Reason gets in the way of a lot of godly things.
Kindness is a command. It is a motivation unto itself in the sense it seeks no particular outcome. If we tie things to outcome, we fail God completely. Seeking an outcome is rejecting His rule; it gets in His way, seeks to limit His hand. The outcome is always in His hands; He said so in many ways and places in the Bible. It’s included in this blog’s title: Do What’s Right. Do it because it is right, not for any other reason. Our search for divine justice is the end in itself. Justice is not an end product; it is the living grasp at the vital divine element still within reach in the fallen realm of existence.
I would have thought this was obvious, but I keep seeing references that seek to constrain kindness or other virtues to some reason for doing them. Stop that. It’s the wrong approach from the start; it’s evil. It reduces things to instrumentality and clings to the fallen nature of our humanity. Need a motivation? God’s glory. That’s the only reason He hasn’t taken you home to your reward already. He isn’t done with you in His glory. There is no end point on this side of eternity in the sense God is pointing at some goal. The “goal” is His glory all day long. He seldom bothers to reveal to us when His glory is finished with us. Let Him take care of the results and stop trying to steer things to a conclusion. What’s right is right regardless of human disappointments or celebrations.
In this moment, always in this moment, do what’s right. You don’t need any other reason.
The question remains: Can a human come up with better answers about life in this world? Surely becoming king is worth something, no? Solomon describes how he kept a part of his mind objective in testing everything. This isn’t plunging wantonly into mere physical pleasure, but includes that idea as a small part of a much bigger picture. Solomon tested the limits of what is position offered.
As the legendary King of Wisdom, Solomon entertained an endless stream of royal guests, the greatest artisans, the widest range of scholarship, exposing himself to everything a man could know about the world and the people in it. This did not satisfy his quest. At the same time, he indulged himself in the widest range of culinary experiences, using the shorthand term of wine-tasting. The whole time, he reserved a portion of his awareness for gauging whether any of it seemed to make life worthwhile of itself. Was partying with the greatest of this world going to bring some sense of satisfaction? Wrong again.
Next, Solomon threw himself into the work of amassing material possessions. He explains how built structures for every use man could imagine. Nor was this in any way frivolous. Not just water parks and gardens for himself, but genuine works of civil engineering that helped others. We know Solomon was a prodigious builder and architect in his own right, a genius at engineering. He piled up a vast army of slaves, piles of treasures from all over the world, the most rare and beautiful specimens any collector could desire. He had musicians running out his ears and more women in his harem than a single man could get to know even as a passing acquaintance. None of these things filled the void in the soul.
What about the eternal question of wisdom versus folly? Of course it’s better to be wise and intelligent. A fool has no idea what he’s doing or where his life is going. Such folks might not ever understand how they got where they are. A wise man, even with no power whatsoever, can at least see where things are going, what will be the results of things he does or does not do. Then again, the final end of both is about the same, since all die and return to dust. The one really bad side-effect of Solomon’s vast wisdom is he clearly understood that even wisdom was futile in that sense.
Worse, he clearly saw how everything he had gained would be passed onto his sons, regardless of whether they were foolish or wise. They would probably be deprived of the experience of rising up on their own accomplishments, because there would be little left for them to do, since their father had done it all. What was the point of all this work, because the work itself was probably the best thing, and it can’t be passed on to his sons.
Wisdom and native talent drive you relentlessly in the daylight. When you try to sleep, you always rehash everything you did and failed to do. So while it’s good in general for a man to work and enjoy the fruit of his own labor, the mere act of enjoyment is a gift of God’s mercy. God can easily take away the fruits of honest labor, but just as easily take away the joy itself. Everything men might imagine they could want comes from God. Some folks God has favored with moral wisdom, but fools only know about how they want something they don’t have. And once they get all they can, God gives it to the wise. You can’t fight God.
I really do wish I could remember all the details.
At the time I was one of them, and it never occurred to me to wonder if I was being manipulated. They considered me talented enough to have potential in their agenda. I was just a young preacher boy, fresh out of college. It started with my college days, when I was involved in the fundamentalist resurgence in the 1970s. I didn’t know the facts of what had happened before I came along, but this whole thing goes back before my parents were born. Still, during my own lifetime came the changes that the broader audience of sheeple never noticed.
