Tag Archives: Angelic Conflict

What the Night Knows

 A couple of posts back, I mentioned coming upon a new Dean Koontz book in the grocery store and impulsively buying it, seeing as it filled a need I had decided I had that same morning — the need for a good book to read that would keep me from getting too active and exhausting myself in my “recovery” from surgery. That book was What the Night Knows.

I love the title. And the cover!

As I also mentioned, I read pretty much all that afternoon — not straight through the story, but skimming over all the “irrelevant” scenes to find the answers to questions I just couldn’t wait for.  AFter all, I wasn’t “officially” reading the book yet, just dipping my toe in the water. In this case, it was a good thing, because I was hoping something would happen that didn’t, was in fact, the opposite of what he was doing.

After that, other things, including continued bouts of tiredness, took up my time and I made minimal progress until this weekend. Starting from where I began skimming, I read it all the way through and finished it last night.

Koontz is, as multiple reviewers point out, a master at what he does. His characterizations, descriptions, pacing, humor, plot twists… are all top of the line. In this book I especially loved how he gave each of the protagonist’s three children a distinct voice when he was writing from their point of view. There was the 13-year-old wanna be Marine, Zachary; the 11-almost-12 diva, Naomi, who was in love with life — and hats — her perception cloaking almost everything in her periphery with an aura of magic and wonder; and 8-going-on-9 Minette, or Minnie, the wise beyond her years “baby” of the family who alone of all of them had the best grasp of the evil that stalked them. They are great kids — funny, individual, typically kids in the way they interact with each other, annoying, pestering, teasing… but also loyal and loving. Probably a bit more thoughtful and mature than the general run of kids, but seeing as they’ve been homeschooled, this was not too much of a stretch for me. They reminded me in a way of the Narnia kids…

The story begins with their father, Detective John Calvino, investigating the recent group-murder of an entire family that eerily echoes in numerous precise details the first of a string of family murders that occurred twenty years previously. John’s parents and sisters had been the fourth family to die in that previous string, before John himself, at age 14, shot the murderer dead in their home. Now he increasingly comes to suspect the ghost of the original murderer has somehow come back from the grave to start anew, and he fears his own family is on the list of new victims-to-be.

There was much to ponder as I read, and after I finished, as well. Koontz explores the depravity of man, demon possession, the intervention of God, guilt, sacrificial love, and redemption — this latter not, I’m sorry to say, through the agency of Christ, but rather a man’s willingness to lay down his life for his family as a sort of penance…  But regardless of whether I agree with Koontz’s position there, it still draws my thoughts to the subject and provides occasion for contemplation and clarification of my own understanding.

One of the things I was particularly interested in was the unfolding of what is in essence a spiritual battle against forces of evil, a battle our culture has managed to delegitimize. Battles against evil spirits and tales of possession, vampires, etc, might abound in movies, books and video games but mostly people don’t believe any of that is real. Granted the true battle is largely invisible and involves thoughts and words more than the physical attacks of a possessed psychopath, but even an invisible battle is difficult for many to swallow, perhaps because the physical battles as portrayed in the above mentioned outlets are so outside of anything they’ve ever seen in real life they can’t help but throw the baby out with the bath water.

Koontz played off this reluctance to believe in supernatural battles. When John is finally forced to tell his boss not only what he suspects but why (to explain why he has been breaking regulations in the things he’s been doing) his boss immediately assumes he’s having psychological problems and gives him thirty days’ leave.

When he goes to his parish priest, he is told, “We’ve come a long way in the past hundred years, and further with every passing decade. But the full flowering of the faith in our time is delayed by medieval ideas that make the Church seem hopelessly credulous. Faith isn’t superstition, John. Superstition is a stain on faith, a perversion of the religious impulse and possibly a fatal corruption of it.”

When John attempts to clarify what he takes for a misunderstanding, the man adds, “In an age of nuclear weapons, we don’t need Hell and demons, succubi and incubi and hungry vampires on the doorstep. We need food banks…thrift shops, homeless shelters and the courage to express our faith in social action.”

He then gives John the name and number of a psychiatrist who is a “good man” and will be able to help him.

John’s partner later comes to believe the threat is real, as do all the members of John’s family who have each experienced their own encounters with the evil spirit. Naturally, the reader does as well, having been present with each viewpoint as the story unfolds and in that experience willingly suspending disbelief.

