Psalm 131

This is specifically attributed to King David. It’s a beautiful portrait of someone who has learned the hard way to dismiss ambition and pride.

David begins confessing what a might work God has done in his heart. He does not bristle at the idea of having to deal with ordinary people and mundane tasks. There is no one beneath his dignity to offer standard human courtesies. His head is not lost in great and burdensome cares of his throne. He remembers being just a shepherd boy.

Let’s not get lost on the question of weening. For all we can tell, Hebrew children were given much latitude to ween themselves when they felt ready. It has as much to do with a sense of security as physical health. The point here is that David no longer feels pulled by the insecurity of a man seeking to feed his ego. He’s ready to face the real world and doesn’t take himself too seriously.

This is what’s behind the very common message: Put your trust in God. Here is the king warning people not to put him on a pedestal. He would still be a shepherd boy were it not for God. And it was a shepherd boy the Lord wanted, so something in that role carries over to his reign as king. It was a shepherd boy’s faith that made ruling possible.

Psalm 129

This is the quintessential song of oppression and persistence. Genuine faith rises to meet every challenge; against such faith persecution starves and withers. Given the context here, it would seem the threat is not some neighboring enemy, but internal enemies.

The first verse is dramatic repetition. Starting with the Exodus, Israel suffered from people seeking personal gain at the cost of the community. Israel has never been without internal opposition to God’s way; and such opposition has never prospered when their victims turn to God. We have the image of plowing with oxen to represent stripes of persecution. It’s the idea of trying to prosper from the suffering of others. Next comes the image of God cutting the reins used to pull the plow. Sooner or later the faithful will see God’s deliverance. The wicked will not harvest much.

Zion here is the symbol of God’s righteous rule and His blessings. There will always be predators seeking their own, but those who seek God will see the traitors thrown back. They’ll tuck their tails and run. These are people who are like the wild grass that infests patches of dirt blown into the corners of your roof. There’s not enough soil there. They sprout, but long before they can bear seed, they dehydrate. Nobody bothers to pick it for animal feed or bundle it into grass mats. You don’t even give them a ritual greeting; they are gone by the time you notice them.

Don’t Count on It

Context: I surrendered to the gospel ministry as a teenager. Then, I attended college (Oklahoma Baptist University) to study and train for it. I never made it to seminary, though I never stopped trying to study on that level on my own. I spent hundreds of dollars on books, but eventually kept only a few. The journey out of bondage to Western evangelical Christian religion was long and painful, but it began with something I heard back in college. “The Bible is an eastern book; Jesus was an eastern man. Christianity is an eastern religion.” It took awhile for that to sink in.

During that long lag time from the late 1970s in college to my final departure in 2005, I did my best to volunteer in churches on whatever basis they would tolerate me. A couple of times I was granted an official internship. Several other times I was hired as Music Director simply because no one else would do it, and I just barely could. So I was frequently working as church staff and often hanging out with the pastors in daily work and conferences and just anywhere I could. I was trying to absorb the culture and hoping someone would notice my spirit and talents and sponsor me for something more permanent. While that never happened, I did learn a lot about the culture.

It included endless whining about how the mass of church membership just barely showed up. Never more than something like 20% actually got involved enough to make things happen (by their estimates). Today there is an endless supply of books and studies and programs on how to provoke your membership to a greater degree of spirituality. As you know from reading much of anything I’ve written, it can’t happen because they confuse “spirituality” with “better thinking and acting.”

Now, I will tell you that I did learn how to grow an organization so that more people showed up and put their money in the offering plates. And I was pretty good at that part, but I always felt that I failed because the majority of the people were unchanged. They liked how I could talk and stir up their enthusiasm, but they never did much. They had too many different reasons why they just couldn’t. Eventually, I got used to it.

It was good training in one sense. That kind of disappointment as “normal” made me capable of tolerating the lack of response on these two blogs.

