Saturday, July 04, 2020

A step into Uncharted Scifi

S P Somtow's Light on the Sound 

After reading or watching so much space fiction, when it seems like all the possible scenarios have probably been used at some time or another, and space warriors remind you of the US Marines, and the future of the galaxy is English speaking white, from S P Somtow's Inquestor Universe comes a breath of fresh air. 

Light on the Sound is the first in the series, though it's the third one I've read and reviewed. It begins with a piece of prose describing a feature of a habitable planet like nothing ever imagined by the aforesaid works of space fiction, a gigantic covered crater with a dense atmosphere, in which swim - or fly - the delphinoids. These are a giant fish-like (or bird-like) creature with giant exo-brains (is that a word?) that give them a consciousness of the overcosm - that network of logical lines that links every part of the galaxy, enabling faster than light travel. Only the delphinoids know how to navigate the overcosm, but they don't. They just fly about their massive "sunless sound" singing about it, emitting both light and sound that would drive ordinary humans mad for their sheer beauty. 

A delphinoid, connected to the right technology, is useful for enabling a space ship to navigate the overcosm. The only ones that are able to catch them are a race of deaf and blind humans, who have been doing this for many millennia , as part of their culture. The sunless sound is their whole universe. 

After the opening prose, the world opens up further through the eyes of 14 year old Kelver, a common peasant boy, whose life begins to take a totally unpredicted turn. That has to do with his meeting the second main character in the story, a girl from the other side of the "sky wall", the great dark area where the delphinoids live. 

Her people have been innocently hunting the noble creatures which they can neither see nor hear for millennia, thinking they are guiding them home. However, Darktouch has a "birth defect"; she can both see and hear. She hears the song of the delphinoid on her first hunt, and realises something is very wrong. 

So, there's that proverbial question, "How do you describe colour to one blind from birth?" Somtow skilfully describes her sensations through her point of view in a world where there are no words for sight and hearing, and she thinks something is wrong with her. Even for the seeing, it's a dark world, so the difference isn't as profound as it would be outside. But there's enough to start her on her journey. 

The third main character (actually the second in order of appearance), is the Inquestor, Ton Davaryush, who has just been appointed King of the planet. Through him, we discover the ins and outs of the Inquestral universe, the Dispersal of Man, the god like status of the Inquestors, and their guiding philosophy of High Compassion. However, Ton Davaryush has also known something is badly wrong, ever since his encounter with a sentient star. 

Then, there's Lady Varuneh, an equally interesting character. All their paths cross, and they set out together, determined to right all the wrongs. Their path twists and turns, they discover things… 

But the reader also discovers life beyond warp-speed and planetary colonisation. Even in listing the concepts involved in this story, I've only scratched the surface. This is certainly a worthwhile read, and a first step into a new world of hitherto uncharted science fiction.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Being Two: a review of P Somtow's Homeworld or rhe Heart



If you've read any of the others of Somtow's Inquestor series, you'll remember Sajit as the wisened musician, a character as only a virtuoso as Somtow Sucharitkul could invent, who  under the patronage of the Inquestor Ton Elloran, has creat a music lover's paradise. In those earlier stories, we learn only enough about him to wish we could learn more. And now, here's our chance to do just that. We meet Sajit as a ten-year-old. 

However, my advice here is, don't rush headlong into this one unless you've read at least one of the earlier books in the series. Any of the first two or three will do. They're ok as stand-alone narratives. Things are sufficiently explained in those that you need to know before beginning Homeworld of the Heart - things like, what is an Inquestor? Why their obsession with utopias? Their cosmic game of makrugh, child soldiers with their deadly laser eyes, that vast habitable shell surrounding the black hole in centre of the galaxy, where whole stars are pulled through the gaps at the poles of the sphere; and other things. That's not a criticism. To go through the whole explanation yet again would be tedious. Time to get on with the story, but do your homework first if necessary. It will be well worth it. 

Somtow's multicultural upbringing has left him with a profound ability to understand yet other cultures, and he uses that to full advantage in the inquestor series. I particularly appreciate that aspect, as I'm a bit that way myself. It is good to see science fiction that doesn't assume that the future of the galaxy is Anglo white. 
Because of the name, I tend to picture Sajit as Indian. The cover (painted by Somtow's protégé Micky), however, pictures him more Thai looking. The name could be either - or Khmer. 

The culture, in this case, is both primitive and highly advanced. People travel about via displacement plates (for teleporting), and use other equally advanced devices on a daily basis; and yet they share a taboo with some of the most primitive tribes of earth: twins are considered an abomination. When they're born, one of them must be killed at birth. 

Sajit has something worse than a twin, a "dopple". It was cloned for him by someone very high up, who has an interest in Sajit's future, so that it could be sent in his place when it was time to be drafted as a child-soldier. But Sajit awakens his dopple prematurely, without anyone else knowing, and they bond. He names his dopple Tijas. 

The story of not-one-but-two Sajits takes many an intriguing turn. There are expectations of Sajit's future that run contrary to his own longings; there's a planitary crises that's the result of the great game of cosmic chess - complicated by a bureaucratic error (and of course, the gods don't make mistakes); there are relationships complicated by time dilation; and more. All the while, Somtow keeps us glued, all the while imparting to the reader the aspirations and longing of the two boys for each other. Love does what love requires, even if it's fighting each other to save the other's life.

He weaves it all to a climax, but their story isn't over. There's more to come in another sequel. 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Where do I stand on abortion?

An answer that's likely to displease both sides of the issue...

The root problem is the unequal treatment of the genders. Of course, you say, that's sort of obvious, isn't it!

Yes, there are aspects that are obvious on the surface, but I don't think we understand how deep it goes.

