Archive for the 'Cosmic System' Category



Demonism or the Depravity of Man?

A month and a half ago, I did a post on the Dean Koontz novel What the Night Knows in which the villain, a nightmarishly cruel, self-absorbed, power-lusting, bitter, angry, hateful, lonely, unloved and unlovely psychopath, is urged along his path of the “art” of murdering families by a demon named Ruin. (Demons, says the narrative, are sometimes named for the sins they “most  particularly advocate — names like Discord, Envy, Jealousy or like Perdition, Disease, Ruin.”)

This got me to thinking about the depravity of man, the implication here being that on his own, man could never be as bad as someone like Koontz’s villain, Alton Turner Black. Or Jack the Ripper. Or Nero. Caligula. Ted Bundy. Adolph Hitler… No, man would need the help of a demon to be that bad.

Whenever there’s a story — fiction or real life — about a really nasty psychopath, the suggestion almost always arises that he’s demon possessed. I’m guilty of falling into that thinking myself, most recently regarding the “South Beach cannibal” down in Florida.

Lately I’ve been rethinking that.

Part of the reason for that is because of teaching Ive received from a book I’ve been studying called Satan, by Lewis Sperry Chafer (written in 1919, reprinted ins 1964). It’s fantastic.

Chafer  was a prominent dispensational theologian in the early 20th century and founder of Dallas Theological Seminary in Texas. He was mentored by C.I Scofield (of  Scofield Bible fame), and was in turn a  mentor of Colonel R.B. Thieme, Jr. I was introduced to Chafer’s work immediately after my salvation, when the man who led me to the Lord and taught our college and home Bible studies used Chafer’s book Major Bible Themes as a his class outline. Additonally, my first Bible was one of those above mentioned  Scofield Bibles.

What I like about Chafer’s work is how Scripture-based it is, and how clear;  he sets the various applicable verses in comparison and draws what seem to be the obvious conclusions.

In this case, talking about Satan’s plans, he cites the passage in Isaiah 14 where Satan’s motivations are clearly stated:

 “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars (angels) of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly (of angels) in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I WILL MAKE MYSELF LIKE THE MOST HIGH.”

In other words, he wants to be like God. Not a fiend. Not a destroyer, per se. But like God. He wants authority, control and worship.  His motivation is to oppose God and exalt himself, to take God’s place, and his primary method is deception. Chafer describes it thus:

“He who was the measure of perfection, full of beauty and wisdom; he who made the earth to tremble; who shook kingdoms; has been willing to be ridiculed by the world as a being without reality, that he might , in the end, realize his own deepest desire.

“Again, his own subjects (unbelievers and ignorant believers) have strangely neglected the plain teachings of Scripture on his real power and authority.

” To them he has been an imaginary fiend, delighting only in the torment of unfortunate souls; making his home in hell, and himself the impersonation of all that is cruel and vile: when, on the contrary, he is real, and is the very embodiment of the highest ideals the unregenerate world has received; for he is the inspirer of all those ideals.

“With his own he is not at enmity, and he, like the most refined of the world, is in no sympathy with the grosser forms of their sin. He would hinder those manifestations of evil if he could. And certainly he does not prompt them; for they are the natural fruit of an unrestrained fallen nature…”

Matthew 7:21-23 confirms this last, stating:  “For from within, out of the hearts of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, amplifies this, speaking of man in his natural state: 

“As it is written, there is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.

Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving, the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace have they not known.

 There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Having read that, cannibalism seems to fit right in. Yet how many of us reading the above passage would almost instinctively attribute such traits to other people, to another society in another time? Or even, unthinkingly, to demons?

We live in an era that promotes the good of man, the universal brotherhood of man. So many of our countrymen are engaged in making the world a better place, bringing about justice for all, perhaps even believing or at the least, assuming that their good intentions and efforts will ensure them a place in heaven. Or good status in their next life, if that is the direction of their beliefs. Of at the least make their life worthwhile if they think this is all there is.

In our times, people are outraged and incensed should someone even say something bad about another (unless the “other” happens to be George W. Bush :-)) . Oddly, should they happen to eat someone or shoot a bunch of them in a public venue, there doesn’t seem to be outrage so much as hand wringing and wonderment over what could have driven that poor perpetrator to do such a thing. Was it Sarah Palin? Talk radio? Incivility in public discourse?  Western Imperialism? Poverty? Drugs? Racism? Demons?

