I’m a true radical, radical about the very most fundamental elements of our assumptions about reality.
This blog assumes a huge difference between Western/Aristotelian epistemology and that of the Bible. I am wholly untroubled by apparent differences between human science, history, etc., versus assertions in Scripture. They aren’t talking about the same thing, nor even viewing reality from a similar set of assumptions. Your insistence on using the human viewpoint is not my problem. I may address it from time to time, but my blog posts assume a divine perspective when it comes to offering answers to anything.
While I’ve joked around a bit about starting up a new cult, I realize what I am doing constitutes a whole new approach to Christian religion. In many ways, it is the same thing as what has come before. You should have no trouble using what I teach in any current religious organization, simply because I assert theology and practice aren’t that important. Believe what you like; you can follow this blog and not see the need to argue about my conclusions. I don’t believe I’ve confused conclusions with assumptions, and I’ve often said you should always investigate these things for yourself. Don’t take my word for it. At the same time, I know this is a wholly different religion, in the sense that it is not like anything I’ve seen on this earth so far in these times.
The main reason I don’t belong to any group myself is a combination of two factors. First, my assumptions lead me to conclusions which no current organized religion accepts, so far as I know. There are overlaps here and there, but not enough anywhere to be useful. Second, I am commanded by God to teach wherever I go, and most organizations simply cannot handle that. Unwilling as I am to make trouble for anyone unnecessarily, I stay away. I strive to build outside the current system.
I don’t support any form of activism as people think of it. Nothing in human politics today is anywhere close to what God had in mind, so it’s a dead subject from the start. I recognize the peculiarities of the system, even to the point of understanding the various competing philosophical assumptions, but not one of them is even on the same planet with what God commands. Thus, there is no point at all to leveraging any part of the system except as an outsider. I’ll take advantage of what exists, but nothing in my world is worth any investment of emotional energy. I don’t want change; I want total removal of all the systems currently in place. That is not something I can assist much directly. It’s God’s department. I am called to focus on what I can do to implement His commands despite the system. The system may or may not notice me, but conflict of some sort is inevitable. Barring a miracle of God, I won’t win in any battles as humans measure such things. I don’t confront it if I can avoid it, because what really matters is nowhere inside this universe in the first place. I don’t have to accomplish anything; I just have to be faithful to my God.
God forbid I should repeat the mistakes I see everyone else making these days. In theory what I offer is universal, but the teaching itself recognizes the lack of appeal it would have for most folks. On the one hand, I know the burden of my calling is to bridge the chasm between what people normally assume and what they really ought to believe. I’m supposed to communicate as clearly as possible. On the other hand, the means to appeal arising from what I believe rejects the majority of what people expect. That is, I can’t use the marketing methods everyone else is using, because all of that belongs to things I’ve rejected before the start. It’s sort of that thing Jesus said about new wine and old wineskins. It’s funny how what’s ancient is now radically new, but that’s where I stand. I’m part of the fresh crop from the original roots, I believe.
Critical to this is my understanding of how civilization is drifting toward a new type. I believe I understand what’s coming, but that doesn’t mean I approve. It’s just a new set of problems. It’s a new set of opportunities, too. For now, nothing currently embraced as the proper way to reach the widest audience is proper for me. Maybe you could take the same teachings and see no conflict; have at it. By all means, take the truth and run with it. That’s the whole point: It’s not my truth. It comes from God and you need your own version because you aren’t me. I’m not trying to build a community around my particular brand. I’m trying to teach the underlying assumptions first, because that’s the part that is universal. What makes them universal is also what keeps them out of my hands. I’m giving it away; take what fits into the holes in your soul.
Meanwhile, once we agree on a different set of assumptions, I do hope there is some community possible from what I teach as conclusions. That would require more direct involvement from me; that’s the leadership part. I’m still feeling my way along the ancient paths on this, and it’s very hard to track. While the assumptions are the truly radical part, what I build from them is what people see, and it seems more radical than it is. I’m not sure what would make anyone take an interest on the human level. This is the part where I take all comers, where I say that I am an Internet pastor who makes no rules about what you have to believe or practice. Nobody I know has any experience dealing with that, so I’m having to make it up as I go. The bond is not what I impose, but what we find in common. I’ll be in charge of my part, and you manage your part. The parts we share is the community. You tell me: What level of communion is comfortable for you?
The binding factor is sacrificial love, the most radical element of all.
Spoiler alert: I’m going to explain how the book of Ecclesiastes turns out, while our weekly study will continue running for a couple of months.
