-Written with help from ChatGPT.
A symphony of Truth
Monday, January 30, 2023
"Unveiling the Unfathomable Joy of Knowing Jesus: An Electrifying Summary of Michael Reeves' "Rejoicing in Jesus"
-Written with help from ChatGPT.
Tuesday, April 27, 2021
Delighting in the Trinity: A book that’s bursting with light about a subject plagued by obscurity
|[Wallpaper]. (2020, June 9). Virtual Reality. Retrieved from https://wallpapershome.com/hi-tech/vr-headsets/vr-virtual-reality-space-12369.html|
The first time I experienced VR I was sitting in a dark room with my Samsung galaxy note 5 locked into a relatively heavy plastic device strapped to my head tight enough to block out any light from getting in but also nearly cutting off the circulation to my brain. The experience was so intense that I could only handle a few minutes of immersion at a time. Stopping every few minutes to take the helmet off and breathe and re-orient myself. This is how I felt each of the four times I have read this book. Stopping multiple times per page to put the book down, breathe in the fresh air of the authors perspective and re-orient myself. The difference here being that instead of experiencing a virtual reality, this book was claiming to increase my ability to accurately perceive the reality around me. Sounds crazy, I know but the experience has been so transformative and enriching to my life that I feel compelled to recommend it to nearly every person who I suspect even has a passing interest in Christianity. I even recommend it to my non-Christian friends!
If you are not familiar with the Christian worldview it is captured in its entirety in a book called the Bible. The Bible is a collection of 66 books written by various authors across hundreds of years that all tell a unified story that lead to a person named Jesus. The Bible claims that there is an eternally existing God that at some point created everything, including humans, then entered a partnership with those humans. Unfortunately they screwed up their part of the deal and instead of God nullifying it all together, this God decides to actually come and fullfill our part of the contract himself and then legally freeing us from the debt in order to re-establish the good relationship we had before our fall. Jesus is the human form of God who came to fulfill the contract and rescue us from our breach of contract. One of the more confusing parts is that God is called by different names, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and it has not always been clear, to me at least, whether this is one being who has three different roles or three distinct persons that make up one Godhead. Or something else entirely. That is what makes this book so fantastic is that it so clearly articulates what, or more accurately, who God is. I consider it an essential read for both Christians and non-Christians.
First, for the Christian, this book not only demystifies the “Trinity”, or this idea of a community of three persons who have existed for eternity. It also makes sense of the rest of creation. The author says, “God is a mystery, but not in the alien abductions, things-that-go-bump-in-the-night sense. Certainly not in the “who can know, why bother?” sense. God is a mystery in that who he is and what he is like are secrets, things we would never have worked out by ourselves. But this triune God has revealed himself to us. Thus the trinity is not some piece of inexplicable apparent nonsense, like a square circle or an interesting theologian. Rather, because the triune God has revealed himself, we can understand the Trinity.” I must concur because when I first found myself agreeing with the Christian worldview, I would attempt to understand the Trinity in what I now know to be heretical ways. Saying, well, when I am at work, I am a creator and when I am at my mom’s house, I am a son and if I ever have children then I’ll be a father, but I am still one person. So that must be what the Bible means when it speaks of God in these different ways, and while this sounds reasonable, the author explains why this, and many other attempted explanations of the trinity are insufficient. “We are seeing that with this God we are dealing with three real and distinct persons, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. And they must be real persons: there could be no true love between them if they were, say, just different aspects of one single divine personality…Throwing the Father, Son and Spirit into a blender like this is politely called modalism by theologians. I prefer to call it moodalism. Moodalists think that God is one person who has three different moods (or modes if you must.)” Very similar to the way I use to think, the author goes on, “One popular moodalist idea is that God used to feel Fatherly in the old testament, tried adopting a more sonny disposition for thirty-some years, and has since decided to become more spiritual.” I love his silliness, but he is making a good point, most of my Christian friends do not give the Trinity much thought at all and might even say amen to that description. The author also compares the relationship between the father and son to a fountain, he says that a fountain is not a fountain if it does not pour forth water. Although I suppose a fountain can run dry and then would it still be a fountain? That may be a whole different essay, but his point is that a fountain is defined by its function of pouring forth water. Just so, he says, the Father would not be the Father without his Son and vice versa.
