Sunday, February 25, 2007

"Spirit" -> The Paradox Of Free Will

Kurt Godel saved me from Jacobus Arminius and John Calvin, and I thank him for it.

I have written before on the nature of Calvinism vs Arminianism and free will. However, I didn't state what I believed in. While I do tend to switch to the simple Arminianist viewpoint for witnessing, I do not hold this viewpoint.

I hold to both, which is a paradox. If not for our modern world, I couldn't have held this viewpoint.

Before, the 20th century, the Protestant church leaned in two directions:

1. Freewill means that God can't control everything (and you go on to try and harmonize the "difficult" verses that seem to indicate that God controls everything). Calvinist hate this viewpoint since it removes the sovereignty of God.

2. If God has total omniscience and total omnipotence, he can't allow freewill for salvation (and you go on to try and harmonize the "difficult" verses that seem to indicate that God allows freewill). The Arminianist hate this because it makes God responsible for all misery that we experience. In fact, it makes God responsible for only saving some people, and for creating evil.

[There is a new movement in the church toward ultra-free will called open theism. In this viewpoint God limits himself completely from knowing the future. If you think Calvinist have a problem with Arminianist, then you haven't seen anything. In a similar vein, Orthodox Churches are much more biased toward Free Will, but I will not address these in these posts.]

This is my beliefs: God has absolute control over everything while I still retain my right to freely chose.

Now, if God controls everything, then I should not have the right to freely chose. But if I don't have the right to freely chose, why would I spend any time worrying about free will? If we had no choice in the matter, the last thing we would do is worry that we had no choice.

The arguments for free will is very strong. The thing to be reconciled is the idea that God has directed every footstep. That he knows the future completely. That all things work together for the glory of God. If by free will, we chose to believe the Bible, we must find someway of reconciling the obvious fact of free will to the statements in Pslam 139:

All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be

So, the way that I reconcile free will and God's sovereignty is to hold both. Now, you may state that my belief is not logical, and I will agree. It fundamentally breaks set theory (logic is just a subset of set theory). As logic is the basis of all rational thought, therefore, I am being irrational. Right?

Well, before we jump into this, I think we should first see what paradox precedent we have.

Really, the question is "are paradoxes allowed?" If we are to ask this, then I think we should jump to the most famous of modern paradoxes: Russell's paradox.

The picture to the right is one of Russell, one of the most famous atheists that have ever lived. Interesting, that I should say that Russell could have helped me with my theology, but he does. Russell, beyond arguing against God, was a very good mathematician. One of the ways of attacking logic is to define sets. Sets are objects that all have the same properties. Normally, with the Russel paradox, we use teacups.

So, lets say that you have a teacup. Let's say that I have a teacup. Timu-chan has a teacup. Paula has a teacup. My children and wife have teacups. The world has teacups. If we gather all of these teacups into a mathematical expression, we can call them a set. In this case, we'll call the set "R."

So, I say R and you should imagine the idea of "every teacup everywhere." It is the idea of a group of all teacups. Another way of saying this is to think of a crowd. A crowd is a set of people. When we say "crowd behavior" we think of something other than the behavior of people. We see the crowd having a personality in and of itself. (Not a perfect analogy for set theory, but this gets the flavor across.)

Now, we get a bit tricky, while R represents every teacup in the world, it is not a teacup. (In a similar fashion, a crowd contains people, but a crowd is not a person.) What is R? Well R is simply a logical construct.

We may chose to define another set and call it "S." We can define S as the set of all cups.

Now, we can see that R is a subset of set S. They are basically mathematical constructs. They are not teacups. They are simply concepts. However, a concept is still a thing.

Now, Russel started to think about this, and he said, "well I can define sets."

So, he said, "I'll define Z as the set of sets that are not members of themselves."

So, let's go back to R. Remember we said that R was not a teacup? R was simply a logical construction. So R is not a member of itself since it is not a teacup. We have a pretty good idea of what a teacups is, and now we know that the R is not a teacup therefore, it is not in itself. Therefore, the set of Z does have R in it.

However, let's talk about the set of "all ideas." We will call this set Y. This will be a very, very big set indeed! Every idea is in this set. Like pizza? This idea is in there. Like art? This idea is in there. All ideas are there. What about the idea of sets? Well, yes, if you think about it, the idea of sets is inside the set of all ideas. Because Y is inside Y, it does not below in Z.

So, we look to have a pretty good system.

Z has R in it.
Z does not have Y in it.

Then Russell thought, where does the set Z belong?

If Z is not in itself, then it belongs in Z.
But if Z is in itself, then it shouldn't be in itself.

Now, we are in trouble. As soon as we put Z somewhere, it instantly belongs somewhere else! Or some people have called this idea of being both entirely true and entirely false at the same time!

Although paradoxes had been documented since the Greeks, here we have a real problem. The type of paradoxes that Zeno came up with really were not paradoxes, they were word games. Once we got a piece of graph paper, we could show that Achilles and the tortoise did cross over (one of Zeno's paradoxes).

The problem with Russell's paradox is that you sit down with a formally equivalent mathematical system, and you needs to stay away from certain operations that yielded gibberish. Math and logic, which has solved the greek paradoxes, now have yielded paradoxes themselves.

Russell tried to get around this by limiting self reference. If you do any computer science, self reference commonly shows up in recursion algorithms. Therefore, the idea of staying away from self reference would knock the stuffing out of your programming.

Kurt Godel finally showed up and showed that all formal, complete systems will yield paradoxes. (An over simplification, but close enough for this post.) Godel's work is similar to other work by computer scientist. Remember that computers often use self reference, so you might expect that they to will run into issues.

Hilbert, who is pictured to the left, came up with the Entscheidungsproblem, which was the mother problem of computer science. I have talked about Hilbert and his problem before. As mentioned in my previous post, his problem was wrestled to the ground in Turing Halting Problem and Church's Lambda Calculus. They both proved for computer science what Godel proved for math. You should be able to see a braid here, that I am not the first or the last to notice.

Faith -> Math -> Computer Science -> Incomplete or Paradoxes -> Chance -> Faith

There are themes that weave themselves together.

Net-net, humans have been able to derive that we can't find the answer to all questions. We have found out that it is impossible to know in some cases!

This line of thought and understanding is only found in the 20th century. Until we had developed the math and the computer science, we simply did not explore these types of thoughts because they were illogical. They simply did not make sense.

After the 20th century, the church as freedom to say:

God has allowed total freewill and yet has total omniscience and total omnipotence. Now, mind you, there will be some that say that I have committed a gross foul, and I might as well pick up the flack for this.

While there is good evidence that paradoxes exist in all formal mathematical systems that are complete and there is also multiple ways of showing that the Entscheidungsproblem is unsolvable, there is nothing (and I mean nothing) to say that free will and sovereignty should be considered in this class. It is a little bit like saying that somebody didn't come home because I discovered that "flat tires have proven to happen" and then I suggest that the reason that somebody didn't home is because they got a flat tire. There are a variety of reasons that somebody may have not come home, just one of them is the idea that they got a flat tire.

However, for me, as I read the scriptures this is what I think is the best answer.

CS Lewis stumbled across some of this in his own thinking, although he couldn't do mathematics worth beans. He simply stated that as to his own failing he was going to think as somebody who has total freewill. He said that his faults was all his own.