Never is it  just the fact that people — all people — are depraved and where’s the big shock when they act like it?

And yes, I do mean all people, for even us Christians still have that depraved nature inside us — that power that is totally against God, seeks always and insidiously, every chance it gets, to exalt self, and inevitably at times gets the better of us.

“For you were called to freedom, brethren (note Paul is talking to Believers– Christians); only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

“But if you bite and devour one another, take care lest you be consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. (Note that we have a choice!) For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. (ie, Godly things, like love your neighbor as yourself).

I’m not saying there is no demon possession. There is. But it’s done with a purpose, under the authority of the Prince of this world, the one who possesses all the kingdoms of the world (Lk 4:5-7) And his purpose is the same as that of our flesh: to oppose God and exalt himself. And his means of executing his purpose is almost always deception.

If he can get us to think we’re not that bad, not as depraved as the Bible says we are, well, then we won’t think we even need a Savior; or if we have believed, won’t understand what that Savior has truly done for us; won’t have the gratitude we ought to have; will think more highly of ourselves than we ought… won’t realise our need for the complete and total overhaul in our thinking and motivation that can only be effected by our daily immersion in God’s word.

Nor the ease with which we can be led astray, by others or by that deceitful power within ourselves.

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The World Is Not Christian

I owe this post to Becky Miller who, on her blog A Christian Worldview of Fiction, recently referenced a viewpoint put forth by another Christian blogger that she took issue with. I read her post with interest, and decided I also have issues with the referenced viewpoint. Quite a few issues, in fact.

The unnamed blogger’s contention? That “this is an objectively Christian world regardless of what people think and regardless of whether anyone ever points that fact out. The truth of the Trinity blazes forth from the very creation, so much so that people have to forcibly repress it (Ro 1).” Therefore, as Christian writers if we simply present “the world as it is – as a broken, warped, redeemed place of buzzin’, bloomin’ confusion – we are actually presenting Christ.” And that without having to “include one second of overt Christian theology in our work – if we are presenting the truth about the world.”

To which I say … nonsense! The Scriptures say this world is anything but Christian. Yes, it was created by God in perfection, and though it became corrupted when Adam fell, it can still reveal God’s invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature. But it is not a “Christian” world.

A “Christian” by standard definition is one who adheres to the Christian faith, core to which is the good news that anyone who believes in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the God-man, will be eternally saved. Those who do not believe are condemned already for one reason only — that they have not believed in Jesus. (John 3:18)

The world does not adhere to the Christian faith. Not by a long shot. Nor do the trees, rocks, mountains or houses. They may proclaim that there is a divine creator — God — but believing in God is not the same as being a Christian. Even the demons believe in God — and Christ! — in the sense of acknowledging their existence, but demons are most definitely not Christian. (James 2:19)

Though created in perfection, the world fell when Adam fell as I mentioned and is now said, not to be “redeemed,” but longing anxiously, enslaved to corruption, subjected to futility, and groaning as it waits for Christ’s return. (Romans 8:19-22)

Christ said His kingdom is not of this world. (John 18:36) And we as Christians are also said to be not of this world: our citizenship, our true home, is in heaven. (Phil 3:20)

Christ said that the world hated Him because He was not of the world, and if we are in Him and follow Him, the world will hate us, too. However, if we are of the world, which is not a good thing, then the world will love us. (John 15:18 -20)

We are told to love not the world and all that’s in it. As Christians. (1 John 2:15) If this world were intrinsically Christian, why would we be told not to love it?

In fact, the very next verse in 1 John 2 specifically says, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life is not from the Father but is from the world. (It) is passing away, and also its lusts, but the one who does the will of God abides forever.” Clearly the world and the one who does the will of God are not the same.

2 Pe 3:10, 11 tells us that the world and all that is in it will be utterly destroyed, and a new heaven and earth made… Why would it be destroyed if it were Christian and proclaimed Christ?

It wouldn’t be.

In fact, this world is ruled by the devil; its system of operation was created by the devil who, in 2 Co 4:4 is said to be the god of this world. Adam gave up rulership to Satan when he adopted Satan’s viewpoint (exalt self, oppose God, believe lies). We know this because when Satan tempted Jesus in Matthew 4, he took Him to a high vantage point (not a literal mountain) and offered Him “all the kingdoms of the world.” Satan couldn’t have offered them if they weren’t his to offer.

