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The modern world’s reverence of science has gone too far

April 30, 2013 4 comments

I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for a long time, but somehow just never got around to it. I think a lot of people have never really taken the time to think about this. In today’s world, science’s place as the ultimate truth-finder in the modern world is taken as a given. I think this can have some dangerous and foolish consequences.

What does the Bible have to say about worldly wisdom? Here’s just one passage (1 Corinthians 1:18-25):

19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

I was going to highlight or bold certain parts, but I think pretty much all of it sends a strong point across to the reader. Please take the time to digest it on your own, and maybe apply it to what we’re talking about here.

Before people start accusing me of “bashing” on science, let me make something clear. Science has made amazing contributions to this world, and I think that was an intentional part of God’s design when He decided to share dominion of Earth with us. I am all for taking medicines to help cure illnesses, and knowledge of the human body has helped doctors make proper treatments all across the board.

I am also relatively supportive of technology. I could not write this blog without it, nor enjoy many of the creature comforts I take for granted every day. AIR CONDITIONING! (Sorry, just had to get that in there.)

But what I’m talking about is a more specific realm of science; the part that purports to tell us about the universe and its past. I am talking about scientific “facts” such as naturalistic evolution, archeology that seemingly contradicts the Bible, and other such fields. Much of this science is based on theory and speculation rather than repeatable, testable results. I am not talking about science that we see and use on an everyday basis (and therefore can easily find faults with over time). A big bulk of science cannot be contained in a laboratory and “proved,” but this doesn’t stop people from swallowing these “truths” wholesale and allowing them to dictate their beliefs.

Here are three primary reasons I do not place science on the same pedestal as other people.

1. The scientific community is not as truth-driven or open-minded as some people assume.

In a perfect world, the scientific community’s sole purpose would be to find truth regardless of logistics, politics, and greed. But the fact of the matter is, real truth is often not the sole (or even primary) aim. There are often strong competing factors at play that cannot be ignored or brushed off as something on the fringes.

For instance, a lot of science is driven by the need and desire for funding. Where there is money, there the scientists will flock. Can we blame them? They need to pay their bills and make a living just like we do. This often means that they will do the kind of work that interests rich philanthropists or the public eye at the time. This also means results could be tweaked or pushed in a particular direction to keep the money flowing.

As C. W. Adams puts it: “In the real world, research is not the rational pursuit of knowledge many might imagine it to be. Rather, it is a system riddled with competitive forces; greed; profits; the pursuit of personal recognition; and quite simply, survival issues for the individual researcher.”

Furthermore, there is a strong pressure toward conformity in the scientific community to avoid being ostracized by one’s peers. Breaking from the mold requires a strong sense of purpose and conviction, for this is often considered to result in career suicide. C. W. Adams calls this “peer-control.”

“…it must be understood that the range of study, and the ability of these professors to travel outside the box, is also severely limited by the educational institutions that employ them. Maintaining job security in these institutions usually requires some sort of peer control process that research scientists undertake when determining hypotheses. Although speculation is obviously encouraged, the topics and range of speculation are thoroughly restricted.”

Remember that Satan is referred to as the “god of this world,” so wouldn’t you think that he’d do anything to keep the true God out of the picture as much as possible? Do you think he’d push the tides of academia toward biblical truth or away from it? You be the judge. Remember also that true scientific facts never contradict the Bible nor render God obsolete. They are simply observations of His creation at work, and His fingerprints remain on everything. For instance, learning how lightning forms does nothing to disprove the God who put those forces in place to begin with.

2. Science is continually changing and amending prior “certainties.”

Nietzsche once said that “madness is the exception in individuals but the rule in groups.” This aptly describes why so many of the world’s brightest minds can often be in complete agreement on certain “truths” that later end up being completely (and sometimes hilariously) wrong. A scientific consensus is far from a sure thing, as history would teach us.

Carl Sagan once wrote: “Even a succession of professional scientists–including famous astronomers who had made other discoveries that are confirmed and now justly celebrated–can make serious, even profound errors in pattern recognition.”

The bottom line is that just because you throw more people into the mix doesn’t mean that you can prevent blindness. What often happens is a phenomenon that Yale psychologist Irving L. Janis terms as “the groupthink syndrome.” There are three main symptoms of this:

1. Overestimate of the group’s power and morality, including “an unquestioned belief in the group’s inherent morality, inclining the members to ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their actions.” [emphasis added]

2. Closed-mindedness, including a refusal to consider alternative explanations and stereotyped negative views of those who aren’t part of the group’s consensus. The group takes on a “win-lose fighting stance” toward alternative views.

3. Pressure toward uniformity, including “a shared illusion of unanimity concerning judgments conforming to the majority view”; “direct pressure on any member who expresses strong arguments against any of the group’s stereotypes”; and “the emergence of self-appointed mind-guards … who protect the group from adverse information that might shatter their shared complacency about the effectiveness and morality of their decisions.”

