The Living Bird is Let Loose

 

“And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: “When a man has on the skin of his body a swelling, a scab, or a bright spot, and it becomes on the skin of his body like a leprous sore, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests.  The priest shall examine the sore on the skin of the body; and if the hair on the sore has turned white, and the sore appears to be deeper than the skin of his body, it is a leprous sore.

The above quote is the opening to The Law Concerning Leprosy as recorded in Leviticus 13.

Leprosy: Chronic skin-disease characterized by ulcerous eruptions and successive desquainations of dead skin.

Jewish Encyclopedia

~~~

In Luke’s gospel account, chapter 17 vs. 11-19, we learn of ten lepers who plead for mercy (“Have pity on us!”) at a distance from the crowd. Keeping a distance from others was in keeping with the law proscribed in Leviticus 13. Any leper who was examined after several specified intervals and then declared unclean was isolated, sent to the outskirts of a city. The “unclean” would be required to yell “Unclean!” to any passersby.

Most of us know from a Sunday School lesson what happens in Luke’s gospel account: ten lepers are completely healed by Jesus. The ten are sent by Jesus, in keeping with the Law, to a priest for examination. Only one of the lepers returns to give thanks to Jesus.

The_Healing_of_Ten_Lepers_(Guérison_de_dix_lépreux)_-_James_Tissot_-_overall

The Healing of Ten Lepers by James Tissot

“Is it really the case that the only one who had the decency to give God the glory was this foreigner?”

The healing occurs as Jesus passes along the borderlands between Samaria and Galilee on his way to Jerusalem. The formerly leprous foreigner, and not the nine formerly leprous Israelites, is the one who returns to Jesus to give thanks. Like the Samaritan women who would gladly eat the crumbs under the master’s table, this foreigner knew that Israel’s God was different from all other gods. How different, this foreigner would come to find out. The difference would make his skin tingle.

Jesus made it clear to his disciples that his mission on earth, his vocation, was to his covenant people, the Jews. The Jews were the people God chose to bring light to the nations. But the Jews failed in their vocation. Rebellion, idolatry, stiff necked obstinacy, you name it. The people resisted their calling even after witnessing the extraordinary events of the Exodus – the Plagues, the Red sea dividing, the cloud by day, fire by night, manna on the ground in the morning and water flowing from a rock. The Covenant people resisted their calling even when given a tutor-personal words from God-to keep themselves from sin and sickness and to bring healing to the nations.

One leper returned to give, “God the glory.” Did those hearing Jesus words to this foreigner think about their vocation? Did God’s covenant people, Israel, presume a right to be an entitled people of God’s goodness. Were God’s people like the nine newly restored lepers with a focus on themselves? (Imagine a people focused on a right to healthcare.)

As one can see, the ten-leper account is an analog of the Israel’s history through the centuries. Leprosy is an analog for sin. Sin is that chronic soul-disease characterized by ulcerous eruptions of wickedness and successive offenses and sins of the walking dead.

Early on, Israel was told to eradicate idols from their lives. They were to be a separate and distinct people from the nations around them. When Israel became like other nations and chose to believe that God is not all that He was proclaimed to be, God sent prophets.

The prophet Isaiah, in the presence of God, declared as “the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” -Isaiah 6:5

In God’s presence, Isaiah was made aware of his and Israel’s’ condition. Isaiah would prophecy against Israel-the Northern Kingdom. Corporately, Israel was rich and prosperous under the rule of Jereboam. But individually, Israel was very corrupt. Israel would be expelled from home. By 621 B.C. Israel would be conquered and carried into captivity by the Assyrians.

In exile, Israel pleaded for mercy (“Have pity on us!”).

 

Let’s return to the ten lepers. After healing them Jesus tells them, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”

The following quote is The Ritual for Cleansing Healed Lepers as recorded in Leviticus 14:

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “This shall be the law of the leper for the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought to the priest.  And the priest shall go out of the camp, and the priest shall examine him; and indeed, if the leprosy is healed in the leper, then the priest shall command to take for him who is to be cleansed two living and clean birds, cedar wood, scarlet, and hyssop.  And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water.  As for the living bird, he shall take it, the cedar wood and the scarlet and the hyssop, and dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water.  And he shall sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed from the leprosy, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose in the open field. He who is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, shave off all his hair, and wash himself in water, that he may be clean. After that he shall come into the camp, and shall stay outside his tent seven days. But on the seventh day he shall shave all the hair off his head and his beard and his eyebrows—all his hair he shall shave off. He shall wash his clothes and wash his body in water, and he shall be clean…

“Then the priest shall offer the sin offering, and make atonement for him who is to be cleansed from his uncleanness. Afterward he shall kill the burnt offering. And the priest shall offer the burnt offering and the grain offering on the altar. So the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be clean.”

Do you see any analogs in the above passage? What is it about the two birds? One is killed and the other set free. And, what about that earthen vessel in which one bird is killed?

 

In Leviticus 13, the priests were required to check the skin of the individual who was observed to have an ulcerous skin condition. The priest did this over several prescribed intervals. Each time the priest would examine the individual to determine if…

“If, after the scales of leprosy have spread over nearly the whole body, a bleeding and scaleless ulcer (miḥyah) is observed, the subject is unclean. Similarly, if the scales, having covered almost the whole body, fall off in one place and uncover an old bleeding ulcer, the subject is unclean.”Jewish Encyclopedia

It is interesting to note that in the next verses following the account of the lepers, Luke 17 vs. 20-21, that Jesus refers to what is observed to answer the Pharisees question, a question which was on every Jew’s mind. He reminds them of what you can see with Kingdom eyes:

“The Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God was coming.

“God’s Kingdom,” replied Jesus isn’t the sort of thing you can watch for and see coming. People won’t say, ‘Look, here it is,’ or “Look, over there!” No: God’s kingdom is within your grasp.”

In giving the lepers a renewed humanity and by restoring them to their communities and Synagogues from exile Jesus was doing the work of the Kingdom on earth. He hoped the nine of Israel (and the crowd) would have grasped this. We are told that the only one to “give God the glory” was the foreigner. Do you think he kneeled and grasped Jesus’ feet in thanksgiving?

What’s Not to Wonder: All Things Reconsidered

 

He is the image of God, the invisible one,

The firstborn of creation.

For in him all things were created,

In the heavens and here on earth.

Things we can see and things we cannot—

Thrones and lordships and rulers and power—

All things were created both through him and for him.

 

 

-The first stanza of one of the earliest Christian poems as recorded in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae, Colossians 1:15-16

