CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

In this interesting article, theologian John F. Haught takes the new (or 'soft-core' as he calls them) atheists to task for not being consistent enough in the implications of their denial of God. He contrasts the current batch of atheist rhetoric, produced by the likes of Harris, Dawkins and Hitchens with the writings of the great 'masters of suspicion', such as Freud, Marx and Nietzsche. Not only does he find that the latter were far more conceptually sophisticated, but they also had the courage to see their radical critique through to its logical conclusion, something which today's essentially conservative soft-core atheists are reluctant to do. One passage in particular struck me:

"If you're going to be an atheist, the most rugged version of godlessness demands complete consistency. Go all the way and think the business of atheism through to the bitter end. This means that before you get too comfortable with the godless world you long for, you will be required by the logic of any consistent skepticism to pass through the disorienting wilderness of nihilism. Do you have the courage to do that? You will have to adopt the tragic heroism of a Sisyphus, or realize that true freedom in the absence of God means that you are the creator of the values you live by. Don't you realize that this will be an intolerable burden from which most people will seek an escape? Are you ready to allow simple logic to lead you to the real truth about the death of God? Before settling into a truly atheistic worldview you will have to experience the Nietzschean madman's sensation of straying through "infinite nothingness." You will be required to summon up an unprecedented degree of courage if you plan to wipe away the whole horizon of transcendence. Are you willing to risk madness? If not, then you are not really an atheist."

Of course the modern atheist has largely disavowed the cosmic pessimism of the likes of Sartre or Nietzsche. But it's worth pondering whether this amounts to an atheist version of wishful thinking. It reminds me of Richard Carrier's recent 'defense' of atheist morality, essentially arguing that we should be good because otherwise "life would suck". Yup, a true heir to the eloquence of Freud. Maybe atheists should pause for a moment in their accusations of intellectual dishonesty and examine whether their own ranks and ideas are entirely free from said malady.


With this argument I hurl down the gauntlet to John Loftus for formal debate.


Decision Making Paradigm: “the logic of the lamp post"

At the heart of all religious belief and all organized religions is experience and the sense of the numinous. This is the foundation of religious belief. If we are going to argue for God it would behoove us to examine the nature of this sense of the numinous.

The logic of the lamp post is this: we can't find our keys in the dark. We look under lamp post even if we did not drop them there because that is where we will find them. We can't find God in sense data, because God is not given in sense data. So we look in the place where we will find him, personal experience. Since this is the basis of religious belief it makes sense to look there.

Co-determinate: The co-determinate is like the Derridian trace, or like a fingerprint. It's the accompanying sign that is always found with the thing itself. In other words, it’s like trailing the invisible man in the snow. You can't see the invisible man, but you can see his footprints, and wherever he is in the snow his prints will always follow.

We cannot produce direct observation of God, but we can find the "trace" or the co-determinate, the effects of God in the world.

Now how do we know the co-determinate? Schleiermacher saw it as the feeling of utter dependence, because the object or correlates of having such a feeling was the thing that evokes the feeling. Just as feelings of awe imply that one encounters the sublime, and feelings of love imply that there is a beloved, so feelings of utter dependence imply that there is a universal necessity upon which the live world and worlds are supremely utterly dependent. We can also include mystical experience and life transformation because these are part and parcel of what is meant by the idea of religion and the divine. As far back as we can dig for artifacts we seem to find some form of mystical experience at the heart of all organized religion. So we can conclude that God, religion, and life transformation always go hand in hand. The studies themselves tell us that life transformation always accompanies dramatic experiences which are understood as and which evoke a strong sense of the Holy.

Is this really phenomenological? We can screw up our phenomenological credentials by responding to it in a non-phenomenological way. But it is the product of the phenomenological method, because it derives from observation of the phenomena and allowing the phenomena to tell us what categories to group the data into.

The only question at that point is "How do we know this is the effect, or the accompanying sign of the divine?” But that should be answered in the argument below. Here let us set out some general parameters:

(1) The trace produced content with specifically religious effects;

(2) The effects led one to a renewed sense of divine reality, and were transformative of life goals and self-actualization;

(3) Cannot be accounted for by alternate causality or other means.

This is the actual argument,


(1) There are real effects from mystical experience.

(2) These effects cannot be reduced to naturalistic cause and affect, bogus mental states or epiphenomena.

(3) Since the effects of mystical consciousness are independent of other explanations we should assume that they are genuine.

(4) Since mystical experience is usually experience of something, the Holy, the sacred, some sort of greater transcendent reality, we should assume that the object is real since the effects are real, and that the effects are the result of some real higher reality.

(5) The true measure of the reality of the co-determinate is the transformative power of the effects. Since those are real we can assume the apparent cause is real.


Real Affects of Mystical Experience Imply Co-determinate

A. Study and Nature of Mystical Experiences

Mystical experience is only one aspect of religious experience, but I will focuses on it in this argument. Most other kinds of religious experience are difficult to study since they are more subjective and have less dramatic results. But mystical experience can actually be measured empirically in terms of its affects, and can be compared favorably to other forms of conscious states.

1) Primarily Religious

Transpersonal Childhood Experiences of Higher States of Consciousness: Literature Review and Theoretical Integration (unpublished paper 1992 by Jayne Gackenback)


"The experience of pure consciousness is typically called ‘mystical’. The essence of the mystical experience has been debated for years (Horne, 1982). It is often held that ‘mysticism is a manifestation of something which is at the root of all religions (p. 16; Happold, 1963).’ The empirical assessment of the mystical experience in psychology has occurred to a limited extent."

2) Defining characteristics.


"In a recent review of the mystical experience Lukoff and Lu (1988) acknowledged that the ‘definition of a mystical experience ranges greatly (p. 163).’ Maslow (1969) offered 35 definitions of ‘transcendence’, a term often associated with mystical experiences and used by Alexander et al. to refer to the process of accessing PC."

Lukoff (1985) identified five common characteristics of mystical experiences which could be operationalized for assessment purposes. They are:

1. Ecstatic mood, which he identified as the most common feature;
2. Sense of newly gained knowledge, which includes a belief that the mysteries of life have been revealed;
3. Perceptual alterations, which range from "heightened sensations to auditory and visual hallucinations (p. 167)";
4. Delusions (if present) have themes related to mythology, which includes an incredible range diversity and range;
5. No conceptual disorganization, unlike psychotic persons those with mystical experiences do NOT suffer from disturbances in language and speech.
It can be seen from the explanation of PC earlier that this list of qualities overlaps in part those delineated by Alexander et al.

3) Studies use Empirical Instruments.

Many skeptics have argued that one cannot study mystical experience scientifically. But it has been done many times, in fact there are a lot of studies and even empirical scales for measurement.



"Three empirical instruments have been developed to date. They are the Mysticism Scale by Hood (1975), a specific question by Greeley (1974) and the State of Consciousness Inventory by Alexander (1982; Alexander, Boyer, & Alexander, 1987). Hood's (1975) scale was developed from conceptual categories identified by Stace (1960). Two primary factors emerged from the factor analysis of the 32 core statements. First is a general mysticism factor, which is defined as an experience of unity, temporal and spatial changes, inner subjectivity and ineffability. A second factor seems to be a measure of peoples tendency to view intense experiences within a religious framework. A much simpler definition was developed by Greeley (1974), "Have you ever felt as though you were very close to a powerful, spiritual force that seemed to lift you out of yourself?" This was used by him in several national opinion surveys. In a systematic study of Greeley's question Thomas and Cooper (1980) concluded that responses to that question elicited experiences whose nature varied considerably. Using Stace's (1960) work they developed five criteria, including awesome emotions; feeling of oneness with God, nature or the universe; and a sense of the ineffable. They found that only 1% of their yes responses to Greeley's question were genuine mystical experiences. Thus Hood's scale seems to be the more widely used of these two broad measures of mysticism. It has received cross cultural validation." (Holm, 1982; Caird, 1988)

4) Incidence.



"Several studies have looked at the incidence of mystical experiences. Greeley (1974) found 35% agreement to his question while Back and Bourque (1970) reported increases in frequency of these sorts of experiences from about 20% in 1962 to about 41% in 1967 to the question, ‘Would you say that you have ever had a 'religious or mystical experience' that is, a moment of sudden religious awakening or insight?’ Greeley (1987) reported a similar figure for 1973.

"The most researched inventory is the State of Consciousness Inventory (SCI; reviewed in Alexander, Boyer, and Alexander, 1987). The authors say, ‘the SCI was designed for quantitative assessment of frequency of experiences of higher states of consciousness as defined in Vedic Psychology (p. 100).’

"In this case items were constructed from first person statements of practitioners of that meditative tradition, but items were also drawn from other authority literatures. Additional subscales were added to differentiate these experiences from normal waking experience, neurotic experience, and schizophrenic experience. Finally, a misleading item scale was added. These authors conceptualize the ‘mystical’ experience as one which can momentarily occur in the process of the development of higher states of consciousness. For them the core state of consciousness is pure consciousness and from it develops these higher states of consciousness.”