Late in the tale John speaks to another priest, a defrocked former exorcist who does believe in demons and evil. The ex-priest brings up the matter of divine interventions in delivering people from demon possession, implying that is the only real hope he can offer John in the matter. He even points out the disparity that exists between believing that a demon might actually be tormenting them, but not that God might also be present and willing to deliver them.

“Is your willingness to believe so elastic,” asks the ex-priest, “that it can stretch that far?”

 “I’ve seen the demonic,”  John replies. “If it’s real, so is its opposite.”

Yay! 

Sort of.  Because the opposite reasoning can also be applied. That is, “I don’t believe in demons — I’ve never seen any actual manifestation of demon activity — and so I don’t believe in God, either. Nothing supernatural for me. All truth resides in the mind and understanding of man and must stand up to the rigors of the scientific method, must give measurable physical proof of its existence in order to qualify as truth.”

Or, slightly less antagonistic, believing  only in a God who is impersonal, remote and primarily occupied with things other than what’s going on on earth.

Oddly, in the end  Koontz seems to buy into the latter notion, for even as he writes in some detail of the personality, motivations and nature of the demon, who is extremely up close and personal with his victims, God on the other hand is portrayed as largely uninvolved, deigning to intervene only occasionally and only in the most dire circumstances — though even in those He is not consistent.  When He does intervene, He does so by means of proxies — either “innocent” children or loyal animals or both — and apparently requires some sort of worthy action on the part of at least one party among the rescued.

In fact there is much made in this story of  innocence and purity being the protection against possession, while sin and weakness and deception are the doorways for it. By this template, any adult or adolescent male child can, almost at any time, be possessed, if a demon is about. We all have weaknesses. We all sin. We are all deceived in some way or other. Only the truly saintly, of which there are almost none, says the former exorcist, can be assured of protection.

This is the God of religion, I think. The God of the natural mind, for the natural mind always wants to make things hinge on itself, on things the creature has done, rather than celebrating what the Creator has done. On the power and integrity of the creature rather than that of the Creator.

More and more God is showing me that it is the latter that is the only thing that really matters: What He has done. Who He is.

And that is not the message of this story; instead it celebrates the basic goodness of a man, the power of human love and a man’s decision to sacrifice for his family. That is what we are to applaud.

It is a common theme in Koontz’s work, and, I’m sure, one of the reasons he has become a best-selling novelist. But ultimately, man is not basically good, human love is weak and while self-sacrifice is laudable, it’s nothing compared to the sacrifice of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, particularly when you consider that it was done for those who were at the time His enemies.

The World Is Not Christian

I owe this post to Becky Miller who, on her blog A Christian Worldview of Fiction, recently referenced a viewpoint put forth by another Christian blogger that she took issue with. I read her post with interest, and decided I also have issues with the referenced viewpoint. Quite a few issues, in fact.

The unnamed blogger’s contention? That “this is an objectively Christian world regardless of what people think and regardless of whether anyone ever points that fact out. The truth of the Trinity blazes forth from the very creation, so much so that people have to forcibly repress it (Ro 1).” Therefore, as Christian writers if we simply present “the world as it is – as a broken, warped, redeemed place of buzzin’, bloomin’ confusion – we are actually presenting Christ.” And that without having to “include one second of overt Christian theology in our work – if we are presenting the truth about the world.”

To which I say … nonsense! The Scriptures say this world is anything but Christian. Yes, it was created by God in perfection, and though it became corrupted when Adam fell, it can still reveal God’s invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature. But it is not a “Christian” world.

A “Christian” by standard definition is one who adheres to the Christian faith, core to which is the good news that anyone who believes in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the God-man, will be eternally saved. Those who do not believe are condemned already for one reason only — that they have not believed in Jesus. (John 3:18)

The world does not adhere to the Christian faith. Not by a long shot. Nor do the trees, rocks, mountains or houses. They may proclaim that there is a divine creator — God — but believing in God is not the same as being a Christian. Even the demons believe in God — and Christ! — in the sense of acknowledging their existence, but demons are most definitely not Christian. (James 2:19)

Though created in perfection, the world fell when Adam fell as I mentioned and is now said, not to be “redeemed,” but longing anxiously, enslaved to corruption, subjected to futility, and groaning as it waits for Christ’s return. (Romans 8:19-22)

Christ said His kingdom is not of this world. (John 18:36) And we as Christians are also said to be not of this world: our citizenship, our true home, is in heaven. (Phil 3:20)

Christ said that the world hated Him because He was not of the world, and if we are in Him and follow Him, the world will hate us, too. However, if we are of the world, which is not a good thing, then the world will love us. (John 15:18 -20)

We are told to love not the world and all that’s in it. As Christians. (1 John 2:15) If this world were intrinsically Christian, why would we be told not to love it?

