My Head Was Filled with Crap

Colleges can be cheap in the sense that they often take shortcuts so that the administration can waste funding on self-aggrandizing schemes nobody else knows or cares about. One of the ways they cut corners is to put graduate students into the same classes as undergrads but make the former write more papers, which typically means reading more outside material on the same basic stuff covered in lectures and class discussions. Typically these grad students then make some kind of presentation to the rest of the class.

My college education record is far from typical, but I never tried to get above the baccalaureate level. Instead, I pursued my own outside readings of things never assigned for course work or tests. Even for research papers I felt driven to read well outside the range of what was required. Something I might find in a footnote turned into reading an entire fat tome or two that simply held my interest, never mind whether it helped me make any grades. Whether or not that made me any sharper or wiser is for others to assess, but I read way more than most of my peers in college both times that I attended formally. More than once an educated person assumed I had a master’s degree, at least.

Among the classes I attended were lots of courses in the Philosophy departments. Among at least a dozen or so lecturers, I recall only two professors who made any effort to help us understand some of crazy stuff philosophers can spew onto pages and pages of books. Two guys who remembered what it was like not to understand this crap — and they made sure we understood just how much of it was crap. Of all places, you might think a philosophy class would avoid making such harsh judgments, but trust me: Most writing in the field of philosophy is crazy shit you can’t possibly use, never mind whether you might imagine you understand it. It’s not useful because it makes no significant difference in human awareness. It doesn’t make the world a better place. I might not remember the names of all the famous philosophers (and theologians), but I can recall some of the idiocy that became sacred in that field.

But I didn’t stop there. While classes of useful depth were exceedingly rare, I also studied the philosophies of non-Western societies. Way back from my high school days, I stumbled into a program where students were offered really obscure stuff as electives led by some teachers who were just marking time in a public school while waiting for a better job at some university. Two of those classes would fall into the category of Comparative Civilizations. So I already had an inclination to pursue academic investigation of non-Western intellectual traditions.

Maybe I’m just dense, but I was nearly finished with my first BA when I was slapped upside the head with the statement that Christianity was born in a non-Western civilization. Graduating from that school did require me to get a job to make a living, but I also had more brain-time to devote to that issue. For the next decade I read a lot of stuff, mostly articles out of magazines and encyclopedic works, sometimes places like libraries or obscure little bookstores, all over the US and Europe. I was sometimes obsessed about the non-Western nature of the ancient Hebrew religion. In the process, I became ever more dismissive of what passes for philosophy in the Western traditions.

I know what I’m rejecting here. Oklahoma Baptist University is still slavish about worshiping Western Civilization. The last time I checked, the single biggest and most demanding course they offer as mandatory to every student passing through that institution is the combined study of Western History and Literature (and consequently, philosophy). A central assertion in that whole course of studies is that Western Civilization is inherently Christian, as you might expect from a Christian college. But that’s because “Christian” is defined in a highly perverted way that reads Western Civilization back into the Hebrew Scriptures. Only one professor admitted as much to me, and I recall it as a private conversation with someone loath to provoke the tenure committee. This same professor carefully made it abundantly clear in class that Hebrew thinking was radically different from Western. They called the Hebrew stuff “orientalisms” so that students would dismiss it as a curiosity, not germane.

I note in passing it was not just Western Civilization as a whole, but that hidden in the whole thing was an ugly iron demand that students adhere to the peculiar value system associated with Anglo-Saxon culture. We “celebrated” other cultures, but the core of our religious material was thoroughly Anglo-Saxon. We read Beowulf cover to cover and studied it in depth, as if it were an additional book of the Bible. Need I remind you that no thread of Western Civilization is more rapacious and spiteful than the Anglo-Saxon? Somewhere deep below the surface it seemed to say, “Never mind what you might think of it; this is what we are, so conform, dammit.” What does it do when “faith” is driven into that spooky territory of human self-awareness?

Western Civilization is the one and only place in human history where we see that religious faith is inherently unacceptable. If you accept the ground rules of Western epistemology, you cannot believe in God as someone who guides your moral decisions. Whatever it is you make of any deity, morality can never be anything more than mere sentiment because all morality is a human social and cultural construct. That is the quintessential assumption behind Western Civilization as a whole. This is why Western Christianity is so utterly powerless. All those efforts to make faith reasonable, by whatever terminology you choose, violates the very foundation of what Westerners consider “reason” in the first place. If you accept the basic assumptions of Western Civilization, you must reject Christ.

It constitutes a rejection if you redefine Him to the point He is no longer the quintessential Hebrew man. I continue in amazement that Western Christian professors can explain the huge difference between Western and Hebrew epistemologies and still not make the connection that Western Christianity is not actually Christlike. This is a basic assertion behind much of what I teach here. There were moments when my progress along that path lurched forward, but I didn’t get there overnight. For the longest time I still bought into the basic assumptions of Western Christianity and remained in that prison until the last moment I was ejected from a church. It was nothing formal, mind you, but that same corrupt, subtle background threatening that happens at churches all the time.

I don’t miss it.

So Speaks the Redbud

Sometimes I struggle with the words.

