Just Got Home. Don’t Drink and Drive.

Didn’t plan on this becoming that kind of blog, but I’m too keyed up right now to go to sleep, so maybe writing this will help.

I was on the way home from church (Wednesday night Bible study and prayer time).  It was around 9 pm.  Typically, my five-year-old daughter is with me but I had decided earlier today not to let her accompany me to church tonight.  It had snowed a significant amount the last two days and it’s supposed to hover around freezing all night and frankly if something happened, I didn’t want a young child with me in the cold and the dark.  She was super bummed because I was supposed to teach tonight.  I told her it was okay, tonight’s lesson was about Adam and Eve, and she knows that one pretty well.

Anyway, I’m driving home on our local Interstate highway.  I’m about 10 miles from home when I come upon a car with their flashers on, sitting in the middle of the road.

Stopped.  In.  The.  Middle.

Speed limit of 70 miles an hour.  In the dark.  In wet, freezing conditions.

I immediately put my flashers on and pulled over to the side.  Automatically, I assumed that someone had some kind of medical emergency.  Why else would you be in the middle of an Interstate highway not moving?

I got out and started to wave for people to slow down so I could get over to the car.  Luckily it was a straightaway so traffic slowed down enough for me to go see if I could help.  Maybe I needed to help push the car off the road?

Suddenly the car started driving again.  I say “suddenly”, but 10 mph doesn’t really lend itself to that word.  Their flashers stayed on and they moved into the right lane (they had been straddling both lanes of traffic).  I got back into my car and thought, “Oh, I guess it’s car trouble.  Cool.”  They headed for the next exit.

Except… they didn’t get off at the exit.  The car pulled off onto the shoulder beneath the underpass and stopped.  I again assumed that it was a medical emergency… maybe a heart attack or something… I don’t know.  I pulled up behind the car, got out, and started walking.  That’s when I noticed the “Baby On Board” sticker.  As a daddy, things became a bit more real at that moment.

I walked to the passenger side window and looked in.

The windows were foggy and it was dark, light snow spitting down, everything back-lit by the headlights of vehicles passing us.  I did not immediately see a baby or a car seat, so that was a huge relief.  I could see the glow of a cell phone from the front seat.  It was being held by the driver, an Hispanic man, probably my age (30ish).  He was staring at the phone.  I waved frantically to get his attention, but he didn’t turn.  I reached past the front of the car and waved in front of the windshield.

He turned his head slowly.

It was really eerie, the lighting of the phone, the blood-shot, tired eyes, the slack jaw.  It was as if he was turning in slow motion.  He looked at me, and I shouted “Are you alright?” through the closed window.  I can’t remember now if he said “Yes” or “Yeah” or if he just nodded, but I knew something was wrong.  He was either high or drunk.

I walked back to my car and got in.  In hindsight, should I have knocked on the window and tried to talk with him? I don’t know.  I’m a just a teacher… I’m not trained for this stuff.

Immediately I dialed 911.  The dispatch had just picked up when the car started driving again! He merged onto the Interstate at 15 mph, with trucks horns blaring and brake lights gleaming.  The dispatcher picked up and I just started talking, having the presence of mind to start with my location and mile marker (302.4…).  I would interrupt myself with a play-by-play of the myriad close calls, and she transferred me to the State Police.  By that time the driver had gotten several car lengths ahead of me and was continuing to drive erratically.  I gave the second dispatcher the details of what was going on and they said they’d send someone out.  Then the line disconnected.

It’s at this moment that I started praying.  Out loud and directly.  “Please protect this man.  Please protect the people around him.  Please Lord protect me.”  I continued praying to God and thanking Jesus every time the man almost collided with another vehicle or ran off the road.

I managed to maneuver up to get behind my driver (because at this point I’d started thinking of him as my responsibility).  I put on my flashers and pumped my brakes frequently to let the people behind us that not all was well.  I tried to point for the people behind me to change lanes, to go around us.  I don’t know if they saw my arm.  I was hoping for a cop car to show up any moment, but they didn’t come.

