Category Archives: Self-deceit

Which Of Us Care Enough to Learn?

Let us pause together to reflect on this great curiosity,
That our God should reach out to humankind with a book,
Knowing full well that not everyone will read
Or listen to it being read aloud, and that
Only a few will ever dig out its treasures.

Continue reading Which Of Us Care Enough to Learn?

What Would a Dishonest Soul Want the Bible to Say?

What would a dishonest soul want the Bible to say?
And how would he twist it to his own satisfaction?

What would the impatient soul glean from its pages
Before he lost interest?
And what treasures would he leave in it undiscovered?

What would the bitter soul find in there,
With which to continue its bitterness?

And what would the cheery dreamer find in it
To prompt or fuel more of the same?

What would be found in it by those
Who block out whatever is scary,
Or by those who who want nothing but?

What would one find if he were the sort
To be convinced it must all be literal
Or if he were the sort to think
It all figurative?

And what would be found by the soul
Who presumed it must all be about
His own life this very day?―
Or the one presuming it must all be
Wholly irrelevant to his life?

What would the soul find
Who thinks it a magic book,
Changing itself to be whatever
He needs in the moment?

And would would it be to the one
Who thinks that because his
Church institution has long understood it,
He need not understand it himself?

What’s to be found in the Bible by the tyrant
Or the scoundrel, who want to
Make use of others?

What by the bully
And the liar?

Or the haughty
Or the crushed?

What for the factious and divisive,
And for the untrusting?

What for the rebel
And the aloof
And the brazen?

What for those who are content
To have a mere form of godliness
That denies the real power of godliness?

What would the hypocrite make of it?
The insincere?
The coward?
The faithless?

The educated or uneducated?
The wise or the foolish?

And what kind of person are you?

There is no way that our personal dispositions and our strengths and weaknesses don’t play a role in how we interpret and understand the Bible. Even our temporary moods and our situational struggles can play an acute in our Bible interpretation in a given moment, or throughout a protracted season. Our experiences and our upbringing, our education and our worldview, our current load of busy-ness and distraction―these and so many other factors all go into the quality of the work we do when considering the meaning of the texts.

Yet this fact seems to be almost completely forgotten. If we’re like most, we think we know what the Bible means, not because we’ve studied it out and have weighed out the data, but because we think we know what it means. This or that interpretation seems reasonable enough to us, so we think it’s reasonable, even without looking for whatever reasons might be found to interpret it some other way. And we can be so unthinking about it that even when we say “Why not believe it this way?”, what we really mean is “Why not believe it this way.”

Just the first and second items mentioned in the poem above (dishonesty and impatience) are enough to wreck somebody’s Bible interpretation.

I have so much more to say about this―more than will fit into a single early-morning post. So I’ll leave you with one thought, and with a meme about what I call “Interpretation neglect”. Here’s the thought:

Whatever the Bible says―whatever is its truest meaning―whatever God himself wanted to have been said and written for the record―ask yourself this: What kind of person would want to believe that? Who would want to understand it exactly as it was intended? Who would want to embrace the truth message fully, without cheating or failing at it in any way? What kind of person would be amenable to the fullness of God’s message, and wouldn’t want to twist or spin or ignore or neglect any of it?

That’s the kind of person I want to be. And that’s no easy goal. It’s a very hard thing, indeed.

So here’s one more question: If somebody’s not yet that kind of person in this way or that―and none of us are perfect―aren’t they apt to be making some errors in how they understand the Bible here and there?

Obviously, yes. Yet who among the billions of Christians on this planet has a strong sense of awareness of the high likelihood that their understanding of the Bible is less than perfect? Do not our very institutions try to build in us a confidence that at least the organization (if not the individual) has got it all pretty much figured out correctly?

What Is The Refresh Rate For One’s Self-View?

What is the refresh rate for one’s self-view?

For example, having lost weight, and having felt good about himself as a result, how much may one regain before it is reflected accordingly in the downturn of his self-related emotions?

Indeed, having felt good that he has adopted a higher standard in any matter, how long until he begins to realize his shortcomings with regard to that standard?

After observing humankind for some time, one might opine that for a great many humans, our greater concern in such matters is not the improving of ourselves, after all, but the improving of how we feel about ourselves. That is, it’s not in improving the reality of how we are, but our emotional attitude about it.

It’s as if we were addicted to the feelings of well-being, and willing to ignore or cheat reality, if need be, to keep it going. But there’s something more in play, since the feelings spike early after some perceived success, and wear off from then forward. Still, though, some manner of perception of the success remains―like a high-water mark after a flood. And so many of us, it seems, have a hard time averting our eyes from that mark when the actual waters recede.

The actual water levels were so important when they were on the rise―when we felt we were getting somewhere. But once we’ve peaked, it’s as if we switch over to another method of self-assessment, and it can take a very long time before we come to grips, either with a disappointing plateau, or an outright regression to some lower point.

And how curious this is about us―this bent toward the overestimation of our achievements, status, knowledge, skills, abilities, and performance!

