2.02 Does God Live Up North?

Eagle River Falls, Frozen

Santa Claus and Superman live at the North Pole. We know that fiction often reflects truth. If the great gift-giver Santa and the powerful Man of Steel both live up north, maybe God does too.

The evidence is pretty convincing.

We all face consequences for our actions. The farther north you go, the greater the significance of each action you take. It takes considerable work and skill to live in the far north. One decision about a trivial matter could mean death. If you get drunk and pass out in your backyard on a tropical island, then you probably just get up the next morning. If you live in the far north and pass out in your backyard in the winter, then you are dead the next morning. The remote cold places rejected by most men are unforgiving, and yet the greatest civilizations have thrived in the northern climates, probably because of the discipline that is required to live there. The farther you go north the faster you face consequences for your actions. The farther north you go, the more likely you will face God’s judgment.

God said he would put the goats on His left and His sheep on His right (Matthew 25:31-33). If God is at the North Pole looking down toward the promised land of Israel, the predominately non-Christian world is to His left, and the Christian World, including Western Europe and America, is to His Right. Look at a globe; it is amazing.

God created man in the Garden of Eden. When he kicked man out of the garden He said there would be a “flaming sword flashing back and forth” over Eden (Genesis 3:24). Perhaps Eden was in the far north and is now below the sea and the ice. The flaming sword could be the Northern Lights. (There are Southern Lights too, but they are not as visible.)

My southern friends would say that the North is God’s country because no one else wants it.

It seems pretty clear; God must live up north.

Health Care Chaos 

Candidate Trump said he would drain the DC swamp and make government work for the people once again. In order to do that the old way of governing must first die so a government by the people can be reborn. The failure of the Republican health care bill should not be seen as a surprise or viewed with alarm. Change first requires disruption and disorder. Chaos always precedes creation. Out of what seems like an impossible mess what is right will emerge. 

2.01 Circumstance

Rear of ER SchoolWhen I was young I remember being told that God was omnipotent and omnipresent. I didn’t have too much trouble digesting all-powerful. After all, I read Superman comic books and the idea of a powerful being did not seem like too much of an impossibility. But omnipresent gave me pause. He was everywhere. I had a hard time with that. How could He be everywhere? Was He behind every bush, inside every cave and building, and everywhere in outer space? Maybe outer space made some sense as an easy place for Him to keep an eye on things. But how could He be everywhere? I’m assuming that atheists and Darwinists have a similar complaint. Their main belief, I gather, is that there is no God, but I would think their human logic cannot deal with the idea of anything or anyone who is all powerful and everywhere at once.

Years ago in the 1970’s, as a college student, I still wanted to believe in God, but I also wanted to fit in with life and peers in Ann Arbor. I thought that if I applied the scientific method and pure logic to the meaning of life that I would end up concluding that there was no God. That idea scared me—what if somehow there was a God even though my logic could prove there wasn’t? The thing about that is God probably does not particularly care what we think about Him. Or maybe that’s not the right way to phrase it exactly. He knows what we think and what He sees isn’t pretty. He provided us with free will and lets us make our decisions no matter how oblivious we chose to be. Using my free will I concluded without any further dangerous thinking that my best bet was to ignore the whole problem and play it a little safe by not rejecting God; instead I would live without thinking about Him. I would just take life as it comes. Ironically, that was the right thing to do; not that I always did the right things as my life unfolded.

Just taking life as it comes is another way of saying that you are living within your circumstances. Living things obviously do change to adapt to circumstances. And circumstance is part of the key to understanding omnipresence. Circumstances are the conditions, settings, surrounding and environments that we are in. Our circumstances are what “is”. I am in Saint Louis right now as I write this. Odds are that you are not in Saint Louis as you read this. It doesn’t matter, you are living, so you are somewhere—and more to the point you “are”. I am. My wife is. So we “are”. If you don’t agree, then you still “are” because you have no choice. Let’s leave aside the issues of when we starting “being”, and if we stop “being” at some point. Let’s agree that we “are”.

