Hey, I’m going to try out a new form of blogging: 10-minute posting. That is, one post must not take longer to write than 10 minutes (surprise!). Though this will affect quality, I’ll hopefully get out more of the thoughts that come to my brain … currenty, most are stored in FreeMind mindmap.

This time, it’s about intuition, inspired by a great discussion with a brother of mine, who’s currently undergoing preparation for an actor’s school. There, he had to train intuitive behavior.

So what’s intuition? Just some thoughts:

  • It seems to be the lower-level programming of the brain, comparable to “firmware” in devices of information technology. As such, it is the first thing we’d want to do, but it can be superseded by higher-level programs. Which consist, for example, out of social norms for adequate behavior or long-term goals that make us cange or hold back contraproductive short-term behavior.
  • They say, most people have forgotten how to behave intuitively, that is, “what they really want”.
  • Some (emotional) people are uncapable of analyzing their own intuitive behavior, they just “feel that something is right”. Other (analytical) people are used to observe themselves closely, so that they can assign detailed descriptions and reasons to their intuitive motivations. This might seem to others as if they cannot be intuitive at all, but that’s not the case: the threshold of analyze-ability is different.

Now it’s interesting to see that our own, intuitive behavior is, on average, of no good moral quality. ’cause of that, our society needs rules to function. The ideal case (and I believe that was the case with Jesus and in Paradise) is where intuitive behavior is congruent with socially adequate behavior. Then, no conflict between what I want and what I should arises.

There is this ever-ongoing discussion about when and how the baptism in the Holy Spirit happens, and / or being filled with the Holy Spirit, etc.. I’m going to present here in short my own model for that, which will probably be integrated in an anthropological model in later articles (brain / spirit discussion). First the model, then its justification.

The multi-pentecostal model

Regarding the relationship between a Christian and the Holy Spirit, there two basic types of events:

  1. Receiving the Holy Spirit. This happens once, upon conversion, and marks a person as being saved. In the NT, it’s called with different terms, and not consistently: “being sealed with the Holy Spirit”, “baptism in the Holy Spirit” etc..
  2. Being filled with the Holy Spirit. This may happen zero to many times in the life of a Christians and is getting supernaturally equipped for the demands of the current  situation. In the NT, it’s called with different terms, and not consistently: “filled with the Spirit”, but also “baptism in the Spirit” [e.g. Acts 11:16] and even “receiving the Holy Spirit” [Acts 19:2] (so there is no clear terminology in the Bible itself!). Pentecost is just the name for the first-ever of many such events, but Pentecost is in its quality in no way unique, neither in the life of the apostles nor in general Christian history. “Being filled with the Holy Spirit” is a supernatural cause and may have different effects; among them, boldness (of a supernatural source, not due to encouragement etc.), supernatural gifts (tongues, miracles, healings, prophecies). Being filles with the Holy Spirit is not mechanically correlated to any human action, neither leaying hands, praying, worshipping, singing, anointing with oil nor anythin other. It’s something that God does when he sees it fit … there may be temporary correlation in some time in church history (like the Apostle’s laying on of hands), but this is just how God saw this  to be fit for that time, and does not constitute a law of “spiritual mechanics”. For the human part, the only thing is not resisting to be filled by the Spirit when God wants to do it, i.e. maintaining an open, obedient mind.

Reasons and observations

The Pentecostal view: commonalities and differences. Interesting enough, the above division between receiving and being filled with the Holy Spirit is also made by Pentecostal Christians, and they also assent that Pentecost was just the name of the first “being filled” in NT ever. But then they leave the subject and intensely try to find the laws  of spiritual mechanics to “generate” this being filled by the Spirit; for a presentation of the whole theology, see [Peter Kwiatkowski: multiple fillings – ERROR #8]. As there is no spiritual mechanic, this endeavor must fail: their “fillings with the Holy Spirit” are in  most cases just of psychological-emotional origin. Where this becomes apparent, it let’s their whole theology appear flimsy, though it is basically correct! Additionally, this mode of practice makes people suspect that there is no God at all in the Christian faith, just pseudo-divine emotional experiences.

Being filled and the charismata. In Acts, there are multiple cases where “being filled with the Holy Spirit” is recognized by other people because these filled people have spiritual gifts, like tongues. Compare e.g. the story of Cornelius [Acts 10:44-47]. If we now extrapolate these observations to generality (take care: this might be true, but cannot be prooved) we get this: supernatural charismata are effects of being filled with the Holy Spirit. These fillings may fade away (else there would be no reason for the new fillings recorded in Acts), which means that a gifted person is not able to exercise his / her gift all times in the same intensity, but gets equipped as God sees fit for the current situation. Another stumbling block: we should not conclude that all charismata are of supernatural origin. Miracles, works of power, tongues, prophecies etc. surely are. Others like encouragement, being an elder etc. might not need supernatural abilities, but the character of a mature, forged disciple; in this sense, these might be “gifts of an office”, not “gifts of an ability”.

