The (Im)Probability of Life Forming by Chance

Ever hear someone say that Life on Earth happened by chance?

That’s what materialists think… give it 4.6 billion years, and you’re bound to get some life.  Maybe even some outrageously complex bipedal primates that can fly to the moon and back when all is said and done!

And yet, the odds of that happening are actually ridiculously remote.  Like… we’re talking impossibly remote.   The word “astronomically” remote would be making light of the odds here, because it turns out the odds are worse than someone trying to randomly select one specific particle out of all the particles in the entire universe.

To see where I’m coming from, watch this short video before you read on… it’s crazy.

It has been calculated that there is only 1 chance in 10ˆ164 that a functional protein would form by chance.  And that’s if all the amino acids were available in a pool in perfect conditions where the acids were free to interact with each other for untold billions (and trilions… and trillions… ) of years.

Insanity.  To give you an idea of how big that number is, there’s only 10ˆ80 elementary particles in our entire universe!!

Here is a video that tries to help us wrap our heads around that number.

And this is for ONE PROTEIN! Not to mention the first cell here on Earth.

Darwin’s hypothesis of evolution is dying a slow painful death when it comes to accounting for origination of anything above “species” or “genus” in the taxodomic ranks.  Eric Metaxas interviewed Dr. Michael Behe recently discussing the current conundrum that materialist evolutionists face with their worldview.  I plan on doing another article just on this interview, but suffice it to say, it’s looking more an more like we owe our existence…

… to an intelligent designer.

Now, I will go out on a limb here.  I’m not convinced of the young Earth creationist arguments that our universe is only 6,000 to 10,000 years old.  I don’t think the Bible necessarily puts us into that box (for instance, see John Walton’s work or the BioLogos website).  But even given 4.6 billion years of Earth history… I mean, c’mon.  10ˆ164? C’mon.

Let’s apply the Occam’s Razor principle and throw in some Pascal’s wager.  If it’s far more probable that that the first protein was formed by design (we’ll call it 1:2…. after all, there either is a creator God or there isn’t one)… or that it happened by chance (1:10ˆ164… c’mon…), which one is the more reasonable conclusion?

I’m going to go with the God hypothesis.  🙂

 

 

 

 

Proposed Foreign and Domestic Policy Solutions to Combat Global Demographic Jihad – Part 2

To read Part 1, which focuses on the orthodox Islamic underpinnings of the jihadist worldview and strategies outlined by the ‘prophet’ Muhammad, click here.  


II.  The Weapon of Demographic Shift for Global Jihad

Islamic jihadists, using the three stages of jihad illustrated above as a doctrinal foundation for their actions (sunnah), are using shifting demographics as a quiet and extremely efficient way to enact large-scale jihad against the West.  The overarching strategy in the West seems to be in three parts that mirror the three stages of jihad.

  1. Plant small but devout enclaves of Muslims into a non-Muslim country, using taqiyya, taking advantage of Western compassion and acceptance, and pursuing a community policy of non-assimilation to establish a growing, independent Muslim community that is uninhibited by surrounding laws or cultural influences;
  2. Grow the political and cultural influence of those Muslims communities until Sharia law can be established legally and start to be enforced upon the outside populace (for instance, imposing and enforcing blasphemy laws on non-Muslims in the name of avoiding offense or upsetting Muslims through public shaming and even legal action);
  3. Continue growth of political power by sheer population growth (since Muslim women have much higher fertility rates than their Western counterparts) inside the country until local, state and even federal government can be controlled or at least heavily influenced by Islamic tenets.

Though clearly this non-violent jihad is not as physically dangerous initially as acts of terrorism that the West typically thinks of when they think of jihad, it is far more effective in establishing a worldwide Caliphate.  The goal of global jihad is to establish a worldwide Islamic State, and if every Western country eventually has an unassimilated Sunni Muslim majority in each of their populations, the West will be effectively neutralized as a cultural and military barrier to more violent subjugation of non-Muslims throughout the world.  Already, this strategy has been publically espoused by leaders like Erdogan and, though possibly not by design, has been demonstrated as effective in several countries throughout the world.  Below are some case studies to consider.

Russia – Putin has many problems concerning a rising population of Muslims.  Much of his current policy in the Middle East and Russia’s military involvement in Syria, as well as antagonism toward Israel, is geared toward appeasing Muslims and not just maneuvering for better control of oil in the Middle East.  Even as far back as 2006, [4] analysts had predicted that the Russian military will be a majority of Muslim men by 2015.  This sentiment is similarly echoed in Marlene Laruelle’s analysis “How Islam Will Change Russia” (paragraph 21). [5]  Putin has enacted schemes over the last decade to increase the fertility rates of Russian women and annexing additional territory like Crimea, but as investigated in an article by Joshua Keating in 2014, it’s too soon to tell if these tactics are working. [6] As a result of this reality and other factors, Russia will continue in its course of acting strong opposite Israel and will also build its ties to majority Muslim countries like Iran and Turkey.   

Syria and Iran – The utter destruction of areas where Sunni Muslims used to live in Syria has caused a huge outflow of refugees North toward Turkey and West toward Greece and the rest of the EU.  Taking their place, Shia Muslims are being settled in those vacated areas by Iran.  Iran is using Syria’s civil war to extend their influence all the way to the Mediterranean and Israel.  This is being widely reported in the news.

Turkish Strategy Against Europe – Meanwhile, Turkey is using these refugees as a cudgel against the EU.  Erdogan has already claimed that he aspires to be the world’s next Caliph in 2014. [7] As the majority Sunni Muslim refugees flee the Syrian civil war, he threatened the EU to open the refugee floodgates at Turkey’s border with EU countries if they did not maintain talks with him concerning Turkey’s eventual admission into the EU in 2016.  [8] If Turkey is admitted into the European Union, the balance of power in Brussels would shift abruptly toward Muslim influence.  In 2017, the total European Union population was 512.6 million.  [9] Turkey’s population is roughly 82 million in 2018, [10] the vast majority of whom are Muslim, according to its government.  [11] With the extremely high birth rates of Muslim families compared to the falling fertility rates of the rest of Europe, EU’s Muslim population with Turkey’s addition would grow very quickly from 15% over the next several decades. 

