Thursday, May 2, 2019

The Reformation Experience - Our 500th Anniversary Celebration

Most Protestants honor the Reformation and, in theory at least, they honor the 95 Theses that helped start the Reformation.  Our modern society is in many ways in need of additional reforms.  So, I decided that the best way to honor the 500th anniversary of the Reformation was to provide to leading Protestant organizations a similar "reformation experience" to what the reformers gave to the Catholic church in the 1500s.

In the fall of 2017 we printed and laminated 500 copies of the new 95 Theses (double sided on 8 1/2" x 14" parchment paper).  On the October 31st anniversary we posted around 200 of them, using removable glue dots instead of nails, to the doors of almost every church in Midland Texas.  We attached post-it notes saying it was in honor of the 500th anniversary and signed it to be from Andreas Karlstat, the reformation leader who trained Luther and who wanted additional reforms but was maligned and misrepresented for doing so.  It took from before sun up to late at night to post them all.  The GPS has a function that allowed us to download the locations and optimize the driving route.  We skipped the two churches where we had attended, as well as two or three where people were congregated around the door.  It was on a Tuesday so most were empty.

A week or two earlier we had mailed the other 300 to leading Protestant institutions, including the largest churches, para-church organizations, and to the chaplains at Christian schools.  We estimated mail delivery times and sent the international mailings earlier to try to time the arrival around the October 31st anniversary.  We attached stick up dots to the four corners and a post it note asking them to post it to their door (to provide the desired effect), though there was no expectation they would actually post it to their doors.  We bought sheets of "Luther" stamps from the 1980s and we also created a custom stamp using a stamp customization service to mail the envelopes.

We used a service to translate the new 95 Theses into Spanish and Korean to send to the large Spanish speaking churches, the large churches in South Korea and the two Protestant churches in North Korea.  We were going to translate into more languages but decided not to in order to reduce costs.

As a test of the various marketing channels we robocalled 95 recipients saying happy 500th anniversary of the Reformation (assuring them in the message that there would be no additional calls), we sent 95 automated FAXs, and advertised a small amount on Facebook and YouTube.  We set up a web site and a Facebook Page.  We priced using an electronic billboard on one of the roads, but it was too expensive.

For the fun of it we printed pictures on each of the printed 95 Theses using invisible UV ink.  The pictures can only be seen using a UV light.  The best UV printing was the Korean versions where on one side we used the Korean letters for "True Christianity" and the other side the Korean letters for "True Self Reliance" (Juche, the philosophy of North Korea), with the idea that true Christianity is not just social but also true empowerment of the individual.

To top it all off, we used an email marketing firm and bought two mailing lists to email the new 95 theses to 95,000 Protestant churches in USA and England.  We tried to avoid sending to Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches since they don't have the same relationship to the Reformation as the Protestant churches.  A significant percentage didn't make it through but tens of thousands did.

We remained anonymous to allow the propositions to stand on their own and to not be seen as just another Christian group's marketing effort.  While some of the theses are controversial, and some may be thought to be heretical, at very least they should open interesting discussion and debate.

So, that is how we honored the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation of the 1500s.  I can only hope that some of these 95 propositions will help bring needed reform to our information-based society of today.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

95 Theses on Substitutes

Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed in West Texas.  We request that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so online.  In the name of Truth.

