Friday, December 22, 2017

Close the Path to Misery

During this Christmas season, our pastor has offered a series of sermons revealing the truth of the gospel through carols. While delving into the deep message of the rather uncheerful old song, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” these particular words urged me, as often happens, to employ them as a title. And where there’s a title, there’s a story. Or in this case, a blog post. 

As our pastor noted, the ancient hymn came out of the dark ages, and offers a cry for redemption. But redemption has come by the strong act of God becoming a man, dying as our substitution, and resurrecting to give us life. And yet we struggle on, awaiting the Day He comes again. Redeemed, yet awaiting our redemption, we remain on a path of misery. Is misery a formidable word to describe our current state? For some, perhaps. For others, the holidays only increase their customary despair.

This Christmas standard, by no means comparable with the holly jolly tunes we prefer to sing during the festive season, fills us with a quiet, hopeful moment of reflection. Our Lord has come. Our Lord is coming! A Christian’s great expectation, and yet the words seem to speak to God’s chosen of nation of Israel. They speak of the Messiah. They are fulfilled by the coming of Emmanuel—God with us—who was born of a virgin in the city of Bethlehem. The One who came to redeem all mankind will come again. Not as a baby, but as our King. And in our prolonged anticipation of the Second Advent, we all find ourselves in varying levels of distress. Of misery.

Watching the news, reading commentaries on the significance of what is happening in Jerusalem, I pray the words of the old Christmas hymn become the longing of the people of Israel, of the people of all nations. As Israel is blessed, so are the nations blessed. Our King is coming for all who believe. He will open wide our heavenly home and close the path to misery.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of Might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times didst give the law,
In cloud, and majesty, and awe.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave.

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
And order all things, far and nigh;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And cause us in her ways to go.

O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of peace. 

Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Heartbreak and Thankfulness

 As we approach Thanksgiving, I find myself thinking about the people who recently went to church on a Sunday morning. They attended service that day for various reasons. Some out of obligation. Others because of habit. Some with deep commitment to obedience, with a love for Christ. With thanksgiving. They went to find peace in the sanctuary. To rekindle hope. To know God. Perhaps one came seeking salvation. Whether saint or sinner, they met the same killer. The same weapon. The same terror.

This was one of those situations which brings a cry from the believer: Why? And perhaps from the doubter, a statement: A good God would not allow it to happen. The believer may have no answer for the doubter. The doubter will never convince the believer that God is not good.

The ones who left their earthly bodies, their ties to this world behind from the one place they should have felt safe found themselves immediately in the only truly safe place they could ever know. I can’t help but wonder if they even remembered, once they arrived in their heavenly home, what had just occurred. But that’s only my imagination. God only knows how splendid the swift journey into the arms of Jesus must have been. And how deep the hurt of those left bleeding, of the ones left to mourn.

Now here we are, the safe observers who only experienced the horrible Sunday on TV and then tried to forget that it will happen again. Perhaps some made the decision never to go to church again. Good idea. Never go to church, or a concert, or a school, or a restaurant, or the grocery store for that matter again. Because you not safe. Not in this life.

Feeling thankful? I am. I won’t stop going to church. I’m thankful it’s still legal, if not safe. I’m thankful for schools and music and groceries. For the vast opportunities existing in the time and place God chose to place me. I pray I never cower in fear, but shine the light of the gospel in a world quickly growing darker. I’m thankful for the trip home to heaven, no matter how hard and heartbreaking the exit from this world might be. I know what awaits. And I am most thankful the day is approaching when all things will be made right by the soon returning King of Kings.

 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Rev. 21:4

Have a joyous Thanksgiving Day.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Future Church, Part II

In my last blog post, Future Church, Part I, I wrote about the methods my church has adopted to assure the gospel continues to influence future generations. Most evangelical churches are utilizing similar practices. Historically, we’re only repeating a pattern of adaptation. Worship-style changes. Outreach is adjusted. We alter our ways to remain effective in our culture, but we are still frail, imperfect people. And God is still God.

If you’ve read my fiction, you know I’m interested in transhumanism. I made up a lot of stuff when I wrote my trilogy about Chase Sterling, but I didn’t make up all of it. Using technology to bolster the human race is the aim of the transhumanist. It’s for our own good. Now, in addition to giving us better bodies and brains, a group within the group wants to bless us with an AI deity. A god-bot.

