On The Agnostic’s View of the Ten Commandments

Background on purpose of this post and future posts on topics of Religion:

One of the great things about life is that not everyone shares your viewpoints.  Adding to that, one of the great things about true friendship, is that you can enter in a relationship with someone –  a relationship forged on the cornerstone that while they may not necessarily share your viewpoint, they respect it for what it is.  My friend, Rob Slaven, maintains a blog entitled “The Tattered Thread”  In my opinion, he’s a great writer – with a style in some ways different than my own, but still oozing with talent and value.  I encourage you to check it out, and follow.

Back to Rob: Rob’s one of those guys that’s not afraid to throw his opinion out there.  Rob’s more charismatic than he appears when you first meet him, he has a good heart beyond his sarcastic witticism that reflects on paper, and generally is one of the more intelligent guys I know.  He’s consumes literature at a astounding rate, is well versed, and sometimes drips ounces or gallons of attitude into his prose. He’s not afraid to pen his thoughts. This, in my opinion, makes him an interesting writer.  We often disagree, often agree, and often enjoy conversation – something that, with the addition of technology, is becoming less and less of a practiced art.

Anyways, Rob and I got to talking about each of our blog ventures (Rob actually runs 3 blogs, one around general musings (see aforementioned link), one on classic advertising , and one on his love for photography. Rob, like most active creative minds, is one busy guy exploring what he truly loves.  Rob’s a self proclaimed agnostic, which means he generally falls under the viewpoint that God may exist, but certainly doesn’t have much to do with his creation.  The key difference from Rob and most (not all) agnostics / atheists I meet is that Rob isn’t against Religion.  In fact, I’d venture to say he’s actually fascinated with it.  Healthy fascination in my book leads often to discovery.

Rob and I decided that in order to garner a more solid topic trail to our general ramblings on the Internet, we’d try  in addition to our regularly scheduled programming to enter into conversation with each other assuming various blog posts concerning the main aspects of Christianity, agnosticism, and Religion in general.  I, myself, am a self-proclaimed thinking Christian, who considers Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior. Rob’s an agnostic. We’re friends.  We always will be.  Part of the main aspects of friendship is respect.  Whatever we write to each other, even if it may seem in jest or critical, is just our banter and conversation made available to the world.  You may or may not agree with us, and that’s fine.  I’m a firm believer that one of the key areas to the Christian faith is our love and respect for others.  Jesus called us to love everyone, and not only those that believe what we believe.  I also believe that Christ, if here today, would encourage all Christians to challenge themselves, their minds, and their hearts.  By entering in respectful dialogue with those who share contrasting opinions, we open up new ways to challenge ourselves, and if done correctly – strengthen our faith.

With that being said, Rob’s already placed a post on his blog seeking a response from yours truly on the Ten Commandments. Go read it here: An agnostic view on the Ten(Twelve) Commandments.  Once you’re done, feel free to indulge yourself on my probably overkill response:

Boy. I’m glad I don’t live in the Old Testament times.  When Moses came down from that Mountain with the Old Covenant it was full of all sorts of things that would have led to some harsh punishments for yours truly.  Disobeying my parents means I could be stoned or put to death? I’d have been dead by 13.  Sacrifies? That could get messy.

So let’s step back a minute. Before I get too involved with each individual commandment and look at the much bigger picture of the Christian faith: the abolishment of The Old Covenant (listed in Exodus), in favor the New Covenant (brought upon by God becoming man and coming to Earth).  Jesus, the sacrificial lamb, paid for the transgressions of all that were there with him, and all that will come before him.  With his coming, he abolished the old Covenant.  That’s not to say that the old laws aren’t important.   That’s where different denominations of Christianity clash – but it’s safe to say at least this : the Ten Commandments are most certainly a moral guideline that have tested the sands of time.

So let’s break it down.

