Evolve. the Search for Truth.

Theories of Origin

 

The Nature of Freedom: Obey the Law

Moses composed five books.  The first book is called Genesis, meaning origins.  In the first stories of the Book of Genesis we are told of the origins of the universe and the origins of mankind.  Moreover, in both stories the meaning to the universe as well as the meaning of death are answered.  The two great questions I was searching for are answered in these ancient stories told thousands of years ago and written as a piece of ancient literature!  

According to Moses, the world exists because God created it and installed mankind in order to govern it.  And not only did God create the universe, he created it “good”.  In the act of creation, space and time was also created, and so God is infinite and eternal as he is outside space and time, he holds the universe in the palm of his hands as the Hebrew prophets used to sing.  He’s got the whole world, in his hands.  

As a scientist, it’s interesting that Jewish and Catholic scientists have such clarity on great scientific findings of the last century, proving what their religions had revealed to their spiritual forefathers thousands of years ago.  This provides a source which is outside the universe.  According to the Hebrew prophets,God is like a master craftsman crafting a beautiful universe in relationship with Him.  And, it is interesting that we tell time to this day in relationship to an ancient Hebrew prophet who made the ludicrous claim to be the Son of God.

According to Moses, death entered the world because of our disobedience to divine law.  Our destiny is to be in paradise with God, eating from the tree of life, and obeying his precepts.  In the beginning, there was only one command, not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Humanity’s freedom from death only existed insofar as we are obedient to the divine law of God.  Our disobedience separates us from God and shackles us to death, dooming us to die.  For God spoke to mankind, “when you eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall die,” telling us that the moment we learned evil, we began to die.  A good universe cannot sustain evil.  Hence, we begin to die the moment we learn evil.  

Now, obviously these are answers from a particular tradition of people.  But the fact that this particular tradition accurately predicted that the universe had a beginning thousands of years before the rest of the world, it is a spectacular accomplishment worthy of investigation.  This is the heart behind science, the moment you notice something repetitive or peculiar, there are reasons to investigate and find out the truth.  

Incidentally, this same trait was shared by Moses, for his whole story starts with an investigation into a natural phenomenon, a bush set on fire would not burn up.  Moses was not any different than any modern-day scientist.  He noticed a peculiar thing and went closer to investigate.  Moses’s investigations changed his life and the course of human history, for in that investigation was revealed something fundamentally crucial to humanity, something that has slowly spread like the leaves from the seed of a planted tree to the rest of the world — God desires for slaves to be free!  God loves freedom.  Now, many take this piece of divinely revealed truth for granted.  But let us not do so.

The Greeks held slaves, and even the great thinker and truth seeker and philosopher, Aristotle, justified slavery.  Aristotle wrote in Politics, “it is clear that some men are by nature free, and others slaves, and thus for these latter slavery is both expedient and right.”  Aristotle is a great thinker, there is no doubt.  But the issue of slavery shows us a very important aspect of truth — when we look at the mysteries of this world, a truth seeker could make a very good argument based on fact and reason and yet be very wrong.  Aristotle’s justification of slavery is the perfect example of this.  It is a wonderful argument based on fact and reason that ends up in foolishness — the justification of an institution all Americans understand as evil.  

Aristotle, one of the greatest thinkers of the ancient world, and one of the most influential thinkers on the methodologies of scientific explanation, justified slavery.  Aristotle, the man who gave Western Civilization a methodology which we’ve adapted to help us pursue and seek truth, was fundamentally wrong on the issue of slavery.  He, who rightly advised, “he who considers things in their first growth and origin, whether a state or anything else, will obtain the clearest view of them,” wrongly concluded, “it is clear then, that some men are by nature free, and others slaves, and thus for these latter slavery is both expedient and right.”  This wasn’t Aristotle’s fault.  He did not have divine revelation to make sense of the universe.  This is why the contrast between Jews and Greeks becomes so important.  The Jews had truth revealed to them, while the Greeks had to seek truth.

The example of Aristotle and the great Greek thinkers is great for us to understand because it teaches us something about the nature of truth.  We can’t arrive at important truths simply through logic, even if thoroughly based on facts and reason.  We arrive at the important truths only in faith, for that is the underlying basis by which we understand and interpret everything.  As Kant, the great logician taught, “Logic must contain nothing but a priori laws, which are necessary, and apply to the understanding universally.”  In other words, we have to have a foundation of understanding in order to understand the universe.  This foundation, according to Hebrew prophets, is divine revelation.

Whether we are scientists or not, we accept fundamental truths on revelation.  And so, while Aristotle and the Greeks used their great intellects to justify slavery for economic reasons, God clearly revealed to Moses and the Jews that he desires for mankind to be free.  He revealed this because he chose to set the slaves free!  Jewish revelation is God sets slaves free.  Rather than provide Moses with a series of facts and reasons for why the Hebrews should not be slaves in Egypt, God simply said to Moses “Go and bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”  

It is ironic that Americans of the 18th and 19th century would seek to justify the evil institution of slavery using holy Jewish scriptures.  The reason the holy scriptures exist in the first place is because God chose to free slaves and in helping them walk in freedom, gave them sacred scriptures.  But, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “let us judge not lest we be judged.”  