Think about some of the failed assumptions and certainties of the past: the world is flat (bogus); the atom is the smallest building block of matter (false); the universe is necessarily infinite (now we know of the Big Bang)…the list goes on and on.

Did you know that there have been a large number of prominent scientists and experts who have published material “proving” that the Bible wasn’t factual? That certain people-groups mentioned in scripture never existed? And usually what happens is that years or decades later, some archeologist will unearth new evidence to validate the claims of the Bible, not those ever-sure experts.

If science ever seems to run counter to what God’s unchanging and eternal Word says, I’m hitching my wagon to the source of truth that has never been proved wrong.

3. Scientists are made up of faulty and biased people just like you and me.

I don’t know about you, but when I think of the word “scientist,” I am not immediately struck with reverence and awe. Respect, sure…many of them work very hard and are gifted with relatively bright minds. But at the basic core, they are people just like us who deal with insecurities, fight against stubbornness and pride, and are shaped by the influences around them.

I suspect that people who look up to scientists as the end-all-be-all have never really known a scientist (or at least one from a “respectable” school). Guess what? They range from academic hermits to clumsy goof balls. Many of them, due to their narrow focus on studying, lack common sense in important areas that some of us take for granted. They are sometimes unsuccessful in love due to a basic misunderstanding of human interaction. Sometimes they are great at it. I would no sooner take advice from someone who works in the sciences than a trusted friend.

(Be honest: don’t we all laugh at Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory because we can relate to the brilliant-at-something guy who is seriously lacking in other common areas? I alluded to his difficulty in grasping sarcasm in an earlier post.)

The point is, they are no more reliable as finders of the truth than the average reasonable adult. It is easy to see how these people could be swept away in a cool and exciting new idea, rather than putting on the brakes of common sense…especially if being at the forefront of this thinking puts them in a superior intellectual position.

* * *

The point of this post was not to bash on science or scientists, but rather to give a reminder/reality check that man is just man. We are fallible creatures and our systems are bound to be flawed as well. To be sure, we have been given great power and authority over this world, but there is always One who is supremely higher. Let’s not make the mistake of getting so full of ourselves that we miss the fact that we are His creation. The creation cannot be greater than the Creator, can it?

And that very thought was what drove Satan to rebel in the first place…isn’t it funny how it all naturally fits into this world, his current domain?

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A logical path to Christianity

March 18, 2013 2 comments

Like I often do, I’d like to start with a disclaimer…

This is my own way of thinking and it works for me, but it is by no means authoritative or complete. No one can actually come to believe in Christ without the Holy Spirit, but it helps to be able to fall back on logic in times of doubt and weakness.

I encourage people to think through these steps (or steps like these) and really dig at the heart of the issue. It perplexes me still just how little people delve into these things when literally everything is riding on them. Keep in mind that this is a logical path, so things like feelings, personal preferences, and predispositions need to be kept in check as much as possible. We are making probabilistic judgments along the way and ignoring what we like or dislike. As humans, these things seep into our decision-making and conclusions all the time, but it has little relevance here.

This is a very surface-level post, so don’t expect it to be comprehensive, but I think it’s a good basic overview. This is my simple three-step path to deciding that Christianity is the one true religion.

OK so the very first step is to decide for yourself:

1. Is there a personal creator of the universe? Yes or no? There are only two options.

*Based on some feedback I’ve gotten, I felt the need to clarify the term “personal creator.” In apologetics terms, this does not necessarily refer to a relational person or what not, but it simply refers to a being who decided to create by his own volition (as opposed to being some natural force without a mind). I suppose the “personal” part of it, as most people understand it, would be more directly addressed with the second question in this post.

Most people claim to believe “yes” to this question because some things seem inherently obvious (of course, many simply state “I believe there is a higher power somewhere” and leave it at that). The universe is not eternal—as skeptics used to propose—and therefore was created or came into being at a finite point in our past. Nothing comes from nothing, so there had to be some external first-cause, right? Natural causes couldn’t sufficiently handle this creation duty, and what natural causes are there to speak of anyway when “nature,” matter, and even time didn’t exist? (Yes, even time came into existence at the Big Bang, most scientists agree.) A personal being had to choose to create the universe rather than there being nothing.

Things like the Cosmological Argument and the impossibility of an actual infinite come into play here…and in my opinion, common sense. When we look around and witness the beauty and intelligence around us, it seems almost preposterous to think it all happened by chance from inanimate and impersonal matter.

So for me, the answer to this question is YES. That leads me to the next question…

2. Did this personal creator choose to reveal itself to us? Yes or no.

One could imagine a scenario where a disinterested creator or god brought this universe into being, and then stepped away to leave us to our own devices. It’s possible. But when we have to decide probabilistically whether this is the case, it’s hard to defend.

