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BibleGod: Discover His Character, by Bill Bright (1999)

Lorin Friesen, July 2013.

I recently read God: Discover His Character, written by Bill Bright in 1999, four years before his death. I have been examining the concept of God from a cognitive perspective, and I wanted to see how a prominent American evangelical Christian would approach the topic.

Bill Bright was the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, a Christian organization which now has more than 27,000 full-time staff and operates in 190 countries. He wrote the Four Spiritual Laws, a Christian evangelistic tract that may be the most widely distributed religious booklet in history with 2.5 billion copies printed, and produced the Jesus Film, which is likely the most-watched motion picture of all time. Thus, Bill Bright has been exceedingly successful in spreading the Christian message.

Bill Bright also played a major role in the development of the American Religious Right by convening a series of meetings with key Christian leaders in 1974. And, Bill Bright was one of the five co-signers of the 2002 ‘ Land Letter’, which used Christian arguments to encourage George Bush to attack Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Bright’s book about God is well written and theologically sound. Similarly, the Jesus Film is both historically and biblically accurate, the Four Spiritual Laws are a good summary of the Christian message, and Campus Crusade is one of the better Christian parachurch organizations. However, if one steps back to look at the big picture, one finds that the American Christian Right has morphed into what often appears more like a dysfunctional parody of Christianity. Many words have been written either promoting or denouncing the Religious Right. My primary motive is not to praise or condemn but rather to understand and hopefully change.

My general thesis is that the message of Christian doctrine is compatible with mental wholeness. I have just stated that Bill Bright and his organization are preaching accurate Christian doctrine. If this is true, then why is so much of the Religious Right heading in a direction of less mental wholeness? The typical secular individual associates the Christian message with the Religious Right. If the Christian message itself is good but the Religious Right is flawed, then the message needs to be saved from the messengers. Finally, if it is possible to know the Christian message accurately and still fail to benefit from the message, then it is imperative to understand what is happening in order to avoid following a similar path.

This essay will use Bill Bright’s book about God as a starting point for analyzing the two primary topics of God and American evangelical Christianity. I have suggested that a Christian concept of God emerges when the mind is fully developed. Bright describes the Christian concept of God. Therefore, we will look at the twelve major traits of God which Bright presents and analyze each of these traits in the light of mental symmetry. Bill Bright also was a prominent leader in evangelical Christianity. Therefore, the second part of this essay will attempt to analyze the recent history of American evangelical Christianity from a cognitive perspective.

God

Mental symmetry suggests that a concept of God emerges when a general theory in Teacher thought applies to personal identity in Mercy thought. This definition will be used to analyze all of the twelve traits of God mentioned in Bright’s book. A general theory that explains many items is sufficient to form an image of God, but the most potent concept of God emerges when a theory is able to explain all items. Developing a theory of everything is rather difficult, which is why I speak about a general theory rather than a universal theory. A general theory in Teacher thought will not cause a mental concept of God to emerge if this theory does not apply to personal identity. That is why science does not lead directly to a concept of God. Bt has theories but they are impersonal. A concept of God forms when a general theory touches personal identity.

Let us turn now to Bill Bright’s book about God. Bright devotes a chapter to each of the following attributes of God: omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, sovereignty, holiness, absolute truth, righteousness, justice, love, mercy, faithfulness, and immutability. In addition, each of these divine attributes are also applied to personal identity in a succeeding chapter. Thus, the chapter ‘God is All-Powerful’ is followed by the chapter ‘God Uses His Power in Our Behalf’ and so on. I have suggested that a concept of God requires a general theory in Teacher thought that applies to personal identity. Bright is doing exactly this by describing a universal attribute and then applying this attribute to personal identity, and he does this in the proper order by starting with the universal attribute and then describing the personal application. This tells us that Bright understands the difference between a general theory and a concept of God.

Mental symmetry suggests that collections of related emotional memories will combine to form mental networks which then function in an integrated manner. The mind represents people as mental networks within Mercy thought, because Mercy thought handles emotional experiences and people are essentially collections of related emotional experiences. Because people are represented as Mercy mental networks, the natural tendency is to assume that all intelligent beings are based in Mercy thought and to view God as a sort of superhuman being who is somehow like normal humans but different. However, both Mercy thought and Teacher thought function emotionally and mental networks can form in both Mercy and Teacher thought,

Teacher thought builds general theories guided by the emotion of order-within-complexity. When many items fit together in a simple way, then Teacher thought feels good. If a person continues to apply or investigate some general theory, then that theory will eventually turn into a Teacher mental network, just as bundles of related emotional experiences turn into Mercy mental networks. Mental symmetry suggests that all of the traits of a Christian God emerge naturally if a concept of God is based in a sufficiently general Teacher understanding.

If an image of God is based in general Teacher understanding, then the core attribute of God is universality. Bright begins his analysis of God by saying something similar. “How big is your God? Renowned theologian and Bible translator J. B. Phillips once wrote, ‘Your God is too small.’ By now you probably realize that this is a problem we all face. Truthfully, none of us can completely grasp the width, depth, complexity, or immensity of any part of God’s nature. But if we merely have a human-centered view of God we limit ourselves to only what we can accomplish through our self-efforts. Or we may think that He is just a little more intelligent, powerful, or wise than we are” (p.31).

A general Teacher theory uses a small set of statements to summarize the essence of a vast collection of specific items. The result is order-within-complexity. Applying this to a mental concept of God, it is impossible for a finite creature to completely grasp the vast complexity of an infinite being. However, it is possible for finite creature to grasp the essential characteristics of a universal being—to understand the order within the complexity. Bright states something similar, “Our God is so gloriously incomprehensible that our minds just cannot grasp the whole nature of God. Yet we must find some human way to understand God’s characteristics—at least in part. Four basic qualities of God are integral to each of His other attributes: His infinity, self-existence, eternal nature, and self-sufficiency” (p.33). Most of the Christian theologians that I’ve recently read seem to conclude that God is ultimately a mystery characterized by paradox, an attitude which makes learning impossible. Bright, in contrast, appears to be saying that the essential characteristics of God can be known with increasing accuracy.

Interpreting these four divine qualities from the viewpoint of mental symmetry, infinity tells us that we should base a concept of God in universality rather than specifics. Self-existence says that universal understanding inhabits a realm (Teacher thought) that is different than the realm occupied by finite humans (Mercy thought). Eternal indicates that a truly universal theory transcends space and time. And, self-sufficient means that general Teacher understanding should be regarded as the source for everything else. Mental symmetry agrees that these four basic qualities are fundamental for constructing an adequate mental concept of God.

Bright also recognizes that a mental concept of God possesses order-within-complexity. “All of us understand a little bit of how an automobile engine functions...The parts all work together harmoniously as part of the whole engine. That is the way God’s attributes function too. If you took away love, God’s character would not be complete. God’s love works with all other attributes, like His justice, to produce the right kind of results” (p.254).

Therefore, let us use mental symmetry to bring Teacher order-within-complexity to the divine traits mentioned by Bright.

Holiness

Bright uses fire to illustrate the trait of holiness. “They were called the Great Fires of 1988. That year, wildfires swept through 1.4 million acres of Yellowstone National Park...Winds as powerful as a tornado whipped the flames through the forest with the sound of a freight train, reducing trees to piles of white ashes and small charred spears on the blackened earth” (p.128).

He then applies this to the character of God. “Of all God’s attributes, nothing compares to the splendor and beauty of His holiness. It is chief among his attributes. That means His character is perfect in every way. He is totally pure. His moral excellence is the absolute standard of integrity and ethical purity for all within his universe” (p.130).

Divine holiness leads to divine wrath. “God is the absolutely pure and righteous being who abhors evil. He cannot tolerate any unrighteousness. Habakkuk 1:13 tells us, ‘your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong’” (p.133).

Divine holiness is contrasted with human inadequacy. “Over and over again, we set up our own standards of what ought to please God: ‘I deal fairly with people.’ ‘I do not abuse my wife or my children.’ ‘I give to the needs of others in the homeless ministry I support.’ ‘I’m a good neighbor.’ We slight the holiness of God when we think we can manage on our own. We fool ourselves when we assume that keeping the Golden rule will cover our sins. How ridiculous our standards are compared to His standards of righteousness” (p.134).

Bright adds that “God is very possessive of our affections. He warned the Israelites, ‘Do not worship any other gods beside me. Do not make idols of any kind...You must never worship or bow down to them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God will not share your affection with any other god!’ He alone has the right to occupy the throne of our heart. He is to be exalted to the highest place in our lives. Everything else must be of lower importance” (p.146). He then points out the idols of affluence, pleasure, achievement, infatuation, self-worship, and sensuality, stating that these “substitute gods usurp the worship and devotion that rightfully belong to our holy God. In reality, these idols can never fill the God-shaped vacuum within the heart of man” (p.147).

Notice Bright’s chain of logic. The divine trait is illustrated using an example from nature. The trait is then described using Christian language. Finally, human efforts involving this trait are shown to be inadequate. This type of logic works as long as people believe that God created the universe and accept the Bible as the word of God. But what happens when people believe that the universe evolved? The jump from natural example to divine attribute then becomes viewed as a non sequitur, akin to pointing out the splendors of some mansion upon a distant hill and then using this to demonstrate my wealth. In order for this to work, I must prove that I own the mansion. Moving further, in the same way that Roman law does not apply to Europe today, so today’s typical person views biblical laws as the standards of a bygone era.

The solution, I suggest, is to go from prescribing decrees to observing mechanisms. Bright does this to some extent at the concrete level of cause-and-effect. “In the secular world, many people believe that actions do not have consequences. If you want to have extramarital ‘safe’ sex, just use a condom. If you commit a crime, hire a good lawyer who can get you off on a technicality” (p.133).

Mental symmetry suggests that the divine traits of holiness, wrath, and rejection of idolatry actually reflect inescapable cognitive mechanisms. I have suggested that a mental concept of God emerges when a general Teacher theory applies to personal identity. A general Teacher theory is by nature holy, because it responds with emotional pain when encountering an exception to the general rule. A universal theory is even more holy because it insists that there are no exceptions to the rule. And, whenever a person works with a general theory, then like any collection of emotional memories, it will eventually turn into a mental network which will cause the theory to impose its structure whenever it is triggered.

For instance, the theory of mental symmetry has turned into a Teacher mental network in my mind, therefore I am emotionally driven to use this theory to explain the books that I read. The more universal the theory of mental symmetry becomes, the stronger the emotional drive to fit everything into this theory. In a similar manner, the scientist who studies the universal laws of nature is emotionally driven by Teacher thought to explain all of existence in terms of natural law. Thus, he is driven to protect the holiness of his God of nature by rejecting anything, such as miracles or a God of the Bible, which cannot be explained by natural law. In other words, the cognitive mechanism behind divine holiness can actually cause a person to reject belief in God. That is because what drives divine holiness is not the word ‘God’ or statements about God but rather the Teacher mental network of a general understanding.

An idol is simply an inadequate general Teacher theory. Theories can be inadequate for several reasons, but in all cases the result is the same. An inadequate theory limits a person’s world, because it demands that all of existence fit into its structure. Bright describes this behavior of feeling driven to live within a small world. “The spirit of greed has gradually transformed their value so that money is now their master.” “Sports fanatics cannot watch enough games.” “Their entire world revolves around that individual.” “Their life is preoccupied with beauty, fashion, and bodybuilding.” (p.147) In a similar manner, even natural law is an inadequate general Teacher theory because it can only handle physical existence. Thus, it is incapable of addressing question such as life-after-death.

Like any general theory, an inadequate general theory will also attempt to be holy. It cannot do this by explaining everything because it is inadequate. But an inadequate theory will feel holy if a person refuses to examine anything which the theory cannot explain. For instance, the scientist who believes only in empirical natural law will respond to the non-material by insisting that it does not exist. This does not prove that only physical reality exists, but it does preserve the feeling that natural law can explain everything.

A more subtle approach is to define anything outside of a general theory as worthless or meaningless. For instance, the tendency in academic circles is to regard any information that is not published in a peer-reviewed journal as worthless. Peer review does serve a useful purpose, but it can also be used to exclude any information that contradicts the current ‘universal’ theory thereby preserving the sense of holiness. The early Wittgenstein took a more elegant approach by claiming that any statement that was not made using the rigorous logic of philosophy was literally meaningless.

Whenever mental networks collide, there will be a power struggle and the winning mental network will force other mental networks to fit into its mold. Such a power struggle will occur when the Teacher mental network behind a concept of God encounters the Mercy mental networks of personal identity. One will be forced to conform to the other. The problem is that the mind of every child is based upon childish Mercy mental networks. First, childish identity seeks immediate gratification, because pleasant Mercy experiences form mental networks which express themselves as habits that want to be satisfied. Second, childish identity tries to block off painful experiences, because the mind can suppress mental networks that contain painful experiences by avoiding situations that trigger these mental networks. Third, each emotional situation creates its own mental network leading to a set of inconsistent desires. Fourth, mental networks are based upon the emotional experiences of the physical body and ignore what happens to other people or over the long term. One can see childish identity in operation by watching the behavior of any small child, or one can read about it by studying Jean Piaget’s stages of childhood development.

