Artificial Intelligence is Coming. How Do We Prepare?

A very long time ago, in 1997, there was an excellent Disney TV show called Smart Guy. In the show a genius little boy, 10 year old T.J. Henderson, transfers from 4th grade up to high school. In one of the episodes T.J. faces off against an undefeated computer in a chess tournament for the honor of his school. Being a kid at the time, it inspired me to see a kid prevail over a computer.

Smart GuyThat episode captured much of what our society views as true happiness. It captured the social connections we create with one another being necessary, our own sense of importance within a community, and a sense of purpose in a time of change. “Change”, in this case, being a world approaching artificial intelligence (i.e. AI) and automation. Today we see the rate of this “change” is accelerating.

It is hard to imagine a future world where humans are not the smartest beings. The question for our society becomes whether the pros of artificial intelligence outweigh the cons. Even though we cannot predict the true future extents of AI we do know the world is changing at a rapid pace, so thinking critically about these changes is crucial if we want to continue thriving in the future.

It is important to note that this post is not advocating against furthering AI. The improvement of AI is coming whether we like it or not. The purpose is to prepare us for the inevitable possibilities AI will bring us. 

Lets define AI:

Artificial intelligence (AI) is an area of computer science that creates intelligent machines able to complete a task, problem solve, learn from experience, adjust to new inputs, and/or perform human-like tasks.

There are three main types of AI:

  1. Artificial Narrow Intelligence: This type of AI exists in our world today. Narrow AI is predetermined/programmed to perform a single task — whether it’s checking the weather, playing chess, or analyzing raw data to write journalistic reports. Narrow AI is not conscious, sentient, or driven by emotion the way that humans are driven. Siri is an example of Narrow AI. The automation of jobs that we see replacing people is done by this AI.
  2. Artificial General Intelligence: This type of AI does not exist yet. It would be able to perform any intellectual task that a human can. AGI is expected to be able to reason, make judgments under uncertainty, plan, learn, and integrate prior knowledge into decision-making. These machines would have such traits as imagination and autonomy.
  3. Artificial Super Intelligence: This type of AI also has not arrived and may never arrive. However, researchers believe that when [the previously stated] AGI is developed, these same machines may eventually be able to enter never-ending self-improvement loops that would lead them to a greater cognitive performance than humans in all domains of interest. They could become so powerful as to be unstoppable by humans.

That said, there will be a spectrum use of AI. Not just three categories. There are computers, robots, genetic engineering, and then a merging of individual human brain/computer interfaces (i.e. a blend of humans with AI capabilities added to them similar to a performance enhancement drug). The rest of this post will be focusing on the further innovation of Narrow AI and automation brought about by AI.

The prediction of when science will achieve these various levels of artificial intelligence varies. In their last few active months of the Obama Administration warned us that 60% of our jobs will be automated by 2030. A bipartisan-style warning telling us that this isn’t a political matter but a human matter. Sam Harris, the popular philosopher, neuroscientist and public intellectual fearfully said on the matter, “We are in the process of building some sort of god.” [A statement analogous to the biblical Tower of Babel story, but I digress.]

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Workers exchange spools of thread as a robot picks up thread made from recycled plastic bottles at the Repreve Bottle Processing Center. Source: Chicago Tribune

To display the positive side for a moment – some of the benefits to AI and automation include:

  • It will aide in the daily productivity of businesses.
  • It will add new, ancillary jobs that we’ve never had before.
  • It will be able to spot and detect people’s diseases and health defects better than any human doctor can detect.
  • It will drive down consumer costs, making many of our products and services more affordable than ever before.

These are beautiful benefits that people have to agree are good.  Since we have problems that we need solved – e.x. Alzheimer’s, cancer, climate science, etc. – we WILL continue to innovate our technological intelligence to try to fix them. However, every beneficial thing on this earth has a dark side. Just as the advantageous social media has a dark side….the dark side of AI and automation is arguably worse.

Here are five points that we need to begin to take serious for the near future:

1) How will AI affect the workplace?  AI automation will affect jobs. We’ve all seen employees replaced at our local grocery and retail stores by machines. For another example, a large number of truck and taxi drivers are predicted to go away within the next 10 years. That’s a ton of middle-aged adults left without a job and likely do not have the scholastic means to find another profession they’re qualified to perform. Companies like Amazon, Uber and Google have already stated how they want to increasingly automate their jobs that are currently held by people. Subsequently, millions of jobs are likely to be displaced.