In my view, why would a powerful and personal creator make this world (and the resulting intelligent life) and have no interest in it? Why would this creator bother making humans who yearn for answers and even for worship in some form? Why would this creator be satisfied in making such splendor and complexity and being completely detached from it? Doesn’t it make more sense that this creator would ultimately try to make contact with us and for us to recognize him/her?

In my view, it makes more sense that if this grand creator bothered to make us, then a relationship of some sort would naturally follow. If you don’t agree, it’s hard to convince you otherwise (but I’d love to hear your train of thought on this).

Now, if this creator has revealed information and truths to us in some way, I think that would constitute what we refer to as a “religion” or set of beliefs. The question now becomes something else entirely…

3. Out of all the world’s religions, which is most likely to be true? Which one is the right one?

Before we delve into this, let me stop some of you peace-loving hippies (or postmodernists even) out there. 😉 No, not all religions can be right, and they do NOT all point to the same thing. They all state contradictory “facts” about this greater power and are mutually exclusive from each other. The issue is not “what’s true for you” because truth is true whether or not you feel it. Someone can believe with all their heart that 2+2 = 3, but they’d be wrong. Like it or not, there is objective truth…some things are correct, some things are incorrect. You can’t really get around that by trying to be open-minded when it comes to truth.

If this great creator (from steps 1 and 2) has such incomprehensible power, you can safely assume that he/she would make sure that the right set of beliefs is correct all the way. You can’t pick bits and pieces from different sources. Wouldn’t that be a rather incompetent higher power?

Anyway, a likely obstacle you’d come across at this point is this: “you can’t prove whether a religion is true. It’s all taken on faith, not evidence.”

Yes, there is a measure of faith in the unseen and incomprehensible; I understand that. But what we’re trying to decide is which religion is most likely to be true, given what we know and have available to us.

From my study of the major world religions, it was easy to notice some predictable patterns. Some dude has a dream or vision, and then tells other people about it. Sometimes, they are just the person’s own ideas. The hearers of these so-called truths or revelations sense conviction in that person’s voice and demeanor, and they decide he is not lying. Being superstitious and gullible, they start believing and following this original source. Eventually, their numbers increase and you have an established religion.

(Don’t get me wrong…it is my belief that many of these religious leaders believed their own story. There was not much understanding of dreams back then, and visions can come from various places and for different reasons…possibly were even demonic.)

Sometimes, the religion spreads by word of mouth in light of little or no opposition. Other times, it spreads by military might or government mandate.

In almost all cases, the source can be primarily traced to one man who in his enlightenment, writes some scriptures for people to follow. It takes maybe a few months or years. Nothing within these scriptures can be proved or disproved because they largely deal with the metaphysical. This person likely enjoys a heightened status as a leader of a new movement. Who doesn’t like having followers looking up to you, right?

But one religion stands out in stark contrast: Christianity.

The Bible was not written by one person trying to get followers, but rather 40 different authors spaced out over thousands of years. If you know your Bible well enough and pay close attention, you’ll notice a striking continuity and an unmistakeable unified purpose throughout. No single author or leader received all the glory, and if anything, they were severely persecuted or even martyred for their teachings.

We have the Synoptic Gospels, which all tell the same story (with varying levels of detail), so there is multiple attestation making it more credible according to methods that help determine historicity. Keep in mind that these people weren’t collectively working on something known as “the Bible” today. They were not collaborators, but rather were people who in some cases didn’t even know each other directly.

We also have biblical stories squarely entrenched in the midst of actual known human history. We see Caesars, Xerxes, and other known figures throughout. These are not fables in mythical settings with made-up events, but are real locations with historical details being confirmed by archeology and ancient historians continually (even including lost civilizations that modern scholars initially claimed the Bible made up…until they are proved wrong by the next excavation). The Bible even contains startlingly accurate prophecies regarding the man of Jesus and even the rise and fall of empires. The Dead Sea Scrolls and other finds confirm that these prophecies were recorded well before the actual events took place.

For me, the fact that the Bible tells us things we don’t want to hear even helps confirm its truthfulness. What other religion tells us that we are held accountable even for our thoughts? Or that we are unable to come to good standing with our own works and effort, but rather are completely dependent on the mercy of Jesus? That the love of money or wealth itself can be bad for you and is dangerous?

If I made a religion, I’d tell people to get as rich as possible. This would help support the cause, right? Other religions try to tell you things that make them appealing, like having multiple wives or the promise of 72 virgins in the afterlife…true biblical Christianity is hard and humbling.

The list goes on and on, but you get the idea. Nothing else even comes close.

Does this make Christianity a certainty? Of course not, but you might be compelled to agree that it’s the best candidate for the one true religion.

