(Another sample from The Covenants and the Curses available here.)
(Full study available for sale here.)
I started this blog to offer up my commentary on two primary areas of interest of mine: culture and Christianity—and on politics where it intersects with these two areas of interest. Seeing that sex and sex roles and sex differences have become a hotly-contested battleground in all three arenas and noticing in my thinking recently, a (I hope) brief return to my old misandrist ways of my misbegotten youth, I thought it was time to tackle a series on this blog on the subject of men and women.
As an older, single (never-been-married. Heck, never-really-dated) woman, it’s been an area in which I’ve invested a lot of thinking-hours. They say the best coaches are in the stands. I don’t know about that, and I wouldn’t presume to coach this sport, anyway, but I do know that the commentators sit as high up and as far away from the action as they can get for their bird’s eye view of the game. I feel like my distance from the action has perhaps given me a unique perspective to observe and analyze. At any rate, I’ve had some thoughts rattling around in my brain trying to get out for some time now, and I started to think maybe this blog would be an outlet for them.
I had far too many rattling thoughts to get them all out in one post, so I thought I’d do a short series: one post on sex differences, the next on sex roles (specifically within a marriage), and the last on the meaning behind sex (as an attribute and an act). Not sure if I was being brave or foolhardy in planning to write about this subject. One or the other. Take your pick. But definitely optimistic.
Too optimistic, I think. I started my first post but soon bogged down, overwhelmed by the task. I had too many rattling thoughts, and it’s a huge area of life and a controversial one. I set the project aside, still planning to get on with it someday but dreading it at the same time. In the meantime, I got on with a writing project I was thoroughly enjoying. I’ve written a number of Bible studies in the past, and I’ve loved every minute of the Bible opening up in a new way for me through the intense study required to write about it. A Bible study I’d started years ago and abandoned when it wasn’t coming together, finally clicked into place this year, and I powered through it in a matter of weeks. Along the way, I noticed that my rattling thoughts were finding their way out and into this study. (They had to get out somewhere, I suppose.) Seeing the Bible study lessons I was writing were taking the direction they were and saying most of what I’d wanted to say in these blog posts, I decided they could serve double duty. I’ll post four of those lessons here from the study I’m calling The Curses and the Covenants. The first is introductory to the subject of the week of lessons where my rattling thoughts finally came home to roost: the story of God’s covenant with David in 2 Samuel. It will give you some context for the other three posts. The second is the curse of Genesis 3 that went with that week of lessons—a curse very pertinent to the man/woman subject. Then the last two are my musings on sex differences, sex roles, and the meaning behind sex, jammed into some lessons on David of the Bible (who provided me a convenient excuse to let out some rattling thoughts). In the interests of keeping the lessons manageable, I left out a lot of the rattling thoughts, and the brevity hopefully makes them more readable. I don’t mean to bog you down and overwhelm you the way I did myself. On the other hand, I may still have to say more on the subject someday.
So that’s my disclaimer as to why the following posts will be breaking free from my usual blogging format and may seem to be outliers on this platform. They were intended for a different platform, that’s why. But if any of my rattling thoughts resonate with you here, then I’ll be happy to share them here.
(Another sample from The Curses and the Covenants available here.)
(The full study available for sale here.)
(Based on 2 Samuel 7 + Revelation 19:6-16)
“I will be his Father, and he will be my Son. If he sins, I will punish him with a rod and with blows inflicted by people. But I will never stop showing him my love as I did to Saul, whom I took out of your way. Your royal house will remain in my presence forever. Your throne will be established forever” (2 Sam. 7:14-16).
“[…] ‘Hallelujah! The Lord our God, the Almighty, has become king’ […] He wears clothes dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God […] On his clothes and his thigh he has a name written: King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:6b. 13, 16).
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give this testimony to you for the churches. I am the root and descendant of David. I am the bright morning star” (Rev. 22:16).
As we have every week so far, we’ll see the making of the covenant in the week’s Overview and then, in the first days of the week (after the “curse” day), we’ll back up to see the events that preceded and prompted it. (Then, in Day 7’s wrap-up this week, we’ll read the astonishing story of how God chose to make the promises of His covenant with David come true.)
As usual, there were too many events that preceded and prompted the covenant for me to do justice to half of them. I’ve chosen the ones I think have the most significance to this study, but one I could only touch on lightly in our intro page: the fate of the ark of the covenant before 2 Samuel 7.
First, you need to understand the deeper meaning behind the ark of the covenant. I mentioned it last week as the symbol to Israel of God’s power and presence with them, but it symbolized that power and presence in a very specific way: It was the visible representation of God’s invisible throne.
There was a “seat” on it (though no human would have dared sit on it). It was called the “mercy seat” or “throne of mercy” (Ex. 25:17). The idea was to think of God as invisibly seated above this box. Wherever God is, there is His throne. The two are inseparable. It’s the first fact we need to know about God. He is King. Sovereign. God. The One in control. Of His universe.
No, no box can contain Him. He overflows universes of universes (1 Kings 8:27). The point of the ark was that it was portable. It went wherever God’s people went. It was a reminder to them that God was always with them. And that He is always on His throne. He was meant to be their King.
Throughout the New Covenant, we read about “the kingdom of God” as a very important concept in that Covenant. And knowing the sovereignty of God emphasized throughout all the Bible, the obvious questions arise, “Isn’t God the ultimate Sovereign One? What, then, is the kingdom of God? Isn’t everywhere the kingdom of God? Isn’t everything the kingdom of God?”
And the not-so-obvious answers are that God is the ultimate Sovereign … except of one territory. The kingdom of God (very simply) is all that over which God is King. And everywhere and everything would be God’s kingdom. Were it not for one, tiny, huge fact: He is the God of freedom.
It goes back to that ol’ Genesis-3 decision: Who will be god? Of me?
