Monday, September 18, 2006

Heterodox aftershocks 3: Mind follows heart

I got some feedback from a very kind person who took the time to read my entire epic. One thing he said stood out to me because it reminded me of something my pastor said in his sermon on Sunday that stuck out at me. My pastor noted that where the heart leads, the mind follows. That really resonated with me. In fact, it’s where I hang my hope. I’ll explain why below….

My gentle reader said, “[your] combination of existentialism and skepticism is pretty cut & dried postmodernism, no?”

And this could be the crux of the matter. I don’t particularly care about labels, but I care about where my heart is, and what my attitudes are. I don’t know if existentialism and skepticism are intrinsically good or bad things. My guess is that they are both. Perhaps I am a victim of my milieu and can not escape these post-modern propensities. (Although I read Vieth’s Postmodernism Today several years ago, and found most of his arguments sound.) But I assume the heart behind them is the philosophy is the important thing. And conforming my heart to God’s will is my goal. If that requires fighting my natural inclinations I’m not opposed to doing so, provided I see a convincing reason to do so. And therein lies a potential problem. It could be impossible to convince me to drop these attitudes precisely because I have them. Oh what a pickle I would be in if that were the case!

Lewis writes about skeptics seeing though thing until they get to the point where they see through everything and can’t find substance anywhere anymore. It’s easy to spot the heart behind that attitude. It’s simple I’m-smarter-than-you pride. I don’t have that. I know darn well I’m not smarter than most of the great Christian thinkers who have come before me.

I also have ideological limits. It’s not accurate to say that I will follow the truth anywhere it takes me. If the truth takes me to a place where I will be less loving I just won’t go. I’ve set a priority in my life, and love trumps all. Reason, intellect, rights, justice, etc. Which I realize makes me sound like an awfully holy person. But of course I’m not. I’m stating a goal. A desire. I attribute that desire to God.

And that’s the only reason I have hope that I can escape the existentialism of the self. It’s through that heart of love that connects me to Christ that I hope to be a positive influence on those around me.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Admission

Here is a true confession for all the atheists who keep telling me I need to check out their I'm-a-happy-atheist website. Ready?

I am weak. I don't have the strength to live my life without God. I know my limits. Call it poor character, bad genes, god genes, or pure laziness. Call it what you will. I need Jesus. I need Him more than the air I breathe. I've heard plenty of hard-core atheist arguments. Some are better than others. I could go explore all the reasons that I'm a weak minded fool who is being pacified and used.

I still entertain the thought that I can't be a true apologist until I've explored every possible belief system and found them lacking compared to my belief in Christ. After all, I don't want to be like the folks who were born in Texas and have never traveled further than Oklahoma, saying that Texas is the most beautiful place in the world. Yet here I am, born and raise in a Christian home. Sure the past year I've traveled from slightly right of the center of Christendom to slightly left of it. But I don't have the killer testimony, like the guy who was a Satanist, or Buddhist, or Muslim, and found God in the Bible.

But it could also like those times people around me have told me I should really try –insert favorite drug here- and it will make my creativity skyrocket! Who knows, they might be right. But the fact of the matter is, I'm quite happy with my creativity level. And I can see the lives that they lead that have to revolve around drugs. I don't feel the need to go to where they are and fully experience what they are talking about to justify my refusal.

But that's all speculation. Maybe the reason I don't go thoroughly explore atheism is that I'm too weak minded, or maybe because I'm too wise. The fact is that I don't own my faith. I didn't earn it, make it, or sustain it. I am sustained by it. I see blessings in my life as a result of it. Not just for me, but those around me. Why would I leave that? You know the saying, "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence."? Well, I that doesn't apply to me in any way. I am content in the pasture I've been placed in.

And how can I defend against the argument that I'm like the slime ball in the Matrix movie who preferred his delusion to reality? Because he preferred his illusion for himself. It was purely about selfishness. Whereas I have love flowing out of me to everyone because of my beliefs. Christ leads me OUT of selfishness, calls me to follow Him where it is difficult and painful. Leads me by example to minister to those around me. If this is a delusion then I'm happy to stay here.

So… thank you for your invitations. But no thank you.

A different metaphor

I found this guy's writings last week, and have been reading them every chance I get. He's some animator guy named Derek Flood, who thinks and writes like me. … Only probably better! (Yes my gentle readers… that is possible.) Here's the thing. I don't read other people's blogs. I have so much I need to learn that wading though someone else's emotional swamps, looking for nuggets of inspiration or truth is just not something I can justify doing. So when I stumble across a blog that just rips open my heart and articulates its unexplored corners, I gotta talk about it.

