Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Minding the Day of the Lord Which Has Come...

Minding the Day of the Lord
Which Has Come

by R.E. Slater
June 22, 2022

After reading through the science article below I thought it may be helpful to review what solar outages do, and do not, mean for the Christian faith. Too, it's a great solar science article speaking to solar magnetism and quantum mechanics. Enjoy. - res

Prolonged national grid failure will not be a sign of the Lord's Coming. Seemingly, I'm a preterist based on my decided embrace of Process Theology. A position which means Jesus is "here in our midst now" through his Church. A church which I will loosely define as "anyone who is sharing God's love with others, including in the service of restoring the earth's ruined habitats."

So, when Christians fervantly proclaim, "Lord Come," I will typically reply, "Lord, Become, in our midst." Meaning, we are to live and serve in the present in the fullness of Christ's atonement and resurrection whatever may come later. For now, we love and serve, minister and declare healing, hope, and forgiveness.

Nor will national outages signal the time of Armageddon, which is "End-of-the-World" stuff according to many Christian traditions. In stark contrast, process theology doesn't care about traditionalized prophetic prognostications as it views biblical prophecy as simply what I and others have been saying over the years in warnings, reproofs, and encouragement as we can.

That is, a prophet looks into our present context; weighs it against how it should be as a lived theology of love; determines its gross deficiencies; then speak to those failings.

Prophecy then is preaching in the present text of how to live love. Not proclaiming future events and describing God in wrath and judgment. This would be the opposite of a God of love. The prophets were moved deeply to speak to their community's lack of love to one another. It is this lack of loving to which they pointed to and said we can do better.

Similarly, today's prophets look at the church, its doctrines, its behaviors, and declare to unlistening, indifferent ears to repent and turn back to a God of love versus their God of Wrath.

They proclaim abomination upon all the wicked works of Christian men and women pursuing a deceiving socio-political religion of power and control commonly described as Church "Dominionism". This theology is also known as the Christian "Reconstruction" of society through decrees of sectarian dogmas to be  observed by all men.

And yet, the Church is not the State, is to be separate from the State, and is not to invoke sectarian "Jihadhism" upon the people of the State.

America is not a theocracy, not even a form of sectarian theocracy. It is a nation operating under its own civic Constitution granting equal and fair Civil Rights to  all Americans. A decree which seeks to embrace the masses of all differing colors, genders, sexes, races, creeds, or ethnicities within its nation-state. Pointed as an act of not and not simply by fiat. Which, in this regard, may lean into the church's own doctrines of love and charitable works (as versus religious legalisms, ascetisms, stoicisms, or infifference. All of which do not reflect a God, or a theology, of love).

Too, the eschatology of Process Christianity says heaven and Spirit have come in full force with Jesus' Advent (this is also the claim of church traditions). That the future is unknown, open, undetermined, and uncontrolled by our Creator God Redeemer. That we bear a deep obligation and duty to act in God's stead to "redeem" all whom we meet, influence, work with, and fellowship with... beginning with ourselves, then from people to nature.

The kind of future a Process Christian embraces is one of responsible living at all times in love. Not exclusion, nor warfare, nor civil injustice, not civil racism, nor even the suicide of nature.

And I'll go one further... if and when Armageddon-like events occur it will be bourne out not by God but by ourselves - the masses of humanity, including the church, for failure to love one another and for refusing to make each day better than the last.

"Thus saith the Lord."

by R.E. Slater
June 22, 2022

...A National Grid Failure will deeply disrupt our dependency on electrical grids, transformers, and anything electronic:

"McIntosh is already thinking ahead to the next thing—tools that can detect where a sunspot will emerge and how likely it is to burst. He yearns for a set of satellites orbiting the sun—a few at the poles and a few around the equator, like the ones used to forecast terrestrial weather. The price tag for such an early-­warning system would be modest, he argues: eight craft at roughly $30 million each. But will anyone fund it? “I think until Cycle 25 goes bananas,” he says, “nobody’s going to [care].”

"When the next solar storm approaches Earth and the deep-space satellite provides its warning—maybe an hour in advance, or maybe 15 minutes, if the storm is fast-moving—alarms will sound on crewed spacecraft. Astronauts will proceed to cramped modules lined with hydrogen-rich materials like polyethylene, which will prevent their DNA from being shredded by protons in the plasma. They may float inside for hours or days, depending on how long the storm endures.

"The plasma will begin to flood Earth’s ionosphere, and the electron bombardment will cause high-frequency radio to go dark. GPS signals, which are transmitted via radio waves, will fade with it. Cell phone reception zones will shrink; your location bubble on Google Maps will expand. As the atmosphere heats up, it will swell, and satellites will drag, veer off course, and risk collision with each other and space debris. Some will fall out of orbit entirely. Most new satellites are equipped to endure some solar radiation, but in a strong enough storm, even the fanciest circuit board can fry. When navigation and communication systems fail, the commercial airline fleet—about 10,000 planes in the sky at any given time—will attempt a simultaneous grounding. Pilots will eyeball themselves into a flight pattern while air traffic controllers use light signals to guide the planes in. Those living near military installations may see government aircraft scrambling overhead; when radar systems jam, nuclear defense protocols activate."

Illustration by Mark Pernice

Here Comes the Sun - to End Civilization

by Matt Ribel
June 21, 2022

Every so often, our star fires off a plasma bomb in a random direction. Our best hope the next time Earth is in the crosshairs? Capacitors.

TO A PHOTON, the sun is like a crowded nightclub. It’s 27 million degrees inside and packed with excited bodies—helium atoms fusing, nuclei colliding, positrons sneaking off with neutrinos. When the photon heads for the exit, the journey there will take, on average, 100,000 years. (There’s no quick way to jostle past 10 septillion dancers, even if you do move at the speed of light.) Once at the surface, the photon might set off solo into the night. Or, if it emerges in the wrong place at the wrong time, it might find itself stuck inside a coronal mass ejection, a mob of charged particles with the power to upend civilizations.

The cause of the ruckus is the sun’s magnetic field. Generated by the churning of particles in the core, it originates as a series of orderly north-to-south lines. But different latitudes on the molten star rotate at different rates—36 days at the poles, and only 25 days at the equator. Very quickly, those lines stretch and tangle, forming magnetic knots that can puncture the surface and trap matter beneath them. From afar, the resulting patches appear dark. They’re known as sunspots. Typically, the trapped matter cools, condenses into plasma clouds, and falls back to the surface in a fiery coronal rain. Sometimes, though, the knots untangle spontaneously, violently. The sunspot turns into the muzzle of a gun: Photons flare in every direction, and a slug of magnetized plasma fires outward like a bullet.

