This was partially inspired by the yesterday evening discussion of the Jesus Freaks house group that’s praised in the previous blog post.

Jesus and sexuality

When believing that Jesus was both fully man and fully God, what do we believe about if he suffered temptations to sexual sin as we do? As Jesus was fully man, one could think that he did, as sexuality and its hormone-induced control mechanisms belong to the body and to being human. And as Jesus was fully God, one could think that he did not suffer sexual temptations, as he would have been filled with agapē for all so that there was no room for other feelings towards women.

The latter case is an image of Jesus that is seemingly hardened by a naive interpretation of the Gospel accounts, as we don’t read there that Jesus was involved in human everyday activities like sitting around and kidding with his disciples. And, it’s an image of Jesus that lets him help in spiritual problems alone, without being our example for coping with human stuff like partnership problems, sexuality and romantic love.

How about a third way. First, we need to see that sinful desire (like when a man looks at a woman with lust for her, Mt 5:28 ISV) does not arise from nothing. These habits are more like the result of life-long false programming and false thinking. It started with the first egoistic thought in our lifes, and grew from that. Just like all sin grew from Eve’s little doubt regarding God’s kindness. Then second, we need to see that Jesus did never give in even to one egoistic thought: such stuff simply found no room in him, as may be seen from his simple, doubtless answers when tempted by the devil in the desert.

Now we see that Jesus may have found women to be attractive, and may have had sexual feelings, but pure ones. Yes, sexuality was created by God and it’s inherently pure and holy. So I cannot see any problem why Jesus might not have thought once and again: “Wow, this woman has a mild and cheerful mind, she’s faithful and beautiful … quite attractive. Father, thanks for the great idea of creating humans as both man and woman. I’m now myself down here on earth, and can feel the grandeur of the marriage partnership idea. This image of eternal love really represents our character in humans. And even though this world has seen so much sin since its creation, the man/woman partnership idea is that great that it radiates through all the dirt.”

Well then, you may ask, if Jesus thought that positive about marriage, why didn’t he marry himself? We can speculate that this had several practical reasons:

  • Jesus knew that he was living in this world to die as a sacrifice, and then leave the world. If he had married, he would have left a woman and perhaps children behind. Therefore, it was just responsible for him not to marry. See the counsel not to marry in troubled times (I Cor 7:26 ISV), where troubled times might include leaving behind the dear ones.
  • God knows what people are up to, and even for us it’s easy to see that the worst heresy of church history would’ve arisen if there would’ve been people who could claim to be descendants of Jesus, that is, God.
  • It was not Jesus’ job, vision or purpose of life to marry and enjoy life. He entered the world with the specific purpose and desire to save the world.

Special aspects of female believers’ relationship to Jesus

Overall, it seems easier for women than for men to have a love relationship to Jesus. There are examples where men express difficulty to say they love Jesus, as it is uncommon for men to express love for other men. From a female believer to a male Jesus this is far more natural, even though no flirty or romantic feelings are implied in this love relationship.

Jesus and his bride

When it comes to Jesus and women, there’s always the question, what can we learn for partnership, marriage and for dealing with the opposite sex in general. This is somewhat difficult to answer, as Jesus was not married. But there’s beautiful imagery in the Bible, according to which Jesus is engaged currently and will soon marry his bride:

  • Here’s where the Bible compares Jesus mission to leave his father in heaven to found a church of saved people to a man who leaves his father and adheres to his future bride: ” “That is why a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a great secret, but I am talking about Christ and the church.” (Eph 5:31-32 ISV). (Remark: Paul uses this verse to give reason for why he said in the verse before that the church members are members of the body of Christ (Eph 5:30 ISV); so whenever the NT speaks about the church as the body of Christ, it implies the image of being the bride of Christ.)
  • Here’s where the Bible compares our current relationship to Jesus as that of an engaged woman to her future husband: “I am jealous of you with God’s own jealousy, because I promised you in marriage to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” (2 Cor 11:2 ISV).
  • Here’s where the Bible compares the start of our time in heaven, when we’ll meet Jesus face to face, to a marriage: ” Then I heard what sounded like the voice of a large crowd, like the sound of raging waters, and like the sound of powerful thunderclaps, saying, “Hallelujah! The Lord our God, the Almighty, is reigning. Let us rejoice, be glad, and give him glory, because the marriage of the lamb has come and his bride has made herself ready.” (Re 19:6-7 ISV). (Where “lamb” is a byname given to Jesus.)