When I climbed up the embankment at the crash site yesterday where Midwest Boulevard passes under Turner Turnpike, what passed between me and that redbud tree with magenta buds peeking out on its branches was more than just some diffuse emotion. The physical contact was comforting and reduced my own internal jangling confusion just a little. I had ridden up there in response to some wordless moral imperative in the first place.

You could call it a sense of conviction, but that moment shared with an unfallen member of God’s Creation passed something to me that didn’t register on my conscious mind right away. The conscious mind is too immediate to process eternal moral stuff. I could tell you that God spoke to me from the middle of a bush that doesn’t yet appear aflame as it will later, but you might get the wrong impression from such an image. If I remind you that all Creation sings of God’s moral character, it might make more sense. But the tree itself had experienced things individually in its odd location there.

And perhaps the concrete abutment or the grass and dirt itself could have told me things, too, but I didn’t hear what they had to say. God chooses His own voice in His own time, and moral conviction cannot be expressed in terms of factual content. But there would be no point if there wasn’t some useful application. Let’s just say that using your heart as a sensory organ and allowing it to process those moral impressions independently will improve your understanding of God. And that’s the whole point, because Ultimate Truth is a Person, not a collection of mere data. I touched a living thing and it touched me in return, preparing me to discern things to which I might otherwise be blind.

So I can’t pass to you a precise outline of how it works, but I can share with you some of the results.

The rate of human mortality sits as a background fact in our awareness. The moral meaning of it is a little harder to assess in those terms. The redbud didn’t tell me what kind of man it was who crashed his vehicle into the concrete, nor what kind of stresses led up to that event. Instead, it told me of the moral distress his death represents as a change, part of a larger shift in the moral climate that includes a level of human torment not previously seen by anyone alive now. His death was not just the same old stuff we’ve seen in the past. His death is distinctly part of something bigger: More people will die in more unpleasant ways than we are used to hearing about. The hearing about it is the part that should worry us a little. Getting an accurate report is a sorrow that looms as ugly as does the facts of human torment.

I don’t pretend to know anything about the state of mind of the photographers and that KOCO info-babe wandering around out there in reflective safety vests. I do know that the images they gathered, if used at all, will be used to mislead people about the real moral importance of things. I know that because such is the very reason those broadcast companies exist. Nor do I imagine that my own private reverie was the one final truth of things there. I am altogether conscious about God using me, but I have to wonder how conscious those other folks were about dealing with our Creator. I wonder because I know beyond all doubt that this entire society is built on a substrate of lies and whatever folks have been doing to make things different is still built on that same false foundation. It won’t matter if folks pushing changes imagine those changes represent good or bad.

What the redbud had to say presumed that understanding.

What we have is the fruit of deception on a level so vast that it boggles the mind. You can see the tiny budding red blossoms, along with the greening of the grass as the fresh verdant sprigs come up in the midst of the dry golden strands. Can you see the destruction growing slowly around us? It was all put into place precisely so that it could be destroyed painfully. Our Enemy means to devour us. Humans souls were ground into hamburger from the beginning, and more will be masticated and burned beyond recognition very soon as it all comes to some kind of fraying edge that hides the end.

This is what’s on my mind as I process what passed between the redbud and me, and it’s what stands behind today’s post on the other blog.

Perfect Tense

The ultimate power on this earth is the power to remain focused on the moral demands of the Spirit Realm. It’s not even a question of the ability to act on such a focus, but merely to keep that focus as an eternal commitment that carries you beyond this life. The power to so act some portion of the time is a gift from Heaven.

As part of the Curse of the Fall, we bear within ourselves a weakness the hinders perfection in our use of that power. There is a sense in which it’s typical to look back and see places where we came up short. Confession that the fault is ours is a critical element in keeping ourselves in the grip of that power. We should never be surprised when we fail, and never surprised when that power overcomes our failures. The interplay between these two is a tense drama that becomes our normal here in this world.

Thus, the Blood of Christ releases us from the ultimate claims of the Curse of the Fall, and we find some varied measure of that release demonstrated here. We rejoice in the potential while longing for the final redemption that takes us out of this shadowy existence into the full light of divine clarity. For some limited time, He keeps us here and we cannot possibly grasp while here the full reason for it. What we can grasp is the utter necessity of wading through this Vale of Sorrow with an eye for ways to glorify Him.

We don’t fight the Curse itself, but we fight whatever it is within us that belongs to the Curse. The Curse remains a part of our existence here because this existence itself is accursed. There will never be a Heaven on earth in any concrete sense; only in the symbolism of our redeemed awareness. The earth itself is not fallen, but we are. We are born under a forfeit to Satan’s dominion over a Creation we were meant to manage for God’s glory. Our fallen presence is how Satan exercises his dominion here where he is confined. We quickly run out of room to explain it in human language; our minds cannot bear the load of such truth because they remain partially under the Curse.

Even the pronouncement of the Curse in Genesis 3 is full of symbols because it is written in Heaven. It characterizes our moral reality while we live in this form here below. The Curse marks a powerful distinction between male and female. This isn’t how it should be for us, but redemption is certainly not found in denying the Curse nor demanding that such distinction be removed. The distinction is a part of the conditions we accept in the challenge to bring Him glory until the final, ultimate moment of eternal glory. A critical element in revelation is both the symbolism which puts the ultimate truth within our moral reach, and the necessity of understanding that we are limited and must reach, indeed.