Here’s the mind-blowing truth of that Genesis-3 decision that we see exemplified in the ark of the covenant: God, while very much in charge in His universe, will only reign in my heart and life when I ask Him to.
The territory that does not encompass God’s kingdom is every human being that chooses against His rule. There He will not enforce His reign.
All this is necessary background knowledge to the new kingdom that we’ll see created through God’s covenant with David. We’ll see, yet again this week, those two emblematic pathways of flesh vs. faith. We’ll see Saul’s kingdom (first king of Israel) as the kingdom of flesh. Self-first. And we’ll see, yet again this week, that the way of faith is the way of God in control. God as King. This was the state of David’s kingdom. Although David got it very, very wrong very, very often, his overall life-choice was God on the throne—God as his king. That was the choice he made early on in life, confirmed from the start of his reign, and finished out his days still embracing.
Did you notice the “Dad joke” God made with David?
David’s fondest wish was to build a house for God. This week, we’ll see his longing to be near God, to move the ark where he had ready access, and to build a house for it just as God had built him a palace.
Instead, God said to him, “No, David. You won’t be the one to build a house for me. I’m going to build a house for you!” And “house” was a play on words. David had in mind the physical structure we call a house: four walls and a roof. God had in mind a different kind of house: a royal house of sons and daughters. A dynasty. A reigning line of inhabitants on David’s throne.
Do you see the turnaround? David desired to build God a house. In turn, God built a house for David. David desired to seat God on the throne of His life. In turn, God seated David and his descendants on the throne. Forever.
The “forever” kind of language God used in making this covenant with David clues us into the fact that the promised “Son of David” of 2 Samuel 7 had a fulfillment bigger than just an earthly one.
Being fond of double meanings, God spoke words to David about his son (and his Son) that would have dual fulfillments. One set would find their fulfillment through a son named Solomon. The other … well, you know!
We’ll be seeing more of His life this week: the events that led up to one very important week in His life that began with His (almost) coronation.
We’ll see an important truth this week regarding “… who is really God and who God really is.” We’ll learn something we need to know about who God really is in order to know who is really God. The truth we’ll see through our New-Covenant passages is that Jesus, Son of David, was God Himself!
And this is the inconceivable truth we see through God’s covenant with David. Through David’s desire to build a house for God and God’s plans to build a house for David, David would build God’s true house. David, the son of God in a human sense, would become the human father of the true Son of God—God-come-to-earth. God would intertwine their houses.
God made a culturally-appropriate covenant with David involving his royal house. In David’s day (as in most historical monarchies), nations made alliances by intermarrying their royal houses and intertwining houses through their offspring (1 Kgs. 3:1, 11:1-8). Hard to engage in open warfare with your own family! In God’s covenant of 2 Samuel 7, He intertwined His royal house and David’s. It was (almost) the ultimate act of peace-making.
Tomorrow, we’ll see the people of Israel enter into covenant with God as their King. It lasted one chapter. God wasn’t Israel’s king under Saul’s reign. But an interesting thing happened with Israel’s second king. Because his King was God, David’s kingdom was really God’s kingdom.
When God finally came to earth as the Son of David and announced His Kingship, His acceptance by the nation again lasted about a chapter. At which time, He was again rejected as His nation’s King, but in the ultimate act of peacemaking, He created a New Covenant. And a new, New Kingdom.
And so we’ll find in a later day when God will officially be Israel’s one and only King again, it will be through One called “the Son of David,” the Son of one who had desired Him as the true King of his kingdom. The King of kings.
(Another sample from The Curses and the Covenants available here.)
(The full study available for sale here.)
(Based on Genesis 3 + Ephesians 5:21-33)
“The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.’ […] That is why a man will leave his father and mother and will be united with his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Gen. 2:23a.-24).
“That’s why a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two will be one. This is a great mystery. (I’m talking about Christ’s relationship to the church.) But every husband must love his wife as he loves himself, and wives should respect their husbands” (Eph. 5:31-33).
“[…]She also gave some to her husband[…]and he ate it[…]Then he said to the man, ‘You listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree[…]’” (Gen. 3:6b,17a).
“[…] and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Gen. 3:16b., KJV).
“And the LORD said unto Cain […] if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him’” (Gen. 4:6a., 7b., KJV).
I have a Hebrew-English Old Testament that I use to try and learn a little Hebrew. I made a discovery in Genesis 3 and 4 by looking at the Hebrew that I had never seen before from reading the chapters in the English. I noticed that Genesis 3 and Genesis 4, in two of their respective verses, contained a nearly identical progression of words that gave me a new understanding of Genesis 3:16b. I’ve quoted Genesis 13:16b. and Genesis 4:7b. for you from the King James as it’s the translation I’ve found that best sticks to the original.
I’d always wondered why the woman’s prophesied “desire” for her husband was placed in a passage about the natural effects of the first sin as though it were a bad thing—at least a hard thing, like the rest of the effects. Then, too, I always thought it a debatable point, especially in the middle of a list of the other indisputable and highly visible effects of “the fall.” I couldn’t say with conviction that I had seen woman’s “desire” for her husband as being a conspicuous feature of life on earth. God’s statement was puzzling.
I could very plainly see the truth of the second part. There was no arguing the fact that men are generally bigger and stronger than women and throughout history had sometimes abused their power. Men have put women under subjection—unwilling submission. That subjection I could certainly see as a result of the fall along with all the other disasters Genesis 3 describes. But the woman’s “desire” for her husband? What did it mean?
When I saw the similarity between God’s words to the woman in Genesis 3 and God’s words to Cain, the son of Adam and Eve and the murderer of his brother, I think I began to grasp what God was getting at in Genesis 3:16b.
