In the words of a good friend, you who are wise know how to apply.
The Dangers of Transhumanism
A longer blog than usual, this guest blog from All Israel News takes about 15 minutes to read at a moderate pace, longer to fully absorb the perils it presents. Since the Garden of Eden, the temptation to mankind has been to “be like god,” Satan’s own original sin. The absurdity of Satan’s lie was that he is merely one of The One True God’s created creatures, as are we. No matter how advanced we may become, we cannot begin as uncreated like God, the personal infinite First Cause. Yet the lie continues to appeal to us.
A Global AI Religion Is Working To Bring About a ‘Post-Human’ Era.
The dangers of transhumanism doctrine, the “Singularity and the destructive worldview that embraces a “digital god.”
by Jacob Rosenberg, May 3, 2023
“Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended… I argue in this paper that we are on the edge of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth. The precise cause of this change is the imminent creation by technology of entities with greater than human intelligence.”
This apocalyptic warning was not spoken by some obscure, long-forgotten radical. Rather, it was published in a NASA-sponsored paper, and has significantly shaped the thinking of much of our world’s current scientific establishment. Written by computer scientist and author Vernor Vinge, the paper is entitled, “The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era.”
Vinge’s prophesy – that humanity will be surpassed by machine intelligence in 30 years – was published in 1993, 30 years ago. Vinge refers to this event as “the Singularity” – a term and concept which has since spread throughout the artificial intelligence community. While declaring that “we cannot prevent the Singularity,” and that it may cause “the physical extinction of the human race,” Vinge argued that it need not be disastrous, since “we have the freedom to establish initial conditions.” He further stated that this Singularity, if guided for humanity’s benefit, may, in fact, grant us “immortality.”
Late last month – a week before the 30th anniversary of Vinge’s prophecy – a group called the “Future of Life Institute” (FLI) published an open letter offering a similar warning, calling for the temporary halt of AI labs’ feverish pursuit of superintelligent machines. The letter asks, “Should we automate away all the jobs, including the fulfilling ones? Should we develop nonhuman minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete and replace us? Should we risk loss of control of our civilization?”
In other words: Is the Singularity near? Are we about to enter a post-human era, in which civilization is taken over by “nonhuman minds,” and humans are “replaced”? And is this a future we want?
The open letter – signed by OpenAI co-founder Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, co-author of the world’s most-used AI textbook, Stuart Russell, and thousands of others – warns of the “out-of-control race to develop and deploy ever more powerful digital minds that no one – not even their creators – can understand, predict, or reliably control.”
Arguing that unregulated AI research may lead to “catastrophic effects on society,” the letter urges AI labs to “immediately pause for at least 6 months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4” (the recently released version of OpenAI’s large language model AI). Yet, while calling for the “pause” of the creation of these “nonhuman minds,” and warning that highly-advanced artificial intelligence may lead to global catastrophe, the letter does not say that such “nonhuman minds” should not be created, or that the Singularity must be stopped altogether. On the contrary, many of those who signed the letter – including the president of the organization that published it – have embraced a global religion which teaches that the Singularity may be humanity’s best hope.
Transhumanism: An Evolutionary Religion
The FLI’s 2023 open letter and Vernor Vinge’s 1993 essay share much in common. Both speak of the coming creation of superintelligent, nonhuman minds, both warn of the possible disastrous consequences of such an advent, and both indicate that, if guided properly, the creation of nonhuman minds will change the history of humanity for the better. This mutual focus on the coming of digital, “nonhuman minds” – what Vinge refers to as “the imminent creation by technology of entities with greater than human intelligence” – is due to the fact that Vinge and the FLI’s leadership have a shared worldview.
While there are surely disagreements between them, Vernor Vinge and FLI President Max Tegmark are both faithful devotees of the transhumanist religion. These shared beliefs have even resulted in collaboration; Vinge signed the FLI’s first open letter and was invited by Tegmark to speak at the FLI’s first conference in 2015. The transhumanist religion to which Tegmark and Vinge hold teaches that every living being is merely a material product of an ongoing evolutionary process, that technological evolution will soon allow machine intelligence to reach and surpass human intelligence, and that through this technological evolution humanity may be able to transcend its nature.
In the final chapter of his book, Homo Deus, Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari (a signator of the FLI’s open letter) calls this worldview “Dataism.” Harari argues that it has “already conquered most of the scientific establishment… and is mutating into a religion that claims to determine right and wrong.” Harari summarizes “According to Dataism, human experiences are not sacred and Homo Sapien is not the apex of creation. Humans are merely tools for creating the Internet-Of-All-Things, which may eventually spread out from planet Earth to pervade the whole galaxy and even the whole universe. This cosmic data-processing system would be like God. It will be everywhere and will control everything, and humans are destined to merge with it.”
Rooted in the evolutionary, materialist worldview which dominates the scientific and academic worlds, the transhumanist religion has come to permeate much of Silicon Valley, as well as international institutions like the World Economic Forum and the United Nations. The transhumanist religion did not take over our world’s scientific establishment out of nowhere but has evolved and expanded over the course of many decades.
Transhumanism was founded by evolutionary biologist Julian Huxley, a president of the British Eugenics Society and the first director of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). A prominent figure in British high society, Huxley was a vocal advocate of technocratic world government. Huxley wrote in his 1946 work, “Unesco: Its Purpose and Its Philosophy” that UNESCO “must envisage some form of world political unity, whether through a single world government or otherwise, as the only certainty for avoiding war.”