Ephesians 6:12 tells us there is a system in the atmosphere (“heavenly places”) — which is, boiled down, talking and communication — that is devised and controlled by Satan, who has deceived the whole world. (Rev 12:9) He has schemes (2 Co 2:11) and seeks to devour Christians. (1 Pe 5:8) His system shoots flaming thought missiles at us (Eph 6:16).

This one who is the god of this world, ruler of this world, is a liar and has been one since the beginning. Not a Christian.

He disguises himself as an angel of light and has deceitful workers, false apostles, ministers of righteousness, that look good and right (2 Co 11). He has a false gospel, false righteousness, false doctrine, and a false communion.

The world is not only NOT Christian, it is anti-Christian and anti-Christ. The idea that as writers we can simply record in a truthful manner all the depravity and futility and evil machinations of sin and human good and evil, without one word of anything theological and by that “present Christ” is just wrong.

The world is a place of darkness and death and very, very bad news: ie, that all men are sinners, cut off from the life of God. As a Christian, to simply portray it as it is would be, in my view, an utter waste of time. We’re here to be a light in that darkness, and our light is not us, but the word of God that we carry within us. It’s a light that, yes, can be manifested in our behavior and lives, but inside it is very much thoughts, concepts, words. Jesus Himself is said to be the very Word of God. We are to offer words of good news. Which I’m pretty sure means you need to get some “theology” into a book (by which I mean distinctly Christian thoughts and concepts as taught in the Word of God) before you can call it “Christian”.

What is Truth?

“What is Truth?”

That’s the famous last question asked by Pontius Pilate of Truth Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ. (I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.) Immediately after asking this Pilate turned away, indicating he had no interest in an answer. Or perhaps that he didn’t think Jesus had an answer… or even that there was an answer to his question.

In researching Roman culture, I’ve learned they had a very similar more to that which is dominating our post-modern culture these days — a problem discerning or even believing in absolute truth. The honorable Roman felt it was important to be tolerant of other faiths. They would even make altars and offerings to the gods of other faiths (witness the Temple of the Unknown God Paul references in Acts 17), and in return they expected the proponents of those faiths to reciprocate. (The Jews’ continued failure to do so, is pretty much what provoked the Romans to destroy their Temple and Jerusalem and scatter them about the empire in the first and second centuries.)

The problem with tolerating all other faiths, in the sense of making they equally valid or “right”,  is that you negate the truth of any of them. And pretty soon you have no truth, as Pontius Pilate expressed.

This thought train was sparked by an article I read today in The Independent on post modernism by Jay Merrick (PoMo: Everybody’s doing it)

Here’s how it starts:

“Forty years ago, we lived “modern” lives. Ideas, emotions and actions seemed ordered, and part of a zeitgeist of confident restraint that originated in the science, mass-production, architecture and art of the 1930s.

“Now we are profoundly immersed in the tortuous, commercially controlled currents of postmodern design and thought, and its weapons of mass psychic deconstruction. Has this made our lives richer in meaning, or just richly vacuous?”

I confess, overall the article was a bit over my head, and much of it centered on the postmodernism of art, architecture, fashion and literature, all of the sort that has never held even the slightest interest for me. Art that takes the most banal of subjects and tries to make something out of them, as if a golf ball is equally as interesting and important subject matter as the material Michelangelo presented in the Sistine Chapel. Fashion chosen to be deliberately ugly, architecture that jabs and slashes or incorporates humongous chairs or concrete suitcases, just because.

As I read his descriptions, it seemed to me almost a deliberate turning away from things that made sense to things that didn’t, from authority on even the smallest of levels. “They” designed socks to be worn on the feet, thus we shall wear them on our heads; “they” say that art should celebrate beauty or drama or truth or the divine… we will make art that celebrates the ugly, the boring, the silly, the profane… It’s an affected, fancy-pants version of “you’re not the boss of me” and I’ll do as I like.

I’m pretty sure that’s what Merrick is saying in this next paragraph…

 “Postmodernism duly arose in an uncoordinated blitz of individualistic artistic and intellectual objections to the more or less failed idea of rationalised lives and environments.”