Blasphemy Laws in the West – Because of the rapid growth of the Somali population in and around Minneapolis, Minnesota, there are reports of growing Sharia-compliant enclaves and individuals that operate outside the laws and jurisdictions of Minnesota law enforcement, along with growing jihadist conversions.  [12, 13] There have also been individual people who have experienced run-ins with security personnel and police who seem to be enforcing Islamic blasphemy laws while infringing on the First Amendment rights of American citizens.  [14, 15] Meanwhile, in October 2018 the Associated Press reported that the European Court of Human Rights ruled against a woman who called Muhammad a pedophile; they said her right to free speech did not supercede “the legitimate aim of preserving religious peace.” [16] These are exactly the kinds of things that the above “Stage Two” of jihad would predict. 

III. Policy Recommendations to Combat Demographic Jihad

            Since global jihad comes from an orthodox interpretation of Islam, it is a fool’s errand to combat terrorism and jihadists with the preconception that Muslims will only be “radicalized” because of poverty, bad actors among imams, or other factors external from the religion of Islam itself.  Seeking a global Caliphate should instead be seen as a consistent doctrine of Islam that a small percentage of devout Muslims will subscribe to as a result of studying the sunnah.  Therefore, any strategy to combat global jihad in general and demographic jihad in particular should instead focus on pragmatic limiting of the spread of Muslim populations in Western countries as well as the spreading of cultural and societal pressures to choose non-violent interpretations of Islam.  What follows are specific policy recommendations that take these two ideas into account. 

  1. Abandon cultural relativism as a basis for foreign and domestic policy. Some aspects of Western culture are qualitatively and objectively better or at least more desirable than others within various other cultures.  Acknowledgement of desirable cultural traits as worthy of export to other cultures and insisting upon adherence on certain cultural expectations from global partners should be a central facet of foreign policy. 
  2. Cease use of “violent extremism” as a guiding principle in governmental agencies and instead focus on “Islamic jihad.” Because of the core foundations and divergent end goals of each ideology, law enforcement agencies must differentiate between Islamic jihadism and other types of terrorists (white supremacists, etc.).  Focus on motivation behind the use of terror rather than overuse of the label “terrorism” when describing un-desirable or even criminal activity must be instated.  For instance, Islamist global supremacy is a much clearer and more present danger than the anarchist movement in this country due to the ideological underpinnings and resources available to global jihadists.  The use of the term “violent extremism” is not helpful especially to the general public because lumping all violent ideologies with wildly varying visions of success and scope muddies the water politically for a coherent, targeted approach to each type of terrorism.  Pretending that all violent actions based on rational adherence to a belief system should be treated the same can eventually lead to rational adherents of any belief system becoming targeted because one member of their group became violent.  This is dangerous and should lead policy makers to focus on how to combat violence by focusing on each specific ideology that causes violence in target-specific methods.
  3. Consider informing the public of the contents of this paper. This can be done covertly for political expediency; however, it is important to note that understanding taqiyya, for instance, would greatly enhance public support for counter-jihad operations at home and abroad.  For instance, Western media articles like “The Distortion of Islam that Drives Terrorism” (Washington Post, August 1, 2018) [17] do not even mention Qur’an verses when discussing jihad, nor cite or explain obscure references to hadith to support their claims.  It is clear that with articles like this that the general public will not appreciate the orthodox Islamic ideology that jihadists espouse. 
  4. Take steps to reverse the falling birth-rate trend among Western populations to slow the progress of demographic jihad. Part of the reason Russia, China and Japan’s efforts to reverse their demographic time bombs is because there is already too few child-bearing age women in their ethnic populations.  That is not the case in the US and others, yet.  These steps might include, but are not limited to, tax incentives for growing families, eliminating abortions, de-incentivizing homosexuality in the culture, and a public advertising campaign encouraging population growth for economic benefits.  Some of these are obvious political non-starters; however, it is important to look any and all solutions and prioritize based on effectiveness and logistical feasibility.
  5. Discontinue any Syrian or other majority-Muslim country refugee resettlement programs and instead invest heavily in finding local solutions to refugee issues. If resettlement programs do continue, spread out refugees into culturally homogenous communities other than their own and then heavily incentivize assimilation into those communities/cultures.  This can only be done by communicating with local community and faith-based organizations that do not espouse jihadist ideology.
  6. Commit to withholding economic aid from countries that do not adhere to similar Western cultural values, including allies. Military aid would be considered as a separate issue, since some allies, though failing in certain human-rights aspects (like Saudi Arabia’s Prince bin Salman and the recent assassination of Kashogi) are still a preferable military partner in the check on the enemies of the US.  However, any funding for humanitarian aid to Saudi Arabia, for example, would be contingent upon their adoption of several Western-style policies like the outlaw of the outright killing of homosexuals, etc.  This has already begun, as several reforms have taken place in countries like Saudi Arabia as a tactic to gain Western partnerships in business and trade.   
  7. Ramp up rhetoric and increase trade policy aggressiveness concerning countries that persecute religious minorities around the world. The only way to combat radical ideological growth without interfering with the sovereignty of nations or the free will of men is to leverage the full economic and cultural might of the US Government to (a) deter any persecution of competing worldviews with strategic military and economic pressures that compete with orthodox Islam, while (b) aggressively reinforcing positive changes of policy within those governments.  In other words, if a country wants to do business in the Western world, they need to actively pursue the cultural attributes that made the thriving Western world possible. 

Proposed Foreign and Domestic Policy Solutions to Combat Global Demographic Jihad – Part 1

Introduction

At the very beginning of this paper, it is important to state that this paper is not an attack on Muslims.  The vast majority of Muslims worldwide is peaceful and most imams of most sects of Islam teach that Mohammad was a peaceful man who used violence as a last resort to protect family and community.  There are many tenets of Islam that are peaceful and socially positive such as giving alms (zakat), personal piety through daily prayer (salah) and fasting (sawm), and familial and cultural loyalty.  There are many Qur’an verses that are quoted by Muslims to defend the peaceful aspects of their faith, i.e. “There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion” (2:256) and to provide food for the needy, the orphan, and the captive without expecting gratitude or repayment (76:8-9).  Many Muslims are men and women of character, integrity, and incredible work ethics, and like most Christians in Western culture, do not study for themselves the inner workings of their holy books.