Rob begins by stating that Christians didn’t invent the Ten Commandments. That’s true. God wrote them with his own finger on a tablet.  Is it possible that these laws were implied / studied by ancient religions prior to God putting them on a tablet? Sure. Why not? That doesn’t negate the fact that God listed them for the people.  You see, the thing that must be remembered is that God was perfectly aware that in order for his people to reach the Promised Land they must have order, that they would sin and would need a method of sacrifice, and that all groups of people need a rule book. Shoot, most of the laws we’ve inherited in America came from the British.

There’s different numbering schemes / groupings for the Ten Commandments, but I’ll go with Rob’s. You may find your’s differ. In the end, they all get the point across regardless of numerical interpretation.

1 – I am the Lord Your God
Self explanatory.  Establishes authority.

2 – You shall have no other God’s before me
Rob calls this commandment unnecessary.  Bear in mind, that prior to these commandments being delivered to Moses’s people they were creating false idols with the help of Aaron.  The truth of the matter is that God gave man free will.  That’s the entire reason this commandment exists.  Rob claims that a true king could stand up and say “I AM KING, tough cookies.”  But God is unique in that he’s not here to force upon us a relationship with him.  He may be the Alpha and Omega, he may be a jealous God, but he’s going to give you the upfront option to acknowledge him. It’s sweeter to be loved by choice than someone to be forced to love you. Later, the establishment of Christ and the Savior begins the pursuit.

3 – You shall not make for yourself an idol

Rob is truly  perplexed by this one.  He mentions the Cross as possibly being an idol, and the possible unfairness of God not allowing his people to chose something as a physical manifestation such as a statue of Jesus.  While I personally, and many Christians – look at the Cross as a reminder – we don’t worship the Cross. We worship who died (and then rose) on that Cross.  I personally have a problem with depcitions of Jesus on the Cross you often see in such religions as Catholicism.  While I think Passion Plays and the like can bring the story of Jesus front and center historically, ultimately it’s important to develop a Supernatural relationship. Additionally, physical statues of Jesus and “God” ultimately limit the scope of who God and what God really is.  God is everywhere.  Most Christians will tell you that once you enter a relationship with God, and gain the Holy Spirit – his presence is felt on a level that simply does not require a statue.  It’s much. much more powerful than that – a supernatural thing.  Another thing you’ll often hear preachers say is that idols can be anything that you put before God. Perhaps you worship your computer? Your car? Your checkbook? What’s keeping you from God?

4 – You shall not make wrongful use of the name of your God

Probably a bad idea to disrespect the supreme creator and ruler of the Universe.  Names and titles have meeting and reverence.  Even the staunchest Conservatives would address Obama as Mr. President.

5 – Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy

As Rob states, this is definitely one open for interpretation and truly less of a moral law.  While I believe God calls us to fellowship and worship, I’m not too caught up on the Calendar day or method for this.  There’s some crazy examples throughout history of people taking this way to literal. Again, you have to remember the audience of the time. These were recently freed from slavery, tired – weary, and unruly people.

6 – Honor your father and mother

Ohhhh a tough one for some!  The main premise here falls along the perspective that your parents and elders should be respected.  Keep in mind, I think God’s fully aware that some parents are horrible, abusive, and don’t deserve being called the name.  The important take away here is that God is the celestial example of how a Father should be on Earth.  The good news for those of us who parent is that Christ paid the price for our sins and ultimately has brought grace to those of us who will inevitably create emotional wounds on our children.  I think this is a good centerpiece to the idea that we should respect previous generations, regardless of faults and transgressions.

7 – You shall not murder

Again, enter in the old covenant vs new covenant debate.  In the New Testament it talks of there being a time to kill.  However – keep in mind that Christ was without sin.  And even in a time where Peter was about to raise his sword in defense of Christ, Christ probably saved the guard’s life and because Christ intervened, the guard  just ended up with an ear injury.  While most Christians to this day will tell you that taking a life to protect the innocent is noble and just, the truth remains that violence is often not the answer.

8 – You shall not commit adultery

To me this is a moral law. Here’s my take on this – I look at marriage as a gift from God.  When we enter in a relationship with someone else, we are pledging all of ourselves to this person – our body, our soul – everything.  Sex is something that the prudish Christians don’t want to admit is something God wanted us to enjoy.  However, I firmly believe that sex is something best shared with the mate we chose.  So here’s the kicker: I don’t believe sex is something just for procreation.  I don’t think God intended us to be breeders just to be breeders.  Sure, we are supposed to be fruitful and multiply – but I think God also gave us sex so we’d have fun and be able to give our spouse something special.  Once you take that away from your pledged mate and give it to someone else, it means less. Here’s a quick analogy – ask your wife if you can borrow her wedding ring so a woman at work can wear it for a while. See how she reacts.

9 – You shall not steal

Obvious.

10 – You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor

God is all knowing. It’s impossible to lie to God. He’d generally like all of us to have the same respect for each other we have for him and his power. Rob hit the nail on the head – it’s harder to tell a lie.  This commandement is a moral law, as in it’s just something we all should share.

11 – Here’s where the numbering get’s a little off, but basically We shouldn’t covet

The goal behind this commandment is more than just keeping us from stealing and protecting us from murder. God’s looking to create something that currently our society simply has forgotten how to do – be content with what we have.

A Very Quick Summary and Closing Thoughts:

I’ve written a lot on this subject, sandwiched with a introduction to this series of blog posts.  Future posts will most likely be much more brief: But I want to leave Rob and other’s with this thought: The Ten Commandments might be a set of moral laws that help define the history of the Christian faith and the Old Testament, and help pave the way for Church and the coming of Christ – but ultimately, there’s a reason many churches start with handing out the New Testament. It’s a New Covenant – a new beginning, an abolishment of the Old Covenant with Christ who allowed Christians to walk in the freedom away from the old laws, while still following the moral laws and gist of  what Rob pretty much refers to as (paraphrasing) “common school children sense.”

I’ll leave you with this: In Matthew, we are told of a religious leader (one of many reasons I can’t stand religion) challenging Christ on the laws (something I just spent a page or two summarizing) – In essence, Jesus starts to unwind the intricacies of the law and summarizing the real purpose of Christianity and our calling after his coming:

One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:35-40
New Living Translation (NLT)

– Grant

 

On Tebow

A disclaimer: Like anything else I say, the views on this blog are that of my own – and nobody else I am associated with. You may not agree with what I have to say, may agree to some of it, or may think I’m a total idiot.  That’s fine. Remember, writers write first for themselves. Also remember that I also believe everyone is entitled to their own opinion. It’s what makes this world a great place to live in – we all think differently.  Also, nothing of what I am about to say should be taken as a passive agressive attack on your own opinion, whether it has been silent or vocal – I value my friends and their cooresponding relationships, and would hope you’d look beyond my blog for a better understanding of who I am and what I believe.

So that being said;

Last night’s game was awesome.  Twitter and Facebook were on fire.  Tebow and crew pulled off an upset for the record books.  It was a fun game to watch. Then, once all the fanfare died down, the analysts – both armchair and professional came out to play.  They talked about his yardage (3:16 yards — go figure), the defense, the decision for the Steelers not to kick the possible (but improbable) game winning field goal.  All that was suspected.  But a more underlying question was being asked, sometimes out in the open (I saw several professional analysts elude to it), and sometimes in the deep recesses of social media.

Did God help Tebow win?

Before I try and answer that question from my perspective; let’s get one thing quickly out of the way.  Before this season, I honestly had not followed Tebow’s career that closely.  I vaugley recall his decision to appear in a commercial promoting Pro-Life.  I knew he won a Heisman.  I know he has a vehement fanclub, and a equal – if not larger, group of people who “don’t care for the guy.” But … I was not exactly a Denver Bronco’s or a Tebow fan.  I, for lack of a better term, jumped on the bandwagon.