To the goodness that happened anywhere else, it was because of omnipotent hand of God, and had nothing to do with freewill.

I can hardly think of better advice for our own lives.

"Spirit" -> The Divided Church

See the spires to the side? They are on a Eastern Orthodox Church.

If you look at the Christian Church, you will find that this branch is about half the size of the Protestant Church.

Christians 33%
  • Roman Catholics 17%
  • Protestants 6%
  • Orthodox 3%
  • Anglicans 1%

At several times, the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church got very close to reuniting in a bigger fashion, but it was due to the Filioque Clause in the Nicene Creed that the fracture remained large.

The Filioque Clause. Doesn't sound like much, but for this, we could have had one common creed in all of those that call themselves Christian.

Now, I gave you a break down of Christians in the world. As long as we are here, we can see the rest of the data. According to the CIA Fact Book (our government dollars at work), we get the following breakdown of people in various religions other than Christianity:

Muslims 20%,

Hindus 13%,

Buddhists 6%,

Sikhs 0.39%

Jews 0.23%

Other religions 12.61%

Non-religious 12.03%

Atheists 2.36%

From this data we know that almost 1/3rd of the world population is exposed to Christianity. Christianity is the world's dominate religion in terms of exposure. The question becomes "what ties together all of these Christian beliefs?" For all practical purposes, the Nicene Creed does, except for one small little piece.

Now you may remember that I've talked about the Nicene creed before. Let's look at it again.

If you look at the Nicene Creed, you will see two slightly different versions:

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets.

See the phrase "and the Son?" This is the whole break of the clause. The Eastern Orthodox Church says that it is critical that the Holy Spirit does not proceed from both the Father and the Son. "From the Son" is basically the word "filioque," and now you know why it is called the filioque clause.

Mind you, the eastern orthodox don't disagree with the trinity, all they are arguing is the nature of how the Spirit proceeds.

The Orthodox believes that the Son is Begotten of the Father.

The Orthodox believes that in a similar fashion the Spirit proceeds fro the Father.

Now, I don't want to get into the theology of which is the better version. I think that both can be argued from scripture. What I do want to point out that I believe that it is by divine guidance do we have this fracture. If not for this fracture, we would not have 3 separate branches of the church.

There is one holy universal church. These are those that belong to Jesus Christ. However, if the church had been united under one creed, I believe that the Church would have turned into even more of a political instrument than it is today.

In as much as we are united in Love, this is the will of God.

In thinking that we need to be perfectly united in ever doctrinal thought is to set ourselves up for failure. To prevent us from destroying ourselves, divine providence caused us to be divided in some aspects.

Don't argue with God on this one. Simply let him lead you to the church that he wants you in.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

"Body" -> SportsTrack For Running

A quick update to my last post on GPS running. If you are somebody that works out, one of the coolest gadgets that you can buy is a Garmin Forerunner. With this you can upload your runs and see them on maps (click the picture for a bigger view of my 3 mile loop. One of the new software packages is out for this is SportTracks.

Garmin also has a package that does very similar functions in their Motionbased company. Motionbased really is the best of possible worlds because it has the following attributes:

1. The best possible mapping
2. Nice elevation feature that helps determine the "true" elevation gained and/or lost.
3. The ability to load your workouts to the web so that you can pull them up at anytime and see them. You can even give them to others to see.

However, there are disadvantages of this package and Garmin's own software:

1. The Garmin software always has a background program running. I absolutely hate this. The idea that my computer needs one more background daemon is just crazy.

2. The very nice Motionbased software annual subscriptions are $50.

Now Motionbased does have a "upload 10 runs" free version. I would suggest trying it, but it really is more of an occasional thing to do rather than a true log book.

If you want a log book, this is is where SportsTrack comes in. The suggested donation is $20 as a minimum(, and this is what I gave). For $20, it is great little piece of software. The ease of plugging in your runs is very easy. You hook up your GPS (normally a Garmin Forerunner, which you can use running), and the data is downloaded to the package.

The data then shows up in a variety of different ways that you can select. You can pick satellite pictures like the photo above. You can pick road pictures. You can pick elevation map (although not quite as accurate as Motionbased.)

One of the best things about the package is the great little log book that goes along with it. You can click on the picture to see how the week has gone for me in running so far.

It also gives me a history of my mile splits and average for the entire run. You don't have to guess how fast you ran. You can see the speed of every run that you do, and you can track them over time.

Now if the package ended there, it would be pretty cool. But combined with Google earth, we have a great combo. In SportTracks, we have an export to Google earth.

If you don't have Google Earth, you are missing one of the best earth software packages ever conceived. And it is free. Google Earth is a virtual earth, in which you can fly around and see the various landscapes. In my example case, we can import the data into Google earth and it shows up as a green line. (See the map next door.)

On this route, I did six miles with my wife. I tilted the map so you can see Saddleback mountain in the distance. Now if you look at the sunset header of my blog, you will see a mountain. This is a picture of Saddleback that I took on my bicycle as I pedaled home one night. Saddleback dominates our local area, and it just cool to have it on my map and on my blog.

I can also select to put a marker on each mile mark. You can see the marks in red. Since the map is at an angle, as the miles get farther away, the printing gets smaller.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

"Spirit and Mind" -> Play To Your Strengths

From an old Fast Company article:

Ask any CEO, "What's your company's most precious asset?" Without hesitation, the answer will be, "Our people." Ask the same CEO, "What's the primary source of your competitive advantage?" Chances are, the reply will be, "Our unique culture."

This kind of talk drives Marcus Buckingham nuts... "You won't find a CEO who doesn't talk about a 'powerful culture' as a source of competitive advantage. At the same time, you'd be hard-pressed to find a CEO who has much of a clue about the strength of that culture. The corporate world is appallingly bad at capitalizing on the strengths of its people."

I have been at four Fortune 1000 companies, and the above statement is so correct that it is almost scary. At every company that I have been at, regardless if we were doing well or poor, the CEO would talk about the unique culture, yet this was not why the company was doing well or doing poor. Indeed, the main reason why a company does well or poor is do to the expertise or the lack of expertise that a company has.

I am amazed as how deliberate practice echoes through the hallways of success. Deliberate practice is important because you want experts.

My latest reflection of deliberate practice concerns Marcus Buckingham, formerly of the Gallup organization. Marcus Buckingham has written several books that have been business best sellers. Today, at work, one of our women got the purchasing group to agree to purchase a web cast of him talking about his latest "discoveries."

I certainly think that Buckingham overstates a few things, and on the webcast, he takes credit for a lot of stuff that isn't his, but a the main thought of his writing is 100% correct. Basically, he has an idea that he stole from Donald O. Clifton. Clifton, in turn, stole his work from others. The problem with Clifton and Buckingham is that they almost completely, and I mean almost completely, miss the point of why working to your strengths is so critical for company success. They have a bit of the flavor, but they don't have the recipe.

Let me explain.

When you think of Gallup, you might think of the Gallup poll. However, the bulk of Gallup's work is helping businesses figure out employee effectiveness. Gallup was actually purchased a number of years ago by SRI, the company founded by Clifton.

Clifton's whole message is simple: Work a bit more on your strengths and worry a bit less about your weaknesses.