Being filled as getting power. In most cases where the NT relates on people “being filled” with the Spirit it is in connection with their bold, audacious demeanor; examples: [Acts 4:8], [Acts 13: 9-11]. People who are filled with the Holy Spirit are still able to choose what to do, and they think and choose themselves, they simply have supernatural  courage to do what is appropriate. This effect of “being filled” is what Jesus promised when saying: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you” [Acts 1:8, ISV]. This does not mean that the Holy Spirit is a power, he gives a power when “filling” people. Coming back to the charismata as the effect of “being filled” (see above), all this might mean: charismata may be mainly about supernatural courage to do something (to serve), not the supernatural ability to do something, and not the supernatural instruction to do something particular. Of yourse you need ability to heal. But e.g. when Peter teached, he rather dared to teach about Jesus without formal education, than showing a supernatural ability to teach. He might still have his bad rhetorics, but who cares? He knew a simple and important truth to tell about Jesus, and he dared to do so.

Differing being filled from intra-psychic courage. To detect where and if a supernatural filling with the Spirit takes place, one could execute a psychological study: one would need to be able to categorize psychological states, and do that for a multitude od average people and those who claim to have been “filled” by the Spirit in a specific situation. Applying multivariate statistical analysis, one would be able to detect the probability that the “filled” peoples behavior differs from the average behavior just by chance. That’s a normal tool in scientific studies: if that p-value is below 0,05 one says the result is “significant” (in this case: the probability that “being filled” does not take place and the suggested effects are just by chance would be below 5%). Now, if the outcome would indeed indicate that there is a supernatural cause of courage (i.e. no psychological explanation is available), one should keep in mind the character of a miracle like this: a miracle is an effect without a detectable, common cause (e.g. when a dead person is raised: there is no cause that might have the effect of reparing all single cells at once). Therefore, it would be nonsense to search for “how a miracle works”; when dealing with “being filled wihth the Spirit”, there is no meaning in psychologically analyzing how it works, as there is a psychologically visible effect but without an psychological cause.

Being filled as God’s agency. Observing that both gifts (including concrete prophecies, miracles and the like) and courage are effects of “being filled with the Spirit” means that nearly all supernatural events in the NT are connected to this. So generally, except the exceptions, “filling people with his Spirit” seems to be how God helps his people supernaturally in NT times. Which means: when you need God’s help in a specific situation, rather don’t expect to hear God’s voice personally and immediately when you pray, don’t expect supernaturally “implanted” wisdom to find in you, and don’t expect difficult situations to supernaturally cease tomorrow, rather expect to be filled with power, courage and gifts.

Why does the Holy Spirit fill people so rarely today? Yea, a very difficult question, at least for those Christians living in highly civilized countries. I simply don’t know. Perhaps it is because we resist to being filled? Not? Then perhaps because we don’t need it? In the sense that there are no special situations in our lifes that we couldn’t handle as disciples of Jesus ourselves, and that we would never ever dare to get ourselves into such situations … .

Ummh … what’s that? How to change a church, about a church in change, a church that changes churchgoers, or all three? I dunno yet, but at the end of this article both of us will 😉

Imagine a little church of 10-20 people, with a culture of intensive mutual education: cheering each other up, praying for each other, hinting each other to ones faults and helping each other to fight them, etc.. Imagine this group stays together for three years (for some yet unimagineable reason … who wants to be part of a group that hints to ones faults). The result would be awsome spiritual maturity … of a whole group, where you now rarely find such individuals. Too romantic? I don’t think so. It’s church as it’s meant to be.

Task distribution: Yours, reader.

When it comes to change & church, first thing to note is that every Christian should be a cause of change for his sisters and brothers, even though every one has a particular gift that determines his particular service to a high degree. Just look at these:

(11) So then, encourage one another and build each other up, as you are doing. […] (14) We urge you, brothers, to instruct those who are idle, cheer up those who are discouraged, and help those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. [The Bible, I Thess 5:11.14, ISV]

(12) See to it, my brothers, that no evil, unbelieving heart is found in any of you, as shown by your turning away from the living God. (13) Instead, continue to encourage one another every day, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. [The Bible, Heb 3:12-13, ISV]

(1) Now we who are strong ought to be patient with the weaknesses of those who are not strong and must stop pleasing ourselves. (2) Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building him up. [The Bible, Rom 15:1-2, ISV]

(14) I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are filled with goodness and full of all the knowledge you need to be able to instruct each other. [The Bible, Rom 15:14, ISV]

(1) Never speak harshly to an older man, but appeal to him as if he were your father. Treat younger men like brothers, (2) older women like mothers, and younger women like sisters, with absolutely purity. [The Bible, 1 Tim 5:1-2, ISV]

(16) Let the word of Christ dwell in you with all richness and wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and singing to God with thankfulness in your hearts. [The Bible, Col 3:16, ISV]

On being educated: “Hey, should’t change be rather the Holy Spirit’s magic?”