In fact, the very next verse in 1 John 2 specifically says, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life is not from the Father but is from the world. (It) is passing away, and also its lusts, but the one who does the will of God abides forever.” Clearly the world and the one who does the will of God are not the same.

2 Pe 3:10, 11 tells us that the world and all that is in it will be utterly destroyed, and a new heaven and earth made… Why would it be destroyed if it were Christian and proclaimed Christ?

It wouldn’t be.

In fact, this world is ruled by the devil; its system of operation was created by the devil who, in 2 Co 4:4 is said to be the god of this world. Adam gave up rulership to Satan when he adopted Satan’s viewpoint (exalt self, oppose God, believe lies). We know this because when Satan tempted Jesus in Matthew 4, he took Him to a high vantage point (not a literal mountain) and offered Him “all the kingdoms of the world.” Satan couldn’t have offered them if they weren’t his to offer.

Ephesians 6:12 tells us there is a system in the atmosphere (“heavenly places”) — which is, boiled down, talking and communication — that is devised and controlled by Satan, who has deceived the whole world. (Rev 12:9) He has schemes (2 Co 2:11) and seeks to devour Christians. (1 Pe 5:8) His system shoots flaming thought missiles at us (Eph 6:16).

This one who is the god of this world, ruler of this world, is a liar and has been one since the beginning. Not a Christian.

He disguises himself as an angel of light and has deceitful workers, false apostles, ministers of righteousness, that look good and right (2 Co 11). He has a false gospel, false righteousness, false doctrine, and a false communion.

The world is not only NOT Christian, it is anti-Christian and anti-Christ. The idea that as writers we can simply record in a truthful manner all the depravity and futility and evil machinations of sin and human good and evil, without one word of anything theological and by that “present Christ” is just wrong.

The world is a place of darkness and death and very, very bad news: ie, that all men are sinners, cut off from the life of God. As a Christian, to simply portray it as it is would be, in my view, an utter waste of time. We’re here to be a light in that darkness, and our light is not us, but the word of God that we carry within us. It’s a light that, yes, can be manifested in our behavior and lives, but inside it is very much thoughts, concepts, words. Jesus Himself is said to be the very Word of God. We are to offer words of good news. Which I’m pretty sure means you need to get some “theology” into a book (by which I mean distinctly Christian thoughts and concepts as taught in the Word of God) before you can call it “Christian”.

Arena as an E-Book

Well!  As my title for this post indicates, I have good news.

Awhile back, when I was buried in the details of handling my mother’s estate, I signed a contract with Bethany House returning to them the rights that had reverted to me when they declared my first novel  Arena out of print. My agent had renogiated the contract so that they could re-release the novel as an e-book and as a paperback. A few weeks ago, I was contacted by my editor regarding cover ideas for the reissue of the paperback version, which I suspect won’t be available until next summer, but the e-book was set to come out any time.

I’ve been checking Amazon pretty much weekly with no change until yesterday when I  found it available for  Kindle for $9.39.  Click HERE  to see it.  It’s also available for Barnes and Noble’s Nook, HERE,  and  at Christian Book.com  as an E-book (but not until August 1), HERE for $8.99. Many readers have asked for Arena to be available as an e-book and now, finally I can say that it is. How cool is that?

Also, they are continuing to offer The Light of Eidon free as an e-book, and selling the rest of the series at a lower price per book than they do single titles. The sales have been pretty consistent, and the reviews, as I think I’ve mentioned before, have been racking up, divided between those who mostly love the series and those who were HIGHLY offended at being tricked into reading a book about Jesus. LOL.

Muslim Brotherhood

The other day I came across an article  on Victor Davis Hanson’s Private Paper’s blog by Raymond Ibrahim, whom I’ve  cited here before. This time he was writing about Cordoba House, the infamous 13 story mosque a group of probably Saudi-funded muslims want to build on a site two blocks from Ground Zero.