If this is true and the Bible is the true word of God, then at this point, does it really matter what you feel? Does it matter that you like Buddhism’s teachings better or that you find things in the Bible to be objectionable? You should know as well as anyone that you are fallible and prone to mistakes. What you believe one day can change the next.

The crux of the issue is what is true.

And that is the basic gist of why I believe Christianity to be the one true religion. It’s hard to capture it in a readable blog post, but I hope you get the idea.

Renewed effort on this blog

March 18, 2013 4 comments

Hello all,

As I’ve made clear in previous posts, I’ve been struggling with a diminishing motivation when it comes to this blog. My original intent was to reach thinking people into making an informed decision for Christ, but I think people who are set in their disbelief cannot be convinced no matter what I say.

But as the domain registration expiration was approaching, I pondered whether to keep this blog active. Then I felt a pressing on my heart to ramp up my efforts once again. Even if it helps one or two people, it is worth the time and energy it takes. I can’t control the effects, but the worst thing is to give up and do nothing.

So without further ado, I will proceed to writing my first post in a while. Forgive me if I’m rusty at all, but I hope the Spirit will help me along the way. 🙂

Joe

Categories: General, Random thoughts

Ah, the heights of human arrogance

November 19, 2012 5 comments

Human arrogance and pride is everywhere, and it’s not just the “hatetheists” who are guilty of this (again, described in this link: http://blogs.christianpost.com/confident-christian/profile-of-a-hatetheist-10298/). It resides in all of us, even those who call themselves Christians. Smart, educated people are especially prone to this pitfall precisely because they believe themselves to be smart.

While we may try to remove the more obvious signs of pride from our lives daily (particularly the socially unacceptable forms), I think a more hidden and dangerous kind threatens to destroy the possibility of salvation in many around us…even churchgoers who fully believe themselves to be saved.

This latent pride not only keeps someone from fully engaging with Almighty God in a genuine way, but it also gives people the false sense of security that they have nothing to worry about…that they are already right with God and the rest is just icing on the cake.

OK so what am I talking about? In a nutshell, it is this attitude: “I know better than God.”

Now, I know what you’re thinking…no one who calls themselves Christians would actually think or say this! Maybe not explicitly, but like love, feelings and words are not the best way to gauge whether we have the proper attitude. The best evidence is shown through actions and in the way we think.

Chronological Snobbery

This mindset presupposes that newer or more modern is always better. What we believe today is better than what “old-fashioned” people or societies in the past believed. “Traditional” has become a dirty word.

Why do people think this way? Because we have some evidence supporting this predisposition. Newer technology is generally faster and better. We can look into the historical past with 20/20 hindsight and see all the egregious mistakes that we have made. Since we appear to have progressed in some of these areas (e.g., slavery, racism, sexism), we conclude that we are always moving forward.

But this is a gross oversimplification, particularly when it comes to morality. Just as modern electric guitars do not beat a ’59 Gibson Les Paul, modern morality is not necessarily superior to the past overall. You cannot make blanket statements or judgments, but rather need to consider things piece by piece. As always, people love to think in ways that are convenient and neatly packaged, rather than nuanced.

For instance, yes, we can be jubilant in the abolition of slavery and that we have come to our senses that racism is wrong. We can be happy about getting closer to gender equality and laws protecting women from domestic abuse.

But as Bible-believing Christians, we should mourn the erosion of biblical and traditional marriage. We should feel immense sadness at the killing of unborn babies every day, while coming to grips with the ridiculous hypocrisy of judging China for throwing away unwanted daughters into dumpsters. “Choice” has become the ultimate good rather than right and wrong or the sanctity of life. Tolerance for all ideas has taken the place of pursuing and discerning actual truth.

We need to analyze things point by point. Not all modern things are better. If you believe Satan exists and is out to deceive the world, do you really think he’d make his acts of moral sabotage so obvious? Remember, he knows what he is doing and is smarter than the limits of our human intelligence. The only chance we have to withstand his barrage of deceptions is to be saturated in God’s Word.

Using Our Own Moral Compasses

There is supposed to be only one overriding moral compass in this world, and that is the Bible. The Holy Spirit also leads true believers, yes, but He never goes against God’s Word. There is never any contradiction, or else you are being misled by some other false spirit.

But nowadays, people regard their own feelings about moral issues as the ultimate guide for right and wrong. Nevermind what God said…this is what I feel. This is what I believe in my bones.

Again, there is just enough false evidence to lead us to conclude this is the way to go. That candy bar you stole when you were little? You sure felt that it was wrong, but you did it anyway. If only you had gone along with your trusty ol’ moral compass, surely you would have avoided breaking the law. Any time you lied to someone you care about, you felt a pang of guilty feelings. Sometimes, you have been led to do the right thing based on your conscience. All of this cumulative evidence leads you to believe that if only you are disciplined enough to follow your gut, you would do the right thing all the time.

