The God-Shaped Hole!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Time Magazine just released a highly inaccurate blurb about the My Little Pony Friendship is Magic fandom.
  1. The picture they used is of the original ponies from the early 80's, not the current generation of toys. That's like reporting on Transformers while showing robot toys from the Atomic Age.
  2. 4chan's /co/ board was the start of the fandom, as documented elsewhere. Equestria Daily was founded later, and was preceded as a news blog by derpyhooves.com, now derpyhoovesnews.com.
Get your facts straight, Time. Being the magazine of record doesn't mean you can pull this unresearched sillyness.

And now, back to the irregularly scheduled posts.

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

God Is Good, Always

This question, posted by Charles Glenn on a Christian philosophy email list, caught my attention:

Hi Everyone,

I was up almost all night thinking about this question Darrin asked: is God significantly free?

May I ask a question in response to this question?

According to Hume, free will belongs to every person who is not in chains. So is it possible that God possesses perfect free will in an eternal sense, but has willingly placed himself "in chains" as a part of his act of creation, specifically in his creation of the human race? In one sense, he would still possess free will, right? Willingly limiting yourself to "Good" is, after all, a choice that a perfect being could make if that being possessed free will - that choice would have been made freely.

I suppose that also means He could change his mind and break his "chains" any time he chooses too, doesn't it? That would imply God possesses the CAPACITY for evil, right?

I'm pretty sure that's not part of mainstream Christian theology though...

In any case, wouldn't we have to resolve this question in order to coherently discuss God's "goodness?"

-Charles


This is a question of literally eternal significance. It is also the question that has turned many from God who have seen and experienced the suffering in this world.

When I seek entertainment, I most enjoy works that focus on moral choices, not in terms of law or instinct, but in terms of free will. The factor that feeds the God-shaped void in my human heart is when a character makes a difficult decision out of love for another, not out of need. When a character chooses to be good, even when compromise is far easier and has greater benefits.

I believe that for God to be truly sovereign, He must be prior to (and/or the foundation of) everything that exists. That means He is not driven by anything out of His control. And that means He must be ultimately free, perfectly free, because what could chain Him but Himself?

When the serpent told Eve that if they ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil she would become like God, I think he was telling the truth deceptively. She became aware of what it felt like to do evil, and her eyes were opened to morality, the vast gulf between following laws by necessity, and making free choices that coincide with the laws because the laws were written by someone good and wise. Then Adam damned us all to a lifetime of making moral decisions in a fallen world, where death was let loose to ravage us all, some slowly, others swiftly, and where sacrifice became necessary.

God knows how to do evil, and could if He chose. He could be infinitely cruel, taking pleasure in the pain of others. He could ignore us, let the sun explode, and go on to make less rebellious puppets on a planet in the Andromeda Galaxy. He could lie. But He never does; He has "chained" Himself to love as He chained Himself to logic: He will never create a rock so big He can't lift it, because that would be a paradox.

As C.S. Lewis wrote in The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe:
"If there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than me or else just silly."

"Then he isn't safe?" asked Lucy.

"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver. "Don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."


His capacity for evil is as infinite as His capacity for good, but He has never and will never use it. And that is what makes the storyteller in me love Him so much. And that is why I praise Him: because He Is who He chose to be, and has promised His steadfast love to us eternally.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Milgram and Campbell

The Milgram experiment showed that, even in the worst situations where things are going horribly awry, people prefer to have an illusion of control instead of a total loss of control. Perhaps they feared that the person instructing them to press the switches would take over and press the switches; the instructor had already proven himself sadistic and heartless, and would probably press the switch for longer than absolutely necessary.

None of them bothered to ask "why am I here", to question the assumptions of the experiment and ask why a volunteer who won a lottery had to torture the one who lost.

None of them questioned the established setup - because they were following the Hero's Journey, in which someone takes you out of the world you know and gives you instructions for dealing with your new reality, becoming your mentor in that process, and Horrible Things Will Happen if you step off the path for one moment.

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Resumés

A resumé is a structured poem which describes, in a rigidly traditional format, a person's work history and skills. It ends with a section which, roughly translated, means, "And if you don't believe me, here are three people who can each verify part of my story."

These poems are read by special literary critics, whose job is to verify whose poems are formatted better than the rest. Unlike other forms of literary criticism, the worst comment is no comment at all.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

A Bible Without Verses?