When Clifton did research on effective teams, he found out that the best teams are playing to their strengths 80% of the time. The least effective teams were playing to their strengths 10% of their time. The answer for Clifton and Buckingham is to get people to identify their strengths and everything is going to be okay. They have established a correlation between highly effective people and people that get to use their strengths.

So, why isn't this obviously used in corporate America?

When you work in corporate America, often the phrase that is used is "well rounded." We want employees that can do everything. Therefore, when we come to employee evaluations, we focus on those areas that they don't do well. We ask them to become all around players.

This, of course, will lead to certain disaster, as any coach will tell you.

For example: Let's say that you are managing a baseball team, and you need a pitcher, and you will need a catcher. You bring in two people, one who is a catcher and one who is a pitcher, and you ask them to both pitch and catch. You have them play two positions for a while.

So come the practice days, you are asking the pitcher to catch for a while, then we turn around and ask the catcher to pitch for a while. When the pitcher does a lousy catching, we then point out that "he needs to work on his catching skills."

To the catcher, we'll say he doesn't know how to pitch, and if he could just work on that fastball, he'd be a lot better.

Neither one of our employees are going to do very well trying to play two different positions, and when you finally play a team that specializes in different positions, they are going to kill you.

The word "specialization" is the key that I don't see Clifton or Buckingham using enough. See the issue is that you want the absolute best specialists that you can find. You want people that are clear experts in their field. So, how does a company create specialists? And why are specialists and experts so valuable to high tech?

This brings us back to deliberate practice. In the age of knowledge work, you want experts running your business. For example, the business that I am in creates a technological product that is replicated, in some cases, over 100 million times. If you have the right initial design, the product is great. If you have the wrong initial design, the product is horrible.

Therefore, you want the experts working on this design. What is the best way of getting an expert? You allow somebody to spend lots and lots of time becoming an expert in a particular field.

How do you get people to spend lots and lots of time in a field? If somebody likes a subject, they will be willing to spend a lot of time on something. If they spend enough time on something, they will become very, very good at that thing. They will become an expert.

However, let's say that we ask our people to work on stuff they really don't like. Then they don't dream and think about it. They simply do a job. They never become experts, and you are stuck with a poor performing team.

The last thing that any business needs is "the general player." Indeed, they want the players that absolutely are compulsively good at one thing. While your competition is swirling around "trying to come up with people that see the big picture," you want to launch your group of trained commandos that don't care at all about the big picture. All they care about is doing their own job, really, really well.

Now, do you need a few people that see the big picture? Sure, but just don't try and make an army of them. You can carefully pull out a few people and cross train them. Just don't expect them to be an expert in all the different areas. They can't be. They don't have enough time.

So, Buckingham has an example, which I think he blotched a bit, so I'm going to tell the same example, only with the right flavor.

Let's say that you have a child that brings home a report card. In the report card, he has an A in Reading, B in Mathematics, and F in Writing. Now, what are you going to do? Chances are that you'll only focus on the F in writing. However, this is the wrong thing to do. First you should focus on why this child got an A in Reading. What is it that allowed the child to do so well?

If you child answers, "well, I really had a good teacher. He only gave 1 A, and I got it." You might start to thinking about what allowed the child to be successful. Perhaps, you need to find a better teacher for the subject where he got an F. If you ask why the F on writing, and he says that he hated the teacher, you now have a clear cause and effect.

If the child simply dislikes writing, and loves reading, you should probably think about how to get the child to a C in the writing, but then start to think about "how do I get my child to an A+ in reading. Don't obsess on fixing the lowest spot. Get the low spot to a place where it will be "okay," and then focus on how to get the leadership position even higher.

*The secret in success in life is focus.

*The secret in success is finding out what you like so you'll put in a bunch of time on it.

*The secret in life is making this area of focus into a strength.

*Once you have a strength, push the living daylights out of it to become an expert.

You are probably weak in an area because you don't like that area. If you don't like an area, you aren't going to focus on it. If you don't focus on it, you will never become better.

So, focus on your strengths.

Monday, February 19, 2007

"Spirit" -> Jesus Was Offensive To The Bible Believer of Today and Yesterday

Jesus says everything that nobody wants him to say both yesterday and today:

1. To the rich, he says to give away your riches.

2. To the modern social thinker that says "I will only worship a pansy God that is all sweetness," he threatens to send this person to Hell. He mentions Hell more than anyone.

3. To the morally upright, he hangs out with the prostitutes.

4. To the Bible quoting Evangelical "Christians" of his day (that believed in the right sort of resurrection), he called them Sons of Hell and White Washed Tombs.

5. To those that say "I only need to have Faith to get into Heaven," he says that he'll throw you into Hell because you never fed the poor or visited the prisoners.

6. To those that wanted a hero and a leader, he didn't even defend himself, and he went off and got himself crucified.

The Jesus Christ is the whole point. Nothing else matters in the Bible. You either get him, or you don't. You either worship him, or you hide from him. He is the only thing that matters.

Don't try an minimize him. He can't be categorized and put in a box. Don't think that you got it all under control. Don't think you have a tiger by the tail, because you don't.

He is not a tame lion.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

"Spirit" -> All In Good Humor

I have written about Georges Lemaître before. The following pictures him as a wonderful, humorous man.

I hope it is true:

Georges Lemaître came to Göttingen for a lecture. He told that he and other had calculated from the abundance of certain elements, the products of radioactive parent elements that the Earth was about 4.5 billion years old.

After the talk, someone asked whether he believed in the Bible.

He said, "Yes, every word is true."

But, the students continued, how could he tell us the earth is 4.5 billion years old, if the bible says it is about 5.800 years old?

He said, "That is no contradiction."

"How that?"

Lemaître explained that God made the earth 5.800 years ago with all the radioactive substances, the fossils and other indications of an older age. He did this to tempt humankaind and to test its belief in the bible. The students asked, why he was so interested in finding out the age of the Earth if it is not the actual age?

And he answered: "To convince myself that God did not make a single mistake.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

"Spirit" -> The New Pharisees

"In Essentials, Unity; in Non-essentials, Liberty; in All Things, Charity," stated Peter Meiderlin under his Latin Pen name Rupertus Meldenius, during the early 1600s.

Some have said that Augustine said it before Meiderlin, but Augustine's version was "In truth, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity." I consider this a much weaker version.

Although Meiderlin did not get much read by many people, we are grateful that Richard Baxter did pick up his saying and put it into his book, "The Reformed Pastor." The book can be downloaded at the excellent site here. We should all understand how the Lord works: Meiderlin never saw the fruit of his own concerns. However, the Lord was able to use his words in a marvelous fashion. You may never know how the Lord will use your work.

I too have the tendency to have too much judgment in my writing on some subjects. My nephew pointed out my "cottage cheese" comment in my previous post. Rather than redo the post, I will state that if I could rewrite my post again, I probably would have not used such strong words. I was trying to be funny and wake people up, but a harsh word can be worse than a slap, and perhaps I wen over the line. I have no wish to cause others to stumble.

However, it is not just me. I notice that we are dividing and saying harsh words to each other over issues that are not central to to the job that we are supposed to be doing: Loving the Lord Jesus Christ with our whole heart and our neighbor as our self. Our great commission is to proclaim the good news that we can be reconciled to God and lead others to that reconciliation.