A Multitude of Substitutes take the place of Sola Sacrificium
1.        When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ``Take up your cross daily'', his followers understood that he willed their entire life to be one of daily sacrifice, potential social ostracism and willingness to accept death for doing right and following truth.
2.        Sacrifice” cannot be understood as referring to just the common everyday sacrifices of a good person, living in poverty or isolation, “spiritual disciplines” or as the act of taking communion.
3.        God’s ultimate desire is to maintain both free choice and a good society, which is based in the individual and communal nature of the Trinity.  The willingness to die as Jesus did gives us power and freedom as individuals to make the hard choices.  Jesus’ life example helps indicate what is best to choose to maintain a good society. 
4.        The willingness to be killed for doing what is right, true and virtuous is the true meaning of being a “follower” of Jesus. This is the true theology of the cross, “oneness” with Christ.  It builds strong community, it is powerful against our evil tendencies, it allows us to maximize eternal value, it is ultimate self-control and is the true meaning symbolized in baptism and the cup of communion.
5.        All die.  So, while in one sense death costs everything, in another sense the willingness to die requires no extra cost.
Leaders use Substitutes in place of Truth to maintain Unity
6.        When John said, “In the beginning was the Word”, he also thereby indicated that in the beginning was information.  Information is in opposition to mysticism, fictional stories, distractions, unverifiable experiences and utopias, which are substitutes for living with reality.
7.        The use of fallacies in marketing can be more effective than the use of logical arguments, but there is only one valid way to choose beliefs: choose the set of beliefs that are most probably true.
8.        True unity is not possible by accepting the wide variety of substitutes for truth as the polytheists/pantheists have done, or by imposing uniformity as some monotheistic faiths have done.  Allowing for reconciled diversity while rejecting substitutes for a focus on truth enables the true unity that Jesus prayed for.
9.        Anti-Christ” means a substitute for following both Christ’s example and the sacrifice of his life.  The reference to 666 in the books of Revelation and Kings point to Solomon, the ultimate example of a seemingly wise leader who used substitutes to be successful.
10.     We have traded away our birthright to our leaders in an unholy bargain that substitutes the leadership of a few individuals for the leadership of every individual, allowing most people to be passive.
For many, the State Monopoly has replaced God and the Church
11.     The State is the caretaker of the forceful methods of persuasion no longer wielded by the Church.  The State maintains its geographic monopoly.  All monopolies, lacking competition, are in as much need of reformation as the state-church monopolies of the 1500s. 
12.     The book of first Samuel indicates that God did not want a king over Israel.  Diplomatic intermarriage (Diplomatic and Information - marketing power), horses (Military power), and gold (Economic power), were early methods of gaining central state power (DIME), each of which God said not to do in Israel.  So, God wants weak centralized state power in leadership, military and the banking system, keeping power as locally distributed as possible.  Some intelligence agencies and police/military seek to simulate God’s omniscience and omnipotence.  Large scale suffering, starvation and death is most often caused by mistakes of central leadership and their wars.
13.     We need a wall of separation between money and state, including a “first amendment” for banking, and currency creation.  Most taxation allows no way to opt out and so is the taking of personal property without free consent.  Many people look to the state to take the property of others to provide for their needs.
14.     There is no social contract at birth with our state or society.  We have at birth only two inherent contracts: one with our parents and one with the creator of our world.  Five of the ten commandments discuss honoring those inherent civil contracts.  Rights/responsibilities of laws should not be automatic based on age/location, but rather they should be contracts accepted/rejected by free will as adults, with “adulthood” determined by competency rather than by a specific age.
Schools often Indoctrinate instead of train for Freedom of Thought
15.     Schools sometimes expose students only to one-sided propaganda because they have a conflict of interest to teach submission to the prevailing views of the supporting state or church.  Rather than just transmitting the commonly held views of the Church, State and/or employers, schools are most effective when teaching critical thinking, freedom, trade and enabling self-directed learning.
16.     Team and project based education is most effective, creating real value rather than just rote academic exercises, causing students to be leaders/producers and reconnecting learning to value.  Leadership training is built on the foundation of virtue training.
17.     Effective education crosses all boundaries, including between religious and secular, primary and higher education, academic and corporate training, and between self-directed and formal education.  Education is most effective when large scale term-based education is integrated with small scale competency based education to provide both economy of scale and customization.
