The First Principle

1. Any belief system must be based on faith. (All thought must have premise.)

Faith is simply a confidence or trust in something. Whether this is faith that what we see and taste and touch is actually real and is truly the way we perceive it to be, or whether that is faith in a being we are unable to see or touch, it is still a trust we cannot verify.
Likewise, any idea or thought must have something upon which it is built. No idea is self-sustaining, and therefore all reasoning must be circular reasoning, based upon some premise, which “proves” itself (or is self-evident).

This principle is difficult to prove even logically, much less materially, specifically because of… well… itself. To make it clear what this means, however, take the words “belief” and “faith” and all their connotations and throw them out the proverbial window. Instead, go with the second part of the statement, namely, All thought must have premise (which should be a tautology–a statement that is obviously true.)

Assuming for a few paragraphs that you don’t consider it a tautology, let’s examine. (If you’re already with me, then don’t expect to get anything new out of most of this post. Feel free to read on, but most of the post is for those who have never really thought through what a “premise” is. Try rejoining me at the last header if you get bored.)

Take the most obvious fact you can think of. A common (though foolish) example is “The sky is blue.” Now ask yourself “Why?” or “What caused this?” …The point here is to realize that “the sky is blue” is NOT a tautology. (In fact, the sky is blue because of the way that light refracts through air.) Now, ask yourself, “Why?” or, again, “What caused this?” Take any statement you like and ask those questions until you come to a standstill. At this point, you don’t have many options. The first option, “Well, that’s just the way it is” doesn’t really count.

Why doesn’t it count? Dig deeper. Unpack the statement just a bit. “Well, that’s just the way it is” is just another way of saying “This is the basic nature of reality. It acts this way because it IS this way.” …which begs the question “What (or Who) made reality behave as it does?” …Now you’ve got three possible answers. One is intellectually dishonest. The other two are functionally the same.

The First Answer

The intellectually dishonest answer is “I CAN NOT know what caused it or how it was caused so don’t bother asking.” …This is the essence of agnosticism. If this is where the train stops for you, then I have another tautology for you, namely. You are not capable of understanding everything there is to understand.

You’ve essentially just stated that you have learned you are in conflict with the nature of the universe and you don’t want to learn or grow any longer. If this is the case, then you have just pronounced yourself intellectually dead. (I have observed that one of the great purposes of humanity is curiosity and learning, and that if our curiosity were ever fully satisfied, our minds would wither and die.)

There are two possible choices at this point.
First: Decide that it’s worthwhile to learn what you can, even though you can’t know it all, and go on to answer two (which is probably your answer anyway, if you are honest with yourself).
Second: Decide that “You can’t know so it’s not worth asking.” …In other words, “I’m putting my head down here in the sand where it’s safe. Go away.”

And so, leaving the dead to bury their own dead, we proceed.

The Second Answer

So, we’ve just been asking the question, “What (or Who) made reality behave as it does?”

The first LEGITIMATE answer is “I don’t know.” …Which, again, isn’t really the end of the chain. Instead, ask the only question left, “How do you know that reality behaves this way?”

At this point, we’re left with another chain of logic. It probably goes something like this: “How do you know?” “Well, because science says so.” “How does science know?” “Because scientists tested it and found it to be so.” “How do you know they did?” (Which, not coincidentally, has the same answer as “How do they know their results were true?”) “Because I saw, heard, read, felt, smelled, tasted, learned, etc. that it was so.”

And so, the first of two end results to any such (intellectually honest) chain of logic is, “Because I trust what my senses tell me. They tell me that this is the nature of reality.”

Good. Now for the man on the other side of the religious fence.

The Third Answer

Again, the question is “What (or Who) made reality behave as it does?”

The second legitimate answer is, “It was created to be this way by some ultimate force (Probably God or a god). I believe that this is true.”

Again, good.

So what’s the point?

So far so good. We have two possible answers.
One: “I trust what my senses tell me. This is the nature of reality.”
Two: “God created it this way. This is how it is.”

OK. Fine. Now prove it.

Uhhhhhhhh………….. /facepalm

So what are we left with, really?

