Sunday, July 05, 2015

Is Washington also amongst the prophets?

The future you chose
We'd better hope not:
No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States...

[but] we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained...
Washington's First Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789
Eternal rules, like this one:
[F]rom the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one.
Mark 10:6-8 NASB
Whatever the specific "constitutional" arguments in favor of the Supremes' gay marriage ruling*, there can be no doubt that in addition to overthrowing 2500 years of Western culture, our highest court has arrogantly disregarded the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.  Jesus here is quoting from the very first chapters of the very first book of scripture. If ever rules of order were ordained by Heaven for men, that marriage is a joining of a man and a woman is surely one of them.  But our courts claim to know better than God, to be more fair than God, less bigoted than God, more modern and sophisticated than God.

Of course, one can always argue that God isn't real or that if he is, he doesn't really care what people do in their bedrooms or what nations do with what's spelled out in scripture.  That's a very modern and sophisticated thing to say, and all sophisticated, modern people say it, including lots of churches.** They'd better damned sure hope that's the case. 

Because if our founders were right, if our first President in his first inauguration speech was right, we can fully expect that the propitious smiles of Heaven, which Washington credited with our successful secession from England and the establishment of our nation, to frown mightily when this arrogant nation spits that blessing back in God's face.

The blessings of liberty, the blessings of prosperity, even the blessings of peace, are about to be removed from America. This is not a prophecy, for I'm no prophet.  It is a simple matter of recognizing God's character and ours, God's purposes and ours as expounded by our founders, those dead old white men who were so silly as to beleive that the creator of the universe cared about them, their freedom, and their prosperity. 

Laugh and dance and celebrate the end of that superstition if you wish. Just don't say you weren't warned by your own founders.  Not that it will help, I suspect: a nation that turns its back on God is in no position to see God turning his back on them.

* And I'll confess to having not read them.  They hold no more interest to me than a scientific study that concludes that the moon is made of green cheese or that gravity is caused by little, invisible screws that pull things toward the ground.
** There was probably never a better test of a church than this ruling.  If your church disregards Jesus' opinion in this matter, you do not attend a Christian church.  There can hardly be any arguing of the point.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Letter to a Scammer

Nigerian scams are better
than a sharp stick in the eye
Apparently I have gotten onto the main Nigerian Scam email distribution list.  It seems that 3 or 4 times a day, princes, businessmen, philanthropists, and others find an urgent need to wire me money.

I almost always ignore them, but on occasion I'll get one that claims to be from a Christian*.  Today's is from a 58-year-old London cancer victim who wishes to send me $10 million.  Her name is Mrs. Faith Williams, who greets me "in the name of God" and signs off "Yours in Christ."

To those I generally have a canned reply of my own.  Maybe it makes a difference, maybe not.  but at least they cannot say they weren't warned:
Dear friend:
I generally just delete these emails on sight, but yours demanded my attention.  So I wanted to write you back and let you know that you are in terrible peril.  Oh, not from the law; you and I both know that the police can’t or won’t trace down every such email or transaction. Not even from cancer, for we will all die someday. No, you in trouble that will last far beyond death.

You see, you have pretended to be one of Christ's beloved and used his name to defraud another.  One day you’ll stand before him – as we all will – and He will ask you about this very thing.  Then as He promised in Matthew 7:23, He will say to you, “Away from me you evildoer! I never knew you.”

And things will be bad for you, my friend. Forever. Perhaps you do not believe in Christ, or perhaps you did not think at all about what you are doing.  But I urge you, before it is too late, to repent of this evil and ask His forgiveness.  Jesus is kind and gracious to those who turn from their sin.  But to those who refuse, He brings justice. You do not want to receive that justice. Seek Him today, before it is too late.

Yours in Christ,

Bill Hoyt
* Hell, maybe it even is. Christians have done worse, like work for Goldman Sachs.**
** Where they run this same scam much more efficiently. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Oh, you didn't know?

It's right there in the book.
Here's a secret:
Many scientists have pointed out that there is something fishy about our universe. The physical constants – the numbers governing the fundamental forces and masses of nature – seem fine-tuned to allow life of some form to exist. The great physicist Sir Fred Hoyle once wondered if the universe might be a “put-up job”.
More recently, the Oxford University philosopher Nick Bostrom has speculated that our universe may be one of countless “simulations” running in some alien computer, much like a computer game.
That the Universe actually IS a put-up job has been known for millennia.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Shut up and Forgive

It seems that any time a preacher approaches Luke 17:6, you are in for an exposition on the power of faith. Usually one, I might add, that makes no sense whatsoever. For when Jesus told his disciples, If you had faith like a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you,  He was not talking about the power of faith at all. He was talking about the necessity of obedience.