~~~

The thing of it.

I grew up around Sola Scriptura thinking. I attended Bible churches for the first half of my life. I attended Moody Bible Institute after high school. In these institutions the trinity of Scripture, right living and evangelism were constantly posited and deemed to be what mattered most. The rest of the cosmos seemed immaterial, except for the tithe. And, not once during that time did I hear anything about science and the nature of things. It was if nature was to be seen but not heard from. But gnostic thinking didn’t come from Jesus. He offered his body and blood as true food and drink (John 6: 53-57).

It wasn’t until I took a college level physics course which employed a mathematics course I was taking at the same time that I became wowed by the nature of things and the theology of science. When I saw that mechanical forces and properties could be defined in beautiful mathematical terms I knew that God was the Designer. I was wowed into worship. I knew for the first time that every…thing… would lead me back to the Creator in a way that Sola Scriptura could never do.

It was also at that time that I began a career in electrical engineering.  I saw engineering as a place where the material and the spiritual could be fused in a creative process. As an engineer I no longer used my Sola Scriptura-infused right brain to dismiss the left brain and its focus on objects—things–as unspiritual and of no eternal value.

Why study the nature of things and theology of science? Everything in the natural world is a sign, a trace, an echo, an image and a sacrament of the triune God. The goodness of God is diffused into HIs good creation. As such, everything in creation has been given a profound relationality with a space to be and a sense of particularity so that it is encountered and not just used.

RNAScience, and certainly engineering, attends to the particularity of things. Both scientists and engineers must understand a thing and how it relates to other things. Imagine if they didn’t. Imagine if geneticists, physicists, biologists, chemists and aeronautical engineers didn’t consider how things relate to each other. Imagine if an electrical engineer didn’t consider that 3000 amps through an aluminum conductor rated for 600 amps would cause heating and the ultimate melting of the conductor. God gave us Scripture so that we could understand God’s nature expressed in the Word (John’s Gospel chapter one). God gave us nature so that we could understand God’s nature as expressed in things.

 

God creates in particular and yet everything created is related. Electrons are relational to protons and neutrons. The periodic table reveals that relationality.

Exoplanet-A temperate exo-Earth around a quiet M dwarf at 3 & 4 tenths parsecs

Before the elements ever began to appear in Mendeleyev’s table they had been fused together-related-in the nuclear furnace of stars. The dying stars sent the dust off into space, into our space, where the elements are now used by engineers to design airplanes, prosthetic arms, super colliders, diodes, super conductors, …every…thing…known to man.

Why study the science of things? Because God made them to be studied. God made the unpredictability of quantum physics for us to puzzle over, to reflect on and then to uncover its mysteries, e.g., light as both point and wave. That contemplative exercise is necessary for the theology of science. And, it what’s required for our theology of the mysterious three-in-one Trinity.

Why study the science of things? Because nothing is stamped on the bottom, “made by God.” That’s for us to find out. We were created to be scientists.

~~~

The Lord and Creator of the Universe, the One for whom all things were created, the One who has taken on a stardust composite of an image-bearing human is standing on a hillside speaking to a massive crowd of people about his kingdom on earth. Just then, a creation of about 13.8 billion years in the making darts by and lands near an open spot. Jesus then talks about what he values in particular…

Collared flycatcher-Ficedula albicollis

“Don’t be afraid of people who can kill the body, but can’t kill the soul. The one you should be afraid of is the one who can destroy both body and soul in Gehenna. How much would you get for a couple of sparrows? A single copper coin if you are lucky? And not one of them falls to the ground without your father knowing about it. When it comes to you—why, every hair on you head is counted. So don’t be afraid! You’re worth much more than a great many sparrows.”

-the Gospel according to Matthew 10: 28-31

 

All things reconsidered, since Paul’s poem tells us that all things were created for Jesus, then Jesus’ words to us give us a clue as to where his treasure lies: “Show me your treasure, and I’ll show you where your heart is.”