Circumstances are the “are” we experience. One of my favorite film exchanges is between a Sargent and a private in the movie, “Zulu”. Surrounded and outnumbered by Zulu warriors, a private asks, why us? The Sargent calmly replies, “Because we are here…”. Your mind can zoom back through all of the factors and decisions that got you into a tight place, but that doesn’t matter to where you are. Circumstances “are” and we “are”. We think of ourselves as more than just mindless parts of circumstance. And we are not mindless. Most of us in America do decide where to go, what to eat, and who to be with. Those things, the things we choose, do define us. To others we are who we are. We are a part of their circumstances. We can be mean; we can love; we can be anything in between. We are all part of the swirling circumstances we live in. We each can alter circumstances to varying degrees. A king or president can change circumstances quite a bit. The Fed can raise interest rates and change circumstances for many. An author, songwriter, or screenwriter can indirectly change circumstances for millions of people. We can smile at someone or curse someone and thus perhaps alter his or her circumstances. Whether it’s for a little or for a lot, we form circumstance for others, and so we are circumstance; well, at least participants in it.

But we human beings, individually or collectively, do not control, determine or understand all of our circumstances. No king, no matter how powerful, can stand up to a tornado and make it stop. Why we were born where we were? Why are some of us tall, some short, some healthy, and some not? What about earthquakes, wind, rain, the sun, and every other part of nature? So while we are a part of circumstance and can influence circumstance, we are not all of circumstance. What is the rest of circumstance?

Here there are different schools of thought. Some people think that the rest of circumstance is basically random. “Is” just is. (Remember when Bill Clinton questioned the idea and meaning of is?) Other people think that there is an active being, God, who controls circumstance. But I find it more helpful to think about this in a different way. God is circumstance. More accurately God is. And what we see as circumstance is of God. I’m not going to say that God is limited to what we know as circumstance, probably far from it.

There is a continued dispute about how literally we should take what the Bible says. I find it helpful to see the Bible as something that can be understood at many different levels. Life constantly reveals things to us that were there all along, but that we did not see or understand. When I was growing up I learned that the best bicycle brakes were not coaster brakes—the kind that work when you pedal backward; the best were caliper brakes—the kind you apply by squeezing the levers on the handlebars, and the best caliper brakes were center-pull with the cable connected to the center of the brake caliper. Side-pull caliper brakes were inferior. That seemed very logical to me. I could understand the logic of why center-pull brakes were better; the cable pulled both halves of the caliper pushing each brake shoe onto the rim with equal pressure. But then I saw a very high-end bike with the best brakes you could buy and they were side-pull. There is always, it seems, another level of things. You think that you know it all and then you discover that you really did not. It is that way with our understanding of the Bible. Miracles are one example. G. K. Chesterton pointed out that a slowly unfolding miracle is just as miraculous as a fast one. That seems obvious once you think about it. If I could change into a pig and back into a human that would be a miracle whether it took me 17 years or one second to do it. It is helpful for me to think about that when I read about the creation of the world in Genesis. Evolutionists who reject the idea of creation by God say that the world evolved over time as each life form adapted to its circumstances. Well, changing from a blob to a human still is a miracle even if it took 3 billion years instead of less than a day (or perhaps there was a miraculous 3 billion year-long day). We do need to take the Bible literally at every level revealed to us.

People say that they cannot see God so how can He be everywhere. The answer is that you cannot see “is” either and they are the same thing—or at least “is” is a subset of God. We cannot define “is” and we cannot define God. That is not a coincidence. How blind we humans can be. Perhaps it is good to remind ourselves how God described Himself. God said, “I am that I am.” He defined Himself as is. God is omnipresent not because He can somehow occupy every part of our world, He is omnipresent because He is is. The Apostle John wrote, “God is love.” I recently read a very logical analysis that said basically that God is love, but that love was not God. The problem with the analysis is it ignores what is means. Is means equal, it means both sides of the expression are the same. They may look different, “2+2” looks different than “4”, but they are equal, the same. When we do what is right and treat others as we would like to be treated, then we love, and, somehow, we are one with God in our circumstances.