In both verses, there’s a “desiring,” followed by a “ruling over.” The woman was told she would “desire” her husband but he would rule over her. Cain was told that Sin “desired” him but he should rule over it.
Was “Sin’s” (really, Satan’s) “desire” for Cain the desire of love? It was the opposite. It was the desire for mastery—the desire for control.
And suddenly, God’s words to the woman clicked for me. Now, I saw this effect everywhere all the time—just as much a fact of life as man’s “rule.”
Men and women would fight for mastery. They would fight not to be controlled but to control. There would be conflict.
The woman had already led her husband once. She’d led him into sin. This time, in His tailored consequence, God gave man the edge over the woman in the fight for mastery—an edge of size and strength.
Yet when speaking His words to the woman, you can bet that His eyes welled up from the emotion that the millennia upon millennia of pain that some men’s abuse of power over women would cause; but also millennia upon millennia of conflict between man and woman; and (to go one layer deeper) the millennia upon millennia of conflict between human and human.
On the most basic level, in God’s words to the woman, I see His promise of this natural consequence of sin: the breakdown in relationship that is the inevitable result of developing the taste for Self-first. It’s been there, lurking in the shadows somewhere, behind every war, every family fight, every conflict of every kind. Someone chooses Self-first, and conflict will follow.
The only part of this decree that was God’s doing was the “advantage” (if it was one) given to the man in the struggle for mastery. But why would God decree such a decree, knowing how that “advantage” would be used?
In every word of Genesis 3, even the dark ones, God had redemption in mind. We see the reversal of this effect of the fall through Ephesians 5.
When God created that first union of the first man and woman in Genesis 2, He had in mind a beautiful illustration of a beautiful, beautiful truth. He created the relationship between a man and a woman to be a picture of the closeness He desired with His people. But the all-knowing One knew what that relationship would end up costing Him. We see it in Ephesians 5.
And Ephesians 5 shows what a redeemed marriage can look like. Here, there is no striving for mastery—only the sacrifice of freely-offered submission and, instead of an abuse of power, the exercise of strength in a love that would sacrifice everything—even one’s own life—for the beloved.
Why did God give man greater strength (one kind, anyway) in the relationship of man and woman? Here’s what I think: The kind of sacrifice the man is called to demands greater strength. It’s God’s kind of love.
And in that kind of love, there is no subjection. Only submission to it.
(Another sample from The Curses and the Covenants available here.)
(The full study available for sale here.)
(Based on 2 Samuel 5 + Matthew 20:29-34)
“Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:7-8, ESV).
“But David captured the fortress Zion (that is, the City of David). That day David said, ‘Whoever wants to defeat the Jebusites must reach the lame and the blind who hate me by using the water shaft.’ So there is a saying, ‘The blind and the lame will not get into the palace’” (2 Sam. 5:7-8).
“They told him, ‘Lord, we want you to give us our eyesight back’” (Matt. 20:33).
Today, we see God already building David’s house. Tomorrow, we’ll spotlight the start of David’s brilliant idea to build God a house that turned into God’s promise to build David a house; a brilliant idea that got off to a shaky start—going astray by neglecting a principle we see him nailing in 2 Samuel 5: Just ask! Then, on Day 7, we’ll see God build David’s house through David’s straying into a sin involving a woman’s beauty and a man’s weakness.
But today’s news is good news, and 2 Samuel 5 set off my thinking in the direction of God’s blueprint for building “houses”: beauty and strength—traits I see as the essence of femininity and masculinity. I like to call those essences a woman’s “garden of beauty” and a man’s “fortress of strength.”
With sexual relationships being the means of God’s covenant with David (and also the subject of the curse of Genesis 3:16b.), let’s detour briefly from 2 Samuel 5 to take a look at those relationships and their purposes.
On one hand, it’s apparent that the biological purpose of sex is reproduction. But a belief in a Creator God opens the door to seeing sex as more than simply biological. Why would God choose to create life this way?
God created us for relationship because we’re made in His image. But He created us in His image in a specific way when He created us male and female: two halves that make up the completed human race, two halves needed to create new life, two halves of the “one flesh” of a sexual relationship, two halves meant to come together into a unity from a plurality. In the unity from a plurality, God points us toward His nature which is a unity from a plurality of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: that mystery of the tri-unity.
On Day 7, I’ll dive more deeply into the reasons (some of them seen clearly through our biology) for the opposite yet complementary traits of strength and beauty that draw men and women together. But today, let’s see them in the pages of 2 Samuel 5 where God was already building David a house of offspring. We’ll start in 2 Samuel 5:22-25 and Genesis 3:7-8.
Notice the movement of God’s Spirit through the trees. 2 Samuel 5:22-25 is puzzling. What is the “sound of marching”? Perhaps the “sound” is the wind in the trees like a marching army. I draw a comparison to Genesis 3:8 because the Hebrew word “sound” (also elsewhere translated “voice”) in 2 Samuel 5:24 is the same word used in Genesis 3:8. Then, the “breezy” or “cool” part of the day is the word “wind” which is also the word “spirit.” God’s Spirit was stirring and calling. Yet He knew the man and woman were hiding from Him, naked and ashamed in the trees of His garden of beauty.
But they were also hiding from each other. The fig-leaf clothing hid their nakedness from each other. We see already in effect the breakdown in relationships of Genesis 3:16b. Because of our Self-first, relational separation, we are afraid to be too known. Our eyes are opened to our own shame.
And yet we long to be known. Fully. By one who sees all and accepts us anyway. Who even admires or adores. We fear yet long to open up to one, right person the gates to our gardens of beauty or fortresses of strength at the core of our sexual natures, a nakedness much deeper than the physical. Soul nakedness. That was how life was meant to begin—through this most intimate knowing. The man/woman equation is not only a picture of God’s composite unity but also of our relationship with God. Does it give you a new understanding of the reason sex is meant to be sacred? It points us to the intimacy we’re really meant for. Knowing fully yet loving fully. It’s God who combines both ultimate strength and ultimate beauty into one to be adored.