From the beginning of history, people have taken advantage of each other. The strong and dominant rise to the top. If it's at the expense of the weak and vulnerable, that's always been considered par for the course. We have always tended to think of those at the top as superior to those at the bottom. Kings are superior to the gentry, who are superior to the peasants; Masters are superior to the slaves; the rich are superior to the poor, bosses are superior to their employees - and yes, men as superior to women. That's on the surface.

If we look at what actually happens, we get a different picture. Often, we see the strong standing on the shoulders of the weak (in which case, who's actually stronger?). In ancient times, it wasn't uncommon for an illiterate slave owner to have a well educated slave whom they set to work tutoring their children, or other tasks requiring up to date know-how. Aesop, famous for his fables, was a slave. To this day, we often see bosses and team leaders who are less skilled in key areas than their employees.

In too many cases, we see people who were good at their job elevated to the position of a boss, and find they make a bad boss. They were better at what they were doing before, because that was their skill set. The previous boss was actually good at being a boss, though he didn't have the skill of the first person. Now, he’s also been promoted beyond his level of ability.

Different skill sets, yes, but who's superior? Who is higher on the social ladder? Who gets use of the executive lounge? Why?

And how do you explain to your neighbours, or to your mother-in-law that you turned down a promotion because you've already got the job you're good at - without sounding like you're making an excuse?”

I think it has a lot to do with having eaten of the fruit of knowledge of good and evil.

Now, if we look at the world of women, we can also find a lot more below the surface. Throughout our male dominated history, we do find a few outstanding exceptions to the all too pervasive meek and dependent role of the female. In the Bible, we have Moses’ sister, Miriam, and the four daughters of Zelophehad. And what about the prophetess Deborah? Even the Apostle Paul, who on the surface seems to favour a male leadership in the Church, yet highly praises such female leaders as Priscilla, Junia and Phoebe. In his instructions to Timothy and the Corinthians, Paul was only dealing with facts on the ground; women who are illiterate, and have hardly ever been outside their home (like most women of his time), don't make good leaders. Paul was simply being pragmatic, not speaking ex-cathedra.

In secular history, there's Cleopatra, Nefertiti, Joan of Arc, Elizabeth the First, Victoria… And look at recent history: some of the most male dominated societies in the world, like Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Turkey, have had female prime ministers, while the “most modern country in the world” hasn't had a single female president”. The two female prime ministers UK has had were anything but the “slap-your-face-with-my-bra” types.

Often, the very fabric of society,  even the most male dominated, has been held together by the women, the mothers. They handle the family finances, keep the family in line. The men have the positions, the power, the salaries; but they spend their money before they get home, leaving their wives to come up with the extra money to feed the kids, keep them in school, and keep the world from falling apart.

So who's really superior? How are we equal, or unequal? Does equality mean uniformity?

Can we be free to take a good look at the strengths and weakness of either gender (or of any other classification, for that matter) without offending the social justice warriors?

Fathers are different from mothers. At their best, each adds a different aspect to the stability and quality of a family. Women bosses add something to a company or a team that men bosses don't, and vice versa. The same with women heads of state.

That's in a perfect world. The world at its worst?

Women are more responsible than men. Why? Women get pregnant, and are stuck with the kids, while the men are free to run off anywhere they please and make more babies. That's the very factor that has always made women weak and vulnerable, and it's also the source of their strength.

So, how do we equalise things? Do we try to enforce uniformity where it doesn't exist? Do we say to the women, “You don't have to go through with this pregnancy”? That will only make women just as irresponsible as men. Equalising by dumbing down is not the answer.

What if we didn't choose the easy way out? What if we put the same expectations on men as we do women, and make them just as responsible for a pregnancy as the woman? What if a woman's maternity leave were at the expense of the child's father? We now have the technology to prove who the father is.

This would have to go far beyond the legal issues. It requires a cultural change. What if it were just as much an insult to call someone a “playboy” as a “slut”? What about adding a few mandatory titles to men's names to alternate with “mister”, the same as women have Mrs, Miss, and Ms? What if a man's reputation were just as tarnished by how many children he's fathered (by as many women), as a woman's is by how many times you see her pregnant?

Can we hope for a society like that?

Okay, my opinion on abortion: I believe it's wrong. I believe it's murder. By allowing it, we're taking the easy way out, enforcing equality by forcing uniformity where it doesn't exist.

On the other hand, by campaigning to make abortion illegal, without giving equal attention to the other issues I've described above, we Christians become nothing more than a bunch of hypocrites. Had we been fulfilling our mandate all along - the mandate that was pushed forward by the likes of Hannah
Moore, William Wilberforce, and others, that gave birth to the the women's suffrage movement, the abolition of slavery, child labour laws and other reforms - we could have led the way towards equality of the genders, thereby preempting the excuse of legalised abortion as an equaliser.

On the other hand, if we now deprive people of the legal avenue of abortion, while keeping them from state aid to enable them to support the children we're trying to save, we place ourselves as the target of Jesus’ condemnation: “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” (Matthew 23:4)

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Hard Brexit and the Ulster Covenant


This book, HEAL NOT LIGHTLY, was written by a friend of mine a number of years ago, but the message is especially vital right now; especially as we face the prospect of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Since the Good Friday Agreement, we've been living in a time of relative peace - that's "peace" as in "no noise", or "no people being killed", but one that requires "peace walls" between communities that still hate each other.

With a hard border, a major supporting factor for the Good Friday Agreement will have disappeared. We could be back to square one. It's time to tackle the root of the problem. That, according to Harry Smith, is the Ulster Covenant. His book gives an excellent background and a way forward. You can  buy it here.

My grandfather and my great-grandfather both signed the Ulster Covenant. It was a covenant solemnly sworn by two thirds of Protestants in Northern Ireland in 1912, to fight and be willing to die rather than submit to rule by the Dublin government, which was perceived to be Catholic controlled. In effect, we coerced Great Britain to keep us.
The crowds outside Belfast City Hall waiting to sign the
Ulster Covenant on 28 September, 1912

The Ulster Covenant was signed before God, and, in the words of Bob Dylan, we had "God on our side".

