Dabar [theme]

He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou find refuge: His truth is a shield and buckler
Psalms 91:4

Be it ours,when we cannot see the face of God, to trust under the shadow of His wings. C.H. Spugeon

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Memento Mori

The title of this blog is a Latin phrase meaning; "Remember that you are mortal," "Remember you will die," "Remember that you must die," or "Remember your death". In ancient Rome, the phrase is said to have been used on the occasions when a Roman general was parading through the streets of Rome during the victory celebration known as a triumph. Standing behind the victorious general was a slave, and he had the task of reminding the general that, though he was up on the peak today, tomorrow was another day. The servant did this by telling the general that he should remember that he was mortal: "Memento mori." It is also possible that the servant said, rather, "Respice post te! Hominem te esse memento!": "Look behind you! Remember that you are but a man!".

Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb

In Dostoevsky's novel The Idiot he describes Holbein's painting ( pictured above ) and has a character exclaim: “Why some people may lose their faith by looking at that picture!”




The stark and offensive nature of the artist's depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ creates an uncomfortable, possibly nauseaus, reaction to the reality of the nature of this punishment used by the Romans. It provides separation from a comfortable, peaceful appearance of the crucifixion portrayed as a divine source of satisfaction, contentment and ease. The panels bring us face to face with the anxieties and fears that come with life. There is that intent in this representation of the horrific event of the crucifixion, it is to bring home the reality of the ugliness of sin; the ugliness of the cruelty and heartlessness of man in disposing of God; the ugliness of the intents of the heart of man in the treatment of each other, regardless of our fault or folly; the ugliness of our ambition and pride in usurping God as Lord; it creates a supreme crisis of the soul, that crisis being our spiritual life and death and in that crisis the consciousness that only two existences are true, or contain truth — God and self.
The Death of Jesus Christ is more than the creation of a pious atmosphere or condition of prayer and devotion, discipline and zeal, it is the superanatural and miraculous redemption of man from a destitute and desperate condition which required the passion of God to be revealed at a cost inestimable in human terms, a covenant signed and dyed with the Blood of the Lamb, a covenant marked by the nails in Jesus' hands and feet, which makes those who understand the truth of this sacrifice exclaim with awe and wonder, 'This is the work of God Almighty". This is the revelation of the truth that Jesus is not just the figurehead of a relgious movement; He is that, but He is Infinitely more; He is salvation itself. Jesus said, "When the Spirit of truth is come ... He shall glorify me." "When I commit myself to the revelation made in the New Testament concerning the claims made by Christ of His divinity and propitiation, I receive from God the gift of the Holy Spirit, that Spirit which is given in earnest as a dowery or down payment on the subsequent balance of the covenant, and I am enabled to begin to interpret and understand what Jesus did; and that same Spirit will do in you and I, subjectively, all that Jesus did for you and I objectively."

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Blue Pill: Red Pill

What is 'truth'?

"You take the Blue Pill -- the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe."

"You take the Red Pill -- ... you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep ..."

"Remember -- all I'm offering is the truth, nothing more."

A decision is before us, it is the result of the Question, do we accept life in the terms and conditions which are seen as outcomes of fate and destiny, the programmed cause and effect of life within a Matrix, lost in the control of a blissful form of ignorance; a state of comatose torpor induced by an operant conditioning, or do we take up arms in a battle for understanding and discernment in an age of questioning, doubt and failure.