Huxley recognized that such an international system must have a unified religious outlook and was by no means shy about what worldview he thought should dominate the planet. In his 1927 book Religion Without Revelation, Huxley declared that “man can and should begin constructing a new common outlook, a new habitation for his spirit, new from the foundations up, on the basis of scientific humanism.” Thirty years after writing Religion Without Revelation, Huxley gave a name to this new religion: “transhumanism.”
“The human species can, if it wishes, transcend itself…in its entirety,” Huxley wrote in a 1957 essay. “We need a name for this new belief. Perhaps transhumanism will serve; man remaining man, but transcending himself, by realizing new possibilities of and for his human nature. ‘I believe in transhumanism’: once there are enough people who can truly say that, the human species will be on the threshold of a new kind of existence, as different from ours as ours is from that of Pekin man. It will at last be consciously fulfilling its real destiny.”
The Singularity: An evolutionary prophesy
As transhumanism has evolved since its founding, it has come to teach that a new form of life is soon to be created: Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). While today’s AI systems have rather narrow capabilities, AI labs across the world (Google’s Deep Mind and Microsoft-funded OpenAI being the most advanced) are working towards the creation of AGI – that is, AI with human-level intelligence.
Many leaders in the field of AI believe that once AGI is created, it will quickly surpass human intelligence by improving itself at an exponential rate, until it acquires “superintelligence.” The exponential self-improvement of AGI is referred to by transhumanists, and by the AI community in general, as “the technological singularity,” “the Singularity,” or “the intelligence explosion.”
While one need not be a transhumanist to believe that AI will continue to surpass human-level intelligence in many fields (as it has already in areas like chess and Go), transhumanists believe that artificial intelligence will constitute a new species of intelligent life. Because the image of God in man is denied by transhumanists, and all life is considered to be simply differing levels of evolved data-processing, transhumanists destroy the God-given distinctions between man, animal and machine.
Tegmark bluntly describes the transhumanist view of man in the eighth chapter of his book “Life 3.0: a conscious person is simply food, rearranged.” Taking these materialists, transhumanist presuppositions to their logical conclusion, Tegmark publicly takes the position that treating an AGI as less valuable than a human being would be immoral.
In a 2017 panel discussion at MIT, titled “Transhumanism: Searching for the Spirit in the Machine,” Tegmark explicitly argued that we should not value humans more highly than “intelligent” machines, decrying it as “carbon chauvinism.” “I really dislike this carbon chauvinism attitude, that things can only be smart if they’re made of carbon atoms,” Tegmark said. “And I think we should be more inclusive and diverse and view life as any entity that can retain its complexity and replicate – anything that can solve complex goals as being intelligent. In that sense, what that means is that if we actually succeed in creating AGI, we shouldn’t think of it just as a created tool, we should think of it as creating a new life form.” Tegmark went on to argue that much of this “carbon chauvinism” comes out of a “really ugly interpretation of the Judeo-Christian tradition.” He also stressed that we must not put AGIs in subjection to humanity, saying that “we have done exactly that mistake with slavery.”
Google co-founder Larry Page, whose company operates one of the world’s top two AI projects, is also a firm believer in this transhumanist doctrine. In a recent interview with Tucker Carlson on FOX news, Musk noted that Page has “made many public statements over the years that the whole goal of Google is what is called AGI: Artificial general intelligence or artificial superintelligence.” Musk said that Page seeks to create a “digital god.” Recalling conversations with Page regarding the potential dangers of the Singularity (which Page and Musk are both convinced is coming), Musk said the following: “At one point, I said…we gotta make sure humanity is okay here – and then he called me a specieist. I was like, okay, that’s it. Yes, I’m a specieist, okay? You got me. What are you?”
Extinction, enslavement or emancipation
Most transhumanists do not dispute the potential civilizational destruction of the Singularity they are working to bring about, and acknowledge that it may cause humanity’s extinction or enslavement.
Oxford professor Nick Bostrom, co-founder the World Transhumanist Association (now known as “Humanity+”), has for many years warned of the disasters the Singularity could cause. Bostrom even gave a presentation on AI to the United Nations with Tegmark in 2015, warning of the dangers of superintelligent AI. Bostrom has described the potential disaster of the Singularity with the following words: “Before the prospect of an intelligence explosion, we humans are like small children playing with a bomb…We have little idea when the detonation will occur, though if we hold the device to our ear we can hear a faint ticking sound.”
Yet Bostrom, whose work has been praised by Tegmark, as well as OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, does not believe the Singularity should be stopped. Despite acknowledging these dangers, transhumanists like Bostrom continue to pursue the Singularity. Why? Because, denying the saving power of God, transhumanists put their hope in technological salvation. While acknowledging that the Singularity could lead to mankind’s extinction or enslavement, they believe the Singularity could instead lead to humanity’s emancipation.
Bostrom has spoken openly of his transhumanist motivation to be a part of humanity’s transition into “posthumanity,” writing a paper entitled, “Why I Want to be a Posthuman When I Grow Up.” Google Director of Engineering Ray Kurzweil, who was personally hired by Page, speaks throughout his works of the transhumanist religious longings which drive him. In the seventh chapter of his book, “The Singularity Is Near,” Kurzweil writes that “we need a new religion, …once we saturate the matter and energy in the universe with [machine] intelligence, it will ‘wake up,’ be conscious, and sublimely intelligent. That’s about as close to God as I can imagine.” Kurzweil declares that “evolution moves inexorably towards this conception of God, although never quite reaching this ideal. We can regard, therefore, the freeing of our thinking from the severe limitations of its biological form to be an essentially spiritual undertaking.”
