Wednesday, April 30, 2008

TBTM20080427


Was too busy to post this on Sunday before heading off to Yorkshire for the New Wine conference. There'll be a long post on that before too long, once I've had a chance to properly reflect on it. Some things I strongly agreed with, some things I strongly disagreed with - especially the "worship" - but more anon. It is good to be home.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

So that's where they stand



"I've been a strong supporter of ethanol," Obama said.

"Those ethanol subsidies should be phased out, and everybody here on this stage, if it wasn't for the fact that Iowa is the first caucus state, would share my view that we don't need ethanol subsidies. It doesn't help anybody," McCain said.

Just for interest: a position where the traditionally conservative position (no government intervention) is also the most explicitly pro-social justice position, which is traditionally seen as left wing...

Just one of the reasons why I am a conservative.

Something you must read

Kim on management theory: "JESUS: Is that “blog” as in Gog and Magog?"

God part 2


Wittgenstein once wrote (this might be inaccurate because I can't be bothered to look it up) "It has been impossible for me to write one word in my book about all that music has meant to me in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?"

Which says all that needs to be said.

However. I've discovered Alice Martineau, Mike Scott, and Oysterband, and a few others thanks to Peter B.

Life sounds better to music.

And red wine makes me maudlin :o)



Where are our dear fathers?
Where are our dear fathers?
They have gone to heaven shouting.
They have gone to heaven shouting.




(Photos taken on holiday in Wales.)

Reasonable Atheism: another link

MadPriest is having a relevant conversation over at his place. Go and join in.

TBTM20080426


Life is a scream.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Unsubscribe


About time I renewed my subscription to the group. Started reading an excellent book about torture and evil called 'The Lucifer Effect' - it'll probably get a longer review than usual when I finish it.
(H/T Sally)

TBTM20080423


Hunting dragons.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

My Peak Oil posts

A pamphlet summarising how I believe the church should respond to Peak Oil is available as a .pdf file here. That is probably the best place to begin.

My most substantial exploration of the topic is in my 'Let us be Human' material; that link will take you to a collection of transcripts and audio recordings of the original lecture series I gave to my church community here exploring the issue (there is also a video of the last lecture which summarises the argument). I very much hope to complete the work of turning this material into a publishable book this autumn when I am on sabbatical.

These are a variety of other posts that I have written exploring the phenomenon of Peak Oil from various angles:

My first post was The Great Dislocation which summarises the issue.

Pledges describes some of what we need to do about it.

Prophecy and Peak Oil is drawing on Walter Brueggemann to start exploring a theological response.

Misplacing the Apocalypse is a theological critique of the 'doomers'.

SUV Spirituality is a cultural critique of mindless consumerism.

A Fully Wired Future describes why I'm optimistic.

What I'm optimistic about describes my optimism about the church and the economic future.

Review of Economist article on Peak Oil points out how useless The Economist is.

It's the secondary effects, stupid describes what I am most worried about.

The Holiness of Stuart Staniford describes what I admire about the intellectual exploration of Peak Oil.

Loose Tappets gives an image describing why some people just don't 'get it'.

Why I'm worried about Natural Gas looks at the precarious nature of gas supplies to the UK over a 10-15 year time frame.

Oh yes

“the number one problem with Christianity today is that the Christian life is no longer convincing. It doesn’t convince anyone. So his program is the formation of [what he calls] creative minorities, throughout the world, that will offer not words but the witness of a life full of humanity, of peace, of joy, so that people from what is a cruel world will find a home in these communities.”

Sounds like he's been reading Hauerwas - although he was probably arguing for this long before Stanley was! Found here.

A DEADline for Windows

For quite some time I've been pondering switching my system over to Linux. I've already switched to Firefox and Open Office (and am not looking back on either score) but the one thing that has been holding me back from a complete break has been the historical tie to a hotmail account for my e-mail, which most of the time (ie when not on holiday) I access via Outlook Express. However, this morning I received this from Microsoft:

"Dear Microsoft Outlook Express customer,

Thank you for using Microsoft® Outlook® Express. Our information indicates that you use Outlook Express to access a Windows Live™ Hotmail® e-mail account via a protocol called DAV (Distributed Authoring and Versioning protocol). DAV, like POP3 or IMAP, is the way that a mail client communicates with a web-based mail server.