The Blue Pill can be described as 'bad faith'; that faith which obscures our responsibility to understand the 'truth'. The Blue pill allows us to 'wake-up in your bed and believe whatever you want...' today is a new day. Yesterday is but a dream and tomorrow will be as today! The Blue Pill also allows us to exonerate our current existence as a dependant function of the past; that past determined by those fixed points of reference in our history which have created a faith lacking understanding of the requirement to resolve the ambiguity of our existence in light of a revealed truth residing in our souls. In the video excerpt there is a choice, the existence of that choice implies an understanding of a condition in which a person can remain captured or seek freedom. That truth which is resting in our persona, awaiting the moment of decision, searching for the moment of clarity, and we know that that truth exists and will demand a conclusive resolution. The choice is to remain or to change. To remain is blind acceptance; a continued enslavement; mindless lethargy. The Blue Pill removes the responsibility for a faith in the existence of truth by creating an environment removed from reality, negating our privilege, responsibility and the acting demands of free agency. “The goal of bad faith…is to put oneself out of reach; it is an escape.” It is the denial of the resident 'truth' known by all. If human reality is defined by the choices we freely make, then 'bad faith' provides an escape from the responsibility of our free choice which is an essential and central characteristic of our being. The Blue Pill offers an escape from the reality of the free choice decision to accept the responsibility and accountability for life's randomness and in spite of the obstacles and challenges and failures that will loom on the horizon of an ambiguous life lived in the Red Pill world, that choice is the perfection of 'faith', for it sets the course of life on a journey toward 'truth' and 'freedom'. John 8:32, "... and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Freedom (intellectual, moral, spiritual) is only attainable when we are set free from darkness, sin, ignorance, superstition, cultural norms, prejudice, etc., and are allowed.... The lie of the Blue Pill world is that "this is it", all that life has is contained in the Blue Pill world, and my existence will be easier if I accept and subject myself to that existence as the only reality that truly is. The strength of the lie is founded upon the distortion of the expected value placed on the outcome of rational choice. The expectation is based on the probabilities, whether positive or negative, which result as a consequence of the option chosen. A belief system which concludes that the 'good' life will be lived on this Earth as a result of a faith in God; that the life lived will be free from struggles and adversity; that challenges will be faced without regard for personal sacrifice; that this life and its value will not be questioned as a result of faith; that frailties and imperfections will be overcome without personal effort and toil is perhaps an indicator of those who have consumed the Blue Pill and are willing to awake believing whatever they want. Aquinas stated that, “A judgment is said to be true when it conforms to the external reality”.

Can we be authentic? Can our lives be seen as viable alternatives to the world-view around us without free choice? Without responsibility?

To change is to remove the shackles of conditioned thought; imported, inputted or imputed thinking; and attempt to be free. In asking What is Truth?; taking the Red Pill; we create the opportunity for reality, understanding and knowledge to enter life and create, as a side effect, discord, dissonance and tension conjoined with peace, harmony and unity. In the conversation which occurs the discussion will touch on the issues of security, safety, the goal of faith, the pursuit of truth, the purpose of random life in a God administered universe, the existence of disorder within the context of divine order. The question will be asked, "What must be our response to the fact of an eternal and absolute 'truth'? The first issue is the question of the existence of an absolute truth, which I believe is an inherent part of our identity and is spoken of by Paul in Romans 1:18-21, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened." The key words for the purpose of this discussion are; ... 'revealed from heaven' ... 'manifest in them' ... 'God has shown it' ... 'His invisible attributes are clearly seen' ... 'being understood by' ... 'they are without excuse' ... 'they knew God' ... If we deny the existence of this inherent knowledge of 'truth' we believe, like taking the Blue Pill, that we will not be held accountable for our actions in light of the reality of absolute truth. Subsequently we can awake and 'believe whatever we want'.

To take the Red Pill is to move from the shallows of the shoreline out upon the deep water, 'the Rabbithole' and investigate and resolve the issues of 'truth' which are embodied in the God who states in Isaiah 55:9, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." and in Psalms 103:11, "For as the heavens are high above the earth, so high is his goodness over them that fear him."

We hold this belief, that in God we can have faith without fully and rationally understanding all that is encompassed in that truth; we can hold and believe in the absurdity of the claims, promises and actions of a holy and perfect God, whose existence and being are diametrically removed from any reality which we can imagine; that we can have hope for the intervention of that God Who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow; and that love as defined by the thoughts and intents of man is a natural, transcendent characteristic of God that surpasses any conceived and supernatural comprehension of man. Truth is knowledge of the inexpressible fullness of God Who chose to reveal Himself at His own initiative, without supplication from those to whom He has revealed Himself and oftentimes without any avid pursuit on their part. Truth is there is a God Who can be found, accidentally or through investigation. Proverbs 25:2, "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter." Truth is about belief and the search for belief in an absolute, irrefutable constant source of freedom releasing from the strictures of an existential understanding of life. Truth which is able and unlimited in its ability to comprehend the knowledge of God, and that God offering new parameters of existence beyond the scope of our humanness. Truth is found in the course of discovery which is steered by the same God Who wishes to be revealed, not revelation in the sense of the unfeeling, uncommunicative, blind gods designed by man, but in the sense of a knowable Person, a Friend, a Father, Who is touched by our infirmities and weakness and Who edifies and instructs us in the use of our strengths and encourages and enhances our actions. Eccles. 7:25, "I applied my heart to know, to search and seek out wisdom and the reason of things, to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness."