No, character changes are not the Holy Spirit’s magic. Character changes are effected by the service of people with their respective charismata [The Bible, Eph 4:11-13, ISV]. So character change is a process of education. There’s even an explicit biblical statement that change is education, not magic: [The Bible, Tit 2:11-12, ISV]!! Just the origin of the educational tools (the charismata) is supernatural. And because character change (“sanctification”) is the one and only aim behind all the spiritual gifts: a church that doesn’t change people isn’t church … it’s the church’s task to change people.

Now you might say, if it’s an educational change only, how can it work better than “worldly education” by social workers etc.? If it’s an educational change, I cannot just say “because of the Holy Spirit”, as I would again attribute the change to “Holy Spirit magics”. In the “educational change” view, the Holy Spirit changes people mediately: he gives charismata to people which they may employ to change each other, and he reminds people of what Jesus said (perhaps comparable to a “moral consicience”). These ways the Spirit teaches people a new way of thinking; the Spirit does not implant a new way of thinking into people!!

The reason why the Spirit’s education is capable of deeply changing people’s character, whily normal social education is not, seems to me this: it’s because the educated ones accepted God as their authority beforehand. The opposite is also true: for those who don’t accept God as their authority, the Spirit’s education does not work, even if they call themselves Christians. They might accept other human or just their own authority, and both are defeated by the old way of thinking (“flesh”), which is correct when it supposes:  they cannot hinder nor punish you from doing this or that.

The central role of God’s authority can be seen from the fact, that the NT does not suppose “simple human-to-human education”: instead, humans just remind their fellow humans to obey God the way they basically want to, or remind their fellow humans that it’s necessary to obey the leaders if they want to obey God (e.g. in Apostle Pauls case). This act of basically accepting God’s authority is, in my view, what the Bible calls a “conversion” (literally, changing ones mind). Accepting God’s authority is very easy in the  moment we really understand grace: first, seeing what God payed to have us around him makes us want to submit to sanctification, out of gratitude [The Bible, Rom 12:1, ISV]. Second, seeing that God loves useless people and even wants to use them makes us grateful for the possibility to serve him in church (that’s “spiritual service”).

Beyond that basic acceptance of God’s authority, we don’t need to bring anything to be changed successfully in God’s education process. Let me call it by different names to make  clear what it is: an earnest desire to change; the desire to learn, as the disciple of Jesus, being the likeness of Jesus; stark devoutness (i.e. attributing highest authority to God not only in worship service but in personal life); loving Jesus more than oneself (i.e. wanting to become like Jesus more than wanting to continue ones everyday life, see [The Bibe, Lk 14:26, ISV]); bearing ones cross. Please don’t catch on the religious words here, please don’t think about all the theological ballast in your head regarding “bearing the cross” and stuff … . You have the correct attitude if you prefer objeying Jesus to feeling yourself in the right (and, consequently, obeying not, but you won’t notice then).

Now you surely heard people saying that we “cannot live in a holy way out of our own strength”. If it’s all about accepting God’s authority and being educated, what the heck shall this mean? I think it must mean “we won’t arrive at good quality of character without submitting to God and his education process“. That is, we might instead try to become good people ourselves: with the motivation that we want it because we want it, instead of we want it because God wants it. Such an effort won’t succeed, as we have yet an evil thought program running in our brain (“flesh”) and it will trick our motivation easily by saying: “Ok you or people don’t want you to do this, but they cannot hinder you nor can they punish you … so do what you’re up to”.

It’s like you promise to yourself: I’ll give 100 bucks to Wikipedia if I don’t get up at 5 o’clock tomorrow morning. But that morning, on the ring of your clock, you throw away your promise and the whole concept of self punishment, and have managed to stay in bed without any punishment.

On educating: Change = (family + education) · love

After looking at the conditions to match for being changed, this article will close with a list of practical tips what to heed when contributing to changing people. As we saw, in the beginning, it’s everybody’s task … .

