Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Can the Sin of ____ Be Forgiven?

The good news is that, it can be forgiven. Jesus said, “And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. (Matthew 12:31) This may not mean you are forgiven. It means you can be forgiven. Since you can be forgiven, you probably want to know more about that.

Let’s look closer. Why were you confused? There are three probable causes. First, you may be too new in faith to have much knowledge. That is understandable, as long as you determine to learn so you won’t be easily fooled again. Second, you may have had faith for a while but never bothered to do your homework. In this case, the sin of allowing yourself to remain ignorant can be forgiven, but you still bear the consequences. Third, you remain outside the faith. You may be close to conversion or far from it, but the result is the same.

If you are “in the faith,” then God, as Judge, has already forgiven you. (As loving Father, though, He may still need to correct you.) If not “in the faith,” then it is wise to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) and “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.” (2 Corinthians 13:5) There are three topics in the test.

The first test is what you believe about yourself. The second is what you believe about God. The third is whether you put your trust in God.

You know you need forgiveness, so I will only expand on that point for the sake of other readers. Atheists (there is nobody to forgive and nothing needs forgiveness) and Universalists (everybody is already forgiven) think they need no forgiveness. For this answer, let’s ignore them.

The next group thinks they have a free pass to heaven just because Grandpa was a preacher or because they can trace their genealogy back to Judah, son of Israel, son of Isaac, son of Abraham. Be we do not inherit good deeds; we answer for our own thoughts and actions. Someone has said, “God has no grandchildren.”

A related group knows that right and wrong exists, but they don’t think they are bad. They think the good they do outweighs the bad they’ve done. But will that work in court? If you are on trial for shoplifting, do you think the judge will acquit you just because you volunteer at the food kitchen? It doesn’t work that way! We owe it to God to do right. If we fall behind and use the July rent payment to pay for June, we still owe for July. So we cannot “do good,” which we owe to our Creator, to pay for our sins.

Well, I keep the Ten Commandments, some say. But God gave the Commandments (there are actually over 600 — not that I counted) not to give us a standard by which to justify ourselves, but to show that we are on the “bad” side of the ledger. Everybody breaks the Commandments. Everybody. Because the closer you look, the more sub sections pop out.

For example, Jesus said, “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder…’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell…. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart…. everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” *Matthew 5:21-32).

Paul, an apostle of Christ, wrote that nobody will be justified in God’s sight by keeping the Commandments (also called the Law); because the purpose of the Law was to make us aware of sin and shut the mouth of every person who would boast of their own righteousness. (Romans 3:19-20) The Law was a schoolmaster whose purpose was to make us aware of our need and bring us to reliance on God (Galatians 3:24).

So if we cannot be good enough, can we be saved from hell? Yes, if we let go of self-righteousness and let God, our Judge, pay the penalty that we cannot afford to pay. That is where the Cross comes in. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18). Notice in this verse that Christ suffered once, not continuously or in every mass, as a certain megachurch tell us. He suffered once for all of our sins, not for just the ones we’ve repented from. There are so many that we don’t even realize we’re committing! He took our punishment that we deserved. And He did it to bring us to God. As a perfect, omnipotent Shepherd, He brings His flock, ALL His flock, home.

Human pride makes us want to contribute to our justification through good works, but our works and God’s gift are mutually exclusive. You cannot earn a gift. If you receive a gift and then work to complete it or to retain it, then it turns from a gift into wages. That insults the Giver. The hardest part of the test for many is letting God give the gift freely. Baptism is good, but that cannot be part of receiving the gift. Joining a church (a bible-teaching church) is good, but that is not part of receiving the gift.

The only thing you can do to receive the gift is, knowing that you need it, submit to receiving it.

Many people say the words, but not from their hearts. Years back, because so many people had shallow, false conversions, it became popular to add, “you must make Jesus the Lord of your life.” That is a good thing, and He is Lord regardless; but that is not what the Bible commands for conversion. It is popular now to add, “you must repent of your sins.” That is more complicated. A common error includes reforming yourself as part of repentance. But repentance simply means changing your mind and your heart. In fact, we must repent from the idea that we can reform ourselves. We need God’s help to do that. So we do not reform to receive the gift; we reform afterwards, because we have received the gift.

I will finish with one last element of the test. Who is God? Many ideas have sprung up in the last 2,000 years to distract us from God. I will not describe them all but will leave it to you to discover the evidence in the Bible for yourself. i will just describe God for you.

God created the heavens and the earth. (Whether He did so less than 10,000 years ago, did it in phases, or did it billions of years ago, I don’t know, and I am comfortable not knowing.) Physics tells us that creative power over matter and energy implies creative power over time and space, as well. When you consider that God knows the future, it makes sense that he exists before, outside of, or above time. As Creator of time, God entered His creation to reveal Himself and experience it as three Persons. One united God, three distinct (yet united) Persons, each fully God, all-powerful, omnipresent, all-knowing, holy, righteous, relational, and loving.

The three Persons have distinct roles. One identifies Himself as the Father. The second identifies Himself as the Son. And the third identifies Himself as the Holy Spirit. The three roles both share and divide the labor of creation, redemption, and restoration, and they teach us by example, so there is purpose to it.

I said God is love, and love is relational. A unitary god such as that of the Watchtower, Islam, and certain Pentecostal churches, had nobody to relate to before creation. So that god had an unmet need for fellowship. Islam says, “Allah is great,” but the triune God who had no such need is greater. Moreover, it is an inferior god who forgives without justice being fulfilled, whose holiness can tolerate unredeemed sin, and whose love cannot bring him to redeem.

