Applied Faith is Jewish and Christian, Part 2

If the life of Abraham was about fulfilling horizontally conventional normalcy, Abraham could have stayed safely in Haran.  Abraham courageously journeys out into an adventure of faith following God into the Promised Land.  The cross at Calvary not only epitomizes the rejection of Jesus Christ, but also a rejection of a God-led, Abraham-quality expedition of faith central to Judaism and Christianity.

When Abraham walked the earth he was not only the father of faith but also the sole entirety of the Jewish nation.  A journey of faith after the pattern of Abraham is therefore Jewish by origin and definition.  When the leaders in Jerusalem rejected Jesus in favor of the concerns of worldly conventional normalcy, when they rejected an adventure of faith patterned after Abraham, they were in the most profound and concrete way being un-Jewish (Rom. 9:6-7).  The rejection of Jesus as messiah is an emphatic endorsement of worldly horizontal, conventional normalcy because it is a rejection of the bold and liberated adventures of biblical-quality faith starting with Abraham.

Acts 13:27 reads: “For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.”  Their tragic vision was so horizontally limited they could not recognize the divinity of Jesus Christ of Nazareth…right before their very eyes (1 Cor. 2:6-8).  They were stuck in the self-autonomy mode of going our own way.

This is why in the area of motivation it is imperative that Spirit-born Christians take up their cross and “enter in at the narrow gate” (Mt. 7:13) of our God-composed adventures of faith.  Every Spirit-born Christian is in the narrow gate and no longer on the broad road to destruction.  The new covenant promise of God is that all believers will know Him from the least to the greatest (Jer. 31:31-34).  The way of the cross in a journey of faith is the God ordained route to rise above worldly conventional thinking and into the realm where all things are possible with God.

We cannot possibly write the life-script of experiences that will bring us into a personal relationship with God.  We cannot possibly know ourselves well enough in-the-moment, using divinely wise foresight, to be able to craft a life-plan that will actualize our individual destiny.  We cannot creatively imagine a life-script for ourselves to match the innovative brilliance of life-plans like those of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Ruth, Hannah, Esther, Daniel, Peter, James, John, Philip, and Paul…producing personal character growth and at the same time filling a cultural and historical niche in time that is outside of the range of our wide-angle vision.

This is why the Spirit-born Christian today must abandon self-sovereignty, take up their cross, and begin their journey of faith following Jesus Christ…building a backstory of faith-generating experiences that form the basis for overcoming faith as described in Hebrews chapter eleven, Ephesians 6:11-18, and Revelation 12:11.

The Purpose for Finding Purpose, Part 2

When viewed in the context of the fundamental purpose behind all of our efforts in many fields of research and in the arts to find purpose in life, this concept of a God-invented journey of faith…leading to an understanding of the knowledge of good and evil that simply eating the fruit from a tree in the Garden of Eden could not possibly fully achieve…rises to the very top of all philosophy, science, history, politics, economics, and religion.

By the practice of following Torah alone (easily susceptible to becoming corrupted into autonomous self-rulership apart from God) the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus…sadly and tragically miss faith.

The Jews were supposed to do both…follow the Law and walk in God-composed journeys of faith.  In missing the all-important half…an adventure of faith…these Jews in the first-century time of Jesus were in the most profound way missing their special heritage of personally experiencing the faith journey of Abraham the father of faith.

Spirit-born Christians today must be careful not to make the same mistake by exclusively following institutional Christian church practices as their sole experience, while neglecting a genuine adventure of faith following Jesus Christ after the pattern of God-composed life-scripts recorded for us in the pages of the Bible.

If biblical narrative stories of faith correspond on a one-to-one basis with the Jeremiah 31:31-34 promise that new covenant believers will all know God personally from the least to the greatest…this then is of such fundamentally basic importance that it explains the spiritual opposition of the culturally reinforced, universal humanistic bent of “going astray” (Isa. 53:6) to follow our own path.  It explains the tragically impulsive jump at a knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden…taking us in the wrong direction…all the way throughout human history down to Martin Luther’s discovery in scripture that the just shall live by faith, in contradiction to the institutionalized rituals of pilgrimages, relics, and indulgences invented by man as a clever but worthless detour from faith.

If God has individually composed journeys of faith for every believer, and these detailed and distinct programs of faith life-scripts are purposely previewed for us through the lives of Abraham through Paul recorded in the Bible…then we have identified the singular, higher purpose behind the driving motivation to discover evidence of purpose and meaning in the makeup of the universe.

