So…..What's the Point?

Musings from a Fellow Struggler

Archive for the month “March, 2012”

I Changed the Name

Well, “dr wm’s space” seemed so…..bland, or something, I don’t know. Anyway, it’s changed to the new one. The question posed in this title better reflects my attitude about being a blog contributor. I mean, there seems to be a lot of blah, blah, blah going on so this title compels me to cut to the chase. However, there may be blogs that require a more lengthy discussion but I will try to make it all  “clear and distinct” (borrowing from Descartes, re: his  “clear and distinct idea” concept) as possible. Uh oh, could be some blah, blah, blah right there. Sorry.  This will take some practice.

By the way, I clicked “like” on my own post “The Most Cruel Reductionism”. I tell you it was an accident, I didn’t mean to do it. I’m still trying to figure out how this wordpress thing works and couldn’t find a way to delete my mistake. Anyway, I got a reply that I must be vain to do such a thing as “like” my own post. Good grief, IT WAS AN ACCIDENT!

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On the Death of Self-A Meditation

 

 

 

Death and life; they are so close sometimes, almost in the same breath, especially a last, dying breath. So, consider this: “…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” The believing and the confessing (remember confessing something means saying something and speaking requires breath) unto salvation happens while the conditions of sin and death are still present. Thus, all my utterances to the point of this singular confession were mere death gasps, breathings of an already dead man just as my beliefs were about a world doomed to destruction. But with this confession and this belief I advance, as do you, from death to life, from flesh to spirit, from weakness to power, from darkness to light compelled by this confession that Jesus is Lord and believing that God raised Him from the dead. This is the sum and substance of Easter for Christians, the very core of the Christian faith.

It’s wrong, then, to think God wants anyone dead; He is, after all, the God of the living and the very Source of life itself. The sinner, who is already dead in sin, He wants to make alive again. He wants Christians to die but only to the self, to the ‘me that is me’, the self-centered and selfish me so that the new man, the ‘me born after the image of God’s Son’ might emerge. This is not, then, to be considered some morbid exercise and it is not to suffer any kind of real loss nor is it a meritorious act to gain God’s favor. Rather, it is a joyful necessity because the old man and the new man cannot co-exist; one must yield to the other-there is no other way. The farmer knows this; unless the seed he plants in the spring dies, changes, leaves behind its original form, it cannot become the awaited harvest.

We are all “dead men (and women) walking” but for us who confess and believe, physical death merely allows us to keep right on walking eternally with He who makes all things new. Therefore, death is really all about life, a paradox to be sure, but only one of many in the economy of God.

The Most Cruel Reductionism

Reductionists say that human experience, including what we think of as being part of the soul or ‘metaphysical’, are actually just molecules and atoms running willy-nilly in our bodies. So, they explain an emotion like love as merely certain chemical reactions in the brain and those experiences we might think of as supernatural, like God, prayer, beatific vision, divine healing etc.; are just peculiar manifestations of molecules and atoms moving about willy-nilly in the world outside our bodies. Such is the nature of this kind of reductionism, to take the complexity of human existence and reduce it to material substances interacting according to the ‘laws of science’; in other words, all things supernatural are just natural, all things metaphysical are just physical.

If this sort of reductionism is correct, we human beings are merely aggregates of molecules and atoms and the idea that we have intrinsic value given by a Creator is a groundless, even delusional, belief. Since we are at bottom merely physical, natural things among other things, our value can only be derived from them, whatever they might be. In our culture, people are increasingly viewed as things among things buying things. We have been monetized and given the title ‘consumer’ and our value are determined by how much potential profit we generate for the producers of goods and services. When human life is reduced to a profit or loss motif, it becomes merely a commodity, another thing among things in a universe of things. If this all sounds a bit far out, consider that you are a target for advertizing with the singular goal of separating you from your money. All the hoopla recently about Google’s privacy policies and advertizing is a good case in point.