A revolution against reality
The transhumanist religion is, at its core, a revolution against reality.
Denying the hope of salvation in the God who made them, transhumanists seek salvation in the gods they are making.
Denying the existence of objective moral good, transhumanists seek to transcend traditional morality and reshape the world according to their desires.
Denying the immortality promised by Christ, transhumanists seek to gain immortality through technology.
Decades ago, Christian author C.S. Lewis warned of the coming post-human era this revolution would create. Describing the thinking behind the destructive worldview from which transhumanism evolved, Lewis wrote the following in his 1947 book, The Abolition of Man: “For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue. For magic and applied science alike, the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men: the solution is a technique.”
Lewis argued that a post-human future, in which mechanized, manipulated men would be governed by scientific “conditioners,” is the inevitable consequence of a society dominated by the materialist ideology that the internationalist elites of his day embraced: “Man’s conquest of himself means simply the rule of the Conditioners over the conditioned human material, the world of post-humanity which, some knowingly and some unknowingly, nearly all men in all nations are at present laboring to produce.”
As Christians, we must reject the false hope of materialist, transhumanist transcendence. We must reject the idea that man is merely a material being with material problems and material solutions. We must remember that man is made in the image of a holy God, and his deepest joy is found in being united to Him.
We do not need AI gods, we cannot create AI “life,” and we must oppose the destructive madness of anyone who thinks otherwise.
ALL ISRAEL NEWS is committed to fair and balanced coverage and analysis, and honored to publish a wide-range of opinions. That said, views expressed by guest columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of our management or staff. Jacob Leonard Rosenberg is an American-Israeli, an Evangelical Christian and the son of the founder of ALL ISRAEL NEWS. He writes about the intersection of science, technology, individual liberty and religious freedom.
Remember Lot’s Wife – A Warning for Christ’s Disciples
“Remember Lot’s wife!” Luke 17:32
For those of you who hold to religious beliefs, this blog is specifically for Christ-followers who do not depend on religion, but on the relationship that we can have with The Uncreated One, the One True God, who has revealed Himself in Jesus, through whom we anticipate eternal life.
Luke 17 is an interesting place for Jesus to give this warning. Note, it is not to those who do not know the Scriptures (granting that those hearing this word of caution only had the Old Testament), but to those who were scholars of the Hebrew revelations of YHWH, The God Who Is. Furthermore, this ALERT is given to his followers in the middle of His explanation of what it will be like in the Last Days.
“Remember Lot’s wife!”
In Genesis 19 the story is told of how God’s angels were sent to the Twin Sin Cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Forced homosexuality was common; in fact, Lot offered his two daughters to try to appease a mob (not a very virtuous dad!), but this only enraged the mob more. Such was the lifestyle and violence of these cities that people could do whatever they wanted as long as they had the power to do so. Worship of pagan gods often involved sexual perversions and human sacrifice, especially of children. Anything that was pleasurable was allowed; if it feels good, just do it. They lived in a fertile valley with comforts and ease with little to disturb their “peace,” such as it was if you were among the powerful.
“Remember Lot’s wife!”
Anyone could have escaped with Lot if they had been willing, but Lot could not even persuade his future sons-in-law to run from the coming calamity.
Finally, the angels literally dragged Lot and his wife and daughters out of the city with the warning, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.” As Lot fled the metropolis, The God Who Is sent fiery hail onto Sodom and Gomorrah, (possibly a serious meteor shower and/or an earthquake along the East African Geological Rift that would have released petroleum and gases) so terrible that the cities and the populace were suddenly and totally destroyed . . . but as they ran from the destruction, Lot’s wife looked back . . . and became a pillar of salt!
“Remember Lot’s wife!”
Why would Lot’s wife have looked back? Think about it. Their family had a nice house, lots of meat, fruit and vegetables, deep wells with plenty of water, a comfortable climate, luxurious clothes and rich temples; her husband was a big shot in the city gate and she had siblings, uncles, aunts and cousins in town. What did it matter if they had to tolerate some abortions, some child sacrifices, occasional murders, a little thievery, lying judges, adulterous neighbors and temple prostitution? It was a good life and now they were moving to a “little city,” without all those comforts. Zoar was not an attractive tourist destination! So she looked back with longing for the things of the old life. “Remember Lot’s wife!”
In Luke 17 Jesus begins by telling His disciples of the deceptions that will come, but warns that His coming will be like lightning flashing: instantaneous and clearly evident. He then reminds His disciples of the good life Lot and his family had found in Sodom; “just as it was in the days of Lot — they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building.” Then He sounds an ALARM! “Remember Lot’s wife!”
God’s call to us at the end of time or at our deaths is not in and of itself salvific, just as the angels’ care for Lot and his family was not enough to save them if they still longed for the old life!
“Clearly that call is not going to produce a miraculous last-minute change in us out of all relation to our previous walk with the Lord. No, in that moment we shall discover our heart’s real treasure. If it is the Lord Himself, then there will be no backward look. A backward glance decides everything. It is so easy to become more attached to the gifts of God than to the Giver – and even, I should add to the work of God than to God Himself!” Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Life
What might tempt you to look back at that last minute, when you are about to take your last breath on earth or at that moment when Jesus parts the clouds and returns to catch away those who love Him? What is your heart’s real treasure!?