We’re left saying “Trust me” or “Trust God.” Either way, aside from the simple fact that we believe it to be so, there is no possible way to logically prove anything in the world to someone who does not accept the same premise we do. (And the reason that “Trust God” people seem to argue with each other so much more than “Trust me” people is because usually there is more common ground to the way two people see the world than to the way two people see God.)

So really, what we have is two groups of people. One argues that we should trust our senses first. The other argues that we should trust God (or a god or gods or some other mystical force) first and our senses second. We start from two different premises, but both require that we trust something in order to arrive at any conclusion in the world.

No. What we have is as many groups of people as we have people, because (trust me) EVERYBODY is going to see SOMETHING about their premise a little differently than everybody else does. We’re lucky that we can agree on anything at all.

What does all this mean?

Well, first off, the above chain of logic was what originally convinced me that every belief system must be based on some sort of faith, whether that is faith in what we believe or faith in what we see and touch. We still trust that it is true.

The parallel concept, (that every thought must have a premise) also works off the same chain of reasoning. (Even if that premise is “Because I thought it.”) Most people seem to be able to agree with this concept more readily, partly because it seems so obvious and partly because most people are not emotionally invested in philosophical abstracts the same way they are invested in whatever they have faith in.

Yes, even you atheists… You might as well just get used to calling it what it is, even if you don’t like the connotations. I’ve defined all my terms. You don’t have to be afraid of me poking you in the eye and laughing because you’ve somehow admitted that you have “faith.” One thing I try to never do is hold people in contempt.

So where do we go from here?

Personally, I learned three very important lessons from this.

First: Respect peoples’ right to have their opinion, even if you don’t agree with it. Learn as much as you can about their premises and their conclusions, and about where the fault in their logic lies. Share your view. If you can, shake their hand and part friends.

Second: Know what your OWN premises are before you go running your mouth. This doesn’t just apply to what you have faith in. This is the basis of everything I do in life. This is the basis of how I make every single decision I make. The best way to avoid making an ass of yourself is to be sure that you know not just what you’re talking about, but why. An added bonus: you’ll know how to explain the why if somebody should ask.

Third: What to have faith in is the most important decision you will ever make. Once you’ve made that decision, everything else is pretty much mapped out for you. What you choose to have faith in will determine everything about your life. Everyone makes that decision for different reasons. Any decision is valid… But the wrong one may send you to hell.

The Core of the Matter

There is so much that goes into this post that it almost seems I am putting the cart before the horse. Everything I have experienced and learned and reasoned in my life culminates here, and unpacking it fully is impossible. Even a cursory attempt may take a lifetime. Still, like any good writer, I think that the first post should be the most important.

What does Christianity look like from the inside?

Christ said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” – Mark 8:34-35

This is the core of what it is to be a true Christian. …But let’s unpack this just a little, because for each of us, personally, this is probably the scariest and most difficult single phrase in the Bible.

If anyone would come after me

The most prominent word in this phrase is the word “anyone.” …It might be better emphasized “The ONLY ones who will come after me” or “No one EXCEPT those who do this will come after me.”

This whole phrase (not just the first part) is an all-or-nothing statement. There is no wiggle room or excuse-making. There is no negotiation or half-measure. You are or you aren’t.

he must deny himself

This is not a matter of giving something up for lent or fasting for a day or two. What this advocates is to totally disregard one’s own desires and feelings. To agree to this is to forfeit entirely every single dream, every hope, every wish and every desire. Could you choose to lose whatever makes you yourself? Without a great deal of contemplation, can you even grasp what it means? That is the point we must come to in order to understand.

and take up his cross

I’m sure that Bible scholars could give you a better idea of what the connotations of this were when it was spoken. (Recall, this was BEFORE Christ died on the cross. Our minds immediately, unthinkingly supply context to this, but take this down to its base.) You must struggle with everything in you to lift and carry a terrible burden–one that, when you reach your destination, will, ironically and cruelly, be used to shame and humiliate you before the whole world while you die a slow, agonizing death.

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it

This is actually the simplest part of the phrase. It is an emphasis and re-statement of what was already said and a guarantee that there are ONLY two possible ways to go. The long, straight hard road to Life… or one of the many other ways.

How would that play out, Really?