Because the mind of the child is built upon childish Mercy mental networks, when the childish mind attempts to learn universal theory, Teacher mental networks of general understanding will be emotionally forced to conform to childish Mercy mental networks of personal identity. In religious language, the mind that is ‘born in sin’ will naturally develop an inadequate concept of God.

Bright describes this emotional drive to create gods in our own image. “The problem we encounter in separating mercy and tolerance is that we live in an age where the majority of our society does not accept the idea of absolute truth. The Biblical concept of sin has been replaced by a demand for tolerance of any activity. Consequently, tolerance has replaced mercy, especially in government, schools, colleges, industry, and the media...What has happened? We have tried to reduce God to our size, to our standards, and what we feel He ought to be like. This makes us feel comfortable. Too often we want Him to respond like we would respond to sin and injustice. We want Him to accept us on our standards of behavior. Since we are tolerant and non-judgmental with other’s sins, we want everyone including God be tolerant with ours” (p.248).

A similar mental power struggle also occurs when general theories meet. The weaker theory will be emotionally forced to conform to the structure of the stronger theory, in the same way that a conquered king becomes a vassal of his conqueror. For instance, when the theory of evolution becomes regarded as a universal theory that explains personal identity, then feelings of ‘divine holiness’ will cause this theory to be applied universally without exception, and ‘divine wrath’ will be directed against any competing theories, such as the Christian concept of a creator God. Or, for a recent example, when individuals in an American (or British, or Chinese, or Russian) government agency acquire the ability to conduct universal surveillance upon people, then feelings of ‘divine holiness’ will motivate these individuals to apply this surveillance universally without exception, and ‘divine wrath’ will be directed at any who attempt to restrict this universality or believe in competing theories—such as the Constitution or the rule of law.

In other words, I suggest that we are dealing with an inescapable cognitive mechanism which will function whether one wishes it to or not. Christian doctrine may describe this mechanism, but it is a universal mechanism and not just a Christian mechanism.

And that, I suggest, describes the inherent weakness of the approach taken by Bill Bright in specific—and Protestant evangelicals in general. Bright is saying the right things for the wrong reason. As we shall see, his statements about the character of God make cognitive sense, because a mental concept of God that is based in a general Teacher theory will exhibit the traits that are mentioned by Bright. But, what happens if these traits are proclaimed without Teacher understanding? Whenever this proclamation about God meets a truly general theory, then the theory will win, not because it is more accurate, but because it is being stated as a general theory. I suggest that this describes the predicament of the modern evangelical church. The message that it proclaims is cognitively valid and universal, however because this message is being proclaimed and not described, whenever the evangelical church attempts to ‘convert’ some secular system, the secular system ends up ‘converting’ the church and squeezing the church into its mold.

In educational terms, I suggest that we are looking at the difference between rote learning and critical thinking. Critical thinking is guided by Teacher understanding, whereas rote learning is based upon Mercy status. Rote learning proclaims truth based upon the emotional status of some source; it says that the words of a textbook are true because they were written by an author who is An Expert and these words are taught by a teacher who is also An Expert. Evangelical Christianity is ultimately based in blind faith in the Bible; the final authority for the evangelical Christian is the Bible. Education begins with rote learning but leads to critical thinking. In our examination of the traits of God, I will attempt to demonstrate that the divine traits which evangelical Christianity proclaims—and Bright describes—emerge naturally when one adopts the viewpoint of critical thinking and bases a concept of God in a general Teacher understanding. I will also attempt to show that all of these traits become viewed in a skewed way when a Christian believer places blind faith in the Bible.

We have seen that holiness is a natural expression of a general Teacher theory. When emotional status in Mercy thought is used to define truth—the attitude of blind faith or rote learning—then the definition of holiness will change. Instead of viewing holiness as being an expression of a general Teacher theory, holiness will become redefined as being connected in some way with the Mercy source of truth. Therefore, anything or anyone that is connected with the Bible or the message of the Bible will be regarded as holy. Those who spread the message of the Bible, such as pastors, evangelists, or missionaries, will be regarded as holy, as will locations or events where the Bible is being taught. The result will be a distinction between religious and secular, with religious occupations and locations being regarded as closer to God than secular occupations and locations.

Verbally, Bright’s description of God’s holiness is theologically correct, but in practice, Bright makes a distinction between religious occupations and secular occupations. That is because Bright founded Campus Crusade for Christ, a religious parachurch organization dedicated to teaching the message of the Bible. I am not suggesting that either Bright or members of Campus Crusade practice only blind faith in the Bible. However, I am suggesting that the ultimate basis is blind faith and rote learning. I am also not suggesting that blind faith in the Bible is wrong. Rather, I am suggesting that it is a first step which needs to be followed by the second step of critical thinking. The problem arises when those who preach the Bible use more blind faith than those who do not believe in the Bible. When this happens, then those who preach the message will tend to become ‘converted’ by their audience rather than the other way around. That is because the application of cognitive mechanisms will always win over the proclamation of cognitive mechanisms.

Finally, I should emphasize that I am not suggesting that God only exists within the mind. If a Christian God of holiness and wrath really exists, then it is reasonable that such a God would be driven—by holiness—to enforce the concept of holiness and wrath with cognitive mechanisms. Even if a mental concept of God has no basis in reality, the believer in that God will still be driven by divine holiness and divine wrath to attempt to shape his world into a form that expresses his concept of God.

Omnipresence

Bright uses scientific technology to illustrate the concept of omnipresence. “In 1985 during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, my fellow staff members and I were involved in a conference televised simultaneously on every continent via 97 downlink locations. Using the newest satellite technology, I spoke from Seoul, South Korea, in the early morning hours while audiences around the world watched in their corresponding time zones. The following day, I traveled to Manila to speak at the televised conference...Although physically present in only one city at a time, I was present on television sets around the world. In every part of the globe people saw my face in full color” (p.61).

He then extends this to theology. “God is present everywhere at the same time. It’s not that he is physically present in one city and present by voice and picture in another city, as I was by the technology of electronics; he is present in the fullest sense everywhere at once...God’s ability to be present everywhere is called omnipresence. It means that there is not a sliver of space anywhere in the universe where he is not dynamically and powerfully present with all of his wonderful personal attributes” (p.62).

I have suggested that the attributes of divine holiness and divine wrath result from the emotional power of a Teacher mental network. However, a mental network does not function automatically. Instead it must first be triggered in order to be present. One sees this when dealing with habits. As long as a habit is not triggered, it will feel as if the habit is not present. If a universal theory truly is universal and can explain everything, then it will always be triggered, and it will act omnipresent. However, if a person teaches that God is omnipotent because this truth is contained within the Bible, then the concept of God’s omnipresence will only come to mind in situations that trigger the words of the Bible. Thus, God’s omnipresence will become a religious concept, which, by definition, is not omnipresent. In other words, if a person proclaims that God is omnipresent as a religious dogma, he will not believe that God is omnipresent. Even if one tries to ‘practice the presence of God’, his Brother Lawrence did, this will be an unnatural exercise that will probably require living in a restricted, religious environment. However, if a concept of God is based in universal understanding, then ‘practicing the presence of God’ will occur naturally for the simple reason that the concept of God applies everywhere.

For instance, the typical evangelical Christian does most of his thinking about God at church on Sunday. During the rest of the week, he spends most of his time acting and thinking as if God is not present. That is because, mentally speaking, his concept of God is not present, because the Teacher mental network behind his concept of God is not being triggered. A general theory will only be triggered in some area if it is first extended to that area. It may have the potential to be a universal theory, but this potential will only be realized if the theory is actually used to explain everything. Simply proclaiming universality is not enough.

Extending a general theory to new areas often involves translation. Evangelical Christianity has gone to great lengths to translate the words of the Bible into every known language. However, much less effort has been devoted to translating Christian concepts into the language of secular thought.

In contrast, when a situation is broadcast to television screens around the world, then, as Bright’s simulcast illustrates, there is a form of omnipresence, because the same image is being portrayed upon millions of screens. Thus, when the Christian believer uses mass media to proclaims that God is omnipresent, there will be a natural tendency for the medium to overshadow the message, because the medium exhibits omnipresence whereas the message only proclaims omnipresence.

Omniscience

Bright uses the explosion of secular knowledge to illustrate the divine attribute of omniscience. “Our knowledge base doubles every few years. College graduates often discover that what they learned in their many years of study quickly becomes obsolete due to this information explosion. Every day new discoveries change what we previously accepted as factual...To compensate for lack of knowledge, we are always trying to build a faster, smarter way to access knowledge. Some of today’s sophisticated supercomputers can perform nearly 32 billion calculations per second and can store a billion characters in their memories. They can do in one hour what it would take your desktop computer for years to perform” (p.84).

Bright then jumps from secular knowledge to Christian theology. “Theologians call God’s unlimited knowledge omniscience (all-knowing). Because God knows absolutely everything that can ever be known, he has never had to learn anything. He does not need a computer because all knowledge is instantly accessible to him and he remembers everything at all times. He is never bewildered or confused or perplexed. He never has to figure something out; everything is always absolutely clear to Him. Nothing ever surprises God; He is always completely aware of all events because he sees everything. Nothing ever turns out differently than He expected or planned” (p.85).

Notice that Bright is piling on adjectives in an attempt to convey the impression of God’s omniscience. But, as with omnipresence, I suggest that merely proclaiming the divine attribute is not sufficient.

If a mental network is always triggered, then it is omnipresent. Going further, if that mental network is associated with a universal Teacher theory that can explain everything, then this will result in the divine trait of omniscience.

When truth is based in blind faith in a holy book, then I suggest that the trait of omnipresence will become altered in two ways. First, God will tend to be viewed as a mystery. That is because rote learning lacks understanding and reveres the instructor. “I do not understand, but this is the way that I was taught. How can I understand it if I am not the teacher?” Rote learning is vulnerable. Suppose that the religious believer proclaims that God knows everything but then insists that the knowledge of God is a mystery that cannot be comprehended by humans. If the scientist comes up with a rational explanation, then the natural response will be to regard the scientist as the true expert and the religious believer’s proclamation of God’s omniscience as mere bluffing.

Second, a mental concept of God based in blind faith in a holy book will not include secular knowledge. That is because truth is being evaluated by its Mercy source. Whatever comes from the Bible is regarded as absolute truth, whereas secular knowledge is suspect because it comes from the ‘wrong source’. Because of this mental wall between religious and secular knowledge, there will be a gut feeling that God does not understand science or technology. Thus, there will be a tendency to fall into one of two extremes. If the goal is professionalism, then secular knowledge will tend to be used to the exclusion of biblical knowledge, whereas if the goal is to be biblical, then biblical quotes will tend to be followed to the exclusion of secular knowledge. What will be missing is a unified Teacher understanding together with the concept of omniscience, even if the doctrine of omniscience is still being proclaimed.

Going further, if a real God is anything like a Teacher-based mental concept of God, then I suggest that it is possible for an omniscient God to learn and to experience something new. Teacher thought can be used to build universal understanding, but a universal theory is limited in two ways. First, theory is different than practice. For instance, I may understand perfectly what it means to raise a family, but if I had never been a parent or spent time instructing children, then I may have perfect knowledge, but this knowledge has never been fleshed out. Similarly, even if an omniscient God knew everything about creation in advance, the act of creation would still add an experiential dimension to this omniscience. Second, general theories are stated in general terms, therefore even if a theory is fully understood, it is still possible to be surprised by specific details of this theory. This happens repeatedly to me with the theory of mental symmetry. On the one hand, this theory has survived 25 years of analysis largely unchanged. On the other hand, I keep finding myself surprised by new aspects of this theory.

Bright says something similar. “When we speak of God’s immutability, we are not speaking of a lack of variety. They are two separate things...Immutability and creativity are not the same either. Although God never changes, He is all-creative. Just think about how many different personalities He has created throughout the world... What does not change are the principles and the character that underlie the variety and creativity” (p.276).

Omnipotence

Bright uses the size of the universe to illustrate the omnipotence of God. “To get just a small idea of God’s creative power, let us consider the universe. We live on one of nine planets revolving around the sun. As the dominant light of our solar system, our sun gives off far more energy in one second than all mankind has produced since creation. With a diameter of approximately 860,000 miles, the sun could hold one million planets the size of the earth. Yet our sun is only an average size star” (p.43).

Bright then jumps from the universe to personal application. “Since nothing is too hard for God, we do not have a need too great for Him to meet nor a problem too complicated for him to solve. We can never face a foe too strong for Him to conquer. We can never pray a prayer to difficult for him to answer. His ways are always above our ways, and when we submit to his will, we experience peace and He builds patience into our lives. Our frailties in His hands become strengths” (p.57).

The traits of divine holiness and divine wrath show that a Teacher mental network has great emotional power, but in order to exhibit this power, the Teacher mental network must first be triggered in order to become present, and it must exhibit omniscience by being able to explain situations.

