Arbitrary Miracles and Steve Jobs

rabbit_out_of_hat

Are miracles arbitrary?

Imagine with me an ordinary guy named Bob.  Nothing too exceptional ever happens to Bob, so far.  Bob considers himself a bit unique as he is the proud owner of a MacBook.  Yes, it was more expensive, but personally, Bob finds Mac more desirable than Windows.  Then one day everything changed for ordinary Bob.  It began on a Monday in August.  Bob met what he assumed to be a Steve Jobs look-a-like.  At his doorstep. First of all, it would be flattering but highly unlikely that Steve Jobs would drop by average Bob’s house.  Secondly, this was shortly after the terribly sad news of Job’s death.  Certainly this could not be the real Steve Jobs.  Surprisingly, the man introduced himself as “Steve Jobs” and “pleased to meet” one of his greatest fans.

“B-b-but you can’t be Steve Jobs. He’s-”

“My death was highly exaggerated. Mind if I see your MacBook?”

“Maybe… but why?”

“Aren’t you just a tad curious?”

“Okay, sure. Just don’t break it.”

The man grew a smile that was ready to erupt into laughter.  He brought up screens Bob had never seen before, and he sped through programming lines like a serious hacker.  Just about the time Bob was able to move his limp jaw to interrupt, the man sat back with his arms folded up behind his head.  He pushed away from the table where the new MacBook sat.  Well, it may as well be brand new, for the improved programming put into it.  The welcome screen had realistic jets flying crisscross until their jet-lines spelled WELCOME BOB in Bob’s favorite color and Bob’s favorite font, jets being Bob’s second favorite thing (His first favorite was Apple products).  And the startup sound, well, that would be Bob’s favorite song, Stayin’ Alive.  The MacBook started up faster than ever, and every one of Bob’s programs ran better than ever.  In fact, his jet-fighter game had more definition and unlocked extras.

After looking through everything on the MacBook, Bob was impressed to say the least.

“How?! How did you even know what I like?”

“Well, that part was easy.  It’s found in your computer’s memory.  Besides, you are one of my biggest fans.  Remember when you signed up to give feedback?  Well, you certainly had a great deal of input, and I took notice.”

So goes the story of average Bob and Steve Jobs.  Were this to actually happen to a real-life Bob, he might just believe that he had truly met Steve Jobs.  Let’s temporarily work with the assumption that Steve Jobs did make this special visit, and let’s agree with Bob that it’s a miracle.  If nothing else, Bob’s visitor has given strong proof of his identity as Steve Jobs.

Now let’s ask ourselves how a God who created the universe might prove His existence.  Could He work through miracles?  Wouldn’t that mean breaking His own laws, the physical laws of nature?  Well, isn’t that what Steve Jobs did in our story?  Bob’s MacBook came pre-programmed with the rules coded by Apple.  But in order for Mr. Jobs to prove himself, he overwrote some original lines of code and set new rules.  How else would he have proven himself?  Even if there were some other way, doesn’t Mr. Jobs have the right to choose a personal touch?

What about the arbitrary factor of miracles?  Doesn’t that fly in the face of a God of laws?  How can we even know His works if He might just suspend all His own laws and do whatever He wants?  Again, let’s ask the same of our Steve Jobs.  Imagine Steve tried to prove himself as the founder of Apple by making a rabbit appear out of a hat.  Although that might impress Bob, it wouldn’t help answer his pressing question.  The apparent miracle of spontaneous appearance has nothing to do with MacBooks.  Breaking Bob’s reality – the reality that rabbits only appear from holes in the ground – is arbitrary.  However, breaking Bob’s preset coding in his MacBook is very meaningful (the opposite of arbitrary.)  So why can’t God suspend His laws of natural law to prove His existence, so long as He does so in a meaningful way?  Perhaps we are the arrogant ones, when we suppose that God should be firmly restricted to the laws with which we humans are comfortably knowledgeable.

