Author Archives: Samuel Chetty

Channels for God to Work in Ourselves and the World

Many people discuss whether God can intervene in a person’s will. I understand that beneath a person’s belief about God’s sovereign and humans’ will is a vast range of life experiences that no one but one’s self can truly understand.

But the same time, there is a lot about ourselves that we do not understand. I have read that 95% of our brain activity is subconscious. Thus, we are only conscious of 5% of what goes on in our minds. This fact alone should make us cautious about sweeping assertions regarding free will. Can we really use the 5% of mental activity that we are aware of to manipulate the other 95% any way that we desire?

Even if our conscious minds had the theoretical power to control our subconscious minds, I doubt that our natural consciousness has the wisdom to do so. We may feel as though we have free will because we see a range of attitudes that we could adopt. I can, to some extent, choose to make myself righteously angry about something by deliberately thinking about how much damage it causes or how much it frustrates me. In the heat of that effort, I could get some sort of action to result from the anger.

However, in another sense, the anger I conjured up is somewhat of a show. If I was happy before I felt the need to get serious about something, I will still be having happy thoughts even while trying to get more serious, and those happy thoughts compromise any seriousness that I am trying to generate. Even when I am acting upon the so-called anger, I am still simultaneously enjoying the action – I am not really all that stern – and the action itself often reflects that.

So, while it appears that I have free will to make myself angry, my ability to adopt a genuine attitude of anger is often absent, unless there is an event to provoke it. Thus, it is hard for me to say that I really have free will.

Also consider physical forces of nature. I have heard complicated sermons, and sometimes arguments, over how God’s protection over humans works, what humans have to do in order to receive protection, and how that protection is manifested. However, beliefs regarding divine intervention could evolve when it is realized that the natural order itself is more complex than what meets the eye.

An interesting fact is that, as your chairs sits on the floor, there is an upward force (called the “normal force) from the floor pushing up against the chair? I didn’t know that until I took a Physics class. If the chair is stationary, it is because the normal force and the chair’s weight balance.

When we think of the supernatural, we tend to think that we are going about our normal lives until suddenly something happens that defies the natural order of existence. We then term that sudden event “supernatural” and distinguish it from natural life.

But when we realize that there are many forces of nature that we do not know about, and many behind-the-scenes processes in our brains and bodies that we do not know about, then suddenly there are many more channels through which God can operate. The fact that we are unaware of it does not make it any less of a divine presence.

I believe that it is only through the spirit of God that we can live from day to day. There are so many processes inside of our bodies that, were they to go awry, life would quickly end. The heart has to keep beating, whether we’re awake, asleep, idle, exercising, or stressed-out. One’s heart rate can rise up and down depending on activity and circumstances, and everything in the body reliant on it still carries on normally.

Many proponents of Creationism and Intelligent Design say that the natural world could not have arisen by accident. I agree with that. But if creation cannot arise by itself, how can it be sustained by itself? I believe that it is the Spirit of God that enables all of us to be alive right now.

Ultimately, I believe that there are different reasonable views that one could hold regarding God’s sovereignty and involvement in the world. But I think that the complexity of the natural world and our own minds should give us caution about making any sweeping assumptions about what God cannot or would not do. There is much more to life than we are consciously aware of, and over time, we can gain glimpses into how God works through it by reflecting on our experience. This is God’s way of gradually teaching us His wisdom.

My Views on Homosexuality

I have considered addressing this issue ever since I began blog writing, but I long delayed doing so. When I write about a subject, I want to tie the subject into deeper issues that can impact multiple aspects of life. On the subject of homosexuality, I previously felt that my other writings on this blog gave enough insights into my spiritual framework to give readers a decent, educated guess on how I would approach the subject. But I have recently decided that there is value in addressing this topic directly in order to share my fundamental beliefs on spirituality more clearly.

So, to begin the analysis of homosexuality, consider the often-quoted rationale that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality. I believe that a sufficient response to this claim cannot merely consist of, “it’s condemned elsewhere in the New Testament.” As you may realize from my other writings, I believe there is a progression of revelation in the New Testament, and Christians today are operating on different phases of understanding as reflected in the Scriptures themselves.