The power of a Teacher mental network is determined by the order-within-complexity of the underlying theory, just as the power of an absolute monarch is determined by the number of subjects under his domain combined with the extent of control that he has over each subject. For instance, the law of gravity is omnipotent because it applies without exception to all interactions between all particles in the universe. Thus, while the evangelical Christian may proclaim omnipotence, it tends to be the scientist who understands omnipotence.

Cognitively speaking, a mental network is omnipotent if it is always triggered and if it overcomes all other mental networks. That leads to two practical questions. First, how powerful is a person’s concept of God? The concept of a universal God has the potential of being omnipotent, but only if it is based in a Teacher understanding that demonstrates order-within-complexity and does not just proclaim it. Otherwise, belief in the omnipotence of God will fail when a person does encounter order-within-complexity.

For instance, consider the Arirang games of North Korea, in which thousands of gymnasts perform intricate movements in a synchronized manner while a backdrop of 30,000 schoolchildren create pictures by holding up colored pieces of cardboard. In the words of the Guardian article, “It is also a form of social control. Mobilising 100,000 people for months of training and performing keeps the population occupied and reinforces the impression of a strong state and a government firmly in control. One German observer whispered that it was frighteningly reminiscent of Hitler’s mass rallies. But Arirang is more than that. As well as being technically astonishing - one foreign defence official said the military drills were the best he had seen - it is emotionally compelling.” Thus, these massive synchronized displays are a way of demonstrating the omnipotence of the North Korean state. Is North Korea really omnipotent? Its economic and military power are quite limited. But, the psychological power which it exerts over its citizens is quite considerable.

For an example closer to home, consider the American government. Unlike North Korea, it has the world’s largest economy as well as the world’s most powerful armed forces and it is able to project this power to any point on the globe. Thus, the typical American Christian may say that he believes that God is omnipotent, but in practice, much of his thinking is guided by the implicit assumption of American power. As a result, when American evangelical Christianity tries to convert the American government, one sees many Christians being corrupted by the omnipotence of American government, but few government officials becoming convinced of the omnipotence of God. That is because the omnipotence of God is a doctrine that is being stated, while the omnipotence of the American government is a principle that is being demonstrated.

Second, if a person’s concept of God does not have the power to transform personal identity, then that person does not really believe that God is omnipotent. In religious language, this means that when I meet a holy God, then I fall apart, a process known as ‘dying to self’. Bright describes this process: “George Mueller, well-known for his great faith and ministry to orphans, was asked the secret of his fruitful service for the Lord. He said, ‘There was a day when I died...utterly died.’ As he spoke, he bent lower and lower until he almost touched the floor. ‘I died to George Mueller—his opinions, his preferences, tastes, and will—died to the world, its approval or censure—died to the approval or blame even of my brethren and friends—and since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God.’ Everyone I know who has been greatly used by God to the cause of Christ has gone through an experience of ‘dying to self’” (p.145).

When Christian belief is based in blind faith, then meeting God will always overwhelm personal identity because blind faith by its very nature uses emotional status to impose truth upon personal identity. In contrast, when the Teacher mental network of a general understanding meets Mercy mental networks of childish identity, then the result is to transform personal identity and not just overwhelm it. One can see the contrast between these two responses illustrated in the book of Revelation. At the beginning of the book, people are being overwhelmed by God and falling down in worship before the presence of God, while at the end of the book, people are living a transformed existence in the New Jerusalem in the presence of God.

It may seem futile to suggest that the emotional power of a concept of God can compete with the physical power of the state, however I suggest four reasons for associating the power of Christianity with a concept of God. First, Jesus made it clear that his kingdom was not of this world. Second, history shows us that mental concepts of God and standards of universal goodness do have the power to overcome mighty dictatorships.

Third, the Bible states that God’s ability to help a person is limited by that person’s mental concept of God. “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3).

Notice the two stages described in this passage. During the first stage, one is going beyond proclaiming a universal God to constructing the mental concept of a universal Trinitarian God. During the second stage, what limits the power of God is not a person’s words and thoughts but rather the mental concept of God that was constructed during the first stage. This is because words and thoughts always focus upon some aspect of mental structure, whereas a concept of God is based in a Teacher mental network that integrates all mental structure. Saying this another way, human attention is only capable of focusing upon some fragment of mental structure. A real God would be capable of interacting with all mental structure, but would still be limited by the extent of this mental structure.

Finally, whenever the Christian church has attempted to wield physical power, then this has corrupted the message and character of the church. In the case of Bill Bright, I suggest that we see this illustrated by the Land letter. When Christian leaders explicitly request the American government to invade another country, then this demonstrates that they believe more in the omnipotence of government than the omnipotence of God. Even if a country is ruled by a dictatorship, as was the case in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, a military invasion will not work because it will not have the backing of the people supposedly being liberated. This is illustrated by the country of Iraq, which in many ways is in a worse situation today than it was under Saddam Hussein. As the Arab spring shows, a physical revolution only has a hope of success to the extent that it is based in a cognitive revolution, otherwise one dictator will simply be replaced by another and the basic form of government will not change.

Before we continue, let us summarize what we have said so far. My thesis is that the attributes of a Christian God will naturally emerge when a general (or even better, a universal) Teacher theory applies to personal identity, and we are demonstating this principle by explaining the list of divine traits described in Bill Bright’s book on God. However, these traits will only emerge if a mental concept of God is constructed, which means searching for general principles that govern personal identity and then using these general principles to explain many different specific situations. If these traits of God are merely asserted, then any system which actually exhibits these traits will either replace or corrupt the concept of God that is being verbally proclaimed.

I suggest that the traits of God described by Bright are both cognitively and theologically sound. And, Bright goes beyond merely proclaiming these traits to applying them in real life. However, what is missing is a general Teacher theory that can package these traits and give them the cognitive protection of a Teacher mental network. One could compare Bright’s approach to the pragmatic viewpoint of the technician, who is given a set of rules to follow and who then applies these rules. What is missing from the technician is a general understanding—this is what separates the technician from the engineer. Speaking in more general terms, Americans have the reputation of being pragmatic, and pragmatism works well when theory is inadequate. But, I suggest that a pragmatic approach to God is dangerous, because pragmatism ignores Teacher theory, and an image of God is based in Teacher theory. Therefore, religious pragmatism is prone to being corrupted from the inside with false concepts of God. We will look at this further later on, but first let us return to examining the divine traits that Bright describes.

The traits we have examined so far involve only Teacher thought. The remaining traits result when Teacher thought interacts with other cognitive modules.

Absolute Truth

Bright begins by pointing out the uncertainty of empirical truth. “‘After all the information on safer sex you have received this week, how many of you know the statistical failure rate of the condom?’ ...Invariably the students have been thoroughly coached about how to have safer sex, but are never told how unsafe ‘safer sex’ really is. In essence what they heard was a lie” (p.150).

He then points out that most Americans no longer believe in absolute truth. “Most Americans believe in absolute truth, right? Wrong! Truth has been a major casualty in our modern culture. In a study by George Barna of Americans between ages 26 and 44, only 20 percent of those surveyed strongly disagreed with the statement: “There is no such thing as absolute truth; different people can define truth in different ways and still be correct.’ Shockingly, only 27 precent of those who described themselves as born-again Christians strongly disagreed! 52 percent actually agreed at least somewhat with this statement!” (p.151)

He then makes the logical leap of stating that absolute truth comes from the Bible. “We must always measure our beliefs by the truth in God’s word. Since He is the author of truth and since absolute truth resides in Him, He is the only one who can guide us to absolute truth. With Him, we see truth face to face. Any other guide will only lead us into confusion and deception” (p.154).

Philosophy says, and mental symmetry agrees, that is important to distinguish between belief and knowledge. Belief is a matter of internal conviction; how convinced am I that I am right. Knowledge, in contrast, has to do with accuracy. How accurate are my facts? For instance, belief could be compared to the number on a thermometer and knowledge to the actual temperature.

Mental symmetry suggests that Perceiver thought can acquire a knowledge of truth in one of two ways. First, emotional status can mesmerize Perceiver thought into blindly accepting the statements of some authority as absolute truth. A person who practices blind faith usually does not realize that he is using blind faith. He is just certain he knows what is true. But if asked to give a reason for his knowledge, then he will respond ‘it is obvious’ or ‘everyone knows that...’ or ‘the experts say’. Thus, he has belief but not necessarily knowledge. If everyone within a community shares the same set of blind beliefs, then these beliefs will be assumed and never questioned. Blind faith only becomes apparent when assumed facts are questioned, either by contrary evidence or by other people.

Second, instead of blindly accepting facts based upon emotional status, Perceiver thought can look for facts which are repeated. Blind faith has certainty. Perceiver thought, in contrast, struggles with doubt. However it is possible to use Perceiver thought to increase certainty and minimize doubt. The more times a fact is encountered, the more certain Perceiver thought will be that this fact is correct. Thus, when Perceiver thought is used, then there will be less belief but there will also be more knowledge. And when questioned, the person who uses Perceiver thought will be able to give reasons for his belief.

Using the thermometer analogy, blind faith knows exactly what the number is, but there is no guarantee that this number corresponds to the actual temperature. Perceiver thought may only be partially certain what the number is, but this number probably corresponds to the actual temperature.

Notice how Bright is believing that absolute truth can only be found through blind faith in the Bible. Similarly, the typical American who rejects the concept of absolute truth is probably rejecting the belief that the Bible is the source of absolute truth. One of the basic tenets of evangelical Christianity is the doctrine of biblical inerrancy—believing that the Bible is the source of absolute truth. As I have mentioned, the tendency then is to view scientific truth as a source of ‘confusion and deception’ because it builds upon the wrong source. Notice that none of this thinking is actually ‘opening up the envelope’ to read the information inside. Instead, the content of the envelope is being evaluated solely by the name on the outside of the envelope. Using a more modern analogy, if it comes from Fox News then it must be true; if it comes from Huffington Post then it must be false.

However, absolute truth can be viewed from a different perspective. Perceiver thought applies labels of true and false to information, and Perceiver thought evaluates new facts by comparing them with existing facts. This means that Perceiver thought must accept certain facts as axiomatic—as a starting point for evaluating other facts, which leads to a chicken-and-egg type of problem. If Perceiver thought is to start functioning, then it must begin by blindly accepting certain facts as absolute truth. Once Perceiver thought is operating, it is then possible to use Perceiver thought to re-evaluate information by looking for what is solid. If one evaluates Christian doctrine from a cognitive perspective, as we are doing here with the traits of God, then I suggest that this leads to the hypothesis that the Bible is an unusually clever book. Like any form of Perceiver thought, this cognitive analysis begins with a set of axioms; in our case the starting point is the theory of mental symmetry. While this starting point cannot be proven, it can be shown to be reasonable by comparing it with the research of others and with the physical structure of the brain.

Bright mentions the main characteristics of Perceiver thought. “By what standard can we measure truth to determine if it is truth? If you do not believe there is such a thing as absolute truth, how do you find anything to be true and trustworthy? Following are three qualities of absolute truth. Absolute truth is internally consistent. No matter which way you approach a true statement, it remains unassailably true... Absolute truth is true for all people in all places at all times...Absolute truth has its source in our holy God” (p.153). Translating this into secular words—for Bright says that a true statement can be approached from any direction: Truth is coherent, it corresponds with external evidence, and it is held together by a general Teacher theory.

Evangelical Christianity may start with blind faith in the Bible, but it then uses Perceiver thought to use the information that was acquired blindly. However, it only partially uses Perceiver thought to re-evaluate the initial set of facts that were acquired blindly. Whenever some biblical doctrine is called a mystery or a paradox, then this indicates that this truth has not yet been adequately re-evaluated.

Using an analogy, the typical American evangelical mindset blindly accepts pieces of printed paper as valid currency and then uses rational thought to build an economy using these pieces of printed paper. However, it shies away from using rational thought to see if these pieces of printed paper actually are valid currency. The secular individual looks at these pieces of printed paper and rejects them because there is no evidence to prove that they are valid. The American evangelical responds by insisting upon the need to blindly accept the printed papers as valid currency, and accuses the secular individual of rejecting the idea of money. The evangelical believer then points out that America was much better when everyone blindly accepted these pieces of paper as currency.[1]

Bright puts it this way. “For the past several decades, our nation has taken drastic steps to divorce itself from God’s standards of righteousness. What has been the result? Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores have dropped dramatically. Pregnancies, rapes, aggravated assaults, murders have increased at an alarmingly epidemic rate among our teenagers. Suicide has become the second leading cause of death among adolescents. Gangs have turned many urban schools into war zones. The US now leads the world in illegal drug use, exporting pornography, divorce rates, abortion, and violent crime, and we lead the Western world in teenage pregnancies and illiteracy” (p.205).

Notice how both sides in this debate are talking past each other. The secular individual rejects the content of the Bible because it is being stated as blind truth, whereas the evangelical Christian rejects secular thought because it ignores Biblical content. Both are focusing upon belief and ignoring knowledge.