~~~

The Pleaides and Orion by John Michael Talbot

What’s Not to Wonder: Children of the Light

György Ligeti: Lux Aeterna

 

Consider the scientific testimony about light:

-The sunlight whereby you see everything this moment left the sun about 8.3 minutes ago. But there is more than meets the eye. That light is estimated to be between about 100,000 to 50 million years old by the time it reaches your window plants.

The light began as gamma rays in the sun’s nuclear core. The rays headed out and immediately began colliding with matter surrounding the sun’s core. These collisions (think pinball game) slow down and ‘convert’ the gamma rays into photons. When the photons finally make it to the surface of the sun they stream to the earth in no time flat:  8.3 minutes to travel one astronomical unit (see table below).

-Sunlight received is ancient.

-It is estimated that light from the Andromeda galaxy is 2.5 million years old

Andromeda

-After the explosion of the Big Bang space began to expand. “The early universe was opaque because it was so dense: radiation in the form of photons was constantly being absorbed and re-emitted. Only when the universe was about 300,00 years old did it become transparent enough so that photons could travel in straight lines…A billion years or so after the big bang, the first stars and galaxies began to form. Clusters and superclusters of galaxies emerged over time. The universe continued its expansion, eventually reaching its current size.” Dr. Amir D. Aczel, God’s Equation

-Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) is the afterglow of creation. It is the oldest light we can see, approximately 14 billion years old.

cosmic microwave background dispersion of the universe after big bang

 

“The cosmic microwave background (CMB) is electromagnetic radiation left over from an early stage of the universe in Big Bang Cosmology. In older literature, the CMB is also variously known as cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR) or “relic radiation”. The CMB is a faint cosmic background radiation filling all space that is an important source of data on the early universe because it is the oldest electromagnetic radiation in the universe, dating to the epoch of recombination.” Source: Cosmic microwave background

-It took about 13.8 billion years for the universe to expand, cool down and then enable and support carbon-based life on earth.

 

In the light of science’s testimony about ancient light consider the testimony Scripture records:

 “There was a man called John, who was sent from God. He came as evidence, to give evidence about the light, so that everyone might believe in him…The true light, which gives light to every human being, was coming into the world.” John’s eyewitness & empirical gospel account 1: 6-7,9

“The light is among you a little while longer,” replied Jesus. “Keep walking while you have the light, in case the darkness overcomes you. People who walk in the dark don’t know where they are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may be children of the light.” John’s eyewitness & empirical gospel account 12: 35-36

 

 

Consider the ramifications of both testimonies:

Before anyone was born, before anyone began hoping for a “Like” on social media and before anyone decided that light should be overcome by darkness, light began streaming towards you. And that light has been continually streaming towards you.

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you (Psalm 139:16-18).

“He chose us in him before the world was made, so as to be holy and irreproachable before him in love. He foreordained us for himself, to be adopted as sons and daughters through Jesus the King. That’s how he wanted it, and that’s what gave him delight…” Ephesians 1:4

 