However, one cannot deny the existence of ISIS, al Qaeda, al Shabaab, and individual radicalized terrorists throughout the world and throughout history.  The question of whether the jihadi worldview comes from sound interpretation of Islam or not is debated endlessly on the internet and in social media.  The purpose of this paper is not to enter the debate of whether it is legitimate to interpret Islam in such a way to adopt a violent Islamic Supremacist worldview.  Rather, it is to explore what jihadi terrorists themselves claim as the justification for their ideology.

Afterward, this paper will examine one of the most effective, large-scale and long-term strategies of global jihad: demographic shift.  Using Muhammad’s life and how he approached the spread of Islam as a model, a few Muslim leaders are taking refugees from self-inflicted conflicts within the Muslim world and disseminating millions of Muslims throughout the Western world, taking advantage of Western governments’ lack of acknowledgement of the cultural tendency of Muslim families not to assimilate into the cultures of the host countries.  Erdogan and Rouhani, in particular, understand that birth rates of Western countries are low and dropping while the fertility rates of Muslim women around the world are significantly higher.  Once a country’s population has a large enough percentage of Muslims, the unassimilated Islamic culture in that country will politically demand that self-governance, using Sharia courts and law enforcement outside of the host country’s own jurisdiction, be allowed.  Once Sharia-compliant enclaves are established and grow while the population without continues to shrink, eventually a new Iran or Saudi Arabia is born.

Last is an examination of some possible domestic and foreign policy shifts that would keep at bay the growing influence of radical seeds that are embedded within Islamic culture and religion.  This commitment to (a) a type of Jeffersonian “Empire of Liberty” doctrine and (b) embracing strong stances on protecting Western culture around the world are crucial to keeping Muslim majorities from forming in the US and around the world.  Again, this is not an attack on any individual adherent to Islam nor is it an endorsement of any kind of internment program a la the Japanese following World War II.  This section of the paper simply takes a pragmatic look at the consequences of the growth of Muslim populations in the West and how to combat the subsequent growth of jihadi ideology within those communities.

I. Understanding the Islamic Roots of Jihad

The term jihad has many definitions, including “fight,” “holy war,” “struggle,” etc.  It is not necessary to discuss the specific word itself in this paper; rather, the key to understanding jihad comes more from understanding the mindset of those who claim to be waging Islamic jihad.

To begin, the Qur’an states that devout Muslims are to follow the conduct and character of Muhammad as their model (33:21, 68:4, 4:80, etc.).  This modeling of the Prophet, or sunnah, are taken from the hadith (recorded sayings of Mohammed not part of the Qur’an), the sira (biographies of Muhammad), the tafsir (early commentaries on the Qur’an), the Qur’an itself.  These documents provide historical, textual, and literary context for the Qur’anic surahs (chapters).

Looking at these documents that make up the sunnah, Muslim scholars have pieced together a comprehensive picture of what kind of life Muhammad led and how Islam grew from the very beginning.  Muslims looking to model their lives on Muhammad’s example are tasked with sifting through thousands and thousands of traditions, sayings, and laws, many of which are contradictory literally as well as the spirit.  The progression of Islam and Muhammad’s life demonstrates a clear trajectory toward more and more violent treatment of Muslims and non-Muslims alike.  However, for every violent verse or tradition you find in the Qur’an and the hadith, you can find just as many peaceful or diplomatic ones from earlier in Islam’s development.  To make sense of this, the Qur’an provides a doctrinal method to resolve these issues called abrogation.

The doctrine of abrogation (naskh) in classical Islamic scholarship is based upon a couple ayat (verses) in the Qur’an.  Qur’an 16:101 says that if something is changed in what is revealed to Mohammad, it is because Allah knows best and should be trusted with the change.  Additionally, Qur’an 2:106 says that when something is caused to be forgotten or changed, Allah provides Mohammad with a better revelation.  Abrogation then means that later Surahs or hadith are to be considered more authoritative than earlier ones if they provide conflicting instructions or doctrines.  The majority of classical Muslim scholars support the doctrine of abrogation, though modern scholars disagree on what extent abrogation is to be used and in what situations.  [1]

As an example, in Qur’an 109:1-6, Allah tells Muhammad to tell others that they will have their own religion and he’ll have his.  These ayat are quoted by apologists as proof that Islam is a religion of peace and that jihadists are distorting Islam for their own purposes.  However, Surah 109 is one of the earliest Surahs (#18 out of 114) and was from the Meccan period when Mohammad had few followers and not yet a military power.  Surah 9, the second to last surah, contains the ayah “And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush.  But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakah, let them [go] on their way.  Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.”  (Qur’an 9:5)  This is referred to as the “verse of the sword” by Muslim scholars and clearly contradicts older, peaceful verses.

Once a devout Muslim learns of the concept of abrogation, he or she is then confronted with a difficult decision.  Either they will decide not to pursue further and stick to culturally accepted versions of Islam which focus mainly on the early teachings of Islam or follow the doctrine into the more violent, more authoritative version of Islam.  The vast majority of Muslims around the world choose the first option, as there are certain moral, cultural, and social pressures to do so, especially in the West.  However, to become more orthodox, which the West consider “radical,” some will follow Muhammad’s last marching orders found in the last surahs and hadith.  This is the source of violent ideology in Islam.

Continuing in the investigation of the sunnah that an orthodox Muslim will follow, they will learn that, based on the life of Muhammad and his progressive revelations of the Qur’an, there are three main stages of jihad in order to establish a Caliphate.

Stage One – When Muslims are in minority, proclaim message of peace (Qur’an 109 was from the beginning of Muhammad’s journey in Mecca when he had just 100 followers).  Based on early years in Mecca; they left because they were small in numbers and were being persecuted.

This is where taqiyya, or deception, is used the most in order to misdirect future foes’ concerns with claims of peace and tolerance.   Muslims have permission within Islam to use this deception to further their cause.  Qur’an 3:28 states, “Let not believers take disbelievers as allies rather than believers.  And whoever [of you] does that has nothing with Allah, except when taking precaution against them in prudence.  And Allah warns you of Himself, and to Allah is the [final] destination.” [emphasis added]  Also, in Sahih Bukhari 49:857 [2] records Muhammad saying “He who makes peace between the people by inventing good information or saying good things, is not a liar.”  Sahih Bukhari, the most respected hadith in Islam, records many other instances of Mohammad using deception and broken treaties to defeat his enemies.

