jaydinitto.com

Tag Archives: the Bible


God’s Nose Wiggles

If you didn’t hear, scientists discovered some unusual gravitational waves emanating from two black holes. It’s a big deal since it strongly bolsters Einstein’s space-time theories.

Mike Duran quoted astrophysicist Hugh Ross on Facebook:

“The existence of gravity waves is an important prediction of Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Einstein’s theory of general relativity is a critical component of the spacetime theorems which, if general relativity is a true theory, implies that a Causal Agent beyond space and time must have created our universe of matter, energy, space, and time. The Gods of the non-biblical faiths create within space and time. The God of the Bible creates independent of space and time. Thus, increasing evidence for general relativity yields increasing evidence for the biblical account of cosmic creation.”

I don’t know what it is about Christian scientists and their careless language with respect to divine attribution. Yes, yes, I know: God did it all—somehow, but Christian scientists need to make any scientific discovery, that may kinda sorta weakly imply “God did it,” into a “God said ‘poof!’ and it totally ‘poofed.'” They reach out and wiggle God’s nose, Bewitched-style, for Him. Don’t do that; He’s perfectly capable of doing it Himself.

Additionally, these gravitational waves don’t even imply this Most Holy Wiggle, since the direct cause, or chain of causes, could still be material. If there are multiverses, the waves could have come from them. Or any manner of unknown, pre-our-universe, mechanism. Again: yes, God sure as sugar did it, but that’s not an excuse for cutting out the sciencey stuff that could’ve happened in between, especially if it’s your job to assume those causes exist.

Share this post:

Who Would Jesus Shoot? AKA, Stop Putting Jesus in a Clown Suit

Well, to provide a tl;dr answer to the question posed in the blog title, He might shoot a lot of B.C. Egyptians, particularly first born sons. He’d also maybe shoot Canaanites—all of them.

Lots of the contextual “What would Jesus do in x situation? Let’s find out,” hypotheticals end up being an ad absurdum argument, because the image of be-robed and be-sandaled Anglo Jesus doesn’t square away with the firearm violence. It’s too incongruous and image to be truthful, so of course we conclude, very nearly on reflex, and most often before we really think about, that He wouldn’t kill (shoot, stab, bomb, etc.) anyone. You can substitute “kill” with any other unsavory or even silly things the modern mind can come up with, and with some careful planning, carve out your very own Jesus idol that strangely resembles a late 20th century centrist American voter. There just no way Jesus could’ve thought or acted differently than me, my friends, or anyone I admire. God isn’t in the business of dashing out expectations, is He?

To give this imagery some…more imagery, it’s like putting our Viking, sandy-coiffed Jesus in a clown suit and presenting it as our argument. Ecce stultus! But sons of gods don’t wear clown suits. I, for one, prefer not to reduce Jesus to situational ethics, which is why I’m wary of the moderate rigor of translating Jesus’ actions into modern contexts.

While it’s probably true He literally didn’t kill anyone, that doesn’t necessarily rule out, if we know anything about God has acted in the world in the past, that He could have killed someone. The Bible is filled with people doing lots of strange things under God’s command, like cooking with poop and marrying prostitutes, wearing camelhair robes and eating bugs, and killing—lots and lots of killing. Is it really so untoward, given the history presented in the Old Testament, that Jesus could have killed someone? This “not killing” thing may be a clue: just as some (most?) things don’t fall to us, as our mission, killing wasn’t part of His particular mission.

Share this post:

Random Thoughts on the Syrian Diaspora Issue

1. “Refugee,” much like “slave,” used in this modern context, may be wildly different than mentions of “refugee” in some translations of the Bible. X doesn’t always mean x, especially when there’s a good few thousand years worth of linguistic, cultural, and technological differences.

2. Universal moral imperatives, especially for something so complex as this crisis, are more Kantian than Christian. A Christian is responsible only for that which God has placed under his domain—nothing else. If you are a Christian and feel you have this kind of specific moral authority over me, then feel free to make your case, since you do not have this authority over me by default.

3. I, personally, am not responsible for anything that has caused the current situation. I don’t vote, and since I have (and want) nothing to do with my nation’s rulers, I am not even implicitly responsible for their actions. Any support my nation’s government has gained from me (taxes), have come from compulsion.