Throughout human history, beginning very close to the exit from Eden through which humans were expelled, humans have sought to argue with God. The Fall itself was a dispute with God, a decision to usurp the authority God said did not belong to us. Our fundamental fallen nature rests on the native inclination to insist that we are capable of defining what is good and right, that our human reason and understanding is sufficient to discern ultimate truth without having to rest on God’s living communion with us. And a critical element in this endless dispute our fallen nature has with God is a rejection of the natural moral order imposed by His revelation on the distinction between male and female.

Whatever it ought to have been, we bear the responsibility for not keeping it there. In the very act of eating the forbidden fruit, we have passed judgment on God’s declared order of how the sexes are to relate. We are born rebelling against what is in our best interest because we imagine that we could come up with a better way of doing things. We are telling God that if this is what He put into place, He certainly could have done a better job and we proceed to tell Him what’s wrong with His plan by acting contrary to that plan. So a part of the Curse is that things will never be perfect in how the male and female relate while here in this world.

The best we can hope for is still pretty messy. There is a sense in which we cannot possibly live long enough to shed enough of our fallen nature to ever get it quite right. Even if we could get it right, it would never feel quite right. We can strive for perfection, but we have to learn to live with optimal, and optimal includes a certain amount of tension.

(Yes, the title of this post is a pun.)

Rewrite: Revelation 18

As I’m working through my study in Revelation, I realized I left out an awful lot. Here is a sample of the revised material. My whole idea is that you climb out of moral distraction and find the peace God offers to you as His unique child; this is written into John’s message.

Revelation 18

We saw in the last chapter how Babylon is identified with human lusts as expressed through the market place. Don’t get lost here; Babylon is a consistent symbol taking on different meanings on different levels, with a common thread in the market for human souls. The first Babylon sold primitive astrology and human pride as the means to capturing the human race under one evil rule seeking to smother divine revelation. It aimed to replace the ineffable spiritual pull with something hedonistic and material. Here it is more specifically the market place of cosmopolitan religious ideas — choose your beliefs to fit your lifestyle. The real god here is Mammon (AKA Materialism), a guise for Satan. Babylon is always identified with the urban setting, cultural sophistication and highly specialized labor and goods. Not necessarily harmful in themselves, these things always leads to moral slavery. Instead of serving human need, humans serve the deity of commerce, where everything has a price and nothing else matters. This Harlot builds commerce through the marketing of every human desire, regardless how abominable, seeking to capture the church. This is a long way from the simple pastoral lifestyle of trust in God.

There is so much of this in our world today that it is hard to know where to begin. Even selecting the more egregious moral degradations leaves us with a very wide selection. The sex trade, from every angle, is an obvious element. The related pornography business is equally obvious, especially the various perversions that are so popular. Gambling, chemical substances, acts of violence and just about everything we call “entertainment” today falls under this heading. Most of these tend to be blatant in their appeal to human weakness. But we could say the same for the brisk trade in loans, speculations, most forms of stock and other securities, all of which lend themselves to a form of slavery. These pretend to be responsible professionals handling “your” wealth. Most mainstream religion treats these as degrading in one sense or another. However, John points out that the underlying theme is spiritual adultery, also known as idolatry. For each of these vices, along with many other commercial activities that typically avoid the label using some squeaky clean veneer, the underlying error is serving and worshiping something — anything — rather than God. How many churches are trapped in the false vision of building bigger and drawing larger crowds? How many seek huge budgets to buy stuff and great visual and sound systems? How about that vigorous search for staff with just the right talents, as opposed to developing staff from the folks God sends locally?

In a thousand ways, we all find something so important to us that we have to sacrifice some piece of our spirituality, some element of holiness, in order to keep that thing. Any element in our lives tying us to this fallen realm is inherently evil. It is less the activity itself and more the net result within our souls. Each of these idolatries is an expression of human appetite that can be righteously fulfilled, but mankind insists on flavoring it up by dodging the requirements God put forth so clearly in His Word. Babylon the Harlot feeds on human addiction and the misery of false guilt. As we saw in the previous chapter, the Beast (human government) teams up with her to feed on the power it gives. Frankly, both would be powerless if no one was buying. But there is always a buyer and a seller, and these bear the Mark of the Beast.

Therefore, we hear the refrain already echoing across the text since we began this study: “Babylon is fallen, is fallen!” This is true in one sense from the very beginning, for it requires a fallen soul to be trapped by her seductions. Thus, the angel coming aglow from the presence of God Almighty announces yet again that Babylon has fallen. By no means are we surprised to see she is the haunt of evil beings, for thus has it ever been. The point made here: This is both her life and her doom. In the end, there will be nothing left, for she will consume all her customers. She is not content as symbiotic parasite, but must consume it all. Thus, we note she will crumble not merely under the hand of the rapine taxation of her beau, the Beast, as we saw in the previous chapter. She will fall eventually because the market in sin carries the seeds of its own destruction. Sated lust only grows a bigger appetite and at some point, there is nothing left offering a new thrill. In the end, the market for her flesh will collapse under its own weight.

