Sometimes Life Is Like A Multiple Guess Test

F… F is always a good choice…

If there is anything that sticks out and bugs me most about the culture we live in, it’s the insistence that everything in life should be handled like a test. Every problem has a simple and clear solution, every question has a clear concise answer. We see magazines and videos touting “5 Easy Ways to____” or “Top 10 Solutions to X Problem”. We treat parenting and marriage like there are simple ways to navigate them. We even water down theology to catechism and assume our rote memorization will suffice for true knowledge. 
I think much of the reason we expect our questions in life to have simple succinct answers is that we grew up reading textbooks in school. Then, because of standardized testing we spent great energy applying textbook answers to test questions.  We were essentially trained to think life must have these textbook answers as well. Why would school mislead us? 

We become adults and face decisions and only see “A” or “B”. If we know “A” is wrong, we assume that it must be “B”. 

But is this how life actually works? No. Of course not. Usually there is a “C” option, more often than not there is a “D” as well. The more we look the more we discover that the direction we can go looks more like alphabet soup than a single textbook course. 

Sometimes we arrive at an impasse. There is every conceivable choice with every conceivable outcome. Life becomes a multiple guess test, sometimes with a few random essay questions thrown in just to keep things interesting. 

This of course can be quite paralyzing. To our “A” or “B” trained minds, “C” to “Z” can seem impossible to consider. We can’t possibly interpret all the data being thrown at out heads. We seek out articles and books and videos like the ones I mentioned above to help us parse out and narrow down the data.

But sometimes. Sometimes. There are just too many data points to consider. We can’t make our choice based on textbook solutions. So what do we do? 

We act. 

It is really that simple. 

We may not always know what to do, but we can at least be fairly sure that doing something is preferable to doing nothing. Sometimes you have to stumble through those multiple guess answers to arrive at something of a clear destination. 

Frequently, if we are acting, we “fail”. In the short term our failures seem catastrophic. We chose “C” but the best choice would have been “K”. This bad choice suddenly derails us and we find ourselves wondering if any of our guesses were correct. 

The only answer we know about our lives is that there is a beginning and an end. Often there are no answers about what comes between. Life is not a test. There are no simple ways to navigate its many paths, one just has to pick the path and take it. 

If there is any textbook answer in life it can be found in Scripture. We are promised that if we seek God’s will our paths will be made straight. If we choose our path with an acknowledgement that God is sovereign over all outcomes He will direct our steps down that path. 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. – Proverbs 3:5-6

Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established. – Proverbs 16:3

The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. – Proverbs 16:9

So go, do something. Stop expecting easy answers. Stop looking for a textbook to tell you step by step instructions for every detail of life. Even the Bible doesn’t give specific directions. Sometimes you just have to step out in faith and do instead waiting around for a specific instruction. 

Make the guess, let God determine how it all turns out. 

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Doubt and the Clouds of Doom

And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;  he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:4-8

Doubt is destructive. It makes a person unstable and indecisive. It can lock you into a cycle of depression and feelings of inability. Doubt is anti-faith. Just like it’s ugly cousin anxiety, doubt can keep you chained up and numb to the good things you have been blessed with. 

On a recent trip to the “big city” (everything is big compared to Cloudcroft) my sinful tendency to doubt was thrown right in my face. The transmission on our truck began to act up and lights on the dash began flashing. Immediately my mind went to the worst possible scenarios. To my mind, there was no way the situation was going to work out well. What had been a fine day quickly became grumpiness and gloom. 

Indecisiveness is deadly. A few weeks back a rabbit darted in the road in front of us, made it across our lane, and changed its mind halfway through the other. It turned just in time to catch our rear dual. If that bunny had just committed to its choice to cross the road, rather than doubting its chances, we would not have been checking the dual for bunny that afternoon. 

We can all find ourselves like that bunny. If you find yourself running around indecisive and wishy-washy, you might want to ask yourself if you are doubting God’s Providence. 

God will not leave us lacking in anything, if we ask in faith. He won’t give us all of our wants but He promises to provide His child with all of their needs. Doubting this promise can lead us to stop asking Him for our needs altogether. And when we stop asking, we tend to go adrift. 

Don’t be a dead bunny, kill the doubt in your life before it kills you. 

Cognitive Dissonance 

Cognitive dissonance: the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes. 

If you want to boil down much of post-post-modernism into one concise term it would be cognitive dissonance. In a world where truth is relative and reality is what I feel it to be in the moment, it is not impossible to imagine an individual having multiple dissonant beliefs bouncing around in his head. Everyone has cognitive dissonance every once in a while, the problem with post-post-modern CD is that it’s considered perfectly normal and indeed rational. 

