The Threat Of Ambiguity

Comments to previous posts to this blog have focused on the role played by religion in the polarization that characterizes today’s America. I’d like to put a slightly different “spin” on that conversation.

As Len Farber noted, it is unfair to lump all religions together–there is, as my youngest son has noted, a great deal of difference between religions that help adherents wrestle with the “big questions” of life and those that dictate an infallible answer. That difference extends beyond the worldviews we label “religion.” Back in the days of the communist USSR, it was often remarked that communism was a religion of sorts, and that observation can be enlarged to include pretty much all rigid belief systems.

Which brings me to one of those “there are two kinds of people” generalizations. (Obviously, a dangerous overstatement, but bear with me…)

We live in a world that can seem incomprehensible; confronting our complicated reality can range from exciting to intimidating to extremely frightening. Most of us (I hope, at least, that it’s most of us) muddle through, recognizing and coming to terms with our human limitations and making what sense we can of a complex world. But for a not-insignificant number of our fellow humans, keeping oneself open to change, to reconsideration–a necessary attribute of living with ambiguity– is intolerable. Shades of gray are terrifying. Such people are desperate for bright lines, clear rules–for certainty.

Enter some–not all–religions and other belief systems, including conspiracy theories that “explain” the inexplicable and bring clarity to messy reality.

If you are an older white male in today’s America, you were probably born into a society that promised you a future in which you would be a part of the dominant caste, a future in which you wouldn’t have to compete with–or share importance with– uppity women and minorities. That future didn’t unfold as promised. It’s understandable that you might want someone to blame for the social changes that cost you the reality you had the right to expect.

It was probably the fault of the “libs” or the “femi-nazis” or Blacks, or maybe the immigrants from “shit-hole” countries.

As I have tried to understand how any mentally-competent American could look at Donald Trump and see someone who belongs in the Oval Office, I have become convinced that an inability to cope with the ambiguities of modern life explains a lot.

There is, of course, a lot of research telling us that “racial resentment” is the most prominent predictor of support for Trump. There is also ample research suggesting that feelings of inadequacy and fearfulness–characteristics of an inability to cope with the ambiguities of life–are predictors of “racial resentment.”

Cristina Bicchieri is a professor of philosophy and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and the lead author of a paper with the intriguing–if somewhat challenging/incomprehensible– title, “It’s Not a Lie If You Believe the Norm Does Not Apply: Conditional Norm-Following with Strategic Beliefs.”

In a discussion with Thomas Edsall, Bicchieri attributed one of Trump’s strengths to the fact that “people hate ambiguity,” and if there is one thing Trump is not, it’s ambiguous. “Trump’s ability to convey conviction, even when saying things that are demonstrably false, is critically important in persuading supporters to believe and vote for him.”

There’s an old saying “It isn’t what you don’t know that hurts you; it’s what you know that ‘just ain’t so.'” Too many Americans prefer to cling to certainties–theological, ideological or conspiratorial– that “just ain’t so.”

I think it was Bertrand Russell who said, “What men want is not knowledge, but certainty.”

 

 

 

 

 

30 thoughts on “The Threat Of Ambiguity

  1. For those of us who have a toe in the equity markets, we have learned Wall Street prefers and performs best during times of certainty. The market does not obsess over politics, much less religion. I serve in a fiduciary role to ensure integrity of a multi-million dollar endowment. I always look forward to quarterly investment reviews as we look at a variety of dashboards to assess opportunity and risk. The experience anchors hope for the future of the charity we support and a positive long term horizon for the world in which we live. We do not dwell in the downside of gloom but live in the optimism of the upside if not now due to a long term view, staying the course for the upside coming. Pollyanish? Not if you rely on proven dashboards to work through market volatility. If only dashboards were as reliable indicators for politics and religion. As to the latter, my faith and hope settles on principles of enduring values that get us through good times and bad. Yesterday and today, I am sharing in a virtual global conference, the Global Leadership Summit, engaging diversity of 70,000 delegates around the world. The issues are very timely with inspiring leadership faculty that represents stage presence far beyond white male dominance. If you look for positive and constructive relevance, you will find it. Health is membership surrounded by cause driven caring friends. Be smart. Be well.

  2. Being open to change doesn’t mean to accept changes thrust upon us; today we must be open to MAKE CHANGE if we are to survive this current government. Those who refused to accept the change brought about by the Civil Rights Movement are back in charge. The “religious” base of racism and bigotry of white supremacists has always been with us, the cross burning by the KKK is their proof of their “right” to destroy in the name of God.

