Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The West Texas Confession


Much of what is marketed as Christianity, while good and helpful, is actually a substitute that obscures the core power of the Bible and Jesus. Since I have recently moved to West Texas from Wheaton, Illinois I want to at this time outline my current beliefs so that I can communicate them clearly and systematically. My intellectual background includes studies in Electrical Engineering (i.e., Physics), Information Technology, Management, Theology, Liberal Arts, Economics and Education Reform. Here is what I think I have learned so far, much of which is at odds with popular Christian teachings.

0. Summary

Proposed celestial evolution has no viable mechanism.  Mutation & natural selection doesn't apply and a multiverse doesn't make logical sense.  So, some form of an intelligent designer seems to make more sense.

The earliest written records in history are from Sumer and, though in mythological form, they do seem to include references similar to the earliest historical accounts claimed in the Bible.

A misinterpretation of "Logical Positivism", which equates what we see and what our instruments measure with actual reality, is at the root of misinterpretation of valid formulas in quantum mechanics and relativity and is the cause of some seemingly unsolvable dilemmas. Physicists/scientists have become the modern day priesthood, requiring the quantitatively illiterate mass of people (i.e., people who are unable to understand/interpret their formulas directly) to trust their interpretation of how the world works without giving people the ability to interpret the formulas for themselves.

There is no actual difference between "natural" and "supernatural", other than one type of event is observable/repeatable and the other is not.  The goal is to separate truth from fiction/mythology, whether a particular event is repeatable or not.

The main conflict and goal of life, as implied by Genesis and Revelation, seems to be maintaining full individual freedom of choice (required for value, love, motivation, etc.. to exist) while at the same time creating a good society (Garden of Eden, healthy families, good nations, Heaven).  The answer to the dilemma of how to have both seems to be to freely choose to sacrifice ourselves daily to do what is right.  To be "born again" one has to first be willing to die.  To be a "follower of Jesus" is to be willing to "sacrifice" ourselves as Jesus did.  Both baptism and communion were intended to symbolize the willingness of followers of Jesus to die just as Jesus was willing to sacrifice himself.  Willingness to give up everything, coupled with a commitment to do what is right, eliminates daily stresses and worries and gives a person the motivation to do great things, to become a hero and make a difference in the culture and world.
Many Christian teachers have replaced this meaning in favor of the more marketable "Jesus sacrificed himself and we just accept his payment to God for us", without also including an up front discussion of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  That is similar to how some vendors market their product as being "free" without discussing up front the actual future cost.  To understand the specific differences at issue, see the Penal Substitutionary Atonement debate and compare to Communal Substitutionary Atonement.  So some have emptied the meaning of baptism and communion to be only "remembering/accepting how Jesus paid our debt to God" and have re-purposed the symbolism to focus on group membership rather than a shared commitment to self-sacrifice.  Then, some infuse a form of Christian mysticism and ritual in order to substitute for the meaning and power that they perceive is now missing from the center of Christian teaching.  By necessity they replace discussion, debate and active learning with monologue and use various forms of social control to maintain the unity of their organization.

The word "antichrist" combines two roots: αντί (anti) + Χριστός (Khristos). "Αντί" can mean not only "against" and "opposite of", but also "in place of".

1. Evidence (What)

Before we can use reason to determine how the world works or communicate information, first we must observe raw information about the world we live in.

1.1 The Natural Record

Observational Science is using our senses and various tools to observe the current state of nature. From those observation and by using some assumptions, through theoretical science we may be able to extrapolate what likely happened in the past and therefore what is likely to happen in the future.

1.2 The Historical Record

People have recorded their perspectives of what has happened in their lifetimes. By trying to determine what the authors were trying to communicate to their intended audiences, if the authors were truthful and accurate and their writings were not altered over time, then we can determine what likely happened in history. From that history then through philosophy/theology we can determine what we should do in the future to avoid past problems and to build upon past lessons learned.

2. Reason and Belief

2.1 In the Beginning was Information

When John said "In the beginning was the Word" he was also indicating that in the beginning was information.  Mysticism is a substitute for searching out information.

2.2 Inductive and Deductive Logic

By observing the world we inductively derive knowledge and rules that are likely, but not guaranteed, to be true to help determine what is likely to happen in the future. Inductively derived information gives us the assumptions/premises that, if true, we can use with deductive logic to determine additional information that is also true.

Fallacies are reasoning shortcuts we all use when we don't have enough time to reason through a question fully.  So using fallacies is the most effective marketing method, but we should take the time to use logical think through for the most important decisions rather than relying on fallacious shortcuts.

