Be a Prophet - Shop AT!
You’ve read the Old Testament prophets. Did you ever think, “I wish God would call me?” Well, what’s to say he hasn’t? The role of the prophet is to speak Truth, especially when it’s unpopular…like now! Today, we are all called, everyone can be a prophet, but how? Aletheia Today offers three everyday items, with five different themes, each guaranteed to break any ice, no matter how think. Jump start a conversation! Pick one of our themes, match it to an item from our store, and you’re taken the first step on your journey of 1,000 miles. Good luck!
Not God or Man, God and Man -
The world is full of gods disguised as humans…and vice versa. Yahweh is wholly God and wholly Human! “God created the heavens and the earth,” and through Mary, Mater Dei, God was born. The whole is a quantum element of itself. The Christian concept of Incarnation is truly revolutionary. Sure, God-Men and Man-Gods are a dime a dozen in the history of human culture, but when you scratch the surface you find one of three things: God disguised as Man (sic), Man disguised as God, God and Man blended. None of these bears more than a superficial resemblance to the Incarnation: one person, wholly God and wholly man. According to Roman Catholic theology, no deviation, no matter how slight, from the Nicene Creed is acceptable: “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ…true God from true God…consubstantial with the Father…incarnate of the Virgin May…man.” This rigidity may be uncomfortable for us ‘modernists’…but it is absolutely necessary! A shift of one iota either way turns Incarnation into Idolatry. Only Incarnation can bridge the infinite gulf separating transcendent divinity from immanent humanity. God does not just ‘reach across’ an infinite gulf to touch us (sorry, Michelangelo); God also ‘bubbles up’ from inside the Created World. Creation endows the world with absolute independence, but through Incarnation, God becomes a quantum element in his own creation, ensuring that cosmic history will have a positive outcome, i.e., the Kingdom of Heaven. We seem to live in a world of wholes and parts; we don’t! Jesus (the part) embodies the whole (God): “The father and I are one.” (John 10: 30) Some theologies emphasize the ultimate incompatibility of divinity and humanity. Incarnation theology sees the apparent conflicts as contrasts, enriching our appreciation both of divinity and of humanity. Incarnation completes the process of creation and ensures the ultimate coming of God’s Kingdom (‘on earth as it is in heaven’) by embedding that Kingdom in the fabric of creation itself.
Think Dangerously -
The art of thinking is threatened, but don’t blame AI. Most thinking is done using language - the fossil record of other people’s thoughts. Only 3% of what we think is original; the rest just echoes the past. So, be original, be a revolutionary, think dangerously! Thinking…we do it all the time; but today it has become an act of cultural rebellion…and a sacrament. An original idea changes the world by revealing the divine spark hidden within it. The world is an open book, but it is encrypted. Decoding that world is what we call thinking. But there’s a problem; it’s called ‘civilization’. We have encased our world in a shell of preset facts and prefabbed interpretations. When we set out to explore the world, we most often see only this shell. Thinking, on the other hand, is what happens beneath the shell! This shell consists primarily of language. Our language tells us how to think (syntax) and also what to think (content). It offers us a detailed map of the world, already decoded. Of course there are gaps, like the blind spot in a driver’s visual field; for the most part, we look past them. But we have no foolproof way to verify the accuracy of the map; we must accept it on faith. Linguists estimate that only about 3% of the things we think and say are original; the other 97% consist of regurgitated memes. So, deconstruct yourself! When are you thinking and when is society thinking through you? You are alive, you are unique, do you have anything original to say about that experience? Or are you content just to repeat what you’ve heard elsewhere? This is not a new problem. The Bible traces it back to the Tower of Babel. But today we are immersed in a sea of pre-packaged memes: print, social media, and TV. Now I can appear erudite, or hip, without disturbing a single brain cell. Pretty attractive, huh? Civilization is an overlay of 4 great cultural advances: language, writing, computing, and now artificial intelligence. Note how each stage moves us closer to group speak and makes original thought rarer and more difficult. Thoughts can be shared, preserved, synthesized, and now, the process of thinking itself can be subcontracted to machines (AI) running group speak software. Unused adaptations atrophy and eventually disappear. Consider T-Rex’s arms or humans’ tails. Is it possible that what we call thinking will turn out to be nothing more than a phase in the evolution of our species? Are we becoming the Borg Collective? Is resistance futile? So, original thinking has become a subversive activity, precisely what the world needs right now! So tip your hat to the political revolutionaries of 1776, 1789, 1848, 1917, and 1968…but you, original thinkers, are today’s cultural revolutionaries! You think, and therefore you are dangerous, and we all thank you for that!