The sun has played this game of Russian roulette with the solar system for billions of years, sometimes shooting off several coronal mass ejections in a day. Most come nowhere near Earth. It would take centuries of human observation before someone could stare down the barrel while it happened. At 11:18 am on September 1, 1859, Richard Carrington, a 33-year-old brewery owner and amateur astronomer, was in his private observatory, sketching sunspots—an important but mundane act of record-keeping. That moment, the spots erupted into a blinding beam of light. Carrington sprinted off in search of a witness. When he returned, a minute later, the image had already gone back to normal. Carrington spent that afternoon trying to make sense of the aberration. Had his lens caught a stray reflection? Had an undiscovered comet or planet passed between his telescope and the star? While he stewed, a plasma bomb silently barreled toward Earth at several million miles per hour.

When a coronal mass ejection comes your way, what matters most is the bullet’s magnetic orientation. If it has the same polarity as Earth’s protective magnetic field, you’ve gotten lucky: The two will repel, like a pair of bar magnets placed north-to-north or south-to-south. But if the polarities oppose, they will smash together. That’s what happened on September 2, the day after Carrington saw the blinding beam.

Illustration by Mark Pernice

Electrical current raced through the sky over the western hemisphere. A typical bolt of lightning registers 30,000 amperes. This geomagnetic storm registered in the millions. As the clock struck midnight in New York City, the sky turned scarlet, shot through with plumes of yellow and orange. Fearful crowds gathered in the streets. Over the continental divide, a bright-white midnight aurora roused a group of Rocky Mountain laborers; they assumed morning had arrived and began to cook breakfast. In Washington, DC, sparks leaped from a telegraph operator’s forehead to his switchboard as his equipment suddenly magnetized. Vast sections of the nascent telegraph system overheated and shut down.

THE CARRINGTON EVENT, as it’s known today, is considered a once-in-a-century geomagnetic storm—but it took just six decades for another comparable blast to reach Earth. In May 1921, train-control arrays in the American Northeast and telephone stations in Sweden caught fire. In 1989, a moderate storm, just one-tenth the strength of the 1921 event, left Quebec in the dark for nine hours after overloading the regional grid. In each of these cases, the damage was directly proportional to humanity’s reliance on advanced technology—more grounded electronics, more risk.

When another big one heads our way, as it could at any time, existing imaging technology will offer one or two days’ notice. But we won’t understand the true threat level until the cloud reaches the Deep Space Climate Observatory, a satellite about a million miles from Earth. It has instruments that analyze the speed and polarity of incoming solar particles. If a cloud’s magnetic orientation is dangerous, this $340 million piece of equipment will buy humanity—with its 7.2 billion cell phones, 1.5 billion automobiles, and 28,000 commercial aircraft—at most one hour of warning before impact.

Illustration by Mark Pernice

ACTIVITY ON THE solar surface follows a cycle of roughly 11 years. At the beginning of each cycle, clusters of sunspots form at the middle latitudes of both solar hemispheres. These clusters grow and migrate toward the equator. Around the time they’re most active, known as solar maximum, the sun’s magnetic field flips polarity. The sunspots wane, and solar minimum comes. Then it happens all over again. “I don’t know why it took 160 years of cataloging data to realize that,” says Scott McIntosh, a blunt-speaking Scottish astrophysicist who serves as deputy director of the US National Center for Atmospheric Research. “It hits you right in the fucking face.”

Today, in the 25th solar cycle since regular record-­keeping began, scientists don’t have much to show beyond that migration pattern. They don’t fully understand why the poles flip. They cannot explain why some sunspot cycles are as short as nine years while others last 14. They cannot reliably predict how many sunspots will form or where coronal mass ejections will occur. What is clear is that a big one can happen in any kind of cycle: In the summer of 2012, during the historically quiet Cycle 24, two mammoth coronal mass ejections narrowly missed Earth. Still, a more active cycle increases the chances of that near miss becoming a direct hit.

When navigation and communication systems fail, the 10,000 or so commercial planes in the sky will attempt a simultaneous grounding. Pilots will eyeball themselves into a flight pattern while air traffic controllers use light signals to guide the planes in.

Without a guiding theory of solar dynamics, scientists tend to take a statistical approach, relying on strong correlations and after-the-fact rationales to make their predictions. One of the more influential models, which offers respectable predictive power, uses the magnetic strength of the sun’s polar regions as a proxy for the vigor of the following cycle. In 2019, a dozen scientists empaneled by NASA predicted that the current solar cycle will peak with 115 sunspots in July 2025—well below the historical average of 179.

McIntosh, who was not invited to join the NASA panel, calls this “made-up physics.” He believes the old-school models are concerned with the wrong thing—sunspots, rather than the processes that create them. “The magnetic cycle is what you should be trying to model, not the derivative of it,” he says. “You have to explain why sunspots magically appear at 30 degrees latitude.”

McIntosh’s attempt to do that goes back to 2002, when, at the behest of a postdoctoral mentor, he began plotting tiny ultraviolet concentrations on the solar surface, known as brightpoints. “I think my boss knew what I would find if I let a full cycle pass,” he recalls. “By 2011, I was like, holy fuck.” He found that brightpoints originate at higher latitudes than sunspots do but follow the same path to the equator. To him, this implied that sunspots and brightpoints are twin effects of the same underlying phenomenon, one not found in astrophysics textbooks.

His grand unified theory, developed over a decade, goes something like this: Every 11 years, when the sun’s polarity flips, a magnetic band forms near each pole, wrapped around the circumference of the star. These bands exist for a couple of decades, slowly migrating toward the equator, where they meet in mutual destruction. At any given time, there are usually two oppositely charged bands in each hemisphere. They counteract each other, which promotes relative calm at the surface. But magnetic bands don’t all live to be the same age. Some reach what McIntosh calls “the terminator” with unusual speed. When this happens, the younger bands are left alone for a few years, without the moderating influence of the older bands, and they have a chance to raise hell.

McIntosh and his colleague Mausumi Dikpati believe that terminator timing is the key to forecasting sunspots—and, by extension, coronal mass ejections. The faster one set of bands dies out, the more dramatic the next cycle will be.

The most recent terminator, their data suggests, happened on December 13, 2021. In the days that followed, magnetic activity near the sun’s equator dissipated (signaling the death of one set of bands) while the number of sunspots at midlatitude rapidly doubled (signaling the solo reign of the remaining bands). Because this terminator arrived slightly sooner than expected, McIntosh predicts above-average activity for the current solar cycle, peaking at around 190 sunspots.

A clear victor in the modeling wars could emerge later this year. But McIntosh is already thinking ahead to the next thing—tools that can detect where a sunspot will emerge and how likely it is to burst. He yearns for a set of satellites orbiting the sun—a few at the poles and a few around the equator, like the ones used to forecast terrestrial weather. The price tag for such an early-­warning system would be modest, he argues: eight craft at roughly $30 million each. But will anyone fund it? “I think until Cycle 25 goes bananas,” he says, “nobody’s going to give a shit.”