Similarly, emotions are learned responses based on perceived information that are designed to motivate us to action, and as such are effectively used in marketing as well.

2.3 The Role of Faith

Faith is just another name for how we use inductive logic in our everyday lives. Faith is what is needed to treat something we inductively derive to be probably true as if it is definitely true. For example, when we step in an elevator there is a small probability that it will fall, but because we have faith it will work we treat it as if it will definitely work and don't give it a second thought.

Faith to follow a creator consists of two different parts.  First, we must believe a creator exists and, secondly, we must believe the creator is good and worth following.

2.4 How to Choose your Beliefs

There is only one valid way to choose your beliefs: Determine the set of beliefs that are most likely to be true.  The Bible is a claim to an accurate history of the world.

2.5 Atheism, Agnosticism and Universalism

Since faith by definition means less than 100% certainty, all believers are in some sense agnostics.  All agnostics by necessity must act as if a particular set of beliefs is true and many choose to act as if Atheism is true.

Atheism (God does not exist) many times leads to Pantheism (God is everything), which many times leads to Polytheism (gods are whatever is most honorable/powerful). Note that these are each philosophical beliefs and have in common no actual claim of a written historical record.  Most world empires were polytheistic, allowing and integrating various belief systems.

3. Communication

3.1 Prayer

Private Prayer:
Prayer was originally intended to be a two way discussion between God and Man.  Unlike animals, Man is geared to have communication with his creator.  Since God seems to be hiding somewhat and typically does not speak back currently, at this time the main practical value of prayer is in thinking through/articulating issues and in helping people give up worrying by reminding them that God values them and He is in control of their situation even in situations of failure or death.  While there may be value in repeatedly begging for things that we desperately need, in the rich West most prayers are for convenience rather than for desperate necessity.
Public Prayer:
Many times public prayer is used for the practical purposes of maintaining a sense of group unity, making people feel they are in touch with God and/or demonstrating the oratory skills of the leader.  The Biblical command to pray in secret rather than in public is meant to apply to good leaders with good intentions, not just those actually intending to use their public prayers just for marketing purposes.  Distinctions should be made between various types of "prayer", including making requests, giving thanks to God, worshiping, and giving a blessing to someone.

3.2 Teaching, Preaching and Evangelism

Teaching, preaching and evangelism are all forms of education, which includes both providing information and, perhaps more importantly, providing motivation to the learner. As with all learning we should enable self-directed learning, offer "bite sized chunks" of information and in some way to validate to others the knowledge they have gained. We should get away from pastor/teacher-focused (sage on the stage) education and move to self-directed (guide on the side) project-based, non-repetitive, learner-focused education with a purpose.

In many cases short term mission trips benefit the short term missionary more than the places they visit.  Foreign countries benefit from temporary access to Western money, industry and education, whereas the missionary benefits from seeing first hand the value of that access.  To truly benefit the country requires indigenous missionaries who over time build up community, trade and education locally rather than just giving temporary access to those resources in the West.

4. Philosophy/Theology and Theoretical Science

4.1 The Books of the Bible

The books collated into the Bible, in addition to containing history, also include the philosophical/theological concepts to use to interpret how history can be applied to make future decisions. Most of the concepts are qualitative rather than quantitative.

4.2 Observational Science

Most information determined from Observational Science is quantitative, so most of theoretical science is determining quantitative formulas to predict what will happen in the future. Scientists are good at determining what formulas fit historical numerical patterns, but they are sometimes not as good at providing a well-reasoned qualitative interpretation of, at a foundational level, what their valid formulas mean.

4.3 Church Practices

4.3.1 Baptism

Baptism is intended to be a physical demonstration of our willingness, as followers of Jesus, to sacrifice our lives, as Jesus did, to do what is right.

4.3.2 Communion

Communion is intended to be a reminder of our commitment, as followers of Jesus, to sacrifice our lives as needed to do what is right. As we remember Jesus we also remember that to be a "follower of Jesus" means we are willing to die, as Jesus did, for what is right.

4.3.3 Music and Motivational Speech

Music and motivational speaking is used to build emotion/motivation.  The Holy Spirit functions to train emotions to motivate gaining value.  Virtues are those habits that typically maximize value, trade and community.  Music and motivational speech can either build motivation toward virtue or they can be an emotional substitute for focusing on virtue.

4.3.4 Interpreting Paul - Tongues and Meat Sacrificed to Idols

Peter says that what Paul writes is sometimes hard to understand.  This is because Paul is nuanced in his thinking and tries to agree as much as possible with the opposing argument before arguing the opposite.  So, for example, Paul seems to be arguing for eating meat sacrificed to idols before he says he would never do that and we shouldn't either.