He goes on…

 “The novelist Martin Amis warned us that postmodern people “over-existed”. Our postmodern, supposedly self-designed lives are embedded in these modes of over-existence. We’ve accepted the commercial, social and semiotic propellants that have ensured over-consumption in the guise of entertainment. Blizzards of imagery and opinion form a chimera of endless, conflicting possibilities without beginning or end; we seem to crave maximised senses of fractured movement, overlay, ennui and nowness.

“And it’s the hundred times a week we hear, or utter, that most über and craven of postmodern words – whatever.

“Modernism’s either/or mindset has been obliterated by this pervasive whateverness. Few of us now imagine any prospect of lives in which ideas, behaviour and outcomes can be clearly determined. To many, the details of the present must seem increasingly indeterminate or ambiguous; which duly turns our perceptions of the past and the future into cabinets of equally trivial curiosities, rather than illuminating points of perspective.”

<snip>

“The and/but vibe now suffuses almost everything we think and do. Surface has become more important than depth. Style – or, more accurately, stylee – trumps coordinated articulation; disbelief is more acceptable than belief.”

<snip>

“One can’t help fearing that the sheer psychic tonnage of postmodernity’s “undecidable things” is rendering most of us terminally passive and far more interested in ephemera than, say, socio-political ethics, or the implications of Facebook’s plans to calibrate and inter-link the media product preferences of their users…”

If you believe in nothing, if every faith or belief system is equal, then none of them mean anything. How can they? How can you accept the notion that God exists and also that He doesn’t? That He cares, and that He doesn’t. That there is eternal life and there isn’t. That the Bible contains truths we need and yet it doesn’t.

Saying all are equal, brings one down only to one’s own ideas, which are always going to be unstable, since the whole point of this postmodern everything goes is that there’s no absolutes. And an absolute truth is, by definition, stable. Without it, one will be tossed here and there by every wind of false teaching. Whatever sounds good today, whatever works today, whatever I want today, but the result is a life of doubt, and shifting shadows, a life that is “like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind,” roiling and endlessly rising and falling, going it knows not where.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guilt is a Sin

Guilt, according to the American Heritage dictionary is

  1. Remorseful awareness of having done something wrong.
  2. Self-reproach for supposed inadequacy or wrongdoing.

It’s a sin because it’s adding to the work of our Lord on the cross. If He took all the punishment for all our sins — and He did — then why would we feel we need to punish ourselves?

1 Jn 1:9 says, “If we confess, [name, cite] our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Jeremiah 3:13 says, “Only acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against the LORD your God…”

Acknowledging that you have sinned carries no merit. You’re just agreeing with God that what you’ve done/said/thought is a sin, and at that point He forgives you the sin and cleanses you from all unrighteousness. The cleansed vessel of the soul is then suitable to be filled or controlled by God the Holy Spirit and fellowship is restored.

Guilt — beating yourself up for what you’ve done — has no place in that. It’s human works, human effort to atone, to make sure you’ll never do it again… I struggle a lot with the guilt function so I’ve had ample opportunity to consider it in all its ramifications and it really is quite arrogant. After all the word of God says our hearts (the way we think and perceive the world and ourselves) are deceitful and desperately wicked, that from the tops of our heads to the bottom of our feet, there’s no soundness in us, that we are stubborn and willful and none of us in ourselves is good. Not even one. (Ro 3:10)

We were all born in sin, we still have the sin nature after salvation. We are going to sin. We are going to make mistakes. We’re stupid sheep, we are easily entangled in sin and deception… guilt assumes that we can do better. Guilt assumes that somehow our sin is an aberration, a shock, something we should very well be able to avoid. If only we’d work hard enough or hurt bad enough, then we won’t do it again. It’s the flesh’s mode of self-improvement, and like all else the flesh produces, God finds it disgusting.

Guilt is something that has motivated me almost all my life, something carried over from my first 21 years as an unbeliever.  I’ve talked about it on this blog before… that feeling that I must do X or something bad will happen. Usually the “something bad” is that “they” will think poorly of me. But who is they?

At first I had no idea, but gradually I realized it’s something in my own conscience. Not something based on the word of God, but on stuff I picked up as a child and internalized. It doesn’t matter if God says there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, if my conscience says I should do or be a certain way, then that’s all that matters. If I fail to toe the line, then my conscience will punish me.

