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24th September
2017
written by untrainedeye

The Order of the Universe
St. Thomas Aquinas used this idea to argue for the existence of God; he believed that because there order in the universe, it could not come from chance. I believe religious people should see the order of our universe not simply as an argument for a creator of God. It is an argument for an orderly god. For example: believing we serve an orderly God, we can use critical thinking to test the age of the universe by comparing the ratio of the distance of stars with the speed of light. But if, as some people do, we insist on interpreting the Bible’s account of the creation of the universe as having occurred in 7 consecutive 24 hour days, then we must come to the conclusion that we serve a capricious God, not an orderly one. Because he created an aged universe that looks like it was millions of years old, when in fact it is only roughly 10,000 years old.

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20th January
2015
written by Jeffrey Long

“Unless there is this theology that allows the total and complete presence of Jesus christ himself to be immediate, and directly present in every life situation and in every Christian’s life in that situation, unless he is immediately present with us and in us now, I’m sorry, none of this makes any sense.

Unless there is a contemporary reality to the immediacy of the presence of Christ and unless in that immediate presence he is capable of being everything he has ever been. And he can be that right now to you where you are and to the people you are with. Unless that’s true, all we are doing is worshipping history. And christianity as a historical story doesn’t interest me. That doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s important. It means I would not dedicate my life to history.” – Jerry Cook. From his message: “The Radical Relocation of God.”

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5th February
2013
written by Jeffrey Long

These are three examples of apparent contradictions in scripture taken from Hans Denck’s “Paradoxa,” 1526. [1. This is a footnote]

The seventh
a) I am not come to judge the world but to save the world [John 12:47]
b). For judgement I came into the world [John 9:39]

The eighth
a). If I testify on my own behalf that testimony is not true [John 5:31]
b). If I testify in my own behalf that testimony is true [John 8:14]

The eleventh
a). For who can resist his will? [Romans 9:19]
b). You have always resisted the Holy Spirit. [Acts 7:51]

Following is a translation of the work. I was very taken with this document when I attended the Associated Mennonite Seminary in the 90′s taking the class “Intro to Anabaptist History and Theology.” On the surface, it could be interpreted as a treatise on relativism, but more importantly, it is testament to the importance of diligence in reconciling contradictions rather then looking them over and relying on the Holy Spirit in interpretation.The following explanation is given in my copy, though I don’t know the source to be able to annotate it properly.”It is an attempt of the Reformer to demonstrate the higher spiritual unity which must be discovered if one is to understand Scripture aright and find in it the genuine path on which to walk…It provides an interesting key to Denck’s Scripture principle. Quotations taken out of their context without any explanation whatever suggest a rather superficial treatment of Scripture. Many of the “opposites” prove not to be such, it the excerpted passages are seen in their own context. Obviously a text without commentary may readily be taken in evidence for one view or another.The scripture passages cited by Denck have been rendered into English in a form as close to the German original as possible, in order to preserve the vivid and forceful juxtaposition of antithetical pairs he intended.” Note that some of the scriptures given are from the books known to Protestants today as the Apocrypha. I have kept them here because they are representative of the scriptures considered authoritative by the Anabaptists. For more on the Anabaptists use of the Apocrypha, there is an article you can read at the Mennonite Church USA archives website.
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15th September
2012
written by Jeffrey Long

The Long Now Foundation hosted noted Bible scholar Elaine Pagels at their monthly “Seminars about Long term thinking.” She spoke on The Book of Revelations, the last book of the Christian Bible. Click below to listen. Following is a more in-depth introduction. While you may disagree with her views on the Book of Revelation, I think you will find Pagel’s presentation interesting and thought-provoking.

War in Heaven with Elaine Pagels

“The Book of Revelation is war literature,” Pagels explained. John of Patmos was a war refugee, writing sixty years after the death of Jesus and twenty years after 60,000 Roman troops crushed the Jewish rebellion in Judea and destroyed Jerusalem.

In the nightmarish visions of John’s prophecy, Rome is Babylon, the embodiment of monstrous power and decadence. That power was expressed by Rome as religious. John would have seen in nearby Ephesus massive propaganda sculptures depicting the contemporary emperors as gods slaughtering female slaves identified as Rome’s subject nations. And so in the prophecy the ascending violence reaches a crescendo of war in heaven. Finally, summarized Pagels, “Jesus judges the whole world; and all who have worshipped other gods, committed murder, magic, or illicit sexual acts are thrown down to be tormented forever in a lake of fire, while God’s faithful are invited to enter a new city of Jerusalem that descends from heaven, where Christ and his people reign in triumph for 1000 years.”

Just one among the dozens of revelations of the time (Ezra’s, Zostrianos’, Peter’s, a different John’s), the vision of John of Patmos became popular among the oppressed of Rome. Three centuries later, in 367CE, Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria confirmed it as the concluding book in the Christian canon that became the New Testament.

As a tale of conflict where one side is wholly righteous and the other wholly evil, the Book of Revelation keeps being evoked century after century. Martin Luther declared the Pope to be the Whore of Babylon. Both sides of the American Civil War declared the opposing cause to be Bestial, though the North had the better music—“He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword.” African-American slaves echoed John’s lament: “How long before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?”

But like many Christians through the years, Pagels wishes that John’s divisive vision had not become part of the Biblical canon. Among the better choices from that time, she quoted from the so-called “Secret Revelation of John”: “Jesus says to John, ‘The souls of everyone will live in the pure light, because if you did not have God’s spirit, you could not even stand up.’