So when your gut goes against what the Bible teaches you, without even knowing it, you trust your gut instead. Perhaps the problem is, subconsciously, you still need God and the Bible to prove themselves to you. Perhaps it’s not really your gut at all, but rather years of cultural brainwashing that have reformed your beliefs. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re immune to more advanced forms of peer pressure just because you’re out of high school now.

God may tell you that homosexuality is wrong, but then you look around and see happy gay couples…you see them on TV and they are fun and pleasant. Maybe your favorite uncle or a friend is gay and you feel ashamed that your Bible condemns their behavior when you want to be supportive.

Your gut starts to tell you that maybe the Bible is wrong on this issue or it didn’t consider things as comprehensively as you have.

At this point, maybe you should consider giving God a few pointers and bringing Him up to speed on the things you know. After all, His omniscience and timeless knowledge no longer carry as much weight as your own feelings on matters.

Again, we see Satan’s cleverness at work here. While he is able to convince some extreme people that blatantly wrong things like stealing or murder are OK, for the most part, he knows these things are an impossible battle. So what does he do? Probably what we would do in the same shoes. Go after the so-called “gray areas” where you can put up a more convincing argument to go against God (note: many of these perceived gray areas are actually quite black and white if we are properly informed). Prey on the extreme powers of human rationalization and rack up some victories there.

Don’t be fooled guys. We can’t trust our gut completely, nor can we trust societal norms. Heck, people seem more likely to trust GQCosmo, or the liberal media these days rather than God.

If God actually exists, though, there is an ultimate authority on right and wrong and we are not it. Considering that people are wholly convinced about certain things—and these things differ based on time and culture—the ONLY reliable source of moral authority is the Bible.

If you go to different parts of the world, there will be countless people who are 100% convinced of opposite positions from you. Now we get into an issue of whose culture is better. You will inevitably think, “Ah, but they are a backwards culture. You can’t trust what they think.”

Do you really want to take on this kind of snobbery as well? What makes you so sure your culture is superior in every way? My opinion is that each culture has a few things right, a few things wrong. No one has it all figured out (and no one ever will).

If you don’t believe the Bible is the actual Word of God, then fine, that’s a different argument. But my point is that if you call yourself a Bible-believing Christian, you need to act like it. Don’t be a poser.

Imagine This Scenario

Imagine this. A guy sees a picture of a pretty girl on someone else’s Facebook. He decides from seeing this picture that he is meant to marry this girl. From the picture, he has constructed what he believes to be her personality. “I bet she likes taking nature walks and is reserved, but not overly shy.”

“I love her!”

He imagines what their dates would be like and the kind of parents they would be to their children. He would be the firm one to counter her nurturing hand and voice. He predicts the kinds of conversations they would have and the responses she would give to his questions.

Kind of creepy, right?

Well, now let’s say that he one day runs into her at a mutual friend’s party. He walks up and introduces himself to her, and he fully believes he accurately knows the kind of person she is.

Could he realistically expect her to fall for him immediately and agree to marry him?

Of course not! He’s more likely to get the following response than a yes to marriage: “I don’t know you, get away!”

Why is that? Because they never actually knew each other. He never met with her or developed a real relationship. Everything was according to his own imagination and was not grounded in reality.

The same goes for most “Christians” who have constructed their own image of God in their minds. They don’t read the Bible and get to know who He really is. When they do read, they change the obvious meaning to better suit their beliefs. They don’t wrestle with difficult truths and submit to His authority over their own. They don’t come to see who He really is.

Rather, they form an agreeable, politically correct, culturally relevant version of “God” in their minds. Maybe He’s a teddy bear. Forget the wrath stuff or divine judgment. “Forget what the Bible says, I’m sure God understands how things are now in America…”

But sure enough, these people are in real danger. They don’t know the true God, nor do they rely on Him as their authority. What do they think “LORD and savior” really means? It’s not “buddy and savior.”

Sadly, when these people reach the gates of heaven, they will likely be shocked to hear: “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:23)

But it really shouldn’t be shocking at all.

Why I’ve given up on reaching out to angry atheists

September 17, 2012 5 comments

This article sums it up better than I could ever write it:

http://blogs.christianpost.com/confident-christian/profile-of-a-hatetheist-10298/

If I ever come across a respectful atheist who seems genuinely concerned about finding the truth, I will gladly engage in dialogue with that person even if I have to go out of my way and inconvenience myself greatly.

But from what I’ve observed, too many people seeking discussions with Christians are only out to “win” and tear down what you hold so dear…which would be fair if they could lean on sound logic at least. It really does feel like an exercise in futility, though, and I’m encouraged to read that even Jesus recognized a useless battle when He saw one:

Matthew 15:14: “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”

People who aren’t interested in the truth would not accept truth even if you spoon-fed it to them. This is one of the reasons why this blog has slowed considerably…I like that it can help current believers, but my original purpose and passion of shedding light to those who wanted to see it has almost burned out. I pray that God will instill love in my heart so that I can at least pray for these kinds of people, but it’s difficult to even care sometimes when people are so disrespectful of such a majestic God.

