Answering 03: Flavoring Matters

There is a tension that is not easily resolved here.

I look back over my own personal journey and I’m embarrassed — at times painfully so — at things I thought and said even just a few years ago. I’ll tell you that this is not some pride thing where I can’t stand the idea that I’m less than perfect. I don’t take myself that seriously. No, it’s a painful recognition that when I say something stupid, it misleads others and delays them on their own journey. I’ve embraced the heavy burden of responsibility for leading only because I can’t make myself stop leading, but I take responsibility for the wreckage I’ve left in the lives of others. The deepest scars on my soul today are from the injuries I’ve left on others.

There’s a little bit of child in all of us. God help me if anything I say or do tends to squelch creativity and the joy of discovery and exploration. At the same time, God help me if I make no effort to stop you from pulling the trigger on a dangerous weapon because you simply don’t know what it will do. I’m not above you, just somewhere down the road in ahead of some of you. Allow me to share my worries with you as your elder, but take it with a grain of salt.

Emphatically and repeatedly we reject Western Civilization and all the associated habits of mind. On the one hand, I can really dig this computer stuff that would not have arisen without Western thinking. On the other hand, using computers is simply making the best of a horrible situation where the moral landscape has been plowed down and paved over with lies. If I could reach out and touch your life without the electronics, I’d ditch all of my computer stuff right now. I’ve spent half my life working them as a central element in my daily existence, and I still hate them. So all this computer technology stuff I’ve posted on this blog is not from a love for computers, but my compassion for humans who deserve better. Just because I understand it really well doesn’t mean it’s all fun for me. I’m doing my best to waste less and less time on computer technology.

Moral truth operates contextually, and it recognizes multiple levels of consideration in all things in this world. Could we construct a better, more ideal life for humans on this planet? Yes, yes, a thousand times, YES. That’s what revelation is all about. Is it likely? Not at all. Then again, perhaps in the microcosm of your own existence, it is plausible that you will travel a path that brings you much closer to Eden than where you now stand. The whole universe will cheer you along and encourage you, because it is not fallen and desperately desires to see us rise above the Curse as far as we can (Romans 8:22). But Jesus pointedly said that most of humanity at any give time simply will not choose that path (Matthew 7:13-14). So any silly notion that you can drag the whole human race along behind you is sin; it’s picking an argument with God.

Scripture likens the fate of humanity to lambs for the slaughter. It likens it to herding cattle who do not comprehend their fate nor much of anything except their petty concerns for survival. You cannot take your rational judgment back into the Bible and pretend God is responsible for being more efficient. You can acknowledge that He is God, all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving, but you can’t reconcile those concepts with the results. Why doesn’t He….? That’s the wrong question. Come back when you are God’s equal and maybe He’ll discuss it with you. He’s not accountable to you. Meanwhile, you are accountable to Him. Start with the what He says is the starting point: You are obliged to seek peace with Him on His terms. You can pretend to construct a system that forces some few humans to obey your will for a limited time, but in so doing you make yourself part of the soulless herds that God uses for His inscrutable ends, but you will not be a part of His family when it’s all over.

Or, you can stop and take the time to fall on your face before Him. You can ask Him to awaken that divine faculty He placed in us so that you can begin to see things from His perspective. And you can begin that long painful journey out of your fallen human conditioning and start thinking like someone who is on the way to Heaven.

We don’t have time or space here to chase studies in Comparative Civilization, but I can assure that almost anything is better than the West. The West has this nasty, burned in concept of the universe as fundamentally inanimate matter. That flatly contradicts Scripture. The whole universe is alive with the character of our Creator. When I walk out into the yard in front of my apartment building, I sense the singing life of the grass and dirt under my feet. Even the concrete talks to me, because every subatomic particle is imbued with some of God’s essence. However, the grass and trees and birds and clouds and wind are all relatively unaffected by human meddling, so their voice is much louder in my soul.

Maybe you would struggle saying that to the average Westerner who asks about your faith, but let’s do this one thing: Try to avoid analogies that lean too much on Western technology. That in itself tends to be misleading. I tend to think this is not just an intellectual opinion issue. If you want to train your mind to obey your heart, you can’t keep allowing the mind to work as it did before. Somewhere very early in this process you have to grasp that all of Creation is a living being, and every identifiable constituent element is a “person” in its own right. That bird and that clump of grass are each your friends. God is your Father, not your embodiment of Objective Truth. Truth itself is just a word for an aspect of God’s Person. I may be tied to the English language, one of the sorriest excuses for communication in human history, but we are damned if we can’t rise above its limitations in our thinking.

I don’t have any easy answers to the tension that comes from living in a world that rejects the truth before it wakes up in the morning. Somehow we have to alert folks to the truth that we can grasp their level of awareness, but we aren’t there any more. As long as we look, act and talk like these people, we have no message. I can see that there’s a time a place for that, but there comes a time when you must signal a difference. There is a sense in which we have to lead them out of that awful atmosphere into another place where they can at least begin thinking in different terms. Jesus spoke in parables knowing that the majority of His audience wouldn’t get it. He talked about Himself as the Bread of Life (John 6) to purposefully sift out the folks who were looking for the wrong thing from Him. Somehow you have to adapt your witness to thank kind of sifting.