Given the muslims’ propensity for building holy structures over the top of other religions’ destroyed but sacred sites (eg, the Dome of the Rock built over the old Jewish Temple in Jerusalem), I cannot think their selection of location for this newest project to be mere expedience or coincidence. No, I have to believe it’s deliberate — a “trophy mosque” as one pundit put it — particularly in light of  taqiyya which I also learned about from Ibrahim (and blogged about here.) Taqiyya is the muslim “doctrine” that it’s okay (even a duty)  to lie to infidels if they are in a position of power and you, as a muslim, are not. According to the Koran and the consensus of Koranic scholars, faithful muslims are even obliged to be friendly with the infidels, to enter into peace treaties and so on, but only until they gain the upper hand. Then they are to demand the Infidel convert or smash him “with their clenched fists,” to borrow from a quote by Dmitrii Z. Manuilskii, of the Lenin School of Political Warfare, Moscow, made in 1931 .

I don’t doubt that many muslims really are peaceful and friendly and “moderate”, but only because, as with many Christians, they aren’t all that committed to their faith, or to knowing what it teaches, or think they can be committed without knowing. But given what I know of the Koran and this element of taqiyya — knowing their “bible” commands them to be deceptive in this regard; and to make Islam the religion of the world, by force if necessary — does make it more difficult to trust…

Now comes (to me anyway) a new bit of information. In his recent article about the Cordoba House project, Raymond Ibrahim suggests it might actually be counterproductive to Islamists in the same way that 911 was — because it will get people thinking and talking about Islam and Jihad and that newly sparked interest will move them to investigate. And in investigating they will uncover information  (like the doctrine/practice of taqiyya) that will not be conducive to Islamist goals…

In fact, his article did just that for me, because he brought up the Muslim Brotherhood, which I’d not heard of before, an organization that includes Al Qaeda and Hamas and many, many others. He references an article in the Dallas News  in Sept 2007 by Rod Dreher describing a 1991 document the Justice Department introduced into evidence at the Holy Land Foundation trial in Dallas. The FBI captured it in a raid on a Muslim suspect’s home in Virginia.

This “explanatory memorandum,” as it’s titled, outlines the “strategic goal” for the North American operation of the extremist Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan). Here’s the key paragraph:

The process of settlement [of Islam in the United States] is a “Civilization-Jihadist” process with all the word means. The Ikhwan must understand that all their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and “sabotaging” their miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all religions. Without this level of understanding, we are not up to this challenge and have not prepared ourselves for Jihad yet. It is a Muslim’s destiny to perform Jihad and work wherever he is and wherever he lands until the final hour comes, and there is no escape from that destiny except for those who choose to slack.

I’ve just in the last few months noted a couple of new books about this slow, under-the-radar takeover, but haven’t read them yet. Thus I was surprised to pick up a relatively new novel by Brad Thor (The Last Patriot) (first time I’ve read this author) and about a third of the way through, here is the Muslim Brotherhood deeply involved in the plot.  It’s just like Communism back in the Cold War.

Actually, it’s a perfect picture of how Satan and the kingdom of darkness work… deception, the slow wearing away, exploiting weaknesses…

You can read the entire article HERE.

Those Troublesome Jews

Really cool opinion piece by Charles Krauthammer (I really like his writings) in the Washington Post on the world’s viewpoint of  Those Troublesome Jews. Why won’t they just go back to Germany, Poland… Auschwitz (quotes from White House Press Queen Helen Thomas and Turkish Flotilla Passengers) ?  It’s not a long article, really clarifies what’s going on with respect to the Gaza situation and these alleged aid flotillas, and discusses the Jew’s three avenues of defense (Forward, Active and Passive) which have systematically been eroded to the point they are left only with the Passive (blockades). Once that, too, is de-legitimized by the world, they will have to just “curse God and die!” (to quote Job’s wife). Just what Satan wants. Because if there’s no Israel, then God can’t keep His promises and Satan has won the Angelic Conflict (Or so he thinks).

One more sign we truly are living in the last days…

Flotilla Choir

I know I’ve not been posting much of late… the Las Vegas trip wiped me out. And after that I spent some time resting, being alone, refilling the well. Even started back to work on Sky, and then a bunch of stuff happened this week that I’ll post about later.

