Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Further up and further in

It has been quite some time since my last post. I am working on a piece covering evidences for the Bible. But I thought I’d take some time to discuss another thought that has been bouncing around in my head. If you are familiar with the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, you will remember the phrase “Further up and further in.” At the end of the last book of the series, The Last Battle, Aslan has brought his followers from the extinguished Narnia into “heaven” (Aslan’s Country). When the door closes on Old Narnia, He turns and calls them to come further in and further up. In the book, this means to follow Him deeper in to His country and ends in a beautiful picture of heaven; joy, peace and reunion. I feel that the concept behind “further up and further in” can be carried over into our daily walk. The idea of a deeper faith should be placed in the forefront of any Christian’s mind.

I wish to move past the simplified, watered down version of Christianity that has become so prevalent in our society. While the basic precept of Christianity is simple, it takes more than a water-strider approach to experience the depth of the ocean that is Grace. Sure, we can “make it to heaven” by skittering about on the surface. But true Christianity isn’t fire insurance, true Christianity is death to self and complete surrender of our will and complete reliance on God. Does that sound scary? To give up your will and allow another being to live though you? Think of this; do you really think you have all the answers? Who better to call the shots in your life but an all knowing, all powerful God? A God that is not only all powerful, but loves you enough to redeem you from the pit you’ve mired yourself in.

Now, I’m fully aware that I can’t begin to explore the width and depth of who God is, or even scratch the surface of Grace, especially in one blog post. I invite you to explore with me just a few concepts. As always, I want to hear your opinion and work out any questions.

Let’s start with who God is. The first words and phrases that come to mind always feel inadequate and show that it is impossible to frame the greatness of God in human language. (1Cr 2:9. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.)

The first important concept is perfection, absolute perfection. You’ve heard people say “God is good”, and of course I agree. But, it is more than that. Yes, God is good, but God IS good. As in, God is the absolute end or completion of “Good”. When someone asks how you are doing and you reply “Good”, you are just telling them that you are doing better than bad. Provided of course that you aren’t lying and just wanting them to think you’re doing fine. When you say, “I’m doing good” (aside from bad grammar) You could mean something like, “Oh, I have most of my bills paid and I’m not hungry right now, oh, and coincidentally I’m not bleeding.” All of those things are “good”, in the sense of “satisfactory”. But let’s look at another definition of good. Good can also be defined as morally excellent, righteous or virtuous. Mother Theresa is an example that we all can say was “good”. As opposed to bad, let’s say, Hitler. But then we must decide what it is that defines good and bad. We can’t say “society” because both Mother Theresa and Hitler were a part of society. You can’t measure something by itself or the measurement is meaningless. A thermometer or a yard stick are not what is being measured, they are what does the measuring.

A thermometer is based on the concept of absolute zero. (Kelvin is a temperature scale having an absolute zero below which temperatures do not exist. Absolute zero, or 0K, is the temperature at which molecular energy is a minimum, and it corresponds to a temperature of -273.15° Celsius.) Anything above absolute zero is measured in pre-arranged increments. Absolute zero wasn’t invented, it was discovered. God is “absolute good”. Like absolute zero, God wasn’t invented, He is discovered. When measuring good and bad we measure up to God, just as the boiling point of water is 373.15k when measured in comparison to absolute zero.

Notice that I don’t try to measure bad. This is another thing that is brought up with talking about God being good. “If God is good, and made everything, how could He also make bad?” I’m sure you’ve heard or thought that before. To answer this we must look at the concept of cold. Cold is simply the lack of heat. In measuring temperature we measure the amount of energy in a given group of molecules (simply put). So water boiling at 373.15k holds 373.15 degrees of heat according to the Kelvin scale. Water freezes at 273.15k, but you don’t say it holds 100 degrees of coldness compared to boiling, you say it holds 100 degrees less of heat. In other words, to say something is cooler is to say it has less heat, not more coldness. Following that line, to say something is bad is to say it has less good. As God is good, something that is bad has less God in it, so to speak. Saying that God created evil is much like saying that fire created cold. Something that is bad lacks good, and something that is cold lacks heat.

So, God is good and brought good things into existence. As those good things move away from God, they lose the goodness that was intended when they were created. Bad things exist in our world because we have moved away from God, and away from the original intention of His creation.

Now, the question that always follows is some form of, “If God is good, and so powerful, why does He let bad things happen?” The answer is as simple as the question, “free will”. If I tell you that you are free to do as you please, yet stop you from doing things that I don’t like, you aren’t free to do as you please. Don’t confuse that with setting a series of guidelines and consequences for transgressing those guidelines. To set a standard that I’d like you to follow, then allowing you to choose to follow or not, is very different from forcing you to comply.

This is of course just one little corner of explaining God, or His goodness. If you are content to say “God is good” and leave it at that, well, I can’t force you to look deeper. But this is an example of the journey I’d like to take. Even if this is just the trailhead.