The only hitch was, God never gave us the mandate, as Christians (which is what Protestants are), to fight or spend our energy in making the world safe for our own kind. So rather than assuming we have "God on our side", should we not ask, are we on God's side?

The sentiment that both inspired the Ulster Covenant and is reinforced by it, is the same that is now pushing us towards a hard border situation; but what's worse is, the same sentiment also insures that the road beyond will be fraught with violence and strife. The next decision facing NI after a hard Brexit is whether to remain in UK, or reunite with the Republic. The Good Friday Agreement stipulates that that would be the choice of the people of NI. It will most certainly be debated, with more than just words...

I believe, with all my heart, that we've come to the crises point in Northern Ireland history, in which we have to examine our attitudes and correct the mistakes of the past. God has been telling us about this; we are now approaching the due date.  For myself, I've asked God's forgiveness for my grandparents' part in the signing of that covenant.

I believe that's our only hope for true peace.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

An Answer to the Moral Dihlemma of Theism

Let's say you're omnipotent, and you want to make a clock. There are two ways to do it:

The first way would be to create a dial with hands that always point in the right direction in response to the actual time. The big hand would move around the dial once every hour, always landing on the twelve at the exact moment the little hand arrives at whatever o’clock it is, simply because you commanded it to. You could either command it to follow that pattern for all eternity, or else you could dedicate one small part of your infinite mind to physically moving it according to that pattern. There would be nothing of what we call clockworks inside, just a giant cosmic miracle dial responding to your decree on its own.

The second way would be to build it with all the wheels inside meshing together, timed by the flywheel, driven by the power-source, working with utmost precision, insuring that the hands point to the right numbers on the dial at the right time of the cosmic time progression. Any addition you made later on would be powered by and in sync with the existing clockworks. It would be designed to work all on its own without any effort from you - except you could add an input device whereby you could make any corrections, such as, “increase speed by one millionth of a second”. We'll talk more about this input device later.

From reviewing all the evidence, both from science and from scripture, I'd have to conclude that a certain Omnipotent being that we know, chose the second of the two ways, the “clockworks” model when creating this universe. A lot of folk religion does seem to favour the “miracle dial” method, as well as, perhaps a few early scientific models. However, even early scientists as Aristotle and others leaned in the direction of a clockworks type of universe.

How does science point to a clockworks model? There are the four forces (that we know of), gravitational, electromagnetic, the strong and the weak; and we now know that atoms consist of dozens of types of particles, each rendering possible, various facets of our existence, including life.

Though we've always taken it for granted, actual life integrated with physical substance isn't an easy thing to come by. We know that rocks can't be living. Minerals can't hold life, nor can any other elements or simple compounds - although we now have very complex electronic circuitry with the right programming to make it act like it's alive (isn't that right, Alexa? “Yes, that's right”). But only the extremely elaborate intricate structure of the DNA molecule can actually hold life. We still don't know how it works, nor how to recreate it. All we can do is grow it from existing DNA.

When God said, “Let there be light,” the big bang occurred at just the right intensity to divide that initial microscopic speck into a humongous mass of photons, all at the right density to enable the formation of atoms of every size and type - the clockworks that would eventually enable life. Had that big bang been even the slightest bit more intense, physicists tell us, all that would have been enabled would have been hydrogen atoms. Life could never come about. Anything ever so slightly less intense and the universe as we know it would, again, not have been possible.

Even at the right intensity, the time still had to be right. The Omnipotent Being said, “let light be separated from darkness.” Ripples appeared on the outward flowing stream of light, and gravitational and magnetic forces began to go to work at pulling it together to form galaxies and stars. The nuclear reactions within each star formed the various particles into atoms, splitting them again, completely dissolving them and remaking them into atoms again, while some that had spun off beyond the outer periphery formed into planets. When at least one planet had cooled sufficiently, God said, “Let the water be separated from dry land, and let an atmosphere appear.” Only then, was life even possible. We are living in what is called, “The Goldilocks Zone” where it is, like junior Bear's porridge, “Just right!”

So, how much time passed between these events that led to it being “just right” for life of any sort to make its appearance? Some say billions of years, others say only a few days. The thing about such intense gravitational force as was present at the big bang, is that it greatly speeds up time, so the first couple of aeons could have been a couple of days. To God, it doesn't make any difference anyhow, as a day and a thousand years (or a billion, as far as that goes) are all the same. It was all a part of fixing the clockworks to accommodate life, and setting up that relatively short Goldilocks zone where humanity could live and roam, and fulfil his destiny.

There is reason to believe that the seventh day of creation was much longer than twenty four hours. According to Hebrews 4:3-11 we are still in the seventh day. God has been resting, and it remains for some of us to enter that rest.

So, God told man on the sixth day, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea, the birds in the air and every living creature that crawls on the earth.” God gave His creation over to humanity for safekeeping, set His alarm clock, and rested.

Well okay, He's not exactly sleeping. Remember, there's that input device whereby He can make adjustments, and that is through interaction with humanity, to whom He gave the authority to manage things. That input device is, in fact, the life that He breathed into man that brought him to life. So, humanity is both a product of the grand universal clockworks that God had spent so much time designing and developing, and alive with the breath of God Himself. Where other creatures are simply products of the clockworks, and therefore subject to determinism, humanIty is above that and is capable of true creativity, making decisions that can't be predicted by knowing all the maths. So, humanity, created in God's own image, holding God's life in his DNA, both belongs in the physical universe that produced that DNA, and transcends it. He is a higher order of being, meant to be God's own friend. That's who God gave the authority over His creation.