God built David a house inside a fortress of strength: Zion. “Highest Point.” Like Mizpah, a reminder of God’s protection. And then His voice again spoke to David through His wind in the trees, and His Spirit stirred. But this was post-Genesis 3, and the purpose of both acts was conflict. Warfare.
Notice that “the blind and lame” couldn’t come into the palace. Although it was used as a taunt, there was truth to it. In Matthew 20:29-34, there is a foreshadowing of God’s new, New Kingdom where all effects of the fall will be eradicated. No one will be blind or lame in God’s new, New Kingdom. Blindness and lameness strike at the heart of our God-given traits of beauty and strength. Our blindness hides beauty from us, and our lameness makes us weak. We still have some sight and strength, but our eyes are opened to our shame, and our strength is now exerted in warfare.
But God’s final-and-forever house will no longer be a fortress for warfare but a palace of strength. His garden of beauty will be restored, and there will be no more hiding. Perfect intimacy with Him will be our reality. All lameness and blindness will be healed. And Genesis 3 will be reversed.
(Another sample from The Curses and the Covenants available here.)
(The full study available for sale here.)
The Woman and the New Kingdom: Cooperation
(Based on Genesis 3:16b. + 2 Samuel 11-12 + Matthew 22:41-46)
“Yet, you will long for your husband, and he will rule you” (Gen. 3:16b.).
“[…] David named him Solomon. The LORD loved the child” (2 Sam. 12:24b.).
In my culture where reality-denying is a very popular activity, talking about sex differences, the reasons behind sex differences, and the sacredness of sex is a very unpopular activity. But here goes, anyway.
Years ago, I stumbled onto the concepts of a woman’s “garden of beauty” and a man’s “fortress of strength” (as I’ve called them to myself since then). I started noticing men reacting to any perceived insult to their strength or manhood the way women react to any perceived insult to their beauty. The swiftness and strength of these reactions told me that the insult felt like a full-blown attack on something very sensitive and central. I began to envision these tender cores as closely-guarded fortresses or gardens.
I began to see strength as the embodiment of masculinity and beauty as the embodiment of femininity. These are the traits that draw men to women and vice versa, so we can understand why any lack in these areas feels like tragedy. (Fortunately, there is more to these embodiments than just physical strength and physical beauty. And the inner traits are available to all.)
Just looking at the biological reason for sex (reproduction), we can see the design behind our sex differences. A woman carries a baby in her body for nine months, then feeds it from her body for a time, making her the natural choice for primary caregiver to the very young. But the constant care needed to keep them alive makes child-rearing a necessary joint task in most societies. The man, with his greater size and strength, is ideally suited to the role of protector/provider for his family. And these complementary roles are facilitated in a fascinating way: through chemistry.
Women’s hormonal cocktail (plus other equipment) makes them able to conceive and bear children. Testosterone turns men into pursuers and doers.
There are also sexual-behaviour differences (as a quick study of “chick flicks” vs. “guy movies” will reveal). Men are driven to produce offspring with healthy, fertile women (hence the visual emphasis) but at low biological cost. Women have much more at stake. Reproduction is a big commitment for them. Seeing child-making is a team effort, so should child-rearing be. So women must ensure that reproduction is also a big commitment for a man. Women’s hard-wiring seems to make them more careful and seek commitment in a sexual relationship. Women tend to be choosier; men more eager. In a society where sexual relationships are life-partnerships, it balances out. Men’s hard-wiring makes them more flexible, resilient, and persistent in finding a mate. They often have to try harder. But in a society practising traditional marriage, most men and women successfully pair off.
There are sound biological reasons for the commitment of marriage. But we thought we could upset this balance and separate sex from reproduction (unless and until we choose) and get away with anything. Result? Disaster!
We are not merely animals, and sex is not strictly a biological act. There is a spiritual side to it. This most intimate of physical acts that often results in the creation of entirely new human beings is meant to bond us for life. We guard our gardens and our fortresses valiantly because we’re supposed to. They’re tender for a reason. The intimacy of physical nakedness is meant to accompany the intimacy of soul-nakedness. And that nakedness requires a high degree of safety. We are only meant to open those gates to our very cores within the protection of commitment and covenant.
In 2 Samuel 11-12, we read of David getting this whole side of life very, very wrong. And disaster followed. But not only disaster.
Hundreds of years later, a Son of David would hint in Matthew 22:41-46 that He was indeed the promised Son of David. But not only his son. Also his Lord. David’s branch but also David’s root. And His genealogy would list Solomon, David and Bathsheba’s son, as one of His ancestors (Matt. 1:6).
In this story of God using our disasters as His opportunities, I see today’s title: cooperation. We are coworkers with God (1 Cor. 3:9). Sometimes willingly; sometimes unwittingly. He requires our input in His creation of new life, for instance. Only He creates life, but He does it through our choices.
This design of cooperation that we see biologically in marriage is the cure for the curse of subjection of Genesis 3. Men and women are to be partners. A man’s strength makes him more likely to play the primary active role: hunter-gatherer-builder-maker. Respect opens the gate to his fortress as love opens the gate to her garden (Eph 5:33). He craves a woman’s admiration of his strength as a woman craves his adoration of her beauty.
It’s not God’s ideal for the wife to be subject to the husband. It is His ideal for the wife to submit to her husband—to come alongside in a vital support role. The difference is empowering. Subjection is the act of the one doing the subjecting. Submission is the act of the one doing the submitting. Submission is a choice, so submission is really freedom. This is exactly true of God. He will not make us subjects in His kingdom. We can only submit to Him.
I recently had a new house built for myself, and that process likely helped cement my political theory in place.