  • Change-resisting people are poison. When a group is made from 100% people <span style=”font-style: italic;”>with the desire to change, the result is a self-changing church on the road to Jesus-like character (see [The Bible, Eph 4:15-16, ISV] … the thought is that without accepting Jesus as the head, there is no growth). Practically this means: adding 20% change-resisting people to that group is the lethal dose (my estimation), in that all growth is paralyzed. Not immediately, but in the long run. The result is either a static orthodox immature church, or a static emotional immature church, or a static recreational immature church. Change-resisting people include also those who claim and even teach the desire to change, but manage to keep all unpleasant practical changes outa their own life, by applying tons of “spiritual” explanations and theologies.
  • Get the family virtues. Education works in functional families, because there’s proximity, trust, love, a space for sharing hurts and emotions, a commitment and mutual dependance that makes members stay together in difficult situations also. But, as a blogger friend said, “Cristianity has lost the sense of community and family long time ago and has become an institution, a recreational set off activities and one more religion among many…” [Baba on  wHo’S mY fAmiLy…?!!!]. If the local church is no family, it cannot educate. What adds to this difficulty is that, in highly civilized and highly Christianiued areas, people can afford to break free from the dependance on their fellow church members, by simply going to another church.
  • Appreciate proximity. Christians in highly civilized areay can afford to not tell their brothers and sisters what they need, because there’s no practical dependence left.  This results in mutual hypocrisy as we show ourselfs at our best to each other only, while hiding all weakness. This also unbalances serving out of grace: we serve now because we and others believe we can, not because we’re happy that God wants us to serve though we can’t (and though everybody has experienced that we can’t). To counter this, let’s think about the beauty of proximity: you know these verses in the NT that talk about the holy kiss? What an expression of loving proximity … of which nothing is left today. We have no such sign to say “Dear people all around here, I rejoice in being that near to you all; I rejoice that you all know me that well that you see when I’m depressed without asking, and can cheer me up, admonish or whatever as a matter of what we’re accustomed to do.” Because we never ever have the reason to say so, it simply wouldn’t be true … .
  • Love as authority. A good friend of mine made the experience that people change if you explain months long to them where and why they need to change, and that this
    only happens if you mean something to those people (“have authority”). And I ask, how do you acquire this authority if not by loving these people? For me, the words of those who love me mean the most to me, because only these words justify as “wanting the best for me”. Whereas in other cases “educators” simply might be bitter on me, hurted, unforgiving, or bugged. People who try to educate their fellow Christians and simply have no effect on anybody (e.g. when preaching) may have done it without love. (Perhaps you just preached, but before and after you never have time for the people you preached unto, nor are interested in any of them as a personality?)
  • Love as glue. It’s easy to extinguish a church by “educating” it: throw the sinners out and scare the rest away by authoritarian style. So how will an educating church stay together, though education cannot always be enjoyable? It needs cohesive forces at least as strong as the educational forces. And just as in a family, love is what causes cohesion. For example, nearly all NT verses on exhortation bear the idea of a cautioning, gentle reproach. It’s not brute! See what Paul says: “Remember that for three years, night and day, I never stopped warning each of you with tears.” [The Bible, Acts 20:31, ISV]. “Each of you” is, per the Greek, each in particular, maybe separately. “Warning” is literally “to put in somebody’s mind”: calling attention to something, mild cautioning or rebuke. And remember, Paul says, with tears. For to educate / instruct / encourage between Christians,
    the NT uses the same Greek word as for the helpful, supportive activity of the Holy Spirit (parakaleo). And another quote:

    (1) Never speak harshly to an older man, but appeal to him as if he were your father. Treat younger men like brothers, (2) older women like mothers, and younger women like sisters, with absolutely purity. [The Bible, 1 Tim 5:1-2, ISV]

  • Encouragers and prophets, use your gifts. Encouragement is a spiritual gift [The Bible, Rom 12:8, ISV]! Also, prophecying is “for […] upbuilding, encouragement, and comfort” [The Bible, 1 Cor 14:3, ISV], but these are words from God while the one who encourages has the gift to encourage with his own words. Encouragement is not just to motivate somebody and let him choose what to do himself, but to motivate somebody for something particular. For example see [The Bible, 1 Cor 1:10, ISV].
  • Church is not just meeting for songs and sermons. Church is caring for one another, loving one another as persons, i.e. as entities that exist even beyond the end  of Sunday Service.
  • Don’t correct … remind. Education between Christians is not so much to correct a factual fault, but to encourage each other to take seriously and to accept humbly what the Lord says, in the Bible and otherwise. That’s what Barnabas did to the church in Antioch [The Bible, Acts 11:23, ISV], and what Paul did in the first churches [The Bible, Acts 14:22, ISV]. As the reason for following the exhortations, one will not mention that “church must be functional” or a  good place to be, instead the reason is the mercies of God, which we must answer adequately by taking his will seriously [The Bible, Rom 12:1, ISV]. See also here:

    (10) You and God are witnesses of how pure, honest, and blameless our conduct was among you who believe. (11) You know very well that we treated each of  you the way a father treats his children. (12) We comforted and encouraged you, urging you to live in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory. [The Bible, 1 Thess 2:10-12, ISV]

  • Ingenious Jesus. It’s so difficult to educate: at the same time, you need to be patient and direct, soft and hard, gracious and true … Jesus was ingenious in being that way. By reading the Gospel stories, how he’s educating his disciples and also the Pharisees, and by collecting contemporary instances of people who behaved in the same quality, we can collect those ingenious patterns how to educate in truth and love.

On what Hume destroyed

The modern secular approach to miracles is deeply influenced by the writings of David Hume. He hold the opinion that, in order to accept something as true, one has to acquire full confidence of it, and thought about the conditions that need to be in place for that [Hume, David: Über den menschlichen Verstand, Leipzig 1983, p. 140].

The consequences, of course, are awesome: demanding 100% certainty for everything means that most facts of history and natural science would have to be termed “not assured” or “unreliable”. Hume took this “empirism” approch to a point where he even concluded that there is no outer world [“Das Problem der Außenwelt” in German Wikipedia] and no self [“Das Problem der personalen Identität und des freien Willens” in German Wikipedia]. But in fact, he just discovered that logic does not allow to conclude with mathematical 100% certainty that there is an outer world or a self, if given sense data. So Hume should have better termed himself an empirism-based agnostic, or should have  moved on to search for better tools to determine truth in the area of the world’s basic structure.

