Nothing to Fear but Your Self

At Bible study last night, Pastor Sammie asked us why we were afraid. We struggled to produce a good answer. Buddhism puts a point on this: because of our attachment to material things. Christianity goes the other way. It asserts that we find the strength to resist fear only in embracing God.

But in the interval between surrender of materiality and the embrace of God, we feel pain. This is not just because the world tries to punish us for abandoning it. As Christians, we feel pain – we “pick up our cross” – because it is only through our pain that love knows where it must bring healing.

Even Jesus struggled with this:

Father, if it is possible, take this cup away from me.

Followed by the humiliating:

But not my will, but yours be done.

To avoid that pain, we choose to try to love ourselves. We pass judgment upon others. This one is fallen. That one is genetically inferior. All the -isms and -alities that divide us, and justify our reservation of our power for people like us.

In doing so, we make a grave error. The Most High loves all things, so in choosing not to love someone, we divorce ourselves from love.

The devil does not corrupt us. The devil only attempts to convince us to choose to reject love. He heaps pain upon the weak, and then whispers in our ear that God does not love us.

But if we lift our heads, the strong realize that in beating us down, Satan has loosened his grip on those around us. We receive their wonder and gratitude. We become meaningful. We become powerful.

Surrender your self. Be weak in the face of evil, and find strength in the Most High.

Slippery Slope

I’ve been home with a prostate infection, of all things, and so managed to get through all except the last two chapters of Judith Simmer-Brown’s Dakini’s Warm Breath: The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism. It’s been a difficult but enlightening read. I have some concerns with the methods of the path as she describes it.

First, though, the positive: Tibetan Buddhism has a deep model of the manifestation of sacred principles in the world. Simmer-Brown traces that through secret, inner, outer, and outer-outer manifestations.

I related the essence of the secret dakini in my last post. Prajnaparamita manifests as space, wisdom and knowledge. As she builds the lore, Simmer-Brown explains that possession of these qualities makes the feminine principle dominant in Tibetan Buddhism, for skillful means (the use of compassion to transform experience) is both inspired by and guided by them. The secret dakini can be neither visualized nor understood, only known.

The inner dakini manifests as the deity Vajrayogini. Vajrayogini confronts the practitioner with the fear of death, and transforms it into acceptance and freedom. As a deity in Tibetan Buddhism, Vajrayogini is depicted in mandalas that define her relationship with the world. The most important elements in her depiction are the instruments of the charnel ground: skulls, flames and sharp implements. The logic of this depiction reflects the hazards of the sacred knowledge known to Tibetan practitioners. To advance, an acolyte must find a living guru that channels the sacred experience into the world, a yidam (devotional deity) to meditate upon, and a protector of the teachings that guides or violently transforms the personality to prevent corruption by residual grasping of the self.

The outer dakini mediates the transformation of the subtle energy system, similar to the system of prana or acupuncture. In Tibetan lore, all of our bodily functions are manifestations of energy flow through these channels. The central channel flows along the spine, but has two side channels that focus masculine and feminine tendencies. The goal of the practitioner is to merge the side channels into the central. In this process, the practitioner must cultivate relationships with twenty-four dakinis that originate the energies of the subtle body system. In a sense, the practitioner becomes a living mandala, and calls these energies into the world to create and transform experience.

The outer-outer dakini is the dakini in human form. In this section, Simmer-Brown celebrates the female figures in history that contributed to development of Tibetan wisdom. Here is where tantric sex comes to the fore, as well as validation of authority through esoteric action (magic). Both are cast in a positive light. Tantric sex is a method for mutual inspection and transmission of traits that facilitates personal growth. Magic is described as the means by which the physical infrastructure of the tradition is protected, including the bodies of practitioners meditating without food or shelter.

Through this summary, I hope that I reveal my respect for this tradition, whose richness and depth reflects a careful construction of interlocking elements that ensure the outcome of practice is compassionate engagement with all living beings.

However, I perceive certain issues.

First and most important is the conflation of space and mind. Mind existed long before this reality came into being, and is the realm of pure spirit to which we will return. Space exists in this realm only as a means to protect compassionate personalities from experiences more intense than they can mediate. To serve in this way, space was designed to capture and localize mind. Where that occurs, we find matter. This is the truth that Tibetan wisdom shares as the secret and outer dakinis.