The first article I read was about the need for a different metaphor when it comes to Christ's work on the cross. The way it has been cast for us evangelicals, (and Christianity in general for hundreds of years) is though a legal metaphor. God is an impartial judge who sentences us to eternal torture because Adam sinned, and we all do to. But here comes Jesus the great lawyer who discovers a loophole! He dies in our place to satisfy justice and we get off scott free. Flood examines the other alternative that existed before the legal paradigm came about. The Christus Victor model. I always thought that model was a kooky liberal attempt to minimize sin and such. But flood make a powerful argument for it here:

http://sharktacos.com/God/cross_intro.shtml

Here are some other articles I found amazing:

http://sharktacos.com/God/hell.html

http://sharktacos.com/God/suffering1.shtml

Derek is not a Universalist. Yet. But I don't see how his conclusions could lead him anywhere else. And if they do, I'll be really fascinated to see how that happens.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The God of flatulence

I don't think I've ever liked fart jokes. But I was watching a little movie on YouTube where someone spiced together clips of televangelist Robert Tilton, and interspersed loud farting sounds throughout. Normally I wouldn't find this sort of thing funny. But because few people in the world deserve this treatment more than Mr. Tilton, and because his pseudo-spiritual facial expressions and halting cadence I was actually amused. Then my coworker, Little Miss Takes It To Far asked me if I'm at that stage in my marriage relationship where we fart in front of each other. Apparently that is some kind of marker post that tells you that you are truly comfortable with each other. Well, I went 11 years without doing it last time. It's really not a comfort level thing. At least as it applies to relationships. The fact is I'm not comfortable with the entire idea of gas. I never have been. It's probably the thing I hate most about being human.

I don't question God when it comes to evil, war, poverty or disease. What I question is why he gave us 5 senses instead of 4. Why smell? Why, God, whyyyyyyy!?!?! I've heard we need a sense of smell to be able to taste. But I'm sure God could have found a way around that. I know smell has saved countless lives. But why did God put is in these flesh sacks that continually reek? Everything we do stinks. Our breath stinks, our feet stink, our sweat stinks, our excretions stink, even normal digestion produces stinking gasses that are squeezed through a tiny sphincter to escape. Although… 'stink' is relative, right? I mean, other animals seem to LIKE the smell of these things. Think about the first thing most dogs do when they meet… they sniff each other's butts.

So God decided to put us in these animal bodies rather than some sort of pure energy form, or spiritual form, or… or anything else! And not only does He put us in these bodies that exude odor, but He makes it so we hate the odor we exude. If we had evolved this sense of smell, you'd think we would be more comfortable with our own smells. But no. And I hate it.

But why is that? I'll chalk some of it up to the traces of Victorian propriety that still lingers in my culture. It seems that most of the rest of the world is much more comfortable with their bodily functions than us. But even by my culture's standards I'm a prude about this. The best explanation I can think of is simply old-fashioned pride. I don't like being humiliated by having a bad smell associated with me. I don't suppose many people do. But I must be worse, since I find little humor in it. I've been in groups of people (specifically young guys) who apparently find it hilarious, and try to make it as loud and obvious as possible. They seem to get bonus humor points for trapping others with the smell, like in a car or elevator.

Maybe my slight O.C.D. has something to do with it. I don't touch door knobs, and I feel a need to wash my hands after I've been outside, even if I haven't touched anything. But the door knob thing really makes sense. I mean, what's the point of washing your hands after using the restroom if you're just going to grab a handle that 1,000 other people who haven't washed their hands have touched? As far as I'm concerned, that's just like grabbing 1,000 people's crotches. And smell? That's even worse. Actual particles of whatever you smell are entering your body. That means when you smell a fart there are actual particulates of someone else's intestinal gasses IN YOUR BODY! That's NOT FUNNY!

Ok… I've calmed down now. It's funny that I can see a purpose in so many other physical infirmities. I could see why God would make mankind so fragile. We face our mortality daily. We know water can kill us, wind can kill us, lightning, hail, animals, earthquakes, starvation, heat, cold… the list goes on and on. God knew what He was doing when He thoroughly mixed our soul together with this fragile flesh. He gave us longings that can't be fulfilled, desires for knowledge that can't be gained, and limitations galore.

I've heard it said that pride is at the root of every sin. Every evil grows from that vile soil. I wonder if this life is all about digging that root up and burning it in unquenchable fire. I wonder if God can't have a family of thinking, loving beings until they have gone through the process of having the pride burnt out of them. And what a lovely reminder this flesh is that we are not God. We can dress in the finest clothes, go to the best parties, have all the right friends and be rich and famous. But we will still have smelly gas seeping out of our rear, making funny noises at inconvenient times.

Seeing flesh as a mechanism for bringing about humility makes the incarnation just that much more profound. That the creator of the universe -the originator of space, time, and matter- would squeeze Himself through a birth canal, and live in a farting flesh sack for 33 years is simply the greatest state-change that anything in the universe has ever undergone. This is riches-to-rags times infinity.

