Don’t pal up with the last reality

When taking an honest approach to life, one must take the most
important problem to be most important. One must face reality. So, what
is the most important problem of man? It’s the last reality: death. It
renders all nothing, destroys what you made of you, ignores what was
dear to you. So foremost, we must face and fight death.

But people seem to have come to terms with death. They accept that
death will destroy them sooner or later. While death accepts that
people ignore it until it catches them. People don’t talk about death.
People don’t talk about diseases, they talk about health. Politicians
who try to cope with diseases work in the “Department of Health”, not
the “Department of Diseases”. People take out a life assurance, not a
death assurance, but it pays only in case of death, not life.

An honest approach to life however forbids to accept death while
concentrating on minor problems. There is absolutely nothing to say
against investing your whole life into overcoming death. One might
sacrifice career, money, health, partnership, social insurances and
everything else in order to find dependable assurance of eternal
life. If there is no eternal life at all, the state of such a man after
death is as miserable as career people’s, even so far as both cannot
hear neither contempt nor admiration. But if there is any sort of
eternal existence, it’s surely a good idea to invest all of one’s
breath therein.

Again: you guys are not allowed to blame me for freaking out now,
totally and outrageously, out of this damned average death-integrating
lifestyle. As it is in order to find out for all of us how to arrive at
eternal life. In
the sense of something to really hope for, something that you expect
and then it happens. Not in the sense of a
religious pacifier.

I will no present some weird thoughts about “inventing eternal life”
on this earth. Please do not interpret this as being disbelief, but
it’s an awfull, absolute,
weird, most extreme, ultimate determinedness to get around death. For
all of lifes sake. Because this is the foremost problem of men and
people simply don’t care. I could screeeeeeeam! People work, highly
motivated, for vain
stuff and then die, and accept it that way. Why don’t people try
instead to get eternal life????? Is there so little logic in
people????? Obviously.

Eternal life by digitization, including uninterrupted existence

On 2006-11-04, I had some interesting insights about human identity
(see my invention
list
), and, building on top of these, a natural implementation of
eternal life seems possible even though medicine found no way to make
the human body immortal. First, the basic thoughts:

What people search is perceived immortality. Therefore, an identical
but younger copy of a person would not prolong this person’s life. Even
if all memories and experiences could be copied. Because, people would
not feel to live eternally that way. In human perception, these two
persons would have their own identity each because they could start to
live contemporaneously but differently (e.g. in different places). So,
an idea is needed how to prolong the life of one person, while
upholding its self-perceived identity.

For this idea, we need to know what “self-perceived identity” is. It
is the awareness of the self, the feeling to be somebody, the awareness
of one’s own body. With this definition, identity is an emergence of all
parts of the body. No part of the body generates the feeling to be a
human body, but together they do, as together they make
self-observation possible.

The inspiring factum is this: exchanging one part of the body (like
by an organ transplant) disturbs “perceived identity” but does not
destroy it. After some time, the new part of the body is integrated
into the emergence of identity. This is due to two effects: it learned
form the other parts of the body to behave according to the identity
which is outweighingly defined by them; and, it influenced the other
parts of the body and thus, the identity, while the perception that
identity stayed basically the same has been uphold. If identity changes
slow enough, it is perceived to stay the same.

This results in the following idea: by exchanging all parts of the
body, one after the other, the body of somebody can be exchanged by a
different body while the identity stays the same. This would include
exchanging the brain, part by part. At least here, very difficult
technical problems could arise: how to create “empty” brains, and how
to “program” them. So it might be better here to exchange the brain by
a functionally equivalent computer. The digitization of the most
important part of a human identity would make it possible to create
“backups” of people. So if a body is crushed in an accident, the
“software” would be restored to an empty brain in a new (comparable)
body, and this human being could start to live further, starting with
the last backup, i.e. with an amnesia of perhaps 1-2 weeks and like
waking from a deep sleep of that length. Sleep and amnesia do not
destroy the self-perceived identity, and this process would not either.

How Christ will qualify as an even better hope

I’m not going to end this post here, as the above mentioned
invention is not my present approach to overcome the problem of
morbidity. I hope however that I would consequently follow after it if
I wouldn’t believe that eternal life is the free gift of Jesus the
Christ, as I do. But I do believe this. I presented the above
“alternative hope” to stir up us believers: everybody would agree that
one should invest into the most promising alternative. Which means we
must explain: why is eternal life from Christ a better hope than the
above mentioned invention of eternal life by digitization? If we cannot
explain this even in the long run, it would be better for all of us to
become scientists and work towards our own digitization. Imagine, 200+
millions of scientists … .

So I am deeply determined to arrive at an explanation here. Tell me
the reason why the Christian hope is better, or join me in
searching for that reason. I call this search the search for “Second
Acts”. Here’s a quick list of some basic approaches, please extend it
where necessary:

  • Document supernatural phenomena with rigid scientific methodology.
  • Document the influence of the “name” on supernatural phenomena,
    check if it is a valid theory to assume name-based dependencies to
    supernatural entities.
  • Document the supernatural phenomena that happen “in the name of
    Jesus the Christ”.
  • Does the collected data confirm that Jesus is the Christ and that
    he’ll save believers as he promised to?

To conclude: I would so much appreciate this desire for life to spread
all over this
society and this world. It is: loving life more than even your own
pride. As
you might need to let loose your pride in order to get eternal life,
e.g. if eternal life is available by Jesus the Christ only.


