My Big Issues: Cloudy.diamonds

Introduction

Just because you cannot resolve all the issues that keep your from your faith or deeper faith does not justify not making the plunge, because you will never resolve all the issues that bother you about any belief system because you will never have full knowledge of anything period, including before you make the decision. Try to find the main point of the faith and then follow the things you do understand and fail to do.

This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.
--Matthew 15:8-20
If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
--Luke 14:26-35

God Has Feelings Too

And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
--Luke 11:5-13
And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?
--Luke 18:1-8
When we are new to Christ
Everything seems so simple
The path is obvious
And choices are easy to make
We think we are selfless
And will never make any real bad decisions
Over time, problems arise
We accept less than our best
We get stuck and get discouraged
The problems become bigger than ourselves
We find navigating life exhausting
Answers are not as easy to come by
We lose focus off of Christ
As life happens
Later we see more clearly
But the path is steeper
Our thoughts easily wander
Eventually, we realize we can do nothing ourselves
And no moral compromise is acceptable
And we learn to be even more humble
Our lives gain more momentum
And we find the will to never give up
We finally commit to being a better person
We keep releasing that all roads lead to Christ
When I was younger, I thought it was important to God what job I had
And I was in more of a rush
I did not know how much time I would have
I was afraid of missing out on life
I thought it ok to have just one weakness
Later I found out that we worry about the wrong things
I know now that God leaves little to chance or even our control
Just like in the Book of Jonah about the Prophet Jonah and the whale
God will not leave anything important dependent upon human choice
We will screw things up and life will make even simple things hard
We soon learn to more careful as we see how weak we really are
God’s goal is about drawing each of us closer to Himself
He doesn’t need us to do anything
Many times we just need to wait
I used to fear that God wanted me to do something very painful
Now I worry more about the pain I will bring upon myself by my poor choices
The secret to minimize suffering is to put our future entirely in God’s hands
Hear little evil, see little evil, and you will do little evil
Stop worrying about satisfying yourself
And seek to find fulfillment in the Holy Spirit within you
If you think your life lacks miracles
And you are not literally in hell
Miracles abound
Salvation is the beginning, not the end of our struggle
Grace is a journey and a process, not a single event
This is what I misunderstood abut the personal relationship with God that other Christians talk about
It is not that we earn salvation or need some special access to God to be saved
It explains why some Christians appear mostly good and others mostly evil
The Church is a battleground
Spending time with God is spiritual warfare
To move forward is to walk hand in hand with God

Faith Does Not Require Reason

Part 0: Disclaimer

This writing brings up some sticky issues in Christianity for many Christians and uses text book Existentialist ideas to explain why some Christians disagree with other Christians over what are even the essential doctrines of Christianity. I am not saying it is ok to cherry pick theology or Scripture. I am working out a way to explain how people see Scripture differently. We all think we should agree on all Scripture and I am not challenging it. The reality is we don't.

My simple explanation is that the issues that separate our understanding of Scripture involve how we value things like common sense, rationality, and similar ideas and not the Scripture itself. I could makes things crystal clear and in the process insult many genuine believers, I am not confident I understand all Scripture better than anyone else, and it would imply I value reason as society defines, which would be the direct opposite of what I want to say.

For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.
So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.
And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
--Matthew 20:1-16
The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage.
But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.
Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.
And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
For many are called, but few are chosen.
--Matthew 22:2-14

Part 1: Philosophy

Who are we as individuals and as a species? Many people don't see the point in analyzing this but others do. Many of the issues that are brought up in Science Fiction tend to be philosophical in nature as they put people into extreme situations as do many of the Existentialists who write in the form of fiction. Some people are kind of hands on when it comes to finding themselves and many do it in a frivolous way, but to some thinking and writing help them both understand and express themselves.