As a valued customer, we want to provide advanced notice that as of June 30, 2008, Microsoft is disabling the DAV protocol and you will no longer be able to access your Hotmail Inbox via Outlook Express. As an alternative, we recommend that you download Windows Live Mail....."


Trouble is, the last time I downloaded something from Microsoft it caused my computer to hang and it took me the best part of a morning to sort it all out. I think this is the trigger for making the final jump.

On top of which, the new version of Linux can be installed to run parallel to Windows for a while, which makes it easier to dip a toe in.

So - a deadline. Hopefully by July I will be Microsoft free!

TBTM20080422


Bars.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Premonition


I thought this was quite good. Although it wouldn't be wholly unfair to describe it as Christian propaganda!
3/5

A very silly futurist article

Whilst writing that last post, I came across this article - "Why the US will still be the only superpower in 2030" - which is a good example of a) shallow US triumphalism, and b) a remarkable disconnection from reality. I thought I'd write a commentary on it. My remarks in red italics after each paragraph of the original.

To match the US by 2030, China would have to :

1) Have an economy near the size of the US economy. If the US grows by 3.5% a year for the next 25 years, it will be $30 trillion in 2006 dollars by then. Note that this is a modest assumption for the US, given the accelerating nature of economic growth, but also note that world GDP only grows about 4% a year, and this might at most be 5% a year by 2030. China, with an economy of $2.2 trillion in nominal (not PPP) terms, would have to grow at 12% a year for the next 25 years straight to achieve the same size, which is already faster than its current 9-10% rate, if even that can be sustained for so long (no country, let alone a large one, has grown at more than 8% over such a long period). In other words, the progress that the US economy would make from 1945 to 2030 (85 years) would have to be achieved by China in just the 25 years from 2005 to 2030. Even then, this is just the total GDP, not per capita GDP, which would still be merely a fourth of America's.

This is barmy. I wonder whether a further two years (the article was written in May 2006) has done to this sunny optimism. The US economy is essentially bankrupt and will significantly contract over the coming years; moreover the US dollar will continue it's decline - gently if the Chinese are benign, harshly if the US embarks on some more foreign adventures. Have a look at this blog for more detail on all this (there are many others).

2) Create original consumer brands that are household names everywhere in the world (including in America), such as Coca-Cola, Nike, McDonalds, Citigroup, Xerox, Microsoft, or Google. Europe and Japan have created a few brands in a few select industries, but China currently has none. Observing how many American brand logos have populated billboards and sporting events in developing nations over just the last 15 years, one might argue that US dominance has even increased by this measure.

Brands as such are irrelevant, what matters is the underlying manufacturing capacity and ability. Brands are very much the icing on the cake - and at the moment the US has a lot of icing, China (and other countries) are making the cakes.

3) Have a military capable of waging wars anywhere in the globe (even if it does not actually wage any). Part of the opposition that anti-Americans have to the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is the envy arising from the US being the only country with the means to invade multiple medium-size countries in other continents and still sustain very few casualties. No other country currently is even near having the ability to project military power with such force and range. Mere nuclear weapons are no substitute for this. The inability of the rest of the world to do anything to halt genocide in Darfur is evidence of how such problems can only get addressed if and when America addresses them.

This is myopic. I'd recommend getting familiar with John Robb's writings, and perhaps a little historical study, eg of the change in the balance of sea power from 1885 to 1910 after the invention of the dreadnoughts. Things can change very suddenly.

4) Have major universities that are household names, that many of the worlds top students aspire to attend. 17 of the world's top 20 universities are in the US. Until top students in Europe, India, and even the US are filling out an application for a Chinese university alongside those of Harvard, Stanford, MIT, or Cambridge, China is not going to match the US in the knowledge economy. This also represents the obstacles China has to overcome to successfully conduct impactful scientific research.

Again, the description is both misleading and short-sighted. What are all the Chinese engineering graduates going to do with their expertise?