It’s not exactly the same people, but it’s a broad overlap. The names involved in the church and denominational politics of the fight over Bible inerrancy are largely the same people with a very ugly political agenda. Most of them are frankly true believers to this day. That does not absolve them from the lies they promoted, but it does make them fools instead of simply evil. I was captivated by the rhetoric at the time. One of my best friends was an acolyte and drew me into it. Somewhere along the way, I woke up, but I don’t think he did. He stopped responding to my letters, so I’m not sure. Nothing is as simple as it appears, especially when the demons run all through the churches. Those Bible inerrancy people are part of the Necon agenda.
The conspiracy part is the manipulation by Neocons, taking advantage of true believers without telling them the whole cynical story. Leo Strauss openly taught that using people’s religious fervor was a good and valid way to herd them into agendas against their own interests. The inerrancy debates were bundled with the Neocon agenda; it’s all the same people.
It would take several books to address the whole thing, and some have already tried. The thread I’m teasing out today is one representative issue: Muslim terrorism. With all seriousness, I assure you that there would be no such thing were it not for the work of the Necons and Christian fundamentalists. Your American tax dollars and church donations went to fund all the work that created a large Muslim fundamentalist population that didn’t exist beforehand. In other words, these people created the enemy they vilify most. It’s not as the BBC alleges in their brief series exposing how torture turned a true Muslim believer into an activist. No, the CIA and similar agencies were working both sides, trying to stir up the Muslims from inside the religion while oppressing them without mercy from the outside to make them even more reactionary.
Surely you know that nothing unifies true believers like oppression? Even the Bible notices how that works. The difference is the Bible bluntly says activism is not a godly response. Try getting any modern day Fundie to admit that. Their inerrant Bible isn’t allowed to tell them to stay out of politics.
To my everlasting shame, I was an active part of all this up through the early 1990s. At some point, though, the seeds of truth planted by just a select handful of people from my preacherboy days bore fruit. No, it wasn’t the Neo-orthodox or Christian Liberal folks. They are simply the controlled opposition, keeping the battle away from the real objective. The people whose words came back to haunt me time and time again were not in either the Fundie or Liberal camps. Imperfect they were, no doubt, sharing their struggle to find the solid rock of truth on which to stand.
Contrast that to the utter false humility of the demigods of Neocon Christianity. They had poor fools like me believing they were God’s men, like Moses and Joshua. Behind their cloaks of probity, they were more like Balaam, Jannes and Jambres. I was so enthralled by their apparent greatness, so utterly thrilled by their small notes of attention directed my way, I never noticed the utter corruption they hid. As I said, there were plenty of humble true believers near the top. But a few of them betrayed a dark side you couldn’t simply write off as ordinary human frailty. They were hideously corrupt, all about the money and power. When I was permitted to read some of the background documents that revealed the utter cynicism of abusing the trust of the sheeple, I never noticed at the time how abusive it really was.
I don’t have those papers any more, those books and so forth. All I have is the damning memories of having been directly involved in something so dirty. I don’t keep track of them any more, because they don’t really matter. But I assure you some people involved in the leadership of the likes of CUFI know they are lying. Maybe they’ve convinced themselves it’s all necessary in service to God, but they serve the wrong god. So while I don’t name names, it’s not hard for anyone who really intends to walk in truth to figure out what matters most is not the people, but the message.
I’m just a messenger.
The hardest thing for a Western Christian is separating emotion from Spirit.
My single strongest accusation of fraud against the modern Charismatic movement is their vociferous, almost hateful insistence that their emotional manipulation is the hand of God. No, you can’t even get them to admit God uses emotions and heals them; it is the Spirit in their minds. They get really ugly and nasty when you question it. I worked with them directly for years, so this is not some speculative commentary. Hell hath no fury like a Charismatic exposed as a fake. If you think their “move of the Spirit” isn’t carefully scripted and planned ahead of time, you have never worked on a church staff with these people. Yes, the majority of them learned their “tongues” intellectually and emotionally and it is only incidentally any kind of divine presence.
