Free Will Defense; Small; Astronomical Metaphor; Computer Rabbis; Living Traditions; God, not Pharaoh; LOST Fatigue

1. William P. Young, The Shack, page 164:

Mack asks an angel (or whatever she is) why God didn’t stop the murder of his daughter, Missy.  The angel responds:

“[God] doesn’t stop a lot of things that cause him pain.  Your world is severely broken.  You demanded your independence, and now you are angry with the one who loved you enough to give it to you.  Nothing is as it should be, as Papa desires it to be, and as it will be one day.  Right now your world is lost in darkness and chaos, and horrible things happen to those that he is especially fond of.”

This is the free-will defense.  To me, it sounds like a cop-out.  But I wouldn’t dismiss it completely.  And, if I were a victim of an evil person’s free-will, I may use that defense to try to hold on to my faith.

2. Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land, page 252:

Jubal had considered having Mike remain seated while Douglas came in, but had rejected the idea; he was not trying to place Mike a notch higher than Douglas but merely to establish that the meeting was between equals.

This reminds me of one of my thesis defenses.  My chair was lower than that of the professors interrogating me!  Or so I remember.  I did feel small during that ordeal!

3. Raphael Loewe, “The Medieval History of the Latin Vulgate”, Cambridge History of the Bible, volume 2, pages 153-154:

It may be helpful to visualize the history of the Latin bible with the help of a sustained astronomical metaphor, Hebrew and Jewish monotheism being pictured as the center of a solar system.  Around it moves a planet, the Hebrew bible, possessing its own moon, the Greek translation.  Under the impact of Jesus and Paul the central object erupted, to throw off Christianity as a second planet, charged with sufficient energy to generate its own atmosphere of patristic tradition, and possessed of sufficient gravitational pull to attract the Greek bible—the ‘moon’ of the Hebrew bible—into orbit round itself.  Christianity also acquired a second satellite in the shape of the Latin bible, compounded as it were out of the interplanetary dust of the Latin-speaking world.  The Latin bible—which, down to at least the age of Charlemagne, often amounted for practical purposes to the Gospels, with perhaps the Pauline epistles and the Psalms—has from time to time been exposed to the gravitational pull of other objects that form part of the cluster that includes Judaism, Christianity, Greek philosophy and European humanism; and the outcome has been sundry attempts at improving its language by Roman classicism or by Hebraic realism in diction.  Yet the patristic tradition that had nurtured the specialized vocabulary of early Latin Christianity has enveloped the Latin bible with an air that Christians could breathe: so that waves of hebraization, or of classicism, that have affected the atmosphere of the Church have given it but a transient negative charge.  Thus it has come about that the Vulgate has always been held fast to its own orbit, whereas some of its own vernacular and other satellites have been captured, especially in the countries of the Reformation, by the gravitational pull of the original Hebrew of the Old Testament, and the Greek of the New.

I usually try to post paragraphs that summarize a piece, for my own benefit, even if the summary contains astronomical metaphors that confuse me near the end.

4. Alberdina Houtmann, Mishnah and Tosefta, page 51:

From Abot de Rabbi Nathan:

…Rabbi Aqiba he [Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi] called ‘A well-stocked storehouse’.  To what might Rabbi Aqiba be likened?  To a labourer who took his basket and went forth.  When he found wheat he put some in the basket; when he found barley, he put that in; spelt, he put that in; lentils, he put them in.  Upon returning home he sorted out the wheat by itself, the barley by itself, the beans by themselves, the lentils by themselves.  This is how Rabbi Aqiba acted, and he arranged the whole Torah in rings.  Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah he called a ‘spice-peddler’s basket’.  For to what might Rabbi Eleazar be likened?  To a spice peddler who takes up his basket and comes into a city; when the people of the city come up and ask him: “Have you good oil with you?  Have you ointment with you?  Have you balsam with you?” they find he has everything with him.  Such was Rabbi Eleazar ben Azaryah when scholars came to him…

Houtmann ties this to computers, which he is somehow bringing into his work.  But is the point of this passage that these rabbis were always ready to give an answer?