So what then would be the non-arbitrary miracle that God would perform?  The answer depends on the expressed nature of God.  Just like our Steve Jobs candidate, where he would have to live up to the reputation of the man behind Apple.  Now the God of the Bible expresses His power in many ways.  Nevertheless, we find His attention focused on a humbling place – human life.  As the Psalmist said, “What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? Psalm 8:4 NKJV

Since the God of the Bible is focused on human life, we would expect to find His miracles focused on human life.  Of course, God doesn’t have to meet our expectations, but this expectation would make the most sense.  When we read the New Testament, we are reading about “Immanuel” meaning  “God with us”.   Jesus, if He were living up to the claim of being God in the flesh, should be performing miracles that reflect the intentions of God.  What we find is no doubt consistent with this assumption.  The majority of Jesus’ miracles involve healing, returning life to human limbs, human sight, human flesh, and so on.  And then we find Him building up to the crescendo of resurrecting the life of His friend Lazarus.  It’s very interesting to note what Jesus says in anticipation of this miracle.  He does not say,” Well, I just feel like doing a resurrection today”, nor does He say, “I happen to do resurrections as a side gig.”  Instead He says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.”  John‬ ‭11:23, 25‬ ‭NLT‬‬.  So Jesus actually defines Himself to be the source of life, just as Steve Jobs would define himself to be the man behind Apple.

Furthermore, there are a few occasions in the New Testament where Jesus refused the requests of religious leaders and His own disciples.  Apparently these flash-in-the-sky miracles didn’t fit a pattern, a directive that Jesus sought to accomplish.

I encourage you to also study and consider the Anthropic Principle.  If the God of the Bible did create the Universe, we could reasonably conclude that He is the engineer behind the Anthropic Principle.  Since the Anthropic Principle is focused on human life, this would coalesce with the God of the Bible, and thus with the “non-arbitrary” premise.  We could say there is a higher law, and it is non-arbitrary.

God being the Creator of the Universe, has the right to intervene in any way He chooses.  If you read the whole Bible, you’ll see He does take lordship of His broader domain.  Between God, life, and the entire Universe, things can get complicated.  Furthermore, God is interested in our whole being, our spiritual life.  But when we see God intervening by restoring physical life, the message is loud and clear.  When Bob asked who the stranger was, the stranger showed himself as the author of Apple.  When we ask God who He is, He showed Himself as the author of life.  Perhaps the best way to find clarity and meaning is to see the personal interaction going on here.  God has knocked on the door of your heart.  You may not be sure He’s a real God, or even living God (His death has been highly exaggerated), but you’ll never know unless you let Him in.  He knows all the comfortable rules you’ve set for your own life, but He wants to restore your life for the better.  The pressing question is not whether God can break His own rules, but whether you’ll surrender yours.

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Apologetics and Minions 1

Check out this animation presentation of the God-Stone paradox.  Make sure you get parts 1 and 2 (Wideo restricts free usage to 45 seconds.)

Wideo Presentation

Minions and the God-Stone Paradox Part 1

Minions and the God-Stone Paradox Part 2

Read the full article here.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to find a good free/ affordable animation site.  If you know of any, please share.

Positive Omnipotence and Double Negatives

An infamous challenge to God’s omnipotence is the paradox:

Can God create a rock so heavy that He cannot lift it?

If I (the theist) answer “yes” then I am admitting that God cannot do something – He cannot lift a specific rock.  If I answer “no” then I am saying there is something God cannot do – or am I?  Let’s take a close look at the “no” response:

God cannot create a rock that is so heavy He cannot lift it.

To this, the atheist comes back with, “Then you admit there is something God cannot do!”

But is the second part of the statement really “something?”  A simple lesson in grammar will show us otherwise.  Consider the question:

You haven’t been reading no books on how to cook bugs, right?

How do you respond to this question?  If you answer “No, I haven’t” I could say, “Oh, so you haven’t been reading none of the books.”  If you answer “Yes,” I could say, “So I am right in assuming you have been reading books about cooking bugs.”  In order to clear up the confusion, we need to first resolve the grammatical error – the double negative.  There are two ways to fix a double negative: either get rid of one negative, or remove both.

Case 1:

You haven’t been reading no books on how to cook bugs, right?

OR Case 2:  remove both.

You haven’t been reading no books on how to cook bugs, right?

which becomes:

You have been reading books on how to cook bugs, right?

So case 2 makes a strong positive because “not no” book means definitely a book.  If you say, “No, I haven’t,” then it is clear that you have not been reading books on how to cook bugs.  If you answer “Yes, I have,” then it is clear that you have been reading books on how to cook bugs.

double negative 1

So, if I answer the God question with the response:

God cannot create a rock so heavy that He cannot lift it.

Then the two “not’s” cancel each other out in the case of a strong positive.  Bad grammar is resolved by saying:

God cannot create a rock so heavy that He cannot lift it.

OR

God can create any rock, regardless of its weight, that He can lift.