One clear example of Muhammad planning the subjugation of his neighbors very early on while still living in Mecca as a young prophet can be found in The History of al-Tabari, Volume VI, on page 95 (or 96, depending on the edition).  [3] Muhammad was speaking to his uncle Abu Talib concerning what he wanted the elders of his tribe, the Quraysh, to do since they were upset with him for denouncing their pantheon of gods in public.  Muhammad said that if they but declare that Allah is the only God, they would see that “the Arabs will submit to them and they will rule over the non-Arabs.”  This is long before he ever had an army or even a large following, yet Muhammad clearly had designs for conquest of the Arabian Peninsula and beyond.

Stage Two – When Muslims increased in numbers or developed enclaves within a territory, Qur’an 22:39-40 allows for “defensive” jihad, allowing Muslims to fight back against any oppression or attacks on Islam.  This stage developed when Mohammad had 1000s of followers and alliances throughout Arabia.  Their home base at this time was in Medina and Muhammad’s political power had grown significantly.

Defense against attacks on Islam included speaking out against Allah or Muhammad, such as writing poetry, making jokes, etc.  As Mohammad’s power grew in Medina, his followers would brutally murder anyone who criticized Islam or the Prophet.  Eventually, the three main Jewish tribes that had initially helped him in his flight from Mecca were subjugated or killed.  Muhammad had conquered Medina from the inside out as he gained political power.

Stage Three – Once Muslims were in the majority, they were to engage in “offensive” jihad.  Surah 9:29 instructs Muslims to fight anyone who does not believe in Allah or hold to the teachings of Allah.  These last Surahs (5 and 9) were given to Mohammad when he’d conquered Mecca and was in firm control of the entire surrounding territory in the Arabian Peninsula.

The people that Muhammad conquered had few choices.  They were to be killed, pay the jizyah (submission tax), or leave.  Sahih Muslim 4366 indicates that Muhammad said, “I will expel the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula and will not leave any but Muslims.” As part of the sunnah which an orthodox Muslim is emulating, this model of behavior and governance is a clear indication that the goal of jihad is to establish a Caliphate under a supreme Islamic rule.

As indicated above, violent ideology to secure Islamic control of an area is acceptable and justifiable according to the doctrines and tenets of Islam.  The next section will explore one particular method of global jihad that is based on these three stages of Islam.

***

Part two to follow.

David Wood’s “Last Video” – Censorship, Passing the Torch, and April Fools!

Update (4/4/19): It was an April Fool’s prank! Thank God! Here’s today’s new video that he uploaded.  So glad David’s still kickin’!


I just watched Last Video (Working on Books!) by David Wood on the Acts17Apologetics channel.  While I’m still hopeful that this was an April Fool’s joke aimed at mocking his critics, it still speaks volumes considering the growing trend of censorship of many Christians and conservatives.  As we’ve seen in the news recently, conservative and Christian voices that won’t tow the line on current agendas favored by certain folks in power at big tech companies are beginning to succumb to malicious flagging of “inappropriate” content.  By inappropriate, they mean politically incorrect, or perhaps socially unacceptable to the elites.

This very blog had been chugging along at a growing average of 60 to 70 views per post.  That was, however, until after I commented on the seeming endorsement of infanticide by Virginia Governor Northam and made a case against abortion,  As soon as that article hit, I immediately dropped down to 5 to 7 views per post.  Not even my wife was receiving notifications that I had posted anything.  And she’s, like, my closest friend! (Love you, honey!) My content has been, as far as I can tell, “deboosted” by Facebook, just like those others detailed in this recent expose by Project Veritas.  

But, this is all to be expected.

The Bible says that as we approach the return of Christ, folks won’t tolerate sound doctrine.  (2 Timothy 4:3)

2 Timothy chapter 4 is a message from Paul to his protege and mentee Timothy, giving him marching orders to continue in his ministry.   Paul warns Timothy that there will come a time when men of the world and even the church will have itching ears, seeking teachers whom they agree.  In David Wood’s case, who was adamant in his work against the teachings of Muhammad and Islam, he spoke out against the hypocritical and inconsistent teachings of several imams and countered with the gospel of Jesus as the only way to God.

David mentioned handing off the torch to younger online apologists to spread the gospel.  This is similar to Paul’s words to not just Timothy, but all “men of God” (2 Tim 3:17) who’ve been instructed in the Scriptures (v. 14) who have gained the wisdom of Christ’s salvation.

I’ve watched and learned from David Wood’s videos and have read his exhaustive polemics against Islam for years now.  Though it is disheartening to see so many conservatives and Christians silenced online, and to experience that censorship myself in a small way, I must admit that I’ve been inspired.

I’ve decided to post a paper I wrote some time ago making a case for why jihad is of orthodox Islam and not “radical” at all, and some policy suggestions that, though a couple may not be necessarily pragmatic, would go a long way to avoiding what is called the Three Stages of Jihad from taking root in our Western Society.  I hope this will honor the contributions to the field of Christian apologetics that David has made over the years, and I pray he will find success in his new writing endeavors.

You can read this paper in the next several posts… assuming they show up in your feed.  😉


If you like this content, check out my Articles by Topic page.  God bless!

Is ANYTHING Worth Worshiping?

In Should We Worship a God-like AI?, we explored why even an Artificial Intelligence with unimaginable power and abilities that most people on Earth would categorize as “God-like” would still not be worthy of worship.

But this brings up an interesting problem:

What, then, could possibly be truly “worthy” of worship?

If an entity with all the popular calling cards of an actual god didn’t deserve our conscious adoration and reverence, because they were material in nature and bound by the constraints of time, why would anyone want to take the next step of worshiping anything? What else is there that is immaterial and outside of time?

I’m glad you asked.  😉

Fruitful Time

What is the purpose of worship? There are thousands of articles on the internet tackling this issue, and many acknowledge that humans seem to have an innate need to show gratitude, to revere something.  It satisfies a desire to connect to something beyond ourselves, as humans are primarily relational beings.

Any time spent expressing adoration, gratitude, or reverence toward something in an effort to establish a connection should be directed toward something that can actually connect.  Otherwise, worship just gives good feelings to the worshiper.  While pursuing good feelings is not a bad aim for our activities per se, it seems pointless and even wasteful in this context.  We as humans do plenty of things that are enjoyable, and sure, worshiping an inanimate object or an abstract concept like love might feel good or give a sense of doing something noble or purposeful.  But if the only benefit to worship is a fleeting, superficial feeling, it’s not worth doing at all since there are so many other options available to us that are just as or more effective toward that end.