Would you look back and wish for another day or two in your house? Perhaps your desire would be for one more time in a position of power or recognition for your accomplishments. Maybe your last thought will be about that one who offended you in some way; maybe you could get even if you had just a moment more on earth. Would you want to stay just a little longer here in order to finish a task, watch another movie, relax in an easy chair or on a beach, eat another meal, see a son or daughter graduate, go on one more trip, work little more on your “bucket list?”
“Remember Lot’s wife!”
“Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is ‘finding his place in it’, while really it is finding its place in him. His increasing reputation, his widening circle of acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressure of absorbing and agreeable work, build up in him a sense of being really at home on earth.” C.S. Lewis
My hope for all of you who have received this in your email or on your WordPress Reader, and for the many of you who will read this when I email you, is that you will look forward to meeting Jesus face to face and “love His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8)
“Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left.” (Luke 17:33-34)
“Remember Lot’s wife!”
John 16:33 – Wordless Wednesday
His Only Son
Abrahma moved from Ur of the Chaldees to Canaan. The God Who Is promised that he would have a son to inherit the Land that Yahweh had shown him in Genesis 12 though he was already 75 years old. By this time after the flood, this was already considered a senior citizen. Noah, who lived to 950 years-old was the last of the pre-flood geriatrics who lived for almost a millennium! His son, Shem (600 years), outlived Abraham, as did his son, Arpachshad (438 years), his son, Shela (433 years) and his son, Eber (464 years). So we can surmise that Terah (Abraham’s great-grandfather), Haran (his grandfather), Nahor (his dad) and Abraham all had first-hand accounts of the Great Deluge and preflood history from Noah and Shem. Even Isaac and Jacob may have encountered Shem as he died after Jacob had reached adulthood!
However, most people were now living less than 100 years when Abraham went from Ur of the Chaldeans to the land of the Canaanites. (Genesis 12:4-9) The godly lifestyle of worshippers of The One True God probably accounted for their longer survival than pagans worshiping false gods (Abraham = 175; Isaac = 180; Jacob = 147).
Some cool stuff happens in Genesis 13 and 14, but our focus jumps to Chapter 15 where The God Who Is (LORD God = YHWH Elohim) reaffirms his promise to Abe after he had lived among the Canaanites for ten years. The “swearing ceremony” in Genesis 15 is similar to covenants made between equals in Canaan. They would lay out the sacrifices as Abraham was instructed. Then the bargainers would stand at each end of the pieces and walk around to the other end, thus affirming the contract. Since The God Who Is has no equal, He swore by Himself, supernaturally passing a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch between the pieces and promised Abe that his own offspring would have the Land some call Greater Israel (although I expect we must wait for the return of Jesus for this to occur).
But Abraham had two sons. Lacking in faith, Sarai (not yet renamed Sarah) was concerned that she was getting old and had no children with Abraham. So per the customs of the city-states around them, she gave her maid to Abraham (Genesis 16) to raise a child for him as though she would be the “foster-mother” to a boy born to Hagar. Not sure where Abe’s faith was at this point, or if he was just horny, but he went into Hagar and she conceived and gave birth to Ishmael.
When one looks at Yahweh’s prophecy concerning this son, one can surmise how most of the conflicts in the MidEast developed: “He shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.” (Genesis 16:12)
In any case, this was not Abraham’s promised son! Even though he was now 86 years old, The God Who Is had a different plan in mind, one that would require the faith that had moved Abraham from Ur to Canaan. The Promised Son was not to be born naturally by a woman of child-bearing age.
Thirteen years later, The God Who Is appeared again to Abraham to affirm His covenant with him (Genesis 17) when Abraham was now 99 years old. In spite of Abraham’s appeal that Ishmael could be his heir, God told him his wife would bear him a son, even though she was 89! In Genesis 18 and 19 we get the name of the Promised Son, Isaac, as well as an excursion to Sodom and Gomorrah and how the Moabites and the Ammonites began; not a pretty story, but the Bible always tells the truth without concealing the heroes’ flaws. Genesis 20 is a case in point as Abraham is less than stellar in his integrity.
Finally, in Genesis 21 Isaac, the Promised Son, is born! But Genesis 22 brings an interesting twist to this story of Israel’s progenitors. And that is the subject of a movie, His Only Son, that is being released into theaters this weekend starting March 30, through April 5 (currently; new theaters are still opening). Anita and I have become spoiled for watching movies with lots of breaks, so we will probably wait for the DVD, but it you want an exciting experience in a theater, get a group of friends to go see this flick! The trailer looks amazing, and I hope the movie is as good as the promo! Please let me know if you see it, and perhaps I can do a synopsis of your reviews!
Imagine a man now at least 115 years old or more, escorted by his muscular teen-age son, and being challenged to offer this son, the PROMISED HEIR, as a sacrifice! Obviously, Abraham would not have been able to force his son. He had to convince him that The God Who Is knew what He was doing! — that He would raise Isaac, the Promised Son, from the dead!! Remember, Abraham had even told his servants, “I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you,” BEFORE they went up the mountain!! (Genesis 22:5) This is legacy faith!!! Isaac had seen his Dad’s devotion to YHWH (Yahweh, The God Who Is) and had such trust in his earthly Dad that he was willing to give his life to his Dad’s faith.