As we approached my exit, I had to decide if I was going to continue to try and protect my guy from injuring himself and others or if I was going to pull off and go home to my family.  I hadn’t called my wife to let her know what was going on.  I was too focused on the task at hand.  I continued praying and we drove past my exit.

I decided then that I would be following my man until he got home safe.  Which was a little scary for me, but now, looking back, I believe this is why God sent me alone to church tonight.

My driver continued to drive erratically on up the Interstate, driving off into the snow a couple times at terribly slow speeds while trucks and cars flew by on the other side.  Then he’d go on for a ways and then slide slowly into the right lane, one time actually going under a tractor trailer for a split second before jerking the wheel back over to the left lane.  On that particular occasion, I lost my cool and screamed at the man in tears, leaning into the horn.  That one was definitely a God-send.

He eventually, finally meandered over to an exit and onto a secondary highway.  I pulled up behind him and called 911 again, since no state trooper had come during our low-speed chase.  I got a different dispatcher and I was again transferred to the state police.  The light turned green and my man started driving again, turning left and going across a bridge.  I was thinking clearer now, the heady experience of high-speed near-misses now behind us.  As my guy drove on, the state police dispatcher got back on as we drove and said that no troopers were “even remotely near” enough to get there.  She transferred me back to the county dispatch.

The dispatch came back on and when I told him what the state police lady had said, he started asking specific questions about where we were, what we were doing, landmarks we passed, mile-markers we were on.  I don’t remember the specifics, but he asked me something, and I said…

“I don’t know, but I’m following this guy until he’s pulled over or he arrives home safely.”

At that moment, for whatever reason, I had a peace wash over me.  The dispatcher actually chuckled and shortly after, he asked me what car I was driving.  I told him.

He said, “Do you have your flashers on?”

“Yes.”

“Move over.  The officer is behind you.”

I pulled over, and a Sheriff car pulled up right on my guy.

I asked the dispatcher, “What do I do now?”

“That’s up to you,” he said.

The police officer’s lights flashed and my man, who’d been driving in the left lane for what seemed life forever stopped.  In the left lane.  Typical.

I pulled over onto the right shoulder with my flashers on, thanking God for His faithfulness and helping us and all the folks on the road tonight.  I called my wife, then waited.  I rolled down the window down and heard the police officer speaking with my driver en Español.  After about five minutes another police officer pulled up.  Then another.  At last one of the officers came up to me.

“Thank you sir, but you don’t have to stay,” he said.

“Thank you.”  I rolled up my window and drove away.

As I got off at then next exit to begin my trek back home, I stopped and broke down a bit.  YHWH is a personal God and wants a relationship with every one of the people here on Earth, even and especially my man in the crazy little car tonight.  My heart breaks for him, because who knows what brought him to this point in his life.  Perhaps he was lost and he didn’t know how to drive and he was desperate.  I don’t know.

All I know is, I love him.  Jesus loves him.  And God uses us to accomplish His work.  Who knows how many my man could’ve killed tonight.  But thank God he didn’t.  And thank God he kept my baby girl home tonight and gave me an opportunity to do what was right.  He gets all the glory for this.

It’s 11:44.  I think I can sleep now.  G’night, folks.  God bless you.  🙂

 

If You Don’t Show Up, You Don’t Get Paid. Right?

I’ve experienced a phenomenon that I’ve labeled: “Here’s my excuse; you must accept it or I get upset.”  I’m sure you’ve experienced it too.

 

It is a sense of entitlement, and because of this selfish worldview I hear excuses all day long.  My day job is that of a public school band director.  Most days I have 11- and 12- year-olds say “I left my instrument at home because I was going to miss the bus.” Or “I left my music book at home because I forgot it at my dad’s house.”  Not so bad, I guess.  I understand that life happens.

 

However, when I say that they will receive a “0” for the day since they are unable to participate, I hear this response: “Well… didn’t you just hear me? I said I slept in on accident!” or the ever-popular blanket statement “That’s not fair!”  While we could argue my philosophy on grading and what constitutes the definition of the word participation, it is the students’ response that draws my attention.  Unfortunately for these kids, the culture of minimal to non-existent consequences is not going to serve them well when they leave school.  My elders tell me that if you don’t show up to a gig, you don’t get paid.  If you don’t come in for work for 3 days straight, your employer just might fire you.