This impasse is especially prominent in the United States because the country was largely built upon blind faith in the Bible. In Bright’s words, “That is why the Bible has remained relevant throughout the ages and to all civilizations. What God says is always pertinent. It never becomes obsolete. His timeless truth is the surest foundation for anything we attempt. Almost to a man, the founding fathers of our nation sought to serve and glorify Jesus Christ with their lives. One study found that of 15,000 writings by the founding fathers included in newspaper articles, pamphlets, books, monographs, and other documents, 94 percent of all quotes either directly or indirectly cited the Bible. Fifty-two of the 55 framers of the Constitution were avowed Biblical Christians. They were inspired by God to dedicate this new republic for His honor and glory. Even the curriculum of the institutions of higher learning used the Bible as a textbook” (p.287).

Notice the difference between ‘building a nation upon faith in the Bible’ and ‘building a nation upon a biblical God.’ The former proclaims a concept of God and declares the attributes of God, whereas the latter constructs a concept of God which exhibits the attributes of God. Saying this another way, I suggest that the United States never really was a nation under God, rather it was a nation that believed that the Bible was the word of God—and these two are not the same. This does not mean that the founding fathers had no rational understanding of God. But, I am suggesting that the mental glue that held everything together was blind faith in the Bible and the proclamation of the attributes of God. However, this American approach was a major step up from the situation that existed in Europe where the biblical message was buried within a matrix of culture, nobility, institutional religion, and state-mandated beliefs.

Blind faith in the Bible is an adequate foundation as long as the words that are being pronounced do not encounter actual content. But, if these religious words meet actual content, then the meanings of these words will be warped by the content, while those who work with content will reject the words as meaningless. Thus, the evangelical Christian will take on the character of a secular environment while continuing to preach the Christian message, while the secular academic will reject the Christian message because it is being proclaimed without content.

The solution, I suggest, is to evaluate the Christian content from a cognitive perspective. To a certain extent, this is being done, for instance byJosh McDowell, a staff member of Campus Crusade. However, while Christian apologetics uses logic and evidence to demonstrate the reasonability of Christian belief, it still ends up with blind faith in the Bible. Unfortunately, the conflict between Christian blind faith and secular rational thought has become so polarized in the United States that the rational thought used by Christian apologetics is insufficient to bridge the gap.

Now let us examine this from a cognitive perspective. Perceiver facts are the mental ‘bricks’ that are used to construct the ‘building’ of a general Teacher theory. If one wishes to construct a universal Teacher theory of personal identity, then one must use Perceiver facts that are ‘true for all people in all places at all times.’ And, if one wishes to build Teacher order-within-complexity, then one must look for truth that is ‘internally consistent’. Following this process will cause a mental concept of God to form, and this concept of God will be backed up by a Teacher mental network that uses holiness to guide a search for further truth, leading to the conclusion that ‘absolute truth has its source in [a] holy God.’

However, is truth ‘true for all people in all places at all times’ because it comes from the Bible, or is the Bible true because it describes truth that is ‘true for all people in all places at all times’? Which is the chicken and which is the egg? This, I suggest, is the critical question. Evangelical blind faith begins with the Bible, whereas critical thinking begins with universality. Blind faith is needed to get Perceiver thought functioning. But, if one remains within blind faith then one will never compare Christian facts with secular facts and discover the universality of truth. In order to discover universal truth, one must go beyond proclaiming that biblical truth is ‘true for all people in all places at all times’ to examining many people in many places at many times to see if this absolute truth really is absolute. Notice that the word ‘all’ has been replaced with ‘many’. It is not possible for finite beings to examine all people in all places at all times. Thus, one must be satisfied with looking at many people in many places at many times. The result is reasonable certainty in truth but not absolute certainty.

This leads to the conclusion that those who proclaim the absolute truth of the Bible probably do not grasp the nature of absolute truth and probably are not searching for absolute truth.

Immutability

Immutability means unchanging in character. Bright compares the immutability of the Christian God with the changing nature of other gods. “One fascinating fact about many of the religions of the world is the unpredictable character of their gods. New Agers believe that everything is God and God is everything. The source of authority or ‘truth,’ they say, is what you experience...But we learned that God’s truth never changes. It is the same today as it has always been...Animists and idol worshipers have developed their understanding of how their gods work from accumulated folklore. Their gods are so capricious that they must constantly be appeased with sacrifices and a variety of rituals so they will not change the rules of the game. We can read God’s rules in His never-changing word. The God of the Bible is the only unchanging Supreme Being. He has never altered one bit of his character or his purpose” (p.273).

If one bases a concept of God in a general Teacher theory, then the attribute of immutability will naturally emerge due to the nature of Teacher thought. Stated crudely, a general Teacher theory could be viewed as a successful obsession. Think, for instance of chemistry. It is possible to use the periodic table of elements to analyze all chemical reactions, and the periodic table of elements itself boils down to protons, neutrons, electrons, and atomic shells. Thus, the periodic table of elements with its atomic elements acts as a general Teacher theory that brings order to the complexity of chemical reactions. Saying this another way, whenever a chemist observes or generates a chemical reaction, Teacher thought in his mind is able to continue concentrating upon the periodic table of elements. In religious language, the periodic table of elements is an immutable core of chemistry. Even though everything changes around it, it remains constant and does not change. Notice that Teacher concentration will inevitably involve words and/or symbols because words and symbols form the basic elements for Teacher thought.

Similarly, the theory of mental symmetry is always present within my mind whenever I analyze human thought and behavior. The details that I observe and analyze are continually changing, but the diagram of mental symmetry—a simple arrangement of words and symbols—remains an immutable constant, tying everything together. This illustrates, I suggest, what it means to be continually aware of the presence of God. It does not mean continually thinking of certain people, rituals, objects, or experiences in Mercy thought. Instead, it means interpreting all of existence in the light of an unchanging universal Teacher theory.

How does the theory of mental symmetry relate to a mental concept of God? In the first half of this essay, I am attempting to show that the theory of mental symmetry generates a concept of God that is actually more consistent with the Bible than the method of blind faith in the Bible.

Bright recognizes that immutability is related to Teacher concentration upon words that summarize general characteristics. “In the beginning of this book, we discover God’s most holy name, I AM. Through this name, God introduced the concept that He is unchangeable. He identifies Himself with that incredible statement: ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I AM has sent me to you.”’ The use of the present tense in I AM means that the same God who met Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is same God who met Abraham and Sarah and gave them a son—and He is the same God who acts on our behalf today” (p.274).

When a general Teacher theory holds everything together, then what is immutable is not specific situations but rather general principles. Bright says the same thing. Repeating an earlier quote, “When we speak of God’s immutability, we are not speaking of a lack of variety. They are two separate things...Immutability and creativity are not the same either. Although God never changes, He is all-creative. Just think about how many different personalities He has created throughout the world... What does not change are the principles and the character that underlie the variety and creativity” (p.276).

However, we have seen several times that a mind which proclaims the traits of a biblical God is mentally vulnerable to having statements about God be mentally hijacked by any system which exhibits these traits. Thus while a Christian God may be immutable, and while the mental concept of a universal being based in a general Teacher theory is by nature immutable, a concept of God that is based in blind faith in the Bible is not immutable. It will change when subjected to cultural forces, and when one observes the metamorphosis of evangelical American Christianity, one sees that it has changed.

Love

Bright uses Woodstock to introduce the concept of divine love. “The Woodstock Festival in the summer of 1969 culminated in this national ‘Love-In’... Was Woodstock really a place of peace and love? No. Peter Townsend, a member of the band ‘The Who’ which played during Woodstock, said, ‘What was going on off the stage was just beyond comprehension—stretchers and dead bodies, and people throwing up, and people having [drug] trips, I thought the whole of America had gone mad...When the uncontrollable crowd went on their way, they left behind acres of trash. What was supposed to be a monument to free love and brotherhood was actually a hedonistic mess resulting in total chaos” (p.211).

The human tendency is to view love in terms of Mercy mental networks and emotional experiences. Thus, I will express my love for people by making them feel good or by presenting them with objects or experiences that they want. But, Teacher thought functions differently. Like Mercy thought, it is emotional, but this emotion is derived from order-within-complexity, and instead of dealing with experiences, Teacher thought works with sequences. This brings us to the realm of machines, functions, and systems. A machine, for instance, contains many different parts, each part carries out a certain sequence, and the parts work together to perform a function. As Bright points out, during Woodstock, people and societal structure fell apart and ceased to function, resulting in total chaos. The result was a nightmare for Teacher thought.

Bright compares this with God’s love. “God uses adversity in our lives, not to destroy us, but to build our faith and to refine this into the kind of people he wants us to be. He cannot use self-centered weaklings. During those difficult times, God assures us that He will work for our good. Only he knows the future and how things will turn out. Most the time we selfishly ask for things that we want, but they are not necessarily the things that are good for us...Because he loves us, God has prepared an incredible future for us. First He gives us an abundant life on earth. This is not a temporary provision, nor is it available only when we feel holy enough to accept it” (p.217).

Notice the contrast between human love, which focuses upon pleasant experiences and objects, and God’s love, which provides a general environment that functions and focuses upon developing humans so that they function properly.

The same distinction shows up in the Sermon on the Mount. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5). Human love focuses upon specific people and the natural human tendency is to love certain individuals and hate others. Divine love is universal and functional, making it possible for all to receive benefits.

As every parent or teacher knows, the thinking and behavior of a child is naturally chaotic; structure has to be imposed upon children because they do not generate it naturally. Thus, a mental concept of God will naturally find childish identity chaotic and repulsive, while childish identity will reciprocate by attempting to run away from structure. Thus, the childish mind views the holiness of God as something to be avoided. When this is the case, then God’s love becomes limited to providing a functional environment—sending rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. However, I suggest that it is possible to experience a deeper level of divine love by transforming the Mercy mental networks of childish identity to be consistent with Teacher understanding, which means going through the process that the Bible calls ‘dying to self’.

This process is described in detail in the book of Romans, and we find the following quote at the end of this description: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose...Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, ‘For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8).

Notice how this goes beyond ‘causing the rain to fall on the righteous and the unrighteous’. Because personal identity ‘loves God’, personal experiences are now being arranged to reflect order-within-complexity. Such an ordering of personal experiences is a subtle providential rearranging that does not violate the laws of nature, and also does not avoid unpleasant Mercy experiences. Instead, the focus is upon adding Teacher emotions—causing everything to ‘work together for good’.

Reviewing this from a cognitive perspective, Teacher understanding can interact with personal identity in several possible ways. First, these two can fight each other. Holiness then becomes the enemy of personal identity, just as the teenage rebel sees ‘the establishment’ as the enemy. Second, they can ignore each other. When this happens, then humanity becomes squeezed out by Teacher-driven structure. This is often the case in modern society which is driven by objective science. Third, Teacher order can include aspects of personal identity. For instance, when I play in an orchestra, my ability to play the violin becomes an aspect of general Teacher structure, but the rest of my personality does not. Similarly, physical training focuses upon the body but largely ignores the mind. Whenever an individual focuses upon one aspect of identity while ignoring other aspects, then there is a danger of damaging personal identity. Finally, Teacher order can include all of personal identity. When this is the case, then the functioning of the human being in a whole manner becomes an integral part of the universal Teacher theory. This, I suggest, reflects an image of God in which a general Teacher theory truly applies to personal identity.

When Christianity is taught as blind faith the Bible, then I suggest that a different concept of divine love will emerge. First, as I have suggested elsewhere, an attitude of blind faith in a holy book can only be maintained by asserting that the source of this book has an emotional status that is much greater than the status of personal identity. Thus, loving God will be interpreted as assigning great emotional respect to God through worship. Bright almost says this. “Every day, praise Him for His unconditional, perfect love. Praise Him when you wake up in the morning, thank Him as you work, and tell Him how much you love Him before you go to sleep. Respond to His limitless, ever-present love to you by expressing your heart of love to Him” (p.218).

The problem with this type of worship is that it is giving Mercy emotion to someone who wants Teacher emotion. For instance, one does not show honor to the author of a book by bowing before him. Instead, one shows honor by reading the book and applying its content. However, an attitude of blind faith in a holy book can only be maintained by continually bowing before the author of that book. Therefore, blind faith will naturally feel driven to approach God with the wrong type of worship. This contrast is brought out in the first chapter of Isaiah: “Bring your worthless offerings no longer, incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies—I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, they have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them. So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” Notice that Isaiah is saying that God wants the focus on Mercy-based worship to be replaced by actions that reflect the rule of law—a social environment in which everyone can flourish and the strong do not use their Mercy status to destroy the weak.

Looking at this from another direction, when the Bible (or any other holy book) is assigned great Mercy status, then it will feel sacrilegious to compare the Bible with other books. But, it is precisely this type of comparing which must be done to construct a general Teacher theory. Therefore, not only will blind faith in the Bible motivate the believer to associate God with Mercy emotions, but it will prevent the believer from associating God with Teacher emotions.