Brothers and Sisters, what we do here makes us total aliens to the mainstream. It’s not that we can’t find mainstream folks who can love us and deal with us; the church leadership wouldn’t let someone like me stay around very long. The honest truth is that what I teach undermines their programs, and I refuse to attend a church where I can’t teach. I will not be silent, so that means they have to marginalize me at best. I’m not going to sit there and sing and enjoy the music and chat with friends and knuckle under bad teaching.

I’ve known for at least a decade that my calling was to prepare, to make myself an arrow in the quiver. I knew that a time would come when chaos would come and then my gifts from God would be activated. The small things I’ve accomplished here were training, sharpening, proving that these things work. A few of you have responded and found this stuff useful. God bless you, because that blesses me. It keeps me on the path, but sooner or later that path will meet chaos. Indeed, my prophetic gift tells me we are all headed for the chaos of tribulation. That’s what I’ve been prepared for; that’s what it will take to break open the somnolence of souls chained to all that bad teaching. It will be my faith and shalom in the midst of chaos that will call to those who suddenly realize they need something they don’t already have.

Now, God can do anything He likes. This could turn into a huge movement of sorts that reaches millions. Let’s pray to that end, but let us also hear with our convictions what God tells us He wants us to believe. Some of you are already with me, standing in faith until He pulls us out of the quiver and launches us into the battle. Some others of you will blossom and join that work. And some of you will tell me about it and we will rejoice together in the miracles. Still, my heart right now says we shouldn’t expect much in terms of numbers. We aren’t doing a religion that is designed to draw crowds and our socio-cultural context doesn’t encourage genuine heart-led conviction.

So while some mainstream Christian leaders know how to game human behavior to attract large audiences, we aren’t in that game. What we do is inherently “inefficient” in those terms. Those pastors struggle to get their huge numbers to really get involved in religion; we will struggle to avoid attracting that kind of audience. We’ll give freely to all who ask, but we know there won’t be that many takers once they understand what it involves. We aren’t building a system that automates religion. What we do is a lot of work right from the start. That’s the only way it will work at all.

Christian Mysticism will never be a mass movement, unless it becomes fake.

Prophetic Economics 01

The Social Sciences are the study of human nature. It includes things like history, archeology, geography, sociology, government and political theory, psychology and so forth. But they are based on Western assumptions, so it all rests on the pretense of reasoned analysis and objectivity. While these sciences recognize that human nature is flawed, they assume it could be better and the whole point is to study how to make it better.

In particular, economics pretends to objectivity even as it manifests wildly conflicting forecasts based on the competing theories. People who study economics take their science too seriously, pretending that if they could just fix some basic theoretical disputes and come up with a unified model of human economic behavior, they could solve humanity’s problems.

Obviously I disagree, but it comes after having studied economics for a long time. You see, I studied it from the cynical point of view that comes from rejecting Western assumptions in the first place. My rejection wasn’t wholly conscious at first, but I was far down that road before I took those college courses. I understood what the professors and books were trying to get across and made some of the highest grades in each class, but I didn’t swallow most of it.

So I neither recommend such education, nor will I attempt to summarize it for you. Rather, I’ll give you a contextual digest of what I believe matters most right now. Those who have studied economics will recognize some of this.

You can grow an economy without credit, but it takes longer. Without debt, wealth grows much more slowly and requires far more work. Biblical Law says you should avoid greed in the first place and realize the shepherd’s call in trying to benefit everyone, because that is your own best interest long term. To put it bluntly: If you can’t embrace that moral necessity, then you’ll always be tormented on some level in this life, and you’ll likely end up in Hell after you die. What you do in this world must serve genuine human need, and Biblical Law sums up that need in the term “moral social stability” — a manifestation of shalom. So the goal is not some imaginary economic efficiency, as if the economy was just a machine. The economy is a living thing that must be nurtured according to its needs, or it will not help you make the most of this life. So don’t juice it up with large doses of credit steroids or it will sicken and die before its time. Treat it with respect.