Paul was asked if "Speaking in Tongues" that no one understood was valid or a false practice that should be banned, though some claimed that this might be languages of angels.  Knowing that no one can prove a negative, instead of banning the practice Paul wisely said to focus on the original intent of transferring information to people who don't speak your language and to focus on other gifts.  Paul identifies with the people who want to speak in tongues since they are motivated to do something good, but then argues to focus their desire elsewhere.  Today, Charismatic churches miss Paul's point in this chapter, and many anti-Charismatic churches miss Paul's attempt to address the issue without having to prove a negative.

4.3.5 Tithing and Giving

Tithing was the giving of a crop harvest, not giving coinage/money.  This tithe was to replace the harvest that Levites would have received if they had spent the year farming instead of working in Jewish service in the temple.  Part of the tithe was to be used for a feast and to purchase strong drink.

Today referencing the tithe is an easy way to help fund Christian projects.  Instead, Christians should pay only their fair share of projects they have freely committed to help support.  As members of a church, they should cheerfully support their portion of what is needed to support the workers, though many organizations may be overstaffed and overbuilt.

4.4 Mysticism

Mysticism is used in place of reason when people want to deal with certainties rather than probabilities where they don't have enough information. Mysticism should be rejected in favor of reason.

5. Intelligence (Who)

5.1 Humans

We are not our bodies, but our ways of thinking. Cut off any part of the body other than our brain and we can still be ourselves. We can be thought of as one individual, but we can also be defined by the "sets of ways of thinking" that we hold to. Conversely, the different "sets of ways of thinking" can be considered different "individuals" in our mind. This is the way that people can be "filled with the Holy Spirit" or "possessed by demons". We can be thought of in two ways at the same time: We are both whole individuals that persist over time, but we are also subsets of ideas that can change over time.

5.1.1 Races

The characteristics that separate races are superficial. Genetically, to reduce genetic defects it is healthiest to intermarry with people who are the furthest genetically from us. Different cultures can have better or worse social standards, so we should take the best traits of each culture.

5.1.2 Gender Roles

Both genders are equally valuable but each gender is in general designed to be better at different tasks. Just as we should be caring of people with physical struggles, we should be caring for people with gender identity struggles. We should work to maximize freedom even when we believe others are in error. But, freedom also means not trying to force people to believe that gender identity or gender attractions that don't match genetics are normative.

5.2 God

God is eternal and the designer of the Universe, which is not eternal. If "something" cannot come from "nothing", then the only other alternative would be for the creation to be eternal. In either case, something has to be eternal.

5.3 Holy Spirit

The result of having the Holy Spirit being in our minds is a strong motivation because we are convinced we are trying to do the right thing. As we change our minds and habits to become more holy, doing what is right can become strongly motivational. So, it is valid to look at the Holy Spirit in two ways: as the person of the Holy Spirit inhabiting a subset of our mind, while at the same time saying that sets of ideas are changing our minds to motivate us to be more holy, whatever the cost.

5.4 Jesus

Jesus is the example of sacrifice, to the point of being willing to die, that we as followers of Jesus are committed to following. His ways of thinking fully matched God's ways of thinking as well as the Holy Spirit's ways of thinking.

5.5 Angels and Demons

Angel means "messenger". These messengers can apparently be given bodies but they don't necessarily need physical bodies. On the other hand, there is no example of Demons existing anywhere other than inside minds, either human or animal. Demon possession can be thought of in two ways: either as a set of bad ideas that should be rejected as not one's own, or, as another individual inhabiting a subset of a mind.

5.6 Animals

Animal's minds apparently cannot conceive of symbolic language or ideas, but never the less God does make a covenant with the animals as well.  Animal sacrifices were designed to bring out the emotion of sadness and to motivate a changed life.  In the future when God puts an end to war, he will also cause animals to become herbivores.

Before the Flood people only ate plants, and, in the future animals will no longer be killed/eaten.  So while we are currently allowed to eat meat, especially in areas/times that don't support farming or gathering, meat eating apparently wasn't intended to be normative.  Also, a whole foods plant based diet seems to, in most cases, prevent vascular diseases, the leading cause of death in western diets.

5.7 Plants

While plants can react to their environment they do not have central minds that process, store or communicate information.

6. History (When)

6.1 Time

Time is just our "perception of change". What we call the "past" is our current memories and what we call the "future" is our current mental plans. So God did not create "time" itself but rather He created the regularly recurring changes we use as "clocks" to measure the passage of other changes, which is how we commonly think of "time". So, the Relativity Theory formulas describe human/device perceptions rather than what is actually happening in space independent of the observing person/device.