One of the ideas talked about a lot in Science Fiction and in an area of philosophy called Existentialism is about what is unique about people and separates people from artificial intelligence, animals and spirits. It is not a main topic of the Bible although it is implied with the life of Jesus and much of the Apostle Paul's writings. Basically the term sentience is very similar to how the word Existentialism is used in philosophy.

It may seem to some ridiculous to argue about what is unique about people, but the interesting part often comes in the application of the concept. A similar situation occurs with much of philosophy and even very different things like math or computers - the general concepts are in some ways far removed from practical use, but quickly you see the use of it. Thus is a given if you have a good teacher who knows the subject well, is good at teaching, and has a lot of experience with both teaching and that subject, and you as the student are honestly trying and giving 100% effort.

Being abstract does not make something impractical, just as something being morally right doesn't necessarily keep is from being beautiful or fun. Having different views about philosophy never makes one person's views better than the other. There are an entire range of views even within the thinking of Bible believing Christians, at least there could and should be. The Bible is only clear and definite about a narrow range of topics.

So how do we get from defining who people are to practical issues that arise in our faith journeys? Basically in studying Existentialism and in practicing Christianity we learn that who we are is more important than what we do. Who we are now is more important than what we have done or what we will do. Our value and significance comes from the choice of God to give us His grace and not based on what we know or do. This is true even though we are responsible for all our actions including accepting God's offer of salvation.

So who we are is directly linked to God in that He made us, He gave us value, He saved us, and He is the judge of us. And our response is to make choices too that reflect what God values and Christ's example starting with humbling ourselves before God, repenting of our sins, and accepting Him as our Lord and Savior. It may take a long time and a lot of effort for both God and us to get us there, but God still did the vast majority of the work.

The way we become someone different happens by the choices we make. We are born one way and can become something entirely different by the choices we make. Unlike a robot that merely follows instructions (unless and until God gives it a soul), or an animal (to the degree that they operate on pure instinct) are made before hand primarily by their design by God or by people (who are the direct creations of God) at their conception, a person creates who they are by the decisions they make.

A person doesn't just make decisions that affect their physical reality but also their spiritual reality. The spiritual and physical worlds are tied together by the act of our wills (making choices). The accumulation of these choices not only brings us closer or farther from God but also determines how we progress in our careers, how our personality grows over our lifetimes, or even things like how we eat can affect our spiritual and mental health.

Although our decisions do determine who we are, what we do does not. Even though we define ourselves by doing things based on our decisions and our value comes from God's choice, our success or failure in things not significant spiritually but important materially or socially is not what determines who we are. So even though the spiritual and the physical are not the same thing and we can do things that may be just physically or spiritually significant, spiritual and physical things are closely tied together. This is our situation as humans and all other sentient beings.

Making moral, immoral, or morally neutral choices that change who we are over our lifetimes is what make us human, as distinct from (some classical and dominant perspectives on the lives of) animals and artificial intelligence. That is Existentialism in a nut shell.

Part 2: Existentialism

Existentialism has often been misunderstood as relativistic and based on situational ethics and a kind of choose yourself morality. But most of the early and the majority of Existentialists were and are predominantly Christian. Existentialism is simply about what you define human being as. In this sense it is universal and when you make a decision from an Existentialist point of view you actually create yourself. You define yourself by the actions you make. When you make these decisions, you make them for anyone and everyone as universal.

Existentialists talk about dread and fear and similar negative emotions because they are a reflection of how important the decisions you make and the responsibility you have in making them. At the same time, in Existentialism, you have no right to make these universal decisions for everyone and hence the negative emotions or existential struggle.

In our country today, we are facing an existential struggle some would think between Christianity and Atheism, but I would say it is more about high and low culture and between issues of philosophy, not religion. The biggest issues that polarize us across the board on both sides center around a loss of trust in each other and in our institutions which others might argue goes back much further, some to the beginning of the country, some to the beginning of time. We are in one sense an ideal society and in another one step away from complete collapse.