First, a little context. Solomon took the throne rather like a big fish in a small pond. He wasn’t the most powerful of emperors because he avoided the sort of control that comes with empire. He was a king over the one most stable and prosperous kingdom in an age when there weren’t very many stable governments anywhere.
His father David did most of the work of extending influence and power over the unraveling edges of previous empires. At the same time, David established the standard for Hebrew poetry. Solomon established the standard or Hebrew wisdom literature. David still carried the familiarity with nomadic living and fighting for survival, so things had not hit the stasis we see much later when Israel virtually forgets how to live in tents. Thus, David’s poetry exhibits the kind of depth and hunger of soul for peace that makes great art. Solomon still had the taste of that as he settled things down. He experimented with a lot of things in a very short number of years and had the talent to comprehend the importance of what he did. Thus, the pinnacle of Hebrew visionary prophecy was just a couple of centuries later, then the culture of the people went downhill on the same slope of their lost devotion to God’s truth.
Solomon represents the pinnacle of Hebrew self-awareness. It is deeply ANE (Ancient Near Eastern). If you approach Solomon’s books of wisdom from a Western perspective, you’ll be lucky if you are smart enough to think it’s existentialism. It isn’t, but it will seem that way from a Western epistemology. You’ll read things back into his words in just about any translation and it will seem to match the likes of Albert Camus.
You’ll miss the point entirely.
There are several ways to state the fundamental query Solomon makes. In essence, he explores every effort mankind has made, or could make under any context, to overcome the curse of the Fall. Can it be ignored? Good luck with that; you still won’t escape it. Maybe you can convince yourself it’s all bogus and really do some great things and rise in power and importance over great stretches of land and humanity. But it won’t allow you to escape the futility of human existence. Being human after the Fall is the definition of futility. This life isn’t worth much trouble, and certainly not worth a moment’s anxiety.
Solomon does not directly address the issue of cosmology. It’s not a simple matter of not having one, or not understand it. They had access to ancient legends and literature. Don’t forget that despite all the lies by those who hate the Bible (ala the Documentary Hypothesis), the Books of Moses were already published and available for anyone to read. They knew what they believed, and didn’t see much need in hashing it out again. If anything, Solomon hashes out the failed assertions to the contrary.
The one thing you could easily miss is how he smashes the entire range of Western epistemology before there was a West.
The point of Ecclesiastes is to show how foolish it is to embrace the idea that man is not fallen. There were plenty of philosophers in his day promoting the ideas later crystallized in Aristotle’s teachings. Aristotle might have come up with his ideas independently, but they weren’t new. Lots of folks had long asserted the unitary universe. So Solomon decides to play their game and applied his legendary wisdom and intellect to the question of whether they were right. He points out how it all goes wrong in the end.
He tested living on those terms, an honest effort to see how it works out. He did all the things humans could do, all the different ways people chased after some sense of purpose and accomplishment on this earth. Even at the pinnacle of his power, it really didn’t mean much. In the end, he still had to die. And even if you could be immortal on this earth, you wouldn’t like it.
Without directly saying so, Solomon asserts it is not possible to evolve into a higher life form, either. God won’t permit it. Feel free to argue with Him, but it’s a waste of breath.
If you focus on the thing itself, nothing you do will matter for long. You’ll enjoy it, but when it runs out, it’s game over. You still die and someone else gets your stuff. The final answer is for you to make your best effort to discern what God intended for you personally. Don’t make the mistake of thinking He doesn’t notice. He made you and knows what’s best.
Don’t chase what captures your imagination. That might tend to indicate something, but it could also be the worst delusion. Stop daydreaming about stuff you can do, as if doing is important. Stop dreaming about being something or someone. Solomon was in his day the ultimate Someone, and it didn’t matter in the end. That’s the part that sounds like existentialism, or fatalism and some other -isms you might dream up. It all misses the point.
If you are certain God has called you to conquer the world, do so. If you simply want it for yourself, don’t be a fool. Meanwhile, the humblest peasant who scraped by is no worse off than King Solomon in the end. Living as King of Wisdom didn’t help matters, except it allowed him to see all too clearly and write it up in a little book.
You can do no better than embrace God’s revelation and figure out what God wants for you. Then chase that with all your might, because that’s how you reach out to God Himself.
Western reasoning gets in the way of everything, even in ways we don’t realize.
We can be smart enough to recognize when something needs only concrete logic. If you drop a rock on your foot, it will hurt; if you touch fire, it will hurt. That’s physical science; we get that.