Jesus summarized his teaching, and the teaching of the Old Testament law and prophets, in the following way,

Matthew 22:37-40 – “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

I do not think Jesus is saying that a person who (in their mind) is living by these two principles is necessarily following the entire law. Furthermore, I do not think this teaching is meant to be a replacement for the individual rules of the law.

However, what I think Jesus is saying is that a person’s level of adherence to the law should be determined by how well they followed these two overarching principles. Jesus had a major problem with the Pharisees, who ardently followed certain individual details, but missed the big picture.

Nobody follows the law perfectly, neither the details nor the big picture. On one of several occasions when Jesus got into conflict with the Pharisees over the application of Sabbath laws, He cited the actions of David from the Old Testament:

Matthew 12:3-4 – “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests.”

There is no mention of David being punished for this. I believe that in David’s conscience, he felt justified in this act because he wanted to help his companions. And David himself had to survive to in order to continue helping his companions. Thus, God did not judge him as a thief.

This brings us to a key point. Where judgment is concerned, what matters is one’s adherence to the two overarching principles of the law, as witnessed by one’s conscience, as opposed to the details of the law. Those who strive to follow the two overarching principles are forgiven of their violations of the details.

With that in mind, we can look at the concept of homosexuality. Sexual intercourse between two males was forbidden in the law of Moses. However, there are some Christians today who do not see a conflict between a monogamous, committed homosexual relationship, and the two overarching principles of the law. If believers in Christ are genuinely striving to follow the two overarching principles, but also engage in a homosexual relationship, there is reason to think they will be forgiven of their sins when their lives are judged.

Before we move on, consider the themes discussed thus far. We have looked at judgment, forgiveness, and law. However, in God’s working with humanity post-Calvary, these themes have vastly evolved.

The Apostle Paul writes about how believers are justified in Christ as new creations (2 Cor. 5:17, Rom. 6:1-14). This goes beyond the former message of forgiveness. The former message of forgiveness assumed that something was wrong with you, but you were being let off the hook. However, justification, as taught by Paul, is about there being nothing inherently wrong with you, and you live in a realm of newness and rightness.

In this dynamic, law takes on a new meaning. In the Old Covenant, law was a bar held above you that you sought to measure yourself against and reach upward to attain. Thus, there was a degree of separation between what you were and what you should be.

However, in the reality of the new creation, we have a new nature, and the Christian life is about living in accord with our core nature, rather than fighting against it.

Resisting temptation is about resisting pressures from belief systems, cultural expectations, and peer pressures that would cause us to constrain ourselves into lifestyles that do not fit our core nature that God created us to have.

Returning to the subject of sexuality, it is important to realize how sexuality is an intrinsic aspect of our being. Many conservative Christians seem to think that the sexual side of our existence should simply remain dormant until we enter a heterosexual marriage. But this really is impossible, because the same hormones and neurotransmitters that are involved with sexual desire and gratification also play a vital role in giving us energy and creativity in our day-to-day lives.

Before I get back to the subject of homosexuality, I want to discuss heterosexuality for a moment. In an audio recording I made last year, I discussed how, in the semantics of the ancient Hebrew, it appears that in the Genesis account of Creation, Adam was created with both male and female organs, and the female organs were removed from him to form Eve. Thus, the power of heterosexual intercourse is that it returns humanity to a type of its original state.  The Bible teaches that married couples become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, Mark 10:5-9). This obviously cannot refer to just any type of physical contact; it refers to the union of male and female genitalia that brings humanity to a form of its original dual-sex state.

I am confident that if this principle is realized, people can decide not to engage in sex outside of marriage, without the abstinence requiring a lot of whining and sweating. Due to the nature of sexual intercourse, which affects the core of human existence, it seems reasonable to think that engaging in it without a lifelong commitment causes more harm than good. Thus, abstinence should be able to arise from respect for prospective partners, and appreciation of their entire being as it currently stands. I believe that this respect is ultimately found at the core of our being as new creations in Christ, and that it can allow us to accept our sexual natures as active gifts in our lives to provide energy and inspiration, as opposed to threats that need to be contained.

