Freedom

There is a repeated trope that is sometimes derived from some understanding of neurology that we don’t have free will.

But it’s a twisting of facts.

We do have free will. The truth that’s being twisted is about the form free will take, because it’s often different from the way we imagine it.

We often think if free will as the ability to make a decision in the moment.

What’s true is that we often don’t make a decision in the moment but instead rely on habits we’ve built up over time when determining behavior.

But we can change our habits. The the lie or manipulation is ignoring our ability to alter our habitual reactions. It’s an inherent neuro-cognitive process of the brain that we can evaluate the outcomes of our habitual behaviors and alter them in order to secure better outcomes.

Changing habits can be hard for sure. But it’s not impossible. And it’s the best way to ensure that we are making decisions about our behavior instead of relying on our pre-existing habits unthinkingly.

A sort of logic

Many of the things we believe come down to our assumptions. We might look at someone else and think their beliefs don’t make sense, that they are irrational.

Sometimes true.

But frequently we are missing something. We are missing the set of assumptions they are relying on.

For example, think about climate change.

Then assume that the world is ending. Not that you think it might be ending or could be ending. Assume that you are 100% positive the world will come to an end in the next decade or two.

Not just a generic eschatology either. Assume one of the more common and ostensibly orthodox western evangelical Protestant Christian eschatologies: the world is about to be utterly destroyed by a supreme deity that will then bring into being a new, perfected creation.

Assume that you know for sure that those events are about to play out. Or that they have already begun.

If so, why would climate change matter?

Why would mass extinctions and biodiversity loss matter?

Why would overpopulation and population sustainability matter?

If that assumption is true then none of those things matter.

I know that it is easy to shrug this topic off. Easy to say to ourselves: no one really believes that eschatological stuff.

But they do. Some believe it fervently and it informs their every decision and defines their entire thought process.

Many have a more dynamic thought process influenced by a host of other assumptions. But this end times belief is still one of their foundational assumptions about the world. It still informs and shapes their beliefs and actions. Even if they don’t think about eschatology with any regularity it still has an influence on all their cognitive processes.

A bit of light conversation: who goes to hell?

We usually use the word punishment when it comes to hell

You break God’s rules so you’re sent to hell to be punished

I think we get it wrong
I think people chose to go to hell

Think like a freeway with a speed limit

Now I’m driving 90 in a 65 stretch
A police officer pulls me over
I get a ticket
I am being punished, I have to pay a fine. The goal is that I will want to avoid the fine in the future and that’ll motivate me to follow the speed limit.

I don’t think hell works like that.
I don’t think God works like that.

I’m driving that same stretch of highway. The 65 speed limit is there for a reason. There are a series of curves and if I take them too fast I’ll fly off the road. The limit is to prevent me from injury myself and others.

I ignore it again and drive 90.
There is no police officer this time and I lose control. I fly off the road and am horribly injured.

I’m not being punished now.
I’m suffering the consequences of my choices.

Ignored the speed limit and that choice resulted in the crash.

This is how God works
God gives us instructions
To prevent us from crashing
When we crash it’s not punishment from God
It’s the inevitable outcome of our decisions

Why do people go to hell?
Because they choose to.
It’s the inevitable outcome of their actions.

Jesus gave us clear simple instructions, the steps to avoid crashing.

Attend the hungry & thirsty & stranger & naked & sick & imprisoned

Love your God & your neighbor

Do it with all your mind and soul

Or you’ll crash

If you want to know where I got most of this, check out the parables of Matthew 25 and even 22. Even if just as a jumping off point.

Also, I’m not talking about earning salvation eyeroll but I’ll talk about justification and all that academic nonsense at some point later on. When I’m bored

Same with Hell

I’m def on the left side of Christianity where the concept of Hell is not as prominent. I’ll probably talk about why I still believe in it at some point. Though my belief, as outlined above, is definitely not in favor on the right side of Christianity

Water & Leaves

I like tea

It’s a simple beverage

Tea leaves soaked in hot water until the leaves flavor the water

You can fancy it up, add sweeteners or milk, chill and add some fruit maybe

But the basic ingredients are simple

Hot water
Tea leaves

Brings this Bible passage to mind:

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Matthew 22:34-40 NRSVCE

Jesus gives Christians two basic ingredients here:

Love God
Love your neighbors

Fancy it up however you want; you need these two ingredients

When you have them, you have the basic ingredients necessary to be a Christian

Some focus on the first ingredient, after all Jesus calls it the greatest commandment

It’s like the hot water for tea

Tea is something you drink after all
Without a liquid you don’t even have the fundamental basis for a beverage

The most important thing before you even try to have tea is to find some water

But you cannot ignore the second step
If you don’t actually put the tea leaves in the water, then all you’ll ever have is a cup of hot water

