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Friday, June 30, 2006

Tiptoe through TULIP - U

Unconditional Election
What It Does Not Mean

The term “Unconditional Election” raises all sorts of alarms in people’s minds. “What do you mean ‘unconditional’?” “Hey, just what is ‘election’ anyway?” Let me point out first of all what the concept does not mean. First, it does not mean there are no conditions on salvation. It does not deny the fact that people need to exercise faith and receive Christ. That is not the idea behind “unconditional”. Therefore, it obviously doesn’t mean that we have no part in our own salvation. We are called to choose, and we must.

The concept of election also disturbs people. The first objection is “It excludes people who would have chosen God.” Two points here. First, from Total Depravity we have to conclude that natural Man will not choose God, so no one who “would have chosen God” is excluded. Second, there is nothing in the biblical doctrine of election that holds that God actively excludes anyone. While He actively chooses, He doesn’t actively push people away. The second objection is “If people are elect, why preach the gospel?” There are two simple answers here. First and foremost, we preach the gospel because we are commanded to preach the gospel. Secondly, since we don’t know whom God has elected, we need to tell everyone. So the principle of Unconditional Election doesn’t preclude the preaching of the gospel. (1 Cor. 1:23-24)

The other thing that is commonly held is that God chooses who will be saved based on His foreknowledge of who will choose Him. Unconditional Election specifically does not teach this. There are two reasons. First, if election was based on Man’s choice, then it wouldn’t be “unconditional”. Second, if the first point, Total Depravity, is true, then no one would choose God on his own without specific and intentional intervention by God.

What It Does Mean

What then is meant by Unconditional Election? Election means that God alone chooses who will come to Him (John 15:16). This is clearly evident in biblical history, where God initiated every encounter from Adam to Noah to Abraham to Moses to the judges to Samuel and all the way to Jesus’ selection of disciples. “Unconditional” refers to the fact that God’s choice is not conditioned by anything in the person. This is logically required if Total Depravity is true, since there would be nothing in the person to commend them to God. According to Rom. 9:10-24, God chooses according to His good purpose (verse 11) without any regard for Man’s choices or efforts (verse 16).

This doctrine is very important. Look up these passages yourself and see what they say: Eph. 1:3-6, 11; Acts 13:48; John 1:12-13; 10:26; 8:47; 17:6; Rom. 8:28-33; 2 Thess. 2:13. The simple fact is that election is a biblical doctrine. How people interpret that term varies, but try looking through Scriptures at the number of times it refers to “God’s choice of you” or the equivalent. Election is certainly biblical.

Objections Answered

Let’s look at a few of the most common objections to Unconditional Election and see what we can see.

1. “The Scriptures say repeatedly ‘whosoever will’. Doesn’t that mean anyone?”

To say that “’whosever will’ means ‘anyone can’” is to draw an implication rather than to take it from the explicit. All that “whosoever will” says is that “whoever does X will have Y.” There is nothing in the statement that requires “anyone can”. Instead, Scripture explicitly says, “no man can”. We saw that in John 6:61-66, where “no man can unless.” We see that in John 6:44 where “no man can unless the Father draws him.” (Note: the word “draw” is better translated “dragged”. See its use in Acts 16:19.) In fact, according to Paul, “the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:5-8). Therefore, although “whosever will” might imply anyone can, the explicit teaching of Scripture says they can’t.

2. “Doesn’t Rom. 8:29 say that God’s choice is based on His foreknowledge?”

The concept that God merely “knows in advance” (prescience) doesn’t answer the question of how a person who is completely disinclined to God would choose Him. In fact, if God’s choice is based on Man’s choice of God, there is merit in the man, and it cannot be considered grace. Look at Rom. 9:16 and John 1:12-13 where it explicitly says it is not based on Man’s choices. Instead, the concept of “foreknow” in Hebrew terminology is slightly different than our English equivalent of prescience. To the Hebrew mind (Paul was Hebrew), to “know” means to be intimate. Therefore, to “foreknow” would mean “to be intimate in advance”. This isn’t passive – it’s active. God’s foreknowledge isn’t mere prescience. He is actively involved.