Secondly we have the sense of privilege accorded to advanced practitioners. This manifests itself in the characterization of them as heroes rather than servants (the term used in Christianity) of humanity. The thanotic imagery of the inner dakini is particularly troubling. Death maintains the disintegration of spirit, something obvious in the description of the outer dakini. It’s adoption as a protector of privileged knowledge seems a dangerous compromise.

Personal privilege also seems evident in the rather sterile rendering of the relationship between tantric consorts. The gurus celebrate commitment, but not monogamy, each relationship broken off when the mutual benefits are exhausted.

This flies in the face of the most serious problem with the tradition. Simmer-Brown recounts that the assignment of a yidam (devotional deity) is driven by the tensions that exist in our lives. Meditation on the yidam resolves obstructions in the subtle energy system that manifest as perceptible heat in the body. Simmer-Brown refers to this in the title (warm breath), but never stops to wonder what tension is attendant to that heat.

Simmer-Brown gnaws at the bone of the problem throughout the book, defending Tibetan Buddhism against charges of patriarchy while postulating that its dominant spiritual forms arose from a prehistoric matriarchy. She decries the traps of feminine physicality that bring life into the world, seeing them as simultaneously a personal and cultural impediment to spiritual advancement.

This error is the cause of the warmth felt by those that meditate on Parjnaparamita, the secret dakini.

From the Christian perspective, the answer to this dilemma is obvious: all things are joined in love. Coitus is not necessary to transmission of masculine and feminine virtues, only love. Relationships persist because the love between the couple expands to include the society, and their shared experience is essential to greater service to humanity. And the dangers of esoteric knowledge are lessened because love – the source of all creative power – is unknown to those that would abuse its energies.

In patterning the female path to enlightenment on the masculine path, Tibetan Buddhism does women a terrible disservice. These are precious gifts: the ability to bring life into the world, the determination to preserve it, and the social rewards for their devotion. Any proclaimed feminine spirituality should provide practices that strengthen those gifts, rather than sacrificing them on the altar of death.

Contrast that with the promise of Spirit and his Bride:

“Come! And let all that hear say: ‘Come!’ Let all who desire come and drink of the free gift of the water of life.”

Considering the  filters and constraints of Tibetan Buddhism, this confidence is marvelous!

On Being Blessed

I was returning from my Saturday walk down to the pier when I spotted a Hispanic man holding his granddaughter. He was smiling at me, so I walked over to say “Hello.” He didn’t answer, just smiling all the while, and I asked him if he was holding his granddaughter. He still didn’t answer, just giving a little nod, and I had the strong suspicion that he didn’t speak English.

But his hopeful smile compelled me somehow, so I reached out and placed my hand on her head, enjoying the softness of her hair while feeling that familiar tingle as energy passed from me to her.

He looked really happy as I walked away.

I had planned to spend a good portion of the summer down at the beach. I bought an awning and the shade enclosure for the three sides, but I never bought the banner to put across the front. I’ve been so busy with the videos out at love-returns.org.

The plan was to advertise “Free Blessings.” The night that came to mind, I had a dream about a newlywed couple, and then a young girl and her brother. Last night I had a dream about the beautiful daughter of a friend who is leaving work to support his lady while she attends school in Oklahoma. In each dream, the focus ended up being how to explain to people what a blessing was so that they could prepare themselves to receive it.

It goes something like this:

Think of your life as pages in a book. A blessing reaches through to those pages where you need extra strength to help you do something wonderful.

So a blessing connects this moment to the future. It is most powerful if you let it reach through the pages into your future, rather than trying to make it do something specific. That reaching through can be hard if you don’t think of it in the right way. You can open a book to any page you want to, but the pages of your life you share with other people. The future pages only open when everyone on the page agrees to open them. That usually happens only if everyone believes that love is waiting for them on that page.

So before you are blessed, open your heart to the future and imagine giving love to other people. The blessing will be the extra push that helps them receive it. When they do, they will give you the love you need in return. All that strength will add up to get you and the people you love through the difficult moments in your life.

Man Seeking Woman

In the Biblical sense, to be a “Man” is to enter into the world to wrestle with its moral compromises.

Those compromises are rooted in the ancient competitions that Darwin called “natural selection.” So it’s not just humanity that we must wrestle with – no, the burden is much larger than that. Judgment is passed on us because our very presence catalyzes win-win collaboration that threatens the survival of the most successful zero-sum competitors. They marshal all their tools to eliminate that threat to their dominance.

