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Restoration — And the Art of Motorcar Repair

I believe that within us all is a drive to restore. Restoration is our calling and purpose upon this earth. Christianity is unique in its narrative that this world is not the way it was meant to be. It is damaged. It is inferior to the ideal. Even the best possible human life is left wanting in the end.

The reason we are in this great position of unease is not clear. Many great preachers, philosophers, and thinkers have tried to find the handle on this metaphysical dilemma., but have come up short. Only God knows.

defender restore

It is one of things we mortals cannot know in this life but only speculate about. Why did the Christian God not create a world that was and remained perfect to the end? The cliches down work here any more. But such a world wouldn’t have an end would it? Why isn’t there Heaven here on earth? If you think you know the secret . . . well, just keep it to yourself. You are only building sand castles out of the wind.

Of course, the Gospel is the story of restoration. But it is not only our personal story of finding peace with God, the world, and ourselves. It is our commission of purpose to bring this restoration to the world. This carrier of hope and repair is woven into the fabric of our souls. We can’t escape it. It comes out of our pores and seeps from our hidden places. It is who we are. We are the great restorers, although some do not live up to this calling but live as active destroyers.

It is from this place of being the restorer that many of our hobbies find their wellspring. The desire to fix, restore, paint, recover and replace. For me personally, I have spent years restoring and repairing old houses. While it has given me some satisfaction, it has also left me much poorer. This never became so clear to me as when I had spent years restoring an old victorian house in Minnesota and the next buyer only wanted it to tear down for the land.

I have had the chance to restore a few old cars. The most notable ones are an old Land Rover Series III and now, my dream car, a Land Rover Defender 90. I fell in love with the cars when there was one parked on my block in Cairo, Egypt. Then I assumed they were beyond reach because they (except for a few years in the case of the Defender) never sold in the US. This all changed for me in 1998 when I was on a cross country trip with my family. At Grand Teton National Park, I spotted a Land Rover Defender in a parking lot. Then, as I discovered web sites such as E bay, I became hooked.

Last year I found this 1990 Defender from an importer, who brought it from the Italian Alps. To the Italian owner, it was a junker, worthless. For some strange psychological reason such Defenders have great value in the US and are worth restoration.

There is something deeply satisfying, from a psychological or spiritual place, to seeing a bolt or part that doesn’t work and is a rusty mess. Then to grind the rust out, replace the mechanical parts with  new ones, rust-proof it, paint it and make it as close as new as possible. This craving or passion comes from that deep place where we want to restore this earth, the people and nature to that incorruptible perfection that it once held.

I only wish that my own soul was subject to the angle grinder, rust-proofing and replacement with a stainless steel equivalent.  I only wish I could take the lives of people who have broken, and to unbreak them. What joy it would be to restore them completely. We speak of human restoration, but most of the time we are speaking of forgiveness and a hope of true restoration in the new earth far into the future. Full restoration is not possible in this world, because this world is not pure.

 

A Journey Through Trumpland

Okay, it is no surprise to anyone that I’m not a Donald Trump fan. I just spent two weeks in the heart of Trumpland. That trip included Tennessee, Georgia and Florida. I had several conversations with old friends, who I knew in my Evangelical days. Most were from the PCA church, but some Baptists and Methodists. They all voted for and continue to support Trump. I tried very hard not to freak out and lose my cool, but to listen and have meaningful conversations and to learn

Here is what I heard over and over:

  • Donald Trump does not have the ideal Christian character, but God is using him. God demands that we all support our president because it is God who has put him into power.
  • Their choice was to vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. While Donald Trump was not their favorite (several said that Ted Cruz was their favorite, which in my opinion was not much better), a vote for Hillary would have been clear sin. Why? Because Hillary is evil. She and her family are corrupt. She has been very involved with anti-Christian behavior such as supporting Muslim groups, even Muslim terrorist groups. She has support sexual abuse of children (sexual pizza-gate story). She supports abortion for all. She wants to put people on the Supreme Court, who will normalize abortions, same-sex relationships, and promote the rights of immigrants over “real Americans.” This is clearly not God’s plan for America.
  • Most of the negative things you hear about Donald Trump are from the liberal media. Satan uses the media to discredit Donald Trump and the good man that he is. Did you know that he and his family abstain from alcohol?
  • The liberals have put the good ole white people under siege. They want to make white people the underclass and put minorities in control of everything. That’s the agenda behind the Confederate statues coming down.
  • Islam is trying to destroy Christianity around the world and Donald Trump is the great defender of Christianity.
  • When I said that Donald Trump is a narcissistic liar, the come back from each one (as if they got it straight from Fox News) is that Obama exhibited more of a narcissistic personality (but they could not name one example).

