A sort of logic

Many of the things we believe come down to our assumptions. We might look at someone else and think their beliefs don’t make sense, that they are irrational.

Sometimes true.

But frequently we are missing something. We are missing the set of assumptions they are relying on.

For example, think about climate change.

Then assume that the world is ending. Not that you think it might be ending or could be ending. Assume that you are 100% positive the world will come to an end in the next decade or two.

Not just a generic eschatology either. Assume one of the more common and ostensibly orthodox western evangelical Protestant Christian eschatologies: the world is about to be utterly destroyed by a supreme deity that will then bring into being a new, perfected creation.

Assume that you know for sure that those events are about to play out. Or that they have already begun.

If so, why would climate change matter?

Why would mass extinctions and biodiversity loss matter?

Why would overpopulation and population sustainability matter?

If that assumption is true then none of those things matter.

I know that it is easy to shrug this topic off. Easy to say to ourselves: no one really believes that eschatological stuff.

But they do. Some believe it fervently and it informs their every decision and defines their entire thought process.

Many have a more dynamic thought process influenced by a host of other assumptions. But this end times belief is still one of their foundational assumptions about the world. It still informs and shapes their beliefs and actions. Even if they don’t think about eschatology with any regularity it still has an influence on all their cognitive processes.

Expectations

It’s never good when we expect a person to accomplish something that they never set out to accomplish

Them judge them by their inability to complete the unattempted task

It’s deliberately misleading to say that someone failed at a task they never undertook

My brother is writing a novel, so I shouldn’t expect that book to be a detailed factual history

My cousin writes music, so I shouldn’t expect those songs to be methodical genealogies

Even when there is some overlap, when a person tries to use another subject to better accomplish their task

The original task is still the standard we should judge by

A piece of fiction about a historical event is still fiction

A song about genealogy is still a song

I should hold these works to the standard of what they were trying to achieve:

An entertaining tale

An engrossing tune

Meant to make us think and stimulate us in specific ways

The same for the Bible

The Bible is meant to make us think and stimulate us in specific ways

It’s books were composed intentionally

It’s authors had specific goals in mind

To expect the Bible to accomplish tasks it’s authors never set out to accomplish sets it up for failure

When the Bible fails at such tasks, it hasn’t really failed at all

We have chosen to read it incorrectly

We have expected it to do something it was never meant to do

Not just by its human authors, but by God as well

If you believe in God

And you believe that God delivered the Bible to us deliberately

In it’s current form

Then approach the Bible with the assumption that we are meant to read it as it is delivered

If God wanted the Bible to be something other than a collection of books written by different authors over long periods of time

Then it wouldn’t be what it is today

The Bible is a library meant to help you know God better

The Bible does what a library does: illuminate truth by viewing the world from multiple perspectives

That is the task it is meant to accomplish

There is plenty of room for nuance here. For me, I may try to accomplish a specific task but it’s clear that I should have approached it from a different angle. In that case I failed to accomplish something that I wasn’t trying to accomplish, but probably should have. Many more examples I’m sure but I still stick by the purpose of this post; it’s important to approach the Bible for what it is trying to do.

Not what we wish it to do.

Also, just a side note, the picture of books that I used in this post is the Nag Hammadi Library. Which is not part of the Bible. But come on, those leathery tomes are cool looking 😎

Gospels and War Stories

If you were going to tell the story of US involvement in Iraq, where would you start? The invasion in 2003? The Gulf War that started in 1990? Or would you go back farther?

You could go into detail about US, French, Soviet, and British support for Iraq through the course of the Iraq/Iran war that took place between 1980-1988. You might even want to go into detail about Soviet involvement in Afghanistan and the 9/11 attack because of its impact on the worldwide war on terror.

Or you could skip all that and tell the stories of the individual soldiers themselves. Both sides even, giving an utterly different and far more personal account.

It would probably be best to touch on all these topics to some degree or another, just placing emphasis on a few of the events while being briefer on others.

The same could be said of the 4 Gospels. When reading these biographies of Jesus’ life many notice the differences in the way they are told. And the differences are notable. One author may leave out details that the other authors emphasize. They may have events happening in slightly different order. Some contain the same saying but worded in a slightly different way or told in a different context.