Start date: 2007-10-19
Post date: 2007-10-20
Version date: 2007-10-20 (for last meaningful change)

Information science developed a good understanding of what
information is: a coded representation of something different, not the
thing itself. And, information science includes a rich use of names:
names are used for coding the informational representation of entities.
Also, we know about the problems that come with using names, for
example, the possibility of identity theft, or any other sort of
misinformation. This givesn an interesting background to a part of the
well-known “ten commandments”.
Depending on how
one numbers the decalogue
, the second resp. third one reads thus:

“You shall not take the name of the LORD
your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him
guiltless who takes his name in vain.”
[The
Bible, Exodus 20:7 ESV
]

Often, people seem to think it prohibits exclaiming “Oh my God!” in
everyday situations. But is it really about that? I now think that this
is directed against “false prophets” and other people who’d hijack the
name Yahweh for
their purposes, which is the name of the God who gave the ten
commandments. So the intended result of this commandment is to prevent
misinformation about God. Which is especially important, as God is
invisible (as an entity, and mostly his acts are invisible, too). So he
is represented in this visible world by information only. This
information is especially exposed to hijacking attacks, back then and
today, as using the name of God promises to have authority over
believers. All this stuff that has been done “in the name of God”, from
the middle age crusades to today’s gay marriages, carries
misinformation about God. No wonder that people are confused today who
God is, what God wants and what he does. We need more clarity here:
only authentic divine things must carry the name of God! Whereever God
is written upon, God must be inside, so to speak. Or this confusion
will never end. Part of this is to check what proposed miracles are
authentic miracles of God, and what are faked miracles “in the name of
God”, as it is sad to see God’s acts discredited by the mix-up with so
much human-generated fake which claims to be done in the same “name”.


Start date: 2007-10-16
Post date: 2007-10-16
Version date: 2007-10-16 (for last meaningful change)

What is faith, in Christianity? In some precious discussions with a
friend, we found out that there are at least two positions. See if you
can agree:

certain faith
The certain faith of fundamentalists is the human work of
accepting some content as the truth.
hoping faith
The hoping faith of non-fundamentalists is an unproven but
justifiable hope that some content is true. Justifiable means that it
remained after considering in all incertainties, difficulties and
objections.

Both definitions apply to all kinds of believers: Christians,
Marxists, evolutionists, etc..

Practical differences

In Christianity, certain and hoping faith show at least these key
differences in practical living:

  • Dealing with facts and arguments.
    For certain faith, being convinced is the work which a fundamentalist
    believer does. He is stronger convinced of the believed content than he
    can justify by facts and arguments; he even needs no facts and
    arguments at all to perform the work of being convinced. So, either he
    is not interested in facts and arguments at all, or he builds tools
    from them to express his convictions. But he does not allow the facts
    and arguments to affect his faith. On the other hand, with a hoping
    faith you are interested in facts and arguments, you believe “for sure”
    what is provable from them, and believe “as a hope” what you can
    justifiably extrapolate.
  • Salvation by grace, or by grace
    and the work of faith?
    Fundamentalists think that faith is the
    “only necessary work” man has to add in order to be justified without
    works. They would not verbalize it that explicitly, but it may be seen
    from their insecurity when discussing what faith is, if not a work.
    Non-fundamentalists think that their faith is no work but the
    acceptance of the work of Jesus Christ, which is justification by grace
    alone. As faith is not esteemed a work, it needs no quality: even the
    philosophically justifiable conviction that Jesus is the Christ if
    there is any God at all
    is saving faith. To fundamentalists
    however, such a conviction is no faith at all: for them, only a certain
    conviction of all the Bible says is faith. Fundamentalists have a
    work-based faith, as faith is a work for them; so they have the same
    burden as every other believer with a work-based faith: salvation has
    to be achieved by good human performance, here by believing in a most
    straight and certain way.
  • Cultivating strenghth or
    weakness.
    In
    fundamentalist faith, being convinced is a human activity, and
    salvation depends on it. So for the sake of your eternal life, you are
    not allowed to be weak here. This cultivated strength results in
    hypocrisy, because people will hide doubts from themselves and
    others. And this cultivated strength extends to other areas, generating
    the idea that holiness must be and can be achieved by human strenght.
    The result is people and churches which pretend strength and hide
    weakness, to be spiritual. On the other hand, hoping faith communicates
    doubts and difficulties and does not fear them: as a justifiable hope,
    it will stand as long as there is a reason to hope. The content of both
    certain and hoping faith is that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah of
    this wrecked human race. But only in a faith that needs no own strength
    (i.e. hoping faith), the conception of one’s own wreckedness finds room
    and can grow, resulting in cultivating the admission of weakness. Which
    generates authentic, compassionate people and churches.
  • Strong and weak interpretation
    of the Bible.
    People with a certain faith are certain what they
    believe and that it is true. From this flows a strength-demonstrating,
    knowing interpretation of the Bible, not leaving any questions. On the
    other side, people with a hoping faith might admit that they don’t know
    what many passages of the Bible mean.
  • Trusting oneself or something
    external.
    Certain faith does not need the believed reality to
    exist: it relies only on the ability of the believing person to
    believe. On the contrary, hoping faith trusts not in any own ability
    but in the existence of a real God. Therefore it is interested in God’s
    power and help and can acknowledges one’s own weakness and wreckedness.
    Hoping faith leans on God and trusts God, while certain faith leans on
    oneself and trusts oneself. This is the practical difference of
    “faith’s perspective”, apart from the question how faith is justified.

Which faith is the Christian one

I want to invite you to think about the question whether the
Christian faith is intended to be certain or hoping … you are invited
to discuss it with me here, also. You’ll have noticed that I couldn’t
conceal my opinion in what you’ve read so far. Now I will reveal the
way I came to this opinion. Grown up with the “certain faith paradigm”
(though far ess extreme as pictured above), I couldn’t bear the
unjustiied certainty of my faith. But I though that my faith had to be
that certain and that my salvation depends on such a faith.

Now, the honest consequence of a certain but unjustified faith is to
search for justification. Which means, I needed the scientific-style
proof that Jesus is the Christ, i.e., God’s promised saviour of
mankind. I thought to prove that by contemporary miracles which happen
“in the name of Jesus Christ” and called the project which collects
such miracles “Second Acts”. I intended to execute this project during
a world tour of several years … .

I need not to mention that this kind of faith was
at times a very stressing issue: seeing this certain faith as the key
to
salvation, I expected myself to believe “for certain” but was unwilling
or unable to do as long as the justification was missing. From these
negative consequences, and because salvation is absolutely “not by
works”, I conclude that the gospel of a “certain faith” is no good
message at all, i.e. cannot be the gospel. So Christian faith is hoping
faith.