WHEN THE NEXT solar storm approaches Earth and the deep-space satellite provides its warning—maybe an hour in advance, or maybe 15 minutes, if the storm is fast-moving—alarms will sound on crewed spacecraft. Astronauts will proceed to cramped modules lined with hydrogen-rich materials like polyethylene, which will prevent their DNA from being shredded by protons in the plasma. They may float inside for hours or days, depending on how long the storm endures.

The plasma will begin to flood Earth’s ionosphere, and the electron bombardment will cause high-frequency radio to go dark. GPS signals, which are transmitted via radio waves, will fade with it. Cell phone reception zones will shrink; your location bubble on Google Maps will expand. As the atmosphere heats up, it will swell, and satellites will drag, veer off course, and risk collision with each other and space debris. Some will fall out of orbit entirely. Most new satellites are equipped to endure some solar radiation, but in a strong enough storm, even the fanciest circuit board can fry. When navigation and communication systems fail, the commercial airline fleet—about 10,000 planes in the sky at any given time—will attempt a simultaneous grounding. Pilots will eyeball themselves into a flight pattern while air traffic controllers use light signals to guide the planes in. Those living near military installations may see government aircraft scrambling overhead; when radar systems jam, nuclear defense protocols activate.

Through a weird and nonintuitive property of electromagnetism, the electricity coursing through the atmosphere will begin to induce currents at Earth’s surface. As those currents race through the crust, they will seek the path of least resistance. In regions with resistive rock (in the US, especially the Pacific Northwest, Great Lakes, and Eastern Seaboard), the most convenient route is upward, through the electrical grid.

The weakest points in the grid are its intermediaries—machines called transformers, which take low-voltage current from a power plant, convert it to a higher voltage for cheap and efficient transport, and convert it back down again so that it can be piped safely to your wall outlets. The largest transformers, numbering around 2,000 in the United States, are firmly anchored into the ground, using Earth’s crust as a sink for excess voltage. But during a geomagnetic storm, that sink becomes a source. Most transformers are only built to handle alternating current, so storm-induced direct current can cause them to overheat, melt, and even ignite. As one might expect, old transformers are at higher risk of failure. The average American transformer is 40 years old, pushed beyond its intended lifespan.

If just nine transformers were to blow out in the wrong places, the US could experience coast-to-coast outages for months.

Modeling how the grid would fail during another Carrington-class storm is no easy task. The features of individual transformers—age, configuration, location—are typically considered trade secrets. Metatech, an engineering firm frequently contracted by the US government, offers one of the more dire estimates. It finds that a severe storm, on par with events in 1859 or 1921, could destroy 365 high-voltage transformers across the country—about one-fifth of those in operation. States along the East Coast could see transformer failure rates ranging from 24 percent (Maine) to 97 percent (New Hampshire). Grid failure on this scale would leave at least 130 million people in the dark. But the exact number of fried transformers may matter less than their location. In 2014, The Wall Street Journal reported findings from an unreleased Federal Energy Regulatory Commission report on grid security: If just nine transformers were to blow out in the wrong places, it found, the country could experience coast-to-coast outages for months.

Prolonged national grid failure is new territory for humankind. Documents from an assortment of government agencies and private organizations paint a dismal picture of what that would look like in the United States. Homes and offices will lose heating and cooling; water pressure in showers and faucets will drop. Subway trains will stop mid-voyage; city traffic will creep along unassisted by stoplights. Oil production will grind to a halt, and so will shipping and transportation. The blessing of modern logistics, which allows grocery stores to stock only a few days’ worth of goods, will become a curse. Pantries will thin out within a few days. The biggest killer, though, will be water. Fifteen percent of treatment facilities in the country serve 75 percent of the population—and they rely on energy-intensive pumping systems. These pumps not only distribute clean water but also remove the disease- and chemical-tainted sludge constantly oozing into sewage facilities. Without power, these waste systems could overflow, contaminating remaining surface water.

As the outage goes on, health care facilities will grow overwhelmed. Sterile supplies will run low, and caseloads will soar. When backup batteries and generators fail or run out of power, perishable medications like insulin will spoil. Heavy medical hardware—dialysis machines, imaging devices, ventilators—will cease to function, and hospital wards will resemble field clinics. With death tolls mounting and morgues losing refrigeration, municipalities will face grave decisions about how to safely handle bodies.

This is roughly the point in the worst-case scenario when the meltdowns at nuclear power plants begin. These facilities require many megawatts of electricity to cool their reactor cores and spent fuel rods. Today, most American plants run their backup systems on diesel. Koroush Shirvan, a nuclear safety expert at MIT, warns that many reactors could run into trouble if outages last longer than a few weeks.

Illustration by Mark Pernice

IF YOU THUMB through enough government reports on geomagnetic storms, you’ll find that one name comes up almost every time: John G. Kappenman. He has published 50 scientific papers, spoken before Congress and NATO, and advised half a dozen federal agencies and commissions. The soft-spoken utility veteran is the man behind the cataclysmic Meta­tech projections, and he is either a visionary or an alarmist, depending on whom you ask. Kappenman spent the first two decades of his career climbing the ladder at Minnesota Power, learning the ins and outs of the utility industry. In 1998, he joined Metatech, where he advised governments and energy companies on space weather and grid resilience.

“They’ve only done things that greatly magnify their vulnerability to these storms.”

His end-of-days predictions first gained national traction in 2010, setting off such alarm that the Department of Homeland Security enlisted JASON, an elite scientific advisory group, to pull together a counter-study. “We are not convinced that Kappenman’s worst-case scenario is possible,” the authors concluded in their 2011 report. Notably, however, JASON did not challenge Kappenman’s work on its merits, nor did the group offer a competing model. Rather, its objections were rooted in the fact that Metatech’s models are proprietary, and utility industry secrecy makes it hard to run national grid simulations. Still, the authors echoed Kappenman’s essential conclusion: The US grid is dramatically underprepared for a major storm, and operators should take immediate action to harden their transformers.

The good news is that a technical fix already exists. Mitigating this threat could be as simple as outfitting vulnerable transformers with capacitors, relatively inexpensive devices that block the flow of direct current. During the 1989 storm in Quebec, the grid fell offline and stopped conducting electricity before the current could inflict widespread damage. One close call was enough, though. In the years after, Canada spent more than $1 billion on reliability upgrades, including capacitors for its most vulnerable transformers. “To cover the entirety of the US, you’re probably in the ballpark of a few billion dollars,” Kappenman says. “If you spread that cost out, it would equal a postage stamp per year per customer.” A 2020 study by the Foundation for Resilient Societies arrived at a similar figure for comprehensive grid hardening: about $500 million a year for 10 years.

To date, however, American utility companies haven’t widely deployed current-blocking devices to the live grid. “They’ve only done things, like moving to higher and higher operating voltages”—for cheaper transmission—“that greatly magnify their vulnerability to these storms,” Kappenman tells me.