Second, if the author of a holy book has much greater status than the status of personal identity, then belief in this book will naturally be accompanied by an attitude of religious self-denial. On the one hand, love for God will be interpreted as denying self, and there will be a deep feeling that God does not want me to have pleasure and that I must not exhibit the sin of pride. This characterized the Mennonite environment in which I grew up, and it still defines the lifestyle of the Amish. Not only will love of God be associated with religious self-denial, but love from God will also be viewed in terms of religious self-denial.

Bright illustrates this twist in emphasis: “God’s sacrifice and planning for salvation was set in motion in eternity past: ‘He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ.’ There was never a moment when God did not purpose in his love to make the ultimate sacrifice for us. He planned to leave heaven’s glory, beauty, and peace and take on the body of a man. You and I, who are not even worthy to call His name, are so loved that we are always on his mind!” (p.216) The passage Bright quotes (Ephesians 1) talks about God setting up a system within which humans can function. However, notice that Bright focuses upon the personal sacrifice of God and emphasizes the unworthiness of personal identity.

It is true that childish identity is hopelessly flawed and it is also true that the path to personal salvation leads through ‘dying to self’. But self-sacrifice is not the primary focus of a Teacher-based God. As Hebrews 12 says, “Since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” This passage instructs people to follow a general Server path—one which has been taken by many others. This path may lead through dying to self, but the focus is upon the joy that comes at the end. Similarly, the phrase ‘Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends’ (John 15), which is often used to support religious self-denial, also occurs within a larger context of going through ‘dying to self’ in order to have a joyful life.

Third, when Perceiver thought bases its absolute truth upon the emotional status given to a specific book, then Mercy labels of good and bad will dominate, leading to corresponding Perceiver labels of right and wrong. For instance, counseling may be regarded as right if it is based in the Bible, but wrong if it comes from Freud or Jung. Similarly, behavior which the Bible praises will be regarded as good, whereas behavior which the Bible condemns will be regarded as evil. One finds this attitude of good versus evil in the following quote. “‘Do I have a hatred for sin and evil?’ God detests sin. The Bible says, ‘Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead fear the Lord and turn your back on evil. Then you will gain renewed health and vitality.’ What is your attitude about wickedness, sin, evil? Do you find yourself tolerating it? Do you view it as not being so bad—especially the sin you commit? God expects us to oppose those things that He opposes. A good rule to follow is to love what God loves and hates what God hates” (p.300).

As before, I suggest that the error is not in distinguishing between good and evil, but rather in viewing good and evil from a Mercy perspective rather than a Teacher viewpoint. A Mercy viewpoint divides people and experiences into us versus them—good versus evil. A Teacher viewpoint, in contrast, associates sin with ignorance, fragmentation, destruction, and stupidity. A Mercy perspective views God and Satan as equal combatants in a Manichaean manner. A Teacher perspective views God as universal, and Satan as a subsidiary, limited being.

Mercy

Before we look at the trait of divine mercy, I should emphasize that our discussion of God is focusing upon traits of God the Father, the first person of the Trinity. In order to understand God the Father, one has to examine Teacher thought. In contrast, I suggest that the mental concept of a Holy Spirit is associated with Mercy universality, and that the Holy Spirit uses Mercy emotions and not Teacher emotions. However, Christian doctrine states that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, and the Bible says that the work of the Holy Spirit is consistent with that of God the Father. Similarly, when there is mental wholeness, then Mercy thought functions in a way that is consistent with Teacher thought. Thus, we are not looking here at the mercy of Mercy thought but rather the mercy of Teacher thought.

I am also not suggesting that God involves only sequence, because that leads to the philosophy of Heidegger, who attempted to redefine all of existence in terms of Server sequences. Instead, I am suggesting that humans have substantial freedom in determining their experiences. For instance, the divine mercy of natural law makes science and technology possible. But, technology can be used either to build better weapons or to build laborsaving devices. Similarly, the Internet can be used either to enable global interaction or to facilitate global surveillance.

Bright introduces the concept of divine mercy (with a small ‘m’) by describing the Teacher universality that we mentioned when looking at God’s love. “Jesus stated in the Sermon on the Mount, ‘[God] gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and on the unjust, too.’ God provides the necessities of life for every human born on this planet. Many times we take His mercy for granted until we experience a devastating blizzard with the mercury plummeting, or with summer temperatures soaring to the 100s for days on end. Then we complain about how bad things are” (p.231).

Saying this more generally, I suggest that the mercy of a Teacher-based God expresses itself by opening up paths that lead to better functioning. One could compare this to a government training program. What is being given is not a Mercy object or experience but rather the opportunity to enroll in a program. The result of this training is a set of skills that makes it possible to achieve better objects and experiences. Similarly, I suggest that the Christian plan of salvation makes cognitive sense if viewed as a training program to reach mental wholeness. Bright’s first spiritual law describes this concept. “God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life... ‘I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly’” (p.315). We will look at the nature of this plan when discussing sovereignty.

Remember that blind faith in a holy book requires giving great emotional status to the source of this book. But, as the saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt. Therefore, focusing upon the mercy of God from a Mercy perspective will naturally reduce a person’s respect for God, and if there is insufficient respect for God, then a person will begin to doubt the absolute truth of God. Bright warns against this tendency. “People today, even many Christians, are more concerned about a need for tolerance than the need for mercy. There is a great difference... Mercy rooted in love demands that a person be told if he is doing something self-destructive or harmful to others. The problem we encounter in separating mercy and tolerance is that we live in an age where the majority of our society does not accept the idea of absolute truth. The biblical concept of sin has been replaced by demand for tolerance of any activity” (p.248).

I suggest that viewing God from a Teacher perspective solves this problem. If the mercy of God expresses itself through sequences not experiences, then it is possible to become emotionally close to God without destroying respect for God. One may understand intellectually that Teacher thought is emotional, but the average person does not know what it really means to encounter Teacher emotion. It is just as emotional as Mercy emotion, but it is a different type of emotion. A concept of God that is based in a general Teacher theory really, really is emotional. But, this is not a normal human emotion based in experiences, and it is precisely the alienness of Teacher emotion that ultimately makes it possible to have a close emotional relationship with God without descending into cheap grace or ‘God is my buddy’.

Paul expresses this path-based mercy of God in I Corinthians 10. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” Notice the warning against focusing upon Mercy status or building upon Mercy objects or experiences. Notice also that God does not remove painful situations, but he provides a path that leads out of a painful situation and he guarantees that this path is doable.

Since Bright talks about atonement in his chapter on mercy, we will now examine this core Christian doctrine. Bright describes what is known as the ‘penal substitution’ interpretation of atonement. “In a supreme act of mercy, God displayed divine favor and forbearance to us guilty offenders. He took our punishment upon Himself. That is what Jesus Christ did for us at Calvary: ‘The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ By His sacrifice all who put their trust in him are declared ‘not guilty’ and freed! That was true mercy and grace” (p.233).

The doctrine of atonement lies at the heart of Christian theology, therefore one would think that it has been carefully defined. However, as Wikipedia points out, theologians disagree significantly over how to interpret this doctrine. Therefore, I would like to make some suggestions based upon the theory of mental symmetry. Bright’s interpretation is a common one, but I suggest that it has several fundamental flaws. First, it assumes that punishment can be transferred. This makes sense if some person is administering the punishment, but it does not make sense if the punishment is an inherent result of the crime. For instance, if John passes math and Fred fails math, then the instructor can take John’s passing mark and assign it to Fred, but he cannot take John’s knowledge of math and transfer it to Fred. Mental symmetry suggests that the core problem is a mind that is built upon childish Mercy mental networks, which Christianity calls ‘the sin nature’, and just as I cannot transfer my ability to play violin to another person, so mental networks cannot be transferred from one person to another. [2]

Second, penal substitution gives the impression that consequences can be avoided. Bright points out the fallacy of this assumption. “Isn’t it wonderful to celebrate the mercy God has given us? At the same time, God will not remove all the consequences of your actions just because He is merciful” (p.247). However, Bright still seems to assume that God could remove all consequences and Bright’s ultimate focus appears to be not upon the rule of law but rather the opinions of people. “God does not forgive halfway. He cleared the sin-debt against David. But God, in his wisdom, knows that if we never suffer consequences for actions, we will never learn our lessons completely. What would unbelievers think if believers got away with all kinds of misbehavior with no consequences? What would the world say about us? That we serve God because He makes everything easy for us? Instead, our consequences can be a way to glorify God (p.248).

I suggest that these two assumptions are natural byproducts of blind faith in the Bible. If absolute truth has its source in some Very Important Person, then it makes sense that this VIP could redefine truth about people. And, if this absolute truth is used to interpret other truth, that also makes sense that this VIP could overturn natural consequences. But, what is the point in studying if I can get an instant A+ by appealing to the teacher, especially if there are no lasting consequences to avoiding studying? Similarly, the penal substitution interpretation tends to remove the incentive for personal development. It is possible to use religious self-denial to reinstate motivation: ‘If God gave his son has a sacrifice for my sin, then surely I would want to devote my life to God in gratitude.’ However, one is still attempting to add motivation to a system which has no inherent motivation.

Now let us look at atonement from a Teacher perspective. Childish identity then becomes viewed as a mind that is not functioning properly—a broken machine. Just as driving around in an old clunker of a car is inherently miserable, so attempting to exist as a poorly functioning human being is inherently unpleasant. The goal is not to replace the F with an A+, but rather to become mentally whole so that one can enjoy life, which will incidentally result in As rather than Fs.

Similarly, the sacrifice of Jesus becomes significant because it opened up a new path to proper human functioning. One could compare this with the founding of a new school in a region where there are no schools. Such a school makes it possible for people to escape their poverty, but in order to benefit from the school, a person has to become enrolled. When a person becomes a student of the school then Teacher thought views this person as belonging to a different domain—a specific example of a different general theory. Instead of being viewed by Teacher thought as ‘an uneducated peasant’, he becomes viewed as ‘a student of the school.’

These concepts are mentioned in the first chapter of Colossians. “We have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Notice that we are looking here at a process of education and personal transformation that leads to a superior way of functioning, and that atonement is related to a transfer from one domain to another.

Viewed purely from a cognitive perspective, the Christian ‘prayer of salvation’ works. When Teacher thought directly views childish personal identity, then it sees chaos, and a person will sense that God rejects him as a sinner. However, when Teacher thought views childish personal identity indirectly as a student in the ‘school of salvation’, then Teacher thought sees not the chaos of childish identity but rather the structure of the school.[3] Enrolling in a school is a decision that must be taken, and when one chooses to enroll in the ‘school of salvation’, then it will feel as if ‘God has forgiven my sins.’ This means that the ‘Christian prayer of salvation’ is actually a universal prayer based in cognitive mechanisms and not just a Christian prayer rooted in the Bible.

Those who preach the Christian prayer of salvation often portray it as a supernatural prayer that transcends human psychology. This, I suggest, is a Mercy perspective, because the prayer is being given special emotional status within Mercy thought and the goal is to have the Mercy experience of feeling forgiven. Instead, I suggest that the prayer of salvation should be viewed from a Teacher perspective. It uses a psychological mechanism that can be understood rationally, it is only the first step in a much larger plan of personal salvation, and it enables the mind to practice the personal honesty that is required to construct a mental concept of God.

If one examines the bigger picture of what it means to set up a school of salvation, then I suggest that a doctrine of supernatural substitutionary punishment re-emerges. Let us look first at the supernatural aspect. Merely setting up a school is not enough. Instead one must use the school to teach proper knowledge, and this knowledge has to be discovered by people. But, we have seen that the childish mind is incapable of discovering proper knowledge. Thus, it appears that some supernatural source has to bootstrap the process by revealing the knowledge that is taught in the school. And, when we examine Christian doctrine, that is what we find. The doctrine itself appears to be compatible with mental wholeness, while the presentation of this doctrine appears to be warped by an attitude of blind faith in revealed truth. Paul, whose writings are the main source of Christian doctrine, specifically claimed that his doctrine had a supernatural source. “For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1). Stating this more generally, Christian doctrine is too clever for its context, and we are actually dealing to some extent with a scenario in which monkeys banged on typewriters and produced Shakespeare.

That brings us to the matter of substitutionary punishment. If Christian doctrine is so clever, then what prevented Paul from twisting the message through an attitude of blind faith? Personal experience has taught me at least a partial answer to this question. I am painfully aware of the fact that it is very easy to deceive oneself when attempting to analyze the mind, and that the natural tendency is for Mercy mental networks of childish identity to warp any Teacher mental network of understanding. In order to minimize the probability of this happening, I have repeatedly tried to avoid submitting to the Mercy mental networks of human experts and human institutions, while at the same time continuing to learn from the facts that others have discovered. In addition, I have attempted to submit to the Teacher mental network of general understanding even when this ended up fragmenting the Mercy mental networks of personal identity, while at the same time attempting to respect the mental networks of common sense, natural law, and social structure. Any individual who follows such a path of stubborn idealism—and there are many others who have followed a similar path—is suffering on behalf of others. These are the individuals who discover the content that is taught in schools, and setting up a school to teach this content makes it possible for others to experience the benefit without having to endure the suffering.