If I want to say “A” is both “A” and not “A” at the same time and circumstances then who is the world to tell me any different? 

CD shows up in every political stripe. From neoconservatives who claim to be pro-life but take no issue with drone strikes on foreign people to leftists who claim to be pro body-autonomy but insist that they have a right to the labor or products of others, no one is immune to it. 

One of the reasons I became an ancap was to rid myself of much of the CD I had grown up with. I was very much a proponent of war, but completely in favor of banning abortion. I disliked the use of government force by leftist politicians but fully accepted the same sort of force by politicians more favorable to my positions. 

In a way,  cognitive dissonance is nothing more than pure justified hypocrisy. I can justify any action or opinion if I just just cling to my inconsistent thoughts. I can argue that truth and morals are relative with one side of my mouth while insisting that others must follow my own personal ethics because they are the only correct ones. I can say one moment that there is no such thing as objective morality and in the next express outrage that someone did something I disagree with. 

I used to think that I could reason with these sorts of people. I even tried to be polite and tell them “hey, your arguments have logical flaws here, here, here, and here.” There was no correcting them. They don’t see the illogic of their arguments because they genuinely believe “a” is “a” and also not “a”. 

I have learned to walk away lately. There is great wisdom in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount:

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”

From what I have experienced of late there are a lot more swine than I expected running around out there in social media land. 

Worthless and Worthwhile Words

What passes for civil discourse these days.

Words words words. It is an understatement to say modern political discourse has devolved into vulgarity and platitudes. Of course, politics are simply following culture. Our culture finds entertainment in sex and poop jokes. It thrives on pornography and degrading, dehumanizing violence. It is telling to me that the most viewed page of this blog so far has the word “butthole” in it. A lot of people entered that word and the word “wife” into Google to get to it. For the record, don’t actually do that…
This is nothing new really. All cultures display some level of their depravity in a public way. Unlike many commentators, I will not lament the downfall of our civilization. So many people, and sadly, many Christians, think that what our culture does is completely new and unheard of. This is laughable when one considers history. Our culture is no more depraved than the Romans or the Greeks. Our culture is merely showing signs of age. Cultural dementia typically sets in around the 200 year mark for advanced civilizations like ours.

However, it’s not just dementia for our culture, it’s schizophrenia. We are perfectly willing to accept depravity from certain people, but if someone not on the approved list shows the least bit it’s to the chopping block for them.

Language use is the most telling sign of this schizophrenia. We laugh, smile, and dance when certain people use certain words or phrases. When non-approved people use the same words or phrases our culture warriors call for their heads.

Now, do not think that I am squeamish when it comes to words. Firefighters swear worse than sailors most days. There are words and phrases used on the fire line that would make a sailor blush. I’m not one to get wound up about words. However, there is a difference between words used to make a strong point (as sailors and firefighters use them) and words used exclusively for shock value and offense.

It would be nice to see some words that are used exclusively for vulgar or profane purposes removed from our common vocabulary.

Certain words for female genitalia for example. I do not care if it is feminists or if it’s Trump, certain words are degrading and disrespectful to women no matter who uses them. Making a “cute” hat and giving it a vulgar name does not win people over to your opinion, it mainly makes you look like a jackass. And no, the word is not vulgar because genitalia are vulgar. It is vulgar because it has been used as a derogatory term for weak people for years. It used to describe a wimp (scaredy-cat basically) and eventually became a term for female reproductive organs. Using the term for your genitalia is essentially agreeing with those who call women weak and useless. If you want to reclaim your genitals, at least use correct terminology and proper names (i.e. stop calling the whole area your “vagina”; learn the correct words).

The “N” word. Can we either tell rappers to knock it off or allow white people to say it too? It’s a word reserved for a special group, and this is hardly fair (isn’t fairness what everyone wants today?). Throwing this word around does not make black culture respectable, it just sets it back several generations.

In fact, it seems there are a long list of words and phrases that are perfectly acceptable for some but not for others. Rappers, pop singers, movie stars, feminists, and certain politicians get a free pass to use many of these words. Anyone outside of these specific groups gets lynched (can I say that?) and demonized if they dare even hint at them. Either the words are offensive all the time and should be eliminated from use in civil company, or they are not and should be freely used by everyone. Don’t be hypocrites; either stop using these words entirely or stop demonizing the “unapproved” list of people when they use them.

