Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Calvinism vs. Arminianism and Why We Shouldn’t Pledge Allegiance to Stuff Like This.

I was talking to my friend’s girlfriend about the book “The Shack” by William P. Young, and she said she hadn’t read it because from what she had heard, she thought she’d disagree with at least some of its points. Of course she’ll probably be reading this at some point, so I’ll just say that she’s a very strong Calvinist, as is at least some of her family from what I’ve heard. She’s a very bright girl, and definitely believes what she says she believes, but I kind of get the feeling like she’s one of those brutal Calvinists, which is to say, those who see God as kind of hard and strict. At the very least, I’d like to introduce her to “kind Calvinism” as Mark Driscoll would call it. So, I decided what I’d do is just to go through both Calvinism and Arminianism and see what they both mean, and offer my insights on both.

For those of you who know me, you may know that I do not adhere to models, which is to say I am not an adherent to things with titles such as Calvinism, Arminianism, Trinitarianism, Arianism, Veganism, Conservatism, Liberalism, Preterism, Dispensationalism, Mormonism, Racism, Sexism, or most other isms excepting Monotheism. The reason is this: Formulaic models often glaze over truth in order to make a text agree with a presupposed belief. The tenets of some of those isms I do believe in, especially some more than others, but I would not say that I adhere to any of them because they are models, and I believe God as bigger than human doctrinal constructs. I do not believe that we can in any way confine or define God to single words whose meanings change with time. Like I said, I do believe in Monotheism, because I believe that eternally, infinitely, and unequivocally, there is only one God, and his singular singularity can be defined in our language by the word Monotheism.

Let me start by saying that this argument is entirely an in house argument. I mean that whether you are a Calvinist or Arminian, as long as you are a Jesus Freak, you are still ok with me, and I assume with Jesus as well. I’ll be quoting Wikipedia quite a bit as a source of definitions and for general information, and I won’t use quotation marks unless Wikipedia does because of the unknown authorship or the original article anyway. I’ll start with Arminianism which is still quite popular among popular and well known preachers and evangelists, and I’ll basically be stating each belief and my view on it, and why. It should be noted that Calvinism’s five points were created not by John Calvin himself, but later by people concerned with countering five points outlined at the Synod of Dort by Arminians. Arminius was born 4 years before Calvin died and died 100 years after Calvin was born. The Synod of Dort happened a year after Arminius died in 1609. In actuality, today Arminianism does not have five points anymore, and has reverted to what Jacobus Arminius believed which actually has a bit in common with Calvinism. Some may be actually surprised to learn that Calvinism and Arminianism are not directly opposed, but are like the two circles on a MasterCard. They have overlapping belief systems.


1. Humans are naturally unable to make any effort towards salvation.

I’d say true to a point, and that point being God’s call. However before the rabid Calvinists jump on that one, I believe that all are called just like the Bible says. In the literal sense, ALL are called. Jesus wishes all to be saved but naturally, many will not because they will not reciprocate his love.

2. Salvation is possible by grace alone.

Absolutely agree, however, it should be easy to spot believers and unbelievers based on speech and actions, not just what they say and do in public. I have known a number of worship leaders who said and did all sorts of things in public and wrote wonderful worship songs, but in private, to the discerning eye, they were at least questionable. So, salvation is by grace alone and is evidenced by love and works.

3. Works of human effort cannot cause or contribute to salvation

Yes, see above. This one belongs to Calvinism too.

4. God's election is conditional on faith in Jesus.

Election is a big big word in Calvinism, and this one can be taken several ways. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the father but by me.” Salvation is certainly conditional on faith in Jesus, if you are a Christian, this one is probably pretty close to number one on the list of essentials. However, election is a touchy subject and since God knows the future, you have to decide whether He decides whether you have faith in Jesus, or whether you decide, or whether he draws you to decide, or completely outside any choice of your own, he gives you faith in Jesus. I think an infinitely Just God draws you and gives you a choice, I don't think it's "Duck, Duck, Damned."

5. Jesus' atonement was for all people.

Here’s another separation from Calvinism. One of the creeds says that Jesus sacrifice was once and for all. Though I don’t hold to any creeds, I agree with this. I believe that Jesus died for everyone, whether or not they chose to play that card at the judgment. I believe every sin committed in the history of the universe weighed on his shoulders on the cross.

6. God allows his grace to be resisted by those unwilling to believe.

Naturally. While humans may be unable to understand the pure infinity of knowing the future and yet not making it happen, I believe God can. In the same way, I believe God can create an entirely autonomous being with perfect free will, but not with infinite free will as God has. Of course God is all powerful and if he wished, he could cause anyone to do anything, but he doesn’t do anything as far as salvation goes that we do not want. He merely ratifies our choices, if we seek him, we will find him, if we choose not to seek him, then he merely ratifies our choice of damnation.

7. Salvation can be lost, as continued salvation is conditional upon continued faith

I do not agree with this in the sense that you can lose your salvation. I do believe you can leave it. I don’t believe that a person can get saved and then live out the rest of their life with no consideration of Jesus whatsoever and stay saved. I would submit that they never knew Jesus to begin with. God does know the end from the beginning, and he can see all the future, and if a person becomes backslidden or loses the faith for a while or multiple times but returns, God knew it would happen.

Calvinism is a bit different, perhaps more popular, and definitely more defined and structured, as a Calvinistic God would seem to be. Calvinism usually has five points, often denoted with the acronym TULIP. The five points were not created by Calvin, who more simply believed that God was in all things infinitely sovereign, but created in response to Arminius’ followers’, Remonstrants as they were called, 5 points. The Remonstrants actually opposed the doctrine of Total Depravity even though Arminius and Wesley affirmed it, but they just wanted to be opposed to Calvinism I guess.