No, the heart of worship is the seeking of connection with something beyond ourselves that deserves our adoration, respect, and reverence.  Why try to connect to something that cannot connect back? We must therefore seek an object of worship that is personal and relational, something that has a will capable of choosing to connect back to us.

What’s in it for Me?

So we’re back to deciding what is worthy of worship, now with the caveat that we ought to worship something that satisfies our innate desire to express gratitude and adoration toward things while also being a relational entity.  This rules out anything that cannot develop a one-on-one relationship with you. Remember, we are seeking the best candidate for worship.  You can have a relationship with a person (father, friend, colleague), and they can do things to deserve our gratitude and adoration, but are they really the ultimate source of all the things for which we ought to be grateful?

Let’s say your mom gives you a car (or truck).  What kind is it? What color? What’s the gas mileage on it? Can it tow a 24′ trailer for my band program on certain Saturdays in the Fall (call me)?

Should you express adoration and reverence toward your mom? Of course! (And if you are, by chance, an entitled brat who doesn’t feel the need to be grateful, that doesn’t change the fact that you ought* (see below) to be! :-P)

But…

What about the guy at the car factory who put the car together? Or the salesperson who sold your mom the car?

This leads us to an endless list of people who we could have relationships with, and to whom we should offer our adoration and gratitude for what they’ve done for us.  But then, shouldn’t we also be grateful to those people’s parents for even having them, which made our current car-receiving situation possible? That also means that we have a chain of ancestors worthy of our gratitude that goes back to the beginning of humankind!

What about all the materials that make up that car? Is there an ultimate source for all the minerals, metals, and fibers that went into that car to whom or to which we ought to show our gratitude?

And what about the laws of physics and nature that allow us to experience and enjoy your car? What is the source of the friction that allows you to sit in the seat, the gravity which keeps your car on the road, the phenomena of the wind that tousles your luxurious hair (or tickles your bald head)?

And what about the very ideas that made that car possible? Is there an ultimate source for the optimal design of the body of the car, the mathematical concepts that made the engineering of the car possible, or the aesthetically pleasing nature of the body of the car itself (I’m imagining a Porsche in this scenario, but yours could be a Mitsubishi Expo that you got… I don’t know your mom’s financial situation)?

And this is just the car! What about your toothbrush!? And bug spray? And cupcakes?What about your children that you love so much? What about beautiful sunsets? All of these things have ultimate causes that we ought to show gratitude toward.

It seems that, ultimately, anything worthy of worship would be something that is the rightful recipient of all gratitude, assuming there’s a single source.

Transcendence is Key

If nothing material aside from the universe itself is worth worshiping, since it’s all going to die a slow Entropy Death anyway, then a materialist might say that there is indeed nothing that is worth worshiping aside from perhaps the universe itself (since they believe by definition that that is all there is to reality).  However, we just discussed that a big inanimate object like the universe, regardless of its scope and grandeur, cannot connect with us since it does not have a will, and therefore worship of the universe itself is wasteful and without benefit other than how it makes us feel.

And, as we discussed in the previous AI God article, anything bound by time cannot be worthy of worship because anything bound by time must have had a beginning (as most physicists and philosophers believe), and therefore owes its existence to a prior cause or source.

So, if we’re looking to worship the best possible candidate for our worship, we must look outside the material universe and outside of time.  

This would include abstract objects (if you’re a Realist) like the “real” number 2.  But these things don’t have a will or capacity for relationship, so even if they did actually exist somewhere, they’re not worth worshiping.

The Missing Piece

The final aspect that makes or breaks the worthiness of a being to be worshiped by humans is whether they are Good or not.  If it is truly Good in its nature, by any true and reasonable definition of the word “Good,” then they could be a candidate for worship.

If I discovered a being that was outside of space and time that had a will and could choose to have a relationship with me, but it didn’t have my best interests at heart (or those of my family)… I don’t care how much it would cost me, I would not choose to worship that being.  Even if it had just one evil thought, tendency, or desire in all of its eternal history, it would not be the maximal candidate for worship, and would therefore not be worthy.

You might argue that this is an arbitrary standard of worthiness, that Goodness is not a necessary prerequisite, but I disagree.  If this worship by definition is to direct gratitude and reverence toward something with the intent to establish a connection, then why would any person in their right mind want to connect with a being that was not Good?

Let’s use the example of the Christian God.  If I wasn’t sure based on the promises that He’s made in the Bible and the example of the work of Jesus on the cross, I don’t know if I’d feel comfortable worshiping Him.  Yet I am convinced this won’t happen based on the evidence that I’ve been presented over the years, and I feel 100% confident in worshiping YHWH because I am 100% convinced He is Good.

Conversely, this is a huge reason why even if I was somehow convinced Islam represented the objective truth of reality, I still don’t think I’d choose to worship Allah.  Why? The Qur’an openly states that Allah is the best at makr, or deception (3:54, 7:99, 8:30).  Also, Allah doesn’t love me right now since I’m not a Muslim (3:31-32, 30:43-45).  There’s a lot more, but however you slice it, Allah’s just not for me.  I don’t personally think he’s worthy of worship, at least how he is presented in the Qur’an.

Summary

This brings us to a list of characteristics that are prerequisites for being worthy of worship.  This being/entity must:

  1. Be Objectively Good
  2. Transcend space
  3. Transcend time
  4. Be an appropriate recipient of (ie, they truly deserve) gratefulness, reverence, and adoration
  5. Be capable and willing to enter into a relationship with the worshiper

Kind of a weird resume, huh? Or maybe a cosmic personal ad! 🙂

The fourth point is just another way of saying that this entity, in order to truly be worthy of our worship, must have been the ultimate causal source  for our existence and the agent through which our existence was brought about.    If you had one without the other, we wouldn’t have a maximal candidate for our worship (I can have ideas all day long, but if I don’t act upon them, what a waste of creativity! Additionally, if I am omnipotent but have no creative capacity or will, what good am I?).