They even start in completely different episodes in Jesus’ life. Matthew and Luke start with Jesus’ family genealogy as well as the events before and during his birth. Mark and John start in adulthood and scarcely mention his birth at all, although John includes a preamble which explicitly states that Jesus existed before the beginning of creation. In fact John tells us that Jesus was the agent of creation, through which all things were made.

So which of the Gospels is telling the story “right”? Whose timeline is “right”? Whose testimony should we trust? Luke doesn’t even claim to have witnessed anything at all. Luke claims that he investigated the different eyewitness accounts and carefully constructed the best & most orderly account based on his investigation.

I recommend thinking about the Gospels the way you would think about the war in Iraq. It’s not about whether the story is wrong or right, it’s about where a particular author puts the emphasis, what information they found most pertinent. If you were going to try to learn about the war in Iraq you should read a multitude of accounts to take in as many perspectives as possible. By comparing the different accounts you will find details that one author casually glossed over or ignored, that a different author spent more time on. Through the different accounts a more complete understanding will emerge. Each narrative will converge on  a more decisive & complete story that is more complete than any one book alone.

That’s why we have four Gospels
That’s why we shouldn’t be worried about the differences
The differences make the Gospels stronger.
The differences reinforce that we are getting multiple, real accounts

Everyone sees and experiences the world differently

The Bible acknowledges that
The Bible canonizes that

I trust the Bible because it brings me the same diversity of experience I see everyday in the world around me

The Theory and the Revelation

There is one sure way to completely shut down an argument: show the person you’re trying to sway that you haven’t done the background research to know what you’re talking about.

In the realm of religion and science there are 2 perfect examples

Evolution
&
Revelation

The Book of Revelation is the last book of the Christian Bible. It can go by a number of different names:

The Revelation to John
The Apocalypse of John
The Revelation
Revelation

I’ve even seen a long form of it spelled out as The Apocalypse of St John the Apostle

But it’s never called “Revelations”.

And anytime a person who’s trying to argue with a Christian adds an S onto Revelation there is a good chance that the Christian checks out.

The thought being:

This person isn’t taking this argument seriously enough to go do the tiny amount of research necessary to even argue with me.

Why would I listen to them, then?

The same in arguments about science.

The book The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin can also go several names:

On the Origin of Species
On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection
On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life

But it is never called “The Origin of the Species”

That’s not the name of the book and the same thing happens when people call it that in an argument.

The opponent checks out and doesn’t take the rest of the conversation seriously.

If you want to convince someone of your argument or even get them to take it seriously you have to understand the terms and sources they use. At least casually, so they’ll respect your thoughts on the subject.

In both these cases I’ve even seen works published with the wrong title. That shows that even editors of texts meant to be taken seriously haven’t done their due diligence to know the title of the book in question.

But these are just good examples

There are many more

The point is, before trying to persuade others you have to spend the time to know what others believe.

In all productive conversations I’ve ever had, it’s only when I try to see the world through beliefs that are not my own that I can approach someone to try to change their mind.

THOSE people are destroying society

Whoever they are. I’m not sure who it’s supposed to be anymore that’s unstitching society. Uprooting our morals, our standards for what is acceptable. I really don’t know because so many of the arguments are silly

And so many don’t care to make an argument at all. They just care to identify a scapegoat

It’s

The Gays
The Jews
The Rednecks
The Latinos
The Blacks
The Scientists
The Atheists
The Catholics
The Mormons
The Millenials
The Capitalists
The Socialists
Hillary Clinton

THOSE people

Whatever

I don’t care about the scapegoating and labeling that obviously has nothing to do with what’s actually driving our society into darker and darker places

I did come across a great example of what’s destroying our society that has nothing to do with a scapegoat

The example is an incident that distills popular sentiments into a simple act

This young man knocked on a door for assistance and was met

With a gun

That my friends, is what’s destroying our society

I was a stranger and you welcomed me
– Matthew 25:35c NRSVCE

Nested Hierarchy

Finally, I wrote about Nested Hierarchy

I’m trying to keep this intro post as short as possible

…probably not doing a very good job though

Nested Hierarchy is the way I read the Bible. There are a number of ways to approach the Bible and many of them overlap

