Thursday, July 29, 2021

Shaping With Reactions; Waiting and Trying

A big part of culture is formed through people's automatic or semi-automatic reactions to other people. Perhaps you say "I hope I see So-and-so again, someday", and you are met with a shudder, from someone who can't imagine themselves waiting many years for someone. Maybe you are willing to wait because you wait out of generosity (somewhat parallel to obeying a law out of love of God rather than out of the need for salvation), but they wait out of need, and can't afford to hold onto hopes -- yours could stay fresh if you held to them lightly, but theirs turn sick inside their hearts no matter what.

There is a cultural meaning to waiting for someone: if people overall, as a cloud, have bad experiences with the phenomenon, they react with a shudder, and tend to see obsession rather than faith in the waiting person's devotion. They only see a process that will turn out badly, and which is unreasonable to hope in, and by being unreasonable, those who continue in it are not faithful, but obsessed. The story of romance or faithful friendship is turned into a horror story. And the person who waits may see themselves no longer in the light of faith but rather believe that they wait for reasons of horror and slavery.

The above can be very practical, since people who know each other are the foundation of much practical action, but another, maybe more practical example would be how we react to people who say that they are taking on a task. For some people, taking on a task is something that they can't see themselves doing without a great deal of trepidation. It seems like a big deal to even think of going out and doing something (even if it will not be costly in terms of time or money). Just "putting yourself out there" to do something non-default is frightening. It would be terrible if you did it and failed. What would you say to people? You would have to look at yourself as someone who tried to claim you were something, when you were really undeserving of that honor. Better to have done something default.

But not all people are wired to care about that kind of thing, and can just go and try things -- except that it's harder to try when people around them react with how they would feel if they thought of trying, whether expressing fear or praise for how "big" (and thus abnormal) the thing being attempted is. The reactions help to spread the mindset, the mindset holds people back so they don't try, or perhaps even causes them to fail, the not-trying or failing gives them a personal life story of seeing how attempting a non-default task turns out badly, and then they too will react to others the way they were reacted to.

We react to other people in the moment, not really understanding what we are doing. If we react, we don't understand the other person as a separate person. And when we react, we are more powerful for striking so rapidly. The other person doesn't have a fair chance to be a person, separate from the reaction, but the reaction enters into them. This can be a tactic, automatic or semiautomatic though it may be (a tactic of spirits other than us, perhaps, or of us). Because it is effective, perhaps more effective than gentle and polite reason, it rules over culture -- not the only ruler, but a prominent one.

Our reactions can be our feelings about the situation another person is in, instead of theirs -- a kind of empathy that doesn't really understand. We put ourselves in the other person's shoes, but we put too much of ourselves in the other person's shoes.

Having considered all this, we might ask "Do I really endorse the sentiments and views on the world implied by my reactions?" and if not, wonder if there is a way to not react.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Law For Us or For God; Is Baptism (and Discipleship) Necessary For Salvation?

If the law is "for us", it is supposed to be for our benefit and it should not constrain us from freedom and flourishing. We tend to judge laws this way. We understand "benefit", "freedom", and "flourishing" from the default perspective of our culture and our biological nature. In the frame of "for us", our well-being takes center stage. Laws both threaten what is most valuable to us (our well-being as we understand it, by constraining us from what we would naturally do for ourselves) and must justify that threat by ultimately leading to more well-being (more freedom and flourishing as we understand them).

If the law is "for God", it is something that we obey because we love God. The law is something that God desires, and because we value God, we want to bring about states of affairs that he values. We obey him for his benefit, so that he is loved. A law that is not engineered primarily "for us" (as we understand human well-being) may constrain us from freedom and flourishing as we understand them by default.

Laws that are "for us" need to be "for God" in order to be really best for us.

An example of the difference between the "for us" and "for God" approach, from a Biblical perspective: baptism. Is baptism something that we are required to undergo? Jesus says "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you." (Matthew 28:19-20a). It seems as though baptism is something that Jesus wants us to undergo. Is it only for disciples? Maybe. But who should be a disciple? He says "If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matthew 16:24) and "he who doesn't take his cross and follow after me, isn't worthy of me" (Matthew 10:38). If you love God with all of your heart, why wouldn't you become a disciple of Jesus? And how would you fit into heaven if you don't love God with all of your heart?