Paul says something similar in Ephesians 3. “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.” Notice that Paul is teaching new content in order to help people to reach the goal of mental wholeness. In order to acquire this content, Paul had to experience a form of substitutionary punishment which he compares to the substitutionary punishment of Jesus.

So far, we have looked at personal salvation from a Teacher perspective. Bright emphasizes that the help of the Holy Spirit is needed to live a transformed life, and the apostle Paul contrasts the natural life of the flesh with the transformed life of the spirit. Mental symmetry suggests that a concept of Holy Spirit emerges as an indirect result of Platonic forms, and this is discussed in another essay. In simple terms, a general Teacher theory has an indirect effect upon Mercy experiences. For instance, the physical environment contains many rectangular shapes, but none of these rectangles is perfect. Perceiver thought will notice the various experiences involving rectangles and come up with Perceiver facts about rectangles. Teacher thought will then bring order to this complexity by coming up with the general theory of a rectangle, such as “A 4-sided flat shape with straight sides where all interior angles are right angles (90°),” and this will lead in Mercy thought to the Platonic form of a rectangle, which is a mental image of a perfect object that does not exist in real life. Saying this more succinctly, a Platonic form is a Mercy image that results when Perceiver facts are adjusted by Teacher understanding. A Platonic form gives a person a goal to aim for that is more perfect than the experiences of real life, and I suggest that a concept of the Holy Spirit emerges from the mental world of Platonic forms. In the words of Plato, all Platonic forms are ultimately tied together by the Form of the Good. It is interesting to note that Plato was never able to adequately define what he meant by the Form of the Good, implying again the need for supernatural help to seed knowledge.

Paul describes the connection between Platonic forms and the spirit in Ephesians 1. “...making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.” Notice how Paul describes a Platonic form using religious language: God is giving a spirit of knowledge that opens the eyes of the heart. And, what is the content of this Platonic form? Functioning in a manner that is superior to normal human existence.

Finally, I should emphasize that I am not suggesting that personal salvation is purely cognitive. If one examines what the Bible says about spirits, as well as other descriptions of the spiritual realm, it appears that spirits—if they exist—interact with humans by reinforcing mental networks. Thus, if a person develops the Platonic form of a Holy Spirit, then a real Holy Spirit may reinforce the behavior of this mental network. [4] Similarly, if a mental concept of God forms, then a real God may reinforce the behavior of this mental network. However, we are still looking at an amplification of mental content, and the primary struggle is still achieving mental wholeness.

Sovereignty

Bright introduces sovereignty by describing the sovereignty of human rulers. He mentions an Indian Raj in 1911 being presented as ‘Lieutenant-General His Exalted Highness Seventh in Line Equal to the rank of Asaf Jah, Victor of the Realm and the World, Regulator of the Realm, Regulator of the State, Viceroy Sir the Honourable Osman Ali Khan, the Brave, Victorious in Battle, Faithful Ally of the British, Grand Commander of the Star of India, Knight Grand Cross of the British Empire, Nizam of Hyderabad and Berar” (p.102).

I suggest that this extended title illustrates how finite humans achieve sovereignty. We start with specifics and then pile on attributes in an attempt to become more universal. In contrast, a general Teacher theory begins with universality and then adds specifics. The result is an understanding that continues to unfold as new aspects of the general theory emerge. One sees this illustrated by the list of Hebrew divine names used in the Old Testament to describe God, which can be found on page 323 of Bright’s book. Of the 19 listed, only three are simple names: Adonai, El, and Jehovah. Adonai means Lord or master, El is a generic term for God, and Jehovah means self-existence. These three terms are all extremely general. The other 16 names are compound derivatives of these three general terms that illustrate some aspect of God's character, such as Jehovah-Jireh, the God who provides, or El-Olam, the everlasting God.

A mental network will attempt to impose its structure whenever it is triggered. What type of structure does a Teacher theory have? Teacher thought works with sequences, and a theory focuses upon generality, therefore when a general theory turns into a Teacher mental network, then it will exhibit sovereignty by guiding thought and behavior along general paths. Bureaucracies and large organizations exhibit a similar sort of sovereignty by guiding the manner in which people operate. Sometimes, this sovereignty is written down as a set of general procedures to follow, but in many cases, these procedures take on the form of unwritten rules that everyone is expected to follow. Cognitively speaking, Teacher thought within the minds of employees has built a general theory based upon the order-within-complexity of the organization, and this general theory exhibits mental sovereignty by channeling thought and behavior in established ways. As any employee of a large company will tell you, it is difficult to change a corporate worldview or swim against bureaucratic channels.

Einstein tells us that gravity functions in a similar manner. Gravity does not actually force objects to come closer. Instead, gravity warps the fabric of space/time, causing objects to naturally move in certain paths.

In a similar manner, I suggest that the sovereignty of God is usually a subtle influence that works behind the scenes by altering the general flow of people and society. In the language of mental symmetry, a general Teacher theory does not directly affect Contributor choices. Rather, it exerts an emotional pull that alters Exhorter desires which then influence Contributor choices. In a similar manner, I suggest that the ‘will of God’ has a flow to it. Teacher thought appreciates movement that is smooth, therefore the movement of God usually feels like a well-oiled machine, with the needed components clicking into place at the appropriate time.

This flavor is communicated by the biblical story of Elijah and the still small voice. “So [God] said, ‘Go forth and stand on the mountain before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave” (I Kings 19).

However, subtle and flowing does not mean ineffective. As Thomas Kuhn describes, when a new paradigm is adopted, then everything, including history and textbooks, is rewritten in the light of the new understanding. Saying this another way, the flow of a mighty river may be imperceptible, but it is also powerful, and when a river changes course, then this power becomes immediately evident. One finds this irresistability mentioned in Revelation 3. “He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens.”

Bright describes what divine sovereignty feels like from a finite human perspective. “Submitting to God’s sovereignty can be compared to putting together a billion piece picture puzzle. History is like that giant picture. Only by looking at the photograph on the box cover can you see what everything will look like once all the pieces are in place...From a human standpoint, it is impossible to understand the many puzzles in life. But if you let God direct you, He will help you place your puzzle piece in the right place. He is not only big enough to see the whole picture, He created it” (p.104).

The attitude of blind faith uses emotional status to proclaim the Word of God. This leads to a tendency to imagine sovereignty in terms of Moses descending with the tablets of the law from Mount Sinai amidst thunderclouds and flashes of lightning. Thus, blind faith often tries to re-create this type of scenario, perhaps by having some celebrity or government power endorse the message of Christianity in a grand ceremony.

The distinction between proclamation and subtle-but-irresistible force has become abundantly clear to me over the years. When I have attempted to proclaim the theory of mental symmetry to others, the typical reaction has been for others either to reject my message or to find it initially interesting but then to move on unchanged. However, even though my words seem to have little effect, the theory of mental symmetry, backed up by its Teacher mental network, continues to explain why people are responding in the matter that they do. Thus, from the perspective of proclaimed truth, the theory of mental symmetry has little power, but when it comes to explaining cognitive mechanisms, then it has amazing sovereignty.

Similarly, when I examine books by respected Christian authors, I generally find a discrepancy between verbal proclamation and actual belief. The authors may be pronouncing biblical Christian doctrine, but what they are really saying seems to be driven more by cognitive mechanisms and the spirit of the age. One sees this illustrated by Bill Bright’s book on God. On the one hand, the traits of God that he describes are biblically accurate. But, as we will see in the second half of this essay, what Bright really believed was heavily influenced by the cognitive mechanisms that affected the United States during the last half of the 20th century.

What expresses the real God, the verbal proclamation or the cognitive mechanism? This is not a trivial question, because the natural response of evangelical Christians is to associate God with verbal proclamation. That is why evangelical Christians send out so many missionaries—to proclaim the word of God. The organization which Bill Bright founded has 27,000 full-time staff proclaiming the Christian message. The Bible used to be generally acknowledged by Western society. This is no longer the case. Thus, from the perspective of verbal proclamation, the Christian God appears to be quite non-sovereign. However, if one re-examines the situation from the viewpoint of cognitive mechanisms, then a much stronger concept of divine sovereignty emerges. And, when cognitive mechanisms lead to a message that is consistent with the Christian Bible, while verbal proclamations based in blind faith do not, then one asks again, “What demonstrates God’s sovereignty? Verbal proclamation or cognitive mechanism?”

I suggest the answer is that they both do and that we are dealing with a sequence based upon human capacity. The book of Hebrews begins by saying that “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.” Notice that we have a divine message that started with verbal proclamation that is making a transition to a more substantial form of communication which is more closely connected with the power of God.

Technology illustrates the relationship between divine sovereignty, free will, and personal salvation. A machine does not contradict natural law. On the contrary, building a machine requires a deep understanding of natural law. One constructs a machine by assembling objects in such a way that natural law becomes harnessed to achieve the desired goal. For instance, combustion is an expression of natural law. However, by enclosing combustion within the pistons of an engine it is possible to use the power of combustion to propel a vehicle. It is the generality of natural law that makes this possible. The sovereignty of natural law means that combustion requires the three components of fuel, oxygen, and heat. However, the generality of natural law means that humans can choose what will burn and how it will burn, which is precisely what the internal combustion engine does.

I suggest that cognitive mechanisms function in a similar manner. They may be inescapable, but they are also general. Therefore, it is possible for cognitive mechanisms to function together in a way that is mentally whole, but reaching the state of mental wholeness must itself follow a path that uses cognitive mechanisms, and one of the major steps in this path is to recognize and acknowledge the existence of cognitive mechanisms.

Saying this another way, if cognitive mechanisms are not acknowledged, then they will operate under the surface, inexorably imposing their flow upon free will, just as a mighty river carries away anyone who blindly walks into its depths. However, an understanding of cognitive mechanisms will lead to the formation of a very powerful Teacher mental network that is capable of reassembling the Mercy mental networks of childish identity. And, when childish identity has become reassembled in a manner that is consistent with Teacher understanding of cognitive mechanisms, then it becomes possible to bring lasting improvement to the experiences of personal identity, just as recognizing the presence and activity of a river makes it possible to harness its mighty flow.

Bright says something similar. “I urge you to recognize God’s sovereignty right now by humbling yourself before Him. Totally and irrevocably submit to His lordship of your life...Think of your life as a house with many rooms. Go through each ‘room’ and surrender both the room and the contents to Him. If you have a closet full of fears, let Him control that part of your life. Invite Him into the room where you hide your insecurities and hurts. Let Him take down that monument of pride to your own abilities and talents that you have displayed in your living room...Everything you lose by serving Him He will replace with something so much better. He controls the universe; He will without doubt enrich your life with joy, peace, happiness, fulfillment, satisfaction, and rewards far beyond your wildest imagination!” (p.111)

Justice

Bright begins by looking at how human concepts of justice can influence the idea of divine justice. “Today, people are becoming less concerned about doing what is right. Instead they look for ways to cover their tracks, believing they will never get caught... Since our justice system can often be manipulated, many people mistakenly believe they can manipulate God’s system of justice. They think that their excuses and alibis fool God. But oh how wrong they are! God told Jeremiah, ‘I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve’” (p.190).

I suggest that Bright is describing two common misconceptions about justice. The first misconception is that justice involves external behavior. This is a natural conclusion when justice is administered by people because people (at least until now) can only see what others do and cannot read thoughts. Bright mentions that God’s justice goes beyond external behavior to internal motivation.

The second misconception is that justice is something that is added by people, like mother spanking a child who is caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Obviously, if mother does not notice the infraction then there will be no punishment. But, it is not possible to separate the punishment from the crime when they are connected through cause-and-effect. For instance, one cannot argue with the law of gravity when one falls off a cliff. Bright mentions this as well. “God does not wait until Judgment Day to settle sin accounts. He also built natural consequences into sin as a deterrent for our disobedient behavior...We cannot thumb our noses at God's righteous principles and not expect to experience the just consequences of our actions” (p.195). Bright uses the example of gravity to illustrate the inescapable nature of moral cause-and-effect. “God’s spiritual laws are every bit as absolute as His physical laws. If we break God’s natural laws, we pay the consequences. For example, if you jump off the Empire State building in New York City, the law of gravity will guarantee your death” (p.175).

Finally, Bright states that moral laws are held together by a general theory in Teacher thought. “Natural laws and processes work together as a system to benefit all of God’s creation. It is easy to recognize how God created nature in its right order. But it is far less common to understand that God has created the moral realm to function in its right order, too” (p.171).

All of these traits of divine justice emerge naturally when an image of God is based in a general Teacher theory—if Contributor thought is used to bridge personal identity in Mercy thought with general understanding in Teacher thought. In this essay, we are focusing upon the role played by God the Father, the first person of the Trinity. Contributor thought plays the cognitive role of incarnation and this is discussed elsewhere. Summarizing very briefly, when dealing with the concrete realm of Mercy experiences, Contributor thought works with cause-and-effect. If one discovers that similar principles of cause-and-effect are repeated in many different situations, then one can build a general Teacher theory based upon cause-and-effect. This combination is illustrated by science and technology. On the one hand, science has constructed universal theories based upon natural sequences of cause-and-effect. On the other hand, technology uses an understanding of natural cause-and-effect to change—and hopefully improve—Mercy experiences.