4. I’m actually fine with any nation that decides to “open its borders” to the Syrians, as long as that nation’s government just does that, without lavishing them with gifts from taxpayer-supported coffers. Government bureaucrats are excellent at moral posturing since they will face none of the consequences from their decisions. That nation’s government also has a moral obligation not to tie the hands of its citizens in how they choose to interact or not interact with the Syrian diaspora. To disallow this autonomy is slavery.

5. Related to #4: As I’ve said before, diversity is a preference, not a moral command. As such, people have different preferences, and wishing they had the same preferences as you do is strange, wishful thinking. There are major, major consequences, nationally and internationally, when people with diverse (heh) preferences are shoehorned into one monolithic version. This isn’t an endorsement of what will happen, but a bit of descriptive foresight based on what has come before.

6. Memes, photographs, and videos are basically propaganda used to arouse emotion towards a certain sentiment. Doping yourself up with this kind of drug has consequences.

Share this post:

Natural vs Supernatural Concepts in Ancient Hebrew

Another drive-by post. There’s too many great bits of information on here to call one out, so I would just read the entire piece.

In the context of this particular quote, I don’t find the debate about evolution vs. creation very relevant. Most of the debate originates between pushy scientists who really want to disprove something with faulty epistemology, and overreacting Christians with a chip on their shoulder trying their darndest to make scripture say something it really doesn’t.

If the Bible does not insist that God bypassed scientifically describable processes in the material creation of human beings (since its authors and its intended audience had no such categories), it should not be used to rule out scientific explanations for material human origins (such as evolution). Both the Bible and theology agree that God is pervasively involved in his world no matter what level of scientifically describable cause and effect we can detect. So it is not inconsistent with the biblical text to suggest that God created human beings over a long period of time through processes that operate according to recognizable cause and effect patterns. As such, evolutionary creationism would be a perfectly acceptable view for Christians who take both the Bible and science seriously. God’s activity is not limited to what scientifically describable cause and effect processes fail to explain; he is engaged in working through all processes.

Share this post:

Links of Possible Relevance, Part 8

I’m currently vacationing in Massachusetts, home to Elizabeth Warren and her corporo-fascism.

A new Cheerios commercial portrays a competent dad. Interesting for its novelty but especially attention-starved social justice warriors are going to Tumblr the new paradigm.

The Folly of Scientism – “Advocates of scientism today claim the sole mantle of rationality, frequently equating science with reason itself. Yet it seems the very antithesis of reason to insist that science can do what it cannot, or even that it has done what it demonstrably has not.”

“Free Market” Doesn’t Mean “Pro-Business”

“‘…Jimmie John’s bread is baked in the store every morning to give it a fresh and unique taste, whereas Chairman Mao Zedong of China exterminated over 45 million people.’ said Dr. Potamkin.”

Have any rightist dorks come across this and tried to make something out of it?

A band I don’t care about doesn’t take the Bible literally, just like 99% of all Christendom throughout history. The question is: in what way is not literal?

Three Reasons Why Private Property Is Essential for Human Flourishing. This is just common sense and a basic understanding of human behavior, but putting it in (good) economics terms doesn’t hurt.

Share this post:

Bible Book Summaries: The Criterion Collection

Those of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook might know I took up a project to summarize all 66 books of the Bible, roughly one book per day. I recently finished all the books and I thought it would be best to publish them all in one grand blog post. A tweet-dump motherlode assault on the senses.

Before (or after) you read these, check out this guy who is tweet-summarizing the entire Bible by chapter.

Share this post:

Read These 50 Books Before You Write Your First Fiction Novel

Stacked.

Stacked.

Most of these recommendations come with the territory of “living in a society flush with books.” They are a given, yet I want to assume that, if you want to write a fiction novel, you are out-of-this-world stupid and in need of guidance.

The links are to free copies online where available, otherwise it’s an Amazon link. E-books in reality are inferior to print because, as I’ve said before, they will disappear after the dolphin apocalypse. But for now they are fine.