Meanwhile, I am myself a Holy Ghost Mystic, so it’s not that I poke at them as an enemy. I want them to get right and keep doing what they are trying to do. Their willingness to dump shame on the ground in favor of godly fervor is most admirable. That was easily the best thing they did for me. But their confusion of emotion for spiritual activity is typical of problems with Western epistemology. Aristotle denied the existence of the entire Spirit Realm, so there can be no Holy Spirit in his world. It’s just a name for some kind of sentiment and emotion. Since Christians insist there is a Holy Spirit, there is only one place left in their worldview for Him, and that’s in the emotions. Western epistemology not only does not yield space for a Spirit Realm, but steadfastly denies it could possibly exist. When you absorb that background, you end up with a pretty funky brand of religion.
It’s just about as dysfunctional as the mandatory memorialists. You’ve met them. They have this vast store of emotional energy devoted to something, so compelling and powerful in their souls, that they become dangerously hostile if you somehow fail to feel it. They insist their personal sense of tragedy is somehow morally universal. They would willingly kill almost anyone on this earth, and a whole bunch of anyones, to insure no one can argue with raising up some hideous monument to their lost loved ones. The more inconvenient and disruptive of ongoing human life, the better. Their personal tragedy is God’s tragedy, so don’t argue with their demands for a huge freaking memorial that uproots the most productive business center in town and blocks traffic for miles around. If you don’t feel their passion for such a thing, you have to be evil.
Only in Western thinking is it so utterly necessary to assert that the Bible is infallible. In a Hebrew culture, the intellectual background of the Bible itself, nobody would care. It’s a question that would not arise. Since ultimate truth cannot be conveyed to the human mind in the first place, there is no need to invest so much emotional devotion to the means of conveyance. Yes, we might have some practical concerns with accuracy in copies and whatnot, but a Hebrew mind does not conceive of anything on this earth having perfection. The question of textual infallibility is simply not possible, since the words themselves cannot be perfect. Instead, the Hebrew mind trusts God to bridge the gap between an imperfect human record and their desperate need to know what He demands of them. The logical necessity of objective perfection is gone, because we don’t have to prove anything to anyone. All we need is some attempt at fidelity in copying and translating.
Translating becomes a huge issue itself, because almost the entire business of translation is owned and oppressively controlled by those who insist the only proper approach is based on Western epistemology. A genuine Hebrew epistemology would yield a totally different translation, but we work with what we have. The point is, you cannot have a perfect translation by any means, so what difference does it make to demand a mental assumption of infallibility? We aren’t worshiping the book, but the God who commanded some people write a narrative of His revelation. And since we cannot possibly compare with any originals — God wisely made sure there are none — all we need is reasonable accuracy.
The question is not the Book, but the soul that comes to the Book. Does it provide sufficient frame of reference to guide a spirit awakened? Because without that spiritual birth, the whole question is pointless in the first place. I fully understand the frantic necessity of an error-free Bible if your god is subject to Aristotelian reasoning, but God did not promote Aristotle. He had His own system in place long before Aristotle came along. I tend to think God’s brand of reasoning is better.
We are accountable to the God of the Book; the Book itself can judge nothing.
The sarcasm and mocking Solomon offers here could easily be aimed at the large number of Western Christians who don’t get Hebrew wisdom literature. The underlying premise of the book is portraying the vanity of trying to understand life, the universe and everything from a human point of view. The wisest man in human history could not come up with a good answer, try as he might all the ways men seek to conquer this existence.
That much is obvious. The difficulty is that virtually no one in Western Christianity has a clue about the fundamental human approach Solomon uses here. This book is easily the pinnacle of Hebrew mysticism. That is, there is nothing here truly spiritual, in the sense that this book is wholly a matter of God’s moral laws for fallen mankind. It does point to spiritual depth, but never mentions it directly. As non-Western literature, there is nothing here of questioning the nature of existence, nor defining the meaning of things from a rational position. That’s the wrong question here. The question is how to make the most of human existence after the Fall. The question is how best to obtain the very most life here can offer.
That question is played out while trying to avoid references to revelation. Solomon experiments with all the ways men pursue the different approaches, and he does so with vastly superior native ability. He does make reference to mere logic in the rational mold, but dismisses it, too. In the end, he answers with the assertion that, taking the very best of all the various philosophical approaches to the basic question of how to make the most of our human existence, and using the very deepest and wisest mind with access to as much human knowledge as existed at that time, you still can’t come up with anything better than a pretty simple grasp of God’s Laws.