Why are companies seeking workforce automation? The primary goal of any company is to increase revenue. With AI automation usage a company saves money by (1) not having to pay their machines a salary and (2) not having to pay healthcare for human employees. And, to add, these machines are not limited to 8 hours work days and vacation time – they can work 24/7. This drastically decreases company costs thus increasing revenue.

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Prediction of how Automation Affects the Human Workforce. The Economist

2) How will AI affect unemployment?  As jobs are displaced due to AI automation, there will be new jobs created [as previously stated]. Unfortunately it is hard to predict how many new jobs and what they will look like. Additionally, today we already have many jobs waiting to be occupied. What we do know about these jobs is that many of them require a high level intelligence. Not everyone has the cognitive gifting to be a lawyer, dentist, or computer scientist. This trend will lead to an even wider income gap in our country and an increased rate of poverty. With the way our youth educational system is currently setup children are not properly equipped for the new sector(s) of jobs that will be in demand.

3) How will this affect the family?  With research we are beginning to learn the psychological and sociological effects of unemployment. People are meant to how-men-can-confront-toxic-masculinity-sad-man-feature_1320W_CL-1work. We are hardwired for it. When people lose their jobs they feel they lose their purpose. Studies have shown that men and women tend to respond differently to job loss. In men, there is increased escapism. We have seen the rates of depression, opioid overdose, fatherless households, and suicide increase in some correlation to the increase in male unemployment. Conversely, women show no statistically significant emotional effects correlated with their unemployment status.

This effect is coupled with society still grappling/learning the effects of women increasingly entering the workforce. Before the introduction of women into the workforce men only competed with other men – now they compete with both men and women. We also know that today women are generally better educated than men; so these men are now at the increasing disadvantage of both women and AI machines in the workplace. That is not a reason to oppose women [or AI] being in the workforce but rather an objective analysis of the unprecedented, complex outcome of it. Where men are walking in their purpose of design, the home and society at large flourish. With AI, men will take a more direct blow. Because, you see, people don’t need money, they need function. Where that doesn’t happen, there is a backslide of society.

4) How will this affect the cohesion of our society?  The historical cause and effect from the rise in poverty is an increase in crime. The empirical evidence is indisputable that inequality drives crime. Sometimes we can see an increase in uprisings from the lower income class when there is massive inequality. During the Industrial Revolution of the 1800’s England and America saw numerous revolts from the labor force due to the sudden replacement of jobs by machines.

We have to be careful here because if the amount of inequality ramps up enough then our social system will destabilize. The likelihood of an uprising from the lower class increases when they believe their economic opportunity (and the opportunity of their offspring) is fixed/rigged to stay below a reasonable level. The economic game being fair is the American Dream. AI automation can bring down cohesion within society as it takes away the opportunity of masses of people and as it increases poverty.

The estimated job replacement of AI automation is at a much higher scale than that of the Industrial Revolution. If we do not expect the possibility of some form of revolts, then we’re being quite optimistic. We also need to look at the impact of AI on our individual, everyday lives. Will automation cause a decrease in our patience, empathy, care, and investment in others? If a student can supplement their brain with some level of AI will their cognitive advantage over regular students be taken into account or not? Think about how smarter we are right now with the ability to look up anything on our iPhone. Imagine having that ability installed in  your head.

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5) Miscellaneous: How will this affect international relations? How will it change social media? How will AI weaponry change how we view the morality of war? How will AI sex robots change the world?

 

Throughout history the rate of growth of society has been an intuitive, linear slope. With linear progression humankind is better able to adjust. The past half century has shown that technological growth is an exponential progression. So as we get closer to AI capabilities, we won’t experience 100 years of growth within a century, it will actually be more like thousands of years of progress within a single century. This is extremely difficult for humankind to adjust to.

Google futurist, Ray Kurzweil’s, graph to illustrate his beliefs concerning exponential technological growth.

Historically, the Church has had a tendency to be late on discussions of technological advancements. We are typically late to the game and reactive. It seems to be the contrary this time around. Recently (April 11, 2019) over 60 well-known evangelical leader created and signed a new statement centered on the principles of AI.

“We recognize that AI will allow us to achieve unprecedented possibilities, while acknowledging the potential risks posed by AI if used without wisdom and care,” stated the authors of the new statement unveiled to The White House.

