Saturday, December 13, 2014

Cats, Computers, and God

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

What could the three subjects in the title possibly have in common? Not much, really. But there are two things from the Unusual Analogies Department that you may find interesting. 

Also, just for fun, this is scheduled to publish at 10:11 AM Eastern Time on December 13, 2014. Yup: 10:11, 12-13-14. It won't happen again.


Cats
What do cats, computers, and God have in common? You may be surprised at the answer.
"Going to check my mail now". Basement Cat "using" my wife's computer.
How we got our Basement Cat is a long story. But there was a time that we didn't get along, and I didn't want the beast in the apartment. Now we're quite close. I prefer the names that I put on her instead of her "real" name, but never mind about that now.

Some people dislike cats because of their independent spirit, call them "sneaky", are annoyed because cats are cats and not dogs, or other reasons. When I was much younger, I complained to my mother about our cat and made a stupid accusation like "sneaky" or something. My mother looked at me in amazement and said, "She's an animal!" What neither of us realized then was that I was anthropomorphizing, and irrationally expecting the cat to act in a way that I preferred.


Having watched television shows and read material about animals, I learned that people have to learn about the traits of the animals (cats do show affection, but you have to learn to read their signs), especially when you learn some of the physiology (I like observing what I call the "feline machine"). They have their own stimuli, responses, instincts, and so on. "Domesticated"? I'm not so sure...

Also, I just have to go on about this side note. When you get a pet, you're doing more than just having something to poke at when you're bored. You're taking on a responsibility. Their lives are in our hands, sometimes literally. See that cat in the picture? She lays on her back in a sign of trust, or lets me pet under her chin. Very vulnerable and trusting; I actually get a bit emotional about that trust, which I never want to betray. In addition, God wants us to care for creatures (Proverbs 12:10).

What it comes down to is that if you want a relationship with a cat, you have to learn how to come to it on its own terms and not expect it to conform to your expectations. Same with any other beast.


Computers

Have you ever heard of GIGO? It's an axiom of computer programmers, and many users have learned it: Garbage In, Garbage Out. Computers are exceptionally literal things, and do only what they're told to do. Yes/no, on/off, one/zero. 

Did it stop you from going to a certain site? Check your browser settings, firewall, anti-virus, your typing, maybe someone's bad link, or something else — but that box of electric hardware didn't make a decision to stop you. When we get angry, we may (big word again) anthropomorphize and claim that "it's cheating me", or doing something "on purpose". (I'm suspicioning that some games have things built in to keep you from winning too much too soon, but I reckon I can't prove that.) Artificial intelligence isn't here yet, and there's no reason to pay attention to Stephen Hawking's predictions of doom.

We have to learn to use computers and the programs inside them. They not only do what they're told, but they do not think for themselves (though bad software may cause unexpected results that appear like the computer is making its own malicious choices). Sure, many of us will say things like, "It wants to run a program on its own" (probably something in the registry causing that activity), or, "It doesn't want to connect" (it doesn't want anything, really, so check the software, wires, and so on). We have to learn how to work with computers and, essentially, come to them on their terms. (See what I did there? Computers and cats don't have "terms" to come to them on, but you know what I mean.) Nor can you expect a computer to conform to your expectations.

God

Someone may be upset that I'm "comparing God to cats and computers", but read on, old son, because I'm only showing two things that all three have in common, and not "comparing" them.

I have an online creation science ministry called "The Question Evolution Project" on Facebook and on Google Plus. In these and other places on the Web, I'll have atheists make demands of God, saying things like, "I don't believe he exists. He needs to prove it by doing special signs, or speaking directly to me!" 

First of all, people like that usually find some kind of an excuse to reject every evidence presented, and try to replace God with evolution. In fact, some people had the best evidence in the world for seeing the resurrected Jesus: They saw him with their own eyes, and still doubted (Matthew 28:16-17). My other reaction is, "What makes you so special?" God has already shown that he exists (Romans 1:20-22, Psalm 53:1-4, Proverbs 1:7), Jesus has explained God (John 1.18), and has given us his written Word (2 Peter 1:19) — we can trust and believe the Bible

We cannot make demands of the Creator of the universe to come to us on our terms (Romans 9:20, 1 Peter 5: 5-6). He is the one who makes the rules, and we, the created, must come to him on his terms, not ours. What many people detest is that God does not care about what we call "wisdom". Our position, knowledge, philosophies, wealth — none of those matter (Philippians 3:7-11). We must come to God in humility because we are unable to save ourselves — all of it is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9), and we cannot require God to conform to our expectations. God requires humility and repentance. It's best to do it now, because you may not have tomorrow (2 Corinthians 6:2). Are you going to spend eternity with God and his people? Are you sure?

One other thing. Christians, especially those in various kinds of ministry, can get caught up in pride. Like the atheists described above, some Christians disregard the authority of Scripture. It's been rightly said that people headed for a fall often have an attitude, "God sure must be glad that he's got me on his side!" Better check yourselves, and quickly! We are to be obedient to God's will, and seeking it (Ephesians 2:10, Titus 2:14, Hebrews 3:4, Isaiah 43:7, Psalm 100:3). Personally, I recommend "checkpoints" where we get with mature Christians and leaders. Also, pray. Seek to glorify God, not to show off your good works or your intellectual prowess.


Conclusion


When dealing with cats and critters, we can't expect them to act in a way we want them to. We have to learn what makes them tick and come to them on their terms. 

Computers are literal machines, doing what they're told, and doing what we want them to through their own decision-making processes, which are nonexistent. To have good use out of them, we need to learn how to run the software; computers are not making decisions, so we come to them on their own terms. 

Most importantly, God is our maker. He makes the rules, and we cannot make demands on him. He has mercifully shown us how to come to him on his terms, not our own. We must humbly seek his salvation, forgiveness and will for our lives.


Unimportant Addendum: Right on time.