Sunday, 16 March 2014

Does God Lie?

     I have on several occasions over the course of this blog referred to Genesis 2:17, where God appears to tell Adam something that is literally not so. God tells Adam that in the same day he eats of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he will die. Adam eats, and promptly dies nine hundred years later.
     Christian apologists attempt to resolve this apparent contradiction by arguing that God was telling the truth, but in a non-literal fashion. That is, they will say that Adam died a spiritual death at that moment, though his body lived on and sired children and so on. Or they may say that prior to that moment, Adam was immortal, but eating of the tree made him mortal, so in a sense that was the day he was killed, even if it took took him 900 years to finally succumb to his wounds. 
     All of this rationalization is fine, and may well be true, but the very fact that it has to be undertaken at all only goes to illustrate the fundamental paradox of biblical literalism: in some sense, you still have to choose between God and the Bible. The New Testament itself says you cannot serve two masters, and here is a demonstration of why that is so: at the very least, you have to adopt different standards of truth for assessing the claims of each. At most one of the following two postulates can be true:
  1. The Bible is an accurate account of everything it addresses when interpreted literally.
  2. God's utterances are accurate on everything they address when interpreted literally.
     Both postulates might well be false, or only one of them, but they cannot both be true. You have to accept, at a bare minimum, that at least one of God and the Bible should be interpreted figuratively or metaphorically. If the Genesis account is literally true, then God must be speaking figuratively when He says when Adam will die. If God's warning to Adam is to be understood as literally true, then either the Bible must be in some sense speaking figuratively when it exaggerates the last day of Adam's life into 900 years, or it was speaking figuratively when it described God as making that claim in the first place. 

     Now, I don't see anything wrong with figurative or metaphoric truth, so I don't think there's anything especially impious about trying to explain God's warning to Adam that way, and obviously, neither do the Christian apologists who do so. But I do find it very strange that they would hold God (who by definition is supposed to be divine perfection itself) to a lower standard of truth (one in which Bill Clinton's "I did not have sex with that woman!" gets a pass) than the Bible. 
     The apologists aren't really doing God any favours here by adopting a more relaxed, literary rather than literal standard of truth. Sure, it gets Him out of the charge of lying to Adam, but it also undermines His authority to say What Really Is, because it means that if God clearly says something we find hard (or even just inconvenient) to reconcile with other beliefs, well, we can go ahead and interpret it to fit those other beliefs as we like. 
     And they understand that concept just fine as soon as you suggest that maybe the Bible needs to be interpreted flexibly as a work of literature rather than divinely authoritative dictation. They're all too happy to zealously defend the Bible as the Word of God and above any human reinterpretation or excuse-making: it says what it means, dammit, and that's all there is to it! 
     Yet God doesn't? If the Bible says "God said 'Let there be light!'" then by gum, that's exactly what God said, four English syllables and there was light and it was good, and it's not open to debate that maybe what God said was "Hey, how about some light in here?" 

     The point I am making here is that literalism subjects God to the Bible, rather than vice versa. If the Bible says God lies, then God lies, but if God says the Bible lies, then God is either lying or must mean something else. Even as an atheist, I find that a profoundly impious, idolatrous and deeply offensive idea. 
     And you don't actually get away from that by pretending that God and the Bible are one and the same, that the Bible is just God's Word. Not only is that explicitly idolatrous, but it also entails God Himself saying that God lies, or at least that you shouldn't always take Him to be telling the literal truth. Either way, you're stuck with the conclusion that the Bible, either as a book with fallible human authors or as God's Very Owen Utterances, should not be taken as literal truth.


  1. I've occasionally gotten into trouble by calling some denominations "bible worshipers" because of this argument.

  2. There is always a dilemma in understanding the Bible. God has revealed Himself using forms of literature that have parallels in the languages men use. Communication in poetry is not the same as in prose. History is not the same as prophecy. God's revelation to us cannot be made to conform to the way we want to think. We receive His Word as He gave it and seek His personal help in understanding what it is saying and how it applies to our lives. Tom wants to hold God to account. God is holding Tom to account. The early part of I Corinthians discusses the fact that God's word must be spiritually discerned, through the enlightenment that God gives to those who truly seek Him. Those with a very high regard for their own intelligence stumble at the manner in which God reveals Himself, and they are not prepared to give ground. But God ever pulls the discussion into an encounter with Himself, where the result is worship. If you do not understand this, God is able and willing to help you. If you do not want His help, then that is your problem.

