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.

Some More Babylon

The symbolic logic behind parables requires quantum thinking. It requires that you tear things down to the smallest practical level, including thinking about thinking itself, and become aware that a particular symbol has meaning on multiple levels. The parabolic symbols in Scripture are alive; they are discrete beings with a life of their own. We are meant to see them differently in different contexts. We are supposed to explore the narrative in which the symbols appear and let them speak to us about God’s moral truth. This is why I insist that parabolic communication is planting signposts that indicate places to explore, versus Western communication that pictures truth as contained within the words. “Words mean things” — to which we say, “nonsense!” Words have no power on their own; the power is in the life explored. You cannot contain life in a box without killing it.

Truth is alive; it can never be static. It’s not that we don’t care about facts; we care little about facts because the facts can never be known, only perceived, which is not the same thing. Perception becomes reality on the grounds that reality is shifty mists that God can change on-the-fly at His whim. His revelation declares that He has done so repeatedly. A reality of immutable fact is a myth. Certitude is the dream of fools. Humans at large perceive reality as immutable because this puts it within some theoretical reach of human reason. We don’t need God; we can figure it out on our own.

If you examine what goes on in fiction writing and movies regarding Artificial Intelligence (AI), you see one recurring theme: the rejection of the Fall. It was first formally pronounced as the doctrine of the early Catholic Church that man’s intellect is not fallen, that a human can be conditioned and improved until his/her better self prevails. This is a direct rejection of revelation. But this theme of perfectibility persists across the board in just about everything you read seeking to provoke men to remake a better world. No one argues that we this world is just fine; everyone agrees it’s pretty messed up. But any solution that doesn’t start with confession of our fallen nature is doomed to chase everything — anything — except the truth. So when someone asks the question of what constitutes human nature, the answer is our fallen perception that won’t let us see what we really are.

By the way, the early Catholic doctrine of man’s unfallen intellect comes from the long-term effects of the Judaizers. You knew that, right? It’s a part of the effects of Hellenism that perverted the Hebrew mystical outlook into the legalistic nonsense of Judaism. That’s where “words mean things” was born, and the false “mystical” silliness about the power of words to work magic. Take a look at most writing in the study of magic and you’ll see it never quite escapes the assumptions behind Western mythology, and it reads that power-of-words back into whatever ancient texts they presume to revere and learn from. Sheesh, it even shows up in charismatic Christian religions today as the “Word Faith” doctrine — derived from early Kabbala, a component of Orthodox Judaism. We still hear Charismatics say, “Don’t pronounce a word-curse on yourself by negative confession.” Words do not make reality; perception does, and it’s not permanent.

Back to parables and parabolic imagery: So we have that story of Babylon from the early chapters of Genesis. What do we see? A megalomaniac Nimrod whose doctrine is that mankind can build a unifying religion that will make reverence for God unnecessary. I can recall a very brilliant student telling me that if God would just leave us alone we could accomplish so much good. Like Nimrod who continued to eat from the Forbidden Fruit: “We can be our own gods! We can decide for ourselves what is good and evil.”

In the past I’ve noted that, on one level, Babylon means that everything has a price and that’s all we need to know. On another level, I said the Babylon means slavery and oppression, whether the chains be physical or mental. But on yet another level, I’ll suggest that globalism is just another manifestation of Babylon. It’s a dream of pulling folks together and improving ourselves until we can all discover that great unknown potential of humanity. Babylon means all of those things and much more.

But it’s that persistent lie that we can somehow fix ourselves, that the real problem with this world is that we just haven’t tried hard enough/long enough — that’s the meaning of Babylon I point at here. All the solutions that rest on changing people are doomed before they start. Think about some of the more thoughtful statements about the problems of social media, in which it’s a subtle reminder from some globalist why Trump (dammit!) won the election for POTUS. “If we don’t fix this problem, we can’t get rid of the Trumps in this world.” It’s a form of scolding that marks the Social Justice Warrior front still causing mayhem and havoc in the US today. Shall we tell them that Trump is God’s whip-hand flogging the globalists? And when that’s done, Trump will face his own doom, and his grand schemes will wither away, because that’s how God works with those who refuse to hear His truth with their hearts.

I don’t claim to have such marvelous far-seeing answers as the globalist dreamers. There’s nothing to fix in human nature because it can’t be fixed on our end. If God doesn’t reach out and restore to us individually the pathway back to Eden, we’ll never find it. And there sure-as-Hell isn’t any way my answers will be your answers. They might come close enough at times that we can fellowship and work together, but the one thing you should learn from me is how I found the path, not the path I found. There is no one universal answer for mankind once you get past the Flaming Sword.