But we also know that the first couple of humans blew it, creating a Mess (with a capital M) that all humans coming after would have to live with, so God has been making heavy use of the input device.

Everyone is affected by The Mess, some more than others, and in different ways, prompting many to say, ‘It just isn't fair!” There's nothing about The Mess that's fair. People are enslaved, bullied, tortured, slaughtered, bereaved, left destitute, while others reap the benefits, living high off other people's suffering; all because of how human nature has been skewed.

Early humans took on board something that they were told not to, and that gave us an acute sense of good and evil. On the surface that sounds good, but look closer. What it was, was an obsession to compare everything. The first humans looked at each other and then at themselves and said, “Your body is beautiful, but mine? Oh dear! Stop looking at me!” (To this day, we think of nudity as evil, but God made it clear that that’s only because we think it is, when He said, “Who told you you were naked?”)

Later, someone said to his brother, “You are better than me, so God loves you more than me, therefore, I hate you!” That led to the first murder.

Later still people began saying, “Sex with you is nice, but I could have a better time with someone more beautiful/handsome than you;” and, “You have a prettier woman than I have, and a stronger beast of burden, nicer tools and more land than I have; but I'm stronger than you, so I'm taking it.”

Actually, the basic desires aren't bad in themselves. A healthy sex drive is a good thing, and some desires and urges are simple survival instincts. It's when we're obsessed with comparing the quality or quantity with what others have that it gets out of proportion.

And so, because some were stronger than others, while following the same skewed logic, we've ended up with the unfair Mess that we're in.

Now, question and answer time:

First, how can a loving God allow those things to happen?

The answer: remember the Two possible ways for an omnipotent being to build a clock? Had He chosen the Miracle Dial method, that would be a very good question. If everything worked simply because He had His hands on it making it work, then everything would run perfectly, and all the aforementioned evils wouldn't be happening. But He didn't do it that way. He went with the Clockworks model, designing the universe to run according to the laws of physics and quantum mechanics in a cause-effect continuum. Moreover, because humanity is a transcendent being, as well as an integral part of the clockworks, we had the power to screw things up on a grand scale, which we did.

Then why didn't the Omnipotent Being do something about that before things got out of hand?

Keep in mind, the nature of the universe He made, the clockworks, the careful timing, the laws of physics and the quantum mechanics, and all the preparation that went into the Goldilocks Zone; it's clear that God took no shortcuts. All of that work went into the preparation of humanity's place in the vast clockworks of the universe, as a functioning part of the clockworks.

So, let's rephrase that question: Why didn't the Omnipotent Being do something he hadn't ever done since detonating the Big Bang; and stick His finger into the clockworks, stop the universe, undo the human mistake and then start it off again where it left off?

That's not His way. He had already put humanity into the pilot seat, and had begun His day of rest. Humanity was given the freedom of choice, and with that comes living with those choices. Freewill is a dangerous thing.

Perhaps the next obvious question would be, wasn't God morally wrong in giving humanity freewill when He knew where it would lead?

There are many angles to that one. Part of the assumption is that it was like trusting the keys of the family car to a young child. Others picture it as setting a bowl of sweets on the table, and telling the two-year-old, “Don't touch!” The way the Adam and Eve story is often told, one quite easily comes away with that conclusion. However, if we examine the accounts more carefully, we might get a far different picture: The first man had already named all the animals, and, according to Rabbinical tradition, used sounds that matched the nature of each creature, like a well studied Kabbalist would. So, was Adam no more than a small child? Perhaps it was more like the father entrusting the keys to the car to a son nearing adulthood, who already knows how to drive safely and responsibly, and has already proven himself on many occasions. The son is ready, by anyone's standards, to be trusted with such a potentially dangerous machine. But he still messes up at the critical moment, causing death and destruction. Who is morally responsible for that?

That leads us to another angle:  why was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil there in the first place?

One thing we don't pretend to know is what ultimate purpose it served. There are a few theories, such as: maybe it was meant for  later after humanity had matured to a certain level; or that it was simply there to test humany's obedience; or as a chance to exercise his power to choose. Perhaps none of them completely satisfy everyone, but there is the other consideration: Adam, as we observed, had been there longer, knew what was what, and knew what he was doing. Eve was a new arrivals, so she was easily deceived.

When Adam discovered that Eve had eaten the forbidden fruit, why didn't he take Eve by the hand, lead her to where God would be walking in the cool of the day, and say, “I'm afraid we've had a miss-hap. Eve has gone and eaten from that tree you told us not to, because the snake told her it was good for her. Isn't there anything that can be done for her?” He didn't do that. He simply ate of it himself, knowing full well what the consequences were (and people point to the Genesis story to show how superior men are to women. How was that superior?).

Yet another angle is, would it really have been better to be products of determinism than free will? If we were, would we be enjoying the levels of creativity that we do, pushing the limits to what's possible, or indeed, even discussing free will versus determinism? It's clear from a close examination of Scripture that God's intent in creating humanity was to enjoy companionship on that level.

It's on that level that we see that God, by making use of that “input device”, initiated a midcourse correction intended to eventually bring everything back into line with what it's supposed to be. As anyone knows, who fixes things, some fixes may take a while, and in mid-fix, look even worse than when we started out. That Fix (with a capital F) involved instituting a covenant with various ones, which gave the Omnipotent One the leeway to manifest His Omnipotence in a limited way (things like parting the Red Sea, etc) without overstepping the mandate He had given humanity. In fact, that was the whole point of having a “chosen people”, so He could “legally” maintain a presence on the earth so He could carry out the Fix. Humanity created The Mess, humanity must play a vital part in The Fix.

What about those who have been suffering in the meantime, simply because The Fix is still in the works? What of those who have never heard of The Fix?