Now, returning to the subject of homosexuality – we can consider whether it a sin for two people of the same sex to engage in sexual intercourse if they are in a committed, lifelong relationship. Here is what I would say: If it is a sin, the deep, profound pleasure and fulfillment that married, opposite-sex couples experience during intercourse should occur in reverse for homosexual couples. In other words, when homosexual couples engage in intercourse, or even when they seriously ponder intercourse, they should be faced with a strong sense of malaise – like when people say that they “just felt sick” about a situation. This feeling would be the Holy Spirit’s way of working with their reborn nature to indicate that the act is immoral.

I am aware that many active homosexuals (including Christians) do not testify of this experience. This could be because many homosexuals are sort of living under law rather than grace. Many gay Christians are trying hard to prove that they are compassionate people and committed followers of Christ. Because their attention is on works rather than grace, they may not be aware of how they truly feel about their sexual lifestyle as new creations.

It is also possible that actively homosexual Christians who understand grace may not experience the malaise associated with sexual intent at first, but that over time, the Holy Spirit will work such that the negative response develops inside of them, and they will eventually form an asexual relationship with their partner. If this is the case, I trust in God enough to let their lives play out in such a manner, with confidence that ultimately the whole process works together for their good.

Lastly, it has been argued by some that the Scriptures condemning homosexuality are referring to religious cult rituals involving same-sex intercourse, or homosexual pedophilia, as opposed to committed, monogamous relationships. This is the view of Justin Lee, executive director of the Gay Christian Network. Here is a link to his article discussing the matter (these particular arguments appear in sections “Prooftext #2 and Prooftext #3”).

I believe that individual Christians will need to judge for themselves whether any of these views proposed are correct. But it is important to have a Biblical framework to make these determinations, rather than resorting to cultural relevance. I have written this article to help develop such a framework. Feel free to share any experiences or perspectives that you believe are helpful in this regard.

Regarding “Tough Love”

In the midst of moral or cultural controversies, there is a tendency for many Christians to justify unpopular stances on issues by saying “we teach this out of love.” Even though some things they say may cause emotional pain, frustration, or guilt in their audience, they assert that ultimately, people need to experience these feelings in order to repent of sinful behavior and save their souls.

It sounds good enough, but we need to consider where this rationale could lead. Envision a hypothetical religion. Suppose that this hypothetical religion teaches that it is noble to physically beat random people. Adherents believe that by doing this, you are beating the evil out of them. Practitioners cry before doing the beatings, and they emphasize how in their flesh, they wish they did not have to do it. But they motivate themselves by picturing the victim burning in hell due to the evil residing inside of them, and they muster up the courage to beat the person in attempt to drive the evil out. When practitioners get in trouble with the law, they say that the world is morally degenerate and cares only about physical comfort. They say that the world only sees love through the lenses of mushy, romantic feelings.

Any reasonable person would see the insanity of such a religion. The rationale of “tough love” is not going to convince anyone who has sincere concern for others. The hypothetical religion I described shows what could happen if our belief systems are completely detached from normal, human sensibilities.

That said, in a healthy belief system, is there any room for “hard truths” or “tough love?” I believe there can be.

Consider the process in which you yourself came to know Christ. I think it might be safe to assume that you did not simply wake up one morning and say, “You know what, I’m really happy with my life right now. I am going to utilize my own free will to become a believer in Christ,” and then sail smoothly forever after.

If you are currently a believer in Christ, and if this faith is very important to you, then most likely this faith resulted from many complex, and often painful or frustrating circumstances. Even if people were raised as Christians, the process of building a personal connection with one’s faith is usually not a cakewalk.        

So then, suppose you write to me saying, “Please, Samuel, give me a framework so that I can live a Christian life without ever feeling worried or anxious about anything, and to be a perfect peace with myself all the time.” 

Well, I would have to say that I cannot grant that request. I suppose you could call that denial “tough love” if you wanted to. If I tried to cook up the answer you’re looking for, I would be deceiving you.

However, I would be perfectly happy to share ideas about what God might be showing us through our circumstances. I believe that in some way or another, the Holy Spirit is always present in our thoughts and emotional reactions. If we are struggling to live with certain beliefs, or straining in some pursuit, and always ending up frustrated, then maybe that frustration is the Holy Spirit’s way of leading us out of the failing endeavors.

Maybe we have an attachment to certain endeavors that makes it hard to give them up. Maybe we have erroneous tied our sense of self-worth to personal pursuits, whether religious, academic, or recreational. If I suggested that a certain endeavor may be causing more frustration than good, and that maybe it is time to find a new direction despite your current attachments, is that “tough love”?