This is a key step in approaching the global discussion of AI. It marks a claim for a seat at the AI ethics table for Christians as world governments try to prepare for the future change rapidly occurring in our world. Still, it isn’t solely up to our evangelical leaders; the rest of us also have a duty to uphold. Our awareness on the topic is paramount. AI tools and their limitless potential can be at odds with a belief in human dignity and morality based on the image of God.

There are warning signs around us if we simply open our ears to hear. The economic growth of our society is not what sustains us. The world, the family, and the individual were each designed with a particular hierarchical purpose in mind. What we will need to focus on is the preservation of our communities as one of our greatest challenges today and in the near future.

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The Young Boy And His Fear of Dogs

 

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Young Todd could barely catch his breath as the neighbor’s dog attempted to chase him down. He hid behind the playground wall that was just high enough to cover his entire body. Todd’s heart pounded with fear as he tearfully pleaded with his own thoughts for the dog to go away. In his mind this was a matter of his life being on the line. He was a long ways from home at this point.

The young boy had always struggled with a borderline phobia of dogs. Dogs were mean, hateful, and always seemed to chase or bark at him relentlessly. He had never even patted a puppy before for the fear that the puppy would bite him. Though his brothers would love to own a puppy one day, their parents have always opposed because of Todd’s fear.

After less than a minute of searching for Todd, the neighbor’s dog finally gave up and left. Little did the young boy understand, all the dog wanted to do was play. Still, in Todd’s head, that dog wanted to eat him skin and bones. No sense in taking chances and playing with fire.

By the time Todd made it back home his mother was standing on the porch, tapping her foot. Frustration was practically stemming from her – “Where have you been, Todd? You’re supposed to be home by 7:30 and you’re not supposed to be out alone either. It is 9:00; your brothers are already in bed and we’ve been worried sick.”

“But but Mm Mom,” stuttered Todd, “Brodie jump over the neighbor’s fence again and chased me all the way to the park.”

Remorseful, but still frustrated, “Ok Todd. Come inside. But you’ve got to eventually get over your fear. Dogs aren’t here to hurt you. One day I hope you’ll understand that.”

Todd and his mother went inside the house where there were leftovers ready for him on the table.

His mother still concerned said, “Todd, I’m going to pray over you. Heavenly Father, I thank you for my son. For his heart, his laughter, and his joy. We thank you for the gift of life. I want to ask that you take away the fear of dogs from my son. Help him see that dogs aren’t dangerous. Help him see that you created them in all their beauty. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.”

After finishing up dinner, Todd heads to bed and is tucked in by his mom.

“Goodnight, Todd.”

“Goodnight, Mom.”

That is when it happened:

Next thing Todd knows he is in a dream. Though, apart from most dreams, this dream seemed magically real. Todd starts off walking through the lobby of a building. His is the only one around but can hear slight commotion from behind the walls. Suddenly, tall, light brown double doors appeared that led to behind the walls. Oddly enough, at the moment, Todd had no sense of fear. Having nowhere else to go he opened the doors to walk through.

Todd was now in a gigantic room filled with people everywhere – so many that he could not count. Todd was a short kid anyways, so even if he could count that high he would not be able to see overhead enough to look yonder. The sea of people parted as they created a pathway for the young boy. By this point all the chatter settled and all eyes were on Todd as he naturally walked down the aisle. It was as if Todd knew where to go. On the other hand, he had no other direction to go. Still, there was a strange sense of peace in him.

Eventually his gaze left the crowded people to focus straight ahead up the aisle. What he almost saw now was a man – though he wasn’t fully a man. Todd vision was distorted a little as his eyes tried to figure out what he was looking at. He’d never seen a man like this before. He was half man, half spiritual-like, wearing a long robe. When Todd was finally directly in front of the man his eyes finally adjusted to see the angelic being in front of him. Todd was in awe. The hairs on the man’s head were white, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire. Still, Todd felt a calmness that he never felt before.

The man standing before Todd then slightly bent over to hover above him.

“Hello Todd,” stated the man. His voice threw Todd off guard. The man’s voice was not simply that of a human’s voice. It sounded similar to the roaring waters he had heard when his family went white water rafting. “I love you. I am going to put a crown on your head. Right now, I want you to see my creation the way I see my creation!”