Reductionism is becoming the predominate world-view and it is, at least to me, cruel because re-defining a person created in the image of God into a thing makes them no different from a washing machine or any other such appliance. Consequently there exists no moral obligation to treat a person any different from appliances which can, and does, open the door to horrible and cruel abuse. And the most glaring instance of this cruelty is reflected in the opinion of two Australian ethicists about abortion, after- birth abortion specifically, who question at what point we should ascribe personhood to a fetus or a new-born. Obviously, the question itself presumes that the fetus/new-born is not a person and therefore, only a thing. The monetary part becomes a factor if the fetus/new-born has some sort of birth defect, costly to both parents and society. Here is a quote from the article:

 The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in

the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution

of a right to life to an individual.

Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and

potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of

‘subject of a moral right to life’. We take ‘person’ to mean an

individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence

some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this

existence represents a loss to her.

“Potential Persons” in the “After-Birth Abortion” Article

Ethicists in Australia Call for “After-Birth Abortions” | LifeNews.com

The upshot is this: a fetus/new-born is not by their definition a ‘person’ so any protections usually given to ‘persons’ is no longer required. The human-being/potential person is language that glosses over the idea that a fetus/new-born is actually an object, a thing, and can be killed/disposed of without fear of repercussion, especially.

Because of this increasingly accepted devaluing of human life (even for the elderly now) It is not enough to just preach about the value of human life from conception to the grave. We must also actively take care of and protect those we call brothers and sisters in Christ. And this circle extends to the homeless, the sick and the poor who have always been the target audience of Christianity from the very beginning.

In other words, if we truly believe that we, and all human beings (from conception to grave), are created in the image of God and therefore, in spite of sin, still possess intrinsic value, then we need to resist all reductionist policies. This means, at the very least, loving one another as Jesus loved us and realizing that devaluing others by actions, conversations, or attitudes, devalues us at the same time. Overcoming this devaluing cruelty with kindness and love along with active and determined resistance is the moral high ground we occupy as sons and daughters of God.

Uncomfortable, Comforting Comfort

More and more churches have gotten into the business of making people comfortable (like day spas for example) by removing circumstances, environments, or ideas that are upsetting while at the same time surrounding their congregations with agreeable things that make them feel good. This seems especially true about the sermons being presented. The messages are comfortable as if that were their purpose and function, to make everyone feel contented.

There is a unique and eternal Comfort available to people that has nothing to do with creaturely comfort but rather with the countless discomforts of sin; it is the comfort of the forgiveness of Jesus and His gift of the Spirit. This kind of comfort is only experienced alongside the conviction of sin because His message is not to make people feel good, but to bring them to God. If you have been convicted of sin and repented you know how uncomfortable the whole process can be.

So, being uncomfortable is necessary part of any faithful presentation of the Gospel and reluctance to welcome the conviction of the Holy Spirit suggests we have bought into the idea that feeling uncomfortable about the things of God is contrary to the Gospel. After all, some ‘seeker friendly’ types say, “it’s good news and God loves us so be happy, all is well”. The difference between conviction and condemnation is confused in their minds so anything that challenges lifestyles by the standards of the Gospel is watered down or avoided altogether. Apparently it is better to have a church of anesthetized people than it is to have one filled with people who realize their sin, repent and then live under the power and life of the Spirit.

Therefore, trying to remove discomfort from our churches and our lives is dangerous because God’s love (which is always emphasized it seems) is inextricably tied to His judgments (which isn’t talked about much); i.e. He judges because He loves. Otherwise, the meaning of “For God so loved the world that he gave….” is lost. There was and is sacrifice and judgment connected with the Father’s love displayed by His Son which is why truly loving God and others can be excruciatingly uncomfortable at times.

But I hasten to add that along with this uncomfortable comfort is the comfort of peace and freedom that comes from knowing the truth. What is interesting is that we must all pass through the uncomfortable comfort before reaching the comforting comfort. For example, Jesus said that He must suffer and die before the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) could come and that it was necessary for this to happen. In fact, John 14-16 is filled with the discomforting and comforting Comfort interplay (speaking, of course, about the Holy Spirit). In this life, we can’t have one without the other.

