Thursday, 25 July 2013

Mortality

One of the concepts that I've struggled with for some time is understanding mortality. At least in terms of omnipotence why would God be concerned with mortality? In fact, why would God care if we sacrifice anything, including His son if He could just on a whim bring him back to life, indeed, if Christ had the ability to bring people back from the dead, why would his mortality be of any consequence?

When we as humans play god as scientists in laboratories death is almost just as inconsequential. Death loses it's meaning if life prevails so readily that is hardly detrimental to kill and simply induce more life. I don't think there is a lot of scientists weeping when lab rats are exterminated and dissected in the name of experimentation. And we are as powerful as lab rats when it comes to facing God.

But God didn't make the us to be mortal. He made the world perfect, and it was only us as we gave into temptation and became separated from Him that death entered our world. The corruption from sin that saturates our physical bodies is so great we are born into it and death is one of the consequences of that.

So why the need for sacrifice?

From what I can see the sacrifice that started in the garden of Eden for the temporary covering of sin is a form of repentance. It is humbling for us to give up something that we value and animals were effectively a form of currency, so it is an offering to God to basically say we're sorry for what we've done.

God had another plan though, He sent us His son to cover us permanently for sin. He showed us his absolute love by humbling Himself down to the level we'd dug ourselves into. He separated part of Himself so that Christ could die and he could be our salvation. And when Christ was resurrected he didn't just stand up and walk away, like those that Christ himself brought back to life, but he returned to us gloriously to demonstrate that death, and therefore all the sin and corruption in the world could be defeated. Believing in Christ as our saviour is a belief that we can defeat the corruption and temptations of the devil. It is a fundamental message of hope that good can defeat evil and it shows us in terms that we can understand the grace that God has for us.

Monday, 15 July 2013

More letters to an old friend

Below is the responses I've written in further correspondence to my old friend I mentioned in my previous post:

Do you believe in talking snakes?

I'm glad that you can accept that my persona may have changed. I say categorically that it has. People that know me through my transition have told me that I have changed. I have lost friendships over it, not because I'm a crazy person that believes in an invisible sky daddy, but because I am no longer entertained by their empty gossip.

Of course I accept that one can seek philanthropy without being a Christian. I was one of them. I'm saying that I wasn't very effective in that goal before I followed the teachings of the Bible.
I believe the truth in the Bible isn't in the fact that it proclaims itself as true, it is in the fact that it's predictions, in my personal experience have come true. Much in the same way that science's predictions that come true give it credibility.

Asking if I believe in talking snakes seems a bit mute when I claim belief in an all-powerful being that created the entire universe. I have never witnessed a talking snake personally, but the idea that a snake talked seems no less inconceivable in the world we live in today, than the person that snake was talking to being made out of a man's rib. The point is that the things I can conceive of like the persona change that I have experienced are clearly predicted in the Bible, and therefore give credibility to the things I cannot conceive of.

So, yes, to answer your question, I do believe it is possible that a snake could have talked in the garden of Eden.

How is the Lord of the Rings fiction but the Bible not?

It's interesting that you use the Lord of the Rings as an example of a work of fiction when the author himself acknowledged that it was “a fundamentally religious and Catholic work”, and that the “religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism” He distinguishes the fact of the Bible from the fiction of his book and as a devout Catholic would have believed in a literal interpretation of the garden of Eden, talking snakes included.

The Bible is a historical document, much in the same way that Anne Frank's diary is a historical document. Someone that does not believe in the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany would question the credibility of the author and may call her diary a work of fiction.

The fact that biological science to date has no evidence to support vocal cords in snakes is itself the issue with trusting entirely in scientific knowledge to determine the understanding of reality. It is inherently unstable, because tomorrow a paeleontologist, for instance, could come upon some fossil record, say a jaw bone, that leads them to the speculation that in snakes may have had vocal cords in the past, and this speculation becomes so widespread that it becomes treated like a fact over time, until once again another piece of evidence is uncovered and further interpreted to come to some other conclusion.