    We must accept that Trump has brought about change; he takes advantage of Pence’s religious beliefs to bring evangelicals into his leadership as being the only way, the “right” way. But we do not have to accept that those changes are permanent; we must accept that the Republicans have the money and the power but we do not have to accept that we cannot change their deconstruction of our government and our place in world leadership. Ambiguity has no place in this November local, state and presidential election or in our struggle to survive the Covid-19 Pandemic.

    “No man is rich enough to buy back his past.” Oscar Wilde

    “Civilization will not reach its perfection until the last stone has fallen from the last church on the last pries.” Emile Zola

  3. Many years ago, our Pastor preached a sermon on this. Fundamentalist churches have folks who like certainty. They want hard rules to follow. They don’t want to have to struggle with decision -making. They want someone to tell them right from wrong and they’ll follow the recipe.

    Churches like our Methodist Church at St. Luke’s here in Indianapolis like to study and massage scripture and discuss various interpretations and meditate and pray about a question before deciding. We don’t see life questions in absolute terms and appreciate pastoral guidance but make up our own minds. Fortunately our pastors have always had very open minds and appreciate hearing and discussing how each of us relate to scripture and to God without judgmental attitudes. It’s a wonderful, tolerant, open-minded, and forgiving community.

    I’ve thought of that sermon many times when struggling to understand how evangelicals, for instance, can be so wedded to Donald Trump. It’s because they don’t want or like or tolerate ambiguity. Though Donald Trump often does something different than he says, his rhetoric conveys absolutism, resolve, certainty, and simplistic solutions. If that’s all they want, Trump’s their man,

  4. Interesting thread today Sheila!

    Ambiguity, IMHO, ambiguity is the antithesis to reality! Because if one wants to manipulate the masses, ambiguity is your best friend. Just like most of the Christian religions in the United States, God’s word is a mystery. There really, as they claim, a lot of gray that only certain individuals can decode for you! Therefore, you have hundreds of denominations that treat Scripture as their own personal playground to attract followers and their pocketbooks. Unfortunately, a lot of those ambiguous trails lead to a precipice, the adherence to those particular beliefs are fanatically followed for the most part.

    An example, the Catholic Church used to teach limbo a state of affairs, not quite heavenly, for infants that weren’t baptized and those unbaptized the died before the coming of Christ. The church used this unscriptural manifestation of man-made dogma, to extort treasure from their followers for millennia. To their credit, they admitted that there was no limbo, unfortunately, the untold amounts of treasure that were extorted from their followers was never returned. So all of the people that wanted to buy their loved ones out of limbo, were basically just fleeced by flimflamer’s and con artists!

    Another example, religious organizations that try to foment racial and ethnic strife between groups to bring about a rapture and the coming of the Messiah! Some Christian religions and some Jewish zealots even work together to bring this belief to reality. In their minds, this is absolutely literal, therefore, follow this dogmatic path to a devastating series of events and, an even worse outcome, one that is not supported by the Scripture that they claim to follow!

    So, we can go on about that I suppose, it’s a subject that I find fascinating, so thank you very much Sheila!

    But, to the rest of the story as Paul Harvey used to say. You can look at my picture that I use as my avatar. My avatar is a picture of myself, about a year and a few months ago. Many will say I look like an old white dude in the country, kind of win burned face and probably a little independent, maybe a lot independent. But, when I was younger, the Germans in the neighborhood that I lived in, did not like me because my skin was darker. I was threatened, even as a kindergarten student. The old Nazis didn’t like the idea of me being in their neighborhood, even though they were interlopers in the country I was born in.

    I suppose I got my Outlook both physically and mentally and spiritually from my mother’s people, and I attached myself to them. My great uncles told me at a very young age, that if I ever wanted a wonderful wife, to find a good black woman! And I realized at a very young age, that women of color, were always very nice to me. But white women, and a lot of white men, treated me disrespectfully, and caused a lot of physical and psychological pain. And when I was old enough to realize how women of color were being treated in a manner that I was treated by white folks, I made the connection in my mind to not like white people very much. We are the sum of our experiences, but, my uncles advice was Sage! And, I have the best wife, who happens to be African-American, in the world! Through all the years, the PTSD driven insanity, she never stopped being a supporter of me, and stuck with me through many difficult times.