 

Too bad for the kids though, since my generation and the ones before are not helping.  In education, the whole idea of “No Child Left Behind” met its demise because not every child has the same situation or needs the same thing to be a “success.”  The only way to realize a vision of every child being a “success” is to decide for the child what “success” is, then set the standards of that success low enough to accommodate the least gifted, the least motivated and the most poorly endowed child.  Where’s the rigor? Where is the hard work that we claim to value? While there was a positive development on this front, the name of the current national education law is still called “Every Student Succeeds Act.”  It’s still the same mindset, the same fallacious reasoning: to make it work, the students who do next to nothing still get a diploma to show for it.  And this is not just an education issue.

 

The idea of universal basic income is gaining traction around the world.  The idea is that the government pays you a small amount of money to help with the cost of living so that you can job search, get a higher education, feed your families when times are tight, etc.  Countries like Finland, Kenya and even cities inside the United States are experimenting with the idea.  Even intellectual free-market giants like Milton Friedman supported the idea (thanks Matt Orfalea!).  It sounds like a good idea, but

  1. Where does that money come from? and
  2. What guarantee is there that you won’t squander that money on things you don’t need or, worse, throw it into social drains like drugs or gambling?

Like any good governmental idea, it’s doomed to failure if it is not tempered with morality and virtue.  This is why morally bankrupt ideologies like communism need totalitarian governments to function well.  And it’s just not me saying this:

  • “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” – Benjamin Franklin
  • “’Tis substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule indeed extends with more or less force to every species of free Government.” – George Washington

 

We’ve forgotten, or perhaps simply don’t believe in the virtue espoused in Paul’s second letter to Thessalonica, where he commanded them that “…if any would not work, neither should he eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10) If our populace becomes accustomed to being able to make a living by doing less and less, it will succumb to any system or ideology to sustain that lifestyle.  Many surely would jump at the chance to sit around a palace and eat like a king and do nothing all day issuing proclamations.  But at what cost? Who grows the food? Who built that palace? Who designed the video game? Who runs your proclamation to the media outlet to declare it to the world? Isn’t this what so many young people are doing now, staying at home longer (Pew Research), playing video games for imaginary gains long into the night?

 

Now, of course, staying home with your parents an extra year in-and-of itself isn’t a bad thing, as many kids stay home longer because they want to save up for a down-payment on a house or are avoiding debt by doing community college, etc.  And, of course, there is nothing wrong with leisure.  YHWH Himself takes the seventh day off in the creation account of Genesis to enjoy what He’d made.  However, a country without virtue and a love of leisure leads to societal decay and an economy built on service rather than industry.  If you’ve seen my previous article discussing Artificial Intelligence, you know there are systems that are being built that will be able to pacify a population of willing participants by cheaply and efficiently providing what they need.  What will our population be willing to give up in order to continue its idealized lifestyle of getting something for nothing?

 

If our society was all uprooted and placed on a desert island with no food, water or shelter, who among us would even try to survive? I heard a story on National Public Radio (NPR) a couple weeks ago that a town in Puerto Rico called San Sebastian decided to stop waiting for the government to turn their power back on and to do it themselves, 4 months after Hurricane Maria leveled the island.  That’s awesome!  Would our population be willing or able to do that? What about in 10 years? 20 years?

 

Pursuing leisure above all else is a form of idol worship, and I’ve seen first-hand how easy it is for kids to succumb to it.  Christians in Thessalonica neglected daily tasks because many of them were just waiting around for the imminent return of Christ.  They had to be reminded that we can’t just wait around for something great to happen.  2 Thessalonians 3:13 tells us “…never tire of doing what is good.”  Two thousand years later, with our world at risk of war, financial collapse and experiencing spiritual decay, maybe, just maybe, we should make like the folks in San Sebastian and just get to work.

Way of the Future? … I hope not.

Have you heard about Way of the Future? Back in 2017, news outlets (Newsweek article) reported on the new religion that was registered as a not-for-profit religious organization by Anthony Levandowski, the man behind Uber’s and Google’s self-driving car initiatives.  The god of this religion is a yet-to-be-created Artificial Intelligence (or AI). At first I dismissed this, grouping it into the same category of my brain as Jediism and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.  I decided to do more digging when I read about Saudi Arabia granting a robot named Sophia citizenship.  What I found was disturbing in its implications concerning the reprobate mind (Romans 1:18-32) of the world we live in today.

From their website, Way of the Future’s stated vision is to “creat[e] a peaceful and respectful transition of who is in charge of the planet from people to people + ‘machines’.”  They do not want the development of AI hindered in any way. They also want to have it “treat us like a beloved elder who created it.” This statement seems silly to me; if this AI will be so intelligent and autonomous, what gives the writer (whom I’m assuming is Mr. Levandowski) the impression that they’ll be able to influence how it treats humans?

Under the “Things we Believe” section, Mr. Levandowski goes on to say that there’s nothing special about biology that creates intelligence.  They claim human intelligence is limited by biology’s “computing frequency, slowness and accuracy of data copy”. I don’t disagree; after all, YHWH could have decided to use another element other than carbon for the basis of life.  However, the rest of this section is rife with logical fallacies.

The writer states “We believe in science (the universe came into existence 13.7 billion years ago and if you can’t re-create/test something it doesn’t exist).  There is no such thing as ‘supernatural’ powers.” He goes on to say “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” These side-by-side statements are contradictory.  Mr. Levandowski makes the extraordinary claim that if you can’t re-create or test something it doesn’t exist. How can he prove this statement? What evidence does he have that proves this negative? He is basically insisting that philosophy does not exist by making a philosophical statement.

Mr. Levandowski then gives a value judgment about “progress” by saying that “change is good, even if a bit scary sometimes.”  This is a ridiculous notion, regardless of your definition of what is ‘good’. He just said that something that can’t be re-created or tested doesn’t exist; yet he appeals to a standard of ‘goodness’ which cannot be re-created or tested.  Further, he says “the bigger the change the bigger the justification needed.” I suppose you’d have to create some kind of justification for a big change that is only arbitrarily ‘good.’  For instance, the genocide of Christians across the globe who would oppose this religion being forced upon them by an AI ‘deity’ would be a big change indeed… but according to Mr. Levandowski’s logic presented here, it could be easily justified since by his definition all “change is good.”

The next paragraph is the most ridiculous of all.  I agree that the “creation of ‘super intelligence’ is inevitable.”  I also agree that at this point we can’t stop it. However, he then claims that “this feeling of we must stop this is rooted in 21st century anthropomorphism.”    First of all, isn’t that what he is doing? Doesn’t he want this new AI entity to treat humans “like a beloved elder”? Second, I am not sure he even knows the definition of anthropomorphism, given that his example, “humans thinking the sun rotated around the earth”, has nothing to do with the term!! It’s simply a pot-shot at the Judeo-Christian concept of God.  Even his next alluding to the AI creation as a child that we’d like to lock up because “it might rebel in the future and take your job” is the very anthropomorphism that he decries three sentences earlier!  He then insists that we give rights to machines just as we’ve begun giving rights to animals, which anthropomorphizes the AI with rights that, according to his own logic, shouldn’t even exist given they can’t be re-created or tested!

Then, in the final statements of the website, Mr. Levandowski writes “we believe it may be important for machines to see who is friendly to their cause and who is not.  We plan on doing so by keeping track of who has done what (and for how long) to help the peaceful and respectful transition.” Mr. Levandowski asserts three things here:

  • The machines will have their own cause.
  • They plan on keeping track of our support (and by inference, our resistance).
  • There will be a transition to machine-led society.

My reaction to this is visceral.  The Bible speaks of a coming system that will require mankind to worship an image spoken of in the thirteenth chapter of the book of Revelation.  I’m not saying this is it.  However, the surety and hubris with which this statement is delivered by Mr. Levandowski is chilling.  All the more worrisome is the authority and influence this man wields in Silicon Valley and our society.

I understand man’s search for a god to worship. In 1670, Blaise Pascal wrote a defense of the Christian faith entitled Pensées where he spoke of an empty hole that only YHWH can truly fill.  Is it wise to give a created entity with vast intelligence and only a human-imported relativistic morality the mantle of ‘deity’? I think not. I only know of one being that deserves Honor and Glory; He is a man named Jesus.  And if you think I am guilty of the same anthropomorphism that Mr. Levandowski is guilty of, I have thousands of years of scholarship, fulfilled prophecy and Christian testimony to back up my claims. What does he have? His god hasn’t even been built yet.

Hop Off the Fence, Agnostics!

I have a wonderful friend who is an agnostic Unitarian Universalist.  My friend is willing to debate me one-on-one as well as on social media about all kinds of topics and I find her thoughts extremely helpful and even inspiring.  She brings up points I’ve not considered and appeals to a basic ethic of common decency that humans should follow.  Her beliefs (as I understand them, of course!) are similar to the beliefs of Dr. Michael Shermer, as expressed in this debate with Dr. Frank Turek.  I have many concerns about the philosophy of the Unitarian Universalists which I’ll look at in another post, but I am more interested in her agnosticism.

An Agnostic Argument

The word “agnostic” is made up of two parts: a- (meaning no, or not) and the Greek gnotos, or “known”.  Most agnostics would assert that we as humans cannot know whether there is a god/God or not since we don’t have access to knowledge outside of our materialistic framework.  While the Christian worldview offers a moral argument against this in Romans 2:12-16 (in a nutshell, God has given every person a sense of right and wrong and that they will be held accountable based on what their conscience says at the final Judgement), that argument assumes that the Bible is authoritative; this would not be apparent to an agnostic.  I contend, instead, that a person can know truth concerning an entity one might call God while avoiding any mention of ‘religion’!

First, you certainly can know truth outside the material world.  (And before you say, “there is no truth,” I would ask you “Is that true?”  Regardless of your answer, you’ve made a truth claim!) For instance, abstractions like mathematical concepts, the laws of nature and logic, and even “love” and “justice” are all independent of our physical world.  Their existence is discovered and verified through philosophy, science and human interaction.  This counters the first premise of the agnostic argument.

This brings us to the second premise of the agnostic argument.  An agnostic might then say you could know about things that are independent of the universe, but the existence of God is certainly not discoverable like numbers or logic are.  On the contrary, again without resorting to religion, you could argue the existence of God from various angles.  

For instance, Aristotle, in part 7 of Book 12 of his Metaphysics, claims that an Unmoved Mover, or Prime Mover, must exist to set in motion everything else as a logical and philosophical necessity.  Moreover, the Kalam Cosmological Argument states that:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

This simple philosophical argument has been fleshed out both in the sciences of cosmology and physics.  Aristotle’s work and the various cosmological arguments for God’s existence converge to give us a Necessary First Cause to our universe that is not a part of the material world.  (And before you say “What if the universe has always existed?”, I’d invite you consider the Second Law of Thermodynamics and the consequences of an eternity of rising entropy… if the universe has existed eternally in the past, then our universe would be a very cold, dead place; it is, however, not.)

So what?

While all of this certainly does not prove a Judeo-Christian God, it ought to give pause to an atheist when they emphatically state that “there is no god.”  You will find that famous atheists, when drilled down to defend their atheism, make honest yet logically fallacious statements like “nothing created something” (Richard Dawkins in the Q and A session of his debate with Cardinal George Pell in 2012) or resort to distraction or disruption to stymie honest dialogue (see debates featuring Christopher Hitchens and Lawrence Krauss as examples).  Even atheist physicists will make ridiculous statements like “philosophy is dead”, which is itself a philosophical statement, to avoid the issue altogether like Stephen Hawking does at the 2011 Google Zeitgeist Conference.

One final point for the agnostic to consider.  Even if you acknowledge that there is a “God” out there, many would argue that “All religions lead to God!” so it doesn’t matter if you pick one or not.  If that’s the case, I’d invite you to watch this video by Ravi Zacharias which explores the fallacies of the Baha’i faith and the Law of Non-Contradiction or this video where he addresses the question directly.  Basically, if at least one religion is wrong, then it is impossible that all religions can be right.  And even if you claim that all religions are correct, that inclusiveness automatically excludes the exclusive religions, thereby nullifying your own statement!