Economies all die sooner or later, but it can be done gracefully and cooperatively (and they usually give birth to new economies). If you don’t place the image in your mind of an economy as a living being with sentience and its own will, you will never understand it. They belong to the civilization in which they stand, and they are only so healthy as the moral climate of the civilization itself.

Ours is hollow and nearly dead. It’s a science fiction horror monster. Still subject to the moral fabric of the universe as expressed in Biblical Law, even as our global economy dies, we can still harvest what little good is available.

So the starting point for you individually is to remind your flesh that it will not get everything that it wants. It’s not supposed to. You have to understand that there is a permanent disconnect between your instinctive wishes and what God says is in your best interest. No matter how much we grant to the flesh, it cannot be satisfied. Annoyances are the norm; navigate your best path between them. Find a peaceful place so you can learn to live with them and be grateful. The power of joy is inside of you, not in the things you have.

You won’t get that from the academic study of economics. What it will tell you is that the debt system is what is most at risk of collapse. There is a tremendous mass of notional debt with nothing of value behind it. At some point, the sheer volume of debt will drag big finance to a halt as the debt servicing falls too far behind. What keeps the system alive is the perception that the debts are being paid back at some profitable level. Perception at the upper levels does lag reality; most of the big money pushers don’t know when to back off because it appears too profitable. Even the factor of inflation that lowers the value of a particular debt doesn’t change the very real loss of the consumers’ power to repay. Their income doesn’t keep pace with the inflation because of a systemic cultural bias among financiers that pressures employers to hold wages down. Having an MBA degree means you see things only from the financiers point of view.

As previously noted, this is a bad time to be in debt. Resolve those obligations as best you can, because each one represents a dependency and vulnerability to the ravages of plutocrats scrambling to save their vulnerable wealth when this system breaks. Do what you can to shield your assets and resources from repossession, because that’s coming. However, always bear in mind that the one thing no one can take from you is what’s inside of you. Things may get so ugly as to result in a literal form of slavery; the laws can change without notice because the plutocrats are the government. On top of that, most laws have loopholes that allow all kinds of new tricks not yet declared illegal. Prepare your mind for the worst in those terms. Nobody can predict how debt obligations will be shifted to new owners and how financiers will attempt to squeeze the last bit of value from them. It will likely be chaotic.

Beyond that remains the exchange of things that don’t require debt. I find it improbable that our economy will be reduced to barter. There are simply too many options that even local governments can take to keep things moving. This lower economy will take on a life of its own. Individual actors will have a stronger influence at this smaller scale. This is where you and I can exploit the power of Biblical Law, using its power to harvest something better than mere survival. By preparing beforehand to operate without the cushion of borrowing, your instincts take a different path entirely. The whole system of running a household or business means the terminology takes on a wholly different definition.

You are likely to perceive two ways in which a Biblical Law approach will benefit you. First, this is how God operates, so He’s going to steer reality in your favor. All of those things nobody can possibly understand and control will fall your way. Of course, God also retains His inscrutable purpose and your individual hassles will reflect His plan for you, but you can’t do better than doing this God’s way. Second, your attitude will influence others. So if your landlord sees your determination not to push the burden off unfairly onto him, perhaps he will seek ways to keep your rent within your budget. When the ultimate ownership on paper starts jumping around, the managers on the ground will often have a freer hand to deal. But you’ll notice that both of these two ways of benefit are linked, because staying in God’s favor means He moves in the hearts of others to favor you, as well.

That’s it for now. Ask questions if you have any.

02 Big Dig

Who are you?

Who did God intend for you to be? There are several parables for this. I rather like the image of God handing Moses two stone tablets. Try to wash from your mind the popular artwork depicting Moses slogging something as big and heavy as a tombstone. It would be more like a pair of thin slices of slate displaying a fairly small font size, and more likely a change in coloration than heavy cutting. It would be something a human craftsman could not replicate.

Contrast that with Jeremiah 31:31-34 — “I will write My Law on their hearts.” He says pointedly that it will not be the same as the Covenant of Moses. The writer of Hebrews in chapter 10 really brings this out, quoting that part of Jeremiah. The presence of the Holy Spirit changes everything.

