Posts Tagged ‘bible’

Paltalk wav recording Vladimir Nabokov

May 14, 2010

This is a 1 hour and 20 min. (appx) recording of me discussing a number of topics with a charming young woman from the south of France. There is a gap where I suddenly had to take a telephone call and I had to mute the Paltalk room. The quality of sound though not the best is very understandable and is representative of the quality that you may expect when using Paltalk (which is totally free).

http://soundcloud.com/william-buell/nabakovlolita

This SoundCloud recording IS downloadable.

Towards the very end of the discussion I make some points about Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita mentioning the movie version starring Jeremy Irons.

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Scientific Explanations of Biblical Miracles

January 16, 2010

Jerome:

I heard the other day the most reasonable explanation of the multiplication of loaves and fishes I’ve heard. It is supposed others in the crowd had food they were unwilling to share, and the child’s example got them to do so. This is not only a great moral lesson in itself; I wonder if it is not also the understanding expected of one seriously reading the scriptures.

Frank:
While this possible and certainly a good moral lesson–it is also possible that there was some kind of supernatural multiplication of food and “creation” or molecular change—you as a Hindu/Buddhist should remember the similar claims by Sai Baba and others.

William:
I think the disciple of Prophet Elijah, Elisaea (Elisha) did the same multiplication of loaves. But if one feels the need in scientific explanations for the Bible, the who needs Jesus, seriously? With all due respect, people who want to be Christian and pursue such apologetics have the miracle of multiplication of fat-cells in the head.

http://www.pbministries.org/books/pink/Gleanings_Elisha/elisha.htm

But, since you are into scientific explanations, I guess you have to think up ones for all the other “miracles” described in the Old and New Testaments (including the sun moving back 10 steps)… See More

http://www.bibleandscience.com/bible/books/genesis/genesis1_sunshadow.htm

But if everything can be explained then there is no such thing as a miracle, and you are faced with the opening question Hans Kung poses in “On Being Christian,” namely, why is Jesus necessary if one can simply live a good life in the humanist sense?

Oh, but then, you prefer Merriam-Webster over the OED.

Frank:

the sun moving ten steps back was probably a slide or stepping move

I think either explanations are possible. Miracles help us see the Divine.

Certainly you are aware of the “miracles” in Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism–perhaps they are preternatural rather than supernatural but nonetheless dramatic for most people.

William:

Jerome:

The purpose of the Scriptures is to give us the teachings of God. Does not this new interpretation give us more of a moral teaching than the old take does?

The only miracle answering Kung’s question is that of Transubstantiation.

William:

One needs to dig deeper than the Merriam-Webster level of understanding. Consider the verse which says “for God cannot lie.” Now perhaps the deepest scriptural analysis in history is Jesus saying that “I AM the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (not WAS)” means that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are alive. Now, if Jesus was clever enough for that, and … was aware of the multiplication of loaves by prophet Elisha, AND Jesus instructed the disciples to gather up the remains and count it, then SURELY Jesus would be aware that people would take it as a miracle (“if it were not so I would have TOLD you”). Therefore you believe that Jesus is a phony deceiver like Oral Roberts. If Jesus is as honest as he claims, he would have given a teaching both about the miracle of Elisha AND his “miracle” as a teaching regarding human selfishness. What is it that attracts you to Christianity if it is not the possibility for the miraculous and resurrection from the dead? Sounds like fat-head theology to me! Even the magicians of the Pharaoh gave up after the 4th miracle and said “surely this is the finger of God.”

The more I read from you, the more disappointed I become. Surely there are some Christians on Facebook who will read this thread and find something objectionable in such scientific analysis. Let’s wait and see. I am very curious.

Jerome, it is only my subjective opinion, but in my opinion “you have been weighed and found wanting” both in spiritually and intellectually. I am not saying this to be cruel. I am saying this to be honest. I assume you prefer honesty and candor over something insincere but polite.

Jerome:
Well, that is a pretty cruel thing to say. I still don’t know why you find me “spiritually and intellectually wanting” except that I think differently from you. Have you considered how difficult it would be to produce a large amount of food out of thin air in form-energy convergence? Easier to turn a volume of water into wine. The miracle of turning stingy people into giving people, however, is more essentially God’s work in religion.

I hear the words of the poem: “I swear I never saw a goddess go — my true love when she walks treads on the ground.”

