Creation: Open or Closed System

My question is this, is the world that we live in an open or closed system. This sounds outside of the type of categories that we normally use to define or discuss reality; however, I think it has some significant implications. For those philosophy nerds out there, the discussion below uses generalizations to move the discussion forward without pursuing every conceivable rabbit trail that one may encounter on this topic.

Closed System
This idea is that the world around us is mechanistic. The nature of the mechanism is much debated. At one extreme are the Darwinists that think Chaos, Randomness, and Time are the only real rules of the Universe. Any honest observers can see that there is Oder and Purpose to much of what we observe, so the other extreme of the closed system is the clockmaker of Deism. If there is a god, he made the system and we can debate whether he occasionally tinkers with it or not. In this group you will also find Eastern ideas of pantheism, cyclical rebirth, and Yen & Yang.

Open System
This view is found in Jewish and Christian tradition. God is Personal, Loving, and Knowable. He governs the Universe in regular, knowable ways (Natural Laws) but God is not a mere observer, He tends His Creation as one might tend a garden.  Nothing happens outside of God’s will. The debate within this view is does God allow things to happen or actively cause them to happen? Within an open system, people believe that they can genuinely pray and ask God to change the direction of an event—large or small—and if it is His will, He will respond to our petitions to make alterations.

A closed system is without hope. Nihilism and helplessness are the lot of men. The law of tooth and talon reigns supreme. Some folks in the East even think we get to do it all over again until we achieve perfect nothingness. What a dismal prospect.

An open system explains the things that have no basis in a closed system. Love, joy, compassion, purpose, intelligence, and design are all aspects of our Creator and since man is made in His image, we also share in a small way in His nature. Man is imperfect but still retains the marks of our Creator, his fingerprints on the clay so to speak.

The Problem of Sin
Because of sin, we are not in a right relationship with God. Furthermore, we are powerless to correct the problem. The Bible speaks of our attempts at good works to earn God’s merit as “filthy rags”. Folks this phrase is loaded with much content that doesn’t come thru even in King James English. The “filthy rags” are the unclean rags that result from a woman’s monthly cycle. The Bible is stating that your best efforts are rubbish only fit for the fire.

Man’s natural state is one of rebellion and separation from God. Only God can repair the separation of this relationship. It cost the life of His Son, Jesus. Only thru His death and sacrifice—dying in our place—was the penalty of sin paid. Only God’s remedy can restore our relationship. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, the Life. No man comes to the Father but by me.”

Some folks might ask why God—whom Christians claim is all knowing and all powerful—doesn’t just do away with evil, suffering, death, etc.? There are many ways to answer the question, but Jesus directly addressed the issue in this way:

The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
Matthew 13: 24 – 30.

Simply put, to root out evil by force will adversely affect the righteous. While all men are tainted by sin, not all will be redeemed. It is better that both continue to grow side by side until the harvest. As they mature, it will be apparent which are weeds and which are good grain. C.S. Lewis spoke of this as over time each will become consistent in its nature, the bad becoming more evil and the good becoming more righteous.

God is not evil but is able to use evil and rebellion against Him to bring His will to fruition. We are not told how He does this just that He does. Some questions about the “why” and “how” are beyond the scope of what has been revealed to us. At some point, we must trust. Some things can be called a “mystery” while others are just not revealed to us. As Lewis states in his Narnia books, they are not part of your story (and the clear implication of this statement also carries with it the idea that thus they are none of your business). Lewis believed that God’s revelation was on a need to know basis, if we don’t need it to know Him then it is not revealed to us.

The bottom line is that the prayers of His children will be answered but only to the extent that our petitions are in accordance with His will. The good news is that God is always active in his creation and incrementally redeeming it as we move closer to the promised harvest.

Billy Graham

Today is the funeral of Rev Billy Graham.

I wanted to briefly discuss how Billy Graham touched my family and affected my relationship with God as a result. I thought this a fitting tribute. While my beliefs don’t perfectly align with his, I wish this blog to accentuate the positive on this occasion.

As a condition of being married in the Roman Church, my dad was required to sign an agreement with the Church that he would allow his children to be raised Roman Catholic—my mom’s faith. Just over a decade later, in the 1970’s, I was transitioning from a private Catholic elementary school to a public junior high.

At this period, my mom watched Billy Graham on a local television broadcast. She knew about Jesus but felt distant from him. As Graham spoke, she felt her need to have a more lively faith and walk with Christ. As Graham asked his audience to pray with him, so did my mother.

