Thursday, November 26, 2015

[BTT005] Creatures of Time, Creatures of Eternity

Previous: [BTT004] Faith of Our Fathers

No living human being fully understands Time or Eternity. No human language is fully equipped to express it. And yet, the Bible talks about both anyway.

There are some things about Time that we can say with absolute certainty from Scripture. God created the universe, both Time and Space. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was incarnated in a physical human body within Time. And both Time and Space, as parts of the physical universe, will have an end. Jesus Christ, now seated at the right hand of the Father beyond our Time and Space, will return to us who live within Time and Space, and make all things new.

Why would the Bible discuss eternity, a concept which human minds cannot fully comprehend? It is not to give us certain scientific knowledge, but to let us know that it exists and we a quickly speeding towards it. Our lives are a vapor, which will soon disappear. The Bible does not discuss eternity to explain it intellectually, but to prepare us for our entrance into it.

Regardless of the theories we develop about eternity, we will know the truth of it soon enough. If we disagree, let us disagree in love, for our thoughts on eternity will not affect the state of our eternal souls. It is not our formal doctrines on eternity that matter, but the love of Jesus Christ, the God who came from eternity in the body of a man to save us from an eternity of separation from God.

We mortals may discuss eternity, but our true goal is to prepare for it. Discussing the nature of Time can be part of that preparation, but only when we keep the true goal in mind.

Next: [BTT006] What Does the Bible Say About Time?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

StudyOke! "Sake to Namida to Otoko to Onna" - Kawashima Eigo

Friday, November 20, 2015

An Open Letter to a Dearly Beloved

Look, the Left, we need to talk.

I'll admit, I haven't always been the best partner. When you were shouting about Social Justice, I was more concerned with Civil Liberties. When you wanted to experiment with centrally planned economies, I insisted on acknowledging realistic market values. And then there's the whole Abortion thing (but I know you don't like to talk about that).

It's natural for an interfaith marriage to have some friction. I'm a Christian, and last I checked, you were an Atheist Wiccan. A Sufi Buddhist? It's hard to keep up with what religions you find acceptable.

But even if I might forget what your belief of the day is, I will always remember those early, exciting years when we would stay up all night, just cuddling and hurling insults at each other.

There was also plenty that we agreed on. Freedom of Speech. Freedom of Religion. That people should be judged on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin or the style of their genitals. That the Pharisees who care more about lining their pockets than washing feet are not true Christians. The good stuff that made your barbed insults sting like kisses.

I don't know where along the line things changed. Maybe it was when I graduated college and had to start working for a living. That certainly had a strain on our relationship. My days no longer had enough hours to listen to your latest outrages and rambling discourses. Results and real-world applications started to matter.

You encouraged me to go back for a graduate degree, but that only made things worse. When you're an undergrad, professors keep up the fa├žade of caring about truth. They keep their nihilistic existential nightmares tucked safely beneath the bed. But being a grad student meant rubbing elbows with the profs on a more intimate basis. The masks started slipping.

Yes, there were professors who cared about truth behind their professional personas, but I can't count the number of times I was told the truth didn't matter. That collecting evidence and looking for answers based on that evidence was missing the point.

You see, I romanticized you, the Left. I always thought it was the Republican Wall-Street types that wanted money for nothing. We were the ones who cared about Truth, Justice, and if not the American Way, then the Nobel Path. Grad school wanted to take my money and give me nothing in return. Worse, they wanted to take away my evidence and replace it with Nothing. And while I was foolishly ready to part with my money, I could not accept their Nothing.

I remember when you used to call me out on my belief in God because it was based on faith instead of evidence. Evidence was everything, you said. It's where the rubber meets the road, where Philosophy becomes Science. We could speculate all day, but a theory that cannot survive contact with reality was not worth a damn.

It was one of the few solid arguments you had. I could not prove God. I could not scoop Him up in a jar to show you or point a telescope towards Him. He was neither beneath the microscope nor among the stars. I had no direct, scientific evidence.

I loved your insistence on evidence and Science. The facts kept me grounded when I was tempted to fly off into mystical revelries. It reminded me to treat my opponents like human beings, as rational creatures that deserved evidence. I kept my faith, but acknowledged that not everyone shared it.

When did you give up on evidence, the Left? When did you decide it no longer mattered? These days, it's like I don't even recognize you. Last time we talked about Science, you denounced it as a mind-control tool of White Heterosexual CIS Shit Lords. The Left I remember could spend hours rhapsodizing about the egalitarianism of Science, how its reliance on objective facts meant that no race or gender could monopolize it. What happened to that, the Left?

Yesterday you told me that asking a Person of Color to explain their point of view was "privileged and gross." You told me that asking for evidence that a female video game character was a Male-to-Female transsexual proved that I hate transsexuals. Every time I try to understand you, you push me further and further away.