This image helps a good way, in my experience, to recognize the intended relationship ideal that God had in mind when creating man and woman. Because, Jesus realizes this ideal in his relationship to his bride, and we may learn from it. The idea to use Jesus’ relationship to his church as an example to learn for partnerships was originally Paul’s (see Eph 5:21-33 ISV). I’m re-using his idea and add some more aspects. So let’s observe how he behaves towards his bride:

  • Jesus treats his bride as part of himself (Eph 5:31-32 ISV).
  • Jesus does everything to make his bride perfect (Eph 5:25-27 ISV). He has the courage to correct his bride. He has the courage to use words where necessary, but where a look is enough, it’s a look. He wants his bride to use and develop her gifts to their fullest extent. When she needs it, he’ll show his bride how to serve others, by serving her.
  • He has the patience to bear all the accusations, when is bride is mad and wants to struggle, saying, “Where have you been when I needed you.”, “Why didn’t you fulfill me that wish, don’t you think I’m worth of some presents.” etc..
  • Jesus death for his bride is the greatest proof of love. Hey, guys, Jesus died for you!
  • Jesus as bearing the church, in spite of all her problems and sins.
  • Yes, he is also the head in the relationship to his bride, he wants her respect and obedience (Eph 5:23-24 ISV). But he also deserves it, as he’s loving his bride the most unselfish way. Beloved bride of Jesus, do you feel suppressed by Jesus, your Lord and future husband? No? Then you’ve got the model to realize in your human partnerships.
  • He never claims his right to be respected and obeyed by his bride … instead, he serves her to deserve so. For example, he, as the master, washed the feet of his disciples, giving them an example what it means to serve, and to be a master. Here’s what he says about being the master of his bride, the church: “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called benefactors. But you are not to do so. On the contrary, the greatest among you should become like the youngest, and the one who leads should become like the one who serves. But you are not to do so. On the contrary, the greatest among you should become like the youngest, and the one who leads should become like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who sits at the table, or the one who serves? It is the one at the table, isn’t it? But I am among you as one who serves.” (Lk 22:24-27 ISV)
  • Jesus as being faithful, even when the church is unfaithful. (See e.g. Ez 16:1-63 ISV).

There are times where it’s sooo obvious that this world was originally created by a good God! I’m in such a time these very days, feeling very blessed and grateful … or, more concretely:

  1. There’s a really really cool Jesus Freaks congregation in my town, hey, and I’m becoming part of it 😉
  2. My vision of a mobile, compact and flexible life finally unfolds somewhat, as I got this cool 4WD truck to live in today.
  3. The job I’m currently doing is way cool (Java programming by teleworking as a freelancer). I complained about that job: boring, no social contacts, it’s difficult to motivate myself to start working. But today I compared it to jobs of people I know: warehousing for a temporary employment agency, for way-too-low wages and 10-11 hrs/d and 6d/week. And … man, what a blessing my job is.
  4. These people in the Jesus Freaks house group that I joined make me hungry to get more from Jesus and more like Jesus.

Now I’ll elaborate the last point, as I’m currently “flashed” by these people 🙂 (just before came from the house group, then started blogging …).

Those who know me or my writings know my critical in-depth analyses, and how they paralysed at times the drive to be faithful to God. Which is because I met few motivating paragons: analysing people critically challenges the truth of their beliefs, and analysing people in-depth challenges the purity of their zeal. Those who withstood the test didn’t make up a critical mass to ignite me with Jesus zeal (esp. not due to the dissipation of my former congregation, a Calvary Chapel church … because you know, critical mass needs compactness to uphold the chain reaction). It seems that I’ve found that critical mass in this Jesus Freaks house group that I’m visiting for some weeks now 🙂

When admiring people, it’s rewarding to observe why exactly you’re admiring. In this case it’s because they are, in character, to some degree like Jesus … or, more concretely:

  1. Spiritually intense. They can be funny and silly, but it’s amazing how intense and involved they are when discussing spiritual things. Today we had to discuss the topic “Jesus and women”, and in the serious, spiritual parts of the evening there was nearly no trace of childish foolery that’s so common among young adults when discussing cross-gender relationship stuff.
  2. Intelligent wording. It’s amazing how mature and intelligent they argue, also those who are quite young (doing their A-level exams or studying for 3 semesters, e.g.). I can comprehend their thoughts, but I could not generate them as I think in a different style. That’s really an enrichment! Especially, when people nit just think differently, but are also able to verbalize their thoughts … clean verbalization of their emotional thinking is somewhat rare among women, but commonplace in this house group. Wow!
  3. Open-mindedness. It’s so refreshing to have a homogenous group of open-minded people, without the tradition of Christian fundamentalist style of thinking. Where open-minded means: allowing oneself to think experimentally, touching new areas and latent solutions; and it means broad-mindedmess: being able to form one enjoyable group even though theologic opinions differ widely. Jesus is Savior and Lord … and everything else is fun to discuss. Of course open-mindedness is also dangerous (and I could give examples from the group), but narrow-minded fundamentalism is not less dangerous just because it is static and nothing will or is allowed to happen.
  4. Blushless talking. At first, their prosaic, brute honesty in the familiar atmosphere of this house group bewildered me. There’s seemingly no taboo, you can talk about everythink everytime. Just take care that you talk about averything as being “just as normal as everything else”. (I think that’s because high-levelled emotionality, secretiveness and shame are not results of taboos, they create taboos by people better avoiding these topics in the future.) On the few (~5) evenings I met the group, they talked about a range of topics which would be termed taboo by many Christians: sex before marriage, libidinous thinking, woman’s beauty mania, lesbian relationships, masturbation, having a boy-friend who’s no Christian, being hurt emotionally by an ex-boyfriend, the precious special attributes of the relationship between a female Christian and a male Jesus. And much more, and more to come.

Now of course also this group is far from being perfect. But Jesus teaches them, and they learn. And I hope not to be an inhibitor to the upcoming chain reaction … .

After the psycho hygiene system, here’s another idea that I posted to Google’s Project 10100. They collect ideas and will honor the idea that will help the most people. Practically, this means that the five best ideas are sponsored with 2 million USD on average, to be executed. It deals with settling a question that is currently the cause of many quarrels, from self murder attacs to even divorce. The question is: What is the truth about God? To settle this once and for all, I think we’d need to employ means that are different from just “revealed religion”.

If you follow this blog you’ll notice that this project is in essence exactly my Xpedition’s “Second Acts” project. It would be awful to get this sponsored 🙂 This would not mean that I can execute it myself, but in any way it would provide many valuable insights. If you like, read for yourself:

10. What one sentence best describes your idea? (maximum 150 characters)

Religious wars could be prevented by basing theology on rigorous scientific methodology.

11. Describe your idea in more depth. (maximum 300 words)

According to the world view of natural science, the physical reality can be modeled, that is, man assumes that it is “understandable” and that it does not contradict itself. The proposed models might be different, but at least there is the common search for the best one. However, in the realm of theology, mankind did not yet agree to undertake a common search for the best theological model, that is, a model for the spiritual world. (This is normally attributed to the character of theology as not being a discipline of natural science, but this is an error: theology claims to teach about a part of reality: the spiritual realm, just as natural science teaches about the material realm. A rare example for applying rigid scientific methodology to the spiritual realm is Princeton’s PEAR Institute (http://www.princeton.edu/~pear/).) Such a common search would, dismiss religious quarrels and wars in favour of a synergistic collaboration. Just as in science, there is collaboration, but no wars about scientific issues,  though the opinions differ widely.

Therefore, this idea is to initiate a common, synergistic, worldwide search for the best (“true”) model of the spiritual world. This search should be promoted as the global search for God, and all people should be allowed to join.

12. What problem or issue does your idea address? (maximum 150 words)

Primarily, all religious wars (in the widest sense of the word, from interpersonal to international) that are caused by different (but mutually exclusive) theologies. This is, of course, conditional on succeeding to agree on a common theologic model, and conditional on teaching this model to the whole world. Religious quarrels belong to the most dispensable of all problems, as mutually exclusive theologies can be traced back to the lack of proper theologic cognition on at least one side.

13. If your idea were to become a reality, who would benefit the most and how? (maximum 150 words)

The greatest benefit is for those who are preserved from suffering in religious wars, because a “theologic standard model”, properly propagated through education, avoids religious wars as something needless. Suffering from religious conflicts includes bad economic conditions as their side-effects. This is often the case for ethnic minorities whose religion differ from that of their environment.