Take a moment here to notice the gender characterizations. The worst of fallen masculinity is oppressive control and brutal power. It calls up fear in every form. The worst of fallen femininity is the siren song of provoking lust, seeking to control through the fleshly appetites for comfort. Wherever and whenever the merchant cult has taken control through materialism, feminine demonic power is always in the lead, a perversion of the nest-building instinct of motherhood. The quintessence of human failure is a man too self-absorbed and inhumane to serve as shepherd of souls, paired with a woman willing to take control and ride his back to gain power against her divine call to trust. She refuses to rest in God for provision of what she needs for her redemption through motherhood, but must have total control by any means necessary. In both images, love is totally absent. The gender imagery here is no accident.

The believers who carry the Mark of God are called to get away from Babylon; she is the perversion of good motherhood and good church fellowship. This call echoes down through the ages in the Old Testament. In Jeremiah 51, Babylon is the target of prophetic warnings. The prophet repeatedly calls God’s people to come out (vv. 6, 9, 45 & 50). It is echoed by Isaiah (48:20; 52:11), and similar sentiments are scattered throughout the prophets. The warning is clear not to give oneself over to such commerce, to become independent of the fallen economy of the world. Use it as a tool but don’t serve it. Not that we should cease all buying and selling, but to cease being enslaved by it. Of all people on this earth, Christians should be the first to resist advertising. Instead, we incorporate it into our church management.

The angel calls for a full cup of vengeance against the Harlot Church. We note that the merchants who depended on her for their livelihood will join the governments of the world, weeping from a safe distance as she is destroyed. At some point, all economic activity will suffer a catastrophic failure. As it reaches the peak of power, it will last but a short time even by human standards. All the luxuries of human existence will be forgotten and bare survival will be the order of the day. This affects a worldly church as it does the rest of the world of human institutions.

John provides one last stark image to jolt his readers awake: “The blood of the saints and prophets was found in her, along with the blood of all those who had been killed on the earth” (v. 24). Allowing yourself to become wrapped up in worldly materialistic concerns will kill you, spiritually and literally. You cannot afford to ever come to the place you regard human commerce as essential to your religious life. If you can’t simply walk away from the provisions of the market place on short notice, you serve the Harlot — Babylon is your goddess. Christians must maintain but a light grip on all the things of this world. That includes how we do church.

Proverbs 30

This chapter has provoked a lot of debate because of serious variations between different manuscripts, though mostly in the introductory portion. While our translation here (Green’s Modern King James) adheres to common traditions, it’s not hard to find other translations that take a different approach. And frankly, an ancient Hebrew scholar would consider most of that debate downright silly. Where Solomon got this material is not important, nor even if it was added by later editors. It would seem obvious that it represents non-Hebrew thinking, perhaps more Arabic in the sense of Abraham’s other sons. Even if the thoughts are from outright pagan sources, as other material in this book surely does, it shouldn’t be too difficult to see how the wisdom reflects Solomon’s habit of finding God’s truth everywhere because he operated above the mere intellectual legalistic nit-picking more common of the Post-Hellenist rabbis of Jesus’ day.

We note that the author of this material is fond of Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) structures not common in Hebrew literature. There is heavy use of the three and then four, which is meant to portray completeness in moral terms.

1-3. The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, the prophecy: The man spoke to Ithiel, to Ithiel and Ucal, saying, Surely I am more like an animal than any man, and do not have the understanding of a man. I have not learned wisdom, nor the knowledge of the holy. These names are meaningless to us as presented, and may well be something else badly garbled in transmission. Whoever he is, the man confesses that he is brutish, using a term for someone’s calloused foot or cow’s hoof. It’s the simple wisdom of humility.

4-6. Who has gone up to Heaven and has come down? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has bound the waters in His garments? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name, and what is His Son’s name? Surely you know. Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He reprove you and you be found a liar. By implication our speaker asserts that true wisdom is only from God, by asking who it is capable of crossing the boundaries between earth and the Spirit Realm, capable of handling Creation like a toy. Rather as a joke he suggests that it shouldn’t be hard to discover the fame of any man who did such a thing, if only because any family or tribe that descended from him would still be telling his legends. Of course, we are talking about God Himself, whose revelation is pure in the sense of gold refined by fire. That is, it has been tested and found reliable. Don’t put words in His mouth, as it were, because that is blasphemy. Our reasoning is hardly on His level. We have all we can do just obeying things He did say.

7-9. I have asked two things from You; do not deny them before I die; remove far from me vanity and a lying word; give me neither poverty or riches; tear for me my portion of bread, lest I be full and deceive, and say, “Who is the LORD?” Or lest I be poor, and steal, and violate the name of my God. Agur says he has been consistent in two simple requests, and implies that he has yet to see them carried out — Don’t wait until I die to do these two things. Each item is a pair in itself. First he wants people to stop trying to deceive him. He uses two terms that don’t easily translate into English. The word for “vanity” is the concept of good things destroyed and made useless; “lie” is from two words meaning a thing expressed or spoken but meant to deceive. It’s a common ANE literary device to ask one thing that everyone desires and knows you’ll never get, and the asking for something just possible. The second request is more doable: a reasonable level of prosperity. This is more precisely asking a fair share of the family’s resources. He uses the image of the flat bread eaten in that part of the world, similar to pita. Don’t give him the whole thing, but tear it in half. By the same token, don’t deprive him a fair share from the common resources, lest he feel compelled to steal just to survive.