  3. I'm not holding God to account, but I can see why you would think that. Let me restate the problem in terms more explicitly deferential to the divine:

    To whom or what do you give your ABSOLUTE obedience and belief: God or the Bible?
    If you take the Bible as supreme, and you strictly obey it and unquestioningly believe it, then your obedience to God must be looser and your belief in His statements more flexible and subject to spiritual rather than literal discernment.
    If you take GOD as supreme, and strictly obey and unquestioningly believe Him, then your obedience and belief in the Bible must be spiritual rather than literal.

  4. I don't think anyone takes the Bible as supreme. God is supreme. He has chosen to reveal Himself through the Bible, but our comprehension is always subject to our own lack of understanding and personal prejudice. We need God's help, as He challenges us inwardly to honesty and genuine submission. We are not arguing personal infallibility. We are testifying to His kindness and love in working in our lives to bring us to Himself. God is the One who matters. His is the glory for all that He has done and is doing in us and in everything else. Jesus has come to rescue us from our sin and to work in us to live for His glory. He offers Himself to all who call upon Him . Ask Him to show you if this is true.

  5. Bible worshippers do not think of themselves as worshipping the Bible. They believe they are worshipping God THROUGH the Bible, and while they take pains at time to point out the distinction, it is a distinction without a difference. You can see this in the shorthand they use: "God says...." and then some quote from the Bible. They'll say I'm reading too much into their shorthand way of eliding "God says [through the Bible]..." but the logic remains: if the Bible says X, then God says X. If God is alleged by anyone to say anything in contradiction to the Bible, that claim is rejected out of hand with "God would never contradict His own word."

    In practice, then, the Bible IS held supreme, and "God" constrained to its definition; anything that goes beyond the boundaries that Bible sets is deemed not to be God. They are trapped by a game of words about Words.

  6. But how could it be otherwise, if we really do believe the Bible? You seem to want us to believe it but not really believe it, to trust God but not really to trust God, to worship Him but not really to worship Him. Your intellectual "honesty" really only means that you insist on holding the position of God in your life and are the final court of appeal. We will not accept you in that position and will not accept ourselves either. You keep leaving out the reality of God working in His people by His Holy Spirit. You insist upon making it an intellectual exercise and nothing more. It is infinitely more, but you can not know this until you know Him. Ask Him to help you see. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Liffe. No man comes to the Father exceot by Him.

  7. It cannot be otherwise; if you "really do believe the Bible", then the Bible is your supreme authority. Not God. The Bible. There can be at most one supreme authority; you have to choose one or the other, but not both. And claiming that the Bible just happens never to contradict God is an attempt to conceal that the Bible IS your God.

    It gets worse. You accuse me of putting myself in the position of God when I take responsibility for applying my own judgment to questions of belief and morality, but there really is no alternative, and you do the same. We all do. It's what it means to have a mind. When you purport to put God in charge of your life, you are really just asserting divine authority for your OWN choices, your own acts and omissions.

    While I consciously apply principles of reasoning and interpretation when I evaluate claims and make moral choices, I recognize I may err with any given choice, and I remain open to correction. This is not defying God; this is acknowledging that I am not God. But He (if He exists) made us with free will, and there's no escaping that we are the ones who exercise it.

    But you, in claiming to believe the Bible, to "really" believe it, are still inevitably applying your own standards in deciding what it means, whether a given interpretation seems right or wrong, and so on. It's ALWAYS your standards; it cannot be otherwise, however much you insist that you're using the Bible-God as your standard.

    Go back to my post on Abraham and Isaac, and ask yourself what you would do if God spoke to you through a burning bush, and commanded you to make a sacrifice of your Bible, to cast it into the flames and disregard every word in it. Would you, or would you not burn your Bible?

  8. When you speak of our free will, you asume it is free to do good or evil. In fact, we are not free to do good. We are bound by our own likes and dislikes, and the damage of sin has made us not like submitting to God. It is why Jesus says that you must be born again. In I Corinthians Paul says, "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned." In this condition you now stand. The only way out of your dilemma is Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth and the life. He urges you to come to Him that you may have life. You seem determined to play games, to make life a game, truth a game, thinking a game. It is more sophisticated than spending hours on video games, but it is no more productive. Come to Jesus.