3. “It’s not fair that God would choose some and not others.”

This is actually a disturbing accusation. Inherent is the implication that God owes everyone Heaven. The simple fact is that we all deserve Hell. God is not by any means obligated to save anyone. Justice alone demands universal condemnation. We seem to forget that so easily. Therefore, if God chooses to intervene in the lives of some, He has not treated anyone unfairly. God is free to exercise mercy, but He is not obligated to exercise mercy. As He told Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." (Rom 9:15) The accusation that God is not fair if He chooses to save some is founded on an inflated view of Man.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Tiptoe through TULIP - T

Total Depravity
What It Does Not Mean

The “T” in TULIP is for Total Depravity. However, this isn’t the best description. Total Depravity does not mean that Man is as bad as he can get. Certainly there are people who are better behaved than others. Even Hitler was probably not as bad as he could have been. Nor does it mean to imply that Man is incapable of doing “good deeds”. Certainly people are capable of obeying the laws of the land, being nice to one another, taking care of family, etc. This is not the intent of Total Depravity.

What It Does Mean

The concept behind Total Depravity is that natural Man, at his core, is sinful. It is close to the idea of Original Sin. It means that Man, by nature, is sinful. Now, admittedly, it goes farther than that. Here is what Total Depravity holds, based on Scripture:

1. Man will not submit to God. According to Rom. 3:9-10 and18, Man is in rebellion. According to Jesus in John 3:19-20, everyone who does evil hates the light.

2. In His rebellion, everything Man does is sin. Paul says in Rom. 14:23, “Whatever is not of faith is sin.” He strongly declares “No good thing dwells in my flesh.” (Rom. 7:18)

3. Man is not externally prevented from submitting to God, but he is morally unable to submit to God. Right after the Flood, God said, “The inclination of man's heart is evil from his youth.” (Gen. 8:21) Anyone who is “in the flesh” (a description of natural Man) is hostile to God (Rom. 8:5-8). When Jesus commented on why people didn’t believe in Him, He had these things to say in John 6:63-65. “The flesh profits nothing.” Further, He made a quite definitive statement. “No man can (believe).” While we might tend to minimize these statements (“He said ‘No man can unless the Father give it to him’.”), those listening took it much harder. “As a result of this, many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.” Natural Man is, then, hostile to God, inclined only to evil, and, according to Eph. 2:1-3, dead in sins, “by nature children of wrath.” Since the god of this world has blinded Man (2 Cor. 4:4), he is internally prevented from submitting to God.

4. According to Rom. 6:23, our rebellion deserves eternal punishment.
(For a summary, see Rom. 3:10-18)

The Ramifications

According to Rom. 3:12, no one does good. What this means is that no one does what God defines as good. Good, to God, is whatever is done by and for Him (1 Cor. 10:31). While natural Man can certainly be “nice”, he is, by nature, hostile to God and, therefore, incapable of doing anything by and for God. In fact, although nothing prevents Man from coming to God on his own, his natural inclinations make it impossible for him to choose God. To do so would be to go against his own inclinations. In essence, for natural Man to choose God of his own free will would be to choose that which he didn’t want to choose. This would, then, be a violation of free will. The problem for Man in his sinful state is not God. The problem is not so much that he can’t choose God, but that he doesn’t want to choose God. This is the principle of Total Depravity.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Tiptoe through TULIP - Introduction

So far I've posted fairly non-controversial stuff. Perhaps this is ill-advised, but, just for the fun of it, I’m going to put down some data on the acrostic, TULIP. I’m hoping that by clearing away some of the nonsense that surrounds the principles, a more reasonable dialogue can be had wherein unrelated and false ideas about them can be ignored and the real issues can be examined.