Recently I read a couple of articles about the techno-god who will make us better humans. From my worldview, I can only consider this movement as representing the transhumanist agenda, and not the church. But to some it covers both the aim of progressing of our race and lighting a new path to our understanding of God. Anthony Levandowski, a man behind the self-driving cars I wrote about in my books, has launched a religious non-profit group. Here’s the mission statement:

“Our mission is to develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on artificial intelligence and through understanding and worship of the Godhead contribute to the betterment of society.”

A slim branch of the church, or pseudo-church, called the Christian Transhumanist Association supports the idea of creating a god for us to worship. Sound familiar? I think it’s been done before. Are we so itching to build an idle for ourselves? I believe most of us aren’t, but the CTA believes that AI can be used in promoting the gospel. Of course, it can. The inventive drive of the human race comes from our God-given gift of creativity. We who follow Christ should use that energy to glorify God and reach the lost world. But shifting the focus of our worship from the one true God to an AI facsimile would neither glorify God nor ensure the future of the church.

I’ve no doubt transhumanism will benefit people, Christians included. It may also lead to our destruction. SpaceX and Tesla Inc. founder Elon Musk is quoted as saying that with AI we are summoning the demon. I agree with the clergy who note that technology can be used for both good and evil, but when I think about the mass of humanity being led by a digital god, I’m reminded of the second beast in Revelation 13. An image coming to life? An unholy beast? Could this be the god-bot? I have more questions than answers, but I won’t be turning my head to the AI deity. It may bring a glance from those who have not tasted the truth of the gospel, but it will save no souls.

This certainly can’t be a move of God to carry the church into the future. It’s almost laughable to think of true believers trending this direction, but some people are hoping to pull the church right along into the strange new world.  It makes the music and ministry ideas my church has adopted seem like rather old-fashioned attempts at remaining relevant. Will our methods be enough to ensure the hope of the gospel reaches the next generation? Because the future is coming.

No, the future is here.


Friday, October 20, 2017

Future Church, Part I

The church I attend has moved into the here and now. I’ve been a member over thirty years so I’ve seen a lot of changes, but the progression in recent years has left some people with questions and concerns. Others have just left. They don’t like the loud music or the new methods of reaching the community. We are a Southern Baptist church in a southern town, and when I joined we were not what you’d call diverse. We are now. We are multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-generational, and multi-cultural. I’ve not heard one complaint about this shift to becoming the kind of church we should have been all along—one that stands in stark contrast to the world’s divisiveness. But there have been grumblings over ministry modifications and worship styles. As for me, I embrace the change. Change brings hope. Hope for the future of the church. Perhaps in the future, we won’t feel the need to point out our diversity (like I just did) because it just is. We just are.

Changing doesn’t mean we doubt the success of the future church. The gospel doesn’t need any assistance in remaining the hope of all mankind. Nor does God require our cooperation to save the world. But while we’re here practicing church, shouldn’t we gladly take part in the graceful movement of the body of Christ as we meet the future?

The future won’t recognize the church I knew thirty years ago, a time when an unchurched person had at least some familiarity with certain scriptures—the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule, John 3:16. But a growing population must be told, “This is a Bible.” In a country with so many churches, and freedom to worship, more and more people, especially children, have never opened a Bible. They’ve never held one. They’ve never seen one. They don’t know anything about the book, or the God who inspired it, or the gospel that is their only hope.

I’m not suggesting we forget our past. I believe in the importance of church history. I don’t believe we know it well enough. Scores of brothers and sisters in Christ gave their lives to give us a future. And yet we fuss over music. Even now Christians around the world die for their faith while I live a life driven more by temporal expectations than the eternal promise of the gospel. If making a few changes propels the message to the next generation, who am I to cling to the past? The gospel belongs to the future, so the future is where I belong.

Next time at Unchained: Ensuring the gospel reaches future generations is something I support, although, like I said, God doesn’t need our feeble methods to accomplish His purpose. It’s for His glory and our edification we follow Him wherever He leads. But there is another movement ready to carry a semblance of the church far past the constraints of the world as we know it. I can’t say I embrace this particular change. In my next post, find out who they are and what they’ve got planned. Spoiler alert: Science fiction has nothing on this.

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Good Question

God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. By His hand we all are fed. Give us, Lord, our daily bread. Amen

Most children, or at least those who learn to give thanks at mealtime, recite this little prayer. It teaches the basic lesson of expressing gratitude for God’s provision. But even before giving thanks and asking God to meet our needs, the truth of God’s attributes are taught in those first two short sentences. First, greatness is accredited to God. And then, goodness. An important lesson, and yet it’s often repeated in vain until children grow into adults who may or may not increase in understanding, in the expression of prayer, or in the realization that God is not only great, but He’s also good.

