About Jared C

I am a criminal appeals attorney, father of four, raised in Kansas, live in San Diego.

Kicking Against the Pricks

On the road to Damascus, Paul found Christ.  Seeing Paul lost in his sin and murderous self-righteousness Jesus pointed out: “It is hard for you to kick against the pricks.” (Acts 9:5.)  In this metaphor, the “pricks” are the sin that dwells within us. The sin sprouts the thorns that goad us when we recognize that we cannot be what we demand ourselves to be.  Joseph Smith seemed to almost grasp the biblical meaning of the phrase in D&C 121:38 where he described those in church leadership that sought to hide their own sins with their authority as those “left to kick against the pricks.” The message of Paul’s ministry was that in Christ can we dissolve these thorns so they never bother us again.

Spencer W. Kimball — the beloved LDS Prophet — put a new spin on this phrase. Starting  in a conference talk in 1955, Kimball began to use the phrase as a description of the state of those who stand against the leadership of the LDS Church:

There is the man who, to satisfy his own egotism, took a stand against the Authorities of the Church. He followed the usual pattern, not apostasy at first, only superiority of knowledge and mild criticism. He loved the brethren, he said, but they failed to see and interpret as he would like. He would still love the Church, he maintained, but his criticism grew and developed into ever-widening circles. He was right, he assured himself; he could not yield in good conscience; he had his pride. His children did not accept his philosophy wholly, but their confidence was shaken. In their frustration, they married out of the Church, and he lost them. He later realized his folly and returned to humbleness, but so very late. He had lost his children. “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (Acts 9:5).”

Here the “pricks” are not the thorns of sin but the psychological and political consequences of criticism of Church leadership. On an all-too-poignant level, this passage represents hard reality of the Church’s position. The church has determined that there are some sins the gospel does not reach, and the sin of participation in gay marriage is one of those. The latest of the Church’s responses to its critics gave me shivers because it’s tone reflects the same terrifying chant of: “thinking differently than the leadership will destroy your family”. It really sucks.

The problem with the way the LDS deal with same-sex attraction probably stems from the way Mormons ignore original sin. Mormons simply cannot believe that humans might be really screwed up from birth in a way that willpower won’t fix. The good news of the New Testament is that in Christ, God has both seen and forgotten these screwed-up ways and granted you freedom to do so as well. The biggest problem I see with the policy is that the message the Church is giving its membership is not  “our sins can be dissolved in Christ”, but that “our sins will keep us from God.”   This was Paul’s message before Damascus, not after it. Paul’s ministry was focused on the fact that, in Christ, our sins will not keep us from God.

Like the Pharisaic Jews, Mormons believe our path to the celestial is through obedience to the law. However, in siding with the pre-Damascus Paul, Mormons are actually mistaking the law with the gospel. The “gospel” according to the Latter-day Saint tradition is what Paul refers to as the “law” — i.e. the combined commandments of God. Mormons believe that “living the gospel” is obeying the law.

A New-Testament Christian would understand that the law was the source of the pricks that goaded Paul. It was the law that Paul was trying to enforce when he persecuted the Christians, and the law that he found safety from in Christ on the road to Damascus.

Because Church leadership cannot distinguish the law from the gospel they now are denying the gospel to those that may break their law.  As I said, this really sucks for those denied access to the Church after being told as children that the Church is the only source of the “gospel”.

But I think those of us who despair at the new policy do not need to rally against the Church, any more than Paul needed to rally against the Pharisees or Rome.  His message was simple, straight, and narrow and so is our path to peace.  Whether the pricks are our sins as Paul describes, or the church leadership, as President Kimball describes, we don’t need to kick against these pricks — in Christ we are made free from their control.

God and the Word (Part 1)

“All things come into being according to the Logos.”

“The Logos is one only. It is unwilling and willing to be called by the name of Zeus.”

(Heraclitus, 600 B.C.)

“In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God and the God was the Logos.”

(Saint John, 90 A.D.)

Twenty-five centuries ago a small group of thinkers called sophists attempted to use a certain kind of intuitive thinking to re-define the way they talked about the world. Their intellectual heirs and disciples — the scientists and philosophers — continue to produced the most sophisticated views of the world.  Heraclitus’ is — arguably — the most influential of these these post-pagan thinkers.  In many ways, all of western civilization– both Christian and atheist — are deeply Heraclitian in the way they explain the world.

Heraclitus saw a unity of all of the patterns of energy that make up the comos.  This unity he termed the Logos, i.e. the Word. The term Logos pointed to the unseen order that shapes the energy (fire) that is the substance of all things. He correctly proclaimed proclaimed that the Logos — not the gods —was the reason for all things.

Heraclitus’ view of the Logos mirrors how science sees the truth today. His philosophy, like science that evolved from it, is a form of scientific monotheism that both encompasses the pagan ways of viewing god and transcends them. He saw that the gods of the pantheon, like nations, are the products of human war and storytelling rather than either the existence or divinity of their personality.  The gods were all accidents that happened according to the laws of the way things work, i.e. the nomos.