What I’ve found as I have examined these issues is that the five letters, assembled as a memory aid, have served instead to obscure the meaning and intent of the principles involved. As a background, these points were brought up after John Calvin died as points of contention. The Church gathered at what was called “The Synod of Dort” and addressed these concerns. TULIP represents the response of the Synod. Unfortunately, very few ever look at the report, the Canons of Dort. So we end up chasing our tails arguing about these points without really understanding what they mean.

Some of you may have faulty ideas about these principles. I’m hoping this will aid in correcting them. Some of you may already disagree with them. I’m hoping that this will make your view more clear. Some of you may be curious. I’m hoping that this will provide you answers.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Television and the Christian Home

Ever consider the effects of television on your home and family?

Consider for a moment the mathematics. If a person watches two hours of TV a night (you know it is likely more, but we’ll just go with 2) and perhaps four hours on weekend days and evenings (again, most likely more, but we’ll go light here), how much TV do they watch in a year? A quick run of the math would put it at about 936 hours of TV. On the other hand, if they set aside an hour a day for prayer and Bible reading (Do you actually do that?), went to church Sunday morning and Wednesday night (How many actually go on Wednesday night anymore? But we’ll be generous here.), they would have spent approximately 573 hours in the Word, in church, and in dedicated prayer. This person would have spent 1½ times as much attention to the television as he did to God. That should really catch your attention. Almost sounds like idolatry, doesn’t it?

Setting aside the hours consumed in front of the television, what were they consumed with? Well, there are some very educational shows on PBS and Discovery Channel and the like. I have seen some incredible shows on things in God’s creation … but, of course, they aren’t presented as “God’s creation”. They’re presented as “evolution”. We’ll have to filter that part out. Then there’s those marvelous shows like CSI, Law and Order, and the like, that explain the very interesting ins and outs of crime solving … an entire hour spent viewing brutal murders (often revolving around sexual crimes) and how they would go about catching a killer. Yes, well, I guess we would need to filter out some of that, too. Oh, and then those popular “reality shows”. You know the ones. They show real people in real situations like being thrown onto an island to survive to win big money just like you and I have experienced … or not. Of course, we all know about the daytime soaps, endless stories of love, hate, sex, and betrayal. I guess there will need to be more filtering. Oh, but how about those ever lively “Jerry Springer” type shows, where talk show hosts bring out complete buffoons to explain how stupidly they are living in what even non-Christian America can recognize as “sin” and then defend it? Good, huh? Okay, so maybe the best filtering on those is to turn them off. Okay, how about MTV and VH1? Music videos. How bad can that be? And then there is “sports”! I mean, following football and baseball and basketball is of real value, isn’t it?

Every night most of us Christians invite total strangers into our homes to sell us things we don’t need and assure us that we deserve better – better cars, food, clothing, hair color, make-up, you name it. We invite them in to bombard us with a worldview that is diametrically opposed to God’s worldview. They tell us that love and sex are essentially the same, that it’s okay to be most concerned about yourself. We are told that you have to like someone before you love them (while God commands us to love, never to like). We are told what to believe about our political candidates and we are given scandalously slanted news stories. We watch half-naked bodies dancing on MTV or, if we’re really high-minded, listen intently to the marvels of Evolution on PBS. We learn that the most valuable people in our society are the entertainers, people who act and play to amuse us. We do this willingly. We aren’t forced. We volunteer.

Over against this, we see Scripture:

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night (Psa 1:1-2).

Monday, June 26, 2006

A Math Dilemma

Enough seriousness for the moment. This one is just for fun.

Okay, there is an error in here (obviously), but see if you can find it. (Note: The "^" symbol means "to the power of", so that "a^2" means "a to the power of 2" or "a squared".

Let a=b

Thus: a^2=ab

Add a^2 to both sides: a^2 + a^2 = a^2 + ab

Or: 2a^2 = a^2 + ab

Subtract 2ab from both sides: 2a^2 – 2ab = a^2 + ab – 2ab

Or: 2a^2 – 2ab = a^2 – ab

This can be factored to: 2(a^2 – ab) = 1(a^2 – ab)

If you divide both sides by a^2 – ab, you get: 2 = 1

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Consider the birds - The Babies

I’ve seen it more than once, but this incident with the grackles was the picture-perfect account.