This would have had an obvious meaning to the Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) cultures in general, and Hebrew culture in particular. To a people already well versed in mysticism as the norm, there was nothing new about keeping the focus of your conscious awareness inside your heart instead of your brain. They considered living in the brain as living by the flesh. You got that way because you made no room for God in your heart. Instead, your heart was closed off from God, filled with all kinds of other deities or just plain junk, lesser commitments.

We have a tough time reading the Bible from that point of view, but those people presumed it as the norm, something so obvious that it just didn’t require frequent comment. And they were used to the idea of having to stay focused and striving through many years of this powerful personal commitment to Jehovah before one could sense a living Presence in the soul. Precious few could manifest that kind of vivid commitment early in life. They would have regarded it as a form of genius, a moral precocity. It was also a mark of God’s favor. We should hope it meant you’d have everyone else’s favor, as well.

So when God promised to make that happen on a wider scale, it was viewed as a fine miracle, indeed. Consider the impact of Jeremiah 31:34:

“No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (NKJV)

Your community shalom wouldn’t depend so heavily on that constant battle of reminding folks to live by the heart and not by their heads. So on the one hand, every human at any given time could learn to live in their hearts, and could eventually get so accustomed to it that it was the same as having God Himself living in your soul. On the other hand, God was promising He would make it the norm to invade their souls before they had time to work that hard at it. They could all be precocious moral geniuses.

So instead of building a life like a fine mansion with those stone tablets displayed prominently on the wall, it would be a mansion built on those stone tablets in the first place. That Law of God would become much bigger than a mere tombstone; it would be the massive cornerstone set firmly into the hillside so that everything you build rests on it from the start. Indeed, that cornerstone would naturally be there in the first place, waiting for you to come and build.

It would up to you individually to first find the place God wanted you to build your life. Then you might have to remove some rubble and dirt to find that cornerstone. But eventually it would become clear as day with the building plans inscribed on it. So you would begin to follow those plans and build out, cutting a terrace for your life that would never collapse. Your life would become a shelter for many others, as well.

If you and I come into this promise from our Western heritage, it’s not just a building project, but a massive archeology dig. We have a lot more dirt and rubble to remove and it could easily be a never-ending project. It’s worth it, but that may not be obvious from the start, given how so few folks around us have any appreciation for such things. Worst of all, we will be treated like some kind of traitors for leaving behind the cerebral existence. They cannot comprehend a life lived by sheer conviction without first filtering it through reason.

Your reason is not who you are. It might be the core of your existence without the Holy Spirit, but that’s not what God intended. You cannot know yourself that way and make it mean anything. You have to know yourself in that other way, based on convictions that God wrote in your heart.

So the quest remains that of finding out who you were meant to be.

Faith Does Not Compute

Here we take a short tour through the history of Western Christian theology. Our attention is focused on the business of fallen nature and human reason.

First, we have to understand that Hebrew Scriptures assume a wholly different anthropology from what is common in the West. On the one hand, both use figures of speech, but use them differently. In ancient Hebrew culture, human nature is divided up differently and associated with different parts of the body as mere symbolism. When it comes to understanding human behavior, it really didn’t matter whether the mind was literally rooted in the brain — there were too many other factors in human nature that affected how the brain worked. In other words, Hebrew culture downplayed the importance of intellect compared to the Western image of it.

Second, there was a radical difference in cosmology, too. While the particulars varied among the multiple Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) civilizations, of which Hebrew is one, there was a common thread of belief in a distinct and separate spirit realm that was invisible to the senses. We cannot overemphasize how radically different this is from the Western assumption that this universe is all there is. The Greeks had no trouble with the idea that deities and demons were invisible, but such beings were still confined to this universe. Greeks honestly believed that it was possible to find a physical entrance to both the homes of the gods and the abode of the dead.

So deeply does this stain Western thought that you can discern the influence in Western Christianity. Early in Church history we find the official church teaching that human reason is not fallen.