The Purpose for Finding Purpose, Part 1

In the quest for a theistic Intelligent Design approach in science to establish purpose in our reality, the logical follow-up question is: what is the underlying purpose of finding purpose in the natural world?  It appears that a God-composed adventure of faith life-script…as invented in the Bible…is and was the answer all along.

But the opposition of self-seeking autonomy…the central internal debate  that is the universal pull of humanism…proudly conquering our destiny entirely on our own…works hard to protect self-rulership seemingly at all costs…even at the unfathomably high cost of our eternal welfare.

The grand irony here is that the novel simplicity of the truth of the gospel message was and is right in front of us all the time.  The life-changing discovery of the existence of the kingdom of God, with all of its priceless benefits…salvation, eternal life, restoration of our relationship with God, and access into our true destinies through God-composed adventures of faith…really is like the parable of the man who finds a treasure hid in a field, who hides that treasure, and with joy then goes and sells all that he has to buy that one field (Mt. 13:44).

We do not have anything of value in terms of good works to bring to our salvation.  Jesus Christ paid in full our debt of sin on the cross of Calvary.  But the one thing we can bring to God in sacrifice at our new birth salvation experience is our will-and-way.  The one thing we can bring is ourselves…and the curious yet most liberating thing about the true gospel message is that this means not in part…but all.  Jesus Christ wants us to give all of ourselves to Him…as our valuable contribution to our faith-journey.

Following the Law alone…the Torah…the Ten Commandments and the Old Testament ordinances…carries the very real risk of falling back into self-autonomy…of creating our own rationalized ways of measuring up to our own standards for judging our performance.  But a biblical-quality journey of faith, divinely crafted out of the mind of God, offers no such option for wiggle-room manipulation on our part…because a God-composed journey of faith has a definite life-script storyline…a plotline…with a premeditated, end-point outcome having a pathway of intended events and circumstances that Jesus described in His Sermon on the Mount as the “narrow gate” (Mt. 7:13-14).

In other words, if we have the whole program in the form of the 613 Mosaic laws of the Old Testament…if the entirety of the information package of our religious experience is in our possession…we then have the ability to tweak and to adjust the more difficult elements to suit ourselves.  But a biblical-quality, God-composed journey of faith that is revealed to us incrementally as we travel along our faith-journey…does not always allow us to see too far ahead and thus tempt us to give-up along the way because the path gets narrow, steep, and seemingly “dangerous” to our conventionally limited way of thinking.

This is a part of the incredible genius of God-composed journeys of faith as recorded in the Bible…as guiding templates of instruction for our own journeys of faith.

While Moses and the Israelites were in their wilderness journey they were collectively as a group all experiencing an adventure of faith…momentarily bereft of their own individual plans and schemes…and as a result of their shared common goal of recapturing their Promised Land of Canaan…they had no other worldly conventional choice than to give all of themselves to God.  It was their learned-faith in God in the hardships of the desert wilderness that enabled them to go on to conquer their promised homeland.  It was learned-faith in the middle of an adventure of faith that enabled the Israelites to eventually capture their destiny…through faith in God, new-found confidence in themselves, and uplifting adherence to a divine set of laws and rules.

Even though from time to time, overcoming faith pops up in the numerous deliverances during the period of the judges in Israel, during the reigns of godly kings, and during the times of prophets like Samuel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, yet the Jews over time fell back into following the Law exclusively and forgot about their divinely sanctioned, universal access to the adventures of faith patterned in the lives of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, and David.

It is much easier in terms of our self-willed, humanistic bent to follow laws, rules, and religious practices that we can conveniently tweak, manipulate, and interpret to suit ourselves, than it is to step out into the unknown of a risky journey of faith not of our own making… that has a divinely crafted storyline of definite trajectory, direction, and intention…that cannot be toyed with.

We see this in the biblical narrative stories of faith in both the Old and New Testaments.

Purpose and Meaning in Life, Part 4

I have struggled my entire Christian life with the conflicting internal dichotomy of self-autonomy, versus yielding to the will of God the full and complete course of my life in my journey of faith…as has every biblical character of faith (Rom. 7:15-25)…as has all of mankind (Rom. 9:30-33).  We possess the free-will to go our own way, and we possess the free-will to respond in faith to our callings and follow Jesus Christ as Lord and King in our lives.

Discovering the all-truth of John 16:13 costs something…it costs the letting go of our claim to worldly conventional normalcy in exchange for God’s higher ways and plans for our lives.  This started with Abraham leaving the city of Haran in journeying toward the Promised Land of Canaan.  Letting go of the conventionally familiar, the comfortable, and the secure is the dangerous part of a journey of faith following Jesus Christ.