Because, apparently, Jesus didn’t do enough. Because, apparently God really didn’t mean it when He said there is nothing good in us, and that the only way to actually live the Christian way of life is the same way as we received it… by grace, through faith.

You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing (the Gospel) with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?   ~ Galatians 3:1-3

The Adjustment Bureau

Last Friday we watched the new Matt Damon movie, The Adjustment Bureau, which I thought was going to be much more like Inception than it turned out to be.

Briefly, David Norris (Damon) is on track to become New York’s youngest senator, when he has a chance meeting with the woman of his dreams. As he seeks to find her again, he discovers the Adjustment Bureau, a behind the scenes organization of non-human operatives who keep track of everyone — making sure they all proceed in accordance with their “Chairman’s” plan.  Unfortunately for Norris, the Chairman’s plan doesn’t include him and the mystery woman ever getting together and the story is about how he fights that plan in going after her, essentially attempting to write his own destiny. Ultimately this is the “message” the film leaves us with: that we must fight for what we want to do, to achieve our own destiny in order to really be free.

At least… I think that’s what the message was.

At first it seems that this is a movie about destiny, about God’s plan for our lives, about how unseen agents are moving and shaping us along the tracks we’re supposed to follow. The AB guys have a book which they consult to keep them on track with respect to the actions their charges take — whether such actions are part of the plan or not. And there is that Chairman up there (at the top of a New York skyscraper apparently), who has many names, one of which is “God”.  There are special doors that lead into another world and back to ours, and the caseworkers have special powers that enable them to manipulate the environment of their charges, all of which could be taken for angelic ministers, shepherding us on our way.

Except of course… Jesus doesn’t figure into any of this. His name is only mentioned in the usual way it’s mentioned in Hollywood movies…as an expletive. And the Plan changes each time someone does something outside it, so that the agents are constantly playing catch up, trying to “clean up this mess,” and get things back on the track they’re supposed to be on. Not exactly the way God does things.

So, on the one hand, it’s cool that the film is going to cause some people to think about God and His plan, about free will, about their decisions, etc… But on the other, it’s annoying that they make God and his agents so inept. And weird because it when you get down to it, the movie’s set up and even resolution really implies we have no free will at all — only what the agents allow us to have. Like unwitting cattle we are moved about as they desire, oblivious to their manipulation. The exceptions are a few, stubborn, passionate individuals  (like Norris) who manage to break out of the track that has been laid for them and follow their own plan…

Ick.

We’ve spent the last month studying the Divine Decrees in Bible Class. Thinking about God’s awesome power. Reflecting on how He knew simultaneously all the plans there ever could be and all their courses, successions, outworkings in every detail. Every detail. He knows every decision every one of us has ever made and ever will, and every decision we would have made, had circumstances been different. And out of all of those options, He chose the best, the one that will provide our highest blessing and His glory. It buries the Keystone Cops stuff that’s put forth in The Adjustment Bureau.

Moreover, as I said, the real plan all hinges on Jesus: “What do you think of the Christ? Whose son is He?”

God has shut all of us up in sin so He can have mercy on us all. And His mercy is the fact that He sent His son to die for the sins of every one of us, believers and unbelievers alike. All we have to do is choose to believe. Or to reject. In the end those who have rejected Christ, the only sin He couldn’t die for, will stand before the Great White Throne and give an account for why they rejected the work of Christ, and provide whatever they think they have to offer God that could possibly compare with what He’s done.

Of course none of that was in the movie.

Because really, the movie wasn’t about God, in my view.  Early on my take in watching it was that the Adjustment Bureau couldn’t be God’s organization — there was no grace, for one. No, I think it’s a great illustration of Satan’s organization.  The Adjustment Bureau is the kingdom of darkness, the rulers and principalities mentioned in Ephesians. The agents going about trying to make sure people don’t find out what God’s plan for their life is, and seeking to impose the plan their Chairman has written. Yes, they are presented in some cases as appealing, nice, trying to be helpful, etc,  even as they have no idea what they’re doing. One is guilt ridden for some of the things he’s had to do to Norris’s parents. And many of them even wonder if what they are doing is right.

But the strength of a counterfeit lies in its closeness of form to the thing it is counterfeiting. And Satan’s many systems always incorporate ministers of light, and deception and confusion.