1. Total depravity

This one is basically the same as #1 above.

2. Unconditional election asserts that God's choice from eternity of those whom he will bring to himself is not based on foreseen virtue, merit, or faith in those people. Rather, it is unconditionally grounded in God's mercy alone.

I would disagree based on the verse that says “those he foreknew, he also predestined.” Now what that means, I cannot say for sure. But I cannot accept the assertion that foreknew means something other than he knew before as I heard Driscoll put it today from last Sunday’s sermon. He said something like God reached out in love, and that’s what foreknew meant, but it is obvious to me that the word simply means that he knew ahead of time. I do believe the part of salvation being in God’s mercy alone, but with the context of God wanting to grant mercy to everyone. He would not have died if he did not want to grant mercy.

3. Limited atonement is the teaching that Jesus' substitutionary atonement was definite and certain in its design and accomplishment. Calvinists view the atonement as a penal substitution (that is, Jesus was punished in the place of sinners), and since, Calvinists argue, it would be unjust for God to pay the penalty for some people's sins and then still condemn them for those sins, all those whose sins were atoned for must necessarily be saved. Moreover, since in this scheme God knows precisely who the elect are and since only the elect will be saved, there is no requirement that Christ atone for sins in general, only for those of the elect.

This I mentioned up in the Arminianism section. Christ died for everyone; all sin was upon him. It leaves no room for question if anyone is elect or not, if you want Jesus, he is available. What if someone sneaks in who wasn’t elect? Then Jesus would have to go back and die again for that guy. I know it wouldn’t happen, but it serves to frame the argument. I don’t think injustice even enters the argument here for one simple reason. Jesus took upon himself our sin, there is no justice in that. There is mercy and love.

4. The doctrine of irresistible grace (also called "efficacious grace") asserts that the saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save (that is, the elect) and, in God's timing, overcomes their resistance to obeying the call of the gospel, bringing them to a saving faith. The doctrine does not hold that every influence of God's Holy Spirit cannot be resisted but that the Holy Spirit is able to overcome all resistance and make his influence irresistible and effective. Thus, when God sovereignly purposes to save someone, that individual certainly will be saved.

I don’t really buy this because I don’t think God would directly save someone against his will. Heaven for a demon is like hell to a Jesus Freak. This goes back to the foreknowledge and predestination stuff. It would seem that God would look down in time, see those who would be saved with the right impetus, then provides that impetus. Of course, outside of that provision, no one would even want to be saved. I do believe that it is well within God’s power to overcome any resistance to his will, like he can overcome gravity or whatever, the simple question is “does he?”

5. Perseverance (or preservation) of the saints is also known as "eternal security." The doctrine asserts that, since God is sovereign and his will cannot be frustrated by humans or anything else, those whom God has called into communion with himself will continue in faith until the end. Those who apparently fall away either never had true faith to begin with or will return. This doctrine is slightly different from the Free Grace or "once saved, always saved" view advocated by some evangelicals in which, despite apostasy or unrepentant and habitual sin, the individual is truly saved if he or she had truly accepted Christ at any point in the past. In traditional Calvinist teaching, apostasy by such a person may be proof that they never were saved.

I am ok with this one as long as it does not include the “once saved, always saved” view. Again, God knows all future, and he knows if we fall away if we will return or not. My father is a pretty heavy Arminian and would ask the question if someone were saved and falls away, if they died while they were saved, would they go to heaven? I really think that is up to God, he knows the heart. I do believe God is irresistible when he wants to be, but he has purposed freedom of choice as a part of being created in his image. I believe he designed a perfect system in which his creations could choose Him or choose otherwise.

Calvinism as a kind of racism.

Something that bothers me about Calvinism is the whole election thing. It ends up being a kind of racism, something you are endowed by God with that makes you better than people who are not, just like white skin has for so much of history. The problem is, unlike being white, a person does not really know if they are elect. They never know if they may fall away at some future time and it turns out that they were never really saved at all. Even worse is when they argue with you. They can sometimes have an air of “I’m elect, and if you are arguing with me, you obviously aren’t.” I do not like classes, especially among believers. *I just thought of something after I posted this. Since you in reality don't really know if you are elect, that means you don't really know you are saved, and if you don't know that, then you are worse off than an Arminian who has assurance of salvation as long as he stays a believer. So pure Calvinism and Election both effectively remove assurance of salvation because you can't really know if you are elect unless you can read God's mind, and if you should happen not to be elect, then you are not saved no matter what you do. So instead of a salvation based on works where you don't know if you've done enough good in say Islam or Catholicism, you now have Salvation based on having faith that you will always be a believer, which is Arminianism. Did I just disprove Calvinism altogether? Interesting.

Overall, I must again stress that I do not hold onto models because they often need to play fast and loose with interpretation to make their stuff fit. The original Arminians simply came up with their five points to counter the prevailing Calvinism, and the Five Points of Calvinism were a response to the five points of the Synod of Dort Arminians. A belief system should never be made up of a list of things we don’t do or believe in, that’s not how Jesus worked. Jesus was all about the do’s. Care for the poor, forgive, be humble, love God, love others, have faith, be faithful, take heart, give generously, and believe in me were his commands.

So I’m like a two and a half point Calvinist, and a five and a half point Arminian.


“We Want Another Reagan Conservative! What? No We Don’t." A Treatment on Taxes and Other Money Stuff.

Ignore political and conservative biases for a minute, we are gonna try to work this out using simple logic. The Facts as I see them are these.

The United States is neck deep in national debt. None of our thinking citizens wants this.