Here’s a clue: “analogy” is a Western thing. The Hebrew language is inherently “parable” — learn the difference between the two. Analogy is conceptual comparison in concrete terms, where items match one-for-one. Parable calls you up to a higher level and demands you apply the symbols far beyond one-for-one. It’s not about discrete objects, but about moral influence in varying contexts. This is why we insist on using the sensory capabilities of the heart as superior to the five senses. And the logic of the heart is superior to that of the intellect. Train your mind to deal with parables. Let’s do computers and technology as mere tools, things we’d love to drop and leave in the dust as soon as God gives us a better means of communication. Please, please, avoid talking about faith in ways that compromise too much with blind souls. That was the sin of the Western Church when the German tribes came crashing through the remains of the Roman Empire. The priests rewrote Christian teaching in terms of the heathen mythology and values, and it wasn’t Christ at all any more.

We are not aiming at some imaginary efficiency in converting minds. We are aiming at living as channels for God’s truth, mirrors to reflect His glory. He chooses who will come to us for His truth; we do not at all pretend we can simply process the whole of humanity through some cerebral renovation. We don’t advertise, but we confront a blind world by living His truth. Few can see that glory in us. In our society today, it might be a good thing to be just a little reticent about it, somewhat evasive until our hearts tell us that the other person has some hope of understanding.

I’m not going to write rules for you, as is typical of Western religious instincts. I’m asking you to breathe life into your witness by making it just a little demanding. The worst thing you can do is let someone believe they got it when they don’t. It’s not a secret requiring a strange coded language like cults do, but the gospel is a mystery that God must open for them. Be careful that you do not package the gospel in ways that suck the life out of it.

The gospel message is not ideas; the gospel is you.

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About Ed Hurst

Disabled Veteran, prophet of God's Laws, Bible History teacher, wannabe writer, volunteer computer technician, cyclist, Social Science researcher
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13 Responses to Answering 03: Flavoring Matters

  1. Christine says:

    Thanks for this one Ed. It’s bad enough that science has decided that all life is mechanistic (which it isn’t) but when we start bringing technology into discussions of God, well I just get hot under the collar.

    I think I might understand why it happens though. Western minds are more comfortable with the cut and dried, the explainable, the predictable, so it’s more comfortable for the Western thinker to apply mechanistic thinking in areas that make him/her uneasy. The problem being, it simply doesn’t work that way. If we indulge those who insist on applying these analogies we do them no favours, we only reinforce their beliefs which actually retards their progress.

    We each have to take our own paths, but not all paths lead to God, many lead away. I wouldn’t think to say “this is the only path” but I’d like to think I would shout a warning when I see someone take a path that leads nowhere.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mr. T. says:

    “Here’s a clue: “analogy” is a Western thing. The Hebrew language is inherently “parable” — learn the difference between the two. “

    Good point — quite probably, I’ll just have to take your word for it for now due to the condition of my Hebrew knowledge. 🙂

    But generally you have to start somewhere and then hopefully climb out of this pit of current western thinking and assumptions. Will probably take a lot of work and time to properly internalize this stuff. Even reading the Bible through once takes a while, not to mention actually starting to understand things.

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  3. forrealone says:

    There were times when we lived in various parts of the globe mostly in third world countries that even as a child I could see in the eyes of those the anticipation of joy when they asked my father if he could take them back to America. They were mostly servants but at times they were folks that we had come to know. In those days America was the dream country, the place where millions of citizens from other countries desired so much to be a part of.  

    I mention this because I could see the yearning they had, to be in a better place where suffering would no longer be the normal circumstance in which they lived.

    Now I have that your yearning to be in a better place away from all the bs of this world.  Fortunately,  Father has opened my heart to KNOW and be aware of His loving plans for me.  Instead of another country or county in which I may live, He has promised me Heaven.  And, yes, that is where I am headed and, oh, the joy that lives within me!

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  4. Ed Hurst says:

    Precisely the point: We are climbing out. We start wherever we are, but we dare not stay there. I’m not smarter, just started earlier than you.

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  5. Ed Hurst says:

    Amen, Sister. The question is not so much, “What is true?” For us the only real question is, “What can I tolerate?” Without boundaries to what we can say or tolerate others saying, we have no identity. It’s also a matter of who can tolerate us, so we mark our boundaries to help people decide whether to fellowship with us or keep looking.

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  6. Mr. T. says:

    “If we indulge those who insist on applying these analogies we do them no favours, we only reinforce their beliefs which actually retards their progress.”

    Well, it’s a useful starting point and a way to understand how the spiritual interacts with our “normal” world that usually works by physics — not that you should base your entire worldview and theology on that. But I don’t insist on anything.