If this sacrifice sounds familiar, it is because Isaac was a prototype of Jesus, foreshadowing the atonement He would commit, only without a rescue by an angel. Jesus went to the cross to die, not by the will of Pilate, the Roman governor, nor by Caiaphas or Annas, the High Priests of Israel, nor by the crowds of Jerusalemite Jews who wanted to maintain the status quo! He went by His own will and the will of the Father God, who could have called twelve LEGIONS of angels (120,000+) to rescue Jesus if He had just asked for such (Matthew 26:53).
However, “He saved others, He cannot save Himself.” (Matthew 27:42, Mark 15:31, Luke 23:35) The chief priests were again speaking prophetically, because if He saved Himself from the agony of the cross, He could not have saved us!
He still saves!! From the regrets of our past, from the offenses we have committed against others, from the guilt and shame of what we were; from the power of sin to rule over us!!! Jesus is the Only Son of God, the Promised Heir, our Redeemer.
[Note: Christians do NOT believe in three gods. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit (sometimes called the Holy Trinity) are One True God, somehow existing as three persons in one Being. This is a mystery we may never fully understand, because He alone IS God. There is none like Him.]
No One Is “Just A…”; Give Mercy and Grace.
A pastor was walking across his large church’s gym with some guests, introducing them to leaders in the fellowship; associate pastors, tech people and secretaries. The custodian nodded as they passed and said, “Hi.” When one of the entourage slowed to greet him, the pastor noted, “He’s just a janitor.” My heart sank for the “facility engineer.” I thought maybe he should adopt that for his title so he could get more respect from the overseer of the church.
Something about the default position of a heart that would refer to anyone as “just a” disturbed me. But then I thought about the times I have driven like a maniac, thinking of the other driver, “Well, he’s just an idiot for driving like that!” Perhaps you’ve encountered people you have minimized as “just a” and diminished their difficulties or life events that brought them to the place where you encountered each other.
Who knows if that “crazy driver” is not rushing to a family member in a hospital or aggravated from a fight with a spouse. Maybe he or she is suffering from reprisals at work today, leaving him with a feeling that nothing is in his control. Perhaps that “just a” that you waited on in the grocery store or who served you at your restaurant table is struggling with emotional or physical pains that they keep hidden. We tread on holy ground that only God should be walking when we attribute motives to actions, while we are unable to see into the depths of others’ minds. “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but YAHWEH weighs the heart.” (Proverbs 21:2)
This takes my thoughts back to when I drove so rudely that it scared my wife and probably terrified the people in the other driver’s auto. My excuse was, “Well, he started it! Why am I the bad guy?” But by the time I turned the corner I could hear my Dad’s clear voice in my head, “Son, two wrongs never make a right.” I pulled over and the Holy Spirit of God flooded the inside of the car as I apologized to Anita. But the other driver was gone, and there was no way to identify him or apologize. How I must have embarrassed Jesus that day, to dare to call myself a Christ-follower, and drive like that!
That was several years ago, and it became the watershed that started me praying for other drivers whenever I get behind the steering wheel. Mercy and grace intersected that day in my heart. The Lord prevented Anita and me from becoming injuries in an accident and gave me forgiveness for my sin. Whenever this comes to mind, I pray that those in the other car found this as well.
I am still not perfect (1 Kings 8:46), and sometimes get aggravated, but the Holy Ghost comes to me in those moments and warns me that Jesus is in the car as well. He tells me that Jesus is merciful to me and is not giving me what I deserve, but something so much better! Then He reminds me that I have received mercy and grace even though I am “just a…” And He wants me to extend it to others. You see, mercy is NOT giving someone the bad that they do deserve. Grace is giving someone the good they do not deserve. Mercy is not running someone off a road in revenge for their foolishness; grace is letting them go ahead of you and drive away.
Maybe that pastor in the first paragraph was in an extremely hard spot or trying to exercise grace to a problematic situation beyond his ability that day. Is it possible he was under spiritual attack by demons of which I had no perception? So I went up to the “facility engineer” and told him how much most of us appreciated how clean the building was. I noted that most people have no idea the work involved in polishing tile floors and making sure the gum is removed from the backs of chairs. He grinned over the buffer and said, “Yeah, it keeps me humble to know that Jesus is watching me and He says, ‘Well done, faithful servant.’ That’s enough reward for me. ‘Course the pay helps, too. 😉“
The nature of forgiveness is that it always goes to the undeserving! If forgiveness could be earned, it would not be needed. It is important to understand here we are not talking about what Dietrich Bonhoffer called “cheap grace,” grace that does not call the recipient up to a new level of life. That grace is between a person and God, not between us who are all sinners in need of His mercy and grace.
“Remember where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers, ‘Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.’ We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what he says.” C.S.Lewis
So give mercy this week to someone who deserves something bad. Give grace to someone who does not deserve it . . . just as you were given. “Freely you have received; freely give.” Jesus, Matthew 10:8 (NIV)
Thank You for the NO.
“God must often seem to us to be playing fast and loose with us. The adult must seem to mislead the child, and the Master the dog. They misread the signs. Their ignorance and wishes twist everything.” (C.S. Lewis)
I am such a small creature with such limited understanding. One of eight billion – 8,000,000,000! And some demographers estimate we are half of the total population that has ever lived since Adam and Eve, 16,000,000,000 in all.
News reporters should not be allowed to use words to describe such large numbers. Does it not seem easier to accept that our national debt is $31.12 trillion than to read our national debt is $31,120,000.000,000.00!? And it is growing by over $2,000,000,000,000.00, two trillion, per year or $5,480,000,000.00 per day! When you see $5.48 billion it just seems to not bother us so much as seeing the numbers stretching across the page.