Let’s see how the ANE viewpoint is expressed in Jeremiah 17. Starting in verse 5 God is castigating Judah for departing from the Covenant (the Northern Kingdom was already long gone at this point). In particular, He refers to the “heart” as the center of one’s will, the seat of commitment or faith. There is a specific reference to the kidneys as the seat of human motives, and it’s often translated in English as “reins” or “mind.” His point comes right up front: cursed is the man who trusts in human capabilities alone. Blessed is the man who humbly trusts in God for moral truth. Without redemption, the heart of commitment is wicked. In that state, no one can subject their lesser faculties to the higher faculty that should be in the heart. There is no sense of conviction, so the heart is effectively just as fallen and broken as the rest of such a man.

This is echoed in Romans 3, particularly in verses 9-18. Paul indicates that a covenant identity never kept Jews from being just as wicked and sinful as the worst of heathens. Paul goes on to assert that without redemption, there is nothing good possible arising from human capabilities. It was always a matter of divine grace. Western Christians are completely mistaken in thinking Jesus introduced a new concept in John 3 when He spoke of spiritual birth. We can find references to that symbolism throughout ANE religious writings. Without “a spirit of the gods” within us, we are doomed. Nicodemas as so Hellenized that he had completely forgotten the mystical roots of Hebrew culture. For him, there was no separate realm of the Spirit; everything was confined to his universe. Redemption was merely to earthly Jewish identity.

Even when we find Western church teachings about spiritual birth, we find that the net effect it is merely a changed mind. Somehow being more spiritual means nothing more than a different cerebral track. It’s a conversion of mind only, in the sense that religious leaders are looking for symptoms of orthodoxy. We find them saying in effect that “Jesus in your heart” equals “right belief and practice.” And that right religion always seems to look like the one that the present leadership espouses. “If you don’t believe and act like me, you ain’t born-again.” For non-evangelical traditions, it’s more like, “We are the arbiters or what God says, so if you don’t agree with us, you haven’t heard from God.”

This is precisely the fatal flaw in Judaism, and it goes all the way back to Jeremiah’s prophecy. Judah was at that time facing Babylon’s rampaging conquest. The Judean leadership insisted that, since the Temple inside the walls was God’s House, they were safe. Would God allow heathens to dirty His carpet? Was not this Hebrew nation God’s Chosen? Jeremiah was telling them that it didn’t matter where the Temple stood. It also didn’t matter their proximity to it; the nation had moved too far away from God’s protection in their hearts. Their faith, their feudal loyalty, was in something other than Jehovah.

In Hebrew thinking, spiritual birth does not change what you are, but who you are. It opens the door for a personal communion with our Creator so that His power can mitigate the Fall. Thus, spiritual birth is not some magic that changes the ideas in your head; it changes your heart — it registers as a sense of identity and commitment. You aren’t buying into a different package of human identity, but leaving all of that behind for an identity rooted in the Spirit Realm. Christ said His kingdom is not of this world. There can be no earthly kingdom of Christ; there can be no Christian nation. In this world there can be only provisional associations of fellow believers, acting like family in an eastern feudal setting. We as Christians are brothers and sisters with no earthly father. We are away from Home working together in a foreign realm. We don’t colonize; we offer adoptions out of this world.

Meanwhile, the only people who actually understand this world are those who belong outside of it. The only people who hold a valid assessment of human nature are those who denounce and renounce it. Only when we are linked to the Spirit Realm do we find communion with the rest of Creation. We still face the same natural world, but now are friends with it, not alienated from it in some god-forsaken mythology of something must be defeated, tamed and enslaved to our will.

Reason cannot be reformed. It can be properly subjected to faith, but you won’t see that often in organized Christian religion. Instead, we see the whole matter of “faith” as better belief and action, and “spirituality” as mere education and training. Theology is data; faith is much more.

Set the Captives Free

The longer I look at it, the more I cannot imagine that my mission is pivotal in God’s work among humans.