We can be smart enough to recognize when something requires abstract logic. That’s the whole point of analysis, where we examine the world around us and try to recognize patterns. We see how certain types of phenomena work according to the same principles. We learn the details of one instance and can discover how it applies to other instances that are not exactly the same, but seem related. After awhile, we refine our understanding of the underlying principles until we can reliably predict what will happen when we do this or that by abstracting the principles from reality.
We can learn those things from others by deductive logic. If we find someone is a reliable source of information on reality, we listen when they assert basic principles and apply them in other cases. We build an understanding much more quickly because we don’t have to discover the basic principles for ourselves. Someone is able to explain convincingly and on our level, and we build from their work.
We can also learn when things we’d like to say require encoding. We learn to use symbols for words and sounds, and we transmit our knowledge much more efficiently. So we abstract our communications and people can deduce the meaning by a common standard of symbolic communication. Computers, anyone? We reach out to reduce the entire pool or human knowledge into symbols any computer can pass down a wire to another. We now have the luxury of instant access to more knowledge than any of us can possibly process, much less use.
But this is not the same as symbolic logic. Symbolic logic is a very ancient form of reasoning; it assumes there is an active force in this world which is not part of this world. It posits humans could, in theory, have a faculty for dealing with this outside force, but it would have to be a faculty above logic and reasoning, per se, because anything powerful enough to intrude on this universe must be more powerful than anything inside it. And we further deduce it would be awfully hard to discuss it with anyone if we don’t possess the means of communication to tap into that other person’s super-intellectual faculty. If we could, it would surely be something we couldn’t simply write in symbols. It would require symbols inside the symbols, a symbolic logic that is simply too much for human communication itself, because it’s too much for the intellect, which is the foundation of communication. Symbolic logic is not exactly rational in nature.
The whole question of dealing with forces greater than the universe itself demands something above our conscious human level. I can’t prove it because it’s outside the range of proof, in the sense that you could surely find an alternative explanation for things I claim reveal something from that greater force. If the existence of that higher level is not self-evident, there is nothing I can do to help you with it. If you find it self-evident, then there is grounds for trying to communicate something about our individual experiences with that self-evidence.
If that outside force gets involved in the process by communicating in some way, it changes the whole picture. That is, we assume this higher force is able to accurately assess what we need in order to cooperate. However much that demands from us, we are compelled to try. A critical element of that is gaining use of symbols. By our own human level reasoning, we realize the best we can hope for is communication that is not descriptive of things which are above description, but are indicative of what we can do with those things. If there isn’t anything we can do with it, we dismiss it. Most folks end it right there, of course, which is what we call agnosticism. For some of us, there is a compelling call to accept the notion we can do something with it. We can’t own it with our minds, but our minds can be instructed on some level. That’s where the symbols come into the picture; the symbols are indicators.
The symbols don’t obey the rules of lesser levels of reasoning. They are bigger, and seem out of focus, sort of fuzzy. They are granted from that higher force, so we are compelled to use them, but we can’t possibly control them. Our only hope is to deduce their meaning by how they act in any given context. That effort awakens a slender link between our higher faculties and our minds. Something in us responds to a question of the mind: Now what? It carries that question up to the higher faculty, which then answers back with some imperative. The mind struggles to make sense of whatever pattern it can discern. The process is never completed, so we remain open to fresh applications of the symbols all the way to the day we die. We don’t lose confidence, because we discover that higher faculty is more reliable than the rest of our entire human nature.
The Old Testament uses a lot parabolic or symbolic language. It is designed to call upon our higher faculty to engage the situation and learn how to apply the imperatives of that higher force. Jesus used parables that way. It was designed to keep out those who lacked the higher faculty because people who run around insisting on relying entirely on the lesser human capabilities were unable to act according to the imperatives. It wasn’t exactly a question of having that higher faculty, but using it. In essence, if you don’t exercise and build that link between the higher faculty and the mind, and learn to trust that higher faculty, you have no business pretending you can do God’s business reliably. You’ll keep trying to force Him into your intellectual constraints, and you will be wrong when it counts the most.
Humans without that higher faculty can move a lot closer, but it’s been centuries since any corpus of learning has been sought by humans trying to learn about it, at least on a wide scale. In fact, I submit to you that religious pagans have been working harder on it than just about anyone, certainly more consistently than the Church. The Church seems intent on denying the real deal and demanding we keep everything within the constraints of human intellect and a very human frame of reference. Virtually everything churches have done for the past few centuries is entirely under the power of human control, and views with great suspicion anything that smells like it comes from outside it. Thus, when someone gets a taste of that higher faculty, there is no background of teaching to guide it. That results in a lot of wacky stuff. It’s not God’s fault; He’s doing what He promised to do. The wacky stuff is our fault for not keeping alive the knowledge offered in the Old Testament.