There’s no point in complaining about it. The things that we love evolved that way. But we end up physically and psychically battered.

As I have persisted in surrender to that process, every now and then I feel a presence of infinite feminine patience, compassion and healing reach out to me. She sends me thoughts such as “Oh, my precious son. You are so lonely.” Or “Thank you for being strong for us.”

Sometimes that presence finds a route into the world through a female. Those moments, often occurring on the dance floor, are intensely beautiful. But when the dance is over, she finds herself confronted with this choice: to surrender herself to service to that compassion and healing, or to dally with males that don’t demand so much work.

And so I find myself confronted with this dilemma: they want to be pursued, but the Divine Feminine that reaches out to me requires a space of absolute stillness. I find myself often standing stock-still in the middle of the floor, eyes closed in concentration, trying to create that space. And so the ladies dance away.

That hurts, but the alternative would be far, far worse. Any lady that receives that presence and turns away from it to pursue other options would be completely crushed by the forces that oppose Men. Sustaining Men in their struggle requires absolute devotion to Her. Again in the Biblical sense, it demands that they become a Woman.

This is why I am alone in the world.

Divine Intercourse

At the AMP conference last month, Michelle Tepper’s topic was “breaking the silence on love, sex and relationships.” Michelle trumpeted her success reaching college students, but I found her message uncomfortable. She relies heavily on Biblical rules in framing responses to the psychological needs of individuals.

So when I approached her afterwards, I began by suggesting that we sit down, bringing our eyes to the same level.

As I explained, if any of us were complete in ourselves, we would be God. He made us a duality on purpose. I expressed my concern that this aspect of the Biblical message was underrepresented in her teaching.

Having warned us in her presentation that we shouldn’t go around looking for a relationship that completed us, Michelle was hostile to the idea. I guided her away from reiteration of her message, observing that I have been advising youth on-line.

Then the conversation took a sharp twist. She asked “Do you think that Jesus was satisfied?”

I knew that she meant sexually, but I shifted to a large view of his life. “No, he wasn’t satisfied at all. He knew that his culture needed to change, with a passion that drove him to the cross.”

Michelle wasn’t to be deterred. “I meant satisfied sexually. I believe that he was beyond that need.”

Well, it was time to plunge right in. I shrugged. “Read the description of the New Jerusalem. It is a metaphor for the union of the divine masculine with the divine feminine.”

She was struck dumb, as were the onlookers.

I continued “Look, the Bible is all about men’s problems. The holy mother is in hiding, and it is time for her to be sought out and revealed.”

I know that I appear to be uptight and tortured as regard my sexuality. But the Bible describes the brutal beast of the apocalypse as possessing ten “horns.” This is an apt metaphor for the masculine approach to dominance: many men run around the world trying to stick their penis into it. The feminine beast in Revelation is red, suggestive of the menstrual cycle. The feminine beast uses sex to co-opt masculine aggression.

So the reason that I haven’t been “playing the field” (which would be easy to accomplish) is because all the women that I meet accept these conventions. They may not wish to personify them in their relationships (part of what makes me attractive to them), but they accept that bestial patterns of dominance define the world that we live in.

Being who I am, I am incapable of submission to any ethic that limits the domain in which love is expressed. So I choose not to have a relationship with any woman that brings that with her.

Sera Beak has been in my mind ever since I read “Red, Hot and Holy.” I believe that she showed up at MovinGround one Sunday after I filled out her online contact form. In that message, I suggested that if we were each who we claimed to be, that would be apparent only in relation to one another. She was clearly uncomfortable in my presence during the dance, and stood before me timidly afterwards. My thought was “Not yet.”

She lives in Texas, though, which is a hot-bed of Christian hypocrisy. Last year I felt her reaching out in concern, and I poured power into her spirit, trying to expand her range of influence.

Why? Read the book: Sera went all the way in with the Red Lady, and found wisdom waiting for her on the other side. That wisdom came from the holy mother.

Putting this all together last night, I reached out again, sending “It’s time for us to merge our powers.”

But what are those powers? What is the nature of love, and how is sex a metaphor for its operation?