For the biblically impaired, the backstory is this:  Jesus is traveling through Judea, delivering some of his more famous if misunderstood parables, such as the Parable of the Unjust Steward and the Parable of Lazarus.*  Then he gets to the matter of forgiveness among men and especially among his followers. 

Now, I’m going to present the entire teaching below, but I’m going to lay out the gist of the conversation here so you can use it as an interpretive framework.  Unfortunately, too many people divorce the teaching from its context, and so draw horrible lessons from it.

Here’s the framework, which is deceptively simple:
  • Jesus: “Forgive your brother.” (Luke 17:3-4)
  • Disciples: “We can’t do that.” (Luke 17:5)
  • Jesus: “Do it anyway.” (Luke 17:6-10)
It’s wholly in line with scripture - and human nature - that the disciples try to make their shortcomings God’s problem and that Jesus uses a parable to illustrate the depths and riches of even the simplest command. That's what happens, so let’s get on with it.

Jesus said, “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him.” - Luke 17:3-4

Now here’s a pretty tough command.  The idea here is that the brother is sinning against you personally - burning your house down, banging your wife, whatever. But it’s a sin that you must forgive, which means that you must let it go. You must release him from any sense of debt to you and you must give up any feeling of “getting him back” for it.  It’s a hard saying. But it’s also how God forgives us. 

How many times have you asked God to forgive you for theft or lust or drunkenness or whatever, the same sin you’ve committed for years, even decades? That’s how you need to forgive: Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And, For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.  It’s a hard saying, but if you ask it of God, God demands it back of you.

The Disciples were having none of that:

The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" - Luke 17:5

Here’s the part that preachers ignore: the Disciples’ plea is a response to the command to forgive.  They do not say, “Yes, Lord.” They don’t say, “OK, we’ll try.”  They say, “Increase our faith.” Cook their response how you wish, but it boils down to “We can’t forgive like that and it’s not because we choose not to. We don't have it in us.”  It’s a pushing of responsibility off of themselves.  To understand Jesus’ next statement, you have to understand it as a response to that claim.

And the Lord said, "If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea'; and it would obey you.’” - Luke 17:6

Whatever preachers preach about the power of faith, the fact remains that Christianity is not filled with mulberry trees flying into the ocean. Jesus is not speaking literally, but metaphorically to illustrate a point. And the point is not the power of faith at all.

He is saying that more faith will not help them.  They do not need greater belief in God or his goodness to do this. If even a little faith allows one to do great things, and they rebel at doing this little thing, then it’s obviously not a lack of faith that is their problem. He swats their objection away by saying that they have all the faith they need.

What their problem actually is Jesus then illustrates by the next 4 verses:

"Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come immediately and sit down to eat'? But will he not say to him, 'Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink '? [The master] does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'" - Luke 17:7-10

And therein is the true answer and the teaching.  God tells you, his servant if you are a Christian, to forgive those who sin against you.  God is not going to thank you for doing that. He’s not going to praise you or give you a whizzo button. When you do what you are commanded, you are simply acting out your service.  If you claim the forgiveness of salvation, as every Christian, every slave of God does, then you are commanded to forgive the same way.  And when you forgive, you don’t get to be a martyr about it, you don’t get to claim a halo for it, and you don’t get to demand that God give you something more to help you to do it.  You do it.  Or not.

“As we forgive those who trespass against us” puts us under a debt to God. It sets a standard to which we hold God and he holds us. If you want to be a Christian, then you must forgive as God does. But if you want God to thank you, if you want God to praise you, if you want God to reward you for your epic forgiveness toward others, then out-forgive God.

Good luck with that.

* Which is more misunderstood than this section, if that were possible.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

We've moved.

Myopia is not coming back, except on the rare occasion I feel the need to bloviate on matters religious. 

However, if you want to talk guns and stuff, No Zombies Aloud is going to have gun giveaways, gun news, pictures of guns, and guns. Because guns.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Retirement party

"There comes a time, Thief, when the gold loses its lustre, when the jewels cease to sparkle, when the throne room becomes a prison, and all that is left is a father's love for his child."
-- King Osric the Usurper
New year's is traditionally a time for reflection and re-prioritization.  So after a hard look at where I want to spend my time over the next year or twenty, I've decided that Myopia is going into permanent retirement, effective immediately.