I love you, the Left. Ever since we stood up together to protest the censorship and unjust wars, I have loved you dearly. But I don't know what's happened to you.

What happened to the feisty, passionate one that I loved? I remember a time when you could not argue enough, when I thought you would never have your fill of debate. Once you thundered challenge and swung your fists without rest. You wore a dazzling suit of armor and bore a bloody battle flag. And though we bickered at times, I fought beneath your flag without hesitation.

Who has silenced your thunder, oh Left? Who has stilled your fists? Who has stripped you of your armor and exposed your nakedness, that you should shrink from your enemies? Why does your banner lie ruined on the ground? It is no longer a flag of blood and battle, but a torn and muddy rag.

I do not know this shrieking violet who can only hurl insults from behind a wall. I do not know this Scientist who hates evidence, this Academic who hates facts. I do not know this Warrior who dares not leave the Safe Spaces.

I look upon you as the corpse of a dear friend. While others may shrink back at your rotten putrescence, I wish only to cradle your broken head in my arms.

I would split the Red Sea for you, that you might march out boldly from your Safe Spaces. I would give you cold facts instead of warm fuzzies. I would teach you again the glory of defeat and the shame of retreat.

There is no glory in battle with straw men, and even less with shadows (I have seen the Shadow Hunts in the walls of your Safe Spaces). You told me once that reality has a Liberal Bias. Why do you flee from it? You told me once that it was your duty to Transgress. Why won't you step beyond the walls of your prison cell?

I love you because of who you are, but I cannot love what you are doing to yourself. How can I support your decision to cut yourself off from the world? How can I love what harms you? That love is reserved for your enemies.

This is difficult, but I think we should go on break for a while. Maybe start seeing other ideologies. You need to figure out what's really important to you - equal rights or procrustean laws. I will wait for you. Not forever, but I will wait. And I will never forget who you were - who I pray you can be again.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

[BTT004] Faith of Our Fathers

Previous: [BTT003] The Wages of Dogmatism

Our Fathers and Mothers in the Faith have been very, very wrong about many, many things. From the Christians who justified the Trans-Atlantic slave trade to the early Protestants who condemned foreign missions, all who came before us have gotten things wrong.

I do not mean to attack or condemn them, for they were no more fallible than we are today. What evils do we support today with human interpretations of Scripture? It is difficult to say, blinded as we are by our own sinfulness and humanity. If we forget the failures of those who have gone before us, we risk ignoring our own.

We, the living men and women of today have the same responsibilities and weaknesses. We must engage the Scriptures humbly. We must engage the Scriptures constantly. And when we come away with different conclusions, we must recognize the difference between the Bible and human interpretations of the Bible.

I am going to advance some theories in this series, theories which are nothing more than a human interpretation of Scripture. If you think that these theories conflict with Scripture, you should reject them. If you think that these theories conflict with reality, you should reject them. If these theories simply fail to convince you, you should by all means reject them!

We're going to start with the actual content from the next post onwards. I am going to get some things wrong, you are going to get some things wrong, and it will be okay. We are looking for truth, not claiming to have what no man knows.

[BTT005] Creatures of Time, Creatures of Eternity

Thursday, November 12, 2015

[BTT003] The Wages of Dogmatism

Previous: [BTT002] Biblical Theologies and the Bible

If the explicit teachings of Scripture on the subject are not enough, we also have the example of history to guide us. We live in a world that thinks of Christians as anti-science - and not without reason. While many of the greatest scientific minds of history were Christians, some of the gravest errors of the church were caused by insisting that only one of the possible human interpretations of the Bible was correct.

Need we speak of Galileo and the insistence of the Catholic Church that the sun revolved around the Earth? And lest we put all of the blame on the Catholics, Luther and Calvin insisted on the same. The Geocentric model was thought of as a theological given.

In the defense of these Christian theologians, Galileo's argument was far from air-tight. There were numerous mathematical issues with the Heliocentric model that had not been worked out, many solid scientific reasons for favoring Geocentrism. And yet, as scientific understanding advanced, Galileo proved to be correct and the Christian church ended up on the wrong side of history. And all over an issue that was far from essential Biblical doctrine and far from being explicitly stated in Scripture.

An issue that should have been resolved by love, charity, and a healthy appreciation for the limits of our understanding of Scripture has become an embarrassment that lingers over Christianity to this very day.

This extends to current scientific debates as well. Does the Bible teach a literal six-day creation or is Genesis 1 a poetic allegory? Natural selection and micro-evolution (the belief that wolves and dogs developed from a common canine ancestor, not the idea that humans developed from fish) now accepted by the majority of Christians, was once rejected as anti-Biblical. This despite the fact that the theory of genetics was developed by a Christian monk!