So, I was polite, but sternly challenged each of these points. I share this story to look honestly at the problem we have before us and think how we can change the hearts and minds of so many who call themselves Trump Christians.  J. Michael Jones

Bibleland

I just got back from taking a tour through the deep south or what some, fondly (wink, wink), call the “Bible belt.”  This is my culture and the place where I first discovered Christianity. I was there to visit family.

My Christianity has changed a great deal over the decades but when I visit with old friends down south, it is like watching an old re-run from the seventies. The script is unchanged, for them. They speak from a place I was, and maybe they are deeper into it now, while I have moved to a different place.

Sometimes we get an intuition that is beyond words. The words are probably available to express the feeling, somewhere, but we are too inept as word-craftsmen to assemble the words into a meaningful thought. Sometimes it takes time. Part of that process can be where we must over-come our own intrinsically applied mores to speak honestly without fear. This is what happened to me since my trip.

I had feeling or intuition during my visit and during my Bible belt conversations that there was something wrong. I sensed that there was something very different in how I saw the world now, something that can be explained in words if I could just find them. If finally dawned on me as I was on the Delta flight from Atlanta back to Seattle. Part of the difference in that old Bible-belt Christianity and my own view of faith is the cornerstone word, “Bible” and how it is viewed.

Even to walk onto the thin-ice of this topic would immediately raise eyebrows from my old friends. Their view of the world, in which Christianity plays out, is one where there is a narrow path of orthodoxy. Our Christian lives, in their eyes, is played out with us walking this tightrope of certainty. One step to the left or right, is a disaster, where our soul becomes lost and we suddenly become the most despised people on the planet (the Christian-has-beens). The greatest force wind against the tightrope walker is the force towards “liberalism.” This theological liberalism was born in the nineteenth century and moved aggressively into North America during the last century. From the Bible-belt Christians perspective, this liberalism is the most dangerous position for Christianity, and really isn’t Christian at all. It has many hallmarks but some of them include; not taking the Bible literally, accepting women into leadership roles, accepting diverse gender roles (approving gay marriage is the worst to them and a certain sign of liberalism) and being a political Democrat. The Democrat thing is another long story.

Their view of scripture is not just that it is to be taken literally (such as the six days of creation, six thousand years ago) but the position of the Bible is exalted to a very high place. I remember attending a revival at age 12 and the evangelist used an example where a little boy was at his house playing with Matchbox cars. They were using books to hold up the track. His friend grabbed a big Bible for this purpose and the evangelist’s son became very angry. He told the boy to leave because the “Bible is God’s work and you must treat the book with great respect.” That is just one example of this feeling. I allowed myself to think about this view of the Bible and it dawned on me that it could be a corrupt view, at least when I had it.

That statement right there would scare the crap out of my friends. But I want to explain what I mean by this and I don’t mean that the Bible is a myth or not important. I will speak in philosophical terms in order to remove the “religiousness” of my words. If God is there, and I believe that he is, the Christian God has spoken truth to us in the reality that he as created and the written word of the Bible. Therefore, reading the Bible and studying it, has great merit, but it should be read as any other narrative, not with magic glasses.

Here is where I think the Bible belt has gotten it wrong. I think they have raised the Bible to the level of idolatry. Some would ask, how can the Bible be an idol?

All idols were made out of God-stuff. If it was a stone or golden statue, that material if from God’s creation. So, the Bible can be an idol.