It was late spring. The mating had taken place, and the parents were rearing their children. I had been buzzed more than once for walking too close to a mockingbird’s nest (which, of course, I never did see). But the little ones were now starting to fly. They would accompany their parents on foraging exercises to learn how to take care of themselves outside the nest.

One day a female great-tailed grackle flew in and landed under a nearby tree. Immediately behind her was "Junior". Junior was nearly her size, fully feathered … and loud. He (I’m assuming "he" for the sake of pronoun differentiation) hopped about, squawking at his mother, mouth agape, waiting, no, demanding to be fed. She looked around the sparse ground, then leapt upward and was airborne. Junior watched her go, and stopped his noisemaking. There was, in fact, a thing or two to eat, so he picked at the plants and ground. But a moment later, mom returned, a prized soda cracker in her beak. Junior was at it again, squawking and hopping, mouth wide open. Mom started breaking off pieces of the cracker and putting them in his mouth. He willingly accepted, gulped it down, and demanded more. At one point, mom broke off a larger than usual piece, and it didn’t slide nicely into Junior’s mouth. He spit it out and squawked some more, demanding that she feed him bite-sized pieces, not these things that require some work (like chewing). Mom dutifully picked up the too-big piece, broke it down, and continued to feed Junior until the cracker was gone … and mom had none.

I watched this spectacle with amusement, but in the back of my mind there was a discomfort. When they flew off, I wondered what it was. I know. I had seen this before. Where? Oh, yes. I had seen this same thing played out in nearly every visit to the store or to the restaurant. But it wasn’t birds. It was people. Little people – we call them kids – were playing out the same scenario for their adult guardians. "I want the toy truck." "You can’t have the toy truck." "Give me the toy truck." "I don’t have money for the toy truck." And somehow the kid left with the toy truck. "I want ice cream." "You need to eat your dinner." "I don’t want to eat my dinner." "No dessert if you don’t eat your dinner." And somehow, the waitress is taking away a half-eaten dinner and returning with a bowl of ice cream (which may or may not actually get eaten). Or how about that commercial that some of you may have seen? A mother is opening a bank account. Her 12-year-old daughter, dressed in a soccer uniform, is with her. The banker is telling her the benefits of the ATM card they offer. The mother is pleased, but the daughter is unimpressed. Then the man says, "You can use it at restaurants ..." and the daughter lights up. "Team dinners!" "... And at stores ..." "New uniforms!" "... And at thousands of locations around the country." "Road trip!" Now, the daughter has nothing to do with the mother’s choice to bank there or not, but if she’s not pleased, obviously the bank is the wrong one. And she’s only pleased if she’s spending her mother into bankruptcy.

Watching that grackle hassle his mother into skipping her own lunch, I wondered if there was such a thing as giving too much to one’s kids. It seems to me that, if we want them to be self-sufficient, there needs to be a limitation – perhaps a severe one – that will urge the child to learn how to acquire for themselves instead of expecting to be provided for. I wonder how many parents suffer from the needless tyranny of the child.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Consider the birds - The Budgie

So, I’m sitting there one day, watching the variety of birds come and go. There were pigeons and doves, sparrows and finches, cowbirds, thrashers, a veritable cornucopia of birdlife. One would think that with such an assortment I wouldn’t have been surprised when a parakeet flew up to the waterfall and took a dip. But, being the Arizona desert, this wasn’t what I expected.
The bird was a beautiful blue color and viciously independent. He would chase off larger birds to get to some prized seed on the ground. No one stood their ground against him. He bathed in the water with impunity, then flew up to a hanging feeder, scattering several doves, to eat to his heart’s content. Then it was off to roost in the shade of a nearby tree. I could hear him making his distinct warbles and squawks and fweeps even when I could no longer see him. This budgie was free and happy.

