definition: par•a•digm (pār'ə-dīm', -dĭm')

3. A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them, especially in an intellectual discipline.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004.

Statement of Purpose

The purpose of this blog is four-fold:
to recognize that every person functions within a basic paradigm, which affects how all information is processed;
(2) to understand the paradigms of others;
(3) to discuss, in particular, paradigms which are related to science, religion, and philosophy.

(4) to reveal the paradigm shifts in my own life, a process that has completely changed the direction and purpose of my existence.

The purpose of this blog is NOT to convince anyone that their paradigms or beliefs are correct or incorrect. I am hoping for an honest dialog, but the discussions must remain respectful of others, even if there is profound disagreement. If any comments are not respectful, they will be removed.
(Revised 1/13/09)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Bible as the Word of God and a Manual for Modern Living

Christians in many (if not most) denominations believe that the authors of the books of the Bible were inspired by God to write every word that they put down. Thus, it was not men or men's opinions that were recorded in the Bible, but the Word of God Himself. An argument that is sometimes proposed against this belief is that it was men who decided which books would be included in the Bible, and in what order. The arrangement of the books is called the canon. Many theologians have extensively studied the subject of the canon and how the books were chosen. There were very definite criteria by which the various books were recognized as being divinely inspired. A good discussion of this topic is found at It is called "The Bible: The Holy Canon of Scripture" and was written by J. Hampton Keathley, III , Th.M.

For those of us who believe that the Bible is truly the Word of God, it is difficult to explain to the skeptic why we believe something just because the Bible says that it is true. The skeptic cannot conceive of how someone can have that kind of faith in a book written by fallible human beings.
To quote the apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (NKJV):
"18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
19 For it is written:
“ I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” [cf Isaiah 29:14]
20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom;
23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men."

For believers in the divinely inspired, inerrant Bible, the following passage merely corroborates what we already knew:
"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." 2 Timothy 3:16 (NKJV)

A source of disagreement among Christians of certain denominations, is the concept of societal "norms" dictating how the Bible should be interpreted. Considering what God says about Himself, there is no reason to think that what He says are right and wrong should change, just because customs change.

"God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?"Numbers 23:19 (NIV)

“ 'For I am the LORD, I do not change.' "Malachi 3:6a (NKJV)

My personal belief is that the Bible is the only completely trustworthy authority on how to live a life pleasing to God. Since the primary focus on my life is to develop a relationship to God through Jesus Christ, then the Bible is my manual for living.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Re-Focus -- Paradigm Shifts

Sometimes a message at church is so thought provoking that I feel the urge to share it with other people. This morning, I heard one of those messages.* The topic was about how easy it is to get stuck in patterns of looking at things--paradigms, as it were. We get used to how we view life and it is very difficult step out of our patterns (or paradigms) and take a fresh view of a situation. It is particularly hard to do this during the rough times in life. Nevertheless, it is possible to retrain the brain--to refocus on different ways to view problems.

Where do you turn in the rough times, when you see absolutely no way out of the situation you are in? Sometimes the answer is right in front of our face! Take a look at the passage that was the illustration for today's message: 2 Kings 6:8-18 [see full text, below]. The young man in this passage had gone to bed, confident in the prophet Elisha's ability to warn him of danger. Lo and behold, he woke up to the sight of an entire enemy army surrounding them. He was understandably upset, because he could not see a way out. He was depending upon his own resources and understanding instead of turning to God. His response was to say to Elisha, "Oh, sir, what will we do now?" Elisha, who was more mature in his understanding of the ways of God, replied to the terrified young man, "Don't be afraid, ... for there are more on our side than on theirs." Now, logic would have said to this young man, "Oh, really?!--There are only you and I and yet you tell me that there are more on our side than on theirs!" Elisha knew that the young man would be unable to understand what he meant unless the "eyes" of his understanding were opened, so he prayed to God for the young man to see the enormity of God's resources. When the youth saw the vast army, with its chariots of fire (roughly equivalent to massive tanks, in present day understanding), he was no longer afraid, but his natural human response was to ask Elisha if he should kill thir enemies. “Of course not!” Elisha replied. “Do we kill prisoners of war? Give them food and drink and send them home again to their master.” The conclusion of the story is that the armies of God were never even used. Nobody died. Instead, they fed their enemies and sent them home. The last verse states that, "after that, the Aramean raiders stayed away from the land of Israel." What an ending!

=> Consider focusing on a new way to view the tough times, when victory seems impossible.