Everything God did to establish a proper frame of reference has been thrown in the trash, and the first to trash it was Judah. When Christians began to reclaim the heritage, the Jews fought tooth and nail to take it away from them. In one sense, they succeeded, in that the infrastructure for that broad understanding leaked away from the churches rather early.
It didn’t go away completely, but it was buried in the sands of time. I’m struggling to recover some of it, and I have no way to gauge how well I’m doing. There are others involved and we share the labor but I don’t yet see a way to share the fellowship of the struggle. Too many of those contributing aren’t interested in actually using it. It makes their discoveries a little suspect, but it’s all we have. It’s quite possible the community of those willing to work together on this will remain small. I don’t pretend to know God’s plans on this matter. I know only what He demands of me.
Part of that demand is offering a prophetic warning to Christians. I have to trust the higher force — God — to work out all the things I can’t handle, which is an awful lot.
Let me leave you with this: If you aren’t otherworldly, you are too worldly. There is no stark clean line of departure between what the flesh can accomplish and what the Spirit does. It can only be perceived from that higher faculty. You can accomplish a lot of good in the flesh, but for some small portion of all that, you’ll miss the point and God doesn’t get the glory — people are not given a glimpse of that higher realm. You cannot understand the Cross with your minds alone. No amount of theologizing will produce the right answer. It still requires you and God together in communion on that higher plane where He exists, using that higher faculty to bring the Cross to life inside your soul. Then you are in a position to put into practice what you cannot possibly explain.
We tilt our awareness toward a readiness for any part of our human processes to be interrupted by the Divine. We don’t have to understand much about it, only understand that there is a demand that we obey. Attempts to explain will require those symbols that can’t quite be defined. We have to say things like, “I’m not sure I can explain to your satisfaction, but if I don’t do it this way, I’ll be guilty of disobeying God.” To the flesh it looks like mere sentiment or emotion, something lower the reason. We cannot possibly convince the flesh otherwise, and who’s to say in “real” terms it isn’t? There is no certain proof on this level, only the sense of divine peace we can’t explain.
Thus, I may still have a divine necessity of dropping a rock on my foot despite knowing it will hurt. There are other decisions I’ll make contrary to human logic because symbolic logic is above that. We discount suffering as a steering component on itself. We examine human suffering in light of whether it matters at that moment in spiritual terms. The flesh is just a tool, and our entire human existence is merely a passing resource in service to something outside this universe. We take care of the flesh so much as God says it matters to Him, not on any other basis. We offer comfort to others who suffer, but only the comfort God says He wants us to offer, not the comfort which human logic says is demanded by the need. We use human reasoning when the Spirit is silent, which isn’t very often. We default first to the symbolic reasoning of the Ancient Hebrew traditions, which many people call “mysticism,” then slide on down to deductive reasoning, then abstract, and finally concrete reasoning.
There is no answer to the question of what a symbol means without a context in which to apply it. When that makes sense to you, we can talk to each other about following Christ.
He can’t do many miracles because of our unbelief.
This isn’t simply psyching yourself up to believe. It’s far more subtle. After many years studying philosophy and the difficult questions of epistemology, I’m just beginning to understand the depth of difference in some of the most fundamental reactions in the mind.
In the West, we are hung in a false dichotomy. We have two choices that are both wrong, and little else is even possible. There is either the truly silly superstition of the Germanic tribal mythology and all the worst of human guttural fears and passions, versus the purely cerebral analytical approach. Worst of all, the latter doesn’t ever really trump the former. Rather, that brand of reason is wholly dependent on the superstition as the whipping boy. Without it, the reason has nowhere to run when things fail.
It’s exceedingly difficult to explain the ANE epistemological assumption about the power of morality. It’s difficult because the entire range of Western thought cannot see the underlying pattern of ANE moral reasoning. This is a nasty parallel to the fundamental failure of Westerners to grasp the meaning of Hebrew expressions in Scripture. Most Westerners are so deeply buried in the limited approach to reality, they are literally unable to process genuine Hebrew thought. In like manner, they cannot move away from the moral assumptions of the Enlightenment. Suggesting any change is for them immorality itself.
Western minds make a god of Western epistemology.