The issue with Christianity is not that it is inherently anti-science, but that we have inherited the attitude of the Pharisees. The Bible is not anti-science, but hating a fellow Christian because they subscribe to a different plausible interpretation of Scripture is without a doubt anti-biblical.

Just as the mathematics of Galileo's day supported the Geocentric model, the science of our day favors an old Earth. I cannot say whether further scientific investigation will disprove macro-evolution, but that which has changed once may yet change again. Instead of insisting on one human-made dogma and hating those who adhere to another, let us love another with sober minds and look past the doctrines of men to the commandments of God.

Next: [BTT004] Faith of Our Fathers

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Study-Oke! "Arigatou" - Yosui Inoue & Tamio Okuda

Thursday, November 5, 2015

[BTT002] Biblical Theologies and the Bible

Previous: [BTT001] Genesis 1:1

Augustine speaks of this very phenomena in his Confesions. Now, if you've ever read any of Augustine's writings, you know that the man was not blessed with brevity. So I'm going to quote from him at length because he lays it out much more beautifully than I could ever hope to, but feel free to skip it if your eyes start to glaze over.
First, Augustine admits his inability to know exactly what Moses meant when he wrote Genesis, or why God moved him to use those particular words:

"But which of us, amid so many truths which occur to inquirers in these words, understood as they are in different ways, shall so discover that one interpretation as to confidently say that Moses thought this, and that in that narrative he wished this to be understood, as confidently as he says that this is true, whether he thought this thing or the other? For behold, O my God...can I, as I confidently assert that Thou in Your immutable word hast created all things, invisible and visible, with equal confidence assert that Moses meant nothing else than this when he wrote, In the beginning God created. the heaven and the earth. No...

"For his thoughts might be set upon the very beginning of the creation when he said, In the beginning; and he might wish it to be understood that, in this place, the heaven and the earth were no formed and perfected nature, whether spiritual or corporeal, but each of them newly begun, and as yet formless. Because I see, that which-soever of these had been said, it might have been said truly; but which of them he may have thought in these words, I do not so perceive. Although, whether it were one of these, or some other meaning which has not been mentioned by me, that this great man saw in his mind when he used these words, I make no doubt but that he saw it truly, and expressed it suitably."

The greatest danger is not that we should believe one of many valid interpretations, but that we should allow these valid interpretations to become points of argument and hatred between us.

"Let no one now trouble me by saying, Moses thought not as you say, but as I say. ...O my God, life of the poor, in whose bosom there is no contradiction, pour down into my heart Your soothings, that I may patiently bear with such as say this to me; not because they are divine, and because they have seen in the heart of Your servant what they say, but because they are proud, and have not known the opinion of Moses, but love their own—not because it is true, but because it is their own.
"... When, therefore, we may not contend about the very light of the Lord our God, why do we contend about the thoughts of our neighbor...when, if Moses himself had appeared to us and said, “This I meant,” not so should we see it, but believe it? Let us not, then, “be puffed up for one against the other,” above that which is written; let us love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind, and our neighbor as ourself.

"...Unless we believe that Moses meant whatever in these books he did mean, we shall make God a liar when we think otherwise concerning our fellow-servants' mind than He has taught us. Behold, now, how foolish it is, in so great an abundance of the truest opinions which can be extracted from these words, rashly to affirm which of them Moses particularly meant; and with pernicious contentions to offend charity itself, on account of which he has spoken all the things whose words we endeavor to explain!"

There are arguments cannot be settled short of Moses or God descending to Earth and explaining exactly what they meant in a given passage. Since these arguments are not essential to the faith, what gain is there in hating a fellow Christian because they believe a different possible interpretation? What is meant by "the heavens" is debatable, but the essential Christian duty to "love another" is not up for debate. Moses did not write Genesis so that we could hate each other about it!

Lest you think I am relying solely on Augustine for this argument, in Matthew 15, Jesus confronts the Pharisees for favoring their own interpretation of Scriptures over the Word of God.
"Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”

"He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ but you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”—  then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:

‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
            And honor Me with their lips,
            But their heart is far from Me.
            And in vain they worship Me,
            Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”

The Pharisees were more concerned with their interpretations of the Scripture (you must wash hands before eating) than with the actual contents of Scripture (you must honor your father and mother). The tradition of hand washing was intended to avoid accidentally making yourself ritually unclean - not a bad thing! Tradition and interpretation only become blasphemous when they are elevated to the level of doctrine, replacing the actual Words of God.

The point is not that we should all live in a feel-good cloud of moral relativism. The point is that the explicit, unassailable command of God that we love one another supersedes all human systems of dogma. Our interpretations of the Bible are always subordinate to the Bible itself.

Next: [BTT003] The Wages of Dogmatism