6.2 Our Origin

6.2.1 Freedom of Choice

God didn't have to give Adam and Eve freedom to choose from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. By giving them that choice it shows that God believes that maintaining freedom of choice is more important than maintaining an ideal society, though he is working to provide both.

Evil is not the opposite of good.  Rather, Evil is striving to obtain a supposedly better, but actually non-existent, utopia by means of force.  In other words, Evil is when we are prideful enough to think we know better than the designer.

6.2.2 Good Society

The Garden of Eden was the initially intended society, at least for individual families. We should each be able to rely on nature for our necessities rather than solely relying on others in society. Even if we live in cities we should be able to, if necessary, move to a location and become self-sufficient in the necessities. Otherwise we effectively become slaves to our society.

6.2.3 Origin of Death and Suffering

Death and suffering motivates us to want a world where there is no death or suffering. Death is not the end but it symbolizes ultimate sacrifice. If Adam and Eve were perfectly willing to die rather than eat the fruit then they would never have eaten, regardless of the amount of time.

6.3 History

6.3.1 Freedom of Choice

The wide variety of societies over history are needed to allow different societies to make varying choices to, in the end, demonstrate that God's way of setting up society is the best.

6.3.2 Good Society

The goal of history is to show how to set up the best society.

6.3.3 History of Death and Suffering

Societies that try to use force to set up the ideal Utopian society typically end up causing the most death and suffering. Societies that work to maximize freedom end up creating the best societies.

6.3.4 Historical Governments Before the Flood

Violence was so bad before the Flood that society needed to be ended and started over. Sumer

All the key events in the book of Genesis are found in some form in Sumerian mythology/history.  Abraham left the corruption of Sumer to found a new society. Egypt

Moses rejected the mythology of Egypt in favor of the history that Sumerian myths were based on. The Israelites left the corruption of Egypt to recreate a society more similar to the Garden of Eden, as Abraham had done before them. Israel

Israel was intended as an example of a group of people following God, but the intent was to maintain freedom. High value was placed on not becoming a slave to work. Moses says he never took anyone's donkey, so government infrastructure was minimal. Samuel said God wasn't pleased that Israel asked for a King who would build an army, amass wealth and go to war. Much of Genesis is written to show the problems of society without a law to guide the people and to justify submitting to the laws in the Torah. The temple and the sacrifices were initially needed as physical symbols, but were not ultimately what God wanted. Roman Empire

Today the West is a descendant of the Roman Empire rather than being a descendant of Israel. We follow the example intended by Israel and their laws but we were not intended to be under the same laws as Israel.

6.4 The Future

6.4.1 Freedom of Choice

Heaven and Hell is the separation of people who are willing to sacrifice themselves to follow God from those who are not willing to do that. People who make good choices will create a good society (Heaven) and those who make bad choices will create a very bad society (Hell). Also, God is not required to make the world work just as well for those who do not follow Him. So Hell is a very bad place even without the need for God to eternally torture people in Hell.

6.4.2 Good Society

Heaven is a place where freedom of choice is maintained but those in Heaven have shown that they naturally will choose to do what is right. Good relationships and good societies are both forms of good "trade". "Virtues" are just heuristics that generally promote good "trade", good relationships and good societies.

6.4.3 Future of Death and Suffering

Death and suffering were not originally intended but are useful to motivate us to want a future world without death and suffering. Even though death is not the end, it is symbolic of making the ultimate sacrifice as followers of Jesus.  Since death is not the end then at some point it will no longer be an issue.

7. The Universe (Where)

7.1 Supernatural, Simplicity/Complexity and Substitutes

There is no actual difference between "natural" and "supernatural". If something is re-creatable we call it natural and if we can't re-create something we call it supernatural. Natural objects hide complexity and interact with simplicity. Since the designer has a broader view of how things should work, in general, doing things naturally is the best method. There are two kinds of substitutes for nature. One kind of substitute is a good substitute for areas where we cannot do something naturally (such as exercise when we can't do hard labor). A bad kind of substitute is where we think we are improving on nature, trying to maximize superficial traits at the cost of more important traits.

7.2 Miracles

We call something a miracle if it isn't repeatable and we don't understand the mechanism. Once we understand the mechanism or can repeat the event we call it natural rather than a miracle. Since we can't repeat or understand everything, by definition some miracles are possible.