I wondered for awhile. A desert budgie? The dreaded Sonoran Parakeet? Of course, there really was no question. This was an escapee from a cage. They primarily come from Australia and can be found in other tropical or sub-tropical regions, but none are indigenous to the southwest United States desert. They are flock animals, needing either other budgies or perhaps a human around most of the time. They eat mainly fruits and seed. The desert is not the place for lone budgies.

The budgie was around for some time. He came and went, free as a bird. Oh, wait, he was a bird. He enjoyed freedom that very few parakeets enjoy in America. He was fearless when it came to other birds, but was gone in a flash if a human appeared. He knew what a cage was like, and that wasn’t going to be his home again. Of course, it was alone, and parakeets are flock birds, so this was a trial. And budgies are not typically desert birds. So it was sad but not surprising when he quit showing up. How long could a tropical bird survive in the desert? I haven’t seen the little guy since.

It taught me two important lessons. First, most creatures love freedom. I’m sure there is the aberrant few, like my psychotic cat, who refuse to go outside. Freedom terrifies them. But in general all creatures from budgies to people love to be free. Second, absolute freedom is not necessarily freedom. We tend to think that freedom is "no limits", but it isn’t necessarily true that "no limits" is real freedom. For example, this budgie had no limits. He could go where he pleased, eat what he pleased, sleep where he pleased, without limits. However, without the limits of a flock or a person to help him, he was doomed. By the same token, a child without limits is doomed. We all need direction, limits, "lines". "Lines are our friends." By limiting our freedom, we are provided the opportunity to greater focus. With greater focus we are allowed the freedom of going farther in one direction than anyone could with no limits. Freedom is good, but limitlessness isn’t. The budgie found out both were true.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Consider the birds - The Beauty

A friend of mine calls sparrows "McDonald’s birds" because they’re everywhere. Some people refer to them as "junk birds". It seems like there are some birds that are just too ... something. Too plain. Too many. Too ordinary. Too common. And in all of this, not too interesting.

I beg to differ. The picture is of a juvenile Green Heron. These are primarily water birds. They like to feed on the edges of lakes, streams, and marshes. They're very wary birds; it's likely you won't notice them until you startle them into fleeing. But this little tyke wandered into our backyard ... in the desert, obviously lost. Poor guy. Lost and ugly. But the adult Green Heron is no slouch in appearance. Sleek and even colorful, like the proverbial "ugly duckling", this bird has the true potential of real beauty.

We have a bird here called the Great-tailed Grackle. This is a "junk bird" in the truest sense. They eat junk. They are scavengers, much like the crows of other areas. Grackles are "ordinary" as well. The males are … black. Not much there; just black. The females are dark brown mostly. No markings, striping, anything to set them apart. They’re just plain, ordinary birds. But watch them for awhile, and they come alive.

Grackles have the most extraordinary range of sounds they make. Sometimes they sound like parrots. Sometimes they sound like songbirds. I’ve even heard them make noises that had me looking for monkeys in the trees. They tweep and warble and titter and hoop and never seem to stop. While the birds themselves are ordinary, their sounds are anything but ordinary.

I walked by a female grackle the other day, and I was somewhat surprised. Sure, she was ordinary at first glance. But in that plainness she had a kind of gracefulness. Her lines, her smoothness, her shiny brown feathers, all bespoke a beauty that the initial glance belied. The male, too, has unusual appearance. His tail is unlike other birds, almost holding it in three dimensions instead of the normal two dimensions that most birds use. He uses this unusual tail configuration even in flight, like a steering triangle instead of a plane surface.

So I look again. You know, those sparrows sure have interesting coloration. Browns, dark browns, blacks. They have stripes and eyeliner. They are speckled in places and smooth in others. They are unique in their song and unusual in their flight patterns. Now that I look again, those sparrows are quite pretty.