The only sin that cannot be forgiven is what Jesus called “blasphemy against the Spirit.” Blasphemy against the Spirit had a specific meaning and a generalized principle. The Jews had accused Jesus of performing miracles using the devil’s power. Since the Holy Spirit supplied the power in Jesus’ miracles, they were saying the Holy Spirit was the devil. God takes blasphemy personally!
The principle is broader. The Holy Spirit makes us aware of our sins and draws us toward trusting Christ for redemption. If we resist that drawing, then we repeat the Jews’ rejection of the Holy Spirit. Since that means we will not repent and be converted, we will never receive forgiveness, not only for blaspheming the Holy Spirit, but for any sins.
If you have seen yourself as lost to sin, as God sees, then you can entrust yourself to His provision for your redemption and receive that gift and the many blessings that come with it; and He does not take back His gifts.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Leftist Question: Why Are Conservatives Proud They're Not Progressives?

What Opposites Share


Why are Conservatives proud they're not Progressives? For many of the same reasons that Progressives are proud not to be Conservatives. Contrary to many opinions, both sides share the same human frailties and motives. Since the questioner is, presumably, in the Progressive camp, he/she/? already knows most of the answer. All he/she/? needs to do is answer why Progressives feel the same pride and apply the same reason to Conservatives.

It is true that extreme Conservatives resist any change, but extreme Progressives will accept any change (except when things really need to be changed back; then, they become the reactionaries). Both extremes share mindless attitudes about change.

Domanance


Unfortunately, among Progressives, the extreme has become mainstream, dominating entertainment, news media, education, the Democrat Party, and new-media giants such as Twitter, Google, and Facebook. If your grasp of reason, facts, and history arm you to resist all of that, you have something to be proud of.

Intellectual Honesty


Another difference is that Conservatives are not really that inflexible. They are willing to be convinced when proposed changes are specific, effective, and efficient, and will cause minimal unintended consequences such as chipping away at God-given rights. I don’t see willingness to learn from Progressives. For example, in debate after debate, Progressives repeatedly confuse semi-automatic with assault and confuse scary style with military performance. If there’s a way to obfuscate, they will use it. Conservatives can get things wrong, but since they cling to “outdated” values such as thou shalt not bear false witness, they lack the ability to intentionally spin language that way. And that is another thing Conservatives can take pride in.

Reason Versus Hysteria


Perhaps the biggest difference is that Conservatives rhetoric trends toward deductive, left-brain thinking whereas Progressives rhetoric leans toward inductive, right-brain thinking. And right-brain thinking is the gateway to hysterical, lizard-brained, fight-or-flight thinking. Progressivism is home to unions and Antifa (fight), and to snowflakes (flight). Recent studies have supported this, showing that Conservatives consider a significantly wider range of values and perspectives when thinking about an issue. For example, a Conservative will balance the suffering and loss of life when a child is vivisected during gestation against a few months inconvenience and comfort if nobody will help a mother kill her child. All the Progressive can see is the mother. The person who balances more values and perspectives has good reason to take pride in Conservative thinking.

Consistency Versus Hypocrisy


Conservatives tend to be far more consistent than Progressives. For example, a Progressive holds the lives of murderers sacred, as well as the temporary convenience of a mother who has engaged in risky reproductive behavior, but disregards the life of a pre-born child. They rescue the guilty and help kill the innocent. Progressives condemn racism against Blacks and then institute racism against Whites. Hate speech is speech that Progressives hate. For example, a Twitter user created two accounts and sent out identical rants. One set ranted against “Whites” and the other against “Blacks,” both saying the same words. Twitter censored the anti-black account and left the anti-White account alone. When Conservatives build out applications from principles and balance different perspectives in a consistent manner, they have reason to be proud.

Religion Versus Magic


Conservatives are rooted in reality. Religious Conservatives also look to time-tested tenets of the social contract. Progressives also are rooted in religion, but they hide it behind Relativism. Relativism has led to magical thinking such as, a boy can think himself into a girl, a baby not yet seen is not yet a baby, and if irresponsible reproductive behavior is right for you, then it’s OK. At least the religious Conservatives are honest about the supernatural element behind some of what they think, and it does not conflict with physical reality. Conservatives, even religious Conservatives, can take pride in refuting the delusions of Progressives.

Reasons for Pride


There are fanatics, quislings, idiots, fools, and evildoers in any movement, so this is all painted with a broad brush. Conservatives are standing against powerful cultural influences. They are teachable, more reasonable, more balanced in weighing more principles and perspectives, more honest and consistent, and more rooted in reality. These are all reasons for them to take pride.

Honor, Therefore, Conservatism


But perhaps we are looking at this backwards. Perhaps Conservatism attracts people who have pride, people who have enough honor to take responsibility for themselves instead of blaming others for their place in life.

I started life in abject poverty. I worked my way through college, taking ten years to finish a five-year degree. My career plateaued because less-qualified, favored-class people received the training I needed and the promotions I had sacrificed for. My career collapsed because the Democrat-caused housing bubble trapped me in a 180-mile per day commute. My career died when Democrats decimated my industry, right at the worst possible time, the depths of the recession in 2009. I have gone full circle, back to my roots in poverty.