Whereas most researchers on mystical experiences study them as isolated or infrequent experiences with little if any theoretical "goal" for them, this group contextualizes them in a general model of development (Alexander et al., 1990) with their permanent establishment in an individual as a sign of the first higher state of consciousness. They point out that "during any developmental period, when awareness momentarily settles down to its least excited state, pure consciousness [mystical states] can be experienced.” (p. 310). In terms of incidence they quote Maslow who felt that in the population at large less than one in 1,000 have frequent "peak" experiences so that the "full stabilization of a higher stage of consciousness appears to an event of all but historic significance.” (p. 310)

"Virtually all of researchers using the SCI are very careful to distinguish the practice of meditation from the experience of pure consciousness, explaining that the former merely facilitates the latter. They also go to great pains to show that their multiple correlation's of health and well-being are strongest to the transcendent experience than to the entire practice of meditation (for psychophysiological review see Wallace, 1987; for individual difference review see Alexander et al., 1987.”

The point of all of this is that the long term positive effects of mystical consciousness demonstrate for themselves the divine in action in the world. The argument is not that we can't figure out how such effects are caused. This is not an explanation of something based upon an appeal to God, as the atheist straw man would have it. That's the only way atheists know how to think about things. We know this is caused by brain chemistry--that's not the issue. That doesn't tell us anything because it could be just a matter of random evolution, or it could be that this is how God creates corporeal life, he use chemicals links for consciousness. That is not at issue. The issue is that nothing else can produce such effects. It is God's action because nothing else will produce these effects to this degree.

At that level questions of causation do come into it but as ex post facto argument on counter causality.

B. Long-Term Positive Effects of Mystical Experience

What follows is a summary of the major studies. The data is gathered by subjecting subjects whose experiences are measured by Hood's "M scale" (mystical scale) to standardized personality tests and demographics. We seen in these first examples high ratings of self actualization for mystical experiences. Self actualization tests are standardized and form a measurable base in psychological research. Essentially it means how comfortable you are with being you. In these results we see those who have had religious experiences score much higher than those who have not.

Research Summary

From Council on Spiritual Practices Website

"States of Unitive Consciousness"

Also called Transcendent Experiences, Ego-Transcendence, Intense Religious Experience, Peak Experiences, Mystical Experiences, Cosmic Consciousness. Sources:

Wuthnow, Robert (1978). "Peak Experiences: Some Empirical Tests." Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 18 (3), 59-75.

Noble, Kathleen D. (1987). “Psychological Health and the Experience of Transcendence.'' The Counseling Psychologist, 15 (4), 601-614.
Lukoff, David & Francis G. Lu (1988). “Transpersonal psychology research review: Topic: Mystical experiences.'' Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 20 (2), 161-184.

Roger Walsh (1980). The consciousness disciplines and the behavioral sciences: Questions of comparison and assessment. American Journal of Psychiatry, 137(6), 663-673.

Lester Grinspoon and James Bakalar (1983). “Psychedelic Drugs in Psychiatry'' in Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered, New York: Basic Books.

Furthermore, Greeley found no evidence to support the orthodox belief that frequent mystic experiences or psychic experiences stem from deprivation or psychopathology. His ''mystics'' were generally better educated, more successful economically, and less racist, and they were rated substantially happier on measures of psychological well-being. (Charles T. Tart, Psi: Scientific Studies of the Psychic Realm, p. 19.)

Long-Term Effects


*Say their lives are more meaningful
*Think about meaning and purpose
*Know what purpose of life is
*Meditate more
*Score higher on self-rated personal talents and capabilities
*Less likely to value material possessions, high pay, job security, fame, and having lots of friends
*Greater value on work for social change, solving social problems, helping needy
*Reflective, inner-directed, self-aware, self-confident life style


*Experience more productive of psychological health than illness
*Less authoritarian and dogmatic
*More assertive, imaginative, self-sufficient
*Intelligent, relaxed
*High ego strength
*Relationships, symbolization, values
*Integration, allocentrism
*Psychological maturity
*Self-acceptance, self-worth
*Autonomy, authenticity, need for solitude
*Increased love and compassion

Short-Term Effects (usually people who did not previously know of these experiences)

*Experience temporarily disorienting, alarming, disruptive
*Likely changes in self and the world,
*Space and time, emotional attitudes, cognitive styles, personalities, doubt sanity and reluctance to communicate, feel ordinary language is inadequate
*Some individuals report psychic capacities and visionary experience destabilizing relationships with family and friends
*Withdrawal, isolation, confusion, insecurity, self-doubt, depression, anxiety, panic, restlessness, grandiose religious delusions

Links to Maslow's Needs, Mental Health, and Peak Experiences

When introducing entheogens to people, I find it's helpful to link them to other ideas people are familiar with. Here are three useful quotations. 1) Maslow - Beyond Self Actualization is Self Transcendence “I should say that I consider Humanistic, Third Force Psychology to be transitional, a preparation for a still `higher' Fourth Psychology, transhuman, centered in the cosmos rather than in human needs and interest, going beyond humanness, identity, self-actualization and the like.''

Abraham Maslow (1968). Toward a Psychology of Being, Second edition, -- pages iii-iv.

2) States of consciousness and mystical experiences
The ego has problems:
the ego is a problem.

Within the Western model we recognize and define psychosis as a suboptimal state of consciousness that views reality in a distorted way and does not recognize that distortion. It is therefore important to note that from the mystical perspective our usual state fits all the criteria of psychosis, being suboptimal, having a distorted view of reality, yet not recognizing that distortion. Indeed from the ultimate mystical perspective, psychosis can be defined as being trapped in, or attached to, any one state of consciousness, each of which by itself is necessarily limited and only relatively real.” -- page 665

Roger Walsh (1980). The consciousness disciplines and the behavioral sciences: Questions of comparison and assessment. American Journal of Psychiatry, 137(6), 663-673.

3) Therapeutic effects of peak experiences

“It is assumed that if, as is often said, one traumatic event can shape a life, one therapeutic event can reshape it. Psychedelic therapy has an analogue in Abraham Maslow's idea of the peak experience. The drug taker feels somehow allied to or merged with a higher power; he becomes convinced the self is part of a much larger pattern, and the sense of cleansing, release, and joy makes old woes seem trivial.'' -- page 132

Lester Grinspoon and James Bakalar (1983). “Psychedelic Drugs in Psychiatry'' in Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered, New York: Basic Books.

Transpersonal Childhood Experiences of Higher States of Consciousness: Literature Review and Theoretical Integration. Unpublished paper by Jayne Gackenback, (1992)

"These states of being also result in behavioral and health changes. Ludwig (1985) found that 14% of people claiming spontaneous remission from alcoholism was due to mystical experiences while Richards (1978) found with cancer patients treated in a hallucinogenic drug-assisted therapy who reported mystical experiences improved significantly more on a measure of self-actualization than those who also had the drug but did not have a mystical experience. In terms of the Vedic Psychology group they report a wide range of positive behavioral results from the practice of meditation and as outlined above go to great pains to show that it is the transcendence aspect of that practice that is primarily responsible for the changes. Thus improved performance in many areas of society have been reported including education and business as well as personal health states (reviewed and summarized in Alexander et al., 1990). Specifically, the Vedic Psychology group have found that mystical experiences were associated with ‘refined sensory threshold and enhanced mind-body coordination’ (p. 115; Alexander et al., 1987)."

(4) Greater happiness

Religion and Happiness

by Michael E. Nielsen, PhD

Many people expect religion to bring them happiness. Does this actually seem to be the case? Are religious people happier than nonreligious people? And if so, why might this be?

Researchers have been intrigued by such questions. Most studies have simply asked people how happy they are, although studies also may use scales that try to measure happiness more subtly than that. In general, researchers who have a large sample of people in their study tend to limit their measurement of happiness to just one or two questions, and researchers who have fewer numbers of people use several items or scales to measure happiness.

What do they find? In a nutshell, they find that people who are involved in religion also report greater levels of happiness than do those who are not religious. For example, one study involved over 160,000 people in Europe. Among weekly churchgoers, 85% reported being "very satisfied" with life, but this number reduced to 77% among those who never went to church (Inglehart, 1990). This kind of pattern is typical -- religious involvement is associated with modest increases in happiness

Argyle, M., and Hills, P. (2000). Religious experiences and their relations with happiness and personality. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 10, 157-172.

Inglehart, R. (1990). Culture shift in advanced industrial society. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Comment on my board, Doxa froum

Introductory note from Jason Pratt: see here for the previous entry; and see here for the first entry of the series. (It explains what I'm doing, and how, and contains the Johannine prologue.)

Knights and King, Errant

Now getting into the boat, Jesus and His disciples crossed over again and came to His own city (Capernaum). And the crowd (whom He had given the slip by departing in the middle of the night before) welcomed His return, for they had all been hoping He would!

And Jesus, standing beside the lake, sees the crowd as they gather to Him; and He has compassion on them, for they are harassed and thrown down, like sheep without a shepherd.

Then He is saying to His disciples: "The harvest is vast; but the workers are few. Therefore implore the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest!"

Now calling together the twelve apostles, He gives them authority over all the demons in order to cast them out, and to be curing every disease and every disability!