Another way to view this cancellation effect is through a thought experiment.  Let’s place all the rocks that God can lift on the right side of our hypothetical space.  On the left side is the set of all the rocks God cannot lift.  We are assuming an omnipotent God.  On the right side, we can place every rock in existence.  We can also place every hypothetical rock, for instance, a rock that fills the entire universe.  If God is omnipotent, He can lift it.  On the left side of our thought experiment, how many rocks do we have?  No rocks.  Nothing.  So when we make the statement,

God cannot create a rock that is so heavy He cannot lift it.

Then “a rock that is so heavy He cannot lift it” belongs on the left side, the set of rocks God cannot lift.  That set is empty, nothingness.  To rephrase:

God cannot create nothingness.

This really is a conclusive definition of a God who creates.  It is a double negative that implies a strong positive.

double negative rocks

 

The best response to the skeptic asking the God-stone paradox is to reply “Not no.”  This prevents the questioner from running away with an assumption of the word “cannot” and from assuming that an empty set is “something.”

“Can God create a rock so heavy that He cannot lift it?”

“Not no.”

“What?”

“Not no.  God can not create no such thing.”

From that point, the theist catches the atheist in his quick-witted game, and the atheist cannot run with the “cannot.” Or to correct myself, the atheist can run with the “can.”

There are other things besides nothingness that God assigns a negative value, as in worthless by His standards.  One of these qualities is lying.  Since God places such high value on truth, a lie is of no value to Him.  Therefore, God cannot lie.  This is what I call positive omnipotence.  Humans place a positive value on lying because of their finite perspective.  We cannot see that a lie will hurt in the long run, usually by opening the door to more lying.  The real test of God’s omnipotence is to measure the value of the “God cannot” statements.  “God cannot do nothing” is obviously different from “God cannot do something.”  We test by focusing on the second part of the statement and asking whether God would assign it a positive value.  If God approves, it is “something” and God can do it.  If God disapproves, as in lying or creating nothingness, it is out of character and therefore not possible for a positive omnipotent God.

Why Does God Allow Suffering?

This is a huge question that carries within it more than mere words, and so the answer doesn’t come packaged in mere words.  I have often asked this question while in the midst of my greatest sufferings or when hearing of sufferings far beyond my own.  Someday God will have the complete answer for me.  For now, I will turn to Lee Strobel, who has done a great job tackling the subject.  Please follow the link below.

http://www.apologetics315.com/2012/07/why-does-god-allow-tragedy-and-suffering.html

 

The Proven-Miracle Paradox

Suppose a certain miracle does, in fact, happen. Now, every skeptic that hears of this miracle wants proof. So the miracle is repeated and proved. If the miracle is repeated to every skeptic that ever exists, is it still a miracle, considering that a miracle is a rare event?

I call this the “Proven-Miracle Paradox.”  After searching my mental database and Google’s, I cannot find this paradox; if you do find it elsewhere, please let me know.  When setting up a story-line in a previous post The God You Can See, I noticed this paradox creeping up.  Proving a miracle presents a problem by nature of a miracle.

tough questionThe problem is that miracles are defined to be an “unusual event.” Therefore, if enough people see it happening enough times, it is no longer unusual. It could even be argued that it is now a natural occurrence or phenomenon. But miracles are thought to supernatural, not natural! The Proven-Miracle Paradox reveals something about the skeptic, something about the miracle, and something about God.

About the Skeptic

For the skeptic, the Proven-Miracle paradox begs another question. Why did the skeptic ask for proof of a miracle in the first place, when universal proof only diminishes the miracle? The skeptic has not thought out the entire process. Is it fair that everyone gets to see the miracle, or does that one skeptic have a privileged advantage? But while giving proof to the one skeptic, he cannot confirm it to others without making the miraculous disappear. The skeptic is correct in saying, “I will believe in the supernatural when I see a miracle.”  But he cannot say, “I can prove to others that I have seen something besides a hallucination.”  Nor can multiple skeptics have a fair share in saying “I believe in the supernatural because I see a miracle.”  Perhaps the skeptic had already dismissed the possibility of a miracle, by making a predetermined, biased judgment. Perhaps the skeptic really did not want to accept a real God, so he devised a test that would knowingly fail.