It is tempting to think the government owes me for what it did to the career I sacrificed to achieve. It would be nice if being a White, educated male did not disqualify me from the benefits that allow my neighbors to live far better than me. But I have not discarded reason and pride, so I remain Conservative (though moderately Liberal by the standards of my parents’ generation). And thus, I retain my honor, too.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Commies and Fascists, Sitting In a Tree

Why do conservatives consider communism and fascism to be close cousins and the opposite of conservatism?

More Like Siblings

Quora has a page with some wonderful answers that describe common characteristics of Communism and Fascism and that contrast them with Conservatism. However, common characteristics merely makes for similarity. “Close cousins” implies common heritage and genetic commonality that cause the commonalities. The metaphor bears truth.

Just as Vladimir Lenin and built Mao Zedong built their bloody Communist regimes upon a foundation of Marxism, so did Giovanni Gentile built his philosophy of Fascism upon Marxism. (Is Fascism Right or Left?) Thus, Communism and Fascism derive from a common philosophy. They are more like half-sibling rivals than like cousins. (Progressivism shares those roots, and Communist governments had a hand in establishing it in American politics.)

Children of Marxism


The children of Marxism are rooted in the idea that the collective (that is, in practice, the State) is a higher organism than man. They require acceptance of a Utopian notion of citizens submitting their interests to the common good.

That is a fine idea, as long as the system is filled with hypothetical, ideal humans. However, in practice, it has two fatal flaws. First, humans are a competitive, self-interested species. Someone will always claw his or her way to the top, and bolder citizens will fight for freedom.

Second, the State will always have to use indoctrination, intimidation, and force to cause everybody to submit to the collective’s will or to preserve the top dog’s rule, crushing freedom and removing incentive to excel. Thus, Marxism’s children, Communism and Fascism, always lead to totalitarianism.

Conservatism


American Conservatism is rooted in the idea that the individual is the ultimate earthly organism. That is why the Founders established a government with the People at the top, a Constitution expressing their will, and Government at the bottom. Whereas the People subjected under Marxism exist to serve the government, in Conservatism, the government exists to serve the people. That is why Marxist governments claim for themselves all capital, or at least control of capital, whereas Capitalist governments remove as little capital as possible from the People.

Conservatism also recognizes what happens when you introduce flawed, self-interested humans into any system. Freedom and retaining the fruit of one’s labors give people incentive to excel, raising metrics for the whole society. Moreover, Conservatism recognizes the need for balancing powers within politics and government, a major tenet of the US Constitution, so that competing interests keep each other in check. This contrasts against rule one-party rule and dictatorship that always develop in Marxist governments.

Another contrast is that Marxist “Social Justice” dictates equality of outcome that places heavier burdens on disfavored classes, such as forced redistribution of wealth to less successful classes, whereas Conservatism emphasizes equality of rights, individual responsibility for outcome, and voluntary charity. Thus, Conservatism champions personal charity and individual justice whereas Social Justice depersonalizes charity and undermines equal justice.

I have specified American Conservatism because the word Conservatism is defined by its context. It generally indicates a philosophy of preserving the current system. American Conservatives who want to restore lost values are insultingly called "paleo conservatives," when in fact, many of them would have been considered moderate-to-liberal just a generation ago.

American Conservatism is known in the rest of the world as liberalism because it champions conditions that allow liberty, unlike monarchy and Marxism. More importantly, American Conservatism could be better described as Americanism because it promotes the foundational values of American society and government, in resistance to Marxist values that now dominate the Left.

However, we stick with the label Conservatism because we can’t stomach the screams of “How dare you call me un-American” from un-American Leftists.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Where the Popes and Cardinals Are in the Bible

The Short Answer


The best answer is simply that the Bible says nothing positive about popes and cardinals. It doesn’t take many words to point out an absence of evidence. I will require many words, however, because it is not so simple to refute rationalizations for violating what the scriptures do say.

Titles Are Not "Wrong"


In a hierarchy, it is desirable to give titles to different levels. For example, in a corporation, you might have a president, several vice presidents, managers, and supervisors. Even Moses, upon the advice of his father-in-law, appointed levels of supervision. The New Testament has words such as deacon, elder, shepherd, and bishop, and they are used descriptively rather than as titles. Man focuses on titles, but God focuses on the work.

Industry, especially the software industry, is returning to the model of allowing people to self-organize, at least at the bottom levels, because they know what needs to be done and how best to accomplish it. This trend is called “Agile” and helps produce more value sooner, especially in changing environments. 

Similarly, the New Testament is intentionally ambiguous so that creating offices such as Pastor, Bishop, and Cardinal is left to individual churches. Not every model, such as independent churches versus worldwide denominations, fits every political and cultural environment. So the fact that the scriptures do not spell out a title is not enough reason to reject it.

The Unbiblical Title and Role of Pope 


The title of Pope, however, is strictly anti-biblical — and worse. Jesus said, Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. (Matthew 23:9) One rule of Bible interpretation is, if the plain sense makes good sense, any other sense is probably nonsense.  It is not only anti-biblical to call a priest Father, but also to call a man Pope.

Further explanation ought to be unnecessary, but I anticipate heated objections, so I’ll elaborate.
When we consider the title, Pope, we must first recognize that it comes from Greek papas, father. This is echoed in another title of the pope, Holy Father. In Mark 10:18, Jesus said, Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone

There are many similar statements with the term holy, such as 1 Samuel 2:2, There is no one holy like the LORD, Indeed, there is no one besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God. Goodness and holiness can be ascribed to God alone. Peter would have been appalled at being called Father or Holy Father.