It takes time and training to learn to ignore the verse numbers, footnote indicators, and reference markers embedded in the text of the Bibles sold today. I am an avid reader; I have been since an early age. Now I want to read the narratives of the Bible as I would read any other book: without interruption, in single-column text.

The only other text I've ever seen with a built-in reference system is Shakespeare's plays, and even then, the reference numbers are in the margins. By contrast, the Phillips translation of the New Testament has verse numbers on the side, due to text recontextualization which resulted in the recombination of several verses into complete thoughts or arguments. The Message was similar, until the Message/remix edition reinserted the verse numbers.

Some Bible software, such as the ESV's WORDSearch software, allows the color of various categories of text to be altered. Turning the verse numbers the same color as the background effectively removes the verse numbers. But there are still gaps.

The verse system also makes the Bible's texts seem more uniform than they really are. The Bible is an anthology of books and letters written by forty different authors from similar but changing cultures, over a period of at least 1500 years. The literary styles include poetic narrative, historical narrative, poetry, philosophy, prophecy, law, ethics, and advice on how to live wisely.

The Books Of The Bible is a reformat of the Today's New International Version which tries to address these concerns. It formats poetry as poetry, and the rest as single-column text. It places footnotes at the end of each book, instead of at the bottoms of the pages. It puts the chapters and verses in an unobtrusive corner of the page.

But I want the English Standard Version or the New King James translation of the text formatted this way. Even if it's just available by special order, I would buy it. I would give it without reservation or preface to an unbeliever. I would also buy giveaway paperback gospels I could give to people I meet who need God's Word in their lives.

Accessibility is the key here, folks. Accessibility for people not yet trained by time to ignore the constant, nagging verse count. Accessibility for people whose brains won't allow them to ignore the embedded footnote markers. Accessibility for children more sensitive to the tedium of ignoring the language they've worked so hard to acquire. Accessibility for the unchurched, who would probably be more interested in a slightly annotated narrative than an encyclopedia of cross-references.

Would you buy such an edition?

EDIT: It's being published in May 2014!  Praise God!  ESV Reader's Edition

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Sorry anonymous commenters

...But due to a spam attack on my comments, which for some reason Blogger won't let me erase, I've enabled a higher level of comment security. I always hate it myself when a blog does this, but I do hope you blame the spammers, not me.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Let Me Blow Your Mind

Indulge me in this moment of geekery.

You already know that the Wraith in Stargate Atlantis are Space Vampires. But did you realize that the Goa'uld are Space Mummies? They come back from the dead, live a long time, and command legions.

A bit of a stretch, I know. But here's where I blow your mind.

The Borg are Space Zombies.

They inject you with nanites, you become one of them. Slow, shambling, and bad news in big mobs.

I was watching an episode of ST:TNG called "Descent" in which Data is brought to Lore so that the sons of Soong can destroy the Federation. In this episode, Lore hacks Data so Data feels emotions. He feels anger, rage, when a Borg tries to kill him, and after he has slain the Borg with his inhuman strength, Data feels pleasure.

Lore is Frankenstein's monster, and Data is the noble version of the monster.

Minds blown?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Looking For An Old Butcher

The Hero's Journey is the blueprint for every halfway decent story. Like appreciation for rainbows and power chords, it's instinctual. It's built into our brains. It runs our lives, if we let it.
But the Hero's Journey gives us certain expectations of the world around us, which usually don't happen. Because we've been raised on these tales, we expect to be given the rules when we enter a new situation, a realm of experience new to us, and we freeze up if nobody does. We expect to fail, because we know the transformative nature of the Night Journey. However, not everyone finds the Sword Of Light in their Night Journey. Some people stay in darkness for a very long time.
Today, I'm going to talk about the old butcher. According to Merlin Mann, he's the guy who's been a butcher for forty years, and if you're his apprentice and you call out for two and a half pounds of roast beef, you'll get exactly that. When you put it on the scale, it's not an ounce over or under. You keep practicing, and someday you'll be him; in the meantime, he'll teach you the little things that, while they don't really make sense, they make work flow so much easier.
He's a master of his trade or art, and he's your mentor. The universe provides one for each hero.
That's what we think, because of the Hero's Journey. In reality, we need to actively seek these people out and ask them to teach us, and DO WHAT THEY SAY, because we're not storybook heroes, we're just people. The universe doesn't follow our private story arc.

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