I call myself conservative, but I’m probably more of a libertarian (although libertarians are the new conservatives and conservatives are the new libertarians these days, it seems). Like most simplistic ideas, it doesn’t play out well in complicated reality, but my theory of government is that laws should exist only to protect our freedoms, but one person’s freedom ends where another’s begins. In general, I think the government can insist that we don’t do certain things (because those things affect others); not force us to do things. (I think we can be forced to pay taxes because the government can insist that we don’t steal from anyone else, and if we accept services from the government, we should pay for them, or it’s theft. To those who want to opt out of public highways and emergency services and all governance entirely and go live on their own in the wilderness, I don’t know what to tell you. I’m just spouting my general theory, not covering all the bases.)
Put another way, I think the basic duty of law is to keep one person from harming another person. Not to keep the person from harming him or herself. Harming oneself should fall under the jurisdiction of the right to do what you want to with your own person and property. Or freedom.
Like I say, this doesn’t play out well in complicated reality. How many lives have seatbelts saved since they became mandatory? I’m trying to make a point here, not conduct a study into it, so let’s just say, “Lots.” Do I think we would all wear our seatbelts like good little girls and boys, just because we’re convinced that seatbelts save lives and not because we don’t want to hand over hard-earned money to our government overlords? Nope! I know human nature. A few of us would buckle up every time we got in the car just because we’re funny like that, but a lot wouldn’t. We tend to see the threat of the copper on the corner as a more real and imminent danger than the unexpected car crash. And true, the first is statistically more probable. But the copper on the corner that inspires us to be in the habit of pulling on the seatbelt every time we get into a car has likely saved countless lives.
What about decriminalizing drug possession? Under my political theory, sale and production of drugs would still be criminalized because these actions affect others, but possession would have to be decriminalized to stay true to my theory. If I’m the only one I’m directly harming with my (hypothetical) illegal drug use, it shouldn’t be illegal (according to a hard libertarian stance). In reality, I think decriminalization of possession is probably a really bad idea and would end in more homelessness and crime and violence and overdoses and all else that drugs bring in their wake. There is the argument to be made that keeping possession illegal doesn’t seem to be working anyway, but like the seatbelt thing, I can’t help but think that the fear of legal penalty may discourage some from the behaviour (maybe not many. But some. Decriminalization would help erase the stigma and lead to greater mainstream normalization, I think).
So seatbelt laws and possession laws are probably not laws that I’m ever going to protest and petition to have changed. They may rub up against my political theory, but, meh! I feel like this level of overregulation I can probably live with.
The overregualtion has to stop somewhere, however. When will we, the overegulated and overruled, finally start putting down our collective foot? We here in Canada (and probably all around the western world) are far, far past the place where it should have stopped. As I mentioned, my recent house-building excursion reminded me painfully of this truth I already knew all too well.
Again, in real life these things are complicated, and even according to my libertarian political theory, some oversight by some house-building regulatory body is a good idea. How I build my house would only affect me if I were ever the only one to live in it. But houses last longer than people (at least, they’re supposed to), and the oversight of building inspections is meant not only to protect the first owner but all the subsequent owners who can’t see inside the walls to know what went on in the building process. I take issue with the government’s overreach in the first instance but call it sensible precaution in the second. I don’t need the government to protect me from myself. That’s my own business. I should be able to live in a cardboard box if that’s what I choose to do (and some do as their indirect choice). But fair enough! The next person to buy my home after me shouldn’t be hurt by any bad decisions I made while building. The government exists to protect us from each other, and so building inspections are a legitimate part of the government’s role. But anyone who has ever embarked on building a new house (or just getting through life in Canada) will know how far beyond its legitimate role the government has stepped. When I had to buy a much more expensive bathroom fan because the cheaper model didn’t conform to noise regulations, I did have a little snarl at the building inspector over it. I know he’s just doing his job, but if enough of us complain at him, maybe he’ll start complaining to the guy above him, and if that guy gets enough complaints, maybe it will keep working its way up the chain of command until sanity one day prevails. All I know is that our thus-far sheep-like acceptance of our fates has created this monster.
It’s not any of the government’s business how loud my bathroom fan is. If someone thinking of buying my house after me has a real issue with the volume of bathroom fans, there’s a simple solution: they can flip the switch on the bathroom fan while touring my house and reject the house for its noisy bathroom fan. It’s not hidden in the walls. It’s out in plain sight. The future buyer needs no protection from me as regards my bathroom fan. It’s not an area the goverment needs to regulate.
I won’t fight with the government over seatbelts and drug possession, but bathroom fans is a bridge too far!
There is another issue I’ll happily protest and petition, one a little more important than bathroom fans, I think. It’s another one of those real-life complications to which there are two sides. Traditionally, I’ve really only been able to see the one side and have imputed bad motives to those on the other side, but my libertarian leanings have me seeing the complications. My mind hasn’t changed on the issue itself, but maybe I have a more balanced picture of those on the other side. I’m talking about abortion.
I always thought that the debate was entirely about whether or not an unborn baby is a human life and that the case was incredibly clear. Because the science is unflinching in telling us that the unborn human baby is certainly alive (unless it’s dead) and that it is certainly human (does it magically change species at some point in gestation?), I couldn’t understand how the pro-abortion side had any leg to stand on whatsoever.
I believe the case would be clear were it not for one major biological complication. I can’t imagine that any of us would seek to justify the taking of innocent human life for the sake of convenience were it not for this one thing. The complication, of course, is that the innocent human life begins inside the body of another human being. And this is often very, very inconvenient for the host human being.
According to my theory, good law exists to protect our freedoms, but one person’s freedom ends where another’s begins. Whose side do we take in this debate? The baby’s who didn’t ask to be conceived but was anyway, or the unwilling mother’s whose body has been invaded by an unwitting intruder she doesn’t want? Is the baby’s freedom being curtailed by its mother by being killed, or is the mother’s freedom being curtailed by the baby by having her body invaded? Whose freedom in this situation should trump the other’s?