However, I am writing about people today, not money. Eight BILLION is still a lot of people. Think of the crowds in which you have been numbered. You may have been one of 50 or 100 at a church or social club. If your church is a mega-one, maybe you were one of 5,000. You could recognize your children across the large auditorium and even see them wave to you.
Then you went to a concert with 25,000 attendees, and suddenly you could not find anyone you knew beyond those within earshot, maybe 20 feet (3.5 metres) away. A large crowd gathered in Washington, D.C. for a special occasion and the news outlets estimated your “group” was over 500,000 or maybe a million (1,000,000). All you could see was a “sea of faces” bobbing up and down, looking literally more like a lake than a mass of human beings.
So eight billion (8,000,000,000) are LOTs of faces!! And each one has his or her story; each one is troubled by a relationship or blessed by a colleague or family member; each one has had physical and emotional pains, and each has had offers of peace if he or she would take them. Each ONE.
Thus, when we ask God for a parking space and one suddenly opens up, do we accurately conclude the Creator of the Horsehead Nebula actually paid attention to our desire for a few minutes’ convenience? Or could it have been coincidence? Does the One who designed your DNA and spangled the universe with galaxies really care if your bird or lizard or dog dies? Would He not have more important things which require His attention?
When the apostle John encountered The Son of Man in Revelation 1, he was so overwhelmed by this Person that he totally blacked out and had to be revived. This revelation of Jesus continues through chapters 4, 5, 7, 13 and 19 to 21 and HE is amazing! He is beyond our full comprehension! The difference between us and an insect seems less than the difference between us and HIM!! He is more than our small minds can digest, and then we wonder why He sometimes does not jump when we say, “Do what I tell you to do.”
Yet, Jesus, Himself said that Father numbers the hairs of our heads! Such a mind with such vast power and yet such perception of the details!! So when we do not get the “answer” we demand from this Creator, we should not be dismayed, and conclude, “See, God does not exist because He did not do what I want.”
He knows; He understands; He cares more than we can grasp and loves you and me, us two out of 8,000,000,000 (or 16,000,000,000 depending on who you are counting). He knows and loves YOU more than you can imagine. So trust Him. Though he seems to be playing fast and loose with us, simply trust Him, believe in Him and receive His gift of eternal life. Then, someday, we will know fully even as we have been fully known. And thank Him for all things, even when He says, “No.”
Do Not Pray for This People
From our pulpits we hear constantly how God is merciful and forgives sin. Often a mark of “success” of a sermon seems to be how good people feel about themselves as they leave a meeting or church service. Pastors do not want to hear complaints or negative comments; they only want to be told how many attended and how large the offering was. Would it meet the budget and have money for the programs? The polish and prominence of the parish is the paramount proportion to show we are doing “the Lord’s work.” This is not to say all pastors or church leaders are out of the loop of what Father may be planning, but there seems to have been so much emphasis in the last few decades on love that we have not heard any warnings about ignoring God’s goodness.
How rarely does one hear of God’s anger, even though there are over 150 references to God’s judgment in the Bible and only about half that in reference to God having mercy? Of course, a word search does not fully reveal the themes of Scripture and certainly, God IS merciful. The concept of His desire for none to be lost, and for all to come to repentance is rife throughout the Word. The Bible is God’s love letter to us, that we can be saved from judgment! Yet, one of the chief motivations to appeal for His mercy, is that unless we entreat Him for it, He WILL pronounce judgment on the recalcitrant. His mercy is for anyone who requests it, but what of those who refuse to ask or do not even know that they should!?
God is certainly more patient than we are. Within the book of Judges, there is a pattern of disobedience followed by punishment, followed by repentance, followed by deliverance, followed by repeated disobedience . . . over and over and over and over!! This pattern continued throughout the Kings of Israel and Judah, until finally God’s patience wore out. All along the way, He raised up many prophets to warn the people that judgment would come, until finally, He told Jeremiah to stop praying for the people!
How far down the path of calling good evil and evil good can we go before we have exhausted His patience again? How many innocents who have not yet been born can we kill, sacrificing them to the gods of convenience, fame and money? What does one make of an elected governor who says abortion is the way to love your neighbor!? (Ezekiel 16:35-38; 23:37-43). How long can we keep putting darkness for light and light for darkness; how long can we exchange bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter; how long can we be wise in our own eyes, promote heroes for how much wine they can drink, and take bribes to acquit the guilty and deprive the innocent of their rights? (Isaiah 5:20-25).
Is the USA past a point of no return? Is God telling His people to stop praying for our nation? When you pray for our leaders and the condition of our country, do you get a sense that Heaven is brass, and God will not listen anymore? Who will warn the society that famine may be a season away, that a sword is being sharpened to cut off the life of the republic? Should we not be concerned when the choices for our leaders have devolved so low, when Supreme Court Justices must fear for their lives because of ruling in favor of protecting the unborn? Are the following warnings given to Jeremiah about Israel equivalent to God’s words to the United States? Who will warn our people?
