Motivation and Christianity

2010 May 19

I came across a fascinating illustrated talk about what motivates humans. It is of a talk given by Dan Pink, oriented mostly toward business success. He has written a book titled Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Dan relates that conventional carrot-and-stick incentives for work bring benefit only when tasks are scripted and mechanical. In particular, monetary rewards dramatically fail to motivate us when the task requires cognitive effort. Modern work often requires thought and creativity. In this context he says, Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose are very effective motivators.

Autonomy includes lack of micro-management. It includes clear guidance for direction, but given at a high level. Mastery is our desire to improve, have progress, and do well. Purpose is a values-driven reason for being, for existence beyond only self. These are all intrinsic motivators.

In contrast, Christianity is seen by some as a religion with a demanding boss (God) that has his own agenda. Our behavior is to be controlled by inflexible external rules. We are always being observed. Our means of determining progress is unclear. And, final success comes as a presumed big payout in the distant future (heaven). This faulty view of Christianity is very de-motivating.

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Understanding Sin

2010 May 16

In an interview, Gary Anderson (author of a book about the historical understanding of sin) made the point that in the Bible sin has been seen primarily by a couple of metaphors through time.

Sin Metaphors

Early in the Old Testament, sin was primarily seen as a burden to be carried. Although our English translations of the Bible don't convey much of that concept, it can be seen in Leviticus 16. The sins of the people are figuratively put onto a goat, and then the goat is taken away and released into the wilderness. The scapegoat carried away the weight of the people's sins.

It is easy to understand how sin could come to be viewed this way. The feeling we experience when we have done wrong is like that of a heavy, debilitating load. However, there is more to sin than this metaphor can carry.

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The Significance of the Blood

2010 May 16

What is the spiritual significance of the blood?   and
What is the significance of Jesus' blood to us?

First, two definitions:

  • Sin is choosing a value system to motivate our actions that is not God's value system. (See also)
  • Death is separation or breaking of relationship.


Life, death, substitutes and blood

To understand the spiritual significance of blood, it is important first to understand the historical significance of blood in two areas: the Jewish passover and the sacrificial systems. This gives us substantially a legal model for understanding sin.

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Atheists and morality

2010 Apr 6

I came across an interesting article about the ethics of atheists. (It is long!; about 10 pages.) Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens have apparently become known as the "New Atheists".

These four are extremely, vocally critical of religion. In their perspective, most people are religious (at least moderately). These hold tightly to religious beliefs not based out of reason. Militant religious individuals having the same general beliefs as these moderates are condoned by them. Because of this, radical militants are able to bring atrocities on the world. These guys' opinion then is that religion is responsible for the majority of conflict in our world.

The problem that these guys acknowledge for themselves is that religion is globally seen as the source of morality. Humans need an objective source of morality.

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Why God's Value System Matters

2010 Mar 30

Why does this value system perspective on Christianity matter?

It matters because it makes Christianity easier to understand and apply. This perspective is significant much the same way new scientific models are significant.

Many years ago Aristotle's established theory of astronomy put the earth at the center of the universe. As we got better at studying the skies, problems in the theory became apparent. Johannes Kepler somehow managed to reconcile the two, but only by a very complicated set of rules. However, when Copernicus and Galileo introduced a new solar-centric theory, everything made more sense. The model more accurately fit what we could see, it was much more simple, and it could be applied to understand new situations.

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A Passion for God

2010 Mar 20

What is it to have a passion for God? What are its effects in your life? In thinking about passion, I thought about both good and bad aspects.

There are some things I am and have been passionate about. Somehow I find myself interested in them with no effort on my part. It could be nice if our relationship with God took no effort. However, when it takes work, that is not an excuse for not putting in the effort. In fact, when I am passionate about some thing, I find I put a lot of effort into it. So this would be the kind of passion about God that I want to have.

A big pitfall is to assume God is like us in the relationship. He is not. So we must not allow ourselves to be disappointed when he doesn't act as we expect. We must have faith that he is better than us and wants good for us. However, this will be as He defines good.

Also in thinking about passion, I thought about some famous people that had followed hard after God. For a few of them, their relationships with family had suffered badly because of it. I am fairly convinced this is not the correct balance of passion.

The result of having God's value system will be to show God's love to others. This is the one law of God's kingdom. It won't be to exclude them from your life in the pursuit of God. So a true passion for God must also result in deeper relationships with other Christians, especially within the family.

Our relationship with God grows as he transforms us to have His value system. His value system is sacrificial love for the benefit of others. When we share that value system in common, it will be a passion in our life. And it brings about a life worth living.


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Jesus describes love

2010 Feb 2

A friend's pastor made a significant point in his Sunday message:

  • The scripture "If you love me you will obey my commandments" (John 14:15) is not a condition of God's love; it is a description of God's love.

Wow, I love this quote! This isn't a common view because it is a radical change in thinking from a superficial reading of the verse. But we can see from the context that it is correct.

At 15:10, Jesus again says, "If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love". But then he continues with an amazing statement, "just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love."

We can be certain that the Father's love was never conditional to Jesus, therefore, the meaning must be something else. If we see that Jesus was teaching us about what the love of God is ("describing" it to us), it does make sense. However, then also we need to know Jesus' commands to us.

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