18.     The elderly are intended to perform the role of teachers and mentors.
Scientists have become the Priesthood of our Day
19.     Scientists, especially physicists, are treated as the priesthood of the information age because they tell the quantitatively illiterate masses, who are unable to interpret the formulas for themselves, what to believe about how the world works.
20.     If it is impossible for something to come from nothing, then something must be eternal.  That can be either “creation” or a creator.
21.     There is no viable mechanism for cosmic evolution since mutation and natural selection do not apply until life exists.  The creation of an imagined "multiverse" is a “philosophy of the gaps”, i.e. a theory created to support a belief that is lacking evidence.
22.     Time is just our "perception of change". What we call the "past" is our memories and what we call the "future" is our current mental plans.  Therefore “time” is not a reality that can speed up, slow down or go backwards.  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".
23.     Logical Positivism has been misapplied to say that what we perceive/measure must be actual reality.  Limitations of perceiving/measuring fast speed (Relativity) and small size (Quantum Mechanics) make our perceptions and measurements diverge from reality.  “Bending the ruler”, speeding or slowing clocks or our inability to consistently detect something does not change the reality we are measuring. 
Many leading Philosophers are Atheist, Agnostic or Universalist
24.     Monotheism is a claim of historical truth.  Atheism, pantheism and polytheism, which claim the high ground of philosophical truth and inclusiveness, have no defensible claim to early history.
25.     Atheism, where nothing is of ultimate value, can lead to pantheism, where everything is of ultimate value, which is related to polytheism, where only the most powerful things are assigned ultimate value.
26.     Agnosticism is not a separate belief system.  “Believers” are also by definition agnostics because they cannot prove their belief.
27.     The “Both-And” of universalism cannot replace the “Either-Or” of Monotheism.
Celebrity Leaders with access to Broadcasts act as our Gurus
28.     We treat those with access to broadcast mediums, such as speakers, authors, preachers, musicians and movie stars, as our gurus.
29.     All professionals, including teachers, physicians, and pastors, have a conflict of interest.  Many believe that to provide better service they need to keep people dependent on their expertise rather than helping them become self-sufficient and risking lower quality outcomes.
30.     Leaders use marketing methods, which are only valid if they are educating and communicating truth in support of self-reliance.
31.     Movie action heroes are the modern polytheistic pantheon, now divorced from religion, that our children follow by example.
Church Services and Auditoriums drive focus to Pastors
32.     The focus of the separated day of rest is intended to be the benefits of rest, reflection and family/community rather than attending a service.
33.     Church services are a crutch that enables passive participation instead of individual/small team active productivity.  Goal focused small team meetings are the true church meeting, which removes the need for using marketing techniques to maintain large group unity.
34.     Stages are for actors, comedians and musicians, not for Christian leaders.  The sage on the stage can be more effective by taking their rightful place as guide on the side. 
35.     Pastor’s monologues, on-stage worship teams and other events with a spectator audience are antithetical to the priesthood of all believers. 
36.     If desired, record and watch monologues at home before coming together in small groups, which then discuss how the concepts in the monologue can be applied to current needs and goals.
37.     The natural repetitive routines of life do not imply the validity of contrived or centrally controlled routines/rituals.  Rather than repeat the same basic teachings to large groups over and over, teach in small groups building on prior learning based on current needs.
38.     Any form of church governance is acceptable as long as force and manipulation are not used, so that individual church attenders/small groups can easily opt out of decisions. 
39.     Positive references to pastors in the books of the Bible are always plural, indicating multiple “pastors” in each church is to be the norm. 
The True Nature of History
40.     Historical truth about the ancient order of things is the treasure of the Church.  The books of the Bible are claims to accurate histories.
41.     The question of scriptural authority is not one of scripture vs. tradition, but rather how best to determine truth versus falsehood.
42.     Comprehending a writing is probabilistic, not a work of full certainty.  When trying to understand a text, attempt to understand what the author was attempting to communicate to their intended audience, including understanding their background, their use of shared definitions and their shared circumstances, such as what it means to be a “follower” and the imminent threat of death to the early followers of Jesus. 
43.     In the book of Genesis Moses and the Israelites rejected Egyptian myths, which were created from later history, in favor of core historical claims present in the mythology of Sumer, which were created from the earliest history.