Jesus sent out these twelve, two by two, after giving them instructions, saying:

"Do not go into a road of (other) nations, and do not go into a Samaritan city; but go instead to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

"Now as you go, proclaim: 'The kingdom of God is near!'

"Be curing the sick, be raising the dead, be cleansing lepers, be casting out demons.

"Freely given you received; be giving freely given.

"Do not (delay to) acquire anything (extra) for traveling: no bread; no gold, silver or even copper in your belt; no begging bag or knapsack; no staff (although, the Follower adds, they could carry one--if they had it already by implication); nor shoes (although, the Follower adds again, they could wear sandal-soles); not even a second shirt (as a spare or worn beneath the first one.) For the worker is worthy of his food.

"Now, into whichever city or village you may be entering, inquire who in it is worthy, and there remain until you depart.

"And when you enter the house, salute it; and if indeed the house is worthy, let your peace come on it. For whoever gives you even a cup of cool water to drink, because you are named as followers of the Anointed King, I tell you truly: he shall not lose his reward! But if (the house) is unworthy after all, then let your peace return to you.

"Now, whoever does not receive you, nor is yet hearing your words, come out of that house or city or village, and shake off its dust from your feet as a testimony on them. Truly I say to you, the lands of Sodom and Gomorrah will find the Judgment Day more tolerable than that city!

"Look here! I am sending you out as sheep among wolves! So become wise as serpents, yet innocent as doves."

[Footnote: I am saving many of the instructions reported in GosMatt for a different occasion, as they sound a whole lot more like instructions for a final sending, rather than for a first one.]


Now it happened that when Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples, they departed and began going from village to village; proclaiming the good news, so that people would willingly change their hearts; and casting out demons; and everywhere anointing sick people with oil and healing them.

And Jesus (also) departed from there, to teach and proclaim in their cities, going through their villages, teaching in their synagogues, heralding the good news of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and weakness among the people.


Now, He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath (says the Scholar, relating the following stories).

And look!--there was a woman having a spirit of sickness for eighteen years, and she was bending double, unable to straighten at all.

Now seeing her, Jesus shouts and says to her: "Woman, you have been freed from your infirmity!"

And He places His hands on her.

And instantly she was raised up again.

And she glorified God!

Now the chief of the synagogue resented that Jesus was curing on the Sabbath, and said to the crowd as an answer: "Six days are there on which you must work; come and be cured on them, and not on the Sabbath day!"

But the Lord answered him and said: "You hypocrites; on the Sabbath, does each of you (who agree with this official) not untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead him away to water!?

"Now this one--being a daughter of Abraham bound by Satan look! eighteen years!--must she not be loosed from this bond on the day of Sabbath!!?"

And all opposing Him wished they were dead, at His saying these things; but all the crowds were rejoicing at all the glorious things being done by Him!


Now it happened that on a(nother?) Sabbath, as He came into the house of a certain chief of the Pharisees to eat lunch, they were watching Him closely.

[Footnote: apparently this is somewhere not too far from Jerusalem--lawyers are here, and a leader of the Pharisees would likely be on the Sanhedrin Council. It should be noted that rabbis were in the habit of allowing the poor and infirm to freely enter the house during a meal so that the rabbis could give them food in order to demonstrate charity; but these people were required to sit back against the wall and stay silent, not participating in the actual meal. This has more than passing relevance to the following incidents and sayings.]

And look! a certain man in front of Him was swollen with fluid (i.e. he had 'dropsy', or 'hydropikon' meaning wet-eyes).

And answering (an unreported request from the dropsical man, perhaps), Jesus spoke toward the lawyers and Pharisees, saying: "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?"

But they are quiet.

Now taking hold, He heals and dismisses him.

And answering (His own question to them with this rhetorical question), He said to them: "Which of you having a son or ox falling into a well, will not immediately pull him up on the Sabbath day?"

But they are not strong to answer Him again along this line.

Now attending to how invited guests were choosing the first reclinings (the places of honor at the dinner table), He told a parable saying toward them:

"Whenever you may be invited by anyone into a wedding feast, do not recline at the first reclining (near the head of the table), lest someone more honored than you has been invited and he who invited both of you will come and declare to you, 'Yield this place!'; and then with shame you begin to retain the final place!

"But whenever you may be invited, go lean back in the final place, so that when the one who invited you comes he will be saying to you, 'Friend, step up further!' Then in the eyes of all those lying back at table with you, glory will be yours!

"For everyone who exalts himself shall be humiliated; and who humbles himself will be exalted."

Now He went on to say to the one who invited Him: "Whenever you may be making a lunch or dinner, do not merely summon your friends, nor yet your brothers or relatives, nor yet rich neighbors, in order to be repaid by them inviting you in return some other time.

"But whenever you make a reception, invite the poor, the cripples, the lame, the blind--and happy you will be, for they have nothing with which to repay you! For it will be paid to you in the resurrection of the just!"

Now hearing these things (especially the resurrection of the just), someone lying back with Him said to Him: "Happy will be whoever eats bread in the kingdom of God!!"

But He said to him:

"A certain man made a great dinner, and he invites many. And at the dinner hour he sends forth his slave to say to those invited, 'Come! For all is ready now!'

"But they all begin alike to make excuses.

"The first said to him, 'I am buying a field, and have a need to go to see it. I request you to excuse me.'

"And a different said, 'I am buying five yoke of oxen, and I go to try them out. I request you to excuse me.'

"And a different said, 'I marry a wife, and so I cannot come!'

"Now coming (back) along, the slave reports these to his master.

"Then, becoming angry, the householder said to his slave: 'Go quickly out into the squares and city streets, and lead in here the poor and cripples and blind and lame!'

"Now the slave said to him, 'Sir, what you command is done; yet still there are places!'

"And the Lord said to the slave, 'Go out into the roads and fencerows, compelling people there to enter, that my house may be crammed!

"'For I am saying to you, not one of those men I invited shall taste of my dinner.'"

Now, being questioned by the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God is coming, He answered them and said: "The kingdom of God is not coming with observations to be observed; nor will they say, 'Look here!' or else 'Look there!' For look! God's kingdom is inside you." [Footnote: or possibly 'among you', 'in your midst'. Compare to the answer of John the Baptist about one already 'among them' whom they are not seeing.]

Now look!--a certain lawyer stood, putting Him to the test, and said: "Rabbi; by doing what shall I enjoy inheriting God's own life?"

And He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?"

And answering he (the lawyer) said (quoting Deuteronomy and Leviticus): "'You shall love the Lord your God out of your whole heart; and in your whole soul, and in your whole strength, and in your whole understanding' and 'your neighbor as yourself'."

And He said to him, "You answer correctly. 'This be doing, and you shall be living.'" (quoting from Leviticus, near where God commands in the Law to love our neighbor as ourselves)

But wanting to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

Now accepting this challenge ('taking him up'), Jesus said:

"A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho (on the road from Jerusalem to the Jordan River--possibly where this lunch is happening, or where this lawyer's family is from.)

"But he fell among brigands ('lestes', bandit highwaymen rebelling against the Romans), who stripped him as well as beat him, going away and leaving him half dead!

"Now by coincidence it happens that a certain priest went down by that road; but seeing him, passed by on the other side.

"And likewise a Levite (a hereditary servant of God especially for Temple duties, possibly even a Temple soldier) also came to the place, and seeing him, passed by on the other side.

"But a certain Samaritan (considered by many practicing Jews to be pagan and traitorous), going his way, came across him; and seeing him, he has compassion, and going to him he wraps his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. [Footnote: alcohol as an antiseptic, oil to help soothe sunburnt cracked skin.]

"Now mounting him on his own beast, he led him to a wayfarer's inn and had him cared for.

"And the next morning, going away, he takes out two day's wages and gives them to the innkeeper; and said to him, 'Care for him, and whatever more you may be expending, I will be paying you at my return.'

"Which of these three, do you suppose, has therefore become a neighbor of he who fell in with the brigands?"

And he said, "...the one showing mercy toward him."

And Jesus said to him: "Go, and you do likewise."

And He also told this parable (says the Scholar), to certain ones having confidence in themselves that they are righteous and scorning the rest:

"Two men went up into the Temple to pray; one a Pharisee, the other a tax-collector. [Footnote: men who collaborated with the Roman Empire, often for their own profit, thus considered a stock example of heinous traitor against God and His people.]

"The Pharisee, standing, prayed this toward himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not even like other people!--rapacious, unjust, adulterers... or even like this tax-collector! I am fasting twice a week, and I tithe from everything I am acquiring!'

"But the tax-collector, standing at a distance, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his chest saying, 'God! Make a shelter within Your favor for me, the sinner!'

"I am telling you, this one went down to his home justified, instead of that one!

"For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, yet he who humbles himself shall be exalted..."

Matthew 91b
Matthew 9:35-38
Matthew 10:5-16
Matthew 11:1
Mark 5:21
Mark 6:6b-13
Luke 8:40
Luke 9:1-6
Luke 10:25-37
Luke 13:10-17
Luke 14:1-24
Luke 17:20-21
Luke 18:9-14

[Next time: Passings Over]

Introductory note from Jason Pratt: see here for the previous entry; and see here for the first entry of the series. (It explains what I'm doing, and how, and contains the Johannine prologue.)