Many conservatives favor stuff called supply side economics, or Reaganomics, or basically tax cuts for the rich to make more money.

The gap between rich and poor widens.

Celebrity worship and greed fueled a now bursting housing bubble.

Government spends too much money, much of which is wasted.

I’d like to say first of all that I am not one of those dorky single guys that live at home with their mom. I live 2200 miles from my mom. I don’t sleep between Star Wars sheets, I don’t own a video game younger than ten years old. I have two associates degrees and a job. My wife has two bachelors degrees and a job. While I work only part time, my wife and I are paid adequately for the specialties we both have. I’m not trying to brag here. I am just trying to say that I understand fully what it takes to make a life. I am not some moron whose mouth runneth over and has no idea what they are talking about.

On the other hand, guys who come up with supply side economics are guys who have degrees in Political Science. That’s right, not economics, not math, they are fully equipped to be politicians. A few definitions should follow. Supply side economics is essentially the belief that if you make incentive to produce products by lowering taxes on the producers, you will get enhanced economy as a result. It is really saying “we’ll let you keep more of your money, so you should invest it so you can make even more money which we’ll then take our share of.” The past two double term republican presidencies have been big into this, also recessions. The basic problem is this: If you give someone more money, chances are, they’ll just want more money. More money is usually gotten by laying off people, paying people less, and moving production over seas, and likely a combination of all three. If all the money moves overseas, then we don’t get any of it.

We poor people (read “middle class”) don’t understand this. Why? Because it doesn’t make any sense. If you want more money, you take more taxes. The reason why the conservatives tell us that it is working is they cut taxes in one area, then look at all revenues to see the result. Sure, the US is taking in more money than ever before, but it is not coming from the area where they cut taxes, which as you might imagine is bringing in less money. It makes sense. It’s like saying “I’ll plant less corn in the garden this year” and then taking the gross weight of the production of the whole garden and then saying “Wow, look at all the new corn we have by planting less.” You aren’t making more corn. You are making less. The difference is, you can distinguish corn from peas, dollars all look the same. So when a politician tells you there are more dollars, you automatically think, “Well, I don’t understand it, but it seems to be working!” Additionally, it doesn’t matter that we are taking in more money than ever, we are also more in debt than ever, go figure.

I have a friend in our church small group who always brings up the “punishing productivity” argument whenever we have this discussion. He says that keeping taxes high on the rich punishes them for working hard and making more money. Since we are making sense today, I’ll admit, that does make a little sense, but only a little. However, every dollar has two sides. If you lower taxes on the ones who can afford it, you punish those who cannot. What it says is “Oh, you have money, here, have some more,” and “You over there don’t have much, give me some of it.” Do you see the problem? You may be rewarding productivity, but you are punishing misfortune. Most physically hardworking families whose jobs are strenuous but not well paying are not there because they don’t work hard. They are not being supported by welfare, they are not popping out kids left and right so they can get tax rebates and welfare checks. The whole “working hard” paradigm is completely meaningless. Working hard does not equal more money. The hardest work I’ve ever done paid well less than $10 an hour, and the easiest work I’ve ever done pays more than that. What’s the difference? Education, skill, perseverance, paying dues, work ethic, opportunity, and actually enjoying the work I’m doing. I would also like to say from a spiritual perspective that giving tithe, offerings, and works of service to God makes a ton of difference as well because he is the one who makes that whole list up there possible. See the book of Malachi.

This Supply Side Economics, or Reaganomics, or Trickle Down Economics stuff is just bogus. I don’t remember who it was that said this, but it is not the rich who are owed because of their success, it is them who owe us who made them successful. You can’t get rich by yourself but you need underlings, people whose work you profit from. No one person can have the skill or more importantly time to be every employee of a multi-million dollar company. There is almost always someone profiting from someone else, and the some ones who make more money should have to pay taxes at no less a percentage rate than the person from whom they are profiting.

It is not like buying toilet paper bulk, so you actually pay less per roll. In fact it is the reverse. Let’s just assume a 10% tax because it is easy to calculate, in reality it is much higher. A person making $20,000 is not very able to pay $2,000 in taxes, while a person making $2,000,000 is very easily able to pay $200,000. In the same way, a person is more able to pay $10,000 if they make $100,000 that if they make less. It is very simple. In fact, if a person making $2,000,000 can live like a person making $100,000, which anyone can, then they can afford to pay far more. Of course, I am not suggesting that we force people who make a lot of money to live as if they don’t, but I AM suggesting that they do it themselves.

The big overriding problem above all this is the problem of people with money, oh, I mean people with our money. If the government wants to cut taxes, please do, but you must also cut spending. I don’t have any credit cards, so I really can’t spend more than I have without immediate consequences. So we live what most of us would call “within our means.” Why can’t our government do the same? All of the presidential candidates right now are proposing new spending when we already are having a deficit every year. And all the republicans are proposing tax cuts. What nonsense! All of it is nonsense!

The solution.

As far as taxation goes, I can see no better option than the Fair Tax. The more you can afford to buy, the more you can afford to pay, and there are no arbitrary percentage rates for anyone. If you buy a $20,000 car, $4,600 of that is taxes, if you want to buy a $100,000 car, $23,000 is taxes. So simple. Please, buy a $10,000,000 house, we need the $2.3 million in tax revenues. It works everywhere. If all you can afford is a $2 box of macaroni, then all the tax you’d pay is $.46, but if you want a $40 steak meal, then you pay $9.20. It is just like giving a tip, only slightly more than we would often give, but hey, it’s taxes! I know it is hard to really work out the math, but, you must stop to calculate that the value of money will be different. If you were to make $40,000 a year, right now, that is something like $28,000 after taxes. With the Fair Tax, if you were to make $40,000 a year, you would be making $40,000 a year. Wow, that was easy, and there wasn’t any stress in April.