5) Attract the best and brightest to immigrate into China, where they can expect to live a good life in Chinese society. The US effectively receives a subsidy of $100 to $200 billion a year, as people educated at the expense of another nation immigrate here and promptly participate in the workforce. As smart as people within China are, unless they can attract non-Chinese talent that is otherwise going to the US, and even talented Americans, they will not have the same intellectual and psychological cross-pollination, and hence miss out on those economic benefits. The small matter of people not wanting to move into a country that is not a democracy also has to be resolved.

This touches on what I perceive as an enduring strength in US culture, ie that it is in moq terms a very dynamic and resilient one. However it seems to me that both US strength and Chinese weakness in this regard can be overemphasised, and is liable to rapid change. It is not totally outside the realms of speculation that in 2030 China might be a democracy of sorts (and a Christian one no less), whereas the US might have fragmented after another civil war.

6) Become the nation that produces the new inventions and corporations that are adopted by the mass market into their daily lives. From the telephone and airplane over a century ago, America has been the engine of almost all technological progress. Despite the fears of innovation going overseas, the big new technologies and influential applications continue to emerge from companies headquartered in the United States. Just in the last two years, Google emerged as the next super-lucrative company (before eBay and Yahoo slightly earlier), and the American-dominated 'blogosphere' emerged as a powerful force of information and media.

This is really a function of the underlying economic strength and so isn't a separate point to #1.

7) Be the leader in entertainment and culture. China's film industry greatly lags India's, let alone America's. We hear about piracy of American music and films in China, which tells us exactly what the world order is. When American teenagers are actively pirating music and movies made in China, only then will the US have been surpassed in this area. Take a moment to think how distant this scenario is from current reality.

This is a remarkably insular perspective. Bollywood is already bigger than Hollywood on many criteria.

8) Be the nation that engineers many of the greatest moments of human accomplishment. The USSR was ahead of the US in the space race at first, until President Kennedy decided in 1961 to put a man on the moon by 1969. While this mission initially seemed to be unnecessary and expensive, the optimism and pride brought to anti-Communist people worldwide was so inspirational that it accelerated many other forms of technological progress and brought economic growth to free-market countries. This eventually led to a global exodus from socialism altogether, as the pessimism necessary for socialism to exist became harder to enforce. People from many nations still feel pride from humanity having set foot on the Moon, something which America made possible. China currently has plans to put a man on the moon by 2024. While being only the second country to achieve this would certainly be prestigious, it would still be 55 years after the United States achieved the same thing. That is not quite the trajectory it would take to approach the superpowerdom of the US by 2030. If China puts a man on Mars before the US, I may change my opinion on this point, but the odds of that happening are not high.

Putting a man on the moon in 1969 may in retrospect be seen as the peak of US world dominance (not accidentally close in time to peak US oil production of course). There will be different peaks in different ages, and this isn't an argument that China won't be dominant in the 21st century in the way that the US was dominant in the 20th.

9) Be the nation expected to thanklessly use its own resources to solve many of the world's problems. If the US donates $15 billion in aid to Africa, the first reaction from critics is that the US did not donate enough. On the other hand, few even consider asking China to donate aid to Africa. After the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the fashionable question was why the US did not donate even more and sooner, rather than why China did not donate more, despite being geographically much closer. Ask yourself this - if an asteroid were on a collision course with the Earth, which country's technology would the world depend on to detect it, and then destroy or divert it? Until China is relied upon to an equal degree, it is not in the same league.

This is describing a criterion of dominance (or parity) - it doesn't advance an argument that China will not be able to meet the criterion.

10) Adapt to the underappreciated burden of superpowerdom - the huge double standards that a benign superpower must withstand in that role. America is still condemned for slavery that ended 140 years ago, even by nations that have done far worse things more recently than that. Is China prepared to apologize for Tianenmen Square, the genocide in Tibet, the 30 million who perished during the Great Leap Forward, and the suppression of news about SARS,every day for the next century? Is China remotely prepared for being blamed for inaction towards genocide in Darfur while simultaneously being condemned for non-deadly prison abuse in a time of war against opponents who follow no rules of engagement? The amount of unfairness China would have to withstand to truly achieve political parity with America might be prohibitive given China's history over the last 60 years. Furthermore, China being held to the superpower standard would simultaneously reduce the burden that the US currently bears alone, allowing the US to operate with less opposition than it experiences today.