Enemy Forces

Now on that day (the Follower says, followed by the Disciple and the Scholar), when the evening had come, He said to them, "Let us go across the lake, to the other side."

So He and His disciples stepped into boats, and leaving the crowds His disciples brought Him along, as He was; for as they sailed He fell asleep.

Now it happens, a tornado (a 'whirl of wind') descends on the lake!--and the sea is shaking and billows dash into the boat, so that it already fills to the brim!--and they are in danger of foundering!

But He is asleep on the cushion in the aft of the ship!

And they are rousing Him saying to Him: "Rabbi! Do you not care that we are about to die!?! Save us, Master!!"

Now He, being roused, rebukes the wind and the surging water, saying: "Be muzzled!! Be still!"

And they cease.

And it became calm.

Now He said to them, "Why are you so afraid, little believers? Where is your faith??"

And they were afraid--with a great fear.

And they said to each other: "What kind of thing is this!? Who is this man, who even commands enjoining the wind and water, and consequently they obey him?!?" [See first comment below for a footnote here.]

And they sailed down into the country of the Gerasenes, which is across from Galilee; coming out onto the land near Gergesa. [See second comment below for a footnote here.]


Now--there were two demented men living among the tombs near the city, so ferocious that no one was strong enough to be using that road for travel through the area.

One of them, a man of that city, was exceptionally fierce; many times he had been bound with fetters and chains, but he would crush the fetters and pull apart the chains and be driven by the demon into the wilderness where he wore no clothes for a considerable time, constantly crying and gashing himself with stones night and day among the hills and tombs.

Now when Jesus stepped out of the boat, He was met immediately by one demented man who cried, "What shall You be doing with us, Son of God!? Have You come to torment us before the time!?!"

And when the exceptionally fierce demoniac saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and threw himself on the ground prostrate before him, shouting: "What will you be doing with me, Jesus Son of God Most High!? Swear an oath that You will not torment me!"

For Jesus had ordered the unclean spirit to come out of the (other) man.

Now He inquired of it, "What is your name?"

And it is saying to Him: "Legion is my name, for we are many!" And it begged Him strenuously not to send it out of the land, into the swirling depths.

Now a considerable herd of hogs, about two thousand, grazed nearby upon a mountainside; and the demons begged Him, saying, "If You are going to cast us out, send us among the hogs that we may enter into them!"

And He said to them: "Go!" And departing, the unclean spirits went away into the hogs.

Yet look!--the herd rushes down the precipice into the lake and was strangled. (Out of the land and into the 'swirling depths' after all...)

Now the herdsmen, seeing what had happened, fled and reported in the city and fields nearby. And a crowd from the city and countryside near Gergesa came out to see what had happened; and coming toward Jesus they found the man from whom the Legion went out, clothed and sane, sitting at the feet of Jesus.

And they were afraid.

Now those who had seen what had happened told the others how this had happened with the demented man, and with the herd of hogs.

But the crowd began imploring Him to go away out of their region, for they were greatly pressed by fear.

Now Jesus returns to the boat, stepping into it.

But as He is stepping into the boat, the demoniac begged Him to let him be with Him.

Yet He does not let him, but sends him away, saying: "Go home, to yours, and tell them how much God does for you and how He is merciful to you."

And he went away, heralding down through the whole Decapolis, how much Jesus does for him.

And all marveled.

[See third footnote below for a comment here.]

Matthew 8:23-34
Matthew 9:1a
Mark 4:35-41
Mark 5:1-20
Luke 8:22-39

[Next time: Knights and King, Errant]

Introductory note from Jason Pratt: see here for the previous entry; and see here for the first entry of the series. (It explains what I'm doing, and how, and contains the Johannine prologue.)

Notice, by the way, that in effect we're looking at the Scriptural "Part 2" to the "Sermon on the Mount" here. (Except that it turned out to be the Sermon on the Boat. {g}) Keep in mind that right before lunch there was some serious opposition from a scribal deputation visiting from Jerusalem for the Pharisee party. Jesus isn't being arbitrary about a switch to primarily parabolic teaching here. He's got a specific target of criticism in mind. (Hint: it isn't the crowd or populations generally. Or even one particular group in total.)

Parables of the Kingdom

On that day (says the Disciple, in harmony with the Follower and the Scholar), Jesus went out of the house (implying He did go eat lunch with His family when they called to Him!), and went down to the lake again to teach (the Follower says), and sat by the lake. And a most numerous throng from every city gathered toward Him, so that He stepped into a boat and sat down, and all the crowd stood on the beach.

Now He speaks many things to them in parables, saying in His teaching:

"Listen! See here! The sower came out to sow his seeds.

"Now as he sowed, indeed some fell beside the road where it was trampled--and the birds arrived and ate them up.

"Yet others fell on rocky places having not much earth, and without delay the seeds sprang up because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched: they had no root and therefore had no moisture, so they withered.

"Yet others fell among the thorns, and thorns came up together with them, smothering them; and they produced no fruit (or grain).

"But others fell into good earth, and sprouting up they grew, and yielded grain--some a hundred, others sixty, others thirty-fold."

And as He said these things, He would cry out: "Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear!!"

He presented another parable to them (tells the Disciple), saying:

"The kingdom of God is like someone who sows good seed in his own field. But while the people are sleeping, his enemy came and sowed in darnels (a weed resembling wheat) among the wheat, and went away.

"Now the slaves of the householder came to him and said: 'Sir! Did you not sow good seed in your field? Where then has the darnel come from?'

"And he declares: 'An enemy person does this!!'

"Now the slaves are saying to him: 'So, do you want us to go and cull them?'

"Yet he declares: 'Absolutely not!! lest at some time while culling the darnel you also root up the grain! Let both grow together until the harvest; and in the harvest season I will tell the reapers, "Cull the darnel first and bind them into bundles (with the intent) toward burning them up. But gather the grain into my barn."'"

And He was saying (adds the Follower): "The kingdom of God is like someone who casts his seed on earth; and goes to sleep at night and wakes up every morning; and the seed sprouts up and grows--how, he doesn't know. The soil does its own thing in making crops: first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the crop is ready to go, he straightway sends the sickle: for the harvest is here!"

And He also said (according to the three Synoptic storytellers): "How shall we compare the kingdom of God? What parable shall we present it by?

"The kingdom of God is like a seed of mustard--the smallest seed when someone sows it in his garden-field of earth; and yet when it is grown, it comes up greater than the garden plants, so that (as the Psalmist and Prophets say) the birds of heaven may be nesting in its branches like a tree!"

And again (say the Scholar and Disciple) He spoke another parable to them saying:
"To what shall I liken the kingdom of God?

"The kingdom of God is like some leaven (yeast), which a woman, getting, hides within three pecks of meal; (and the leaven spreads) until it all was leavened."

[Note: it's pretty daring to illustrate the kingdom of God using some traditional Jewish imagery for sin!]


Many such things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables; and (at this time) He did not speak to them without a parable, so that what was spoken through the (Psalmist) prophet would be filled (says the Disciple), saying:

I will open My mouth in parables;
I will release things hidden from the disruption!

Then He sent the crowds away, and went into (His) house.


As soon as He was in seclusion, His disciples came to Him; and those around Him asked Him, "Why do you speak in parables?"

And He said to them in answer: "You have been allowed to know the secrets of God's kingdom; but this has not been granted to them. Therefore I speak to them in parables; because (I see) they see and hear yet will not see and hear, nor do they understand--for Isaiah's prophecy is being filled in them:

With a hearing you will hear, but absolutely will not understand;
and seeing you will see yet absolutely will not see!

For these people dull their hearts,
and with their ears they heavily hear,
and with their eyes they squint;

lest with their eyes they should be seeing,
and be hearing with their ears,
and choose to understand
and return
and be healed
by Me.

"Yet happy be your eyes, because they see!--and your ears, for they are hearing!

"For I tell you truly: many prophets and men of fairness, yearn to see what you are seeing, and cannot; and to hear what you are hearing, and cannot.

"Therefore," He was saying to them, "be careful how you listen! For it shall be measured to you by the standard that you measure; and whoever may be having, to him more shall be given, but whoever may not be having, even what he seems to have shall be removed from him."

Now His disciples questioned Him as to what the parable of the sower means.

And He said: "Have you not seen this parable? And how will you understand all the parables?

"Hear the parable of the sower, then:

"The sower sows the Word.

"Those beside the road are those who hear, but from whom Satan instantly comes and takes away the Word which has been sown in them, lest they believe and so be saved.

"Similarly, on the stony places are the ones who, when they hear, receive the Word with joy--but have no root; and so believe throughout a season. Then in times of trial, persecution or affliction for the Word, they are not getting over this; and so they fall away.

"Now falling among the thorns are those who hear the Word, but are seduced by riches and desires and worries of the age, which stifle what the Word can do--and so there is no fruit and nothing comes to maturation.

"But in good earth--in the hearts that are ideal--they hear the Word and understand, agree with it, retain it, and bear fruit with perseverance by all means: these a hundred, those a sixty, over there a thirtyfold."

Now His disciples (says the Disciple) inquire of Him and say, "Explain to us the parable about the darnels in the field."

And He replies: "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.

"And the field, is the world.

"And the good seeds are the kingdom's children.

"And the darnels are the children of the evil one.

"And the enemy who sowed them is the Adversary.

"And the harvest is the consummation of the age.

"And the reapers are the angels.

"Even as the darnels then are being culled and burned up in the fire, the ending of the age shall also be. The Son of Man shall send His angels, and they shall be culling from His kingdom all the stumbling blocks and rebels and be casting them into a fiery furnace--lamentations shall be there, and gnashing of the teeth.

"Then (as Daniel says in prophecy) the fair ones shall be shining as the sun, in the kingdom of their Father!

"Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear!

"The kingdom of God is like a treasure hidden in the field, which someone finding hides, and in his joy he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field!

"Again; a merchant seeking ideal pearls is like God's kingdom--finding one of precious value, he goes forth and selling all he has, he buys it!

"Again; the kingdom of God is like a dragnet cast into the sea, gathering every species; and when it was full, they hauled it on the beach and being seated culled the good fish into crocks--yet the rotten they cast out. This is how the consummation of the age will be: the angels will be coming out and will be separating out the evil from the just, casting them into a fiery furnace.

"There will be wailing, and gnashing of teeth.

"Do you understand these things?"

They answered, yes.

He said to them: "Every scribe disciple in God's kingdom is thus like a household head who brings forth from his treasures new and old.

"Now, no one after lighting a lamp covers it with a measuring-basket, nor does he put it under a bed; but he puts it on a lampstand, in order that those who come inside may see the light.

"For nothing is hidden that shall not be revealed, nor anything secret that shall not be made known and come to light."

And so, He was explaining everything privately to His own disciples.

And it happened when Jesus finished these parables, He withdrew from there.

Matthew 13:1-53
Mark 4:1-34
Luke 8:4-18
Luke 13:18-21

[Next time: Enemy Forces]

Larry Norman, one of the early pioneers combining Christian messages with rock and roll music and author of the song "I wish we'd all been ready" went home to be with Christ on February 24, 2008 following a lengthy illness. According to his website:

Yesterday afternoon he knew he was going to go home to God very soon and he dictated the following message to you while his friend Allen Fleming typed these words into Larry's computer:

I feel like a prize in a box of cracker jacks with God's hand reaching down to pick me up. I have been under medical care for months. My wounds are getting bigger. I have trouble breathing. I am ready to fly home.

My brother Charles is right, I won't be here much longer. I can't do anything about it. My heart is too weak. I want to say goodbye to everyone. In the past you have generously supported me with prayer and finance and we will probably still need financial help.

My plan is to be buried in a simple pine box with some flowers inside. But still it will be costly because of funeral arrangement, transportation to the gravesite, entombment, coordination, legal papers etc. However money is not really what I need, I want to say I love you.

I'd like to push back the darkness with my bravest effort. There will be a funeral posted here on the website, in case some of you want to attend. We are not sure of the date when I will die. Goodbye, farewell, we will meet again.

Goodbye, farewell, we'll meet again
Somewhere beyond the sky.
I pray that you will stay with God
Goodbye, my friends, goodbye.


When I was still in high school, my garage band played several of his tunes. I loved his music and simply want to note the passing of a person who helped advance the cause of Christ by using a new and then-controversial medium to communicate the Good News.

Larry, I will see you someday again, and I hope that I can say thank you for those you reached through your music.

Introductory note from Jason Pratt: see here for the previous entry; and see here for the first entry of the series. (It explains what I'm doing, and how, and contains the Johannine prologue.)

This 'chapter' runs rather long, for obvious reasons so I've broken it into two entries. Scripture refs for both parts are given together at the end of this entry.

The King Declares the Kingdom (Part 2 of 2)

"Beware of doing your fair-togetherness in front of people to be noticed by them; otherwise, surely you have no reward with your Father in the heavens!

"Therefore, when you do an act of charity, you should not sound a trumpet in front of you!--the way that hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be glorified by people. Truly I tell you: this is all the reward they will have!

"But when you do charity, do not even let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your alms (the money given in charity) may be in hiding; and your Father, observing in hiding, will be paying you.

"And whenever you may be praying, do not be like the hypocrites, for they are fond of standing and praying in the synagogues and at the corners of market squares, so that they may be seen by people. Truly I tell you: this is all the reward they will have!

"But you, whenever you may be praying, go into your inner room; and locking the door, pray to your Father in hiding; and your Father, observing in hiding, will reward you.

"Now in praying, don't use meaningless repetitions the way the pagans do, thinking that they can earn their hearing by many words!

"Do not be like them, therefore: for God, your Father, knows your needs before you even ask Him.

"Pray then in this way:

Our Father in the heavens!
Hallowed be Your name!
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done
on earth as in the heavens!

Give to us today our bread, the on-existence;
and pardon us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,
and do not bring us into the trial:
but save us from the evil one!

"For if you pardon people their offenses, your heavenly Father also will be pardoning you.

"But if you will not pardon people their offenses, neither will your Father pardon you of your offenses!

"Now, whenever you may fast, do not put on a gloomy face as do the hypocrites; for they disguise their faces so that people will be seeing they are fasting. Truly I am telling you: this is their reward and nothing more!

"But you, when you are fasting, rub your head with oil and wash your face, so that you may not seem to people to be fasting, but to your Father in hiding; and your Father, observing in hiding, will be rewarding you.

"Enter (the kingdom) by the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads into destruction!--and many are entering through it.

"For the gate is cramped, and narrow is the way that leads to life--and few are those who find it."


And it happened that when Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them on His own authority, not as their scribes.

Now the multitude gathered to such an extent, that they (the disciples and Jesus) couldn't even eat lunch.

And when His own family heard of this (adds the Follower), they went out to take charge of Him, saying: "He has lost His senses!" [Plotnote: keep in mind, they're going after Him because He's late for lunch. It really isn't as big a deal as many commenters would have it.]

Then (says the Disciple) there was brought to Him a demented man--blind and mute! But He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw.

[Plotnote: HEY! Doesn't this guy seem familiar? In fact, didn't the Disciple himself talk about a similar guy using very similar words, earlier in the story?! The typical explanation is that the incident is merely doubleted in GosMatt, with the author/editor/final redactor/whoever stitching together multiple sources which told the same story and he never noticed. Because if this was in fact the same guy who got healed the night before, wouldn't that be a major criticism of Jesus, that His opponents would latch onto even back then?! Ah, yep... read on!]

And the multitudes were amazed, saying, "Nothing like this has been ever seen in Israel! Could this man be the Son of David!?"

But when the scribes of Pharisees who had come down from Jerusalem heard this, they said: "This man casts out demons, only by Beezeboul ('Plunder-possessor' in Hebrew) the ruler of demons!"

[Plotnote: now, aside from mere spatishness, why would these Pharisee/scribes, visiting from Jerusalem to keep an eye on Jesus for the group back at political headquarters, think healing this guy would count as evidence in itself that Jesus was a super-agent of the Devil? True, they might be trying to goad Him into defending Himself publicly with overt Deity claims--but that tactic is only going to look like puzzling spite to the crowd, if Jesus merely disses them and keeps on going. However: if this guy had been healed the night before, and needed healing again, that wouldn't look like a 'real' healing, once word got around that this wasn't his first time--which it pretty quickly could. Now the opposition has something solid to goad Jesus with; if Jesus simply waves them off, He leaves the double-healed demented man hanging there as evidence (to the crowd) against Him. If He defends Himself with overt Deity claims, of the sort they'd heard Him make to them recently back in Judea, then either He'll have to ante up or be stoned by the crowd. It probably looks like a no-lose situation to these scribes!--if that's the historical circumstance being reflected by the Synoptics immediately here, piecemeal. So, is there any confirming evidence in that direction, that this is what's happening?]

Yet knowing their thoughts (evidently they were trying to quietly spread this notion around in the crowd first, to build up grass-root support), He called to them (publicly pre-empting their attempts) and started speaking in parables:

"How can Satan cast out Satan!? Every kingdom divided against itself is laid to waste!--and every city or house divided against itself shall not be able to stand!

"Now if the Adversary ('satan') sends away the Adversary--he rises up against himself as an adversary, and he is finished! If Satan is divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand!?

"For you are saying I cast demons out by Beezeboul! If I am casting out by power of the Plunder-possessor, by whom do your sons cast them out!? Consequently, they shall be your judges!

"But, if I am casting out demons by the finger of God, in His Spirit, then the kingdom of God is outstripping you!

"Whenever the strong one guards his own court fully armed, his possessions are secure. How can anyone enter the strong one's house, and carry off his plunder, unless he binds the strong one first? Yet if a stronger one ever attacks and overpowers him, he takes away all his armor on which he was relying, and binds him up. Then he plunders the (Plunderer's) house, giving away that plunder!!

"Now, whenever an unclean spirit goes out of a person, it passes through waterless places, seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came'; and when it arrives, it finds the house swept, decorated--and unoccupied.

"Then it goes out and brings along with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there!--and the final state of that person is worse than ever.

"That is the way it will also be, with this evil generation.