How they have moved beyond respect for the Bible into idolatry is exemplified in the following ways;

  • Rather than the Bible being a straight forward text with clear meaning, it becomes a book of magic. God can speak directly to you about something very personal that has absolutely nothing to do with the meaning in the historical context.
  • If reading or studying the Bible is not central to any Christian activity (fellowship, preaching, Sunday school, or Christian conversation) that activity is not authentic and a complete waste of time.
  • Related to # 1, the Bible has the secret answer to all questions and all human problems. So, if the answer is not clear, you have to take obscure verses and craft an answer that works.
  • Again, related to # 1, the Bible magically changes your life. If you were a horrible person, and you spend a lot of time studying the Bible, you will become a very good person over time. It is magic.
  • Every position for every part of human life has a right and wrong answer and that answer with certainty is within that Bible.

I will pause here and like several other articles (better than this one) on the topic.  I will close by saying that all idolatry is sin and obstructs our view of God.

See Also:

https://relevantmagazine.com/god/have-we-made-bible-idol-0

http://unlockingthebible.org/possible-christians-idolize-bible/

https://rachelheldevans.com/blog/article-1210736874

 

 

 

An Incremental Loss

I am spending two weeks with my mother in Tennessee. She is 96. She has senile dementia. It is not the Alzheimer’s type but that associated with chronic hearing loss, near blindness and the aging brain. She is at the point that I have lost 90% of her. “Her” being the full mom that I once knew.

Even the 10% is hard to draw out. It takes patience. It takes screaming into her maxed-out hearing aids. It requires repetition. Then a rustic conversation develops, but quickly fades again into the haze of an endless soundtrack loop of, “Are you healthy? I’m healthy. Do you have children? I prayed for children and God gave me some. How many did I have? Are you hungry? Do you have children? Are you healthy?” The loop plays continuously throughout her waking hours.Young Treva

The missing will not just come after the end of all of this. The missing has started for all who know and love her. It started a long time ago. We miss a rational conversation. We miss the energetic woman who worked non-stop to cook and serve her visitors. We miss her hearing our words. There is so much to tell, but would fall on deaf ears, and even if heard, would find an incomprehensible mind.

Time is a wave form. Its final sum is nil.  It brings great things. It takes the great things away. It brings the birth of a child. He takes away those we love, one by one. It brings to us our great loves. It breaks our hearts when our loves leave. It then mends the broken hearts. However, it brings the next heartbreak. Time brings our long-lost family and friends to our doors with hugs . . . but too quickly, time ushers in the day of their departure with tears once more. Time has no consciousness no morality. It is inert. It gives and takes again without intent.

I think it was a sister-in-law who said that life is a long process of letting go. We don’t realize this until we are thirty. Maybe in the years before, the wave of time has more bringing. But then the tide begins to turn and the leavings becomes greater. It is letting go. Then letting go again . . . and again once more. It is a miracle that any of us survive all of this.

A Frail Hope

I have always been an eternal optimist but that hope is facing tremendous challenges in this present day. I have even begun to consider if I have gotten it all wrong.

In the past, I have had this over-riding hope, despite having anxiety about the particulars of daily life. I admit that my optimism within the meta-narrative of life is tied closely to my concept of God. I believe the common Christian concept of God, which I previously held, was a god who was defined as much by Greek mythology as scripture. He was a god who was weak. A god who was boxed in by things like cause and effect. A god who could only create the world in six days, six thousand years ago. I will explain later.  But basically, this god struggles to get his will through into this world so, therefore, we thought, we had to bend the rules of truth to help him.

In my present concept, God is bigger than the human imagination can carry. I can’t get my head around it. I accept the idea of a universe that is at least 13 billion light-years wide. Plus, I am open to the concept, as some mathematical concepts suggest, that this could be one of many parallel universes or what is called the multiverse. But even with that model, my God is still bigger and created it all.