Hume raised the bar for determining the truth that high because he wanted to do something against those commonplace invented miracle stories, which indeed do collateral  damage, not only to science. In the same way, some Christians (including me, up to now) apply a very high measure before accepting something as an genuine act of God, because of the collateral damage effected by heretics (invented doctrines). Observing lying people makes us distrust other people, too, even including the authors of the biblical books. And the, to re-gain trust, we want to apply more exact measurement tools, like scientific studies and stuff. With the result that we trust nearly nothing any more, as the  effort for scientific studies etc. is simply unpractical to do in any normal man’s life.

So, after Hume and after all the collateral damage done by miracle mongers, in Western cultures we’re consequently anti-supernatural. And that’s a problem because being anti-supernatural it is being prejudiced. What we need to re-gain is the right measure for determining the truth content of proposed miracles: most believers have it too low and most unbelievers too high.

On the best epistemological tools

Regarding the epistemological tools, the error of Hume is this: it is not allowable to use a higher threshold for determining the truth in more important matters. While we, as humans, have a pragmatic way of determining truth and employ it all the way in practical life, some of us get on the idea that other tools have to be utilized to determine truth when it comes to more important matters, such as “is there an outer world”, “is there a self”, “are there miracles”, “is Jesus the Son of God” etc..

One of the proposed other tools is to search for present-day miracles because to integrate the biblical miracles into a “stream of experience” (as Hume would say) and make them
believable that way.

But seeing that these other tools leave us as agnostics means that there are no better tools than those we employ in everyday life: those tools don’t offer 100% certainty, but at least don’t leave us as agnostics. In this world, we simply have no better tools available. If we don’t accept the available tools, we simply cannot arrive at any conclusive statement regarding if some “important” matters are matters of fact (e.g. miracles). And that’s surely not what we want. We need to embrace some degree of uncertainty to master life.

Also note, that “scientific methodology” makes no difference when it comes to practical determinaton of truth: the end user, i.e. nearly all people in nearly all situations, needs to accept scientific truth not on empirical grounds, but on everyday epistemological grounds. We believe these facts not because of we tried them out ourselves (which we could, however) but because we believe their accounts. So the end user accepts accounts of natural science with no better epistemological justification than theological accounts.

So what are our everyday tools to determine truth?

Now if we want to apply our empistemological everyday tools to determine the truth content of miracle data, we first of all need to know what actually are these everyday tools.  How do we, in normal cases, determine historic truth in “normal cases”? After that, theses “everyday measurers” of historicians can be applied to accounts of supernatural  events, like the biblical miracles and today’s miracles. Depending on the outcome, we then have a justification to believe in God that’s on par with the justification to believe in concrete.

The basic thought of the everyday epistemological tool is to accept a story as true if it has a historic proof of good everyday quality. We require no additional empiric verification (“repeating the story”) to see that it is possible etc., we deal with it as an isolated, discrete event only. Therefore, we should believe historical miracles if they have historic proof, even if there are no contemporary miracles. So for everything that happens in mesocosmos (the area accessible to our senses), the everyday approach of witnessing events (and recording them as history) is enough and must be accepted.

We should now move on and see if and how the everyday epistemological tool is capable of recognizing falsehood, e.g. filtering out fake miracles. To recognize falsehood, we normally do the following:

  • Exclude that the author of the account might have an selfish motive to tell the account. For example, this can not be excluded for the global warming hypothesis, the holocaust lie or the evolution hypothesis.
  • Check if there are multiple witnesses for the account, and if these witnesses are independent from each other. Check the witnesses’ personal histories to see whether they seem “trustable” or not.
  • Check if the account deals with very subtle perceptions, which would put the account in danger of being no more than a vague interpretation. For subtle perceptions, our direct sensual perception is indeed not the appropriate tool: try, for example, to compare the quality of two like medicines based on direct sensual perception, regarding the effects on you and some friends. In such cases, we need a scientific approach, as it can handle subtle differences by employing statistics, series of double-blind experiments etc.. Well then, deal miracle stories with events obvious enough to be handled by the everyday epistemological tool? Yes, with regard to all biblical accounts of miracles. So we simply shouldn’t allow stories of “subtle miracles” to be handled by the everyday epistemological tool today … there must be enough obvious miracle stories out there.

Consequences for dealing with miracle accounts

This “lowering the bar” approach says that miracle accounts should be able to enter the “Second Acts” series if they use the “everyday tools to determine truth” in a mature, sober manner. Including use of multiple witnesses etc.. This approach also attributes high value to the Bible, as a document about God’s acts here on earth. Because it argues that the Bible accounts can be accepted, as they employ the everyday epistemological tool in a mature, sober manner.

Nearly a year ago, I published two articles (“What
kinda company with God is possible?
“, “The
third way of life in this world
“) that claimed: immediate contact
with God is in no way that commonplace as most Christians believe.
Here, I want to add some thoughts to that tradition to get a sharp
criterion what kind of interaction (mediate or immediate) we are to
expect in what situation. But note that these are experimental thoughts
… .