By the way, your reckless use of words will lead to an even worse world than the one you were protesting. Continuously using degrading language cheapens you and those who you claim to support. When you make certain words a common part of your vocabulary, you make those words more acceptable to use by your enemies. If you think you are somehow winning a word back from bad people by making it more acceptable in common speech, you have to accept the fact that you are also making it more acceptable as a derogatory word. Eventually, when people become numb to hearing these words, harsher, more degrading words will be substituted in.

If you are going to use strong language, at least learn how to do it right. Screaming expletives or using vulgarity just to be shocking is not making your point; it’s making an ass of yourself. Using certain words as the only adjectives or metaphors in your vocabulary just makes you look ignorant or at the very least uncreative. Fighting vulgarity with even stronger vulgarity is an exercise in stupidity. Learn to use pointed words at the right time. Offend people with your ideas, not the vulgarity of your language or actions.

Also, if you are going to use “big” words, learn to use them correctly. Take out a dictionary before you start spouting off. For example, a “bigot” is someone who will not tolerate others having a different point of view. To tolerate means to allow. Most of the times I have heard the word “bigot” lately the only real bigots were the ones throwing the word around. People hopelessly ignorant of their meanings throw around terms like “Racist”, “Hate”, “Fascist”, and “Phobic” in the hopes that they will strike a chord somewhere. Listen, it helps your case if you know what your words actually mean. If you just go around using emotionally charged words because they sound scary or “intelligent”, your message will fizzle out and nothing you fought for will remain.

I expressed an opinion on Facebook answering a post about abortion. I was very quickly called a misogynist, a jerk, and all kinds of unsavory words. I’m not sure where this got the woman who slung these insults at me. She knew nothing more than a script. “If someone disagrees with you, throw these terms at them”. I asked her to be civil; she called me a Nazi. This kind of rhetoric makes words meaningless. I eventually walked away from the conversation because there was no reasoning with that kind of crazy.

If you protest, choose your words for effect, choose them for meaning, and choose them wisely. Offend people with the radicalness of your ideas, not the vulgarity of your language. Most of all be kind. There is no sense in being a bully to others to make your point. If you can’t win them over with rational, sane, simple kindness, you’re probably not going to win them over anyway.

Dearest Millennials, A Letter From an Older, Wiser Millennial

“… you are weak, flaccid and unable to handle life’s normal circumstances (like the loss of a political race).”

The Desolation of Your Ideas

Dear millennials,
Post-post-modernism has failed you. Your parents have failed you. Your professors have failed you. You’ve been spoon fed ideas your whole life and no one has taught you to defend yourselves. As such, you are weak, flaccid and unable to handle life’s normal circumstances (like the loss of a political race).

You would do well to embrace the concept that truth is objective and not based on feelings. When you embrace this truth you won’t need safe spaces or days off to cry when someone opposes you. All you will need is a strong defense of truth as you perceive it.

While your perception of truth is subjective,  truth itself is not. Thankfully for you,  in most political matters these days it matters not if you are wrong as long as you can defend your perspective. A strong defense keeps your ideas alive and at play in the world, curling up in the fetal position and crying merely makes you look childish and ignorant.

Stop crying and brush up on your Marx, go read Engels and Nietzsche. Study the life of Che and not just his portrait on your t-shirt. Compare what you read with reality. Make up your own minds about the ideas of these morons. Realize that most of what they spout is feelings-based and indefensible. Understand that this is why your professors couldn’t teach you to defend it.

Then go out and study some real economics and social theory based on objective observation and reality. Read Bastiat, read Rothbard, read Henry Hazlitt, read Adam Smith and John Locke. Read people who took painstaking time to study reality and craft theory that could be tested and tried and found true (or false).

Configure your own perspective based on your observations of these theories, then formulate defenses of your perspective based not on feelings but on objective measurements and your subjective interpretation of the data.

If you create a reasoned defense of your views, I promise you you’ll never need a safe space. You’ll never need a day off to cry about election results. You’ll never fear the ideas of others no matter how absurd they are.

Instead, you can be bold, you can change the minds and hearts of others. You can make the world “a better place” or whatever it is that you younger people are trying to do these days. You may never have your utopia, but at least you will have some people who understand you and want to help you get that much closer to it.

Stop the temper tantrums and pick up a book or three.

Sincerely,

An older millennial who’s sick of being lumped in with you snowflakes.

My Chief End

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Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

That is the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. This, I believe, is the Bible’s answer to the commonly asked question “What is the meaning of life?” If I was asked about the meaning of life, that would be my answer. How that answer is applied is a bit more nuanced.