I will further digress to illustrate this small god in practical terms. I have a problem with cheap miracles, which I hear every time I’m in an evangelical circle. I was in such a social setting this week when someone shared a such a miracle. They were driving and, to their surprise (because the road had gained elevation on an otherwise warm day), hit a patch of black ice on a mountain highway. Their car flipped and they were seriously injured (fractured neck). But the miracle occurred because one of the people in the line of cars behind them was an off-duty fireman. I was tempted to say if God worked outside of natural laws to cause a fireman to be in this line of traffic going up the mountain, why didn’t God either warn you about the ice or even melt the ice before you got there? In that case, God’s actions would have saved you from these horrible injuries, injuries which you will have to live with for the rest of your life. However, when I have said things like that in the past, the evangelical group sees me as cruel or mocking God. They accuse me of having a small God. But the god they are describing, like the gods of Greek mythology, did not have control of fate, but only reacted to fate, somewhat like Superman, Batman or Cat Woman would do. As if their god was surprised as much by the black ice on the road as the driver. So, the only thing he could do was react to it by bringing a fireman. My God is much bigger, so big that he has created a place where he allows cause and effect to play out, without fear of changing his ultimate will in this universe.

I don’t know which came first, my optimism or my eschatological view. It could have been that my optimism made my eschatological view, post-mil, more palatable. But it seems to me, that I stumbled on the post-mil position first, through studying scripture, then my optimism grew out of that.

I will explain this view first. The post-mil (post Millennium) view is simply the end of this human world will not come until the Church has finished its work of bringing the complete Gospel here and in full bloom. When I say complete, is not just that people reach a decision to follow Christ, but the working out of a truly Biblical view is realized in society in all of its glory. Then this age will close and God will recycle or restore this material universe into a more perfect material state. In other words, I believe the Gospel will succeed and in the end, the Church will prevail.

I will define further what I mean when I say succeed. With the recent years of information about the “perfect Islamic state or Caliphate” and the ideas of the Christian America, as some within the Republican party would tout, it is easy to misunderstand what I am saying.

I see the gospel in full bloom in society is not where women are even more oppressed, where science is banned along with non-Christian music, art and free thinking (as the present “Christian” Trump administration is leaning, and the Evangelicals are basting in that glory). No, to me that describes hell better than the full Gospel working out within society.

I see the success of the Gospel is being where science, truth, art, and beauty have reached a pinnacle. Where we study war no more . . . and have given up hate as an option for viewing other people. I see it most where a perfect justice prevails. Where no living creature goes without food, shelter or love. Within that society, no one is judged unfairly. So, the black man in Chicago who is pulled over by the police is not judged to be a danger and therefore shot for no good reason. I don’t see it where the person who dresses or behaves differently is not esteemed as inferior. But where real evil, lying, manipulations, murder or stealing does not go unpunished, even among the rich and powerful. I see it as a real utopia for all and not just a utopia for the elite while the masses suffer.

Victory over the Devil

Seeing this potential has been my hope. I could see that hope playing out in history where things that were acceptable fifty, hundred or a thousand years ago, are totally unaccepted today. Slavery is just one example. I could see it where the younger generations were more just, less bigoted than my generation. Their ideals are better than ours was.

Now, My World-view is Being Deeply Challenged

 

I remember the first time I went “online,” back in the early 90s, I commented how wonderful of a tool it was going to be. I saw that knowledge could be at our finger tips. However, after the 2016 election year, I now see how the internet, like everything else, can be used for so much evil. I see how “fake news” is rampant, coming in from the political left, the right and from those who just want a lot of “shares” and make up amazing stories. This loss of truth in 2016, and it was a long time coming, is very discouraging. I have had a daily bombardment, especially during the election, of lies via the way of Face Book. Lies about the candidates (both sides sharing the lies), lies about science, about health care and the list goes on.

Satan has always been the father of lies, and as that father, he must be gloating. But will the Church prevail? Will the gates of Hell be overcome by the work of the Church, as I previously thought?

As I have said before, I do not have political party loyalty.  There are many things I don’t like about the Democrats. But in this age of Trumpism, I feel confused. I have seen the man for decades as a narcissistic buffoon and con man. I see him no different now, except for the mass following. The studies say that more than 80% of Republicans still support him.

Here is the part that really discourages me. If it were true, which it is not, that only the most gullible and ignorant people are Trump followers, I could get my head around that. But, that is not true. I know many good, smart and well-informed people who adore the man.

Beyond the American political front, I feel disheartened by the world right now. Horrible wars killing civilians, even babies, without regret. People like the Russians can bomb hospitals and the outcry is a whisper at best.