Eccles. 9:1, "For I considered all this in my heart, so that I could declare it all: that the righteous and the wise and their works are in the hand of God. People know neither love nor hatred by anything they see before them." Truth is we cannot judge from the occurrences which take place in life who are the objects of God’s love or displeasure. Truth is understanding that people are not masters of their own fate; people and "what they do" are subject to God’s sovereign will and operate volitionally within that Divine will as sentient beings. This truth of life's orientation forms the awareness that as individuals there is a determination of truth, understanding and our perception of reality. This reality is shaped (heavy emphasis on molded, formed) by God. In this, it is truth that sets us free, we no longer need to develop coping skills and defence mechanisms, but, are free to invest in life knowing that the course of events has as an ultimate, ordained end.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Borrowed Thoughts

Sometimes other people say and speak words which resonate with your own thoughts and do so with such clarity, this comes from a blog I read:

A Prayer?
My step-sister has end-stage cancer. She still hopes for a miracle cure, as do I. But that hope has been in the abstract, as an expression of an open minded attitude toward the possibility of a cure. When my mother, this morning, asked me to see to it that family gathering to visit her this weekend surround her in prayer, I faced the prospect of turning hope based on an abstraction into a concrete act and statement of faith. And so I am asking myself, in what sense does the abstraction survive the descent into the hard facts that I know?
Is my faith to be a hope that somehow the doctors got the diagnosis wrong? Clearly that would be a perversion of faith. To me it seems essential to faith that it be an expression, at least of the possibility, of there being more to human existence than we can see or know. My faith does not take the givens of what we can know and contradict them, on this view. It places them in a larger context.
The question then confronts me, if faith expresses a conviction that there is more to life than I can see or know, where does it come from? I think that it comes from the conviction of good people in trying times that it is the good that they can see and know that connects them to what they cannot see and know. The imperative of a good will dictates the content of one’s ontology. Whatever one thinks of Luther and Lutheranism, one sees that view of faith clearly in his—some think apocryphal—“Here I stand, I can do no other.” No matter what the actual words were, clearly the existential “ought” in Luther's life became more real to him than any visible existential “is.” To me that is what faith means, or at least what it ought to mean. And that is why it can and does exist in the midst of great countervailing facts: Quite simply, it transcends them.
The wager of faith, to speak crudely, is that not only is there more to human existence than we can know, but that that “more” can be understood by faith as an expression of what life requires of a good person. If life has a larger meaning than we can understand—at least if it has one worth knowing—that is it. And just so, if we are invited to live as members of the kingdom of heaven, we must be guided by our best motives as we remain open to a reality greater than our understanding.
But why would anyone choose to believe in something beyond their understanding? The question implies a misunderstanding. One does not choose to act on insufficient evidence. Rather, one chooses to interpret insufficient evidence in light of one’s best motives and hopes. What else is one to do? It is when we encounter an existential crisis, then, that faith comes to light. And the reality of the existential crisis speaks louder than any proof or evidence, because it speaks for the human heart. I believe that William James nailed the idea when he wrote, “…to refuse to cultivate a feeling of security would be to do violence to a tendency in one’s emotional life which might well be respected a prophetic.” (Preface to The Meaning of Truth)
I, for one, can do no other tomorrow. I will express my fondest hope to my step-sister that our family’s love for her—with all the hope that that entails—can and should inform our belief. Is that intellectual courage, or cowardice? I say neither, for once again the question implies a misunderstanding. Faith transcends that question, and for those who have it, its possibility entails its necessity.