The Bible however isn't a scientific document, it employs a fundamentally entirely different philosophy. It does not presume to describe the universe in the realms that we see in science. It does not describe the universe as being made of particles, or atoms, or electrons. It describes the universe as being made of love. The love that God has for us. Trying to use science to prove or disprove the Bible is an exercise in futility because of that inherent instability. The Bible teaches us not how, but why. It gives the reason why we're here much in the same way that Anne Frank may not have gone about the technical details of the execution methods in concentration camps, but still we have a better understanding of the fear and persecution that the Jews went through.

There is of course no scientific evidence of a talking snake ever having existed but that does not mean that the Bible does not have historical credibility nor that it is a work of fiction.

Isn’t the Bible more unstable that science?

When I say the Bible has stability I'm talking about the fact that it does not change. A science text book will say very different things today from what a similar text book would have said 10 or 20 years ago. This is especially true when the science is based on things that cannot be witnessed, either events in the distant past or events in the future. It wasn't that long ago when peer reviewed science was telling us that our damage to the environment would cause global cooling. This was then later revised to the exact opposite and it was in fact global warming. Now it is simply called climate change. I remember being taught at school that we would have no oil by the end of the century, in fact, when my brother who is 15 years older than me was at school he was taught there would be no more oil by the time he was old enough to drive.

You say that the Bible's only justification is itself because it is just the written word. If that were the case then all the millions of people past and present that have personal experience and therefore have their own testimony that hold the Bible to the truth are irrelevant. If the only valid justification for establishing reality is peer reviewed science, that demonstrably gets things entirely wrong because it is based more on an opinion of the credibility of the scientist than of the evidence presented, then that is not rational.

I would say one the strengths of the credibility of the Bible is by the sheer number of people that have testimony that says it is true. To state that millions of people that have personally witnessed Jesus Christ are all gullible and deluded and brainwashed into believing a lie, makes a mockery of human intelligence. It makes a mockery of medical science because it is saying that millions of people are mentally ill and that it does nothing to help these people. Yet it is one of the foundations of atheism. To state that a talking snake or parting seas or talking donkeys are laughable, but at the same time stating that abiogensis, the idea that life started spontaneously by chance, or a big bang created from nothing is plausible is not rational either. It is biased. It is biased because that is what has been taught to us in this country from a very early age.
The problem is that I was so deluded into this indoctrination of atheist ideas that I could not see the logical truth from the indoctrination. I had to personally experience myself the love that Christians show to each other and to other people to be convinced. It isn't something I would have been able to understand if I hadn't been in their company, which I think is why we're taught to spread the message directly to other people. I many times asked myself as a logical and rational person whether I was being conned, or whether I was deluded, or gullible but I don't think I have been. The more I came to understand the change I was going through as I came to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ the more I saw the truth in it. The more I went to church the more I saw the truth in the efficacy of prayer. The more I interacted with Christians the more I understood the love that God shows us because it was reflected through them. However, I don't expect to convince you of these things with mere words. I expect you to be angry, and frustrated with me and my viewpoint. I think you have to seek the understanding yourself in person. What drove me was my seeking an understanding of why these crazy people followed an even crazier book, especially my wife and I'm so glad I did.

Why do you think Atheists are so angry?

I expect you to be angry and frustrated because that is how people in my experience seem to be when they’re trying to understand the position that Christians, and presumably people of other faiths are in. I was angry myself. Trying to understand why so many people believe in things that they cannot see or hear, and that there seems to be no evidence for other than some fairy tales written thousands of years ago is at the very least frustrating. There is also a sense of betrayal, and quite rightly so, because these people that are saying demonstrable scientific facts are wrong at the same time are happy to use and take advantage of the technology that scientists and engineers work so hard to develop based on these demonstrable scientific facts. Not only that but they turn around and state that the technology was able to be put there because God allowed it, taking away all the credit for the work that these professionals spend sometimes all of their lives developing.

