Valle de Sombra

Political tyranny and godless men

Posted on | January 30, 2014 | No Comments

The world’s people constantly demand freedom and self-determination, and any person or group of people who resist this call are demonized, and generally rightly so. Freedom is where man was created to be. Our genetic instinct is to be free. It offends our sense of identity when others impose their will on us and restrict our freedom. Yet freedom in an inherently unstable condition. It is not unstable due to any defect of freedom itself. There is nothing wrong with freedom. On the contrary, its opposites – forced servitude and subjugation – are indisputably bad things. The defect is not in freedom, but in man who cannot live in the condition he so yearns for, and for which so much blood has been spilled over the centuries and will be spilled again before our age is over.

Put man into a place where freedom reigns, and he immediately begins taking decisions the inevitable result of which will be the loss of his freedom. Make him pay a very high price for his freedom, and he will value it and protect it a bit longer, but only a bit. At the very best, the generation that paid in blood the price of their freedom will not too savagely undermine it, but the next generation will undertake the effort with a will, and will succeed.

We presume that freedom is the natural state of man, and that barring intentional assault, it will remain in effect. This is not so. It was so once, but it is no longer. Now our natural instincts demand of us things that require the suppression of others to achieve. The boundary between where our desires end and others’ rights begin is subject to legislation and the legalized use of violence. So we join forces in groups to impose our desires at the expense of the freedom of others. And we are pleased when we succeed, proclaiming a victory for democracy. We heed not that with each encroachment of the freedom of others, our freedom is also wounded, for we set the precedents that others will use against us and against our children.

Freedom is not a force of nature, like gravity, that with great effort may be momentarily overcome before the inevitable descent. Freedom is a delicate plant all too vulnerable to drought and plague and edged weapons. We rain down blows on the roots of freedom for self-serving egotistic reasons, thinking that the price someone else will pay is worth the benefit to us, and that freedom is strong enough to overcome the damage we have done. And so special interest joins special interest and negotiates with legislators the price of their eminently negotiable ethics, and the incestuous legislators and the executives that pimp them buy permanence in power by using the authority they were entrusted with to erode the freedom of the people they supposedly serve, buying votes with favors that come at the expense of the freedom of others.

And so freedom withers and is overtaken by the strangling vines of tyranny, and men lament that which they lost and yet the loss of which they themselves caused.

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasury. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship. Democracies progress through the following sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependency, from dependency back to bondage.

Alexander Fraser Tytler

Is a fatal error to believe that genuine political freedom can be sustained without a God-fearing people. As soon as a democratic majority no longer fears God, they will see freedom as a currency to be bartered away, not a precious gift to be treasured and passed down from generation to generation.

Why on earth have children?

Posted on | February 24, 2013 | No Comments

If we were to follow simple logic and reason, there would be no earthly reason to procreate, at least not in a relatively advanced economy. In poor regions where the economic instability precludes saving up for old-age and/or where the political populist opportunism makes property ownership untrustworthy, then there is indeed reason. Have as many children as you can and hope some survive to adulthood to look after you when you can no longer work.

That’s about it. If you do not live in a poor region or you find some way to save up for when you are old and weary, then it makes no sense at all to have children. Mark – I do not say that you should not have children, I only say that, if you submit your decisions to logic and reason, then you should not have children.

All other observations invoke not reason but feeling and emotion and societal approval. The pride of successful progeny; the affection reciprocated; the fulfilling of society’s expectations; the warmth of family; the end of loneliness; etc.

I will even say more (for the rest of this article I will presume you do not live in a poor region as defined above). If you put on one side of a scale all the tangible benefits of procreating, and on the other side all the costs (and we’re talking at least 18 years, folks, perhaps more), then procreation is simply and utterly nonsensical. Of course the population needs to remain stable, but this motivation falls immediate prey to the tragedy of the commons. Why should I go to all the massive expense and bother to maintain the population just so others can laze through life and retire early, depending on my effort to maintain society when they are old?

Obviously either there is some real, tangible reason, or all the millions of people having children are either dirt-poor (demonstrably not so) or illogical fools (theoretically possible, but if we start from the premise of global idiocy, then why bother going on at all?).

Future post/s to continue on this topic are forthcoming. Or not. Who can tell?

Sadness and the Soul

Posted on | October 15, 2012 | No Comments

Sadness is an inextricable part of the human soul.

It is born of the perception of loss, which is the defining characteristic of mortality. Every waking hour spent at one place, is a thousand hours not spent elsewhere. A memory saved somewhere, is a million memories never recorded in ten million other places. In the limitations born of our mortality we must constantly make choices between what we will save and what we will lose, and the losing is ever far greater than the saving. We seek to convince ourselves that the choices we made for what to save were the best choices, but even if they always were the best choices (and our mortal fallibility would make this unlikely), even so the loss is incomparably greater.