Tom Berger, former director of the US government’s Space Weather Prediction Center, also expressed doubts about grid operators. “When I talk to them, they tell me they understand space weather, and they’re ready,” he says. But Berger’s confidence waned after the February 2021 collapse of the Texas power grid, which killed hundreds of people, left millions of homes and businesses without heat, and caused about $200 billion in damage. That crisis was brought on by nothing more exotic than a big cold snap. “We heard the same thing,” Berger says. “‘We understand winter; it’s no problem.’”

I reached out to 12 of the country’s largest utility companies, requesting information on specific steps taken to mitigate damage from a major geomagnetic event. American Electric Power, the country’s largest transmission network, was the only company to share concrete measures, which it says include regularly upgrading hardware, redirecting current during a storm, and quickly replacing equipment after an event. Two other companies, Consolidated Edison and Exelon, claim to have outfitted their systems with geomagnetic monitoring sensors and be instructing their operators in unspecified “procedures.” Florida Power & Light declined to meaningfully comment, citing security risks. The other eight did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

At this point, curious minds may wonder whether utility companies are even required to plan for geomagnetic storms. The answer is complicated, in a uniquely American way. In 2005, when George W. Bush, a former oil executive, occupied the Oval Office, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act, which included a grab bag of giveaways to the oil and gas industry. It rescinded much of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s authority to regulate the utility industry. Reliability standards are now developed and enforced by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation—a trade association that represents the interests of those same companies.

Some find the NERC reliability standards laughable. (Two interviewees audibly laughed when asked about them.) Kappenman objected to the first set of standards, proposed in 2015, on the grounds that they were too lenient—they didn’t require utilities to prepare for a storm on par with 1859 or 1921. Berger took issue too, but for a different reason: The standards made no mention of storm duration. The ground-based effects of the Carrington Event lasted four or five consecutive days; a transformer built to withstand 10 seconds of current is very different from one ready for 120 hours.

Under pressure from the federal government, NERC enacted stricter standards in 2019. In a lengthy written statement, Rachel Sherrard, a spokeswoman for the group, emphasized that American utilities are now expected to deal with an event twice as strong as the 1989 Quebec storm. (Comparison with an old storm like Carrington, she noted, “is challenging because high-fidelity historical measurement data is not available.”) Though the new standards require utilities to fix vulnerabilities in their systems, the companies themselves determine the right approach—and the timeline.

If the utilities remain unmotivated, humanity’s ability to withstand a major geomagnetic storm will depend largely on our ability to replace damaged transformers. A 2020 investigation by the US Department of Commerce found that the nation imported more than 80 percent of its large transformers and their components. Under normal supply and demand conditions, lead times for these structures can reach two years. “People outside the industry don’t understand how difficult these things are to manufacture,” Kappenman says. Insiders know not to buy a transformer unless the factory that made it is at least 10 years old. “It takes that long to work out the kinks,” he says. In a time of solar crisis, foreign governments—even geopolitical allies—may throttle exports of vital electrical equipment, Kappenman notes. Some spare-part programs have cropped up over the past decade that allow participants to pool resources in various disaster scenarios. The size and location of these spares, however, are unknown to federal authorities—because the industry won’t tell them.

One day regulators may manage to map the electrical grid, even stormproof it (provided a big one doesn’t wipe it out first). Engineers may launch a satellite array that gives us days to batten down the hatches. Governments may figure out a way to stand up emergency transformers in a pinch. And there the sun will be—the inconceivable, inextinguishable furnace at the center of our solar system that destroys as indiscriminately as it creates. Life on this little mote depends entirely on the mercy of a cosmic nuclear power with an itchy trigger finger. No human triumph will ever change that. (But we should still buy the capacitors. Soon, please.)

Kristin Kobes Du Mez - Why Evangelicals Love Donald Trump

The Problem of Church Becoming State
"America is Not a Theocracy... It is a Civic Institution"

by R.E. Slater
June 23, 2022

Yesterday I had posted Caleb Poston's article entitled, "When Your Theology Becomes a Problem."  It felt very related to a comment I had made earlier this week:


"God's love is a higher priority than God's sovereignty". - Anon


I was raised in a faith heritage which has become fixated on power. Divine Power. Today, I revel not in Divine Power but in Divine Love.
The former theology teaches withdrawal from the world, militancy against the world, and exclusion to the world.
There can be no mission to people when coming with a sword in hand to conquer, force ideology, or project religious dogma. This would be very much like how Jihadists promote their brand of oppressive Islamic faith which a normal Islamist would denounce and defy except for loss of limbs, imprisonment, or death.
It is the kind of religion "firebrand Christianity" claims to denounce even as it follows Jihadism in spirit but not quite in law (yet). Though we could cite example after example of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual abuse within fundamentalist churches. Not that it doesn't occur elsewhere - such as the "God-fearing" family - but it occurs especially here in tightknit social circles of like beliefs.
Teaching God's Love does the opposite. It is naturally missional and wholly centered in the other... not one's dogmatism.
It leads with a smile, a handshake, an embrace. It is naturally attractive in its helps, healing, assurance, and welcome to the other. It's transformative power starts (and stays) with the heart, not the head.
This is the kind of Jesus theology evangelicalism should be promoting. It was certainly the kind I had learned until my faith had turned from Jesus to dominionist lusts for power and control. (Which, no surprise... is why neo-Calvinism enjoys its day within the ranks of the confirmed faithful of God.)
Moreover, a proper theology of a God of Love is centered around the incarnational God known as Jesus in the gospels. A God who showed us his heart as Jesus.
God came not by a sword ala the apostle Peter. Neither by a fearful, corrupt religion ala an apostle once named Saul (now known as Paul) who stoned Christians for abandoning their Jewish faith. In difference, another apostle by the name of John seems to have gotten it right in contrast to his friend Thomas who failed in his love and disbelieved the resurrection of Jesus (requiring demonstration by Christ as to his resurrected body).
Sadly, another Jesus disciple named Judas fled from God's love when losing courage to be loved by Jesus, to share Jesus' love with others, or try to love, forgive, or be compassionate to all men, especially the poor. Instead, guilt tore Judas apart and led to his untimely death (along with the ill-willed miscreants, the heathen Jewish priests, who paid a betrayer's wage for his deceit).
God's Love is what God is about. Not naked Power. Not oppressive Power. Not controlling Power. Not worried Power. Not even prideful Power.
God created from love for love in love. Our loving God sustains in love. He relates to all creation in love. God speaks, sings, and flourishes in love. God is wholly about love from which all of God's Self revolves, regenerates, rebirths, and renews.
This is the God I worship now. Whose songs, poetry, teachings, counsel, and theology I speak to, and am in constant wonder not only of my Redeemer, but how my church got it so backwards. So wrong. So confused. So pagan in its outlook.
Of a church doubling down on its Calvinism teaching of a God of wrath and judgment and controlling dogma claiming it as biblical when demonstrating it's own teaching is but a blasphemous idol to the Living God who loves at all times in every fiber of his holy Being.
This is not the God I know. It is the God plucked from the pages of the bible without any understanding of the socio-religious evolution going on its pages. Or should I say its "Spiritos" revolution occurring within its pages as it describes Jewish communities fearing a God of wrath not understanding their borrowing of this belief from the pagan religions around them believing in gods of wrath requiring sacrifice, submission, and quixotic submission (sic, "exceedingly idealistic; unrealistic and impractical").
Thus and thus Jesus came to tell his people that God is not like the pagan gods of wrath, evil, and destruction. That God is a God of love. That God came incarnationally as himself to show us God's Self. The Old Testament, like the New Testament, but describes to us Jewish/Christian communities in transition from pagan ideology to a wholly-loving gospel.
To read Scriptures then is to read of these deeply transitional times in the past-time sense of reading. In today's contemporary-time sense of reading it would seem to me that we, as Jesus followers, have not gone so very far from our ancient past. That our theology hasn't grown very much if at all. Perhaps now would be a good time to start preaching, living, and writing gospels of love... not gospels of condemnation, anathema, and destruction.
Oppression, whether civil or religious, is still oppression. Love does not oppress. It gives, shares, respects, honors, and protects all around itself - whether human or nature. Love nurtures. Love hugs. Love kisses the other in warm fellowship. Hate cannot and never will. God is Love.
Read 1 John... all of it. And then go back and reread the bible as its narratives struggle with who God is based upon a religious community's fears, needs and quest for identity over the centuries in the bible.
- res