There are a couple reasons for it, but the biggest one is that I simply haven't been satisfied with it for quite a while.  Making it better demands more time, but I have plenty of other projects in the hopper and my time, I concluded, is better spent on them.

So over the next few weeks, all of the posts not labeled "Bible" or "Christianity" will probably disappear - those will remain in hopes that they will prove of value to someone.

Thank you all for reading, commenting, hanging out.  Happy New Year and God bless you all.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

It's not a coincidence

Ride the Lightning
It's just stupid and evil:
[A]n eerily odd correlation between the president of the United States and 2,000-year-old biblical texts has many scholars scratching their collective heads.

Luke writes in chapter 10, verse 18 that Jesus said: “I saw Satan ‘fall like lightning.’ The Hebrew translation is “baraq o bamah,” according to Strong’s Concordance word numbers 1299 and 1116.

According to some biblical and literary scholars, Jesus’ own words could, in my opinion, have been: “I saw Satan as Barack Obama fall from the heavens.”

Having been a student of all things “end times” for 40 years, many other characteristics are associated to the antichrist as he is conveyed in the Bible, to be sure.

Still, it is difficult to ignore the uncanny similarity no matter who you are.
40 years or not, our author here is neither a good student nor a good witness.*

The actual argument from Luke 10:18 goes something like this:

1. Luke 10:18 reads, "And [Jesus] said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven."
2. Jesus probably spoke Aramaic.
3. Aramaic is descended from ancient Hebrew.
4. In Hebrew, the word for lightning is baraq (Strong's 1299).
5. Heaven doesn't always mean God's home, in this case it means a high place.
6. Isaiah in 14:14 talks about Satan's vow to ascend to the "heights"
7. The "heights" in ISA 14:14 is bamah (Strong's 1116).
8. You could connect the concepts of baraq and bamah by joining them with an o, giving you "Lightning from Heaven" as "baraq o bamah," which kind of sounds like Barack Obama.
9. Therefore, Jesus might have named Barack Obama as the Antichrist.

There are a couple problems with that, as you might imagine.

The first is that we don't know what language Jesus spoke these particular words in.  He knew Aramaic, but he also knew regular old Hebrew.  He might have even known Greek, given his conversations with Gentiles, especially in Luke. He might have used baraq for lightning, or not. He might have used bamah for "heights" or not.  It is simple speculation. I don't mean that as a compliment.

The second is that even if Jesus used the very words mentioned, they could not possibly be interpreted as "I saw Satan as Barack Obama fall from the heavens."  They would be, at best, "I saw Satan as baraq fall from bamah."  If bamah is "heavens or high places" then both cannot appear in the sentence.

The third problem is that baraq** and Barack are entirely different words: b-r-q and b-r-k (the original Hebrew has no vowels). Though q and k sound the same in English, they are different in Hebrew. Barack's name comes from Barak (Strong's 1288), which means to kneel, to bless God.

The fourth is that the words do not appear together in the verse, are not a name, and there is no o*** - giving absolutely no reason to join them together except to intimate that Obama is the antichrist. If we want to get technical, that probably counts as "bearing false witness."

The fifth is that the Hebrew translation of Luke 10:18 does not use any of these words. It transliterates as “Ra’iti et HaSatan nophel k’varak min hashamayim.”  k'varak here is "like lightning," - another possible word for Jesus to have used - while hashamayim is "heaven." The latter is translated so because of the Greek word ouranou, which they interpret as God's home as opposed to a high place. This is not conclusive by any means - it's a translation from the Greek, after all - but it does underscore the weakness of the author's case since not one of the very important words baraq or o or bamah appear in the Hebrew translation, contrary to his claim. His case would be massively improved if he could provide a single, pre-2000 Hebrew translation that uses baraq o bamah, but alas, no such claim is in evidence.

But the main problem is that this kind of weasely "study" of the scripture pisses me off to no end. It's not just careless, it's filled with guesses, misrepresentations, and lies. As Newton noted long ago, this sort of mishandling of scripture does not just expose the speaker to earned ridicule, but it brings the very words of Jesus into disrepute.  It gives the world a reason to pour derision upon the Bible and upon the Lord.**** It makes it harder, not easier, to reach people with Jesus' message.