Because I had always seen the protection of innocent life as the first duty of government whose first basic duty is to keep us from doing harm to each other by punishing us for it, I thought it was an easy one. I thought (and still think) that life outweighs convenience, however great the inconvenience may be. It may be very, very inconvenient to be forced to carry a baby for nine months inside your body and then expel it in an unspeakable manner. But the life of a child should outweigh any amount of inconvenience, I’ve always thought.
And I still do. I’m beginning, however, to see the case for the extreme libertarian principle which believes that the government forcing us to do things is not the government’s role which is why abortion should be legal because a woman shouldn’t be forced against her will to host another human being for nine months (whether or not she was complicit in the behaviour that put the other human being inside her body in the first place), but this is a tricky complication that nature (or God. Depending) has handed us. This is the way human life begins. Unavoidably.
When I really stop and think about it, I can’t quite stick to my, “The government can insist on our not doing things; it shouldn’t force us to do things,” rule. In fact, there are all sorts of things we’re forced by law to do that I think are more justifiable than seatbelt and drug possession and bathroom fan laws. Entirely necessary forcings, in fact. Once a child is born, the one who has assumed responsibility for its care must care for it. However great the inconvenience, a child must be fed, clothed, housed, diapered, cleaned, not left alone in the house, etc. Surely, if we were all to embrace strict libertarian views, we would protest this government overreach. Yet no one does. In that case, I’m not sure why it’s legal to kill a child for the sake of convenience before it’s born but illegal to neglect it for the sake of convenience after birth.
At the very least, those who support abortion on libertarian “My body, my choice,” grounds should by rights first take on seatbelt, drug possession, and bathroom fan laws. I think these are far less justifiable government intrusions into our lives and our privacy and our choices. I can’t be bothered to fight them because I find a strict libertarian political principle isn’t entirely liveable or practicable and because there are bigger fights I would rather put my energy into. I, for one, would be all for a return to the government having just enough jurisdiction over a woman’s body to say that a human life inside of it must be protected. I still maintain that this is government’s first and most basic duty: to protect our rights and freedoms by keeping us from trampling on others’ rights and freedoms. And surely, life is the most basic right and freedom there is.
“There is no evidence for God,” many would tell me. By this, they mean there’s no scientific evidence for God, the only kind of evidence many will (irrationally) accept as evidence for God—physical evidence of a spiritual Being.
But I would disagree that there is no evidence for God. While I can agree that there’s no direct scientific evidence for God, there is indirect scientific evidence for God. It’s not strictly true that a lack of evidence for the one alternative is not evidence for the other alternative. It’s called the process of elimination, and it’s a good tool logic gives us for arriving at true conclusions. The evidence ruling out one conclusion is indirectly evidence for the other alternative if there are only two alternatives. And I believe the evidence of science would rule out the possibility of a purely accidental origin of everything. That leaves an intentional origin of everything. And only persons can do things on purpose. Only intelligence can have intent.
So, as stated last post, I see science leading us in the direction of theism.
But that’s not the only evidence I see for God. I believe we can get our hands on some direct evidence for the existence of God. Not scientific evidence, but as mentioned last post, accepting nothing other than scientific evidence as true evidence is the religion of scientism. And scientism is not a religion that any of its adherents are capable of living out consistently. We all accept many different kinds of evidence and ways and means of knowing things outside of science in many areas of life.
So in this post, I want to examine the direct evidence I can see for the existence of God. Today’s subject is the direct evidence I see for God, and it also answers the question, “Which God?”
It’s all very well to get as far as, “There must be a Creating Intelligence back of the universe,” based on the indirect evidence of science, but if that’s as far as it gets us, it doesn’t get us very far. Inquisitive human nature will want to know something about the One who is responsible for it all. If one of the arguments that convinces us there must be a God is the truth that only persons can do things on purpose, and our natural order screams to us of purpose, then we’ll naturally want to know about our own purpose. Why were we created? Why was I created?
We’ll want to know more about this Creator God than science—the study of the physical—can tell us. Fortunately for us, there are more ways to learn that purely scientific ones. Humanity has always searched after the knowledge of the supernatural, and logic and philosophy are two of the tools we have in our belt to try and learn the truth about life and the One who started it all off.
So how are we doing, all on our own, using only our own brains, learning more about God?
Not so hot, it turns out. A brief study of history should be enough to convince us that our own thinking might not be the best path to discovering God.
There are a plethora of ideas we’ve come up with. I’ll call these the “best guesses” religions. They boil down to, “Do your best. Get by as best you can. Try to live right. Don’t hurt other people.”
A few problems with the “best guesses” religions (including your own personal version if you’re relying on your own best guesses): They don’t seem to be working out very well.
We instinctively understand that our ideas about right and wrong must be tied into these bigger ideas about life or religious truths if there are any such things. If there is a Creator God that made each one of us with purpose, then He may have a vested interest in how we live our lives. He may actually have a purpose He wants us to fulfill. And if there is such a thing as a real right and a real wrong, there must be a God who knows what they are. Otherwise, we have just our own divergent and widely differing ideas about morals. We all seem to recognize the importance of their existence, but we can’t agree on what they are.
And to put it baldly, the world is a mess. Always has been. We’re terrible at figuring out right and wrong on our own. We can’t agree on what’s really right and what’s really wrong. What’s more, we’re incapable of carrying out even our own ideas of right and wrong.
And if this wasn’t so messy, maybe it wouldn’t be such a big deal. But when I say “mess,” I mean, a gigantic mess. I mean the world as it is. I shouldn’t need to go into detail. Just turn on the TV and watch the news for half an hour. Our best guesses are a fail. On an epic scale.