*To watch a video of this message, go to and click on "Teachings." The message from Sunday is usually available by the end of the day on Monday.
2 Kings 6:8-23 (New Living Translation) (Bold type is used for emphasis--mine)

Elisha Traps the Arameans

8 When the king of Aram was at war with Israel, he would confer with his officers and say, “We will mobilize our forces at such and such a place.” 9 But immediately Elisha, the man of God, would warn the king of Israel, “Do not go near that place, for the Arameans are planning to mobilize their troops there.” 10 So the king of Israel would send word to the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he would be on the alert there.
11 The king of Aram became very upset over this. He called his officers together and demanded, “Which of you is the traitor? Who has been informing the king of Israel of my plans?”
12 “It’s not us, my lord the king,” one of the officers replied. “Elisha, the prophet in Israel, tells the king of Israel even the words you speak in the privacy of your bedroom!”
13 “Go and find out where he is,” the king commanded, “so I can send troops to seize him.”
And the report came back: “Elisha is at Dothan.” 14 So one night the king of Aram sent a great army with many chariots and horses to surround the city.
15 When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir,
what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha.
16 “
Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” 17 Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire [of the Lord's armies of heaven].
18 As the Aramean army advanced toward him, Elisha prayed, “O Lord, please make them blind.” So the Lord struck them with blindness as Elisha had asked.
19 Then Elisha went out and told them, “You have come the wrong way! This isn’t the right city! Follow me, and I will take you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to the city of Samaria.
20 As soon as they had entered Samaria, Elisha prayed, “O Lord, now open their eyes and let them see.” So the Lord opened their eyes, and they discovered that they were in the middle of Samaria.
21 When the king of Israel saw them, he shouted to Elisha, “My father, should I kill them? Should I kill them?”
22 “Of course not!” Elisha replied. “Do we kill prisoners of war? Give them food and drink and send them home again to their master.”
23 So the king made a great feast for them and then sent them home to their master.
After that, the Aramean raiders stayed away from the land of Israel.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Why a Literal Death & Resurrection of Jesus Christ?

A cornerstone of Christian doctrine it the literal death and resurrection of Jesus Christ--fully human and fully God—as a propitiation for the sin of humanity—past, present, and future—and available simply (and only) by believing God's promise of salvation and eternal life through Christ, the “Holy One” of the Old Testament, and the “Word” of the New Testament. The full doctrine is this:

(A) Human beings can never be free of sin on their own, and thus,
(B) ... are deserving of death (instead of everlasting life).
(C) Because God the Father must turn his face away from sin, it is impossible for people who are sinners to approach God on their own merits.
(D) In order to atone for the imperfect (sin) nature of humans, God came to earth as the man Jesus, to be fully God and fully human, and to live a sinless life,
(E) ... so that he could die a sinner's death as a substitutionary death for the sin of humanity.
(F) The atonement is "free" if the person acknowledges the sin and the need for atonement and identifies with the death of Jesus the Christ (messiah).
(G) The physical, literal resurrection of Jesus, to eternal life, allows the person who identified with His death also to identify with (and to achieve) His eternal life.

There are numerous scripture passages that elucidate this foundational doctrine. Those that I think highlight the essentials of the doctrine are included below, along with the letter of the sub-doctrine indicated above. I include references from the Old Testament, written long before the birth of Jesus, and from the New Testament—which includes the four Gospels, which recount the life and teachings of Jesus while he was on earth, and the epistles and books that were written long after Jesus' death and resurrection.


(A) Humans are sinful:
Psalm 14:2-3 (Old Testament)
The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
They have all turned aside,
They have together become corrupt;
There is none who does good,
No, not one.
Ecclesiastes 7:20 (Old Testament)
For there is not a just man on earth who does good
And does not sin.
(B) The penalty of sin is death:
Genesis 2:16-17 (Old Testament)
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Ecclesiastes 12:14 (Old Testament)
For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil.
Romans 5:12-13
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.
Romans 6:23a
For the wages of sin is death....
Leviticus 1:4 (Old Testament)
Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.
(C) God turns away from sin and sinners:
Isaiah 59:2 (Old Testament)
But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
And your sins have hidden His face from you,
So that He will not hear.
Deuteronomy 23:14 (Old Testament)
For the LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp...; therefore your camp shall be holy, that He may see no unclean thing among you, and turn away from you.
Isaiah 64:5b-6a,7b (Old Testament)
You are indeed angry, for we have sinned—
In these ways we continue;
And we need to be saved.
But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; ...
For You have hidden Your face from us,
And have consumed us because of our iniquities.
(D) Christ (Jesus), the Word or Right Hand of God, was present before the world began, created the world, and later came to earth as the Light of the world, fully human and fully God:
John 1:1-4,10-12,14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
In Him was life, and the life was the light of men....
He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.
He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name....
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
1 John 5:7
For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.
(E) Jesus, through His death, is the perfect atonement for the sin of humanity:
Isaiah 53:5 (Old Testament)
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
Hebrews 9:11-12
But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.
Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.
Hebrews 10:10b-12,14
we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.
But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, ...
For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
(F) Who is eligible for forgiveness through Jesus' atonement?:
Romans 10: 9-10,13
that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation....
For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”
John 3:16-17
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
(G) Why is the resurrection necessary? (Why not just the atoning sacrifice?):
(See for an excellent discussion of this.)
1 Corinthians 15:13-15
But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen.
And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.
Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise.
He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
1Peter3: 18
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,
[Note: All scripture passages included here are taken from the New King James Version of the Bible. There are many excellent, accurate translations. I happen to like this one, personally.]

Monday, January 19, 2009

Are Christianity and Science Mutually Exclusive?