I would put my money on the table to bet that many modern-day Christians have a poor view of the Trinity if they have one at all. Lifeway research, A Christian nonprofit organization who I am sure is totally unbiased in their research, asked 3,000 Americans their views on the Trinity and 72% responded positively to the question, “There is one true God in three persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit” but then 59% go on to agree that the Holy Spirit is a force and not a personal being, 55% agree that Jesus was created and 52% agree that Jesus is not God. Clearly, there is some confusion here on the most distinguishing feature of the Christian Worldview. Understandably so, and the author knows this too. In the opening paragraph the author directly confronts this by saying, “God is love: those three words could hardly be more bouncy. They seem lively, lovely and as warming as a crackling fire. But “god is a Trinity”? No, hardly the same effect: that just sounds cold and stodgy. All quite understandable, but the aim of this book is to stop the madness. Yes, the Trinity can be presented as a fusty and irrelevant dogma, but the truth is that God is love because God is a Trinity.” Not only do Christians seem uninterested in exploring the Trinity, but the author also acknowledges part of the reason is that lots of explanations of the Christian worldview are dull and uninteresting, which I argue is quite the feat. The author goes on to show, not just tell us how. Here is just a quarter of the quote from another authors attempted explanation of the Trinity, “In the same freedom and love in which God is not alone in Himself but is the eternal begetter of the Son, who is the eternally begotten of the Father, He also turns as Creator ad extra in order that absolutely and outwardly He may not be alone but the one who loves in freedom…” Michael Reeves the author of Delighting the Trinity, says “Yes, theologians often write like that. What he means is that, since God the Father has eternally loved his Son, it is entirely characteristic of him to turn and create others that he might also love them”. Here he not only shows us that authors are great at explaining the Trinity in a way that will keep laymen far away, but he goes on to translate for us what that original author was trying to get across. A simple and beautiful idea that the reason why God is love and why God created anything at all is that because God is eternally a loving community of diverse persons. God loves others, and delights in harmony. Why couldn’t the original author speak so plainly? If the Trinity is so poorly understood inside of Christianity, what about outside?
Now, for my non-Christian reader, this book scares away the crows of esoteric and technical jargon and clears away the bushes of circumlocution to provide a crystal-clear view of exactly what the Christian faith is claiming. All in less than 200 pages. But even if you walk away unconvinced, I think you will be better off for reading it, by finding new value in your friendships and relationships. In the opening lines of Chapter two the author humorously asks, “Imagine for a moment that you are God. I’m sure you’ve done it before. Now think: Would you in your divine wisdom and power ever want to create a universe and, if so, why? Because you feel lonely and want some friends? Because you like being pampered and want some servants? It is one of the profoundest questions to ask: if there is a God, why is there anything else? Why the universe? Why us?” The author goes on to show us that because central to Gods being is community and otherness, having harmony in diversity for all of eternity, and enjoying it. God is fundamentally outward looking. In contrast to a single person God who would be fundamentally inward looking and would not be eternally loving. The author goes on to say, “Creation is about the spreading, the diffusion, the outward explosion of that love. This God is the very opposite of greedy, hungry, selfish emptiness; in his self-giving he naturally pours forth life and goodness. He is, then, the source of all that is good, and that means he is not the sort of God who would call people to himself away from happiness in good things. Goodness and ultimate happiness are to be found with him, not apart from him.” Ah! There it is. All the things that bring us joy come to us through relationship. Think of everything you enjoy. It probably involves another person. Either directly or indirectly we get our greatest happiness from relationships and it seems to follow that then we would get ultimate happiness and enjoyment from the ultimate relationship. Look at what the author says here, “The Father, Son and Spirit have always been in delicious harmony, and thus they create a world where harmonies-distinct beings, persons or notes working in unity-are good, mirroring the very being of the triune God.” I think it is difficult to deny the fact that unity (not uniformity) is amazing, and it is even more amazing the more diverse the individual pieces of that harmony are. Christians and non-Christians alike would do well to learn from this model. That there is room for all of us to co-exist and to work and live together in unity without losing our individuality. Part of that involves some intentional outreach and taking time to understand what other viewpoints think and believe and why, including why others may disagree with your viewpoint.
One of the popular complaints I have heard against Christianity comes in two different forms, but I think are complaining about the same thing. One is I have heard atheists complain that it seems silly that Jesus was God and then he prayed to himself to save himself from himself. Which is alluding to the same thing I have heard from my Muslim friends that how can 1 + 1 + 1 = 1? Essentially, how can God be singular and not singular? I love the authors response. “…the Trinity that provides the most compelling rationale for mathematics…there needs to be such a thing as ultimate plurality for math to make any real sense, for me to believe that “2” actually means something. And yet there also needs to be such a thing as ultimate unity so that 1 + 1 always = 2 and not sometimes 83. To be coherent and meaningful, math requires the existence of ultimate plurality in unity.” Just writing that out blows my mind. What a profoundly simple explanation. They say that mathematics is the only subject that provides 100% certain proofs. The idea here is that God is a single being made up of three distinct persons. One God made up of three plural units. So, it is perfectly reasonable that 1 person + 1 person + 1 person = 1 God, just like 1 person + 1 person = 1 marriage. Then it is entirely reasonable that God the Son, prayed to God the Father to save us from loving ourselves more than we love God and more than we love each other.