I think you could argue from a "for us" perspective that baptism is not necessary. For instance by saying that those who are unworthy of Jesus can still be saved (although we couldn't rule out that Matthew 10:38 indicates Jesus' preference for us to be worthy of him), or that if Jesus really meant for baptism, or discipleship, to be requirements, he would have said so more clearly. It would be unfair for God to punish us for not being baptized, or for not becoming a disciple. But from a "for God" perspective, baptism is something we will feel the need to do, unless perhaps God reveals sometime in the future that he never did or no longer does desire it or prefer it. If we are oriented "for God" instead of "for us", we seek out ways to love God, beyond the minimum. Yet, in the end, being "for God" is the minimum.

(One objection: what if you intend to get baptized but die on the way to the baptism? Baptism can be done in the Millennium, if something prevents us from undergoing it in this life. Likewise, if you do not become a disciple in this life, you can in the Millennium. Another objection: Perhaps there is a chance that God wants us to perform the Law of Moses, or some version of it. If we should be baptized, shouldn't it be the case that we ought to keep the whole Law? The Law is much more difficult to keep than it is for us to be baptized. Someday when we are mature enough as individuals and as a society, we may keep some version of the Law, "for God". (In this life, Jesus says "my kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36) so that gives us reason not to create a theocratic implementation of the Law (enforcing it by force).)

We pursue law "for us" at first, and one law is "Love God". We pursue law out of fear for our well-being. But if we love God, that love drives out fear. So then we do not care as much about salvation. In order to be saved, we have to let go of making salvation our number 1 concern, important though it is. At that point, we can be "for God".

Just as love transforms your relationship with salvation, it transforms your relationship with law. You love law, as an opportunity to love God, a serious love (but also a joyful one, for some meaning of "joy").

A law that is truly "for God" is one that we pursue out of love. Whereas laws that are "for us" might not be pursued out of love.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Hope from Truth-Seeking

An interaction I had on Twitter concerning hope reminded me of Joseph Godfrey's book A Philosophy of Human Hope. Often when I read books, I can only really remember a few pieces of them once an interval of time passes. The piece I remember best from that book is "Hope is an openness to evidence." Both despair and optimism are not open to new evidence on some level. (I think the idea was something Godfrey got from someone else (my vague and maybe untrustworthy memory of it indicates it may have been Gabriel Marcel)).

I like this definition because it is a truth-oriented one. You don't hope merely because it's instrumental to making you feel better or more functional. It has that side effect. But you can focus on trying to know the truth, which can always change at least to some extent. So you don't have to get locked (as much) into the survival- or well-being-addicted mindset that accompanies (or comes from) trying to save yourself.

Monday, July 19, 2021

MSLN Universalism?

A person looking at MSLN, particularly the natural theological side ("MSL"), might see in it support for universalism. Why couldn't a God who loved and valued us wait as long as it took for us to freely repent? Or just make us repent, draw us irresistibly?

If God could draw us irresistibly, then it would be he who was loving him, not us. We would be untouched. So we have to go through the process of temptation (and anti-temptation, have to willingly give in to God as much as we have to willingly reject what tries to pull us away from him), in order for us to be the ones who were in tune with him.

Perhaps God can wait long enough for each of us to repent. He can wait as long as the duration of the Millennium. If each of us irrevocably choose him (the opposite of hardening) at or before the end of the Millennium, then there will be the same outcome as universalism.

But God can't wait forever, because sin is something unbearable to him, and something that is unbearable can't be borne forever. Likewise sin is what is unacceptable to him, and if he never rejected it, it would be acceptable to him.