  9. It is not God that I refuse to submit to. It is rather that I refuse to call my own judgments "God". God has absolute sovereignty over all that exists, but apparently He has chosen to delegate some decision-making over the "me" part of the universe to me, and He has done so with His characteristic absoluteness: I cannot abdicate or cease to be responsible for the decisions within my sphere of delegated authority, because even the choice to give over control to God or the Bible or the Glorious Leader is a choice for which I alone remain responsible. Whether I want free will or not, whether I want to use it for good or for evil, I am stuck with it.

    So are you, even though you pretend to submit to "God's will", and try to hide from your fallibility by saying "He urges you" instead of "I urge you", as if you are just some vessel passively transmitting someone else's message. You aren't. You choose, and you choose every minute of every hour. You try to hide from your responsibility to make these choices by pretending they don't exist, but they do. You try to pretend that the choice between God and the Bible doesn't exist, but it does.

  10. Jesus said, "No one can come unto me apart from the help of God the Father. It is a verb of ability. Paul says that the natual man cannot understand. It is a word of ability. You prove your own inability to see or understand. But that inability will ultimately destroy you. You need to ask God to give you an ability you would not have apart from His giving it. Seeking the Lord involves turning from all hope in oneself, and asking God's help in your extremity. He has said that you are in this extremity. He has said that He sent Jesus to rescue you. At least say honestly to God, "If you are there please help me". He will not turn a deaf ear to the one who honestly seeks Him. The problem is not with God; it is with you.

  11. I never said the problem was with God, and I am well aware of the magnitude of my own failings, even if I may not fully understand their nature or how to fix them. But the problem in our communication here is neither me nor God, but you. You keep trying to make this conversation one between me and God, as if you and your own fallibility don't exist, as if there is no distinction between what you say and what God says. Until you recognize that you are not God, and you do not speak for God, you will keep thinking that I am rejecting God. I'm not. It's YOUR claims, YOUR beliefs that I find unpersuasive. Seriously, you need to stop playing God.

  12. The verses I have quoted from the Bible are not me speaking to you, but God. He is calling you to Himself. You want life to be an intellectual game, and are determined to make it so in your dialogue with me. What I am sharing with you is the Truth which cuts through the game and hits the heart of a creature made in the image of God. It is to rescue you from yourself. Skill in escaping rescue would be amusing if life were a game. But life is not a game. Jesus is real, and He calls you to Himself.

  13. Q.E.D.

    Look, whose fingers are on your keyboard? Is it you, or God, who chose to open your Bible to those pages and type in those passages? Was it God, or you, who forgot to close the quotes about no one coming to Jesus without the help of God the Father?

    I believe you are fallible. More than that, I believe you are just plain wrong in your beliefs about God and Jesus and the Bible and salvation and the nature of the universe generally. I see your wrongness as having the nature of a self-reinforcing delusion which I have absolutely no interest in adopting myself. You are wasting your time and mine.

  14. For what it's worth, it has not been a complete waste of time, because I have enjoyed the exchange. In a black comedic sort of way, I mean.

    Anonymous, you are basically refusing to engage Tom's points, and very likely failing to appreciate any of them. Instead, you are just preaching at him. If you are not interested in the "intellectual game" of thinking carefully about our responsibilities and choices, then why are you here? There are plenty of better places on the net to preach without thinking.

  15. Thanks, Ben and Tom. Ben is right about my way of approaching Tom. The power of the Gospel is that it cuts through to what is essential and requires a different kind of thinking. And the most important thing is a person's relationship with Jesus Christ. We see it when God rescues us. May He do so for you!
    Love, Anonymous.

  16. Sigh.

    Ah, well. It's been a long time, and I've been sick. Hospitalized twice around the time of this post an exchange, actually.

    So, I believe I'll just 'cut to the chase,' here, and ignore the back-and-forth.

    "It's ALWAYS your standards; it cannot be otherwise, . . . "

    Actually, it CAN be otherwise, depending on to whom refer by the "your" in "your standards."

    This is one of those pesky instances of English usage in terms of the pronoun representing the second person, which in today's English is rendered "you" in all forms. You know, that there pronoun that in all other languages has both a singular and a plural form. And, if I correctly recall my pre-Shakespearean English linguistics, historically existed even IN English at one time. Doubtless, that span of time encompassed that time during which the written version of the Bible was first translated into Latin; which was then subsequently translated to English.

    Doubtless it will stretch the credibility of many (maybe even you, Tom!) that believe it or not, that matter of contention is in fact the second greatest contention among Christian adherents of the "Catholic" versus the "Biblical" or "Scriptural" self-designated Christian believers.

    The greatest rift is the matter of the substance of believe over the nature of Eucharist as symbolic versus the genuine (real) presence of Jesus in the consecrated bread and wine.

    Many people think the next greatest barrier to re-uniting of the churches, doctrinally, is the nature and supremacy (or lack thereof) of the Papacy. Most would list that in second place. That, however, is not the case.

    The second greatest barrier to re-unison, creedally, is the position on Scriptural authority. It somewhat boils down to the "which came first, Bible or church?" question.

  17. Part Two

    I don't get to come around much, but when I do I find plenty to say, eh wot?

    The provable answer is "church came first." Even the Bible itself, in Acts and various letters, refers to the existence of the

    early house churches and gives a picture of the (then assumed) superiority among believers of Peter, to whom even Paul defers up

    to a degree when an issue of imposing Judaic legalistic requirements on gentile converts became an issue.

    Thus, we know that the house churches existed before there were New Testament Scriptures (what we now consider part of a unified

    "Bible,") existed. There is historical evidence that, in fact, the four Gospels developed within the context of the early house

    churches and, indeed, cannot have existed apart from then.

    When it comes to the Old Testament, those portions of what may or may not be regarded as sacred Scripture pertinent to the

    developing Christian "church," (at the very beginning Christianity was generally united; but we see rifts developing very early

    indeed in the church history; and those disagreements and what from today's perspective in some cases are regarded as outright

    heresies are, indeed, the foundation of the rhetorical purpose of many of the New Testament letters.)

    The governing leaders of the early church examined, prayed over, and identified which, out of the Judaic sacred writings, they

    regarded as appropriate for inclusion in the Christian Bible which would ultimately be inclusive of the New Testament Scriptures.

    Roughly, the New Testament scriptures consist of four Gospels, the book of Acts, several letters by various authors primarily Paul

    [though there is now even a question of authorship on some of Paul's letters, particularly Hebrews but also some others], and for

    some believes Revelation [sometimes also known as The Apocalypse.]

    For the most part, Scripture existed in oral form for sometime before it was set into written form; particularly the Old Testament

    Scriptures but to some degree even the New Testament Scriptures.

    Though many die-hard Bible-believing Christians refuse (or are incapable of) coming terms with that fact, it remains a fact that

    The Bible came about through the action of the early Christian Church community: not the other way around as 'Bible-thumper'

    believers will try to convince others sometimes with rationales so bizarre that comprehending how such rationales even exist

    somewhere outside the boundaries of a realm such as "The Twilight Zone" in itself becomes a mind-boggling exercise.

    What has this to do with whether or not "you" in modern English suffers for want of a plural form?

    Because in the context of the statement "It's ALWAYS your standards; it cannot be otherwise, . . . "

    In the early church "you/your" in such a context more often than not would NOT have referred to an individual "you", such as

    Anonymous, expounding his/her authority as to what the text actually meant. "You" would, when referring to the interpretation of

    Scriptures would have more likely referred to the aggregate of the teaching authority of the church in the context of

    interpretation of the Bible. "You" in that sense, had it been stated in terms of an interpretation deemed acceptable or "correct"

    would have been more accurately paraphrased as "it is the interpretation of the church elders that . . . " or "it is the

    interpretation of the body of believers that . . . "

    Thus, "you" in a statement like "your interpretation" or "your understanding" should only be correctly applied to a "you" that is

    either plural in nature as in the Old Testament scripture that refers to finding 'best wisdom in many counselors.'

    OR it is singular; but singular in a corporate sense in much the way Tom uses 'corporation' in the entry on taxation in a more
    recent blog entry than this one.

    1. Part III

      When you encounter the term "you" in terms of interpretation; correctly used it should refer not to the interpretations of any

      individual believer but to some concensus of believers such as church elders or a magisteriate.