Then you look at the environment. Just a couple of years ago I had great hope that we humans, as a mission of the Church (and this mission doesn’t require you to be a Christian to be involved) were making progress with a great hope for the future. But now, there appears to be a massive reverse. The politically expedient position is to not give a damn about this planet.

The last part of this discouraging path is the fact that the evangelical church is not opposing the lies, and the destruction, but are equal partners in it. My evangelical friends don’t want Syrian refugees coming to America. They really don’t care if they are bombed or gassed in Syria, as long as they don’t come here and take away Seven Eleven jobs from their teenagers. They don’t care if the “video tapes” showing Hillary Clinton selling arms to Isis out of her van is a hoax. They still pass them on to as many people as they can.

God, my prayer to you is to bring us hope. Bring truth. Bring justice to this world. Show us how we can be instruments of these things in this earth before it is too late.

  1. Michael Jones

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Pastors Walk into a Bar. . . er, I mean Coffee Shop

I have overheard many interesting conversations within the walls (or patio) of a coffee shop. Saturday was no exception. I had just finished my long (once a week) seven-mile run. I took my coffee outside where the breeze would help evaporate my sweat.

Sitting at the table beside me were two men. One was stocky, with short white hair. The other quite thin and brown hair. Otherwise they looked about the same age, around the mid to upper fifties. I will paraphrase the conversation, as best I can remember. I came in during the middle of a very personal conversation. My intent was not to eavesdrop, but I couldn’t escape it. I will refer to them as “Stocky” and “Thin.”

Stocky: “I don’t know. I mean, we went through two very emotional periods with churches and I guess I burnt out.”

Thin: “So you just left?”

Stocky: “Well, I left that church and did not indicate to the denomination that I wanted another one right now.”

Thin: “So you’re just quitting the ministry?”

Stocky: “I don’t know. It’s too early to tell.”

Thin: “So where are you and Betty going to church?”

Stocky: “Right now we’re not.”

Thin: (with some emotion in his voice) “So you’re not going anywhere?”

Stocky: “Well, not right now. It’s still early. I just need to figure some things out.”

Thin: “I don’t think you figure them out by walking away from God.”

Stocky: “I’m not saying I’m walking away from God. I just need some time. We’re hurting right now.”

coffee shop

Thin: “But the scripture is clear, you should know that, that we must be under the authority of the body of Christ. It sounds like you just want to wing it.”

 

Stocky: “I’ve been a pastor for over thirty years. I’ve spent my life inside the walls of a church, I just need a break. I need to figure some things outs.”

Thin: “I’ve been a pastor almost that long and I still love my church. I  couldn’t imagine walking away from them or the ministry.”

Stocky: “Well that’s good for you.”

Thin: “It should be good for you too.”

About that time I got a call and missed the rest of the conversation. However, I was very tempted to stand up and to scream at Thin, “What the hell is wrong with you? Did you hear the man? He’s hurting. So it is time for you, dear pastor, to shut up and to listen!” How many times when we enter a period of pain, questions or confusion that we are stifled beneath layers of guilt manipulation? How many times are we afraid to talk to anyone, and that fear is based on the reality of rejection?

In my previous blog I often used the allegory of life being like a 100-story building. The foundation of that building is where reality or real-truth exist. But we live on different floors, depending how much we want to live outside of reality. I have found some brands of religion (tv evangelists and that world is my favorite whipping boy) that lives up near the top, far removed from reality. Politics lives high in this tower of facades as well. Maybe that’s why this year there has been a convenient marriage between the tv evangelists-types and the entertainment-political world of the Trumps. Pro wrestling also exists up near the top and it doesn’t surprise me that those same two previously mention groups associate with pro wrestling as well.

As I listened to these two pastors, both, by habit I assume, were living high in the building. Stocky was wanting to descend, down toward reality. He wanted to talk about his pain (so I assume). Yet, Thin loved the fake world up high were appearance was all that mattered. If Thin really loved his colleague, he would keep his damn mouth shout and beg for more . . . more reality, of how the man was hurting. He would have become like Job’s good friends. Those who didn’t accuse, but sat in the dirt with Job, just to be near.