    There was a lot of the same trajectory concerning my Wife’s People and my Great-grandparents lives and that of their Sons, my Great Uncles and of course their sister my Grandmother. Lynchings, murders, racism directed at the entire family unit, being a stranger in their own country!

    So through experience, I look at the world through a complicated lens, I’ve seen both sides of racial strife, and I’ve had family receive the crappy end of the stick, and from my father’s side, hand give out the crappy end of the stick. So, my father’s people I don’t have a relationship with because they are supporters of the individual causing a lot of the strife right now. And, it doesn’t bother me one little bit to not have a relationship with them, even though I spent a lot of time with them when I was younger. They have no clue as to why I despise their opinions and their leanings.

    It’s difficult to communicate with the willfully ignorant, or the willfully deaf, and or the purposefully Cruel & Antagonistic.

    Although they claim Christianity, there is not a Christian thought unless it concerns their own newfound personal Messiah who resides in the White House. They will tie themselves in knots to try to blend oil and water into something it can never be. Because even when it’s emulsified, oil and water never stays blended.

    “For there will be a period of time when they will not put up with the wholesome teaching, but according to their own desires, they will surround themselves with teachers to have their ears tickled.” (2nd Timothy 4:3)

    “Trust in the knowledge of this fact, that law is promulgated, not for a righteous man, but for persons lawless and unruly, ungodly and sinners, lacking loving-kindness, and profane, murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, manslayers” (1st Timothy 1:9)

    So there you have it, if those lawless ones gain power, they remake reality and change laws to allow unethical and dishonest behavior detrimental to Empathy, detrimental to civility, detrimental to unity, detrimental to compassion, detrimental to humanity and detrimental to a fair and equal society!

    What is truth? is truth what you make it? Or is truth laid out for us not as a suggestion but as a blueprint? Yes it is a blueprint! Unfortunately, there are so many who refuse to follow it because there so many trees blocking the view of the forest so to speak.

    After much pain, and much retribution exacted upon those who caused me that pain, to the point some very terrible things, “my beautiful wonderful wife” expressed this Scripture to me, and it changed me for the rest of my life. Christ’s words are powerful concerning his sermon on the Mount, but many blindly turn away from it.

    “Keep on asking, and it will be given you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you; 8 for everyone asking receives, and everyone seeking finds, and to everyone knocking, it will be opened. 9 Indeed, which one of you, if his son asks for bread, will hand him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, he will not hand him a serpent, will he? 11 Therefore, if you, although being wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more so will your Father who is in the heavens give good things to those asking him!

    12 “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must do to them. This, in fact, is what the Law and the Prophets mean.

    13 “Go in through the narrow gate,because broad is the gate and spacious is the road leading off into destruction, and many are going in through it; 14 whereas narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are finding it. ” (Matthew 7:7-13)

    So it’s not Scripture that is irrelevant, but it is those who have manipulated Scripture that are irrelevant! Those that have included unscriptural man-made dogma, like the earth being created in 6′ 24-hour days, and that Scripture is antithetical to science! That’s not true, and, for people to make that assumption, do themselves a disservice to something greater than themselves!

  5. I agree with the distinction between those who are open to change and differing ideas and those whose sense of self is so brittle and fragile they want absolutes. However, I’d clarify that this is not a distinction between religions, but a fault line that runs through all belief systems – and probably though all people. The best religious practices are all about learning how to open oneself up to be more receptive to others and to nature, Not about memorizing dogma.

  6. A useful extension of the “two kinds of people” distinction might be Isaiah Berlin’s use of the old Greek adage of the fox and the hedgehog. The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows only one thing, and knows it intently. He goes on at some detail, but assigning the labels to Democrats and Republicans, respectively makes sense to me.

  7. I was speaking with a friend from church one day and I could tell he was unhappy. I asked what was bothering him and he told me that two of his close friends had recently died and that neither had been baptized. He was sad to think that these two men that he thought of as good men would not go to heaven. I told him that God took baptism a lot less seriously than we do and if God took any good men, he would take all good men. Same religion, different faith.

  8. The complexity of today’s world simply piles on the ambiguity. There are 500 TV channels, not 4. There are seemingly hundreds of music genres, not just classical, pop, jazz. Etc.

    There used to be cultural anchors to take us to port – Walter Cronkite, our local newspaper. Now, we drift in the swamps…

  9. Good post Sheila. And spot on. You all might have heard one of the last Nuremberg trial lawyers being asked how he thought a cultured, intelligent country like Germany could be sucked into such inhumane ideology under Nazism. His answer was powerful and simple. he said you can take any man (with or without children), and if he is desperate enough (in a life of despair where nothing makes sense and the old rules no longer hold water), he will pick up a rifle for ANY cause if he thinks it will help him (or his family) survive.