The “best guess” religions, like Buddhism and Hinduism and all the various flavours of paganism, (including our own individual, “This is what I think God is like. This is how I should live my life,” best guesses) I’m not tempted toward. I wouldn’t be satisfied with my own little ideas about God. I’m not arrogant enough to think I could arrive at all the really important truths all on my own. But why would someone else’s best guesses be better than mine? We’re all just human, after all.
But there are more ideas about God out there than just the “best guess” kind. There are also several religions that claim to be divinely revealed. Seeing I think we must have been created for some kind of purpose and we’ve done a terrible job of figuring it out on our own, I would start my truth search by looking into the “divine revelation” religions. I would expect a creating Intelligence who created us for a purpose to communicate that purpose to us somehow.
But there are two problems I’ve noticed with all the religions claiming divine revelation (except for one). The first is that its adherents are expected to take these claims on blind faith. They’re told, “God spoke to me and revealed the truth, and you should just believe what I say,” but no further evidence (or very slight and unconvincing evidence) is provided.
The second is that the lives of all of the founders of these religions claiming divine revelation (except for one) don’t end up looking like I would want my life to look. Their moral failings recorded by history, either distant or very modern, reveal some common patterns. Some of these religions have been very successful and have had great staying-power, but really digging into the life-stories of their founders shows them to have much in common with the life-stories of the founders of the more obviously disastrous, modern “divinely-revealed” religions by the likes of the Jimmy Joneses and David Koreshes of the world.
So (except for one) the world’s religions seem to have been founded by the sincere but guessing or the insincere and power-seeking.
And now we come to what I see as that one exception. It is, in a sense, a two-part religion. I’m speaking, of course, of Christianity and its predecessor, Judaism. They both have their roots planted in a book. Both acknowledge the first part as God’s divinely-revealed book (the Hebrew Tanakh or Old Testament), and Christians accept the addition of a New Testament as also part of God’s divinely-revealed book.
The reason I accept the Tanakh as God’s book is because of the New Testament and the evidence for its truth (that direct evidence of God’s existence I referred to earlier), so let’s start with the New Testament and consider the evidence for it. In fact, let’s examine just one small part of that Testament—the four Gospel biographies of Jesus’ life—and examine the evidence for their truth. If they end up looking likely to be true, the implication follows that the rest of the Bible is also true, but we’ll get there. Let’s start with that process of elimination and consider all our options regarding the Gospels and their truth or falsity.
There are two: Either the Gospels are true (for now, let’s define “true” as “largely reliable in their most basic claims” and start there), or they’re not. To sum up, the basic claims of the Gospels assert that one, Jesus of Nazareth, lived in first-century, Roman-occupied Israel/Judea, that He went around teaching and working miracles of all sorts, sizes, and descriptions, that His teaching revolved around His own person (He tacitly claimed to be God-on-earth: the God-Man), that He died by Roman crucifixion on account of these claims (perceived as blasphemy and punishable by death to the Jewish mind), and that He rose from the dead three days later to lend credence to His claims of divinity. These are the basic facts of Jesus’ life as told in all the Gospels. Either they are basically accurate, or they’re not.
Let’s examine the implications of the Gospels being basically accurate. Can we agree? If this itinerant teacher named Jesus resurrected bodily after being solidly dead and buried for three days, most of us would have a hard time denying this as solid proof that His professions of Godhood were (however astonishing), in fact, true! In this case, the Old Testament Scriptures that He proclaimed as God’s (yes, His own) infallible and unbreakable words would also be true. We would have found that authoritative and divinely-revealed communication to tell us our purpose on earth.
But the first part of that book isn’t complete without the second part. The New Testament completes the Old. It’s in the New where the point of the Old can be seen. Without it, the Tanakh tells a very partial story. If God wrote a book and that book starts off with the Old Testament, I would have to accept the New Testament as part of that book if my reasons for believing the Old are the evidence for the truth of the Gospels. As far as I can tell, these are the inevitable, logical implications of the basic truth of the Gospels. If the Gospels are mostly reliable in their foundational claims, then the Bible is entirely, infallibly true. If the Gospels are basically accurate, then God wrote a book, and the Bible is that book.
But is there good evidence for the basic accuracy of the Gospels? Again, let’s consider that question by considering all our options—the Gospels are true… or they’re not. Under b) “The Gospels are not true,” there are again only two options. The Gospels are intentional falsehoods, or they’re uninentional falsehoods. People may be sincere but sincerely wrong. People make mistakes. So let’s rule out the “mistaken” option first.
Is it possible that the writers of the Gospels thought they were telling the truth, but they were just mistaken in their facts? Not very. The kinds of things they wrote about leave no room for mistakes. The supernatural aspects of the Gospels that many would like to do away with can’t be got around this way. The miracles recorded by those writing the Gospels (claiming to be either eyewitnesses or the interviewers of the eyewitnesses) were of a different order than the dubious acts of the supernatural happening at many of today’s “healing services.” When a man the whole community knows to be blind from birth is suddenly made to see right in front of your very eyes, you can’t very well be mistaken. You know what you saw. When a man you knew well and saw very thoroughly put to death on a Roman cross (and the Romans were very thorough in these matters) is suddenly alive three days later—sharing a meal with you, having lengthy conversations with you, inviting you to plunge your fingers into his puncture wounds—there’s not a lot of room for you to be mistaken. So let’s rule out the “mistaken” option. If the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses (or those closely connected as they claim), they couldn’t have been mistaken.
And if the Gospels are intentional falsehoods, there are (yet again) two options. Intentional falsehoods that aren’t meant to be believed are called fiction. Intentional falsehoods that are meant to believed are called lies.
