---

lol, no, I don't actually form by beliefs based on the "offend all peoples equally" doctrine-- but, when I find myself doing it, I can atleast pat myself on the back for being very individualistic.

You say "Do not put any stock in the opinions of depraved men." But see-- who are the depraved men-- that's the question. A lot of Christians argue from this sort of a viewpoint. They woke up one day believing the "truth" and now that they believe what they believe, they find it hard to understand anyone who doesn't share those beliefs.

But look at it from my standpoint-- I, as of this moment, do not believe your "truths". There's no easy way for me to get from point A to point B. Obviously, investigate all the major beliefs and try to figure them out. By my count, if anyone's ahead, it's the buddhists. The zoroastrians aren't that bad.

The hindus with their pantheon of gods is hard to swallow-- an elephant god is cute and all, but, I don't quite know how to take him. I still don't know enough about Islam, but, their followers haven't impressed me, and what little I've read of the Quran didn't grab me-- having a prophet who engages in wars doesn't sit well with me either.

Christianity's not doing so hot-- the whole virgin birth, "god took human form once, only once" is hard to swallow. Dying for our sins as part of some intergalactic payola is getting pretty far-fetched. And of course, by the time we get to the the Pentateuch, we're into the realm of fairy tail. Can even you believe there was literally an ark created by human hands that held every two of every animal ever created (there's at least 1.7 million species).

Once you believe, it's easy to find MORE reasons to believe. Jesus is true because the bible says so. The bible is true because Jesus says so. People who don't believe in God are depraved because the bible says so. Depraved people don't believe in God-- and you don't want to be like the depraved people do you?

Christians sometimes get exasperated and say "Believe this, because I'm telling you to believe this"-- which looks find to them, because the bible has told them they are good people for believing in the bible, and good people should be believed.

But, see.. From where I sit, I just see a whole planet full of people telling others what to believe, each calling the others depraved.

This is the whole problem with the Rumplestiltskin theory of justice. If you find yourself in the position of NOT believing, it is utterly impossible to rationally get yourself into a state of belief. You can, of course, roll the dice-- pick a religion and throw yourself into it, but, there's no sane way I can find on how to pick which one. You can of course be lucky enough to have a supernatural experience, but those don't happen much these days, what with all the cameras around, and God does hate the paperazzi.

You can listen to the infamous "voice in your head" which many people believe is the voice of God pointing them in the right direction. Problem is-- different people, all listening to what supposedly is the same God, all come up with drastically different conclusions based on listening to that voice. So-- there's certainly no guarantee that THAT method works either.

What's more, when I look deep within my heart, the 'voice' I hear tells me the most horrible things. If I had to go with my 'intuition', I think I'd have to vote there probably is no purpose to any of this, this is all meaningless, there is no one watching us, no one even cares, and soon I'll be dead, as will we all, and the atoms will go on doing their thing-- a elaborately choreograph play, but the audience is utterly empty.

Obviously-- you can see why when someone tells me to "Pray, then look deep within your heart and listen to what the little voice (God) is saying", I'm hesistant. I'd rather stick with rational Agnosticism than "Trust my heart".

3:59 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

I believe the ark had two of every "kind," not species. So, they might have had two dogs. I'm sure that they didn't bring hundreds of thousands of insects on board. But I bet there were at least two insects on board.

7:37 AM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

so, the millions of species that perished in the flood were magically recreated after the ark landed?

Makes you wonder-- what then was the point of bringing animals on the ark? I've always heard the whole point of the Ark was to preserve those species so they wouldn't could still exist after the flood.

9:36 PM  
Blogger SCAStudent said...

Hey Mr. Hillman havent talked to you in forever in fact not since school ended and just for the record the guy revolting masses isnt me but they are using my online name mine is revoltingmasses with no spaces but anyways just wanted to see how you were doing please Email me at Summitgoalie00@aol.com

12:40 AM  

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