Smash Idols -
“You shall put no gods before me.” Idolatry is the root of sin, putting something ahead of God. It could be a Golden Calf, a Tesla Model X, or a bottle of booze. Nothing wrong with gold or cars or spirits – unless they become idols…then we have to smash them! “I am YHWH your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt, out of that house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20: 3) The First Commandment. You know it by heart. God doesn’t mess around. He gets right to the point: “It’s all about me!”… as it should be. I mean, “What else could it be about?” A medieval Irish poem reads, “Naught is all else to me save that Thou art!” There’s God and after God, ‘naught’ of any consequence. 20th century theologian, Paul Tillich, defined Faith as Ultimate Concern. Saying “I believe in God” should mean, not just “God exists” but “God is my ultimate concern”. Can we say this? Is God more important to us than Money? Status? Power? Sex? Drugs (alcohol)? Rock and Roll? We are sultans of sequence. When we write out a shopping list, it reads something like this: lemons, cereal, beer, frozen pizza… The Bible is composed differently. Items tend to be organized hierarchically rather than serially. For example, the other 9 commandments of the Decalogue are all implicit in the First Commandment. If God is truly our “ultimate concern”, we will not commit murder and we will covet no one’s goods, ass, or life partner. Therefore, every sin is first and foremost a violation of the First Commandment; every sin is the sin of idolatry: placing something ahead of God. But so what? We no longer fashion calves out of gold and call them, God; or do we? Have you driven the Tesla Model X lately? There’s nothing wrong with a golden calf per se…or with a Model X. The problem comes when we treat them as if they were God. So relax: no one actually calls her Model X, God! But that’s not the test. The test is Ultimate Concern. Is God your ultimate concern? Or mammon? ‘Be a prophet’ does not mean ‘melt down works of art’…or ‘drive your Tesla into the sea’. ‘Be a prophet’ means recognizing or restoring the right order of things. Do you own something beautiful? Or valuable? Good for you! It is a reflection of God’s grace. Are you using it to serve God…or yourself? Are you using your art and/or your wealth to make the world a better place? ‘Smashing idols’ usually does not mean physical destruction; more often it means ‘repurposing’ or ‘reprioritizing’. Still, most of us don’t own great art or drive a Model X, so we need not be concerned about this, right? Wrong! Every single one of us is surrounded by idols all the time. Our soaring 401(k) balances, our trophy children (please don’t smash them), the new McMansion we just built, the bottle of Lafite we’re planning for dinner tonight. All good, provided we keep reminding ourselves that God is the source of all that is good and the yardstick by which we measure that good. God first, all else second.