8. Goals (Why)

8.1 Value, Motivation

8.1.1 Honor/Worship

To worship is to ascribe value to something, not just singing or adoring as the term "worship" is commonly understood. Worship is important because when we increase the value we ascribe to God we are also therefore increasing the value ascribed to His creation and to human life. Value is a perception which is only partly based on usefulness. We many times derive our value from the perception of others around us, so it is important to surround ourselves with people who value us and to remind ourselves that God values us and others highly.

8.1.2 Happiness/Enjoyment

True happiness comes from knowing we are doing the right thing, even if that causes short term pain. Short term pleasure can at the same time be causing unhappiness.

8.1.3 Faith, Hope and Love

Faith, Hope and Love all have in common embracing risk. Faith allows us to live in a world of current risks. Hope motivates us to act as if the future will be better even when there is risk of failure, pain and death. Love gives to others even when there is a risk that giving will not be reciprocated.

8.2 Freedom (How)

8.2.1 Providence and Free Will

God has full control but we also have full free will. Which one we perceive is just a matter of how much information we have. If God controls all the forces on dice being rolled then he also controls the outcome of the roll.  But, if we don't see how he is controlling those forces then the outcome looks random to us.

8.2.2 Virtues, Repentance, Justification, and Sanctification

Something isn't virtuous because God commands it but rather, by nature, he commands what He knows, as the designer, is virtuous. Repentance is a decision rather than a "work". Once we repent we are justified but it may take time to train the habits of the various virtues. That learning/growth process is called sanctification.

8.2.3 Forgiveness

We are forgiven when we try to turn away from doing wrong and we decide to follow the example of Jesus. Forgiveness should be continually offered (for one reason, harboring un-forgiveness hurts the person who was wronged), but the actual benefit of forgiveness isn't actually received by the wrongdoer until they turn from doing the wrong.

8.2.4 Excommunication

We should have freedom of association and of disassociation. We need to make it clear what groups believe and disassociate in a friendly way from those who believe differently in key areas so that outsiders can see clear distinctions between groups. But we should always be open to trade with others who have opposing beliefs in order to maximize value.

8.2.5 Work and Rest

A day of rest is important so that we don't become slaves to our work. Rest is more enjoyable when we feel we have accomplished something valuable from our work. Many times we can do better thinking and planning during times of rest such that, even with a time of rest, we are more productive than if we worked constantly.

8.3 Good Society (How)

8.3.1 Liberty

Value is determined by the free determination of others around us.  So, freedom of choice is required for worship and love to be of any value.

Use of force should be limited to defending oneself and one's property.  Instead of force, persuasion and trade should be used to get others to do what you want them to do.  The striking of children or the extremely elderly for training or deterrence is a form of force that should be replaced with education, persuasion and trade.

8.3.2 Education

To make truly free choices we must have correct and accurate information. So, freedom of education is foundational to freedom of choice. Therefore, in a perfect world education should not be provided/regulated by the state through forced taxation.

8.3.3 Leaders and Councils

Following the collective wisdom of leaders and councils is very helpful, but we must not follow leaders/councils blindly and we must retain our freedom of choice without coercion.  Leaders have conflicts of interest in that they need to maintain control, promote unity and restrain dissent.  Also, all professionals have a conflict of interest in that they get more value from people continuing to be dependent on them than from training people to be self-sufficient without their ongoing services.

8.3.4 Laws

Laws, rules, standards, best practices, virtues, ethics, suggestions, etc.. are in essence all the same. Each are ways of educating/motivating people concerning practices that maximize the likelihood of good trade, relationships and society.  Laws differ only in that they have law enforcement attached to coerce people to follow the practices deemed by the state to be laws.  If we have a focus on trying to have good trade, relationships and societies then we will naturally do what is in the laws.

8.3.5 Contracts

Trade increases the value to both parties in the trade. Trade over time requires trust in the commitment to deliver the value at a later time. So, to maximize value we must honor our contracts.

8.3.6 Marriage

Marriage is a freely entered into contract to deliver value over time. Therefore, marriage should not be regulated by the state but rather it should be affirmed/dis-affirmed by families, churches and/or other social organizations.

8.3.7 Church

Church was intended to be individuals getting together for a shared purpose, much like home education groups function today. But, to maintain unity and to maximize the likelihood of success of the group, churches and denominations over time have naturally put into place organizational
leadership, structures, rituals and mysticism that focuses on maintaining the unity and success of the group. Rather than being centrally lecture-focused and leader-focused, churches should be decentralized, with a project and team focus.

8.3.8 Belief Systems

All belief systems have some form of wisdom, but we still need to decide what is true and what is not true in each belief system.


Eva L said...

Hi great reading your postt