Specifically, God gave the Israelites stories and 10 commandments to help them walk in freedom as a new nation, under God.  The 10 commandments provided the basic fundamentals for a healthy civil society.  Things like honoring God, your parents, work and rest, family, marriage, property, and truth, these are the minimum standards necessary for a healthy civil society to exist.  And they are at the root of the longest lasting and contiguous peoples and organizations on earth.

Ultimately, the story of divine revelation is a story of God’s desire for human freedom.  Divine revelation seeks human freedom. The existence of the nation of Israel is a story about God sending a savior to free slaves.  And the history of the nation of Israel is further testimony that the greatest freedom comes in obeying the law of God, whether civil laws or the laws of nature.  The greatest freedom comes in the most perfect obedience (to true laws).  Let us consider how.

In the natural world, the greatest freedoms come when scientists understand the laws of nature in order to more fully obey them, not disobey.  And so, when we understand the laws of energy transfer and the laws of gravity, we are able to use our understanding to create machines which allow us to do things which appear to defy gravity like travel to the moon and back.  But that space travel is because we are more aware of our obedience, not less aware.  We are able to use our greater understanding of nature’s laws and use the laws of nature in order to help us use the laws of nature more fully.  Understanding the laws of nature allows us the greater freedom of traveling from the earth and into space.  

We always obey the laws of nature.  The more we understand these laws the greater extent we are able use these laws for greater freedoms.  Our understanding of the law allows us to leave earth and go into space.  Hence, the greater our awareness of the science and the laws of nature, the greater freedoms mankind is able to experience, including the freedom from being tethered to the earth.

Likewise, in a just society, the greatest freedom is in obeying the law.  Hence, the right to bear arms is a reflection of a just society because it trusts people with the greatest possible freedoms to protect themselves from invaders, whether foreign or domestic, whether a private citizen or an over-reaching government.  Moreover, the story of the Jewish exodus, where a family of slaves transformed into a free nation under God, is a story in which God revealed to humanity his desire is for mankind’s freedom.  In an unjust society, like Pharaoh’s Egypt, obedience to God will lead to a righteous civil disobedience.  Hence, as Americans, we look to our founding fathers, Abe Lincoln, and especially Dr. King as preeminent examples of righteous men who were willing to change evil laws through righteous civil disobedience which raises the consciousness of others for the evils we accept as good, allowing us to accurately identify the evils in society and strive for their change.

Let us note, Moses conducted two revolutions.  One failed, the other succeeded.  The one that failed started with murder which led to Moses being exiled from Egypt and wandering the wilderness as a shepherd.  It was in this forty year exile that Moses learned the divine way.  It was during this exile that he saw the burning bush that didn’t burn up and was given the divine command to “go free my people the Israelites.”

It is fascinating that Moses’s life changed because he took the time to make a scientific investigation.  He took the time to go see a peculiar phenomenon of nature and seek to understand it.  In fact, in taking the time to investigate, he became one of greatest men in all of human history.  The world has few parallels or comparisons for Moses in accord to greatness.  Instead we have to combine many great men to even come close to understanding Moses’s greatness.  Let us look closer by considering some facts. 

Moses was a child born to slaves and sent down a river, was raised a prince in Pharaoh’s court who murdered an Egyptian for his cruelty towards a slave and fled into exile in the wilderness, a shepherd and son-in-law to a priest, a slave-liberator, a nation-builder, a prophet and ruler, a scientist, a law-giver and judge, a writer, a historian, a storyteller, myth-maker, and legend-teller; and also a friend of God, faithful servant in all his house.  In short, and objectively speaking, Moses is great.

If Moses could be compared to great Americans, we’d have to combine many great Americans to even come close to the influence of Moses.  Moses led an army of slaves to freedom, like George Washington led a rag-tag group of rebels to secure the freedom of a new nation.  And rather than fight and wage war for their rights, the slaves simply had a family dinner over a passover lamb and on the next day walked to freedom through the Red Sea.  Moses freed more slaves in one day than any one in the history of the world until Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation more than three thousand years later.  Moses wrote the founding documents of a nation, like our founding fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution.  Moses also wrote the history of the new nation, composing some of the great patriarchs and ancestors as if a historian would compile some of our greatest legends like the Magna Carta, Shakespeare’s plays, and Magna Carta to give a sense of who we were as a nation.  He’d be the recorder of some of our favorite songs and speeches by the great civil rights activists and poets like Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind” and Dr. King’s “I have a dream.”   He’d also be the compiler of some of the great songs sung by African Slaves, stories told by Native Americans, and laws made by European Pilgrims all wrapped into a handful of stories and verses and words that organized many people groups into one nation.  And Moses even wrote the stories that shaped our nation, a mix of great story-tellers like Shakespeare, Scorsese, and Stephen King and Steven Spielberg.

