Prayer – Why do it?

In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin addresses why anyone should pray to God:

For there is a kind of [communication] between God and men, by which, having entered the upper sanctuary, they appear before Him and appeal to his promises, that when necessity requires they may learn by experiences that what they believed merely on the authority of his word was not in vain.

Now, he takes as a given that we hold to this:

Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6 English Standard Version (ESV)

And have done this:

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9 (ESV)

Calvin goes on to say that it is both necessary and useful to pray to the Lord for every good thing that He promises us. God reveals His promises to us in His word. Therefore, we should know the bible well.

Calvin points out that our only safety is in calling upon our heavenly Father:

Since by it we invoke the presence of His:

Providence to watch over our interests,

Power to sustain us when weak and almost fainting, and

Goodness to receive us into favor, though miserably loaded with sin.

Through prayer, we call upon Him to make evident to us all his excellent attributes.

As a result of calling upon Him, Calvin states:

Admirable peace and tranquility are given to our consciences; for the straits by which we were pressed being laid before the Lord, we rest fully satisfied with the assurance that none of our evils are unknown to him, and that he is both able and willing to make the best provision for us.

Next week, we’ll consider the question: “Why Should We Pray If He Is All-knowing?”

The Conversion of Paul - Caravaggio

Conversion on the Way to Damascus, circa 1600-1601, Caravaggio (1571–1610), public domain in the US

Settled Climate Science

Let’s admit that ideology and religion figure prominently in the firestorm of climate change. Even though climate changes’ proponents decry the opposition, they seem reluctant to remedy the situation.

I always think of a statement attributed to Keynes:

“When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?”

We should reconsider our approaches for the sake of the next generation.

Trees do burn but don’t let that stop us from replenishing the depleted rain forests all over the world. Plant trees where there were no trees before so long as it does no harm to citizens. Use long proven forest management techniques to reduce wildfire dangers.

Improve wind, solar, biomass, and nuclear power. Make them more efficient, and safer. Even the SDS was for nuclear power once. Consider cleaner fossil fuels instead of abstinence.

Don’t keep Africa down. Help them modernize by any means possible unless you favor genocide, enslavement, and shorter lifetimes. Help with energy technology improvements over time. Let the people of Africa rise!

We’ve got to stop trying to oppress and coerce one another because we think we know what’s best for everyone else. Change over time is possible if we’re willing to cast off the hard sell, and adapt.

High Park Fire

High Park Fire, US Air Force, 22 June 2012, 06:05:53, in the public domain

Ideology’s Characteristics by Bernhardt Writer

A few weeks ago, we reviewed Kenneth Minogue’s book: Alien Powers – The Pure Theory of Ideology. He writes that Western civilization is in the throes of a conflict over a right understanding of the human condition. Minogue suggests that the ideological approach is ascendant in our society while the transcendent is declining. He claims that there is a generally applicable pure theory of ideology best realized to date in Marxist ideology and its offspring. Let us touch on some of the general points from his book.

***

The common person on the street condemns the results of bad human actions. They attempt to rectify those results when possible through small corrective steps. These citizens view politics as the method to work together toward agreed-to ends within the context of the rule of law.

The ideologist takes bad actions as evidence of systemic structural oppression that can be remedied only through complete overhaul of the entire system (i.e., revolution). The ideologist sees incremental moral reform as the mystification (i.e., obscuration or concealment) by which an oppressive system strings its victims along. Politics is a question of power. Only the power of a unified oppressed group can wring concessions from the oppressors who have more power.

Ideologies disclose truths that the prevailing system has an interest in hiding. Ideologies claim all interactions within the system are power relationships. This truth is masked by societal constraints (i.e., moral and civil rules of conduct) and nefarious concealments perpetrated by the oppressive system. Denial of unmasked truths is proof of the system’s betrayal and oppression at work.

Societal constraints serve the oppressors’ interests. That these rules promote goodness and justice masks their real import which is the exercise of power over the oppressed. If the oppressed demand their right to overthrow these constraints they are rebuffed for not obeying a law, moral principle, or divine ordinance. But the real reason they are denied is because it conflicts with the oppressors interests in a zero-sum transaction.

Ideology reveals masked favoritism and domination throughout the corrupt system. The oppressed have rightful grievances (e.g., ones of class, gender, race, or ethnicity) against the system. Each oppressed person is imprisoned by the system’s conditioning which divides the oppressed from each other and from their real source of being in the species. Their struggle for liberation will result in true community.

Science, philosophy, law, and the state are instruments of special interests according to ideology. Although the intellectual elite might root out interests in favor of inclusiveness, those ideologically driven look to those deprived by the system for remedy. These persons, excluded by the system, unqualified to represent themselves, are appointed to lead humankind to liberation. This oppressed group is qualified because it is least tainted by the system’s corrupting influences. Of course, ideologists are ready and willing to indoctrinate the oppressed group in the ways of liberation and speak for them.

Ideology unveils for us the hidden truth otherwise mystified by the system’s apologists. Cleansed of the system’s mystifications we will see the truth of our essence and our consciences will rise to state of things as they actually exist. We will realize that the human species is defined by social (e.g., production) and material (e.g., eating) processes. We will arrive at this non-western reality through the struggle for liberation rather than through fruitless and pernicious contemplation.

Ideology is to revolution the way politics is to reform. Ideology does not debate whether theft, for instance, should be treated severely or mercifully but rather abolishes private property altogether making theft fictitious. Each resolution of this type typifies the true community. Any particular problem is solved only by solving all problems via revolution.

Ideology pledges a comprehensive and ultimate explanation of this material world (since it claims that the transcendent world to come does not exist). The explanation (i.e., ideological revelation) is not merely knowledge but leads to societal transformation which improves the earthly human condition. The difficulty of overcoming opposition and bringing about the transformation is evidence for the truth of the explanation.

The ideological model of human history is triadic: the primitive community in harmony gives way to a succession of societies characterized by domination. By overthrowing this progression man arrives at a higher form of his initial communal harmony.

***

Minogue credits Karl Marx as the sole individual responsible, not only for clear insights into capitalism, but for the creation of pure ideology. He claims Marx developed the theory further and more deeply than all others. It is this pure theory that Minogue describes in his book. We will cover the end result of the ideological project in a later post.

Karl Marx

A Portrait of Karl Marx, John Jabez Edwin Mayall (1813–1901), Public Domain in the US

The Upper Hand – Bernhardt Writer

Some people always have to have the upper hand. My father was one of those people. He would do whatever it took to gain an advantage over those he met. He would be proper, humble, a terror, or a fool if it would give him power and control over others. Fundamentally, he both disrespected and feared them at the same time. He was an expert at what he did and I was a rebellious teen who rejected his ways (by God’s grace).

Such recollections remind me of the scripture:

And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” Mark 12:38-40 English Standard Version (ESV)

These prominent men displayed unwarranted pride and feigned humility as a cover for their real motive: greed. Further, we have:

But understand this: that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (ESV)

My father was such a one. He said he took communion because he was merely hungry:

But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all… 2 Timothy 3:9 (ESV)

It saddens me, even today, that he did not repent while he had the chance. But such things should not characterize our behavior:

But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 1 Peter 4:15 (ESV)

In a note to this verse, the New American Standard translation renders meddler literally as: one who oversees others’ affairs. NAS adds troublesome to modify the noun in case we would misinterpret it. It’s the attitude, so prevalent today, of: “I know better than you,” put into action.

This should not be our way. Instead:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15-17 (ESV)

Even further:

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. John 13:12-17 (ESV) [emphasis added]

I’ve always heard the Lord Jesus’s statement in John 13:8:

“If I do not wash you, you have no share with me,”

as a rebuke to Peter’s:

“You shall never wash my feet.”

But what if it were a plea?

Listening to good doctrine (as important as we think that is) is not enough to soften our hard hearts toward others. Or as one of our poets wrote: “I need love…to melt the frozen sea inside me.”

‘I Need Love’ by Sam Phillips – performed by Sixpence None the Richer (with lyrics)

But, exhibiting genuine humility in all circumstances that proceeds from a changed, crushed, and submissive heart may just be our duty.

Why Do They Call Evil That Which Is Good?

Chris Mooney says in his article ‘Science Deniers Are Freaking Out About “Cosmos”’

Indeed, the science denial crowd hasn’t been happy with Cosmos in general. Here are some principal lines of attack:

  • Denying the Big Bang
  • Denying evolution
  • Denying climate change

Chris Mooney is a science and political journalist, podcaster, and the host of MJ’s Climate Desk Live. He is the author of four books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science. You can read the rest at Bill Moyer’s site and Mother Jones, if you like this sort of thing.

Michael Brendan Dougherty, a more subtle critic, says in his article: ‘In Defense of Creationists – Sure, they’re misreading Genesis. But for all the right reasons.’