[Plotnote: now, why would Jesus bother coming up with this example out of nowhere? What topical link does it have to anything in the Synoptic stories? Nothing especially obvious--until the pieces are put together! Then suddenly we have some guy who had been exorcise/healed the night before, who needed healing again this morning, and some scribes thinking they somehow had a strong opportunity to introduce the worst kind of charges against Jesus among the crowd. Ding! The Synoptists can be putting together fragments of the story according to their own topical plans and rhetorical constructions, maybe based also on how portions of the story get passed down later. But stereoscopic dovetailing of this sort, especially when it helps explain some apparently arbitrary features in the texts, points back with strong likelihood to a historical core from which the pieces were eventually put into the Synoptics.]

"He who is not with Me is against Me!--and he who does not gather with Me, scatters!

"Therefore I say to you: any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men; even a word, even a blasphemy, spoken against the Son of Man!

"But--whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, sins an eternal sin. It shall not be forgiven him... neither in this age, nor in that to come.”

--because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit," (adds the Follower).

"Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree rotten, and its fruit rotten--for the tree is known by its fruit.

"Beware of false prophets, who come to you dressed as sheep, yet inside they are ravening wolves!

"You will recognize them by their fruits. No one gathers grapes from thorns, nor figs from star-thistles, do they? Therefore, every good tree bears ideal fruit; but the rotten tree bears only noxious fruit.

"Every tree that doesn't bear good fruit, is cut in pieces and is cast into the fire.

"So then, you will recognize them by their fruit.

"You sons of vipers! How could you, being evil, speak good things!? For out of the superabundance of the heart, the mouth is speaking.

"The person who is good brings good things out of his good treasure; but evil people bring out evil from their evil treasure.

"And I tell you that for every idle word which people speak, they shall be made to render an account for it on Judgment Day. For by your words shall you be justified; and by your words shall you be damned."


Then some of the scribes and Pharisees were answering Him, from the press of the crowd, saying: "Teacher, we want to see an attesting sign from you (that God supports what you're saying)!"

But He said to them in answer: "An evil and adulterous generation seeks a sign; but no sign shall be given to it--except the sign of Jonah the prophet!"

For even as Jonah was in the sea monster's belly for three days and nights (the Disciple possibly adds) so the Son of Man will later be in the earth three days and nights...

"For just as Jonah became (at least in his proclamation to repentant) an attesting sign to the Ninevites (said Jesus), so shall the Son of Man be to this generation!

"Ninevite men will rise in the judgment with this generation, and will be condemning it--for they changed their hearts willingly, at the preaching of Jonah, and look!--more than Jonah is here!

"The Queen of the South will be raised in the judging with this generation, and will be condemning it--for she arrived from the ends of the earth to attend to Solomon's wisdom, and look!--more than Solomon is here!"


While He was still speaking to the crowd (say the Disciple and Scholar and Follower), look!--His mother and brothers arrive, but cannot get to Him because of the crowd; so they are sending (gestures) and calling to Him. [Plotnote: remember, He's now late for lunch.]

Now while He was speaking, a woman in the crowd called out: "Happy be the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!"

And Jesus replied: "Indeed!--then happy be the ones who hear and follow the Word of God!"

And someone reported to Him, "See! Your mother and brothers are standing out here, wanting to speak to you!"

But answering them, He said: "Who are My mother and My brothers?"

And looking about on those who were sitting around Him, He stretched out His hand to His disciples and said: "Look here!--My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother!

"Yet, why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord!', and do not do what I say??

"Not all who say to Me 'Lord, Lord!', will enter into the kingdom of the heavens; but only whoever does the will of My Father Who is in the heavens.

"Many will say to Me, on that day: 'Lord, Lord! Did we not prophecy in Your name, and in Your name send demons away, and in Your name do many works of power!?!'

"And then I shall be vowing to them: 'I never knew you! "Depart from Me, you evildoers!"' (as David the king said in a Psalm)

"Therefore: everyone who comes to Me, and hears My words, and does them--I will show you whom they are like.

"They may be compared to a prudent man building his house, who dug and went deep, and laid his foundation upon the rock. And rain fell and the rivers came, and winds blew bursting against that house; yet it did not fall, and they could not shake it, for it had been founded upon the rock.

"But the one who has heard these words of Mine, who has not acted accordingly, is like a foolish man who builds his house on sand, without any foundation.

"And rain fell, and the river came, and winds blew bursting against that house.

"And immediately, it fell.

"And great was its ruin.

"Now--do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn, and tear you to pieces."

And when He had finished His words in the hearing of the people, He went (back) into Capernaum.

[Note: if you notice I've left out a few sayings here and there--don't worry. I'll be getting them in later. Those are cases where it looked most probable to me that the authors had ported other sayings into the vicinity for topical relationship or rhetorical construction purposes.]

Matthew 5:2-48
Matthew 6:1-18
Matthew 6:22-23
Matthew 7:1-6
Matthew 7:12-29
Matthew 8:1b
Matthew 9:33b-34
Matthew 12:22-50
Matthew 18:8-9
Mark 3:9-10
Mark 3:20-35
Luke 6:17-38
Luke 6:39-40
Luke 6:41-49
Luke 7:1
Luke 8:19-21
Luke 11:14-36
Luke 14:34-35

[Next time: the afternoon sermon--now in parables.]

This is the third in a series about the debate between Darwinian evolutionists and advocates of Intelligent Design. In part 1, I used President Bush's statement that the debate should be "properly taught" to point out that no one (at least, no leading figure in the debate) is presently advocating that ID be taught with the same weight as Darwinian evolution. Rather, the case that is being made is that it should be introduced and taught fairly so that students can understand the controversy. In part 2, I pointed out that statements to the contrary notwithstanding, the central hypothesis of Darwinian evolution has not actually been tested. That doesn't mean that there isn't a lot of evaluating of the evidence and placing the evidence into the Darwinian evolutionary framework. The fact that the evidence fits so nicely (much of the time) into that framework provides evidence that the framework is true. But the problem is that the framework itself remains untested and unproven. In this part, I want to elaborate on the second part by using two analogies. First, however, I want to use a comment from part 2 to try to clarify what I was saying.

Testing, Conclusions and Reasonableness

I found it interesting that in response to my last entry, one reader named "a hermit" commented with respect to evolution that "there is no way to do one single test that confirms the theory as a whole, but the accumulation of many smaller tests which each confirm different aspects of the theory make for an even stronger case for confidence in the theory as a whole." I mostly agree. I don't know that there is no way to do one single test that confirms the theory as a whole, but I certainly believe that to be true. And I agree that smaller tests would build confidence that the theory as a whole is true.

Nevertheless, I have a problem with the implications of the comment: there are not that many smaller tests that can and have been run. In reality, the vast majority of Darwinian evolutionary "testing" consists of looking at the evidence that is uncovered and shoe-horning it into the evolutionary framework. Sometimes (most of the time, in fact) the new evidence slides in quite nicely. But on occasion the framework has to be adapted because the facts don't meet what is expected. The fact that the evidence can fit into the framework does lend credence to the idea that Darwinian evolution is true --- in fact, as I pointed out, I am not in these posts asserting that Darwinian evolution isn't true. A person can reasonably conclude from the evidence that Darwinian evolution is true. But merely because someone can rationally arrive at a conclusion that something is true doesn't make it true in actual fact.

After all, at one point in time a person examining the evidence could reasonably conclude that the universe had alwasys existed (the steady state theory) while others were concluding that the universe began with a big bang. It wasn't possible that both could be true, but the evidence was such that scientists, based on the evidence available, could reasonably conclude that either could be correct. However, more recently new discoveries have made it much more difficult to believe that the steady-state theory of the universe has merit. I would argue that the Darwinian evolution is very much like the steady state theory -- it is an framework for understanding the evidence that is consistent with what can be observed and which it is rational for people to accept. However, it may turn out that Darwinian evolution is as wrong as the steady state theory when tests are developed that can actually test the central hypothesis of Darwinian evolution.

Allow me to give two analogies that may help explain what I mean when I am talking about the testing the central hypothesis. But before I do, let me explain something about how analogies should be evaluated. (A fuller discussion of analogies, their use and limits, from which the following has been taken can be found here.) First, look at the context in which the analogy occurs. In other words, what is the purpose of the analogy. What is the main point that the analogy is intended to make or illustrate? Once that purpose or point is identified, then the second step is to see whether the analogy differs in any substantive respect from the analog that would make the intended analogy inapplicable. Simply pointing out differences between the analog and the analogy that don't go to the point of the analogy is nothing more then pointing out that an analogy isn't an identity.

The Blind Men and the Elephant Analogy

To give an analogy (keeping in mind that no analogy is an identity and no analogy will be an exact parallel the original), consider the old Indian fable of the blind men and the elephant. In the story, the blind men are all feeling a different part of the elephant and concluding different things about the elephant based on what they happen to be feeling. Thus, one blind man feels the trunk and says, "the elephant is like a snake." A second man feels the tusk and concludes that the elephant "is like a spear." Ultimately, none of them knows what the elephant is really like.