Your favorite novel isn’t on here because it sucks, but make sure you scroll down to the end of the list before airing a complaint.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
The Grapes of Wrath
My Antonia
Winesburg, Ohio
Les Misérables
The House of the Seven Gables
American Gods
The Iliad
The Red Badge of Courage
The Pilgrim’s Progress
The Moviegoer
Lord of the Flies
Beowulf
The Sound and the Fury
Love in the Time of Cholera
Watchmen
The Secret Garden
The Prose Edda
Dune
Catch-22
Great Expectations
Crash: A Novel
The Velveteen Rabbit
The Divine Comedy
Pride and Prejudice
Pale Fire
The Satanic Verses
The Canterbury Tales
The Heart of Darkness
Moby Dick
On the Road
The Scarlet Letter
1984
Ulysses
A Tale of Two Cities
Fahrenheit 451
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
The Time Machine
Don Quixote
Crime and Punishment
Paradise Lost
Anna Karenina
The Hobbit
The Great Divorce
Babbit
A Christmas Carol
Siddartha
The Bhagavad-Gita
To Kill A Mockingbird
Far From the Madding Crowd
Jude the Obscure

As a mandatory bonus, read these non-fiction books. They will give you a sliver-sized sampling of what and how people throughout history have thought, and knowing how people think is a good idea if you’re going to write about them.
The Bible
The Summa Theologica
Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects
The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson & Henry David Thoreau
Apology, Crito, and Phaedo of Socrates
The Qu’ran

You’ve all of read those like I told you, and you’ve written your first novel. The bad news is that you’ll have to throw that first manuscript away because it will be nigh unreadable. The good news is that you’ll never write something so horrible again.

This is the best way to get all the kinks out. Now read these 50 books, then go write your real first novel.

The Poetic Edda
The Chronicles of Narnia
Thus Spake Zarathustra
Howards End
Naked Lunch
All Quiet on the Western Front
Absalom, Absalom!
A Prayer for Owen Meany
The Great Gatsby
Slaughterhouse-Five
The Pickwick Papers
Rabbit, Run
Doctor Zhivago
The Stranger
The Invisible Man
Flowers for Algernon
The Dark Knight Returns
H.P. Lovecraft The Complete Collection
Frankenstein
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
The Count of Monte Cristo
Tess of the d’Urbervilles
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Idiot
A Confederacy of Dunces
The Metamorphosis
Native Son
The Stand
Catcher in the Rye
Animal Farm
The Old Man and the Sea
Gulliver’s Travels
Robinson Crusoe
Stranger in a Strange Land
Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales
Wuthering Heights
Little Women
Anthem
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
Brave New World
The Republic
The Odyssey
War of the Worlds
Flatland
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Trial
Lolita
The Lord of the Rings
The Man Who Was Thursday

Photo by Bravo_Zulu_.

Share this post:

Book Review: The Bible, Part 1

If you haven’t read any of my previous posts about this, a friend of mine last year mentioned that I should do a book review of the Bible on here. Even though he was meant it as a joke I thought it was a pretty good idea, if not a little daunting. The only problem was that I had to actually read the entire thing, cover to cover, when previously I had only read bits of it here and there.

So I decided to follow a schedule where I could read the entire Bible in 88 days, which I mostly stuck to. I began on January 1st (no, it wasn’t a resolution) and things fell apart in the middle of March, the month I was supposed to finish. But I was able to get through it all very recently. It looks like I’m only partially holy.

While I was thinking about this review, it was difficult to really whittle down what I really wanted to say about it, given the expanse of the subject matter and style of writing. There were many ways I could go with this, so I decided to examine it objectively (impossible), with no value judgments (impossible), and as a book documenting the actions and beliefs of a group of people throughout thousands of years — and take note of the general sway of things, as one reading free of any predetermined belief system concerning religion or culture (impossible, but it was an attempt).

First, some basic facts. The most important thing to note is that the Bible is not a book, but a compilation of books spanning thousands of years, each books with their own set of purposes and contexts. There are 66 of them in Protestant versions, while the Catholic one has an additional 7. The Old Testament, the pre-Christian, Jewish texts, was written in Hebrew, while the New Testament was written in Koine Greek — and there are smatterings of Aramaic throughout.

The Bible is translated straight from “original copies” (i.e, there are 5,366 separate Greek manuscripts of New Testament writings) that are written in those original languages — not from a translation of a translation of a translation, etc., as some skeptics have erroneously offered.