Our exploration last night was complicated by pragmatic concerns, but it boils down to this: any act of love that preserves self involves penetration and yielding. A gift is offered, but room must be made for it to be received. As we are aggregates (both physically and spiritually), reception is consensual at many levels. Full acceptance requires communication of the nature of the gift, and adaptation to the perceptions of those smaller parts. That involves circulation, which is stimulated by withdrawal so that the gift of yielding may be repeated again and again until consummated.

Yeah. This is “White Hot” and Holy. This is why Jesus told the Magdalene “Do not cling to me.”

The visualization eventually evolved as a complex many-dimensional Klein bottle. A man penetrates a woman, the women connecting to the Earth that gives life to the man, the male penetrating the Earth as light from the sun, the light from the sun sheltered in the womb of space, and on and outward.

The Bible, being concerned with men, celebrates the masculine aspect of God. But that is only half the story.

Disassembling the Sith Lords

When I was working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 2004-5, I was housed in an uncleared “holding tank” while waiting for my security clearance to be approved. Many of my office mates were foreign guests that had come to pursue research projects as part of the Department of Energy’s effort to build an international non-proliferation community. Among them was a Bulgarian post-doc that swam aggressively through the psychic pool, claiming the talents of others as his own.

In a social gathering one evening, he found that he couldn’t gain any purchase on me, and instead attacked a close friend of mine. Understanding the ways of the world, I didn’t get upset, simply getting a good bead on him so that I could deal with him later.

That night, when I entered REM sleep I found myself having a series of dreams about the Russian mafia. It was like watching clips from movies. After being bounced through that psychic chain, I came suddenly awake while reading a sign that said “Hard Men.” I was in the presence of a man, deep in Russian, who visualized placing a gun against the top of my head. I could literally fell the pressure on my crown. Pausing to let fear take hold, he then pulled the trigger. I simply refused to accept the visualization, and felt the psychic energy flood out over the top of my head and along my skull.

He paused then, and I led him into a future possibility: “Do that again, and I’ll simply bounce the energy back on you. The visualization of harm is forming in your mind, and so you’ll be unable to prevent its affect from appearing in you. Do you want to go that way?”

He removed the gun and walked off into the psychic mist.

I was diagnosed with situational depression in the course of my divorce, and so couldn’t afford health care for myself when Kaiser identified it as a “pre-existing condition.” I regained my Kaiser enrolment as an LLNL employee, and on my calendar that next week was my first annual health exam. The doctor refused to do the physical assessment, offering only this elliptical explanation: “My father had a massive stroke last week.”

This was my first confrontation with the psychic network used by Vladimir Putin to project his will across the world. I started calling him “Mama Bear” in those encounters. While I can’t penetrate his control of Kremlin, I’ve been working the process described in my book Ma as the “Battle of Sequia.” Every time he reaches out to beat up on good people, I connect with the peace-loving birds and animals of Russia, and take another chunk of land away from him.

In the review of my book Golem, the writer avers:

[Dr.] Balke has a Ph.D in particle physics, so he understands better than most of us the true potentialities of the forces he describes in this paean to our own little piece of green, the planet Earth. Surprisingly, perhaps, for a scientist, Balke gives final and absolute credit to Yeshua, an obvious stand-in for the messianic father of all.

This is true, to a point: the community of particle physicists no longer accepts me. The understanding that Love has allowed me regarding the structure of the universe is uniquely my own. So I possess visualizations of psychic processes that no other does.

The efficacy of these visualizations gives me the confidence to respond pithily to threatening figures such as Stephen Bannon, who yesterday told the liberal press to “Shut up,” claiming that “they didn’t understand how Donald Trump became president” before referring the himself as the “Dark Lord of the Sith.” On the NY Times site (copied to my Facebook timeline) I responded:

Lolz. Dear Bannon, you’re so cute. Trump was elected because his voters wanted to throw an IED into our constitutional system. Unfortunately, IEDs are consumed in the course of manifesting the intended effect. Enjoy the ride!

There is a strong bond between Trump and Putin: I perceived it clearly when watching a clip of Ryan and Trump trying to suborn the will of Chuck Schumer. Ryan smirked like a viper in the background while Trump loomed bearishly over the victim. So Putin (“Mama Bear”) was in the wings when Bannon came to confront me last night.