The distinction between the greatness and goodness of God is addressed in the first book of the Bible. God makes a lot of something out of absolutely nothing. The Creator of the whole universe brings it all down to a perfect piece of a paradise with a crowning touch of humanity, and He introduces Himself to His creation. His greatness is not in question. But for reasons that perfectly happy first couple could not comprehend, the Great Creator allows His goodness to become of matter of doubt.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”  And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:1-5
God’s greatness wasn’t the issue when Eve reached up and grabbed hold of one thing God told her not to eat. The serpent didn’t raise the question in her mind as to whether or not God was great. But…was He good? Really? Maybe He didn’t have her best interests at heart after all. Maybe He was withholding something
wonderful. Maybe He didn’t tell her everything she needed to know to live a perfect life in a perfect place. 

And so the question arose, not just for Eve and the man who let her do all the talking in this world-changing event, but for the rest of us, too. The question of God’s goodness dropped us onto a slippery path that eventually led us to question even His greatness.
Now, a long time after Paradise and a long way down after the Fall, how do we know that God is not only great, but that He is good? Do we know by the number of good things that happen in our lives? No matter how good life once seemed, most people meet a crisis that causes them to question God’s goodness. This is no Garden of Eden we’re enduring. Sometimes it’s more like a war zone and we’re living with the scars of our battles. Sometimes those scars run deep enough to kill any remembrance of God’s goodness. If God is good, why is the world so bad? We might find some assurance of God’s greatness in the world around us, but His goodness will always come into doubt. It’s our nature to ask the question and we’ll never find enough evidence to convince us of God’s goodness without a resounding, eye-opening transformation.
There is no other way to know that God is good except by the truth of the Good News.
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:4-7
He is great. He creates, sustains, and holds the world together by His might. No one can measure His greatness. And He is good. His goodness can be measured by the depth of His love us in that He provided a way of escape from sin and death. We might acknowledge His greatness, though in our present state we can’t fully comprehend it. But it’s the light of the Gospel that brings us to acknowledge His goodness. A great God might have left a fallen world in the darkness. A good God never would.

Friday, September 22, 2017

After the Storm

Hurricane Irma passed over my house, and everything else in Central Florida. I’ve lived in the area all my life, so the experience was nothing new. I stayed in bed most of the night, stirring occasionally to the roar of a tornado. Each time, I thought if the fierce sound grew any louder I’d rouse my husband and we’d retreat to the closet. But then the howling would die down, allowing restless slumber to return.

Sleep the following night was even more difficult because, well, Floridians have a strong attachment to air conditioning. My particular rural community endured only four days and nights with no electricity. Others waited longer. Still others farther south lost everything. And now there’s somebody named Maria out there doing her hurricane dance in the ocean. She won’t come here, but other places have met her devastation.

During the post-storm days, I found it hard not to focus on the trivial. Stores, if open, were missing essentials. I couldn’t charge my laptop. I had to sit in the car wasting precious gas to charge my phone. Our large generator that we just got serviced wouldn’t do a blasted thing. I couldn’t post to my blog on my regular day. With the approaching release date of my latest novel, the locals who’d agreed to read a digital copy and write a review were not able to do so because they didn’t have any power either. Poor me and poor imaginary Chase Sterling (the protagonist in Transfusion).

Of course, more important things soon grabbed my attention. Like the elderly dying in a nursing home that lost power, and families stranded with no food or water. And all those people still suffering in Houston due to this hurricane season’s first major performance. As inconvenient as life was for a few days, my trials were less dire than those of others. Things will soon get back to normal here. For that, I’m grateful. I’m thankful my family and friends are all safe, and I pray for those who suffered the greater wrath of Irma. And Harvey. And Maria. Some people’s lives will never be the same.

All kinds of storms alter our lives. Some disruptions make it harder to get back to whatever kept us feeling comfortable and safe before the hurricane. Or the illness. The accident. The failure. The unimaginable loss. The more intense the storm, the greater the adjustment to the new normal. Even so, God can calm the waves and wind, and He will never leave His children to face the storm—any storm— on their own.

Today my computer is fully charged. The A/C is running. The sun is shining. My neighbor is gathering palm fronds and broken branches into a burn pile. Our own burn pile—the second one we’ve gathered —waits for a match to light it. But my husband has gone off to work and I’m writing for the first time in two weeks. (Prep-work and anticipation before the hurricane drained my brain of all things literary.) So the burn pile can tower at the back of our property for a day or two. A reminder that things are not quite normal…but close enough.