Do you see a trend, yet? 

In John (see 14:16, 14:26, 15:26, and 16:7), Jesus gave a descriptive title to God the Holy Spirit: Paraclete, which has the meanings of comforter and advocate. He described the Paraclete (Holy Spirit) as coming in His place, to be His vicarious Presence. That meets the definition of Vicar of Christ (substitute for Christ). 

Catholicism puts these usurped titles into action by placing its “Fathers” between believers and God, discouraging non-clergy from fully enjoying the personal relationship that God desires to have with his children. All three members of the Triune God fulfill the relationship without human interference:
  • The Son -- He [God the Son] is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:25
  • The Spirit -- In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unutterable groanings; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to [the will of] God. Romans 8:26–27
  • The Father -- Let us then approach God's [the Father’s] throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16
The system instead inserts itself between people and God, encouraging people to bring their prayers to its priests, to believers in heaven, and to angels — as though they had the omnipresence and omniscience that allows God to receive all prayers.

No First Pope


Before closing, one more issue, and a tangent, need addressing. You will observe circular reasoning that Peter was the first pope, so the papal office is legitimate, so the first pope was Peter. 

First, nobody called Peter a pope until hundreds of years later. The proof text, Matthew 16:15–19, used by Catholic teachers, simply does not call him pope, and it does not give him the extent of authority they claim.

Christ Is the Rock


The rock on which Christ said He would build His church is Peter’s confession. You can see Peter as being the rock only if you are biased to see it that way. In the Greek, Peter is masculine gender petros whereas rock is feminine gender petra. A petros is a stone whereas a petra is a monolith. If Jesus had meant Peter was the rock, He would have used the same word, saying You are Peter (petros) and on this rock (petros) I will build my church, not on this rock (petra)

To the contrary, the Bible gives the title of Rock to God the Son, as in 1 Corinthians 10:4, that rock was Christ, and as in 1 Samuel 2:2 (above). Even Peter himself identified Christ as the Rock toward the end of 1 Peter 2:4–8, and anyone who grasps biblical metaphor can understand that “rock,” Christ, extends to the recognition of whom Christ is — the core of the gospel. Again, Catholic teaching misapplies a title that belongs to God alone to a human.

Keys to the Kingdom Fulfilled in Acts


Catholic teaching says that the keys to the kingdom and the power to bind and loose refer to total authority over the church. That is inconsistent with the rest of the New Testament. Act 1:8, the theme verse of that book, declares, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  Acts describes the expansion of “God’s people” from the disciples, to Jews in Jerusalem, to Judeans, to Samarians, to the gentiles. Peter was present for each of those expansions, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit were opened up to those concentric groups through him. 

However, Peter did not remain at the head of the church’s earthly hierarchy, as it had another president long before Peter left the scene (Acts chapters 15 and 21).

Catholic Bishops are Unqualified


Second, the Catholic explanation avoids the apostle’s description of a bishop’s qualifications. The Catholic will say that the bishop is married to the church, but Titus 1:4–9 specifically speaks of not only a wife, but also children. Indeed, Paul pointed out how Peter, Jesus’ brothers James and Jude, and other apostles each had wives, and had a right to have wives, in 1 Corinthians 9:5. Paul clearly teaches that God makes some people for marriage and others for single lives. Imposing celibacy on all clergy is strictly anti-biblical.

On a metaphorical level, it violates common sense for the church (the body of all believers) to take multiple human husbands when it is already the future Bride of Christ. (Ephesians 5:25-27, Revelation 19:7-9) Likewise, it makes no sense for the married apostles to have both earthly and corporate wives. Thus, the Catholic priesthood usurps yet another title and role of God, that of divine Husband.

The Sin of Papal Veneration


Catholicism gives to its chief the titles and roles of Holy, Holy Father, Pope (papas), Paraclete, Vicar of Christ, intercessor, husband of the church. It delegates those roles and titles, in reduced form, to its local representatives. These titles all belong to God. Catholic priests may have been taught that God delegates these to them, but the claims contradict the Bible. I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images. Isaiah 42:8 Usurping the titles and roles of God is a severe form of blasphemy.  

Over a millennium of rationalizing does not make the rationalizing any less sophistic. It is worth considering whether allegiance to an organization that creates new standards (traditions that morph with the culture) in order to justify contradicting the unchanging original standard (the scriptures) is the right choice.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Uncertainty and the Rapture

As an engineer, I learned to live with uncertainty. People want absolutes, but an engineer is perfectly comfortable saying, "A is probable, B is possible, and C is not likely." The engineer will then plan for A, but have a backup plan in case B happens.

That's how I think about the Rapture.

The Pre-Trib Rapture is probable, but other models are possible, so I'll plan to do right, whatever happens. That includes the high probability, in light of two millennia of history, that I will be neither raptured nor martyred.

Will Disappointment Trip Rapturists?

Persecutions have always happened and still happen. Therefore, we know that great persecution can and probably will come upon us between now and, assuming there is one, the beginning of the Tribulation. 

Should those who hope for a Rapture before the Tribulation find themselves in the Tribulation, they'll probably be too busy with survival to lose faith just because there was no Rapture. If they're true believers, they'll buck up anyway. Those who fall and receive the Mark were never true believers.

Whose Day of Wrath?

As for the rapture itself, today is the age of the devil's wrath against the church. The Tribulation is the day of God's wrath against the world. 