44.     Prophecy is possible because God has full control, but we also have full free will, enabled by our willingness to die. Which one we perceive is a matter of how much information we have.  If God were not hiding his full power, we would effectively be forced to follow Him and our choice to follow/not follow would not be apparent.
45.     Jesus’ life and death successfully demonstrated to God that His desire to have a good society that maintains individual free choice would eventually be satisfied by people following the example of Jesus, thereby averting the need to wipe out humanity and start over again as He had done at the flood.
The True Nature of Belief
46.     Deductive logic requires inductive logic to support its premises.  “Faith” is treating something that is probably true as if it is definitely true.  Inductive logic is probabilistic and so requires faith.
47.     To say “I Know” is denying faith, because “faith” implies the possibility that the belief may not be true.
48.     As followers of truth, we must be able to say "If a different belief were shown to be true I would reject my current belief, even if my family, friends and community shun or kill me".
49.     Monotheistic faith requires faith that a Creator exists, we have mostly accurate information about Him and He is trustworthy to follow.
The True Nature of Virtue and Law
50.     Virtues point to high standards and the discipline needed for effective trade and strong motivation.  To maintain and grow the organization, some pastors refrain from speaking against low social standards such as no-fault divorce and immoral relationships, abortion, common Christian profanities, and other worldly lifestyle choices.
51.     Respecting ownership, persuasion, and trade can replace physical force, which is reserved for only when necessary for protection.
52.     The Golden Rule has a corollary called the Non-Aggression Principle.  Both are a summary of five of the ten commandments, and are the basis of criminal justice, which provides for freedom through ownership.  Identifying individual ownership/stewardship avoids the potential for a “tragedy of the commons”.
53.     Laws are not good because they are in the books of the Bible, rather they are in the books of the Bible because they are good.
54.     Laws are education with the goal of maximizing value/reducing risk. 
55.     Prisons are a form of forced slavery.  Early Israel did not have prisons.  It is better for inmates to be emancipated, receive appropriate corrective training/coaching, work to pay restitution and/or be exiled, or, in violent cases such as murder, be put to death.
The True Nature of Forgiveness and Bankruptcy
56.     Always have an attitude of offering forgiveness, but the benefits of forgiveness are only obtained by the recipient when they repent of the hurtful practices that required forgiveness.
57.     Focusing on a "free gift" is a marketing technique.  God’s forgiveness is offered free, but the acceptance of His forgiveness has the high cost of being willing to die, which should be communicated up front.
58.     Forgiveness and bankruptcy laws enable striving for greatness even if there is a high likelihood of failure and they re-enable relationships/trade after failure.  God forgives failure and does not require any payment for the “sunk costs” of the failure.
59.     Significant long-term consumer debt is a form of serfdom, caused by artificially easy long-term credit, which bids up prices.  Long term debt serfdom could be eliminated, and prices of big ticket items could be reduced, by extending bankruptcy laws to not allow for loans/refinances of longer than seven years.  Other than marriage, contract/treaties should last no longer than seven years. 
The True Nature of Prayer and Fasting
60.     Early Christians were mistaken to be atheists, indicating a lack of Christian rituals, sacred objects or “sacred spaces”.
61.     Prayer was intended to be a two-way conversation with God.  God does not currently speak back, but we still have a need to speak to our Creator.
62.     The term “prayer” includes multiple functions: asking forgiveness, requests, thanks, praise, and a general blessing of others. 
63.     When Jesus said, “when you pray, go to a private place” he intended that even well intentioned Christian leaders should not pray in front of groups.  Verbal prayers by leaders are often misused to tell people what should happen and/or to display oratory skills.
64.     Omniscience implies that God is always on “speakerphone” and “surveillance camera”, though he can turn away in respect of privacy.
65.     Fasting is symbolic of willingness to die.  Living a healthy, natural lifestyle would answer most health-related prayers before the prayers were necessary and would address the leading causes of early death.
The True Nature of Giving and Tithing
66.     Tithing was of food only, not money, and was in place of crops/farm animals that Levites would have received if they had been farmers.
67.     Monetary support is payment for a service, not an obligation, which implies the determination of the costs/benefits of the service provided.  The priesthood of all believers implies taking back control of their money, getting out of unnecessary debt obligations, giving directly to causes they are physically involved with, and banding together in small groups with others who have similar goals.
68.     Short term missions give locals access to industry, money and education and shows the missionary the value of that access.  Local groups are more effective in building local industry and education.