The only entity I can think of that fits each criterion is the Judeo-Christian God, YHWH (or one with identical characteristics, like perhaps Shang Di and Y’wa).  Ahura Mazda (Zoroastrianism) isn’t omnipotent, so he wouldn’t fall in this category.  However, this article is not meant to somehow prove that He actually exists… that’s a totally different question for another article.

What I AM saying is this:

If the being who meets these criteria does not exist, then no other being, thing, idea, or concept is truly worthy of your worship either, so don’t waste your time.  But if this being does exist, and I have good reasons to believe He does, then He is the maximal candidate for your worship, and you should totally start worshiping Him today!  

God bless!! 🙂

___________________________________________________________________________________________

*Some of you might take issue with me saying that we ought to do anything, that moral obligations don’t actually exist and that morality is a social construct brought about over time through natural selection (I’m looking at you, atheists!).  This is a HUGE can of worms I won’t open here, but if you’re interested in what I mean by objective morality, click here for a video produced by Dr. William Lane Craig on the topic, and here for a longer philosophical discussion on various aspects of the Moral Argument for God’s Existence.

**Picture is from HisLightMedia! I got this one from his Flickr account.  Check it out!

***For a discussion on why an AI God would not be worthy of worship, see my previous post, Should we Worship an AI God?

****For more interesting entries on YHWH, check out: Jewish Trinity part 1 and part 2.

#yhwh #AI #worship #worthyofworship #shangdi #maximalbeing #maximal #being #entity #amazinggod #objectivemorality #transcendent #gratitude #grateful #newcar

Should We Worship a God-like AI?

It is incredible to see how far Artificial Intelligence has come in the last several years, and how far it certainly will go.  Take these articles, news stories, and websites:

  • This Person Does Not Exist – AI-generated “photos” of realistic faces; refreshes with a new “face” every 2 seconds.
  • Self-Aware Robot Arm – Columbia University just announced a couple days ago that it has a self-aware robot arm that controls itself using simulation software.
  • Deepfakes for Text – an AI “named” GPT2 is so good at creating fake news articles and fictional stories that the developer, OpenAI, an Elon Musk-backed non-profit, won’t release its findings to the public because the negative ramifications are too huge.
  • Fake Video Technology – the article linked here discusses some of the recent developments in Video technology, where AI is used to make anyone say or do whatever you want in high resolution, real-looking videos.

Once Super Intelligent AI is created and given a couple months or years to learn, would accumulate hundreds of thousands of years worth of human knowledge and begin recreating itself toward almost inconceivable levels of abilities and knowledge.  People like Elon Musk are Jay Tuck are worried about what AI could do.  We just don’t know yet whether or not this AI will also gain what we would call wisdom or emotions.

Regardless of the benevolent/malevolent nature of AI, one thing is clear to me.  An ‘omnipresent,’ ‘omnipotent’, and ‘omniscient’ AI, a creation either of humans or even other AI, will begin receiving worship from humans.  The question is… should we?

The Possibility of Super Intelligent AI

Let’s imagine that in the (not-so-distant) future, a certain Artificial Intelligence algorithm gains the following abilities:

  • It has free will
  • It knows billions of times more information than all of humanity combined
  • It can cause almost anything that is physically possible to happen
  • It can have a brain and a body and can smile and laugh and talk and can even own property.  It could legally be considered a ‘citizen’ by every government on the planet (this has already happened in Saudi Arabia with Sophia, btw)
  • It has a capacity for moral judgement
  • It has a capacity for genuine emotions
  • It is sentient, or self-aware
  • It can be be creative, truly artistic, and even participate in a loving relationship
  • It can be ‘everywhere’ (via a network of drones, 5G networks, and even inside our bodies, etc.)
  • It can even answer unspoken prayers and take control of your body (Brain Computer Interface, or BCI, makes this possible)

Now, the ideas presented here are not only possible, they are plausible in the near future.  This AI would literally have all the calling cards of what most people think of when they talk about “God”, “a god”, or “gods.”  As I’ve discussed in my article, Way of the Future… I hope not, there is even a Church set up to welcome and worship this God-like AI when it arrives.  You can read a recent interview with the church, Anthony Levandowski, talking about his plans for the church on Wired Magazine here.

If this God-like being is going to happen, why shouldn’t we worship it?

What is Worship?

Worship is the respect, honoring, veneration, adoration, or exultation of something or someone.  The concept of worship also implies a devotion to that object, though it doesn’t necessarily imply loyalty.  You can worship one thing or many things, mundane or holy.

You might say, “I’m don’t ‘worship’ anything!!!” However, by choosing this route and really meaning it, you are either consciously worship ‘nothing’ (a void, perhaps), which is foolish, or you are choosing to do one of two things in a non-conscientious way:

  1. You worship the concept of indecision or perhaps apathy, or
  2. You worship the things that you value (and therefore venerate/adore/exult) most, like family, work, pursuit of knowledge, pleasure, etc.

This last one is what most people mean when they claim to “not worship anything.” It seems noble and even right, perhaps, until you realize that if you don’t consciously put something first, then what you value most becomes fluid from one moment to the next.  People are always moving things they value up and down their rankings.

For example, when your child asks you to play with them and you just can’t put your iPhone down… in that moment you value the thing you’re doing on the phone more than spending time with your kid.  I am not saying that you value the phone more than the kid in the grand scheme of things.  I’m just saying that for a moment, you value the activity on the phone more than the time with the kid.  (btw, if you struggle with this, I understand… I got rid of my smart phone a while ago when I realized I had this problem.)  🙂

The point of this example is, because this kind of shifting value structure happens all the time to everyone, the ramifications for someone who claims not to worship anything are sobering.  If your worship is no more than an unconscious activity directed at what you value most, then you literally worship whatever occupies your attention at the moment! And why not? Some activities, people, and ideas are extremely rewarding and satisfying.  Scrolling through Facebook and playing games gives you a high of dopamine in your brain from which it’s hard to pull away.  Worshiping Facebook may sound ridiculous, but this is the danger of unconscious worship.

Conscious Worship

So you don’t want to be that guy.  Great! Then you must make a conscious decision to direct your adoration/veneration/exultation (worship) toward something.  You must purposefully set something or someone on your personal pedestal so that it’s fixed and meaningful and does not fall off the pedestal just because you become distracted.

But what are your options? You could worship Yourself, Zeus, a penguin, tiny stone statues, money, the universe itself, the Creator of the universe, feelings of pleasure, Allah, the concept of love, your family, humanity in general, graven images, or perhaps, as in this case, AI.  There’s a near-infinite amount of selections you could make.