Another confirming argument is how I arrived at a practical way of
coping with the lack of proofs for my faith, yet without knowing that
this was the transition from certain to hoping faith: in the dilemma of
believing for certain without prove, the two bad options are (1) to
think that you do not need proofs or (2) to generate fake proofs. The
real way out however was to hope that you will once have the proof for
your faith. Concretely, I hoped to find this prove by collecting
“Second Acts”.

This basically turned my faith from a certain one to a hoping one
(but yet with a temporary target and the illusionary idea that I will
arrive at an ultimately proven certain faith within life on this earth
by writing “Second Acts”). At the point of writing this, the current
situation is even better: I can cope with the lack of ultimate proof
until death, where I expect to come from “hoping to seeing”. This is
however no insecure hoping as if in doubt: hoping means that I think
and expect to be true what I believe. But not in a fundamentalist
manner which proclaims certainty beyond measure, rather with a unproven
but justifiable hope.

Now, the essence of hope is the wish to see the hoped-for reality
more and more, to get more and more proof. Which means that this
“Second Acts” project is still alive, but with other reasons behind: I
intend to do a world tour of several years to document proven
contemporary acts of God. There’s nothing more cool and precious than
to see what we hoped for, though this will be limited in this
world to the first few steps only. But anyway, it’s so cool and
precious! If anybody shares this same fascination, just tell me.
Perhaps some of you even like to join me on this world tour?

“For we were saved with this hope in mind.  Now hope that is
seen is
not really hope, for who hopes for what can be seen? But if we hope for
what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience.” [Romans
8:24-25 ISV]


Start date: 2007-10-08
Post date: 2007-10-08
Version date: 2007-10-08 (for last meaningful change)

Just some minutes ago (on this 2007-09-30) I got the message that
somebody I knew for
some years before I moved to my current place … has
cancer.

This life is no fun, essentially. Morbidity is 100%. Whatever you or
I might be doing right now, it is for sure that it will end at our
death or even before. Whatever there might be, death renders it
senseless. So, face this: death is the most urgent problem in this
life. As it is the ultimate threat to all life, to our very existence.
So to deal appropriately with this life, our foremost activity is to
fight death. Find a way out of this senseless vanity!!! Even
sacrificing a “normal job career” for removing death is surely worth
the effort.

Now, is there any way out. People invented different religions to
imagine there is a solution, but it quiets our mind while our body
dies. People invented medicine but it prolongs time while our body
dies. If there is any hope here, than by Jesus. Who is said to have
died and resurrected, that is, to have conquered death.

Which makes the activity of fighting death to be concretely the
activity to check if Jesus is right, and how to overcome death by his
grace. Oh guys … I want soooo much to be absolutely, absolutely,
absolutely sure about Jesus conquering death, and my eternal life. How
to be? How to be? How to become sure? How? Jesus lived 2,000 years ago,
and I live 2,000 years later. How to overcome that distance? How to
overcome the problem of historic proof where it is even impossible to
know what exactly I did yesterday? Jesus is said to live in people’s
heart. But that is no proof as we even don’t know what “heart” is,
actually. And what is man, actually?

Sigh … . I remember all this fact based, truth based relating to
Jesus’ resurrection that I find in the four Gospels and the Letters of
Paul, John, Peter, James and Jude. What value have these reports it in
this time? I cannot refer myself or anybody else to any kind of
experience or recent report of it that could serve as
justification for a faith in the Gospel.

Sigh … . It seems that my life task will be to face death. And
find eternal life to be the present of God. And find how to be
justifiably and confessably sure about this and to tell other people
about this. We’ve gotta remember the severity of life, that is: it ends
by death (or worse, eternal death) unless you have eternal life for
sure. There’s only this one thing left to place into my life. Getting
assured of my eternal life, really and justifiably sure, perceiving
this to be the truth, the truth and nothing but the truth. Then, to
tell people about what I’ve found.

Folks!!!! You cannot expect people to convert to a God that is only
in your words!!!! You guys must be able to show God to them, make them
sure and let them experience that God exists and acts today. And forget
all these light, subjective, emotional and psychological “proofs” for
that. Real, “hard” works of God are needed here. Things he
does, not just your words. Things he does, not just
your words. What does it help you or the people around you if
God is in your thoughts, heart and mind, but not active in your life?
How can you discern such a God from a mere concept????

Our God, Father. How can I explain your Gospel to somebody without a
proof for it? How can people begin to search and respect you, how else
if not by tasting your reality?? So show us, please, Dad.


Start date: 2007-09-30
Post date: 2007-10-01
Version date: 2007-10-02 (for last meaningful change)

Some things have changed in this vision since last re-vision … umh, ok. It will be cool and humiliating and enlightening to see the differences when posting new versions of this mindmap in future posts … this thing is never finished, I think. And, this is my first image on this blog, bringing some more colors to it 🙂 Note that you need to click the image to view it in original, readable size.


Start date: 2007-09-29
Post date: 2007-09-29
Version date: 2007-09-29 (for last meaningful change)

Since 2-3 months I am occupied with demystifying my faith in God,
that is, removing “religious elements”. This article is an interim
result statement, summing up the main findings for your and my reference.

Demystification proceedings so far

  1. The creator’s greatness. It was argued that there is no
    “24/7 immediate company with God”, see “What
    kinda company with God is possible?
    “, “The
    third way of life in this world
    ” and “The
    cream white area of contact with God
    “. This is an effect of God
    being a so much higher being than we. Another aspect of the creator’s
    greatness is that his creatures are expected to be conscious of their
    createdness and live that out (see “Createdness
    and creativeness
    “).
  2. Humbleness as the essence of faith. See “Createdness
    and creativeness
    ” but probably also “Weakness
    strengthens the church
    “.
  3. The natural nature of the congregation. See “Be
    your congregation
    ” and “Natural
    transformation in the church
    ” and “Weakness
    strengthens the church
    “.
  4. The (mostly) natural nature of communication with God.
    In most cases, God communicates with us indirectly by the truth already
    revealed (see “Is
    wisdom indirect?
    ” and “Natural
    transformation in the church
    “) and not directly, concretely,
    individually (see “What
    kinda company with God is possible?
    “, “The
    third way of life in this world
    “).
  5. The natural nature of human happiness. See “Autarky
    escape from the hedonic treadmill
    ” and “Please
    define happiness!
    “.
  6. The natural nature of transformation. See “Is
    wisdom indirect?
    ” and “Natural
    transformation in the church
    “.
  7. The meaning of visible elements in the gospel faith. See
    Formfehler
    in der Beziehung zu Gott?
    ” and “Learning
    the Lord’s supper anew
    “.

Demystification effects so far

I just can write from my own experiences here so far. First of all,
my faith got much more justifiable – I remember when I was once unable
to argue with someone why I thought character transformation in the
church would be a supernatural act of God and not just education. Now,
I’d say transformation
is indeed natural
, but that does not weaken my faith. Instead, I
got a much clearer view what I can expect for a conformation of my
faith by experience: the contemporary miracles of God, which I’d really
like to document in the “Second Acts” project. The clarity here comes
from a conscious division between explicitly supernatural elements of
faith (miracles and where God indeed speaks individually and directly
to us or guides us concretely) and “naturally implemented” elements of
faith like transformation, communication with God by truth, the freeing
effects of truth, the nature of happiness, the nature of faith
(humbleness), the essence of the congregation and the symbolic-only
meaning of visible elements like the Lord’s supper and baptism. The
naturally implemented elements of faith are real and belong to faith
but constituate no experiences that justifiably confirm our faith –
they need not either, as there are enough miracles out there yet to be
documented 🙂

I’d also say that my relationship to God got much more relaxed,
stress-free and liveable by demystification. The insight that this
world is “my universe” and God wants me to live in it by myself,
equipped with the truth he reveals, makes it easier to cope with
experiences of hardness and unrighteousness that would before have
shaken my faith in a “good” God. Now, they’re just what happens in a
fallen world; God did not intend them for me and will not concretely
remove these things out of this world (in some cases) as he’s sure I
can (learn to) handle because he equipped me with truth and with his
Spirit of Truth.

And by a stress-free relationship to God I also mean that I don’t
have to force myself into communion with God by reading the Bible or
something. Religious exercises are a myth that mostly comes from the
idea of “24/7 immediate communion with God”. Instead, in this mostly
“mediate relationship” to God, I hope I’ll emphasize loving my fellows
much more in the future, as this is how I can express obedience,
thankfulness, worship and appreciation for God. And Besides, a
relationship just has the quality it just has, and I simply (try to)
accept the relationship as it is, knowing that God will succeed in
making this relationship unfeigned and good some day.

Demystification issues not yet addressed

This list contains, to my current knowledge, the issues I need to
investigate further before I’d think that my practical living with God
is non-religious and sound. At this point of time I will hopefully be
able to proceed to put the “Second Acts” idea into practice, which is
to document critically and objectively the supernatural acts God does
today, to confirm my faith and the faith of others. I know that
succeeding here and even being able to start this whole thing is not
dependent on my own creative power (what is this, actually) but on
God’s grace. The good news is, God is full of grace, so I
justifiably hope that this “Second Acts” thing will once be done!! And,
dear readers: you’re really really welcome to join me for this, so if
you share the same desire for seeing and soberly documenting God’s
contemporary acts, please let me know!

Now, the list of issues with (my) faith where demystification is
still needed to some degree:

  1. Marriage demystification. What is marriage in God’s
    view, actually? And what is the taboo-loaden human conception of it?
  2. Prayer. How to thank God for a meal without religious
    catchphrases? Probably, prayer is more about transhipping sorrows to
    God than to expect answers as from a wishing machine.
  3. The Holy Spirit. How can I recognize the admittedly
    supernatural stuff he dos within me? He seems to be
    perceivable as an “undirected positive force” in a Christian, but how
    to prove scientifically that others don’t have this that way and that
    this force is supernatural?
  4. The Revelation of John. How to deal with the symbolism
    of this bible book without introducing religious meta-physics and
    unverifiable exegetic myths?
  5. Decision finding. How to deal adequately with the
    freedom God grants us regarding concrete decisions? How to know where
    God indeed wants us to be obedient to some concrete hint or command?
  6. Objective view on miracles. Most contemporary miracle
    reports carry some religious bias, as opposed to the sober style how
    the bible documents miracles. So sadly, many miracle reports today will
    probably turn out to document natural phenomena only.
  7. Conversion. Is it a naturally implemented phenomenon or
    is some naturally unexplainable miracle implied?
  8. Who belongs to God? What is really meant by being saved
    exclusively by Jesus?
  9. Has the Bible supernatural effects? Is it the
    “supernatural word of God with strength of its own”, or is e.g. dynamic
    understanding of bible passages (i.e. an understanding which changes
    over time) a natural phenomenon which can be observed with other texts
    also?
  10. The theodicy,
    demystified.
  11. The subtle acts of God. I don’t really know what this
    will be about, but it deems to me that the greatest part of what God
    does today is subtle in nature and difficult to recognize.
  12. What means that our supply comes from God?
  13. What is the nature of God’s promises? Where does God
    promise average results, and where individual concrete blessings he’ll
    give?
  14. What does the devil and the demons really do? And where
    do we only thing they do something, while it is a natural consequence
    of this world’s quality, e.g. a bad coincidence? And, what is the
    nature of how evil spirits work: do they do evil concrete deeds, or are
    they an undirected evil force in people’s mind?

Start date: 2007-09-29
Post date: 2007-09-29
Version date: 2007-09-29 (for last meaningful change)

Religious view on transformation in the Sunday service church

How do people get transformed in character? Here is a ridiculously simple answer: by hearing the “Word of God”. There’s also a bible verse for it: “[F]aith comes from listening, and listening comes through the word of Christ.” [Rom 10:17 ISV]. So the idea is that the “Word of God” is something special that transforms people supernaturally, probably because the Holy Spirit produces the “fruit of the spirit” [Gal 5:22 ISV]. If this notion is correct, then we’d be correct to offer a Sunday service, preach to them, and that’s it.