So while I can typically get folks to understand the necessity of adding mythology to a child’s educational development, they rabidly refuse to consider changing that from the standard Euro-centric garbage to something from the Middle East. This visceral hatred for anything not Western is a plot of Satan, if not the knowing participation of some evil human servants of his. That same hatred makes Christians literally hate their own Bible while allowing them to pretend they love it simply because they think they understand the words.
This alone justifies God destroying the whole of Western Civilization. We won’t let Him do many miracles because we can’t imagine them being anything except wild and incomprehensible magic. It’s the most normal, routine thing in the world, but we refuse to understand what God says about this world.
I keep hoping a few more folks will understand and start reaching for God’s truth before it’s too late.
I struggle daily — hourly — living in two worlds.
It’s already a major strain trying to live in Two Realms at the same time, but I am also pushing against a bitter hostility to the truth from virtually the entire world of falsehood. It’s like defending a tiny island of truth against the incessant invasion of a world of lies. The only reason I bother with studying literature, history, culture and philosophy is because I have this powerful sense of burden about setting people free. My ceaseless babble about Aristotle, Germanic tribal mythology, the Enlightenment, and all the other stuff is because those are major sources of soul-crushing lies.
Allow me to pick out a single item. You are perhaps aware of the Greek mythology tales of Charon and the ferry of the dead across the River Styx. Perhaps you are aware how it reflects a common theme in virtually all pagan mythology. There is something fundamental to this myth that is a blatant rejection of the biblical concept of Two Realms. The notion you could cross over by any means to the abode of the dead and return simply reinforces the lie of unitary reality. Virtually every human influenced by Western Civilization instinctively embraces this myth. Only a tiny slice of those are even aware of the power of this myth.
I struggle to find words to express the truth of things because our language excludes the categories of truth. Our entire universe sits inside a bubble of space and time, while outside it stands the Ultimate Reality of Eternity. God is rooted outside that bubble, yet every moment of every day I bump into Christian words and thoughts demanding I mentally stuff God back down inside this temporary bubble of false reality. The very choice of words in most Christian writing reaffirms the lie. Our culture makes it impossible to understand God views all of human history as a single thing before Him, where His awareness can reach into any part of past, present or future all at once. He has already shaped the end of things, yet we still have “Christians” insisting God can’t know the future. Worse yet, we have millions of believers who assume fundamentally God cannot see the future without any conscious recognition of it.
We are deeply bound by our assumptions about reality, assumptions that come from the mouth of Satan. We cannot see intellectually beyond our experience of time and space limitations, so we assume God is limited the same way. This, despite flat assertions to the contrary in Scripture. We read all sorts of false assumptions back into His revelation, essentially nullifying it’s power, tying His hands and insisting He can’t say certain things.
Thus, Christians also end up justifying the accusation that our faith is mythology. Christians use words to proclaim a faith in which they cannot possibly walk because everything in the very pattern of their intellectual process militates against it. So they push belief off into some special realm like phony magic. In the process, they are reaffirming the ancient heathen cultural assumptions of the German tribes that overran Europe a mere four centuries after Christ. We have a world of Western Christianity fundamentally programmed in agnosticism. Faith becomes an inexplicable “magic” of the European mythology instead of the very conscious grasp of faith and divine logic which pervades the Bible. People can’t walk in true biblical faith because their own brains betray them.
Yeah, this stuff matters.
I’m trying to find fresh ways to package up my weirdness so folks can decide with minimal effort whether I am worthy of their attention. It’s not a sales pitch, because I really don’t mind rejection. I just want to make sure your rejection is fully informed.
The most important thing to know about me is my epistemology. That’s a fancy word meaning basic assumptions about reality, things we don’t debate, but we might describe them so you’ll know what to expect. I’ve outlined my epistemology before and it should answer those who really need a longer explanation.
If you were raised in any part of Western Civilization, you are under a heritage, a background of influences which include the Enlightenment. Pertinent point: Western Civilization at its core is Aristotle filtered through the ancient Germanic tribal culture. It’s not entirely rational, but carries a very deep stain of irrational assumptions. But then, Aristotle comes to us through Greek Mythology, too, so purity is simply not a reasonable point of contention in the first place. It can be boiled down to saying Western Civilization is inherently materialistic, worships youthfulness, and recognizes nothing that cannot be measured (owned and controlled) by human perception.
I cling to Hebrew epistemology (asserting it is also not the same as Jewish). That’s a particular branch of Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) epistemology. Aristotle rejects the ANE, and quite bluntly so. The ANE regards Aristotle as a subordinate clause, a lower default acceptable for very limited use. Thus, ancient Hebrew intellectual assumptions about reality include much of what Aristotle taught, but don’t give it much weight. Hebrew is not the enemy of Aristotle, but Aristotle is the enemy of Hebrew.