When the next storm hits, whether it’s a hurricane or some other event, we can rest in the loving shelter of the Master of the sea. He knows what we’re facing and He’s right there with us.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Friday, August 25, 2017

When Evil Wears a Mask

Through the ages evil has presented itself as good, and many who behold it see only goodness. It was that way in the beginning—in the Garden. And now, evil seems to mask itself everywhere we turn.

Recent events brought evil into view in Charlottesville. The obvious wrong of the day was accompanied by something that seemed right. It was the cry of the New America, a divided country twisting history and fighting to sweep away the good with the bad. After this terrifying incident, I rummaged through Twitter to see what the citizens of our country were thinking. Here are a few tweets that caught my attention:

White nationalist, Peter Cvjetanovic is upset that this photo of him has gone viral. So please don’t retweet this tweet 1000s of times.
Of course, the sarcastic challenge took this picture to the heights of Twitterdom, and nothing about it leads me to think this young man wants to hide behind a mask of goodness. The evil seems clear. If he portrays himself as a hater, and he’s surrounded by haters, then he’s a hater. But evil did show up wearing a mask, both at the event and in the express opinion of the public. Here’s another tweet:

An American woman was killed by one group: White Christian Radicals. Use the words.

This statement wears of a mask of good intention—get rid of Christian teaching because it’s synonymous with terrorism. But it misidentifies the culprit, and from an evil idea grows the ever-evolving opinion that to be against Christianity is good. To be for Christianity is somehow un-American. Which brings me to another tweet:

It's not that ironic considering that one of the main reasons they are protesting is due to the biased libs changing history in classrooms.

I grew up learning the support of the Christian community aided in abolishing slavery, one of the greatest evils ever accepted as something supposedly good for America. If anyone believes taking the role of Christian Americans out of the history books is good for our children, then evil’s mask is present in the form of a weak caricature of reality.

If Twitter had been around in the 1520s, this statement from Martin Luther (in 140 character increments, of course) might still be re-tweeted today:
Though our children live in the midst of a Christian world, they faint and perish in misery because they lack the Gospel in which we should be training and exercising them all the time. I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount. Schools will become wide-open gates of hell if they do not diligently engrave the Holy Scriptures on young hearts. Every institution where men are not increasingly occupied with the word of God must become corrupt.
To the Christian, this is an eerie portrayal our present condition. Reliance on the Word of God helped form our great nation, and the precepts of Christianity lie deeply rooted in our past. Even so, our future must be upheld by the right understanding that we are free to believe what we will. All of us. If one American is denied this right, we all lose.
But we’re being taught by the whims of society, or the media, or the politicians to believe that what is good is bad. A Christian worldview is unacceptable. Yet it’s the same evil of the ages wearing a mask to convince us that what is bad is good.
As for those of us who claim Christ, our government, for now at least, protects our right to freely believe what we will. Here’s the truth about radical Christians: We do not believe in any form of racial supremacy. We do not hate the difference, but rather embrace it. We are multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, diverse, accepting, and loving. We are friends. We are family. A demonstrator of hate who calls himself a Christian is a liar. He might be radical, but he’s not one of us.
This picture is another gem from Twitter:
A woman who survived the thick of the fight is ready to fight again. I don’t want that kind of war for this dear woman, or for my Christian brothers and sisters, or for my country. But someday I may face a battle like the one she endured. I pray I’m equipped to stand unafraid against the contortion of evil masking itself as good.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Welcoming a Summer of Weirdness

Well, like last year I’m taking the summer off from blogging. Here’s what I’ll be working on: In a few weeks, I’ll release a novelette. If you’ve ever wondered what makes a book a novelette, a novella, or a novel, here’s the determining factor: A novelette contains between 7,500 and 17,499 words. A novella contains between 17,500 and 39,999 words. And a novel has more than 40,000 words. My own novels run about 80,000 words.

My novelette is around 13,000 words, which makes it about fifty pages long. Oh, but there won’t be any pages because it will only be available on Kindle. This really short novel (or really long short story) is called Gears. Here’s the blurb:

What happens in the black box truck? Rae hopes she never finds out. She hides at night from the truck and the slavers. The truck is a mystery, but the screaming inside it can’t mean anything good. The slavers are more obvious—they’re out for young drifters to supply their markets. And they’ve got their sights set on Rae. After a stranger rescues her from being captured and sold, she hides in an old house, where she’s brave enough, or stupid enough, to read an outlawed book.

When she meets her hero she finds out he’s the one who drives that black truck. Is he an enemy or a friend? After he saves her again, she decides to trust him. And she steps inside the truck she swore to avoid to her death. Will the enticing young man bring her salvation a third time? Or will Rae be the one whose screams fill the darkness tonight?