Instantly, dozens of dogs came from behind the angelic man coming toward Todd. Though his inclination was to panic, this time he could not do so. The dogs looked different. He could absolutely see they were dogs. That did not change. What Todd sees now is “Love” in the dogs. It was as if Todd was looking at multiple real-life hieroglyphics in a 4th dimension. Todd can see his mother, his father, brothers, his favorite teacher, his favorite food, all his warm life moments, AND each dog simultaneously…all while he looks at the dogs. Todd could not believe it. For the first time he did not want to run. He wanted hug all the dogs. And that is exactly what he did. With all joy.

The man, still standing there then uttered, “You see Todd, I create Love. Nothing that I create is bad.  You view things dimly. I have the ability to open your eyes to more joy. Now wake up, and see”.

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Dating: 3 Reasons Why Women CAN Make the First Move

Well well well, here we are again – Dating. In the comments section of an older blog post, a woman recently asked me the infamous question: “Is It Alright For A Girl To Ask Out A Guy?”  It’s an age old question that has become increasingly popular alongside the rise of women in 21st Century America. Women are surpassing men in education and excelling in the workplace, financially, gender equity, and leadership. These cultural changes bring rise to variations of this dating question.

As a man, I prefer to make the first move AND ask out the woman. As a cocky, hopeless romantic … it thrills me to do so. That is just me.

To avoid “personal preferences” or “semantics” as much as possible – instead of addressing the topic of women directly “asking out” men – I will address why it may be alright for the woman to make the “first move” or upfront “initiate interest” in the man.

While conventional wisdom has us generally believing it is ideal for a man to make that first move,  we still should ask [on any matter] what type of investigation was previously done for us to come to such a conclusion.

Does it make sense?

Is there a line? Has that line changed?

Are we robotically following a rule because it is all we’ve ever known?

Was the notion modeled during an historical/traditional outdated set up of society/culture during a particular time period?

I mean, historically, how could a woman ask a man out without herself having a job, money, education, or any status of power?

Here are 3 reasons why it may be alright for a girl to make the first move:
  1. Just Because You Make The First Move Does Not Mean He Cannot Lead

There has been this notion that if a woman initiates first, it subtracts from the man’s opportunity of leadership. However, does this reasoning add up? After you tell him you are interested, it can still be the man’s job to agree and maybe pick out the date spot. It can still be the man’s job to pick you up on time, grab your coat, and pay for the date. It can still be the man’s job to guide, protect and cultivate the woman for the duration of the relationship.

Over time, as you define the relationship, you can make clear to him in what you’re looking for in a man as a leader. Tell him what you expect EARLY on. If he continually doesn’t meet that criteria then stop and move on.

Dating with marriage in mind is important, regardless of who makes the first move. We all know relationships where the man asked out first, but turned out to be a sub-par leader to the woman. This must mean that the first move has no direct correlation to the man’s leadership ability or leadership potential.

  1. The Romantic Challenge Versus The Proactive Challenger Fairy-tale

There is a difference between actively pursuing someone and initially engaging someone. The former is over an extended time period while the latter is at a particular time. With both phrases, the person on the receiving end is the “challenge”. It is said that in the initial stage of a relationship, the lady needs to wait patiently and be the challenge sought out by a man rather than being the challenger.

To actively pursue someone takes time and effort in cultivating. Biblically it should be done by the man, with the woman hopefully being receptive to that man’s servitude toward her. This is correct and does not change. Conversely, to initially engage someone is to show that there is simply interest in that person.

Disney movies taught us that it is romantic for the woman to always be the challenge for a man to find and love. Any seasoned married couple would say that Life teaches a very different story. The true challenge of is in Month 2 of dating after you’ve ran out of small talk. The true challenge is loving one another through the numerous faults and weaknesses. The true challenge is liking one another after the euphoria of physical attraction wears off. The true challenge is loving one another after your children appear and your sex life becomes a part-time job.

Doing life together is the true challenge. The true challenge is where the solid, sustaining love is found. That is what matters most. Disney leaves that part out. A relationship should be looked at more holistically, not just the first 2 minutes of, “Hey, I’m interested in you”.

So the woman does not lose her title of the Romantic Challenge just by making the first move. She possibly gains a  lifetime of true love.

3. Relationships Are About You Too

Maybe the woman has a Type A personality and the man has Type B. The social sciences domain have written many articles on men becoming increasingly more passive. Waiting for the passive guy, the oblivious guy, or the Type B guy could take a long while. For Type A women, it seems like eternity. What’s the worst that can happen if you tell him you are interested? You’ll stop over-analyzing and finally get answers, that is what. Some guys say they wouldn’t mind if you did so anyways. 