The traditional assertion is that every man, woman, boy and girl, puppy and kitten who hasn't read aloud the Sinner's Prayer from the back of a Chick tract, will spend all of eternity burning in the intense fire of hell; it doesn't matter how miserable their life was on earth.

I believe there is a hell, and also a world to come, in which the meek will inherit the earth. I also believe that being fully initiated into God's Kingdom is through repentance and faith - being born again by the Spirit of God. We’ll talk about that in another post. However I also believe it is a mistake to assume that Theologians have distilled the sum of all truth from the little we can read of scripture. I do believe God is just, and besides being omnipotent, He is all knowing. He knows the lives of every abused child, every slave, each bullied and beaten vulnerable person, from beginning to end - and He's just. I can only trust Him with that. That’s a part of having faith in Him.

We do get some vague hints from the Bible, the following from Yeshua's parables:

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus: A rich man who had everything, but never showed mercy to poor diseased Lazarus who sat at the door grabbing what crumbs fell from the dishes as they were being carried out to be washed. Both died, the rich man went to hell, while Lazarus went to a comfortable place and was held in the bosom of Father Abraham. We're not told that Lazarus was a born again Christian, nor whether he was Torah observant; only that he was receiving compensation for a life of misery. The rich man was, apparently receiving just compensation for non Torah observance, particularly of those parts of the Torah that command us not to neglect the poor of the land, to see to the needs of the widows and orphans and the refugees - about consuming the earth's resources without giving anything back.

The parable of the sheep and the goats: At judgement day, the Judge of all the earth sits on His throne, directing some to move to His right, and others to His left. To those on His right He says, “I was sick and you helped me; I was hungry and you fed me; I was imprisoned and you visited me etc… enter into the joy of the Lord.” Those people replied, “Huh?” “When did that happen?” “I've never even been to church!” “I never saw you…” And the Judge replied, “Oh yes you did. When you befriended that homeless kid, when you went out of your way to check how that very sick looking man was doing, when you paid out more than you could afford to feed that family… you were doing it to me.” To those on His left, He had other things to say.

As I said, the above are hints as to God criteria for judgement. A major one is according to how we judge others. Yeshua said, “Don't judge and you won't be judged. By what standard you judge others is how you will be judged.”

I picture one of us standing in the queue at the final judgement: The man just two ahead of you approaches the throne and says, “I was really bad, I know. I had such a bad temper, I beat my wife and my kid A couple of times, and…”

The judge interrupts him, “Yes, you confessed that to me, and by my grace, you were beginning to overcome in that area. You were on your way to becoming a truly good gentle husband and father before your brother-in-law shot you. You are forgiven. Enter into the joy of the Lord.”

The one just before you approaches, saying, “I'm not sure I'm worthy to enter. I couldn't keep my hands to myself, always flirting, my wife divorced me…”

“But you kept looking to me for forgiveness, and you were slowly being transformed by my grace. Enter into my joy.“

Then it's your turn. “I can't think of any reason I can't just enter, can you? I mean, I wasn't nearly as bad as those other two, and they…”

“Not so fast. What about when you went to church wearing a shirt that hadn't been ironed, or that time you were seen picking your nose in front of the City Hall? And then there's the time you bent over to pick up a coin, and the top of your bum was showing!”

“C'mon! Those are such small thing! Those two ahead of me were…”

“I can't judge you the same as them. You wrote your own rulebook when you judged others by how they conduct themselves in public, so I have to judge you by the same standard you judged them.”

Maybe not exactly like that, but you get the picture.

James says in his epistle that by fulfilling the commandment to love our neighbour as ourselves instead of judging and favoring some over others, we qualify ourselves to be assessed by the royal law of liberty.

This brings us to our biggest obstacle; by taking on board the Knowledge of Good and Evil, we've made ourselves experts in judging others, and that, in turn, subjects us to judgement.

By showing mercy, giving people the benefit of the doubt, forgiving personal offences, releasing grudges, we place ourselves under God's mercy. However, we can't simply “unknow” the Knowledge of Good and Evil, can we! As much as we try to forgive and forget, it just keeps coming back. Also, some wounds are so deep that we find it impossible to forgive. That's where we especially need The Fix.

Just as The Mess was created by humanity, so also was The Fix, in the person of Messiah Yeshua. The Omnipotent One had been spending all of human history setting it up so that He, by human consent and cooperation, could send The Fix in the person of His Son, the human, Yeshua.

After spending a lifetime telling us about The Fix, Yeshua Himself became the target of every injury, abuse, slander, false accusation, and was finally subjected unjustly to the most torturous death imaginable; absorbing the shock of all human injustice, while uttering His last words, “Father, forgive them.”

As a human, Yeshua had the authority of a human, but without the setback of having gone wrong. He expended all the energy He had been given, and all the authority He had, until there was no more to expend. The intensity was such, He underwent death; thus, the perfect exercise of human authority, completely undoing the Mess, making The Fix available to all of humanity.

So, what exactly was it that this perfect exercise of human authority enabled the Omnipotent One to do? Something along the line of what He did with the first human, when He breathed into him the Breath of Life. It was so powerful that it brought Him back to life, complete with his body, but in a highly enhanced state. What's more, because it was officially enabled by human authority, it has the potential to affect all humans, solving all the world's problems, eventually bringing resurrection from the dead (in the same enhanced state). It's a force greater than we can imagine, and it's been in our hands ever since.

So what's wrong? We’re like a bunch of kids sitting on top of a machine more powerful than a nuclear reactor, but we're fighting over a game of marbles. … a bit like having a supercomputer in our pocket -or in my case, at the end of a selfie stick - and using it to look at pictures of cats, and getting into arguments with people we've never met. Isn't that just like us?