Okay, if you’re thinking that sounds weirder than my transhuman’s woeful tale, you’re right. Gears is young adult post-rapture dystopian with a little steampunk thrown in for fun. Yeah, one of those. Yes, it’s got a Christian slant. No, the Christian market is still not too open to this kind of stuff. So I’m stubborn. I write what I’d like to read. And as I’ve said before, it ain’t Amish romance. 

I’ll also spend some summer days working on my next novel. It’s a book for the Christian market…and it’s atypical for the target readership. Again. But it’s not futuristic, or sci-fi, or dystopian. And that’s all I have to say about that for now.

As for my sweet, misunderstood, on-the-run transhuman, book three releases September 22! Transfusion brings the journey of Chase Sterling to a satisfying conclusion. Is it a real ending? I’m not sure I can end a story, but it is book three of a trilogy so we’ll call it the end. Here’s the blurb:

Held captive in the frozen wilderness, transhuman Chase Sterling almost loses faith that he’ll ever be reunited with his bride and with the persecuted souls he’s promised to guard. His escape leads to even greater struggles, and discoveries about his own abilities. At last, he arrives at the unusual location his people have chosen as a hiding place. And then things get complicated. His wife’s been kidnapped and the underground faces annihilation. Victory and heartbreak build Chase’s resolve, until he is forced to face his worst fear. Now he must choose whether to sacrifice himself. He's endured so much since they transformed him into the world's first transhuman, but will he survive the final transfusion?

Watch for my guest blog post at ACFW in July, and for new posts at Unchained beginning September first. Enjoy your summer. Read a book or two, even if it’s Amish romance. As for me, I’ll be writing something weird.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Peeve of My Christianese

In a blog post a while back, I addressed the uniquely acquired native language of my people. We speak Christianese. We talk in code to one another. We gush it out to the unredeemed, who don’t understand it. With enough exposure, they pass it back and forth amongst themselves, injecting their own dialect until the words become palatable. One of the more commonly used idioms of Church people (and other people) has become a pet peeve of mine. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s my cynical nature that makes me question the motive behind throwing this bone at someone in distress without any reference to Scripture or offer (serious offer) of prayer.
Before I tell you my peeve, let me state that I am not caving under unbearable burdens, though I do have some bearable ones. I’m not falling into unpardonable sin, though I do from time to time get a nudge from the Spirit warning me to turn around and go the other way. And I haven’t failed to get back up after being knocked down. But maybe I haven’t been knocked as low as the guy who just got served with this catch-all from a Christian. Here's my peeve: “God will never give you more than you can handle.” 
With my cynic’s ear, this is what I hear when someone shares that gem with a hurting, broken, scared-to-death soul: “Well I don’t know about you, but I could handle it.” Or, “That’s too bad. Let me know when it’s over.” Or, “What do you expect me to do about it?”
Of course, most people mean well. They will pray. If they really love the person, they’ll pray hard and they’ll assist with handling the situation purportedly given by God. I asked a pastor friend to share his thoughts. He had a different explanation of why people say this. His viewpoint is more sensitive than mine, and I appreciate his sympathetic reasoning.
Here’s what he said:
“I believe Christians quote the phrase because they want to believe it in its most basic meaning.  They truly want to believe that a loving God would not allow anything to happen to confessing Christians beyond what they physically or spiritually can handle.  It’s a mantra that we repeat often in the hopes that it will be true; but deep down we have our doubts and misgivings. Do I believe it’s true? Yes, but I think there is more to the issue.  Can I handle the death of a family member or will I be deeply affected by their death in such a way that I’m changed for the negative? If I lost everything as Job did would I be crushed to the point of suicide or would I do a Phoenix and rise from the ashes?  I don’t know but I’m sure my all-knowing God does.  Thank God I’ve not been “tested” to that degree yet.” 
In moving past cliché to understanding, one Bible verse must be considered the crux of this popular saying:
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” I Corinthians 10:13
This is God’s assurance He will not leave us to face temptation on our own. That’s what the verse is about. We shouldn’t make anything else out of it.
While there is no verse in the Bible to specifically tell us God won’t give us more than we can handle, a theme is present to encourage us that by the grace of God we can survive immeasurable burden. The key here is grace. Without it, we really are completely hopeless. The Bible does portray some as being given more than they could handle on their own. And some verses make it hard to believe we can handle anything considering who we are and who God is:
Who can stand before His indignation? Who can endure the burning of His anger? His wrath is poured out like fire and the rocks are broken up by Him. Nahum 1:6
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. Romans 1:18
In light of the truth that we are helplessly lost without the grace of Christ to rescue us, the sentiment that we can “handle it” seems almost anti-gospel. God allows sin to affect us all in the most detrimental way, and we absolutely can’t handle it. That’s why we need salvation.
Jesus said, “Without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Paul said, “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.” (Romans 5:6)
So in a way, God did give us something we couldn’t handle. And then he handled it. There’s a catch to the Christianese. Maybe we can’t handle it. But God can.
And so another theme emerges in the Bible: God might give us more than we can handle so we’ll learn to depend on Him. Isaiah said, Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5). He couldn’t handle being in the presence of God. But then God used him in a mighty way. David was undone before God by his own sin, and yet God loved him. Jonah refused to obey and ended up fish bait, but God saved him. Job, a righteous man, faced greater loss than most of us can imagine, but God restored and blessed him.
Scripture is filled with great hope and promise. God will not leave us on our own to face life (John 16:33), death (Psalm 23), Satan (Ephesians 6:11), temptation (Galatians 5:16), or even the trials we meet daily (Romans 12:12). Still, situations are sometimes beyond our ability to handle. And it seems like some people, even Christians, give up on life. They give up on God. I know how that appears from the outside looking in. But I don’t know what God knows. 
Maybe there should be a big IF at the end of my peeve proclamation. God won’t give you more than you can handle if you know Him well. If you follow Him closely. If you admit you can’t handle it without Him. Or maybe after living all those IFs you’ve gotten more than you can handle anyway. In that case, maybe you’re just not meant to handle it. Hang on. God’s got it.
And so perhaps we who speak Christianese should make a slight alteration to our mantra. Maybe we just need to change one word: “God will never give you more than HE can handle.”  