It is time for us, like John the Baptist, to give evidence of the Light which has come into the world and to walk in that Ancient of Days light, reflecting “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus the Messiah.” 2 Corinthians 4:6

~~~

How fast does light travel from the Sun to each of the planets?

Light travels at a speed of 299,792 kilometers per second; 186,287 miles per second. It takes 499.0 seconds for light to travel from the Sun to the Earth, a distance called 1 Astronomical Unit. below I list the light travel times from the Sun to each planet:

Planet           Distance in AU            Travel time

…………………………………………………………..

Mercury              0.387        193.0 seconds   or    3.2 minutes

Venus                0.723        360.0 seconds   or    6.0 minutes

Earth                1.000        499.0 seconds   or    8.3 minutes

Mars                 1.523        759.9 seconds   or   12.6 minutes

Jupiter              5.203       2595.0 seconds   or   43.2 minutes

Saturn               9.538       4759.0 seconds   or   79.3 minutes

Uranus              19.819       9575.0 seconds   or  159.6 minutes

Neptune             30.058      14998.0 seconds   or    4.1 hours

Pluto               39.44       19680.0 seconds   or    5.5 hours

…………………………………………………………..

Mercy Me or Else

 

“Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” Psalms 85:10

 

In these days of full grown 60’s love and its love child Ad Hoc Gospel mercy like rights are now demanded. And this “mercy” is demanded of Christians who pose a threat to the LGBT community by not agreeing that homosexuality is accepted in God’s kingdom on earth.

In the domain of “peace and love” LGBT advocacy a Christian saying so is “judgmental” and therefore not merciful. The Christian is therefore deemed unJesus-like. For the advocates, the millenniums-old Christian narrative must be changed, adapted and ’queered’ so that mercy can be given without knowledge of wrongdoing.

No one has to tell me that life is hard. We all look for relief from what life brings us. Yet, those who advocate for mercy towards those who practice homosexuality look for relief for those who bring hardship onto themselves. “But”, some tell me, “they are born with homosexuality. They can’t help themselves. They were born “this way”. So, they want Christians to back off and give homosexuality a pass. And yet, there is no doubt that same-sex attraction is a pernicious addiction that is fostered to full-grown habit by #LGBT advocacy.

Homosexuals “shall not pass” into the kingdom of God. Truth, reason, nature, Scripture (1 Cor. 6:9-11, among other texts) – none of these will give homosexuality a pass. Neither will science. There is no “gay gene.”

Does not the word “mercy” imply a transgression has been committed? The word, “grace”, another Biblical-panacea term is swapped by religious advocates for “mercy” as the means to the same end. These two words are used interchangeably to invoke a softness towards behavior ‘formerly thought’ unacceptable by the ‘unenlightened’.

There will always be a demand for mercy without the truth of the transgression. But for the thief on the cross, his transgression was known. It was nailed above his head and he acknowledged it. He asked Jesus for mercy and received it.

The bad character on the other cross wanted mercy without truth: “Get us out of this!” 

Aren’t you the Messiah? He said. “Rescue yourself-and us too!

But, mercy without truth is actually sympathy for the devil.

“`

One wonders if the flight from woman, the de-feminization and de-humanization of society, toward a cold exo-human reason plays a major role in redefining mercy as licentiousness.

Coming to Oneness Matters: The Future of Protestantism

 

I love debate. I enjoy coherent viewpoints.

I track closely with Peter Leithart (8:30-26:00):

 

Getting Back to Outside-of-Spacetime Normal

 

“Elsewhere on the Las Vegas Strip, things appeared to go back to normal quite quickly.”  -Quote from a Oct. 4th, 2017 Daily Mail post

 

“I am please asking your prayers for the late 13 year old J— T—— and for his family and friends. J—, a neighbor of ours passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday, Oct. 3rd. J— was a smart, kind young man. He went through a lot of pain in his short life. May J— be surrounded with God’s unconditional love and may God lift J—’s family and friends up at this time. Give them peace, comfort, and spiritual healing over the loss of their family member and friend.”

-a recent prayer request from a church’s prayer email list

~~~

Whether be it hurricanes, floods, tornados, mass killings, local armed robberies (my town) and the loss of a child, there are life-events that seem to come out of nowhere. And, they are beyond our control. There are also cause-and-effect circumstances that follow from our own actions. These consequences often situate us in a place beyond our control. After any such occurrences, whether thrust upon us or resultant, it becomes clear to us that there is no going back to before. One passes through an event horizon* after which things will never be the same.

Those in the world who experience any of the above will likely face the situation initially with shock, hurt and outrage and then, as some time passes, turn to a “let’s return to normal” Epicurean palliative mind set -“the show must go on”. Later, they may turn off their feelings altogether within a Stoic apathy, especially if life-events ‘pile’ up. The cycle of indifference then ‘piles’ up until “action must be taken”.

After a horrific event most will seek a motive when great harm is done to others. They will ask “Why?” because they want to discover the means to stop all pain in this life, pain which so often comes home with them. A Christian will view the events from a Kingdom of God perspective, one which is Outside of Spacetime Normal.

“I am persuaded, you see, that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor the present, nor the future, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in King Jesus our Lord.” -Paul’s letter to the Roman church, 8: 38-39

Those of us who call Jesus “Lord” are being conformed to the image of the Alpha and Omega, the One who is outside of spacetime ‘normal’. As such, we are a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9) and are summoned to do the work of a priest – stand between heaven and earth and intercede for the world. We are to take the hurt, the pain, the sufferings and the groanings of the world and bring it to the Father and to do so without ceasing.

Maybe you have witnessed the following in your spirit. I have come to understand, after 55 years of a relationship with the Lord, that the Holy Spirit is constantly in conversation with the Father and the Son through me. The Spirit is constantly interceding. I am made continually aware of those around me. I lift them to the Lord. In my spirit I hear the cries of thousands who are hurting. When I see news reports of disasters – natural and manmade – I pray in the Spirit. Most times I do not have words. The Spirit, helping me in my weakness, prays through my very limited understanding.

“…the spirt comes alongside and helps us in our weakness. We don’t know what to pray for as we ought to; but the same spirit pleads on our behalf, with groanings too deep for words. And, the Searcher of Hearts knows what the spirit is thinking, because the spirit pleads for God’s people according to God’s will.”  -Paul’s letter to the Roman church, 8: 26-27

For some, prayers begin with a “Why?” and end up with “How could you let this happen?”

For followers of Jesus our often-wordless intercessions begin with, “How long, Sovereign Lord Jesus?” and end with “Come Lord Jesus. Maranatha.”