This view on transformation bears at least the following problematic implications:

  • Character transformation is supernatural. It is effected by God, cannot be done by men, and cannot be reproduced by natural means. Therefore, followers of other religions are suspected to be essentially untransformed people. Which is not appropriate to many non-Christians unfeigned kindliness and happiness.
  • Sunday services include a supernatural encounter with God. Where people think that God speaks through a sermon and transforms people supernaturally they start to think that a Sunday service means meeting God. Practical expressions include: the idea that one can be “close to God” when worshipping; the idea that our positive emotions when worshipping are something God creates in us; the idea that very prayer is a talk with God as close as interpersonal dialogue; the idea that God “speaks” to persons by purely subjective inner immpressions, feelings and thoughts, on a regular basis, and about quite meaningless details of practical living. These ideas are simply problematic because one finds testimonies to such phenomena also in religions with totally different content, i.e. where Christians would expect that God is not present (e.g. the LDS movement). Of course I admit that God does (sometimes) speak immediately through a sermon to people, e.g. be hidden prophetic elements. But it is a big difference to view this as the basic principle of transformation, or as rare occasions where people have special needs. And besides, transformation is not supernatural on these occasions either: God speaks, and that’s natural interfacing with people because people can speak also.
  • Didactics have to be avoided in the church. Where God is believed to transform people supernaturally through the sermon, human contributions are seen as inappropriate, even impediments. Therefore, didactically skillful teaching is avoided in church, resorting to ex-cathedra lessons. People might quote to support this:

    “(17) For Christ did […] send me […] to preach the gospel, not with eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. (18) For the message about the cross is nonsense to those who are being destroyed, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved. […] (20) Where is the wise person? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? God has turned the wisdom of the world into nonsense, hasn’t he? (21) For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know God, God decided through the nonsense of our preaching to save those who believe. (22) Jews ask for signs, and Greeks look for wisdom, (23) but we preach Christ crucified. He is a stumbling block to Jews and nonsense to Gentiles,” [1 Cor 1:17-18,20-23 ISV]

    Note however that these verses speak about how the central, saving
    message of the Gospel is communicated, not about how people should be teached in the less central matters once they accepted Jesus as their
    saviour.

  • Naturally inviting conditions are inappropriate in the church. Again: where God is believed to transform people supernaturally, comfortable housing for a church is believed to be annoying accessory, and unspiritual. One of the best examples that I know of are served by some unpleasant church meeting rooms of closed brethren in Germany.

Natural transformation by truth …

As shown above, one might view transformation as solely the supernatural work of God, but experience indicates otherwise. In addition to the problematic implications shown above, here are confirmations that transformation happens in natural ways:

  • The truth will set you free. Some words from Jesus:

    “(31) So Jesus said to those Jews who had believed in him, “If you
    continue in my word, you are really my disciples. (32) And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (33) They replied to him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves to anybody. So how can you say, ‘You will be set free’?” (34) Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly I tell you that everyone who commits in is a slave of sin. (35) The slave does not remain in the household forever, but the son does remain forever. (36) So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!”” [John 8:31-36 ISV]

    Disciples (“learners”) of Jesus continue in his word, that is, continue to hear what he says [John 8:31 ISV]. In the course of doing so, they get to know the truth to the full, because Jesus will tell them the truth [John 8:31]. And this truth sets them free, esp. from the slavery of sin [John 8:34 ISV]. So Jesus presents sanctification as a result of learning the truth from him. And not of a supernatural immediate re-programming of the believer.

  • Accepting authority empowers education. Repentance is, basically, accepting God as authority. This is a proper foundation for successful education, as such people are willing to obey. There seems to be no need to demand other differences between Christians and non-Christians than this, which fully and naturally explains the differenteffect of Christian teaching on both groups. Repentence resp. accepting God as authority might also be verbalized as “being humble in spirit” (admitting to be wrong, where applicable, and turning one’s way) or to “convert”. Conversion experiences are also found in other religions, so they are natural and cannot prove the Christian faith to be true, as supernatural conversions (i.e. miracles) could. But this shouldn’t bother, as the Christian faith gets its proof from God’s supernatural signs (see below). It’s not the form that makes the Christian faith unique (there are other religions as well, where religion means pursuit of something supernatural), so there’s nothing to bother about when seeing analogies in form. But it’s its substance, its true content, that makes the Christian faith unique.
  • Christian education produces nice non-Christians. The character of people who where brought up in a Christian context but are not (yet) Christians themselves indicates that education builds character and that no supernatural work is implied therein.
  • Truth produces nice non-Christians. There are other religions which emphasize love and friendly behavior, and these religions produce authentically friendly people (at least to some degree). It is truth that love and friendly behavior are good things, so becoming loving and friendly people is here an educational effect of this truth.
  • Everything human is spiritually relevant. Psychological defects like being overly shy due to some traumatic experiences of rejection are of spiritual relevance because they are impediments to spiritual life (here, to encouraging andreproaching people). Character transformation here needs to cope with “psycho-mechanical” issues, and it does, my “psycho-mechanical” means (education). The idea that human attributes like temperament are “unspiritual” is itself unspiritual: we are the collection of our human attributes. God does not want to free us from our human attributes until we are some abstract spiritual being, but to cleanse and then perfect all of our human attributes.
  • Being a disciple. Jesus termed his followers “disciples”, i.e. learners; see e.g. [Luke 6:40 ISV]. Learning is a way how human beings get  deliberately “re-programmed” by experiences and teaching. To add some rather speculative thoughts: the human “spirit” might describe a  complex infomation system, not an atomic unit; see also my crazy article Wesen der Personhaftigkeit, Wesen des Geist-Seins. The human spirit might include the information system implemented in our brains, and some other information system which is independent of material substrate. So learning might be seen as changes to this “spirit program”. The “fruit of the Spirit” indicates something growing, so probably something that the Holy Spirits sows by teaching people the truth, and what then changed their “spirit program”, i.e., “grows up in them”.
  • The permanence of the flesh. Christians know something they call “sinful nature”, “flesh nature”, “flesh” and the like. It can be described as a program directed to do evil. Everybody has it, and the fact that Christians never get fully rid of it (though it gets weaker) proves that Christians remain “normal” people by substance, i.e. their character transformation is effected by education, not by substantial changes.
  • Natural effects of the Bible. Here’s a passage where Paul admonishes his young co-worker Timothy:

    “(14) But as for you, continue in what you have learned and found to be true, because you know from whom you learned it. (15) From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures that are able to give you the wisdom you need for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.(16) All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (17) so that the man of God may be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work.” [2 Tim 3:14-17 ISV]

    Note here that he attributes the source of the “Holy Scriptures” to
    God, but lists only natural effects: one learns them, may find them to
    be true, may have trust in those who taught them, may gain wisdom
    through them, may get teached, reproofed, corrected and trained in
    righteousness by them or by people who apply them. Together, these
    effects amount to a full transformation of character [2 Tim 3:17 ISV].
    So the Bible works by transporting truth and educating in the truth,
    just as every other book that contains truth. The Bible has no special,
    supernatural way of changing people. That God is the source of this
    book should not make us expect a quasi-magical mode of operation.

  • Challenging Bible passages. The natural, educational
    mode of operation in Christian teaching can be shown from various
    examples of Bible texts, which are Christian teaching and serve as the
    basis for further teaching. For example:

    “(11) Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and exiles to
    keep on abstaining from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul. (12) Continue to live such upright lives among the Gentiles that, when they slander you as evildoers, they may see your good works and glorify God when he visits them in judgment.” [1 Pet 2:11-12 ISV]

  • God’s grace educates us.

    “(11) For the grace of God has appeared, bringing
    salvation to all people. (12) It trains us to renounce ungodly living
    and worldly passions so that we might live sensible, honest, and godly
    lives in the present world” [Tit 2:11-12 ISV]

    Paul uses here the word “παιδευοω” (Strong 3811), transliterated
    “paideuo”. It means to educate, parent, bring sb. up. Nothing about
    supernatural, quasi-magical experiences.

  • Educators in the church.

    “(11) And it is he who gifted some to be apostles,
    others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, and still others to be
    pastors and teachers, (12) to perfect the saints, to do the work of
    ministry, and to build up the body of Christ (13) until all of us are
    united in the faith and in the full knowledge of God’s Son, and until
    we attain mature adulthood and the full standard of development in
    Christ.” [Eph 4:11-13 ISV]

  • Recognizing God’s children. The fact that Christians
    should be recognizable needs not to imply a supernatural
    transformation. As with every children, it will be apparent who brought
    them up and educated them.
  • Where God’s word does not transform.

    “(6) For some of these men go into homes and deceive
    foolish women who are burdened with sins and swayed by all kinds of
    desires. (7) These women are always studying but are never able to
    arrive at a full knowledge of the truth.” [2 Tim 3:6-7 ISV]

    These are people who do study the
    Word of God
    but do not get transformed because they don’t want to
    accept truth in exchange for their lustful life. So not the Word of God
    transforms (in some supernatural way), but it communicates truth, which
    would transform people
    upon accepting this truth.

  • The Spirit as the implantation of God’s law. The
    following promise of God for the New Covenant seems like a confirmation
    for the view that God supernaturally transforms people by directly
    re-programming them, changing their substance or implanting something
    in them:

     

    “I will also give you a new heart, and I will put a new
    spirit within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your
    flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.” [Ezechiel 36:26 WEB]

    But read on:

    I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk
    in my statutes, and you shall keep my ordinances, and do them.
    [Ezechiel 36:27 WEB]

    Viewing this as an explanation of the preceding verse, the “new spirit”
    and “new heart” is identical to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
    Which is a person, communicating with the persons she dwells in. By
    teaching the truth ever and ever “from the inside”, the Holy
    Spirit is God’s law “in our hearts”. So the difference to OT
    believers
    is not a supernatural change in our substance but having the Holy
    Spirit as a companion who will never leave as he did back then. Thus,
    we will never be without the truth any more, never lost in a situation
    where transformation stops because nobody tells us the truth.

  • God’s educational dealings with peple. From the Holy
    Spirit it is said that he is the Spirit of Truth [John 14:17 ISV] and
    that he teaches and reminds Christians of all that Jesus teached and
    said [John 14:26 ISV]. So it appears that even where God (through his
    spirit) interferes immediately with individual people, he does not
    change them supernaturally but educates them, using natural means such
    as interpersonal education.

… and supernatural confirmation of truth

Christians believe in the supernatural reality of God and his son
Jesus Christ, whom the believe to be their savior. In the above
discussion of practical Christian living we found a natural mechanism
only: transformation by education. Natural mechanisms could work
without God, or if God would cease to be. In fact, education (to the
good) is at work in other religions, which Christians believe
to be “without God”. So natural mechanisms cannot
prove believed supernatural content: the Christian day-to-day
experience serves no justification to believe in God.

This is a problem. Therefore, God shows up and proves the believed
supernatural content by supernatural acts:

“(3) It was the Lord who first told people how to be saved.
Then those who heard him told us the true way. (4) God also proved that
it was the true way. He gave signs. He did things that surprised
people. He did many things by his power. He gave the gifts of the Holy
Spirit to people just as he wanted to.” [Heb 2:3-4 BWE]

“(17) “These are the signs that will accompany those who
believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new
tongues; (18) they will pick up snakes in their hands; even if they
drink any deadly poison it will not hurt them; and they will place
their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” […] (20) The
disciples went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord kept working
with them and confirming the message by the signs that accompanied it.”
[Mark 16:17-19,20 ISV]

“(7) They made them stand in front of them and began
asking, “By what power
or by what name did you do this?” (8) Peter, filled with the Holy
Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people! (9) If we are
being questioned today for a good deed to someone who was sick or to
learn how this man was healed, (10) you and all the people of Israel
must understand that this man
stands healthy before you because of the name of Jesus from Nazareth,
whom you crucified but God raised from the dead. […]”” [Acts 4:7-10
ISV].