Solomon didn’t have to put pen to parchment here; he had numerous scribes working in the palace. It’s possible this was published after his death. However, you can’t take seriously scholars who assert it comes from Post-Exilic times, because by then, only a tiny handful of Hebrew scribes could possibly understand what Solomon meant. They would have written up an entirely different book from his notes. By the time the Exile was over, Hebrew Mysticism was virtually forgotten, and this book is very firmly the product of classical Hebrew Mysticism before the Exile.
There is no ambiguity in the author’s identity: Solomon, heir of King David to the throne in Jerusalem. He calls himself “the one who assembles,” a Hebrew pun describing one who assembles words of truth, then assembles people to teach the truth.
The first thing he tells us is to not take this world too seriously. It doesn’t matter what you bring to the task, you can’t make much of by yourself. No matter what you accomplish by any scale of human measure, it won’t make any difference for very long. You can’t change the rotation of the earth, the movement of wind currents or the hydrologic cycle. The better you understand things, the more it drives you nuts. The one thing you most want to change is hardest of all — human nature. It ever reaches for things it cannot have. What little improvement there could be requires paying attention to human history, but even if they know it, they still repeat it.
Again, the issue is not whether we can change our world physically. We should know better than that, Solomon says. The one thing that affects us all the most is fallen human nature. If there is one thing we could fix, and should try to fix, the one thing which is the key to all our problems, it would be human nature. Thus, the whole point of verse 15, for example, is a description of human nature itself — irreparably bent and broken.
Solomon informs his readers he has examined the issue fully. Human talent, wisdom and creativity simply cannot change anything that matters. Here he sits, the wisest human on earth so far, downright legendary for his grasp of things, and with all he gained in that department, he still can’t change anything. God has revoked human access to the Garden of Eden, so man must work simply to stay alive, and it is work guaranteed to do little more than keep him alive. Should he somehow amass the resources for leisure, he ends up wanting more of something else. It is unspeakable misery to realize nothing can be done to nudge humanity back where they could be.
The greatest peace fallen men can have is engaging the task itself of staying alive and minding your own business. Sure, give expression to your soul’s longings but never take yourself seriously. Once you begin to imagine you have some advantage over others, you cannot avoid creating trouble for yourself and others. You will only make things worse.
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.
Perhaps it seems a bit odd I should have to use a title restating a pretty basic Christian doctrine.
By no means am I trying to address those who might actually dispute the assertion. I expect that from the fallen world. People who are fallen would prefer to deny the very thought. Christians who join them in this assertion are not Christians in the sense we need to take them seriously at all. Their claim to faith is false, and we have plenty of them. What drives me here is how most Christians who claim to believe this doctrinal assertion still live as though it were false.
If the church looks like the world, what’s the point?
The message of God is whatever God said it was. It is not subject to revision and updating according to human fashion. The only reason we don’t die upon spiritual birth is because the Lord said He wants to use us to promote His glory. Where we get into trouble is when we attempt to summarize or characterize that message of glory. Nobody has to tell me I’m out of step with the mainstream. I’m not going to engage in debate and offer proof. I’m a prophet and I will simply present my claim. If it doesn’t call your name, it’s not my problem. God’s truth cuts its own path in the hearts of men.
Again, humanity is fallen. The world itself isn’t fallen, but was delivered to the management of humans and they botched it. We didn’t stay on the path God laid out for us, so things are broken. The first dispute I have with mainstream Christianity is the assumption this world is going to be fixed up. It is not. The reality you and I experience will remain broken until it is replaced entirely. 2 Peter 3:10 comes as close to a blunt statement as we can get on this point. This whole reality is doomed because we messed it up and God does not intend to repair it, but to replace it entirely, down to the level of matter itself.
Whatever the mission of the church is, it cannot include the notion of fixing this world’s problems. We are focused on what follows this current reality. That’s what the resurrection proves, that there is something outside this existence, something superior and more powerful, and we should want that. Granted, Paul warns it is not possible to want it without God awakening our dead spirits first, but that’s another point of conflict. The churches keep insisting there is something humans can do to bring about spiritual birth, and it’s closely tied to the instinctive belief this world can be fixed. Those things are not in our hands; they are not the mission of the church.