Let me reiterate some things my regular readers already know. The gospel message is freedom. It’s the opposite of sectarianism. While a great many Christian denominations use terminology like that, what they mean is that there should be no sects other than their own. “Everyone should be free to do it our way. Who could want anything else?” The problem is that they keep religion a slave to reason. Thus, whatever “freedom” means, it has to pass through the filter of reason — and we all know that reason is the conscious cover story our minds offer for very unreasonable personal wishes.

It is utterly impossible for reason to fill in the blanks of ultimate moral purpose; reason must start from certain moral assumptions and those always rest on the individual’s personal collective mythology. Need we note again that said mythology is itself a moving target? It is simply not possible for any human to be objective. We are all born with an instinct to propagate our genes; most of us are born with a certain drive to propagate our personal mythology. But only a few of us are born with the talents to make either form of propagation happen on a wide scale (and those two talents are often found in the same person). These folks honestly believe: “My way is God’s way.” Thus is born a particular brand of religion that sweeps in larger numbers of people.

And people are taught to disregard some of their own personal mythology in order to participate in some grand vision of conquest. “Everyone should taste the privilege of living like I do.” We see this in secular politics; religion never escapes politics. Despite words to the contrary, nobody in the religious propagation business really wants to make room for significant variations in reasoning and explanation. This reluctance is wired into the culture itself. There is this a priori assumption that it can’t be worth the trouble unless the results bring in large numbers under one single Great Man’s leadership. A part of the Curse of the Fall is an endless supply of human demigods.

Instead of boring you with yet another recounting of my long journey through madness, I’ll cut to the chase and remind you that coming out the other end of the Valley of the Shadow of Death was possible for me only by tossing aside the primacy of human reason and the instinct to lead. Do not follow me. Don’t trade your old demigod for some dream of making me into another one. My mission is to destroy that very thing. What I really want to do is set you free to find Christ on your own path. I’m fully confident that Christ in your heart can lead you where He wants you to go without my interference. I’m just along for the ride.

But this is no small task. It’s made all the larger for all the cultural mythology that demands we cling to a false definition of “holiness.” If there’s one idea that comes from Satan, it’s the truculent insistence that “truth” has to result in one concrete intellectual construction. It’s the big lie that this concrete physical universe, which we experience through our senses and grasp through our reason, is the sum total of all that is. It’s that endless quest for more data so we can nail down what can be, and thus what ought to be. Whatever is meant by “truth” must be some static, dead and cold “reality.” Even when we get people to admit that there could be other realms of existence, they still insist that whatever we can learn from any other realm must result in one single concrete answer here.

And all the while, this “here” is not concrete in any way. That “concrete objective reality” is the ultimate lie of the Devil. The world seems to have somehow agreed to that one underlying assumption, even in the face of vast unresolvable disputes about how we shall define that concrete reality. So we have endless wars because we all agree that there can only be one definition of concrete reality, but we cannot agree on what it is. That’s crazy.

But because everyone buys that fundamental lie, we end up finding ourselves under threat of force to buy one or another false mythology. So we all band together with others, buying into one or another great myth so we can stand together and fight back. Nobody seems to notice how the New Testament taught that we should just nod our heads and salute whatever flag someone runs up the pole because we don’t really care. The reason we don’t care is that we are conscious that this whole thing is one big lie. We play along with the game because we aren’t in a position to reach inside other people’s heads and turn on the light of revelation. Only God does that.

And His chosen instrument for that process is each of us living by our own provisional reality, consciously aware that no two of us have the same answer. But most of all, we are aware that no two us should have the same answer, simply because we cannot. God reveals Himself differently and individually to each of us. We would not dare tell God what He has to show anyone else. Nor would we dare to demand that the net result of revelation in some soul should come out with a concrete reality that looks the same as ours.

Yet by the very miracle of agreeing that we should not see things alike, we are able to unite in a bond of faith stronger than any shared identity mere men can dream up. We find fellowship and communion, ties of compassion and affection, and we worship the same Creator and Savior and Power to live in this Shadowland of lies and deceit. This world is the prison of souls.