Heraclitus believed it was necessary to submit to the government’s law as a matter of intellectual conscience. The law of the Logos was that we must always act according to the logic common to all — the light that illuminates every person — rather than our own private logic. Heraclitus counseled everyone to be subject to the governing authorities, because — ultimately– there was no authority except that which the Logos had established.  Anybody who rebelled against the legal authority was rebelling against what the Logos had instituted and rightfully suffered the terror of the punishments of the government.  This was also — in essence at least — the political faith of Pharisees like Paul and the Christian theologians that followed. 

Heraclitus’ logic also told him that some things weren’t true, regardless of what the prophets, oracles, and sophist lawyers said, and some things we should do, regardless of what the prophets, oracles, and lawyers said. This is still the faith of America and American law.

The sophistry of Heraclitus was so influential that Christianity adopted it nearly whole cloth merely because the religion was forged in the Greek language. 150 years after Jesus, church father Justin Martyr acknowledged that Christianity was part and parcel with the reasonable monotheism of the Logos.  He wrote in First Apology, chapter 26:

“We have been taught that Christ is the first-born of God, and we have declared above that He is the Logos of whom every race of men were partakers; and those who lived according to the logos are Christians, even though they have been thought atheists; as, among the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus, and men like them. . .”

Augustine had a similar opinion. He wrote in his Retractions: 

For what is now called the Christian religion existed even among the Ancients and was not lacking from the beginning of the human race until “Christ came in the flesh” (cf. 1 John 4:2; 2 John 1:7). From that time, true religion which already existed, began to be called Christian.

Heraclitus, like the Christian theologians that followed him, saw that men naturally lack experience with the Logos, they were born in the darkness and often cannot see the light of the Logos even when it was obviously in front of them. Most were too busy playing the complicated games that the gods made them play rather than to sit quietly and logically contemplate the way things were. They could not hear or see the Logos because they were preoccupied with the various brands of nomos that each of the gods stood for.  In a more familiar vernacular: he recognized that men cannot hear the Word because they have become obsessed with the Law.

Heraclitus himself did not seem to have access to Christian joy. After recognizing that the gods did not rule, he refused to play any of their games, and — according to legend — after writing his philosophy, he spent the rest of his days in isolation in the wilderness, weeping for the world, and consuming only herbs and grass.  Twenty-five centuries later, his is the faith of the sophisticated classes who have abandoned ancient faiths and claim to live by the same logic that guided Heraclitus. This is still the faith of the upper-middle-class, who also seems to share Heraclitus’ path to disaffected despair, and organic food.

John’s first verse reads like a conscious answer to Heraclitus, as an answer to the dense philosophical riddles that made the Greek thinker famous.  It immediately tells the reader that the Gospel does not ignore the most profound thinking that came before it. It begins the story where Heraclitus left off by making the astounding claim that there was a man that revealed the Word itself.

— More later. . .

The difference between the Mormon and the traditional Christian worldviews. 

By the “world”, I mean absolutely everything. (By “worldview” I mean any consistent way of talking about absolutely everything.)

The traditional Christian contends that there are quite many things that can be said about absolutely everything.

Joseph Smith’s view entails that there is no single way of talking about absolutely everything.

The Gospel to a five-year-old – Part 2

I tried this once before, but — as was obvious in the long, rambling –– I overshot the intended audience by quite a few years.   Here is another attempt at translating the Gospel into language a contemporary young deist — like a kindergartner — could understand:

God is the mysterious source of all things.  God is the source of the orderliness of the universe, including the law of right and wrong.  We cannot say anything coherent about the nature of God, because it is necessarily incomprehensible, but we posit that there is a source that injected order into the chaos of simple matter that is the universe.  We can prove this source “exists” because there is order and not chaos.

This law is “written in our hearts” — i.e., we understand the law in our bodies and brains through our intuition, conscience, and culture.   When we violate the law we are guilty.  Guilt exists when facts of our choices do not fit the pattern of the law.

Logic dictates that guilt is a state that does not go away on its own because: (1) the facts do not change, (2) the law does not change, and (3) guilt is a simple relationship between the facts and the law.   Guilt persists even when an punishment is inflicted. Some of us feel guilt when we violate the law, others don’t . But guilt is independent of the feeling.

When people are conscious that their choices are not in compliance with the law in their hearts they either (1) deny guilt, (2) deny the importance of the law in their hearts, or (3) admit guilt. The first two options lead to injustice, cultural disintegration of the law, and dishonesty.  The third option can lead to a state of self hatred and sorrow in most people, described as “hell”.  Christians recognize that some people are conscious that they are in hell now, but some are not conscious of hell in this life.  But logic dictates that if existence of an individual actor is eternal, guilt and the resulting hell are also eternal.

Experiencing “salvation” is the consciousness that comes from self honesty, admitting guilt, and — in doing so — recognizing that the source of the law has erased this guilt through the mysterious fact of Christ. This consciousness precipitates a state of joy often called “grace”.