The situation plays a factor as well. Are you already friends? Is he your sidekick?  Are you strangers? Can you or a friend to invite him to a group event? How much of a “nudge” is needed for the guy to get the hint? It is a case by case basis.

It is natural to like a guy. You aren’t wrong for wanting to ask him out. Whatever you do, be confident not clingy. Be assertive not aggressive. Read the signs: Is he shy, does he remember the details of what you say, does he keep momentum going? In the end, God will provide in His timing no matter what we do or how foolish we do it. Waiting isn’t a bad thing at all, and sometimes that first nudge wouldn’t hurt either.

Running From Love

Words are short.
She was perfect to look upon,
As an adventurous fairy-tale read to a child.
She was a miracle;
New like the dawn of a Spring morning,
Sweet like Trader Joe’s cheese,
Opportune like the refresh button fixing website glitches.
Her melody is a luxury;
Her vitality is a necessity.

You don’t know it,
But sometimes I peak through your window.
You look different when I peak – you’re off guard.
I dote on you.
If you’ve come here for a compliment, you’ve come to the right place.
And if I had a nickel for every time I thought that…
I’d have 47 nickels;
Enough for my nephew to buy chocolates for his kindergarten crush;
And if it can work for him…

Words are misleading.
Only I am perfect.
Your true heart precludes your perfection;
You are not perfect,
You never were a miracle.
You’re simply a girl, running from me.

You were born running from me.

I peak through your window but I only see myself.
It was always myself. New, yet broken;
Like the bad sequel of a good movie.
As cliché as vintage knock knock jokes.
Fake like plastic cheese in a storefront window.
On the brink of the curtains closing, I turn around,
I now see that it is Jesus looking in on me.

The Word is fulfilling.
My feet finally at ease.
The room fills empty as I look back at Jesus;
His love replaces the emptiness,
No words can grade the transcendence of His stare.
He is peaking in on me.
He is peaking in on us.
Us, His Church, His Perfection, His Miracle. His Bride.
If we’ve come for a compliment, then we’ve come to the wrong place.
If we’ve come for love and vitality –
Or just to simply stop running, then…welcome home.

Wormwood Letters: Death of The Next Christian Age

The group of young demons all raced through the door and into the room just in time to be considered early for the meeting.  One of the demons, who happened to be quite large in size, jetted over to claim dibs on the chair at the round table which would be closest to the Dean. An argument arose among them at which one of them was the greatest demon.

At that moment, Dean Wormwood walked in the room. Overhearing the argument, Wormwood interrupts, “Whoever is greatest among you will prove it by the work he has accomplished. Those who have ears let them hear.” Wormwood happens to point to the largest of the demons, awarding him the seat for now.

“Arise, for the pledge.” proclaimed Wormwood, without a hint of emotion.

They each arose, chanting in unison:  “Remember remember remember, our main business is to blind the mind of humans. To kept them from seeing the light of the Gospel of the glory of The Enemy Jesus Christ who is the image of his Father and gifts The Spirit. Until the end, Praise be to Satan!”

Everyone sat back down at the table as only Wormwood was left standing. Wormwood stood with a glaring pose as he waited to make sure he had everyone’s attention. He knew that newly graduated demons were of the most inattentive. Their inexperience in the real world could decrease the effectiveness of Hell and Wormwood was going to be sure to flush out all their ignorance before they officially went into the human world.

[Dean Wormwood begins his speech]

“Congratulations on graduating from your studies in demonism. You are about to embark on your own journey. Each of you will be assigned a certain amount of humans to tamper amongst. I am here to tell you of my journey at a young demon because of my great achievements on the mission field. There is great excitement in our realms about the next generation of Christians coming about. That is, those born during the technological and social media age.  The elder demons worked hard to negatively affect Christian thought throughout  history in different ways. We hope that you will as well. It is the human flesh which neglects The Enemy God.  And we can sharpen this effect.

It has always been our goal to skew the definition of fundamental elements within Christianity and, subsequently, hinder the Christian life. I began my mission field with a team of demons in the 1700s. I convinced the humans to call it The Age of Enlightenment. This was one of our greatest victories to date! Sadly, the Enemy Jesus was still able to muster out good things in that time period which benefited His Kingdom. However, our first great victory was that for the first time in history we were able to shift the macro-cultural human focus away from the Enemy God and toward individualism. The structure of entire nations and governments adopted this principle which directly went against that disgusting, ghastly Word. The Bible.