And so it goes. It appears, despite our calm assurance to the contrary, that God doesn’t make "junk birds". They may appear ugly or mundane at first glance, but they are each individuals, carefully designed for their special needs, and uniquely beautiful in their own ways. I guess the same can be said about people, too, eh?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Consider the birds - The Family

There are, indeed, varieties of "family life" in the animal kingdom, and the world of birds is no exception. Take, for instance, the brown-headed cowbird. This bird will lay her eggs ... in another bird’s nest. It’s called "parasitic behavior", because she will lay the eggs and leave them to be raised by the other birds. Sometimes the unsuspecting mother will raise the new hatchling to the exclusion of her own. Sometimes she will recognize it as not her own and kick it out before her own can be endangered. But the cowbird doesn’t care. Lay 'em and leave 'em – that's her approach.

Parasitic birds are rare. More commonly, birds are good parents. Northern cardinals, for instance, mate for life. They will raise up to 5 different broods in one season. The mother bird will sit on the nest while the father bird gathers food for her and, when the time comes, her hatchlings. They even develop their own song. She will sing it from the nest, apparently telling her mate, "Pick up eggs and bread on your way back" or the like. Once her current brood reaches nearly the self-sustaining phase, the male will take over watching them while the female flies off to start the next one. That’s teamwork.

Birds are often clever or even vicious defenders of their babies. The killdeer is well known for her antics. She makes her nest typically in tall grass. If a predator comes in her direction, she will fly off in a random direction and then flop to the ground, pretending to be injured. She hopes to lure the threat away from her babies toward herself. The idea is that just before the hungry beast catches her, she will suddenly fly to safety herself. Other birds will attack all who come near their babies. Look around sometime. Mockingbirds will dive at predators, including cats and even people, in an effort to chase them away. It is not uncommon to see a large raptor such as a red-tailed hawk being harassed by a group of smaller birds defending their nests. Normally these birds would be lunch, but it’s time to defend their homes, so watch out Mr. Hawk! I watched once as a hawk landed on an embankment in of a river and was set upon by half a dozen crows. They came on in coordinated attack, swooping from different directions, never colliding, but forcing the hawk to duck and dodge until he finally gave up and left. And pity the bird that comes near the black-necked stilt’s nest during the spring. If the squawking doesn't warn them off, the relentless attacks should. And being a human doesn’t make you immune. They will take on all comers.

People display the same types of characteristics. There are a few who could easily abandon their offspring to be raised by others. More commonly, the very nature of the parent is changed by parenthood. They often change from self-centered, sophisticated people to cooing parents. Their homes change from adult to "child-proof". Their lifestyles change from outgoing to homebound. And heaven help you if you threaten their child in any way. When they pull out that list of photos, you must respond with admiration because this, after all, is the best baby ever to enter the human race.

Times, they are a’changing, however. Where it used to be unusual for parents to abandon their children, it is becoming more common. By the millions they are intentionally killed prior to birth in abortion clinics. Some view pregnancy as a "medical condition" rather than a blessing. Once they are born, an unusual high number of unwed mothers leave them in trash bins or give them up for adoption. As they grow up, they become viewed as limiting factors to success. Whereas older cultures viewed motherhood as the ultimate for any woman, our culture is viewing a career as the ultimate at the cost of children. Fathers suffer from a similar malady, thinking that their children are best served by their absence as they earn money rather than their presence as they father their children.

Perhaps we ought to take a lesson from the birds. Perhaps we should see offspring as a goal rather than a burden. Perhaps we should remember that children are a blessing, not a curse. Perhaps we can use this opportunity to learn selflessness rather than enhancing our own self-centered goals. Perhaps.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Consider the birds - The Courtship

I'm an amateur birdwatcher. I'm not as gung ho as many others, but I like to watch them. My primary reason is because of what they teach me. You see, I can't watch birds (or much of the rest of nature) without saying, "God, you are truly impressive!" Beyond that, they teach me things about life. They provide a display of things that help me see life more clearly. So I'm going to share some of these tidbits. This one is on the courtship.

Spring is in the air, and a simple look at the birds will show it. From common to elaborate, the birds are doing "the mating dance". Males are putting on fabulous displays to lure a female into mating with them.