Psychic parasites achieve their power by using their emotional apparatus to project fear into their victims. But that apparatus was patterned on God’s image: it thrills to the touch of love. So when Bannon came at me, I simply used my visualizations to peel away that part of his personality, telling it:

Come over here where you won’t be abused.

Republicans probably take offense at my political commentary, most directly characterized by Jesus’s edict:

You cannot love both God and money.

But I have been here before: in the aftermath of 9/11, when Dick Cheney and Karl Rove played at being Sith Lords in the psychic field of another poor little rich boy president. In that era, I was again threatened with physical and psychic violence. My response was to pull forward the image of Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Death Star:

Destroy me now and I will become far more powerful than you can possibly imagine.

They perceive the endpoint of my visualizations, and walk away. I am less powerful alive than I would be dead – principally because I am still restrained by hope.

If only Hollywood understood the potentiality of love. I’ve done my best to explain it to them, but they are in the habit of trying to turn understanding into money. It is repulsed by their greed, and slips away. So the public is left without empowering visualizations. Instead, when they gather in hope, as at the Women’s March last Saturday, love stretches out to them as a warm affirmation and comforting bond in which they gather the power and will to resist fear.

You are undone, you Sith Lords. You are undone, you bears, eagles, lions, hawks, leopards, vultures and wolves.

You just haven’t yet resigned yourselves to it.

Spirits, Undampened

I spent two hours on Saturday standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the rain with the crowd gathered in downtown Portland for the Women’s March protesting the policies of the new Administration. For a long time, we believed that we were stranded with no place to go. When my sweater began soaking under the Gore-Tex jacket, I made my way back to the Morrison Street bridge, arriving there just as the crowd began to break free. I’m not Oregon-tough: many of the marchers were bare-headed in the drizzle.

I could try to explain the work I facilitated in that setting, and again this morning during services at Portland’s First Unitarian Universalist Church. But I keep on coming back to two moments: the little girl poking the puddles with her protest sign, prompting me to say:

No matter who is president, there’s still going to be rain puddles! And aren’t they just the best!

The other is that last reading at Sister Gloria’s contemplative prayer gathering. It was the wedding at Cana, which ends with the observation:

…and his disciples began to believe in him.

[John 2:11]

In elaborating my choice of this phrase, I explained the paradox that Jesus’s entire ministry was devoted to one purpose: that people would come to believe in themselves.

Today’s sermon assumed that we were in for a long, dark struggle – a struggle that will force us to think in immediate terms and conserve our strength. The Reverend minister revealed that he found himself praying much more in this season. I was also surprised that the musical selections explicitly evoked God, something that I thought was disappearing from Unitarian Universalist worship. And so I had the compulsion to offer him this wisdom in the hall outside the sanctuary:

The divine purpose for humanity is that we bind love to the world. This era is the last hurrah of selfishness. They are divorcing themselves from reality, and in this time, truth spoken in love will have enormous power. They are the most potent tools for dispelling fear.

Thank-you for being here for your community.

This is not a time for thinking small or harboring resources. This is the moment to stretch to our limits and grasp victory. It is time to believe that you were designed through loving to channel great power to each other.

Namaste.

Me, Myself and Christ: Revelation

My son Greg can become exasperated with me. As a young adult, he is concerned naturally with social acceptance, and seeks for answers to the problems of his generation in the conventional wisdom brought forth from the past. When he has had enough of my contrary pronouncements, he retorts:

You speak with a great deal of assurance, Dad!

Yes, who am I, to assert that I know better than all these others?

For me, the situation is far more ambiguous. My assurance is necessary to those that I attempt to comfort. To those seeking hope, how else can one speak? They need to believe that you believe in the choices that you are offering them.

But to believe that you represent the truth is far different than believing in one’s own authority.

To those familiar with the Yu Gi Oh cartoon series, I can offer a meaningful image. In the cartoon, the young hero finds himself in conflict with evil, and struggles to the limit of his abilities to overcome it. In the lurch, a larger self – ancient, powerful and wise beyond any human reckoning – comes to the fore.

Thus, to my intimates, I speak of myself variously as a “test particle” or “bait” or “a point of contact” or “a beneficiary of a privileged perspective.” So I’ll be dreaming about a troubled baptist, and suddenly I’ll see the scene as though looking over my shoulder and another presence asks “Is that you, John?” I’ll be driving to the aquatic center and have a cardinal from 400 miles away land on me with shame and grief regarding the priestly pedophilia scandal. I’ll wake up at midnight to a pope announcing “I am your father, and I am going to die and leave all this power to you.” I’ll be listening to the opening lyrics of He Reigns, allowing my mind to wander over the continents, and a Muslim leader shows up to say “Here’s another billion people for you to manage.”