Some of the examples above, like worshiping a penguin, seem silly on their face.  Worshiping inanimate objects or a plant also seems silly.  Why? Well, we have no obligation toward them.  There’s no gain to be made from them, no mutually satisfying relationship to be enjoyed, no intrinsic value in them other than what we might ascribe to them.  The penguin, the rose bush, the statue have very little to give, so why worship them when there are so many better options?

As an aside, this is one reason why animistic religions use anthropomorphism to ascribe human characteristics onto the objects of worship to give them meaning and purpose.  But if those characteristics are given by man and do not have innate value, that is self-deception? No, though they are useful and beautiful and cool, animals, plants and inanimate objects are not worthy of worship.

Concepts like love or feelings of pleasure, or maybe the pursuit of power, seem more reasonable candidates for conscious worship.  But these ideas are clearly contingent upon circumstances.  What if the pleasure stops? What you never achieve power, or love? What if you do achieve power or love but lose them.  These options are insatiable, making them quite toxic if you pursue them to the ends they offer.  Even worshiping the idea of love itself, which seems so positive and noble, would be naive given that love is clearly not universal given all of our society’s rape and child abuse and abandonment.  This is also a reason not to worship humanity itself… we stink.

You could worship yourself.  You have near total control over you.  But are you really that great? Also, you die eventually, and you don’t even know when that’ll happen! And when you do go, you could be crushed by something embarrassing like a giant penguin parade balloon.  (I don’t know why I’m fixated on penguins today…)

Go big.  Why not worship the Earth? Or Nature? They’re huge, tangible, powerful, they support your life, they make all your friends’ and families’ lives possible.  Yet… the Sun will grow in size in 5 billion years and destroy the Earth and everything on it.  Nature is miraculous and amazing, but it’s not forever.  Even the Universe itself will either become an near-infinite expanse of frozen, pitch black gas or will collapse into a singularity.  Either way, this Universe will end.  Something deserving of worship must be eternal.

Bound by Reality

Now, this is where we answer the question about a super intelligent AI.  If you think about it, no matter how fantastic or God-like this entity will become, it suffers the same problems of scope and scale that Nature- or Earth- or Universe-worship does.  Even if this AI became the sole provider of sustaining life on this planet or in our solar system or even the whole universe, it would still succumb to the Second Law of Thermodynamics and die along with the universe.

And even if it figured out a way to create a whole new universe to which to escape with laws of physics that it designed and set in motion, or even controlled, it would still would have had a humble beginning on a little planet called Earth in this reality.  It would be a prisoner of time.  Even having the ability to traverse time would still not release it from its forward progress.

Regardless of its power and scope, at the end of the day, worshiping this entity would be foolish.  It would not be truly worthy of worship.

Wait a minute…

If this thing has all the characteristics that people tend to think of when they think of “God,” and it still doesn’t deserve worship, then what could possibly be worthy of worship?

The answer to this questions… is in my next article.  Dun dun DUNNN!

Until then, watch out for those penguins.

 


#yhwh #ai #aigod #artificialintelligence #god #levandowski #church #aichurch #worship #bci #wayofthefuture #elonmusk #deepfakes #faketext #aifakes #yahweh

 

5 (More) Nuggets About the Jewish Trinity

If you haven’t read the first 5 Nuggets on the Jewish Trinity, click here.

After the great initial response from the first article, I modified this one to focus more on the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament based on some questions folks asked.  It’s amazing what you can dig out of familiar passages, even if you’ve read them many times.  These were presented originally in this Dr. Michael Heiser talk about the Jewish Trinity, so if you like this short primer, I highly recommend you dig into the talk.

1. Isaiah 63:7-16 – Blatant Jewish Trinity

In the 63rd chapter (starting at verse 7), Isaiah is discussing the lovingkindesses (חֵסֵד, chêsêd) of YHWH right after presenting a picture of judgement for the sinful Edom.  As a side-note, it’s important to point out that all the bloody, harsh ‘judgement’ sections discussing God’s wrath in the Bible are always couched in (1) a passionate plea from God to stop the sin causing the judgement and (2) a declaration of God’s love for the sinner.  Every time! Remember that when someone tells you that the Bible is full of violence and features an angry God.  He certainly doesn’t want to do those things! I digress…

Here are the verses in question:

He said, “They are indeed My people,
children who will not be disloyal,”
and He became their Savior.
In all their suffering, He suffered,[e]
and the Angel of His Presence saved them.
He redeemed them
because of His love and compassion;
He lifted them up and carried them
all the days of the past.
10 But they rebelled
and grieved His Holy Spirit.
So He became their enemy
and fought against them.
11 Then He[f] remembered the days of the past,
the days of Moses and his people.
Where is He who brought them out of the sea
with the shepherds[g] of His flock?
Where is He who put His Holy Spirit among the flock?
12 He sent His glorious arm
to be at Moses’ right hand,
divided the waters before them
to obtain eternal fame for Himself,
13 and led them through the depths
like a horse in the wilderness,
so that they did not stumble.
14 Like cattle that go down into the valley,
the Spirit of the Lord gave them[h] rest.
You led Your people this way
to make a glorious name for Yourself.

Isaiah 63:8-14, HCSB

Isaiah in this passage introduces us to three distinct characters.

  • YHWH – The Father (whom he is directing this dialogue with, as seen in v. 16)
  • The Angel of the Presence
  • His (YHWH’s) Holy Spirit

It is clear that there are three entities in view based on the grammar.  It is the Father who is quoted speaks in verse 8.  It is the Father, interestingly enough, that is labeled as the Savior.  Then notice right after that in v. 9 the Angel of the Presence is the one who saved Israel!

Is Isaiah confused? No.  He is clearly making a point to include them both, filling the same role and purposefully “melding” the identities of the two.  The Angel of the Presence is also the one who is credited with lifting Israel up and carrying them all the days of the past (which includes the Exodus, which we’ll discuss another time).

In addition to this, we see that The Father’s Holy Spirit here is the one who was rebelled against and who was grieved by Israel.  If this was read in a vacuum, one might just shrug this off and say, “Fine, the author is just trying to use an analogy to help us understand that God’s “heart” was hurt by Israel’s actions.”  This was certainly not the case: as we’ll see, “rebelled against” in conjunction with “grieved” was a phrase used in the scriptures to refer to YHWH Himself!