5. Robert Culley, “Orality and Writtenness in the Prophetic Texts”, in Writings and Speech in Israelites and Ancient Near Eastern Prophecy, page 55:

From Werner Kelber:

In the end I venture the suggestion that the gospel composition is unthinkable without the notion of cultural memory which serves ultimately not the preservation of remembrances per se but the preservation of the group, its social identity and self image.

This could explain why Gospels felt free to expand upon or clarify their sources—the Gospel of Mark, Q (if you believe in Q): their agenda concerned the identity of their community, which is what the Gospels were addressing, not so much the “preservation of remembrances”.  Yet, Luke says in Luke 1 that he composed an orderly account of what Jesus did and teach, so I wouldn’t rule out the Gospel authors’ concern for historicity.  But they were trying to apply that history to the situation of their community, so the Gospels may not be a mere transcript of past events.  Rather, they’re applying the past to the present, by adding clarification to their sources.  And there are scholars who maintain that some of this “clarification” may be rooted in the ideology of the Gospel author and/or his community.   

6.  From James Sanders’ review of Brevard Childs’ commentary, The Book of Exodus:

The signs, constantly rejected, were God’s judgment on Egypt, such judgment that Pharoah would not listen (p. 153). Even so, one fails to find in Childs the next, obvious statement of the whole: Pharaoh shall not share in the freeing of God’s people. (Compare the case of Cyrus and the problems which arose from that.) One feels that, if Childs had probed even more deeply, canonically, into Exod 10:12; 11:10; 1 Sam 6:6; 1 Kings 22; Isaiah 6 and 28-29 (cf. Rom 9:1-10:16), he would have seen the further point that if God had not hardened Pharaoh’s heart there would have been no Torah, in the full sense. The slaves would have been grateful to Pharaoh’s “emancipation” of them and not to God. All of these instances of God’s hardening the heart testify to a basic and intrinsic shape of the Bible: canonically the Bible is a monotheizing literature.

This is an interesting take on why God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.  It reminds me of the Ten Commandments: Moses could have played his cards right and become Pharaoh, after which he’d treat the Hebrew slaves kindly or free them.  But then the Hebrews would praise Moses, not God.  They were already saying that they didn’t need the deliverer because they had Moses.  And they called the Sabbath “the day of Moses”.  There was Mosesolatry going on here!  If the Pharaoh’s heart had not been hardened, would the Israelites have been grateful to the Pharaoh for delivering them, rather than to God?  God didn’t take that chance. 

7.  I’m suffering from LOST fatigue!  I wish that I were more inspired by the last episode, and that things were clearer, while simultaneously maintaining a sense of depth.  Instead, things are unclear, which was why I spent last night and this morning doing what I did throughout the series: theorizing about LOST!  That can build community, but I feel so incomplete.  A final episode is supposed to give a sense of completion, right?  But I don’t feel that.

I’m not in the mood right now to re-watch LOST episodes, since LOST brings things up that later are not addressed.  And I’m not just talking about polar bears and what not: LOST killed off the Man in Black too early in last night’s episode, in my opinion!  And we didn’t hear much about the debate on human nature (good or evil?).  Plus, the episode took the easy way out by sending the main characters to heaven.

I wish that I knew how the flash sideways functioned as a purgatory.  Why did we have to watch the characters’ stories in the flash sideways?  Was it to get to know the characters better—which was what LOST chose to emphasize?  I won’t rule out that there are answers, but I’ll wait until they are in an accessible place.  I’m not sure I’m in the mood right now to plough through comments on blog posts for that jewel that answers my question, as insightful as those comments might be.

I may watch the entire series again in the future.  There are movies and episodes of shows that I disliked the first time I saw them, but I appreciated them more in my subsequent viewings.  That may be true with LOST.  But, right now, I have LOST fatigue.  And yet, I feel empty because there are no new LOST episodes for me to watch on Tuesday nights!

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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1 Response to Free Will Defense; Small; Astronomical Metaphor; Computer Rabbis; Living Traditions; God, not Pharaoh; LOST Fatigue

  1. mopheat says:

    good information, thanks for the information


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