To follow Jesus is to serve others, not to subjugate them to your religion

When I came across Kristin Du Mez's interview last night speaking to why evangelicalism refuses to follow Jesus - in preference to following a Republicanism which I, as a former Republican, no longer recognize - I knew her interview required attention. People think that since President Obama's terms I had moved left into the Democrat party. This would be inaccurate. I had never left my Republican party. It left me.

Moreover, I still believe today that I have never moved from my earlier beliefs. That capitalism should be marked with generosity, wise governance, and careful spending within budgetary limits. Unlike Libertarians my common sense tells me large government is here to stay because of America's large, complex society. However, it must always work towards being efficient. To keeping as small a footprint as possible. But when governing 360,000,000 people government will always require heft, expanse, and competency.

Along the way, perhaps during the Reagan years, Christianity began to believe it should join The State rather than remain separate from The State. This was my position. To elect competent, godly, men and women of multiple faiths to lead and direct as there can be found... but to have the church stay to its mission of ministry, not governance. America is NOT a theocracy. It is a civil democratic institution.

Civil... not Religious. Democratic... not Theocratic.  A Republic... not a Kingdom. But after Reagan and Farewell's Moral Majority my evangelical faith left its faith for political power and control and the rest is history (and also the reason I began Relevancy22 back in 2012... way before Trump... to speak out against my heritage's wrong left turn in the 1970s onto the errant lanes of dominionism and kingdom reconstruction).

Hence, I post Kristin's interview with CNN to share that if you, like myself, and Caleb Poston, have noticed a confusion of church identity and identity politics in your civic life, you are not alone. Other Christians have noticed this too and are speaking out.

R.E. Slater
June 23, 2022

* * * * * * *

Kristin Kobes Du Mez:

"...It is important to assess power dynamics within evangelical communities. Dissenters are often marginalized or pushed out of their communities...."

"If Trump runs, he can expect the enthusiastic support of his White evangelical base. If he wins, he will have them to thank. If he loses, he knows he can still depend on their support. A recent [PRRI] survey revealed that 60% of white evangelical Protestants believe the 2020 election was stolen, and that more than a quarter (26%) believe that 'true American patriots may have to resort to violence to save our country.' With the fate of Christian America hanging in the balance, for many, the end will justify the means."

The secret of why evangelicals love
Herschel Walker (and Donald Trump)

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
Updated 11:38 AM ET, Wed June 22, 2022

(CNN) Over the weekend, Herschel Walker addressed the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a gathering of social conservatives in Nashville, Tennessee. His speech came just days after Walker's campaign publicly acknowledged he had three children by women he was not married to in addition to his son by his ex-wife.

Was the crowd skeptical of the Georgia Republican Senate nominee? Quite the contrary. Politico reported that Walker "received resounding applause from evangelical Christian activists on Saturday."

How to explain that seeming contradiction? Enter Kristin Kobes Du Mez, a professor of history at Calvin University. Du Mez is the author of The New York Times bestseller "Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation," a book that has had a profound impact on how I understand the rise (and continued support) of Donald Trump and his acolytes, like Walker.

I reached out to Du Mez to chat about Walker, Trump and the broader Republican Party. Our conversation -- conducted via email and lightly edited for flow -- is below.

Cillizza: Herschel Walker was cheered by a social conservative crowd over the weekend, just days after he acknowledged he has four kids, not the one most people thought he had. What gives?

Du Mez: We really shouldn't be surprised by this anymore. Every time we see "family values conservatives" rally around a candidate who makes a mockery of family values it can feel jarring, but of course, this is nothing new.

There are a lot of things going on in this particular case. Obviously, there are political reasons for conservatives to stand by their man. It's not easy to find an African American Republican with Walker's name recognition to go up against Sen. Raphael Warnock, and this is a key race in the upcoming midterm elections.

But there's more to this picture.

Republicans have long equated a rugged masculine strength with successful political leadership. This ideal of conservative masculinity, or at least its current manifestation, can be traced back to the 1960s when conservatives accused feminists and antiwar activists of redefining traditional manhood in a way that left families and the nation at risk. This masculine ideal was both personal and political. Men needed to be good fathers and strong fighters, and in this way, "traditional" masculinity ensured both order and security.

Within American conservatism, rugged White men are often seen to embody this masculine ideal, but Black men who support Republican social and political values can also be seen as champions of traditional American manhood. As a social conservative, Republican loyalist, and former football star, Walker was in many ways perfectly positioned to step into this role. He boasted of his business prowess and talked frequently about the problem of absentee fathers.

Within the African American community, an emphasis on fatherhood transcends party lines, but among social conservatives, this rhetoric can also be used for partisan political ends. Rather than looking to systemic racism and structural inequalities, social problems can be blamed on the individual failures of Black men.
In Walker's case, his vocal condemnation of absentee fathers now strikes a hypocritical tone.

Fortunately for him, social conservatives have proven quite ready to forgive and forget when politically convenient to do so. We've seen family values conservatives embrace the likes of Roy Moore, Brett Kavanaugh, and of course, President Trump in recent years, despite allegations of abuse and moral failings.

In fact, in the case of White evangelicals, we've witnessed a dramatic reversal in the last few years in terms of how much personal morality matters when it comes to their support for political candidates. In 2011, just 30% of evangelicals believed that a person who commits an "immoral act" could behave ethically in a public role; in 2016, 72% thought this was possible [according to polling from PRRI/Brookings]. Walker is only the latest Republican man to reap the benefits of this situational morality.