Why not?

The New Testament Writings Represent a Transitional Era

Scriptural Quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version

 

I believe that a lot of the controversies and debates involving certain teachings from the New Testament come from looking at the writings as if they were directly speaking to us. It is quite understandable to view the Biblical writings this way when we see them as being inspired by the Holy Spirit. The divine inspiration of Scripture is not something I intend to call into question through this post. However, what I want to consider is how we can see the writings as inspired, but also realize that some elements of New Testament writing were used by God for that particular generation, as opposed to being transcendent teachings for all people of all time.

As the New Testament was being written, God’s working with humanity was going through a transition. Previously, believers lived under the spiritual environment of the Old Covenant laws, as detailed in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Ceremonies and spiritual leadership were intrinsic elements of that spiritual era. Obedience to God involved rituals such as circumcision, animal sacrifices, observance of holy days, and ceremonial cleansing rituals. There was also the concept of spiritual leadership, through the priesthood of Aaron’s descendants.

But with the death and resurrection of Christ, a new spiritual era commenced, with radical contrasts from the previous era. In the new era, salvation is by faith, apart from works, as the Apostle Paul writes “to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness” (Rom. 4:5). There is no longer the concept of some believers having special spiritual authority over others, as Paul writes that “there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

All of this can be summarized through the principle of the new creation, as described in 2nd Corinthians 5:17: “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”

Whereas the Old Testament laws were about deliverance through reform, this new truth is about deliverance by becoming a new person with a reoriented nature.

Having said all of that, we need to pose a practical question. In the first generation of Christianity, how could all of this radical new truth be unveiled to people who had spent their whole lives up to that point either following the Old Testament laws, or following religions foreign to the Biblical writers? How do you get the truth revealed in an orderly fashion, so that people from different backgrounds do not get wacky ideas? Transitioning from one spiritual framework to another is not something that happens all at once.

Thus, the first generation of Christianity was a transitional era, and a close examination of New Testament teaching reveals a progression in revelation. Much of the doctrinal confusion today arises from trying to streamline the phases of this progression into a uniform message.

For example, consider the subject of water baptism. In the early Gospel preaching, water baptism was presented as a requirement for salvation. For example, in the very first proclamation of the Gospel, the Apostle Peter preached, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

I have seen commentaries that try to twist this around to avoid making water baptism a requirement to be saved, but to me the meaning is rather clear.

Keep in mind that Peter was preaching to Jews, who, prior to that day, had always seen ceremonial observance as an intrinsic element of obedience to God. If people have spent their whole lives thinking this way, you cannot all of the sudden try to impose the concept of free grace, as it is likely to get misappropriated.

Thus, to help prospective converts transition into the new creation truth, I believe the Holy Spirit inspired the commandment of water baptism to serve as an exercise in faith; obeying the command was part of believing the Gospel.

However, later on, in the Apostle Paul’s ministry, water baptism was presented differently. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:17, “Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.

There are a couple key points to note here. The first is that Paul draws a distinction between the Gospel and baptism. This is a noteworthy contrast to Peter’s first sermon in Acts, where baptism and the Gospel were intrinsically linked. Also note that Paul depicts the Gospel as pertaining to “the cross of Christ.” In contrast, Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 did not make a connection between Christ’s death and individuals’ salvation. Peter only cited Jesus’ resurrection as proof that He was the Messiah.

However, Paul’s writing reveals that the real baptism that saves us is our spiritual identification with Christ’s death and resurrection, which occurs through our faith in the Gospel (Rom. 6:3-4,  Gal 3:22-28, Eph. 4:4-5). Water is never depicted as part of this process. Although Paul still baptized people (1 Cor. 1:12-16, Acts 16:33), the ritual appears to be symbolic in nature.

There is another aspect of this transitional era that has been the subject of major controversy. It is the concept of some believers have special spiritual authority or leadership over others. Although much of the debate involves passages about men and women in the church, and husbands and wives, these passages are connected to a theme that encompasses much more than gender.

During this transitional era, people had to accept truth on the basis of the authority of the believer delivering it. How else could a person receive the new Truth that was coming to the world?