Tax this!


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Done with Jehovah's Witnesses

Today I've decided that I'll not longer write about Jehovah's Witnesses unless specifically asked to. I don't feel I need to any more because of what it does to me.

I have spent too many years in spiritually dry apologetics. I have known for a long time what this stuff does to me, but after reading The Shack, I've decided to give it up. I know what is correct and incorrect, I've studied alot, but at this point, it is a simple waste of time for me spiritually speaking.

So, unless you want to ask me questions, I will answer those, but unless there is something especially grevious, I'm done.

I will keep stealing Watchtowers and Awake!s from bus stops though.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Poor

If you have ever read any literature published by Jehovah’s Witnesses, you pick up real quick that they love themselves. You know what I mean. They spend endless amounts of time in their writings expounding the virtues and accomplishments of the organization. Never will you find a critical thought or question in the write-in sections. It is all praise and wonder for Jehovah’s visible organization.

Interestingly enough, they also expounded their generosity to the poor in last years May 1, 2006 Watchtower article entitled “Who Will Help the Poor.” It really is a wonderful article that talks about how Jehovah’s Witnesses have helped the poor around the world, unless you know the truth, or are discerning enough to read through the flowery B. S. in the text. If you pay close attention, you’ll notice that none of the poor helped are non-witnesses. What? Surely not you say.

It’s true, and it is borne out on the back cover of the September 1, 2003 edition of the Watchtower in a short called “Real Help for the Poor.” Conspicuously absent is any “real help” at all. The only “help” is a Jehovah’s Witness on your doorstep telling you how it will be in the recreated earth. That’s right, no food, no financial assistance, only worthless words about a future paradise. Now I certainly do believe in future paradise, but we are called to care for the poor and weak here and now.

The New World Translation translates Psalm 72:13 to say that God “feels sorry” for the weak and needy whereas the ESV says, “He has pity.” See the difference? Having pity leads to action, whereas feeling sorry leads to nothing. What good is someone who just feels sorry and yet does nothing? True Jesus Freaks actually do stuff, not just to proselytize people to try to get them to join their religion, but we help people regardless of their religious background because Christ fed thousands, many of whom were not believers at all, and some likely were only there to criticize him.

Nowhere in the Bible that I know of does God say that only the needy or poor believers should be cared for, but all people. Jehovah’s Witnesses love to talk about all the homes they rebuilt after hurricane Katrina, but they neglect to tell you that they didn’t rebuild anybody’s house that was not a “brother.”

A recent study found that Jehovah's Witnesses were the poorest of major religious groups. Their never ending disdain toward education is a primary cause of this. Secondary education is even lower on their list. They discourage education in favor of pioneering, leading to lives unfulfilled, performing menial labor and endless door to door evangelism. They want to tell us they help the poor when they are the poor.

Jehovah’s Witnesses love to tell you about how true religion shows true love. But, are they the only religious organization with love? They seem to think so. The problem that I have with this is the following. What love do they show any one who is not one of them? Showing up at your door to tell you their “good news” doesn’t count because unless you become one of them, they really don’t care. Jesus told us to love our enemy, how much more should we love the harmless and unfortunate?

Poverty is not a family value.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Review of “The Shack” by William P. Young

I just finished reading “The Shack” by William P. Young. You should know that as I begin to write this post it is 12:23 AM, and I’ve just spent about he last hour and a half finishing the last several chapters in the quiet of my office in the late evening. A bit of that time was spent weeping. For a time, I wept about once a page in the early parts of chapter 17. A bit of that time was also spent on my face on the floor weeping and praying, praising God, and all I could tell him was that he was good. My face is stiff from the salt in the tears, and my eyes and cheeks ache from crying, but it is an ache that I would not trade for anything. You see I know now that the God I worship is good. But more about that later.

The story is told by Willie, the author, he inserts himself in the story as a friend of Mack, Mackenzie Allen Philips. Mack’s daughter Missy was kidnapped on a camping trip while he was rescuing his son from drowning in a canoe. Evidence was later found in an abandoned shack in the woods that she had been brutally murdered. More than three years later, he receives an unstamped letter in the mail from someone named “Papa” inviting him back to the shack for a meeting. He decides to visit the Shack and what he finds changes his life forever.

That is my synopsis, it is similar to the one on the back of the book, and it really covers about four chapters of info that is important for the story, but less important for the truth contained within the story, which is what I want to talk about here.

First is the familiar term “Papa” which is used for God the Father principally by Nan, Mack’s wife. A well remembered name for the Father used in the bible is “Abba.” Abba is an equivalent to Dada or Papa depending on the language you speak. It is a term a very small child, perhaps barely speaking, might use to refer to his or her father. But let me ask this question, how many of us speak to our Heavenly Father in those terms? I think in all my (right) years, outside of people simply quoting the verse saying “Abba Father” I’ve only heard one person once call God “Daddy.” She is the very wonderful co-leader of our church youth group. And this brings such sadness to my heart, in the same way that verses in Psalms about singing and dancing with all your might and playing all sorts of instruments with all our might before the LORD are largely ignored in our contemporary church, as will most churches for the last millenniums. At least I have found a church where we can at least joke about it (“I guess we shouldn’t sing that song any more ;-). ”) All joking aside, it is a travesty that the God we love and worship, we cannot invite into our hearts far enough to be able to call him using a name which has a purely personal meaning. We evangelical Christians who believe in a personal relationship with God, largely do not live that out in our lives. It is not that I am criticizing the way we are, but begging that we change because we need so much to be embraced by Papa’s love, and that can be made more available, I believe, by using a name we might call our own father.