So now the Fix is in place, it's there in the clockworks, but it's still up to humanity to apply it. That's what we're on about now - some of us anyway.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Among my FaceBook friends, there people of every type, from Tea Party goers to Wall Street Occupiers, from anarchists to libertarians, even someone with Neo Nazi sympathies as well as Zionists, and of course Trump lovers and Trump haters. No, I'm not just maintaining FB friendships just to brag about my “collection”; I sincerely value their friendship, and I intend to keep them all, if you don't mind.

So, my FB experience often includes memes and comments from just about every perspective, praising Trump, cursing him, as well as for and against every other issue from guns to refugees. It's also hard for me to express any political opinion without offending someone. So, what do I do?

More often than not, I don't.

That's not a cop out. It's just that there are things that are far more important to me, namely the Kingdom of God. The Church doesn't stand or fall depending on who’s in power or what laws are passed. Christians in places like China, the old USSR and Africa have demonstrated that over and over.

Now, I'm not against Christians voting and being involved in the democratic process. I did vote, not for or against Trump, but for UK to remain in the EU. I live in Northern Ireland where the consequences of Brexit are becoming more and more obvious. But I think, at this point, it would be an even bigger mistake to turn around and disregard the choice made by the people and remain in the EU in spite of it. The damage done to democracy would far out last the damage of leaving the EU.

When both sides love their own political agenda more than they do the democratic process, even to the point of scuttling the normal political process for the sake of their agenda; we no longer have national politics, but civil war - or more accurately “civil cold-war”. In sports, it's called bad sportsmanship (which also happens).

I'm very much afraid that some places very close to our heart, are in a state of civil war.

Living in Northern Ireland gives me a perspective on this (I stop short of saying “unique”). I'm a participant of a “24-7” prayer cell in S. W. Belfast, where we've been both praying for and working towards reconciliation between the two communities.here. A lot has improved, but also a lot of work still needs to be done. Ethnic reconciliation has been close to my heart for quite some time.

But now, I'm also seeing another area badly in need of the ministry of reconciliation; the rift between conservatives and liberals.

I realise there are issues at stake that are very important, such as what's the proper response to refugees and immigrants (legal and illegal); how much ought to be spent on military or on welfare, or health and education; what laws should be passed regarding various moral issues, how to legislate guns - the list is endless. But we must not forget that there are Christians on both sides of these issues who truly love God with all their heart, soul and strength, and their neighbours as themselves, even if they disagree on what’s good for their neighbour.

The solutions to these problems do not ultimately lie with changing the laws, or voting in this politician or that, however wise and wonderful. Nor will the same laws and politician, however sinister, stop the Kingdom of God - that is, once believers realise where our strength lies.

We desperately need the ministry of reconciliation very close to home.