Humility = Blessing

June 25, 2012 Leave a comment

As you all probably know, the Miami Heat are now the NBA champions. LeBron James—one of the most talented players to ever play the game—finally has his first ring after a nine-year career full of “potential,” but never the prize.

A lot of people rooted against the Heat, and for good reason. Two years ago, LeBron James left everyone in the dark about where he was going to play next. He announced a TV special on ESPN called “The Decision,” which was basically nothing more than self-hype and cheesy suspense. Every basketball fan was dying to know where LeBron would be going, and he knew it. He milked his popularity and renown for all it was worth. And then he struck the dagger into Cleveland’s heart on national television by finally announcing that he would be “taking [his] talents to South Beach.” They burned his jersey and their love affair turned into an intense hatred.

As a somewhat impartial viewer, I totally understood his decision from a basketball standpoint. Here he was, a one-man team, leading the Cavaliers to the NBA’s best record. He took them to the finals in 2007, but it was clear that he was not getting the help he needed. LeBron was dominating on the floor, and the rest of his team was basically watching. Even Michael Jordan—the greatest of all time—didn’t win a championship until Scottie Pippen arrived. Kobe couldn’t win without Shaq until Pau Gasol came to L.A.

LeBron’s fall from grace was swift. There’s hardly anything like it to compare to in sports. He went from one of the most respected, touted athletes in the league to the #1 villain. He was booed and mocked regularly. Honestly, it was with good reason. In addition to disrespecting Cleveland, his self-aggrandizing was getting out of hand. This “Welcome Home” party for the Miami Heat was just ridiculous: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9BqUBYaHlM. The “Big Three” was basically saying how practice was going to be tough against each other, but winning games was the “easy part.” They boldly proclaimed that they would win “not one, not two, not three…[championships].” Do you know how many great, all-time players have never won ONCE? For them to make it sound easy was a slap in the face of all the past legends.

Their first year together, Miami reached the Finals against a somewhat aging Dallas Mavericks team. Here, I must take a detour!

Miami won the championship in 2006 with Shaq and Dwayne Wade (a rising superstar at the time) at the helm. They had fallen behind 0 games to 2—beaten convincingly in those games—and Dallas did something that was brash, even by Mark Cuban’s (the owner) standards. They already began planning the victory parade, and people knew about it. They had gotten full of themselves and wrote Miami off. You know the rest: Miami won the next four games to take the championship. Dallas was devastated and humiliated.

Now in the 2011 finals, the script had been flipped. Miami was the cocky team, and Dallas was the underdog. Dallas, drawing on the pain and experience of the past 5 years, pulled off the upset and defeated the star-laden Heat team. Sports writers everywhere criticized the Heat and picked apart their flaws. As Dwayne Wade later put it, “so much pain, so much hurt, so much embarrassment.” They were put in their place.

This year, they were different. They didn’t make assumptions about their fate as champions, they simply went out and played every game hard. LeBron let go of both his hate for the media (who blasted him for “The Decision”) and his supreme arrogance…he no longer seemed to hold his nickname, “King James,” as dear. This time, drawing upon the deep well reserves of hurt and failure, the Heat triumphed over the Oklahoma City Thunder in a quick 5 games. Afterward, there was no “told you so,” chest-beating, or defiant superiority. There was relief and sincere gratitude for what they had accomplished.

LeBron admitted that he had to hit “rock bottom” before he could become the player he had to be. This makes perfect sense in light of certain passages of scripture:

James 4:6: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Proverbs 3:34: “He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble.”

Proverbs 16:18: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

Proverbs 29:23: “A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.”

Matthew 23:12: “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

And so on, and so on…

Whether Christian or not, we as moral creatures all intuitively know that pride is wrong. It is offensive for reasons that cannot be easily explained by natural law. But it’s fascinating to see the Bible’s words play out repeatedly in our world today.

Demons, Dreams, and Deceptions

May 29, 2012 2 comments

I figured I should write on this subject while the content is still somewhat fresh in my mind. We all really need to learn how to discern the truth from a wide array of information sources. I hope this will at least give people a general idea and awareness to supplement their knowledge of the Bible.

Everyone has dreams, and many people even claim to have visions or to have heard from God in some way. How are we to know if these dreams are reliable sources of information? Well, it first helps to concretely realize this fact: Dreams come from only three different sources: 1) our own subconscious, 2) God, and 3) demons. That’s it.