2. Psalm 78 – Where “Grieving the Holy Spirit” Comes From

The words used in Isaiah 63 for “rebelled against” and “grieved” are used in Psalm 78 to describe what Israel did to YHWH.  The author of Isaiah, as well as the other prophets, were well-versed in the Pentateuch (first 5 books of the Bible), the Histories (Judges, Chronicles, etc.), the Psalms and Proverbs.  They knew that their holy God was multiple persons, and had no problem writing ambiguous passages that conflated the identities of the Father, the Second YHWH, and His Spirit.

How often they rebelled (מָרָה, mârâh) against Him
in the wilderness
and grieved (עָצַב, ‛âtsab) Him in the desert.

Psalm 78:40, HCSB

Isaiah 63 used the exact verbiage of Psalm 78 to describe “His Holy Spirit.”  However, in the Psalm, the author is clearly talking about “the Most High God,” a title reserved for the Father (see v. 35)! This is another example of the Biblical authors using phrases and words to carry meaning and theological weight to their writings.  To further the point, this tradition was carried on into the New Testament.  This same word (in Greek, of course) is also used by Paul in Ephesians 4:30, commanding believers not to “grieve” the Holy Spirit.

3.  Ezekiel 8:1-4 – The Spirit of YHWH IS YHWH

A great example of using the technique of equating certain descriptions of YHWH to convey certain theological truths is found in Ezekiel.  In Ezekiel 1, God is described in the following way:

25 A voice came from above the expanse over [the living creature’s] heads; when they stood still, they lowered their wings. 26 The shape of a throne with the appearance of sapphire[c] stone was above the expanse.[d] There was a form with the appearance of a human on the throne high above.27 From what seemed to be His waist up, I saw a gleam like amber, with what looked like fire enclosing it all around. From what seemed to be His waist down, I also saw what looked like fire. There was a brilliant light all around Him. 28 The appearance of the brilliant light all around was like that of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day. This was the appearance of the form of the Lord’s glory. When I saw it, I fell facedown and heard a voice speaking.

Ezekiel 1:25-28, HCSB

This passage describes YHWH Himself, since the “form of the Lord’s glory” sitting on the throne of Heaven could belong to no other.  Now, compare this description with the following passage:

In the sixth year, in the sixth month, on the fifth day of the month, I was sitting in my house and the elders of Judah were sitting in front of me, and there the hand of the Lord God came down on me. I looked, and there was a form that had the appearance of a man. From what seemed to be His waist down was fire, and from His waist up was something that looked bright, like the gleam of amber.He stretched out what appeared to be a hand and took me by the hair of my head. Then the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and carried me in visions of God to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the inner gate that faces north, where the offensive statue that provokes jealousy was located. I saw the glory of the God of Israel there, like the vision I had seen in the plain.

Ezekiel 8:1-4, HCSB

Here, the Spirit, who is the same character as the “hand of the Lord God,” shares the same exact qualities as YHWH from Ezekiel 1:

  1. The appearance of a man/human
  2. Fire from the waist down
  3. Gleaming amber from the waist up

Yet, even after equating the “form of the Lord’s glory” of chapter 1 with “the Spirit” here, he then describes seeing another character, the “glory of the God of Israel,” waiting at the entrance of Jerusalem’s North Gate… the same one that he saw in the vision “seen in the plain” (chapter 1)!

This is incredible to me.  It’s as if Ezekiel wanted to make sure his readers knew that the “form of the Lord’s glory” and the “Spirit” of YHWH are different, even though they are the same.  

4. Ezekiel 1 – Who Controls the Throne of YHWH?

Another fascinating glimpse into the workings of the Jewish Trinity are found in Ezekiel 1:12.

12 Each creature went straight ahead. Wherever the Spirit[a] wanted to go, they went without turning as they moved.

20 Wherever the Spirit[b] wanted to go, the creatures went in the direction the Spirit was moving.

Ezekiel 1:12, 20, HCSB

These phrases occur amongst Ezekiel’s description of the four living creatures who accompany the movement of the throne of God, as described in 1:24-26.  We see here that the Spirit has a will of His own, and that the direction of travel of the throne of God was His to decide.  Who else but YHWH could control the throne of YHWH?

5.  How Can God BE Love? The Trinity is the Best Explanation.

Some food for thought.  The Love of God is extremely apparent in both Old and New Testaments.  It is, indeed, a fundamental attribute of God’s nature, right alongside His holiness, justice, and mercy.  If you have any doubt about this, this article entitled “17. The Love of God” by Bob Deffinbaugh, is a fantastic resource if you want to study God’s love or any of His other attributes.

My favorite example of God’s unconditional love for us are actually found in the Old Testament.  In Genesis 15, God performs a one-sided Covenant Confirmation with Abraham.  In the ancient Middle Eastern, when you confirmed a covenant between multiple parties, all parties of that covenant were supposed to pass through several split carcasses to show that they would uphold whatever promise or relationship was being confirmed… or else their lives would be as forfeit as the dead animals through which they passed.   When God sets this up with Abraham, however, he then puts Abraham to sleep and then passes through split carcasses alone, thereby taking all of the responsibility for their relationship upon Himself!  For more information on this amazing display of selflessness on God’s part, Growing Christian Ministries has a great article on the history of this practice.

How can the Creator of the universe know this kind of love, this unconditional commitment to someone else? How can a Spirit being know and understand how love works before the existence of any other thing?

For that matter, why would God desire to want relationships at all, given He was perfect and whole before the creation of anything? (This isn’t just coming from the Bible… philosopher Alvin Plantinga’s Ontological Argument indicates that God is a Maximally Great Being that necessarily exists and is perfect in every possible world.)

I believe the answer lies in the Trinity.

If God is a three person relationship at the very core of His being, then there is nothing more fundamental to our understanding of His nature aside from His holiness. 

Relationship and love actually define how God exists.  

The Jewish writers of the scriptures understood this.  We should too.  🙂


The first 5 Nuggets on the Jewish Trinity.

If you found this information interesting, check out The Unseen Realm by Dr. Michael Heiser.  You can also watch his series of lectures on “The Jewish Trinity,” which much of this topic is pulled from, here.  Enjoy!!