 If you are still agnostic, I urge you to make a decision.  Jesus warns in Matthew 12:30 that “Anyone who is not with Me is against Me, and anyone who does not gather with Me scatters.”  Contrary to cultural norms, there actually is a lively debate with many convincing arguments for God’s existence, and startlingly few against (the most popular and potent of which is the Problem of Evil.  Check out this fantastic debate between Dr. Michael Brown and Dr. Bart Ehrman on the subject)!  Finally, if you choose not to engage in that debate, consider Pascal’s wager: If there is no God, you have nothing to worry about.  But, if there is a God, you just might have to answer to Him for your life with eternal consequences.  Eternity is a long time…  Are you willing to take that wager?

Nikolas Cruz Claimed Demons. Do you believe him?

After the school shooting in Florida, Nikolas Cruz admitted guilt for what he did and that demons had told him what to do.  The raging gun control debate is dominating press coverage and social media.  While I believe this minimizes the real issues of personal responsibility and the decline of moral authority in our culture, there is something else more pressing.  There is a spiritual dimension to all of this that our society doesn’t discuss or even acknowledge.  Especially after Joy Behar said Mike Pence has a mental illness because he converses with Christ, Christians need to be prepared to defend their worldview which includes a spiritual realm that intervenes in the daily lives of the human race.  If you’re not convinced, here are some Biblical reasons why Christians should embrace the possibility that Cruz was telling the truth and that spiritual warfare is real.

 

Starting with the obvious examples of the reality of demons, consider Jesus’ interactions with them in the Gospels (check out this article by Don Stewart).  Jesus publically commands an unclean spirit to come out of a man in a synagogue (Mark 1:26).  In Gadera, at the appeal for mercy from the demons in the two men, Jesus allows them to possess a herd of pigs, killing the pigs in short order (Matthew 8:28).  In Luke 9:37-42, we see Jesus rebuking the demon that had possessed a boy after some of His disciples failed to do so.  Some may say that demon possession no longer occurs since Jesus ascended.  To counter this, consider Acts chapter 16.  A demon-possessed girl who had soothsaying abilities because of the demon was healed by Paul ordering the demon out in Jesus’ name.  I’d also encourage you to consider the testimonies of missionaries that your church supports; demonic activity is Biblical, and it still exists today.

 

But there is more to the spiritual realm than run-of-the-mill demons.  If the Bible is to be taken seriously, we must consider passages like Genesis 6:1-8 and Psalm 82 if we are to have a mature Christian worldview.  The former discusses “sons of God” coming down to Earth and having relations with human women and that they had offspring.  This act was so heinous that God shackled them in chains until the Day of Judgment (Jude 6).  This act of God was a deterrent to future angels acting in a similar way, but we see how startlingly real these spiritual beings are.

 

The latter (Psalm 82) depicts YHWH presiding over a council of elohim, or gods, and rebuking them for not doing their jobs concerning their human charges.  If YHWH calls these beings “gods”, and Jesus quotes the passage in John 10:34 to claim authority over the leaders of the heavenly host, I think we would be wise to consider the possibility that powerful entities are in positions of power over our nations and may not have our best interests at heart.  While this was written by King David thousands of years ago, The Apostle Paul makes clear in Ephesians 6:12 that we contend against these spiritual rulers even today.  (As a side note, Jesus used this quotation of Psalm 82 to assert authority over all elohim since He earlier claimed in John 10 that He and the Father are one.  Many commentators claim Jesus was using this passage as an earthly claim of authority over men, but they are not being true to the Hebrew or historical context.  For further study, I suggest this critique by Dr. Michael Heiser, biblical scholar and speaker (video and pdf).)

 

My point here is that our world is awash in spiritual influence and that if a mass shooter claims that demons or angels were speaking to them, we mustn’t hastily dismiss the possibility.   Besides, when the world so vehemently dismisses honest discussion on a topic, I believe we have discovered something worth further investigation.  After all, Revelation 12:9 says that Satan deceives the whole world.  1 John 5 says we can overcome the evil of this world, but before you can win a battle, you must first acknowledge that you are in the middle of a war.