I’m just going to make a basic comparison here though

To contrast my view I’ll talk about a narrative hierarchy

That’s how we read most books

You start at the beginning of a book and read to the end, a straight line through the text

It’s an easy way to read for sure

That’s why most books are arranged this way; the beginning chapter creates a foundation and each chapter slowly builds on that foundation

I can’t read the Bible this way for one simple reason:

The Bible is not a book, it’s a collection of books

Some of the individual books have a narrative hierarchy, some don’t

But the collection as a whole definitely does not

So I have to look elsewhere for the foundation

I believe that foundation is Jesus

Jesus is the center of a nest, with the other layers in the nest built around him

Jesus is like an egg

The egg is the point of the nest
The egg gives the nest purpose
The egg is the reason the nest was built
Everything about the nest has to be viewed through the object at it’s center

I believe Jesus is the center of the Biblical nest

All the books of the Bible are read through the lens of Jesus

His teachings
His life
His death
His resurrection
His return

The books of the Bible have their purpose fulfilled by Jesus
Jesus is the reason this collection of books was built
Jesus is the point of the collection

The center of the Nested Hierarchy

This is a theological nest I’m talking about, others may use a similar nested approach but with a different goal.

A good example would be a historical approach. Instead of trying to find the theological center of the biblical texts you might try to determine which books were written first. Then you could look at the Bible in terms of how each book is related to those that came before it.

You could do the same with language or culture as the center around which everything was built

To be honest most of us use some combination of these different different approaches

Me included

But the most important to me is the the theological nested hierarchy

My theological perspective is definitely Christian. There are others as well.

Jewish theology for example. You could say that Jewish theology places the first five books of the Hebrew Bible at the center and builds theological interpretation of the other books around them. Those first five books are also know as the Torah or the Pentateuch.

Even Muslims revere the Bible, though they view it with the lens of their prophet and their holy book at the center

My lens is Jesus
Every book points to him
Every conundrum and question that the diverse writers of the Bible attempt to address are fulfilled by him

All of my beliefs, my faith flow from this method of understanding the Bible

The Nested Hierarchy of the Bible leads me to a number of different conclusions, many that other Christians don’t share

About history
About neurology
About physics
About human sexuality
About any aspect of life that I relate to by way of the Bible

All these conclusions and more are the result of reading the Bible as a Nested Hierarchy

The term nested hierarchy is used in a variety of contexts

Brain science

Genealogy

Those Russian dolls that fit inside each other

Reading about these examples might help illustrate what I’m saying here better than I can

I know that thinking this way has led me to many conclusions that other Christians would disagree with. I certainly disagree with many Christians as a result of my nested approach to the Bible.

I guess that’s one point of this blog

We can’t find common ground if we don’t understand each other. If you want to understand my religious beliefs whether you’re Christian or not

Nested Hierarchy is my staring point

Bridging the Gulf & The Argument for Altruism

George Price*
 
created a simple and elegant equation to explain altruism as an evolutionary strategy
 
Basically, life is a game

You can use different strategies
There are different players
As well as alliances and teams
 
All with similar goals
 
Live long
Have babies
& try to make sure your genes get passed on
 
A lot of strategies exist to accomplish those goals
 
One of them is altruism

Sacrifice for your reproductive partner
Scarifice for your child
Create social networks that support your family & make sacrifices for the group

So the group will protect your child
So the members of the group want to reproduce with you and your children
 
Altruism is a good strategy that can work very well
 
The others can work too
 
But many of them are based on dominance and violence and fear
 
The Bible is a complex argument about the right way to play this game
 
The authors of the Bible are players in the game trying to find the best strategy, arguing with each other
Sometimes arguing with themselves

And out of those arguments comes a clear answer
 
Altruism
 
The Bible is an argument that Altruism is the best, the correct strategy
 
Self sacrifice and loving your neighbor are the best way to play the game of life
 
And the Bible adds something else
Another reason to play the gam without judgment
To play the game with love
 
The Bible argues that Altrusim is the strategy that pleases God
Altruism is God’s strategy

That God became human and gave his life for us

because self sacrifice is the only strategy a loving God can use
 
When we choose a strategy based on dominance and violence and fear
A space between humans and God is created
And a space between you and your neighbors
  