J. Michael Jones

 

Christian Mysticism Part III, The Real Mystery of God

The Metaphysical Perspective

I’ve heard it said that it requires mysticism to experience the mystery of God. I disagree. I will point out again the Christian culture has mixed a Greek metaphysical view of nature and super-nature (that realm of supernatural).  For clarification, I will state that some of the synonyms for this concept of nature might include; creation, the seen, and the material. Within this Platonic framework, as I said before, nature is subordinate to the spiritual. Some would go as far to say that nature is evil, part of Satan’s domain.

In a much more Biblical view, the material isn’t inferior, as if it came from a Sears and Roebuck catalog, rather than from God’s creative act. It is of great significance and value because it is made by God. There is a continuum between the seen and unseen that is not morally hierarchical, but linear. Both are God’s stuff and of equal value. No human understands the character of the unseen (one of many mysteries) and could be the same as the “other universes” (multiverse) that some astrophysicists have described. This is not an attempt to reduce God to the material or to deny the fact that He can work outside of the laws of nature, but it is to elevate the material from the low position that Christians have unfortunately ascribed it to. As a guest pastor implied last Sunday, to really, really experience God, you must enter into the “crazies.”  He meant irrational.the-fire-breathing-dragon-17473

Imagine that you had several kids that loved to play hockey. You set up them space on the paved driveway for roller hockey. It took you about ten minutes. But a year later, you went to the great expense to build them a wonderful ice hockey rink on the other side of your house.  Then you start to notice that they never used the professional-level hockey rink. You ask them why. They informed you that the driveway, while inadequate, was from you, while the ice rink was built by the guy down the street, and he was not a good guy. They, out of honor for you, preferred to use the space that you quickly created for them. How would that make you feel? Confused?

God created this material world for our good pleasure and He did it with great mastery. This includes our physical bodies. He also made the intangibles like reason, beauty, emotion, and logic. The pastor from last week was implying that God only made the inline skate court in the driveway, where the kids had to pretend they were on the ice. In other words, God only created the spiritual and to really know Him, you have to encounter him there.

I will close this section with an answer to an imaginary question or argument. You may say, “Okay, so the material is more important than I thought. But, to have a balanced spiritual experience, you should embrace the beauty and wonder of the material and that of the immaterial.”  If you are talking about the irrational, then you are going back to the Platonic concept that there really is a place of irrationality, where God dwells. I doubt that.

The Historical Perspective on the Mystery of God

If this were 2500 years ago and you lived in a small village somewhere in modern-day Europe you would be surrounded by the possibility of nearby mysteries. If a visitor came to your village and reported that they had seen, in Africa, a huge flying reptile that breathed fire and a horse that was orange and had the ability to stretch its neck far up into the trees to graze, you would be likely to believe both. We knew very little about the world at that time and both creatures were equally plausible. Mystery was everywhere and close at hand. But as discovery and science became more dominate, we got to know the world better and better. At this point in history, we have searched the four corners of the earth and there are no fire-breathing dragons or probably never have been. There are remains of creatures millions of years ago that could pass as a dragon. But we know with certainty that Giraffes exist.

So, much of the close at hand mystery has been resolved. I’ve heard it said (in a lecture once) that there are no mysteries left so we are a sad and depressed people. That is NOT true. The mysteries have only become more distant. There are still many unknowns on this earth, from the abyss of the Pacific to the sub-atomic and the microscopic. But the greatest mysteries, in my opinion, are in the realm of physics and astrophysics and the unexplored universe. Some of this mystery is garden variety, such as the concepts of magnetism and gravity. These forces have only been described (for example Newton describing gravity) but no one has a clue how either really work. Then we move on to the mind-boggling concepts of things like Dark Matter and Dark Energy (not to give moral connotations of “darkness” as not from God, but dark meaning not observed or understood). Another name for Dark, as the astrophysicists use it, is enigmatic.

So, people who argue with me that you must have irrational mysticism (spiritual in the unseen realm) to experience God’s mystery wholly, I disagree. I mean quantum mechanics is irrational. The dark energy is irrational. Not everything in this material world is rational and should bring awe.