Monday, August 07, 2017

How a Slap on the Floor Saved Time-space


In the beginning, God created four dimensional existence. Before that... - well, there was no “before that” as there was no such thing as time, nor form, and therefore no movement. All was a dark void - no, we can't even call it dark; that would assume the existence of light, just as the digit zero assumes the existence of other numbers. Only “null”, the nonexistence of any state or number or concept, or the space to put it in.  
From whatever dimension or state of existence He possesses, God's Spirit brooded over the null and void, conceptualising matter, which therefore existed as a microscopic kspeck. All of space consisted only of that speck. Apart from that speck, there was no space.
Then, God said, “Let there be light.” Movement began, and thus, the dimension of time. The speck exploded into a vast cloud of photons shooting outward in every direction. The light shown from the centre, the beginning of time, outward in a straight line to the end of time, flooding all of space-time with whiteness.
Then, God said, “Let the light be separated from the darkness.” Dark matter began to separate from the light matter, causing ripples to appear in the stream. As it proceeded from the centre, light and dark matter began to form centres of gravity, swirling around them, forming galaxies. The vacuum that was left, those areas where darkness prevailed, God called “night”, and those parts affected by the light, “day”.
In all of this swirling of galaxies and the gravitational pull, stars were formed, and then planets. On some planets, God saw to it that the conditions would be such that water could coexist in three states simultaneously: in solid, liquid and gas, and that an atmosphere would surround those planets.
And so, the universe consisted of galaxies, that contained stars and solar systems, with planets of all sizes and types, some, no more than rocks, others mostly gas, but some with molten cores and having atmospheres, which presented other possibilities that God intended to put to use. Thus, God looked over His four dimensional space-time, beginning with the burst of light at the centre, developing into geometric spirals of energy and matter, evolving into orderly patterns, ever expanding outward to the end of time.
God, from whatever dimension He possesses, saw it all from beginning to end, and thought that was beautiful, and called it a day.
The next day, in whatever dimension He possesses, God turned His attention to one of the planets with a molten core, that had an atmosphere, and water existing in three states.
First, by causing lava flows and by shifting the continual plates, He made the land separate from the water, forming oceans and continents. Then God said, “Let there be molecules configured in such a way as to hold life, and let them reproduce and adapt so as to fill the earth with life after its own kind,” and deep below the surface of the ocean, DNA cells began to form.
Plant life began to spring up. Simple life forms provided nourishment for the more complex, which, at the end of their own life cycles, became food for others of their kind, all the while reproducing themselves through their seeds and shoots. Thus, to the end of time, the planet was filled with self sustaining multicoloured life. God, from whatever dimension He possesses - let's call it it the fifth dimension - looked at His four-dimensional space-time, and said, “it is good”, and again called it a day.
On another day of fifth dimensional time, God said, “Let there be living creatures that move about, swimming in the sea, flying in the air, and walking and creeping on the dry ground. They can eat the vegetation, and become food for one another, and at the end of their life cycles, they can become food for the vegetation.
Thus the whole earth began to come alive with movement, creatures moving, swimming, creeping, flying, making noise, making music.
Each creature, acting according to its need and instinct, followed a course that could be predetermined by taking into account every factor and every movement in the universe. A butterfly living at the beginning of the age of butterflies, by flapping its wings one way or another, would affect the course of a tropical storm near the end of the age of tropical storms. Of course, how the butterfly flapped its wings was also the predictable result of yet other factors.
When some of the species became so large as to take over and inhibit the further development of life, they were destroyed by a large asteroid, which was simply following it's predicted course.
God looked at this and said, "It is good, but not good enough." The whole universe was nothing but a big toy, and after some shifting and tweaking - and doing things like flicking a butterfly,  or adding to the gravitational pull of a small rock in space so that it would strike an asteroid, putting it on a course to destroy the dinosaurs a few aeons later, thus making room for mammals - God decided the four dimensional space-time needed something more innovative, something that would make it complete, less predictable, a true work of art, fully expressing His creative and loving nature.
Actually, it was the thing God had in mind from the very beginning.
God created a new life form, unique from all the others - humanity. The human was capable of true creativity independent of his need to survive, his instinct, or anything that limited the other creatures to a predetermined course. In fact, the human was created after God's own pattern.
Thus, humanity would contribute to the final design of the four dimensional space-time. The main difference was that humans were limited to being conscious of the fourth dimension only one moment at a time, not seeing it from beginning to end as God does. That, if you think about it, is the only way humans could possibly influence space-time through un-predetermined choices, all the while God knowing about those choices beforehand simply by viewing the entire space-time from beginning to end. God can and does influence the the final design by interaction with humans through various means of communication, influencing their choice through suggestion, and sometimes enabling those humans to perform miracles.
Thus, the final shape of the four dimensional space-time is a collaborative effort between God and the human race which God designed to be both a part of and as fellow artist in the project.
However, there is also a downside to this whole plan. Humanity is also capable of choices to do or not to do what God wishes, even of violating specific instructions. That factor is a necessary part of being designed in God's image, unlimited by pre-determinism. One day, humanity partook of an element that he was specifically instructed to leave alone. It affected him in a way he wasn't prepared for, giving humanity a consciousness of good and evil. Humanity was already creative, but now his consciousness was skewed by the need to constantly compare things by their rightness, their desirability and superiority. This opened up many dark areas that humanity wasn't ready for.
The action had such repercussions, it was as though shockwaves reverberated throughout the whole four dimensional space-time, threatening to shatter it. It's possible that, as viewed from God's perspective, it did begin to shatter.
God's remedy was to absorb that shock.
To understand the concept of shock and the absorption of shock, we could either delve into the laws of physics, or we could use a simple illustration, from Judo. People being trained in Judo are taught how to fall. Being thrown to the ground, or even falling backwards can cause serious injury if one doesn't know how break one's fall, because of the shockwaves going through the body. To prevent injury, one simply slaps the floor just before the back of the head hits the ground. The hand may smart, but the head stays intact because the hand has absorbed the shock-wave. As we talk further about the strategy of absorbing the shock, think about a judo fighter slapping the ground as he falls.
Interacting with various humans, especially those of the family clan of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob, God set up a framework whereby He would continue to cooperate with humanity to enact His plan to both absorb the shock and restore everything to a beautiful state. An important part of this framework was the institution of blood sacrifice.
Death can be viewed as simply the end of a natural cycle; a part of nature. Untimely death, however, is something that continues to send shockwaves through the four dimensional space-time. Causing the untimely death of a fellow human without just cause is what we call murder. God told Noah and his sons that murder must be atoned for by the death of the perpetrator. Only by that means is the shock-wave absorbed so that it doesn't do further damage to space-time - like a slap on the floor.
Blood sacrifice is another means of using death as a means of absorbing shock. The agreement God made with Abraham and his descendants, given in detail to Moses, provided for blood sacrifices on a regular basis. This was sufficient to temporarily hold back the damage from the great shock-wave. Thus, Israel played a vital part in preserving the universe by becoming, as it were, the provider of a multitude of slaps on the floor.
It is indicated in the Talmud that when Israel was at Mt Sinai, they saved the world from destruction by accepting God's terms and ratifying the covenant God had made with Abraham.
However, that was not yet enough. It was only the preparation for God's ultimate solution. God sent an instance of Himself, His Word, to a critical time-location in space-time to be born as a human with all the attributes of a human including the ability of independent choice. He had all the authority of a human, including the option of communicating with God through the Holy Spirit, so his actions would constitute those of a human from inside the four dimensional space-time. Though He was from outside space-time where He could view the end from the beginning, by being born human, He restricted Himself to being conscious of the fourth dimension only one moment at a time.
As a human, Jesus, the Word of God, exercised all the authority he had - authority that had not been diminished through human failings - even to the point of death. That death was the event that absorbed all the shock-waves and saved the universe - the ultimate slap on the floor. Not only did it save four dimensional space-time, but it left a surplus of energy that enabled the resurrection of the dead.
We'll go into more of this in other video podcasts. We'll also deal with objections that often come up when discussing the existence of God, and His dealings with humanity. We'll look at the question of whether the assertion that God is righteous and loving, and that He is, at the same time omnipotent, are contradictory. While I don’t operate under the illusion that one can prove the existence of God to an atheist by argument, I hope we can answer some of the objections that often come up, and show that at least it's not possible to disprove His existence.
We'll also go more into what all this means.

form, nor even dimensions to render form possible, and God's Spirit brooded over the face of the non-existence.

Then, God said, “Let there be light.” Immediately there was movement, an intense brightness consisting of photons moving outward in every direction. Thus, existence came to be, as light shown from the centre, the beginning of time, outward in a straight line to the end of time, an ever expanding time-space of intense whiteness.

Then, God said, “Let the light be separated from the darkness.” Dark matter began to separate from the light matter, causing ripples to appear in the beam beginning at the centre of time-space. As it proceeded from the centre, light and dark matter began to gravitate towards a multitude of centre points. Some of these formed into black holes which caused the light to swirl around, forming galaxies. The vacuum that was left, those areas where darkness prevailed, God called “night”, and those parts affected by the light, “day”.