 

~~~

*event horizon is a boundary in spacetime, the shell of “points of no return”. Nothing inside the event horizon can ever cross the boundary and escape beyond it, including light. Nothing that enters a black hole can get out or can be observed from outside the event horizon.

Marginalizing Truth…

 

…to Fit Around One’s Agenda

Below, a recent Tweet by the same Jesuit priest referred to in my previous post. James Martin, as he often does, redefines the Gospel so as to frame the #LGBT as “intersectional” (I’m using a popular SJW word) with those who may be on the fringe of society – in other words, those deemed as being over-looked and under-loved. The LGBT’s one-of-a-kind “trials”, he posits, must be considered independently and also, curiously, in relation to others who have suffered some…thing.

Martin is seeking to brand himself as the patron saint of gays. He may well succeed with his populist mission in the venue of the Catholic church. Know that he will be held accountable for his use of the Gospel as a means to an end.

Here are my replies to his Tweet:

And…

1/Jesus’ encounter w/Zacchaeus (whose name means “pure”; a chief tax-collector) reveals the POWER OF GOD to redeem a man’s life…

2/3-Zacchaeus completely repents: he finds that the Kingdom of God is worth more to him than riches & power. Read the full account: (Luke 19:1-10)

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+19:1-10&version=NIV

3/3-Jesus’ encounter w/Paul on the Damascus road is another example of the life changing POWER OF GOD affecting those who have power over others

 Added 10-8-2017:

As I have said, the LGBT are self-marginalizing: (Caution vulgar and repulsive language)

As recorded in the four Gospels and also in the Book of Acts, Jesus and his Apostles encounter those in power and those under the influence of power. Jesus and his Apostles redefine power in every instance.  In so doing they proclaim the Lordship of Jesus the Christ and introduce them to the Kingdom of God on earth. More about this in a subsequent post.

And Nothing but the Whole Elephant

 

Jesus said to them, “If the world hates you, know that it hated me before you. If you were from this world, the world would be fond of its own. But the world hates you for this reason: that you’re not from the world. No: I chose you out of the world.” John’s gospel account 15: 18-19

~~~

From the many conversations I have had on Twitter, the word on the street is that “God is love and is all about love. We love, so we are doing what God accepts.” So, where does the world’s hate come in?

The hate spoken of in John’s gospel is generated by a protection of one’s place in the world against “outsiders”. Over and over again I have had that hatred and vitriol directed at me on Twitter. I cannot show you the Tweet replies. They are vulgar and pernicious. The replies come from a place beneath this world.

The hate-filled replies occur when I say something other than what is considered loving by those protecting their place in the world. Replies are derived from a worldview. And, one’s worldview depends on whether you accept being called out of this world knowing that that those in the world will hate you or if you are in this world for its approbation:

Called-Out Ones worldview: “For God so loved the world, that He gave…”

Social Justice Warrior (SJW) worldview: “For the world so loved me, when I…”

In order to make the world-accepted SJW worldview sustainable, mainstream churches create a Jesus who is palatable, marketable, consumable and renewable. The ministers do this by parsing Scripture into love notes. Their resultant Scripture messages, whether in a sermon or in a blog or on Twitter, remind me of a bag Valentine Sweethearts – candy hearts.