God may in this day, as Father, allow the devil's wrath to purify us, to purify the church of false believers, and to demonstrate His victory through our faithfulness.

However, in the day of His wrath, as Judge, He will be loathe to unleash His wrath against His own children. It would make sense, therefore, for God to remove us from the path of His vengeance. 

Earth Sans God the Holy Spirit

Moreover, evil is hindered by the Holy Spirit's presence in us, making us preservative salt to the world. Removing the Holy Spirit without us would require God to retract multiple benefits of salvation from us; for example, the seal of the Spirit. Even worse, God would have to break His promise (Ephesians 1:13). 

Therefore, the unleashing of the Antichrist requires the rapture.

The removal of the saints by the Rapture does not mean that no saints will walk the earth during the Tribulation. The world will notice the disappearance of the church, and many who had heard the gospel would then be converted. Since the removal of the pre-Rapture saints would already have unleashed the Antichrist, God could continue all the promises to the new, post-Rapture saints, including the promised Holy Spirit.

Pan Millennialism

My friend, the late Greg Knapp, once declared, "I have studied all the eschatological models and can argue in favor of or against any of them. After all that study, I chose to call myself a Pan Millennialist." 

"Let me guess," I said after a moment's cogitation, "it will all pan out in the end?"

"You got it." At the first coming of Christ, nobody foresaw that it would occur in stages, and those most adamant about their interpretation were wrong. Some of us may be close, but I have no doubt that the End Times will likewise pan out in ways more perfect than we ever imagined.

Hope and Reality

God removed Lot before nuking his town and removed Noah before flooding the world. I'm hoping for the Rapture, because it seems the best interpretation and a lot more fun than dying of a traffic accident, sickness, or martyrdom. But if the Tribulation comes and I'm still here, I will remind myself of Job's words, "Yea, though He slay me, yet I will trust in Him."

Copyright 2017, Richard Wheeler

Thursday, July 20, 2017

God's Omniscience and Our Free Will


I want to hike a 28-mile route from my home to a nearby mountain and back in one day, but I’m out of shape and lack the inclination to faithfully train for it. Although my will is free to choose the attempt, I lack the ability. If I cannot do what I choose, do I really have free will?

My neighbor became psychologically and physically addicted to pain medication. Without intervention and medical treatment, he was unable to overcome his addiction. With respect to turning his back on opioids, my neighbor had no free will. His will was limited by his addiction.

Free Will = Ability to Choose + Ability to Perform


People who ask about free will usually envision only the extremes: Either we have completely free will, or we have predestination instead of free will. That is a false choice. A middle ground exists in which our abilities, inclinations, environments, and third parties limit “free will.” The philosophers probably have a name for it, but I’m going to call it bounded will.

Free Will Has Limits


Freedom is never absolute.

The Bible teaches throughout that we deviate from God’s standard. It documents sins of even the greatest characters. As a young man, Moses murdered a slave driver and had to flee Egypt. Later, he disobeyed God's instructions on how to strike a rock, and lost his privilege of entering the Promised Land. As Romans 3:10 says, There is none righteous, no, not one.

Our universal addiction to deviating from God's standard of perfection limits our freedom. As Jesus said, Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin (John 3:34). The Old Testament "Law" starts with the Ten Commandments and expands into hundreds of subpoints. As with fractals, the closer you look, the more details you see.

For example, when you view a person’s life as a whole, the law against adultery becomes a law against sex before marriage. When you extend the law beyond the physical dimensions, the law prohibits lust. Jesus said that if you so much as look at someone lustfully, you have already committed adultery in your heart (Matthew 5:28). And as people like to point out, God looks on the heart (Proverbs 21:2).

When you examine the Thou shalts and Thou shalt nots, in the larger context, you discover that they’re not about helping us establish our own righteousness, but about teaching a humility that turns us toward receiving redemption.

The apostle Paul wrote that God gave the Law to prevent self-righteous attitudes. The Law does not tell us how to earn heaven. Rather, it tells us that we have fallen short of that goal.
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:19-20)
Some might answer, "If God judges my heart, and I sincerely want to do what's right, then it does not matter that in I don't have the ability." That sounds nice, but it has flaws.

  1. If only intention matters, then God cannot address evil done for the "right" reasons.
  2. We all think our reasons are "right."
  3. Who does everything for the right reason? 
Even good, loving deeds can have impure motives. For example, we might perform an act of love not because we love the other person, but to enjoy the sensation of "loving" or to enjoy feeling like good people. As the prophet Jeremiah wrote, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9, ESV) 

My intent is not to throw thunderbolts at anybody, but merely to explain that the material person’s will is not free. It is limited not only physically, but also morally. Even when we intend to do the right thing, we still mess it up. 

We do not have unlimited free will.


Poetically, the cost of our errors is going to “that other place.” The question of free will usually focuses on the ability to accept or reject the Gospel, but it misses the larger picture. Without Divine interference, our end is are already predestined.

Jesus came to establish a way to free the will from its enslavement to immorality. Only by recognizing that enslavement and then relinquishing self righteousness can one begin to grasp that path to freedom.

Destination versus Predestination


When my action makes a result inevitable, it destines me to the result. When an event (such as God's choice) made a result inevitable, it predestined me to the result. The only difference is when the event occurred.

Within the bounds of our free will, then, our nature destines us to commit sin, and sin destines us to condemnation. From the perspective of Judgment day, our sin predestined us to condemnation. So the only difference between destined and predestined is the time at which you view the event.