This is an adaptation of point #5 above.

My two pennies: I expect the world in 2030 to be multi-polar, and poised to enter a minor renaissance after some horrifically destructive conflict. I would expect the poles to be: a significantly diminished and chastened US, Brazil, the EU, India and China. I think the Middle East will be a ravaged wasteland; Russia will return to its 19th century status at best; and a possible sixth pole may be Southern Africa (with a nod to the late Arthur C Clarke).

Loose tappets

First, a quotation from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:
"In a motorcycle... precision isn't maintained for any romantic or perfectionist reasons. It's simply that the enormous forces of heat and explosive pressure inside this engine can only be controlled through the kind of precision these instruments give. When each explosion takes place it drives a connecting rod onto the crankshaft with a surface pressure of many tons per square inch. If the fit of the rod to the crankshaft is precise the explosion force will be transferred smoothly and the metal will be able to stand it. But if the fit is loose by a distance of only a few thousandths of an inch the force will be delivered suddenly, like a hammer blow, and the rod, bearing and crankshaft surface will soon be pounded flat, creating a noise which at first sounds like loose tappets. That's the reason I'm checking it now. If it is a loose rod and I try to make it to the mountains without an overhaul, it will soon get louder and louder until the rod tears itself free, slams into the spinning crankshaft and destroys the engine. Sometimes broken rods will pile right down through the crankcase and dump all the oil onto the road. All you can do then is start walking."
I was pondering the growing food crisis and this image came to mind as an example of catastrophic positive feedback - of a system which starts to go wrong in a small way, but which is so finely calibrated that this small error impacts the system exponentially, and the whole process lurches more and more wildly before collapsing - and all we can do is start walking.

You could say that the problems that people are beginning to see with regard to food are the equivalent of the sounds in the motorcycle engine. Which then means that the most important capacity is the ability to discern and read the signals correctly. Are there loose tappets, or is the engine rod loose? At which point, an explanation of my TBTM comment that our government is institutionally incompetent.

Our government - most governments - rely upon energy resource forecasts produced by the Energy Information Agency, and a report on their recent annual conference can be found at the Oil Drum here.

As discussed in the comments, there is a profound disconnect between the two groups of people considering the available data. On one side are those whose worldview is primarily constructed from financial and economic experience and data, dominant in the EIA, which sees the availability of oil increasing out to 2030. On the other side are those who are driven more by the fields of geology and physics, who see the peak in production happening within five years at best, if not already here.



One side is hearing loose tappets. The other is hearing a loose rod.

The concern I have - originally mentioned here - is with the knock-on effects as they start to cascade through the system; the equivalent of the loose rod forcing its way through the engine and rendering it useless.

Consider some more graphs. This one is historic, and shows the decline in exports from the principal suppliers.


This one shows the change in production over the last year (which reinforces the point about exports).


Essentially, the "Peakists" envision a period twenty or so years from now when there is practically no fossil fuel available in the West - in other words, availability at around 10-20% of its present availability. (Note: availability, not cost). Whereas the EIA envision a smooth increase in oil supply in response to demand.

It's impossible to predict how the impacts of peak oil will feed through the system, but that there will be catastrophic failure if the Peakists are correct is unarguable. The issue is whether what we are experiencing already is a loose rod or a loose tappet.

I have just planted an apple tree in our back garden. We'll be planting some more in the coming weeks.


TBTM20080418


I need a fast.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Reasonable Atheism - a link

Chris Dillow is one of my favourite commentators. He writes very lucidly about all sorts of things, but I've just discovered a recent article on humourless atheism (he doesn't call it that) here. Which means he qualifies as another sophisticated atheist.

UPDATE: here's another one.