10-14. Do not accuse a servant to his master, lest he curse you, and you be found guilty. There is a generation that curses their father, and does not bless their mother. There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their own filth. There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes! And their eyelids are lifted up. There is a generation whose teeth are like swords, and their jaw teeth like knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men. It’s easy to get lost in the images here and miss the whole point. He begins with the portrayal of slandering someone like a busybody with nothing better to do than stir up trouble. The word translated “curse” offers the image of dehumanizing someone. He completes the picture by pointing to arrogance and how it eventually results in physical violence. The whole point is that if you start off acting like your desire for entertainment is more important than social stability (the symbol of ultimate moral good), it’s not too many steps from there to murder.

15-17. The leech has two daughters, crying, “Give, give!” Three things are never satisfied, yea, four things never say, “Enough!” The grave; and the barren womb, the earth not filled with water, and the fire, have not said, “Enough.” The eye that mocks at his father and despises to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it. You can almost see Agur gesturing dramatically, turning to face each fist, “Gimme, gimme!” Then he goes on to portray certain mental images that symbolize what we call a bottomless pit, each unpleasant in some way. Death will consume every living thing and never be filled. A barren womb will absorb every thing many men could give without producing offspring. In a semiarid land, you cannot imagine the soil being so saturated that it runs off without eventually being absorbed somewhere else. And of course, fire only dies when everything is burned up. Each in its own way compares favorably with something a little obscure in our culture today — contempt for your own family. We have built a society that buries the consequences, so we can’t imagine how it holds such a high moral concern. Agur says that it matters not what provokes such arrogance or what hides it; the destructive nature of it is beyond measure.

18-20. Three things are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I do not know: the way of an eagle in the air; the way of a snake on a rock; the way of a ship in the middle of the sea; and the way of a man with a maiden. Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eats, and wipes her mouth, and says, “I have done no evil.” Don’t we marvel at things we cannot do ourselves? The word “way” is repeated here as the image of something typical or natural for the thing depicted. We struggle to understand how eagles can travel their invisible roads in the sky, how a snake propels himself across a rock without feet, how a ship stays afloat on the sea, and how a pretty young lass who is still a virgin can lead a man to do her will. A man can experience it himself and still have no idea why he does what she wants. There is a subtle connection here. It’s not human sexuality in itself, but the way we move so easily from one thing to another. Have you ever noticed how an adulterous woman can just wipe away the obvious evidence of her immorality and say with a straight face that she’s done nothing harmful? Yet, how easily we tend to believe her story, even when the consequences come back on everyone. Do we not marvel at how easily we destroy our social stability?

21-23. Under three things the earth quakes, and under four it is not able to bear up: for a servant when he reigns; and a fool when he is filled with food; for a hateful woman when she is married; and a servant girl that is heir to her mistress. To avoid a lengthy explanation: A “servant” is either an enemy captive or someone without the protection of normal extended family resources. Either way, you don’t expect them to be sympathetic to the society that enslaves them. Thus, a slave who suddenly gains power will be oppressive ogre, as would be any fool who gets what he wants. A harridan usually gets married only because her family deceives the poor groom’s family or because it’s a political arrangement, but this is not the image of your good wife who sees herself on the same team as her husband. Finally, it takes some serious manipulation and perhaps even murder for a slave girl to legally inherit the position of her mistress. In each case, Agur portrays these things as violating the nature of reality itself.

24-28. Four things are little on the earth, but they are exceedingly wise: the ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their food in the summer; the rock-badgers are not a mighty people, yet they make their houses in the rock; the locusts have no king, yet they go forth by bands, all of them; you can take the lizard with the hands, yet it is in king’s palaces. Wisdom is portrayed as making the most of God’s provision for life; it goes without saying that wisdom precludes excessive self-interest. You can crush ants under your feet without notice, but they manage to eat year round and survive most attacks. A rock-badger is more like a rabbit, easily startled and the prey of many other creatures, yet they have no trouble making a home among the most inaccessible places. Locusts independently manage to act in concert and records indicate they have utterly destroyed whole kingdoms economically. And common lizards aren’t very big but nothing you do can keep them from infesting a king’s palace. In each case, human efforts at eradication are wasted. Finding your place in God’s Creation is the most empowering thing you can do.

29-31. There are three things which go well in a march, yea, four that go well in walking: a lion is mighty among beasts and does not turn away for any; one girded in the loins; and a he-goat; and a king when his army is with him. The figure of speech here indicates things splendid to see as they walk confidently on their way. The lion acts like he’s in charge over every other creature. The second is a little ambiguous, probably indicating something or someone trim and fleet of foot, the very opposite of lumbering and corpulent. The third is an alpha ram in the herd. The last is a figure of speech unknown in Hebrew literature and translations vary widely. However, a king who is genuinely confident in his moral position, possessed by a sense of divine calling for his mission, is the definition of regal.

32. If you have done foolishly in lifting yourself up, or if you have thought evil, lay your hand on your mouth. This is probably a subtle contrast to the previous proverb. The point here is: If you are going to do something morally unfitting, at least be wise enough not to boast. Given that all of nature will be against you, it’s best if you proceed with serious caution and get what you can out of it without rubbing it in.