This book really does play with your mind, and it is meant to. Papa even explains that if he were to appear to Mack as someone who looked like Gandalf, it would serve only to reinforce his religious stereotypes. So Papa appeared as a large black woman named Elousia. The Holy Spirit appeared as a distinctly Asian woman named Sarayu, which apparently means “wind.” From what I can pick up in the book, she was difficult to look at, not because she was too bright or anything, but simply because she was difficult to see when looking right at her. She seemed to come and go as she pleased, appearing and disappearing at will but reminding Mack, that she had never disappeared at all, she was there all the time, and is everywhere all the time. Lastly, Jesus was portrayed as a slightly unhandsome average looking Middle Eastern man with a big nose, which Jesus was (likely big nosed and all.) There was much emphasis on Jesus being truly, fully and purely human, while at the same time being all that of God as well. I thought as I was reading that, logically speaking, if Jesus was a physical being when he ascended into heaven, then of course, he still is. He has not disappeared anywhere; he still is that way, up there somewhere. I believed it, but never really thought about it before.

Actually, I thought that way about much of the stuff in the book. Really, these things had never come to me in this way before, but I knew of them, and already believed them, but had never really understood them. It made God real to me in a way that he has never been real before. A major breakthrough for Mack, as it was for me, was that a huge gap created between us and God in our relationship with him is that we do not really believe that he is good. Sure, we say he is good, but deep down, most of us do not really believe that because all we can imagine of God is all our best traits to the nth degree, smashed together with all the goodness we can think of, with super powers, and God is not that way. God is in no way confined to our imaginations, because they don’t really exist, and God has no need to be a part of something that doesn’t even exist and never will. Therefore, we see things that we have decided are evil, and then judge God based on our own preexisting judgment. The truth is, the things around us are not ours to judge, to decide whether they are good or evil. Their inherent good or evil is in no way based on our perception of them. In the same way, if I look at a shiny piece of metal and say “That is obviously aluminum,” it has no bearing on what kind of metal it actually is, or even if it is a metal at all. Its essence and existence is entirely outside that of our own. Take that to the infinite power, God is the same way, which is why he says in the bible that his ways are not our ways, and his thoughts are not our thoughts.

A number of negative reviews that I have read have complained of the author doing something like creating God in his own image. I could not disagree more. God in this book is so much different from that. I think if you wanted to pare down everything he said in the entire book, it might fit into the sentence “I am nothing like you.” This is a God who cannot be predicted but can predict your every move, a God who is infinitely loving, caring, and patient and who affects change in your life. These things a human cannot do. So, no, no one made God in their image, they just stood well back and said “I still can’t see all of you Papa.”

One belief that this book specifically challenged was one of my basic beliefs about good and evil, or comfort and discomfort. When my wife and I were attending pre-marriage counseling, I told the pastor that I did not always want sunshine and roses, I was a kind of a realist, believing that you could not truly understand good unless you experienced bad. In a way, I believed that there could not be good unless there was bad, you know, to counteract it, to be the opposite of it. My belief has changed. It is the other way around. You cannot have bad unless you have good. Our infinitely good God came first. His light has always existed. His eternal good has always existed, and evil has not nor will ever overcome it because in the face of light, darkness flees. Darkness can no more resist light than I am able to come up with an apt comparison. By very nature, that is what it is, and what it does. Unimaginable distances of the pure black vacuum of space cannot erase the light of a single star. So, no, I don’t need to experience evil to truly understand what good is. Good is good, it is not confined or defined by evil, rather, like darkness to light, evil is confined and defined by good.

At one point in the story, Mack is directed to follow a trail which leads to a rock wall which he is miraculously able to walk through. Inside he finds a woman who is exceedingly beautiful, and whose words he would be happy to sit and listen to forever. We find out in the next chapter that she is Wisdom from Proverbs and that her name is Sophia, which is not a stretch since Sophia, is actually Greek for wisdom. Sophia is the one who tells Mack the way it is, not that God already hadn’t, but Mack had much to work through. Sophia told Mack that he had come to a judgment, and to his surprise, he was to be the judge. The catch was this. Mack had five children. Two of them would make it into heaven, and the other three were condemned. It was Mack’s job to decide which ones. Understandably, Mack was faced with a difficult choice, and as no father should be able, he was unable to choose which children would face condemnation, so he cried out and begged that he could take their place. We often think that God is some cosmic Judge Judy, going to sit behind a big desk on his throne and judge us for all we’ve done, and we have to find a way (Jesus) to avoid that. We end up loving Jesus, but not really loving our Father because of this misperception of him. What this part of the story says is that God no more wants to condemn us than we want to be condemned. He is our Papa, he created each and every one of us as his children, and his true love never wants us to leave him. That is why Jesus became sin for us, to take our place, because Papa loved us so much, he wanted to save us, and would sacrifice himself more than willingly to redeem us from our independent streak.

This leads to another point. Some I’ve talked to seem to catch a hint of Universalism or something in this book, but they miss what Papa says about relationships, they are a two way street. God can do all the loving in the world, he can reach out, he can perform miracles, he can redeem us from our sin, but he can never nor will never force us to come to him. That is what true relationship is, it is expectancy, not expectation. Expectations leave us hurting when they are not fulfilled, but if we live in expectancy, just waiting to see what wonderful things might happen between us, then there is no hurt, only joy.