      This is where it all stems from when you hear/read that 'Catholics aren't allowed to read the Bible.' There was a time when for

      lay Catholics that indeed was true because the level of literacy at that time combined with the quality of the translations

      available made the hierarchical church guarded over the very real potential for erroneous interpretations of the sacred Scriptures

      for one reason or many reasons.

      And that's still the greatest rift, doctrinally, between Biblical-based and Eucharistic churches today. (Eucharistic churches

      here including some that follow a very similar position to Roman Catholicism but do not accept Papal Supremacy.)

      So, Tom, although with "Anonymous" it IS true that his/her interpretation is his/her personal interpretation, the other portion of

      the statement that "it cannot be otherwise" it not equally true to the first part.

      It is far more likely that if the, for lack of better word, 'preacher' of Scripture truth self-identifies with the doctrines like

      orthodoxy or Catholicism; the interpretation given in some form is rooted in a concensus of opinion within the doctrinal structure

      with which they identify than it is that it is a solely individually constructed interpretation.

      That is to say, were you say to ME rather than to Anonymous that it is "your" opinion, you would be correct only insofar as "your"

      in that instance took into account that my view would at least have considered, and most likely incorporated at least in part, the

      interpretation given to that passage by the magisterium (teaching authority of the church universal.)

      If memory serves correctly, in the old days of "thee" "thou" and "thine," many of these passages indeed were translated into

      English using the plural form of "you."

      So much for Scriptural linguistics of English translations 101.

      On to course 102.

      Well, now that we've dispensed with the vagaries of "you" in terms of singular and plural; we now get into a greater subtlety of


      The reality is: in English, we are always dealing, in terms of Biblical Scripture, with some level of translation. Up until

      about the mid 1960s, we were actually dealing with a two-tiered translation: from original languages into intervening Latin and

      then from Latin into English. Starting about the mid-1960s, a movement arose to go back and translate directly from the three

      original Biblical languages into English [for any who don't know, the three original Biblical languages are Hebrew, Aramaic, and

      Greek; and far more of the Scriptures were written in the less formal, more colloquial Aramaic than the more formal Hebrew.]

      Somewhere along the way, Biblical scholars on more than one occasion floated the concept that as used in Genesis the term "day"

      does not in fact mean what we in our age would regard as a single "day," that is a 24-hour period that starts and ends at the same

      point during a cyclical light/dark interval of time. For most of us, the starting point of the 'next day' is midnight, but in

      Jesus's day and for the purposes of Judaic religious services even today, it was actually sunset.

  18. Part IV

    What Biblical scholars [sometimes also called Biblical exegeticists] predicate is that the term "day" was the best 'analogy' the

    human writers of the Hebrew Scriptures could conceptualize; and that while the '6 days' of creation shared characteristics of a

    24-hour day; the term as used in Genesis more than likely referred to some other designation or demarcation of time; possibly such

    as a geological epoch.

    Scientifically, we now know that creation did NOT in fact happen in 6 actual 'days' if by 'day' we mean a 24-hour cyclical

    interval of time.

    The interpretation that God meant what he said but chose to use human authors to set it down; inclusive of their linguistic

    limitations, is one of the longest-held traditions within Christianity.

    Which in a roundabout way sort of gets back to your question, Tom; as to literal versus figurative and whether or not in being

    figurative that constitutes whether or not God actually "lies." There is an infallibility in the communications mechanism which

    results in a figurativeness; but in the senses that an analogy represents a truth than so do Scripture passages that we may

    comprehend incompletely, incorrectly, or fail to adequately comprehend at all.

    That does not of necessity make what was stated to become an actual "lie."

    Okay. I'm done mouthing off now. I'm in a residential environment where my opportunities to do so are limited, so I have to take

    it out on someone!

  19. It's good to hear from you again, and I'm sorry to hear your health has been a problem.

    Thank you for your informative comment. However, I think you've interpreted my remark on a level different from what I intended. When I say that it's always your standard that is applied, I mean the literal singular "you", or more precisely the subject of whoever is doing the interpreting. Even when you are applying the standards of your community or some other authority, what you're actually doing is applying YOUR VERSION of those standards, and however diligently you may try to make it conform to the "real" standards, you can never escape your own interpretive act.