This compilation of books cover a wide variety of subject matters, and plenty of it was only lightly-salted with the supernatural: poetry, military conquests, political intrigue and the rule of kings, genealogies, advice for correct living, letters to churches concerning behavior, and theological exposition and implications. Surprisingly, grandiose examples of a transcendent deity are sparse. More on that later.

The Old Testament, which makes up the bulk of this compilation of books, narrates the beginning of the universe and pre-historic events in the Jewish tradition, the establishment of the tribe and nation of Israel, ways in which Israel’s tribes would worship and serve their God, prophetic writings about both the fate of Israel and its enemies, many poems and different kinds of verse.

One of the first few things I noted about the Old Testament, besides superficialities like the repetition of information, was the constancy of the Jewish God’s judgments. I don’t mean “constancy” necessarily in the sense that he was always judging but that he was always dispensing justice to nations, especially to the nation with which he signed a covenant (more or less a “contract”), Israel. On the surface it’s expected that judgment on other nations would be instinctual as they by definition do not meet the Jewish God’s standards, but the constant haranguing of “one’s own” seems counterintuitive. But it does make good sense after quick consideration. Since God and Israel contracted with each other, the persistent failure of Israel to live up to her contractual obligations only makes divine retribution more an inevitability than an ill portent.

This constant dispensation of God’s justice combined with the rather verbose writing of the Old Testament authors, gives the bulk of the Old Testament a patina of despair. Even the Psalms — that go-to repository of emotional comfort in verse — flirts with manic depression every other stanza. There is very little in the Old Testament that isn’t tragedy or mere descriptive history.

Just as noticeable was the lack of actual, visible presence of God’s actions in a tangible way. Most of God’s interactions with humanity come through one-on-one transactions with prophets and kings: “God said x to person y.” And so it was. Yes, he parted the Red Sea, called down fire, and became a pillar of smoke and a pillar of fire, but most spectacles were private, localized affairs. There was not a terrible amount of worldwide fireworks and bravado that one would come to expect from a series of books dealing with an all-powerful deity. God, it seems, is rather gentlemanly: no heavy-handedness or overwhelming displays of physics but a tasteful restraint of power.

I’ll talk about the New Testament and other topics in Part Two.

Share this post:

A Most Holy Update

Today marks the halfway point of my “read the entire Bible” marathon. I’m actually a few days over because I don’t plan on taking the two grace days that act as a break from reading. Why in the world someone would need a day off from something as non-strenuous as reading is beyond me. People just need different avenues to express their sissiness and I suppose the act of reading provides the least resistance.

The halfway point is in the book of Proverbs. A few things I’ve learned, or had reaffirmed, or been reminded of, so far:

  1. God was concerned with Israel’s dietary habits and things they touch.
  2. God was into destroying entire swaths of people with a scorched earth policy.
  3. God was a brilliant military strategist.
  4. God placed great weight on seemingly inconsequential things.
  5. The Jews were into numbers, keeping track of who came from who, and having plenty of wives and children.
  6. Job and David complained a lot.
  7. God was into reminding how terrible the Jews were in keeping their end of the bargain.
  8. God wasn’t too keen on governments (can you blame Him?)
  9. Everyone so far, even the good guys, has been an awful human being at some point.
  10. A whole lot of context for all of the above is needed to understand the whole picture.

Amen.

Share this post:

Thy Word Is A Bright Cellphone Screen Unto My Vans

A while back, an online friend joked to me that I should do a book review of the Bible. I thought it was a good idea at the time but I wanted to read the entire thing through first before reviewing it, even though the material is too vast and varied to really do a detailed content review. It never panned out, but the beginning of the new year/month (decade?) is a good starting point to actually go through with this (don’t worry, it’s not a New Year’s resolution; I don’t make resolutions, I just shut up and do things). I’m going to do this 90 day plan — it’s really 88 days but the schedule give two “grace days” (hurr hurr) because of all the slothful dispositions out there.

In other news, the book rewrite is chugging along but not going as I had planned. I’m hoping this Bible reading will make my life so undeniably holy and excruciatingly faithful that it will just rewrite itself. Sounds like a reasonable, rational expectation.

Share this post: