As I have discussed earlier, I was exposed to orthodox Christianity by circumstances beyond my control and I learned the standard teachings that Jesus died for my sins and if I accept him as my savior I would go to heaven, provided I attend church services regularly on Sundays and tried very hard to carry my cross to follow Jesus.
The problem is that I have come to understand that almost every concept in the above paragraph is in error. Yet they are very dear to many of my friends and they quote them in a time of need – especially when they think I have heretical beliefs and are at risk of going to hell – they quote these wrongly interpreted teachings to me and that I am aching to correct them on. So what to do?
But I do remember that I once had the same understanding, and God did not punish me even though then I thought God was likely to do just that, for I really am an awful sinner. I understood God was the stern, strict God eager to hand out punishment – by contrast his young rebellious son was just the opposite, now he took after his mother, because he was kind-hearted, meek and mild, and had come to save me. I remember one of the images of God that was burned into my mind as we discussed earlier was of God zapping Adam with lightning coming out of his finger. The painting was not that at all but that was the impression I had. I a\remember the hymn that was sung so often in Afrikaans, the language they spoke at the boarding school: “Liewe Jesus, sag en teer, sien op my u kindjie neer.”
The confusing part in the back of my mind even then, was the thought that wasn’t Jesus in fact also God, so did that mean he had the same vengeful nature, and that he was somehow suppressing it when he appeared in his Jesus form. Boy, was I ever far off the mark!?
You cannot change people!
I need to digress a bit into human physiology to give some context to how we form beliefs. As humans we have to learn many things in order to survive in this physical world. For example I grew up in country that was part of the Common Wealth so we drove on the left hand side of the road, and we walked on the left hand side of hallways and sidewalks. Now I find I automatically I walk on the left hand side of the hallways here and constantly walk into people!
Those memories, as well as beliefs are formed by the brain making circuits – connecting the dendrites of one nerve cell or neuron, to the axons of other neurons. How does the brain know to which other neurons to connect to so that the connection will accurately represent the memory or beliefs? God has foreseen this need because he created us. So he has designed our DNA in such a way that there is a small portion of our brain already programmed by him (it is our ROM). As the fetus develops, by the cells dividing into identical cells, at some point the cells are instructed to no longer divide into identical cells but rather some clusters of cells have to specialize by starting to divide in a special way to start forming organs. God has also designed and built into the DNA the timing and instruction of how to do this. Click to see an image on Bing.
So at some point during the fetal development, enough of the brain cells have developed that the ROM can function to start building the connections representing memories and later beliefs.
Illustration of how neurons could be interconnected. In real life the connections are much more elaborate and numerous.
The photo on the right shows a manual exchange. The telephone technician is similar to God in a small way in that he wires how the connections are made at the back of the board and out to the subscribers and the ladies make the memories by connecting the cables to put the call through.
For a connection to be made, the axon (output) has to grow an extension to link to the appropriate dendrite (input) of another neuron and then form the actual connection. The distances that these axons have to grow are very small (microscopically small) but the process nevertheless takes a finite time to achieve. This is intentional because God has designed us to have free will as we’ll see.
When you experience or learn something at first only a partial memory is formed. When the brain pings, or interrogates this connection, it will only be able to extract the outline of the memory which is all that is stored at first. If it is to become a long term memory, the brain has to add to the connection to make it both stronger and more elaborate as more facts are added. This takes time to learn – and also to unlearn.
So with that simplified view of how God designed our brains, let’s return to the dilemma of my friends hanging on to “false” teachings and trying to get me to see their beliefs their way. before God puts me in Hell and watches me suffer for ever and ever. In reality. I started exactly where they are, and found it hard to change, but I had to make the conscious decision to undo the neural connections supporting the teachings that were wrong and build new connections. To be honest, I know my motivation was not altogether correct, there was a part of me that liked to be more right, more knowledgeable. I discussed that and the reasons for it in my biography.
But our brains, like our computer programs, use modules (like subroutines) – they are a collection of “facts” that the brain has already learned so that it does not have to do that work again, to work out new information. The new information builds on or is layered upon existing knowledge. For example, if I already know how to get to the neighboring town, I only need to learn the last few streets and turns of how to get to my friends home.
The Value of or Confidence in Information
So preexisting knowledge will affect our ability and willingness to learn new information. You see, our brain constantly evaluates our memories and associates a level of confidence in or the value of the memory that you have stored in a particular connection. If it loses confidence in the validity of the memory or information, the operating system (part of the ROM) can clear the memory to make the connection available for new memories or learning.