    What I am saying, then, is that even if you do take Scripture to be divine and infallible and perfect in every way, the only tool you have to interpret it is your own profane and fallible and imperfect mind. There's just no escaping fallibility here.

  20. "There's just no escaping fallibility here."

    No, there isn't. And nor should there be. And it's the first thing admitted in Scriptural studies that admit of contextual interpretation. And we should admit of contextual interpretation if for no other reason than we are losing so much meaning, or potential meaning, if we do not. Even studying Scripture in a non-religious way that's true.

    As to Anonymous, and those of like minds, the point is as I believe it was John Donne who is credited with the origin of the "no man is an island" concept is that no matter how much Anonymous believes his/her interpretations to be his/her own (or no matter how much YOU perceive them to be his/her own); that's an unlikely state of affairs. S(he) will, of necessity, have been influenced in his/her interpretation (recognized as such or otherwise) by someone, or by some construct built by a group of someones, somewhere along the way and at least in part his/her pronouncements to greater or lesser degree (most likely greater) simply echo the perceptions of others by whom s(he) has been taught principles of Scriptural interpretation either directly or indirectly. As are mine, to greater or lesser degree.

    The 'bottom line' point being: while you (or any audience) may conclude that Anonymous's interpretations are of the 'you singular' nature, that's virtually impossible in any environment except one that does admit of 'man' as 'an island.' And that's true for anyone's interpretation of Scripture, not just Anonymous's.

    Most likely, what Anonymous states is simply an echo of not ONLY what s(he) has been taught but what OUT of a potential multitude of teachings what s(he) has chosen to accept as valid.

    As would anything that I say about Scriptures be a mere echo of what I have been taught. The difference being that I can take it out of a "religious mode" and I can "echo" things I have been taught without necessarily accepting a particular point. I can echo things, in fact, I may neither quite accept nor quite reject. The legal analogy, here: I might "echo" points about Scripture on which my own internal 'jury is still out' on the matter. [Not the case here; I pretty much stated things I accept as correct in my rhetorical case of yesterday.]

    Thank you for the kind words. I'm actually in the process of seeking disability retirement benefits. The initial paperwork went to the Social Security Administration yesterday (still have to submit tax records and the like); and that to my federal government pension plan should go by end of the week, assuming the doctor's paperwork makes it to me timely by mail. Then it becomes a waiting game for a matter of months.

    Anyway, as said yesterday: the teaching authority of the apostolic version of Christianity (which encompasses more than Roman Catholicism) admits upfront that the fallibility began when God chose to use the conduit of fallible human writers to convey Scripture. It's the first thing you learn in a Catholic-run Bible study course; and the Orthodox and Episcopal approach is similar.

    There is, after all, a reason why despite almost 17 centuries of doctrinal separation, the Orthodox and Catholic liturgies look very similar even still.

    What I often find is that what my family used to call the "Bible thumper" stripe of believer has even a conceptual difficulty with the fallibility involved even in terms of translation issues as regards Scripture: especially in English.

  21. Oh, yes. There is such a thing as a Catholic-run Bible study; and other less formal Bible-based prayer groups operating within the Catholic church in some locales. There's actually a major revival of that stripe in some regions in the U.S. in the Roman Catholic church. My area is one of the leaders in that sort of revival.

  22. In fact, I'm not actually surprised by the tendency to dogmatic certainty that "Bible thumpers" display. The distinction between "The Truth" and "What I believe to be The Truth" is a pretty subtle one, and calls for a kind of meta-level reflection that is surprisingly difficult for many (perhaps most) people. That is, most of us understand that What Is and What We Believe can be two separate things, but understanding that they are ALWAYS separate things is a rarely-taken step beyond that.

    Consider: If I find I was mistaken about something, and change my mind, I'm likely to say something like, "I thought X was Y, but in fact X is Z and not Y at all." It's that "in fact" bit that leads us to think that NOW we're really apprehending the truth about X and Z. Well, our new model may more closely resemble The Truth, just as one painting can be more lifelike than another, but it remains and ever shall be a painting.

    I can't think of anything in our evolutionary history that would have strongly favoured thinking with that level of abstraction. Some advantage to being ABLE to do it, but it seems to be a skill one has to develop with practice, rather than one we're born with.