Recently, someone asked me if I didn't think Christianity and science were mutually exclusive because of where one puts one's faith. The reason for this is that the scientific method starts from doubt (although it yields measurable results), whereas complete faith is the absence of doubt. There is also the question of whether God Himself affects the results of scientific inquiry. (See I replied that I did not agree that Christianity and science were mutually exclusive, and that I would expound upon the topic on a blog post. [Editing note- 1/20/09: Please see the "comments section" for clarification of what Tom Usher actually meant. He meant "in terms of where one puts one's faith"--not "because of where one puts one's faith." This important distinction is explained in Tom Usher's response.]

First, I think one has to establish how one views science itself and what it can and cannot do. I do not agree with an "either-or" approach to science and faith--that one seeks to explain things by using the scientific method OR by consulting God or the Bible. I think one can do both. I grew up in a scientific household. My father, mother, sister, and aunt all have advanced degrees in scientific fields. I majored in chemistry in college and then went to veterinary school. I am now a practicing veterinarian. All I am trying to show by this, is that everyone around me was immersed in the "Scientific Method." It is very easy, as a scientist, to think that all mysteries are inherently "solvable" with the "scientific method." I certainly used to think that. That was before I realized that there are many things in the universe that are not measurable.

I think that it was about 15 - 20 years ago that I got interested in something called Quantum Mechanics. To make a long story short, what I learned completely changed my attitude toward science. I learned that there are inherent uncertainties about matter on the sub-atomic level. For example, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle states that it is not possible to measure both the momentum and exact position of a subatomic particle simultaneously. It has also been shown that light (which the average person thinks of as pure energy) has both wave-like and matter-like characteristics. Essentially, I began to realize, that things are not always what they seem. This upended my concept of reality. It was a few years later that I became interested in the things of God. That part of the story is for another day, but suffice it to say that the more I studied science and God from this new perspective, the more science began to look like God and God began to look like science. Hmmmm....

Anyway, here is why I think science and the scientific method are compatible with a deep faith in God (and in both His power and character). As God created the universe and the life within it, He set up all the systems to be compatible, down to the subatomic level. This would include all the laws of physics and mathematics, as we know them. Now, if God had done all this creating and then took the hands-off approach, I would certainly expect that science would eventually be able to solve most things in the measurable universe. However, because I believe that God is intimately involved with the day-to-day affairs of our lives, there are times that the "laws of nature" might have to be influenced, as it were. I believe that God wants us to see His power without scaring us or overwhelming us. We humans like things to be predictable. That is why God's influences are generally very subtle, and in keeping with the natural laws that He set up.

Science can answer only so much, however. It cannot explain the beginning of time or the concept of infinity; nor can it prove or disprove spiritual beings like angels. The fact that something may not make sense in the scientific realm, however, does not mean that it cannot be true. When something does not make sense to me, I assume that either I don't have enough personal knowledge to explain it or that God will eventually reveal the answer to me (even if it is after I leave this life).

I think that it is important to keep our eyes, ears, and spirits open to the natural realm AND to the spiritual realm. Only then will we be truly wise.

Note: I am including some scriptural passages that illustrate and support what I said above. Following these are some references for what I wrote about quantum mechanics.

1-On Faith: Hebrews 11:1,3 (NKJV)
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.... By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

2-On Faith & Doubt & Wisdom: James 1:5-7 (NKJV)
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.

3-On Obtaining Complete Knowledge in Eternity: 1 Corinthians 13:8b-12 (NKJV)
...Whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then [when that which is perfect has come, we will see] face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know [completely] just as I also am known.


For an introduction to Quantum Mechanics, see:
For more on the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, see: and
For more on the wave-particle duality of light, see:

Sunday, January 18, 2009

As Inauguration Day Approaches, Thoughts About War and God

"...In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time. In the present ... war it is quite possible that God's purpose is something different from the purpose of either party -- and yet the ...[people involved], working just as they do, are ... best ...[suited] to effect His purpose. I am almost ready to say that ... God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet. By his mere great power, on the minds of the now contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the ...[enemy] without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And, having begun, He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds."

Hmmmm..... The man who wrote this is someone who Barack Obama admires very much. The "people" and "the enemy" have been changed, in order to show how the author's words are timeless. Do you know who the author is?


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Revision of Purpose

...Well, maybe it is not a revision--more like an expansion. My goal in setting up this blog was to encourage honest dialog between different faiths and philosophies, so that people of widely different beliefs could understand one another. I have been continually amazed by the power of an individual's life-paradigm. My hope was to encourage us to see how our own paradigms influence the way we think about everything. Instead, virtually all the comments on my posts have been geared toward the promotion of the paradigm of the individual commenter, rather than trying to understand the paradigms of others. That essentially silenced any discussion of my own paradigm and how it has changed so dramatically since my early years. Therefore, my own contributions to this blog will now have a different purpose. Rather than posting about the faiths and philosophies of others, I will now discuss my own. I want to show how my early paradigm developed, why that paradigm eventually was no longer applicable, and how a paradigm shift occured, bringing me to where I am today. I welcome comments from others, although I would like all contributers to reread the Statement of Purpose at the beginning of this blog.