TBTM20080418


Thanks for all the fish.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Carrying our wounds with us

A sermon on John 20.19-end

We have this morning the familiar story of doubting Thomas - which is a story that means a great deal to me personally, as I too have moved in my life from doubt to faith, and I am greatly encouraged that it is Thomas who is privileged to give the climactic statement of this gospel 'my Lord and my God!' There is a natural sermon there... but I talked about Richard Dawkins last week!

There is something very important about this story which occasionally gets missed. First, and this is very important, it shows that the incarnation was not an illusion, that it wasn't just Jesus putting on flesh like we might put on a coat - he really was flesh, and he has raised that flesh up - you could say, what this story tells us is that Jesus wasn't pretending when he suffered

But there is something else here too, even more important, about the nature of resurrection itself - and it says something about what we have to hope for. Jesus is resurrected and I have a question for you, is he happy? [pause]

Of course he is, he has entered into glory. Now what is crucial is that he shows us what the resurrection body is like - full of mystery of course, but still we know some things - we know that he bears the marks of his crucifixion - he is happy, but he is still wounded.

I feel this is worthy of much reflection, and I would like you to take this image with you home today and ponder it - he is happy, but he is still wounded.

A few thoughts about what this story means for us and our Christian hope of resurrection.

First, we carry our wounds with us.
Second, the wounds are no longer painful but they do define us, we are the sort of people that these things have happened to. Our stories, those things which make us who we are - these are honoured by God.
Finally, the wounds are redeemed and healed - but they are not forgotten.

What this means is that what happens in this life is important - God doesn't wipe the slate completely clean and begin again (the resurrection is not like the flood at the time of Noah); God takes what we have and changes it without destroying it. God takes the broken pieces and makes something new out of them.

This means that what we do today is of eternal significance. What we do in this world matters for ever. How we treat each other, how we treat our world, our environment - these things are invested with profound meaning. This doesn't mean that things that go wrong cannot be redeemed - it does mean that just as we carry our own wounds with us, so too those with whom we interact will carry their woundings from us with them, and our world will carry its wounds as well.

I was pondering - should God be gracious enough to me to bring me into the kingdom on the last day - I wonder whether I will still be half-deaf, or whether that part of my nature has so profoundly shaped who I am that I couldn't have full hearing and still be me. Yet I wouldn't want to mislead you either. In the Kingdom there will be no hearing aids, there will be no spectacles, there will be no crutches or wheelchairs. Yet we will still be the people formed by such things, of that I am sure.

This is one of the deep mysteries revealed in this story of doubting Thomas. For the story is not just about Jesus but also about ourselves, about what we can hope for - that we will still be who we are - that everything that happens to us in this life will matter forever - that when God redeems us, he heals us - he heals, and he heals us; he will, in deed, raise us from the dead. Amen.

About that Iron Man movie


Wildly Popular 'Iron Man' Trailer To Be Adapted Into Full-Length Film

H/T Peter Chattaway

Food for fuel


This is one of the first symptoms of Peak Oil, and it is starting to impact on people's awareness. If you want to explore the link more directly have a read of this article by Stuart Staniford, which is excellent.



It's not going to get any better. Luke 16:19-31 applies.

TBTM20080416


Our government is institutionally incompetent.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tesco is a big red herring (April Synchroblog)

This month's synchroblog is on the theme of Christianity and Social Justice.

Social justice is undoubtedly a Christian concern - it saturates the Bible, Jesus emphasises it, and the pursuit of it is a necessary constituent part of a faithful life. Over two thousand verses about poverty. And so on and so forth - this is all well and good.

There are various specific ways in which that concern for social justice can be pursued. For me, one aspect came in denouncing Tesco (eg http://elizaphanian.blogspot.com/2008/03/thou-shalt-not-shop-at-tesco-sermon.html). I'm coming to believe that this was - if not quite a mistake, then at least a misapplication of effort. Indeed, perhaps there was even a little spiritual sin involved.

After all Tesco itself is not completely bad - I don't see much wrong in buying a CD from them for example - my concerns are primarily to do with their food business, in terms of its sustainability, vitality of produce and their treatment of food suppliers. On all these things Tesco seems particularly poor, irresponsible and short-sighted. It seems straightforward to me that shopping at, say, the Co-Op is significantly more supportive of social justice than buying your food at Tesco.