As I close out these thoughts on circumstance it seems a good place to address one of the complaints often made about the Bible: it cannot be God’s word because many books were written by men in Biblical times, and other men decided which books to include and which not to include in what we call the Bible. The Bible, they say, was not written by God Himself, it just sort of evolved over time from the books that were the most popular and the most copied. To that complaint I say, Amen! The Bible “evolved” into its current form through a long series of circumstances, kind of like a slow moving miracle. God is is, He is circumstance. He is omnipresent.

JSK

5 Government

Most of us accept the idea that we are each a unique person. It is not just extremely unlikely that you will come face to face with someone who is exactly you; it is, from all available evidence, impossible. Considering how many of us there have been and are, that is pretty amazing. If life were some sort of a giant puzzle, each person would be a unique puzzle piece fitting into his unique place in the world. I thought about this when I found out that a childhood friend is a psychiatrist. I had no idea what he would be when I knew him in school, but now I can clearly see that he was always a psychiatrist. Future engineers seem easier to spot when they are young. Another friend is an architect and artist. He became one to not be what his father wanted him to be. He’s not happy and is always battling his circumstances. I wonder what he really is or was supposed to be, or maybe he is exactly what he is supposed to be since it seems many artistic people have to have some battles with circumstance. I wonder about someone who was born to be a nuclear physicist, except that he was born in the Middle Ages. There must have been some career that he would have been a match for, if he had a chance to pursue his dream. Of course, the realization that we can be who we really are is a recent development for humankind.

The first nation founded on the idea that a man should be free to pursue happiness by finding his own place in the world was the United States of America. Most people born in the Middle Ages, or in much of the world today for that matter, had, and have, no choice in what they will do or be. I wonder if a serf in the Middle Ages, or a slave in the old South ever thought about what they would be if they were free. I suspect they did to some degree, but for many it was a complete impossibility. How many serfs and slaves were really doctors or judges? It is easy to see that denying people the right to be who they are is wrong, but it seems harder for people to admit that everyone must figure out what they are on their own. Equal opportunity means that everyone should have the opportunity to find out what they are and to become what they are capable of becoming. Holding people back by making them serfs or slaves is a very bad thing, but treating everyone as though they all can have equal outcomes is equally oppressive. I know that I do not hold any grudges against people like Henry Ford or Steve Jobs. They did much better in life than I have, but no one forced anyone to buy their products. Everyone in our society has benefited, directly or indirectly, from what they did. Their success helped you and me. When you look at life and government from this perspective, it seems obvious that a centrally run system designed to “guarantee” equal outcomes for all can never result in each unique individual finding their unique place in life.

The founders of our country were unique individuals who fit like puzzle pieces in their places in the world, but they were not some kind of elite bunch of geniuses who devised some really clever ways to rule the masses. I get the idea that many otherwise intelligent people think that is what they were and did. Our founders were representing people who wanted to have the freedom and opportunity to become what they could be. “We the people…” founded this country. The people were the ones that did not trust government; the founders were representatives of those people. The founders were no doubt exceptional people, but they answered to the people. They would not have been founders if they were not capable of carrying out the will of the people—no matter what they may personally have believed or not believed.

That is a preamble to talking about one of the fallacies that accompanies the idea that our founders were some kind of an elite. When historians on the right point out that we were founded as a Christian nation by Christians, those on the left love to talk about Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and others who were perhaps Deists, or at best unconventional Christians, ignoring the fact that no matter what they believed they were first and foremost the people’s representatives sent to do the will of the people—who were Christians by such a wide margin that it is not possible to even remotely consider the idea that the representatives of the people of 1776 were not creating a government for a Christian people. It is the people that were, and still are, largely Christian. The whole idea of America is that it is its people that define the nation, the government does not define it. The government is only there to serve the people. It has no other purpose. A nation’s population is not the same thing as a nation’s government. Our founders established a Christian nation through the creation of a government limited by checks and balances. The United States government was given limited powers because the people knew our founders were not an elite ruling class. The founders well knew they were not an elite. George Washington knew it and declined the opportunity to be king. He was the perfect puzzle piece for that place in our history.

