Intuitive and Counter-Intuitive

“Welcome to our little journey, ladies and gentlemen.  We are expecting a little cold weather as we begin, but don’t worry about that, our forecasts is for “seasonal” weather today.  Before our bus pulls out of the station, let’s review the purpose of our road trip of discovery.  Our quest is to examine this theory:

“Christian theology is not particularly difficult to understand.  Its precepts and premises are fairly simple, it was given to “regular” guys to share with the world, and they did it.  Yes, of course they had a lot of help from the Holy Spirit, but then so do we. Yet we love to argue, follow tradition and form to avoid spiritual growth and reaching out, because they are counter-intuitive, and the fact that they are counter-intuitive is exactly the point of all things being new, for our human intuition isn’t new, it’s the old thing that Jesus died to free us from.”

…and so we begin at last.  If you are dropping in for the first time on this trip, you might want to check out my posts here from January 6 through January 8 for the pre-trip information-LR

Our first stop is to consider the last part of the theory, the issue of intuitive versus counter-intuitive as it relates to our attitudes, perceptions and inclinations.

Our natural human inclinations are things like self-preservation, self-advancement, self-aggrandizement and self in general.  You can see this inclination at work when a couple of toddler play together and then one of them wants to play with the other’s toy.  The second toddler begins to scream and wail, and if Mom doesn’t intervene, somebody’s going to be hurt.  The second toddler will shout things like “Mine,” “gimme” and NO!  Then Mon swoops in and says something like, “Now Johnny, honey, you have to share…”  And Johnny isn’t buying any of that sharing business.  When we grow up, we usually have learned to share to some extent, but we still don’t always want to be forthcoming with certain things.  Sure, all people are different.  Some are very generous, some are more stingy, and some can make old Mr. Scrooge look like a choir boy!  The important point is that all of us, or nearly all anyway, are more likely to view the world around us in terms that are self-ish rather than self-less.  We often say that this is “human nature.”

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus made comments that seem to run counter to normal “human nature.”  You know the things that He taught, things like the first being last and the last being first.  The guy who finds his life will lose it and the one who loses his life will find it, and how we shouldn’t store up treasures on earth, and how we shouldn’t worry.  Oh, and then there are all those parables about servants and masters, and widows offering everything they had while rich guys tossed in a fraction.  And of course there is also the part about how hard it is for a rich dude to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, Lazarus and the rich man… and on and on. Remember how people reacted to those things?  Nobody ever seemed to quite get it, it was so different from what they knew about life.  They knew the same things that we know, that you have to get ahead in life, that you have to plan for the future and how you can’t let others stand in your way.  We Americans used to call this “rugged individualism.”

Jesus didn’t teach “rugged individualism,” I’m sorry to say.  That concept holds a lot of appeal for me, to be honest, but Jesus didn’t teach that way. Jesus taught in a way that was counter-intuitive, meaning that it runs against all of our natural human inclinations; it is in opposition to human nature. Would I be stretching the point too far if I suggested that this makes being a Christian who wants to really, seriously, no kidding around, follower of Jesus, encounter some difficulty, some internal struggle, and even experience some conflicts in their thinking?

It seems to me that this counter-intuitive aspect of His teaching is where most of our conflicts come from individually.  I also think it’s where most of our problems come from corporately as well, sometimes with horrifying results.

Can we go back to the very beginning for just a moment?  What was the original sin?  I’m not referring to a doctrinal or academic definition, because if you go there, I’m afraid you’ll have the wrong answer! I mean the very first act of rebellion against God that is mentioned in Scripture; it wasn’t in Eden. (There’s your hint)

It was when Lucifer decided that he was going to be just like God.  He seemed (I’m embellishing somewhat) that he was better looking, smarter and just as strong, and so he should be a co-ruler or something like that… remember?  God didn’t like that too much as I recall, and tossed old Lucifer out of Heaven.  Then, in the garden narrative, when Lucifer, the serpent, tempted Miss Eve, what line was it that made her take that fruit?  It was when he told her that God didn’t want them to eat that fruit, because when they did, they would be just like God, knowing good and evil. So she grabbed it and gave some to Adam, and the rest, as they say, is history.

You are most welcome to disagree, after all this is a road trip of discovery and good discussion always helps bring things out, but I’d have to say that our human nature, or natural inclinations, our natural intuition, has everything to do with wanting to be just like God.  That is the original sin, in my view.  (My old Dean wasn’t always thrilled when I re-stated the old doctrines like this, but this is my blog, not his department!)

The teachings Jesus gave us run counter to our natural intuition, therefore they are counter-intuitive.

“Ladies and gentlemen, our next stop will be at a place called ‘All Things are New.'”

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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6 Responses to Intuitive and Counter-Intuitive

  1. Little Monk says:

    Good Morning Don and All *cheery wave*

    I had to smile when I read your “introduction” and the comments on “mutual exploration” here, because (like you) I receive a few items in my morning email, very few of which I read “religiously” (in both connotations). One that I DO read, actually usually first (as soon as coffee persuades my eyeballs to synch up in parallel), is Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation (he’s a Franciscan Spiritual Director who entirely “gets it”).

    Anyway, this morning, first thing… I read this in his devotional…

    “Jewish Midrash Thursday, January 9, 2014

    “I think we learned the Sic et Non approach in the early Christian period from our Jewish ancestors. They called it midrash. Midrash was a different way of coming to truth. It was simply where you get together and look at Scripture in an open—but faith-filled—way: It could mean this; it could mean that. It might challenge you in this direction; it might invite you in that direction. Jewish midrash extrapolated from the mere story to find its actual spiritual message. We all do the same when we read anyway, but Jesus and his Jewish people were much more honest and up front about this.”

    Do you ever wonder, as God teaches us, if He ever throws Holy Spirit Water Balloons? Like *SPLOOSH!!”, and a particular “theme of insight” or “inkling of loving/knowing Him”, just tends to pop up, effervesce from vastly unrelated quarters and directions?

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    On your content above, I love this… this process… this “journey” of yours… scratch that… journey of OURS… and I thank you for chartering the train.

    OK, there is nothing there I disagree with in substance at all. But, as I’ve mentioned here and there, sometimes my “perspective” differs from the traditional. (Perhaps I’m even a bit more counter-intuitive than people can imagine).

    First off, I really like your insight on the “First Sin” (I prefer that to “Original Sin” which we generally reserve for the cataclysm that rocked Creation. The “First Sin” (Lucifer’s Fall) predates Creation.

    Second, I really like your whole “intuitive/counter-intuitive” imagery. Much neater and less messy than the whole “carnally minded” approach.

    Third, I richly APPLAUD your parallel of the Lucifer Fall with the Eden Fall. VERY few people make that link, or see that! *insert admiring look right here*

    Now, I’m trying to figure out how to say this next part… the piece *I* would contribute on this train ride… without rendering this into a blog post of its own…

    The piece *I* would add, is the desire to re-examine “God’s Agenda” in all this… or, more accurately, His HEART. We, “religious teachers” I’ll call it, for the most part tend to look at things either TOO mechanically, or maybe not mechanically enough.

    We look at something like the Expulsion from the Garden… we anthropomorphize… we remember our human parents “grounding us” for a month, and we INTERPRET God as “having gotten really ticked off, losing His temper, and wrecking everything OUT OF JUSTICE for our misdeeds”… hence we carry this “childish guilt” around saying something like “if I hadn’t ticked Daddy off so much, He wouldn’t have wrecked the house!”

    The problem is not the “looking at the facts”. The Facts are clear enough. The child had instruction from Daddy. The child disobeys. Daddy sends child away. House blows up and is wrecked.

    We look at that, with our Toddler eyes… and we develop tremendous fear… terror… of Daddy.