However, the real problem is the underlying system itself, within which it can make sense for a company to be as reckless about social justice as Tesco is. In other words, the problem is about corporate law and the financial markets, who oblige the authorities at Tesco to pursue short term profit margins. (One of the reasons why the co-op, or John Lewis, is much better.)

This system is at the root of much that ails our present world. It is why the peaking of the oil supply will be a catastrophe rather than a bump in the road. It is why global warming will harm more people than it need to. It is why governments are going to war to preserve their way of life. It is why the life in the oceans is denuded, the water available to much of humanity declining, the top soil depleted. There are lots of symptoms telling us that something is wrong, and lots of people objecting to symptoms.

What is the Christian task here - that is, what is the specifically Christian task? Obviously it is a good thing for Christians to be involved in trying to relieve the symptoms, to campaign for social justice, to advocate good environmental stewardship and so on.

Yet I believe the specifically Christian task is a separate one. The ideological system within which the likes of Tesco takes on its role has a specific spiritual root; it is a knotting together of idolatries - of Mammon in particular, but also an excessively high regard for both law and science. All of which are good things, but they have become distorted, elevated above themselves, and consequently they have become life-denying and destructive. As a society and culture we are worshipping false Gods. What we need to do is to proclaim the true God, the one who gives life in response to worship.

In this context, to spend time denouncing Tesco is to waste time that might be better spent digging out the spiritual roots, and teaching people what right worship actually consists in. It is a temptation - to succumb to a desire for control, to engage in a worldly struggle, possibly even a matter of pride - for if you fight an organisation as large and important in British life as Tesco, then some of the importance reflects back on you - and then the real you gets lost, and you become 'the vicar who is fighting Tesco', and the gospel is eclipsed.