God knows this, he has designed us after all. And Satan has learned this aspect of human beings from experience as well and loves to exploit it in his many deceptions.
If we have subconsciously accorded a high level of confidence to a particular memory, it will be hard to change it. So if Satan wants you to believe a certain collection of facts making up or forming the foundation of a belief, he will make sure the he will work to keep ,or strengthen, your confidence level in that collection of facts. Am I saying you are influenced by Satan? You bet I am. I certainly was. No, I am not saying you are possessed by Satan. He is much too intelligent for that. He has an “army” of people who are eager to do his will. And even they will deny that. As we discussed in the previous post Jesus made clear “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want todo.” (Mat 8:44)
That’s how subtle he is, he does not take over your mind or anything as obvious as that. Instead he uses leading people, church leaders even to say to you: Everybody believes it; Dr. Hezekiah used it in his sermon; John Fullsteam said you would burn in hell if you did not believe in it (he has a megachurch with over a hundred thousands of members! Whatever it takes to influence you. And pride is a big factor, he used that too. You get the picture. But we are not alone, God is on our side, if we pray for guidance to know the truth and for protection against this spiritual warfare – for make no mistake, that is what it is (for our struggle is not against flesh and blood…) Ephesians 6: 12 Satan knows fully what is at stake and he does pull out all the stops!
Back to the Dilemma of my Friends and Family
So should I engage my friends when they make statements that I no longer share? I can see in their expression that they know that I don’t share the belief, at least not in the way they do.
I have learned from my experience that if your foundation is wrong, you will build a house of cards. If your starting point is wrong, no matter the effort you put in, you will end up at the incorrect conclusion. But in the process you will have the many cheering you on, adding to the confidence level your brain gives to that belief, together with a good squirt of dopamine as a reward. How do I know that? From first hand experience.
You cannot change somebody’s beliefs, that would require that the connections in the brain to be undone and new connections to be made. And you have huge competition in the many who will encourage you. I care for my friends and family and I “know” what the correct starting point is.
No, I still don’t engage them about these points of doctrine. If they are genuinely interested and ask me, I would gladly explain to them, but with fear and meekness, as Peter recommends in the verse following – Fear that I teach incorrectly and meekness knowing that I was once there too, and knowing that I still have much to learn and that my friends have superior insights and experiences on aspects of teaching (doctrine) that I still have to learn.
So I will follow Peter’s recommendation:
“Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” (1 Peter 3:15).
The correct starting point is the true gospel! And God determines what the true gospel is. I discuss in depth in earlier posts. It is also when I discuss this also is where I get the most resistance! Interesting.
However how could anyone believe the true gospel if it is not preached?
Paul identifies himself to the disciples in Rome as follows:
“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God.” (Romans 1:1)
Paul was holy, he was set apart by God to serve the gospel of God with dedication, and sincerity (if you need a review of what it means to be holy see the previous post “holier than thou“).
“For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!” (Acts 28:30-31)
Right to the end of his life in Rome Paul faithfully proclaimed the good news about the kingdom of God. That is the good news Father wants us to preach as a priority.
In Romans 10:14, Paul asks “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” In other words Heidi, go and preach!
But I have to preach in a more subtle way, “wise as a serpent and harmless as dove”. That is why I write these blog posts! I benefit from confessing my faith. But they can be read quietly, without pressure from me. It is my way of sharing the gospel and all the exciting things that I have been shown by Father.
But Heidi, you have been running your friends down, saying they are led by Satan to believe false teachings. That’s a bit harsh! Are you saying that they are “lost” if they have part of story wrong? The enemy would like us to believe that. But no, no, no, I did not run anybody down, and I stated that we are all subject to spiritual warfare and prone to br influenced by Satan. The more respect I have of the faith of my friends, the more sure I am that Satan does not like that and would certainly try and influence their beliefs.
Nobody has had all the teachings right. In fact some of the events had not taken place so they could not know about them, correctly or otherwise.
“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:28)
Father is greater than we can ever imagine. He has designed humans in a miraculous way, just look at the attention to detail he put into the design of the brain that we discussed earlier. Satan is desperately trying to keep us from the truth, Father could have programmed the facts into our memories, but he wants us to use our free will to search out the truth by conscious decision, we need to search out the scriptures and really burn in those neural network connections! Satan is a formidable foe no doubt. But we have more, through Joshua Father gave us his holy spirit – that allows us to not be afraid but to have a sound mind. We will be able to see things from Father’s perspective.
Always keep this in mind, this is Father’s heart: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)