Most dreams probably come from within ourselves—sometimes deep within our subconscious. They are a jumble of past experiences, thoughts, and things we have sensed, felt, or feared. The next time you have a dream, try tracing its steps. When I do dream, I can often determine later why a certain person appeared in a certain setting or whatever. And don’t underestimate your own capacity for creativeness, especially when you are unrestricted in imagination. When you’re asleep, you’re not worried about things making sense or if a train of thought is strange or corny. You know how musicians claim to make better music when they’re on drugs? Well, it’s because they become unrestricted creatively. They are “freeing their minds” (although in a very dangerous and often destructive fashion). Likewise, with our conscious minds switched off, our thoughts can roam freely with fewer hindrances.

Those are dreams from a natural source. But sometimes, more rarely, dreams or visions can also come from supernatural sources. And determining where a dream came from is not as simple as people seem to think.

There seems to be a line of thought where if a person identifies him/herself as a Christian, then all those dreams must be from God. Those that receive demonic dreams must be unbelievers, they reason.

This is far from the truth, actually. As Christians, we are protected from certain kinds of demonic attack, but not all. For instance, we cannot be fully possessed and controlled by demons because we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who is far greater in power. But we can still be tempted and deceived if we are not vigilant and on guard—equipped with truth to combat the lies. Deception is by far the #1 tool of the enemy. Satan is not called the “Father of Lies” for nothing.

While demons cannot read our minds—because they are not omniscient like God—they can implant thoughts and ideas into our heads. And knowing what they themselves have implanted, they can know what you are thinking at certain moments. They are also keen observers who have been watching mankind since our inception, so they quite literally know us better than we know ourselves. We must never take them lightly (nor should we have an inordinate amount of fear paralyzing us from possessing a bold faith). Satan is smarter than all of us, so the only way we can hope to discern the truth is to study the Word of God and stay in prayer.

Remember: A genuine dream or communication from God will never, ever contradict scripture—nor will it add to it. God does not tell or empower anyone to “fix” or “update” His word.

Aside from blatantly contradicting scripture (which is a HUGE portion of Satan’s lies), there are certain signs that a dream or a “truth” is coming from a demon rather than God. This isn’t an exact science, of course, but this list has scriptural and theological support. Feel free to replace the word “dream” with a lot of other things, like “feeling,” “conviction,” etc…

The dream tells you what you want to hear, even though you know it’s probably wrong. Satan likes to whisper sweet nothings in people’s ears, pushing them to do wrong by easing their conscience. He also tries to inject some Christian-sounding justifications for our wrong behavior to trick our gullible minds. (Satan knows the Bible, too, but his interpretation is always twisted.) You’ll notice that many of Satan’s lies are simply variations from the original granddaddy of them all: “[Go ahead and eat that fruit]…you will surely not die!”

Example #1: “Go ahead and marry that alcoholic, non-Christian, and volatile bad boy. You can do God’s work by converting him, and love can change people!”

See 2 Corinthians 6:14, which flat-out contradicts this. True, God can change anybody’s heart, but it’s a huge risk and an exception He makes purely out of grace. Even when we disobey, God can still show us kindness—but it’s still sin. Dangerously, more often than not, the unbeliever drags the believer down.

Example #2: “Sure Christians can regularly go clubbing and live a lifestyle close to sin. After all, how else will those lost souls be reached? Don’t be so prude and legalistic!”

God tells us to run far from sin, not dabble in it or toe the line. If God wants to bring a lost soul to Him, it can be accomplished in other ways. While efforts like prison ministry are valid because of the general lack of influence prisoners have on ministers there, a “clubbing ministry” or “partying ministry” would be highly suspect.

The dream gives the recipient a sense of power and uniqueness that puffs up pride and self-worth. Again, there’s nothing new about this; pride is the original sin. Satan knows this, so he instructs his demons to find ways to make people feel special by giving them a false sense of purpose and power.

Example #1: “You are to lead up a new religion! God has specifically chosen you out of everyone else to show the error of Christianity to the world. Those Christians will try to tell you how you are plainly wrong according to scripture, but don’t you listen. ‘God’ is on your side, chosen one!'”

(You can pretty much substitute “new religion” with “atheism” and “God” with “logic”…the lie and the appeal to pride are the same.)

Many false religions probably began like this. While it is true that the church has often been corrupt and in need of reform, God would never revise His already-completed Word. While interpretation of the Bible has been botched for man’s selfish purposes, the words themselves have remained steady and true. Check your beliefs against the Word daily.

Example#2: “I, ‘God,” am now giving you the power to tell others what to do with their lives. They will line up at conferences and retreats to hear your wisdom. You are a modern prophet!”

Any time in the Bible that miracles or prophets are used by God, it is to facilitate a great movement of some kind—whether fulfilling a grand promise of God, stirring a nation to repentance, or validating the revelation of Jesus Christ as savior and Messiah. A person is never bestowed with divine power or knowledge to simply feel useful or even just to help people. Do you ever notice how such “prophets” seem to always tell everyone else that they are chosen to do “big things” for God? Plus, there’s a lot people can tell by looking at the eyes, so it’s not all supernatural.