One of the most wonderful things about this book was how it treats evil, and what happens when God works through evil to affect the best in the world. Throughout the book, Mack is overcome by what he calls “The Great Sadness,” a darkness shrouding his heart after his daughter Missy was kidnapped and murdered. Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle was talking about Calvinism and mentioned a woman he knew who had been raped who was a staunch Calvinist. She asked him “Why did God have me raped?” A similar question was asked in “The Shack.” Mack asked if his daughter was murdered so that he could be rescued as it were. God made it clear that it is not he who causes evil to happen though he is able to work good through it. This kind of human thinking causes us to be able to sacrifice a few to save many, where God’s way of doing things sacrifices only one, himself. God never works any kind of evil, and it is never in his purpose for any sort of evil to happen, what God does is to work through evil, our choices and independence from him to make good things happen for his purpose. God would never have anyone raped, or murdered, or anything else to bring about anything, no matter how good the ultimate result would be. He uses evil for good, he does not cause evil to happen.

Another complaint I’ve heard, is that Satan and his power is conspicuously absent. In fact, as I remember, Satan is not mentioned once. I don’t have a problem with this. I don’t think this is a story about Satan, I think it is a story about God’s love. It is a parable. In the same way that the parables of Jesus do not mention Satan, neither does this one because there is a specific point to be made, a hurt to be healed, and Satan is not needed to convey the love of our Father toward us. I think the only nod to Satan in this book is when one of the characters says that all sin is a result of the desire for independence from God, and that certainly fits Lucifer as much as it does us. The point of this story is to release people from sadness and anger toward God, and to show that Papa really is good, and as I mentioned before, we don’t need evil to show what good is, it is the other way around.

In conclusion, I strongly recommend reading this book, many have said that it is the most impactful book they have ever read beside the Bible, and I would tend to agree. Whether or not we know it, I think we all need the kind of healing Mack received, because we all tend to hold grudges against God whether or not we know it. We don’t understand God and in our limited human understanding, we hold that against him. We need to know him personally to understand him, all the rules we put upon ourselves do nothing to bring us closer to him unless we can realize that we are powerless to follow those rules. And that’s what the rules are for.

I dare to call him Papa,


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Another Lying Email, This Time, it is About Barack Obama

I just finished reading chapter 11 of "The Shack" by William P. Young, and after crying to the point of not being able to continue reading a few times, I really don't feel like writing right now, but I feel that I must, because one thing I've done here is combat bogus email forwards, and I have another one for you.

Again, I have no political affiliations and just because this post is the second in a row in regard to Barack Obama does not mean that I am voting for him or in any way trying to support him or any other candidate.

I received the following email from a friend from church. He is a great guy, but he is a conservative after all.

Meet Barak

Guys we need to pray hard, our Nation is in a bad
place for the next Presidential
election, in 2008.

If you do not ever forward anything else, please
forward this to all your contacts...this is very scary to think of what
lies ahead of us here in our own United States
...better heed this and
pray about it and share it.


We checked this out on "
snopes.com". It is factual.
Check for yourself..

Who is Barack Obama?
U. S. presidential candidate, Barack Hussein
Obama was born in
, Hawaii , to Barack Hu ssein Obama, Sr., a
black MUSLIM from Nyangoma-Kogel ,
Kenya and Ann Dunham, a white ATHEIST from Wichita , Kansas ..

Obama's parents met at the University of Hawaii . When Obama was two
years old, his parents divorced. His father returned to Kenya . His
mother then married Lolo Soetoro, a RADICAL Muslim
from Indonesia . When Obama was 6 years old, the family re located to
Indonesia . Obama attended a MUSLIM school in Jakarta . He also spent
two years in a Catholic school.

Obama takes great care to conceal the fact that he is
a Muslim. He is quick to point out that, "He was once a Muslim, but
that he also attended Catholic school." He does not say the Pledge
of Allegiance, sing the National Anthem, nor put his hand over his
heart when others pledge or sing.
Obama's political handlers are attempting to make it appear that Obama's
introduction to Islam came via his father, and that this influence was
temporary at best. In reality, the senior Obama returned to Kenya
soon after the divorce, and never again had any direct influence over
his son's education. Lolo Soetoro, the second husb and of Obama's mother,
Ann Dunham, introduced his stepson to Islam. Obama was enrolled in
a Wahabi school in
Jakarta .

Wahabism is the RADICAL teaching that is followed by the Muslim
terrorists who are now waging Jihad against the western world. Since
it is politically expedient to be a CHRISTIAN when
seeking major public
office in the United States , Barack Hussein Obama has joined the United
Church of Christ in an attempt to downplay his Muslim
ALSO, keep in mind that when he was sworn into office he DID
NOT use the Hol y Bible, but instead the Koran (Their equiva lency to
our Bible, but very different b eliefs)
Let us all remain alert concerning Obama's expected
presidential candidacy.
The Muslims have said they plan on destroying the
U.S .
from the inside out, what better way to start than at the highest
level - through the President of the
United States , one of their own!!!!
If it comes down to being between him or Hillary .. then we REALLY are
between a rock and a hard place.

Please forwa rd to everyone you know. Would you want
this man leading our
country?...... NOT ME!!!

Please do note the multiple misspellings and especially the gratuitous mention of snopes.com where all these claims are supposedly verified.

When I first read this, it didn't look right. After all, I am a conscientious American person who has already investigated somewhat into the candidates of the upcoming election. I had heard the rumor before that Obama was a Muslim and decided to check and found that he was not, and for many reasons. So just to make sure, I actually went to snopes.com and checked out whether or not these things were actually true though I already knew they were not. You can find the page at the following url.