Legitimacy from Parenthood

In our modern, liberal, democratic society, we don't always think about how for many generations, and to some extent today still, legitimacy came from parenthood. A king is a large-scale chieftain, who is a large-scale patriarch, who is a large-scale father. Nations, a long time ago, derived from families that kept getting larger while retaining their unity. It's possible for a tribe or kingdom to be headed by the patrilineal descendant of its founder, although often that has not been the case. But the nation as family could adopt a man or woman to be its father or mother, to serve in that office. The process of adoption would itself have its own source of legitimacy (perhaps technocratic or democratic to some extent), but the legitimacy of the office would be analogous to the legitimacy of parents over children.

Even in liberal societies, we recognize the rights of authors and artists over their creations. They are parents of beings in the world of thought and imagination. Similarly to how kings and queens can be selected despite not inheriting the throne, authors or artists can assign some of those rights to others besides the author or artist, through a process which has its own legitimacy. An author might assign the intellectual property rights to another, or even the right to write books that are canon. The right to canonicity usually (always?) has to follow from the author, as the author's authorship (parenthood) is where canonicity comes from.

The God of MSLN is the original person, through whom all other persons descend, and so, if parenthood is a necessary criterion for absolute legitimacy, the God of MSLN qualifies on that count. (Likewise, as creator, God has whatever legitimacy we might say applies to an artist.)

Parenthood (or authorship/"creatorhood") is not an absolute criterion for legitimacy. A sufficiently abusive parent is not a legitimate parent.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Judas as Victim and Perpetrator

Judas as perpetrator: he stole from the moneybags. Judas as victim: Satan entered into him. Even if (as perpetrator) he invited Satan into him, Satan using you takes you further than you would have gone on your own. You are Satan's victim if Satan uses you.

Friday, July 16, 2021

God as Younger than Us

A lot of what makes a person older or more mature is their broken-downness and lack of energy. So God, though he is many millennia older than we are, may in a sense have a younger outlook than many of us, because he still has his energy, and he is more functional than we are.

We think that the truth is that which is believable by mature people, but it may really be the case that immature people, in many ways, are closer to the truth, see things with eyes as young as God's.

Young view of reality: looking at reality literally instead of through the lens of practicality. A thing is what it is in itself, not seen in the way that is most advantageous to us to see it for our own personal well-being over the long term. We are not practical beings who use sight, but we are seeing beings, when we are young. Also, each moment or person or idea (etc.) fresh, instead of discounted by their diminished place, among other moments or people taken generally, general rules, "the way things work".

Really Praying by Believing

One traditional way to pray tries to get you to adore God, confess your sins, give thanks to God, and ask God to help with needs. (There could be other ways to pray.)

When you pray, really believe. Don't just say words of adoration for God, actually adore him (find him valuable and worthy in your thoughts and feelings). Don't just say words of confession, really see them as sins. Don't just say "thank you for what you've done for so-and-so", really be grateful for what was done. Don't just say words asking God to help with needs. Really believe that you need them, and that God will help with them.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Relating to God but not Forever

There are times when God speaks to you, lives in you, which make it seem like there is nothing but his favor for you, and you are guaranteed to be with him forever. This is like how it feels when you're friends with someone, or in love. But friendships and love relationships break, despite that.

So it is with God. Like with human relationships, the closeness that you share is a good sign for what's to come. But the saving relationship between you and God can come to an end, if you choose decisively enough to value something else over putting him first.


Holding a value that is unpopular is difficult. You may find yourself surrounded by people who don't value what you value, and you may find it difficult or impossible to live out your values. So, in this case, at least retain the sense that you are in exile. Someday perhaps you will see yourself in a social environment where your values are common enough that you can live them out. Even if there is nothing practical you can do to further your values, you can remain true to them by keeping your innermost self apart from the world around you, keeping a fire burning for the day when it is safe to show it. If the people who see a vision can at least hold onto it in this minimal way, then if they happen to find each other, they may recognize each other and produce that social environment for them in which they can live out their values to at least a somewhat visible extent. But if they don't hold to their values in exile, this can't happen. You can adopt a value in exile that you couldn't adopt publicly, and thus be true to what is really good.

The mindset of exile is a way to resist value drift. Arguably, value drift is really "lifestyle drift". If your life forces you to not live out your values, then you can still hold your values, if you hold them in exile.