William:
Jerome, I am about to do for you what may be the greatest kindness that anyone will ever attempt to do for you as I demonstrate to you why you are not a Christian and why you will be turned away at the Judgment. But I already know that nothing I can say or do will convince you or change you or persuade you.

Matthew 7:21-23 (New King James Version)

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

MAKE CAREFUL NOTE JEROME, that those who are turned away are actually believers in miracles. They are not offering Jesus their scientific explanations for what really caused the miracles. And surely they must have confessed that Christ is God, and yet they are not saved by “faith alone.” But Jerome, those who are turned away DID NOT QUESTION THE POSSIBILITY of a miracle taking place. Jerome, since you DO question the possibility of miracles and feel the need for some scientific explanation, I say that you are even WORSE than those who are turned away. No Greek or Russian Orthodox Christian would want to have anything to do with you because they all believe that miracles are possible. I know that for a fact because I was around them for 20 years.

Now, Jerome, let us look at Matthew 25:34

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

NOW CONSIDER WHAT THAT GROUP REPLIES:

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

THESE people were humble and generous. They did good WORKS and by their WORKS they are saved. One might possibly even argue that some of these righteous did not know of Jesus or confess Jesus. They do not seem concerned with miracles nor do they seem to learn the lesson from what you suggest is the teaching of the miracle of the
loaves.

….
On the bright side, we are having an actual discussion, which is better than people who throw sheep at each other on Facebook and take endless quizzes. It is 2am. I want to look at the Catechism and Summa and some other things. It is always possible that I am mistaken. I find it sad that no one sees fit to join in on this thread. On your behalf, I do concede that former Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) headed a committee on science and stated that geneticists are correct about humans being 150,000 old and tracing back to a handful of ancestors. Steven Hawking was invited to Rome to discuss his ideas about the origin of the universe. Now I am curious to see what Kung might have said about miracles and science.

Ok, next question before I retire for the night:

Jerome, DO YOU believe that when Jesus was born and lay in the cradle that He was somehow, mystically, in a fashion which reason cannot fathom, a God-Man, Theos-Anthropos, a new born infant and simultaneously the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Do you believe that Christ is God? And dont give me crap about Jesus being the SON of God, because there is one Gospel verse which states that Adam is the son of God, so there are TWO sons of God. The reason I ask this is because one cannot be Eastern Orthodox OR Roman Catholic if one does not believe that baby Jesus is also the pre-eternal Logos, one with the Father, present before the creation of the world to see Satan fall from heaven like lightening. Jerome, this is a simple YES or NO question. I expect you to either say YES, baby Jesus in the cradle was the master of the universe (God), or NO you do not believe. Of course, perhaps you have some other view which the first seven ecumenical councils were not clever enough to see.

Stephen:

For me, miracles are miracles. Regarding the multiplication of the loaves and fishes:

1. Why is the fact that many scraps were collected afterwards stressed?
2. Why, in Mark’s Gospel, does Jesus attach so much importance to the numbers involved – and then give no explanation Himself.
… See More
If one is going to “explain away” some of the miracles, why not the resurrection itself – and then what is left of Christianity apart from a kind of Stoicism?
//////
Stephen, thanks! My point exactly! And it is also the entire theme of Hans Kung’s On Being Christian: If we live good wholesome lives as Humanists or Stoics or Buddhists or Jains then why is Jesus necessary? Gandhi explains in his autobiography why he rejected Christianity as his personal religion, yet he loved the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount and lived out a very Christ-like life saying “My LIFE is my message.” Gandhi’s favorite scripture was the Ramayan which is an account of one of Vishnu’s avatars (god-men) Ram. The stories in Tulsidas’ redacted Hindi epic teach by example how people may live better lives. Are the Gospels and their parables simply teaching stories, like the Sufi teaching stories of Nasrudin?

Last night I opened Kung’s “On Being Christian” and found four pages that expressly address themselves to this dispute of ours regarding miracles and science. I do find this thread stimulating.

I am making my coffee (which is sacramental to me each morning, j/k) so I end this post with this thought. Jesus once pointed at a small child and said “unless you become as
this little child, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Small children around the world are the same regardless of ethnicity or gender. They try to love everyone with a gullible love and openness. AND they immediately believe anything you tell them whether it be Santa Claus or Easter Bunny or the Boogieman. They have simple child-like faith.
Abraham actually believed God’s promise that his offspring would be as numberless as the sand or stars. Abraham did not ask God for signed documents or mathematical equations or a Nova PBS documentary. Abraham BELIEVED and it was counted towards him for righteousness (in ADDITION to his righteous WORKS.. without which he would never have attracted God’s attention).