About That Miracle

Let’s conclude that the miracle cannot be proven on a universal level. Then, in order for sensible people to accept the miracle, there must be something else about it that carries weight. One way for this to happen is to have enough witnesses gathered within the vicinity of a single rare event. Also, the miracle has to have significance; it cannot be arbitrary. If a skeptic demands to see a wooden desk float, what does it mean? Does it mean that the law of gravity is inconsistent, leading to the conclusion that physical laws are not always consistent? Does it mean that a demon is making the desk float, or a god? And which god? The god of wooden desks? Rather, if the miracle is said to be a sign, it should point to other facts or statements in a meaningful way, much like a traffic sign does. It should “connect the dots.”

Now About God

The Proven Miracle Paradox seems to be a problem for God. How can He prove Himself to be miraculous in a fair, universal way? And yet we’ve seen that miracles can carry weight through other means. If a real God arranged a miracle, how could that miracle be the most advantageous? We’ve ruled out universal proof with our paradox. Take the case of Jesus as God. The miracle of His resurrection was directly observable by more than 500 witnesses. (1 Cor. 15:3-8). Rather than dying again and again until everyone in existence could see, Jesus accomplished this miraculous feat once. The effective means was taking 500+ good witnesses, people who would testify even through the pains of death. We know for certain that the witness of the resurrection spread globally and continued to be accepted for 2000 years.

The miracle of the virgin birth of Christ takes the effectiveness of significance. It puts the “sign” in “sign-ificance.” We are not asking “What is the significance of any virgin birth,” but rather “What is the significance of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ?”

Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

This verse is one of many prophecies.  The “sign” points not only to a virgin birth, but to the name Immanuel, meaning “God with us.”  So this was one sign pointing to Jesus as God revealed.

Luke 2:12 “And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

The significance of shepherds coming to see Jesus is two-fold.  Bethlehem was known as the city of David, the shepherd who became king, an ancestor king of Jesus.  The shepherds were also looking upon the one to be called “Lamb of God,” who would take away the need for animal sacrifices.

Prophecies preceded the virgin birth, and signs led the shepherds and later the wise men to worship the baby.  Then, when the baby had grown to maturity, he spoke of such things as being “born of the Spirit.”  Jesus’ many miracles were not discounted by witnesses, but they were not accepted by all.  The miracles of healing were not good enough for the more religious people.  Some were too legalistic to accept what Jesus’ miracles signified; others would have preferred a ‘miracle’ of victory in war.  Jesus’ miracles focused on life – by means of healing, feeding, and resurrection.  So the virgin birth of Jesus is not any random virgin birth.  It is not the first freak incident of parthenogenesis in humans.  Neither is it a miracle simply for the point of proving the existence of the supernatural.  The virgin birth is the birth of a sinless, immortal human fashioned in the original image of God.  Jesus would go on to exhibit his incredible trait of being immune to staying dead.  And He would make this trait available to be transferred to any who accept.  Who is the giver of life?  Who originally made a man without the use of a man?  The God of the Bible, who creates with His word. (See John chapter 1.  The perfect will of God is shown to be active both in the original creation and the special creation through the virgin birth.) This God is the supernatural agent to which all signs of Jesus point.

Summary

Let’s recap.  Based on the Proven-Miracle Paradox, we get the following conclusions.  If you repeat a miracle enough times in front of enough people, it’s no longer unusual.  A skeptic, hoping to provide proof of a miracle, would never accumulate enough empirical evidence.  A God who relies solely on miracles for proof of His existence is apparently doomed to fail in His revelations.  A God who ties miracles with logic, history, and meaning is the God who will succeed.  The God of the Bible uses all these to prove His existence.

The God You Can See

god in sky2

A young man named Josh sat on a park bench with his frazzled head in his hands. “If only I could see God right now. Then I’d believe in Him.”

A gentle voice responded. “I can do that for you.” The flustered man sat up. An old lady had taken a seat next to him. “I have good connections. If you want to see God, just let me know how.”

Josh laughed at first, but noticed the woman was serious. “Heck, I’ll give it a try.” He thought for a moment. “Lightning. I want to see a good lightning show, in my backyard, tonight.”

“Very well. Consider it done.”

Josh was still laughing later that evening as he eased in his recliner; still, he couldn’t help but pause and check out the back window. “Yeah, right,” he told himself after an hour. Just as Josh was about to fall asleep right there, he heard a rumble and jerked his head around. His back yard was pitch-black. CRACK! He ran to swing open the back door. CRACK! BANG! BOOM! For a good half hour, lightning danced in earth-shattering power. Josh’s jaws hung open for most the show. For the next half hour, he called everyone he knew, friends, family, neighbors, waking everyone he knew in the middle of the night just to tell them what he’d seen. “I must say, I do believe in a God,” he added. Very tired, Josh went to sleep and dreamed that lightning resumed its show for the rest of the night.