I was reading about the difference between Shame and Guilt cultures. http://www.doceo.co.uk/background/shame_guilt.htm The West is generally Guilt driven, while the East tends towards Shame. The difference lies in how you perceive your misdeeds and how your society views them. In our Western culture we try to instill the idea that you are innocent until proven guilty. (Though this doesn't happen in the media or small social circles.) In a shame oriented culture it doesn't matter whether you are innocent or guilty, only what people think about you. You are honorable if you are perceived that way, regardless of how you really are. Not like here, where you may be beaten, betrayed, imprisoned, and hated, but if you know you are honorable, you still are.

Jesus came into a shame oriented system. His incarnation provided a larger honor-to-shame ratio than could be imagined. But beyond that, the death that He underwent, while not the most painful ever, was the most shameful possible. It was not like an innocent man in America going to the electric chair. No, Jesus was guilty according to the society He was in. Every honor a human could cling to was stripped from Him. His shame was complete. Despite every representation of the crucifixion I've ever seen, He was completely naked. I don't think we artists do the scene justice when we edit it with a little loin cloth to sooth our Victorian sensibilities. The point of the crucifixion was the total and utter SHAME it brought on the one who is most exalted in the universe. Because in that shame, brought to the fullest extent possible, we see the motivation: which is Love, brought to the fullest extent possible.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Open for business (sort of)




Well I got my business license, so I can officially sell art and charge tax! I've gone through several ideas for lines of sculpture that I could make relatively quickly and sell for a fair compensation for my time and skill. Well, I haven't quite hit that goal yet. The sculptures I make keep taking me 10 times longer than I think they should, so I can't justify selling them for what anyone would be willing to pay.

The last go at it resulted in 3 sculptures of kids in costumes. I made a lion, a monkey, and a grim reaper. They are about a foot tall and super detailed. I had my first art show in July and sold a couple of those lion heads I made a couple years ago, and the lion boy. My mom bought that one. Which is cool, because now I have access to that sculpture for other shows. (He was a big draw, almost everyone stopped to look at him.)

I got into the Kirkland art fair thing because I met a guy who owns a store there that sells Santa sculptures. He sits in the front window and sculpts all day, that's how I noticed him. He liked my business card and offered me a spot. Now I'm in a little sculpting club that meets at his shop every other Wednesday night. Denis, (the Santa Sculptor) and some of the others there are really great to know because they have been doing the art thing for a living for a long time and are full of advice and practical experience. Which is exactly what I lack.

One thing I learned from the art show was that I need some smaller, cheaper stuff to sell. So my new plan is to make 6 inch versions of my costume kids and replicate them. So I need to learn how to make professional molds and casts. This is all while holding down a full time job and doing an incredible amount of research into spiritual matters. Anyway, Denis is convinced that my costume kids line will be super successful and is pushing me do stay on task with them, with a goal of having 12 by next summer's art show.

Oh, and here is my website. www.breathoflifeart.com It has a lot of problems. It won't work on a Mac at all right now. The guy who put it together for me left it half finished and wont return my emails, so who knows how long it will take before it's up to snuff.

Oh, and here is a character I made for my mom based on a character she created in the book she is writing based on the world I am designing.


Shipping Number 3

We just locked down the art assets for Guild Wars: Nightfall. The third installment of Guild Wars. I guess we have 2 million people playing our game now. I've been working here almost 3 years now. I'm getting tired of working on the humps and bumps of these levels. The best comparison I can give to someone who doesn't know how computer game worlds are made is this: Imagine that you have a big bed sheet laid flat on the ground. Now imagine that you have to make it look like a world by placing wadded up newspaper under it to create mountains, canyons, and oceans. But you can't ever have sheer cliffs or overhangs. Then, you take model trees, houses, rocks and other props and place them on top of the sheet. Well that's what I do all day. I feel like I'm haven't had more than a handful of chances to actually exercise my creative potential here. I've considered trying to move over the creature modeling department, but it looks like there won't be an opening over there for a while. Plus I would have to learn new software, which is apparently 9 times harder for me to do than it is for everyone around me.

ArenaNet has been very, very good to me. The first year I was here was so difficult for me (What with the wife stealing the car, going to jail, getting a divorce, not caring for the kids, etc.) and it really showed in my job. My bosses were really understanding and I pulled through it by the grace of God and the kindness of those God placed around me.

It looks like one of my best friends from Michigan will be getting a job at Suckerpunch, a game company right across the street from where my wife works. My other good friends, Bart and Ramey work there too. So it's going to be neat to be able to hang with my old buddies again.

I want to get my own sculpting business going so I can work from home, and be able to live in a cheaper area than Bellevue. Right now, to live in a house that we could afford we would have to move at least an hour from work. I'm not willing to sacrifice 2 hours a day with my wife and kids just to live in a house. People are more important than comfortable living.