These displays range from the common to the elaborate as well. Many birds change colors. The males take on striking plumage and coloration that they don’t carry around all year. Other birds develop songs and sounds to woo their next mate. Still others strike dandy poses or involve themselves in “dances”, displays of worthiness for mating. Consider the peacock, for instance, whose massive tail is only used as a mating display. Some of the exotic birds in rainforests, for instance, put on spectacular displays of sight, sound, and activity to draw attention to themselves. One bird in the jungles of Central America does such a rapid-paced dance that the human eye cannot follow it. Another bird in Tasmania engages in careful home-building. They will gather bits of color, from natural to plastic, to build a fancy place for their prospective mate to lay her eggs. The one with the most elaborate, brightly-colored home is the most successful at mating.

Watch the birds sometime at this time of year. It’s quite humorous, yet sad. He will put himself through all sorts of maneuvers. He may puff himself up to look larger than any other. He may acquire new colors – the brighter the better. Studies show that the most brilliantly-colored northern cardinals, for instance, are the predominant producers of offspring. He may make overtures in dance, posing, stepping, nudging, encouraging. He may preen her, or he may run in circles around her, or he may have other tricks up his sleeve. He may even sing to her. But keep watching. Despite all his puffing and strutting and dancing and singing, more often than not, the perception is "Get away from me, you jerk." The wooed female is usually unimpressed by the display. Despite his ardent, unrelenting attempts, she will most often ignore and then fly away from her suitor.

It makes me think of the human "mating dance". We will put on our best clothes, write songs, strike poses, suck in our guts, try to come up with that perfect line ... the list goes on. We will strike a pose, try to look successful, whatever it takes to try to win the female. More often than not, those who go through these gyrations will hear, in one form or another, "Get away from me, you jerk." But we don’t stop. We are unflagging in our search for that "mate". We are devoted to our quest even when it is obvious that there isn’t the slightest chance of success. We are fat pigeons, strutting our stuff before the "babes", even though we may not be some "spring chicken". Wake up, guys. That approach is for the birds!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Hollow Man

Hi. My name is Hollow Man. I am not gender-specific. You’ll find me in men and women alike. The specifics may vary, but the underlying characteristics will remain the same. Let me tell you about myself. Who knows? You may know me better than you think.

My primary concern is for the individual. Of course, the individual I primarily have in mind is me. I determine right and wrong, good and bad, worthwhile or a waste of time by what best pleases me. I may take drugs because it makes me feel better or I may refuse to take drugs because it’s bad for me, but, bottom line, my evaluations are based on me. America loves individualism, and I am the personification of individualism. My goals, values, and interests are all oriented to what suits me best.

Older generations had this sense of "selflessness". They were willing to sacrifice personal gain and pleasure for the good of others – family, work, God, and country. I am not plagued with that malady. I know what is important. How I look is important. What I own is important. My comfort level is important. I may realize that what I have isn’t quite enough, so I will continue to strive for more. I am a lover of pleasure. I disdain the notion of delayed gratification and believe that we should seek pleasure wherever we may find it. The old "if it feels good, do it" is a reasonable motto for me. The reverse is also true: if it doesn’t feel good, it’s probably not worth doing.

Some have described me as narcissistic. I may be preoccupied with my own needs and desires, but isn’t self-esteem the number one priority? Some say that truth is important; I ask, "What is truth?" I subscribe to the notion that truth is relative – that there is no such thing as absolute truth – not recognizing that this is a statement of absolute truth. I disdain those who are intolerant and judgmental, not realizing that I am being intolerant and judgmental in this view. I will do all I have to do to obtain what I deserve. I will manipulate my friends, family, even God to get what I think I should have. There is, after all, no one who is more important than I am.