Monday, November 03, 2008

Jeremiah 9:23-24

Jeremiah 9:23-24, "Thus says the Lord:
"Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,

Let not the mighty man glory in his might,

Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;

But let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me,

That I am the Lord,

exercising lovingkindness,


and righteousness in the earth.

For in these I delight," says the Lord."

Lovingkindness is a compound word with an extensive meaning beyond that which is conveyed by the sum of its phonetic parts. The sum of the parts may give us reason to conclude that lovingkindness means kindness or mercy which is based on or arises from love. This is a right interpretation of the meaning, but it fails to impact the reader with the fullness of the import of the word. The Hebrew word which is translated as lovingkindness is 'hesed'. There are three basic meanings or thoughts which are communicated by God through the use of this word. The essential elements are goodness, kindness, but it is in the application and motivation that the true value of the word is found. The word implies strength, steadfastness and love and the constant interaction of these three elements in application of the concept of lovingkindness. The richness of the word is maintained by the inclusion of these three thoughts or definitions.

The word, lovingkindness, refers primarily to the mutual and reciprocal rights and obligations between two parties of a relationship. In this instance God and man. It implies that there is not only obligation but generosity; there is not only loyalty but also mercy. The intent is to bring about a realization that the weaker party needs the protection and blessing of the patron or protector while understanding that he (the weaker) may lay no claim (absolutely) to it.

The stronger party remains committed to His promise namely that of protection, blessing, etc., but, retains His freedom, especially with regard to the manner in which He may bestow or implement those promises. There is implied in the relationship an involvement and commitment beyond the rule of law. It is in the tender mercies of the Lord that hope is built upon and trust (faith) is empowered; God would have us hope, that even though sin has infiltrated our lives, the Lord will restore us with much pity and compassion. ‘Let Israel hope in the Lord,’ for with the Lord there is mercy, tender mercy.

In this we see that 'lovingkindness' is a central characteristic of God in His relationship with people. God offers His love because people need redemption from sin, their enemies and trouble. The entire covenantal history of Yahweh's interactions with man can be summarized in terms of 'hesed'. It is the one permanent element in the flux of human history.

Hosea 11:3-5,7-9,10, "I taught (you) to walk, taking (you) by (your) arms; but (you) did not know that I healed (you). I drew (you) with gentle cords, with bands of love, and I was to (you) as those who take the yoke from (the) neck. I stooped and fed you. ... My people are bent on backsliding from Me. Though they call to the Most High, none at all exalt Him. ... My heart churns (is changed) within Me; My sympathy (compassion, repentings, lovingkindness and mercy) is stirred. I will not execute the fierceness of My anger; I will not again destroy (you). For I am God, and not man, The Holy One in your midst; And I will not come with terror. ... (You) shall walk after the Lord.... Even with the Holy One who is faithful."

The hope of the backsliding and/or unrepentant is that the lovingkindness of the Lord will sway Him to act in mercy, without regard for the fact of His Holiness. Hosea 11:9, "I will not execute the fierceness of My anger; I will not again destroy (you). For I am God, and not man, the Holy One in your midst; and I will not come with terror." This view of the lovingkindness of God extending beyond His character to include universally all who would appeal to His sensibilities; those sensiblilities influenced by His lovingkindness, is a doctrine of hope, which for the most part finds as its foundation a hope that God is not Holy. It is a hope which has as its foundation a belief that God's lovingkindness is bound by a law of His character which disallows Him from acting in judgement.

The real message to be taken from the study of God's lovingkindness is that there is a future. Hope is in the future and in that future the restoration of relationship which is based on grace and love. The hope is in the removal of the logical links between crime and punishment. The hope lies in our inability to articulate or anticipate the spontaneous, inexplicable, unpredictable, and mysterious act of lovingkindness revealed in the salvation obtained for us by Jesus Christ, God's Son and the grace and mercy and lovingkindness of God the Father in authoring such a final act of love.

"If wisdom, strength, or riches be thy lot,
Boast not; but rather think thou hast them not.
One God alone from whom those gifts proceed
Is wise, is mighty, and is rich indeed."

Ephes. 2:4,7,8 "...but God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, ... might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,... '