Exodus 3:14 -
“I am who am.” Moses challenges God: I’ll lead your revolution against Pharaoh…but first, tell me who are! So, Yahweh utters just four word: “I am who am.” The gods of Babylon, Egypt, Greece, and Hollywood are beings; Yahweh is Being itself! Critics of Judeo-Christianity are stuck in the advertising lingo of the 1990s: “It’s just like a Xerox!” Those critics are determined to show that the Abrahamic religions (including Islam) are ‘nothing special’. For every ‘theological innovation’, these critics claim to have found an Egyptian, Mesopotamian, or Hellenic analog. At first glance some of these identifications seem authentic but a deeper dive usually turns up significant differences. Be that as it may, the most important Judeo-Christian innovation, Exodus 3: 14, sits unchallenged. Yet these four famous words are precisely what differentiates Judeo-Christianity from everything else, before…or since! The works of James Joyce, especially Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake, are famous for their polyphony. A single line of text can embody several levels of meaning; but Joyce had nothing on the authors of the first 5 books of the Bible. Originally, written Hebrew included only consonants; the reader was free to plug in her own vowels, meaning that a single string of consonants could support several very different readings. So it is with Exodus 3: 14. We know it best as “I am who am (YHWH).” But it could just as well be read as “I will be what I will be,” or... The Old Testament is like a jazz jam session. The potential ‘renderings’ do not contradict one another; they reinforce, they provide depth. The ancient Greeks (Parmenides, Plato, et al.) are usually credited with discovering Being as distinct from beings. Clearly, that is not the case. Plus Greek Being is not Hebrew Being. Greek Being is distinct from beings; Hebrew Being includes beings. Greek Being is an abstract concept; Hebrew Being is alive and well and living in ‘Howth Castle and Environs’, aka everywhere. Exodus 3: 14 does not conflict with modern science but gives it new meaning. Everything is just as you say it is, except that it is not situated on top of a void but within a living entity. Long before there was any talk of Messiahs or Incarnations, there was YHWH, Emmanuel, God with us. Christian or Jew, our God is radically transcendent and radically immanent. Only Abrahamic theology affirms the unbridgeable gap between Universe and God…and then bridges it! He who ‘has the whole world in his hands’ is lying, new born, in a manger. Beat that Aristotle!
Judges 21:25 -
“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” After Exodus, God ruled Israel directly for 250 years; it wasn’t hard. First, there’s Torah, 613 do’s and don’ts for daily living. Then there’s conscience – everyone’s direct pipeline to the mind of God. Finally judges, charismatic leaders who step up as needed to do God’s work. We are living at a crossroads. The struggle to define the relationship between Religion & Politics, Church & State, has taken on new urgency. Secularists argue that laws are tools for the promotion of social order and general welfare only, not the reflection of a shared moral code. Ethics is something we think about on the Sabbath and talk about at university. Beyond that, “It’s just business.” We are free…no, required… to focus on pragmatics: Does it work? Not is it right? Moral values fall into the Realm of Religion and nothing from that realm can be allowed to influence legislation in any 21st Century Liberal Democracy; but it was not always so: After the Israelites conquered the Promised Land (c. 1300 BCE), proclaiming a radical agenda of social and economic justice, they enjoyed an unprecedented 250 years of relative peace and prosperity. During that time, Israel was a Theocracy: God ruled directly, aided by the 613 Do’s and Don’ts found in the first 5 books of the Bible. That Torah was Israel’s constitution! This left room for individual conscience (“what was right in their own eyes”) to decipher and apply God’s will to ‘specific circumstances’, whatever those might be. Practically speaking, it was up to each individual to chart her own course, treating Torah as a system of buoys well placed to help sailors navigate dangerous ethical waters. Then, from time to time in response to specific challenges, a charismatic leader would put herself forward to be Judge, i.e., a champion of justice, ‘one who makes things right’. But Israel had ambitions. It wanted to be like other nations; it wanted to be a power on the world stage. For that, it needed a permanent government, a standing army, a king. God, through the prophet Samuel (the last Judge), argued strenuously against this (I Samuel 8: 11 – 18), but the body politic had its way and the rest is ‘history’, bloody history …right up to the fall of Jerusalem (c. 590 BCE) and the exile of its ‘best and brightest’ to Babylon. The relationship of Christians and Jews to secular authority has long been ambivalent. Pilate questioned it: “Are you a king?” Imperial Rome questioned it: Should Christians be allowed to serve in the army? And we still question it today: Should Roman Catholics be allowed to sit on juries in capital cases? Such concerns are not entirely misplaced. Mainstream Christians and Jews respect the institutions and laws of civil governments. Legally enacted legislation, even if less than ideal, is normative, provided it does not conflict with the Law of God. And where do we find this Law of God? In Scripture (e.g., Torah), in Nature (Oral Torah, Reason), and in our consciences: “I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God and they will be my people.” (Jer. 31: 33)