Memes and Anti-Memes

Two Face

One of the claims of the New Atheists is that church-goers get disillusioned by a type of mirage called a “meme.”

According to merriam-webster.com, a meme is:

“ an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture”

Let’s take, for instance, an image where God is a father.  In this meme, we might have an image where God looks like a smiling father with a child sitting comfortably in His lap.  This image becomes a meme when we freeze the bounds, where God can be nothing other than this picture.  Yes, God is certainly like an earthly father, but he is not constrained to those characteristics.  So when we find God to be something other than that meme, we have a set of choices to make.  The options I can see are four-fold.

  1. Unwaveringly hold on to the meme. God is a charming earthly father and nothing more.
  2. Study to find what else God might be. What might a Heavenly Father look like?
  3. Replace the meme with another meme. God is not a charming earthly father, but rather an impatient, abusive father.
  4. Study to find out whether God is a product of fiction. Perhaps we cannot find a rational description of God.

Notice the other meme in option 3.  This is done by sloppy study of the God of the Bible.  By cherry-picking verses out of the Bible rather than doing serious study, we can make God out to be a very angry father.  I call this other meme an anti-meme.  Rather than taking a hard, honest look at what a Heavenly Father entails, we take a quick glance and end up with another false image.  Now we have a “raging father” meme rather than a “charming father” meme.  And if we make a false assumption that we have honestly and diligently studied Biblical history, we could skip to step 4 and state, “Perhaps we cannot find a rational description of God.”  So a false set of options would look like this:

  1. Unwaveringly hold on to the meme. God is a charming earthly father and nothing more.
  2. Study to find out whether God is a product of fiction. God is not a charming earthly father, but rather an impatient, abusive father. Perhaps we cannot find a rational description of God.

Coincidentally works out for the atheist, doesn’t it?  And yet the other options are subtly out of view.

So what happens if we explore option 2 out of the 4 options?  I’ve been reading a book by Paul Copan, “Is God a Moral Monster?”  If we read books like this in light of the new atheists’ claims, we’ll at least have a balanced view.  Taking this in addition to my own study of the Bible, I can consider what a Heavenly Father might look like.  For starters, He’s got billions of children over the course of thousands of years in various cultures of various ages.  Consider that some of His children are tyrants, while others cry out for deliverance.  A Heavenly Father’s patience may last for hundreds of years, and yet cries for help cannot be ignored.  And how did ancient Biblical people view things?  From my own research, ancient Middle-Easterners would look at modern Westerners as a bunch of softies.  But don’t take my word for it; do your own research and find for out yourself.  You’ll find their situation is no easy picture, no quickly-forming meme.

The word ‘antimeme’ or ‘anti-meme’ does not have a definition according to the latest Merriam-Webster results.  By ‘anti-meme’ I refer to:

“a fresh meme that is invented to replace another diametrically-opposed meme”

This meme will probably not behave like the original meme, since it is new or falsely presented as new.  Therefore, it will not appear mindless or viral, rather as fresh and original.  Like a meme, an anti-meme will have some reasoning behind it, reasoning that supports the opposing viewpoint.  However, like the meme, the anti-meme will depend on assumptions and caricatures.

A popular anti-meme says that Jesus’ crucifixion was a form of cosmic child abuse.  What images come to your mind when you think of ‘child abuse?’  The first image I get is a child in elementary school that wears long sleeves in summer to cover her bruises.  I confirm the moral injustice, the unethical treatment within the situation.  Abusing a child is certainly wrong.  So does the crucifixion fit this profile?  Let’s read from Jesus’ own words to His Father before the crucifixion:

John 17:1 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was…”

From an eternal perspective, the focus shifts from the word ‘child’ to the word ‘cosmic.’  Jesus is a child to God only in the sense that He is a Son; not in the sense of being younger or less mature.  Often the Biblical reference to the word ‘child’ is misinterpreted due to the strength of family tradition.  You could be 70 years old and be the ‘child’ of a 100-year-old, because your father would always be your father.  On top of this, we have an infinite son of an infinite father.  How meme-shattering the ‘cosmic child’ proves to be!