Am I saying that Christians can't disagree or search the scriptures? Of course not, this would be sheer silliness and an abrogation of the dictate to be as wise as serpents but as innocent as doves. However, I am concerned that we are no longer innocent in our speech in some of the discussion that go on inside the Churches that I visit and live.

In the Gospel of John, our Lord said:

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

This is the easiest of all commandments to break in our own lives and in the lives of our churches.

See if we cannot show love to our brothers and sisters, the world will look at us and say, "Those Christians are no different than us. They fight and bicker. They say that they are transformed, but they are too busy condemning each other that they don't have anything."

If we cannot show love to each other, then we cannot show that we are the Lord's disciplines. We are missing a brilliant tool in the great commission, as Francis A. Schaeffer pointed out, since our mutual love allows the non-Christian to believe.

The book Of 1 John 2:9 ff point this out very clearly.

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him[c] to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.

What I find ironic about the attitude that we show each other, in conversations that I have even heard in my own family, is that people justify bad behavior by pointing to the example of Jesus or Paul.

Their logic is as follows:

Look Jesus and Paul, got mad a lot of times. They had righteous indignation. They fought the wrong ideas, therefore, I'm just following the lead of Jesus or Paul.

The problem with this idea is that it is horrible exegesis.

The context of Paul's wrath was always about placing a stumbling block in the path of people coming to Christ. About the maddest Paul ever got is when he said that certain trouble makers should cut off their their own penis and testicles. Paul was clearly a bit miffed.

But why? Paul was mad because there was a group of CHRISTIAN people that went around stopping the non-believers from accepting Christ by putting more into salvation than what was necessary. I do get mad, but for me it is at those Christians that insist that you can't be a Christian without believing in a young earth. To me, they are keeping others from accepting our faith because of a narrow reading of scripture. If somebody comes to you asking if all Christians believe in a young earth, the last thing you should do is try to convince them that all 21st century scientists are wrong. The right answer is "this is not an essential of the faith." Those that insist a young earth is an essential of the faith, I must only refer them to the dictate of my good brother Paul and his words to those that place stumbling blocks in the path.

Once you start reading the entire Bible, you will understand that Paul's source of anger (a narrow reading of scripture) was exactly what was at the root of our Lord's anger.

The context of our Lord's wrath in the Gospel's was almost always against the Bible scholars of his day. While he would eat with the tax collector, the prostitute, the morally wrong, and the social misfit, the one person that he absolutely would NOT put up with was those that used the scripture to justify their own position to condemn others. The other time that is notable in the wrath of Jesus is when people profited by working in the church. (Televangelist with private jet fleets need to take warning.)

Remember, having a grasp of the scripture and arguing it's points to the n'th degree only makes us the new Pharisees.

"Body" -> Investing

I know that I've posted on this before, but I've been thinking about money. Really, maybe this post isn't so much about money, but it is about not being able to see. We did the post on counting a while back, which my nephew enjoyed quite a bit. I would suggest that if you want one of my better posts, then go back and see this one on counting before you come here. CLICK HERE.

Now, about investing.

1. If you invest in the S&P 500, you should be able to get roughly 11% return per year.
2. If you put $200 per month into this fund starting at 20 years of age
3. You will have $173,000 by the time you are 40
4. You will have $315,000 by the time you are 45
3. You will have $1,000,000,000 by the time you are 55
4. You will have $2,000,000 by the time you are 61.
5. You will have $3,000,000 by the time you are 65.

Use this investment calculator.

Anybody with a college degree can figure out, with some amount of hardship, how to save $200 per month.

Yet, nobody does.

If people can't see this obvious fact, why are surprised when people can't see why to invest for eternity?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

"Spirit" -> Was I Predestined To Write This?

Does God really control everything? How about if we were to throw dice? Would God control that?

The Bible is pretty clear. Indeed, in the random events that hit us from day to day, even the throw of the dice, there is divine providence. See what the Bible teaches us.

Proverbs 16:33 (New Living Translation)

We may throw the dice,
but the Lord determines how they fall.

But, now take the next step. If God is controlling the dice that I throw, is he also controlling the thrower? Perhaps, everything that I do is controlled by God. Perhaps, the same as the dice, I have no free will to choose. This really hits the road when you are asked "does a person have the free will to choose to be saved?"

Probably more than any area inside of Christianity, application of free will is debated.

Now, you may have heard that the debate is "over predestination." Predestination is believing that God, before you are born, picks you to be saved or not be saved. You cannot read the Bible, and not believe in predestination. Orthodox Christians always believe this. The question is how this is decided.

In short order, two schools of thought have surfaced over the years:

1. Some are elected to be in God's Kingdom. Man has no choice in the matter. This branch of Christianity is Calvinist. The term that is used is that God unconditionally elects you. There is nothing that you can do about it. You are not free to chose. This is called unconditional election because there are no conditions around it. (Many Calvinist will say that in every other way, other than this choice, man has free will. It is only in salvation that only God can choose man, and man cannot choose God.)

2 Since God knows everything, before time began, he knew those that--if given the choice--would accept Christ. Thus, he predestines those that will love him to get the chance to be saved. However, you have the right to reject him. This ability to man to have some input into the process makes God's election as conditional election. This branch of Christianity is Arminianism.

Now, if you are witnessing, and you are talking to a non-Christian as a Calvinist, and you were asked, "Does God simply send people to hell?" You would need to answer as the following:

Yes, actually God does. He does this by his own desire, and he does it without any input from you. See, we are all sinful people, and none of us deserved to be saved, but God saves some of us nonetheless. But, here is the good news, you don't know if you are damn and going to hell. To make sure that you are chosen by God, all you need to do is accept Christ, and this confirms that you are saved.

[Now, some will argue that God doesn't actually "damn people" to hell. We do that ourselves. Therefore, while God saves certain people, he doesn't actually send anybody to hell. If you are going to make that argument here, get off my blog. Your brain is cottage cheese, and your breath smells like elderberry wine. This is playing with semantics. At least if you are going to be a Calvinist, have the fortitude to step up to the plate and take it like a (reformed) man or woman.)

Now, if you are witnessing, and you are talking to a non-Christian as a Arminianist, and you were asked, "Does God simply send people to hell?" You would need to answer as the following:

No, you pick if you want to go to hell or not. Now, God has known since the beginning of time the decision that you will make, but it is your decision to make right here and right now, and he has given you an undeserved second chance. Accept Christ and live or reject him and die.

I don't know of a single person that doesn't believe that the second answer is easier for the non-Christian to deal with. It seems much more fair. It place the burden on the person to accept or reject Christ. Jesus wants you to accept him. All you need to do is return home.

So, with unconditional election seemingly making no common sense, how did this doctrine ever come about?

By reading the Bible and coming up with a theology that supports this idea.

Calvinist believe that the Bible says that there is no free will in the salvation process. While Arminianist will say that it is God that causes salvation and without God's grace there is no ability to even choose, they do say that after God has extended an unmerited second chance and softens the heart of the sinner to the extent that they can make a choice. The crux of salvation is when the sinner actually makes the decision to follow Jesus of his or her own free will or free agency.

This to the Calvinist says "man, in a small way, get to contribute to his salvation? This removes God from the salvation process and makes man the master of his salvation."

It is this small freedom that man can make a choice that causes the two schools of Christianity to split. It is a split over free will.