Cillizza: In your book, you write that the rise of Donald Trump fits into a long pattern within the evangelical community. Explain.

Du Mez: When it became clear that White evangelicals overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump, pundits (and some evangelicals themselves) responded with shock and confusion. How could family values evangelicals support a man who seemed the very antithesis of the values they held dear? This question only intensified in the days after the release of the "Access Hollywood" tape, when only a handful of evangelicals wavered in their support of a man caught on video bragging about assaulting women. There is certainly hypocrisy at play here, but as a historian of evangelicalism, I knew that what we were looking at couldn't be explained merely in terms of hypocrisy.

For decades, conservative White evangelicals have championed a rugged, even ruthless "warrior" masculinity. Believing that "gender difference" was the foundation of a God-given social order, evangelicals taught that women and men were opposites. God filled men with testosterone so that they could fulfill their God-ordained role as leaders, as protectors and providers. Testosterone made them aggressive, and it gave them a God-given sex drive. Men needed to channel their aggression, and their sex drives, in ways that strengthened both family and nation.

Generations of evangelicals consumed millions of books and listened to countless sermons expounding these "truths." Within this framework, there was ready forgiveness for male sexual misconduct. It was up to women to avoid tempting men who were not their husbands and meet the sexual needs of men who were. When men went astray, there was always a woman to blame. For men, misdeeds could be written off as too much of a good thing or perhaps a necessary evil, as evidence of red-blooded masculinity that needed only to be channeled in redemptive directions.

Within evangelical communities, we see these values expressed in the way organizations too often turn a blind eye to abuse, blame victims, and defend abusers in the interest of propping up a larger cause -- a man's ministry, an institution's mission, or the broader "witness of the church."

In 2016, we heard precisely this rhetoric in defense of Donald Trump. Trump was a man's man. He would not be cowed by political correctness, but would do what needed to be done. He represented "a John Wayne America," an America where heroic men were not afraid to resort to violence when necessary in pursuit of a greater good. Evangelicals did not embrace Trump in spite of his rough edges, but because of them.

At a time when many evangelicals perceived their values to be under fire, they looked to Trump as their "ultimate fighting champion," a man who would not be afraid to throw his weight around to protect "Christian America" against threats both foreign and domestic.

Trump was not a betrayal of evangelical values, but rather their fulfillment.

Cillizza: Are there dissenting voices within the evangelical community? What is their message? And how is it resonating if at all?

Du Mez: There are certainly dissenting voices within the evangelical community. Depending on how you define "evangelicalism," many Black "evangelicals" dissent from White evangelical politics. But among White evangelicals, too, there are dissenters. If we think about the infamous 81% of White evangelicals who voted for Trump, that leaves 19% who did not.

We can look to prominent evangelicals like Russell Moore, Beth Moore and David French, who have spoken out against Trump, advocated for victims of sexual abuse, and sought to call out the radicalism they see among their fellow evangelicals. There are also many local evangelical pastors and laypeople who are speaking out in these respects. But it is important to assess power dynamics within evangelical communities. Dissenters are often marginalized or pushed out of their communities. Both Beth Moore and Russell Moore were pushed out of the Southern Baptist Convention; Russell Moore abandoned a powerful leadership position and Beth Moore lost nearly two million dollars in ministry revenue. On the local level, too, many pastors find that they speak out against Republican politics at their own peril. Many are grappling with their inability to lead those they had considered their followers.

Cillizza: The New York Times over the weekend reported that gun companies have started using appeals to masculinity to sell guns. Does that surprise you?

Du Mez: Not at all. In this country, guns have long been a symbol of rugged individualism, cowboy justice and masculine power. The myth of the "good guy with a gun" runs deep in American popular culture. In the midst of widening political polarization, growing social distrust, and escalation of perceived threats, firearms manufacturers see ideal market conditions.

Traditionally, gun sales have gone up when Republicans lose elections, but Donald Trump worked hard to maintain an acute level of threat among his base throughout his four years in office. He railed against immigrants and protestors and warned of various threats to "real Americans" and their children. Black Lives Matter protests fueled rhetoric stoking fears of the inability of the government to protect (White) citizens and led to the valorization of Kyle Rittenhouse, a young man who, in their view, took it upon himself to do what the government failed to do. The "Stop the Steal" campaign extends this sense of existential threat to the nation itself.

This rhetoric of perceived danger and necessary militancy unites secular and religious conservatives. In "Jesus and John Wayne," I point out how John Wayne was not an evangelical, but by the 1970s, he had become an icon of conservative American manhood. Over time, as a heroic (White) man who brought order through violence, he also came to represent an idealized vision of "Christian manhood."

As ideals of Christian masculinity shifted, so, too, did the faith itself. Even though the Christian scriptures are filled with teachings about turning the other cheek, loving one's neighbors and one's enemies, and although the Bible instructs Christians to cultivate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control, many conservative Christians have instead embraced an "us vs. them" mentality that requires a warrior masculinity. Good guys with guns need to protect their families, their faith, and their nation -- by which they mean those deserving of protection, "real Americans," Christian America.

We see evidence of this rhetoric from Christian pastors and worship leaders, throughout the Christian publishing industry, and even on the shelves of evangelical big-box retailer Hobby Lobby, where one can find wall plaques celebrating the Second Amendment, decorative guns to mount on walls, and charming décor warning, "If you don't support our troops feel free to stand in front of them," and, "WE DON'T CALL 911." This goes beyond mere rhetoric. White evangelicals are more likely than other Americans to own a gun; they are bigger proponents of gun rights, more likely to carry a gun with them, and more likely than other Americans to feel safer with a gun in their household. Daniel Defense, a Christian family-owned gun manufacturer, made the gun used by the Uvalde shooter. They had previously advertised their assault weapons by pairing them with a Bible, a cross, and a young child.

Cillizza: Finish this sentence: "If Donald Trump runs again in 2024, evangelicals will __________." Now, explain.

Du Mez: "...Do exactly what they have been doing."

We have seen evangelicals remain remarkably consistent in their support for Trump and for a radicalized form of Republican politics. Stories of dissenters tend to draw popular attention, but that should not distract us from the fact that most dissenters end up marginalized or pushed out of their communities altogether.

We should expect Trump to continue to drum up a sense of impending threat -- that Democrats want to steal the election, that "real Americans" are under siege, that children will be corrupted, and that religious freedoms are endangered. But this time around, fewer evangelicals will feel the need to justify their support for Trump. He delivered on Supreme Court appointments and brought about the likely repeal of Roe v. Wade, so in their minds, the ends have justified the means.