    Also I don’t see a problem in evangelising using such conceptual tools — technology after all is part of the modern world and Jesus used the concepts available in those times to make points. For example you are by default a apart of Satan’s spiritual network, not God’s.

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  7. Christine says:

    The thing most often misunderstand about God is His relationship with Time. To Him it is all one present moment. If He wanted to, He could have chosen any time or place on Earth for Jesus to come. He chose (actually, created) the culture of the Ancient Near East for His own reasons. Understanding those times and that culture is part of His message. Changing the context changes the message. That’s what has drawn me and keeps me reading Ed’s blogs and books; his teachings about understanding the cultural matrix, if you will, as it was *created* by God, have helped me come back to Christ after a long absence.

    Ed’s books are excellent and free to read. Have a look, it’s very interesting reading.

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  8. Mr. T. says:

    I think this quote by Bruce Charlton (“The Inklings ‘Group-Theology’ implicit in Barfield, Lewis, Tolkien and Williams“) to be optimistic take on this history stuff:

    “Barfield also brings a very different understanding of the role of ‘modernity’ in terms of Christian history. Tolkien and Lewis see modernity as in essence a bad thing, a corruption – and would advocate a return to earlier modes of thinking. Williams is not far from this – but his Romantic Theology (his primary idea, in my view) is put forward as an optimistic future possibility – something that might revitalize Christianity and lead to a future of new and great achievements. But CW remains profoundly alienated with respect to the human condition: deeply pessimistic and dark in mood and spirit.

    Barfield also regards modernity as deeply unsatisfactory – but sees it as a necessary transitional stage to a potentially greater, and ideal, future state of consciousness – superior to anything which has gone before: a ‘grown-up’ Christianity which combines the ‘participation’ in life of earlier phases of human existence with the self-aware, purposive, clear-headed and ‘scientific’ way of thinking of modernity. Barfield is therefore optimistic about human possibilities (although realistic about the fact that modernity seems to have rejected these possibilities and instead descended ever more deeply into materialism and positivism).”

    This Owen Barfield mentioned there may be an anthroposophist, but the point stands or falls on its own.

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  9. Mr. T. says:

    “Changing the context changes the message.”

    Good points, but you might need (well, do need) some scaffolding (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instructional_scaffolding) at least first to get there from your present state. And of course different things work for different folks in different schedules. I’m certainly trying to understand the Bible using all methods available.

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  10. Ed Hurst says:

    On the one hand, I’m fully aware of the issues Charlton points out in this quote, despite not having heard of Barfield before. I’ve read similar presentations from other authors. I don’t share that optimism because I consider it contrary to Scripture. At the same time, I know that it’s a fire the burns in the minds of a great many thinkers who are aware that Western Civ is not such a wonderful thing, after all. I can appreciate their concerns, but I’m not with them. Nor am I much with Tolkein and Lewis on a lot of things. However, I will agree they helped me start thinking about the question itself. The problem was they offered a trap, even if it were not the intention. Both represent a call to primitivism, albeit a highly intellectual one. It’s a Western primitivism, though.

    My path out of all that was long and hard, and should not have been so hard, but I can’t find anyone else going where I absolutely must go. So I’m trying to create a new one by routing directly out of the West altogether as quickly as possible. I’m not telling you that you can’t take your own route. Indeed, a part of me shares your enthusiasm for these things only because I’ve been there and some of it represents the great “a-ha” moments of my mind. Still, I worry that you’ll repeat some unnecessary parts of my experience. I’m trying to cut a shorter route because I sense this is a lot like trying to climb out of the valley of Sodom and Gomorrah (See? Another parable). We have reason to believe Sodom and Gomorrah had some truly amazing art and culture alongside their moral depravity. While I don’t believe you share the mistake of Lot’s wife, I’d rather not see you scorched by the severity of God’s wrath on the West. I sense the urgency of the angels who dragged Lot out that valley.

    So, be aware that I am seeking to establish a far shorter path that depends less on using Western tools. I’m driven to a more radical path, not for the sake of radicalism, but for the sake of a serious danger because time is short. We aren’t going to paint you with shame, but you have to expect Christine and I will want to question anything that looks like you still rely on Western modes of thinking. Again, we love you, Brother, and we see serious potential. We believe that when you have walked a bit farther, you will probably discover delights you don’t yet see.

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  11. Iain says:

    Mercy, you’ns done went way over my head. Mind, body, soul it’s all Greek to me. No matter how blessed we are with intellect, it won’t get us as close to God as a bird or a flower. The simpler the mind the happier the man.

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  12. forrealone says:

    I am all in with you Iain! I am all about simple, yet meaningful. All I really need is my air fragranced with Spring’s flowers, my ears raptured by the songs of the birds, my eyes brightened by the sky and the whole of Creation smiling at me, embracing me, laughing and dancing with me!

    I NEED simple!

    Like

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