Now, the consequence of defending something that is so counterintuitive results in Calvinists who are great Bible scholars. They almost always see heresy better than the conditional election people. I think that the Reformed movement (the name given to Calvinists) are forced to think through everything carefully, and in some sense this gives them a leg up. Sometimes, it is easier for Arminianists to lose sight of the theology.

As an example of Arminianism's problems, the Methodist church was founded by Charles and John Wesley, who believed in conditional election. This Church movement went out and fed the poor. They brought the good news to those that were perishing. They lived the life. As time went on, they turned from the Gospels to a social Gospel framework. While they did good deeds, they left their first love.

This to me is sheer sadness and regret.

The problem with the unconditional election people is that they never get off their backside as a general whole. While there are brilliance from time to time, those in the unconditional election camp simply never invested as much in actually feeding the poor. They don't have the same heart for missions. They are the ones that uphold the law. They are the ones that have kept the best vision of a regard for scripture as the inerrant word of God. Because of this, these churches are normally intellectually stimulating and yet many times spiritually and emotionally dead. You normally see a Calvinist (Reformed Church) only on fire when they are arguing against Arminianism. They lean toward being dead.

This to me is sheer sadness and regret.

The best example of these two movements can be found by comparing the differences better the two men that best represented each movement.

John Wesley, for conditional election, and John Calvin, for unconditional election. If you read Calvin's institutes, you will find a systematic theology that is overwhelming in scope. You will find a brilliant mind that seemingly graphs all the technical merits of the Bible. You will also find a mind that doesn't care about having his spirit broken by those that are in poverty.

John Wesley scoured the Bible. He was smart but not as smart as Calvin. However, the man's heart was beautiful. He made some mistakes, his marriage was horrible (mainly because his brother kept him from marrying the right girl), but the outcome of his life changed the well being of the world.

I personally think that the Lord grieves when he sees us arguing over what to believe in. If you read the scriptures, you are going to see that the Bible clearly represents both conditional and unconditional election. It is simply both, or unclear. Either way, there is more than one answer.

From my viewpoint, we are told in the Bible that "by their fruits you shall know them." I would suggest that you don't hold to either camp. Call yourself a free thinker that treasures the writing of Calvin, but leans toward the understanding of Wesley.

For myself, I find that the more that I do careful exegesis on a small subset of verses, the more I lean toward Calvin. However, every time that I read the Bible cover to cover (which I am doing for my tenth time this year) the more that I am convinced that Arminianism is correct.

I personally think that you need to decide for yourself. However, I think that you could do no worse than follow John Wesley who said that he was "hair's breadth" from Calvinism.

Let us respect each other, and thus fulfill the Law Of Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

"Mind" -> It's A Meme Old World

The Electric Meme is a book by Robert Aunger. I would not say that it is the best of all books, mainly because the subject matter is not all that well understood, but he does bring up a few interesting facts that tickled my fancy.

For the unintiated, your first question is "what is a meme?" Meme is an idea that was generated by Richard Dawkins in his book the Selfish Gene. He wanted something that could transfer informational code like genes transfer genetic code. In one of his best pieces of marketing ever, he came up with the catchy word meme which sounds like gene and memory together. According to the Oxford English Dictionary is "an element of a culture that may be considered to be passed on by non-genetic means."

I like to think of a meme as simply the software that is running on top of the hardware, although Aunger, Susan Blackmore (another memetist), and others would claim there is something more. What exactly a meme can be or is, will probably be debated for quite a while.

As covered before in this blog, there has always been a debate about nature (our genetics) vs nurture (environment) in our development. In the mind of the modern Darwinist, the thought is that the genes is how the hardware of the mind is laid out. It is the meme that is driving the software of the mind. Dawkins has suggested that if we put the brain under the microscope, some day we will be able to see the meme expressed in patterns in the neurons. (He is using this as a gedanken experiment more than suggesting that we could actually do this.) At a larger level, it has been suggested that culture is simply a meme.

How much can genes control the way that we think? How much is gene and how much is meme?

Aunger points out, our DNA has a lot of information in it, but all of this information translates into only 40,000 to 60,000 unique genes. Most of these have no relationship with how the brain is wired. The brain has 100-200 billion neurons. The few genes that could help construct the brain cannot layout how the neurons are pour in.

All that DNA does is sketch out a rough blueprint of the brain. It cannot deliberately hardwire all the ways that our brain is put together. In the construction process of the brain, we can end of wildly divergent results using the same genetic blueprint.

1. Chance (or providence) of how the brain is put together from some rough blueprints

2. The experiences that we have

I know that my wife and I have talked about our children and what intellectual inheritance they will pick up from us. The truth is that this is only a part of the equation. A big part of the results is "the luck of the draw."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

"Mind" -> What Is Beauty?

Pierre Tourigny has created an updated answer to the classic question of "what is beauty" by using pop culture and modern software. The picture to the right is a ranking of pictures of women of beauty. The closer to 10, the more beautiful they are.

Paul pulls his inspiration from the website "Hot or Not." This website panders, and I mean panders, to the fears and worries inside all of us.

The premise is simple for ranking people. Go to the website, and see a photo. Click on a grading scale from 1 to 10. See another photo, then grade from 1 to 10. The key to the website, at least for me, is that you get to see the average composite score of the person after you grade them. You can select men or women. You can even select both.

To get rank, all you do is get a username. Upload a photo. Wait to be approved, and then you watch the results roll in. So, if you look at Pierre's photographs, you will see what these women should have ranked if they were upload to HotorNot. However, if you look at the photos you will see that they mysteriously all look very, very similar.

Why is that?

Paul tells his story below:

These women do not exist. They each are a composite of about 30 faces that I created to find out the current standard of good looks on the Internet.

On the popular Hot or Not web site, people rate others’ attractiveness on a scale of 1 to 10. An average score based on hundreds or even thousands of individual ratings takes only a few days to emerge.

I collected some photos from the site, sorted them by rank and used SquirlzMorph to create multi-morph composites from them. Unlike projects like Face of Tomorrow or Beauty Check where the subjects are posed for the purpose, the portraits are blurry because the source images are low resolution with differences in posture, hair styles, glasses, etc, so that I could use only 36 control points for the morphs.

What did I conclude about good looks from these virtual faces? First, morphs tend to be prettier than their sources because face asymmetries and skin blemishes average out. However, the low score images show that fat is not attractive. The high scores tend to have narrow faces. I will leave it to you to find more differences and to do a similar project for men.

None of these women actually exist, but they are composites and signals from what we think are beautiful as per internet ranking. The thing that I find very interesting is what drives our perception of beauty. Is this something that only the human soul can figure out?

Sadly, no.

Three Israeli researchers (Yael Eisenthal, Gideon Dror, and Eytan Ruppin) did a bit of work in 2005 to program an AI program to recognize beauty. They have the correlation up to .65, which is a good start. What drove the attractive face? They reported the following:

The features found most informative were those pertaining to size of the lower part of the face (jaw length, chin length), smoothness of skin, lip fullness, and eye size. These findings are all consistent with previous psychophysics studies.

The key is that certain faces are just "beautiful" and others are not. Certainly, as Pierre pointed out in his pictures, if you are heavy, then you are discriminated against. As it has been said, thin is in. And generally, the thinner faces are preferred by people over thicker faces.

Zaidel out of UCLA has done some interesting work here. Some people have said symmetry drove good looks. In research done on faces, he tried to get a sense of what the relationship was of beauty, health, and symmetry.