    Religious “faith” is, I think, one of those survival kits (gun in a book form). Unfortunately, within the “holy scriptures” of those religions, the God(s) are sociopath nut cases who make Trump look sane!!! Seriously.

    Even my hero Jesus is not unscathed. In John’s “gospel,” he says that “I and the Father are One.” Oops! Then there is the infamous Book of Revelation. Ufda! Jesus makes Rambo look like a Boy Scout! “Rivers of Blood” anyone???

    The BIG problem with religions is that they ALL claim to be “The True Faith,” “The True God,” etc. etc. Hence the infighting among themselves as well with other traditions. Pretty messy and comical if they didn’t cause so much suffering and harm not only to religious communities but to the general public as well (women/abortion rights as just one example).

    I always thought it was the height of irony when people would put so much emphasis on having “faith” in order to believe in God, Jesus, Scripture’s truth, etc. German scholastic and monk Martin Luther infamously made “faith” the core reactor rod of Christianity and, therefore, making Paul’s writings (especially The Book of Romans) more important than Jesus himself!

    My favorite line when confronted with the oft statement of, “you just gotta have enough faith” was, “Faith is NOT certainty, for if it was, then faith (trust) would not be needed!” Yes, indeed, a great irony.

    Once I have given up the need for certainty in life, life became so much more interesting, more beautiful, in fact. The world opened up its arms to me so that I was able to seek “truths” and/or wisdom in any or all traditions and cultures throughout history up to today.

    As the great Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, once stated, “I could enjoy only one fruit (religion) for all my life, but I prefer fruit salad (ALL spiritual traditions) where I can enjoy so many different varieties!”

    It is another reason I love science so much. Science is able to evolve when “better” science comes along in time and moves the enlightenment and discoveries further along. Religion, for the most part, cannot evolve. They are stuck with (and hindered) by their presumed “truths” in THEIR (conveniently theirs) “holy scriptures” thereby excluding all other possibilities.

    It is why I now look at Religions, NOT as places to find orthodoxy and “Truth,” but as Wisdom Literature. Wisdom Traditions is how the great Huston Smith named them. I love that.

  10. Interesting that today’s blog has brought out the religious among us, and they all seem to need to “explain” themselves to the rest of us. Maybe they are really just trying to explain themselves to themselves. Not buying it.

  11. Bill Moyers with Heather Cox Richardson , interview” how the south won the civil war .. “the interview is how a common sense structure of what has been applied by anyone,who seeks leadership by a few. seems America was always exploited by a few,for gain by a few. and they have their lackeys and, (ill save the insult..)to commit everyone to being ruled by authoritarianism ,over a democracy. we dont have a citizenship education obviously,we have a authoritarian policy,fueled by the elites and paid think tanks and a wall street market,i was never so revulsed in my life seeing trump in a office,with the evangicals praying with thier claws on his shoulders.. ive seen some nasty scenes in real life, as a tow truck driver and over the road trucker. I never could have imagine how low people who preach would accept this wet rock undersider. (unless money was involved and living status)and we see this parade marching for a authoritarian regime. keep talking, were making great strides to get nowhere..

  12. Theresa,
    your right, your seeing what i see, they only have themselves to convince, many of us,see otherwise. i talk most everyday with these types, im around them in my blue collar job. and its the same old conversation.. im not buying it, for its content,or it needs to be that way..

  13. “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance – that principle is contempt prior to investigation.” ~ William Paley or Herbert Spencer

    Closed-mindedness should be declared a mental health issue because of all the damage it causes to the individual and society. Many of our institutions are guilty of this as well.

    Trump fits the description of closed-minded because he considers himself a genius and rejects anything and everything from people outside of himself. This keeps him from growing. His narcissism works against his growth. He refuses to learn new things or unlearn old beliefs because he only “trusts his gut.”

    Living in Trumpland, mostly a fear-based society, it is comprised of selfishness and self-centeredness. The Libertarian mantra is, “I’ve got mine, the rest of you are on your own.”

    They hate paying taxes (theft) to the government for disbursement to others. They resent living in society. The further down the continuum of closed-mindedness you go, the more resentful and fearful you will find people. It would be difficult not to make an argument that religious beliefs are the root cause of this fear (fear of God).