The True Nature of Intelligent Beings
69.     We are not our bodies.  We are the part of our brain that watches and judges our ways of thinking, our memories, how we communicate, and what we control, all of which continues after we die.
70.     We can be considered both as our whole set of thought processes and as multiple groups of various thought processes.  The nature of both being filled with the Holy Spirit, which motivates holiness, and demon possession, which motivates evil, is that they both can be considered groups of our thought processes, which by definition makes them part of us; but, they can also be considered as the thoughts of separate “individuals” to either be desired or cast out.
71.     Emotions are information-based shortcuts that motivate us to action.  Before Jesus, animal sacrifice was designed to motivate change in behavior by empathy with the sacrificed animal paying the price we should pay.
The True Nature of Families and Society
72.     Relationships, families and communities are forms of free trade.
73.     The “teen-age” season of life is artificially created by extending education and delaying the ability to have a career and/or marriage.
74.     Gambling is a substitute for the risk/reward of trade.  Gambling is win-lose whereas free trade is win-win.
75.     Pornography is a substitute for the risk/reward of relationships.  It involves only receiving whereas the give and take of relationships involves both giving and receiving.
76.     Substance abuse is used to escape stress and/or pain and is a substitute for the Holy Spirit, true rest and willingness to accept loss.
77.     Use of Expletives is an attempt to shock/force others into compliance, and indicates rebellion against the taboo of not discussing the topics of religion, sex and the results of digestive function.
78.     We must be ready to live off of nature in order to sacrifice, if necessary, the ability to trade in society.
The True Nature of the Spiritual and Supernatural
79.     There is no actual difference between "natural" and "supernatural", other than one is observable and repeatable on demand and the other is not.  So, “miracles” by definition do occur, but individual “experiences” are unverifiable and so are of no use to others.
80.     The goal of spiritual warfare is to produce strong motivation to proclaim truth against the propaganda of the powers of this world.
81.     By being willing to sacrifice ourselves we are filled with the Holy Spirit which strongly motivates us.
82.     While seeming to argue the opposite, Paul said he would not eat meat sacrificed to idols and he emphasized abstaining for the right reasons.
83.     The true “speaking in tongues” described in Acts was information transfer.  The Corinthian church thought they had the same ability but did not.  Paul could not prove a negative concerning tongues since people could claim the language was of angels.  So, rather than attempting to prove a negative, he affirmed their desire to follow God and instructed them to minimize the practice and focus on other gifts.
84.     Omniscience and omnipotence provides the equivalent of omnipresence, but if God were actually omnipresent he would be inside all objects, including inside sewage and in Hell.
85.     Mysticism is an illusion used in place of reason and faith when people want to feel emotions related to holiness, awe, peace and/or being valued.  Mysticism is not necessary for transcendence.
86.     Meditation and Yoga are a substitute for a day of rest and reflection.
The True Nature of Evil, Suffering and Death
87.     Most of evil is not the opposite of good.  It is the attempt to force the creation of a substitute Utopia which promises unobtainable benefits rather than accepting the benefits and dealing with the seeming problems of following God’s design of natural simplicity.
88.     The Golden Rule implies empathy and the use of persuasion and trade rather than offensive force, which causes evil, suffering and death.
89.     Only a Creator has the right to destroy his creation, so offensive war, murder, abortion and suicide are not acceptable.
90.     God removed access to eternal life and thereby allowed death not as punishment but to give humans, including Jesus, the ability of ultimate self-sacrifice.
The True Nature of Heaven and Hell
91.     To maintain freedom of choice and a good, truthful society, those who continue to choose to do wrong must ultimately be exiled from the society of those who choose to do right.
92.     Hell is a torturous place to be not because of active torture by God.  Putting people who do not follow truth together in a place without the Creator sustaining it would naturally make it a terrible place to be.
Why the Coming Reformation is Needed Now
93.     The printing press in the age of the Reformation enabled a few to publish to the masses, thereby bypassing the monopoly of the priesthood.  The Internet in this age of information enables anyone to publish to the masses, thereby bypassing the control of leaders, publishers and marketers, giving us the ability to highlight the use of substitutes by leaders.
94.     The unbridled use of substitutes makes it difficult even for learned people to rescue the reverence which is due to Christianity from slander or from the shrewd questions of non-Christians.
95.     These concepts are historical from the earliest time periods following Jesus.  They are simple and practical.  The only need for complexity is that needed to address complex errors.  Come out of Babylon.