Exile requires patience. Patience is when you can wait for the future, and you can exist in the moment without having what you really want.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Really Believing, Really Healing

To believe that something is true is not just to believe that one should believe that it is true, to prove it true. Belief is not just recognition of the justification of a belief, even if somehow justification is to show that something is true. To believe is to trust what you believe you ought to believe. So attempts to justify beliefs can keep things in the frame of justification, rather than ever proceeding from that into the frame of belief, of trust, and thus defeat the purpose that one would think they serve (to guide people to believe what is true).


Another angle: If you're seeking healing by repeatedly doing something, that's different from just being healed. The mindset of trying to heal yourself may be preventing you from being healed. Healing is not when you apply effort to yourself to bring about an effect of healing, it is when you are actually healed.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

God's Self-Obedience

The vision of God which I have presented in this blog tends to be a God constrained by this or that rational factor. To think of God as being constrained by anything may sound like a lowering of God to some people. I don't think that God's greatness derives from anything other than his legitimacy. In other words, it's not his power, freedom, sovereignty or anything else that is really great. We as humans are impressed by such things, but if we truly understand love, we are no longer impressed by them, seeing them only as servants of love.

So in some cases, I am (or at least could be) in conflict with more traditional approaches to God. However, in the case of constraint, I think I can provide a bridge between my view and what I take to be theirs.

God is obedient to himself. All of his constraints follow from his self-obedience. Because he is who he is, he must obey that. So his nature constrains him. But his nature just is himself, and so God is sovereign after all, yet, still limited in some ways.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Dependency, Independence

I wrote the following almost two years ago to the day (6 July 2019):

In The Wind is Howling, the author, memoirist, Ayako Miura, is for many years in the hospital with tuberculosis. There she meets a fellow patient named Tadashi Maekawa, who nurses, teaches, pushes her out of nihilism, in the direction of Christianity. Tadashi expects he won't live long, but invests his energies in helping Ayako. They start as friends but eventually fall in love. For her health's sake, Ayako has to travel to a different hospital.

P. 93 (1976 IVP ed.) / ch. 26:

At this point Tadashi Maekawa looked at me and smiled.

'Aya-chan,' he said, 'the time has come for you to live without relying on me or anybody else, because as long as you are living in dependence on others you cannot really live. You've got to make up your mind to depend on God.'

But while he said this he also admitted it was wretched to know no one, and he sent a postcard to a Mr Nishimura, an elder of a Sapporo church. I knew nothing about him.

Miss Ayako Hotta [maiden name of author], a seeker from Asahikawa church, is going into hospital in your city. Please do what you can for her.

So, to really live, rely only on God. Often, you will need other people, but don't rely on them, don't be dependent on them.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Attractive vs. Coercive Law

One way to look at a law is to see it as something which obligates and coerces, as though we might die if we don't obey it, or cause some kind of irrevocable harm right now. There is a forceful urgency to coercive law. The law is an impersonal force. We are slaves to the law, and so is everyone else, and this is how we can live together in harmony, if the law is good.

Another way to look at a law is to see it as almost a living being that draws a person toward compliance with it. The law can be turned away from, from time to time, so that a person is drawn toward some other attractive principle. But as the person turns from one thing to another, they will eventually look at the law again, and because the law is attractive, they will be drawn toward it.

An attractive law can be just as necessary as a coercive law. That is, it can feel just as necessary, and that the law be observed may be just as necessary. But the difference is that in an attractive law, or a law that is approached in an attractive way, it feels like you are drawn toward the necessity, instead of, as with coercive law, or law approached in a coercive way, being forced to observe the necessity right now. A coercive law is one as though you're already behind on observing, while an attractive law is one as though it pulls you toward a future of full observance.

A coercive law goes against what you want, and you are forced to observe it, but an attractive law, or the thing which enables you to approach a law in an attractive way, changes you so that the observance of the law is something you genuinely value, love.