So should we hastily throw away all our memes?  No.  Memes are a good starting point, like intuition to a child.  Think of memes like icons on your computer.  What If instead of small pictures that represented the entire programs on your computer desktop, you had the entire programs all running simultaneously on your screen?  Actually, this would waste a ton of memory and keep the other icons out of sight.  I suggest that instead of totally blowing all our memes away, we should investigate them one by one.  We might just enrich each one.  God is a very loving Heavenly Father, one that has an eternal plan in mind for each one of us.  Yes, it is more complicated and sometimes quite bewildering.  It ties in a multi-dimensional love woven through times and cultures.  It defies a simple explanation, and yet ultimately becomes a reality in a future world.  Let’s be careful not to hastily adopt memes or anti-memes.  For the serious Bible student, this means to “be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

Copyright 2014

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God’s emoticons (Part 2)

emoticon2 laptop

If you haven’t read Part 1 of this 3-part series, start reading here: Part 1

WINKS

7 out of 14 winks that say “You’ll see what I mean 😉” or “This one’s for you, my precious child 😉

1)  Deut 21:23 His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of Godwink that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.

This one sent shivers down my spine, knowing the full context of the verse.  One of the heaviest judgments in the Mosaic Law involved the accursed punishment that was more often carried out by barbarians (Gentiles.)  The Israelites would prefer not to hang a man on a tree, much less leave him there.  Even darker is the idea of having a child so rebellious as to hand them over to judgment by the elders (Earlier in the chapter.  FYI – This is not a young child, but a son old enough to be getting drunk on wine. See v. 20)  And yet the time came when God heaped both these unthinkable acts upon His own Son.  Outside the city gates, a man hangs on a makeshift tree.  For God the Father, tears.  For Jesus, the weight of mankind’s curse.  For us, love unspeakable.  This wink says, “You’ll see what I mean.  This sounds like a horrible curse.  But I planned it this way.  It’s because I love you.”

2) 1 kings 8: 38 What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house: 39 Then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of menwink

We saw this same declaration in 2 chron 7: 30, a reason to smile.  Just when we think we’ve got some hidden passageway among the secured passageways of our heart, there comes the searing burn of God’s piercing sight.  “I see what you’re doing, and I’m waiting for you to bring that to the altar.”

3) Neh 9:29: testifiedst against them, that thou mightest bring them again unto thy law: yet they dealt proudly, and hearkened not unto thy commandments, but sinned against thy judgments, (which if a man do, he shall live in themwink and withdrew the shoulder, and hardened their neck, and would not hear.

If you can keep God’s commandments you’ll live.  The Israelites, our example, proved humans can’t stay faithful.  You could try to do what they could not.  Or, you could take the atonement paid in Christ, fulfilling the commandments, pleasing God, and attaining perfection in His sight.  Then you’ll live longer.  Wink, wink.

4) Esther 9: 1 Now in the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s commandment and his decree drew near to be put in execution, in the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have power over them, (though it was turned to the contrary, that the Jews had rule over them that hated themwink

This describes the overturned plot of the wicked Haman.  The same man who determined to destroy the Jews out of burning pride, this man would find that very destruction pinned on him.  God was ever looking out for the Jewish lineage, no matter the odds, no matter the kings or kingdoms, and no matter the hot-headed personalities.

5) John 2: 9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knewwink the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, 10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. 11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.

In verse 9, I can just imagine the servants’ horror as the ruler of the feast put the goblet up to his mouth, the servant knowing full well it came from the barrel of water.  And I can imagine Jesus winking at the servants the moment the gulp washed down the lofty throat.  Baited breaths waited for the master to toss the goblet in disgusted rage.  Instead, unexpected pleasure spread throughout the house.  Jesus’ first miracle says, “I’m nothing like what you would have expected.  I’m much more.”

6) Rom 9: 11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that callethwink

I’ll hold off on the extended debate over predestination.  My view is one where God called all of us, and we choose whether to answer that call.  He happens to know which one of us will answer before we do, but that does not prevent His infinite love from reaching to those who won’t.  One thing is clear in the book of Romans: salvation is not by works.  Salvation is by “him that calleth.”  And we all know who that might be.  Wink, wink.