One could add speculations that there could be even greater benefits for whole mankind, e.g. if the findings from executing this idea include how to gain an eternal afterlife. But as this is conditional on yet unknown spiritual reality, it’s speculation yet.

Note that this idea is for the real long-term (min. 30 years to agree on a “theologic standard model” and 100 years for the findings to fully take effect). The amount of time that other scientific revolutions took to unfold in history (like Galileo’s world view etc.) makes one expect this time span.

14. What are the initial steps required to get this idea off the ground? (maximum 150 words)

Set up a worldwide, cross-discipline working group to start working on this project. Special ideas for publicity must be developed to avoid that religious fanatics, who have instrumentalized beliefs to reach personal goals, cause bad publicity.

Of course, initiating the project includes to set up workable criteria for the truth determination process. As the subject differs from natural science, these criteria will differ, but should be as dependable as the former. Some proposals: a worldwide database in the Internet, where everybody can contribute in wiki style. This collects all proposed religious experiences (scientific experiments are no possible method here, as supernatural encounters might be of historic, unreproducible character). Then Filter all collected data automatically, to apply rigid scientific methodology. This would imply identity confirmation, event confirmation with web-of-trust methods, etc.. By querying the database, the current scientific evidence for basing theology is on is accessible to everybody in real-time, through the Internet.

15. Describe the optimal outcome should your idea be selected and successfully implemented. How would you measure it? (maximum 150 words)

The minimum result is more peace in the world, due to less religious warfare. The maximum result would be if this project’s findings are that there is at least one benevolent, personal God and that there are ways to be in contact with this God. As, this would enable everybody to access the supernatural help of this God while living, and perhaps even after ones death.

On measurement. Religious peace can be measured by tracing an index, where incidents of religious war contribute to, according to gravity and length. Supernatural help can be measured by an “human development index”. Positive effects on an afterlife are beyond measeurement, if the afterlife is eternal.

How about an experimentaltrack of thought today; that is, I don’t claim it to be true, but thinking this line of thought might inspire some other insights. The thoughts are about “the Fall”, the biblical story when the snake convinced Eve to eat from the forbidden fruit, and she gave Adam, and he ate, too. (Gen 3).

There is reason to assume that the second “special tree” in Eden had a medical / bodily effect: it was named the “tree of life”, and only after man was prohibited to eat from it, he started to die bodily. So it could be that its fruit contained some (yet unknown and in nature no longer existing) vitamine, that the human body needs to survive eternally on earth.

Here come the experimental thoughts: this quality of the “tree of life” does not mean, however, that the “tre of the knowledge of good and evil” was likewise special, in a material sense. Perhaps it was just a normal tree that was just named specially. (Perhaps the Grapefruit tree, as this fruit was named Citrus paradisi for some time … just kidding). Now, if the effect of eating from the tree would have been only spiritual (in the sense of being implemented as brain activity), we’d have to explain how.

The most obvious effect (that made God “curious” as to what happend) was that Adam and Even were both ashamed of their nakedness after eating from the fruit. They had  hidden from each other and from God. Now, what is hiding away if not the effect of losing trust. It seems easy to imagine how Adam and Eve discussed, after eating from the fruit, if it was correct to do so, then debated, then got into a verbal fight with each other. No more trust, as they had done wrong to each other. Eve had given Adam to eat from the fruit thing, and Adam, while standing all the time there, had not protected Eve from eating this thing first.

Nearly everybody can remember a bad conscience experience in his or her childhood: it’s very intense, because conscience is not yet hardened by the knowledge that doing evil and doing wrong is commonplace, and by being personally accustomed in doing the same. In childhood, when doing consciously and deliberately wrong for the first few times, the effect is intense: the child feeld hot and cold, hides away, cannot look into the eyes of its mom and dad, and it’s very obvious that the good quality of relationship has gone away.

This experience (and even more intense, as experienced by understanding adults) might have happened to Adam and Eve. No need for any special substance in the fruit to generate all the problems with sin that started to enter the world at this point. Because sin is, basically, a spiritual entity: a kind of self-reproducing program in the brain of humans, that passes on to other humans by “copying” (learning from each other) and has destructive effects in everybody’s life. Just like a computer virus for the brain.

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.