Blind faith in the Bible uses emotional status to impose absolute truth. Therefore, the Bible believing Christian will naturally see divine justice as God imposing truth upon a situation, similar to the way that a judge delivers a verdict at a trial. These ‘days of judgment’ are mentioned in the Bible. The Old Testament talks about ‘The Day of the Lord’, while the New Testament refers to the Great White Throne and the ‘bema’ seat of judgment. And, of course, there is the book of Revelation, in which the justice of God is imposed upon the earth through a series of cataclysms. Evangelical Christians tend to focus upon these days of judgment. For instance, Tim LaHaye, another prominent, politically active, American evangelical Christian, has written a series of 16 best-selling novels about the book of Revelation, entitled Left Behind, which have sold over 65 million copies.

If one views divine justice from a Teacher perspective, then I suggest that a different attitude emerges. We saw the power of a Teacher mental network when looking at the holiness and omnipotence of God. In simple terms, opposing a Teacher mental network is like trying to jump off a planet, because no matter how high one jumps, gravity always pulls one back down. In a similar manner, we have seen that it is very difficult for an individual to go against the sovereignty of a bureaucracy, organization, or worldview. In each case, the order-within-complexity has caused a Teacher mental network to form and that mental network is using emotional pressure to squeeze everything into its mold.

I suggest that conflicting mental networks can bring free will to such a situation. A person may be unable to choose not to serve a Teacher mental network, but when mental networks collide, then a person can choose which mental network he will obey. A person becomes internally motivated by a mental concept of God when he chooses to follow an internal understanding rather than submit to the structure of some external system. But, when a person is not being rewarded by his external system for his behavior, then, by definition, he is experiencing injustice.

In other words, experiencing injustice can actually be a good thing. Remember that Teacher love provides a path which makes it possible for a person to function at a higher level. But, Teacher mental networks emotionally lock individuals into their current level of functioning. Thus, if people are to transform the way they function, then God must step back and allow a situation of conflicting masters to emerge together with an atmosphere of injustice. By injustice I do not necessarily mean getting thrown in prison for one’s religious beliefs. Rather, I am talking about doing something and not getting rewarded because others have a different value system, or being passed over for promotion because of choosing not to play the political game.

For instance, the Bible is no longer accepted by Western society as the source of absolute truth. The tendency is for evangelical Christians to view this as a disaster and to question the sovereignty of God. However, from a Teacher perspective it is actually a rare opportunity in which people have the free will to construct a mental concept of God, rather than have it imposed upon them by their environment.

When one Teacher mental network triumphs over competing Teacher mental networks, then this removes the possibility for free will—in the realm of Teacher mental networks. This does not mean that free will no longer exists, but rather that it becomes like moving about on a planet. One can still go wherever one wishes on the planet, but one can no longer choose to jump off the planet. When a previously hidden Teacher mental network unveils itself, the result is an apocalypse—which literally means revelation or unveiling. When this occurs, then those who serve incompatible Teacher mental networks experience a strong emotional drive to run away and hide from the unveiled Teacher mental network.

One finds this response described in the book of Revelation. “I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’” (Revelation 5). Notice how the revealing of a new paradigm causes everything to shift and leads to the downfall of the ‘luminaries’ of society. The fall of communism in 1989 provided a partial example of what this means.

The religious individual who approaches God from the Mercy perspective of rituals and holy experiences will look forward to God’s day of judgment but will not realize that this means the unveiling of Teacher understanding. “Alas, you who are longing for the day of the LORD, for what purpose will the day of the LORD be to you? It will be darkness and not light; as when a man flees from a lion and a bear meets him, or goes home, leans his hand against the wall and a snake bites him. Will not the day of the LORD be darkness instead of light, even gloom with no brightness in it? I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; and I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5). We see here that God does not appreciate rituals and religious meetings but wants a flow of actions that are consistent with universal understanding and universal law. We also see that when this unveiling occurs, the mental networks that used to give comfort to the Mercy-based religion will now turn and ‘bite’ individuals.

The individual who understands divine justice will attempt to build a mind that is consistent with the coming Teacher mental network before it is revealed so that when this mental network is revealed his natural response will be to welcome it as consistent rather than flee from it as inconsistent. Notice that this mental rebuilding has to be done before an apocalypse. The apostle John mentions this. “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin” (I John 3).

Thus, even though injustice is painful from a Mercy perspective, from a Teacher perspective it is better to delay divine justice as long as possible. “I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also” (Revelation 6).

The apostle Peter combines most of these factors in the following passage. “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (II Peter 3). Summarizing, God looks at the big picture and delays justice in order to make personal transformation possible. When divine justice comes, then there will be a universal shift, resulting in an external environment that is consistent with the character of God. Therefore, the goal of people should be to reprogram their minds to be consistent with the environment that will exist after the apocalypse.

As Paul says, “Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds” (Romans 2).

And, Bright says something similar. “God’s long-suffering an incredible patience brought the skeptic to his knees at the cross. Truly, God’s delayed justice is an opportunity for His mercy to be shown to many” (p.201).

An apocalypse is different than a paradigm shift. A paradigm shift occurs internally when a new general theory is accepted. This will transform mental organization as well as change the way that a person views physical reality. In an apocalypse, physical reality and/or the laws of nature themselves change and the mind is forced to cope with the new external environment. A mental concept of God can motivate a paradigm shift, but only a real God would be capable of producing an apocalypse. One gains a partial feeling for what this entails when revisiting a childhood town after several decades of absence and discovering that it has been transformed into a bustling city. Even though the mental networks that used to represent the town are now hopelessly inaccurate, they are still being triggered by the occasional familiar glimpse. Or, for a more imaginative example, think of the story of Rip van Winkle, or the science fiction series of ‘Buck Rogers in the 25th Century’. In both cases, an unchanged individual finds himself in a transformed environment.

When evangelical Christians focus upon the destruction of a divine apocalypse, I suggest that they are taking a Mercy perspective and not a Teacher perspective. Teacher thought hates disorder and destruction and biblical quotes indicate that the purpose of a divine unveiling is to make it possible for people to function within ‘a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.’

Compare this with Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind series. Quoting from the Wikipedia article, “Some practicing Christians, evangelical and otherwise, along with non-Christians have shown concern that the social perspectives promoted in the Left Behind series unduly sensationalize the death and destruction of masses of people. Harvey Cox, a professor of divinity at Harvard, says part of the appeal of the books lies in the ‘lip-licking anticipation of all the blood,’ and theologian Barbara Rossing, author of The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation, said the books glorify violence. Time magazine said ‘the nuclear frights of, say, Tom Clancy’s The Sum of All Fears wouldn’t fill a chapter in the Left Behind series. (Large chunks of several U.S. cities have been bombed to smithereens by page 110 of Book 3.) Paul Nuechterlein accused the authors of re-sacralizing violence, adding that ‘we human beings are the ones who put our faith in superior firepower. But in the Left Behind novels the darkness of that human, satanic violence is once again attributed to God.’ In that same book (‘Glorious Appearing’) Jesus merely speaks and the bodies of his enemies are ripped open, forcing the Christians to drive carefully to avoid ‘hitting splayed and filleted bodies of men and women and horses.’”

Faithfulness

Bright says that faithfulness is a fundamental aspect of divine nature. “God’s faithfulness is at the core of God’s nature. He is always all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present, holy, righteous, merciful, and loving because he is faithful to his own character. He never changes any of his attributes to accommodate someone else’s wishes” (p.255).

We saw when looking at immutability that a universal theory does not change, because it always applies—that is what makes a theory universal. Here we are seeing something slightly different. I suggest that a general theory will naturally become its own reason for existence. Saying this another way, a general theory will naturally attempt to increase its order-within-complexity. One sees this with any large organization or bureaucracy that exhibits Teacher order-within-complexity. As the saying goes, ‘The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.’

This is not necessarily a good thing. That is because self-motivating Teacher structure can become divorced from Mercy emotion, or even cruel to Mercy emotion. This is described in the dystopian novel 1984. “Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.”

A normal bureaucracy is merely parasitic. It consumes resources without providing anything in return. A 1984 type bureaucracy, on the other hand, embodies cruelty. However, in both cases the bureaucracy is simply being true to its nature and growing for the sake of growing.

However, Bright introduces divine faithfulness with a different kind of faithfulness, which is being faithful to another person and not just to one’s own nature. “One day in Armenia in 1988, Samuel and Danielle sent their young son, Armand, off to school. Samuel squatted before his son and looked him in the eye, ‘Have a good day at school, and remember, no matter what, I will always be there for you.’ He hugged his young son, and the boy ran off to school. Hours later, a powerful earthquake rocked the area.” Samuel ran to his son’s school, saw that it had been destroyed, and started removing debris in order to find his son. Everyone else was convinced that the schoolchildren were dead but he kept digging through the rubble—all night and into the next day. Suddenly he heard the voice of his son, still alive, and he ended up saving 14 children. “‘I told the other kids not to worry,’ Armand said confidently, ‘I told them that if you were alive, you would save me and when you saved me, they’d be saved. You promised you would always be there for me’” (p.251).

‘Being there for someone else’ is easy to understand when dealing with people and Mercy mental networks. A father is there for his son because the son ‘lives’ in the mind of the father in the form of a mental network. But, what would motivate a universal Teacher theory to take any interest in finite people? What would give God any reason to be there for me?

I suggest that we can find an answer in the nature of Teacher emotion. There are two ways to increase order-within-complexity. The first way is to extend the order to include more complexity. This could be compared to an organization growing by hiring more employees or adding new departments. The second way is to place more complexity within the same package or to decrease the size of the package. One sees this illustrated by electronics, because new products are continually coming out which either place more functions within the same package or else decrease the size of the package while performing the same function. In other words, what generates positive Teacher emotion is not bigness but rather order-within-complexity. Obviously, a universal being is big and universal theories deal with bigness, but it is also possible to generate positive Teacher emotions through cuteness—placing a lot of function within a small package.

Thus, Teacher thought will naturally be attracted to small packages that embody the essential nature of a general theory. This attraction is described in the book of Isaiah. “Thus says the Lord, ‘Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,’ declares the Lord. ‘But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.’” (Isaiah 66). Notice how a universal being who cannot be housed within any finite structure is paying attention to the finite humble individual who personally values the content of universal understanding.

Jesus mention something similar in Matthew. “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me...See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 18). When asked about status before God, Jesus turns to the little child as an example and points out that it is the humility of the child that produces personal status in God’s kingdom. This is followed by an interesting quote about ‘their angels in heaven’. However one interprets this phrase, the point is that this sort of humble person attracts the attention of God.

When emotional status is used to define truth then this will be seen as a paradox. That is because those who lack emotional status by definition do not define truth. Notice how the disciples in the previous quote are focusing upon Mercy status, while Jesus turns the question around in order to emphasize humility. An attitude of religious self-denial can motivate a person to ‘act humble’ but I suggest that this is different than the humility of the child. Religious self-denial is imposed; a person is continually denying himself in order to please God; the focus is upon Mercy emotions and Mercy status. The humility of the child, in contrast, is organic, because a child is small and needs help. Similarly, natural humility views finiteness as a positive attribute and finds pleasure in expressing the essence of a general Teacher theory in a finite package.

This contrast between Mercy motivation and Teacher motivation is seen in the book of James. “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: ‘He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us’? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4).

James is saying that Mercy mental networks based upon emotional experiences lead to power struggles, and that this type of Mercy-based motivation is drawn to the world but is emotionally repulsive to a mental concept of God. Instead, what attracts God is a humble personal existence driven by the Platonic forms of the Spirit, and this type of individual receives help from God.

Summarizing, I suggest that there are several varieties of divine faithfulness. First, there is the general theory that applies to Mercy identity, which describes a concept of God. This type of theory will motivate personal identity to function properly and it will find pleasure in finite entities that embody the essence of the theory. Second, there is the general theory that is independent of Mercy identity. This describes the bureaucracy that grows for the sake of growth, or scientific knowledge that grows for the sake of learning. The tendency is for such a system to expand at the expense of personal identity. This does not mean that bureaucracy or pure research is inherently wrong. However, I suggest that it needs to exist within the context of a general theory that does apply to Mercy identity, or else it will grow uncontrollably and choke out human existence. Finally, there is the general theory that is based upon behavior that in some way harms Mercy identity. This type of general theory should be avoided at all costs because the Teacher drive for ‘divine faithfulness’ will lead to ever-increasing human misery.