If I went to those people with a mean look on my face, I might get the “God is telling me that you need to pray more” response rather than the “you are going to do big things for His kingdom.” Just maybe…or am I being way too cynical here?

The dream communicates with someone from heaven or hell. The purpose of Satan tricking people into hearing from “the beyond” is usually to spread some kind of deception or to lure them away from relying on God as their source of truth. I am hard-pressed to find a single example from the Bible where anyone on earth successfully hears from someone in heaven or hell. Why would anyone in heaven or hell be interested in earth’s affairs?

Even when Jesus told of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:14-31), that was a parable, not a real-life occurrence. There seems to be a practically impenetrable divide between our world and theirs, so be aware of this. The only one we can maybe hear from beyond is God, but that’s because He is God. Plus, He is omnipresent, so He’s present in this world anyway. (Please note: I am aware of the potentially sensitive content that is about to follow, but I think that people have shied away from this too much when people need to know the truth.)

Example #1: “Granny Smith came to me in a dream last night, and she told me that she is happy in heaven right now! That is such a relief because I was pretty sure she wasn’t even a Christian while she was living.”

I am convinced that Satan perpetrates this particular kind of lie very often to get people to alter their views on salvation and God’s standard. It tricks people into thinking that getting into heaven is easy, and all you need to do is basically be a “good person,” again contradicting the Bible and shifting the priority away from God’s sovereignty to human works.

Example #2: “An oracle told me that Uncle Bob is in heaven, and the guy was pretty nasty! I guess God’s grace really does cover all. I know the oracle was telling me the truth because she also mentioned Uncle Bob was sitting in his favorite polka-dotted couch, and how could anyone know about this??”

Again, same sort of lie, but this time it is bolstered with “evidence.” Of course, any demon who observed Uncle Bob for any amount of time on this earth could tell the oracle that. The oracle is speaking to a trickster demon, probably without even realizing it.

Example #3: “A pastor claims to be able to speak with people in the afterlife, and apparently, John Calvin is in hell pleading with us not to believe his theology!”

(A real-life pastor actually claimed to hear John Calvin warning us from hell. The person that told this to me did not necessarily believe it, but just mentioned it as an observation.)

Again, there is no reason to believe in speaking with those in the afterlife, so we can reasonably conclude that this is another demon trying to trick us. Since we know that deception is their main tool, we can pretty much believe the opposite. Calvin is almost certainly in heaven (we can only speculate, after all), and he was probably onto something that Satan didn’t like. By the way, don’t believe someone just because they hold the title of “pastor.” The world is rife with false teachers—even those who don’t realize they are misleading others; they can be nice people with good intentions. Being a pastor does not mean they have a good grasp of the Bible. Heck, Dan Barker went to seminary and he botches even basic elements of interpretation. I have a B.A. in Economics from a good university, but other than supply and demand and “sunk cost,” there’s not much else I remember.

What’s even more alarming from this example is that God explicitly mentions trying to call upon the dead as an abomination, and it was punishable by death (Deut. 18:11; 1 Chron. 10:13-14). Attempting to convene with the dead is basically inviting demons to mess with you. Believing these types of dreams can lead us dangerously astray as well. I fear for this pastor’s spiritual well-being. I might expect this from someone involved in the occult, but not a Christian.

*Please note that just because we dreamed about someone we love being in heaven, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s false or demonic. It’s possible that we are piecing that together in our own subconscious and drawing upon our own memories and hopes for that person. It’s also possible that God may be comforting us with this knowledge, but it’s pretty unlikely. I don’t think we would be directly speaking to that individual in any case. If there appears to be an unmistakable supernatural element to it, then immediately be on guard.

**It is my guess/observation that the vast majority of people fall into one of two camps: 1) They believe in the afterlife and that communication between both worlds is possible, even common; and 2) there is no afterlife, and therefore, all supposed communication between both worlds is a trick or scam. My personal stance from reading the Bible is that there is an afterlife, but no communication between both worlds. If there is spiritual communication—whether from God or demons—it is done on earth and not through some invisible portal. If there were some kind of portal, only God would have the authority to use it anyway.

I think you’re starting to get the gist, and as you can probably surmise, these kinds of deceptions are not limited to dreams only. They could come as visions or even “moments of clarity” or revelation. Sometimes, I’m tempted to think that the words I write on this blog are coming almost directly from God, but I have to quickly check my pride. While I do think God can use me, nothing I write is infallible and should be checked against scripture.

The Bible trumps all other knowledge, and not every supernatural “feel-good” experience is from God. Let’s equip ourselves by studying the Word every day. If you don’t know the Bible, then you won’t know if something is contradicting it. Always remember Jesus’ exhortation to us all: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” — Matthew 10:16.

As always, mind and heart—not one or the other.