These churches promote “inclusion” because in a consumer-driven society, choice of how you live, choice of what you accept and who you accept, choice of right and wrong-choice becomes the ultimate approbation in this world.

~~~

Coming to a church near you: a populist theology which promotes the acceptance of the gay lifestyle, universal health care and illegal immigration all as works of Christian charity from the pulpits of body-of-Christ-divisive politics (race, gender, class, sexuality, etc.). This populist theology uses the high-sounding term “social justice” so as to neutralize detractor’s objections and to force a consensus, a groupthink around the premise of political correctness redefined as God’s love.

I encounter this populist theology every day now. If you are on Twitter “fighting the good fight”, you may receive the same replies from Catholics that I did. They go something like this:

1.       “God is love. I know many committed gay couples who love each other.”

2.      “Jesus never talked about sexuality or homosexuality, therefore it is a non-issue. If Jesus was concerned about homosexuality he would have said something.”

3.      “Jesus is about loving your neighbor. Jesus is not judgmental. Jesus is fully accepting, inclusive. He’s about loving the homosexual. Who are we to judge?” (from Pope Francis’, “Who am I to judge?”).

4.      “Loving your neighbor means universal healthcare. You are not charitable if you are against universal healthcare. You must be a Conservative who hates people.”

5.      “Jesus and Paul are not the same. Jesus is love and Paul is rules. Jesus is universal love. Paul, on the other hand, is a picayune fundamentalist and fundamentalists are authoritarians. Jesus would say “Live, love, eat, pray and let live.”

6.      “Jesus is social justice. He talked about helping the poor. Dorothy Day is a hero. Many of our heroes are beatified saints, saints who did good deeds while alive. Jesus demands good works from us. “Faith without works is dead”.”

7.      “Women are talking in church. Women are being ordained. Scripture is being updated and should be inclusive of homosexuality, as well.”

 

My first thought when I encountered these replies: “The Catholic church has done great harm to its charges by not teaching the whole of Scripture, the whole council of God.” Scripture has been defined down to a constructed abstraction of Jesus’ words.

One of the main reasons the populist theology has taken root in the Catholic and all (yes, all) of the mainline churches, I believe, is the lack of Scripture knowledge coupled with a deficit of personal faith-history. Deism is pervasive in the church: “God and His Word are far away from reality and not relevant to what I am experiencing”; “You don’t understand same-sex attraction. You can’t change me so, accept me for what I am.”

Post-modernist pop-theologians rightly question history and what has been passed down through millennia but without a sufficient regard for and knowledge of the discipline of the study of history – factual non-repeatable events. Their pick-and-choose history approach leads to utter confusion about who Jesus is, what happened the first century and to whether or not Jesus even existed. I have witnessed such dissociative history making on Twitter. Such groping at history and at Scripture reminds me of the Indian parable of the blind men and the elephant: each of the blind men encounter a different part of the elephant (trunk, tail, etc.) and then return home and proceed to project their ‘understanding’ of the elephant as the elephant while claiming the other five blind men must be mistaken. Blind_men_and_elephant2

Populist theology also has historical Leftist ties (“Unconstrained vision” is the term used by Economist Thomas Sowell to define the philosophy of the Left). Political philosopher Jean-Jacque Rousseau wrote, “man is born free, but is everywhere in chains.” Another philosopher, Marquis de Condorcet, believed that men in their natural state with a “natural inclination” would seek out the social good. For them, man’s nature was not the problem. Rather, institutions needed to be reformed so that man’s better nature would come out. Hence, pop-theology presses for reforms: the church must be reformed to help men to realize their better nature. “We are so much smarter now,” is the inference.

Enter the church’s “social justice” moment. And the “social justice” proffered is done under the guise of the common good but it is in reality a narrowing of focus down to subjective individual rights and individual happiness, in parallel with what is happening politically in Europe and the U.S. currently. The “common” part of their “common good” are those who share the same self-directed interests. Others must conform to their self-interests for the common good.

My second thought after reading the above replies: “It is time for another reformation – putting the Bible (again) into people’s hands and teaching them how to read it for themselves.”

It would seem that many of the above respondents view Scripture through the lens of a post-modern Epicurean Catholic world view, a worldview which replaces historical narrative (in this case, derived from the “faith once delivered”) with a relevant “social gospel” or populist theology promulgated as authentic Christianity. And with little knowledge of Scripture many Catholics are ‘falling’ for what they have been taught by the top-down government and media of the Catholic church and its social justice-primed priesthood.

When they do (see replies above) they end up with a Jesus who is fantasy blend of Dorothy Day, Ghandi, Mr. Rogers and a Democrat with a Jesus bleeding heart – an ends-justifies-the-means person. In other words, they end up not with a literal historical Jesus, but rather a figurative Jesus and one disposed to making you and your world feel good about doting on yourself. And, if you can get other people to dish out love and charity and “understanding” and, most importantly, cash, then you have done right by pseudo-Jesus.

Every self-designated Catholic I have encountered on Twitter appears to know little or nothing of Scripture. For them, it seems, raw Scripture, ‘unrefined’ by the Catholic priesthood, seems to be tied to evangelicals who are considered fundamentalists and therefore, presumptively, not connected with their Jesus’ all-assuming love. What they know and repeat is what a priest or Jesuit tells them, and their reply is usually about social justice, a catch-all for not being judged but for being loved.

Without making this post too long, here are some of my quick replies to the above points. Feel welcome to add yours in the comment section below.

1.      The plea bargaining “God is Love” defense is foiled when you define love, not in terms of codependence and sexuality, but as desiring the ultimate good for another. This of course leads to a definition of what is good. I reply with Jesus’s request of the Father, “Set them apart for yourself in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)

2.   When someone says that Jesus never talked about homosexuality I remind them that Jesus’s mission was to the lost sheep of Israel, the ones who were supposed to be “a light to the Gentiles”. The Israelites knew the law, the Torah. The law forbids homosexuality. This was common knowledge in the first century. Jesus did not need to repeat it. Paul, on the other hand, an apostle to the Gentiles did need to speak about the matter (e.g., Rome, Ephesus, etc. had temples to pagan gods which involved all manner of sexual immorality.)

3.   Here we have justification by plea bargain. Jesus prays for his own that they will be sanctified, separate – taken “out of the world” worldview.

4.      If you know Scripture then you know that Jesus did not heal everyone in the world during his earthly time. He told us that we can do the same and greater things than he has done when filled with the spirit. Beyond the fact of outright healing, there is the matter of personal healthcare. Universal healthcare replaces a person’s personal responsibility for their health with a non-caring impersonal government bureaucracy. This costly tax-payer bureaucracy will need to control your behavior, your paycheck and the doctor’s practice to control costs. As such, it is loving to not desire socialized coverage.

5.      When I hear someone say that Jesus is Gospel and Paul is not relevant I remind them that Jesus met Paul on the road to Damascus. In the fullness of time Jesus encountered Paul. I remind them that Paul right then and there became an eyewitness of Jesus and therefore an apostle. I remind them that Jesus sent Paul to be Jesus to the Gentiles – the heathen, the pagans, the unclean. I tell them that Paul wrote the theology of the newly established Kingdom of God on earth in his letters to the infant churches.

6.      I remind them that the gospel is “Jesus is Lord”. All else falls in line and in order under this proviso:  salvation, sanctification (called out of the world) and then social gospel (to affect the world under the direction of the Kingdom’s Lord.)

When Jesus tells the rich man “Sell all you have and give it to the poor” we understand the means to the rich man’s salvation: renunciation of his coveting relationship of wealth- a relationship which came between Jesus and the rich man, sanctification (separation from the love of his money and the hold it had on him) and then faith with works – a complete detachment from self-preservation- giving his wealth to the poor, a product of the new Kingdom focus.

7. Women vs. gay acceptance and Scripture: I remind them that there is a difference between culturally defined and morally defined. There is a difference between cultural practice and culturally-imposed taboos and doctrinal principles and God-directed temperantia-God’s ordered structure for the being of man. Paul wrote about the former in his letters to the church at Corinth. Anything perceived as ambiguous was directed back to a person’s Holy-Spirit directed conscious.

 

It is no secret that the Evil One’s mission from the very beginning is to ask, “Did God really say you couldn’t…?”

Pop-theology proposes to modernize and conform the church to be a welcoming inclusive place for whatever the prevailing winds of PC doctrine bring to the church’s door step. Be it known:  the called-out ones – the ecclesia – will remain faithful under the Lordship of Jesus.  The churches that wallow in the world will have their candlestick taken away. In the dark their mutual admiration society will be left grappling with elephant parts.

 

 

Added 10-4-17:

Gulpture in the Park

 

“… Abstraction came about through the ever-narrowing focus of aesthetic gaze.

The post-modern offshoots of abstract art may seem to be engaged in the same artistic project; but the appearance is, it seems to me, deceptive. Post-modern abstraction is really construction, in which abstract elements are combined ab initio, and without reference to the natural forms and perceptions which might have endowed them with meaning…. Their purpose is to glorify the sovereign role of the artist, who shifts and arranges them as would a child playing with colored blocks…The result has been a sudden narrowing of the artistic intention, and a launching of post-modern art towards bombast and doodling by turns.”

-Roger Scruton, An Intelligent Persons’ Guide to Modern Culture, Chapter Eight