Many who claim to follow Christ do this with the greatest commandment

They proclaim their love for God
They have the cup of hot water

But they refuse to love their neighbor
They refuse to add the tea leaves

Dress the water up in the fanciest trappings and the excruciatingly intricate language you want

It’s still just a cup of hot water

If you want to make a commitment to Christ, he made himself clear

Get your water
And put the leaves in it

(Next post: Finding Fire & a Cup)

Expectations

It’s never good when we expect a person to accomplish something that they never set out to accomplish

Them judge them by their inability to complete the unattempted task

It’s deliberately misleading to say that someone failed at a task they never undertook

My brother is writing a novel, so I shouldn’t expect that book to be a detailed factual history

My cousin writes music, so I shouldn’t expect those songs to be methodical genealogies

Even when there is some overlap, when a person tries to use another subject to better accomplish their task

The original task is still the standard we should judge by

A piece of fiction about a historical event is still fiction

A song about genealogy is still a song

I should hold these works to the standard of what they were trying to achieve:

An entertaining tale

An engrossing tune

Meant to make us think and stimulate us in specific ways

The same for the Bible

The Bible is meant to make us think and stimulate us in specific ways

It’s books were composed intentionally

It’s authors had specific goals in mind

To expect the Bible to accomplish tasks it’s authors never set out to accomplish sets it up for failure

When the Bible fails at such tasks, it hasn’t really failed at all

We have chosen to read it incorrectly

We have expected it to do something it was never meant to do

Not just by its human authors, but by God as well

If you believe in God

And you believe that God delivered the Bible to us deliberately

In it’s current form

Then approach the Bible with the assumption that we are meant to read it as it is delivered

If God wanted the Bible to be something other than a collection of books written by different authors over long periods of time

Then it wouldn’t be what it is today

The Bible is a library meant to help you know God better

The Bible does what a library does: illuminate truth by viewing the world from multiple perspectives

That is the task it is meant to accomplish

There is plenty of room for nuance here. For me, I may try to accomplish a specific task but it’s clear that I should have approached it from a different angle. In that case I failed to accomplish something that I wasn’t trying to accomplish, but probably should have. Many more examples I’m sure but I still stick by the purpose of this post; it’s important to approach the Bible for what it is trying to do.

Not what we wish it to do.

Also, just a side note, the picture of books that I used in this post is the Nag Hammadi Library. Which is not part of the Bible. But come on, those leathery tomes are cool looking 😎

I should really do a post just about Peter Gomes & why no one knows who he is

But for now I’ll just post this quote

And think about what it says to me today

Then also think about the fact that he spoke these words in 1989

And think about what that says about us today

“There must be such a hope for the destitute of our American Calcuttas,’ Gomes said. ‘There must be such a hope for the prisoners of the inner city within sight of this cathedral church and beyond; there must be such a hope for the aged and the destitute; there must be such a hope for persons with AIDS and those who love and care for them”

I encourage you to think on these words

the most direct offense against the Truth

I am definitely not a Roman Catholic but I do find that faith very intriguing.

I especially enjoy the faith and history of the Maronite Catholic Church, which is in the full communion with the Pope and the Roman Church.

But today I have a particular excerpt from their Catechism on my mind:

Lying is the most direct offense against the truth. To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error. By injuring man’s relation to truth and to his neighbor, a lie offends against the fundamental relation of man and of his word to the Lord

-Catechism of the Catholic Church 2483

In today’s world, in our media forms and practices, I feel this is particularly applicable.

I am increasingly concerned about the modern practice of following news sources that we identify with ideologically and ignoring all others.

As well as searching out online resources we already agree with. Then accepting everything that source says as fact.
If you don’t double check those claims and they turn out to be false, you’ve been lied to.

And I’ve started to wonder if failing at our own due diligence in regard to the information we accept and spread falls under the same category as the lies described in the Catholic Catechism.

Doesn’t the spread of information we don’t know to be true or false count as a direct offense against the truth?

Doesn’t it injure our relation to truth and to our neighbors?

I believe that spreading information without verifying its accuracy is equivalent with gossip.

The Catechism denounces that as well:

Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury

-Catechism of the Catholic Church 2477

And even if the Catechism means nothing to you, turning to the Bible brings the condemnation to another level.

In this👇text the level of evil associated with gossip is unambiguous.
Because wow, I don’t see many protesters with signs that say “God Hates Gossip”

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God–haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.

Romans 1:28-32 NRSVCE

Some would say this👆passage is about the consequences of being homosexual. But after running through that list, I recommend having a long think about the thoughts and actions being condemned here. I’m sure you’ll agree that those traits are common everywhere across all demographics

I believe that spreading unverified information on the internet is clearly a form of gossip. And if you believe that what the Bible says is true, have a think about what it means to gossip.

What a person’s insides are like if they are willing to spread gossip.

Agree or don’t; think on it.