Nearly every human offense can be attributed to a person loving inwardly, whether it is themselves or their own tribe, over and more than they love outwardly towards others. Think of the last time you had a really bad day. I imagine you were either highly isolated, or some other person was selfishly loving themselves at your expense. Most murders, theft, and other crime is a breach of social cohesion, it is a one person doing something that devalues another. I think this book helps us see why relationships and harmony with others are so vital to enjoying life to its fullest. I hope you will be as inspired, even more, to see the beautiful, extroverted love of God and overflow to your neighbors no matter how other they may seem. Giving each other room to be yourselves and delighting in the diversity that makes life so rich.
Reeves, Michael. Delighting in the Trinity: an Introduction to the Christian Faith. IVP Academic, 2012.
Earls, Aaron. “Americans Hold Complex, Conflicting Religious Beliefs, According to Latest State of Theology Study.” Lifeway Research, 3 Feb. 2021, lifewayresearch.com/2020/09/08/americans-hold-complex-conflicting-religious-beliefs-according-to-latest-state-of-theology-study/.
Thursday, April 13, 2017
Information justifying a reasonable belief in the claim that Heaven is real
Empirical Evidence as defined by Wikipedia is in short, " information that justifies the truth or falsity of a claim."
Merriam-Webster defines justify as: "to prove or show to be just, right, or reasonable"
Here is a short list of information that I am persuaded makes the claim that Heaven is real a reasonable one.
First: I think an important underlying assumption is that there are no facts which I am aware of that have been empirically shown to be 100% mathematically certain. I do not think it is a realistic expectation to have 100% certainty in a claim in order for to it to be reasonably true. I doubt any person reading this requires much more than a reasonable amount of certainty in order to make decisions on a daily basis. Much of life is a gamble. Love, finances, investments, experiments, what degree to choose, who to trust with our lives and in the case of this short post who do we trust with our eternity. We do the best we can with the limited information we have. it is our responsibility to follow the clues to discover reality, and behave accordingly.
To quote the late English Philosopher John Stuart Mill
"There is no such thing as absolute certainty, but there is assurance sufficient for the purposes of human life."I do have doubts, however, the more rocks I overturn and the more digging I do, the more those doubts are met with increasing certainty.
Here is my argument:
- The Fine tuning of the universe provides sufficient reason to suggest the existence of a God
- The Bible claims that Jesus Christ is God, justified by the record that He was crucified, buried in a tomb, and rose from the grave as He promised.
- The information in the Bible is trustworthy
- Conclusion: There is enough information to reasonably believe that Jesus Christ is God and that all of His other claims about heaven and the supernatural are true.
The universe is incredibly fine-tuned for life
Here is a six minute video that explains the argument for the fine tuning of the Universe. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UpIiIaC4kRA
If you are into the really technical details of the argument Professor of philosophy Neil A Manson at the university of Mississippi has a published paper here that you can dig into.
The argument is roughly that the parameters required for the existence of our universe are such a powerfully microscopic delicacy that it is wildly improbable that this universe exists by chance.
Therefore the most probable (and reasonable) explanation is that those parameters have been finely tuned by somebody.
This does not necessarily PROVE the existence of God, it does however point strongly to A God
The Bible records Jesus Christ's claims that He is God, that He was murdered unjustly, buried in a borrowed grave, secured by Roman soldiers but Rose from the dead and was witnessed alive by hundreds of people.
I am going to assume the readers are already familiar with this and so I will just place links to that scriptural data below (all in the ESV translation)
Records showing Jesus' claim that He is God:
- John 10:30 - Jesus claims to be one with God
- John 10:33 - Jews are angry and want to stone Jesus for claiming that
- John 10:38 - Jesus says it again (lolz)
- John 13:13 - Jesus says you said it...I am God - The word used for Lord here is the greek Kurios which is translated as God in English
- John 14:9 - Jesus says If you have seen me, you have seen God
- John 8:58 - Jesus claims to be eternal
- John 20:28 - Jesus accepts worship from Thomas the skeptic who witnesses Jesus alive after he was dead
- John 2:18-22 - Jesus predicts He will rise from the grave in three days
- Matthew 12:39-40 - same
- Matthew 16:21 - same
- John 10:17-18 - Jesus says He will lay his life down and He will raise it up again
- Matthew 27:62-64 - Pretty much er'body knew Jesus said this
- Revelation 1:18 - Jesus appears to John at the island of patmos and says Hi
- Luke 24:39 - Jesus showing a group of people that he isnt just a ghost
- John 20:14-16 - Jesus is mistaken for a gardener (lol - get it) by Mary but nah Its Jesus
- Matthew 28:9 - Jesus appears to three Ladies who grab his feet and worship Him
- Luke 24:34 - Luke says so - He was a doctor!