What did he find? If you have a symmetric face, you are considered healthy. If you are considered healthy, you are not necessarily considered beauty. It makes sense. Beauty goes beyond just health or not. Symmetry is not the answer.

After looking at the Hot or Not website, a couple things became apparent to me. These were as follows:

1. I tried to rank both women and men. I did a pretty good job of ranking the women compared to the "common" score given by most people. However, with the men, I was horrible.

2. Women who I thought were not that attractive sometimes got better scores than expected. It took me a while, but eventually I started to understand that if the woman was in a sultry pose and showing skin, they had a higher score. Beauty, it seems, it tied to your overall "come hither" signals in the photo.

If somebody has a beautiful face, I think this is beauty. However, on this website, which clearly is pushing toward the teenagers, beauty is sex. Sex is beauty. Our entire teenage culture is being wired to try and simulate the opposite sex more and more so that they can be considered beautiful. However, this is not beauty, this is sex.

This is turning into a universal message for our youth. We are silly to ignore it. If we believe the Bible, we are on the path of destruction if we teach our children to trust in their flesh and not in their God. We need to carefully consider what our youth are doing.

However, it is possible to just have the faced ranked, and many photos did show just the face.

One parting thought before we leave.

Just a few posts ago, I was advertising my IQ. To now test my beauty, I upload my 40+ year old face to the Hot or Not website. The picture off to the left shows the result from those seeing my mug.

I never thought that I was super attractive, nor did I think I was ugly. However, let's look at what the kids at Hot or Not ranked me. If you look at the graph, you see that I got what looks like a 1 (that was harsh) a bunch of 3's and a bunch of 5's.

Interestingly enough, I got a scatter of 8's. No 9 or 10's. So my "average" score from 1 to 10 is probably about a 5. However, this score made me in the top 30% of men posters to Hot or Not. Thus my ranking is a 7.3, which I'm assuming that is just rounding 73% score for attractiveness.

I'll keep it.

First, I wonder if I took off my shirt and posed that way, if I would have gotten a better score. We may need to not run that one, unless curiosity kills me. Secondly, the real question is if I would trade me meager looks, which places me in the "top 30%" of the attractive men, and trade it with my IQ, which places me in the top 12% of intelligence.

I'm glad I didn't have to make that decision. It was left up to the Lord and his will.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

"Spirit" -> What I Believe

What do I believe?

Within a hairbreadth, I would believe the Apostle's creed. However, I have one problem with it, as it is printed below:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. AMEN.

My basic problem is the phrase "descended into hell."

Now, Calvin liked this creed, but even he was forced to reinterpret what the historical church fathers meant. The statement by Calvin below is out of his institutes:

By these words he means that Christ was put in place of evildoers as surety and pledge — submitting himself even as the accused — to bear and suffer all the punishments that they ought to have sustained. All — with this one exception: "He could not be held by the pangs of death" [Acts 2:24 p.]. No wonder, then, if he is said to have descended into hell, for he suffered the death that, God in his wrath had inflicted upon the wicked!

In other words, Calvin said that the decent into hell wasn't literal, but simply reflected the suffering Christ Jesus had on the cross. Unfortunately, this is not what the Church Fathers meant before Calvin In my mind, Calvin was trying to hang onto something that wasn't there. The Apostle's Creed is beautiful, but it is not scripture, and with this one phrase, it shows that it was a construction of man and not of God. For no where does the Bible clearly call out that Christ descended into hell. While the doctrine of Trinity only has gotten stronger over time, this descent into hell has only gotten weaker.

After all, on the cross, Christ declared that "it was finished." And the criminal was with Jesus in Paradise on the day of his death. In many ways, this creed states a bunch of facts, but in many senses this creed is empty.

Thus the best way to pigeonhole me is to say that I believe in the Nicene creed, although I wished that it was clearer on the nature of the Holy Spirit, which I am happy to accept the slightly modified version below. Beauty of beauty, this creed is often accepted by all major branches of the Church: Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox.

We believe in one God the Father, the Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, and of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one being [substance] with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made truly human. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen

However, I believe that each of us must put a bit of our own flavor on our beliefs. Why? I think the Nicene creed is very good as a non-scriptural firewall against cults and heresies, but it does not cause us to think about the role of a Christian.

So I would add:

  • I believe that I must try to love the Lord my God with all of my heart, soul and mind. I believe that this love must be expressed to my neighbor.

  • I believe faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

  • I believe that if I love the Carpenter's Son who was the Christ, who died for me, and call on his name for salvation, I will have eternal life.

  • I believe that many brothers and sisters throughout history were illiterate and could not read the Bible even if they wanted to, but the greatness of Yeshua of Nazreth's sacrifice is available for those that can't do careful exegesis of scripture. The Bible is constructed to lead us to the Logos, and this book should not become an idol in itself.

  • I believe that if the Lord has blessed you with the ability to read, there is little more important that spending time in the historical cannon of scripture on a daily basis. I believe that the entire Bible should be read on a yearly basis, and the fact that reading for 10-15 minutes a day allows you to cover the Bible in a year is not an accident but an insight for us to follow.

  • I believe that when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And those that believe that they will be saved because they they had a secret knowledge of the scriptures passed down by Saint John Calvin or Saint Jacobus Arminius will have to answer for their faith and the actions that faith created. They will not be judged on their ability to do careful exegesis of a few verses, but on how their faith caused them to give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, and shelter to the homeless.

  • I believe that prayer is not asking for things, but allowing yourself to listen first. I believe that the idea of ACTS for prayer is critical for growth. (Pray in Adoration. Pray in Confession. Pray in Thanksgiving. Pray in Supplication.)

  • I believe Jesus wants everyone of us to look for opportunities to tell others of the Good News.

  • And while not on my essential lists, the very close to essential list would include: man must save one day per week for worship and man must set aside money to offer as a sacrifice to God.
These are my beliefs.

"Mind, Body, and Spirit" -> The Great Burnout

The picture to the side of this line is Professor Christina Maslach. With her happy smile, you probably would think that she has done work in a happy subject, but you'd be wrong. Her name is associated with the idea of Burnout. Not her own life, but for others.

Professor Maslach is a very bright woman: graduated from Radcliffe (the female part of Harvard) magna cum laude, and then got her Ph.D. at Stanford in 1971. Ten years later, she introduced the world to Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) with her grad student Susan Jackson in the Journal Of Occupational Behavior.

In her test, she follow's Richard Lazarus's idea that we must not only test "the strength" you feel a particular way, but "how often" you feel that way. So, when you take the test, you should always have two scales as follows:

a. How often:

1 -> Few times a year
3 -> Few times a month
5 -> Every week
6 -> Every day

b. How strong

1 -> Mild
4 -> Moderate
7 -> Very strong, major

Taken in combination, you get the overall loading.

Before we go any farther, a version of the test can be found here: CLICK FOR LINK. It really focuses more on the how often, and less on the strength, but it will give you an idea of your own index.

Perhaps you would like to take the test yourself? It should only take 5 minutes.