Criterion statement and explanation

Currently, I propose the following statement:

Currently, there are only two things to be said about God’s
initiative activity in relationship to this world: (1) the Gospel is
true, (2) God uses some supernatural phenomena to confirm that the
Gospel is true. All other phenomena are natural phenomena.

To explain: the Gospel is
God’s single and sufficient line of action to save this world. The
Gospel was promised immediately after the fall and unfolded by the
death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. Since it is in the world,
the Gospel has effect on the world and is traded on from man to man:
there are people who hear and believe it, get changed personally, and
thereby get motivated to preach it again. This makes up for a natural,
organic propagation of the Gospel – God does not need to add to this or
to coordinate this in any transcendent way. But there’s one thing that
calls for God’s immediate interaction with this world: to confirm the
Gospel’s truth by supernatural acts, as it’s no justified reason to
believe it as a message traded on by humans, as there is generally no
justified reason to believe humans. The Bible relates that God’s
supernatural activity is for this goal (Heb
2:3-4 ISV
; Mk
16:20 ISV
).

Continuations

Here’s a list of stuff that would follow from the above statement,
and is a subset of my current set of beliefs:

  • Because God’s supernatural activity is to confirm the truth of
    the Gospel, it’s not primarily to help
    people in their individual lifes. Though this is often the effect of
    God’s supernatural acts.
  • Martin Luther had no individual, special calling from God. There
    were social developments that led lateron to the enlightenment, and
    their result within a sincere
    believer of Martin’s character
    was the rediscovery of grace.
    From this may be seen to what degree God wants this to be our world,
    saved by the Son of Man, not by God’s continuous fighting against all
    the evil in this world.
  • Missionaries and other servants generally have no individual,
    special calling from God. I don’t exclude exceptions, but even in
    apostolic times, there were 13 such cases only (12 Apostles plus Paul).
  • There is a personal relationship to Jesus, but in the sense that
    Jesus and me are in some definite position to each other, depending on
    his and my character, history, deeds, thoughts etc.. This relationship
    should be taken care of, but it should not be mixed up with personal
    contact, which is the very rare case.
  • The theodicee question is only meaningful in the form “Why does
    God hinder less evil than he does good in this world?” With above
    statement about God’s concrete activity in this world, we find symmetry
    here: he’s not involved in most good things that happen (in an
    immediate way), so we cannot blame him for hindering just a few bad
    things (in an immediate way). Me thinks we need to understand that he’s
    God and we’re men … the difference in size is that incredibly huge that it’s
    perfectly adequate that God saved this world through one huge action only (the Gospel)
    instead of by fighting evil in millions of actions. The latter is our
    task, as these are our size of actions.
  • In continuation of the last point, we might observe that God
    leads the large-scale things in our individual lifes (mainly, to accept
    the Gospel). But it’s our task and that of our fellow humans to
    influence how smooth that works, i.e. to lead and to help in the
    small-scale things of life.
  • If the Gospel and its supernatural confirmation is everything
    that God does, everything else is human activity. This would reveal
    many of our claimed God-given and God-created things in our
    congregations to be psychology only, i.e. religion. That includes all
    that hype regarding callings, impressions, worshipping etc.. You guys,
    let’s love each other, and if that is done, enough has been done …
    [quoted from old Apostle John, according to Christian tradition].
  • It’s far off to blame God for leaving this world alone. He saved
    this world by the Gospel, and even beyond that, he helps it mediately
    by the effects of the Gospel.
  • Normally, there is no supernatural reason for difficult times. In
    Acts, affliction is attributed to man, not to the devil. This means, we
    should keep our eyes open to see and help those who happen to come into
    affliction, so that there is help for them in just time.
  • Because God confirms the Gospel by supernatural acts, and because
    it’s beautiful, fascinating and motivating to see this, we may and must
    expect answers to prayer and concrete guidance by the Holy Spirit. But
    we must keep in mind that this is to show the Gospel’s truth to us and
    others. It’s not what we can
    expect to happen as the average case in our relationship to God.
  • In continuation of the previous point, we should view most parts
    of our prayers as “applying Gods truth to our personal life”, as
    “relating to God”, not as interacting with God.
  • We may apply
    psychology, sociology etc. where applicable: to motivate Christians, to
    determine weak points in congregations, to grant professional help to
    addicts before or after their conversion, etc..

The most interesting result of “Third way cont.” is probably that
it’s the firs viewpoint (to my knowledge) that combines simplicity,
justified faith and an adequate place for human wisdom and activity.
But of course, this whole viewpoint needs o be checked against the
biblical testimony (esp. Acts) and against reality … .


Start date: 2008-05-28
Post date: 2008-06-14
Version date: 2008-06-14 (for last meaningful change)

Inspired by a recent discussion with a friend, I’ll get you here on
an experimental track of thought. So be warned, and check the content
for its truth by the methods you see fit for that. Note that this is
just a quick document to save some thoughts … get inspired or build
upon it, but don’t take it as doctrine.