    So, when we grow up, we teach everybody about this Terrifying Father to steer clear of at all costs? When all He wants, all He EVER wanted, was to be Intimately Close with His Children, hold and hug them… but whenever He tries to approach, we flee?

    What if… we’ve got the story all wrong? We don’t have the ‘facts’ wrong… all those things, indeed happened just that way. But we have the Story wrong?

    What if…

    Daddy’s built a house that is ALMOST finished, but not quite. The Gas Service for the furnace and water heater aren’t hooked up yet. But other than that, the house is fine and comfortable, and He’s working on the rest. And Daddy says, “kids, you can use the whole house… there’s toys outside, inside, food in the fridge, TV electronics, everything you want. Just don’t mess with this switch right here… *indicates the Gas Valve*… OK?” And Daddy heads off about his work.

    So the kids go on playing happily, til they meet up with a very clever frog. The frog hops over to the outdoor Gas Valve, and the kids follow him. He looks at it, hops up, and says “What’s that?”

    Little Girl says, “we don’t know… but Daddy said not to touch it or suck on it” (kids are strange that way)

    Frog says, “Know what? Daddy doesn’t want you to touch it or suck on it because it will make light and heat happen. And then you’d be as cool as Daddy, and he doesn’t want that!”

    Little Girl looks at it, ponders, decides she likes light and heat, and turns the spigot. Gets her brother to help. Gas begins to fill the whole lot, house, yard, everything, and it starts to get hard to breathe. What’s more, there’s open flames around here, and the situation is quickly becoming very very dangerous.

    Daddy gets back, smells the problem, realizes that even closing the valve now will do no good. Gets the story from the children (although He already KNOWS the story… there’s not a lot of other ways the Valve could open)… and at lightning speed determines the only way to save His children.

    So, He races them away… out of range of the explosion, that goes off right behind Him, destroying everything He had originally designed for them…

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    Now, am I trying to pose an “alternative Genesis” or “create new scripture”? NO, SIR! Not in the least. I can identify dozens of flaws in my narrative, it limps, its human, its entirely “uninspired”, and it is by NO means canonical. That is an off-the-cuff narrative I drafted sitting right here, right now, with almost no consideration or pondering whatever. I really hesitated even to put it up here, for fear that ANYONE reading it could mistake me for having the hubris to think it anything more than a light anecdotal parable.

    But my point is THE HEART OF THE FATHER.

    You could take my narrative, being a child, and interpret… “Daddy said not to do that. The Frog said Daddy didn’t want us to be like him. We did it. Daddy caught us, and was upset (insert “angry” if you like). Then Daddy took us away from our beautiful house and destroyed it, saying we could never go back.”

    Or, you could interpret those same facts with nothing but a Father’s heart.

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    I’m not sure WHEN it was in my own life, that this “switch flipped” in me… but one day, perhaps after I was a parent myself, all of that perspective just made no more sense. There was no more appeal to it in my spirit, no more “ring of truth” or “affirmation of spirit” to it. I actually experiences a strange sense of remorse and conviction, and wasn’t even sure why.

    Then one day, I understood why. It was that for years… you can excuse this with words like “unconscious” or “subconscious” or whatever if you like, but God didn’t… for YEARS I had known the tenderness and care of a parent for my child. And I had known God’s Name as Our Father. And nonetheless I had accepted as true… that *I* was a better, more loving, more compassionate and better providing… PARENT then HE IS/WAS.

    I think the scripture involved was Jesus’ exchange with Philip, when Philip said,“Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” And Jesus, with heartbreak in His tone… (He was seldom “disappointed” in people, but I truly believe He was right there)… I think with a catch in His throat, replies, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.” (John 14:8-10)

    I kid thee not, brethren. It brought me to my knees, as Jesus applied this, like a brand, on my heart. I KNEW Jesus, I KNOW Jesus, I grew up on His lap! He RAISED me! And yet… I could POSSIBLY believe such terrible things of the Father’s Heart? “He who has seen Me, has seen the Father!”