The MSLN view of laws is that there really are absolute laws which must be observed "or else", but that there is a long process, or journey, where we are drawn toward observing them. The "or else" is a note of coercion, but we must leave coercion behind if we are truly to avoid the "or else". The "or else" is a gateway into feeling the necessity behind what we observe out of love. But a law that we observe out of coercion is not one that we love, and in order to be in tune with legitimacy, we must value what it values, love its laws as much as it does. So, in MSLN, law is something that we are drawn toward, over time, attractive law.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Side Effects of Solving Problems

When you solve a problem, you're often trying something new. You're adopting a new mindset, or developing a new institution or habit, developing a new relationship. In order to live you seem to have to use new tactics, "whatever works". But solutions have side effects. (This sounds like something We Are Not Saved would talk about on a societal level.)

So what you can end up doing is solving a loud, obvious problem by trading away something of quieter but greater importance. You might laugh off your problem, and get relief from "taking it too seriously", but as a consequence lose some of your ability to take anything seriously, and thus close yourself off to the voice of God to some degree. Or you might push for justice, and get what you deserve -- and not learn to receive greater gifts from God.

I am a bit hesitant to be a historian, but I think I see in the cultural history of the 19th or 20th centuries a kind of build-up of tension, up to a time of breakdown from perhaps 1920 through 1970 or 1980. I know of existentialism in postwar Europe and the big cultural crises of the 1960s. There was a time when people would be deeply disturbed by intellectual teachings, especially existentialism. Well, existentialism can be read just as easily now as then, and it hardly has any effect. We are not concerned with the burning question of "Is there a meaning to life? How can we go on given the 'death of God'?" Now the questions just don't have much resonance with us. We're just fine... but maybe the sense of "there is a right and wrong" and the (what I would call) cultural passion that led people to take things really seriously in an idealistic way (what I would associate with "having a sense of real meaning in life") is exactly the thing we need now, and our alleviation of our anxieties and mental anguish over existentialism traded away something that we would regret, if we hadn't blinded ourselves spiritually, and which we have good reason to regret.

The Enemy, of both societies and individual people, profits by throwing stresses at us and leading us to choose solutions which trade away something of real value. The scam of evil is multi-part sometimes, taking attention away from what is really at play. Satan wants to make you miserable, and that's obvious, but also wants to shut you down, make you hopeless, cynical, turn you away from loving and trusting God.


However, as dark as all that sounds, the good news is that sometimes you can solve a problem and then correct for the solution's side effects. You can deal with the obvious problem and not get taken in by the quiet lie that tends to go with that solution.

Friday, July 2, 2021

Pray to Care

In life, sometimes we are tempted to not care. Happiness or discouragement alike can rob us of some of our personhood, as on some level we settle into the blindness of nihilism. It's likely that evil spirits would use these things, even happiness, to blunt our ability to help other people and our ability to create a culture in which people are passionate theists and altruists.

When I feel these tempting spirits come over me, I pray. I think seeking to connect with God relationally, overall, helps as well. Jesus recommends believing that you have received something you have prayed for, and it will be yours. I find these prayers, prayers to care or return to caring, to always help. Maybe it helps that I pray under other circumstances, about things that matter to me, to build up my trust in prayer.

If prayers like these were tried by more people, perhaps there would be less value drift.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Value Drift

The effective altruists have a concept called "value drift". The idea is that passionate people over time lose their passion and stop being altruists. It is valuable to add a person to an altruistic movement, but also perhaps equally valuable to keep a person from leaving one.

Drift is something that you don't always understand at the time. Some people might decisively quit altruistic pursuits, but the danger is more that you will go lukewarm and then cold over time, sinking into the default without catching yourself.

News: 1 July 2021

I have been fairly productive over the last year (and going further back), and feel it time to take somewhat of a break -- not that anything is finished, or likely to be. So this seems like a good time to mark a new division in the blog, to a time of lighter writing. I'm not sure how long this time will last. I can promise that somewhere in me is a valuing of many or most of the topics already discussed, and this is likely to remain in me, whether my mind is in the right frame to address them or not.


However, if anyone happens to have questions or criticisms of posts from the last year, I might go back to them to try respond.