Determined or responsible?

When talking about the behavior of other people, you’ll note there
are two people: those who judge it, and those who explain it. Sadly,
both is a naive way of aproaching behavior: the first group claims that
every human being is responsible for its individual behavior, to full
extent; the second group claims that the environment is the cause of
individual behavior, to full extent.

Both answers cannot be lived out. If we are fully responsible,
there’s no explanation for the vast majority of people that act in
uniform ways, as if driven by external force. If we are fully determined,
there is no perspective for the future, because the world will develop
in determined ways, and these seem to lead to catastrophies, everytime
and again.

Neither, nor

The correct alternative cannot be that naive. Instead: yes, my
behavior is determined by my environment up to this very moment; but it
needs not to be so from now on. When analyzing human behavior, you’ll
find reasons for each action, and reasons for the reasons, and
everything results from the environment. But neither educators nor
judiciaries would follow from this that people cannot change. It just
means, they cannot change by themselves. If you want to change people,
you need to change their environment. School, for example, is such a
changed environment, in that pupils are confronted with other values
and expectations than they know from home.

Now if educators apply this to educatees, why don’t we apply it to
ourselves? The ability to apply it to others does not include the one
to apply it to purselves. But there might come an external change of
environment that enlightens our mind for a moment, so that we can
recognize the need to change our own
environment. This moment is where we can act responsibly, but we can
also go by.

Summing up: you cannot change yourself, you can just expose yourself to
an environment that changes you.

The way out: from normal to social behavior

Even people without axiomatic ethics (i.e. non-religious people)
recognize that not every kind of behavior should be tolerated. As we
saw, every kind of behavior has a cause and can be explained, and in
that sense we can call it normal “normal”. Also, we chould be eager to
understand other people’s behavior (it’s called empathy), as that’s the
precondition of finding help for people.

But explainability does not mean that every kind of behavior is
“good”, i.e. has a right to stay unchanges. Without axiomatic ethics,
“good” needs to be defined via pragmatic truth (“that what works is
good”). Which means that socially adequate behavior is good, that’s
behavior where a human society can be built upon if the underlying
principles would be taken by everybody. As a result, a society will get
itself educators that teach its members good (in the sense of socially
adequate) behavior. This teaching will be done by changing people’s
circumstances, see above.

Mapping this to Christian words

I need to admit that, until now, I understood the Bible’s message
this way: God judges all people’s behavior and assigns to everyone the
full responsibility for his or her individual behavior. Now that I
think this is no meaningful or adequate approach to human behavior, I’m
interested if this is really the Bible’s message or was just my naive,
non-enlightened interpretation.

Let us see. I’m going to start with a collection of Bible quotes
that say something about responsibility, cause of human behavior etc.,
and from their general spirit I will re-define some well-known
Christian words.

“Therefore, as you go, disciple all the nations, […] teaching
them to obey all that I have commanded you. […]” [The Bible, Mt
28:19-20, ISV]

At
least to some degree, discipling seems to be something do-able, an
activity.

“For you spent enough time in the past doing what the Gentiles
like to do, living in sensuality, sinful desires, drunkenness, wild
celebrations, drinking parties, and detestable idolatry. They insult
you now because they are surprised that you are no longer joining them
in the same excesses of wild living.” [The Bible 1Pet 4:3-4, ISV]

This
excessive lifestyle is normal, understandable, average behavior for
man, to the extent that it’s surprising when people dare to deviate.

“For you were like sheep that kept going astray, but now you have
returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” [The Bible, 1Pet
2:25, ISV]

“When he [i.e. Jesus] got out of the boat, he saw a large crowd.
He had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a
shepherd, and he began to teach them many things.” [The Bible, Mk 6:34,
ISV]

It’s
obvious here that man cannot help himself: he needs a savior, a
teacher, a sheperd.

flesh, original sin
The bad qualities of man, aquired by growing up in a fallen
world: bad education, bad childhood and perhaps bad DNA. “Bad
qualities” means what leads to dysfunctional society. And interesting
enough, it’s the same what God calls “sin”.
fallen world, world, worldly
The bad environment that we find ourself in. Including bad social
conditions (bad examples etc.), bad physical conditions (illness,
genetic diseases including affinity to depression etc.), bad
environmental conditions (earthquakes, cosmic rays, tsunami waves, crop
failure etc.) and bad spiritual conditions (existence and activity of
demons etc.).
repentance
The correct alternative of the first responsible decision that a
man is able to do in his life. It’s acknowledging that one’s behavior
is bad (though it has reasons, no matter) and choosing to be changed by
God through living in a changed environment from now on. These changed
conditions include a congregation, close companionship with brothers
and sisters, concrete activity and words from God, and more.
holyness, love
The goal of character transformation that God intends for
everybody. It’s equivalent to what people without axiomatic ethics
would (if consequent) follow from the necessity of forming a functional
society.