People are often their own worst enemies, and from this propensity Christians are not immune. But we had better be very, very careful that in our pursuit of political gain or playing prophet we are not making ourselves into enemies of Christ. For he said, "Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.”

If you're a Christian who is taking away the key to knowledge by muddying the scriptures, then you've got a lot more to worry about than who is the Antichrist.

* I hate to use the phrase "Lying for Jesus," but there it is. 
** Bonus error: (1299) is a verb, not a noun.  It does not mean lightning, but to cast forth, to throw lightning.  Strong's 1300, baraq (noun) can mean lightning, glittering, gleaming.
*** In the original presentation of this argument the narrator of the youtube video linked above introduced the Hebrew letter Waw (also Vau), transliterated U or occasionally O, as a conjunction that could be used to join baraq and bamah.  It has since been dropped from the vid completely and without explanation (I suspect a real scholar got ahold of it). But still appears, now without support of any kind, in the letter.
**** Maybe they will anyway, but it makes little sense for Christians to make that seem act just and reasonable.

Sunday, March 31, 2013


Faint light hailed a cold Sunday morning as Mary Magdalene led her co-conspirators through the city's heavy gates. Their mission was as necessary as it seemed impossible: to enter the tomb of a rich man to pay their last respects to a poor man, an itinerant country preacher Rome and the Sanhedrin had condemned and crucified. To do the final duty of women for a man they had loved and who had led them and who had loved them. And who had left them. Now the burial spices they carried were all they could offer his memory.

Mary shook her head as Salome asked again how they should remove the stone from the tomb’s face, a stone that had required three men to place, a stone that had been sealed and was probably still guarded by those afraid that Jesus’ own disciples might poach his cold, bloody corpse by moonlight. It was the third time Salome had asked her, the youngest of the four women yet somehow in this hour of pain their leader. But Mary didn’t know. Why did they ask her, she complained (though only to herself) if she didn’t know? Even among friends, Mary felt alone.

The whole garden seemed a tomb as her feet led her toward a place she had last viewed through tears. The wet, cold ground absorbed the sound of her footsteps. The quiet whimpering of Salome and the heavy breathing of the others were the garden’s only sounds. Then all the sounds stopped, for each of the women had seen what Mary saw: the tomb, dark and quiet. But it was also open. And it was also empty.

The pain in her side was nearly unbearable as Mary bounded back through the gates, fighting her way against the bustle of those leaving Jerusalem for home. The other women would follow at their own pace, she thought. They could not be expected to keep up with her, and she needed to find Peter. None of the explanations that formed in her mind said what she needed to say because she didn’t know what to say. She couldn’t decide how to explain everything she didn’t find. When Peter and John answered the door, she simply said, “They have taken away the Lord, and we don’t know what they have done with him.” With sideways glances at one another they rushed past her, grabbing cloaks to be donned on the run. She tried to follow them but could not keep up, not after having run so far. The two melted immediately into the anonymous mass, leaving her alone once again.

When Mary reached the garden again it was empty, as before. Her companions had certainly reached the city by now, she thought. Peter and John, if they came at all, had left as well. She slowed, walking at last, seeking the tomb though she didn’t know why. She listened for movement but her own ragged breathing and the sound of her heartbeat drowned out any sounds that might have revealed a friendly presence or betrayed the approach of anyone else. She had composed herself by the time she reached the open tomb, and she peered again, wondering if perhaps those who had taken his corpse had left behind a clue. Then she froze. There were two men in the tomb, and one of them was looking at her.

“Woman, why are you weeping?” The voice revealed the hollow kindness of one who lacks human warmth and before she could catch herself she blurted out the same explanation she had given Peter. Then the second man looked up at her, his face strange and perfect and cold. Her courage broke and, mumbling an unlikely explanation for her presence in another’s private garden, she fled as far as her aching legs would drag her - mere yards from the tomb but out of sight of its gaping mouth. She feared being discovered in this strange and lonely place, but her body would bear her no further.

"I don’t know where they have taken him," she said to herself, and the sobs came again. This time she could not stop them.

“Woman, why are you weeping?” The voice was close behind her, but Mary could flee no more. She could not even turn. She knew what she would answer even before she said it; a few familiar words now besieged her whole lonely world.

“Sir,” she said, “if you have moved him, please tell me where, and I will take him away.”