Hence my present line of thought: Tesco is a big red herring. If Christians are serious about social justice, and right environmental stewardship, then our paramount task is simply this: we must preach the gospel. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

~~~

Other people blogging on this theme today:

  • Cobus van Wyngaard at My Contemplations

  • Phil Wyman at Square No More

  • Mike Bursell at Mike’s Musings

  • Bryan Riley at at Charis Shalom

  • Steve Hayes at Khanya: Christianity and social justice

  • Reba Baskett at In Reba’s World

  • Prof Carlos Z. with Ramblings from a Sociologist

  • Cindy Harvey at Tracking the Edge

  • Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church

  • Matthew Stone at Matt Stone Journeys in Between

  • John Smulo at JohnSmulo.com

  • Sonja Andrews at Calacirian

  • Lainie Petersen at Headspace

  • Adam Gonnerman at Igneous Quill

  • KW Leslie: Shine: not let it shine

  • Stephanie Moulton at Faith and the Environment Collide



  • TBTM20080415


    My noble friend.

    Saturday, April 12, 2008

    Falling in love with Frankenstein


    This is a sketch for a much longer essay about science fiction. Click 'full post' for text.


    One of the dominant themes of Modern culture is the Frankenstein conceit - what you might think of as the 'mad scientist', or, more profoundly, the Faustian bargain. A man (and it normally is a man) is so consumed by his rational intellectual pursuits that he unwittingly provokes disaster and his own death.

    As I see it, this is the way in which humanity's soul has digested and absorbed the impact of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment project is precisely that which has elevated one element of our human nature falsely above the others; it has insitutionalised asophism; and thus we are in the midst of ecological crisis. The devil has come to collect his due.

    Being a fan of sf, especially visually, I am struck by the way in which this theme has been subverted and then overcome within the world of fiction and film. I see this as a creative analogue of the way in which the Enlightenment project has itself been undone from within. (This is, I believe, why there is such an efflorescence of angst-ridden writings from the humourless atheists like Dawkins and Hitchens et al - they are aware in their bones that they are being left behind.)

    Three examples of this shift:
    1. The Matrix trilogy. The first Matrix was pure Frankenstein - the intellectual products of humanity turn against their creators and destruction follows; human liberty and salvation lie in battling against the machine. However, the second two films explored something more creative - the machine is not monolithic, it has variety (and therefore more dramatic interest of course) - there is a possibility of an alliance between human and mecha.

    2. Battlestar Galactica, the new series. Whereas in the original series we are facing highly efficient automata (rational products of Enlightenment) now the cylons are riven with their own competing needs and desires. The Cylons are now just like us; we can even breed with them.

    3. The Sarah Connor Chronicles. The original Terminator film is a real classic, and a classic description of the Frankenstein - a totally remorseless source of death and destruction 'it absolutely will not stop until you are dead'. With the films a little first, but now much more with the series, we have much more creative ambiguity. This crystallised for me in the recent episode where Summer Glau starts to learn ballet. A vision of beauty - and whether it is human or mecha falls by the wayside.

    (I've also been put in mind of this by recently finishing Dan Simmons' Hyperion cantos, but I'll write about them separately.)

    I believe that what we have in this medium - film and television science fiction - is the creative resolution of the human conflict created by the Western idolatry of reason. As our society moves beyond the Enlightenment, so too does our fiction. Robots who are pure products of reason are no longer very interesting - the robots need to have more to them - and this is simply a mirror for how we see ourselves. In other words, there is more to humanity than the remorseless application of reason.

    I find this encouraging and exciting.

    My computer is worrying me

    It keeps popping up with 'There is a problem with your Norton status'.

    What does it know that I don't know?


    TBTM20080412


    Treachery and treason
    there's always an excuse for it
    but when I find the reason
    I still can't get used to it...

    Friday, April 11, 2008

    TBTE20080411


    Johannine inerrancy

    I really shouldn't fire off a post like that just before going off on holiday :)

    This, in slightly more formal terms, is my argument. It's a train of thought, it hasn't had all the wrinkles removed, I might conceivably change my mind.... and so on. Click 'full post' for text.

    1. There is a major difference in the presentation of Jesus from the synoptics to John. Specifically the character of Jesus exhibited through the great 'I am' monologues is difficult to tie together with the character presented in the other three gospels. It is not academically exceptional to treat the synoptics as providing a more solid historical framework.

    2. I'm happy to accept that much (not all) of the material presented as coming out of the mouth of Jesus in John's gospel was not originally spoken by Jesus of Nazareth.

    3. I see these monologues as divinely inspired. That is, I see them as teaching eternal truths about Jesus' identity. I see them as revelation. I believe, for example, that it is true that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.

    4. I would therefore be happy to talk about the inerrancy of John's gospel. What I would mean by this is that John's gospel contains no errors concerning the nature of the living Word. It is a finger which truly points to the moon.

    5. I would distinguish this form of inerrancy from a form which emphasises an inerrancy of 'fact'. I see the concept of 'fact', used in this context, as at best misleading, at worst idolatrous. This concept of fact - by which is meant something like empirically verifiable data - was developed as a consequence of the scientific revolution. I don't see those 'facts' as the most important material for guidance in our life; rather I see them as trivial.

    6. Some background thoughts: the people alive at the time of Jesus did not fully understand who he was. It is possible that Jesus himself, prior to the resurrection, did not fully understand every aspect of who he was (part of his being fully human perhaps). John's gospel is a fulfilment of the other three; it draws out more fully the implications of the other three; you could say that the other three - indeed the entire rest of the Bible - is pregnant with John, and John's gospel is the baby. Except I'd rather say that Jesus is the baby, and John's gospel is the inerrant witness to that baby.

    7. Any language about inerrancy - treated positively - is a conservative position. Yet #2 above is anathema to more conservative understandings of John's gospel. I want to argue (have argued elsewhere) that to defend the status of John's gospel in terms of 'fact' (= enlightenment epistemology) is to falsely elevate that epistemology above the much more important spiritual truths which John's gospel inerrantly conveys. The inerrancy does not consist in the gospel being factually robust but in truly pointing to the living Word.

    8. "But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."

    TBTM20080411


    Home is where the heart is
    Sweet surrender...