Pride-filled self-autonomy (living outside of our true purpose…our life-script…the most basic definition of sin), seeking our own way through  horizontally conventional normalcy…lions thinking it would be better to be like cheetahs or finches thinking it would be better to be like ducks…is essentially the most subtle of lies…the most destructive of untruths.  The fundamental tension between God’s way and our way forms the split…the break-away from worldly conventional thinking…that at the foremost edge of the pursuit of truth-in-living got Jesus Christ crucified (Jn. 5:39; 8:19; 8:42).  Taking up our cross and following Jesus Christ is the liberating action of exercising faith to step-out into our God-composed journey of faith…to discover and recover our true program…to become who we were created to be.

Purpose and Meaning in Life, Part 3

The Bible tells us that God lives in a timeless reality…meaning that as an intelligent designer He has an infinity of time to work with using premeditated foresight.  The body-plan lifestyles of each life-form are not progressive in a macroevolutionary sense, in the fossil record or as seen in today’s living world.  We do not observe infinitesimally small, incremental gradations in the body-plan life-scripts of living creatures evolving into new innovations, now or in the historical past.  We do not see some isolated group of Darwin’s finches on an outer island in the Galapagos archipelago with characteristics half-way in transition toward becoming a hybrid finch/duck, acting half like a finch and half like a duck.  We do not see an isolated group of lions in East Africa, utilizing a new-found top-speed of 70 mph in short sprints to run down Thompson’s gazelles in addition to their normal prey of zebras and water buffalo.

There is discontinuity (vast differences) between every living creature and plant because each as a creative, innovative invention stands as a unique whole….unlike anything else…in its body-plan architecture combined with its unique, coherently integrated lifestyle program for existence.  Yet also because of the vast quantity of diversity in the living world, there are many shared physical and lifestyle characteristics which make up the basis for the altogether human enterprise of classification and taxonomy.

In short, God gets the physical and lifestyle programs of each and every discontinuous living creature just right the first time (with some inbuilt variation in the genetic DNA to allow for microevolutionary adaptation to changing habitat) because He is timeless…and perfect…and we are not.

That God has a unique plan…a program…for each one of us is the reality of purpose and meaning that corresponds to the unique and discontinuous programs of each and every living creature we see in the natural world. This is why it is not odd or out of place to include a discussion of the body-plan life-scripts clearly seen in the living world, within a book highlighting “dangerous” faith contained in the liberated, unconventionally free-thinking, biblical narrative stories of faith…each likewise consisting of a highly complex arrangement of information invented out of the imaginatively creative mind of God.

The concept that God’s program is better than our program is the main theme of the Bible…the central tenet of the story of Abraham the father of faith…and therefore the core of Judaism.  It is the deadly lethal issue at the heart of the conflict…our plans or God’s plans…that leads Jesus Christ to the cross on Calvary Hill and to Resurrection morning for our salvation…that is the core of Christianity.  And it curiously…in the context of distinct body-plans and life-scripts clearly apparent in the natural living world…also splits apart intelligent design and common descent…as incompatible…in the creation/evolution debate.

The radically sophisticated and innovative message of the Bible is that each and every person has a unique program…a God-composed life-script…that is better than anything we can imagine through autonomous self-rulership according to worldly conventional normalcy and thinking.

Purpose and Meaning in Life, Part 2

With the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species in 1859, the scientific study of biological life in nature, and biblical, God-composed journeys of faith were inseparably intertwined.  Darwinism says that natural processes alone can produce all of the vast diversity and wonder of nature…including our intellectual and moral reasoning.  Biblical Judaism and Christianity say that the intelligent designer God is the creative mastermind behind the uniquely distinct and discontinuous physical body-plans for fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects, mammals, plants, and trees, and that God is the imaginative inventor behind all of the diverse behavioral lifestyle programs for existence and survival.

The Old and New Testaments of the Bible present God-composed journey of faith life-scripts, all centered around the innovative and unconventional concept of the cross of Jesus Christ…that God’s ways displace our ways…which is singularly and exclusively unique in all of human literary history and experience, outside of the Bible.

Truth by definition is exclusive.  A lion cannot be a cheetah or a leopard.  A lion cannot be everything it may want to be.  A lion cannot have the speed of a cheetah, or be able to hide up in a tree for prey to come by like a leopard…and still be true to the body plan and life-script of being a lion (1 Cor. 12:29…”Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers?…”; and Jn. 21:20-22).  God-composed life-scripts…unique, distinct, and exclusive…are real and true in the living world of nature and in human experience.