In the era of the Old Testament laws, there were priests who acted as intercessors between God and humanity. The book of Hebrews describes that in the time of the old covenant, “the priests go continually into the first tent to carry out their ritual duties; but only the high priest goes into the second, and he but once a year, and not without taking the blood that he offers for himself and for the sins committed unintentionally by the people” (Hebrews 9:6-7).

The priests, who were all male, had the role of mediating relations between humanity and God. The prophets of the Old Testament were also male. Thus, during the transitional era in the New Testament, the use of men to deliver new truth was part of the sign of authenticity when doctrine was presented.

For example, the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, “Women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home.”

In that era, there was potential for new truth to be revealed in church. That is not the case today however. With the completed Scriptures comes the complete revelation of the new creation. Nobody today has the type of authority over others that Paul describes in the passage above. Preachers and pastors do not even have it.

The role of pastors today is not to reveal new truth, but rather, to share their own experience, applications, and perspectives on living a Christian life. In this role, there is no distinction between men and women. Both genders have equally valuable insights to share from the work that God has done in their lives.

With regards to families, Paul wrote, “Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior. Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands (Eph. 5:22-24).

That was certainly not meant to be an excuse for husbands to forcefully impose their own ideas. I believe the underlying message was for husbands to seek and follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance on decisions involving the family.

But I believe that this model of following the Holy Spirit was part of that era’s spiritual transition, and that a full comprehension of the new creation yields a more expansive way of living in the Spirit. If we truly are new creations, then instead of having to constantly focus on “submitting” ourselves to God, we can believe that God is working through every aspect of ourselves, and be at peace with our core natures. I wrote about this in a series of posts from last year.

When this relationship with God is realized, the concept of wives having to “submit” to husbands on the basis of spiritual authority becomes irrelevant to respect for God.

So, the next question would be, when was the transition complete? My view is that the transition was complete by 70 A.D., the year that the Jerusalem temple was destroyed by the Romans. In the spiritual realm, I believe the temple’s fall symbolized the end of the Old Covenant system in all dimensions. Even though, ultimately, that system ended through Christ’s death, some aspects continued on in the practical, day-to-day realm of life (and the temple continued to stand), until the transitional era was complete.

Although some books of the New Testament were possibly written after 70 (the four Gospels, John’s Epistles, and Revelation), I do not find any fundamentally new truth regarding the new creation in these writings, when compared to the writings with a pre-70 consensus among historians.

Some may be concerned that viewing any Biblical writings as transitional undermines the authority of those writings, and opens the door to subjectivity or selfish excuses for non-compliance. But consider the alternative, in which we have to view everything as if it is directly applicable to us. Scholars holding that view have written enormous commentaries trying to explain the “context” of difficult passages. Do we really think that such commentaries are free of personal subjectivity? Do we really think that they are never bending some passages, in the name of context, to avoid inconvenient interpretations?

I believe that viewing the New Testament as a transitional collection of writings can address much of the confusion Christians are dealing with, while respecting the inspired nature of these writings. Let me know of thoughts or comments you have on any of this, and any other areas of Scripture that you would like to compare or contrast to the ones discussed here.

Faith and Science

One of the most pressing questions facing Christians in our day is how to determine the proper relationship between faith and science. Whenever I approach hot-button issues such as this, my first step is to analyze why the subject at hand is so divisive. What makes people hold the stance that they do, and why is it so hard to change one’s mind?

Part of what makes the faith vs. science issue difficult is that the concept of “faith” carries a different meaning from individual to individual. People often talk about things they believe, based on reason. For instance, you may say that you believe coffee is bad (or good) for your health, based on your own experience with it and studies you have read. You may have “faith” that changes to your diet will impact your health. But is this the same kind of faith that you have in the Gospel? Why or why not?

Likewise, science also means different things to different people. It means one thing to college students who are forced to take a science class on their way to an English major. But those who have spent a career in science have very different conception of what science is.

Throughout church history, conflicts between religious faith and science have appeared in a wide range of debates. In the Renaissance era, there were faith-science clashes over the position of the earth in the universe. For the past century, three major debates have been Creationism vs. Evolution, the age of the earth, and human relation to the environment.

