Sunday, February 22, 2009

Two comments over at John Kenneth Muir's blog

As I have posted before, I am a great fan of John Kenneth Muir's The House Between. On his blog, Mr. Muir reviews Religulous, a movie I've not seen yet. Even so, I had to react to a couple of Mr. Muir's assertions. Go over to his blog to see the post and his comments, but here's mine:

I haven't yet watched Religulous, although I have had it on my "round tuit" list. If you don't mind, I may post a second comment about Bill Maher.

I wanted to focus on your comments about the Bible itself. (I'll use italics to quote you John.) After all, the Bible was written, re-written, and translated into new languages... The last 100 to 125 years has been very kind to Biblical scholars, especially the collecting of manuscripts in electronic form. Scholars have not only found Greek New Testamet manuscripts that can be dated back to the 400s and 500s, but quotes of the New Testament from the early Christian church writers that can be dated into the first three centuries AD (or CE, if you insist).

The truth is opposite of how can I overlook a thousand years of interference in this supposedly sacred text from monks, popes and other avaricious schemers. The Bible has been protected because there have been so many copies held by so many different sources. The Dead Sea Scrolls are essentially identical to the Hebrew Codices (like the Leningrad Codex) that date to ~1000 AD. We have multiple sources for the Greek New Testament that come from multiple branches of the church, and translations that date from well before AD500.

One of the biggest argument in textual analysis right now is whether Luke added an extra line "the son of Cainan" into Jesus' genealogy, or if the Septuagint was modified, or if there's an error in the Hebrew manuscripts. (See ). The concept that the intent of the book authors hasn't been conveyed down to us is IMHO over.

Now, as you also state, that's hardly the end of the religious discussion. We can't "prove" that 4 guys named Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were in the vicinity of Jerusalem in AD30-AD90 writing these books. We have somewhere between 0.001% and 0.1% of the books that were written in that timeframe available to us (this shouldn't surprise a student of film, considering how much of the films of the early 20th century we've already lost), and all of the Jewish genealogy records that would have been stored at the Temple are gone.

I can't absolutely prove to you that the Jesus Seminar was blowing smoke when it tried to decide "what Jesus really said". (I can say that it was hardly original; read what Jefferson tried to do in that area.) I can say that they weren't true to the text. The authors intended to tell you about a Jewish man who was somehow also God; a man who died on the Cross, and as such could forgive your (and my) sins.

Now, the text isn't "in sync" like some might want. It was written by a bunch of men over 2000 years (counting the Hebrew Scriptures). The Gospels were written by 4 people talking to 4 different audiences, with 4 different forms of accuracy, and 4 different set of sources of information. Then you have the Letters, written by multiple men with differing ideas at differing times.

There are differences. I personally think most can be resolved by people reasoning things out. I don't pretend to know all of them, but I doubt any one person can.

Mr. Muir comments on my post, so I reply again:

...Okay, accepted. But that means The Bible is not the literal Word of God then (as some people take it to be), but the word of man; or of men, rather. Right?

No, not at all. I find it fascinating that 30-40 men, in different times in different situations, are essentially consistent in describing a single story. The fact that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John tell similar but not identical stories is realistic: 4 people telling the exact same story are just copying.

There has been a lot of debate about the exact nature of how God's "inspiration". Some want to say that the Holy Spirit wrote every word. I am more inclined towards an alternative theory: humans wrote the texts, but the Holy Spirit ensured that they were accurate. I think that they can be shown logically equivalent, and I'm working on that post on my blog, but that's going to be a while....

I think that the Bible (outside of minor scribal errors) is historically accurate, accurately describes Jesus' actions and statements (including those implying or stating that he was divine), and accurately documents that multiple persons saw Jesus after his crucifixion. To misuse Fermet, the proof is too small for this margin. ;)

I could argue this stuff for hours and hours, so I'd better stop here. :)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Dealing with eye strain

About 10 years ago, my allergies got so bad I needed a very light pair of reading glasses to use the computers. When the allergies cleared, so did my need for glasses. I've had to occasionally break the glasses out when my eyes get really tired or when working with small wiring.

Last week, the pain started. By the end of a day, it hurt to read or to work on the computer too long.

I am going to the eye doctor tomorrow. I'm hoping it's something simple and treatable, since the reading glasses are still too strong (and they're the weakest made) but the pain is only easing a little.

I'll try to report the results tomorrow.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Dirt in the soul

We don't get to non-kids movies much, so I'm just now getting around to watching The Dark Knight. In one way, I'm very glad they made the movie. Keith Ledger's Joker is actually someone who could exist; someone who makes sense beyond the comic book buffoon of the TV series.

On the other hand, I'm not sure I ever want to see it again. As I grow older, I don't find it difficult to see the evil in men's souls. It seems that I become more aware of it every day in myself, as I see where I eat a little too much, snap too much at the kids, etc. I don't need a TV show reminding me how base people are (like the new Battlestar Galactica), or a movie to know how depraved and close to the animals man can fall.

We are the only creatures who desire to fall. Our new dog loves us, and loves to be around us. The two cats have traded "the wild" for lots of food and throwing up on our bed. In so far as they can "know" anything, they like where they're at and wouldn't change much. (Well, our alley cat would get rid of the puppy, but he may eventually get over that.)

It's only us humans that want to call ourselves animals, and to say we can't control our impulses. Throw a bone for my pup, and she chases it. Show a man a bit of flesh, and he can control what he does. Seeing what happens when men decides not to control himself just doesn't sit well with my soul any more.

Perhaps that's why I like Iron Man. Tony Stark had an empty soul, and was starting to know it. Bruce Wayne has a dark soul, and thinks that everyone else does too, and that's the natural state.

We Christians know that it may be the "natural" state, but it's not our created state nor the one God wants. God wants us all to be cleansed. God wants to see us clean, and he sent His son to do it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A comment I posted over at Hoyazo's Blog

Hoyazo, aka the Hammer Player, is a Poker blogger who also does his share of economic commentary. In this post, he rants about Obama and Geither's new TARP 2 plan. I won't quote the post, but here's my comment I left at his site:
Dub was a "center-right" Keynesian, and Obama is a center-left Keynesian. They have the same people in their economic teams, and they're reacting in exactly the same way. Who is insane enough to expect real change out of a Chicago politician?

IMHO, neo-Keynesian thought breaks down in a depression. You can't cure alcoholics by giving them more hooch, and you can't cure an abundance of debt by pushing more debt.

As painful as it will be, we need to let the big banks fail, the derivative markets evaporate, and the survivors make a mint off of picking up the broken pieces of the shattered companies and rebuild.

The alternative is Argentina.

Monday, February 2, 2009

My reason for keeping the good stuff off computers leading a perfectly boring life:

(Comic from xkcd : link here. Linked under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Not watching commercials this year

Unlike years past, we've missed most of the Super Bowl. My grandmother has power back, but had an empty fridge. Rather than run back to home, we took her to Wal-Mart for groceries.

I may comment on the commercials after watching them on a summary site.