Thus, of particular importance to what I do here is my assertion that holding to the Western epistemology guarantees you cannot understand the Bible. Your subconscious mind will be imbued with an arrogant assumption you do understand it, and better than those who wrote it. That’s wrong. Further, the Hebraic approach is what God designed as the proper viewpoint for humans in this world, so if you don’t embrace it, you fight God.
Good luck with that.
(This post becomes a brief reference point for future discussions.)
The Brotherhood claimed they held no secrets. They had always been willing to teach anyone interested in their stuff. However, the vast majority of those who came in from the outside to learn decided it was either incomprehensible or just hokum. Yet a few seemed to understand, but were unable to enlighten anyone in the majority who didn’t get it. Meanwhile, the Brotherhood turned out a lot of patients who were made sane again, albeit always with some curious changes in their personality.
According to the Brotherhood, they simply restored the humanity most of mankind had lost. They weren’t arrogant or snide about it, but made no secret they regarded most of human space with strong cynicism, and a measure of disgust. They had never tried to take over anything and had always been content to live in relative isolation. The one thing everyone knew for sure was the Brotherhood could not be bought. This was the primary reason they were so often hounded from one place to another. What the almighty corporations could not buy was a threat when things were unsettled.
Still, they could never be stamped out. Just when it was presumed they had been isolated to a single planet, and that planet was destroyed, they suddenly popped up all over the galaxy again. Whatever it was they did and taught always seemed to outlast everything which came against them. So it was when Rez was brought to them, there had been a time of relative peace and they were doing their unique work much to everyone’s admiration.
Rez didn’t remember the first few weeks, and the Brotherhood didn’t seem to think it mattered. At some point, the pain in his soul ebbed just enough for him to realize he was scared to live and equally afraid to die. He worried if he died he wouldn’t be able to escape the nightmares which haunted his shredded mind. Some part of him knew he was never alone in the room, not for long, but there was not enough difference between the healers for him to tell them apart at first. That is, they all seemed to have the same intensity of caring while never invading his space.
His first conscious awareness was of music. It was soothing, seemed to resonate in the deepest corners of his mind. As best he could describe, it was almost as if the music squeezed on the darkness and nightmares, folding up small areas like an accordion wall and letting him see just a tiny glimpse of light. The atmosphere of peace and isolation helped more than anything else. Between the music and gentle presence of the attendants, always the same few faces, always quiet and trustworthy, he began finding the few bits of himself he could recognize. Eventually he emerged painfully from the dark place where he had been hiding.
That peace was expressed in immeasurable patience, as if those attending his needs really didn’t have anything else to do. Eventually he managed to notice the physical differences, but for a time it was the same small group in rotation. They spoke rarely unless he spoke first. It was both disconcerting and yet reassuring when they seldom answered his queries directly. Often he felt they were answering some other question entirely. Yet, it always seemed to be the answer he needed.
At some point, the questions brought longer and longer answers. The initial focus was for Rez to find himself. There seemed a lot of rooting out the mythology of others, only because it was necessary for him to write his own mythology. They didn’t seem to think reality needed to be so solid and trustworthy as was his self-concept. He learned not to trust perception and reason, but to dig for something much more substantial, to grapple with what was bigger than himself. The nightmares became silly little lies. They weren’t gone, but had no power.
None of this followed the methods of psychology which were part of his education, yet all of it was recognizable. It was recovery by paradox, something he had scarcely heard about. It was considered a joke in his classes, but he wasn’t laughing now.
“You can live only when you are ready to die. You can’t win until you no longer care.” And so it went. He never was unsure how or why, but it made sense. Some part of him was absorbing all this, turning it into something solid and permanent. They helped him understand what had shaped his past. He didn’t have to blame himself for what happened yesterday, but it was completely up to him to decide if there should be a tomorrow.
It completely reshaped all his expectations. Not simply the facts about the wider universe of which he was ignorant as a colony boy, but the moral significance of things. The whole universe was just a gauzy film which could hide things, but could never make anything clear. Clarity was to learn how to pull back the wispy curtains and see what was behind it all. The Brotherhood didn’t rehash with him the details of what the girl had done to him. Instead, they helped him see what she really was deep inside, a desperate soul without a bottom, an endless need he could never have filled, nor would anyone else. She was a moral black hole, sucking the life out of everything and everyone near her.