So if there’s one thing I want you to remember me for, it’s that I helped you break out of the prison.

Psalm 124

This is ascribed specifically to David. We should take notice how very much this is like a responsive song, heavy with Hebrew parallelism.

We have this basic confession: Were it not for Jehovah’s favor, there would be no Israel. Think just a moment about her history. How many times did the Patriarchs stand threatened by circumstances? And didn’t Israel face a very well-armed force trying to escape unarmed from several generations of slavery? And that generation that died in the wilderness? Remember those biting serpents, the droughts and lack of food? How many times should Israel as a nation have died by normal human reckoning? This sentiment is restated twice.

This sentiment is expressed in two ways. First, is the image of larger and better armed nations rising against them, described twice. Then the metaphor of an overwhelming flood is expressed three times. Make no mistake — this echoes the crossing of the Reed Sea and Jordan during flood stage.

The song then jumps into praise. God didn’t let them eat us alive. David compares this to a bird caught in a snare that escapes because the trap broke. It’s not that Israel was smart enough to stay out the traps, but that God kept breaking them free. Their salvation was in the “name of the Lord.” That’s a Hebrew turn of phrase that reminds us God operates as an eastern suzerain, and we are His vassals. This is all about His glory, His reputation. Let us remind everyone that this is our Creator.

The Taste of Truth

We are wired for narrative.

The Hebrew culture was mystical in nature; it was part of the Ancient Near East (ANE), which is a collection of cultures and civilizations that shared a mystical orientation. Westerners have struggled to make sense of that peculiar brand of mysticism because it is so very alien. Our language and culture makes mystical things “spooky” and dangerous, whereas the ANE folks took it for granted and were entirely comfortable with it. Their “unknown” was never threatening; it was where man could find God.

It’s further exceedingly difficult to get across to Westerners that there is a third level of awareness beyond first, fleshly wiring in appetites and emotions, or second, intellect and reason. This is why genuine faith and trust in God is so very difficult for Westerners. What Western Christianity ends up with is a requirement for orthodoxy (“right thinking”) to force pre-approved outcomes. We simply cannot have something open-ended like faith is meant to be. Thus, it provides a phony “faith” that is some form of iron logic, which is supposed to conquer the flesh. But it cannot conquer flesh because intellect is still flesh; it’s still man doing something the mind imagines is God’s work. To be “spiritual” means some better quality of cerebral exercise in reason.

The only real difference between that kind of belief versus atheism is simply a matter of starting assumptions. It rests entirely in the fallen flesh. It’s all the same kind of thing. People choose their assumptions on some grounds they cannot comprehend because reason cannot admit to dependency and need. The seeming power of reason is too enthralling to ignore; intellect cannot choose to surrender the myth of superiority in all things. It is the God-complex woven into the human soul. In other words, you cannot start from logic and arrive at truth because there is nothing on which to stand. Logic is a tool; it has no substance in itself. Thus, the choice to believe or not is nothing more than subconscious sentiment.

This remains the sad story for the vast majority of those seeking to practice Western Christian religion. Especially as the size of the organization grows, the portion of people in it who are simply believers without genuine commitment on that third level grows higher because the size of the crowd makes it easier to hide the weakness. There’s so much shared enthusiasm that it feels like it must be the power of God; it didn’t come from within the self.

This, despite the rather flatly literal teaching in Scripture that genuine faith in the individual defies the whole world if necessary; even the end of reality itself does not vanquish true faith. Move those individual members to a hostile environment and their belief suffers. Something nibbles away at the edges of the fragile belief. It requires a constant exposure to that mass enthusiasm to reinforce those cerebral boundaries. There’s no fountain of life welling up within.

Nobody says the mind cannot be strong; it’s never strong enough. It can’t bear you into God’s Presence. We don’t need more teaching. There is no truth in explanations that meet the tests of intellect. I use it here in our virtual parish only to deconstruct, to indicate how you shouldn’t rely on it. I use the tools of reason and intellect to poke holes in what the brain can do by itself.