God’s sacrifice in Jesus closes the gap
Bridges the gulf between humanity and God
Bridges the gulf between us all
 
Faith in Jesus
Faith in his life and death and resurrection
Means accepting the sacrifice
Answering the call to make altruism our strategy
Answering the call to make sacrifices in your life
As individuals
As socities
 
There’s no expectation that you’ll be perfect
And no one answer God’s call the same way
Your sacrifices will be different from mine

God’s strategy isn’t based on performance
You don’t have to earn God’s love

God’s sacrifice is absolute

But if you accept the strategy
If you accept the sacrifice

The strategy will begin working through you
 
The call to this strategy has always been here
It’s God’s call screaming from the books of the Bible

And it is now fully revealed in Jesus
 
Embrace the strategy of Jesus

Bridge the gulf

*The conclusion of George Price’s life is very sad. I recommend reading about it and thinking about why I’m encouraging everyone to think👆this way

George Price, the man who gave himself away

I should really do a post just about Peter Gomes & why no one knows who he is

But for now I’ll just post this quote

And think about what it says to me today

Then also think about the fact that he spoke these words in 1989

And think about what that says about us today

“There must be such a hope for the destitute of our American Calcuttas,’ Gomes said. ‘There must be such a hope for the prisoners of the inner city within sight of this cathedral church and beyond; there must be such a hope for the aged and the destitute; there must be such a hope for persons with AIDS and those who love and care for them”

I encourage you to think on these words

We already know the solutions to the Opioid crisis

If you take one notable thought away from this post, I hope it’s this:

Drugs hijack an important part of the brain and it has a devastating effect on the rest of the brain. The chemicals and cells being hijacked can’t perform all their functions correctly and it takes away your ability to be yourself and control yourself. If we want to stop this the answer is multidisciplinary medical intervention.

The ventral tegmental area (VTA), the nucleus accumbens, and the prefrontal cortex

👆These brain parts are the most important element of the answer to addiction👆

I see/hear people say it all the time

“Addiction is not a disease!”
“It’s about selfishness!”
“Addiction a moral failure”

No it’s not. It’s a function of your brain.

“But the mind can-“

No it can’t
Your brain IS your mind

There’s no debate about this anymore. Maybe you could talk about other parts of your nervous system as components of your mind, that’s worth discussing.

Doesn’t change the fact that your mind is biological

Not spiritual

We may have a soul (I think so)

But whatever the soul is, it’s not your mind.

And your mind is where addiction happens.

Those chunks of the brain I listed above are part of the reward pathway.

It’s a simple part of your brain.
It has one simple function: it tells you that you need to do something again.
It says “What you’re doing is important! Do it again!!!”

It usually reinforces pretty important activities

“Eating is good! Do it again!!!”
“Water is good! Drink it again!!!”
“Sex is good! Have them babiesssssssssss”

Chemicals carry those messages from one cell to the next. The more chemicals that tell you “do that again!” the stronger the urge to do it again.

And that’s where addiction is a monster.

All the big ones; opioids, alcohol, cocaine, meth
All of the debilitating drugs

They all highjack that reward loop by increasing those chemicals that tell you to repeat a behavior.

But they don’t just increase them.

They hyper elevate the level of those chemicals beyond anything your brain could do on its own.

They create an urge that’s stronger than any activity you could engage in.

They don’t say:
“Do this again! It’s important!!!”

They say:

“DO THIS AGAIN AT ANY COST!!!”

“DO THIS AT ALL COST!!!”

“DO THIS AGAIN EVEN IF IT KILLS YOU!!!”

“DO THIS OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN BECAUSE NOTHING COULD EVER BE AS IMPORTANT AS THIS DRUG”

Fixing that pathway is not about willpower
It’s not about freewill
It’s about biology

Even though other parts of your brain are capable of rewriting that pathway, they can rarely do it to correct drug addiction because drugs are UNNATURALLY strong

Medicine,
Therapy,
Inpatient Care

These are the answer to fix that part of the brain

Then comes the dumb response:

“Well if that’s how it works then you should never start in the first place blah blah bla blah bla”

Great idea 👍

Too late

Thousands, millions are already addicted. They are our friends, our neighbors, our family members. They’re doing what the reward pathway tells them: these drugs are important enough to kill your self over.