Entertainment is important to me. It comes in many forms. However, I don’t think I need to really do a lot to obtain it. I think that I should be entertained. If the show I’m watching isn’t entertaining, I’ll switch to another. If the game I’m playing isn’t entertaining, I’ll go to another. If baseball isn’t exciting enough, I’ll watch football or basketball. When I get tired of this music group, there’s surely another around the corner that will bring new excitement. I don’t realize, of course, that excitement doesn’t last, and, unfortunately, the things that entertain me today are boring tomorrow. But it isn’t my job to amuse me. It is the job of the entertainers – the media and the musicians and the actors and the sports stars and the amusement parks and . . . well, our society is clearly built on this concept, so it must be true.

Some have tried to push us beyond the here and now, but I understand better than that. The clearest presentation of the world we live in is the senses. Religion may try to impress God on us, and that’s fine as far as it goes, but there’s nothing like science for the truth. Science tests things and proves things and demonstrates things. Pictures are worth a thousand words, so why read if I have the TV? I live in a world tuned to the senses – I should indulge them. What I feel is all that’s ultimately real. To go beyond the senses is to venture into the unknown and unproveable . . . and therefore the irrelevant. The deep thinkers, philosophers, theologians and the like are really unimportant to real life. Fortunately these days there are few of that type.

School may be of some importance to me, but only so far as it gives me a better life. If I can make more money, I might pursue an education, but why do some schools require all that History and English and the like? I might even go so far as a Masters degree if it means a larger income, but you’ll rarely find people like me with more than that because, frankly, it serves no purpose. Reading is not a priority with me, either. If I do read, it will undoubtedly be fiction, since that can provide some form of distraction. Frankly, reading is not entertaining enough, when I can get the images fed to me on the TV or movies screen.

I have been accused of having no heroes, but that’s simply not true. My heroes are the rock stars or the movie stars or the sports stars or the fashion stars of the day. I admire their looks or their abilities or whatever currently strikes my fancy. I am not the least bit concerned about their virtue. Character is not an issue. Good is defined not as that which is virtuous or right, but as that which gives me the most pleasure.

It’s a funny thing with me, but I hate quiet and solitude. I will always have a radio or TV going or be surrounded by friends. I may, for instance, keep myself in good shape (because looking good is important to me), but even while I exercise I’ll have the headset on with music going. A vacation is a good thing not because I can think more, but because I can think less when I vacate. Anything I can do to avoid real contemplation is a good thing. Noise is better than quiet, activity better than rest, and anonymous crowds better than solitude. It is much better to do than to simply be.

I am Hollow Man. Perhaps you know me. Perhaps you are me. I certainly believe my shallow beliefs and pursuits are important, and I will never, never ask "Why?" or "Could I be wrong?" or "Is there more to life than me?" I wonder if you don’t identify with me.

And so it begins ...

They told me, "You really need to blog", so I write. They told me, "You need to write where others can read it", so I write. They told me, "I have learned so much from what you've written", so I write. My hope is that you, my kind readers, will benefit from my blogging.

So, who am I? I'm an oxymoron - a happily married man. Most who know me, however, would leave off the "oxy" part of that. I'm older than I feel, but don't much mind. Between my wife and I we have four children, none of whom live at home anymore. The oldest, my step-daughter, has two children of her own, so I'm sure they'll creep into these blogs from time to time. Beyond that, I'm mostly invisible. It's something I've perfected over the years. I'm suspicious that blogging might make that more difficult.

I have been a Christian since I was a child. I was raised by godly parents and have much appreciated them over the years. It hasn't always been smooth, however. In my late teens I decided I could run my life much better than God could and set off to prove it. Four years and much sin later, I came back with my tail between my legs. I did many years in the U. S. Air Force and learned to teach there, but didn't do enough years to retire. I enjoyed a 12-year marriage, but it ended in divorce. I remember asking my father, "Have you ever had to endure anything that hurt this bad?" and he told me, "Yes ... when you ran from God." Oops! But, amazingly, God has worked all things together for good and I am, at the end of the day, a contented fellow.

So, let's see where this little blog journey takes us. I hope you will benefit. I hope I will benefit. With all the random thoughts that often swirl around in my brain, writing them down helps clear the cobwebs. Maybe God can use them to help you as well.