The truth of God isn’t in teaching. The closest we come to divine revelation in human language is parable and narrative. Do you understand that two or more narratives can conflict on the facts and still tell the same truth? Two people can come away from a narrative with entirely different experiences, but still stand in the same faith. Narrative brings with it a whole raft of experiential truth that touches the places mere data cannot find. And it’s those other places in the soul where we can provoke or crush genuine faith. A well told story that rests on certain assumptions will convey those assumptions by drawing the listener into them. It becomes the reality in which that soul stands for a time.

Thus, the very concept of communication and language in the ANE was all about the narrative, drawing us into the place where we can find truth. We are wired to absorb that truth. Once we get used to this, we can detect lies because they bring us to the wrong place, a place that feels alien and hostile. But only if we are used to thinking in terms of the narrative and its purpose as communication. As long as we hang everything on the data, anyone can slip vast deceptions into the narrative and we’d never know it.

A morally strong narrative finds a witness in your convictions. It feels like home; it restores your faith. It tastes like something eternal.

The Norm of Miracles

Before anyone starts to ask the questions, the answer is mysticism.

We can wrap our answers in reason, but the fundamental issue remains, “Thus saith the Lord” who made all things and determines how reality works. Further, He has not been silent; there is a massive record of His dealings with humanity. But that record is opaque to the human intellect. It makes sense only when you read it with your heart. Without that heart-mind awareness, reality isn’t supposed to make sense.

Thus, we start with revelation and build out an understanding. Yet we also assert that no two of us will build the same understanding. We deny that there is an objective reality. The expectation that we could produce a consistent answer that fits all of us is just another deception of the fallen human reason. We answer that it’s utterly impossible to agree on everything and therefore a sign of healthy fellowship when there are at least some minor differences. We don’t school each other on the particulars, but encourage each other in the commitment to our convictions and our faith to trust in God.

It’s not that we use no reason at all, but that we use our reason as the means to dragging all the noise around us back to our faith. We submit everything to that mystical union with God Almighty and with the whole of His Creation. Because of that divine clarity of the heart-mind, our reasoning capacity is actually far better, at least potentially, than the sharpest minds of those who rely on reason alone. That doesn’t mean we can break through their moral blindness, but that we need not fear the power of their ideas. Our spiritual truth is greater than their best and brightest logic.

Again: The demands of faith are imminently unreasonable. We make no bones about it. At the same time, we have the all justification in the world we need to take this path because our God reigns and pours out His blessings so abundantly we have to leave stuff lying on the ground. He’s not wasteful, just generous.

It also means that in order to catch as much as we can, we discard a lot of things that He says aren’t necessary. The discernment is not a matter of reason and human need, but His glory. His glory is our ultimate good. There is nothing that can compete with that.

How many miracles does the Bible tell about? How often has God shown that He offers exceptions because there really aren’t any hard-n-fast rules? We know that, under most contexts, you don’t grab a poisonous snake with your bare hands. We also know Jesus promised that, when it serves the Father’s glory, we can do that anyway (Mark 16:18; Acts 28:1-6). It’s not that we would fling a challenge in God’s face and dare Him to let us die in the middle of our calling and mission, but that we simply allow Him to decide such things. We take our own demise in stride.

But when the time comes, we cast out demons, heal broken bodies, call fire down from heaven, walk on water, instantly move great distances without traveling, turn the clock backward in time, fill thousands of bellies from a handful of food, and all kinds of things we can’t even imagine. But we don’t do it casually as if we are somehow so very special and virtuous. It’s not frivolous and we don’t test it out just to prove a point. We receive these things when His glory shines, and we also don’t receive them for His glory at other times.

Learn the Law of God; learn how Creation works. Make Creation your best friend. No two of us will ever know exactly the same things about Creation, but we can all testify that God is not constrained by our human grasp on what’s “normal.”