Adam:

“why is Jesus necessary if one can simply live a good life in the humanist sense?”

I don’t think he is necessary, except as a mythical archetype embodying a certain set of ideals and values. It is a teaching story, like countless other stories of morality and transcendence likely told since the dawn of language. One can live a good life in the humanist sense. I agree with the teachings of Jesus, but he need not be supernatural at all.

I am no scholar of Christianity, but I think we believe in “miracles” in order to conveniently support existing belief systems which include miracles, rather than admit the complete lack of evidence for such things. Such an admission would necessitate a revision of that held belief…. See More

If the virtue of Christianity (or any another given religion) is to hold as true what cannot verified except without relying on multiple assumptions (which is a very weak and unreliable verification), then why is that a virtue? It seems to me, perhaps, a way of controlling dissent and revision or reinterpretation of “holy” texts (as generically postmodern as that view is).

I think that it is inherently flawed to attempt to resolve the contradictions inherent in Christian doctrine, within Christianity itself. That is like asking the police to police themselves.

I don’t think anyone here will agree with me, but I think the way to resolve these contradictions and “tales of the supernatural” is to relativize the value of Christanity to a merely cultural belief system, rather than THE authoritative exposition on metaphysical and ethical issues. It is merely one system which, as it reaches us today, attempts to understand and explain the human experience and the natural world. Seen this way, the flaws of Christianity can be accounted for by the fact that it is a method for understanding, rather than being “The Understanding”. What the Bible and the gospels are doing is an act of interpretation.

Anyone who wishes to hold Scripture as authoritative rather than as merely one of many cultural interpretations of the natural world, must ignore the fact that the source (the bible) is no more reliable than any other secondhand report. Of course, this is no problem for on who sees the Gospels and other tales of Saviors, Gurus and Avatars as teaching stories, all pointing towards a common cosmology and a common morality. Such a person would never try to hang his or her hat on the literal-ness of one or more of those stories. That completely misses the point.
++++++

Papal infallibility was only asserted around 1850 (I would have to google the exact date), and it was done so for the sole immediate purpose of turning around and using it to declare the Immaculate Conception as doctrine. The Greeks have always rejected the notion that Mary had to be conceived BY MALE SEED, but in some special fashion which exempted Mary from ORIGINAL SIN, since the Greeks have always rejected the notion of Adam’s original sin. I suspect that Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) secretly recognizes the power of Kung’s arguments. But, the best thing the RC church has going for it is 1 billion members (one sixth of humanity) with the greatest liturgical and doctrinal unity. In a certain way, the doctrine of infallibility is like Plato’s Noble Lie. We always dwell upon the LIE part and forget the NOBLE part. The Greeks believe that properly convened Ecumenical Councils have infallibility but there have only been SEVEN of them. The Protestants believe that the Bible is infallible. Huckabee was questioned by a Newsweek reporter as to what Biblical Infallibility means and Huckabee answered “That simply means that if you follow the Bible’s advice you cant go wrong” BUT II Peter (I think ch. 6) expressly states “Paul has said some things which are difficult to understand and those weak in education twist and distort them to their own destruction as they do many other Biblical passages” (paraphrased from memory). So, in a weird way, Infallibility is the Noble Lie that holds the RC republic together.

The 1st Command-Be Fruitful and Multiply

December 17, 2009

(here are my various posts in various Facebook threads this morning.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onan

The very FIRST of the 613 mitzvahs (commands) in the Torah is “be fruitful and multiply.” I doubt if we can understand, in the context of our age and culture, the desperation that, say, Lot’s daughters, or Sarah or Hannah felt at the prospect of being childless. Lot’s daughters were not being lewd or prurient when they copulated with their own father; they were merely seeking a poor solution to what they saw as a problem of paramount importance. Our minds perhaps focus on what we perceive as the naughtiness of any sexual activity. But the real focus in those times was procreation. In Egypt, where polygyny is still allowed, one barren woman felt guilty and pushed her husband to take a young wife. At the wedding the wife functioned as a bridesmaid. In prehistoric times, you perhaps had no government, and you certainly had no social security. All that you had was family in the immediate sense, and clan or tribe in the broad sense. One important motive for giving a minor daughter in marriage was to forge a protective allegiance with a more wealthy and powerful family. Nowadays, our main problem is overpopulation. In prehistoric times, humanity was often on the verge of extinction. It took until around 1830 for world population to reach 1 billion. But by 1930 it had DOUBLED to two billion. And by the 1960s it had TRIPLED to 6 billion.