Friday, April 28, 2017

Reaching the High-Tech Heaven of Man

In the last few days I’ve listened to a podcast from a Christian organization about transhumanism, and read an article declaring Elon Musk is on mission to link human brains with computers in four years.

I was both surprised and relieved to hear a group of theologians discussing the issue. The  moral, sociological, and even religious implications need to be addressed before we all end up with enhanced gray matter. As for Musk’s agenda, the progression of transhumanism, as always, promises incredible benefit for the human race. A microchip bringing full recovery to a stroke victim is not something to fight against. If it would benefit me or a loved in such a way, I would allow the implant. But is there a greater scheme at work?

In past articles and in my fiction, I’ve noted the parallel of our current technological ambition and the tower of Babel. If we are working toward, as some call it, godlike intelligence then we are building that virtual high-tech tower. Infinite knowledge will propel us to new heights, but it will be a revolution void of godly wisdom.
And an act of God will be required to tame our aspiration.

I wrote this article a couple of years ago. In light of our impending ascension into a manmade cyber-ruled heaven, I’d like to share it again:

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ Top Ten Things Christians Should Know About Transhumanism
Victoria Buck

1) It’s a science.
Maybe you were absent the day your high school science teacher addressed transhumanism. More likely, your teacher never heard of it. Where does it fit? Biology? Physics? Yes. As well as computer science—it takes a computer to make a transhuman. And social sciences—it will, if permitted, change the core of culture and society. Scientific study includes:
Cryonics: Preserving the body, or simply the brain, after death with the hope of reawakening in the future.

Gene therapy: Manipulating genetic code for the purpose of improved health and function, longevity, eliminating birth defects, and creating designer babies.

Cybernetics: Technology enhances life in positive ways. No one can deny improved function for a disabled person is a wonderful achievement of modern medicine. A deaf child hearing for the first time brings tears of gratitude to all who witness the amazement on the little one’s face. But how far will a healthy human go in obtaining super hearing, vision, strength, speed, and knowledge? The transhumanist will answer that question.

Mind uploading and AI: Non-biological intelligence may seem impossible. The computer, after all, only puts more information in one place than a person could possibly remember. A computer in a man’s brain might not make him smarter, but it would give him unparalleled recall. But consider this: if a man is enhanced to take on the characteristics of a computer, might the computer take on the characteristics of a man and begin to reason?

2) It’s a social movement.
Social science records and interprets societal movements in the past and the present. Transhumanism, or H+ (humanity plus), is a movement in society past, present, and future. It will affect the interrelational categories of social science: anthropology, economics, politics, psychology, and sociology.

Anthropology: The human being as the subject of varied studies—biology, humanities, and history—will no doubt take on new meaning with the transcendence of the human.