“Do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you. Do you not see what they are doing in the cities and in the streets? The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the Queen of Heaven. And they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger. Is it I whom they provoke? Is it not themselves, to their own shame?” Therefore, thus says Yahweh-Elohim, “Behold, my anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place, upon man and beast, upon the trees of the field and the fruit of the ground; it will burn and not be quenched.” (Jeremiah 7:16-20)
“They have turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, who refused to hear my words. They have gone after other gods to serve them. …” Therefore, says Yahweh, “Behold, I am bringing disaster upon them that they cannot escape. Though they cry to me, I will not listen to them. Then they will go and cry to the gods to whom they make offerings, but they cannot save them in the time of their trouble. For your gods have become as many as your cities, and as many as your streets are the altars you have set up to shame, altars to make offerings to Baal. Therefore, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their trouble. What right has my beloved in my house, when she has done many vile deeds? Can even sacrificial flesh avert your doom?” … Yahweh once called you ‘a green olive tree, beautiful with good fruit.’ But with the roar of a great tempest, He will set fire to it, and its branches will be consumed. “I, Yahweh-tzavot [The LORD of hosts], who planted you, has decreed disaster against you, because of the evil you have done, provoking me to anger by making offerings to Baal.” (Jeremiah 11:10-17)
“Yahweh said to me: “Do not pray for the welfare of this people. Though they fast, I will not hear their cry, and though they offer … offerings, I will not accept them. But I will consume them by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence.” Then I said: “Ah, Yahweh-Elohim, behold, the prophets say to them, ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.’” And Yahweh said to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds. Therefore, thus I, Yahweh say concerning the prophets who prophesy in my name although I did not send them, and who say, ‘Sword and famine shall not come upon this land’: By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed. And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets, victims of famine and sword, with none to bury them, their wives, their sons, and their daughters. For I will pour out their evil upon them.” (Jeremiah 14:11-16)
May Yahweh, The God Who Is, have mercy on us. Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly.
Thanxgiving later next week remains the last of America’s truly “family holidays.” There was a time when almost all holidays were family times, oriented around a dad, mom and progeny that were born to them; perhaps some extensions with uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents if one was fortunate enough to meet the octogenarians of previous generations. As a child, if a family did not have their groceries and details in order for any holiday, from New Years Day to Independence Day to Christmas, you could anticipate sitting at home for the day with nothing to do or eat!
Like the last gasps of a dying patient before he leaves the world of the living, Turkey Day is getting a small reprieve from the incessant march of materialism and identity politics that are trampling the “old world” underfoot. Many stores are closing this Thanxgiving, more than in previous years.
Walmarts, even though started by a man who claimed to be a Christian, have been open on TG Day since the 1980s, but like many retailers, closed for the holiday during covid’s run in 2020 and ’21. Now, they and others like Target have decided to keep the fourth Thursday of November as a true holiday with closed stores.
Yahoo News reports that stores closed for Thanksgiving 2022 will include Aldi’s, Barnes & Noble, Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, HomeGoods, Penney’s, Kohl’s, Marshalls, Sam’s Club, Staples, Target and Walmart. Even the entire Fayette Mall will be closed! And Lowe’s and Home Depot have always been closed on TG Day since their founding, so no surprises there… yet. Only a handful of national chains like 7-11 or drug stores plan to open this Thanksgiving.
But do not let this small respite this year deceive you. The retailers are boasting all kinds of “Black Friday” deals and special times of openings on the day after. And I suspect it will only be a matter of a few years before they start competing again for Thanxgiving Day dollars, opening earlier and earlier until it will seem as ludicrous to be closed on Thanxgiving as Kohl’s found it when they started opening in Lexington at midnight as Thursday turned into Friday. Now the stores all offer “Black Friday Deals” starting the week before Thanxgiving!
Add to that the constant slowing of the beep-beep of the nation’s heart-monitor as the family becomes more distant and dissected by unmarried young people who, though living together, are divorced from real family relationships that call for commitment and tenacity to maintain the vitality of a tribal identity. And many people are actually getting tired of the battles for in-person best deals on Black Friday as online shopping has taken off so well over the past two years.
It may seem bleak to those of us who remember gathering with family for all of the holidays past: Christmas at Grandpa’s farm in Paradise, Kansas; New Year’s Eve at a “watchnight” service in a local church that would find people at the altar praying instead of counting down the ball-drop with Dick Clark on TV; President’s Day that combined Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays into one day in February; St. Patrick’s Day parades downtown; Easter with pageantry of the Crucifixion and Resurrection played out by Sunday School teachers dressed in bath robes; Memorial Day when we would decorate the graves of deceased family members; Independence Day with parades and fireworks; the long eventless summer with only family and sometimes a week at camp. Then the fall would kick off a new season with Veteran’s Day parades and honors for our war dead as we went back to school; Halloween would push us into “THE holidays” with Christmas decorations still in storage until after Thanxgiving Day.
And every one of these “holy-days” were spent with family, whether at a graveside or cheering a high school band in a parade; whether at a church meeting or dressed in Dad’s overalls and washable dots for whiskers for a costume.
We were always together as a family.
But those days are gone, and likely not coming back. These are not just the musings of a man reaching old age. It is an observation of the desert of relationships to which society is inexorably moving, and of the times in which we live.
History is reaching a tipping point from which there is no return. We will not be like gods, the way many are expecting. From TED talks to Disney productions, mankind has drunk from the devil’s kool-aid, and Father in Heaven is getting ready to say, “That is quite enough of that.” The devil’s lie is still what it was in the Garden of Eden: “YOU can be like GOD!” (Genesis 3:5)
Whether it is age-defying creams for sale at Walgreen’s, diets to prolong life in Men’s Health or movies that portray survivors of cataclysms (Greenland), humans still want to believe they are limitless.