Now, take that same story and assume that the blind men have a theory about what the elephant is like -- they believe that the elephant is similar to a road-tractor with an attached semi-trailer. Now, the person grabs the trunk and feels that it is snake-like and assumes that he has grabbed some type of hydraulic hose. Another grabs the tusk and feels that it is spear-like and assumes that he has grabbed some bull's horns that someone has mounted as decorations on the front end of the truck. Someone else touches the side which feels wall-like and assumes that they are touching the flat, hard side of the semi-trailer. And on and on. Admittedly, they don't have all of the evidence, but the blind men are finding that by touching the elephant the evidence supports their hypothesis that it is like a road-tractor with attached semi-trailer.

What happens if someone shows that the trunk isn't quite the same as what would be expected if the elephant were a tractor-trailor? Does that disprove the theory? Not necessarily. The blind men, after all, only said that the elephant is like a tractor-trailer and admitted that they didn't have all of the details. So, when this is pointed out, the blind men simply note that the elephant is like the tractor-trailer, but that the hydraulic hoses are not as they originally hypothesized. The idea of what the elephant is actually like is adjusted and the belief that the elephant is a tractor-trailer is maintained despite the new evidence.

In effect, all the blind men have done is to demonstrate that the evidence can be manipulated in such a way that it fits into their belief framework. They haven't shown that their theory that the elephant is similar to a tractor-trailer is, in fact, true -- only that what they are touching is consistent with that central hypothesis. They have done little to prove that the elephant is actually a tractor-trailer in the first place, and new evidence that is inconsistent with the cental hypothesis changes but never disproves the central hypothesis.

The Evolving Cars Analogy

Allow me to give a second analogy (again, keeping in mind that no analogy is an identity and no analogy will be an exact parallel the original). Suppose that we are 10,000,000 years in the future, and we have somehow lost all records of what life was like in the 20th and 21st Centuries. Archaeologists dig up the remains of various automobiles. After a time, they put together a pretty good time-line for determining exactly how each car followed from the other. They are able to examine, for example, how the fuel-injection engines seem to build on the simpler carburator-based engines. Someone suggests that the remains of cars found are the remains of some metal-life creatures that evolved as the result of natural selection. This theory is widely accepted because these future scientists are able to track the evolution of the automobile over time.

Does the fact that it appears that some cars followed from other cars mean that the underlying idea that all cars evolved by natural selection has been proven? Of course, I recognize that some will argue that the analogy fails because cars, being inorganic, wouldn't evolve. I agree that cars, being inorganic, wouldn't evolve (although some seem to suggest that evolution of inorganic molecules is part of the whole evolutionary story), but the point of the analogy is not that scientists would make such a mistake, but rather to show that the fossil record only maps out what lived -- not why or how the changes occurred. Those are both speculations based on the assumption that the central pole is correct, and the speculations are applauded if they correspond with the overall framework created by the central hypothesis. However, the central hypothesis itself remains unproven.

My point is this: the majority of the evidence for Darwinian evolution is the fossil record. Darwinian evolution is the framework or central hypothesis that is used to explain the evidence discovered. I certainly accept that the evidence shows fossils starting with simple organisms at the earliest time which are followed in the record by more complex animals (although there are people who make a pretty good case that the dating of the fossils is also the result of the Darwinian evolutionary framework). Usually, these fossils fit into the framework quite easily. But occasionally, they don't.

The lastest example of not fitting so nicely is the ancient 20 pound frog named Beelzebufo or 'the frog from Hell' the fossils of which have been found in Madagascar. The article notes:

"The finding presents a real puzzle biogeographically, particularly because of the poor fossil record of frogs on southern continents," said Stony Brook University paleontologist David Krause, who led the research. "We're asking ourselves, 'What's a 'South American' frog doing half-way around the world, in Madagascar?'"

The answer? Well, it certainly isn't possible that Darwinian evolution is wrong, so the speculation is that there was a land bridge between Madagascar, Antartica and South America that allowed the biologically similar frogs to live so far away from each other. As a result, once a reasonable adjustment is made to the overall creation myth of Darwinian evolution by adding a land bridge to the continental drift theory, Beelzebufo is now going to be catalogued as further evidence of Darwinian evolution.

But that's the problem -- there is never any proof that evolution is wrong because the theory is infinitely malleable on the edges and the central core is never tested.

Next time: Counter-Example

Introductory note from Jason Pratt: see here for the previous entry; and see here for the first entry of the series. (It explains what I'm doing, and how, and contains the Johannine prologue.)

This 'chapter' runs rather long, for obvious reasons (it's "the Sermon on the Mount", duh--except as it happens, it takes place neither on a 'Mount' nor on a 'Plain' as often labeled in Bibles!) so I've broken it into two entries. Scripture refs will be given at the end of Part 2.

The King Declares the Kingdom (Part 1 of 2)

Now they went together into a house (the Follower says, evidently meaning Jesus' house in Capernaum, after coming down from the mountain. This is probably to eat breakfast.)

Then, going down, He stood with them on a level place (says the Scholar), with a great throng of His disciples and crowds from all of Judea and Jerusalem and (even) the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon (northwest in southern Syria along the Mediterranean coast).

And Jesus told His disciples (says the Follower) that a boat should be standing ready for Him, so that He wouldn't be crowded by the people; for He had healed so many by now, that people with afflictions would fall on Him in order to touch Him and to be healed by the power coming out of Him (adds the Scholar)! And those who were being tormented by unclean spirits were (also being) cured.

Now turning His gaze upon His disciples, He opens His mouth and teaches them, saying:

"Happy be the poor in spirit, for you shall inherit God's great kingdom!

"Happy be the humble, for you shall be enjoying the allotment of the land!

"Happy be the mourners who lament, for you shall be consoled and shall be laughing!

"Happy be the ones who hunger and thirst for fair-togetherness; you shall be made full!

"Happy be the clean in heart, for you shall see the God!!

"Happy be the merciful, for you shall be shown mercy!

"Happy be the peacemakers, for you shall be called heir-children of God!

"Happy be those who are persecuted on account of fair-togetherness, for you shall have the kingdom of the heavens!

"Be happy when they damn and persecute you, falsely testifying, saying every wicked thing against you, for My sake! Be happy when men hate you and they cut you off, calling your name wicked for the Son of Man!

"On that day--leap around rejoicing! Look!--your wages in the heavens are immense!! For their fathers also persecuted prophets in this way before you!

"However... Rich, be wailing!--for this is all the consolation you already have!

"Be wailing those who now are filled, for you shall be in hunger!

"Be wailing, you who laugh now, for you shall lament and mourn!

"Be wailing whenever all men say fine things about you; for just this way their fathers treated prophets who were false!

"Do not infer from this that I have come to undermine the Law or Prophets; I came to fulfill them, not demolish them. I tell you truly: until the earth and heavens shall be passing away, the smallest stroke or letter of the Law shall not be passing away--until it all is finished.

"So, whoever is disintegrating one of the least of these instructions, teaching other people likewise, he shall be called least in the kingdom of God!

"Yet, whoever does and teaches (these instructions), shall be called great in the kingdom of God!

"For I tell you, unless your fair-togetherness super-exceeds the scribes and Pharisees, you absolutely shall not enter the kingdom of God!!

"You have heard that it was said to the ancients 'MURDER NOT', and 'Whoever murders, shall be guilty before the judging'.

"But I am saying to you, that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the judging; and whoever calls his brother 'Good-for-nothing!' shall be guilty before the Sanhedrin; and whoever even says 'You fool!' shall be guilty to the Gehenna of fire!

"Therefore, if you are putting forth your gift-offering at the altar (in the Temple), and remember your brother has any claim against you--go away! Leave your present there in front of the altar! First make reconciliation with your brother; then come back and offer your approach-present.

"Make friends quickly with the one who accuses you, while you are on the way (to court); so that your accuser may not deliver you up to the Judge, and the Judge give you over to the deputy, and you be cast into prison! Truly I tell you: by no means shall you be coming out from there, until you have paid the final cent!

"You have (also) heard that it was said 'ADULTER NOT'. But I am telling you, every man who looks upon a woman to lust for her, has committed adultery with her already in his heart!

"Now, if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it away!--for it is better for you that part of your body should die and you should enter the kingdom of God with only one eye, than to be cast with two eyes into the flaming garbage dump!

"And if your foot is making you stumble, cut it off!--for it is better to enter life as lame, than to be thrown with both feet into the flaming garbage dump!

"And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away!--for it is better for you that part of your body should die and you enter the life of the kingdom of God as a cripple, than for your whole body to be cast with both hands into the flaming garbage dump!

"The lamp of the body is your eye. Therefore if your eye is whole, all your body will be filled with light; and if your body is full of light, with not a dark part in it, it shall be completely shining, as when the lamp is lighting you!

"But if your eye is evil, then all your body will be dark.

"If the light within you then is darkness, how great is that darkness! Beware that the light within you may not be darkness!

"You are the light of the world! A city set on a hill cannot be hidden! Nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a measuring-basket!--but (rather) on the lampstand, and it gives the light to everyone in the house.

"Let your light shine before men, in such a way that they may see your deeds are good, and so be praising your Father in the heavens!

"Now--it was declared (in the Law, in Deuteronomy), 'Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a divorce certificate.'