What to my wondering eyes did appear but that Barack Obama was high atop the top ten list at the fabulous Snopes website. So, as has become my practice, I hit the "Reply All" button and wrote a scathing reply to aforementioned bogus email and sent it off with a hint of nervousness as per the usual. You see, as a champion of truth (that I strive to be) I cannot let things like this go, so not only do I need to tell the person who sent it the error of their ways, but I need to spread the word in like "Forward" fashion, especially to those who have already received this poison (as any lie is.) I have done the same thing several times before, each time I have documented the corrections on the blog here, but I have not enumerated the procedure I have used.

These lies are damaging to the political process, and I am embarrassed for my friend because he claims to be a believer. As a Jesus Freak, I cannot allow lies like this or any other to continue to be espoused, and I cannot let a fellow believer to spread lies especially in a religious and Christian context. It is simply wrong. It does not matter if Obama were a Muslim or a Scientologist or a Satan worshiper. To lie and to be a Christian are mutually exclusive states of being.

In conclusion, Think people! Do you think that something like a Muslim candidate for president of the United States would have slipped through the cracks? For crying out loud, there's been enough minority talk, it would be like if someone missed the fact that Hillary was a woman. There would be an uproar. So don't believe lies. Don't believe things that look suspiciously like lies. Don't believe things that are supposedly secrets yet are being broadcast wet willy (you know who you are) nilly throughout the internet. And for the love of all things righteous and good, if you are gonna tell us you looked it up on Snopes, at least have the stones not to lie about that either.

Good night to all both of you,

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

Some people will never change.

After all that has happened, does anyone trust Bill Clinton to tell the truth?

I am not knocking Democrats here. I've got no particular bones to pick. I am a Moderate Independent, a registered independent. I've got no party affiliations. One thing I do hate though, is misquoting. Because it is a form of lying that I consider particularly distasteful. What it does is to not just lie, but to say that someone said they didn't. It is not only lying yourself, but bringing in an innocent outsider to make your point.

The Bible calls this "bearing false witness against your neighbor." I believe it is one of the more important of the biblical mandates, having been listed with the eponymous "Ten Commandments." As you may have read in previous posts in this blog, misquoting is something I really am disgusted with. I encounter it quite often with Jehovah's Witnesses. The reason there is that Witnesses are not allowed to read anything not published by the Watchtower organization, so the writers and higher ups are free to quote anyone and everything and make it agree with them. Most of the time, I don't even see why they bother to actually selectively quote or misquote, when they can just as easily write their own material between the quotation marks and call it good.

Again, let me say that I am in no way endorsing any candidate for president in this post. Nor am I endorsing any party.

Bill Clinton in commenting on Barack Obama's war stance got all high and mighty saying that Obama had changed his opinion back in 2004. You should be able to find this from any news source. He was making this speech and getting all heated and uptight saying how the media was sanitizing what was going on. So he says that Obama wasn't sure and quoted the New York Times article. He used this to point out how Obama was wishy washy and all. But the truth is, if you look at the rest of the quote, you will notice that Obama actually said that he wasn't sure, he didn't think the case was made [for the war]. If you ask a jury member why he didn't convict, and he says "I'm not sure, I don't think the case was made for him being guilty, so I voted not guilty," is that wishy washy?

What I am wondering is why did Bill even bother? How obvious is it that he has never even read that article, or, if he did, deliberately misquoted it. C'mon Bill. I want to like you, you did great things for balancing the budget, you shrunk the military, you didn't start any wars, you are a smart guy and a hard worker, but you are a freakin' liar.

So my question is still, do we trust Bill, or has he worn that out? If I were his wife, at what point do I stop trusting him? "Sorry honey, I did fondle that chick, and I'm really sorry, I'll never do it again.......any more..........today." Or is she a wife of priveledge who has long given up asking her husband that he be faithful to her.

I'm not voting for anyone right now.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Skystream 3.7 at Wal Mart in Lowell Arkansas

I just discovered the other week that for some reason, Wal Mart has put up a Skystream 3.7 wind turbine in the parking lot of their Lowell Arkansas store. This makes two wind turbines that I know of in Arkansas now.

The Skystream is a pretty decent machine, it is a direct to grid style turbine, with the inverter actually built into the nacelle. It is rated for 1.8 kw and peaks at 2.3 kw. Being a small direct to grid style turbine, it will not make any power when the power is out, it will stop. Notice there is no tail, the blades actually trail the nacelle instead of being in front of it. This does reduce the efficiency a smidge, but it eliminates a few parts. Southwest Wind Power advertises that this turbine can make power for cheaper than you can pay for it which is a good thing, especially as energy prices rise.

Interestingly enough, they actually installed it on top of a light pole.

Now, if they'd just finish off the rest of the parking lot, they'd have something going.


Blog Move Complete

Both the HardCoreTruth and Sustainable Living blogs have been seamlessly (uh huh) transfered to this blog. If you want to read any of the old stuff, just click one of the labels to see all posts relating to that word, or click back a few months in the archives.


Old Blog Posts to Come Here!

My wife had a rough night last night and while she is taking a nap to make up for it, she left me in charge of the boy for a while on this beautiful 63 degree January day.

I'm gonna begin the process of moving all the posts from the two old blogs here to make one big blog and have all the archives and things in one place.

Those of you with subscriptions, I'm not sure if you'll get notifications, but just ignore them for today.


Friday, January 4, 2008

Truth is Over There!!!

I was pondering Jehovah’s Witnesses again the other day, and just going over their modes of thinking to try to understand just how they work. And something came to me. I remember growing up as a Seventh Day Adventist, and I really didn’t know what the world was all about. The vast majority of the Seventh-Day Adventists I know (and am related to) are what I’d call religious but not spiritual. The truth is, the Spirit is what draws a person, religion draws people who want to be right. That is what religion really is after all, it is a system wherein you learn the truth handed down in the form of rules. Thus, if you follow the rules, you are right, end of story.