    I did not know how. I did not know why. I did not understand any of the “theology” around what I was now experiencing. I simply knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that I was WRONG! That the Father’s heart is vastly more tender, more compassionate, more loving, more embracing, than I myself could ever experience or imagine! I simply knew that, and knew that I knew, and that was the end of the matter.

    BUT… THEN… you get UP from your knees and look about you in utter confusion! What about all that anger, righteous, death, punishment, stuff? I mean really, LOOK at the Old Testament or Ananias and Sapphira, etc. and how in the world do we make all this FIT for our cognitive minds?

    To which Jesus replied, “You start again.” That all that stuff, all of Scripture, is indeed TRUE. All the facts are in their right sequence. There’s NOTHING wrong with the Bible. But now, I needed to rid myself of all the “neurotic”, “petty”, “temper-tantrum”, “abusive Father”, interpretive framework… put in it’s place the tender heart of the Father I had just “seen”, and rework the narrative.

    Jesus said the problem was it is much easier to ignore a God who does NOT love perfectly, than one who does. We like to paint God as neurotic, so we can shrug at His commands. If we ever saw Him as consistently, wholly, unstintingly loving, caring, and giving of grace to us… we’d risk truly surrendering.

    Such surrender, dear brother…. is VERY Counter-Intuitive!

    Blessings and grace to thee! LM

    • Don Merritt says:

      Thanks LM! %I like the science fiction, but I love the frog!% Oh sorry gang, no more ‘inside baseball.’

      You make such a great point about the assumptions we make about God sometimes, seeing Him in the wrong light. It reminds of the time I got a call from a friend seeking advice. It seems that he was really outraged because the bank sent him a late notice when he forgot to pay a bill on time. The guy was furious and wanting to know how he could sue them for harassment. After he calmed down a little bit, I was able to ascertain that in fact he had forgotten to pay the bill, what he received from the bank was a “friendly reminder” and that he could easily just pay it and get on with life. The only problem was that he didn’t like having his mistake pointed out to him, so the whole thing had become the bank’s fault and not his for forgetting to pay the stupid thing.

      A natural human inclination to blame somebody else when we mess up? You bet! The guy paod the bill, but it took some talking to get him to see reason.

      Healthy humility is counter-intuitive for most of us!

  2. Messenger At The Crossroads says:

    Interesting. I don’t see “intuitive” as meaning self-centered at all. I think the discrepancy in definitions may be a matter of semantics. Spiritually speaking intuition means an inner knowing, a guiding, that doesn’t come from the outer world’s way of doing things, as in the Still Small Voice. That to me is when the connection is made by the Soul with the Holy Spirit. [But then I suspect that many of my influences along the journey have been different from yours]. I can certainly agree that Jesus’ world view and The Way dismantle the false self or fallen nature, which I think you’re calling intuition. Behold, what great need there is for dialogue when it comes to spiritual matters and definitions! [Smile] … So, when I read your articles, I find that I have to do a fair amount of “translating”, only to find we may be actually agreeing on ideas. Maybe that was the meaning of the gift of tongues?

    • Don Merritt says:

      Maybe so.
      Sometimes i have that experience too. Ah, he means such and such! Well we’re on the same track!

      When I say intuitive or intuition I’m really meaning something like human nature, our natural impulse… that sort of thing. (loosely speaking) For what you are talking about, I would say discern or discernment, so yep it’s semantics, and I can’t claim that one is more right than the other!

      I’m glad you brought that up, hopefully others who are having the same issue will see this!

  3. bwdell says:

    How about the human tendency to make things either/or when with God they may be both/and? Man’s will and God’s sovereignty. That may also be counter-intuitive.

    • Don Merritt says:

      I think that’s right. In theory, human culture should be a partnershup between Man and God, with Man’s hands and creativity guided and inspired by God to achieve great things that glorify God, and every now and then this happens, but usually it doesn’t, for it is counter-intuitive for us. Most of the time, we merely seek to glorify ourselves instead.

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