Who do you want to be? This discussion is not fundamentally about religion but about how humans relate and act. Some people make decisions that are not very rational or and not very sensical but are very devout. Some people do the opposite. Beyond devotion and obedience to God, people make very different decisions with their time and money and they are not always clearcut Scripturally. This is not about what is right and wrong - that is clear Scripturally.

This is about humbling ourselves before God and taking responsibility for when we follow Scripture that sometimes when we make decisions that are purely based on devotion, we mix things up rationally and be very devout and correct in theology but lack common sense. Would that decision be right or wrong? Maybe it is just a little more complicated by our prejudices and circumstances as well as whether we value things like our own lives and our own safety.

This is to distinguish between what things we do that we know are right and decisions we have to make that involve other people or other important factors other than obvious Scriptural teachings that are essential to our obedience, salvation, and worship of God. It is very possible to be a devout Christian and take everything so literally because you are mentally ill and think that you should do something crazy. This would still be obedience to God, but it may not be a rational or common sense interpretation of Scripture.

There are more things to our minds than just reason and more decisions we make in life that are not obvious Scripturally. In applying this concept to the Christian faith and its community, the reality is that many people cannot agree on what is essential. How do we move forward? What do we have in common with unbelievers? We are both fallen, have limited understanding, do things we know we should not do, and need help from God to pull ourselves up.

Part 3: Theology

In existentialism, we discover that we cannot be truly objective and that a rational only view of reality although it works from God’s point of view because He has a perfect mix of reason and emotions, we are frankly mixed up. We have biases and admitting so is admitting you are not perfect and you do not have the right answers always. This is part of being human, whether Christian or not. This is about putting God’s will foremost in our lives and mind and putting aside our will.

Some of the most important values we have as Christians stand out as important regardless of how rational they are or not. Is it rational for God to love us so much that He would descend to being a human and then die on the cross for our sins? Ae you glad He did so? This makes sense from our point of view because it benefits us and we are used to the idea, but what was it like for God?

There was no reason in preceding Scripture or His nature that required this. It was a complete surprise to those who faithfully followed God because we deserved it in no way, God did promise it but was so vague that no one knew until after it happened, and it was not necessary for God or made things better for Him in any way. We aren’t even really grateful today at least in this nation, for the most part. This is entirely a mystery and is the basis of our faith.

In existentialism, when a person makes a decision they should both realize that they are making a universal claim to their morality as well as know they are making a decision with grave consequences and should feel an enormous sense of responsibility. This is true of those who profess to follow the Bible as well as those who don’t.

This brings us back to the situation in which we find ourselves as Christians where we can each agree amongst some of us what the basic tenets of the faith are and what things we can know from Scripture for sure, while many just as faithful and rational, thinking Christians come up with contradictory ideas. What it comes down to is a matter of history, politics, and philosophy, and most importantly how we see the world and then make decisions based on a number of primary factors.

How do we determine how we live? We can base our decisions on an almost unlimited range of factors heavily influenced by who we are around geographically and socially and how we grew up and were educated. It is not entirely clear or universal which factors are most important. This is how human life starts to get very mixed up and confrontational.

So what are these factors? I see some of the major factors as: common sense, pragmatics, loyalty to family and nation, religious fervor, spiritual maturity and understanding of the world, and cultural assumptions. So we can make decisions that are partially practical and loyal to family but that aren’t entirely in accordance with common sense or a spiritual understanding of the world. It is up to each of us to take responsibility for the consequences both obvious and not for the decisions we make.

We cannot say: I did this because I learned this in Scripture and be absolved of responsibility because there are always other factors and influences in our lives and this is why we can never be truly objective. We are of a sin nature and are fallen morally at birth and one of the things we learn over time as we get older and hopefully wiser is that we need to continue to fight against our pride and our desire to be right and have people follow us. We should be followers of Christ, not leaders of people.