To sum up: God seems to be empathic. That is, he knows the reasons
why human behavior always develops in bad ways. (That is, socially
dysfunctional, as opposed to love). He also knows that it’s no solution
at all to tell humans about the determination of their behavior. He
just sees that, man must be saved: because of this determination, he
cannot help himself, and the environment does the best to harm him, as
it’s a fallen world. Man needs something that changes his environment
to the better, and by this means, changes man to the better.

And then God changed the human environment by sending His son, and
then His spirit into our human world. Every positive change can be
deduced to this act of God: this change of environment caused other
changes (making church come into existence etc.), and these changes
changed people. Within this changed environment, human behavior is also
determined, but to the good. This determination is described in the
Bible as “God gave us of His spirit”; which I currently understand to
some degree as “taught us to desire the same that the Holy Spirit does”.
And he taught it by coming into the world and changing the world … .

A problem: how to deal with all the commands in the Bible, if I say
that man is not able to change himself so as to keep them? I admit that
the biblical testimony (see the quotations above) points not very
clearly in the direction of this post, but I can explain why: because
the Bible is not a document to explain the world as it is, rather a
document to change the world as it should be. Therefore, it contains
commands much more than it expresses the connection of environment and
behavior, as commands serve two functions in a world where environment
dictates behavior. One function of these commands is to show the bad
quality of his behavior and character to man (that’s the task of the
“law”), to enlighten man to a state where he’s ready to accept God’s
salvation (see below). Another aspect would be that these commands are
not something that’s intended to be fulfilled one by one in a
mechanistic way, but something that, as a multitude of repeated
commands, establishes a different environment. Different from that
where man was used to live in. Now, he meets with other expectations,
other definitions of what is “tolerable behavior”, and why. This
environment changes man, if he’s exposed to it for a prolonged time.
The commands as such, or the strained attempt to keep them, don’t
change anybody. Not in character: it may change the outward behavior,
but only for a time.

One last problem: If it’s all God’s activity to change people by
changing the environment, why did Jesus teach that some people qualify
to go to hell? That is, isn’t it God’s fault that people go to hell, in
the sense that he didn’t perform well enough to change all people’s
environments? The answer seems to be to me: changing one’s environment
is something that God does without asking us, but only to the degree
where we’re changed (“enlightened”) enough to do this responsible
decision: “Do I want acknowledge that my behavior is not good and let
God change me to the better, or do I want to adhere to being good and
feel ok, though it’s not true and though the results will be
devastating?”. The ability to do this decision is in no way the “free
will” of man, as if man would have the ability to do right our of his
own strength. It’s possible simply because of God’s kindness, who wants
to respect His image in man instead of perfecting man without his
consent.


Start date: 2008-06-12
Post date: 2008-06-12
Version date: 2008-06-12 (for last meaningful change)

If you are, by chance, not too familiar with today’s subcultures,
I’m going to confuse you now the same way I confused me yesterday. By
looking at Amy’s
Video clip “Was ist Emo?”
(“What is emo?”) on YouTube. She had this
video online before (quoted in first version of this post), and it
reached 250,000 views and approx. 3000
comments, but then she removed it and re-entered it with comments
disabled. Doesn’t matter, you may look up the comments of another of
her videos, namely “Was
wollen Emos?”
(“What do emos want?”). She posted it in response of
the comments on the “Was ist Emo?” video, but the comments there did
not get any better (at the point of writing this, there are 558,925
views and 10,359 comments). Here’s the mentioned clip:

After watching, you can go more into depth by looking up Emo in Wikipedia.
Until yesterday, I didn’t know the word, nor that this qualifies as
“life content” for some people … . And then, if you wanna get deeply
frustrated about the state of current
society, remember to read at least 500 comments on “Was
wollen Emos?”
.
There are qualified, good comments, but this applies to maybe 5%.
Ignore them. For the 95%, the choice of words alone is so outragingly
disgusting … . If words could kill by themselves, you’d find some
hundred cadaver on that web page. I’m simply bare of words … and all
this started by just going to YouTube and choosing a random promoted
video clip. What adds to this are the insanely positive comments that
can also be found there, mostly from other emos … . It’s not that
I’ve any bias regarding individual “emos”. And regarding Amy, she
combines authenticity and coolness (see here) so that I
think, yea, she has great potential (not just on YouTube as DiamondOfTears).

But, guys ‘n’ gals: emo ain’t no way of responsible life, from the
perspective of society. To me, emo and all the other style-based
subcultures seem to deal only with aesthetics, music, fashion, fun and
hatred. You cannot live on that. You cannot build a society on that.
It’s all nothing.

If the quality of comments is representative for the quality of
youth
in this country, we’re lost. The 5% clear-minded people cannot save us
from the mad once the old people died … .

By the way, a small technical note: if
you want to archive YouTube videos on your hard disk, e.g. to keep them
from disappearing as Amy’s first “Was ist Emo?” video did, you can use
the Linux program
youtube-dl. It’s in the Ubuntu archives, probably in multiverse. Issue
this command:

youtube-dl http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LV9nghiNnBU -o YouTube.WhatIsEmo.flv


Start date: 2008-05-16
Post date: 2008-05-17
Version date: 2008-05-29 (for last meaningful change)