  • At some point in time, sin destined me for condemnation.
  • At some point in time, God destined me for heaven. 
  • If you are mature enough to read this, your sin predestined you for condemnation (although God may have planned and performed otherwise).

As an adult believer, I can say that through sin, I predestined myself for hell, but God predestined me for heaven. That is, God predestined His own actions, namely, arranging for me to hear the gospel, giving me understanding, and giving me a gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8–9).

So, lay this out on a timeline: For the saved, God planned (predestined) to give some people great gifts. Later, their actions predestined them to condemnation. Then God carried out his plan and changed their destinies.

Would it really be that horrible if God predestined the changing of our destinations?

God's Choice and Free Will


The claim of omnipresence implies the ability to observe what happens throughout space, to know all information such as our thoughts, and and to know what happens throughout time.

In the Bible, God claims omnipresence.

Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:24)

This verse claims ability to observe every physical condition and event everywhere. In addition, many timess, God claims and demonstrates an ability to observe thought. For example,

I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds. (Jeremiah 17:10)

On a tangent: Knowing men’s thoughts is one of the proofs of Jesus’ divinity. Jesus is the only person described in the Bible to know men’s thoughts. For example, Matthew 12:25, Luke 5:22, and Luke 6:8.

Just as no condition, event, or thought is hidden from God, neither is anything that will happen.

I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done…. (Isaiah 46:9–10)

Others have indicated that God foreknows because He can figure out what will happen. Although God has that magnitude of intelligence, that is not the only possible basis of foreknowledge.

If God created the material universe, then according to our understanding of physics and cosmology, He also has creative power over time and space. That implies that He exists outside of time and space, although the doctrine of the Triune God shows that He can enter into creation from any or every perspective. That is, God’s creative power makes it possible to exist as a Unity outside of time while existing as a Trinity inside of time. And existing outside of time, He can observe all that happens within time.

I find it likely, therefore, that God’s omniscience is based not on logic, but on observation.

Some things are planned and brought to pass by God. Isaiah 46:10 continues, My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose…. For example, Jeremiah 1:5 demonstrates both foreknowledge and predestination:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.

And of God’s chosen, Romans 8:28 says, And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Although God observes all things at all times, the Bible does not say that he predestines all things. It clear states, however, that He does predestine some things and then interferes in history and our lives to bring them to pass.

God’s interference means that, without His action, His will will not happen. If some things will or will not happen without interference, then those things could not be predestined (that is, by God). The Bible gives many example of God permitting events in order to achieve a greater good.

Therefore, God's foreknowledge is based on observation, modified by execution of His plan, and confirmed by observation.

So there is no such thing as unconditionally free will. Our wills our bounded by our nature, and our actions predestine us to condemnation. Through the Cross, God creates a path to eventual freedom from our nature. Then He intervenes in the lives of some to change their predestination from a negative outcome to a positive one.

Copyright 2017 Richard Wheeler

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Evidence of Democrat Party and Media Corruption

Have you ever tried to make a point but been unable to substantiate it? For example, the Left bends over backwards to deny that anybody votes multiple times, but you know you've read dozens of accounts of it happening. As I come across such accounts, I'll start adding them here. You can help by adding links to articles, or suggestions for new categories, in the comments.

Election Fraud

Voter Fraud

Vote Count Fraud

Media Censorship, Bias, and Fraud

Social Media Censorship by Twitter, Facebook, Google

Disclaimer: I have no problem with censoring indecent language, harassment, incitement of violence or other criminal acts, or sham news stories (as contrasted with satire). I do object to the partisan, selective enforcement of standards.

Government Dishonesty

Campaign Fraud

Democrats' Brownshirt Tactics

Democrat Corruption

Coverups

Propaganda Promoting International Socialism

Sexual Hypocrisy of Democrats



Thursday, October 13, 2016

Moral Equivalence between Trump and Clinton

Democrats love to point at Donald Trump's sex-talk tape to drive a wedge between Trump and female voters. For the sake of argument, I will assume that the talk represents actions because maybe some women will come forward to confirm that Trump made unwanted bodily contact with them. Then Team Democrat invokes legal terminology, calling such contact assault, although few would agree that such contact meets the common-sense definition. (The requirement of prior consent has only recently move from the realm of moral manners to the realm of political correctness.)

Having convicted Trump of assault in the Democrat-controlled media, Team Clinton ignores Bill Clinton's lifelong history of infidelity, harassment, assault, and violent, forcible rape. If forced to admit to it, they minimize the numbers; and even then, they deflect by stating that Trump is not running against Bill Clinton. Never mind that Hillary Clinton managed a branch of Bill’s campaign organization that one member of their team, Betsy Wright, called the Bimbo Eruption Squad. I’ll get back to that in a moment.

Equivalence of Scale

As stated, Democrats and the media ignore, or if forced to acknowledge it, grossly understate the number of affairs that Bill Clinton has had. Arkansas State Troopers have described how Clinton abused state resources by using them to procure women and provide security (the main threat being Hillary). He did not, contrary to some claims, have affairs with a few women; he had affairs with hundreds.

Democrats also ignore accusations of forcible, violent rapes dating back to Clinton’s college years. When people cite the Rhodes Scholarship as proof of how “smart” Bill is, ask yourself why he did not complete even his first year. Proof of the answer remains effectively buried in the past, yet it remains highly credible in light of Bill's record. At least a dozen specific victims have been identified by name, but only a few have come forward, the most prominent being Juanita Broaddrick. As crime statistics tell us, when a perpetrator is convicted, that one conviction usually represents a worse crime and an order of magnitude additional crimes.