The next morning, Josh turned on the news as usual. There was quite the story. “Dan Smith reporting here from Europe. What started in Ohio has spread across the globe in a matter of hours. Lightning has covered the world. Some people think it’s because they’re asking God to put on a lightning show – This is obviously an unfounded claim. Meteorologist Steve has determined that there is a new weather phenomenon, called global lightning chains, where all lightning storms join into one global network. Steve can see the friction in the clouds, the electricity in the lightning, but he can’t see God. Psychiatrists believe that a coincidence happened in Ohio where one man linked lightning to God. After that, everyone coincidentally linked these lightning storms to God. It’s now been scientifically proven; whether you pray to God or not, there is 99% chance you’ll see lightning within two hours.” Just as Dan said this, lightning struck in Josh’s back yard.

Back at the park, Josh sat on the same bench with his head in his hands. A voice next to him inquired, “So what happened, my friend?”

Josh wouldn’t sit up this time. “I don’t understand. Lightning should have proved God’s existence, but now there’s lightning all the time. Lightning is a natural, normal, common event now. Noone thinks it has anything to do with God.”

“You couldn’t help but tell all your friends, could you? I’ll tell you what happened next. Your friends, thinking it only fair that God should answer their same prayer, demanded He put on a lightning show for each one of them. As God complied, the news spread to their friends, relatives, and neighbors. It didn’t take long for lightning to cover the world.”

“I thought I dreamt it went on all night.”

“Those rocket scientists on the news don’t see our hearts speaking to God. All they can see is the movement of water droplets and the movement of people’s mouths.”

“I bet if they saw God’s face sharp across the sky, they’d have to believe.”

“Tomorrow they will.”

“Really? You can really do that?”

Sure enough, the next day, God’s face was on the news. “I guess we have to believe in God now.” Josh jumped and clapped his hands for joy. “Thank you, God. That should shut them up for a long time.”

Josh went about town, whistling and proudly wearing a new cross necklace. The evening news would change his tune. “Dan reporting…” The somber anchorman could not seem to face the screen in the background. From a war-zone, a reporter spoke in between bombings. “It all started when one ethnic group said … God looked more like… them. The other group claimed… they saw God’s lips say… ‘No, they don’t.’ This is Amber… coming to you from Cuba.” Then another reporter came on. “What you’re seeing in this Japanese sky is another god. Some believe a new kind of hologram has been developed, a 3D hologram that puts a giant face in the sky. If this were true, it would cast doubt on the other famous ‘face of God.’”

The next day found Josh back on the park bench. He looked like the Thinker statue. “Why doesn’t it work? You’d think God showing his face would solve everything. Instead, epic fail, global backfire. Maybe I just need a god that makes me happy. Who cares what anyone else thinks?”

“Here you go. Rub it and make as many wishes as you’d like.” She placed an ancient oil lamp into his hands.

The next day, Josh came back, frustrated as ever. “You told me to rub this lamp and make wishes. Nothing happened. Nothing at all. I’m beginning to really doubt this God thing.”

The old lady seemed to be holding back a burst of laughter. “Are you looking for a God, or are you looking for a genie? Anyone with that much power isn’t going to serve at your beck and call. I knew the lamp wouldn’t work when I gave it to you. God is real, but genies are a myth.” A dog sniffed Josh’s hand, startling him for a moment. The old lady had brought a stray dog with her. “I brought something else today.”

“A dog?”

“And two choices. Two choices for our buddy Rusty here.” She handed Josh a paper bag with two items inside. One was a hunk of steak, the other a paper-back book. Josh held out an item in each hand, and Rusty didn’t take a whole second to decide on steak. The woman smiled. “As far as Rusty is concerned, you’re his God. He can see you, and you give him good things. Rusty has used the highly scientific tool of direct observation.”

“Oh, I get it. I’m just like a dog, because I want to see my Master and get my wishes granted.”

“No. God wouldn’t treat you like that. Yes, Rusty has a good sense of sight, a better sense of hearing, and a fantastic sense of smell. You, on the other hand, have been given other heightened senses. Your senses of conscience and rationality have been designed so that you can perceive God. And somehow I feel that you’re looking to God for more than a steak for satisfaction.” She nodded toward the book.