    This is why I gravitate toward the Eastern philosophies, where there are no deities involved. Mindfulness and self-awareness encourage personal growth. You are encouraged to liberate from the mind and all its habitual thinking to a place of peace/calm/serenity.

    When several of the local churches in Indiana went after local yoga instructors for teaching people an alternative to Christianity, they were showing their cards. “Only Jesus can make you feel good.”

    Not just closed-minded but also rigid…everything Buddhism teaches you not to be. It’s everything Jesus taught as well. So, what happened to his teachings?

  14. You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do. Anne Lamott.

    From above: ” If you are an older white male in today’s America, you were probably born into a society that promised you a future in which you would be a part of the dominant caste, a future in which you wouldn’t have to compete with–or share importance with– uppity women and minorities.”

    We were born into this, it does not mean we believed it. I cannot think of anyone I grew up with who thought this way.

    Authoritarian Religion with out a doubt IMHO certainly believed the male was dominant. There is an interesting picture of Jerry Falwell Jr., on a yacht with his arm around some nubile young woman. They have shorts on but both have the zippers on the pants loosened and the shorts are hanging. It looks like they had just finished “Dancing in the Sheets” or were on the way to doing so.

    I am certain the Falwell Jr. flock has somehow rationalized this. Falwell Jr. by the way is a supporter of the Trumpet.

  15. Ambiguity vs certainty. As an advocate of science I can say unequivocally that humans have never known more about how the universe behaves and why. We have had two simultaneous and profound explosions in my lifetime, human population and knowledge. Those who ask and answer “why” for a living are great in number and skill and knowledge and capability to observe and measure beyond our senses and we are creating certainty from ignorance or ambiguity at an unprecedented rate.

    What’s going in the other direction as a result of these explosions is culture which was created to manage ambiguity. If you believe as I do and define culture as personal and created individually as we leave infancy and observe the behaviors of others deemed to be like us, back in the day what you saw was a great deal of consistency, of certainty in how people like us behave. Now there is diversity in everything and everyone.

    Personally I see that as progress, freedom, everyone accepting who they are not who society has determined they should be. The reason I hope is that I was taught both as a creation of what I was born with and into, and as a scientific adult, to question everything with the goal of learning because knowledge was its own reward. In other words create your own certainty by learning the answer to every question others had wondered into a definitive answer. When confronted by those who were cooked in a culture of certainty, don’t be different, especially when doing so put at risk cultural advantage, my reaction is to break free and learn and live open to all possibilities and answers will come not from entertainment media but from facts and your own decisions based on observations not ego massage.

    While all of that to me represents hope, to others it represents an abstract terror of uncertainty. Somebody tell me how to behave. Where did all of these “others” even come from? Can’t we return to rules? I want to be the same not different. I want the entitlements that my gender, religion, status, heterosexuality, position used to bring.

    I define, rightly or wrongly, all of that as me being liberal vs others being authoritarian. In the US today authoritarians have, by happenstance, enjoyed a political revival of power to restore the past. They were happy and I was not. I didn’t think that their ideas would work and it’s turned out that they didn’t. Now liberals get a turn thanks to democracy to try living free of the burden of conformance imposed by workplace or church or fashion or the market for goods and services. I think that will work better because it’s more consistent with the reality of an earth groaning under the weight of our numbers and lifestyle at the expense of future humans. Others now are as afraid of that as I have been since the ’80s as political cult leadership became the path to fame and fortune over entertainment media.

    We’ll see, won’t we. We’ll learn, or at least some of us will.

  16. The advent and idea of an Egyptian monogod, Ra, which seeped into Judeo-Christian thought (unsurprisingly, since they were next door), was not very democratic. Pologod societies spread the wealth of divinity (as it were) with chief but not monogods such as Zeus, and would have given both Jew and Egyptian alternatives to one size fits all for worshipping purposes. I think there is a reality, probably universal, that is independent of “faith” and other such human attempts to come to grips with such reality, and if you want to call it God, fine; and if you want to attribute all good and moral things to such reality, fine, but what is good and moral are human definitions, not necessarily those of whatever this reality is.

    That said, any definition of any unknown is necessarily in human terms, so I have capitulated to such process, and so far as I am concerned, religion is no different from any other attempt by humans to explain the unknown. I am therefore unconstrained by ambiguity in selection of what to and what not to be believe since I see no reason to choose between equally unknowns
    in the first instance, and as a result I am not moved by either pope or Falwell to follow any authoritarian and doctrinaire view of the unknown because my guess is as good as theirs.