Graham’s basic message included the concept that it was not our works—the things that we did or did not do—that got us into heaven but that our works were inadequate to gain salvation. Our sin separated us from God. Only the work of Christ dying on our behalf could get us into heaven. We must acknowledge our sin and ask Christ to forgive us and enter our hearts. It was not the external that related us to God but the renewing of our hearts that cause our regeneration (in Graham’s terminology, being born again). To this end, it was Graham’s practice to conclude his sermons with a call to get into a right relationship with God. As such, he would ask that people pray with him as he recited “the sinner’s prayer”.


This prayer caused a change in my mother and she began to explore other places to worship. As a result, we ended up attending a local Baptist church. A few months later, my sisters and I attended a summer camp sponsored by the new church. At camp, we also made a commitment of our lives to Christ.

As a result of my camp experience, I was a different person. I had a hunger for reading the Bible and learning about God. I had a lively faith and wanted to share it with others. Over the years, I have continued my walk with God, sometimes closer than others. I have moved beyond the Baptist ways and found a way to make peace with the Roman Church as well.

I am grateful to the ministry of Billy Graham for the difference that has been made in my life.

Issues That Are Never Solved

There is an old saying, “he who frames the issue wins the debate”. But what is supposed to happen is that after the debate, (eventually) the issue is solved or voted upon and then we move on. However, sometimes that doesn’t happen. Did you ever wonder why?

Before I proceed on this topic, please understand that I am the messenger. I wish to have readers look at my examples not in terms of agreeing with one side over another but as a political analysis.

I wish to begin with two topics that seem to have no solutions: abortion and immigration.

Abortion opponents say that they wish to have government support life and will stop at nothing short of the human life amendment.

A Human Life Amendment can be both a unifying strategy for individuals and organizations and a powerful political tool to discern the true pro-life convictions of our elected officials.
The ultimate goal of the pro-life movement

Abortion supporters want unlimited abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy—this is the status quo under Roe v Wade. Plus, they want you to pay for them with taxpayer dollars. Many see abortion—or the absence of child bearing—as the only way to have real equality with men.

As you can see, there is no room for common ground, compromise, or any other of the usual political maneuvering using such a binary equation.

Some folks want to allow everyone that can get inside the borders of the United States to come and then once here, they wish to unilaterally confer upon them all rights and privileges of citizenship without them even asking for it. No assimilation is required. This includes voting, employment and education. Think California once Gavin Newsom is sworn in as governor.

Other folks say they want to deport everyone here illegally. For them, Trump’s wall is just a symbol of the protectionism necessary to insure United States sovereignty. They wish to keep illegals from accessing any of the programs or opportunities available to our citizens. Only those who followed the established path to Green Cards and citizenship are welcomed.

As you can see, there is no room for common ground, compromise, or any other of the usual political maneuvering using such a binary equation.

Yes, there is a segment of squishy people in the middle of both these issues but the people driving the issue tend to be on one side or the other.

My question is why can’t a political solution be found for either issue? My answer is simple. Neither side wants it solved. They would rather have the issue to get votes in the next election than fix anything. 

Remember Obamacare and the Republicans? Republicans wanted the issue for campaigning but really had no plan to “repeal and replace” even though they campaigned on that promise for eight years. When they got the chance with majorities in the House and Senate plus a supportive and friendly President, they could pass no legislation because there was no plan.

In the same way, abortion is not about killing or not killing babies, its about votes. Democrats view being pro-abortion as a winning issue for them and most Republicans view being pro-life as being to their benefit. Again, this is just posturing.

I have been told by Liberal Republicans that they wish the pro-lifers would go away because social conservatives have ruined the Party. My response is “simple, get the taxpayer money out of the issue. If you do, abortion will no longer be a political issue.”  Think about it, both sides have built their respective fortresses on the issue of “to fund or not to fund”. Yes, there are moral issues involved but without taxpayer money, it is a mute topic at election time for the vast majority of folks.

Immigration is a more complex issue but given a choice of fixing a defective and broken system or having the issue at election time, politicians of all stripes would rather have the issue than fix it.

This ladies and gentlemen is the real gridlock in Washington.  Both teams are happier playing “prevent defense” than winning. To strike a decisive blow for your side is to risk galvanizing the opposition. Think of it as trying to steal the other guy’s honey without being stung by their bees in the process. Get as much as you can and still make a clean getaway. This is what passes for modern statecraft.

Or to use a different analogy, we have entrusted our economic harem to the eunuchs in Washington hoping that they won’t screw us too badly.