A moment spent reading a book, instead of playing a game with your son. A moment spent watching a film, instead of the sun go down. A moment spent daydreaming instead of going for a walk with your wife. How is one to know how to make the better choice? Who has sufficient foresight to see which choice turns out to be the best? And again, even if the choice is the best possible one, how must one deal with the terrible loss even that good choice demands?

How indeed, but to grieve. And to this grief we must add so many, many choices that in hindsight we see were not the best. So the chill of loss is driven into our bones by the winds of regret. Sadness, then, is the dark shadow projected on our hearts by the limitations of our humanity in the pitiless light of what might have been.

To flee from sadness is at best denial, and at worst an institutionalized schizophrenia. And whether the former or the later or anything in between, it is an illusion. And illusions, unlike dreams, are only for children.
Since it is foolish and ultimately hopeless to flee from sadness, the wise embrace it. This does not mean being overcome or poisoned by it, but accepting that, like joy, sadness is a part of the soul and it will not be denied if the rest of the soul must not also be denied. There is joy too, in the human experience. And if we would savor that joy, we must accept the sorrow. To refuse one is to refuse them both, because the only way to deny sorrow is to deliver oneself to the fatalism of a mechanistic universe, where joy is also a mere illusion, since the freedom to make personal decisions that lead to sorrow is also a prerequisite for those decisions that lead to joy.

If we deal with sorrow as it comes to us, rather than letting it accrue in the darkness of denial and forced amnesia, then we will have the strength to rise to each wave as it advances. If we refuse to face the waves and attempt to live in a Pollyanna world of pastel illusion, when the weight of the darkness is too great to be contained in our amnesia, all the sorrow stored up there will crash down upon us and crush us.
One great secret is that sorrow and joy are not the antithesis to each other. Sorrow does not wipe out joy, nor joy cure sorrow. They are two essentially distinct and mutually compatible experiences. They are not light and dark, that the one should always be in conflict with the other, but different facets of the same soul. One can grieve in joy, and be joyful in sorrow. This blended emotion is best called poignancy, which is joy all the sweeter for being filled with sadness, or sadness robbed of it bitterness by joy.

Another and almost equally great mistake caused by misguided efforts to combat sorrow is to attempt to do so by being optimistic or highlighting the happy things in life. The theory being that if one can find more things to be happy about than to be sad about, then the favourable balance will make life livable, or perhaps even good. This mistake is born of the erroneous belief that sorrow and joy are antithetical. Once we realize that these two experiences do not contradict or cancel each other out, then we can quickly arrive at a wiser conclusion. For if sorrow does not cancel out joy, then there is no need to frantically search for things to be joyful about when burdened by sorrow. No need, and no point.

Finally, the maturity of Christian character cannot happen in a state of denial and escapism. The only way to grow personally is to face each situation and experience and, in faith, absorb each one into our lives. Faith, not the ability to make lists of ‘My favourite things’, is what brings maturity and steadfastness.

Let us not be afraid of sorrow nor of grief. Let sorrow take its place unadultarated by guilt, and give grief permission to mingle its tears with the smile of true joy. Take the bitter with the sweet and reject neither.

Miserable on our own terms

Posted on | September 18, 2012 | No Comments

The final indictment of the heart of man is that we prefer to be miserable on our own terms than joyful on God’s.

We reject God’s calling for our lives. We claim to be suffocated by His requirements and limited by His prohibitions. We tell ourselves that what we seek is happiness and that God is an obstacle in our paths to this goal. However, no great reflection is needed to see that it is not happiness we seek, but independence. Were it indeed happiness we sought, the path is clear. Instead, we follow dark and slippery paths that lead, all too well we know, not to joy, but to misery and ruin. We know because we have followed such paths before, and we bear the bitter wounds and the jagged memories of our losses. Yet down the same paths we go once again. And in so doing we reveal the true intentions of our hearts.

Which is this clear path to happiness? There are actually many, but for example let us take marriage and procreation.

If we accept the premise that we are made by God, that He designed and created us, then so too should we accept that His designs for our lives would rhyme with the words written by Him on our very chromosomes, and would bring us the true joy we insistently claim to seek. If we remove the blindfolds of our rebellion, it is as clear as a mountain stream that there is no higher calling for a man than to be a husband, a father, and a provider. So too, for a woman there is no sweeter song than that of wife, mother, and home-maker. Yet we approach these vocations with huge reluctance – whining about our losses and the high cost they demand, or for entirely the wrong reasons – narcissism and egomania.