    Back to the real world > I thought Bradford and Todd brought much to the philosophical table today. Perhaps labeling such choices of unknowns with scriptural magic is a copout (e.g., resurrection from the grave) that our Bronze Age writers needed for sale in their day, but this is not their day, and I hope, not much longer that of TV preachers and their convuluted logic. We are not the naughty children of Israel waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain, nor are we discoverers of grace to go with faith, as was Father Luther. We are just people, people who still are trying to understand a perhaps unknowable reality, but we have a here and now reality which we have the power to change or at least alter, like November 3, for instance. So let’s have at it.

  17. Jack! LOL! Wet rock under sider? Boom! And, I agree with those that had their claws over his shoulder reveling in the man and not their faith! A man that is a direct antithesis to Christ!

    Bradford,

    The apostle Paul stated to the congregation in Philippi, at Philippians 1:21-25 which reads; “For in my case, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 Now if I am to live on in the flesh, this is a fruitage of my work; yet what I would choose, I do not make known. 23 I am torn between these two things, for I do desire the releasing and the being with Christ, which is, to be sure, far better. 24 However, it is more necessary for me to remain in the flesh for your sakes. 25 So, being confident of this, I know I will remain and continue with all of you for your advancement and your joy in the faith”

    The word “faith” is translated from the Greek piʹstis, primarily conveying the thought of confidence, trust, firm persuasion. Depending on the context, the Greek word may also be understood to mean “faithfulness” or “fidelity.”​ (1st Timothy 3:7; Titus 2:10.)

    Moulton and Milligan suggest the rendering: “Faith is the title deed of things hoped for.” (Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, 1963, p. 660)

    The Scriptures tell us: “Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.” (Hebrews 11:1)

    The Greek word eʹleg·khos, rendered “evident demonstration,” conveys the idea of bringing forth evidence that demonstrates something, particularly something contrary to what appears to be the case. Thereby this evidence makes clear what has not been discerned before and so refutes what has only appeared to be the case. “The evident demonstration,” or evidence for conviction, is so positive or powerful that faith is said to be it.

    FAITH is not credulity. The person who may ridicule faith usually has faith himself in tried and trusted friends. The scientist has faith in the principles of his branch of science. He bases new experiments on past discoveries and looks for new discoveries on the basis of those things already established as true. Likewise, the farmer prepares his soil and sows the seed, expecting, as in previous years, that the seed will sprout and that the plants will grow as they receive the needed moisture and sunshine. Therefore faith in the stability of the natural laws governing the universe actually constitutes a foundation for man’s plans and activities.

    Faith is not the possession of all persons, as it is a fruit of God’s spirit. (2nd Thessalonians 3:2; Galatians 5:22) And a Christian’s faith is not static, but it grows. (2nd Thessalonians 1:3) Hence, the request of Jesus’ disciples, “Give us more faith,” was very appropriate, and he did provide them the foundation for increased faith. He supplied them with greater evidence and understanding on which to base their faith. (Luke 17:5.)

    But faith cannot be taken for granted, because lack of faith is ‘the sin that so easily entangles one.’ To maintain a firm faith requires putting up a hard fight for it. The apostle Paul and Christ himself said, shunning faith-destroying philosophies and traditions of men, and, above all, looking “intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus” is our commission! (Hebrews 12:1, 2; Jude 3, 4; Galatians 5:19-21; 1st Timothy 6:9, 10; Colossians 2:8.)

    The weak dismiss faith, because not only is faith a basis of belief, faith is fomented in the heart! A person without solid faith is a person to steer clear of. A person that would rather release themselves from their faithful reasonings and knowledge to satisfy a particular craving put forth by man, is not a trustworthy individual! Buyer beware.

  18. ill admit,i also have my pants open like that,when their too tight. im not fat,paunch,more like it, i am not,defending falwell.. around closed company that is.. ill admit, the boat hes on speaks of money,from the joinery i see. as far as the lady goes, epstien had them too. its a power ego for them..but trump, im sure if he was in my socio economic staus, he would still have malania,right?… and i dont see them inviting thier lower flocks,to their get togethers..or heard of trump having a get big BBQ at his,,expense.. like the NRA now being called out by the NYAG, some like myself are well aware of whos starving and whos providing the starvation wages,and the profits to investors. the media is finally coming out on this because of the,whatever,maybe the protests are actully focusing on the inequality issue,and why, black and brown and red,and yellow lives are given poverty,over a living wage. Ron Wyden D,Ore, on the senate floor called out the republican clan for a weeks extension,on benifits,so the republicans can go home and do damage control.. but Wyden he still called them out.. the stock market is propped up by the fed,and lets see if Joe is elected and how fast the republicans scream were broke,again..its time to tax the rich,and those who enable them,over the masses.. i see the protesters and people behind the BLM , like the occupy wall street medley,its tone deaf and directed to one issue, by the media as a whole.who is fully owned by wall street.. may the band play on,,while the poverty grows.