…Look, I don’t know about you, but I personally have enough trouble just deciding to get out of bed in the morning. Unpacking what that phrase means and agreeing to live by it? How many people do you know who could straight-up, honestly agree to that?

How many people do you know who are CAPABLE of making that promise then sticking to it? I know for a fact that I cannot promise to do anything of the sort. I’m just flat not strong enough or self-disciplined enough. …If I get up my courage I might be able to say “OK, take it. Take my life. Take my family. Take my money. Take my pride. Take it all.” …But to willfully do what that verse suggests?

…When I was very young, however, I made exactly that promise. (Somehow thinking I was capable of it. I even knew what it meant at the time.)

Since then, I’ve stumbled more times than I can count and fallen flat on my face. I’ve reached the end of my strength. I’ve given up a few times and just lain there in the road for a year or two. …But I still won’t turn back, and someday, maybe, I’ll get to be done with the dying part and just have some peace.

Am I a true Christian? …I hope so. Maybe I’ll get to ask Him someday.

What does Christianity look like from the outside?

Basically, it makes no sense. It’s like a rational person looking at a piece of modern art. It has no meaning. It defies the “natural” order of things and bewilders the senses. It is foolishness. Those who are not called… and those who do not heed that call.. are, quite literally, unable to understand the truth that is Christ.

Foolishness!

What is the basis for happiness as most of the world sees it? …Simple answer. Self-gratification. This can take many forms. For brevity’s sake, let’s just name the three main categories. First is power. Power may mean money, status or the ability to command others. Second is pleasure (usually sensual pleasure). Pleasure may be sex or some form of drug or any number of other things (most of which involve using the brain to produce natural drugs). Third is self-righteousness. Yes I am serious. This probably accounts for more self-gratification in the world than the other two put together.

Christianity shuns all these things for their own sake, and the rest of the world simply is not capable of understanding that. Those who are more honest admit that they don’t understand it. The rest just say it’s foolishness. (The definition of the word insanity: a foolish or senseless action, policy, statement, etc.:)

By any standard that the world is capable of understanding, anything that is not done for self-gratification is literally insane. …And so, by any definition that most people are capable of understanding, true Christianity is foolishness.

Social Destabilization

On the other hand, Christianity genuinely frightens people. Why? …The basic reason is that Christianity attacks the value system that everyone else lives by. Money? Power? Status? Respect? even Self-Righteousness? …Anything and everything that the world places value upon, Christianity has nothing but scorn for. Christianity attacks those things as evil and condemns those who seek them to the pit of hell for eternity. (Talk about adding insult to injury.) Even life and liberty are worthless to a Christian.

On the face of it, that doesn’t seem a reason for fear. Contempt maybe, but fear? As I’ve said many times, I am a pattern thinker… So think of the pattern.

Society is based on people being willing to give everything they have and everything they are to obtain the things that society considers valuable. Life… Yes. Most people would give anything to keep their lives. Freedom? Of course. People are willing even to die rather than lose their freedom at times. Provided the first two are guaranteed (mostly), society is built on pursuing the others–money, status, etc.

Even more than that, what happens when threatening to take away someone’s life or liberty no longer has any meaning for them? How do you control them?

Worse still, what if the person in question gives absolute allegiance to someone the world has no control over, to the point of being willing to die for that person?

The Death of the World as They Know It

Now, put aside for a moment everything that you know about Christianity. What I just described sounds an awful lot like the mindset of Islamic terrorists, doesn’t it? …When it comes to commitment to the cause, the big difference is that the Islamic terrorists don’t actually HAVE God on their side (unless you call Satan a god, at any rate).

Actually, in a very real way, Islamic terror is a step down from Christianity, because Islamic terrorists still care about the same power structure that the world does. They’re just bent on destroying it.

Christianity goes a step further and destroys any purpose for it. …This is why the world is threatened by true Christianity–because we are the only counter-culture that attacks everything they hold valuable.

…And even when the world doesn’t recognize the danger posed by Christianity, fully one-third of the angels that God created do, and they hate true Christians with all the passion that ten thousand years of arrogance and affront can engender.

In short, if you are truly a Christian, the entire world is going to hate you. They’re going to despise you. They’re going to try to discredit you. They’re going to do everything they can to destroy you.

THAT is the core of Modern Apocrypha.