The fact of Christ has a redeeming relationship with all guilt.  Christ is available to all persons —  the wicked and the righteous — just like the sun and the rain.  Because the fact of Christ is an infinite fact that exists outside of experience, sort of like a numerical constant, the fact of redemption does not depend on any particular behavior, compliance with the law, or state of mind.

The fact of Christ is the meaning of the phrase “the love of God”.

Following Christ is acting in grace — i.e. admitting guilt, experiencing redemption, and letting our will bend to the law —  and having faith that this will lead to an abundance of life that is worth living.

J.K. Rowling Has Apologized For Another ‘Harry Potter’ Death, And Rightly So

Jared C:

This phenomena fascinates me endlessly. The magic of stories can’t help but spill over into real life.  Rowling feels guilty for making up the stories, because she empathizes with the characters as much or more than the fans.

Originally posted on UPROXX:


Harry Potter death spoilers abound in this one, in case you still haven’t seen the movies or read the books and were planning to.

At some point, J.K. Rowling started to realize that the creative decisions she made in Harry Potter as far as “conflict” goes actually broke some hearts, perhaps even physically. She’s even started issuing some public apologies for the grief she’s caused, most recently concerning the death of Florean Fortescue. But she’s now apologizing for one character death that she says was the “worst” for her to deal with herself, that of Fred Weasley. If you ask me, that’s an apology that was a long time coming. Here is what Rowling said on Twitter:

When asked about other…

View original 179 more words

The challenge of keeping the Gospel simple

In the last discussion, Slowcowboy questioned whether we can over-think the Gospel.  It seems like those that struggle with understanding what Christians are trying to say overly complicate the questions and often seem to confuse themselves.  I agree completely. However I find that the way most people explain the Gospel involves extremely complicated concepts and relationships of facts.  This is especially true when they try to put the Gospel into a simple formula.  Putting the Gospel into simple words is not the same thing as thinking in the simple way that opens up the mind and heart to the salvation that Jesus was talking about.

Some attempt to convey the Gospel by teaching children to sing and believe that “Yes, Jesus loves me!” But the phrase “Jesus loves me” is as indecipherable to most as the equation E=mc^2.  I trust that the relationship between energy and mass that Einstein discovered is trustworthy, but I couldn’t coherently explain it to a trained physicist.  Similarly I could not explain “Jesus loves me” in a way that would make the phrase coherent and relevant to many non-Christians (I still don’t think the phrase is coherent).  My lack of a satisfying explanation does not make “E=mc^2” any less “true”. Likewise the fact that I cannot explain “Jesus loves me” in a coherent way doesn’t make the Gospel any less true. But if a person does not get a satisfying explanation the words will have no effect on the way they see the world.

My guess is that if I asked the average Christian what “Jesus loves me” means I would never be satisfied with the answers given because the words they would choose to describe what they meant are muddled and packed with assumptions that I cannot honestly make. This does not mean the words are not true, but just that they will always sound like irrelevant nonsense if they do not have a satisfying conceptual foundation.

Practically nobody has any idea what E = mc^2 actually means in relation to their experience. Only very few humans have ever really experienced the truth of the E = mc^2, even though it is universally recognized as the “truth”. This is probably why it took so long to discover it.  I think the experience of redemption can be as elusive and difficult for some to grasp, this is probably why it took so long for humans to discover.

At some point in my life I understood “Jesus loves me” and “God loves me”, my guess is I understood them in much the same way that most Evangelicals and Mormons do. But experience, education, and reflection changed the way I think about things so much that these phrases became nonsensical. To make matters worse, I had lost touch with the actual experience of the “love of God”. It was all completely hidden. The Gospel or the Good News is the pattern of thought that wakes me up to the experience of the love of God in the way that Jesus was attempting. Before my conversion, I heard and understood the ramifications of the Good News, and I understood the complex symbology used to convey it. I understood E=mc^2, but did not see the light of salvation.

The good news for me was that salvation was more clearly and forcefully conveyed with something as simple as 1+1=2. I had to forget the complexities of E=mc^2 and think more simply (child-like) for the words of the Gospel to satisfy my mind and open up my eyes.

Gospel Analogies

I have been trying to come up with good metaphors and analogies to help my kids get the Gospel better. I find that it seems to work a helluva lot better than using philosophy:

The Good News is that salvation is the sun in the sky, not a distant star found by following the map of the law.

The Good News is that life is not a test, it is a art show. The choice we have as artists is between letting the image of God inside us shape our works of art or rejecting all order for our own style and inspiration. Our works will be interesting to many, but Christianity teaches us that only God’s works will be glorious in the end.

The Good News is salvation is 1+1=2 not E=mc^2.

The Good News is that salvation is an easy answer, not a tricky question.

The Good news is that salvation is pure joy, not mere contentment.

The Good News is that we don’t have to know anything to see salvation, we simply have to open our eyes and look.

I would love to hear any critiques of any of these analogies, and — especially — any analogies that have helped you understand or explain the Gospel.