Others will say that my position is based on a non-Biblical philosophical concept of Materialism (physicalism). That all of existence is within the boundaries of the material and there is nothing else. That is not my position at all. That position comes from the Enlightenment where an arbitrary position was taken that if something cannot be observed, it does not exist.

So, what is the harm of creating mystical experiences that are in the spiritual instead of the material (assuming that things like quantum mechanics and dark matter and energy are still “material”)? After all, I do believe in the immaterial.

The harm is two-fold. First, is falling back on the erroneous belief that this material world is not enough. God didn’t do a good enough job with it, so we need something more. Or that God didn’t even make this wonderful ice rink but only the (supernatural) clearing on the asphalt. My major point of resistance is that a focus on the spiritual, for the sake of the material, creates a place of great dishonesty. As I said in my first post on this subject, when I was a charismatic, it was the most psychologically dishonest time of my life. We were all faking miracles, happy to report them in each conversation.

This guest pastor (like many other mystics) told of supernatural experience after supernatural experience.  These stories are very alluring, especially to the immature Christian. But I would bet that these stories are false.  I have seen Christians caught up in the sensational “lying for Jesus” mode many times. When he told a story of healing a woman from liver cancer, I was seriously tempted to find out her name and to investigate the story.

dark_matter

 

 

I work in medicine. I was once in a practice where a lady had terminal lung cancer. Out of desperation, she went to a traveling faith-healing tent revival that came to our town. The evangelist under that big tent cast a demon out of her and proclaimed her cured. She called our office and said she didn’t need to come back because she was cancer free now. Her family circulated the story about her miraculous healing, even to my church. I was an elder ther

e and heard the story shared over and over of how great God was. I was not allowed, by law, to state that her last chest CT showed a progression of the disease, as expected. To everyone’s shock, she suddenly died from the disease a few months later. I imagine that some people lost their faith due to the delusional notion and assurance that God had healed her when he had not. It was part of the “supernatural” charade. The traveling revivalist? Well, he was long gone, on to the next town where he would proclaim people were healed. Some, I’m sure, had a treatable form of cancer, but stopped their treatment because of him. They probably died due to lack of treatment caused by the lying evangelist. That’s the harm.dreamstime_s_43697528-720x380

In my book, Butterflies in the Belfry, I make the point (several times I believe) that, if God is there, he dwells with reality. The closer we are to reality, the closer we can be to him. Psychological honestly goes hand in hand with spiritual maturity, not sensational, but untrue narratives.

The Emotional

In closing, I must be clear that “experience” is a key part of our knowing God. But, my point is that it is okay to call that experience what it is, emotions. Emotions are not “of the flesh” as inferior, but God-given. It is part of who we are and would naturally be part of any relationship. So it is okay to say that when I went up on the mountain to pray, I felt an overwhelming joy when I considered all that God has done for me. But if I say, while praying I felt an angel come down and whisper in my ear that God loved me and then I turned and saw the angel flying away, that is an old-fashioned lie. Sin in other words. But can God work outside the material? The Bible as accounts of this. But it is rare. The ice hockey father may prefer to play with inline skates and a ball on the asphalt at times, rather than their beautiful rink. But it does not devalue the magnificence of the rink.

 

 

Part II—The General Side of Mysticism Resistance

I will make the point once more that the purpose of this article is not to criticize those who find mysticism as an important part of their lives or spirituality. My purpose for writing is for those, like me, who have no desire to be mystics, at least in accordance with the popular definition. We need to understand that it is healthy to have our view. There is an unspoken belief that the really “spiritual” Christians seek the mystical expressions. I’m here to say that is not true.

Mysticism Within the Philosophical-Historical Context

I will try to make this simple and cover only one small facet of the question. Within Christianity, the tension starts when the early church was painted on the canvas of the Greek culture. The Church adopted, in part, a Greek-Platonic metaphysical view of existence. I say, “in part” because the early church leaders pushed against this idea through their great Church councils, yet it was still woven into the fabric of the new religion.