Another falsehood is that our forefathers were including something other than Christianity in their definition of religion. They were not protecting false religions or any beliefs that advocate harming others when they included freedom of religion in the Bill of Rights. The Christians who wrote the bill of rights wanted to be sure Catholics and Protestants did not repeat the mistakes made in Europe. They were in no way trying to protect Muslims, witches, or any others who would do harm to others. The mission of a Christian is to spread the good news of the Savior, Jesus Christ, not to kill anyone for his beliefs. The idea of protecting a false religion is ridiculous just on its face. A Christian is to treat other people as he would like to be treated—and he would like to be told about the one true God. That is the perspective of Christians now and then. A Muslim believes in something that is false. Why would any sane and civilized person protect the ability of someone else to dam his very soul? The answer is that a sane and civilized person would not.

Much has been said about nation building, but little has been said about how civilization is actually spread, or what civilization actually is. Our government cannot build another nation because it is nothing but a protective shell for our people and their nation. Our nation is a Christian nation whose people can and do spread Christianity, and Christianity is what created Western Civilization. When I talk about spreading Christianity many people think I am talking about Christian missionaries. I am, but I am also talking about all of the things the Western world has created for the benefit of all. Medical advances, Coke-a-Cola, iPhones, McDonalds, Walmart, and thousands of other things help mankind and make the U.S.A. the shining city on the hill, the envy of the world.

In the Old Testament God did not want to let the people be ruled by a king, but the people insisted and so He allowed it. Throughout history kings, chiefs, emperors, tzars, dictators, or others who are above the people being ruled have ruled every culture except for one. America was founded on the idea that all men are equal and that the people are greater than government. America’s system of checks and balances were designed to limit the power of government and to prevent a return to rule by kings. But it must be noted that people have not changed since the time of the Old Testament. Many, maybe even most, people think that we need a strong ruler to turn the country around and save it. The opposite is true. The ruler who can return our country to greatness is one who will become less so that the people can become what they can be. Modern Democrats and Independents look for a savior to rule us. People on the political right look for people who will respect the constitution and the limits of government; they already have a Savior.

Look at how far we have come since the founders of our nation created a government of the people. Government now inserts itself into virtually every aspect of our lives. We now face a challenge as big as the one faced by our founders. How do we change our government back into one that serves the people? Law is the foundation of government and the making of law has been compared to the making of sausages: ‘to retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making.’ (Attributed to Otto von Bismarck) Clever statement, but how did that turn out for Germany? Unfortunately, many people now seem to think that they should not pay attention to the making of sausages or laws because they are both unpleasant processes. However, someone does have to watch the making of sausage if we are to insure we have good sausage, and someone has to watch the making of law if we are to have good government. If we are to have an efficient and effective government that works for each unique individual, we have to start to pay attention to government itself. In future posts I shall attempt to make a deep dive into government Efficiency, Metrics, Underground Gorilla Networks, Silos, Transparency, Fear, Planning, and Solutions as interesting as I possibly can. I shall begin with the 4th Branch.

R20032017 JSK

The River Walk San Antonio  

Lots of old battle sites are in a field somewhere where you have to wonder what they were fighting about.

Here the city surrounds the Alamo–nearly swallowing it,

Confirming the stakes of those horrible days of death with the beat of each tourist’s heart and the swipe of each credit card.

America happened somehow though human odds were always against it.

America is designed to profit from struggle and, even more, to require struggle.

Great dictators and kings try to establish stability and end with chaos.

America starts with chaos and ends up stabilizing the world.

Call the sides in these struggles what what you will.

Now we call them Conservatives & Liberals,

But at the core some people know there is an invisible hand,

And some people believe there is not.