I believe that there is a critical distinction to make when discussing faith and science. They key is to differentiate what is ultimately true, from what has functional relevance in day-to-day life. I am confident that this distinction, when understood, can shed new light on many of the controversies Christians are dealing with today.

The proper role of science is to help us live healthy, safe, and productive lives. Science exists to tell us what “works” – how to cure diseases, accomplish tasks with computers, or improve transportation. There are “laws” of science which are adhered to in order to make systems work. Where science oversteps is boundaries, is when science tries to tell us what is the ultimate truth on a matter.

For example, consider the law of physics that net force = mass * acceleration. Why should this be taught to physics students? It is taught because it makes machines work. But, is the ultimate truth of the forces upon us defined by mass * acceleration? Maybe not.

Some people have testified of miraculous experiences in which force did not equal mass * acceleration. I have heard stories about cars making sudden, unexplained movements, or even going through each other, to avoid collisions. I myself once had an experience in which I do not believe force equaled mass * acceleration.

I believe there are forces upon us that cannot be explained by that law from physics. The “true” equation might be something like mass * acceleration * (spiritual_power_A_magnitude).

Taking this a step further, we should not assume that spiritual_power_A is confined to that “miraculous” experience. Most likely, spiritual_power_A is always present to some degree, even as we are casually walking casually down the street. It might just be a tiny influence on the speed in which we walk. We don’t notice it unless the magnitude is really high. When the Bible speaks of “walking in the Spirit,” I believe that means living with the realization, and appreciation, of the fact that the spirit of God is a continual influence upon us in some way or another.

Consider Acts 17:28 – “In [God] we live and move and have our being.

Thus, there is more to our movements than what physics can explain. So, I do not believe that mass * acceleration is the ultimate truth about net force. But nevertheless, the equation makes machines do what they are designed to do (except for unusual incidents where spiritual power runs really high). Thus, I have no problem with schools teaching the equation from physics.

However, we need to rethink the meaning and value of education. Many people think they are going to school to learn what is true about the world. But that leads to conflicts where religion says one thing and science says something else. People should not study science with the goal of becoming enlightened about truths of the universe. Instead, study science to learn how to build something, or make computers faster, or find new energy sources.

Having explained my overarching views on religion and science, I want to discuss the specific issue of Evolution. I do not believe that the model of Evolution, as taught by evolutionary biologists, represents the truth about how we came into existence.

I believe the creation account in Genesis is the model that God has ordained for people to understand their origins. When we think about who we are in relation to God, and our role in the universe, God wants us to literally imagine ourselves in the way Genesis describes, and form our theology with that image as our starting point. When we see ourselves this way, our lives move in the direction of Truth.

The problem I have with “Theistic Evolution” is that it presupposes Evolution to be the truth about our origins, and then builds a theology with Evolution as its base. If we take Evolution as a true depiction of our origins, I believe it clashes with some Scriptural themes, especially regarding God’s sovereignty.

That said, from a scientific standpoint, what do I think about the academic study of evolutionary biology? I am not opposed to it. Proponents of evolutionary biology claim that their models aid medical research into treating and preventing diseases. If this research leads to a cure for cancer one day, I would not seek to stand in the way of that progress.

Instead of pitting faith and science against each other, or straining to make them converge, I advise a pragmatic approach to science in which we gain whatever we can from theories and research, while realizing that they are not the ultimate truths about the way things are.

My Thoughts on the “I” Cycle – Part 5

The New Creation “I” Phase

(I have put all of my posts on this cycle together. See the link to the right).

According to Clyde Pilkington’s model called the “I” Cycle, this new “I” phase is the point where the new creation is fully realized. I believe that this phase is easier to understand when looked at in contrast to the phases preceding it. For example, consider the preceding phase, the “God” phase, where the focus is on God’s sovereignty and predestination. Though that phase often brings a sense of relief and assurance to those who enter it, it can also have some drawbacks if one gets “stuck” in that phase.

For example, Clyde Pilkington says, “A lot of people who begin to see the sovereignty of God seem to lose their personal identity . . . [God] didn’t create all of us so that we would just all be Him; he created us to be ourselves (23:10 – 24:00).”

I believe that the full realization of the new creation resolves some issues that existed as previous phases of the cycle. In particular, I want to look at this concept of “being yourself.” At the beginning of the cycle, in the “old-creation” phase, people are living to be themselves, and they see this as their right and their purpose in this world. But when they start to develop a spiritual aspect of life, their paradigm changes.