Of course, Mark 16:20 does not imply that the Lord does nothing else
on earth that performing these signs (think of answerig prayers, e.g.).
But this verse shows that signs are there to prove believers to be
right. And not to help the believers in their everyday life. Healing is
not to help people
but to show God’s power and character, so it’s not unjust that some
people don’t get healed.

God also justifies the content applied in transformational education
by these supernatural acts. And by contemporary supernatural acts he
shows that all this content is still true. With such an
enormous confirmation for our faith, there’s no problem with
transformation by natural means: as there’s no need any more to search
for confirmation in a supposedly supernatural transformation process.

Here’s a short explanation why God’s supernatural acts indeed prove
Christian’s believed supernatural content. Truth means that the
difference between reality and a piece of information about reality is
zero. In post-modern times people realized that their ability to
perceive reality is quite limited, so they argued that we can never get
to know the absolute truth. This neglects, however, that truth might be
revealed to us by a being that knows better than we, namely, by an
omniscient God. God shew his omniscience and character of integrity
throughout history to let people experience that he can be trusted.
That is, trusted in what he says about Jesus today. One problem
remains: as God is invisible, we know about him by information, which
is a coded representation of reality, referring with names like “Jesus
Christ” to entities of reality. But how can we be safe from
misinformation, perhaps coming from evil sources to deceive us? How can
we be sure what information about God is true? The answer is simple:
“God” is per definition the mightiest being, so he can hinder other
beings from misusing certain names. He proves that Jesus is his son and
the Messiah by laying power to the name of Jesus: outstanding miracles
happen “in the name of Jesus”, which are impossible in any other name,
showing that there is a connection between Jesus and the Almighty.
Jesus told of several such signs [Mark 16:17-18 ISV], and gramatically,
the term “in my name” refers to each of them, is the centerpiece of all
these signs. This, by the way, explains why non-Christians are able to
do miracles “in the name of Jesus” [Mt 7:21-23 ISV]: God lets them
happen as he wants to give evidence that Jesus is the Christ, not that
the miracle-workers are godly people.

Summing up: natural transformation by truth makes up a natural,
non-religious day-to-day life; and supernatural confirmation of truth
makes up a sure,
justifiable faith in God. The separation between the natural, normal
and the
supernatural, exceptional element in Christian living is probably
sharp, that is, everything belongs either fully to one or fully to the
other category. At least, the difference is much sharper than most
Christians believe; wherefore it could be described as a “dichotomy”.

20 ideas to freak out of Sunday service church culture

It made me feel quite relaxed and free when I realized that
transformation is effected by education, and that it’s religious to
believe that all transformation is supernatural. Which is my
expericence for today that the truth sets us free [John 8:32 ISV]. I’m
free from the burden of eliciting or imagining ongoing supernatural
events in a “naturally supernatural
Christian life”. This new freedom grants some fascinating new thought
about congregation!! Originally, I wanted to name this article “I don’t
believe in church anymore”, and to whine about congregations being
without a sweeping effect on people. I wanted to give up hope for this
to ever change, as I never saw anything different and had no idea what
was wrong. Missing any rewarding or motivating effect, I wanted to
resign active service for the congregation thing, focusing on
intentional community as an alternative for personal sanctification.
Now, things have changed. If transformation happens by education in the
truth, we are welcome and even obliged to apply truth in our
congregations in ways that change people radically, intensely,
absolutely crazed, and even more radically, to more and more personal
Christ-likeness. Here are 20 ideas, and you might have some more:

  1. Encouraging lowering the privacy barrier. One of the
    biggest impediments to an educational church is our reluctance to
    approach one another, be it for correction or encouragement. At least
    in Germany. Because privacy is a taboo, and we fear uncomfortable
    experiences when ignoring it. There are some things we can do to lower
    our sense of privacy, especially growing mutual trust: being together
    until as a group until it feels “normal”, common undertakings and the
    like, see also below. But the biggest part is to get the courage to
    ignore the privacy taboo, even risk the relationship to somebody to
    help him or her. Interfere with people, get in their way. Pray for
    this. And, again, a practical tip, origninally from Dale Carnegie:
    practise what you fear and you’ll lose your fears.
  2. Communal setting. The kind of rooms can hinder or foster
    the educational purpose of a congregation, because education is
    implemented in natural means. Rooms that invite to hang around,
    socialize and spend time with people, in groups and in one-to-one
    settings, foster mutual education through the application of individual
    gifts.
  3. Supporting the family. Families are the basic units of
    education, and children experience a 24/7 education therein, which is
    close to ideal if the education’s quality is close to ideal.
  4. Pooling books. When the members of a church pool their
    books, cheap access to pre-selected quality lecture is possible for all
    without problems. This is by far better than to sell books in church,
    which is often practised today.
  5. Experiencing extraordinary situations together. Risky
    undertakings, dangerous situations (even moderately dangerous ones) and
    other extraordinary stuff binds people together as it produces “social
    ecstasy”, tipping over many taboos. Volunteering as a team to help in
    catastrophy relief and humanitarian missions is a practical idea here.
  6. Travelling together. These times will turn out to be
    filled with intensive community, mutual openness and mutual dependence,
    also in practical issues. Remember Jesus and his disciples on these
    dusty roads. Also, you’ll undergo lots of extraordinary situations
    together, binding you together.
  7. Doing sports together. Can have some of the effects of
    travelling together. Also, physical efforts makes people come out of
    their shell.
  8. Making music together. Avoid the typical presentation
    setting where one worship group plays the music and others sing along.
    Instead, create an open setting for several hours where people are
    encouraged to take part in prominent and experimental ways, like
    improvising another part when singing, playing percussion and so on.
    Things are fine when the groups happens to play in flow state, as then
    all reluctance to interfere with each other, to take a prominent
    position and to make errors is gone, and this will lower interpersonal
    barriers.
  9. Temporary community living. Weeks oder months long
    phases of being together 24/7 could turn out to be times of intensive
    character changes. Because one has to bear all those nice people 24/7.
    After such phases, a recreation phase might be advisable, i.e. a
    temporary return to Sunday service congregationalism. Practically,
    community living might take place in somebody’s home, but people must
    not be reluctant to experience the proximity.
  10. Intentional community integration. At least one part of
    the congregation might be an intentional community, inviting especially
    broken people as a community setting provides a better opportunity to
    help those who need more care.
  11. Intensive discipleship. Practise much mutual
    encouragement and correction.
  12. Training in interpersonal communiction. Thinks like not
    interrupting people, developing trust, detecting and describing one’s
    own emotions, detecting and understanding other people’s emotions,
    special hints for cross-gender communication.
    Women practise sometimes a special variant: they take an audio-visual
    lecture (they view a soap-style feature movie), then discuss the
    character’s emotions, decisions etc..
  13. Training in convincing people. Where transformation is
    natural and conversion is no miracle, mission is the attempt to
    convince people of the truth. God’s Spirit will do the same when on
    mission: using sommunication to convince people.
  14. Training to rebuke people. Peope are reluctant to say no
    and to criticize people because they don’t know how. So train this, by
    enacting ficticious situations, videotaping and then discussing them in
    the group. This idea can be extended to enacting complex social
    situations, perhaps even creating a feature film from this, thus
    training social competency. Then, more realistic situations can be
    created by performing real talk show discussions with non-Christians,
    perhaps to be sent over an community channel / open channel.
  15. Coaching in approaching people. Getting to know new
    people and approaching people naturally is no wide-spread
    qualification, at least not in some western industrial countries like
    Germany, Great Britain and Switzerland. Wherefore sharing this
    qualification in practical midtown hands-on exercises is a good idea.
  16. Training in pastoring and counselling. Modern management
    sometimes likes agile systems, e.g. training everybody in everything.
    Why not train everybody in church in pastoring?
  17. Being enthusiastic about good. “[Jesus] gave himself for
    us to
    set us free from every wrong and to cleanse us so that we could be his
    special people who are enthusiastic about good works.” [Tit 2:14 ISV].
    Enthusiasm is a typically human attribute, something natural. And as
    such it has its place in church.
  18. Non-religious emotionality. Because supernatural
    encounters with God are the rare case, we should not expect this to
    happen every Sunday morning. Which means for our emotions, to view them
    as natural phenomena. If we do so, we can use them in non-religious
    ways: being exceedingly emotional in a Sunday service is fully
    appropriate for every guy and gal, if its a reaction to what we know
    about Jesus, not to what we think Jesus says to us right now.
    That is, if it does not bear the idea of being effected immediately by
    Jesus (or
    the communion with him) in this very moment.
  19. Non-religious use of religious language. Religious
    language
    is outrageously suggestive of immediate encounters with God, things
    that God said to individual people and stuff. However, a prosaic view
    on the Christian day-to-day life as being essentially natural needs not
    result in prosaic language. To express the greatness of God and our hope
    to see it, we might use religious and lyrical imagery language, if we
    know what we’re getting into: if used with non-religious intention,
    images are just images and must not be understood word-for-word.
  20. Using diverse didactic means. Seeing the huge
    educational aspect of church, I wonder why we think it fit to use
    lecture-style teaching only (in the sermon). Didactics offers so much
    more possibilities, and for most cases at least one better one
    (audio-visual education, computer-aided instruction, hands-on
    experiences, discussion groups etc. etc.). People who are gifted from
    God to be teachers should discover the didactic implied in their task.
    Today, church is perhaps the only place where out-dated ex-cathedra
    teaching is the predominant form of education, and is even widely
    believed to be the ideal!

One word of caution: we’ve seen that it is fully o.k. and “spiritual”
to desire a better
educating church, one that changes, not just teaches people.
But one must keep the focus on deep education that changes character,
not just drills behavior. Though Christian living comes by education,
there is a big difference
between quick and dirty drill of behavior and real transformation of
character. Especially the performance goals of strategic church
planting tend to seduce our focus from transformation to drill, e.g.
when we’re contented with appropriate visitor numbers in the church
services — wherefore it might be advisable to dismiss all goals and
just be the church, everybody with his and her gift; see also my
article [Be
your congregation
]. Then we’ll hopefully be surprised one day by an
“unplanned” deep transformation process in our church.

Answering objections

Here is some possible criticism, and some answers to that. This section is in draft state yet.

  • When character transformation is a natural process, why are
    people obviously unable to transform themselves?
    Perhaps, the
    (religious or humanistic) self-education of people towards truth fails
    because our quality is below a certain threshold. See for example the
    French Revolution, which succeeded and preceded tyranny with
    brotherhood. So we need Jesus to educate us personally, where no man is in place to do it. And because we were not even able to recognize the truth ourselves [citation needed], we needed Jesus to come down from heaven and tell us (that which is now traduced in the Bible). Note however, that education by people is the normal case, and immediate education by Jesus or the Holy Spirit the exceptional case.
  • How to deal with the fact that God educated Israel all the time and they did not get changed in character? There are some possible answers:
    • some individuals only did change in character, which is just
      the same as in Christianity today
      there is one supernatural element implied today: that God gave us his Holy Spirit which wants” to do God’s will in us though another part of us does not; but a basic directedness towards God is there, the basis for effective education
    • they did not have the indwelling Holy Spirit as a continuous educator
  • We need here a good exegesis of Jesus’ words “Nobody can come unto me it be then that the Father draws him.”
  • When being filled with the Holy Spirit, people’s character changed spontaneously, didn’t it? It seems that being “filled with the Spirit” is about short-term empowerment. Peter’s courage at Pentecost towards heathen and in dangerous situations and his lack of courage towards those of James lateron illustrates this. Being “filled” is no change of character: it’s ability that is not our own. While God’s education indeed changed our very character (see Hebrews on that: where is a father who does not discipline his child).