Why? Maybe it had something to do with my team’s losing record sans a Quarterback.  Maybe it had something to do with the consistent 4th quarter heroics.  Look, when you’re not emotionally invested in the outcome of a game, watching 4th quarter heroics akin to that of Tim Tebow is if nothing else, widely entertaining.  When you love the game of Football like I do, you’ll watch certain players because people are talking. It’s just darn interesting. I started to read more about the guy, his accomplishments, his beliefs – his past – and I was intrigued. So, It’s the hype that brought me to cheer for Tebow last night. Yeah? What of it?  There’s nothing wrong with jumping into the hype.  Hype surrounds most things in our culture – such as “Hey, these iPod things are neat,” to “that movie is a must see!,” to the release of a catchy song.  Hype creates avenues for creativity and acknowledgement.  You don’t have to join in, but you can’t deny it’s there.

So snapping back to my original question :  Did God help Tebow win?

I’ve read several blog posts today and several social media links that God has nothing to do with football, and while Tebow may be this great guy; God and football are to very seperate things. I want to address the whole Tebow “madness,” with some of my own points, three to be exact.

1) God doesn’t have to prioritize.

One argument people often make that God “doesn’t care about the meaningless stuff like football,” is that God has other, more pressing matters.  However, if you buy into the idea that God is omnipresent, and all knowing, then you can then conclude that God has time and resources to devote to anything he deems worthy of devoting his time to.  God works in mysterious ways.  God’s whole goal – even with the sending of his son, was to bring people closer in a relationship with him – to know of him and know him.  He operates the universe’s most succesful marketing department. Tebow could very well be a catalyst.  If anything, he’s got the press talking. Perhaps Tebow’s success has opened up the door for others to experience the love of God and friendship, that if Tebow wasn’t successful – wouldn’t be an actual opportunity.   That also does not mean God doesn’t have other goals.  Throughout history, we’ve all been given this image of God as this righteous judger and accuser – always saying “No.” But the truth is far different. God wants his children to be happy, successful, engaged.  As parents, we want the best for our children.  If we could offer them tips and strategy to be better at what they love within the barriers of fair play, would we? Of course. Think about it.

2) Free will still exists, and can exist, even within miracles.

Do I think God threw the game Tebow’s direction? No.  Do I think God made available for Tebow the opportunities to be successful on the field? Sure, why not? The fact of the matter is God gave all of us free will.  Because of that, I believe God isn’t out their manipulating reality to fit that of his followers (in other words, I doubt anytime soon you’ll see Tebow fly through the air with a Halo, landing in the endzone in an angelic last second touchdown) – but I do believe that when we surrender to the will of God, we’re given opportunities and wisdom that we may have otherwise not uncovered ourselves. Look, that’s not to say that other Quarterbacks who follow other religions don’t have talent and direction.  I’m also not implying that if you are a Christian, and a football player – that you’re going to be better than your linebacker friend who’s an Atheist.  What I AM saying, is that it’s a very dangerous place when we put God in a box and say “God would not intervene there!”  Really? Just how would you know?

3) Tebow’s “Tebowing” is just Tebow being Tebow.

A lot of press has been given to Tebow’s victory prayer.  Athletes for as long as I can remember have thanked God for wins and victories to the press after games.  What of it?  The Bible talks about rejoicing in God always, about being able to do all things through Christ who strengthens me, about doing all things without complaining and with Thanksgiving.  It talks about a man’s hard work being noble.  When I have large accomplishments at work, I always try and go back and thank God for the opportunity and the talent he gave me.  Do I think God helped me achieve the compliance I worked on for a whole year? Vicariously, yes.  Because If it was not for God, I wouldn’t have the talents I have.  I wouldn’t be who I am.  Much has been said about the public display that Tebow makes of it – that these things “shouldn’t be on the field.”   I honestly would not care if a Muslim thanked Allah for a win on national television, or if a runner after winning a race held up her cat, thanking it for inspiration.  Our culture, for whatever reason, is historically terrified of letting someone acknowledge God publicly.   Just because Tebow kneels for a quick prayer after a play doesn’t mean that tomorrow the Ten Commandments are going to be posted at every stadium and we’re all going to be forced to recite the Apostles Creed at the bottom of the Ninth.  Relax. It’s just his thing. I say let him have it.