For now, I’ve been following the whole “botched raid” of the Israeli Defense Force on the “peace activist” Turkish Love Boat, coming only to break through the Israeli blockade in order to bring potatoes and dollies to the poor suffering Palestinians in Gaza (I saw an Al Jazeera video on that aspect). How the poor souls — nearly all men, that I could see — were so packed into the ship they had to sleep on deck in the open air, and the toilets couldn’t handle them all, and worse -AGH! — the kitchen on the ship was too small to service 600 people and some had to go 48 hours between hot meals. Oh, the suffering.

Anyway, one thing struck me as I watched and read and listened to it all (including video taken by the IDF of the actual operation, which shows clearly who the aggressors were), especially the instant reaction of the whole world in condemning Israel almost before anything went down.  (One piece I read cited David Hazony of Commentary Magazine saying he’d spoken with a senior producer of a major news network in the US who said he’d received “a well-phrased press release from the office of [PA spokesman] Saeb Erekat,” one the producer received at 4:36 a.m Monday. Making it obvious the thing had been prepared beforehand.  And illustrating the truth of the title of the piece, a quote from Churchill that “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth gets a chance to put its pants on”)  What struck me, though, was how clear it is to anyone who wants to see that Israel has a supernatural enemy.

I mean, what’s the deal about Israel? There are hundreds of millions of Arabs and multiple Arab states vs 7 million Jews and one Jewish state. The Arabs have vast oil resources from which they derive great wealth, whereas the Jews have none. Why, in the eyes of the UN, can Russia and China and North Korea commit all manner of atrocities and provocations and go almost unnoticed whereas Israel can hardly blink correctly?  As Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said recently (today? Yesterday?)  “Israel is guilty until proven guilty.” It goes beyond men and nations. It goes to the enemy of God, Satan himself.

But that’s not my subject here. Because tonight Power Line Blog put up a new video produced by the “Flotilla Choir” — a song routine called “We Con the World.” I think it’s hysterical. But I do have something of a frame of reference. They have interspersed actual video from journalists on the ship showing the “peace activists” readying their knives, sticks, pipes and sling shots and from the IDF (the one I mentioned earlier)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOGG_osOoVg&feature=player_embedded]

I’m not sure who the Flotilla Choir is, though I do know that Caroline Glick, cited as the editor,  is the senior contributing editor of the Jerusalem Post and a senior fellow for Middle East Affairs at the Center for Security Policy… Ah, I just Googled “who is Flotilla Choir” and came up with the answer. It’s an Israeli TV show called Latma TV  “like Saturday Night Live only funnier.” Yeah, I’d agree.

Differing Worldviews

My son and his fiancée were here over Christmas and since I had finished The Black Swan (which he had loaned me) and he had not yet read it all the way through himself, but wanted to, I gave it back to him. Thus my posts from that source will be coming to a halt here pretty soon. But not yet.  Today I share some observations prompted by a statement the author made regarding differing viewpoints:

“This confirmation problem pervades our modern life, since most conflicts have at their root the following mental bias: when Arabs and Israelis watch news reports they see different stories in the same succession of events. Likewise, Democrats and Republicans look at different parts of the same data and never converge to the same opinions. Once your mind is inhabited with a certain view of the world, you will tend to only consider instances proving you to be right.

Paradoxically, the more information you have, the more justified you will feel in your views.”

Taleb’s observation that different people can look at the same series of events and come to wholly different conclusions is quite true. [Bush Derangement Syndrome comes to mind] And yet the implication in his words is that there is no one “right” conclusion, just conclusions based on whatever each individual regards as correct in his own eyes, each person’s perception shaped, maintained and bolstered by his innate tendency toward confirmation bias.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

Only God has the true perspective and according to His word, there are absolutes. There are right ways of thinking and wrong ways. Life and death. Lies and truth. The flesh and the world versus the spiritual and the heavenly. As believers we are engaged in a battle against the spiritual forces that for the moment have rulership over our planet. It’s difficult to fight against forces one cannot see nor feel. We’re not going to be slugging it out physically. No, the battle is one of ideas; one of opposing systems of thought. And there are only two: man’s/Satan’s systems (which encompass all of those things that “seem right to a man” in their varied sameness), and God’s.