A husband and father continually complains (at the very least in his heart) about the onerous burden his wife and children place on him, in terms of money, time, and affection. And a wife and mother constantly compares her straightened routine of dirty diapers and dishes and floors to the lifestyle she might have if she were free of her obligations. As a result, both place unjust and, finally, impossible demands on their partner and offspring, in the expectation that they be reimbursed or compensated for their perceived loss.

And so, even when complying with God’s design for our lives, we hasten to muddy our deeds with the filth flowing from rebellious hearts. In so doing we destroy any hope of joy, guaranteeing instead the lonely bitterness of the worst of both worlds, where we lack both the courage to reject God’s purpose, and also the humility to accept His joy.

Stupider only than preferring unhappiness on our terms to joy on those of God, is the imbecility of paying the price for accepting God’s design, and then destroying any chance of joy anyway by poisoning our lives, continually looking backwards at the mirage of life without the constraints of marriage and parenthood.

To forget is human, to forgive, divine.

Posted on | May 14, 2012 | No Comments

Forgiveness is a subject spoken airily about by people who never had to forgive something truly awful, and guiltily about by those who have tried, but not managed to do so. Much of what is said about forgiveness in the name of the Bible is really based on religious folklore rather than on revelation, and to question it is to be labelled as arrogant and hard-hearted (and not worthy, in turn, of forgiveness by God).

I haven’t the time or the patience today to first consider systematically the erroneous teachings about forgiveness, so I’ll dive straight into what I hold to be correct, only stating errors in passing, and letting the gentle readers draw their own comparisons (and cordially inviting them to make use of the comments to voice their thoughts).

I believe that there are two major and one minor biblical premise regarding forgiveness. Here they are in the order mentioned.

  1. All sin is first and foremost committed against God.
  2. No unrepented sin is forgiven by God, and all repented sin is forgiven by God when the sacrifice of Christ is invoked.
  3. God will be equally glorified, as much in the salvation of the repentant as in the damnation of the unrepentant.

Let’s briefly explore these premise.

All sin is first and foremost committed against God because He is the creator of the universe and the One who wrote the rules by which all living beings are supposed to live. Therefore, when even the smallest rule is disobeyed, God’s dignity as Creator and authority as Judge are impugned. Each and every sin first denies God’s right as Creator to judge us, and his authority as Judge to establish right and wrong. A sin might or might not have a victim, but whether or not it does, and quite before any suffering it causes, each sin incurs a debt with God. And a debt incurred to God is one that does not have a statute of limitations, nor can it be satisfied with good deeds by the sinner (since good deeds are no more than our duty, and do not build up any credit in our favour with God). God holds all the IOUs that have ever been created by sinful free moral agents (only men and angels, as far as we know).

No unrepented sin is forgiven by God, and all repented sin is forgiven by God when the sacrifice of Christ is invoked, because by the very laws of the universe (which God created and, therefore, echo the hand of the Creator and His personality itself), every action MUST have an equal and opposite reaction. Every cause must have an effect, and every effect, a cause. Fallible mortals may forget sins committed by or against themselves. God, by his very nature, cannot, and therefore does not, forget. Every debt incurred must be paid off, if justice is to remain justice, and if the non-negotiable glory of God is to remain glory. God provided a way for the debt of sins to be expunged, in the death of his Son, Jesus Christ. Being sinless, Jesus’ payment is the only one with validity to expunge other’s debts with God. Being divine, his payment is limitless in its debt-cancelling capacity. The very fact that God had to go to such amazing extremes to create a provision for forgiveness of the debt of sins, proves that payment is absolutely non-negotiable, that satisfaction must be provided. Were it possible for God to simply forget sins, He would surely have done so and not had to face death on the cross. Since the one and only thing God can NOT do is act against his very nature, and since in his free will He wished to save men from hell, then He had to create the means for forgiveness. He also explicitly conditioned the appropriation of that sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins upon the act of repentance and belief in Christ. On the other hand, as repentance is the unavoidable condition, it is also the ONLY condition to forgiveness. But we speak here – it almost goes without saying – of true repentance, not of lip-service. And true repentance is always preceded by genuine contrition and followed by a genuine effort to make whole the damage that was done.

Since God is perfect and absolutely holy, repentance is only accepted for forgiveness if – and only if – the sacrifice of Christ is invoked. We, however, not being perfect nor absolutely holy, it is enough if true repentance is shown to grant us the right and to impose upon us the duty to forgive other’s sins. Since we, in our imperfection, are constantly in total and desperate need of the grace of God ourselves due to our own sins, it does not take the sacrifice of Christ on the cross to satisfy injustice done against us by other sinners, unlike it does to God.