Economics: Cost-effective transhumanism will surely struggle to find validity. Perhaps only the super-wealthy will experience the bounty of the movement. Or maybe the government will choose those worthy, and leave the rest of the human race unenhanced. Imagine the monetary implications of transhuman corporations.

Politics: Already, bioethics is a force governing the present and preparing to govern future technological and medical advancements, and how those advancements can and cannot be used in reaching goals nonexistent twenty years ago. Government funding now pays to research a transhuman future.

The National Institutes of Health has allocated $46 million “to support the goals of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.” 1
Professor Thomas Sugar and Jason Kerestes, designer robotic engineers with the iProject: 4MM (4 minute mile) from Arizona State University (ASU) has been granted monies from Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to create a “jetpack to increase a soldier’s speed and boost a PT record to that of a four minute a mile.” 2  

Psychology: A massive shift in the perception of humanness will come as cognitive ability increases, motivation and capability for extending life becomes reality, and relationships once required for the continuance of the race are deemed unnecessary. The resulting emotional struggle and moral reckoning will likely be met not with therapy for the mind, but with a tweak to the brain.

Sociology: Social class, law, religion, sexuality will take on new roles, or no role at all.
Government and family structure will be challenged. Belief systems will adjust, or else become channels of open rebellion against the transhuman emergence.

3) Its aim is the Singularity.
If you’re unfamiliar with transhumanism, you’ve probably never heard of the singularity. This is the point in time when the human race can no longer understand or predict the outcome of its own technological advancements. As science fiction would say, the machines take over. In the words of transhumanist frontrunner and author, Ray Kurzweil,

"Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to The Singularity -- technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. The implications include the merger of biological and nonbiological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light." 3

4) It has prophetic significance.
This is not too hard to fathom. Some interpret transhumanism will bring posthumans into a position of waging actual war against God. Not in the spiritual sense, but the physical. From

… it seems reasonable to assume that humanity will have to undergo some sort of radical transformation in order to plot a war against God Almighty. The arrogant impulse already exists. All that remains is the need for an exponential increase in human power which deludes humanity into believing it can overcome the Lord of lords. And make no mistake about it, the Bible is clear that this is where humanity is ultimately headed - physical conflict with God: "Then I saw the beast gathering the kings of the earth and their armies in order to fight against the one sitting on the horse and his army." Revelation 19:19 (NLT)

Do not confuse the "war" with a spiritual struggle. According to Strong's Concordance, the key word here is translated "polemos," and means:"warfare (lit. or fig.; a single encounter or a series) - battle, fight, war." The word "polemos" appears at least 16 times in the New Testament, and in each case, it refers to physical conflict, not a spiritual one… 4

5) It has historical significance.
Again, it’s easy to see that transhumanism is yet another attempt at building a tower to the heavens in order to become like God. As addressed by author Britt Gillette:

"Let's build a great city with a tower that reaches to the skies, a monument to our greatness!" (Genesis 11:4, NLT).

The human race set out to build a monument to its own greatness, exalting mankind above God and extending its tower far into Heaven with the sole intent of usurping God's glory and authority. This innate human desire did not end with the Tower of Babel. It continues to this day, and soon it will result in one final attempt to usurp the authority of God. 5

6) It assumes both creation and evolution are failures.
The argument that God’s creative power is not good enough is an obvious one. Yet, from a transhuman mindset, it doesn’t exist at all. The transhumanist will deny creation and embrace evolution, but then insist that even the natural process of improving the species isn’t good enough. For all its altering of the fabric of society, the theory of evolution is just as much a lost cause as creation. The transhumanist can do it better. Evolution needs a techno-boost. Humanity will become more than Darwin ever imagined.

7) Intermingling of faith and transhumanism is on the rise.
If considering a future of human life enhanced by technology isn’t quite relevant in your thinking, consider that a growing number of pseudo-Christian organizations believe transhumanism is the actualization of God’s plan for the salvation of mankind.

What it means to be human will change soon and you will probably experience it. So read carefully. In the coming years computer-human interfaces will become so intimate that users may be considered superhumanly intelligent transcendent humans, or "transhumans". We will have a choice in how to use vast new power. Use it for material gain? Or, aim this power at spiritual growth. In this new era of understanding, most will see the dead end of material gain, and see a better outcome in a life dedicated to spiritual growth. For individuals taking the spiritual path, the lower hierarchy of material needs will fall away and so naturally the transhuman will become a benevolent and self-actualized spiritual being.  Ultimately, life as represented by mankind will shift from consuming material for sustenance to a flow of information. This means that we shift to a wholly spiritual life where truth is the way. As material needs diminish, transhumans will increasingly be sustained by a powerful flow of Word that can be called the Glory of God. In giving up competition and control strategies and turning to God, we grow to be all that we can be; Christ-like.