People you have loved your whole life, people you KNOW are not selfish will ignore anything and everything in their lives. Because the pathway is high jacked. And it tells them what’s important. They lose the ability to tell themselves.

So go build a time machine if you think the answer is to make them “not start in the first place”

I say we help them now.

ASAP

Use education to help prevent more addiction. Absolutely
But help your loved ones in the throws of addiction NOW
Support medical intervention, public health policy, cheaper healthcare in general.

Because this won’t stop

I know that my brain is the way it is on purpose. It functions the way it does for a good reason. Those simple parts provide basic functions. The complex parts surrounding those simple parts help you make sure the simple goals are accomplished as efficiently and effectively as possible.

I wouldn’t know that👆if I was addicted

None of that works if the simple parts are highjacked. The complex parts just can’t overcome that invasion.

Because the brain is a nested hierarchy
I should probably explain what that is 🤷‍♀️

And why I named this website after it 🤔
Of course you could google it too

Whatever

Educate yourself
Don’t take my word for it
Find the information

And use it to help save your neighbor

Don’t judge; do have compassion

Ask yourself:
What does it look like to love your neighbors?

Be the one who shows them mercy
Mercy for these accosted humans is treatment

Not punishment

I’ve definitely tried to keep the information I’ve presented here as non-technical as possible

Because who likes boring?

Even so, the chemicals and brain cells and brain functions I’m referring to here are all very complex and have many different functions.

Go learn about them all if you’d like

It’s very interesting and I recommend it

Information

Is

Power

Use

It

The Evangelical Ethnicity

(Links in Blue)

Usually ethnicity is used as an overly complicated term that is very difficult to pin down

So I’m going to make it simple;
Ethnicity is a combination of ancestry and culture.

How that plays out looks different from group to group

but there it is.

And that’s what Evangelicalism has become.

It’s not a denominational distinction,

as in

“That’s an Evangelical Church over there, and that one over there is not!”

Evangelicalism has become a way of identifying yourself as part of a broader cultural identity

(The Last Temptation)

Identity centered on a culture of Biblical Literalism, Appeal to Tradition, Hostility to Science, and Political Conservativism

(👆Just to name a few)

There are Evangelical Catholics now, Evangelical United Methodists, PC(USA) Evangelicals. Doesn’t matter the denomination, the culture is everywhere, including the Mainline Churches!

…but now an ugly serpent is slowly uncoiling itself, slithering from the base of Evangelicalism.

Till now it’s been hidden.

It’s always been there, but for years it’s been lurking in the background.

Now it’s come into the light.

It’s the other aspect of ethnicity:

Ancestry

For decades the Evangelical identity has been growing in influence and exposure, coming to define Christianity in the public square

And the whole time it’s leadership has maintained that ancestry isn’t a component!

We’re not racist!
Everyone’s welcome!
We’re all brothers in Christ!

I guess it’s possible those leaders meant it.

(Demanding Change)

But their congregants did NOT all believe it

Ancestry is clearly woven into the Evangelical identity.
Intimately
Irrevocably

The cries are clear:
We’re losing “our country”!
We have to take “our country” back!

It’s not subtle; the “our” part is ancestry.

(Taking “Our Religion” back too)

Call it race if you want (a ridiculously unscientific fiction)

But it’s been revealed as a cornerstone of Evangelical identity.

Some that have come from the “Evangelical Denominations” have now realized they can’t call themselves Evangelical anymore.

(Just listen to The Liturgists podcast)

(The Liturgists)

These former Evangelicals are the few who actually believed that ancestry wasn’t a part of the identity.

Now they see it and it’s undeniable.

(I could no longer ignore)

It shouldn’t surprise them.

Some stay. Trying to battle this rise in ancestry as central to the identity

(Trying to Fight)

Not surprisingly the most vocal opponents are the leaders who recognize the change in demographics (and don’t want to lose their new base)

(Fighting for the groups that we need to take “Our Country” back from)

Still

The truth plain; Evangelicalism is in the process of fully transforming into Evangelical Ethnic Identity

And the contingent that has conjured that identity around European Ancestry

is LOUD