~~~

Over many months now, during my morning contemplative walks in a local park, I have encountered objets d’déclin. Mother Earth needed tattoos to be in vogue.

A gaggle of local apparatchiks of post-modern persuasion decided at some point that nature’s exhilarating beauty-a body of narrative to be read over and to reflect on-should be forever ‘inked’ with the flippant constructionism of various ‘artists’.

The local approvers and inciters of inhuman aesthetics have ‘carnivalized’ a local nature preserve, a park and a paradise infused with wildflowers along a river, where, along such “springs in the valleys” (Psalm 104) “The birds of the sky nest by the waters; they sing among the branches.” No matter, though. By so doing, the self-appointed culture-mongers can connote their relevance and earn self-aggrandizement brownie points with the community.

Pictures at an Exhibition:

Entrance to St. Mary’s Park

PM Art vs. Tree Planted in Memoriam

Nature’s Way

Nature Sculpts

 

Nature Revealed in Sculpture

And, “Do Not Feed Post-Modern Artists”

The last photo, a #LGBT advert, fits the theme: the ‘carnivalizing’ of nature and nature’s compliment, Scripture. More about this in the next post.

What’s Not to Wonder?

The Earth is the Lord’s- Horicon Marsh, WI ©Ann Johnson Kingdom Venturers

“…Cynicism and sentimentality are two ways in which things of value are demoted to things with a price.

“To understand this we need to make a distinction between fantasy and imagination. Both fantasy and imagination concern unrealities; but while the unrealities of fantasy penetrate and pollute the world, those of the imagination exist in a world of their own, in which we wander freely and in full knowledge of the really real…Fantasy covets the gross, the explicit, the no-holds-barred display of the unobtainable; and in the crisis of display the unobtainable is vicariously obtained.”