You’re Approved!

“Approved”.  I always get a little thrill (accompanied by relief) when this comes up on the little screen after swiping a debit card. Maybe it’s because I’ve been denied before, much to my embarrassment, like at Costco after having a huge basket of stuff ran through the checker and a long line of people behind me impatiently waiting their turn. Usually this kind of approval only requires that you have enough money in the bank to cover the charge and that your arithmetic is correct; you don’t need anyone else’s involvement with your affairs.

On the other hand, gaining approval for a mortgage or car loan is more rigorous than swiping a debit card. Only after being scrutinized, your finances laid bare and your past weighed in the balance are you handed the keys to your new house, car or both. You passed though the gauntlet of intense personal exposure victorious.

Then there’s the approval of your friends, co-workers and casual acquaintances. Like most of us you seek some kind of approval from others as a way to reinforce your sense of self-worth. After much hard work and sacrifice, you secure a good reputation, the opinion of others about you is positive and important people respect, maybe even admire you. Hopefully, a similar but more significant approval meets you when you go through the front door at home, either by a wife and children or an adoring dog.

Now, let’s consider the measures by which these examples of approval are gauged. To a large degree, the first two have to do with prevailing monetary customs and expectations which in turn are decided by certain social, political and financial entities that in turn are made up of people like you. To the extent you succeed in meeting their ‘measurements’ (which include at the very least income, work history and credit history) you can expect a positive result. You are, in essence, allowing yourself to be judged in order to be ‘approved’ for whatever it is you want from these entities.

The third kind of approval is sometimes decided by a different set of measurements, what we might call personality, or character, traits. However, this all depends on what kind of approval you seek; you can gain the approval of others either by the things you have or by the kind of person you are; you decide what the measurement will be unlike the other two that are imposed from the ‘outside’.

But, there is a fourth kind of approval that all of us should be most concerned with that has nothing to do with other people or groups of people but only with God. One example of this approval is found in Hebrew 11:2 where “men of old” gained God’s approval by their faith in Him. What is interesting is that, for the most part, these “men of old” were everyday people made extraordinary only by their faith. Their now famous exploits are instances of God’s power in and through them, not some intrinsic nobility or genius they possessed. In fact, you might find pictures of them of in our Post Offices had they lived today.

Here, the measurement of approval has nothing to do with your circumstances (good or bad) or other people (important or otherwise) but only God and this puts you and the rest of humanity all on the same footing. Nothing we have or nothing we have done (or not done) makes one whit of difference in gaining God’s approval. All that matters is this: that we are found trusting and believing Him in all aspects of our lives and even death itself.

I mention death because the word that is translated “approval” in Heb.11:2 is from the Greek root word martyreo. Our English word “martyr” is derived from this term which we know refers to someone whose life is taken, either voluntarily or by force because of their “testimony” (another meaning of the word martyreo) about some set of religious convictions. In the case of Christian martyrs, they were put to do death because of what they believed (their faith in the One True God and His Son, Jesus Christ) and their proclamation of that faith (the testimony that salvation comes only from God through Jesus Christ).  So, it is said of those that have died in the faith that God “…is not ashamed to be called their God…” (Heb. 11:16). And, in a truly remarkable passage from Revelation we read of the great power of our Christian testimony; the “accuser of the brethren has been thrown down…and they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.” (Rev. 12:10-11)

What is marvelous about all this is that our testimony about God and our faith in God is in fact an approval of God which is reciprocated to us by God. Put another way, if we believe in God, believe His Word and testify to this faith we have, then God testifies approvingly of us. Jesus Himself suggested the same principle in the negative when He said “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this sinful and adulterous generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38 NASB) So, the question for us is this: are we more concerned with the approval of others than God’s approval? And since the approval of which we speak is reciprocal, the second question is do we approve, really approve, of God in our lives as evidenced by our testimony?

Much more could be said but this blog already seems too long. How long are blogs supposed to be anyway?

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