Some will argue that Clinton has never been convicted of his crimes, so they don't count, as though the vast majority of crimes, which never result in convictions, never happened. Add to that abuse of probability Clinton's powers of authority and riches. Who was going to prosecute when the State Attorney General of Arkansas raped Juanita Broaddrick? What beauty contestant was going to file a complaint, with Clinton's Hollywood friends offering an acting career in exchange for silence? What bureaucrat was going to go public, with pets disappearing, a stranger implying that the same could happen to her children, and her career in the balance? What prostitute would go public about rich Bill Clinton's illegitimate son when she could have a sugar daddy paying her off?

What Difference Does It Make?

Some people ask rhetorically, “but what does that have to do with doing his job?” Consider some examples.

Job Performanc

In the 1990s, a security video was leaked showing a pair of well-dressed visitors — as I recall, the king and queen of a European country — left standing outside a White House entrance. The video went on for almost an hour. Much later, it was revealed that Bill and Monica had been fooling around on that date and that Bill had let business of state go unfulfilled. Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not. Damaging? The inhospitality and insult bordered on “international incident” in seriousness.

Embezzlement

The Clintons have shown (in SO many ways) that they are willing to abuse public assets for their own pleasure. It was not Arkansas State Troopers’ job to shuttle Bill’s “dates” and to track Hillary’s whereabouts so they could warn Bill if she was coming. It was not Secret Service guards’ duty to collect and destroy soiled materials after visits from Monika or Eleanor. In the business world, such abuse of assets would be called “embezzlement” and would result in firing and possibly imprisonment. But what non-partisan authority can do anything about it?

Nation Security 

Bill’s adulterous activities render him vulnerable to blackmail. That the Clinton machine, with Hillary at its head, worked so hard to keep the accusations quiet proves that if the behavior did not threaten national security, it at least threatened Bill’s and Hillary’s careers.

Honestly Comparing Trump to the Clintons

The first conclusion is that the accusations of groping against Trump pale in comparison to the accusations that Bill Clinton is an adulterer on the scale of Magic Johnson, as well as that he is a serial rapist. The fact that Hillary “stood by her man” says a lot about the sincerity of her pretended concern for women and for victims of violence. It gives credibility to the claim that her real motive is not concern, but votes.

The second conclusion relates to Hillary’s role. When a person helps a criminal get away with a crime, she accepts an equal share in the guilt for the original crime. Every once in a while, you will read about some getaway driver sentenced to even more time than the criminal he assisted. Bill would never have gotten away with his scandals and crimes had Hillary not paid off and threatened Bill’s victims. So she is just as guilty as him.

Why does it matter so much to some people?

Because, despite the severity of the accusations, Bill Clinton got away with all of it, and Hillary Two Face led the cover up.

Because the media ignored the story. (The main TV networks waited a year before reporting the Lewinsky story, and one network NEVER reported it.)

Because Democrats in congress refused to view the evidence and then said, “There’s no evidence.”

Because, even while ignoring what their own guy did (and still does), they hold Trump accountable for much lesser offenses.

Because Trump apologized, while all we get from the Clintons is finger-wagging and “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinski.” (Partisan spin does not get any more twisted than claims that "Trump is guilty because he apologized, but Clinton is innocent because he has no remorse.")

Because Americans are tired and frightened of corrupt, greedy, dishonest, self-entitled, two-faced politicians who get away with plundering the system, rape, murder, and violating national security.

Are they alike in type? Perhaps. But are they alike in degree? Not even close.

Copyright 2016

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Donald Trump's Tax Returns and Ties to Russian Oligarchs

How likely is it that Donald Trump's tax returns indicate that he is financially tied to Russian oligarchs?

Ties to Russia


The intent of the question is to imply that Trump has a conflict of interest and might be allied with Russia against America. I find that intent to be saturated with hypocrisy as well as with dishonest reasoning.

  • Hillary is an internationalist, and her party is the party of internationalism. Therefore, when partisans accuse Trump of internationalism in his business, they commit hypocrisy.
  • Internationalists believe Russo-American ties are good. When they imply that Trump is anti American because he has Russo-American ties, they add another layer of hypocrisy.
  • The Democrat campaigns have worked hard to set up Russia as a bogeyman and link Trump to Russia, even when evidence has pointed to their own people as sources of some leaks. At the same time, they have lied about whether hackers ever obtained Hillary’s emails. (Guccifer 1.0 is in prison because of it.) Therefore, the accusation implied by the titular question loses credibility.
  • While Trump’s ties to Russia are speculative, Hillary’s ties are not. We know that the Clintons and their foundations received hundreds of millions of dollars from Russian oligarchs while Hillary was SecState. More hypocrisy.
  • While we know of no anti-American actions by Trump that correspond to speculative ties to Russia, we do know that after receiving donations from Russia, Hillary enabled a mining deal that favored Russia and that had a significant negative impact on American interests. The circumstantial evidence is overwhelming and damning.
  • All of this hypocrisy demands the question of whether the Left is leveling its speculative accusations against Trump in order to deflect attention away from Hillary’s known corruption. Such deflection is a common tactic of cover-ups.
  • We have circumstantial evidence of complicity with a cover-up in the mainstream media. The story of the Clintons receiving hundreds of millions in “donations” was not covered. However, a story about a former Trump campaign employee receiving 1/100th as much did receive coverage. Keep in mind the context: Hillary’s action gave American interests to Russia; the Trump associate’s action brought Russian business to the US.
  • A financial relationship with Russians does not create a conflict of interest for a businessman, but the Clintons’ financial relationship with “Russian oligarchs” while Hillary was in office does create a conflict of interest. At best, the Clintons created a prosecutable appearance of impropriety, and at worst, participated in bribery on a level that would have gotten a bureaucrat executed in some countries.