33. Surely the churning of milk brings forth butter, and the wringing of the nose brings forth blood; so the forcing of wrath brings forth fighting. In this triplet, the primary verbs are all the same root word meaning “to press” — churning, wringing and forcing. It’s okay to do that to curdled milk, but it doesn’t work too well using the same action on people.

Not the Same Anymore

I was a big fan. Bryan Duncan nailed it once during a phone interview. He told the radio DJ that he hoped he wasn’t the same man he was two weeks ago because he felt he had a long way to go in his ministry calling. A primary symptom of spiritual growth is a sense of penitent humility, even as we feel an unlimited confidence in God’s power and mercy in our lives.

By the way, I still love Bryan’s singing voice, but a lot of his music no longer speaks to me.

So very much of what brought me here is no longer pertinent. Some of it has become quite annoying. In the past week or so searching my old music favorites, I realized that how sweet it sounds means nothing against whether it draws me up out of myself. It’s not that I have suddenly decided the musicians are no longer good enough with their song-writing, but that what they needed to say is not always what I need to hear. A few rare albums speak to me all the way through, but most of it is now just a song or two here and there.

In a similar fashion, I read almost no fiction these days. There was a time I always had a book with me, and read when I should have been paying more attention to other things. I would get lost in the stories. Now my previous favorite authors annoy me. I can’t bear to read the next book in a series I once anticipated as I devoured each line. Some of the few authors I could read again are long dead. Whenever I sample something new, I’m struck by the same annoyances. I’m sure there are some decent new writers, but I don’t have time to pursue it like I once did with such obsessive devotion.

Why? My regular readers probably know that I just don’t have much tolerance for Western thinking any more. Most fiction I encounter is so lavishly pro-Western it’s sickening, and all the more annoying when the author seems wholly unaware of it. And if I went back over some of my own fiction I’d have to rewrite a bunch of it, probably in ways that simply wouldn’t work for storytelling. I have no idea if I’ll ever write any more. Given the way I write fiction, inspiration could come crashing down on me in the next hour. However, my conscious mind finds it unlikely.

Where do we go from here, Brothers and Sisters?

I’m forging into new territory on ancient roads. I keep saying to myself and others that we are building a new reality, in the sense that we are having to form entirely new structures for thinking about what God intended for humans. The heart-mind is totally new in our civilization. It seems most of the folks who write about it from the scientific background are still mired in Western expectations and what they produce is so mixed up and useless to me. I can’t find anybody ahead me on the same path. The terrain has shifted on a tectonic level since the ancients explored this land, so we aren’t going to find exactly what they mapped out.

It’s no longer a question of taking it one day at a time; I’m exploring entirely new turf and having to grapple with a new universe by the minute. I’m not complaining, but I’ll be the first to tell you sometimes I don’t have a clue what to do next.

(Check out his channel.)

The Heart of Outreach

As we use it here, the phrase “heart-led existence” is the same as walking by the spirit or walking by faith. Our problem is that those New Testament phrases come with a lot of baggage in the minds of readers, baggage that we won’t claim.

It’s not so different from the Orwellian propaganda we face every day from the mainstream culture in the West. Perhaps you’ve heard the old joke that an Anti-Semite is anyone that Jews hate. In other words, the label says more about the slinger than the target. In that same sense, there are more things than you can shake a stick at that weaken faith while pretending to teach about walking in faith. Faith in such teaching is just a superior form of cerebral processing, and the unspoken assumption is that your faith is measured by conforming with someone else’s orthodoxy.

Even if we can get them to use words that suggest the Spirit is above human intellect, they still act and speak as if the whole thing is a matter of right thinking. Take a look at the structure of all their teaching programs, and there’s nothing that reaches above the head. Biblical faith is not a stronger commitment to some orthodoxy. Faith is a faculty that overrules the reason because it comes from a higher authority.

I’ve warned about a common religious and social catastrophe related to Zionism and Dispensational Theology. I don’t care what brand of eschatology you espouse; it’s most likely contrary the Bible. The term “eschatology” refers to rational analysis of some sort; it must of necessity be an intellectual exercise. I’ve tried to point out research by others that show where Dispensationalism came from, how the pernicious lie of eschatology teaching entered the mainstream Western evangelical churches. For example, I mentioned the role played by C.I. Scofield and his marginal notes in certain editions of the Bible marketed in the US.

If you look up his name in connection with his sponsor Samuel Untermeyer in any search engine that doesn’t track you (try Duck Duck Go or Startpage) you’ll get unfiltered results that show the full range of people who have done the research. Chase enough rabbits from the results listed and you’ll learn how Untermeyer blackmailed President Woodrow Wilson into putting Brandeis on the Supreme Court. In other words, the same people are all engaged in a world of evil and it seems to run forever. Most of those stories are told by people who have been marginalized, while the whitewashed lies are everywhere.