Let’s stop skimming around on the surface of God and dive in. It will require stretching your mind and getting more than the bottom of your feet wet.

Further in! and Further up!


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Nature of Evidence:

We have all been asked for evidence at some point or another.  We may not always think of it as “evidence”.  But, when someone asks “why”, they are asking for evidence to back your position.  Whether it’s explaining to a five year old that leaning against a dirty car is a bad idea or debating Creation and Evolution. 

Often presenting the evidence doesn’t seem as simple as showing someone the dirt on their clothes, and thus they shouldn’t lean on the dirty car.  But, I have found that many times it is just that simple.  When the light is turned on, the darkness retreats and you can navigate safely across the room.  The problem we run into is; most people hold their beliefs very close to their heart, so to speak.  What a person believes is what makes them who they are.  Even when someone claims that they are willing to change what they believe if shown adequate proof. 

I feel that I must pause here to define both proof and evidence.  They are often used interchangeably, but they are not strictly synonymous.


1.  that which tends to prove or disprove something; ground for belief; proof.
2.  something that makes plain or clear; an indication or sign: His flushed look was visible evidence of his fever.
3.  (Law) data presented to a court or jury in proof of the facts in issue and which may include the testimony of witnesses, records, documents, or objects.
verb (used with object)
4.  to make evident  or clear; show clearly; manifest: He evidenced his approval by promising his full support.
5.  to support by evidence: He evidenced his accusation with incriminating letters.


1.  evidence sufficient to establish a thing as true, or to produce belief in its truth.
2.  anything serving as such evidence: What proof do you have?
3.  the act of testing or making trial of anything; test; trial: to put a thing to the proof.
4.  the establishment of the truth of anything; demonstration.
5.  (Law) (in judicial proceedings) evidence having probative weight.
Proof is the combination of evidence that supports a claim. 

There are four basic types of evidence: 

Statistical Evidence
Testimonial Evidence
Anecdotal Evidence
Analogical Evidence

Statistical evidence is the most common type used to attempt to prove a point.  “Elvis is more successful that U2 because his songs spent more time on the top ten charts.”  That is using statistical evidence.  Of course Elvis is dead, so therefore could be considered less successful than U2 who are still alive.  That last sentence is an example of anecdotal evidence.

Testimonial evidence is what it sounds like, evidence based on testimony.  “Bob is a liar because what he said is different than what Dave and Marge told me.”  This is using the testimonial evidence of Dave and Marge to refute Bob’s claim.  The problem with testimonial evidence is that it can be influenced.  This is why it is best to have collaboration when using testimonial evidence.  “What, you don't like rice? Tell me Michael, how could a billion Chinese people be wrong?” (Quote from Lost Boys)

Anecdotal evidence is often underused and many times considered meaningless.  It is based on a person’s observations.  It is good for refuting generalizations.  Such as, “Don’t lean against cars because they are always dirty.”  To refute that generalization you could point to your just washed car and say, “This car is safe to lean against, I just washed it.”  Anecdotal evidence is what most stereotypes are based upon.  For example, “All Christians are backward and use guilt and fear to support their blind faith.”  This claim is one of the reasons that I began this blog; both to show it false, and to teach my readers the tools that will allow them to move past emotional arguing to debate based on logic and reason.

The final type of evidence is called Analogical evidence.  This type is used when a position must be supported, but lacks statistical or testimonial evidence.  My youngest daughter once cut her finger on a food processor blade.  The other day my oldest daughter was reaching, above her head, into a drawer that contained knives.  I reminded her that her sister had cut her finger while reaching into a cupboard and feeling around in the unknown.  Analogical arguments are made when the concept of the situation is the same, but the scenario isn’t exact.
Of course we’ve all come across the individual or group who won’t be convinced; no matter how much evidence you show them.  This goes back to my earlier statement about a person’s beliefs being what makes them who they are.  In these cases you must simply present the evidence calmly and allow it to sink in.  If you try to push, they will become defensive and you will waste your time.  Remember, give your answer, but with gentleness and respect. 

I’ll get more in depth with evidence and its application in later posts. 

But for now, Grace and Peace.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Opening Moves:

The goal of this blog is to act as a catalyst for conversation on religion.  That may sound simple, but as anyone who has entered into anything even brushing religion knows, it is anything but.  I hope to garner many varied opinions and viewpoints here.  I ask that any readers or posters remember that while anyone may hold an opinion, no one can force their mind on another.  This does not mean that there will be no attempts to convince readers of certain beliefs.  The ultimate goal of sharing a belief is for others to adopt it.  But, I must stress that I do not wish to force anything upon anyone.  Nobody is required to read anything posted here, or to make a reply.

1 Peter 3:15  But in  your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect,

I place great emphasis on the last sentence.

That being said; any reader who has a question, please feel free to post it and I am more than willing to take a stab at the answer.  i don't claim to have all the answers, but we can explore it together.

Thank you and welcome to the Human Revolution.

Grace and Peace,