And lastly, our long road to freedom would not have been the result of eight years of war against the empire, nor years of peaceful protests that Dr. King led against tyranny in the South, but instead a series of ten great signs and wonders that led to a miraculous exodus from Egypt.  Moreover, the revolution would be a bloodless one, where not one human would take another’s life, but that many lives would be spared because the blood of the passover lamb would save them from certain death.

 There are few who can claim the greatness of Moses, not Napoleon, George Washington, Genghis Khan, Mohammed, Julius Caesar, nor Alexander the Great.  And this doesn’t even mention that Moses’s writings are read to this day in synagogues and churches the world over, nor the fact that he is honored as a prophet in many of the world’s greatest religions and by nearly half the people the world over.  Truly, the world has few parallels to Moses in accord to greatness.  And so, objectively speaking, the big picture about Moses is great.  There are none like Moses.

But, as an atheist scientist fanatically pursuing truth, there are some final curiosities about Moses which pale in comparison to his objective greatness but tough the heart of a budding scientist.  Moses’s stories were filled with science!  Not only did he accurately predict key findings of 20th century science at least thirty centuries earlier, but the first stories were stories of scientists.  Adam could be called a biologist and zoologist, for he took care of the garden of God and named all the animals.  I would have thought the first man would have been a hunter or farmer, instead he was a gardener who documented the various kinds of animals and named them.  Next, the all famous flood story was about a zoologist named Noah who warned people about environmental disasters to come and proved to be an excellent shipbuilder and navigator.  And we’ve already discussed Moses’s investigations into natural phenomena, let alone he made his living for decades as a caretaker of sheep in the wild.

And so, I was surprised that the transformative moment of his life was the moment he decided to investigate a curious piece of natural phenomenon and found the answer that defies all expectations.

Moses discovered that the burning bush was a supernatural event, an act of God, a sign pointing to a greater reality.  In this supernatural moment, God calls Moses to go to Pharaoh and bring his people out of Egypt.  Interestingly, this is the moment God reveals his name to his people as “I am who I am.”  Previously, God was “the God of your fathers” or “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” key patriarchs of Moses’s people.  But here, at the burning bush that doesn’t burn up, God reveals his name to Moses and notes “this is my name forever, this is my title for all generations.”  So, at once, God reveals his plan to Moses (“go and free the slaves”) and reveals his name (“I am the one who is”).  The man who was an exiled murderer, failed revolutionary, and forgotten, old shepherd became the great and famous man we described earlier.  All because he took time to investigate a burning bush that wouldn’t burn up.

As someone who often wondered what it meant to exist, it is infinitely fascinating that God simply is.  That all things find their existence in relation to the one who is pure existence, who simply is “I am who I am.”  And Moses’s life is a great example of the transformation that occurs when someone comes into contact with God, the one who is.

And so, whether Moses’s stories about God are true or not, that is something to investigate, like the burning bush.  But his stories do provide some amazing answers not only about God, but also about existence, life, humanity, and science.  Let us consider one small example.

Thomas Jefferson, a founding father of the United States of America wrote a phenomenal line in the Declaration of Independence.  Jefferson wrote, “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”  That line of “self-evident” truths is amazing and only thanks to cultural background that understands the character of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that acknowledges the God who reveals himself to Moses, that acknowledges the words Moses wrote, “God created mankind in his image.”  Otherwise, we might be forced to side with Darwin “only the strongest survive” or with Aristotle who defended mankind’s write to enslave each other by studying nature and human relationships.  While Aristotle justifies slavery thru use of his great skills in logic by looking at the natural world, Moses frees slaves.  Jefferson’s self-evident truths are only self-evident to those who know the God who reveals to Moses at the burning bush “I am who I am.”  For it is this God who created mankind in his image, who frees slaves, who tells people that the fulfillment of his law is “love God and love your neighbor.”  It is this God who grants each person with unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Because the truth of the matter is other gods and governments and people don’t often see these rights as self-evident, and therefore don’t seek to ensure these rights universally across humanity, which is partially why the 20th century with the rise of atheism and communism became been the bloodiest century in human history.  

And so, this ancient shepherd-scientist-slave liberator had quite the influence on our world, not only in free slaves and forming a new nation under God, but also in helping our society organize our weeks into seven days, telling us thousands of years ago that the universe is created, that time is relative to God (which later people would later relate to a man from his own peoples), who warned us about the the fleeting and transitory nature of our physical bodies, and yet rooted the dignity of everyman in something objectively eternal, the everlasting God himself, rather than relative to one another, and therefore fleeting like the grass of the field.  

How is it that this man could see so much, beyond the burning bush, beyond all his contemporaries, beyond so many others?  Let us scratch the surface, go beyond appearances, and attempt to understand how Moses saw so deeply into things, not only far into the future but also into the depths of reality and into the depths of human existence.