As seen on my definitions page I define truth as “that which corresponds to reality” and economy as “household management”. If I had to apply the first catechism question to my life I would say my chief way of glorifying God is to learn true truth and apply it the best I can to my personal economy.

“True” truth is objective. In our post-postmodern world, most would say there is no truth. To most in our world truth is as subjective as one’s feelings about a subject. As feelings change, so also does truth. This has led to a myriad of confusion on a number of topics, gender and sexuality being two of the more recent hot buttons. Confusion about reality used to be called “psychosis” where now it is often labeled as just another version of reality. Raised in a world where truth is subjective, we are quickly becoming a generation of psychotics.

My biggest earthly goal is to gain the proper perspective of the truth and not rely on my subjective viewpoint of it. This can be tricky of course, as my mind is finite, flawed, and my perceptions are skewed my own sinful nature. As a created being, I will never know the full extent of all truth in the universe, only God can know that. But it doesn’t mean I should stop trying.

Where does one find truth? This is a hotly debated question among Christians. Some insist that truth can only be found in the Bible while others feel truth can be observed in other places. I tend to be of the latter camp.

The Bible contains the only necessary truth for saving the human soul from damnation, but it does not contain every truth or the only truth that man can know. There are some in the Reformed camp who believe that man can know nothing outside of scripture, but I think a basic reading of Romans 18-22 makes this argument mute.

“18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.”

Man observes nature and self and understands the existence of God, as well as His attributes and nature. He knows God and understands Gods attributes just by virtue of being created in the image of God and in being able to observe creation itself. Man knows before he suppresses, he is perfectly able to discern, he just chooses out of his depravity to suppress the knowledge (this is normally where I point out to Presuppositional apologists that man is “without excuse”, but that’s another topic for another day).

It’s not just the nature and attributes of God that man can observe and understand in nature, it’s anything which God chooses in His sovereignty to allow man to know. For instance: we can know truths about nature, about economics, about physics, about math, and about our physical bodies, all without consulting the Bible. Sinful man may never get a full view of every subject, and our imperfect views may lead us to false beliefs about a topic, but with enough observation it is possible for us to get a workable grasp on reality.

Some would say that our finite minds and flawed thinking prevent us from having real knowledge, but I think it’s close enough that we shouldn’t squabble with semantics. We can know well enough to put our knowledge to good use.  We can understand our physical reality enough to manipulate it for our needs, otherwise we would have never survived life outside the Garden.

Should we rely solely on our observations to comprehend reality? No! Scripture contains enough truth about other matters (besides Salvation) that we can make comparative analysis. When we make an observation about the physical universe Christians can and should consult scripture to see if our observation matches with scripture. If it does not match scripture, either our interpretation of scripture is wrong or our interpretation of what we observe is wrong. In many matters it is impossible to discern which is which (thankfully those matters have little to nothing to do with our salvation, it is quite clear in scripture what man must do to be saved).

For example: the question of creation. Folks will argue endlessly about young earth vs old earth creationism, one side finding irrefutable evidence in the Bible, the other finding irrefutable evidence in nature. While the Bible states that God created everything, it is not specific on the actual process by which creation took its shape. This is a topic for another day, but let’s just leave it with this: either the young earth interpretation of Genesis is incorrect or the old earth observations of nature are incorrect.

My chief desire in life is to find the truth about as many things as I can and live my life as consistently with the truth as I can. This means all matters of my personal economy must be consistent with reality, even if that reality is not observed by the world at large. This has created some conflict in my life. This should create conflict in all Christian’s lives. All Christians are going to live a life that is in conflict with the fallen world.

But what if the conflict comes within the church? What if what I think is the “truth” about a topic is disliked or even condemned in the church? Obviously as a Reformed Christian I have only the Bible to turn to. On many topics it seems the church at large is hasty to adopt the larger cultural perspective. Whatever the prevailing attitude of the world is, so too is the prevailing attitude of the church. In other topics, the church often seeks to distance itself so far from the world that it misses whatever truth the world may actually be promoting.

The truth about any subject will only be found when the church bases its moral attitudes in scripture. I often stop Christians who are railing about a certain topic to cite me chapter and verse. It is truly depressing the number of believers who simply can’t come up with anything more than quotes from church patriarchs. No disrespect to the patriarchs, but they may have been wrong. And until one has at least a tentative grasp of what scripture actually says, he should probably avoid quoting flawed men. If there is a question about a matter, one should first consult scripture, then consult a multitude of sources to explain what he does not understand.

What is my point in all of this?

Seek truth, seek it in the Bible, seek it in nature, and seek it in the wisdom of church patriarchs. Then seek to live your life in accordance with your findings.