- John 20:19,20,24 - Jesus appears to another group of people, they look at the holes in his hands
- Matthew 28:16,17 - Jesus receives worship from some people on a mountain, some of the people still have some doubts
- 1 Corinthians 15:6 - Five hundred people were gathered for something and Jesus was seen by them
- 1 Corinthians 15:7 - Jesus appears to His bro, like, see, told you!
There is sufficient evidence that the Bible is accurate
There are about 5,700 hand written manuscript copies of the NT Manuscripts in greek
There are roughly 400,000 variants: 99% are inconsequential
The New Testament spread all over the world quickly with no controlling authority
Any later editing would have stood out clearly in comparison with the ancient manuscripts
- According to New Testament scholar F.F. Bruce the NT manuscripts pass the academic criteria for historical reliability
- Greek and hebrew manuscripts are from as early as 125 AD
- Manuscript P52 - contains John 18:31-34 quoting Jesus saying, "and the one who is of the truth hears my voice"
- Greek NT contains about 140,000 words with approximately 3 variations for every word
- a variant can be ANY difference, spelling, punctuation or an entire sentence, the largest variants being the longer ending of Mark and the story about the woman caught in Adultery
- 99% of all variants do not impact the meaning of the text. They are mostly spelling and word order.
- 4,000 variants are actually meaningful (2.9% of the total text), and only half of those are viable leaving us with a high estimate of 2,000 viable, meaningful NT textual variants
- (viable meaning not obviously a scribal error like a scribe copying two columns of text into one)
- 2000 variants over the two-million pages of hand-copied text spanning approximately 1500 years is an AMAZINGLY small percentage of the text and testifies to the accurate history of transmission (its downright miraculous)
- the rest of the textual variants are usually less obvious scribal errors
- i.e. the theory that a scribe looked at the wrong line between going from the original text back to his copying and accidentally jumped a word or line for why there is a difference between John 1:31 in the KJV and the NASB, where the phrase, "and such as we are" is left out of the KJV. The KJV was written from manuscripts from later time periods than the NASB since the majority of the greek manuscripts are from after 1,000 AD
- some other textual variants are errors of hearing, from when a text was read outloud to a group of scribes
New Testament Critic Bart Ehrman says, "...for the New Testament we have much earlier attestation than any other work of antiquity"
Consider the graphic below which illustrates for us the mountain of evidence supporting the reliability of the New Testament compared to other ancient texts
The size of the bubble represents the number of copies and the distance of the bubble to the center is the time span between the events and the writings
Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life" Excluding all other ways, truths and lifes. He is the ONLY way to God and has made it possible for us to know Him and be forgiven.
Pray, call out to God, and ask Him if He is who He claims to be, to reveal himself to you. I did that in 2004 and He answered my prayer in a big way. I have faith He will do the same for you, and transform you the way he has me. My short testimony is below
I was not raised to be a follower of Christ. I may have gone to a church once when i was 8. So I had been exposed to Christianity. I also had close friends who were Buddhist who frequented Buddhist temples, which I tagged along with and received prayer and "blessings" from. I was also exposed to Islam when I was in the Air Force and read bits and pieces of the Qu'ran and listened to men talk about Allah. I had also been exposed to five percenters who believed white people were the devil. However, in the midst of all of this exposure to various philosophies, though intrigued, I clung to my God - my own pleasure. As long as something felt good and didn't directly hurt somebody else, it was game on! It was not until I was kicked out of the military after more than 4 years of service for drug abuse, and I had lost everything, and my God of pleasure was failing me that I began to sincerely grope for help. Through multiple channels Jesus Christ was speaking to me and drawing me to Himself. I eventually surrendered and admitted my Sin and asked for His forgiveness and accepted his payment for my guilt. For some time after that I still had my doubts. Feeling an increasing pull from God for me to commit fully to Him and to give up everything that displeased Him I began to dig deep and really cry out for God to reveal Himself to me. I really didnt want to give up the sex and drugs if I didnt have too, BUT, I was willing too If He was real, and if the Bible is accurate, then He is able and willing to reveal himself to me. Because, if not then I am going right back to what makes me feel good. By His grace on multiple occasions He did, and on one night in particular He revealed himself to me in such an amazing way that I have been forever transformed! Jesus Christ is real and He will reveal Himself to you, humble yourself, ask for forgiveness and cry out to Him, I bet my life that He will answer!