Spirituality and true Jesus Freakiness is about a relationship. Jesus fulfilled the law and all the rules, so they are no longer in a list for us to follow, but they are written on our hearts. We don’t need to do something or not do something because the Bible says so, we do or don’t because it is the way we have become. We live as Christ lives in us. This was the kind of thing I didn’t understand as an SDA. When I wanted to reach out to a neighbor girl (I was like 8, as was she) all I could do was to invite her to church. I did this because I didn’t know Jesus, the best I could do was to point her to someone who did, I thought.

I find this same philosophy or mentality with JW’s. All they have is what they have been told, what they read. There is nothing written on their hearts. They are not Jehovah’s Witnesses, they haven’t witnessed anything, they just heard about it, that makes them Jehovah’s Gossips. How does that play out? They leave Watchtowers and Awake!s around at bus stops and park benches and hospital lobbies where I find them and take them home to add to my collection. What they are saying is "Look at this, surely this will convince you because I'm shooting blanks spiritually speaking." Some SDA's can tend to do the same thing with Ellen White.

Perusing the internet, I found a website called something like Six Screens of the Watchtower. This guy had been disfellowshipped and actually taped the meeting by sticking a recorder in a cut out in one of the books he had brought to the meeting. After he had pled his case and offered his arguments, he was temporarily dismissed for a closed door meeting. And then………….virtual silence. What was going on? All to be heard was rustling of pages. No speaking, and as far as I could tell, no critical or individual thinking. They were looking up verses and passages in their books, there was not a thought among them. That is what separates a religious person from a spiritual person. Spirituality in the correct context draws all power from the Holy Spirit. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe in the Holy Spirit per se, therefore, they can’t really come up with much creative content.

What impresses me is when someone can witness without a Bible in his or her hand, because you know it is in his or her heart, and they do not need to get the words right because the Spirit is working directly through them. This is what the essence of a true believer is. We don’t all need to be missionaries to other countries, but we do all need to be missionaries here where we do live. We can’t all be preachers or pastors, but we can all disciple others.

And for any Jehovah’s Witnesses, before you complain about being insulted, why not actually read what is written and ask yourself if it is true.

If it is not, then complain.


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Good Guys

I was listening to a message delivered by Donald Miller at Mars Hill Bible Church in Michigan the other week. You can find it via their site or iTunes. Much of the message related to stories. In fact, you might see it as a parable in a sense, though instead of using agronomy as Jesus did, Don used the form of a good story. You might know Donald Miller from one of his several books, but especially one I loved and highly recommend, Blue Like Jazz. Every good screenwriter and author knows that a good story needs a good protagonist, that is, main character. But more than just being a good hero, or being attractive, strong, whatever, the hero needs to have a few important traits in order for the audience to like him or her. Firstly, he must never think he is better than anyone.

For the sake of long windedness, that’s the only thing I’ll cover today.

For the past few days, I have been mulling this over in my mind, what does this have to do with us, you know, us Americans. I think it has been coming together. I want to be very careful and not blame the world situation today on a single trait of a single nation, but as in a movie, a single trait never makes a character.

But Don tells us that a single trait can make or break a character in a movie. A good example of a movie with a humble protagonist is I Am Legend. Throughout the movie, Will Smith’s character is always simply driven to right the wrongs. Several times he does not allow the blame for Armageddon to pass to others, he has decided that the problem must be fixed, and that he will fix it.

Now us.

What is one of the most common things said among patriots in the United States of America? “The United States of America is the greatest nation on earth.” I won’t dispute this, but I also will not affirm it. Is it possible to think that maybe we are not always the good guy? Are we the good guy, but our movie was a box office flop because the audience does not connect with the character? I think a little of both.

We live in a world of turmoil. Some may disagree, but this has always been the case. So who is to blame? Other than the fact that we are on this side of the garden, in many cases, the US is. The US is almost single handedly responsible for the Islamic extremism that we see today. That is not to say that Muslims aren’t responsible as well, because everyone is responsible for their own actions, no matter the trigger. But when a country continually meddles in the affairs of another country, or many other countries, the result is never good.

If you ask the average person on the street if they are better than anyone else, the answer will almost invariably be no. It is just not something that is acceptable in our culture today, and for good reason, because according to Jesus, we are all equals. But if you ask if our country is better than other countries, the answer will far more likely be yes. So what is the difference? None, if you ask both questions of the same person and get different answers, that means one of the answers is a lie. Does that mean that the US does not have a higher standard of living, better health care, or lower crime? No, just as being better than another person should have nothing to do with how healthy they are or how much money they have.

What am I trying to say?

I am trying to say we need humility. As a nation, that is the single thing we lack the most. It spills over into everything we do in the world. You cannot walk into a business meeting and say “you suck, I never want to be like you, you have nothing to offer me but money, so you might as well just hand it over now.” That is not how deals are made, and of course, that is not how our politicians work, but it is the prevailing attitude. The only things the US has more than any other country is consumption and money. So our country’s defining characteristic is materialism. How sad.

So let me answer some things before I finish. Am I an American? Yes. Do I love my country, yes. Do I think it needs help? Absolutely. Why did I write this? People need to know, people need to think, people need to realize that being an American affords you nothing, it is simply where you live, because where there are freedoms, they can be taken away. There are six billion people who don’t live in America, and many of them love their country. They go on about their everyday business just like we do, they are just like us, inherently no better, and no worse.

Freedom is our greatest attribute, sure, but no freedom is ever guaranteed permanently.