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Madden Points

What if there was a theory that explained the way people are?  What if this theory just happened to borrow heavily from a popular video game franchise?  Well, if such a theory existed it would probably be called, The Madden Customization Theory, and it would probably blow your mind.  I’m not sure if John Madden’s video games were the first to introduce the concept of character customization, but they were certainly one of the earliest and most popular.  It is possible that some of you don’t know what I am talking about.  You’ve never played a video game, or you’ve never had the experience of customizing a virtual character.  Do not fret, explanations are coming.

We don’t have any control over when we’re born, who we’re born from, or even if we’re born at all.  It’s really a sobering truth if you give it the thought time it merits.  There is an infinity that came before you, and one way or another there is an infinity after you.  If that’s not humbling enough, some really smart people believe that you don’t even have free will in this brief life.  Either your circumstances, or genes, or God determine your every choice from cradle to grave.  Wow, that’s a lofty concept, and I’m willing to bet humanity was never meant to fully understand it.  Regardless, it is important to recognize these philosophical and religious concepts of time, will and eternity if we are going to have a foundation for this incredible theory.

In the above image you see numbers and categories. The numbers, or points, range from 0 to 100, with 100 representing the maximum skill in that particular category.  Aaron Rodgers is a real football player, so his statistics have been set by the programmers of the game.  The custom character screen is similar, except that you can choose how to disperse the points.  So if I wanted a player to be fast, I could put most of the points in the category of speed.  The catch is that you’re only given so many points to spread around.  You have to decide what kind of player you want him to be.  Sacrifices must be made.  Priorities must be set.

What if we had the ability to somehow determine the kind of people we would be, before we were even born?  It would only be fair that each of us would have the same number of “points” to disperse as we deemed appropriate.  So, if I wanted to be book smart I could put points towards that, and might have to sacrifice some athletic ability.  Or, if a woman wanted to be more attractive she could overload her points in the beauty column and sacrifice common sense.  It is a rare person who excels in most categories.  For many of us, there are clear strengths and weaknesses, which often appear to be random.  The Madden Customization Theory offers an explanation to account for the big guy without a brain and the scrawny guy with an I.Q. of 150.  We all had the same number of points, but we all have different priorities.

The Madden Customization Theory probably wouldn’t stand up to rigorous scrutiny from serious thinkers, but I’m willing to bet it struck a chord with you.  It’s appealing to imagine that somewhere in a time long ago we had the power to choose who we would become.  Maybe the best aspect of this theory isn’t what it assumes about the past, but what it says about the future.  We are largely the result of our priorities.  It matters who we want to become.  That’s how real characters are created.

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Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted

This is the Assassin’s Creed. 

(If you’re going to play this game someday, read no further.  This is full of spoilers)

Assassin’s Creed is a popular video game series avaliable on XBox 360.  I recently completed the second game in the series, and I must say that it is very good.  It takes place in 15th century Italy, and follows the journey of a young man who quickly unravels an incredible conspiracy.  In short, humans are the byproduct of an advanced alien race that made us by manipulating ape DNA.  We were originally made to serve them, but there was a revolt and “Adam and Eve” stole a piece of technology called a “Piece of Eden”.  This technology, resembling a golden apple, has the power to manipulate people and basically rule the world.  Powerful Christians have used the technology to convince the world to believe in Jesus Christ  as a means of controlling the masses.  A group of freedom fighters, an Order of Assassins who know the truth, have stood against them for centuries.  The main character in the game actually kills the Pope, who is portrayed as the most evil and power hungry villain in the entire story.  That’s the story in a nutshell. 

Believe it or not, I’m not going to talk about how offensive that story is to the name of Jesus Christ, or the men and women throughout history who have sacrificed everything in the name of their faith in Him.  No, I’m not. 

 This is what I’m going to talk about. 

That disclaimer appears at the beginning of the game.  It is meant to put you at ease since the game could offend your beliefs.  The point is to assure you that no one group of people or religion is behind what you’re about to experience.  Everyone believes something different, so don’t you fret about what’s coming.  In a sense, they are capturing the essence of the Assassin’s Creed itself, which reads “Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted.”  Since we are not holding to one truth (we all believe different truths) we are allowed to say and do whatever we want.  Isn’t that interesting? 

Here’s the problem. 