-Roger Scruton, Chapter 6, Fantasy, Imagination and the Salesman, An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Modern Culture

~~~

One aspect I derive out of the above quote is that there is a Wow! that is not wonder. Fantasy, I’ll label here as “the Wow! that is not wonder”, intrudes on our daily life. We allow it to. We do so, I believe, out of a boredom with life, a boredom sustained by a laziness which suppresses the exercise of curiosity that develops a healthy awe and wonder. In the place of applying oneself to reaching higher and beyond one’s self is down and dirty titillation’s instant gratification. Those in the thrall of fantasy, the “walkers”, need a constant diet of fresh fantasy to devour. Philosopher Scruton, in the same chapter as the above quote, provides an example of the “imaginary object which leaves nothing to the [ethical-life sustaining] imagination”. He offers a comparison, noting the queue outside Madams Tussaud’s Wax Museum in London and the queue outside the National Gallery:

 “No effort of the imagination is required to understand a wax work. It stands amid the wash of easy sentimentality, and is never eroded. It is the paradigm fantasy object; absolutely lifelike, and absolutely dead. Through the work of art, by contrast, we encounter a world of real, vulnerable and living people, which we can only enter by an effort of the imagination, where we, like they, are on trial.”

We are content to sit in front of a TV and to be mesmerized by Computer Generated Images. Comic book superheroes smash all sorts of bad guys and save the planet from other bizarre characters gone bad. Apocalypses of every kind, from earth-colliding meteorites to earthquakes to tsunamis to you-name-it-complete-devastation, is served up in order to rivet the audience to a we-are-in-this-together shared fantasy. The intruders we allow into our dumbed down subconscious also include impossible driving-on-the-edge-car chases, extreme violence, explicit pornography, perverse lewdness, vulgarity, cheapness and a host of other “for sale” excitations “walkers” must purchase to feed on.

As a follower of Christ in the Kingdom of God on earth, I fully expect unbelievers, the walking dead, to feed on Epicurean pleasures. What I don’t expect is that Christians, those alive in Christ, doing the same. When Christians purchase with Kingdom resources and live on food which does nourish the imagination, the world sees no difference between fantasy and imagination or, more importantly, between Christian and the walking dead.

This past year I have written posts attempting to prod those in the Kingdom of God towards awe and wonder. I see the Christian’s neglect in exercising his or her imagination and its required disciplined study of the surrounding cosmos as deplorable. There is so much in the universe that awaits our discovery, yet, we are content to feel something, be it raw excitement, instant righteous anger, CGI generated hope, blithe sentimentality and more, in our increasing moments of boredom

How can one be bored? God has given us two books: Nature and Scripture. There is so much to explore in both. There are mysteries that need discovery by you. And, if you think you know Scripture because you know the four spiritual laws and a few verses which look nice on pictures of cute animals, think again.

Almost daily, as I engage in Twitter, I come across those who question the existence of God. I debate them with a desire not to ‘win’ the argument but to impart knowledge which I hope and pray leads the atheist and the agnostic to question their position and to look further. To debate them I have to study aspects of Scripture, science, philosophy. I have to be well-read.

As I debate there are typically no other Christians who jump in to augment the case for Christ. If they do it is usually with Scripture which is tangential to and not on the point being discussed. In other words, where are the Christians? Vacationing on Fantasy Island? “The harvest is great, but the laborers are few..” I agree with St. Augustine regarding interpreting and positing Scripture to support things you do not understand. (see quote below).

As I see it, the church has been passive, reticent to go deep and to reach higher. Many sermons relate illustrations from current movies and not from scientific findings, philosophy or from works of art or music or literature. Beyond Christian colleges which offer scholarships are there any churches that are currently offering funding for scientific research or science scholarships for a congregant? To be sure church donations go to missionary work and to social causes. Yet the Kingdom of God, I believe, demands more of us than translating the four spiritual laws into another language. The Kingdom of God demands more of us than picking a political sideline.

In the U.S. and elsewhere Christianity is under attack. High culture is under attack. Culture is rooted in religion and high culture serves as a defense of Christianity. High Culture as depicted in the arts holds the ethical life above us as worthy of being desired. High culture needs to be maintained, as well as, science exploration by Christianity. Over the centuries the church has mainly been reactive and often antagonistic towards science. Let this be no more.

Looking up from the quotidian things of life, I find all kinds of things to marvel at. A sky that is blue, a sunset that is red, a night sky filled with diamonds in the works. Wonder and mystery fill our expanding and accelerating out-to-infinity cosmos. Einstein added the Cosmological Constant λ to his General Theory of Relativity because there was a factor at work in the cosmos which is still unknown. 

As I read “God’s Equation: Einstein, Relativity, and the Expanding Universe” by mathematician Amir D. Aczel this past week I was reminded of Einstein’s thought experiments or, as they have been called, “theoretical experiments-in-imagination”. Einstein imagined light traveling thought the cosmos. He also imagined what different observers would see when two trains passed each other. These deliberate intellectual speculations would later spur world-renowned theories, theories that were later proven true through astronomical observations. (Among other things, the church needs to operate observatories or at least buy telescopes! The Book of Nature needs to be read also!)

By coincidence, I read about Einstein’s train thought experiment while riding on a train. In that setting I soon made my own observation: If Einstein used thought experiments to create Special Relativity and did so without the distraction of fantasy, then maybe I should begin thought experiments conceptualizing the Kingdom of God in our expanding and accelerating universe!

Finally, is this how faith works, by giving us conviction about things we can’t see? When the Wow! that is wonder is exercised, the unobtainable becomes obtainable? If so, then it seems to me that prayer in the closet is the de-fantasied realm for a Christian’s thought experiments.

 

~~~

-Saint Augustine (A.D. 354-430) in his work The Literal Meaning of Genesis (De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim) regarding interpreting Scripture in the light of scientific knowledge.

 

“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.” [1 Timothy 1.7]