“The other revelations are universal, instead of being about the saved versus the damned.”

 

— by Stewart Brand

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24th May
2012
written by Jeffrey Long

Critical thinking is a method of testing assumptions based on asking a series of probing questions to determine whether a claim can be rationally justified with clarity and logical consistency.

I encourage you to watch these 6 videos posted at io9.com on critical thinking.

23rd April
2012
written by Jeffrey Long

I recently was reading about how in the story of Adam and Eve, when they sinned, they hid from God. Following that I was listening to a concert by Hillsongs, a church in Australia. In the middle of it, one of the music pastors shared this passage from the Psalms. In it, we hear described the reasons that we might hide from God. Guilt for our sins. Afraid we won’t be loved by God. Fear of his anger and punishment. I was going to share it when I led singing this Sunday, accompanied by this song, but due to technical reasons, I didn’t. But I still wanted to share it, so I decided to post both here.’

With all my heart
    I praise the Lord,
    and with all that I am
    I praise his holy name!
With all my heart
    I praise the Lord!
    I will never forget
    how kind he has been.

The Lord forgives our sins,
heals us when we are sick,
    and protects us from death.
His kindness and love
    are a crown on our heads.
Each day that we live,[a]
    he provides for our needs
    and gives us the strength
    of a young eagle.

For all who are mistreated,
    the Lord brings justice.
He taught his Law to Moses
    and showed all Israel
    what he could do.

The Lord is merciful!
He is kind and patient,
    and his love never fails.
The Lord won’t always be angry
    and point out our sins;
10     he doesn’t punish us
    as our sins deserve.

11 How great is God’s love for all
    who worship him?
    Greater than the distance
    between heaven and earth!
12 How far has the Lord taken
    our sins from us?
    Farther than the distance
    from east to west!

13 Just as parents are kind
    to their children,
the Lord is kind
    to all who worship him,
14     because he knows
    we are made of dust.
15 We humans are like grass
    or wild flowers
    that quickly bloom.
16 But a scorching wind blows,
    and they quickly wither
    to be forever forgotten.

17 The Lord is always kind
    to those who worship him,
and he keeps his promises
to their descendants
18     who faithfully obey him.

19 God has set up his kingdom
in heaven,
    and he rules
    the whole creation.
20 All of you mighty angels,
who obey God’s commands,
    come and praise your Lord!
21 All of you thousands
who serve and obey God,
    come and praise your Lord!
22 All of God’s creation
and all that he rules,
    come and praise your Lord!
With all my heart
    I praise the Lord!

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26th February
2012
written by Jeffrey Long

“Some years ago, NASA released the first deep-space photographs of the beautiful cloud-swirled blue-green agate we call Earth. A reporter showed one of them to the late Samuel Shenton, then president of International Flat Earth Research Society. Shenton studied it for a moment and said, “It’s easy to see how such a picture could fool the untrained eye.”

Samuel Shenton, and his fellow members of the Flat Earth Society are a rather radical example of a problem we all have. Like them, our vision of our world is colored by what our eyes have been trained to see. When he looked at a picture of what was plainly a globe, he didn’t see the globe. He had trained his eyes to see the Earth as flat and thus wasn’t able to adjust his vision to a different reality.

My eyes were trained by two beliefs: deep trust in science and faith. The result has been that I don’t see things through one lens or the other. I tend to see through both. I will agree with some scientists regarding the origin of our species, while disagreeing with some people of faith on a literal six day creation of the Earth. But then I will disagree with some scientists about intelligent design and agree with the person of faith that God came before and created our universe.

But even still, my eyes are trained. I’ve dedicated a large part of my life to untrain them where necessary, by learning as much as I can, and not letting my biases get in the way of new ideas.

One purpose of this blog is to talk about that process of untraining my eyes.

Paul, one of the first teachers of the way of Jesus wrote this in a letter to a church in ancient Corinth. He said:

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part…”

NKJV 1Corinthians 13:9-12, 13

Paul was telling this fledgling church something that I always need to be reminded of: that my knowledge, whether about historic, scientific, political or spiritual matters, is limited. I only know parts of things. And sometimes those parts are pretty small. My vision is dim. I need the humility to listen to Stephen Hawking about the origin of the universe, and scholars like Robert Webber about the translation of the Greek New Testament of the Bible.

When we learn humility, it should lead us to being gracious to people who see things differently.

Unfortunately this is not always the case. A problem I’ve experienced is that when our eyes are trained on one view or another, we begin to suspect those whose eyes are trained differently. It’s one thing to see the Earth as flat. It’s another to question the spiritual integrity of someone who sees it as a globe. I once saw a video claiming that the earth was only 10,000 years old. While this is tomfoolery to me, I don’t feel the need to damn these people to hell. But the film took the time to brand a dissenting Christian scientist a heretic.

When creeds, hypothesis, doctrines, theories or moral laws come before graciousness, they inevitably lead to judgment. But when graciousness comes before knowledge, it informs that knowledge in a loving way.

So, the other purpose of this blog is to defend people’s integrity as Christians and thinkers, regardless of the training of their eyes, and not allow people to take the moral high ground against them. Because the whole point, Paul taught a sentence later is that while we know in part, what we do know is faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love. Not knowledge.