Conformity to worldly conventional normalcy is the great leveler…of bringing all human experience down into the horizontally flat band-width of unimaginative life-programs…overly concerned primarily with the security of basic survival needs…to the exclusion of purpose (Mt. 6:25).  Worldly safe, conventional normalcy would never produce the risk-filled adventure of faith life-scripts like those of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Ruth, David, Daniel, Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, Joseph and Mary, Peter, John, James, and Paul, to name only a few.

A biblical-quality, God-composed journey of faith life-script, even amidst the most basic and humble of life’s circumstances (Lk. 2:7; Mt. 13:55; 27:38) is at the uppermost pinnacle of imaginative adventure within the unique context of our created capacity for intellectual reasoning, moral judgment, free-will choice, and our inbuilt drive toward discovery (Mt. 6:33), when combined with divine purpose.

Our human thought process is progressive.  We discover truth in incremental steps…sometimes the hard way through errors and mistakes…sometimes by sheer accident…but mostly through persistent effort.  Our knowledge “evolves” and progresses over time.  History clearly teaches this.

I think that one of the reasons why Darwinism appealed so strongly to the scientific world of the late 1800’s is the naturalness of seeing a parallel application of the human progressive thought-process…the steadily advancing “doctrine of progress” in technology and science…applied to origins and development in the living biological world.  In hindsight, this would seem on the surface like a rational extrapolation.

But the fundamental mistake we cannot make today is to project our common experience of editing, revising, debugging, fine-tuning, problem-solving in the reactive mode, and “scrapping the whole thing” and “going back to the drawing board” realities of the human enterprise…to the specified complexity and functional coherence we now see clearly in the living natural world.  We now understand that complex systems of information like computer software programs, books, newspaper headlines, and the genetic DNA code found in all living things, requires intelligent design in their initial origin irrespective of subsequent revising and fine-tuning.

Purpose and Meaning in Life, Part 1

Human life is saturated with too much purpose, meaning, and people-issues to be the mere product of material particles.  The philosophy of naturalism…that says that the laws of nature define the rational limits of what we can know for certain scientifically about reality…robs human experience of the elevated pursuit of a God-composed adventure of faith.  The Big Lie out in the world is that our plans based on autonomous self-rulership…apart from God…are better than God-composed journeys of faith after the biblical pattern.

This is arguably the most important issue for Spirit-born Christians today.  God’s plans for us are better than our own plans for ourselves, in terms of truth, purpose, and fulfillment…in this life and for all eternity.

The words of the Son of God…Jesus Christ…in a human body, in terms of purpose and direction in our lives is critical: “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (Jn. 6:38).  God’s program for the Son of God was to pour out His life for us.  God’s program for each of us…to willingly pour out ourselves to God and to other people in some capacity…like the example of Jesus Christ…is the highest calling and the most satisfying fulfillment of purpose, meaning, and destiny imaginable.

On the African savanna plains, the reason that cheetahs utilize speed, lions use strength and teamwork, and leopards live and work out of trees, is that they have different programs…different body-plans and different life-scripts.  Cheetahs, lions, and leopards have shared characteristics that can be grouped together in a humanly devised classification system using the logical reasoning of comparing physical and lifestyle similarities.  But cheetahs, lions, and leopards are not all uniformly progressing and evolving toward the common goal of a functional top-speed of 90 mph in order to focus on catching as prey the fleet-footed Thompson’s gazelle.  The programs of these three large African mammals, classified together as “cats” in their taxonomic group, are uniquely distinct and fundamentally discontinuous in their brilliantly conceived life-scripts…pursuing different lifestyles while each occupying similar terrain in close proximity within the same ecological, territorial niche.

The same diversity of lifestyle programs can be observed for every living creature in the sea, on land, and in the air, and every tree and plant on the entire earth.  Each has a different body-plan and a different life-script.

This realization has enormous implications in our understanding of the natural world in terms of purpose, and it has enormous implications in our understanding of purpose in the world of human experience.

The idea that material particles alone could and would compose all of the varied life-script programs for all of the complex diversity of life…through the unguided self-assembly of variation and natural selection…is analogous to the arrival of a dictionary as the result of an explosion in a printing press…implausible and unrealistic.  Unguided self-assembly is unsatisfactory as an explanation for the uniquely distinct and highly complex body-plan life-scripts in the natural world.  Unguided, trial-and-error, progressive discovery in incremental steps over a long period of time is unsatisfactory as an explanation for the origin of biblical-quality journeys of faith…coming to us in the Bible, as in nature, as completely developed and fully functional wholes.