The level of hypocrisy, dishonesty, and brutal partisanship underlying the question is astounding. And that is not speculation.

The Tangent Followed by Most Commenters


Because most commenters go on a tangent about why Trump has delayed releasing his tax forms, I will address that, too.

Here is a factual reason for a delayed release. It may be Trump’s primary reason; it may not.

If you ask ten IRS employees for an interpretation of the tax code, you will get ten different opinions. It is inevitable that an audit will result in changes to some details of any tax return as complex as Trump’s. If Trump releases his return now, then when the changes due to the audit are released, partisans on the Left will accuse him of lying on the initial submission. After that, the changes will have to ripple through his much more thorough financial statement, and he will be accused of lying again.

That puts Trump in a lose-lose situation. If he releases the initial returns, he’s unjustly accused of lying, but if he delays, he’s accused of hiding something “*whore*-able,” as Hillary dramatically pronounced it.

As I said, this is fact, not speculation. Whether it is his reason, I don’t know, and you cannot say it isn’t if you are honest with yourself.

Now, this is more speculative: Courts have agreed that the Obama Administration has used the IRS to target people and organizations on its “enemies list.”  The IRS’s pattern of auditing Trump is consistent with that criminal abuse of power. Might some future email leak show that the Democrats conspired to put Trump in this lose-lose situation? Perhaps not, but it is more likely that a lot of the speculation I see others listing as “probable.”

Many commenters demonstrate a pitiful lack of critical reasoning. For example, one commenter lists a variety of reasons and calls all of them probable, even though some may be mutually exclusive. This demonstrates a failure to distinguish between the probable and the possible, as well as a refusal to acknowledge possibilities that might be entirely innocent.

In another bogus argument, people say Trump can release his tax forms just because the IRS does not stop him. They falsely reason that the absence of one barrier means that no barriers exist.

Partisanship is driving a spectacular level of hypocrisy and downright stupidity in this election. You can’t even read a question without tripping over a rhetorical trick, distortion of fact, or logical fallacy. And judging from the comments, the corrupt, the liars, the hypocrites are winning.

Copyright 2016

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Can Integration of Muslims Prevent Their Radicalization?


Integration reduces radicalization, but nothing can prevent radicalization among any significant Muslim population. 

First, many recent terrorist incidents have involved men putatively "integrated" into mainstream society in the US and Europe.  If we cannot prevent radicalization of people already in a society -- for example, American-born citizens who convert to Islam and then go to fight for ISIS -- how can we prevent the reversal of immigrants' integration?  Moreover, how can we "integrate" the pre-radicalized jihadist "immigrant" who merely feigns integration so he can wage jihad by either converting or killing the "infidels?"

Second, any large population of a given persuasion will contain outliers. Among Democrats, you have Communists (fairly common). Among Democrats and Republicans, you have KKK members (rare, and blamed entirely on Republicans, but not extinct). Among nominal "Christians," you have violent pro-lifers (extremely rare). And among Muslims, you have violent jihadists (fairly common). 

Republicans and Christians can argue that the KKK and violent pro-lifers do not really subscribe to their ideologies. Democrats can claim the same concerning Communists, but an examination of their ideologies shows only a difference of shrinking degree. Violent jihadists, however, adhere strictly to the Koran; rather, it is the liberal Muslim who deviates from core Koranic teachings. 

Third, how do you force the integration of Muslims into Western society without undermining their religion, without crossing a line into deprogramming or brainwashing? That idea is abhorrent to both "liberals" and Muslims. Education is no cure-all. Many of jihadists, and especially Muslim Brotherhood leaders, hold degrees, even from Western universities.  Education aims at the mind, but secular education cannot convert the heart.  In fact, the educational environment can be counterproductive.  The temptations and challenges of secular universities can stress any devout student who aspires to a high moral code.  (As a former Bible-thumper, I can attest to that.)  I have recently seen a trend hinted at in the press, one I had not seen before, that of the Muslim who "integrates" and then sacrifices himself to pay for his Westernized sins.  Therefore, education not only has limited effectiveness but can result in violent reaction.

Before you read the next paragraph I must warn that I believe, based on both historical and theological arguments, that Islam is easily demonstrated to be a false religion that, despite Muslim paranoia about having their prophet and god blasphemed, is itself built upon lies and blasphemies.  

Secular liberals and liberal Muslims fantasize that violent jihadists are not real Muslims.  But that is not the elephant in the room.  Violent jihad is inevitable among those who follow the Koran.  Encouragement of liberal Islam and of integration of Muslims may reduce radicalization in the West, but it cannot prevent it, and it cannot reduce the radicalization already dominating at the source in Islamist countries.  

The only way to prevent Islamic radicalization is by reducing adherence to Islam.  As long as Christians and secularists fail to adequately address the theological problem of Islam, the jihadist problem will continue to fester.  And in its growing hostility toward evangelical Christianity while remaining neutral toward Islam and even accommodating it, the West does itself no favors.

Copyright 2016, Rich Wheeler