——

It is not inconceivable that a world run by robots, or genetically redesigned humans or cyborgs would be a better world than the world we currently have which is run by us. Perhaps our Pandora’s box technologists will tinker around and develop some self-replicating form of superior being which will come to view us as vermin to be exterminated. If the “world” became a much better place for conscious intelligent life, but a world without us, would that really be a bad thing? We could see it as bad for us, because we would not be there. But we wont be here in 100 years anyway. Some future generation, yet unborn, will be here despoiling the ecosystem and exploiting, tyrannizing, colonizing and torturing each other (that is when they are not busy saving each others souls by preaching the “one true faith.”)

————

There is all that work on “the compassionate gene”, arguing that since such behavior is actually a survival advantage to our species, hence it was spread by a process of natural selection, since those groups with the “rotten-selfish-sonovabitchova-screw-everyone-else” gene faded into extinction. Then too, what comes to mind suddenly is the Netflix DVD I watched last week, “Pulp Fiction”. The boxer has freed himself and is about to flee, but he hear the screams of his sworn enemy who is being sodomized. He stops and searches for the appropriate weapon. First he picks up a hammer (which of course symbolizes for Tarantino the stoneage man of pre-history), next he picks up a chain saw (which of course symbolizes the industrial revolution) and next he picks up a baseball bat (which symbolizes weirdo American sports notions of a manliness which is both homophobic, yet strangely homoerotic), but FINALLY, he sees the Samuri Sword, which is the eternal unchanging symbol for principles of personal honor and courage. The “greasy gooks” were not worthy to touch his father’s gold watch, but that same Asian culture acquired and passed on a symbol of honor which transcends race and nationality. So, in addition to our genetic traits, Sufi teaching stories and myths can often mold our choices and behavior.

—-

If I cannot find true meaning in this very moment, then all of my life was for nothing. If I can find true meaning in this moment, then even if I die the next moment, I shall not have lived in vain. (Don’t bother to Google, I just now made this up)

—–

It is ironic how all the little babes, who are innocent and loved and adored by definition, grow up to be our enemies, our tyrants, our slaves, our financial swindlers, our false prophets and heretics, and… furthermore, each babe is made to feel very special, adored… and yet part of adulthood and maturity is realizing that we are not special to the world, and in fact we are quite dispensable

+++

I feel that if someone truly had faith in God, then they would not fret so much about whether the Bible is consistent. The Bible tells us that God’s ways are beyond all human comprehension, and then theologians busy themselves trying to explain how God thinks and what God did and how and why.

—-

I watched a Japanese man carefully tending a very small garden, and asked him if he takes any interest in Buddhism or any other religion. He explained that this life is all there is, and then we are gone, nothing, so that is why he makes the most of each day (in his case, with a small flower garden).
I asked my cousin a similar, in his 70s, who worked the family dairy farm all his life, who married a 17 year old girl and has never tried out another woman, who never drinks, smokes, swears, steals or tells a lie, or goes to church, and he said the same thing; namely, this is all there is, and once you die, that is it. Now, we know (or some of us know) that in 500,000 our sun, on its way to death as a white dwarf, will expand to the point that the earth will burn to a crisp, and with it, Shakespeare, Plato, the Bible, the Qur’an, the Three Stooges, Judge Judy, Family Guy, the Bush archives… the whole nine yards. So, tell me what meaningless means unless you believe in “pie in the sky” heaven with angles strumming harps and blowing trumpets. I think Sartre and Frankl are probably two other good examples of two people who created meaning in a meaningless world. But if you are “saved” then you won’t want to understand one word of this (and I cant blame you).

—–

So then, if once you die, there is no trace left of you, except whatever way you might have influenced society, culture, and if one day, all human culture and tradition will be vaporized, then in what sense is their meaning. And do you feel that those things which Jeffrey Dahmer enjoyed are good. I mean, you seem to imply that enjoyment is good, so I suppose you would agree with Doestoevsky’s character that “all is permissible.” Now, if there is no God or afterlife or judgment, and you can kidnap and torture people and eat them, and never get caught, and the planet earth will disappear one day anyway, then that should fit in with your notion of “enjoyment even for a moment.” And I am certain that Hitler felt a great deal of enjoyment and satisfaction that he came so close to world conquest and complete genocide (“the Jewish Problem”). Hmmm perhaps by “meaning” we might resort to Socrates wisdom that “every person by nature (or definition) desires the good.” Perhaps we will add a pinch of Solomon: “There are ways which seemeth good unto a person, but the end thereof is death.”
But, wait, suppose we agree that one of the goals of certain postmodernist novelists is meaninglessness, and suppose some philosophers actually cherish their theories of a meaningless world in which we create meaning. Now I have found an example which refutes your assumption that no one could POSSIBLY find meaning in a world they see as meaningless. Remember what Carl Sagan said “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

—–

I do feel the world and life is quite meaningless from many angles, but we CREATE something subjective for ourselves that gives us meaning. Picasso painted women with 3 breasts. For him, at that time, it had meaning. It just so happens that the world, posterity, took a fancy to such paintings. But if I were to paint a women with 3 breasts, they would say “Oh, he is imitating Picasso.” Sartre found meaning in his Existentialism, and then abandoned it when it was at its height of popularity and embraced Communism. After some years Sartre abandoned Communism as a failed ideology. My statement that “we create meaning for ourselves in a meaningless existence” is no more or less flawed than Socrates’ statement “I only know that I know nothing.” If Socrates truly knows absolutely nothing then surely he cannot know his status, for that would constitute one thing. So the point about Carl Sagan is pertinent. If you cannot find any evidence, you cannot assume absence. BUT, if you can find any number of people who feel that existence is essentially meaningless apart from the meaning we impose upon it, then obviously, your premise is disproved. Now, perhaps DRH agrees with me. Or perhaps she sees the flaw in my thinking but feels sorry for me.

——
Calvin replies:

I agree with William. The idea of the world being essentially meaningless does not necessarily lead to depression or self-delusion, nor is it illogical. It simply means that the world has no meaning “in and of itself.” I find that even irreligious people who claim to think life has no meaning still ascribe to some essential meaning somewhere in their paradigms. In fact, meaning is generally the invisible bedrock of any paradigm or perspective.

I think “meaningless” is the perfect word for it. The world is inherently devoid of meaning, i.e. it has nothing inherently to do with human concerns or values.

I think the old gardener and the farmer are right. … See More

However, I think Rebecca points out the limitation of Existentialism. I think Existentialism has a limitation that Buddhism does not in that Ex. seeks to build meanings and thinks that self-made meanings are necessary, whereas Buddhism teaches that you can embrace a meaningless world and not create your own to fill in the gap.

Joy and happiness have little to do with meaning, though some

—-
William continues:

Tom Hanks movie, Castaway, is for me a perfect example of our neurotic need to impose meaning, pretend that we know something, pretend that anything matters. On the island, Hanks’ best friend is Wilson, a soccer ball. Finally, Hanks makes it back to civilization. He finds that his wife has moved on and married someone else. The movie ends with the hint of a possible new romance. But really, deep down, everyone and everything is Wilson, the soccer ball. The native American Indians for thousands of years had more meaning in their lives than we do, in part, because they were clueless. Our sun is four times too small to go out as a spectacular supernova, so we dont even have the thrill of that to look forward to. But the natives knew nothing about that. They were lucky if they lived to be as old as 40. But every day was filled with meaning and adventure. Individuals sometimes suffered terribly, but the society as a whole was in perfect health because of natural selection. They had no worries about health insurance. But the real laugh is that our particular homo sapiens variety has not been around as long as the Neanderthal’s 400,000 years. Now, all our modern science makes it possible to life to 100 or beyond. But our culture has no use for us after 50. And even the weakest among us, even the barren and sterile, can reproduce and pass on their weaknesses and become more and more dependent upon antibiotics and medications.
And we were so good at the “be fruitful and multiply” thing that our population is increasing exponentially. But, the glaciers are disappearing, the Ganges will dry up by 2060, etc. And we don’t even have the comfort of our Jungian dream-time beliefs. We feel pretty certain that the universe itself will run down into a thermodynamic heat death of maximum entropy, where no further change can take place. Now, yes Calvin, if I were a wise courageous Buddhist or Jain, I would not even need my Wilson soccer ball. I could just stop eating and perform Jain Sallekhana. But I cant. I am a coward, and I have to live out however many days are left to me talking to my make-believe soccer ball, Wilson, and yet simultaneously know the entire plot and how all movies end. Care for some popcorn?