During one of the teaching sessions, it occurred to him to ask about the fabled Big TD and if they knew what The Boundary meant. “Rez, our human conscious minds can only exist within a certain perceptual space. We experience the passage of time and the existence of space as limits on our consciousness. Even when traveling in hyperspace, we have to carry a cocoon of awareness or we’ll go utterly and fatally insane. Yet there is a part of us which belongs outside those boundaries. Mere intelligence is unable to fathom that, so AI can’t cross The Boundary, because it’s merely an extension of human intellect. Intellect belongs inside the time-space limitations. But the human soul is much bigger than the mind, and is designed to cross that boundary. If, during your human existence, you don’t choose to start reaching across The Boundary, you won’t like what happens when the end of your life drags you there.”
Eventually, he recognized why he had survived. He came to see how she had in some ways done him a favor. Never again would he be a sucker that way for anyone. Having been to the bottom of that dark pit of human fear, he would never fear on that level again. He had nothing left to lose, but he was sure he had something left to do before things came to any kind of end. Not precisely something to accomplish, but there was something he needed to put his hands to, something which called his name. The Brotherhood denied he owed them anything, but they had given him the one piece of sanity which justified facing the insanity of the cosmos one more day.
Rez had his own imperatives, not thrust upon him by any other human.
I’m getting a trickle of questions about Jesus’ behavior, enough to start an outline, but most of them are rather late in His ministry. For the next chapter of our book it seems obvious to discuss biographical background and some childhood stuff. I’d like to see a couple of puzzles regarding the first portion of His ministry, if you have any.
Meanwhile, I got one question which didn’t seem to fit in the scope of our book, so I’m going to address it here. It falls under the epistemological differences between the West and the Bible.
To restate the question:
Most people don’t struggle too hard with the idea human nature is fallen, but that the whole natural world is fallen is tough to understand. Did nature somehow sin?
Answer: No, nature did not sin, but it was under Adam’s authority to some degree. His fall pulled the natural world under his curse.
The question arises from a particularly Western assumption. Most of us are aware of the analytical approach to discovery. Broadly, it consists of sampling human experience in this world, collating the data, and building logical categories to organize that data.
Anyone who has ever taken a college course in philosophy has probably heard the discussion of Plato’s reasoning on what defines the concept of “chair” or some other common physical object. The question is not one of semantics, but the idea behind the word. What is the essence of chair-ness? What differentiates it from other objects with a similar purpose? Upon such a pursuit hangs more important questions, such as: What is the nature of virtue? It follows such a mind would ask what was the nature of the Fall.
From the Greek philosophers we get this question of being and the essence or nature of a thing or concept. It’s no surprise Westerners then want to understand the nature and essence of the natural world as a whole. That humanity is broken is just about painfully obvious to almost everyone, but most Westerners instinctively doubt the intellect is fallen, too. So the remedies range all over the map within the realm of Western reasoning. The natural world would seem by Western assumption as exempt, but the Bible refers to that brokenness including some aspect or elements of nature itself.
Hebrew epistemology does not emphasize the analytical approach to all things. While aware of that approach, it’s not the default. The primary question of a Hebrew mind is: What is required of me? Most questions and issues are approached in terms of how it is experienced. Western logic presumes an ultimate objective truth, something existing independently. We have to figure out the content of that truth. This image of truth is completely missing from Hebrew reasoning, in the sense all things depend on God. Whatever it is we want to make of truth, it is of necessity a reflection of God’s Person. All truth is God’s truth, and anything contradicting His revelation must be a lie.
Where does that leave us? Paul approaches the Fall in the natural world most closely in Romans 8. In the 20th verse he mentions how Creation was “subjected to futility.” There is nothing in Creation at fault here — it didn’t go willingly. Something in the nature of Creation was forced by the God to participate in the curse of the Fall. A primary curse of the Fall is the constraints of time and space. That is, the existence of space and time as limiting factors in human experience is not part of our divine design, because the symbolic language of the Bible makes it pretty clear God and Eternity suffer none of that. Space and time present no constraints on God and His divine will, yet we are so deeply wedded to it, we are not even equipped to process that concept very far. I wonder how God could subject us to that constraint without forcing some portion of Creation under that it.
Obviously, the concept of Creation includes more than our part here under the Fall. However, we don’t experience any other part because it requires dying. At some point, Christ will return and remake all things. The portion of Creation we experience here will be ended, removed and replaced. Again, it’s beyond our comprehension, but it’s a standing promise. Thus, it’s probably more accurate to say the natural world is subjected to this futility, this fallen existence. It most certainly includes all we can know directly; we have to take the existence of another plane, a Spirit Domain, on faith. God created that, too, but it’s not fallen.