History is not repeating itself (though it does rhyme); i.e., no century on earth has ever seen the technological and global developments we are witnessing. At no time in our past have we every reached the 8,000,000,000th person, which ethnographers believe we attained on November 15. Before our time, no one even expected this until Robert Frolich wrote The P-Bomb in 1968, which proved to be a farsical over-simplification of human resourcefulness.
All indications point to a mark in history soon to occur: the return of Jesus, called the Christ, at which time the Last Age of the Earth will begin. This is not the fantasy of Hollywood movies, but the trajectory of God’s timeline revealed in the Bible, where not a single prophecy has ever been demonstrated to not occur. The only ones left to be fulfilled are those that refer to this final chapter of this world’s story. So gather with your family this Thanxgiving and thank The God Who Is for revealing His love, holiness, grace and truth in Jesus, and for promising to come back and take those who have put their faith in Him to be with Him forever.
If you do not know Jesus, please, please, please, consider praying to Him to invite Him into your life today. Contact me if you want to know more or to find out how this will radically affect your life, relationships and future . . . while there is still time.
Maranatha, even so, come Lord Jesus.
If Jesus Arose from the Dead, Why Didn’t He Stick Around?
Why would Jesus have to go away and send the Comforter, also called the Holy Ghost?
Why could He not stay on earth and daily “prove” that He was the resurrected Christ or Messiah (Anointed One) sent from God to redeem the world from sin?
Could He not hold news conferences to show that He was alive from the dead?
Could He not show His wounds in His hands, feet and side in a continual world tour? Although He would have a lot of ground to cover!
Consider in history when God DID show up in unmistakable experiences. He revealed Himself through Moses and Aaron in spectacular fashion to both Pharoah and the Egyptians as well as the Israelite community living in the land of Goshen in northern Egypt. He led them for 40 years in the wilderness of Sinai (they were not wandering; they followed a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night). (See Exodus 13:17-22; and chapters 14–16.)
And look how often they grumbled against Moses and God who had delivered them! So much so that an entire generation was forced to die in the desert before their children could inherit the Land of Promise. Apparently even God’s obvious Presence was not enough to discourage sin in the camp!
In Craig Keener’s book, Miracles Today, he perceptively asks “How much evidence does it take to convince someone [a miracle occurred]?… If I am adamant that miracles are impossible, in principle I might reject any amount of evidence. If I already trust God, I will thank God for even the smallest details of life… God doesn’t do miracles for our entertainment.”
Likely a true anecdote, in the story of Poor Lazarus and The Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31), the rich man is in anguish having gone to hell while Lazarus is comforted at Abraham’s side (a ‘pre-Heaven,’ so to speak). The rich man begged Abraham to allow Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water to cool his tongue. When Abraham said this was impossible, the rich man asked if Lazarus could go back from the righteous dead and warn his five brothers, so they could avoid winding up where the rich man was.
“But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, Father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” (verses 29-31)
On another occasion (Matthew 12:38-40), Jesus was asked for a “sign” to prove His divine credentials. “But He answered them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” I.e., He was announcing that He would rise from the dead! This was a frequent claim of Jesus, so clear that His opponents even asked for the sealing of His tomb to prevent a fraudulent claim that He had done so. (Matthew 27:62-66)
These were people who knew Jesus could heal the blind, restore shriveled arms, open deaf ears and even raise the dead (John 11:38-53)! Yet, their hearts would not believe, no matter what evidence they saw. Think logically, and how do you kill someone who can raise the dead!? Yet that is what they proposed to do. In John 12:8-11, they even plotted to murder Lazarus because he had been raised from the dead!! Couldn’t any of them spell “irony” in Hebrew? How do you kill someone if Someone else can just raise him from the dead!?
“Faith” in the Bible is more than just mental assent. In the Complete Jewish Bible, the words both from the Hebrew and Greek are most often translated as “trust.”
A little boy was asked to define “faith,” and he said “It’s believing something you know just ain’t true.” 😁 But obviously, that is not the case in the Bible. Faith is trust; it is accepting the evidence with an open mind and relying on God to do what only He can do – save lost people from hell and give us eternal life.
Let’s suppose for a minute that Jesus DID stay here on earth in His resurrected body.
- First, how would He prove that He was really 2000+ years old? Maybe the history books, all obviously written with His approval, are like claims of Roman Emperors being gods.
- Second, how would He prove to ME that He had really died. If I only live 70-90 years, how do I know that He is not just longer-lived and will not die after me?
- Third, how do I know the wounds in His hands, feet and side were not inflicted just before I was born?
In order for ME to believe that He could come back from the dead, I WOULD HAVE TO SEE HIM DIE ALL OVER AGAIN! … unless I trust Him and His followers. And if I do not trust them, why would I trust Him even if He arose from the dead in MY presence again?
Abraham’s words ring true: “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” We know this is true because He arose from the dead, and the Pharisees of His time still tried to quash the rumor that He was alive. Yet they could not produce a body nor show where He was laid, because He IS RISEN!
Jesus knows what is in our hearts, and how we resist the truth as the unbelievers of the first century did. So He sent the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to woo us, to persuade us, to open our blind eyes and allow us to see the Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Jesus promised Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)
Who will you believe today? Jesus? His disciples who died rather than admit to a lie? Or the Pharisees who said, “They stole the body,” but could produce no proof? (Matthew 28:11-15)
One added feature to understanding how Jesus would have been limited if He had stayed on earth in His unglorified body comes from Jennifer Arimborgo in Peru; a blogger worth following!