Any project or creative work of any significance is governed by something beyond those who work on it.  There is an overarching purpose, or a core philosophy binding the work together.  For instance, George Orwell had something in mind about human nature and politics when he wrote Animal Farm.  The workers in a condom factory may not believe in birth control, but they are helping to create an end-product with the purpose of preventing pregnancy.   A liberal actor may play a part in a movie that expresses conservative values.  No matter who works on something like a movie or a video game, they are getting behind a certain type of worldview.  Purpose is needed to bring various random purposes together, or else the creative product would have no significant value.  Even if the point was to express that there were no truths, that is a work governed by a particular purpose, and an expression of a greater truth.  There’s no escaping it.  It is not legitimate to say that people of different faiths worked on this project, so it doesn’t mean anything.  It simply means that those behind the creation aren’t being honest about what governs their creative processes. 

Artists interpret the world and shape their work, which in turn shapes the world.  Never let anyone tell you that art isn’t important.  Art is of supreme importance because it has the power to reveal and skew the truth of our reality. 

Don’t be fooled by the lie of relativism.

Gods of Truth

Said Pontius Pilate in the presence of Jesus Christ, “What is truth?”

If truth exists, we can’t alter it.  If we don’t believe in something that is true, it remains just as true as it would be if we believed in it wholeheartedly.  Many people don’t believe what I just wrote.

There are nearly seven billion people in the world today.  Each has a unique perspective and personality.  Each views and understands their world differently.  Does this mean that there are billions of truths?

Ten people examine a purple ball.  Each will see the ball in a slightly different way.  Each may also experience a unique emotional response.  Does this change the ball?  Many would argue that it does.

Truth is a dangerous thing to boldly proclaim.  In fact, the only thing more dangerous is the denial of it.  Lies have killed many.  Truth has killed the rest.  Lies protect the mortal from the truth of death.  Truth protects the mortal from the cost of lies.  And the thing is, no matter how elaborately dressed we are in comforting lies, the truth is always there to strip us bare.

What truth can we all agree on?  How about, 2+2=4?  Or, the sun rises in the morning?  Well, what if someone disagreed with these and they had a really good explanation?  Dave, you see, the sun doesn’t actually rise in the morning since it is the Earth that is rotating.  It appears to us that it rises, and to us it is true that it does this in the morning, but the greater truth is that it remains relatively stationary while the Earth spins around and around.  And, about this 2+2 business, these numbers exist as part of a man-made system.  The numbers only have meaning because people gave them meaning.  Really, they are just like words.  The difference between scribbles and letters is meaning.  And meaning comes from us.  Not some grand truth.

Things that appear as simple truth can be broken down until the truth is skewed and complicated.  There was an ancient philosopher named Zeno.  Zeno is famous for developing a number of paradoxes.  There is one in which Achilles and a tortoise have a foot race, and Zeno shows that Achilles cannot win if the tortoise has a head start.  Every time Achilles reaches the point that the turtle was at, the turtle has moved ahead.  It’s weird.  But the one I want to look at involves an arrow.  Imagine that there is an arrow being shot at a target.  Now, consider that the arrow must first travel halfway between the starting point and the target in order to move.  And before it reaches that point it must first reach the halfway point between the start and the halfway point.  (Read that again)  This is reduced many times to show that the arrow is in fact motionless.  Of course, Zeno knew and we know that this isn’t the case, but his paradox reveals how absurd conclusions can be reached when truth is inserted into a system of understanding.

Many of us are ready to accept certain things as truth.  We accept that our bodies require food in order to survive.  We accept that red blood cells carry oxygen.  We accept that the sun can blind us if we stare into it.  But what about the things you can’t see or touch?  What about beliefs?  What about things like faith, hope, and love?  Does some ultimate truth contain these things as well?

I have heard it said more than once, “I’m not going to hell because I don’t believe it exists.”  I’m not going to preach fire and brimstone (at least not now).  Instead, I want you to really look at that statement.  What’s implied is that belief supersedes truth.  Belief takes the place of truth.  By not believing in something, it no longer exists.  If I knew this as a kid I would have told my parents, “I’m not going to school because I don’t believe in it.”   And this also works the other way.  Someone might say, “I’m going to Heaven because I believe in it.”  Just as you’ve given yourself the power to destroy truth through belief, you also give yourself the power to create it.  The power to create and destroy worlds is at the disposal of those who believe in relative truth, or a truth determined by the beliefs of the individual.