*Disclaimer: I am a laymen. Most of the information above have been curated from the internet or books I have read, I do not have any formal training. (but I do have experience!)
Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Christians are obligated to murder
- Sexual activity that is not between a husband and wife.
- Intense desire for wealth, things, or somebody else's things.
- A drive to pursue physical pleasure, especially sexual pleasure
- Having any master that is not God
- Seeking power or assistance from spirits
- Harboring and/or entertaining hatred or ill will
- Contention for superiority, especially violent
- Hostility toward rivals, or hostility towards anyone believed to enjoy an advantage
- Tendency to suspect there is rivalry or unfaithfulness
- Outbursts of anger
- Entertaining competitive and especially selfish advantage
- contentious or irritable quarreling
- dividing ourselves into self-seeking groups
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Weed killer for the mind
A friend sent me an email recently titled, "This is the biggest problem facing our world.", and provided this link http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/your-brain-is-primed-to-reach-false-conclusions/
I mostly agree, and I have a theory on the causation of what the author calls, the causality illusion. Sin perverts human perception. Knowing that we have this broken instrument; we need methods to calibrate, re-calibrate, and validate this broken perception tool regularly. After all, how else can we be sure that what we perceive indeed correlates to reality, and what things deserve our energy for validation? I think the article touches on this, but I would argue that without solving the sin problem, our perception accuracy will only marginally improve.
It also seems that the public largely doesn’t know who to trust anymore, they’ve lost confidence in the Church, now they are losing confidence in the scientific/medical community, and I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water…but…things like this make me want to avoid the medical industry as well. Understood, every institution has its share of opportunities for improvement. Even the Church, and for some of the same reasons listed in the referenced article sometimes I want to avoid it too.
I have to remind myself that avoiding these institutions won’t do anything to improve their efficacy.
And then this! I LITERALLY said this to somebody last night, that the American education system (maybe just the clark county school district) does not, or at least did not teach me how to think critically, I have had to teach myself with much difficulty, and I am still CRAWLING along trying to improve. Here, the article states, "The objective of this second part of the intervention was to teach the teens to think critically about causality.” The article points out that even with just a few moments of instruction the students, “made more accurate assessments of the drug’s efficacy.” I would like to see the education system put a greater emphasis on teaching us HOW to think rather than WHAT to think. Maybe through awareness increased through face to face and online dialogues we can generate enough demand that will force the supply.
We need to think hard about what we believe, why we believe it, and if it is true and appropriate, share this information with our neighbors.
Monday, June 16, 2014
Thursday, June 12, 2014
Tell me who Jesus Christ is...
Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne and I myself have founded great empires; but upon what did these creations of our genius depend? Upon force. Jesus alone founded his empire upon love, and to this very day millions will die for him....I think I understand something of human nature; and I tell you, all these were men, and I am a man: none else is like Him; Jesus Christ was more than man...I have inspired multitudes with such an enthusiastic devotion that they would have died for me...but to do this it was necessary that I should be visibly present with the electric influence of my looks, my words, of my voice. When I saw men and spoke to them, I lighted up the flame of self-devotion in their hearts....Christ alone has succeeded in so raising the mind of man toward the unseen, that it becomes insensible to the barriers of time and space. Across a chasm of eighteen hundred years, Jesus Christ makes a demand which is beyond all others difficult to satisfy; he asks for that which a philosopher may often seek in vain at the hands of friends, or a father of his children, or a bride of her spouse, or a man of his brother. He asks for the human heart; He will have it entirely to Himself. He demands it unconditionally; and forthwith His demand is granted. Wonderful! In defiance of time and space, the soul of man, with all its powers and faculties, becomes an annexation to the empire of Christ. All who sincerely believe in Him, experience that remarkable, supernatural love toward Him. This phenomenon is unaccountable; it is altogether beyond the scope of man's creative powers. Time, the great destroyer, is powerless to extinguish this sacred flame; time can neither exhaust its strength nor put a limit to its range. This is it, which strikes me most; I have often thought of it. This it is which proves to me quite convincingly the Divinity of Jesus Christ.