If you orient back to central principles of each world view, you are going to reach consistent conclusions. In Satan’s worldview, the creature is supreme. The creature operates independently from God (even if he is claiming to serve and love God, he does it in his own way, not according to God’s way) and seeks to solve his problems and improve his situation using creature power and solutions. In God’s worldview, all credit goes to Him. He is perfect. He does all the work. We, by grace, receive the benefits of what He has done, initially in salvation and continuing throughout our Christian walk. We must decrease, He must increase.

Satan’s genius lies in the way he has drawn in all manner of variation, complication, detail, urgency and just plain volume to obfuscate the central conclusions of each viewpoint. As the Lord said in x, the worries and cares of the world rise up to choke the truth of the word. Pretty soon we no longer see the forest for the trees.

But ultimately there are only two viewpoints. Man’s thoughts and God’s. And the two are not remotely similar.

Happy 2010!

Hmm.  I wonder how we’re to say that? Is it going to be “Two Thousand Ten” or “Twenty-Ten?”  I vote for “Twenty-Ten.” First time we can actually say Twenty-something and make sense, plus it’s one less syllable.

Well, I’m finally back and ready to do a blog post. Or at least determined to do one, whether I’m ready or not. Truthfully, I have sat around for an hour or so, gone for a walk, sat around some more, read Drudge and Powerline and Victor Davis Hansen, waiting for the Lord to give me something profound and meaningful to say, but instead it seemed He said just go write.

So I am, doing so as I come off one of the most difficult and challenging holiday seasons I’ve ever experienced. There was no one major element that made it difficult, but rather a rash of small hits, insults, losses, obstacles, disappointments, inconveniences and just plain weird sequences of events, the timing of which, the interweaving of which, the seemingly tailored nature of which produced an unrelenting parade of Things That Must be Dealt With. Without sinning.

Well, I dealt, but not without sinning, alas. In the end I was reminded of the fact that it doesn’t matter if I fail. My failure is built into the plan. When I realize I’ve sinned, I have only to rebound (I John 1:9 If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.) And after that, keep taking in the word under the teaching of my Pastor, because that’s how God is going to change me. Not by me trying to do better, but by Him changing my thinking. All I do is expose myself regularly — daily — to the teaching of the word.

Yes, I do mean daily. First because real change occurs slowly, incrementally, over time  — way too much, in my opinion, but nevertheless, that’s how it happens. We focus on the Word, and it changes us. Then we can take no credit.

Secondly, we do it daily because we’re in a war and the other side is constantly assaulting us with an opposing viewpoint. God’s ways aren’t our ways, nor are His thoughts our thoughts.  The devil rules the world for now, and his thoughts abound — in the air, through the radio, TV, other people (most of them, actually) music, news, dramas, billboards… it’s a deluge. And with the sin nature happily sucking up all that worldly viewpoint (since it HATES God’s viewpoint) the only hope we have of holding fast to truth is to get it every day.

Many people think they already have truth. That it doesn’t take that much to find and hold onto it. But God’s word says otherwise. As a matter of fact, learning how to discern the truth, the right way from the wrong way, the difference between good and evil… was exactly the temptation the woman faced in the Garden. She had no clue she was even being tempted, being totally deceived. But what the serpent offered and what she desired was to be like God, knowing good from evil, being able to discern on her own, apart from His word, what was right and what was wrong. She thought, when she ate the fruit that she was doing the right thing. The good thing. The better thing. But she was wrong. Deceived.

Determining what is right and what is wrong, what God wants and what He doesn’t is not nearly as simple as the world would like us to believe. And even after we determine it, living in it is another matter altogether… The battle is all about thought. What thought system will we function under? And God’s is in the minority….

Gee, that was not at all the post I was expecting to write when I sat down here. But I think I’ll keep it, anyway.

The Illusion of Predicting

One of the things The Black Swan, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, points out is the delusion we have that we can predict the future. We have all these formulae, formal and otherwise, that we use to do so… Having been involved in stock trading (he was a risk analyst and advisor) Taleb uses that background along with a strong interest in philosophy and science to dissect and consider all the ways we have of assuring ourselves that the world is steady, even and subject to our interpretation and prediction. If we want to avoid some disaster or to bring about some happy result, we have only to follow the recommended course of action, and voila. There we have it.