God will be equally glorified as much in the salvation of his creatures as in their damnation. If the salvation of any one person, or of all the people alive on the planet – for that matter – could add a single iota of significance or majesty to God, then He would not be God, for an incomplete being or a needy one may be great, mighty, even, but certainly not God. And the other side of that argument is that no-one can steal glory from God, for a being that can be diminished is no God, however mighty and majestic he may be. God has opened up a parenthesis in his creation wherein, for a brief period of time, his total authority is in voluntary and temporary abeyance. During that period, we free moral agents may freely decide whether or not to render to God his due glory. During that brief cosmic window God’s glory may indeed be stolen – however temporarily – as, too, it also may be freely rendered to Him. But that window will close, the parenthesis opened willingly and spontaneously by God himself will meet their opposing member. When that happens, the event we call the judgement of God will take place, and God will glorify Himself with the glory that has always only truly belonged to Him. Those who hardened their hearts against the mercy of God will be sentenced to pay the price of their sins, a price that they will never be able to satisfy, though they spend all eternity in hell. Those who repented truly of their sins and willingly recognized the Lordship of Jesus Christ will, by grace, be granted entrance into the everlasting presence of God. God will then recover all the glory that was stolen from Him, by exacting justice on one and granting grace to another, and the criteria, the dividing line between these two groups, is repentance and belief in his Son.

These three premise were vital to our discussion about repentance for the following reasons.

If all sin is first and foremost committed against God, then, when victims of other’s sin, we do not have the RIGHT to forgive, unless God forgives FIRST. Then, and ONLY then, may we forgive. With the caveat that it does not require belief in Jesus Christ to obtain our forgiveness, ‘only’ God’s. It does not matter how sorry we feel for our aggressor, or how much we wished he did not have to face the wrath of God for the hardness of his heart. If we proclaim forgiveness without the precondition of repentance, we err, and we make claim to the right to forgive independently of God. And in doing that, we sin against God by questioning his right to judge.

If unrepented sin is not forgiven by God, and repented sin is forgiven by God, then, when our aggressor shows genuine repentance, we have the OBLIGATION to forgive. It does not matter how angry we are towards our aggressor, or how much we wished he still had to face the wrath of God, which he has avoided by his contrition and repentance. If we withhold forgiveness, we err, and we make claim to the right to not forgive, even though the true victim of the sin has already forgiven. And in doing that, we sin against God by questioning his right to forgive and questioning the validity of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.

If God will be equally glorified, as much in the salvation of the repentant as in the damnation of the unrepentant, then what should arouse us to righteous jealousy is the stain against the name of God, perpetrated by all sinners, us included. As children of God, and seekers of his glory, should not feel frustrated either by the hardness of people’s hearts (God will judge them, justice WILL be done, and He WILL be glorified) nor by their contrition (a price WAS paid, albeit not by the sinner, but by the Son of God).

Two final and important points can be made now.

One: Although we do not have the right to forgive unrepented sins, we do NOT have the right to seek our own justice, since we too are sinners in need of grace. We DO, however, have the right and pleasure as God’s children to lay ills done against us at the feet of God. We have the right to say to God, “I have confronted my aggressor and he has not repented. I hereby surrender my rights to justice and ask only that your name be eternally glorified, whether in the repentance of this sinner, or in his damnation”. As children of the Judge of the universe, we do not need to carry with us through our lives the burden of ills done to us whose perpetrators never repented nor showed any sign of contrition. We do not need to be slaves of our aggressors, waiting for justice to be done. We can, and should, be free. Free in the sure knowledge that God will glorify his name, either in repentance or obduracy, whether by granting grace or dispensing justice.

Two: Even for unrepented sins, we have the right, as the martyr Stephen showed, to forego our claims to justice. Stephen did not forgive his aggressors, he merely surrendered his right to justice. Worth noting is that in Christ’s forgiveness towards his aggressors while on the cross, He exercised his divine right to forgive, implicitly invoking his own sacrifice. Christ is God, we are not. And yet even then, Christ was forgiving them not for killing an innocent man, but for killing the Son of God. He doesn’t say just, “Father, forgive them”, he adds, “… for they know not what they do”. They knew they were killing an innocent man – even a prophet – and they remained guilty of that vile sin, for they showed no repentance. But in their disbelief they did not know they were killing the Son of God, and Jesus puts forward that ignorance as a fitting argument to not lay that unspeakable crime at their feet.

 

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  • Perfection or mediocrity

    I have no illusion of creating or finding a perfect church, since any body comprised of imperfect beings must of necessity itself be imperfect. I nevertheless strongly and passionately believe that we must have an ideal upon which to mold ourselves and a concept of perfection by which to set our compass. To answer criticisms of having lost our bearings, replying that no-one is perfect, is a shallow reply born of defeatism and not worthy of the blood shed on the cross, nor of those who take up the mantle of leadership in the church redeemed by that blood.