However, we're not saying that. By praising God for talents we have and marvels we can achieve we're saying that it's amazing that we have the ability to do them. We're literally awestruck at such abilities. We're not saying that these people aren't hard working or that their talents aren't inspirational but our view on the nature of our abilities as human beings. The only time we have a problem with science is when it goes entirely against the Bible, specifically the conclusions made about the nature of the method and the timing of our existence.

I doubt that you'll find a lot of born again Christians that believe in a flat earth, although at a pinch some verses can be interpreted as such. However the nature of the universe and how we got here is pretty clear in the Bible, although a lot more people that call themselves Christians think those explanations a metaphor.

Still the relationship with God is what's important, not so much the details of the events written in the Bible. That relationship, although it may appear as just a psychological state, is what gives us the peace and happiness we have in our lives. The peace and happiness are so overwhelming that what seems normal before is now shocking to us. If one explains away our happiness as a delusion then it means that we have the ability to will ourselves happy. It means that our medical answer to depression isn't pills. It begs the question, which isn't organised religion something prescribed on the NHS?


Letter to Mum and Dad

Dear Mum and Dad,

I write to you because I'm informed by my wife and other members of my church that I appear to have developed a talent for writing especially when it comes to matters spiritual. This comes as a quiet revelation to me since I am still motivated by the luke warm reception of my literacy skills as a child.  I think my talent has been revealed to me because of the relationship I now enjoy with God. I am taught by the Bible and therefore by Jesus Himself to honour my parents, so it is in that vein that I write to you now.

While I may have in the past concentrated on transgressions I am now motivated by the need to show love. In an effort of your edification I need to express my deep felt appreciation for the love and support and protection you have given me for my entire life and still give me today. Not just through finances, but through all the sacrifices you made for me. Your determination to teach me and raise me and care for me is evident by the the successful end result, by the man I am today. From a very early age you taught me vital skills that help me flourish today. How to read and write, to swim, to play and appreciate music, to operate and understand computers, to ride a bike, and you even helped me later learn how to drive a car. Together through your different talents you gave me  an appreciation of both the spiritual and the scientific worlds in which we live.

When you saw that I was being corrupted by government schooling you put your efforts into educating me privately at a huge financial cost. Through those vital years my schooling was a crippling burden on you both and it must have been so difficult for you to go through such a sacrifice for me. Despite this huge burden you still persisted in funding my education for me. I am so grateful for that because it has been so beneficial to me, and while the schools themselves would wish to take sole credit for it, it was your effort and your hard work that got me there and why I was able to remain there. While the school would have failed in its duty if it had lapsed in it's efforts to educate me, there seems to be no automatic duty for parents to aim to give their child such a privileged upbringing. This is evident in the way I see children being brought up today. It is so shocking, but all too common, to see neglectful parents that are barely motivated to keep their child alive, let alone care about their education or life skills.

Without wishing to give overdue credit to Freudian psychology, a significant part of the basis of my behaviour in my marriage follows the example of the relationship that you have demonstrated to me. One thing that seems prominent more recently, and this was pointed out by your friend Sally, is your overwhelming determination through adversity. Specifically being strong willed to fight through debilitating illness.

I notice the encroach of time and can see the moments that we have left in this world together are finite. It feels not that long ago that I saw life as something that was virtually endless, but as I know now, time goes by quickly and I am rapidly approaching middle age.  Therefore I realise how important that these things need to be said.

Me and Fran both yearn for the ability to one day be given the opportunity to be in the position you are in now so that our future child may be able to write a letter like this to us, safe in the knowledge that we have been successful as parents. It is by God's grace that we would be given that opportunity and strength that Christ gives us on the cross that gives thus the hope that one day we too would know the joy, love, pleasure and effort of parenthood.

I will always remain eternally grateful for all that you have done for me.

All my love,

Ben