Not.

In Taleb’s view the world is far more random than most people will admit. I think to some degree this is a product of business, travel, civilization where you have all these organizations of people interwoven. My editors need to estimate how many copies my next book will sell so they will know how many to print, and much paper, etc, to have on hand to do so. They want me to predict how long it will take me so they can get the cover artist started at the appropriate time, get the book in the appropriate catalogue and start the appropriate marketing plan at the right time for the release of the book. Today’s competitive market demands that you begin marketing before the book is out.

In fact, today’s competitive marketing depends a lot on predictions — only one firm will be the one to make the killing on the next celebrity, best-seller, popular technical advance, demand for xyz that no one saw coming. It’s the reason news agencies break stories before reporters have all the facts, hoping to be the one with the scoop. So it’s very important to those in the marketplace to predict the future, to figure out why things happen as they do and then try to emulate those things…

The trouble is, says Taleb, the illusion that all this planning works, is really… well, an illusion. There is more luck involved than anyone wants to admit.

Of course what he calls “random” and “luck,” I see as the sovereignty of God, so it was gratifying, a day or so after I started the book to open my Bible randomly to Isaiah 41:21 where I read:

“Present your case,” the Lord says. “Bring forward your strong (arguments),” the King of Jacob says. Let them bring forth and declare to us what is going to take place; as for the former events, declare what the were, that we may consider them, and know their outcome; or announce to us what is coming. Declare the things that are going to come afterward, that we may know that you are gods; indeed, do good or evil, that we may anxiously look about us and fear together. Behold you are of no account, and your work amounts to nothing; he who chooses you is an abomination.”

“Declare to us what is going to take place… that we may know that you are gods.”

And of course there is this one, too:

“Come now, you who say “Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow (let alone a year from now). You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that.” James 4:13-15

And yet, the culture we live in asks us to do the opposite.

The Black Swan

black swanI first became aware of the existence of The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb when my son put it on his Christmas list (last year? the year before?) and I bought it for him. Looking through it casually (the subtitle is “The Impact of the Highly Improbable”) I knew I eventually wanted to read it. Recently my son brought it with him on one of his trips home and told me that he was finished with it for the moment and I could read it. I stuck it on the shelf to await my attention once I’d finished various other books I was involved with.

Recently, finished with One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, I stood in front of my bookshelf in preparation for going to the Y (where I needed a new book to read while I rode the stationary bike) and asked the Lord what I should read next.

Should I start my own Guardian King books as a dear friend recommended I do (I have never read any of my books in entirety since they’ve been published) or something else? The Lord drew my eye to The Black Swan sitting at eye level between Builders of the Ancient World and One Door Away from Heaven. I asked again, specifically, should I read Guardian King or Black Swan? He prompted me to pull Swan off the shelf and open it to the place where I’d left off when Adam had first given it to me (on the first page), where I read, “[the sighting of the first black swan] illustrates a severe limitation to our learning from observations or experience and the fragility of our (human) knowledge. One single observation can invalidate a general statement derived from millennia of confirmatory sightings of millions of white swans. All you need is one single black bird.”

 I was immediately pulled in: “First, it [the black swan] is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme impact. Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable.”

 Is this not a perfect description of the first advent? And the second? Nothing in the world points to it, only the Word of God.

 The writer goes on…”A small number of Black Swans explain almost everything in our world, from the success of ideas and religions, to the dynamics of historical events, to elements of our own personal lives…”

 I continued reading, riveted, knowing that there was much here about perception, belief, human bias and our almost total inability to predict the future even though many of our authorities claim to be able to so, all of it showing just how much of a deception the cosmic system really is, and how much more reliable is the word of God. The writer’s premise is that we think we know far more than we do (about the world and life and events) when, in fact, we really know very little… and this fits so into the whole framework of deception… which God has recently pointed out to me as being the “Thing” that I’m to write about (and have been writing about all along) that I knew this would be the next book I’d read.

So I took it with me to the Y and as I mentioned here, I have not been disappointed. I’ve dog-eared page after page and have taken to writing about thoughts generated from reading it in a spiral notebook. It has opened my eyes to so many things — not only with regard to how the cosmic system (of thinking) works, but also why we are so vulnerable to it.

 Naturally, I’ll be blogging more on the subject in the next few days.