To those that don’t understand the challenges of loving, this might seem all very exciting. Having carried the heavy burden of being blamed for things done in my name, to me it’s far more ambiguous.

There are two great challenges to loving, which is to grant strength to the loved one. The first is when the recipient does not adhere to the constraints of loving. Loving them is thus to empower them to hurt others. In consequence, unconditional love moves through our lives like the tide, peaking higher when we honor its constraints, and ebbing when we violate them. The mechanism of this operation is for love to love all things so that it feels the wrongs we commit, and transfers its ministry to those we have wounded. In seeking to serve ourselves, we are indeed our own worst enemies.

The second challenge is far more painful. It is to find the beloved surrendering themselves to us, becoming merely extensions of our personality rather than beautiful manifestations of infinite possibility. A loving personality is surrounded by grateful recipients of love’s strength, and that gratitude amplifies their influence. Unless such a lover is tender, it can overwhelm the weaker links that bind together the beloved, scattering its elements to the spiritual wind.

It is for these reasons that Jesus proclaimed himself as a servant, and testified as to his humble heart.

As if this wasn’t difficult enough, this little pseudo pod of Christ is wrapped up in hostility. The important work to be done is in “binding” and “loosening” things in the spiritual realm, and my interactions with them are at best tenuous. Thus I dream of the great flocks of birds I knew in my childhood, and finding, upon walking out to the deck, that a ravenous dragon is arising from the spot in the ground from which the birds arise. At an Easter service, I cupped my hands around the sun and spread its influence, only to encounter in the asteroids an echo of the ancient cry of grief “No! Don’t kill him!” I receive a visit by an emissary of the two-dimensional race represented as the eye in the pyramid, asking for assistance to travel across the Milky Way, and am warned six months later that the gift of energy caused the output of the sun to drop by ten percent. Or wake, much as I was waken by the pope, to find myself in the midst of a perfectly spherical personality, only to be guided across a great void to a tiny speck, the “most precious place” in its realm, the “only place where life is found”, and to be told “I want to help, but even the smallest mistake would be disastrous. I need people to guide me.”

When I was introduced to the modern interpretations of Revelation, I was told that the first beast, numbered 666, was man. Man, the creation of the sixth day, believing in his own power and being humbled by failure. But not only man was created on the sixth day: in the morning came the livestock. So the correct category is mammalia. This is also the fourth, greatest beast of Daniel’s dream. It is the intelligence of man in service to the destructive Darwinian instincts of our evolutionary predecessors.

The enemy of the beast is the man with the flashing sword of truth coming from his mouth. The birds are his allies. In Daniel’s dream, he is granted dominion over the power of the “Ancient of Days.”

As when he first came, I recognize that Christ – the human perfected by unconditional love – can only become those things that he is allowed to be by those he serves. While he proclaimed his authority in the earlier era, in this era it will be to each of us to proclaim the authority of love in our lives – and thus to receive him as lord in our hearts. He is not our ruler, he is our example. And he is very, very, very close.

Take comfort. Take heart. None are forgotten, even those held captive by those that take refuge in the darkness. There is no hiding from the glory of the light that he brings.

Sacred, Healing Heart

A sin is a sin because it leaves a wound in the spirit of our victim. That extends not only to other people, but to God himself. In both Genesis and the history following entry into the Promised Land, Yahweh cries out against the agony of his association with the people of Israel.

The Law was intended to guide the Chosen People into a path of righteousness – a way of living that kept sin from entering into our relationships. The challenge, of course, was that Israel was surrounded by people that lacked that same discipline. The relationship with God was insufficient to protect them from the sins of others.

In the books after return from exile, a common exhortation among the prophets is that the Gentiles must be allowed into the covenant with God. This flew in the face of Hebrew tradition, which passed the heritage through mothers. But it was intended to entrain a process that would eventually manifest in the spread of righteousness across the face of the earth.

And then comes Jesus to bear the sins of the world.