7) 2 cor 9: 8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:  9 (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever.  10 Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousnesswink

Where do righteousness and good works come from?  Surprise, it’s not religion.  According to this passage, it’s God’s grace and distribution that enables us.  Notice verse 9 says bread and seed and righteousness.  Just being righteous around the poor, just doing “holy” things isn’t going to impress them.  Hand them food, plant some useful knowledge, show unwavering kindness, and then watch God’s reward come back to your storehouse.

Stay tuned.  7 more winks to follow…  Go to Part 3

God’s emoticons (Part 1)

emoticon laptop

Emoticons are a modern way to express joy, sorrow, and a collection of other emotions.  Imagine a time-traveling friend wanting to leave you a message, so he sneaks his message into an ancient document.  The year is 1611.  A document of documents marks history, ensuring its presence into the 21st century.  Little did you know, the Bible is the document, and it’s got a personal message from a dear friend.  Actually, the friend is God, and He’s also a loving Father and perfect judge.  You’d think this multi-faceted relationship would make things too complicated, furthering the distance.  Then you find out He sent His only non-adopted Son to bridge the gap.  The Bible is His written intention of displaying His love and plans for you.

So what do emoticons have to do with this?  First of all, let me clarify that these are not as sure as the Word of God itself.  These are impressions I’ve gotten, which are more of a comforting thought than a take-it-to-the-bank statement.  I happened upon these little emoticons every now and then when listening to my pastor or enjoying peaceful devotions.  The ones that stood out to me were the smiles 🙂 and winks 😉 that showed up at just the right spot.  The smiles seemed to be saying, “You can smile, this is good news.”  The winks weren’t the bad winks, as if God were winking at sin, but more the sense of “You’ll see what I mean” or “This one’s for you, my precious child.”

I’m not saying with 100% certainty that God did place these emoticons there for a specific reason.  But then again, who says that He couldn’t?  What I will do is to share the smiles/winks that really hit me most, and explain why they hit me.  As a blog, I’ve split this up into 3 parts: SMILES, WINKS1 and WINKS2.

SMILES 

Here’s 8 smiles that say “You can smile, this is good news  smile

1) Num 34:2 Command the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land of Canaan; (this is the land that shall fall unto you for an inheritance, even the land of Canaan with the coasts thereof smile

Reason to smile: Before the children of Israel even stepped foot in Canaan, God guaranteed the inheritance of the place with its coasts.

2) 1 Kings 11: 32 (But he shall have one tribe for my servant David’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel smile

Reason to smile: Through the royal line of David, in the prized city of Jerusalem, Jesus would come, the ultimate fulfillment of the promise.

3) 2 Chron 6: 30 Then hear thou from heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and render unto every man according unto all his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou only knowest the hearts of the children of men smile

Reason to smile: It may not be comforting to hear that God knows our hearts through and through, but the beginning of the verse reminds us that He does hear and forgive.

4) Matt 6: 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek smile for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

Reason to smile: This smile comes right in between all those nice things the world is reaching for and then the Father’s knowledge of our needs.  He knows exactly what we need, so smile!

5) Luke 2: 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David smile

Everything the prophets pointed to – the lineage, the place, the time – have all lined up.  Now just look up and seek out the star’s trail.  You can see the corners of history’s mouth curl up into a smile.

6) Acts 10: 36 The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all smile

Reason to smile: Following the aftermath of war-torn ages and captivities, the peace that comes from the kingdom of Christ comes with a beaming smile.  Verses 37 and 38 describe the entrance of this eternal kingdom:

37 That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;  38 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.

7) 2 Cor. 5:7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight smile

Reason to smile:  If we walked by sight, we’d look to our present circumstances and most likely frown.  Faith is the substance – the future reality – of things hoped for.  And these future things, as promised by God, are definitely worth smiling about.

8) Gal 2:8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles smile

If you’re a Gentile, here’s a reason to smile: God called Paul to bring the Gentiles to Christ.  If you’re a Gentile and a Christian, you can trace your spiritual lineage back to the outworking of this very verse.

(All verses are taken from the 1611 King James Version of the Bible.  Also, you’ll notice I had to use this image smile or else wordpress automatically turns the punctuation into another image.)

GO TO PART 2