Josh held up the book. “The Case for Faith. We’ll just have to see how good this is. That steak didn’t look all too bad.” He shared a smile with her.

For a month, Josh didn’t return to the park. Five weeks after receiving the book, Josh came back with a woman and two small children. The old lady sat contentedly with Rusty. Josh got her attention. “Ahem. I never got your name.”

“Just call me Florence.”

“Well, Florence, I’d like you to meet my wife, Kate, and my children Ethan and Emma. Family, this is Florence. This wonderful woman helped me see God. I thought I would find him in the bright flash of lightning, or smiling across the sky, or in magical wishes. Come to find out, God did reveal Himself in human history, but it was the way He wanted to reveal Himself – when and how He wanted. The people who saw Him back then found their own crazy reasons to reject Him. So then I used my heart, mind and soul. I discovered the greatest power ever known to me, my own will-power. It was selfish but strong, inward but unchanging. If my own will could be changed, if God is indeed more powerful than that, it would be proof to me that a higher power exists. When I gave my life to Christ, I saw generosity replace selfishness. Joy replaced depression. Hope replaced fear and doubt. Passions, choices, and old habits changed. I saw God do the impossible.”

As old Florence spoke, you could hear the years of experience in her voice. “God is more concerned you know who He is than you know that He is. You find Him by developing a relationship and understanding His character. You, Josh, saw God in a way that can never be erased by anyone else. Of course, God is infinite. You’ve only seen the tip of the nose on his face, so to speak.”

“And, thanks to God’s changing power, I got back what I really wanted deep inside. The wholeness of getting my family back, and this time I really care about them more than myself. Thank you so much, Florence.”

“Oh, no problem. I’m just passing along the vision of God.”

God-is-more-concerned QUOTE


This story is mostly hypothetical – a thought experiment.  The moral of the story is found by comparing two Gods: a “seen” God who consequently bends to our will, and an “unseen” God who is more powerful than even our will.

The Undying Flame

torch_cover

Ever wonder what happens to the Olympic sites after the fact?  After all the cameras have pursued, dreams have taken flight, Olympian hearts pumped to the limit, medals and flags lifted high, tears and cheers shared within a common ground.  Then the curtain is drawn, performers and spectators looking toward the next site to carry tomorrow’s torch.   The Atlantic Cities gives us a peek into former Olympic host Sarajevo.

“…After taking second place in the giant slalom race on February 14, 1984, 21-year-old Jure Franko stood on this concrete podium as the first and only member of the home team to receive an Olympic medal when the city of Sarajevo, then of Yugoslavia, hosted the Winter Olympics. Eight years later, this same podium would be the site of a more grisly event, the executions of countless victims of the Bosnian War and Siege of Sarajevo… Touring through the mountainous Olympic venues, Pack (photographer) has noticed a number of signs warning of areas likely containing still-live landmines; they’re a unique legacy for a former Olympic site, and understandably disconcerting.”

Sarajavo

Sarajavo

We see the inevitable drama of mankind unfold. A place once celebrated as a place of peace, the unifying of many nations reaching for a prize, later torn by the divisive hatred and empty sorrows that set nation against nation. We envision, we inspire, we meet, we shake hands, and for the moment all is well. Then the camera drops, and from behind the curtain come jealousies, self-righteousness, greed, and oppression. We would be right to label such evils as the curse of mankind. Romans 8:19 says it this way: “For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God… For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.”

As a Christian, we find consolation in the promise of future peace, the end of the curse.  Even as we follow the Israelites through their times of rising and falling, we get glimpses of an ultimate future promise.

Isaiah 2:4 “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

Sinful as we are, God continually speaks to the human heart, planting seeds of brighter dreams. Sometimes history itself presents us with a glimpse of future hope. China’s former Olympic site perhaps presents an example.

“China opted for a different approach with its National Aquatic Center.  The space, dubbed the ‘Water Cube’ and the venue where in 2008 Michael Phelps won eight gold medals, is now the Happy Magic Water Cube Water Park. It’s got water rides, spa pools and 13 water slides, according to CNN. The bright blues and oranges and pinks — intended to denote an underwater theme — look almost psychedelic.”  – Today.com

Someday, God, the great engineer, will remake our world the way He intended it to be. Imagine a new earth, inhabited by transformed men and women with incorruptible bodies. Incorruptible means they won’t break down under weather, stress, gravity, age… Incorruptible also means the spirit doesn’t give way to anger, pride, jealousy, spite… I wonder who will reach the peak of Mount Everest first, and who will get the best time skiing to its foot? No matter, we’ll have plenty of time to practice. All cheering from the sidelines, no shattered bones, no shattered hopes. Whatever medals we earn, we’ll lift them up to the One True King, our eternal burning light for unending venues, in our eternal home.