Without saying too much, this Platonic-Christian view sees this

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material / physical world has less importance than the spiritual, which was defined as residing within an unseen world in the heavens. Some, such as the Gnostics, saw the material as not only inferior but evil. This was the devil’s domain and heaven was God’s.

Within this mindset, it became automatic that an experience, which could not be explained by material world constructs (reason, logic, empirical investigation) was superior to those that could. For that reason, mysticism was very attractive.

We just had a guest pastor who was explicitly clear that the true experience of God is irrational because God is irrational. I profoundly disagree with this conclusion and I think such thinking is very dangerous, setting up the believer in the irrational-mystic to living in a surreal world underpinned with a lot of self-deception. God is the writer of logic, reason, and the giver of rationality.

Without getting into the nitty-gritty of the historical developments (which I do cover in my book, Butterflies in the Belfry) I will just say that when this desire for the spiritual/mystical reached a pinnacle, the cultural manifestation was the Dark Ages.

Jumping ahead, a different Greek philosophy, Aristotelianism, began to seep into Europe north of the Alps after the Dark Ages. It was a very reasonable view of the world starting from the premise that truth is reached by the empirical observation of our senses and then processed through our deductive reasoning. This new trend evolved into the Enlightenment of the seventeenth century. This brought many great advances to our western culture. During the Enlightenment, however, the thinking evolved to the point that if something could not be observed empirically, then it was not important. Finally, it reached an arbitrary point of saying that if something can’t be observed with our senses, then it does not exist. This was when the first great atheistic movement began. You can’t handle or observe God; therefore, He is not there. That tenet is still widely held today, especially within the science community.

The enlightenment, in contrast to the Dark Ages, carried a great hope of human’s reaching a state of utopia. Many great things did come from it. Some of this optimism lingered, at least in America, into the 1960s. However, most of this hope was dashed in the bloody American Civil War, the trenches of WWI, the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust, WWII, and the threat of thermonuclear war during the cold war. When there is disillusionment in the material world and human reason, there is always a tendency to return to the draw mysticism for a new hope.

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The turning point for modern American Christianity was the revival on Azusa Street in Los Angles in 1906. This was the birth of the modern Pentecostal movement, which emphasized emotional and irrational experiences as the essence of deep Christian spirituality. This movement swept the US and Latin America of the subsequent 100 years. This movement has had a profound influence on, not only the charismatic churches but all denominations Protestant and Catholic.

Along with this evolution of the western culture, within the framework of the great disillusionment of reason, the secular culture started to turn to Eastern mysticism for meaning. The big introduction of this type of mysticism happened in the 1960s with the experimentation with psychedelic drugs and the Beatles introduction of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. So, for a long while the secular cultures and the Christian one was on parallel but distinct paths. The secular embracing what became New Age spirituality and the Christian experimental or mystical, and for the same reason, a disillusionment with the hope of reason.

The problem, however, was that the reason that gave hope during the Enlightenment was not a healthy Biblical understanding of reason to start with. The Biblical view of reason is that it is not inferior to experience or “of this world,” rather it is good, wonderful, God-given . . . but weak. Due to the fall of humanity, you cannot reach perfect truth with reason. You certainly can’t reach perfect truth through an emotional experience, which is very elusive. Most horrible cults were built on the backs of pastors who had mystical experiences, where God spoke “truth” directly to them. Such horrible “truths” as “God wants you to give me your daughters for my sexual pleasure.” We, as Biblical-thinking Christians, must understand that we live in a world and a time when we must settle for a lack of certainty because certainty is not obtainable with our mortal minds.

Conclusion

Sometimes I feel that I’m living in the movie (the remake with a terrible ending) the Invasion of the Body Snatchers. In that movie, the protagonist is losing friends, one by one, who’s bodies have been taken by the invaders. In the last scene, his very last friend is taken. Now, it seems like every time I start to connect with someone, even intellectual people, that they eventually confine to me that all their Christian spirituality is wrapped up in mysticism. Dreams, voices, strange and trite miracles (which I think are self-deception). I hope, someday, to find thinking Christians who recognize the deceit of fake experiences and embrace the true spirituality of thinking, reasoning and enjoying God with their sober minds.