If people move on to the “I and God” phase, they are mostly being themselves but they keep God in the picture through means such as prayer, rituals, or worship. Later, if they progress to the “God and I” phase, Christians make a conscious effort to surrender their own identity and conform to the will and nature of God.  Then, if they cross the bridge to the “God” phase, they see God as sovereignly operating in them apart from a unique identity. Thus, the first and second phases involve engagement with one’s identity, and the third and fourth phases involve distancing from one’s identity.

But at the destination of the cycle, when the new creation is fully realized, one’s identity becomes the focus again, but it is a reoriented identity. You are being yourself, but you are aware that as a new creation, God’s spirit is working through your interests, passions, and personality.

I must admit that I have some difficulty grasping this at times. Though I can understand it conceptually, I am still learning how this works in the practical aspects of day to day life. From my own experience, there isn’t a precise methodology behind this.

Regarding the new creation, another commentator on the I-Cycle, Martin Zender, says,

We don’t lose our identity . . . we gain it. [The Apostle Paul’s] basic personality didn’t change. The “I” didn’t change. The basic self became transformed by the Cross. Now, he could be himself, he had discovered himself, and that personality of his, that ‘go get ’em guy’, was now transformed and he became a servant of God. You don’t lose yourself, in that sense. You gain it. You have an identity, it’s your identity, and you have a name. Paul . . . didn’t give up who he was. He actually found his true self in Christ (4:40 – 5:48)”

Some passages of Scripture relevant to this topic include:

Galatians 2:19-21 – “I have been crucified with Christ;  and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God

Phil. 2:13 – “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Sometimes, Christians feel a need to qualify passages such as these because they do not want to give them impression that God is “controlling” people apart from their own initiative. But what if, instead of looking at these passages as excuses for gravitating toward inaction, we viewed the Scriptures as liberating us to act, by giving us freedom to act in accord with our nature, trusting that our nature is being oriented by the work of the Holy Spirit?

There is a progression in the way people view themselves as they go around the cycle. In the starting phase, the “old-creation” phase, people often do not see anything inherently wrong with themselves. Though they may recognize certain weaknesses, they also believe that they have the power to overcome those problems, if only they can find it.

But then, if they progress to the “I and God” phase, they realize that they do have inherent problems that would keep them from succeeding in life without God being with them to help them through. Then, if they move on to the “God and I” phase, they realize that their inward problems are so far reaching that the only way to overcome them is to fully submit themselves to God and seek His will in all matters of life.

And then, if Christians move on to the “God” phase, they still think that something is inherently wrong with them, to the extent that they often wait for God to whoosh in and cause dramatic, inward changes to make them follow His will.

But, if a deeper realization of the new creation is attained, all of the sudden, we do not have to see anything inherently wrong with ourselves. A lot of Christians talk about a dichotomy between the old creation and the new creation, and that they must seek after the spiritual ways of the new creation rather than the selfish ways of the old creation. I understand why Christians see themselves this way. After all, even as believers, people are quite capable of acting awry. Why is that?

I believe it is not because any aspect of ourselves is inherently wrong. After all, we are new creations, and Paul says that as new creations, old things have passed away, and all things have become new (2 Cor. 5:17).

However, the new creation needs to be oriented. Its nature is inherently pure, but it needs to be channeled in a beneficial way. It needs to find appropriate ways to express itself. I believe that this is the goal for us as believers. A helpful analogy might be a piano that is in perfect hardware condition, but needs to be tuned to sound good. The Bible’s instructions for how to live serve as tuning guides. Likewise, seeking God’s will is not about trying to suppress any part of ourselves. Rather, it is about tuning our natures.

That concludes my thoughts on the “I”-Cycle for now. I hope that these commentaries have provided insights into your own experiences and inspired some new ideas to ponder. As I said earlier, I myself am still in the process of figuring out how all of these concepts apply on a practical level, so feel free to reply with your own interpretations and experiences.

Works Cited:

Clyde Pilkington: The “I” Cycle (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0w53DgB9Fks)

Martin Zender: The “I” Cycle, Part 4 (http://martinzender.com/new_zender_sheridan/Zender_Special/zender93.htm