The thing about truth is that it tends to lead to God.  If I were working to remove God from my thoughts and conscience, I would probably start with my philosophy on truth.  To accept that there is no ultimate truth in the universe, which seems to be the current trend, does wonders for a guilty conscience.  It removes the threat of eternal consequence for opposing the truth.  It seems tolerant and non-judgmental.  It appears to free the heart and mind to choose its own path.  This reminds me of something…

” Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,  but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman.  “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.  Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” (Genesis 3:1-10)

I was naked; so I hid.

What are the gods of truth wearing?

Are People Fundamentally Good or Evil?

I admit, sometimes I write about things that deserve much more explanation than a blog post.  These are things that have been discussed, studied, and debated for many centuries by individuals far more qualified than myself.  I acknowledge this.  How could I not?  Nevertheless, I believe it is still valuable to think and write about these deeper topics.  Just like you, I am the only one of me that ever was.  Who I am and what I have experienced have provided me with a unique perspective; even on unchanging truths.  With that being said, today I will explain my thoughts on the heart of mankind.

 

Good: morally excellent; virtuous; righteous; pious; right; proper; fit; genuine; not counterfeit; moral righteousness

Evil:  morally wrong or bad; immoral; wicked; harmful; injurious

 

I had an English professor that taught basically one thing, ambivalence.  Ambivalence is defined as having contradictory attitudes or feelings about something.  It is also a term that my professor used to describe people, who have the capacity to be good or evil at all times.  Imagine a murderer who volunteers in a soup kitchen.  He is not all bad and not all good.  We have all done good things and bad things, and we all know that everyone else has done both as well.  Certainly, ambivalence makes sense when attempting to identify the true nature of the human heart. And, it’s also a pretty safe position to hold.  You’re not really judging people for better or worse.  It’s really nothing to lose any sleep over.  Sometimes people are good, and sometimes people are bad.

I have also encountered people who believe in the ultimate good in humanity.  They believe that people genuinely desire to do good, but often times circumstance or any number of factors get in the way.  Perhaps someone has a mental or physical ailment that forces them to act out in apparently evil ways, but it is separated from their deeper self, which is good.  Or, poverty and hardships of various kinds compel people to commit seemingly evil acts in order to survive in the world.  When people’s needs are met, though, they tend to favor good and healthy behavior. This position needs some defending.  There is a mountain of evidence in the present and throughout history that people of all types perform evil acts even when they are not compelled by harsh conditions.  Consider how intentional the Nazis were in their plans.  Consider all of the powerful dictators and abusive relationships.  If people are mostly good, shouldn’t the world reflect that?  And finally, this position has the potential to diminish each individual’s personal accountability for their actions.  There will always be something outside of the individual’s will to blame for their actions.

What I believe is largely due to my own experience with myself and with the world, and, Jesus Christ.  To put it bluntly, I believe that all people are evil.  This may come as a shock.  It may not.  Either way, all I ask is for a brief moment to explain.

What we are talking about is the core of our selves.  The core of our identity, or heart, is the driving force behind our thoughts and our wills.  Jesus said, “No one is good–except God alone.” (Mark 10:18)   Paul the apostle wrote, “As the Scriptures say, ‘No one is righteous–not even one.’ ” (Romans 3:10)   King David in the Old Testament wrote, “God looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. Everyone has turned away, they have together become corrupt;  there is no one who does good,  not even one.” (Psalm 53: 2-3)  My point is that the Bible makes it clear that people are not good to the core, but evil to the core.

This may seem harsh, but it is important to check your standards for good.  Is evidence of your good nature doing something kind for someone else once in a while?  Or, is the evidence found in the majority of your thoughts and impulses and desires?  These internal things that lead to the majority of your actions.  Are you driven by a need to satisfy yourself?  Even an act that is good can have a selfish motive.  It might make you look good to other people.  It might make you feel better about something else you’re not proud of.  The truth is, most people are desperate to save face, and everyone has a price.  What evil would you do to save someone you love?  What is the thing that you treasure most?  What would you forsake to have it?

An honest Christian believes and understands that all of us are in the same state of evil outside of God.  I have seen what the world has to offer, and I bet you have too.  It’s not good enough to satisfy the deepest longings in me.  The only one who is good enough is the one who died for the sake of the world.

I’m willing to bet some of you have some thoughts on all of this.  I’d love to hear them.