If Trump runs, he can expect the enthusiastic support of his White evangelical base. If he wins, he will have them to thank. If he loses, he knows he can still depend on their support. A recent [PRRI] survey revealed that 60% of white evangelical Protestants believe the 2020 election was stolen, and that more than a quarter (26%) believe that "true American patriots may have to resort to violence to save our country." With the fate of Christian America hanging in the balance, for many, the end will justify the means.

How to Interpret the Bible

How to Interpret the Bible

by Caleb Poston
December 11, 2021

“When we open the Bible and read it, we are eavesdropping on an ancient spiritual journey.” — Pete Enns, from The Bible Tells Me So

When you approach the Scriptures with the goal of interpreting it, the most important step to take is, as I explained in a previous post, to remove yourself from Scripture. Approach it with the understanding that what you are about to read was not written to you. Therefore, it must be interpreted within its context and with the original author and audience in mind. Their assumptions and knowledge must drive interpretation. Remember exegesis — reading truth out of Scripture — and eisegesis — reading your ideas into Scripture. We will first handle one prominent, yet flawed assumption that is often read into the Scriptures, and it touches on what I talked about in a previous post on biblical inspiration: the Holy Spirit is not going to help you interpret the Bible.

Step One: Mindset

So the first step to accurate biblical interpretation: Approach it with the proper mindset. Understand that the Holy Spirit “guiding understanding” is not a biblical concept. I know you’ve heard it; I have heard it too many times to count. “Lord, guide me in my understanding as I read your Word.” Pastors who say it from the pulpit are immediately kicking off a conflict of spirituality between themselves and their congregations, for if the Holy Spirit is guiding understanding, he isn’t going to lead people in different ways, is he? There is only one true interpretation.

If someone says the Holy Spirit guided them to understanding about a particular interpretation, I’m not listening — you shouldn’t either. If I am listening, it’s for entertainment, not enlightenment. Here’s the deal: The Bible never says that the Holy Spirit is an interpreter for you as you read the Bible. I know there are some passages often used to teach that concept, but, once again, those conclusions are reached only when modern assumptions and ideas are read into the passages. Let’s run through these passages quickly:

Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is alive and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (ESV). Do some quick research on the meaning of this verse; you will likely find some solid spiritual truths, but you will also find some assumptions we have already covered: Many interpret “word of God” in this passage to refer to the Bible. Hebrews was written at a time in which the completed Bible was not in existence. This passage has also been used to argue that the Bible — again with the assumption that “word of God’ refers to the Bible — is alive and can change from one person to another based on the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Fortunately, this interpretation is not that common anymore because there is nothing in this passage that would imply that, but it has to be mentioned. Any interpretation in which the “word of God” in this passage refers to the physical Bible is an example of reading into the passage a modern assumption and understanding of the “word of God.”

Look at the very next verse: “And no creature is hidden from his sight but all are naked and exposed before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13, ESV). If “word of God” refers to the Bible, now it’s a dude. Also, it has eyes — images of Evil Dead and the Necronomicon come to mind. This is evidently a reference to Jesus Christ, who is definitely alive and is often referred to as the “Word” (John 1:1). And his presence in our lives cuts so deep as to reveal our deepest and most hidden imperfections. His worthiness displays our unworthiness — we can’t hide from him. We can hide from the Bible all day.

Next, John 16:13: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (NRSV). This is a big one. Let me solve it quickly. First, if you think Jesus is talking to you, you did that one thing you cannot do: You placed yourself where Jesus used the word “you.” Second, if we go back several verses, we will learn that Jesus is speaking to his disciples and his disciples alone: He is promising them the coming of the Holy Spirit and the guidance it will give them. Third, Jesus never mentions the writing of any New Testament text. He never says, “He will guide you when you write to churches and Christians.” Therefore, although this passage contains the phrase you need — “he will guide you into all the truth” — it lacks the context, content, and audience you need.

As you can see, none of these passages defend this idea that the Holy Spirit helps people discern truth while reading the Bible. Neither talks about the Bible; neither is even talking to modern Christians. This idea can’t be defended because the idea is completely absent from Scripture.

So when you approach the Bible with an interpretive intent, don’t expect an answer to fall from the sky. Don’t even ask — it’s lazy.

Though the New Testament never says the Holy Spirit will help you interpret the Bible, there are plenty of passages that promote diligence and hard work, including 2 Timothy 2:15: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (ESV). This passage was written to Timothy, but its message is also for us; we can apply this idea of hard work and diligence regarding the Word of God to our lives as Christians.

Also, 1 Peter 3:15: “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you” (NRSV). People will demand from you reasons why you believe what you believe. Answering with “because I have faith,” “because the Bible says so,” or “just read the Bible and let the Spirit guide you to the truth” will not work — you will be laughed at. I have no doubts that the Holy Spirit can move you to seek truth, and that is, in a way, guiding you to truth; he can also both comfort and convict you as you read — guiding you to truth about your own condition. But it in no way takes away our responsibility from the pursuit of truth.

Step Two: Tools

The second step to accurate biblical interpretation: Approach it with the proper tools. When archaeologists dig for ancient artifacts, they use specific tools: transits (used to map the area where the dig will take place), shovels (removing surface material), trowels (taking away individual layers of soil), clippers and saws (removing obstacles, like roots), brushes (wiping off dust and dirt to slowly reveal the artifact), and screens (for separating remaining soil and rocks from the artifact), among other tools. Without these tools, archaeologists could not safely dig an artifact and accurately examine it. Since archaeologists utilize specific tools to dig up and examine ancient artifacts, should we not also utilize specific tools to “dig up” and “examine’’ ancient literature? American Christians, especially evangelicals, have a habit of saying, “This is what the Bible says; I just go with what the Bible says.” If that’s your interpretive approach, your conclusions are going to be jacked up. You must do some digging.

The good news: we live in the best time in the history of biblical scholarship regarding the tools at our disposal. There is absolutely no need to be a Greek or Hebrew scholar. It wouldn’t hurt, but so much information is available today — we just have to know what to use and where to find it. I am about to list some tools that will help unearth the facts from this ancient literature.

First, you need to map out the spot where you will be digging. Instead of closing your eyes, turning the pages, and putting your finger somewhere, be intentional in your search for truth. Find a book, and start at the beginning. Find a section of the Bible (books of the Law in the Old Testament, writings of Paul, etc.) and start there; examine a discourse or poem — be intentional.

Second, you need a shovel to remove some surface area. Find out who the author and audience were. Knowing who wrote the book or section and who first received it will be instrumental in moving forward. This part is simple: Build a personal library of Bible handbooks; buy some Bible software; do a web search. However, don’t pick one resource and stick to it. Acquire several handbooks and some Bible history books to compare. Examine the evidence each book presents for their conclusions to determine which resource has a more honest approach and whose conclusions are more in line with the scholarly consensus.