Some of the people who write about Scofield have names like Texe Marrs. He does do a good job of getting the story on Scofield straight, but only because he tends to plagiarize folks who actually know. On Samuel Untermeyer, he tends to wander off into speculations that can’t be supported. On just about everything else I’ve seen, Texe Marrs sounds more like The National Enquirer than a pastor of teacher of the gospel. Sadly, the field of those seeking to expose the lies of Dispensational teaching are planted with a lot of tares.

My point is that such information, even when crystal clear and accurate, it still just intellectual data. These people are convinced that getting the right facts will save us. In other words, they are still stuck in the same deadly mudhole that keeps the churches from doing much redemptive work. One flavor of mud is no better than another. They are all slinging mud at each other and this keeps The Cult very happy.

Climbing down into that pit is not the way to rescue anyone. Faith in Christ does not come from right ideas or accurate thoughts. Faith in Christ is a miracle only God can perform in your soul. If your spirit is dead, there’s nothing you can do to bring it to life. God has to touch your dead spirit and fill it with the only spirit life there is — His. When the dead matter of your body returns to entropy, your brain will die with it, but your living spirit will face Him as either an adopted child of His Spirit or a foreigner enslaved to Satan.

Giving people the straight facts for their brains will not breathe divine life into their dead spirits. Whatever it is that God uses for that miracle mission requires that we operate above that level. If you read my previous vision about helping folks recover from the poison of Zionism and Dispensational heresy, it really isn’t about learning all the facts. If you can understand why we can’t support the modern State of Israel, that’s only because you understand the dire imperative of living from the heart. Our primary ministry of healing and redemption starts from simply learning to operate on the moral plane from the heart.

Do you grasp what a vast, unspeakable power that holds? Do you get that walking by the heart is the only way we can walk in God’s divine moral character? That the heart-mind is the only faculty capable of understanding His Person? What do you suppose Creation will do when you walk by the Creator’s habits? That’s our evangelism, our message, our mission. Just live by the heart-mind.

You can’t convince them of the truth with words and facts, but they cannot argue with your heart.

Psalm 90

Thus we begin the Fourth Book of Psalms. The psalms that follow are generally liturgical in nature, as are those of the Fifth Book. Perhaps it’s divided between 106 and 107 only for convenience in terms of size, because the nature and style of the songs do not change.

This song is ascribed to Moses who led the Exodus. When we read of all the carping, whining and resistance he faced from Israel, we hardly wonder at the subject matter here. At the same time we notice how it resembles much of Ecclesiastes. For Solomon, this style of writing emulates the very best of classical Ancient Near Eastern Wisdom Literature. It’s easy to forget how Moses was educated in Pharaoh’s courts, and then at the hand of his father-in-law who was also hardly a country bumpkin. Thus, the message here is more subtle than might seem obvious from the words alone. This is dramatic oratory meant to draw us along a path of ancient Eastern logic, and we are obliged to read between the lines if we expect to see where it goes.

Moses first establishes that the One he addresses stands outside our time-space bubble. Jehovah isn’t just an immortal being who lives without dying. This is the great God Almighty, Creator of all things whose existence is rooted in an entirely separate realm. Existence itself is rooted in Him. It goes without saying that all things bear the stamp of His divine moral character; whatever He says is. If there is any hope for understanding this world, we first must seek His revelation.

Some of this translates poorly into English because it relies on an orientation of mind that simply is not quite possible from the same context as our tongue arises. It requires entering into a radically different set of assumptions that are exceedingly difficult to explain in any human language. Thus, Moses alludes to things in terms of characterization, not description. Most English translations miss the point here. God made us of the same stuff as earth, but we chose sin in the Garden, wandering from His revealed purpose. Thus, our human constitution includes a healthy dose of the Curse of the Fall, a measure of destruction. A primary element of that curse is our mortality. We weren’t supposed to die like this. Still, God calls us to return to Him. He is the Eternal One, and we are of such short duration in our lives that there are no words to compare.

Moses compares us to the passing of a single night and day in God’s lifetime. Our longest possible span of life is little more than a the passage of the sun over the earth to God, as if we were some ephemeral herb. Tomorrow we are but fertilizer for the next generation that lasts but a day, too.

Then Moses launches into an explanation that we have moved away from God and into His wrath. He cannot forget our rejection. Our darkest secret thoughts shine brightly before Him. Noting that we are fortunate to see some eighty years of life, our best prospect is to spend those years in labor and sorrow. When we die, we will have gained nothing that we can take with us. Like smoke on a strong wind — poof — we are gone and soon forgotten. No one can live long enough to measure the extent of God’s wrath against sin. Moses asks that we be reminded of our mortality often.

God calls us to return to Him, and Moses responds by calling on God to return His mercy to us so that we can regain our reverence for Him. Like a man who cannot work without a good breakfast, he asks that God fill us up with divine mercy so we can do His work and bring Him glory. There is precious little happiness in this world, but the joy of walking in God’s truth is unshakable. Give us a chance to teach our children a better way to see life. Let your glory sparkle in our dark existence so that the world will know there is such a thing as redemption.

Post-Zionist PTSD

The ineffable moral Law of God calls to all humans. It is not a question of performance, but of commitment. This thing is the nature of love itself; you can’t be drawn to the moral character of God without being overwhelmed by His compassion for His Creation.