I cannot imagine any of God’s elect angels  wondering if what they are doing is right. Or feeling guilty. Or going against His directive will. Or any of that.  The agents in the film spend much of the time blundering around. They threaten and intimidate and lie…

But God is not the author of confusion. God is not taken by surprise. He’s not up there going, “Oh no, Norris got off track! I didn’t foresee that! He must not kiss that woman or disaster will ensue! You guys get down there and clean that up!” He’s not up there going, “Oh, gee, I had a plan for you, David Norris, but I see now that your plan is far better than what I came up with and since you are sooo insistent… I’m going to give you what you want.

Paul was insistent. He was going to Jerusalem to see his people and never mind that God told him not to go three times in a row. He was going. So he went. And ended up imprisoned in Rome for years as discipline because of it. Granted, God used that to allow him to witness to the Praetorium Guardsmen he was chained to, and to write half the New Testament, but that only shows how God can take our messes and make blessing out of them, not that we have any business writing our own destinies.

Quote: Predicting Poorly, Unawares

The inability to predict outliers (events which lie outside the realm of regular expectations) implies the inability to predict the course of history, given the share of these events in the dynamics of events.

But we act as though we are able to predict historical events, or, even worse, as if we are able to change the course of history. We produce thirty year projections of social security deficits and oil prices without realizing that we cannot even predict these for next summer — our cumulative prediction errors for political and economic events are so monstrous that every time I look at the empirical record I have to pinch myself  to verify I am not dreaming. What is surprising is not the magnitude of our forecast errors, but our absence of awareness of it…

Our inability to predict in environments subjected to the Black Swan, coupled with a general lack of the awareness of this state of affairs, means that certain professionals, while believing they are experts, are in fact not. Based on their empirical record, they do not know more about their subject matter than the general population, but they are much better at narrating — or worse, at smoking you with complicated mathematical models. They are also more likely to wear a tie.

From the Prologue of  The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

The Illusion of Predicting

One of the things The Black Swan, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, points out is the delusion we have that we can predict the future. We have all these formulae, formal and otherwise, that we use to do so… Having been involved in stock trading (he was a risk analyst and advisor) Taleb uses that background along with a strong interest in philosophy and science to dissect and consider all the ways we have of assuring ourselves that the world is steady, even and subject to our interpretation and prediction. If we want to avoid some disaster or to bring about some happy result, we have only to follow the recommended course of action, and voila. There we have it.

Not.

In Taleb’s view the world is far more random than most people will admit. I think to some degree this is a product of business, travel, civilization where you have all these organizations of people interwoven. My editors need to estimate how many copies my next book will sell so they will know how many to print, and much paper, etc, to have on hand to do so. They want me to predict how long it will take me so they can get the cover artist started at the appropriate time, get the book in the appropriate catalogue and start the appropriate marketing plan at the right time for the release of the book. Today’s competitive market demands that you begin marketing before the book is out.

In fact, today’s competitive marketing depends a lot on predictions — only one firm will be the one to make the killing on the next celebrity, best-seller, popular technical advance, demand for xyz that no one saw coming. It’s the reason news agencies break stories before reporters have all the facts, hoping to be the one with the scoop. So it’s very important to those in the marketplace to predict the future, to figure out why things happen as they do and then try to emulate those things…

The trouble is, says Taleb, the illusion that all this planning works, is really… well, an illusion. There is more luck involved than anyone wants to admit.

Of course what he calls “random” and “luck,” I see as the sovereignty of God, so it was gratifying, a day or so after I started the book to open my Bible randomly to Isaiah 41:21 where I read:

“Present your case,” the Lord says. “Bring forward your strong (arguments),” the King of Jacob says. Let them bring forth and declare to us what is going to take place; as for the former events, declare what the were, that we may consider them, and know their outcome; or announce to us what is coming. Declare the things that are going to come afterward, that we may know that you are gods; indeed, do good or evil, that we may anxiously look about us and fear together. Behold you are of no account, and your work amounts to nothing; he who chooses you is an abomination.”

“Declare to us what is going to take place… that we may know that you are gods.”

And of course there is this one, too:

“Come now, you who say “Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow (let alone a year from now). You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that.” James 4:13-15

And yet, the culture we live in asks us to do the opposite.


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Music I’m Writing To

Transformers (Revenge of the Fallen) Soundtrack - Steve Jablonsky

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