  19. Bradford,John,
    being i retreated the religious studies when i was 8 in catholic school,i cant even talk with the studies you both are in.. bravo, and i like the concepts and what theology you guys have posted. interesting to glance at those words from past,and see them today..

    im in Billings Mt today,, every buisness has the sign up on the door, enter with a mask!
    and im seeing a 99% compliance.. though some restaurants are open,with restrictions, i see small buisness being hammered.. the cost of operation has increased,im seeing most cuts of pork now near doubled, and domestic supplies in demand,since china gets their contracts first.. the heels act, er heals act, has the trust act in it,, that would cut social security payments via payroll.. ive written my reps, to dump the trust act,out of the heals act.. its sponsored by Mit…

  20. John Sorg- in all sincerity, I have moved on from 1st century or 16th century idea-tins of “faith.” Perhaps not unlike you, I had to learn, inside and out, how to speak, read and sparse, construct and deconstruct words and sentences of ancient Hebrew, Koine Greek and Latin. I get it.

    Paul Tillich comes as close to a definition I can stand for “faith.” It is: Your Ultimate Concern. It works for me.

    The DPEJ authors, Saul/Paul and Martin Luther were great for THEIR time. I have moved on into the 21st century. If they still speak to you and help you, rock on. As for me, I am happy with where I am at with a whole array of colors to work from the palette the world gives. Peace.

  21. Here is what I posted on social media. Thank you Sheila for this days focus. I feel blessed to read your words.
    Today Sheila talks about why there is support for 45. The teaser helps put this in perspective. The rationale does not mean someone who supports 45 is stupid or racist or whatever but that there is a certainty to believing him that sets well in their soul. Notice I did not go back to the stupid and racist part.
    Teaser “In a discussion with Thomas Edsall, Bicchieri attributed one of Trump’s strengths to the fact that “people hate ambiguity,” and if there is one thing Trump is not, it’s ambiguous. “Trump’s ability to convey conviction, even when saying things that are demonstrably false, is critically important in persuading supporters to believe and vote for him.”
    I accept ambiguity and can live with change, I don’t like it sometimes but I am not afraid of facing different paths.
    Every summer I spend 2 weeks riding on a working ranch and come back to suburban life and drink beer. I was a Marine Aviator and flew helicopters and then I taught high school science. Change. Now I want to help us find ways to finally resolve social injustice issues.
    The best we can do on Nov 3 is to vote and to help insure everyone has access to their vote!!

  22. If religion/faith was the definitive/non-ambiguous answer so many seek, then those who are religious and/or faithful would have no fear, not even in the valley of death.

    But alas the world’s religious/faithful (by any name, or by no name), especially in America, are also the world’s most fear-crazed population. There is a falacy, a false assumption, there that accounts for that fear. It is a falacy that reality despises and, without fail, without hesitation, resolutely smites over and over and over. By now, reality has developed a calloused heart, and all false faiths are in for the mother of all savage beatings. Yet, the ambiguity haters will cling to their binky assumptions. Is that stupidity, or insanity, or is it the mother of all fears that morphs into a strange sort of suicidal bluster masquerading as courage of conviction?

  23. Jack smith….rock on brother. and just because I was VERY DAMN fortunate to get an education beyond the 12th grade doesn’t automatically make me smart or intelligent or, as my mother told me on my day receiving my BA, “That piece of paper in your hand is not a license to practice intelligence!” She was the most wise (and smartest) woman I had ever known. I was the only child of hers to go to college, much less beyond, a circumstance of growing up poor. I met some folks who taught me how to get into higher education without going broke. Sorry I digress.

    Frankly, I see religion as just another “social norm” that gets passed off as “truth” passed from one generation to the next. Every now and then in history we see some bold and eccentric guy or gal QUESTION those social and religious norms. More often than not, they get swept away for mere questions (and not difficult questions either, just common sense questions will get you in boiling oil!!!)