What I want most for you is the capacity to deal with living truth on your own. I can’t describe it; I can’t make the truth fit into a neat container. I can indicate something about it with a narrative that walks on its own feet and plants markers to things you could explore for yourself. There is no preconceived result, no concrete solution, no great shiny vision for a human future on this planet. All I have are little stories about how I rediscovered something long and often lost in human history: It’s the heart ruling over the intellect. What you do with my little stories is wide open territory in front of us both. I’m not worried about how it turns out because I have no vested interest in outcomes. Just seeing you free to explore the true Land of the Heart, the Land without Words, is all the payback I need.

What the Hell?

Some of you get it, but it seems there is enough confusion that I need to restate things for clarity.

I use the English word “Hell.” If you have been paying attention, you’ll notice I use it in the vernacular sense, having a very flexible meaning, and have never bothered with defining it as a religious term.

The image of serving as slaves of Satan applies to this life. It’s the biblical image of ANE feudalism, God’s dominion over Creation. A part of what we need to know about Satan and his activities is derived from this parabolic image of Satan as God’s personal Potiphar, if you will. This has nothing to do with Western Medieval images of torment and Hell; that should have been obvious by my steady denunciation of Western Christianity. People who do not walk by a heart of commitment to God’s revelation are, to varying degrees, slaves of Satan here and now. Their share of the blessings God intended to grant them under covenant are consumed by Satan, and Satan gets none of his own.

But in this image, I include multiple references that Satan is somehow confined to this world, along with all his demons. There is a sense in which that image of slavery is “Hell,” but I don’t recall thinking or writing that Satan was also in charge of Hell as a place beyond death. “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Whatever that verse means about “judgment” is the more precise meaning of “Hell.” I have never pretended to offer any firm knowledge of Hell because the Bible avoids a literal description. It’s always been lyrical references to torment of some kind, but that could just as easily mean standing in the Presence of God with full awareness on that higher level that you are not in His favor. That can’t be comfortable, but you can’t possibly presume to describe it in literal terms.

And on top of all that, I believe Hell is not eternal; neither is whatever is signified by the word “Heaven.” Note that Jesus on the Cross referred to it by the Persian word for Paradise (Luke 23:43). Indeed, our current “place of the dead” for everyone, in God’s favor or not, is a temporary state. It’s all prior to the final Resurrection of the Dead, prior to the Final Judgment. I tend to believe that “new Heaven and new Earth” is somewhat literal. Some parts of Revelation 21 do have literal connotations, but how literal can you be about something the intellect cannot grasp?

So while American vernacular English does permit a flexible use of the words “Heaven” and “Hell” — to include symbolism and parable — if you want to shift to a more precise discussion of matters of faith and Scripture, both are apparently outside of this realm of existence, but attached to it in some way that indicates they will be replaced along with the rest of Creation at some point out there in our world’s future.

Do we really need a comprehensive word study of Sheol, Hades, Gehenna, etc.? I’ve already covered the Old Testament teaching on afterlife to show that Jesus wasn’t so much adding new revelation about the afterlife as He was speaking to an audience that had drifted far from their ancient Hebrew roots. You need a heart-led discernment to recognize that some of it was just using the common rabbinical manner of speaking (because folks were familiar with it) even as He corrected false impressions about things. Often He was pushing them back away from Hellenism toward the ancient Hebrew way of thinking. Hebrew language uses words as signposts, not as containers of truth. The whole point was to persuade you to seek God’s truth from God Himself, with the underlying assumption you must have an active heart-mind in order to hear from God in the first place.

I don’t think chasing down precise word meanings in Greek and Hebrew will help you very much because that was never the point. A proper heart-mind operation means that words are indicative, not descriptive. If you could read Greek, you’d know that Paul’s Hebrew mind constantly searched for ways to express those thoughts in Greek so that he was always coining his own Greek words. If you were born speaking Greek in that time, you would tend to resist that Hebraic thought pattern. You would read things back into his writing and struggle to keep up with Paul’s teaching. This is why the Apostles spent so very much time with each of their church plants, because it was downright tough to make a Greek mind shift over to Hebrew patterns of thought.

And now we have English with a whole batch of fresh barriers keeping us from Hebrew thought. A part of me wonders if I’ll ever get that across to enough people before I die. The language you speak is the language you think, and the language can seriously hold you back from thinking the way God designed us to think. All I can do is ask that you learn a cynical suspicion of the person in the mirror, because I’ve had to cultivate that, too. It doesn’t require paranoia, because God is surely at work in you, helping you to move steadily closer to Him. Always be willing to question whether you have actually caught on, and turn inside to your heart and connect with the Holy Spirit for patience and guidance. You don’t have to accept my answers, but maybe you can learn something useful toward your own answers by noticing how I get mine.