So let's throw the magnifying glass onto the test, and regardless if you've taken the test or not, let's dig into the 3 main areas that she probes in her testing: emotional exhaustion, accomplishment, and depersonalization by looking at the "general" types of questions she asks. She also had a fourth area "involvement," which was more weakly correlated with burnout, so she made it optional.
Area 1: Emotional exhaustion

She tries to get at this area in a variety of ways. She isn't clever, but straight forward, and she asks questions like the following:

-Are you emotionally drained at work?
-Do you feel used up?
-Are you tired in the morning?
-Do you feel burned out?
-Is the job frustrating to you?
-Are you work too hard?
-Are people putting too much stress on you?
-Are you at the end of your rope?

Area 2: Are you accomplishing a lot?

-I working well with my clients
-I can deal with the issues that come up
-I have a positive influence
-I have energy
-I have a "good atmosphere" in my work
-I really like working the job issues
-I've accomplished a lot
-I can handle emotional issues

Area 3: Depersonalization

-I treat everybody as human beings
-I'm not getting more callous toward others
-I'm worried that the job is hardening me to other people
-I don't care what happens to others
-Others are blaming me

Area 4: Involvement (optional)

-I have empathy
-I am like the others that I work with

So, if you read the above areas, what are the themes? The themes are as follows:

1. She asks you to rank your burnout
2. She measures your "anti-burnout" drug
3. She measures your burnout in an indirect fashion

The first area is a "direct" measurement of burn out. It is simply asking you "do you feel burned out." It almost doesn't need to be explained. If you feel the life has been sucked out of you, you will feel burned out.

The second area is a little more surprising. It is trying to measure the "anti-burnout" engine of our life. If we have this anti-burnout drug, we won't catch the disease of burnout. It has to do with accomplishment. This to me is the most interesting of all the areas because it makes the most sense to me. Humans are wired to want to accomplish something. For me, this is absolutely critical in everything that I do. Have I made forward progress? Have I added something to the world? If I feel that I am getting stuff done, I feel that I am "on a roll" and nothing can stop me.

The worse day of all is when I come into work, and I find out that something I thought was solved has been destroyed or upset. If I feel that I am making great forward progress on both a business and a personal level, then I am energetic. I'll come in and work when I feel under the weather or sick. However, if I feel that I am going backwards, it is very difficult to come to work.

Accomplishment is the anti-burnout drug.

The final area is to see another view of burnout. By examining how you relate to other people, we can get a sense of if you are really burned out inside. People that are not burned out relate to other people. They have warmth and they have friends. They are nice people to be around. On the other hand, as you become more and more burned out, you really don't care about others. There is a strong analogy to this in starving individuals.

We can starve the body, and this is called starvation and physical death.

We can starve the soul, and this is called spiritual death.

We can starve the mind, and this is called burnout.

Ancel Keys is the father of the science of starvation. During World War II, he took conscious objectors that wanted to serve their country, and he asked them to starve themselves to serve their country much as the soldiers were doing. (A nice link on this paper: CLICK FOR LINK.) These men were generally very religious, and they were the type of men that should be kind and gentle.

However, make them starve, and they turned into something they didn't want to be.

One of the subjects said the following:

“. . . noticing what’s wrong with everybody else, even your best friend. Their idiosyncrasies became great big deals . . . little things that wouldn’t bother me before or after would really make me upset.” Marshall Sutton noted, “. . . we were impatient waiting in line if we had to . . . and we’d get disturbed with each other’s eating habits at times . . . I remember going to a friend at night and apologizing and saying, ‘Oh, I was terrible today, and you know, let’s go to sleep with other
thoughts in our minds.’ We became, in a sense, more introverted, and we had less energy."

This should sound familiar. The results from starving somebody is very, very similar to the act of burnout. You are more irritable. You don't feel good. You are less able to engage with others.

In my mind, burnout is the result of having no "positive food" for our minds and our sense of accomplishment.

If you are wondering why I am writing this column today, let me simply say that I work in a very high stress industry with less than satisfactory feedback of accomplishments.

While not at the end of my rope, many days I feel that I am near it. However, I am fortunate in that I am financially secure enough to be able to step off the roller coaster any time that I choose.

I pity those that can't and must ride it 'til there is nothing left of them.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

"Spirit" -> Life Is But A Breath Part II

Is God clear to you? Does God show himself to you? Or is he a bit foggy? Does he seem to hide himself?

We all have friends that don't know God, and if you are like me, you have thought, "If only God would appear before them, then they would believe." I have even prayed that God would show himself to them. So it drives the question:

Why doesn't God show himself?

Why does he hide?

Interestingly, this question was asked directly of Jesus.

(John 14:22) Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, "But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?"

This question doesn't only appear in the Bible.

Richard Dawkins, the most famous of atheists, was asked what would he say if he got to heaven and found out there was a God. He said that the following would be his defense:

I'd quote Bertrand Russell: "Not enough evidence, God, not enough evidence."

It is a question asked yesterday, today and tomorrow, "Where are you God?"

Perhaps you didn't know this question is found in the Bible. Perhaps you didn't know that Jesus was asked this question. So before you read any farther, why don't you try and think about what you think Jesus's answer will look like.

Now let's see how it is answered in the rest of the story in John.

23 Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

When I first read the above, I thought to myself that this isn't much of an answer. I couldn't even see how it answered the question.

Judas is asking "why don't you show yourself." Jesus doesn't answer this question, but he goes off on a tangent about how people that love him will obey him. Then people that obey him, will have a life with God.

However, if God comes to live with you, then he does show himself. The essence of what Christ is saying is "if you want to see God, it will happen by loving and obeying me." Okay, so this tells us how a Christian sees God, but it still doesn't answer the question as to why he doesn't reveal to the non-Christian. After all, if he wants us to become Christians, shouldn't he reveal himself to us?

The truth is that God does not show his face to many people on this earth. And even if God does show himself, we have a tendency not to see him.

Now, this might not make sense at first blush, but you need to go back and read the previous post on perceptual blindness. The problem, with the way that we are wired, is that we can't see what we don't want to see. If we are looking at other things in this world, we are going to have a difficult time seeing God.

Now, God could make himself known to us, even if we didn't want to see him. He could be big. He could be obvious. He could be God. If God wanted to, he could make himself known so that we couldn't ignore him. The problem with this is that seeing God, as God really is, is very, very intimidating.

God could come down so hard on you that your knee will bend. You will know that he is God. You will submit. However, submitting is not what saves you or I. God wants us to submit through love, not submit through fear.

I once was at a lecture by the famous Christian sociologist Tony Campolo. He stated that in psychological tests true love only happened if the love was not tied to demonstrations of force. The more that God shows himself to us as all powerful, the more that God is the bright light in front of our eyes, and the irresistible force, the less we will simply love him for who he is. I am a lover of Jesus Christ. If he appear in front of me, I would love him, maybe not as much as I should, but the core is there. A Christian is not somebody that believes in God. A Christian is somebody that loves Christ. I love him for who he his, not what he can do for me.

The problem is that most people believe that salvation is brought by believing in God. This is not correct, although it is an element of salvation. The key to salvation is understanding the greatest commandment as spoke about in the Gospels. Here is the version that Christ tells us in Mark 12:

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"

29 "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

The point of the whole of scriptures in not about you believing. Now, it is impossible to please God without faith, but don't get this wrong. Faith is only a part of the picture.

Believing is not the key as James points out in the second Chapter of his book:

19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

Think about the above verse. James is very familiar with the Gospels. He know that the greatest commandment says to believe in one God. However, he tears the commandment into two piece: belief and love. Belief without love is useless. The point is to love the Lord your God.