My own view is that a literal one-week creation should be ruled out because, combined with the best knowledge we have of science, it would make God into a devil, a trickster. “Haha, mortals, I only buried these dinosaur bones and set the galaxies in explosive motion so the unbelievers would damn themselves to Hell,” doesn’t sound like a great or loving God. It seems to me that the very idea of good, eternal, law-giving God endowing man with rational abilities was the historical prerequisite for scientific exploration.

Michael Brendan Dougherty is senior correspondent at TheWeek.com. He is the founder and editor of The Slurve, a newsletter about baseball. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, ESPN Magazine, Slate and The American Conservative. You can read the rest of this article at The Week.

In the act of creation, God demonstrated overwhelming creative power throughout time and space (and whatever else there might be that we have yet to discover). We reviewed this concept in-depth in our post ‘Every Good Story – Thysdor Ya’Rosel’ and more succinctly in ‘All the world’s a stage…

So far as misreading Genesis, we covered that issue in the recent post ‘Nip ‘Em in the Bud.’

We live in a universe governed by laws which the Law Giver can suspend as it suits His good pleasure. We’ve covered this concept in another recent post ‘Instrumentality.’

For those of us old enough to remember, both the Twilight Zone and Outer Limits television series’ had episodes where that which existed had no reality behind it. How creepy would it be to dig into the ground and find nothing (i.e. no precious metals and gems, petrochemicals, fossils, etc.)?

To this point, the scriptures describe treasures in the sand and deep beneath the ground. As described in Scripture, the world is meant to communicate two major lessons concerning God:

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. Romans 1:20 English Standard Version (ESV)

On the fossils front, death certainly entered creation when the Lord God made garments of skins to clothe Adam and Eve after their fall from grace.  We also read that the creation was subjected to futility by God because of Adam’s sin. So, we can say with confidence that sin had far-reaching consequences for creation!

It’s helpful to see the Scriptures as an accommodation to us by an infinite and unknowable God. In fact, the Lord Jesus Christ is described as the image of the invisible God and declares Himself of one essence with the Father. He appeared to us in human form to identify with us more fully than we sometimes appreciate.

The Lord Jesus Christ taught often through parables:

A parable is a succinct, didactic story, in prose or verse, which illustrates one or more instructive lessons or principles. It differs from a fable in that fables employ animals, plants, inanimate objects, or forces of nature as characters, whereas parables have human characters. A parable is a type of analogy.

When asked, the Lord Jesus Christ explained to His followers why He spoke in parables:

This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Matthew 13:13 (ESV)

He spoke this to remind His followers of Isaiah’s prophecy:

And He said, “Go, and say to this people: “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” Isaiah 6:9-10 (ESV)

Again, reiterating today’s opening statements, isn’t He evil for not revealing all? In the parable about Lazarus and the rich man, concerning warnings about the place of eternal torment:

He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” Luke 16:31 (ESV)

Ultimately, it comes down to believing, or not, the documentary evidence that we have in Scripture. We’ve addressed the authority and basic meaning of Scripture in our posts: ‘Authority of Scripture?’ and ‘Scripture – What Is It Good For?,’ respectively.

So, we stand condemned unless He saves us and, otherwise, we remain dead in our sins and trespasses. God, through the apostle, speaks of His sovereignty in these matters:

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Romans 9:20 (ESV)

We may take offence to this statement. But, we’ve conveniently forgotten what preceded this passage:

…For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23 (ESV)

The onus for sin lies with us. We’ve examined our responsibility in the post titled: ‘There, But for God’s Grace and Mercy Through His Providence, Go I.’

Why one side insists on winning a war started before the First World War, I understand. Loosely paraphrasing Huxley, they believe what they want because they have an agenda that doesn’t include the One that made them. We’ve covered Aldous Huxley’s admission in our posts ‘Wonder Why?’ and ‘Mean Ends – Luxe Hso-Dualy.’

But I grow tired of their fight as this life winds down. These recurrent attacks endanger the liberty we all claim to cherish. You can keep your slapshots to yourselves. We’ve already addressed this latest controversy in our post: ‘Climate Changiness.’

Now, we’ve discussed how it’s our duty to live peaceful and quiet lives. The Scriptures say we will be persecuted as He was. However, dear folks of the opposition, your war is with Him. And you will inevitably appear before Him, so, please live peacefully while He gives you opportunity to repent.

Politicization of science by the right or the left is futile. Finally, it comes down to what the Lord Jesus Christ said to His critics:

Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? Mark 12:24 (ESV)

I urge you, turn and be healed.

The Garden of Eden, Thomas Cole

The Garden of Eden, 1828, Thomas Cole (1801–1848), public domain – US