I should re-emphasize that we are looking here purely at a mental concept of God the Father, which is based in universal Teacher understanding. In contrast, a mental concept of the Holy Spirit does use Mercy emotions and will use feelings of love to motivate personal interaction. However, if the Holy Spirit becomes emphasized outside of the context of a Teacher-based Father God, then history suggests that the result is chaos, ignorance, and personal manipulation. In the secular realm, one sees this illustrated by the consumer society with its insatiable appetite for ‘new and improved gadgets’ that serve no real purpose and end up wasting natural resources. In the religious realm, the typical ‘charismatic renewal’ may generate personal benefits in the short term, but in the long term it tends to degrade into chaos, ignorance, and personal manipulation. Todd Bentley, who began his ‘Christian ministry’ in my hometown of Abbotsford, BC, provides a vivid illustration of the insanity to which a charismatic renewal can lead.

Righteousness

Bright describes the difference between holiness and righteousness. “Holiness describes God’s nature; righteousness describes how God acts according to His holiness. God’s laws are holy because they come from His nature. God’s standards for enforcing His laws are always righteous” (p.172).

We have seen that holiness is a natural expression of a general Teacher theory. Righteousness describes Server actions that are consistent with Teacher understanding. It is natural for a person to say one thing and do another because words are independent of actions. When verbal understanding come into contact with actions, then one will have to adjust to fit the other. Either words will be changed to reflect actions, or actions will be adjusted to express words.

If a general Teacher theory has turned into a Teacher mental network, then understanding will probably guide action. There are two reasons for this. First, whenever a mental network is triggered, then it will expect input that is consistent with its structure. Second, Teacher thought works with sequences. Therefore, whenever a Teacher mental network is triggered, then there will be a strong emotional drive to generate sequences that are consistent with the general theory. In religious language, a person will feel driven by God to act in a righteous manner. If one begins with a universal Teacher understanding, then the emotional drive to act in a righteous manner will be irresistible, which leads to the conclusion that God is naturally righteous and that his righteousness expresses his nature.

As Bright mentions, nature demonstrates righteousness because it always acts in a way that is consistent with universal Teacher understanding. “It is easy to understand God’s righteous role as Creator. Everything He created functions according to the laws applying to its creation. All His natural laws perform the way He intends for the good of His creation” (p.170).

Bright emphasizes that the moral realm is also guided by universal Teacher understanding. “Natural laws and processes work together as a system to benefit all of God’s creation. It is easy to recognize how God created nature in its right order. But it is far less common to understand that God has created the moral realm to function in its right order, too” (p.171).

And as we have already quoted, Bright insists that moral laws are also absolute. “God’s spiritual laws are every bit as absolute as His physical laws. If we break God’s natural laws, we pay the consequences. For example, if you jump off the Empire State building in New York City, the law of gravity will guarantee your death” (p.175).

These statements all describe Server sequences that are consistent with universal Teacher understanding. Mental symmetry suggests that the moral realm is guided by cognitive laws that are as inescapable as the physical laws of nature, and we have seen the inescapability of some of these cognitive laws in our analysis of the traits of God.

Righteousness is a natural expression of a mental concept of God, but it is not a natural expression of human activity. That is because humans do not start with a universal Teacher understanding. Instead, the childish human mind is built upon the Mercy mental networks of childish personal identity. Mercy thought thinks in terms of experiences and not sequences, and personal identity focuses upon my experiences and ignores the experiences of those around me. Thus, the natural tendency will be for childish identity to seek good experiences for me, through any means, regardless of how this affects others.

Moving on, whenever a person repeats a sequence of actions, then he is building Server confidence in that sequence of actions, which describes what happens when a person practices. The resulting Server skill will then be reflected by a general theory in Teacher thought, and the resulting Teacher understanding will reinforce action. When this happens, then action is guiding understanding. As the saying goes, when my only tool is a hammer then everything looks like a nail. Because humans start with actions and not a universal understanding, this describes the righteousness of man. And, because human actions are initially driven by the childish Mercy mental networks, the human righteousness invariably falls short of divine righteousness. Saying this another way, actions that are motivated by childish desires will turn into skills that are then supported by rationalization.

Bright puts it this way. “Even when we try our very hardest, we still fall far short of God’s perfect standard. Because of our sinful nature, it is impossible for us to live the righteous life God demands. As we read earlier, if we are ever to be acceptable to God, He has to intervene on our behalf” (p.176).

For instance, consider the action of murder. If some person has something that I want, then one option is to kill that person and take what he has. Now suppose that one practices the skill of killing other people and that one learns how to destroy the barriers that others put up to protect themselves from being killed. It is possible to organize Server skills of killing and destroying into a general Teacher theory. The end result is the form of human righteousness known as a professional army.

War

The professional soldier does have a righteousness, but it is based upon the actions of killing and destroying. For instance, here is an article on the X-51A, a hypersonic test vehicle. On the one hand, designing a plane to travel five times the speed of sound requires extensive righteousness involving technology and the laws of nature. On the other hand, the ultimate purpose is to kill and destroy better and faster. “The first planned use of scramjet technology is for hypersonic cruise missiles. Unlike rockets, scramjets don’t have to carry their own oxygen supply, meaning they can carry more payload on a smaller vehicle. Brink foresees future scramjet-powered missiles the size of the X-51A hitting targets 500 to 600 nautical miles from the launch point within 10 to 12 minutes. The advantage would be a faster strike time by a missile that air defense systems would have a hard time shooting down.”

Saying this another way, the scientist who designs better weapons is righteous because he is acting in a way that is consistent with a general understanding of the laws of nature. But, he is immoral because his goal is to kill and destroy. A professional army will be driven by faithfulness to expand the domain of its destructive activity and to continue developing ever more efficient ways of killing and destroying. For instance, this recent article describes how the American military is now weaponizing the Internet.

What distinguishes the righteousness of a professional army from the righteousness of God? This is not a trivial question because, as we saw at the beginning of this essay, Bright was one of the co-authors of the Land letter, which used Christian arguments to advocate a military invasion of Iraq, and Campus Crusade has had a ministry to the American military since 1964.

One could approach the topic of war from a Mercy perspective and ask how Christian love can be reconciled with blowing the legs off another human being or splattering the brains of a small child on the wall. Obviously, anyone who uses this approach will be accused of emotional sensationalism, but that is precisely the point. War is hell and war creates hell on earth. Ask any soldier. It is not emotional sensationalism to describe the horrific experiences which soldiers themselves create, or the trauma of trying to continue life with missing limbs or attempting to cope with hidden brain damage. Even if the body and brain of the soldier survive intact, his mind can become damaged by horrifying Mercy mental networks. That is why one major aspect of the Campus Crusade military ministry is helping soldiers deal with posttraumatic stress.

Helping military personnel deal with trauma is good. But would it not be better to choose a profession that does not contain such inherent trauma? Why continue functioning at the level of murder and trauma? Why not take the preventative step of deciding not to create trauma rather than the palliative step of trying to recover from trauma? God’s mercy makes it possible to function at a higher level. Why not take advantage of God’s mercy and learn how to function at a higher level?[5]

But isn’t it the responsibility of a citizen to ‘defend his country’ and ‘support the troops’? Yes, that is what the state says as well as many religious leaders. (‘Support the troops’ appears on every page of the Campus Crusade military ministry website.) However, remember that conflicting mental networks make free will possible. The individual who is internally motivated to pursue life in an environment which glorifies death is using free will to follow a path to a higher level of functioning. I speak here from personal experience. I come from a Mennonite background, and my ancestors have been following a path of pacifism for twice as long as the United States has been in existence. [6]

Can anything be said about war from a Teacher perspective? I suggest that we can turn to Kant’s categorical imperative for an answer. Kant said that an action is moral if it can be universalized—if it is possible for everyone to perform this action. If an action can be universal, then we are dealing with the righteousness of God. Using this metric, we conclude that murder is not righteous because if everyone tried to murder then there would be no left alive to do any more killing. Similarly, destruction is not righteous because if everyone destroys there will be nothing left to destroy. In other words, murder and destruction are only possible if some people do it but not everyone—a situation which Kant calls radical evil. Even from a purely economic perspective, modern warfare is so ruinously expensive that it can only be fought sporadically by the richest nations. For instance, a Harvard study says that the Iraq and Afghan wars will cost the American taxpayer $4-$6 trillion.

In addition, the destruction of war contradicts the very concept of order-within-complexity, because the Teacher structure of minds, bodies, societies, buildings, and infrastructure are all being destroyed. Thus, we conclude that warfare is inconsistent with the concept of a universal God.

However, I suggest that an attitude of blind faith in a holy book is mentally consistent with warfare. First, blind faith uses Mercy emotions to impose truth upon Perceiver thought. Similarly, an occupying army uses force to impose law upon a population. Second, if absolute truth comes from a specific holy book, then this means that it does not come from other books, which leads to an ‘us versus them’ mentality. Similarly, the primary attribute of warfare is that it divides people into friend versus enemy—us versus them. Third, blind faith believes that those who look to other books for truth are wrong and need to have truth imposed upon them. Similarly, in warfare one country attempts to impose its rule upon another country. Fourth, those who obey the wrong source of truth are evil and need to be punished. Similarly, warfare punishes the enemy. Fifth, when Teacher understanding is based in blind faith, then believing in the ‘wrong’ truth will lead to a ‘false’ Teacher structure, which needs to be overthrown. Similarly, the goal of warfare is not to punish evil individuals or change wrong truth, but rather to overthrow enemy government and transform enemy society. Sixth, when general Teacher theories collide, then they fight until one capitulates to the other. The same thing happens in warfare. Seventh, a mental concept of God emerges when a general theory applies to personal identity. Similarly, warfare takes a collision between competing paradigms and applies it to personal identity. Eighth, blind faith in a holy book leads to an attitude of religious self-denial. Similarly, the soldier is expected to give his life for his country.

As a Perceiver person, I know the seductive attractiveness of ‘righteous indignation’. It feels good to climb onto the white horse of revelation and charge the opponent with the pronouncement of absolute truth. But all that does is use emotional pressure to mesmerize one’s opponent into blindly accepting what is true. It does not teach Perceiver thought how to function. Similarly, there is something seductively attractive about mowing down the enemy in the name of God and country. It feels so pure—but only in the heat of the moment. Afterwards, one must deal with all the death and destruction that this ‘righteous anger’ has wrought.

The book of James addresses the interaction between the concept of a universal God, anger, and Mercy motivation. “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures. This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1). God is being described here as a universal, immutable being who is the source of all goodness. Emotional pressure does not lead to the righteousness of God. Instead, one must let go of childish Mercy motivation, accept truth in humility, and then allow truth to change action.

If this is the case, then how can one reconcile a universal God with the Old Testament God of warfare? I suggest that the answer lies in the mercy of God. Divine mercy provides a path to a better way of functioning, and when this path leads out of the brutality of tribalism, then the first stages of this path will have to use the tools of tribalism and brutality. In other words, when a stairway leads out of the swamp, then the first few steps of the stairway will be muddy. Thus, when attempting to address the problem of God and suffering, I suggest that we are dealing with three issues. First, does God’s path continue to use the tools of war and suffering, or does it make a transition to more wholesome methods when this becomes societally possible? Second, am I choosing to follow a path that leads to greater mental wholeness, or am I using the lower standards that existed in earlier eras to rationalize my inadequate behavior? Third, will the injustice eventually be judged and accounts straightened?

Saying this another way, God the Father uses Teacher thought and provides a path out of the mud. What matters to Teacher thought is the integrity of the path and not the presence of the mud. God the Spirit, in contrast, uses Mercy thought and wants good Mercy experiences rather than ‘muddy’ ones. However, in order to encounter God the Spirit, one must follow God the Father to the point where Platonic forms emerge. Therefore, if one follows the path out of the mud long enough, then eventually the condition of the path becomes important as well. Saying this theologically, in the Old Testament the Spirit of God was only given occasionally for specific tasks, whereas in the New Testament the Spirit is given to all Christians. Notice that God is not changing. Instead, what is changing is the ability of humans to interact with God.

This essay is continued here.


[1] With fiat money, everyone does blindly accept certain pieces of paper as valid currency. And everyone currently accepts American pieces of paper as the dominant currency.

[2] Even if a spiritual realm exists, it appears that spirits can only amplify existing mental networks.

[3] This indirect viewing occurs through Contributor thought and the role which Contributor thought plays as an incarnation is discussed here. We are focusing here upon God and Teacher thought.

[4] The concept of a ‘spirit of this age’ or ‘a spirit of this world’ emerges when a person interacts directly with his environment and does not take the indirect step of first building a Teacher understanding and then developing Platonic forms.

[5] Christians often say that evil is inevitable because we live in a fallen world. However, even if living in the physical world does lead inevitably to the development of a childish personal identity, it is still possible to make societal progress. For instance, voting out a corrupt politician is better than killing him in a coup d’état. Firing the civil servants of the old regime is better than burying them with the dead king. Cheering one’s favorite sports team is better than cheering one’s favorite gladiator. In each case, childish personal identity is still present and still needs to be transformed, but it is expressing itself in ways that are less destructive.

[6] It is interesting to note that the Mennonites, with their emphasis upon pacifism, organized under the leadership of Menno Simons partially as a repudiation of the violence practiced by the Anabaptists at Münster.