We sometimes have to fight the Devil as he drives people against that love. In the process of resisting the darkness, it is inevitable that things we do may serve to bring pain and suffering to those who are wedded to Darkness. There is little we can do about that because we are fortunate indeed to be free ourselves, merely to exercise control over own reactions, never mind whether others can respond to compassion by moving toward the Law. There is no explanation — we have to do it because we simply must.

The justification is the Cross.

What we offer here at Kiln of the Soul is no-strings-attached. Whatever binding this call includes is not our doing. We are also bound. It’s really very easy to operate this way online; it would be tougher in the flesh where we have to fight our own darkness. Compassion drives us to hold you close when that may be the last physical act to do you any good. It’s hard to turn that off when you are driven by the Cross. Here in the virtual realm, it’s easier to keep our hands to ourselves, so to speak.

But it’s still very hard to watch people destroy themselves even in virtual space. It’s compassion that drives us to warn you that clinging to certain things will form a barrier between you and your best interest in moral truth. We can’t decide for you to let it go; we struggle to decide it for ourselves and know all too well what sorrow it brings. This is why we can refuse to shrink from the task of warning you. Sling all the labels you like; we will absorb that and cry in private to Our Lord insofar as it manages to injure us. This compassion is why we would rather help you for even the briefest moment on your inner moral journey, rather than try to hold even the smallest part of you if it holds you back.

I can’t tell you it’s a prophecy, only that I am deeply certain this massive false fortress of Zionism will collapse in fire, burning and poisoning everyone who took refuge in it. Quick reminder: If Zionism was attached to a genuine love of the moral character of God, we would be first in line to sign on as supporters. But Zionism seeks to capture all the blessings with none of the moral responsibilities, so it’s utterly false. It serves a false understanding of God and His revelation. It’s a manifestation of the Synagogue of Satan. We don’t hate the people sucked into that; we pity them for completely missing the sweetness of moral truth. So it cannot stand and God will crush it in the fullness of His divine wrath, and I sense that it comes soon.

We need to prepare in our hearts a virtual hospital for those who escape with their lives. It’s going to be one of the most depressing, bewildering experiences for them. Whether they can appreciate our view on things matters not; they will need our moral healing. I understand it all too well because I was once a part of that. I was driven out but only because I was at that point already alienated. I had the luxury to discover the falseness of it all slowly and deliberately moved out. It still nearly killed me. We can’t estimate how dangerous it will be for those still trapped inside when this thing comes apart more obviously.

So this is a major element in what drives me. And so long as there is a fallen world with fallen men, you can bet there will be slavers running around trying to recapture them with reforged chains of deception. In some way, we should be prepared to immunize them as much as possible against whatever lies are cooked up in the future. We can’t predict with that much precision, but we can certainly make sure the truth itself is fully declared to do its own work in them.

You can join me or you can simply take as much of this as you can use in your own mission. It’s not about growing a visible organization and putting my proud face on something that gets attention. Forget about me but take this truth.

Decision Disaster

People have alleged all kinds of silly, goofy stuff about Billy Graham. Granted, his children have waded through enough scandal, but aside from a few unguarded jokes, the man himself is untouched by noteworthy moral failures.

That is, unless you understand the part he played in destroying the Western evangelical message. This really isn’t about him, but about his message, often referred to as “Decision Theology.” Indeed, his organization put out a magazine called Decision and it symbolized the easy believism. He once said that was a problem, but his preaching was precisely that. Go back and check the results of his crusades. In every location, he would gin up a huge army of local volunteers to follow up on those who “made a decision” at his worship services. In every case that anyone has recorded, not even 10% of those folks who crowded his alter calls ever gave evidence of having found faith. They apparently didn’t even “get religion” as the old expression goes.

Such was my experience when I volunteered as a follow up counselor for his and similar ministries. I can’t tell you that he knew about that. I recall reading somewhere that his staff tended to insulate him from stuff like that. He did and said a lot of things outside his crusade work that indicated he was just a bit cynical about things while always trying to be diplomatic and nice. Maybe he’s like most other humans — his own mixture of foibles and failures. However, no one can deny his fame is partly owed to WR Hearst and affiliated news organization way back when Billy was just starting out.

As well, I can’t produce any specific references on his ministerial background, but I recall someone said he was deeply influenced by Charles G. Finney. That would be more than sufficient to explain the “easy believism” stuff, because Finney openly insisted that this was good enough. He dismissed concerns about Fruit of the Spirit and went after the manipulation and huckster atmosphere with highly emotional altar calls.

Since Finney’s time, it has been very unpopular to criticize that empty, merely cerebral religion. When I was studying for the ministry, it was rare the teacher or guide who didn’t echo that garbage. At first I played that game and my efforts brought explosive numbers into whatever organization I served. While some part of me always felt a little dirty, but I kept pushing that into the background as “from the Devil.”

There is no room here to describe the memorable steps along my path to the truth. I’ve lost count how many times it felt like my heart was being ripped out of my chest as each small incremental shift brought shattering pain. It didn’t have to be that way, but a lot of well meaning people shaped my thinking so very wrongly. If you can walk away from your religion, it’s not very useful in giving shape to your faith. It’s no wonder a lot of heart-led folks stayed away from organized Christianity.

Finney, Graham and millions of others made no room for a heart-led faith.