With that heightened inward focus, humans then relied heavily on their own reasoning and rationale. They became stuck in a prison of scientific materialism. Thus, the second victory was the crushing of their sense of imagination. You see, if a young child can believe in the FALSE MYTH of Santa Claus…it becomes easier for an adult to believe in the TRUE MYTH of the Enemy Jesus. We had them believe that wisdom and innocence were contradictory – erasing the childlike faith they needed to get to the Enemy, God the Father.

 

By the late 1800s, we skewed their meaning of love. It changed to the negative ideal of Unselfishness – that they could only display love for others by going without it themselves. Self-denial, as an end in itself. This took away from their idea of reward and Heaven. Quite contrary to what the Enemy Jesus actually taught. The following generation of the 1900s did not want to be like their stern parents and grandparents, so they became a generation of inclusiveness. All people should feel love. All people should be saved. Hence, Universalism.

As far as this current generation, our victories thus far are in weakening the human view on relationships and depth of worship. The internet was a great instrument for us. It gave us small victories of pornography, which aided in sex trafficking and sexual abuse. Small victories in my opinion, but victories nonetheless. The true victory is in confusing their sense of relationship which crushes their depth of Christian unity and derails their ability to understand how a relationship with the Enemy Jesus truly works. They cannot speak to the Enemy God if they do not know how to communicate with the Enemy God.

 

The plans for the upcoming generation are deadly to the very identity of the Christian faith. Humans born in the late 1990s ONLY know a life of social media. ONLY know a life of elevated political correctness. In turn … their way of thinking, processing, analyzing, and views on time will be extremely different from each generation before them. We must take advantage of this opportunity that we have been slowly creating.

Our hope is that their cultural norm of understanding particular principals – eternity, Christian accountability, memorization, views of family, sex, and reproof – will weaken.  More than any generation prior, this plan will take away from the Christian identity because the Enemy Jesus uses the pictures and stories of each of those principals in displaying His Truth.

Eventually, Christianity will have a bad connotation to it. And no human, believer or unbeliever, wants to be called bad. Being called weird is ok, but bad is unattractive. The Enemy Jesus wrote the scriptures for reproof. If reproof becomes a bad thing then the scriptures become bad – making the Enemy Jesus bad. A Christian will have to say they are not a Christian, because, otherwise, they are bad. Therefore, that desired Christian identity will fade away in humans. And a human without an identity is forever lost. Little would they realize that the Enemy Jesus did not go into the world to make bad people good. Rather he went into the world to make dead people live.

 

Wormwood then paused and slowly turned his head to the left. There was a picture of Satan on the wall. It partially covered a medium-sized crack that ran from the floor up to the roof. The young demons watched as Wormwood steadily walked over to the crack and delicately ran his palm over it.

“However,” begin Wormwood in a sudden, defeated voice, “the Enemy Jesus knows our plan and somehow has always seemed to be many steps ahead of us. Just look at the Cross and the Resurrection. Never never never forget that the Enemy Jesus has already won. The Enemy creates life where we constantly claim death … But that does not mean we cannot still try.  Class dismissed.”

HALLOWEEN: Joel Osteen RETURNS

There I was, lazily sitting on my parent’s comfy sofa in their Atlanta home a few weeks ago. I was watching old NBA highlights on YouTube when, unexpectedly, my father’s brother walks in through the front door. My cool uncle. After greetings, he led our conversation through such topics as life, dating, and then he somehow switched to Joel Osteen. I was shocked! Apparently, he had read a blog post I wrote over a year ago on Osteen’s teaching and my uncle has had a few reservations since then.

Though my uncle does not fully agree with Joel Osteen’s ministry, he wanted me to understand that his teaching is not wrong because still does large amounts of good and gives purposeful drive in people’s lives. I then brought up many of the points that I wrote in my past blog post, here.

We continued on until he asked a certain question that I was unable to give a solid answer to at the time. That question is what I will now address: He asked me… how do I know that what I am saying IS correct and what Joel Osteen is saying is NOT correct?