    I was outside the box in my “career” because I DEMANDED my classes for both adults and catechism to ASK QUESTIONS!!! I figured if asking questions was good enough for Martin Luther to have his “ah ha” moment, then it was good enough for all of us to question, even his (and perhaps especially his) own theological and biblical “discoveries.” How else do we grow otherwise??? Status quo has NEVER been my cup of tea.

    Thanks for your kindness and thanks for keeping it real…

  24. I always love reading this blog late in the day. Thank you for so many points of view.

    As a person that always said there is no such thing as black and white, and have prided myself in being able to discern some of the shades of grey, I will have to say there may be some truth the “two kinds of people” argument, but as always the world is a lot more complicated than that. Thinking back on the past posts in this blog, I suspect you could make the argument for “there are 10 kinds of people”.

    In the end it all comes down to the fact that Trump is a master manipulator. He will push a button here, and then push a hot button there, and every time he will shift his target to a different group using the intuition only a sociopath might have. There may never be an easy black and white answer as to why Trump appeals to so many people. I suspect historians will be just as confused about Trumps appeal, as we are today about Adolph Hitler.

  25. My brother Jack, and Bradford, education has nothing to do with righteousness.

    Being righteous never goes out of style,

    The Hebrew tseʹdheq and tsedha·qahʹ as well as the Greek di·kai·o·syʹne have the thought of “rectitude,” “uprightness,” indicating a standard or norm determining what is upright. “Righteousness” is frequently used in connection with a judge, or with judgment, giving the term a somewhat legal flavor (hence, the original-language terms are at times translated “justice”). (Psalms 35:24; 72:2; 96:13; Isaiah 11:4; Revelation 19:11) In the Mosaic Law, at Leviticus 19:36, tseʹdheq is used four times in connection with business transactions: “You should prove to have accurate scales, accurate weights, an accurate ephah and an accurate hin.”

    Greek scholar Kenneth S. Wuest says: “God is the objective standard which determines the content of meaning of dikaios (righteous), and at the same time keeps that content of meaning constant and unchanging, since He is the unchanging One.” He then quotes Cremer as saying: “Righteousness in the biblical sense is a condition of rightness the standard of which is God, which is estimated according to the divine standard, which shows itself in behavior conformable to God, and has to do above all things with its relation to God, and with the walk before Him. It is, and it is called dikaiosune theou (righteousness of God) (Romans. 3:21, 1:17), righteousness as it belongs to God, and is of value before Him, Godlike righteousness, see Ephesians 4:24; with this righteousness thus defined, the gospel (Romans 1:17) comes into the world of nations which had been wont to measure by a different standard.”​ >Studies in the Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament, 1946, p. 37.

    My point is Jack, one doesn’t need to be overly educated, one does not need to be educated at all, Christ followers were unlettered men, they were fishermen for the most part. Some were tentmakers, and none were in the upper echelon except Paul and that was after the death of Christ. That’s why during the day of Pentecost and 33 CE during the Festival of firstfruits, when Disciples of Christ were able to speak in the tongues of all of the Jews from every part of the known world at the time, even though none of them learned of the tongue them self. People thought they were drunk until they realized they were speaking actual languages. So, if one has true faith, if one is truly righteous, you are provided with strength beyond what is ordinary.

    There is no timestamp on righteousness, and if one believes there is a timestamp, they are not righteous! Bradford brought out some interesting points, but, the pallet of truth is never time stamped either, so if one considers their pallet is from a more current timeframe, and therefore much more “palatable” that usually means they’ve moved on from a pallet of truth to a pallet of philosophy. That in itself is faithless, that in itself is unrighteous! Christ didn’t move on from his pallet, he was here for a reason, when he was baptized his memories of his heavenly life restored themselves. And, he constantly showed reverence to his heavenly father. He didn’t tell his father that times were different and why should he have to go through this, he stuck with it to fulfill his prophecy.

    Prophecy, whether prediction, simply inspired instruction, or reproof, served for the benefit of both those initially hearing it and those in all future periods who would put faith in God’s promises. For the original receivers, the prophecies assured them that the passing of years or centuries had not caused God to waver in his purpose, that he was holding firm to his covenant terms and promises. (Psalms 77:5-9; Isaiah 44:21; Isaiah 49:14-16; Jeremiah 50:5)

    So as you can see Jack, God’s pallet doesn’t change, and, time does not make his righteous prophetic words issued through his prophets any more palatable or less palatable, they are what they are!

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