Heterodox Aftershocks, Part 2: How I came upon these ideas

I don't know if this counts as a weakness to my argument, but I'd like to have it on record anyway. So I was looking for Zao lyrics on some random website and saw an ad that asked if hell really existed. I was feeling feisty and thought it would be fun to read some crazy heresy and took the bait. Well it turns out to be the site for L. Ray Smith. (http://bible-truths.com/ ) A feisty, kinda scary man who uses way too many CAP LOCKED, UNDERLINED SENTENCES!!! And while his style was distracting and hyperbolic he actually made some really good points that I had never thought about before. I first read his 16 part Lake of Fire series, which is almost as redundant and disorganized as my own writing. But really got me thinking. He starts going out on a limb in parts of it where he actually states that any churches who preach anything other than his beliefs are the Whore of Babylon and we must "come out of her", yadda yadda. It's funny, but my dad, in his warning to me about heresy, said heretics say this all the time. Mr. Smith tells of a time when he expressed his views about predestination to his church and was pretty much marginalized as a result. Than his young boy died tragically. When he was seeking comfort at his church after that someone said something like, "I don't see why you're upset. You believe it was God's plan, don't you?" I'm no psychologist, but I'll bet that just might cause someone to dislike churches. Anyway, the point is, while Smith is very insightful and witty, he is too far out there to call as a credible witness to the validity of any truth claims I am making. But his writing was a catalyst that opened my mind to a new world of possibilities when it comes to God and His word. I checked out a forum for discussing his writings and found several genuinely loving, mature believers on there. But a couple days later some schism started over the freedom to question or talk about certain things that conflicted with Smith's beliefs, and I didn't bother going back. But one of the members sent me some links to sites with counter arguments to Smith. And those led me to other links, until I eventually found my way to http://www.tentmaker.org/ where I found the likely source of most of Smith's wisdom. (I don't actually know whether he developed his theology on his own or what his influences were. He merely said he reads a lot.) Tentmaker is a site with a wide variety of articles from a wide variety of people and a wide variety of quality. Most of the stuff that I've read there so far is from conservative, Bible-believing folk. I'll be jumping on a Christian Universalism forum at some point soon to see what they have to say for themselves.

In the mean time, I've been reading Every Knee Shall Bow, a book from the late 1800's updated and edited by some guy in California. It is a good summation and apologetic for Christian Universalism.

The last week or so I've been spending a lot of time on C.A.R.M., a Christian discussion forum. (http://www.christiandiscussionforums.org/v/index.php) I don't think it's a coincidence that I found the site at a time when I'm trying to figure out the ramifications of interpreting the Bible differently that most Christians. There is a sort of civil war going on in the Apologetics section regarding inerrancy vs. infallibility of the Bible. I'm still studying this issue with great interest, and I'll have something on it soon.

I'm attending a several week class at my church about witnessing. We had a guest speaker a couple months ago that had some great stuff about the subject. And now he will be going into specific difficult questions that unbelievers have and how we can answer them. "In less than five minutes." Each. It should be interesting to compare and contrast his answers with mine. (Not that I'm going to be arguing with him in class!)

I'm feel kind of like I'm in a cocoon phase right now. I really have no desire to try to convince anyone of anything, nor to have too many things challenged right now. I need to digest what I'm taking in and see the fruit of it for a while. I need to find a good orthodox Christian theologian to sit down with me for a couple of sessions to see if there really are some obvious things I'm missing that have led me to these conclusions. But not yet. Soon.

Heterodox Aftershocks, Part 1: Introduction

heterodox

1 : contrary to or different from an acknowledged standard, a traditional form, or an established religion : UNORTHODOX, UNCONVENTIONAL <heterodox ideas>
2 : holding unorthodox opinions or doctrines

I'm using that word instead of heresy now. I think it's more apt. I've been reading over C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity as a way of sorting out where I am in relation to the church. I'm convinced I'm still in the building. Somewhere.

Well, at the beginning of all of this I promised to do my best to counter-argue myself. The best part about having my ideas in public arena is that I get lots of help with free criticism. So in this series I shall roll over and expose my weak, soft underbelly. Get your arrows ready.

My hope is that I can be level headed and open hearted enough to see genuine weaknesses in my ideas, and that God will grant me the strength to discard any that fall short of His glory.

Originally I was going to compile all this together into another mega-epic essay, but I've changed my mind. Instead, I'm going to address issues as they arise. This will give me the freedom to intersperse other aspects of my life into this blog again, and will also help me in the future to see the order of events that led me to whatever conclusions I've come to.

So in these bite-sized chunks, expect to see a lot of half-formed ideas, references to influences, and anecdotes about how my life is being affected by these new beliefs.