God does not show himself (in person to most people over most centuries) because showing himself does not foster love.

While God does not show himself to everybody, the evidence for God is there. What type of evidence? The answer is given by Paul in Romans 1.

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

God is present, but only in a secondary way. His attributes are seen, but he hides himself. Some of his attributes are clear, but he does not show himself completely.

However, the opposite is not true. If we seek God, we will find him. I am convinced that by reading and meditating on the word of God, you will find God. This is the promise of the New Testament.

In a parable in Luke 16, Jesus tells a story of a man that is being tortured in Hell. To prevent his brothers from coming to Hell, he asks that a resurrected beggar is sent back to warn his brothers. He is told the following:

'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'

If somebody asks you, "I would only believe if God showed himself to me," you need to answer the following fashion:

"God has appeared to some from time to time. We do not know why he does, and we cannot command his performance. If God appeared to you now, you might believe that he exists, but the scriptures teaches that this does not save you. The scriptures tells us that he wants to be loved. The more that God shows himself to you, the more that you'll do what he says, but it is all for the wrong reason.

The Bible tells a wonderful story. If you study that story, you are going to find truth and beauty. I think you will even find enough proof that you'll understand why God does hide from you. Would you be willing to spend a bit of time doing a Bible study with me? I'm pretty sure that if you read the stories, you might even find out Christianity makes sense."

Sunday, February 04, 2007

"Spirit and Mind" -> How To Count Part II

Did you show up here before reading my previous blog entry? You first need to go here: LINK HERE.

Please read the other blog entry first.

If you have not read my other blog entry, then this blog entry won't make any sense at all. So go visit my other blog entry.

If on the other hand, you want to know the answer to my previous blog, then hang on. Why? Because I think you may have not read my other blog entry. So, come one, go back up a few sentences and read my other blog entry. It really isn't going to make sense unless you do this.

You're still here?


I guess that you've done the work. But before we reveal the number of passes that were done in the previous blog entry, I want to ask you a simply question.

Did you happen to see anything funny while counting passes?

What am I talking about?

Well I'm just asking. Did you see anything "funny?"

Like what you ask?

How about a woman carrying an umbrella across the basketball court. Because this is what happened in the first one.

In the second one, we had a gorilla walk across the screen. He stopped in the middle of the players, and did a gorilla yell.

Did you see it? If not, then I want you to go back and watch for these events again.

Here are the links:

Basketball 1

Basketball 2

Thus I will let you in on a secret. You were counting basketball passes. However, I wanted to show you "Inattentional Blindness" in action.

Inattentional Blindness basically says that when we focus on something, we block out other things. See, I wasn't trying to get you count the passes (which was around 22 or so). I was misdirecting you. Once you were focused on a task, the other events became black.

While I was growing up as a child, I loved to do magic tricks. The #1 thing to have a successful magic trick is distraction and either anxiety or relaxation. Our human nature is wired so that we can't see the obvious in front of our face unless we know that it is coming.

I had a friend that was riding a bicycle. As they were going down the street in plain view, a car pulled across their path and she crashed into the car. The person behind the wheel said, "I never even saw you." However, the day was clear. They were blinded.

In the same way, how many times have we missed an obvious problem at work? How many times have we seen marriages go down in flames? Each time, the person relates that they just didn't see it coming.

Our brains filter what they want to see. They hear what they want to hear.

I am convinced that God is present in everything around us. We should be able to see him in the corner of our eye. We should be able to see him in each action that we do.

But, because we have this blindness, we cannot.

In reality, people say they can't see God. Well, if you are concentrated on this world, you won't be able to see God.

He'll walk through your game, and you'll never see him.

"Spirit and Mind" -> How To Count

This post is probably one of the most interesting ones that I can do. It is about counting and how we really don't know how to count.

So, I want to give you a test. If you wouldn't mind load this link into your web browser: LINK HERE. You will see a basketball game. I want you to count the number of times you see somebody pass the basketball. Now this will be a bit hard, and you will need to to really concentrate since there are at least two basketballs that you will need to track. Also, the people are a bit transparent, making it harder.

To make the test fair, try not to read the other part of the web page and play the film as soon as it comes up. If it doesn't start when you get to the web page, then please start it immediately. (Unfortunately, you will need Java installed on your machine.)

After you have done this one, I suggest you try one more basketball counting scheme. This is a little easier since you don't have transparent people in it. Just simply count both basketball passing. The link is here: LINK HERE.

Now after you are done, come back here. And, I'll give you the answer.

It will be in my next post, but how we count numbers will surprise you.

Really, it is worth it.

Do it now.

If you want the answer, go here: LINK HERE.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

"Mind" -> The Science Of Faith

For the uninitiated, there is a classic gap:

1. The theoretical physicist
2. The experimental physicist

When I was taking undergrad honor's physics at the UW (despite how this seems impossible to anybody that knows me now), my prof proudly declared himself part of the experimental physic fraternity vs the rest of the physics staff. And, at the time of my undergrad degree, the link between theory and experiment for the deep question of the universe were more closely aligned.

[The University of Washington tends toward theoretical physics, so my Prof was an outsider.)

Experimental physicist have always insisted that they are the fun ones, since they are conversationalists and do things like dancing on tables at parties. The theoretical physicists need a computer, some paper and a quiet space--they are boring, boring.]

Up through the 1920-1980s, it was always a question of who would find the particles first: the theory or the experiments. However, this locked arm approach to the big questions is completely broken. The theoretical guys are now off in a space all of their own.

So while the world went through the Einstein and Standard Model revolutions, the theory and experiments were tying out. However, I would suggest that the model breaks down after this in the mid-1980s.

If we look at the situation today, in terms of the "big" questions of the universe, the theoretical and the experimental physicists seem to be at an all time splitting point, since the observation of the theory is no longer achievable. The theory guys are in a completely different universe (yes, that was a pun).

A debate along this lines is "is information destroyed?" When we first discovered black holes, everything that went into them was compressed to a singularity. Now, when Hakwins did his work on this, he came to the conclusion that information flowing into the black hole would be destroyed. This has been resisted by many scientist.

Even Hawking himself has reversed himself. Recently Hawkins himself has said that information wasn't destroyed. However, how does information stay preserved? A nice documentary on this can be found here.

Hawkins wants to say that information isn't destroyed in a black hole because there are multiple parallel universes, some which don't have black holes to destroy the information.

Leonard Susskind has suggested information is spread around the event horizon of th black hole. Both have mathematical model that potentially work. (Or could be modified to work.)

However, there is no experimental physicist willing to get within a mile of talking about how to even possibly verifying this in our life time.

The way to consider the Quantum level physics is often referred to as the "Standard Model." The Standard Model has been around since the early 70s. As we have looked at the Standard Model, it is very clear that we can find many of the particles that this mathematical model would suggest. With one exception, the Higgs Boson. So, we are 35 years after the standard model, but we haven't been able to find this particle.

"Large Hadron Collider," at CERN is hoping to find this when it becomes operational. However, as stated, even the most established model is just looking at being closed. However, this is such a big gap for theory to closure. And this closure is just for a almost sure model.

Ever year, theoretical physics is de-evolving into either mathematics or philosophy. To suggest otherwise would simply be disingenuous.