Could the Gospels be fictional? Again, no. Again, the claims of the Gospels do not leave any openings to interpret them as fictional. They claim to be the truth and nothing but the truth. John 20:30-31 and 21:24 contain the most solemn declarations that the things found in the Gospel of John were meant to be believed and that they were written by an eyewitness.
The options boil down to two: The Gospels are true, or they are lies. Once all the alternatives are examined, these are really the only two options left. Let’s see if we can rule out one of these options, and then we’ll have to accept the one that’s left. Which is more likely?
Of course, the claims of the Gospels (God coming to earth as a man to die for sin and be resurrected the third day), being so far removed from our everyday experience, look vastly unlikely to us. If they happened at all, these events would surely only happen once. So we can’t look to mathematical probabilities to tell us if it’s likely they did happen once. We would look for legal or historical probabilities. And once the alternative—that the Gospels are lies—is fully examined and followed to its logical end, the wildly unusual claims of the Gospels look far more likely to be true.
This is because of the behaviour of the eyewitnesses—the first disciples. If we decide that the Gospels must be lies, we are left with no explanation for the (otherwise) very puzzling behaviour of the alleged eyewitnesses: the first-century followers of Jesus. It’s only the truth of the Gospels that fits with what history tells us about the first-century church.
Roman historians don’t have a great deal to tell us about the penniless rabbi/carpenter/criminal, Jesus of Nazareth (why would they, after all?), but in very short order after His death, His following had grown so large and so rapidly, it could no longer be ignored by Rome. Secular, contemporaneous historians do have something to tell us about what happened with the early church. And it wasn’t pretty. Jesus’ followers became Public Enemies No. 1., and this under several different Roman emperors. The early Christians were beheaded, crucified, thrown to the lions, burned as torches for Nero’s garden parties, etc. A violent martyrs’ death was the expected norm for the early Christian, history tells us. In spite of this, the early church mushroomed.
If the Gospels are nothing more than lies about whose origins we can really know nothing, we would then need to find some kind of alternate explanation for the facts of history. If the Gospels are lies, who was Jesus of Nazareth, really, to inspire this kind of devotion? The usual explanations for those who don’t accept the truth of the Gospels are a) a fictional character, b) a great moral teacher, c) a revolutionary, d) a great moral teacher who was mistaken for a revolutionary.
Of these four, only the last is even plausible in my opinion. Historians don’t take the first alternative seriously. Not only is there some evidence of the historical fact of a personage called Jesus of Nazareth from secular sources, the notion that a movement like Christianity could spring out of thin air and snowball spectacularly immediately following the time a fictional character was supposed to have lived and died, His followers willing to lay down their lives for their fictional faith, requires extreme credulity (and wanton bias) to accept. Then, as to b), the one fact of Jesus’ life that is validated by secular history is His crucifixion under the Romans. First-century Israel had many peaceful and non-political rabbis, teaching their moral teachings and gathering their followings. The Romans weren’t in the habit of crucifying them. Moral teaching has never been a crime anywhere. How can Jesus’ crucifixion be explained if the Gospels are lies?
Jesus as a political Messiah or a revolutionary zealot explains His crucifixion nicely. The Romans were in the habit of crucifying would-be kings of Israel and insurrectionists. But this theory of Jesus explains nothing about the behaviour of Jesus’ following after His death. History records no political movement on the part of the early Christians. If they were dying for their faith anyway, and they had started as a resistance movement, why wouldn’t they have tried to resist? Why would a movement that had failed so spectacularly (if it started as a revolutionary attempt) grow the way it did in the decades that followed? Yes, history has a way of admiring successful revolutionaries through the winners who write the history, but who ever hears a word about the failures?
So d): some combination of b) and c), looks like the only credible alternative. Perhaps Jesus was ever only a peaceful rabbi, but His teachings were so wildly popular and His following grew so large and so quickly that the Romans mistook Him for a revolutionary (maybe with a little help from a jealous religious establishment). Although the best effort, this one is also too weak to stand examination. Many of the peaceful Rabbis of Jesus’ day had large followings. They didn’t get themselves crucified. The Romans seemed able to tell the difference between a peaceful Rabbi and a revolutionary. The only explanation would have to be that Jesus’ own leaders lied about Him to the Romans to get Him crucified. Their jealousy of His following could be one possibility. But again, we’re left with the question, “Why Jesus, particularly?” If there were other peaceful moral teachers with large followings who weren’t attacked by Israel’s religious leaders, what made Jesus different? What could have angered them so greatly in the case of Jesus? It’s hard to imagine His own people turning on this peaceful rabbi without some powerful motive, like, their perception of His teachings as blasphemy. In other words, I can’t find a likely explanation for the circumstances of history other than Jesus’ claims to divinity. These alone can explain the chain of events that could lead a peaceful rabbi to a cross.
Of course, Jesus may have claimed to be God but have been delusional or a deceiver. But if He did claim Godhood, the subsequent behaviour of His following makes no sense unless there was a dramatic, direction-changing event like His bodily resurrection, witnessed by many eyewitnesses.
The Gospels themselves tell us that after Jesus’ death (but before His resurrection), His disciples were done. They had packed up discipleship shop and were returning to fishing. They were crushed. They were fully convinced that their hopes in their Messiah hadn’t come through, and they thought they’d been taken for fools. And this would be far more likely to have been the dead end of the short-lived religion of Christianity if something extraordinary hadn’t happened to change the course of its history. And of the history of the world.
You know what I believe that extraordinary something to be. And when I really look into all the alternatives and try to imagine their realty, the only one that stands up to close scrutiny is the truth of the basic claims of the Gospels. For me, this witness of the Gospels when combined with the witness of secular history is solid evidence for God’s existence. And if the Gospels are true, the Bible is true. If the Bible is true, there’s quite a lot we can know about this God who created us for a purpose and the purpose He created us for.