Essential to Christian Transhumanism is the notion that love is a cognitive process and God expects us to participate in our salvation by learning how to love perfectly. In this way we access the Glory of God, becoming Christ-like (Christian). 6

Other sects and religions embrace the transhuman future as a responsible continuation of faith, and quite possibly the only way organized religion will survive. There exists a Mormon Transhumanist Association. Proponents cross religious boundaries, as might be expected in an increasingly secularized society. As with Christians, people of other faiths also oppose the movement. Atheists and agnostics support or reject. From all walks and factions, it appears there is not one group that stands united. But many in the Christian community who truly understand the ramifications of transhumanism consider it to be the great delusion spoken of in the Bible.

8) It is anti-Christian
Even so, it’s not to say Christians won’t participate, to some degree, in the rise of H+. If you can’t put down your iPhone or if you’re lost without your Bluetooth, then you know dependence on technology is an ever-increasing part of modern life. If your child is the one who can now hear you call his name, you are blessed by God. Technology is not bad. But don’t be misled by the message that our technological transcendence to being God-like is our salvation. The transhumanist goals of ending disease and poverty, of attaining eternal life, of saving the planet from the humans won’t happen. God already set a plan in motion to take care of His creation in the way of His choosing. Any other plan devised in the mind of a created being is doomed. Consider this proclamation in an article by Zoltan Ivstan, author of best-selling novel, The Transhumanist Wager.

One thing is for sure, to the human species, the birth of an advanced artificial intelligence will become far more important than the birth of Christ. Christmas, if it survives at all, will be relegated to just another commercial and cultural holiday that superstores and big business thrive on. Meanwhile, reasonable people will celebrate AI Day, the real moment in history the savior of civilization was born. 7

In response, Gonz Shimura, in his articleThe Trials of Transhumanism: An Assault on Christianity”, writes:

First off, it is clear that Mr. Istvan has a tremendous amount of “faith” in not only our own human management abilities pertaining to these developments, but also that any establishment of such a thing as AI would share in its consciousness, the same moral and ethical framework as humans. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, as most know, Antichrist doesn’t mean “against Christ”; it means, “instead of Christ.” It is the replacement of Christ. Therefore, what Mr. Istvan is promoting here is quite literally the Antichrist. My particular views are that AI itself will not be the Antichrist figure as described in Bible Prophecy, but play a role in the establishment of the Image of the Beast. 8

9) You may be helped by it.

Again, technological advancements aren’t necessarily evil. They may be inspired and brought to fruition by the grace of God, whether or not the person who brings about the newest innovation recognizes that fact or not. Christian or otherwise, you may be the one whose paralysis is soon overcome. You may benefit from the use of techno-medical breakthroughs to end dementia. Your grandchild may be the product of reproductive science unheard of when your children were born. Go ahead and love that child, who is no less a creation of God. A human who becomes a transhuman will need the same thing every human needs—the grace of God that leads to salvation through the death and resurrection of Christ. Whether or not your life is improved by whatever God allows, for however long He allows it, there is no other way to eternal life.

10) It is not fiction.
Transhumanism is certainly the subject of fiction. Many novels have been written in recent years from a secular worldview, both pro H+ and con. At least one transhuman work of fiction written from a Christian worldview exists. (Yes, I wrote it.) Some authors believe it will happen. Some simply use H+ to carry their stories. Movies have been bringing us cyborgs and AI stories for years, most without ever referencing transhumanism. There is an H+ TV series (fiction) and an H+ magazine (non-fiction). Some say the thought and goal of transhumanism is ancient, but the word came from Julian Huxley in 1957. He did not intend to describe a fictitious world, but a very real one. Behind each made-up story, and hundreds of non-fiction books and articles, is an ever-progressing scientific and cultural movement intending to redefine the meaning of life. To recreate the human being. To realize God in self. Not a wilder theme exists for a novel. But in the real world, the transhumanist plans to take us far beyond imagination.


1  Susanne Posel ,Chief Editor Occupy Corporatism | The US Independent, October 1, 2014

Susanne Posel ,Chief Editor Occupy Corporatism | The US Independent September 13,   2014

3 The Law of Accelerating Returns, Ray Kersweil, March 7, 2001

5  Transhumanism and the Great Rebellion, Britt Gillette

6  Prepare for HyperEvolution with Christian Transhumanism, James McLean Ledford

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