“Mary.” The voice was the same, but this time it seemed familiar. She shook her head, but from confusion rather than stubbornness.

“Mary, turn around.” The voice was urgent and yet edged with a joy unexpected.

She looked up and a man stood before her. One she envisioned would have a trowel in his hand instead had on his open hands the scars of nail wounds. She looked up at his face, now expecting to see dried blood from a crown of thorns and a visage shattered by blows, but instead finding a smile on living lips and a twinkle in kind eyes. Her legs forgot their weariness as she leaped into his arms.

“Rabboni,” she cried.

And this time she did not cry alone.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Jacob's pillow

The innocent seldom find an uncomfortable pillow. - Cowper
BJT0 asks via email:
So what do you know about stone pillows? 

28:10-11  Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran.  So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set.  And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep.
One of my study bibles says he may have used the stone to protect his head, rather than as a pillow. Concealment, maybe?  This must have made sense to the original readers of the story but I don't understand what he did with this rock while he was sleeping.
As you have doubtless noticed, a number of commentators claim that he literally used the rock as a pillow.* But the word itself apparently means "headplace" (Keil and Delitzsch) or "headpiece" (Strongs). It can, but does not necessarily, mean "pillow." In short, it's something he put at his head while he slept and the rest is context. That he put it under his head I doubt – the dude had lots of sheep, so I'm sure he owned a very nice sheepskin pillow.

Though the text does not mention others with Jacob, it was also highly unlikely he was traveling alone through such dangerous country; most likely he had an impressive retinue of guards and servants.** These would not only serve to deter raiders, but would also impress his future wife and perhaps more importantly, her father. It's rather like Abraham earlier in the text – from reading Genesis it's easy to presume he lives alone with Sarah; then suddenly he raises an army of more than 300 men (14:14) who just happen to live in his "household." We're dealing with the tribal described as personal, and the actions of a group epitomized by its chief. So it might have been a very large stone that protected not only him, but many men.

It seems to me that there is something symbolically honorable or at least meaningful about the stone being at his head, though I have no idea exactly what it is, nor, judging from the mass of contradictory commentary concerning it, does anyone else. Perhaps it was a particularly attractive or unusual stone, but I highly doubt that its main quality was that it made a fine pillow.*** For whatever reason, Jacob concluded that this stone, of the many around, would make a fitting monument to his fathers' God; the qualities that made it a good monument probably account for him placing it as a "headplace" in the first place.

But the fact that he placed this stone at his head before he had the vision is explanatory to the original audience, who would have understood that it was a special rock that he used to make a meaningful monument to God.

That's my vague and wholly unsupported opinion, and worth what it cost you.

* The KJV, in v. 18, incongruously mentions "the stone that he had put for his pillows." 
** I'm sure he could have borrowed a pillow from one of them and not slept on a rock. 
*** That's not the sort of quality that makes a fitting monument to any god but Hypnos.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Wussy Jesus

Jesus totally not-condoning violence
Robert V. Thompson finds one:
[T]he Jesus I know wouldn’t cast a stone much less shoot a gun...

Jesus would not pack a pistol. Just as he threw the money changers out of the temple he would throw gun bearers out of the sanctuary. He would tell them to come back but only if they were unarmed...

Here is my bottom line. Jesus would not join the NRA, because he never condoned any form of violence.
It would be interesting to discover how Jesus would throw armed people out of church without any kind of violence, but for an answer it might be instructive to review how he threw the aforementioned moneychangers out of the temple the first time:
Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and to the temple, during Passover. Inside he found moneychangers sitting, along with those who sold oxen and sheep. And when he had made a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned their tables...
-- John 2:13-15
That looks just a tad violent to me.* Now I suppose Jesus could have reasoned with those fine, upstanding businessmen. Surely they would have respected his oratory and agreed to peacefully move their market a few yards outside to the court. Instead he made a weapon and whipped their butts with it, then he dumped their stuff all over the floor.

Leaving aside the fact that a "sanctuary" does not exist in Christianity,** I don't see how the same Jesus who made an offensive weapon and drove people out of the temple with it would have any argument with those who would carry weapons for defensive purposes in any other kind of building. Then again, maybe the creator of the universe just doesn't understand guns like liberals do.

* What a disappointment Jesus must be to the peaceful religious liberals of this world.

** We have buildings in which we meet, but God does not dwell there like he dwelt among the Jews. They are just buildings. We even have toy gunfights in them sometimes.