We are here to serve those whom God touches and calls into His Kingdom. The election is totally His; the mission of helping them live out the implication is ours. Jesus said He would use us in that way to get His message across. It is not our place to question the efficiency of this plan or the justice in God’s election of some and not others. Those things are stated in Scripture as truths to which we have to adjust our behavior. We aren’t in on the conference in the Judge’s chambers in Heaven when He discusses His divine law and His plans for humanity and His creation. Our mission is much more limited.
God created all there is. We are accountable to Him. How He goes about that is not our business, except insofar as He bothers to tell us what we need to know to serve. We all serve Him; He is Lord and Master and has the power to do whatever suits His whims. “Every knee shall bow” comes with a certain background of assumptions. We aren’t in His position so we can’t argue. Our feeble sense of justice does not apply to Him; He does not subject Himself to us. We are subject to Him. He has revealed to us a portion of His sense of justice; we have rejected that. Seriously, folks, by embracing Western epistemology, we have rejected His revelation. If you can’t be bothered to learn the Ancient Hebrew view of reality and truth, you can’t expect to understand His revelation. Being fallen is hindrance enough to understanding God’s Word; rejecting the fundamental intellectual basis God chose for His revelation guarantees you’ll fail. The entire range of Western logic is broken and alien to Scripture. The sense of justice that comes in the package with Western reasoning is all wrong, and cripples our ability to understand and embrace His truth.
The only reason He keeps us here once He has granted enlightenment and spiritual birth is because He has determined to glorify His name before He ends it all. He has determined certain things must happen in a particular sequence in this time and space continuum. We don’t belong here, and critical to what He wants from us is demonstrating that we don’t belong here.
We who follow Jesus do good things. We don’t do them simply because people need them. We do them because it reveals His glory. The entire logic of how we go about planning those good things is broken because churches invariably operate from a broken human logic. Nothing in what we do should represent the notion of solving problems. Let me say that again: Solving human problems is not our mission. How do you think we are going to suffer for the gospel message if we do everything in our power to fix the suffering? God says He has no plans to fix things. Why are we devoting so much energy to fixing this world’s ills? That is not God’s agenda. Making some pitiful effort to helping someone next to you is a means, not an end. We do good things because they are one of the many ways we draw attention to God’s Heaven.
We are not responsible to God for solving any problems at all; He does not hold us accountable for that. He holds us accountable for His glory. He said repeatedly we would fail on this earth. Even after we lay claim to the full range of powers from the Holy Spirit, we would continue to fail. It’s built into our fallen nature, the flesh we still have to drag around that holds us in this fallen realm of existence. His redemption of life does empower and improve our performance, but performance was never the issue. This fixation on human accomplishment is what damns the churches. The focus is not in this realm of existence. We are seeking to kill this human flesh, to deny it’s hopes and dreams for this world. The entire range of our connection to this world is what we try to nail to the Cross, and struggle to keep it nailed there. It is the fallen Adam who wants to fix the damage on his own terms, as if he could undo the Fall and get back into the Garden. The Garden is gone! It is not coming back to this universe.
Don’t mistake the methods and means for the mission. The mission is revelation of His glory, not making people’s lives better. Making life better is just a means.
The second problem is we struggle mightily against His plans for making life better. We have embraced not only the ultimate goal of fallen men, but we have embraced their methods. Those methods are wholly contrary to the Word of God. Virtually the entire range of church activity is hostile to His revealed method and means. We keep turning to fallen mankind for our instructions on this issue, ignoring that their instructions are based on a false hope of taking over as gods of this universe. I don’t know of a single religious organization in existence on this earth that promotes God’s ways of doing what little can be done to fix things up. We have rejected the mission and the means, and we insist on methods devised by men hostile to the message of Christ.
Correcting this secondary mistake is the purpose of my writing about God’s Laws. That’s not the message here. The message here is that the churches seem to have no clue of the basic “why” of things, so they can’t possibly do the right things.
Stop organizing around perceived human need. Stop planning to grow a church organization with more members and a bigger budget and facility. Those are human goals, totally missing the point. God may grant those things, but they should never be codified in written planning unless it is first acknowledged they don’t really matter. Engineers and planners are not the church hierarchy, and certainly not the spiritual leadership. Their vision is practical answers, but deciding what needs to be engineered is a wholly different level of operation. No one should be seriously frustrated if they find the organization has planned things that don’t happen. All our human aims are mere estimates of where we are at the moment. Investing deep emotional energy into the mere facts of our human existence and instrumentality is blasphemous.
Do you suppose it was for nothing God called Abraham to the life of a tent-dwelling nomad? There were plenty of ancient palaces and temples, but God’s primary representative on earth was a nomad. Do you suppose it was some kind of accident of history that God had Israel living in tents for such a long time? Does it occur to you that investing much of anything into human facilities is all wrong? Centralizing into one huge organization is an abomination in the first place. We should have gotten that message at the Tower of Babel. There shouldn’t be a single congregation on this earth any larger than a couple hundred members. I don’t pretend to know the threshold; that’s an engineering question for experts in behavioral science, but concentrations of wealth and human talent are not what God had in mind. People love that grand vision of greatness as humans measure it, but God calls it an evil obsession. The human organization and facilities are not the Kingdom of God. While I can convince plenty of organizations to put that in writing, it seems no one can persuade them to live accordingly.
Churches were meant to live as tribal communities scattered across the face of the earth. Each was meant to be deeply involved in the locale where the people came together for the purpose of His glory here on earth. They do quite simply what they can, with the resources they gain from whatever it is God calls them to do. Use what you have, not what you imagine you can get for something a fallen man tells you is essential. If the world takes us seriously on its own terms, we are in deep trouble. Dying on the Cross was not a human success; see John 15:18f.
The Hebrew model of life is God’s model for the churches. The church leadership was meant to be two kinds: organizational and ritual. The pastor is not an organizational leader but a ritual leader. There should be ruling elders who operate like Ancient Hebrew clan elders. The idea is not to whip the organization into shape, but to simply come together in seeking to conquer the flesh. We plan for the power of the Holy Spirit to shine through; we make room for that, even as we fully expect the bulk of activity will ignore Him even in the church. Conquering the fallen flesh nature does not happen by the disciplines of the flesh. The church is meant to be an on-going crisis in itself, always in some state of flux because the included humans are always facing new problems. The church victorious does not look like a human army marching over the corpses of their enemy, unless you understand those corpses should be our own, for we are our own enemies. We should pay scant attention to human problems as anything more than a background against which we seek to die.
Death is our goal. It can come as a penalty, and while we can’t possibly understand how, dying without first killing off some measure of our flesh puts us before God somewhat empty-handed. It means we didn’t get the job done; we died for the wrong reason. Otherwise, we seek to earn our exit from this realm. We cannot possibly earn our entrance into His Presence, but we do earn our share of His glory. We earn it not by accomplishments, but by killing the flesh and accomplishments. We earn it by learning to discount the elements of our human existence as having any great importance. We die slowly, bit by bit, working our way out of human concerns. That’s why we can be generous and giving, suffering with others who don’t understand so well — we don’t worry about clinging to things they seem to want and need. We can’t hope to comprehend in the flesh the balance between doing too little and too much for any one person’s needs, so we rely on the Holy Spirit to help us in the moment to know what He wants us to do.
I can’t feed every hungry child, so I let God tell me which children I shall feed, and He gets to choose who I will not feed. The ones who go hungry are His problem. Human suffering we understand, and we commiserate, but we don’t get wrapped up in it. Don’t let the needy person decide what you must do for them. Their suffering is not a guide to our work; His moral justice is and virtually no one in Western Christianity has a clue what that is. Don’t let your own human inclinations and wisdom rule whom and how you help. Let the Lord guide your choices as the instrumentality of His glory. For all the people Jesus fed by miracles, there were thousands more who continued going hungry.
The final issue is our vast ocean of hostility to operating in the Spirit. We have so deeply and thoroughly defined “spiritual” as cerebral that there is little hope for many to ever operate spiritually. That’s a part of our hostility to Hebrew mysticism, a mysticism God Himself built on earth as the means to understanding His revelation.
Yes, we are fallen, and our vast ocean of bad religion is not making anything better.