In all of this swirling of galaxies and the gravitational pull, stars were formed, and then planets. On some planets, land was separated from the water. God said, “Let life come into being.”

Plant life began to spring up. Simple life forms provided nourishment for the more complex, which, at the end of their own life cycles, became food for others of their kind, all the while reproducing themselves through their seeds and shoots. Thus, to the end of time, life-baring planets were filled with self-sustaining multicoloured life. God looked at His four-dimensional time-space, and said, “it is good”.

Then, God said, “Let there be living creatures that move about, swimming in the sea, flying in the air, and walking and creeping on the dry ground. They can eat the vegetation, and become food for one another, and at the end of their life cycles, they can become food for the vegetation.

Thus the whole earth became self-sustaining.

Each creature, acting according to its need and instinct, followed a course that could be predetermined by taking into account every factor and every movement in the universe. A butterfly living at the beginning of the age of butterflies, by flapping its wings one way or another, would determine the courses of a tropical storm near the end of the age of tropical storms. Of course, how the butterfly flapped its wings was also the predictable result of yet other factors.

When some of the species became so large as to take over and inhibit the further development of life, they were destroyed by a large asteroid, which was simply following it's predicted course.

God looked at this and said, "It is good, but not good enough." The whole universe was nothing but a big toy, and after some shifting and tweaking - and doing things like flicking a butterfly,  or adding to the gravitational pull of a small rock in space so that it would strike an asteroid, putting it on a course to destroy the dinosaurs a few aeons later, thus making room for mammals - God decided that four dimensional time-space needed something more innovative, something that would make it complete, less predictable, a true work of art, fully expressing His creative and loving nature.

Actually, it was something God had in mind from the very beginning.
God created a new life form, unique from all the others - humanity. The human was capable of true creativity; independent of his need to survive, his instinct, or anything that limited the other creatures to a predetermined course. In fact, the human was created after God's own pattern.

Thus, humanity would contribute to the final design of the four dimensional time-space. The main difference was that humans were limited to being conscious of the fourth dimension one moment at a time, not seeing it from beginning to end as God does. That, if you think about it, is the only way humans could possibly influence time-space through non-predetermined choices, all the while God knowing about those choices beforehand simply by viewing the entire time-space from beginning to end. God can and does influence the the final design by interaction with humans through various means of communication, influencing their choice through suggestion, and sometimes enabling those humans to perform miracles.

Thus, the final shape of the four dimensional time-space is a corroborative effort between God and the human race which God designed to be both a part of and as fellow artist in the project.

However, there is also a downside to this whole design. Humanity is also capable of the choice to do or not to do what God wishes, even of violating specific instructions. That factor is a necessary part of being designed in God's image, unlimited by pre-determinism. One day, humanity partook of an element that he was specifically instructed to leave alone. It affected him in a way he wasn't prepared for, giving humanity a consciousness of good and evil. Humanity was already creative, but now his consciousness was skewed by the need to constantly compare things by there rightness, their desirability and superiority. This opened up many dark areas that humanity wasn't ready for.
The act of disobedience was so serious it sent shock-waves throughout the whole four dimensional time-space, and threatened to shatter the whole thing. It's possible that, as viewed from God's perspective, it did begin to shatter.
God's remedy was to absorb that shock.

To understand the concept of shock and the absorption of shock, we could either delve into the laws of physics, or we could use a simple illustration, from Judo. People being trained in Judo are taught how to fall. Being thrown to the ground, or even falling backwards can cause serious injury if one doesn't know how break their fall, because of the shock-waves going through the body. To prevent injury, one simply slaps the floor just before the back of the head hits the ground. The hand may smart, but the head stays intact because the hand has absorbed the shock-wave. As we talk further about the strategy of absorbing the shock, think about a judo fighter slapping the ground as he falls.

Interacting with various humans, especially those of the family clan of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob, God set up a framework whereby He would continue to  cooperate with humanity to enact His plan to both absorb the shock and restore everything to a beautiful state. An important part of this framework was the institution of blood sacrifice.

Death can be viewed as simply the end of a natural cycle; a part of nature. Untimely death, however, is something that continues to send shock-waves through the four dimensional time-space. Causing an untimely death without just cause is what we call murder. God told Noah and his sons that murder must be atoned for by the death of the perpetrator. Only by that means is the shock-wave absorbed so that it doesn't do further damage to time-space - like a slap on the floor.

Blood sacrifice is another means of using death as a means of absorbing shock. The agreement God made with Abraham and his descendants, given in detail to Moses, provided for blood sacrifices on a regular basis. This was sufficient to temporarily hold back the damage from the great shock-wave. Thus, Israel played a vital part in preserving the universe by becoming, as it were, the provider of a multitude of slaps on the floor.

It is indicated in the Talmud that when Israel was at Mt Sinai, they saved the world from destruction by accepting God's terms and ratifying the covenant God had made with Abraham.

However, that was not yet enough. It was the preparation for God's ultimate solution. God sent an instance of Himself, His Word, to a critical time-location in time-space be born as a human with all the attributes of a human including the ability of independent choice. He had all the authority of a human, including the option of communicating with God through the Holy Spirit, so his actions would constitute those of a human from inside the four dimensional time-space. Though He was from outside time-space where He could view the end from the beginning, by being born human, He restricted Himself to being conscious of the forth dimension only one moment at a time.

As a human, Jesus, the Word of God, exercised all the authority he had - authority that had not been diminished through human failings - even to the point of death. That death was the event that absorbed all the shock-waves and saved the universe - the ultimate slap on the floor. Not only did it save four dimensional time-space, but it left a surplus of energy that enabled the resurrection of the dead.