Tim Tebow mania will probably die down once he loses a game ,just like the latest news story will become old news when something interesting happens. It’s hype.  It’s a good article to read.  It’s part of our culture and our pop history.  All in all, wether you agree with everything or not, it’s also a little fun. It got people thinking. It’s sparked debate and it’s made for some great moments in football.

And afterall, great moments in football make everyone – except possibly the Steelers fan, happy.

– Grant

On What Pizza Hut Will Teach You About Life

I have a reputation for being sappy – but one of the greatest joys of writing is that it creates for just about anyone who will embrace it a timeline of retrospective viewpoints on your life.  This becomes even more obvious if you are willing to honestly write about yourself, especially on a public forum such as a blog.  Seemingly uninteresting events take on a grander meaning than we can readily establish when they are happening. We only need the forum and motivation to analyze them to come up with their purpose. Given that I’ve taken the first leap of creating the forum, it’s only natural to publish my thoughts honestly.  If anything, if nobody reads it, I’m left with a great diary to look back on one day.  That alone brings solace to the craft.

Tonight, I realized that for the past couple years of my life – scratch that – for the majority of my adult life, I’ve been concerned about “tomorrow.”  Many people say you should live in the moment – enjoy the day, because you may not have another – but I honestly can’t really give many examples of people I know that actually follow that sentiment.  In fact, I’d say it’s rare enough my interactions with people living in the moment is limited to single digits.

No fault to us, however. We’re trained at a young age to understand that when we grow up, we’ll be able to do things we can’t do now. Stay up later.  Drive a car. Get a job. Move out. Once we have those things, we start thinking about what we can do to better our situation.  Bettering anything, it seems, takes time. Bettering our finances. Bettering our car. Bettering our job.  Bettering our lives. It’s almost as if we regress to the point where the very crux of our nature is to figure out what comes next.

I think I’ve been missing the point, and I didn’t realize this until last night.  On a whim, I came home from work in a fairly decent mood. It wasn’t a great day – but it wasn’t necessarily a bad one either.  I scooped my kids up, cancelled the dinner my wife was starting to prepare, and after a brief car ride scoping out locations we ended up at the neighborhood sit-down Pizza Hut. Not exactly fine dining, but with 3 children, it may as well be the downtown Michelin Star Restaurant of the Year.

The entire meal for our humble family of 5 probably costs about 45 dollars.  We had the entire place seemingly to ourselves.  The service was grand. The company was even better.  I talked with the wife.  I ate pizza and acted silly with the kids.  Then, about halfway through the dinner (bear with me here, it might get cheesey – ha! Pun intended), time sort of slowed down. I realized at that moment looking across the table at my 7 year old daughter, pizza sauce all over her face, that she was indeed a great kid.  I laughed at my 2 year old as he attempted to eat Jello with a fork.  I grinned at my 3 year old as he smashed goldfish into smithereens on his plate, and I admired the fact God gave me the wife he did, that I don’t deserve, and given a lifetime of “working up to it” I never will.

The whole moment of retrospective lasted probably 15 seconds, but in that moment I had the opportunity to just shutdown for a moment before snapping back to reality and realizing that if I died that night in my sleep my life would have enough meaning for 50 more lifetimes.  At that moment, the next house, the next promotion, the next bill to be paid – the next rock to overturn simply didn’t matter.

What mattered was Pizza Hut.

Maybe, friends – that’s really all that does matter.

I’d like to think so.

– Grant