Third, it’s time to go a little deeper: get yourself a trowel to slowly remove the layers. It takes more than the author and audience; you also need to know the context and culture: when it was written, what was going on when it was written, what the culture of the day was like, what their beliefs were, etc. The dating of a book often determines interpretation, and the context surrounding the book can confirm that interpretation. You can use the same handbooks and online programs here that you used for the second step. However, do a close comparison of each. Also, read other material: history books and books dedicated to different cultures. We all know the phrase, “Put yourself in my shoes.” If you want to properly interpret the Bible — or any ancient text — you must put yourself in their shoes. If you don’t, you’ll be interpreting it in your shoes, and …

you can’t walk the ancient Jordan in Air Jordans.

Fourth, you’re going to have to get out a saw or some clippers and remove some obstacles. The Bible was written a long time ago, so we have some language and literature barriers to get over. Literary genres that were common then are not common now. For example, the apocalypse genre (Revelation) is often misunderstood today; it uses images and symbols that are completely missed by modern readers. Imagine someone in the year 4,130 reading a news story from 2021 that says “it was raining cats and dogs” and taking it literally — we do that with many biblical figures of speech that were never meant to be taken literally (looking at you, John Hagee). The literary styles common in Ancient Near Eastern creation myths can help us interpret Genesis, and Jewish judgment literature really comes in handy when we are examining New Testament prophetic texts. The list goes on and on.

Immerse yourself in literature that can help you accurately identify and interpret literary genres and styles in both Testaments. Fortunately, men like Leland Ryken and discoveries of other ancient texts from the same time period and region have provided us with tools sufficient for getting over the literature obstacle.

Language is the most difficult barrier: the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic; the New Testament was written in Greek. Like I said before, you don’t need to know these languages. You just need to know what resources to access in order to unlock this door to deeper understanding. I don’t know Hebrew and know enough Greek only to identify several words on a page. However, I immerse myself in resources that enable me to bypass this barrier: I use the Apostolic Bible Polyglot — a Greek-English interlinear Bible based on the Greek Septuagint and New Testament manuscripts in the Critical Text tradition, complete with lexicons, dictionaries, and concordances; alongside this amazing tool, I use The Interlinear Bible, a Hebrew-Greek-English interlinear Bible based on the Hebrew Masoretic Old Testament and New Testament manuscripts in the Textus Receptus tradition, also with lexicons, etc. With these tools, I have access to quality scholarship on the Old Testament and New Testament texts in their original languages, and they represent each of the major textual families. Keyword studies are imperative in understanding what biblical authors meant when they wrote their books and letters. Without original word meanings, we can be tempted to read into the text our modern word meanings that could not have existed then.

Fifth, once you have the truth unearthed, you’ll have to figure out why it exists in the first place: Brush it off to get the point and purpose of the text. Why did the author write it? What point did he want to get across to his audience? What was their purpose for the text when they received it? Did the book or letter contain information relevant to their — not your — situation? Remember: it wasn’t written to you. Therefore, it had to have a specific purpose and relevance for the original audience, or it wouldn’t have been addressed and sent to them. Read the greater context of the passage you are examining; read history; look for keywords that hint at reasons as to why the author wrote it; if applicable, compare it with other texts written by the author. What encouragement from the author to the audience is present?

Sixth, use a screen to filter out what belongs in the past and what can apply to the present. And you thought I didn’t care about application! I actually do. In my opinion, if you aren’t going to implement, in some way, the truths you discover, then there is no reason to interpret it. Ask yourself this question: what timeless spiritual truths are present in the midst of this ancient literary text? Like I’ve said before, not everything — and, in some cases, most things — will not be directly relevant today. That stuff should stay in the past: You can’t reinterpret it in light of your modern context (eisegesis). However, there is always a timeless truth that you can apply to your personal Christian life.

Seventh, rest.

Now that you’ve rested a moment, let’s talk about it a little more. This can be very time consuming and difficult. There is no easy way to fully understand Scripture. But, as I tell my high school English students, nothing worth doing is easy — to which they often reply with, “breathing is pretty easy.” Yes, but this isn’t breathing. This is intense and intricate stuff. But it’s also important stuff, and you can do it. Like I said, you don’t need to be a Greek or Hebrew scholar; you don’t need to memorize hundreds of verses — you just have to know what to do and what tools to utilize when you get there.

Step Three: Goal

The third step to accurate biblical interpretation: Approach it with the proper goal. Is your goal to discover truth by letting the Bible speak for itself? Or is your goal to defend what you already believe by using the Bible as a box of ammo? This is an important step. If you aren’t approaching the Bible with the intent of discovering truth, you shouldn’t waste your time. I now want to talk about an influence on my life in my own pursuit of truth: René Descartes, a 17th-century French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist.

In his philosophical treatise, The Discourse on Method, Rene Descartes chronicles the process he used in his quest for the discovery of truth. Descartes, being the skeptic he was, could not accept “any of the opinions which had formerly been able to slip into [his] belief without being introduced there by reason.” Since he could not accept knowledge he gained from the disciplines of logic, philosophy, and geometry, Descartes was led to “think that some other method must be sought.”

Therefore, he developed a four-step process for finding truth:

  1. “never to accept anything as true when I did not recognize it clearly to be so”
  2. “divide each of the difficulties which I should examine into as many portions as were possible”
  3. “conduct my thoughts in order, by beginning with the simplest objects, and those most easy to know, so as to mount little by little, as if by steps, to the most complex knowledge”
  4. “to make everywhere enumerations so complete, and surveys so wide, that I should be sure of omitting nothing”

I believe we can apply his method of discovering truth to our own methods of discovering biblical truth. Let’s talk about each step as it applies to biblical interpretation:

  1. Don’t accept any biblical interpretation that you did not discover, on your own, through a process based on reason and inquiry. This is the same thing I’ve talked about in this post and previous posts: wipe the fog off your windows; erase those assumptions that block the light of truth from coming in. And above all else, remove yourself from Scripture.
  2. Look at Step Two above. Several factors must be considered in biblical interpretation: author/audience, context/culture, language/literature, and point/purpose. Deal with each of these individually and …
  3. in the proper order: Start simple and move slowly to the more complex. As you dig deeper and deeper, the process becomes more involved, and the tools become more intricate.
  4. Leave no stone unturned as you dig for truth. You might think you have one artifact figured out until you discover that there is another just-as-important artifact behind that language barrier you didn’t want to cut out. Dig everywhere, and keep digging until every stone is unturned.

Descartes began his pursuit by removing his assumptions: he did not accept preconceived notions and understood the damage they could do.

Remember this maxim before you pursue biblical truth:

Never underestimate the power of a preconceived notion.

If you approach the Bible with your assumptions, you will fail in your quest to interpret it. That is a 100% guarantee. Yes, you can find the saving power of the Gospel (that spiritual truth has been conveniently placed close to the surface), but you can’t begin to truly appreciate our great God and his written revelation to us until you wipe your window, pack your bag with the essential tools, step out of the box you were born in, start digging, and keep digging until you find truth.