In common theology, this is seen as an act of retribution. In Christ Alone expresses this with a beautiful gratitude:

Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

But this is to think with the heart of men, not with the heart of God. Jesus tells so many parables of evil-doing that is forgiven by the grace of God. In every case, those stories reveal that it is not retribution that God seeks, but reconciliation.

The truth is approached in the last two lines of the stanza, particularly when seen in the light of Jesus’s promise to those that suffer [Matt. 11:28-29]:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

When offered, this was almost certainly seen as a promise to the few that heard, but on the cross it became true for all willing to receive the healing grace of the father. Jesus opened his heart to all of the sin of humanity, each of us finding a place in the tissue of his compassion. The sun shone its light into its chambers, and brought healing there.

This surrender has its dark side: Jesus, bearer of a perfect, spotless heart, allowed sinners to take up residence in it. He embraced the world in his love, knowing that to love is to give power to others. While his will washed against the tide of sin, he knew that some would use that power to hurt others – turning his power against his own heart.  Thus his declaration of its humility: he knows that his heart cannot heal us without empowering us to create suffereing.

To complete the work, then, his heart will be broken: some among those he loves will have to be cast out into the darkness. As he says about the power of loving in the parable of the talents [Matt. 13:12]:

Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.

But for those that have, to “pick up your cross” is not to bear the burden of sin. It is something far more joyful and hopeful. It is to offer yourself as a tool for the healing of others. It is to allow the love that fills you  to pass through you to those that suffer with fear, filling them until they, too, fear no longer.

It may seem unfair, to be required to heal those that hurt us. Only keep in sight the outcome of his agony  carried for these millennia (again from In Christ Alone):

And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

Evolution of Love

I have signed up for the Zacharias Trust’s e-pulse feed, produced by the Oxford Center for Christian Apologetics. The foremost member of that community is John Lennox, who has engaged Richard Dawkins and other militant atheists in debate on whether evolution disproves the Bible.

The conflict arises from the way that Genesis describes creation as occurring in six “days.” The term is vague, and long prior to Darwin we had Christian scholars cautioning that it shouldn’t be taken literally. But without any science to help interpret the book, the tendency was to take the common translation as cause to celebrate the glory and power of the Creator.

In the New Testament, that glory and power is manifested in a different way – it is through Jesus’s parables that explain that no matter how big a mess we make of things, it doesn’t affect God. He is going to love us anyways. Even more, when we turn our will and intelligence to caring for the world we live in, great power comes to us – power that is inaccessible through any other means. Power that gave Jesus authority even over death.

I met a family whose daughter studied with Lennox, and they shared his perception that the people he debates have a deep hunger for the love that God brings. They have just convinced themselves that the evil done by men proves that God doesn’t exist. In their quest to support their conviction, they use the conflict between the translation of Genesis and the fossil record to argue that the whole of the Bible should be discarded.

The apologists use a number of techniques to try to defend their faith. One is intelligent design – the idea that we can use evolution to prove the existence of God by demonstrating the infinitesimal probability that evolution could merge single-celled organisms into something as complex as a human being. Others shut their eyes and insist that if evolution is advanced as proof against God, then evolution must be wrong. And a final group insists that we should just stop arguing about it, and prove God’s existence through the works of our love.

But what of this: what if there was no contradiction? What if God prepared the way for reconciliation between naïve faith and sophisticated scientific understanding by writing evolution into the Bible long before it was formulated by Darwin? Would that not be a magnificent demonstration of his power and love for us?

For this is what I read. Genesis records that light allowed photosynthetic organisms to escape the dark depths of the ocean. From there they migrated from salt waters below to fresh waters above. Next they learned to survive outside of water, becoming plants that spread across the face of the earth. Then sight arose, resolving the light into the sun and the moon, and supporting seasonal migration. After the extinction of the dinosaurs, the fish and birds dominated the earth until the rise of the mammals. And finally we have man, whose flexible brain liberated life from the Darwinian struggle, to the point today that we can design simple creatures ourselves.

Evolution does not contradict the Bible; rather the elaboration of Darwin’s theory has substantiated the Bible. The Bible contains the history revealed by paleontology written thousands of years before science gave us the tools to interpret the fossil record.

So Christians, take heart: there is absolutely nothing to apologize for.

And let’s just put the argument aside and get around to the business of applying our intelligence to the restoration of the planet that God provided to sustain us on our journey to understanding.