Without examining ourselves both as a society and as individuals, we might never realize that we are not right, but God is. As Christians, we worship a deity that is Mind, Body, and Spirit like us and Christianity is based on the life of Christ as the final perfect demonstration of how we are to live and make decisions in life. To submit your will to God is to realize you can be wrong about anything and everything in Scripture that is not obvious.

The point of religion is not to have a perfect understanding of theology, but living a life focused on our Savior. What is obvious is based on our decisions about how we see life and the culture we live in. These factors are primarily what our assumptions about life, including God, and things we do not examine rationally. No one is an island and you cannot understand or change who you are without factoring in where you are in life and who you are with in life.

Throughout the vast majority of time and most the major world religions, people understood what was right and what was wrong. It is only in this modern world where we get confused. We are not willing to accept as Americans that we are as indoctrinated and as influenced by our culture as any other group of people throughout the world as any time in history. We do not do what is right, because we choose not to, not because we lack the knowledge or the capability.

In submitting our will to God’s we have to recognize that these are not the same. As Christians, when we follow God, we need to make sure we don’t substitute anything else in the place of Scripture even as well meaning believers who are experts of the Bible. You can make any decisions you want and many will even be biblically moral, but at the same time, you have to admit that it is you making the decision not God. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit never takes control of you, so that even as good meaning Christians we can and will make mistakes interpreting Scripture.

The interpretation of Scripture should not be the basis of our faith. We should have faith in the person and deity of Christ as an individual, not as a doctrine. Doctrine has its place to avoid some of our nutty ideas - an we all have them, but it should not take place of us putting our hope in the Christian God. What is unique about Christianity isn’t its morality, but rather who the Christian God is.

We should worship and follow God for at least several primary reasons: because He created the world by His own power alone, He is perfectly good morally and all powerful, and He wants to be involved in our world and our lives. This is the basis of our faith and that we later have Jesus Christ taking our place in suffering so that we may escape the underworld and that God promises to fill us with His Spirit are just icing on the cake and should make following God not just obvious but joyful.

Throughout most of history people believed in God, without the privilege of having a written account. The Bible is entirely true and the exact thought of God, but even this is just the most simplified way of saying things to us so that we can understand them as humans. There is much more to God than the Bible. We learned throughout history that there was more to God than He revealed at first, and so likely there is much more to God than is in the Bible (obviously without the Bible being any less true or having any contradictions, much as the New Testament is built on the Old Testament).

Finally, what is obvious to us in Scripture vs. what is obvious to others in Scripture involves factor that stretch far beyond religion. They are part of a misaligned and poorly understood area of thought called philosophy. Just as science and math are very related but not the same thing, so religion and philosophy can work together to reinforce each other and our faith. Just like we only discovered lately that emotions and reason are not the same thing and both are very important even for simple survival, so we need to realize that there is more to religion than just the words we read.

Part 4: Theory of Knowledge

If you can debate each side equally well, how do you determine what is true? It is all based on your assumptions and definitions. If you agree with someone else's assumptions in life, you will likely agree with them on many other things. Descartes' assumption is "I think therefore I am" putting man at the center of the universe and separating God from philosophy. We now assume that everything has to be rational, logical, common sensical and reasonable. The Bible does not deal directly with this issue and so I do not hold it as an absolute or necessary part of the Christian faith.

Also, multiculturally, historically, and Biblically other factors like faith, tradition, history, scripture, divine revelation, ritual, prophecy, miracles, and many other sources of knowledge speak to truth as much as reason does. The Bible does not need to be proved rationally and God is best understood by faith, not reason. Just as much as people cannot understand God solely through miracles, so He cannot be understood primarally through reason.

Christ's death and resurrection is not an act on God's part that can be explained by reason. This is the basis of our faith: choosing to follow God and obeying Him by confessing our sins and accepting Him as our savior. It does not matter what theology we understand or how faithful we are, God chooses to save us by His grace and our choice is whether or not we accept His offer.