"But I am telling you: everyone who dismisses his wife, outside a case of prostitution, makes her commit adultery! And whoever marries her when she has been dismissed is also committing adultery.

"Again, you have heard the ancients were told (in every book of the Law), 'You shall not falsely swear an oath, but shall fulfill your oaths to God.'

"But I am absolutely telling you not to swear!--neither by heaven, for it is the throne of God; nor by the earth, for it is a footstool for His feet; nor toward Jerusalem, for it is (as the Psalmist says) 'The City of the Highest King'! Nor by your head should you be swearing--for you cannot make one hair to be white or black!

"But let your word be 'Yes, yes', 'No, no'. And excess of these is from the evil one.

"You have heard that it was said (again and again in the Law), 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth'.

"But I tell you, do not withstand an evil person; to one who strikes you on the right cheek, offer him the other also. And if he takes away your shirt, then let him also have your cloak. And if someone compels you to go one mile, then go two with him.

"Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from those who want to borrow from you; and if someone takes your things away, do not demand them back.

"You have heard that it was said (in Leviticus of the Law), 'You shall love your neighbor' and hate your enemy (as the Law sometimes is interpreted).

"But I am telling those who hear: love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless the ones who curse you. Pray for those who persecute you. And just as you want people to do to you, do to them: for this is the Law and the Prophets!

"Now, if you love those who love you, what credit or reward is that to you? Aren't the traitors doing this, too!?

"And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?? Even sinners do the same!

"And if you greet your brother only, what are you doing more than others? Don't the pagans do that, too!?

"And if you lend to those from whom you seek repayment, how is this a credit to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be paid again!

"Beyond all this, then: love your enemies, and be doing good, and be lending, not despairing at all, expecting nothing in return; so that you may become heir-children of your Father in the heavens!

"And your reward in heaven will be vast, and you will be the children of the Highest; for He Himself is kind to evil and ungrateful people: He causes His sun to rise on the good and the wicked alike, and makes it rain on the fair and on the unfair!

“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who has become perfected will be like his teacher.

"Become, then, merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

"Therefore, you shall be perfect, as your Father in the heavens is perfect.

"Now, do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not damn, and you will not be damned; set free, and you will also be set free. Give and it will be given to you: a good measuring, pressed down, shaken together and running over, they will pour into your lap (as from the fullest possible measuring basket). For by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you in return.

"Do not be judging--lest you be judged! For by your standard of judging shall you be judged!”

And He spoke a parable to them, saying, “A blind one cannot lead a blind one--will they not both fall in a ditch?!

"So why do you look at the speck in the eye of your brother, but you do not notice the log sticking out of your own!?

"Or how will you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take out this speck in your eye...' and behold!--the log is in your own eye!

"You hypocrite! First remove your own log out of your eye!--then you may see clearly enough to take out the speck from your brother's eye."

[Next time: the morning preaching continues--and a minor character returns, leading to some trouble!]

Introductory note from Jason Pratt: see here for the previous entry; and see here for the first entry of the series. (It explains what I'm doing, and how, and contains the Johannine prologue.)


Now Jesus withdraws from there (i.e. from Judea) with His disciples, toward the Lake (of Galilee, says the Follower with the Disciple); and great crowds from the Galilee region followed with Him--also people from Judea and over beyond the Jordan, from Jerusalem, from Idumea, from the Decapolis, even from the district of Sidon and Tyre!

They all had heard of what He was doing, and came to Him; and He is healing them all.

And whenever the unclean spirits beheld Him (adds the Follower), they would fall down before Him and cry out saying, "You are the Son of God!"

But He strictly warns them, that they should not reveal Him--so that (adds the Disciple) the declaration through Isaiah the prophet might be filled:

Look here! My Boy Whom I have chosen!
My beloved, in Whom My soul delights!
Upon Him I shall put My Spirit,
and to all the nations shall He be bringing the judgment report!

He will not be fighting or quarreling,
nor will He merely be raising His voice in the marketplaces.

A battered reed He will not break off,
a smoldering wick He will not put out;

until He casts out judging for victory!

And on His name, the nations shall rely!


As Jesus is passing from there (says the Disciple, referring to wherever Jesus had healed the daughter of Jairus--probably leaving Magdala on the way to Capernaum, the final part of any journey home from the south or west), two blind men are following Him, noisily calling: "Have mercy on us, Son of David!" [Note: a militant Messianic title.]

Now as He goes into (His) house, the blind men come to Him.

And Jesus is saying to them: "Are you believing that I can do this?"

"Yes, Sir," they are telling Him.

Then He touches their eyes, saying, "Let it be, according to your faith."

And their eyes were opened.

Yet Jesus growled to them saying, "Look! Let no one know!"

But they went out and spread the news like fire throughout the country.

And while they were departing, look!--someone is bringing in a mute demented man! Yet with the demon sent away, the man is speaking. [Plotnote: we'll soon be seeing this fellow again, however!]

But seeing the crowds gathering (again), Jesus went up into the hills.

It happened during this time (agrees the Scholar) that He went out into the hills to pray; and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.


And it happened that while He was praying (during that night), His disciples came to Him as He sat in a certain place.

And as He finishes, a certain disciple says to Him, "Sir... teach us to pray; as John (the Baptist) also taught his disciples."

And He said to them: "Whenever you may be praying, say:

may Thy name be holy,
may Thy kingdom come.
Our bread, the on-existence, give us every day,
and send away our sins;
for we ourselves do also free
the debts of everyone who owes us:
bring us not into the trial!"

And He said to them:

"Which of you, having a friend, would go to him at midnight saying to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from on the road, and I have nothing to feed him'?

"Now from inside, would he answer and say, ‘Do not weary me; my door is locked already, and my little children are in bed with me--I cannot rise to give you anything!’?

"I tell you, he may not get up and give you anything for friendship sake--but if you shamelessly pester him long enough, he will get up and give you as much as you need!

"Now I say to you: keep on asking--it shall be given to you; keep on seeking--and you shall find; keep on knocking--and for you it shall be opened!

"For everyone who asks, receives; and who is seeking, finds; and to the knocking one it shall be opened!

"Now, suppose the son of one of you should ask his father for a loaf; you wouldn't give him a stone, would you? or give a snake if he asked for fish? or give a scorpion if he asked for an egg!

"If you then, being inherently wicked, still know that you should give good gifts to your children--how much more the Father from the heavens will give what is good, the Holy Spirit, to whomever may be asking!"


Now when day comes He shouts to His disciples, summoning the ones He wants; and they came to Him.

And He appoints twelve--whom He also names 'apostles' (adds the Follower); that they may be with Him, and so that He may send them on missions as heralds, and to have authority over demons.

Now the names of the twelve apostles are these:

First, Simon whom He also named Peter
and Andrew, his brother.

and James (or Jacob) the son of Zebedee
and John (or Joannes) the brother of James
to whom (the Follower adds) He gave the name Boanerges
which means "the sons of thunder"

and Philip,

and Nathanael the son of Talmai

and Matthew Levi, and James (his brother) the son of Alpheus, and Thomas (nicknamed the Twin, says the Evangelist)

and Simon the Zealot

and Judas Thaddeus son of James

and Judas Iscariot--who also became a traitor.

And when He came down from the mountain, He went to Capernaum, to go to His house.


Now a certain centurion's slave, whom he regarded highly, was about to die of an illness. And hearing of Jesus, the centurion sends some Jewish elders to where He was, carrying Him a message.

As Jesus enters Capernaum, the elders find Him, speaking the message of the centurion (as if he was there), entreating Him: "Sir! My boy is thrown down paralyzed at home, tormented dreadfully! Would you bring him safely through?"

The elders added diligently, "He is worthy for you to give him this kindness, for he loves our nation; and he is the one who built our synagogue!"

Now He is saying to them, "I will come and cure him." And Jesus went with them.

But, when He was already not far from the house (possibly in Chorazin only a few miles up the road from Capernaum), the centurion sent some friends (bearing another message), strongly declaring to Him: "Sir!! Do not bother; I am not worthy enough for you to come under my roof! But only say the word, and my boy will be healed: for I am also a man set under authority, having soldiers under me as well, and when I say to this one 'Go' he goes!--and to another 'Come', and he is coming!--and to my slave 'Do this' and he is doing it!"

Now, hearing these things, Jesus marvels at him, and turning around to the following group, says: "Truly I tell you, not yet in Israel have I found so much faith! And I am saying to you, that many from east and west shall come and recline (at the table to eat) with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in the kingdom of God!--yet the heirs of the kingdom shall be cast into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be wailing, and gnashing of teeth."

And Jesus said to the centurion (through his friends whom he had sent), "Go! As you believe, let it happen for you!"

And the boy was healed that very hour--when those who had been sent (to speak for the centurion) returned to the house, they found the slave in whole good health.

Matthew 4:25
Matthew 5:1
Matthew 7:7-11
Matthew 8:1a
Matthew 8:5-13
Matthew 9:27-33a
Matthew 10:1-4
Matthew 12:15b-21
Mark 3:7b-8
Mark 3:11-19
Luke 6:12-16
Luke 7:2-10
Luke 11:1-13

[Next time: The King Declares the Kingdom (Part 1)]

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