Now there are two ways to hear his question. He was not “entirely” asking me to biblically show him proof for which preference gives a governing, correct version of God’s message – though that is possible and has been done numerous times before. His question is for the breakdown of a fundamental rule(s) of how a particular person can come to know that whatever he or she believes – within a particular society, system, doctrine or group – governs over a different belief, within the same context.

Well, to my handsomely cool uncle, the answer involves four aspects: facts, intuition, reasoning, and authority.

When you take what you believe and find that (1) the facts are clear and undisputed, (2) your basic intuition is undoubtedly intuition, (3) your reasoning which connects this intuition with the particular belief is strong, and (4) you are in agreement with humanly or divine authority; then there is a good chance that you are correct and you can trust in your warm blanket of thought. The more that each of these 4 factors is not met, the more you can conclude that your belief is probably wrong.

(There is much to say on this topic, but it will be greatly shortened for a low word-count, ha. Neither is this only limited to Osteen’s teaching)

As to the Facts. It is agreed among everyone that happiness, wealth, and health are beautiful gifts. Lets say that the prosperity gospel is true. If this is so, then overseas missionaries should be getting the best treatment from God. If belief in God were numerical then no one would have earned more points than a martyred missionary. But the fact that they are killed for their faith to begin with goes directly against the promise of prosperity teaching. That argument/teaching collapses. The same goes with most people in the Bible. Jesus called John the Baptist the greatest man alive. A few verses later we see John The Baptist being beheaded. It seems that any prosperity preaching is more so a rhetorical account of someone who is already in a prosperous position … likely a pastor. Therefore this teaching isn’t based on fact because it is barely an observable opinion.

As to Intuition.  Intuition would be the ability for our mind to perceive self-evident truth. If A equals B, then anytime you have A then you should have B as well. If being a Christian and fully trusting God to give you prosperity works, then it should always work. Since most Christians, historically and today, die without ever having prosperity then it seems that prosperity and Christianity do not go hand in hand. Such an opinion is highly improbable of being true.

As to Reasoning.  Proving the prosperity gospel is a means to an end. In order to give the teaching a firm and sustaining foundation its reasoning must always work backwards. You must start with the end that you want, and then you work it backwards to fit the Bible in. So you work in a few things Jesus said; but only a few. You’d omit his teachings on salvation, hell, sin, and even omit mentioning his death on the cross. Because you’d want more members and just mentioning a guy being beaten bloody and nailed onto a tree isn’t a crowd pleaser; catch my drift. Then you’d re-word a few of his verses to fit your style (something Joel Osteen has said that he does). No one starts fresh with the Bible and concludes with the Prosperity Gospel, you must start in reverse… because the end must always be the same. That is how you can have people speaking believable heresy; since the lines can be constantly moved to maintain their preferred end. Still, why can’t we keep prosperity teaching AND include the whole meta-narrative of the Bible? You cannot because the latter portion would directly interfere with sustaining the foundation of the end goal of the prosperity portion. Each book of the Bible rubs against prosperity teaching.

With this reasoning piece we must always be careful that we do not have a passion swaying our mind. We are always liable to be corrupted by our passions when we are considering truth and falsehood. When a popular sports athlete gets in trouble, sometimes we’ll side in their favor not because they are innocent but because they are on our favorite team. Do you read for yourself that Jesus wants you to have financial blessing? Or do YOU just want to have financial blessing? I think I remember verses cautioning on that.

This reasoning style is a game that only makes sense in the context of the end goal. A logical fallacy game. Admittedly, I use the same tactics to argue that Kobe Bryant is better than Michael Jordan  😉

As for Authority.  Since his question is not for the Biblical answer, we can leave out divine authority for now and just address human authority. The prosperity gospel has only been around in the past 70 years. Therefore, we’ve found something new under the sun that was not taught by any of the apostles nor by any of the old church writers. We would then have to say that we have found something that the Apostle Paul was not aware of. We would find that Augustine, Blaise Pascal, Charles Finney, John Calvin, Leonard Ravenhill, Thomas Aquinas, Jonathan Edwards, and the writings of many others are against us. We would not be able to find any literature to back us up that is dated before the 1960s. Whatever authority we find 2000 years prior to the 1960s would not mention the prosperity gospel. Surely we could not have been so far incorrect all those years. Somehow we were always intellectually off until this recent generation of fast cars and Facebook. That basic assumption is flawed in itself. With that said, human authority does not seem to line up with the prosperity gospel either.

So, Uncle. That is my answer to your question. I pray this helps. I love you.