I mentioned the difficulty we have with this because Western epistemology asserts all existence is unitary. While there may be things and beings we cannot detect with our human senses, our logic assumes it is sufficient to yield knowledge of all things and nothing exists which is outside our logic. Keep in mind, Aristotle said this in so many words, and Aristotle was acquainted with Hebrew Scripture and philosophy. His description of a single unitary universe is a blunt rejection of what Hebrew scholars taught right there in his own city. Our Western intellectual assumptions about reality make no room for placing our known universe inside of a bubble of lesser reality, with distinct starting and end points. We have a hard time processing the idea there is a Spirit Realm which is wholly separate, and superior to this one. Taking such ideas on faith, without an awareness of the differences in epistemology, leaves you struggling to believe against the grain of all your mental reflexes.
Addenda: I hope my readers understand something important here. By no means am I suggesting you can’t live your life according to whatever epistemology best suits you. I fully understand my brain and temperament naturally runs along Hebrew lines, and Hebrew epistemology strikes me as totally natural, as if I were pre-wired to use it. I also understand most people are not that way. The reason so many rabbis embraced it during the Period of Silence was because it seemed more natural to them at the time. And it’s no secret computers would have been unlikely without a Western epistemology, along with a jillion other technological advancements. Somebody has to think that way, at least part of the time. It’s between you and God how you use or don’t use any particular epistemology — and there are more than two. What I do assert without discussion is you cannot hope to understand Scripture adequately without accounting for the difference between the Aristotelian West and the Biblical ANE Hebrew. God revealed Himself, by His own firm choice, within Hebrew epistemology. If you don’t take this issue seriously, you can’t claim to take God seriously, at least in terms of trying to understand His imperatives on your life.
We know almost nothing of the prophet Habakkuk. From the text itself and from historical context, we can deduce he probably served as a Levite musician, writing his prophecy at the end of Josiah’s reign, or shortly thereafter. He seems aware of Babylon’s rise to defeat Assyria in 612 BC, but not the defeat of Egypt at Carchemish in 605. Josiah’s policy of support for Babylon would make their invasion shocking from Habakkuk’s perspective.
This tiny, yet richly poetic narrative, describes a conversation with God. The prophet tries to understand God’s long suffering over sin, and His holiness and divine purpose in calling Israel. How can God use evil for His holy purpose? The final solution to this puzzle is a grand psalm complete with musical notation for worship.
Hebrew writing is often condensed, in the sense common expressions and symbolic images substitute for much longer comments. Often the question itself implies an answer not obvious to the modern Western reader. Thus, the parabolic expressions leave us confused because we often lack the background a prophet reasonably assumed his readers would have.
Habakkuk knows the Covenant as rediscovered during the time of Josiah, long forgotten during his grandfather Manasseh’s reign. As a Levite it would have been his duty to teach the Law in conferences held throughout the Kingdom of Judah. He understands the divine calling on the Nation of Israel, how they are to live the Law and thus reveal God and His truth. They do not; it’s painfully obvious to anyone. The legacy of Manasseh’s gross idolatry still infests the common people everywhere he goes. The old idolatry habits seem intractable, and the Law seems foreign, and they can scarcely be restrained from the evil ways taught by false deities. How does Jehovah put up with this?
God’s reply implies a full awareness of Judah’s sins. Indeed, His patience is gone. He warns the entire nation to pay attention, as they are about to experience something unimaginable. The distant empire they supported, Babylon, that horrifying threat to all in her path, would come to invade and discipline the people of God as His rod of wrath. They will experience for themselves first hand just how awful a sinful nation can be. The infamous siege mounds will be built against the walls of Jerusalem.
Bad as Israel has been, she was nothing like Babylon. So Habakkuk wonders aloud how God could use something so awful against His own people. He justly characterizes Babylon as a fisherman who casts his net into the world fully stocked with fish. Having eaten all he could hold, he keeps fishing for the sheer evil pleasure of tossing them on the bank to die. Habakkuk is aware God has a Law for other nations, too, as recorded in the revelation to His people. Are they not also held accountable before Him?
It would be a mistake to think Habakkuk is challenging God. Rather, he reverently asks for assurance God is consistent with what he believes to be the Lord’s own Word, His stated promises. So if God is going to use Babylon to punish Israel, what is to become of Babylon, far more evil than Judah at her worst? There’s no question God holds Israel to a higher standard and Habakkuk accepts this. Rather, he wonders if God has a promise for what comes after that act of discipline on His own.