It reminds me of a joke my grandmother would tell the shoe salesman about her shoe size: “I wear a 7, but this 8 feels so good, I think I’ll take a 9.”

Surely, she had worn a 7 at some point in time. But how long had that been, and how long will one cling to how it used to be before admitting how it is now? She was kidding, I think, having realized the humor in this particular human behavior.

Of course, people don’t only cling to what was better before; some cling to what was worse. They tend to gravitate their self-estimation toward the low-water line, even if they are doing better now. And this is just as twisted when viewed from a reality-based view. And if this weren’t enough of a challenge for us, I do believe we can simultaneously hold to different attitudes about the various areas of our lives, overestimating our status in the one thing while underestimating it in the other.

We all would do well, then, it seems to me, to think how life would be different if the refresh rate on our self assessment were higher. How much more quickly might we make corrections to our course if we were checking in with the compass more often?

Different Ideas About What Is Evil

Some are so full of themselves
And of the culture of the camp
That they could read the whole Bible,
Stem to stern, and never perceive
That the camp and God have
Different ideas about what is evil.

Others perceive it somewhat,
In glimpses now and then, but will not
Come out from them and be separate,
Finding the staying preferable
To any wholesale reform, and
Hoping it is not unforgivable.

But others still have managed
To slip the bonds of camp,
To discover all the better
For themselves what God thinks—
Where there are no guards to quash
Such investigation, and no one
To please but God alone.

And having found the truths
The camp obscures,
Why would they ever go back,
Except to preach an unwelcome truth,
Or to try to escape it once again?

The reason the camps keep the truth
At arm’s length is that
Is that it pleases them neither
To please God, nor to admit
That they do not.

Woe to those who call evil good
    and good evil,
who put darkness for light
    and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
    and sweet for bitter!

Isaiah 5:20. NIV.

The Gaslighting Tag Team

Tag Team Wrestling. Credit.

The one presumes to be a member of the organization
Without doing what the members
Are all supposed to do.

And you’re not supposed to notice
Not supposed to call them out on it.
And when you do, here comes the other.

Continue reading The Gaslighting Tag Team

The Outsider

Photo altered. See credit.

It’s as if he were speaking a different language—
The man who fully believes in the authority of God
To judge the creature man at the end of his life,
Declaring his eternal fate.

He builds the fact of his subjection to God
Into his life and into his thoughts.
It shapes his minutes and hours and days,
And he says “no” to things that
The others accept without reservation,
And “yes” to things they so reject
For, to put it simply, he does not have in mind
Only his own thoughts and feelings and desires,
But is striving to fit into his mind also
The very thoughts, feelings, and desires
Of God Almighty, which he considers
More important than his own.

And most who are not doing the same will
Pay him little attention if he does not press them too much.
Not knowing what to make of him,
They will keep their distance,
Even if they find him generally likable.
They will not ask questions, but will remain
Disengaged from what engages him
As if that could not possibly be for them, too.

They have learned simply to ignore him—
To block him out just as they would
Any man on the street who was speaking, say,
Hebrew or Greek.

I must say with great consternation that this lack of concern with accountability to God seems as prevalent in the churches as on the streets. It’s as if practically all of them were built with a view to consoling the member with some twisted religion in which there is no yoke and no burden and no learning:

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-29. ESV.

They’ve built themselves a culture in which it’s not really expected that each Christian is in training, and is operating on a pass/fail basis. They relieve themselves of this pressure by whittling down God’s requirements to the most microscopic scale imaginable, and cutting loose from his sternness while hoping for a God who is only kind:

22 Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.

Romans 11:22. NIV.

So many are not willing to believe in a God who would cut anybody off for failing to behave as required—and especially among those who go to church. But this is exactly the sort of people Paul was writing to, demonstrating to us that the religion, in its “official” forms, has indeed been corrupted since then, with so many today finding it a foreign thought that God would draw the line with people over their behaviors.

They just ignore those passages, and emphasize any passage they can find that talks about grace and such, as if God were not also stern. And so they misunderstand the very God to whom they claim to be eternally devoted. And when you try to tell them about it, they have to find a way to shut you down. Many of them will ignore you if they can get away with it, and if you press them, they’ll push back—whatever it takes to maintain their self-deception over the nature of God.

And people like this almost never turn themselves in; they almost never come clean and admit that they’ve been cheating the scriptures in their minds, and ignoring the half of it. They are stubborn about it, and refuse to see what’s right there in front of them. And they will be shocked (even though deep down inside, they know better, and are not listening to themselves, either) when they discover in person that God and Jesus are not like they think:

21 Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!

Matthew 7:21-23. NIV.

They do not want to consider themselves “evildoers”. Nor do they want to get their heads around the fact that Jesus considers it evil to claim to be his follower while not submitting oneself wholeheartedly to the will of God. It’s all one big hypocritical lie, and they’re caught up in it, refusing to come clean. But Jesus will have the last word, it says here. And what will the hypocrites do about it then? Who will save them from the condemnation of Jesus?

A Little History

God had set apart the Hebrew people to be his “chosen people” out of this world. But it wasn’t just so that they could have their own camp. No, he did it knowing that out of those chosen people, he was going to do something yet further; he was going to call out of them those who really loved him and sought to do his will. This would be the real kingdom—the eternal one. These would be the real children of Abraham—not mere members of a camp or a culture or of a genealogical lineage, but of wholesale reliance on God and submission to his will.

And that’s where Jesus came in, calling the true believers from out of the Jews. “Come out from them and be separate” was the command, just as it had been for the Hebrews to come out of the world and be a special people. And those Jews who didn’t do his will were rejected and condemned by Jesus in 70AD as he had their temple and nation destroyed by the Romans.

Meanwhile, Jesus had called the Gentiles to turn to him, too, because the purpose of calling out the Hebrews as a separate nation had finally reached its fulfillmentand Jesus was here, not to call people to join another human camp, but to call them out of this world and into the next—into that Heavenly Jerusalem, that Holy City.

And he said it again and again in various ways, and through various apostles and prophets, that that Holy City is only for the holy people, and not for the unrighteous ones. (If you doubt this, read Revelation 22 and 23 (opens in a new tab)" href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener" class="ek-link">Revelation 22 and 23 and listen to what the inspired words of the text are saying.) But so many refuse to listen to this, and presume themselves as fit for the kingdom, even though they are not diligent at obeying what Jesus says. And if you press them on it, they’ll turn the tables and call you “legalistic”, and accuse you of preaching a false gospel, even though you are showing them the very words of Jesus himself, whom they claim to follow. And they turn to their camps for support, who will cherry pick from the scriptures certain verses that seem to say what they want it to say, even while they reject the whole counsel of scripture.

And this is the lie—the game—the charade of their lives. And even though they may have many lovable qualities and practices about them, they have rejected that prime directive in the first and second greatest commandments ever:

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[c]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Luke 10:25-29. NIV.

Jesus had told this man how to be justified in Jesus’ eyes, and it involved wholehearted commitment and obedience and love. But the man was looking for a way out. Indeed, he was already a member of a camp that considered itself exempt from having to obey those two commandments, and he didn’t want to leave that camp to join Jesus instead.

And this is the way it still works today. The camps abound, in every possible flavor and disposition. Almost any kind of person can find a camp that aims itself as making people like him feel comfortable without having a wholesale commitment to obeying Jesus and living righteously as per Jesus’ own example and command.

And they do not listen, even to God, whom they call their Father, or to Jesus, who they will attest was sent by God:

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say.

John 8:43-43. NIV.

And this is what I see today as I try to talk with people about what Jesus said. Most are quite unable to hear it. And I’m afraid they’ll never admit to the ugly truth about the state of their disobedient hearts, until they are standing before God’s throne, and it is out of their hands once and for all.

And while I’m at it here, I should go ahead and mention that some camps do acknowledge this accountability, but not as their primary raison d’être. No, they do it as a means to having power over their members, while running a church organization nowhere authorized in the teachings of Jesus or his apostles. I used to belong to a couple of camps like that, and I can attest to how counterproductive they are, even though they have got this one thing right about the need for accountability. The cheat they employ is this: The rank-and-file members are expected to obey God strictly, while the leaders and the church organization they run are not bound by such a short leash. Thus, they take advantage of people whose hearts are soft enough to obey, but whose minds are yet to uneducated in the scriptures to discern the cheats that are in play. And this sort of camp can shipwreck a great many people, just as such camps have done since that corrupt ones among the kings of Israel were doing this in Old Testament times.

The rebel Hebrew of Jesus’ day would insist that he was a child of Abraham, and even of God himself, even while standing face-to-face with Jesus, whose teachings they were rejecting. (John 8:31-59 (opens in a new tab)" href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener" class="ek-link">Read John 8:31-59.) And it is no different in the churches today, where a great many people are doing the same, and doing their best to ignore those few who are trying to point this out to them.

And it has always been this way with the unrighteous, as it was with Cain who rejected the advice of none other than God himself in a one-on-one counseling session, and sold himself out to Sin. (Genesis 4 (opens in a new tab)" rel="noreferrer noopener" class="ek-link">Read Genesis 4.)

Even to this day, the “Jews” reject Jesus in their camps, while millions of “Christians” do the same—each pretending to be right in God’s eyes.

It’s the ultimate lie, to dabble while pretending to be wholeheartedly about something. I say ultimate because the fact that you’re dabbling at all gives you some activity to point to when you’re put on the spot. There’s some evidence that you’re “doing” something, so you easily “justify” yourself on that account, even if you know that you’re ignoring some level of negligence at the same time. And in this way, you can pretend that you love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, even though you know better, and should know better. And you can fool a lot of other people this way, too. But not God. So really, at the end of the story, you need God not to be real—or else, not to be like the God of the Bible. Otherwise, you’re busted.