Until then, it’s up to us who know Christ, to continue passing the undying flame, one torch to another, one heart to another.

Copyright 2014

Martin Luther King Jr. and What He Really Said

mlk-praying

The famous civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. shook the heart of America with his visionary speeches.  Ironically, the words that propelled a monumental freedom movement are now bound up under legal copyright issues.  The words ringing of freedom are not free for public use; the videos are available at a financial charge, so your poverty level just might keep you from envisioning the key to your shackles.  For those of us who grew up in America during King’s profound influence (lasting years after his death), we carry his words in our soul.  I still remember the concept of not judging a person by their skin; as a child I could easily accept and grant this equality to my fellow classmates.  However, many Americans have seen the abuses of taking a positive flame of this bright candle and throwing its fire onto the carpet.  Of the wonderful revelations Martin Luther King Jr. gave us, some of them stand vulnerable to being discarded by those of ignorant haste.

The first revelation reminds us that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not only a devout Christian, but a Reverend who looked favorably to Jesus Christ.  An honorable man of values, he preached against moral relativity, a troubling trend in our times.  In fact, his famous dream that his children “will not be judged by the color of their skin” binds with the dream that they would be judged “by the content of their character.”  To say that we should not judge at all is a treacherous slope that even this civil rights leader would not tread.  We can judge character and even use wise judgment to promote hard-working people of any background.  The question of judgment boils down to the consistency of the human being.  Are we, as some scientists propose, entirely chemically driven, pulled by DNA strands like strings of a puppet?  Or is there a human soul, taking the invisible software and making physical impressions upon the hardware in the chemical being?  If we are to take the American civil rights leader seriously, we believe in a higher existence.  There is a part of our physical being that cannot change (e.g. skin) because it has no bearing on our moral character.  Then there is a part of the human that wants to love alcohol or the neighbor’s wife.  Calling this a genetic disposition will not make it as permanent as skin color.  Even the chemical tendencies are subject to a higher part of our being, the soul.  We hear the call of Jesus to be an overcomer, and we strive to find our character judged with “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Another revelation gets stampeded by the skeptic’s ignorance of the Bible.  They see God as some bullying ethnic cleanser, perhaps due to their own prejudices.  What lenses should we even put upon our modern eyes, when reaching back to a time and place so far removed from our own?  If anything, we understand that the Hebrews were the minority with no homeland, escaping slavery to roam in tents across the wilderness.  This being the very reason Martin Luther King Jr. felt no shame in associating his people’s rise from slavery with the Israelite’s rise from slavery.  Furthermore, he could equate the non-violent takeover of American freedom with the warfare-engaged takeover of the infamous Promised Land.  How did he do this?  The same way Christians have been doing it since Christianity started!  Christians swiftly understand Jesus non-earthly kingdom of spiritual battle, of putting down the sword and turning the other cheek.  Church history has temporarily departed from this ideal as cults do, when blinding the masses to the entire truth of the Bible.  But if we dare to study further, we find God to be a defender of the bullied, choosing the weaker people in order to prove His power.  Paul Copan deftly argues against the hasty accusations toward this God.  http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/201004/201004_138_Canannites.cfm

There are surely more misuses of “civil rights.”  So how have we taken the powerful ideals of King and turned them around to the point where such misinterpretations of “hate speech” would incriminate the Reverend King in his Biblical stance?  Extremists on both ends of the spectrum have undoubtedly grabbed the microphone in violent ambition.  “You’re going to hell” should never be the first words heard from a Christian tongue; “You’re politically incorrect” is just as stifling.  As an American, I have a dream.  I dream that we can respect each other in word in deed.  Let’s see past the preconceived images.  Let there be open doors to the poor, open hearts within the rich, and solid ground for the rest of America.  The open door of opportunity was Martin Luther King’s check due to be cashed in.  Let’s speak freely from the heart, issuing the truth in love.  Let’s renew the desire of discovering our value in God’s Word.

Though many of King’s words are for sale or copyrighted, here is one of the public sources remaining:  http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm