adventures in feminist video game fantasies

video gamesFeminists have been waging a campaign against video games. A frequent claim is that video games need to cater to the female demographic. They believe that their feminist notions should be inserted in mainstream releases of major computer and console titles (because they assume all women hold to their feminist ideals). In order to give their argument some credibility, they attempt to overestimate the number of female gamers. From an article in dailydot:

Congratulations, gamer girls—you’re officially at the top of the food chain when it comes to games. A new study released by the Entertainment Software Association has revealed that adult women now occupy the largest demographic in the gaming industry. Women over 18 made up a whopping 36 percent of the gaming population, followed by adult men at 35 percent… Teenage boys, who are often stereotyped as the biggest gamers, now lag far behind their older female counterparts, making up just 17 percent of the gaming demographic.

See what happened there? “Women” are the largest demographic because men are separated into two different groups. Now this would make sense if the study used these various groups to show a disparity in hours and types of games that are played, but the study does no such thing. Men make up 56% of all gamers (while men only make up 49% of the population).

The article concludes, based on this:

All of that means that stereotypes are breaking fast in the gaming industry, particularly the longheld stereotype of the adult woman as an outlier who sticks to mobile games and “social” games on Facebook while the more hardcore gamer, the “serious” (male) gamer, goes for console games.

Though this stereotype has long persisted, and even been used as a hiring tactic, the new data suggests there’s little if any truth to it—especially not when you consider that the average adult woman has been gaming for 13 years.

Sorry, male gamers of Reddit and 4Chan, but Angry Birds only came out five years ago. Unless you want to try to argue that women have just been playing Bejeweled for the last 13 years, the math just doesn’t add up.

Demeaning aside against Reddit and 4Chan: check.
Fundamental misunderstanding of opponents argument: check.
Inability to understand statistics: check.

So, a study which did not distinguish between phone based games and computer/console games proves that the stereotype of women playing phone based games is falling apart? This reporter should probably look for a profession that does not involve data interpretation. Studies show that women game less hours than men, spend less money on games than men, and even play widely different games than men.

To understand male and female gaming, the best studies would break out game hours by gender and device, but this type of study might not exist. It would hardly be a headline grabbing study and is possibly why the data is buried and ignored in the sensational headlines about the triumph of female gaming.

One study that attempted to look into the statistics showed the stereotypical insights. When primarily students were surveyed (2012), men were found to spend more than double of the time that females spent gaming:

Additionally, male gamers spent more hours per week (M = 17.46, SD = 19.72) playing games on the computer than female gamers (M = 6.51, SD = 12.58). Male and female players did not differ in terms of the amount of hours they spent playing games on other devices.

Men also dominated preference for computer gaming:

videogames_2

Notice the mobile gender discrepancy. So much for the dailydot article that thinks woman gaming stereotypes are inaccurate. It should be noted that this chart does not show the hour differential on the various devices, which might even further the woman-male divide on mobile devices and the consoles. This is also just showing preference, not total use.

A relevant chart from another site:

Facebook-App-Demographics-Gender-By-App-UK-500-px

Also see: Mobile Demographics

Men also outspent their female counterparts by a significant amount:

Results from an independent samples t-test showed that male players spent significantly more dollars per year on video games (M = $333.92, SD = $606.92) than female players (M = $87.19, SD = $139.61).

Men and women are different. Men tend to be more obsessive than women. This extends to the world of video games, where men play more complicated, violent, and interactive video games than their female counterparts (and they play those games for longer sittings and total hours). Whereas a woman might not dream to play 20 hours straight of first person shooters, men regularly perform this feat. If feminists wish to peddle their philosophy to video game designers, perhaps they should sign up for some STEM classes first to understand the statistics they are attempting to use.

gender-studies-degree

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moses the antihero

mosesMoses is a very unlikely hero of the Pentateuch. In usual fictional tales, the hero is some sort of chosen individual, endowed with special powers, who is born into royalty but is subsequently disenfranchised. This is before they return to power and overcome all odds. In the Greek myth of Oedipus, Oedipus is born into royalty. His father attempts to kill him, but the child ends up being raised by peasants. Oedipus rises to rule through a series of challenges and claims his rightful rule.

Moses, in contrast, is born into obscurity. Moses is abandoned and then raised by nobility. In a fit of rage (when Moses is 40 years of age), Moses murders a man and flees. Moses spends an additional 40 years as a shepherd. When God calls Moses (at around age 80) to be His prophet, Moses resists. Moses does not want to talk to pharaoh and Moses wants to live his own life. In Exodus 4, Moses thinks the people will reject him and has no confidence in God’s plans. God is even angered as Moses invents excuses to withdraw from being God’s messenger. Moses is depicted as cowardly and highly resistant. God is forced to call on Aaron to right Moses’ objections.

Every interaction that Moses has with God is plagued with resistance, disbelief, and insecurity. Moses even undermines God at times. In Exodus 3, the reader sees their first interaction between Moses and God:

Exo 3:11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

In Exodus 3:11, Moses hints to God that God may have chosen the wrong man. If this text is not clear, the narrative reinforces that Moses believed this.

Exo 3:13 Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?”

In Exodus 3:13, Moses questions if he will be received by Israel. Moses wonders how he can talk to Israel and what power name to offer. Perhaps annoyed, God offers Moses the name “I AM WHO I AM.” This might not be a satisfactory answer to Moses. Moses and Israel had not known God by the name of “I AM WHO I AM” before this point (Exo 6:3), so it may not of held any reverence. Moses’ question reveals his lack of confidence in the entire affair.

In Chapter 4, Moses continues his resistance:

Exo 4:1 Then Moses answered and said, “But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The LORD has not appeared to you.’ ”

Moses again tries to poke holes in God’s plan. Moses wonders how he will convince Israel that he is acting as God’s prophet. God offers Moses power signs. God has Moses cast his rod on the ground:

Exo 4:3 And He said, “Cast it on the ground.” So he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it.

Moses runs away. The picture is of a timid and untrusting prophet. Although now able to work power acts, Moses still continues in objection:

Exo 4:10 Then Moses said to the LORD, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”

First Moses objects that he does not know what to say. Then Moses objects that he does not have Yahweh’s name. Then Moses objects that the people will not listen. Now Moses objects that he is a poor speaker. Moses then point-blank asks for someone else to be sent instead of him:

Exo 4:13 But he said, “O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send.”

God becomes furious. God will not allow Moses to undo his appointment.

Exo 4:14 So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and He said: “Is not Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he can speak well. And look, he is also coming out to meet you. When he sees you, he will be glad in his heart.

God solves this problem too. God offers Aaron as Moses’ mouthpiece. Aaron becomes the official communicator:

Exo 4:30 And Aaron spoke all the words which the LORD had spoken to Moses. Then he did the signs in the sight of the people.

While Moses was the prophet, Aaron continued in the official capacity as mouthpiece:

Exo 7:2 You shall speak all that I command you. And Aaron your brother shall tell Pharaoh to send the children of Israel out of his land.

In Exodus 5, Moses and Aaron approach Pharaoh about letting Israel out of bondage. Pharaoh responds by increasing Israel’s workload. The people blame Moses and Moses blames God:

Exo 5:22 So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Lord, why have You brought trouble on this people? Why is it You have sent me?
Exo 5:23 For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done evil to this people; neither have You delivered Your people at all.”

Moses then again attempts to be dismissed from being God’s prophet:

Exo 6:12 And Moses spoke before the LORD, saying, “The children of Israel have not heeded me. How then shall Pharaoh heed me, for I am of uncircumcised lips?”

Exo 6:30 But Moses said before the LORD, “Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips, and how shall Pharaoh heed me?”

Moses does not want to approach Pharaoh again. It did not work the first time and Moses only sees Pharaoh rejecting him. God responds by pointing out that Aaron will be doing the talking. God will also multiply signs in the land of Egypt. God also points out that God does not want Pharaoh to respond. If Pharaoh does not listen to Moses (as Moses knows will happen) then Pharaoh will be playing into God’s plan.

Over the next 13 chapters, there is not really dialogue between Moses and God. Moses performs per God’s commands and leads Israel out of Egypt. Moses is learning to accept God’s tasks and Moses is performing. Once out of Egypt, Moses starts to gain confidence and courage. But in spite of this, Moses is stubborn and confrontational towards God at times.

In Exodus 19, Moses has led Israel out of Egypt and Israel is camped at the base of Mount Sinai. God believes that Moses needs to warn the people not to look at God. Moses does not think this is necessary:

Exo 19:21 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to gaze at the LORD, and many of them perish.
Exo 19:22 Also let the priests who come near the LORD consecrate themselves, lest the LORD break out against them.”
Exo 19:23 But Moses said to the LORD, “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai; for You warned us, saying, ‘Set bounds around the mountain and consecrate it.’ ”
Exo 19:24 Then the LORD said to him, “Away! Get down and then come up, you and Aaron with you. But do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the LORD, lest He break out against them.”

In verse 21-22, God tells Moses to warn the people not to look upon God, lest they die. But Moses thinks God’s warning is redundant. Moses thinks the barriers that were set up are enough to contain the people. Lord is not impressed by Moses’ speculation and then tells Moses to seriously warn the people. In this exchange Moses is undermining God’s expectations. Moses is differing to his own judgment over God’s.

As a side note: it is interesting that Moses is contending with God on possible future states. Moses believes that he can inform God on the future probabilities. Moses does not think God has future omniscience.

In Exodus 32, Moses confronts God on God’s plans to destroy Israel. Moses ignores God’s commands to leave Him alone. Moses then argues that God should not destroy Israel on the basis that it would look bad to pagan nations. Although this is not an example of Moses undermining God (God takes Moses’ console in the end), it shows tension between God and Moses. In Exodus 33, God is said to have shown favor to Moses, and God then exposes His own backside to Moses on request.

In Numbers, there are several conversations between God and Moses that show complaint, tension, and irreverence. In Numbers 11, the people complain and God begins killing them in anger as a result. Moses intercedes and the killing stops. The people then complain again about not having meat, although food is plentiful. Moses embarks on a tirade against God:

Num 11:10 Then Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, everyone at the door of his tent; and the anger of the LORD was greatly aroused; Moses also was displeased.
Num 11:11 So Moses said to the LORD, “Why have You afflicted Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all these people on me?
Num 11:12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I beget them, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a guardian carries a nursing child,’ to the land which You swore to their fathers?
Num 11:13 Where am I to get meat to give to all these people? For they weep all over me, saying, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’
Num 11:14 I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me.
Num 11:15 If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now—if I have found favor in Your sight—and do not let me see my wretchedness!”

Moses’ monologue asks why God is punishing him. Moses wonders why he is the one that must lead the people. He wonders what connection he has to the people that make them his responsibility. The implicit point is that the people are God’s and God should be providing for their complaints. Moses asks to die rather than have to deal with the complaining people anymore.

God’s response is almost mocking: God will feed Israel with meat until they are sick with meat. God then kills some of Israel with plague while they eat. Moses’ tensions are high. God’s tensions are high. This is not the joyous and pious Exodus which one would expect. The people of Israel are wearying Moses and wearying God. Both are ready to quit.

Moses’ final major affront to God is disobedience. God tells Moses to “speak to the rock” in order to work God’s power, but Moses strikes it instead (showing a lack in faith):

Num 20:7 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
Num 20:8 “Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals.”
Num 20:9 So Moses took the rod from before the LORD as He commanded him.
Num 20:10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?”
Num 20:11 Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank.
Num 20:12 Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”

In short, Moses is an unlikely hero of the Exodus. Moses is an anti-hero. Moses (who is an old man at the time) complains, is cowardly, undermines God, and generally holds little confidence in God’s plans. Practically every dialogue between Moses and God does not look favorably on Moses. Moses is not the strong and confident leader that is depicted in modern portrayals the Exodus. But God favors Moses, nonetheless. God listens to Moses and elevates Moses to stature. God communes with Moses “face to face” (Exo 33:11). It is Moses who goes down in history as one of God’s closest friends. It is Moses, the antihero, that God choses to save Israel.

Posted in Bible, Jewish History, Open Theism, Theology | Leave a comment

men and women are different – example 528873

Data on active users from the latest Ashley Madison hack. It is worth noting that female accounts are free, while men have to pay:

1405977487344656933

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romans 11 – paul addresses the gentiles

Rom 11:13 For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry,
Rom 11:14 if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them.

In the middle of Romans 11, Paul shifts his monologue to address the gentiles. He tells the gentiles that they have been grafted into the “tree” of Israel (God’s people). Paul’s teaching is that the Jews and gentiles are now equal before God. This would be a serious point of contention with Paul’s intended audience (as evident by the layout and style of Paul’s arguments).

Paul says that God is doing this in order to provoke the Jews to jealousy and perhaps get the nation of Israel to return to God (Rom 11:11). Paul then states that his purpose is the same as God’s. Paul is using his own writings to attempt to turn individuals to God through jealousy (Rom 11:14). Paul says that this is God’s ultimate goal: the salvation of Israel. God wishes wholeheartedly that they return to Him:

Rom 11:15 For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

The Jews are now “dead” and they can become alive if they become acceptable to God. God wants Israel to return. God has turned to the world. But God ultimately is using this to turn the Jews back to Him. In this sense, the gentile equality is a tool for Jewish salvation.

Paul then turns to a metaphor about tree farming. The original tree (Israel’s covenant relationship with God) is good. It will remain to be good, although individual branches are cut out of and added into this promise. Israel is cut out and the gentiles are grafted in. Paul uses the image of grafting, in which a tree of one type of fruit is welded to a tree of another type of fruit and the branch becomes a functioning part of the tree, bearing its original fruit. This has a second utility for Paul’s metaphor: fruit is often used of “good” and “bad” works throughout the Bible. If a branch bears bad fruit, it will be cut off. The purpose of the tree is ultimately to bear good fruit.

With this image, Paul can illustrate the current position of the gentiles:

Rom 11:16 For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches
Rom 11:17 And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree,
Rom 11:18 do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.
Rom 11:19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.”
Rom 11:20 Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear.

Paul tells the gentiles to fear and not to take pride in their newfound status. The gentiles are not the root of the promise (Israel is). Any benefit that the gentiles are receiving has its origin in the promises of Israel. The gentiles are lucky to be included. They are not natural to the root. As a result, Paul tells the gentiles that they can be broken off more easily than the Jews:

Rom 11:21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.
Rom 11:22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.

Paul is not saying the gentiles must be cut off at some point or that he knows they will be. Paul is saying that God is watching them. If the gentiles rebel in the same fashion as Israel, God will not hesitate to cut them off. God has even less emotional stock in the “wild branches” then He had for the “natural branches”. God operates on a principle of justice. Evil is punished and good is rewarded. Evil branches are cut off and tossed aside. Good branches are grafted into the tree.

It is conceivable that Paul’s converts had been causing fights with Christian Jews concerning equality theology. Paul tells them to not be prideful (Rom 11:20). Paul is most likely quieting those of his converts who are parading their equality in front of unreceptive Jews. In this fashion, Paul’s theology will not be so easily opposed by the church if it is made less of a point of contention. Paul is also placing a moral awareness on his gentile converts. If they do not behave, they will be cut off. God will not stand by and bless the evil.

Paul then maintains that there is hope yet for the Jews that have been cut off. Paul says that they will again be grafted into the people of God:

Rom 11:23 And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.
Rom 11:24 For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?

Notice the key phrase “if they do not continue in unbelief”. All of God’s promises are conditional. If the gentiles misbehave, they will be cut off. If Israel behaves, they will be grafted back in. God is responding in kind to the behavior of people.

Paul’s overall point is that because Israel was a chosen people then they can more easily reclaim that status than the gentiles (who were not the chosen people). Here, Paul is linking his theology to mainstream Jewish theology. Paul is telling his readers that his theology does not overturn God’s promises to Israel. Israel is still the chosen people. In Paul’s theology, Israel can leverage this advantage. This promise’s to Israel were not revoked.

In keeping with this idea, Paul tells of a future time in which Israel will reclaim her birthright:

Rom 11:25 For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
Rom 11:26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “THE DELIVERER WILL COME OUT OF ZION, AND HE WILL TURN AWAY UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB;
Rom 11:27 FOR THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS.”

Paul references back to Old Testament eschatology. Paul is telling his readers that he still accepts standard Jewish eschatology that his “gentile equality” theology is not incompatible with their views of a future Jewish rulership. This will allow his readers to more easily accept Paul’s teachings on temporary gentile equality. Paul is stating that this phase with the gentiles has to run its course before God renews His covenant with Israel.

Paul then talks about the Jews which have been rejected. The promises yet apply to them as a people group. Although they hate the gentiles and reject the gentiles as equals, they still have been elected by God:

Rom 11:28 Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.
Rom 11:29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

Notice that Paul is attempting to use the Jewish arguments to his own benefit. The Jews have argued that their status as a chosen people is irrevocable. Paul uses this and incorporates it into his own theology. Paul is diffusing their argument. The way that Israel’s promises are not revoked is that God still plans on fulfilling Jewish eschatology. Israel will still rule in a new world.

Paul does not detail the specifics as to how this operates with the gentiles who have been grafted into God’s people. Paul also does not assume this is a fated event. Throughout this passage, those who turn to God are accepted. If Israel continues in rebellion (per the fig tree imagery), they will not be grafted into the promise. It is only if Israel repents that they can reclaim their future promises.

Paul then reiterates the fact that all of God’s acts are based in justice and mercy. God operates with justice, blessing those who are good and punishing those who are evil. God responds to obedience. But God also operates with mercy. God cut off Israel because of their disobedience, but is using this turn of events to attempt to recall them to obedience:

Rom 11:30 For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience,
Rom 11:31 even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy.
Rom 11:32 For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.

The ultimate goal of this plan is to have “mercy on all”.

Paul ends this section, realizing that his audience will be hesitant to believe him. They will reject his theology. They will claim it is convoluted and makes no sense. So Paul appeals to God’s complexity:

Rom 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
Rom 11:34 “FOR WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD? OR WHO HAS BECOME HIS COUNSELOR?”
Rom 11:35 “OR WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM AND IT SHALL BE REPAID TO HIM?”

If Paul’s hearers deny Paul’s message, they are rejecting God’s complex plans. God’s plans might be, on face value, confusing, but they are in no place to questions God’s acts.

This is not saying that no one can understand God’s plans; Paul has just explained it to his hearers in depth. Paul is saying that if the reader rejects Paul’s theology on complexity grounds, they misunderstand how God operates and with what detail of planning God can act. They are not even in a position to advise God on what God should do. God’s plan of Jewish-gentile equality is final and cannot be rejected.

To Paul, God operates based on the concepts of justice and mercy. God will punish an unbelieving Israel, but God’s punishment will be a form of rehabilitation for Israel. God is using the punishment to emotionally manipulate Israel into repentance and acceptance of God. God’s ultimate goal is to fulfill His eternal promises to Israel, but He cannot do that unless they become His righteous people. God responds.

God also has a heart for the gentiles. God is using Israel to bless the entire world. This is part of standard Jewish eschatology and it features prominently in Paul’s theology of Jewish-gentile equality. This illustrates God’s justice and mercy. Anyone who turns to God will be accepted by God (conversely, anyone who rebels will be cut off). God is willing to accept people of all nations and God is actively doing things (not just for the Jews) but for the entire world.

Posted in Bible, Dispensationalism, Open Theism, Theology | Leave a comment

God is personal

personalGod’s first act towards human beings is to create man in His image. This is a very important concept in the Bible. Whereas the pagan gods have idols in their image, mankind is God’s image (the same Hebrew word is used to mean both “images” and “idols” throughout the Bible). Man bears the image of God and as such is imbued a certain level of closeness to God, a certain level of inherent value, a certain level of responsibility and power. Man is God’s crowning creation.

God’s first act towards man is calling the animals to man to see what man calls them. In the opening chapters of Genesis, God is curious about humanity and is eager to see what they do. Mankind quickly falls from grace. God expels man from the Garden, fearful that they will eat of the Tree of Life and live forever. God is responding and taking precautionary actions. Who knows what His new creation is capable of doing?

After mankind becomes more wicked than God had ever imagined, God floods the world in an effort to destroy everything (man, birds, animals, plant life). This is an ultimate act of desperation and disgust. God reverses His own glorious creation. His hopes are shattered by the very creature in His own image. But God shows mercy and, as a result, starts a new creation.

After the flood, God declares He will never again destroy the world because God has learned that mankind will always be evil from their youth. God has learned about His creation, lowering His expectations. God resolves to remain in contact with and to commune with His imperfect creation.

After failing to reach the whole of mankind, God singles out an individual through whom He can reach the world. God’s ultimate goal is humanity in relationship with Him. Abram (Abraham) is this man. God walks with Abraham and talks to Abraham. God tells Abraham about His plans, and Abraham advises God on God’s actions. God blesses Abraham materially and through rapid growth in descendants.

After Abraham’s death, God raises a fledging nation (Israel) under the protection of Egypt. When Egypt begins to oppress Israel, God again intervenes to save Israel in a visible and powerful way. All other nations from that point forward will have reason to fear the God of Israel. God shelters Israel as He leads them away from Egypt, leading through the sea and desert, feeding and guiding them.

God then forms and then presents an eternal covenant to Israel, detailing actions Israel must take and must not take to remain faithful to the covenant. Israel listens to the covenant and forms a pact with God to always be true to God. Moses acts as the mediator. God seals this pact with a personal luncheon with the elders of Israel.

But as soon as Moses is gone for a short time, Israel abandons God and the covenant they had just formed. God burns with wrath, and Moses must intervene to save Israel. God wishes to wipe Israel from the face of the Earth and raise a new nation through Moses. Moses objects that God’s purposes to impress and intimidate foreign nations will be thwarted. God agrees. Although enraged, God spares Israel. And this is not the only time this series of events occur.

Throughout Israel’s life, God’s relationship with them is tumultic. Even the name “Israel” means “struggles with God” (originally based off an event in which Jacob literally wrestles with God or an angel). But this name fits Israel for the duration of their existence. God engages in a series of blessings, curses, salvations, and appeasements. All of these fail in creating the righteous nation that God envisioned. Israel continuously violates their covenant relationship despite God’s best efforts. At one point, God laments “what more could I have done”. God has exhausted His toolbox of methods to reach Israel. They continually reject God, no matter what God does or tries.

Israel endures the Assyrian captivity and the Babylonian captivity. God uses Amos, Hosea, Micah, Isaiah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Haggai, Zechariah, Joel, and Malachi to spread His personalized messages to Israel about punishment, redemption, and a future hope. The message is tragic and compelling. Scattered through these writings, God impresses to Israel their status as a future priest nation. Through Israel, God would save the world.

As one last effort, God sends a Messiah (a Christ) to save Israel. Jesus preaches for 3 years and is, predictably, largely ignored. After Jesus dies and rises again, Israel still remains in rebellion against God. God turns to the Gentiles through an individual named Paul. Paul explains in the book of Romans that the Gentiles are now equal with the Jews. The Jewish rebellion has resulted in the advancement of the Gentiles. This is God’s last ditch effort to provoke the Jews to righteousness (in the words of Paul: through use of jealousy).

God’s grand plan to use Israel as a priest nation has failed. God has tried to build a people unto Himself, a nation of people with a special relation, a nation meant to be the light unto the world. This tragic turn of events may have delayed the end times, in which God plans to once again exalt the nation of Israel.

Ultimately, God plans to return to Earth and rule from Jerusalem. God plans a world in which the righteous live and the wicked are destroyed. God wishes to abolish pain and suffering and to live forever with a people of His own. All the nations of the world will come to God and worship in His holy city. In short, God’s relational nature is the story of the Bible. It is filled from end to end with God attempting to build a relationship with various people and nations. Often this ends in failure, but God presses through the failure with steadfast resolve.

The entire illustration of the Bible is one of utter commitment to a personal relationship to human beings. God attempts punishments and rewards. God attempts intimate appearances and utter abandonment. God attempts to reach the world through individuals, groups, and nations. God even sends His only son to reach the heart of mankind. Often this leads to heartbreak and disappointment in Yahweh, as He watches mankind repel Yahweh’s every advance.

A clear insight into God’s relational nature is through how God describes key individuals throughout the Bible. In Exodus 32 (see chapter 3), Moses stands in God’s way of destroying Israel. God changes His mind because of Moses’ intercession. Samuel intercedes for the people in 1 Samuel 12. Throughout the book of Samuel, the prophet Samuel has conversations with God. They exchange thoughts and feelings (see chapter 3). Both these men, Moses and Samuel, are given as prime examples of people who could sway God:

Jer 15:1 Then the LORD said to me, “Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my heart would not turn toward this people. Send them out of my sight, and let them go!

Likewise, Abraham and David held personal relationships with God. Prophets, both small and great, converse with God and are blunt with God. In one such strange event (found in Ezekiel 4), God commands Ezekiel to use human waste to cook his food. Ezekiel objects. God instantly changes His requirements for Ezekiel and instead allows Ezekiel to use animal waste. God allows His commands to be modified, on the fly, by the desires of mankind.

Other times in the Bible, God has such high regard for individuals that he spares the lives of others as a result. In Ezekiel 14, we see the reverse. God is so incensed by Israel that no one except the righteous would be spared. This is a reversal of normal process:

Eze 14:14 even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord GOD…
Eze 14:16 even if these three men were in it, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, they would deliver neither sons nor daughters. They alone would be delivered, but the land would be desolate.

Individuals can personally move God into actions that God would not have taken otherwise. The Bible highlights several exceptional people to whom God defers in the face of extreme passion. The message is that God values people. Certain individuals can move God based on whom they are and how they behave. God is not one to eschew advice. God is not one to believe that He only has the only right answers. God builds personal relationships.

God, by His very being, is relational to human beings. Human beings are God’s ultimate creation. It is with humans that God wants to talk, walk, and experience life. Man has the ultimate ability to affect God’s heart, more than trees, rocks, or any animal. When man rejects God, God responds. Sometimes God responds in sadness. Sometimes God responds in confusion. Sometimes God responds in forgiveness. Sometimes God responds in anger. God responds. This is the primary witness of the Bible.

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irreducible complexity in the Bible

Throughout the Bible God is said to have done, thought, and said a host of things that modern Christians would like to dismiss. The easiest way they attempt to do this is by labeling God’s actions, thoughts, and words as an anthropomorphism. In reality, this is no different than labeling as fable, large swaths of the Bible. But even more telling is that the Bible stories themselves do not allow such a interpretation.

Take God’s dialogue in Exodus 32:

Exo 32:7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves.
Exo 32:8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ ”
Exo 32:9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people!
Exo 32:10 Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.”
Exo 32:11 Then Moses pleaded with the LORD his God, and said: “LORD, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?
Exo 32:12 Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people.
Exo 32:13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ”
Exo 32:14 So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.

This first thing to note is that this is a back and forth dialogue between Moses and God. If God did not say these things, then Moses also did not say these things. God says to Moses that the people have corrupted themselves. God says that He will destroy Israel. Moses “pleads” with God. Moses offers arguments to God as why God should not destroy Israel (Note: Moses did not believe in the modern concept of omniscience). As a result, God repents of the harm that He said He would do.

If God never said that He would destroy Israel, if God never said that He was full of wrath, then what is Moses responding to? Why does Moses argue in the fashion that he does? Moses’ argument only makes sense in light of Moses being informed by God in the manner described by the text. In other words, the text is irreducibly complex. God cannot be made non-literal without doing the same to Moses.

The text reads and only makes sense in light of a face value understanding of what is said and done. It is no wonder that future authors affirm the face value reading, as well.

Posted in Bible, Figures of Speech, Open Theism, Theology | 1 Comment

known to God from eternity are all His works

Act 15:18 “Known to God from eternity are all His works.

In Act 15:18 there is a curious phrase. The scene is the Paul’s trial in Jerusalem in front of the elders of the church (known as the Council of Jerusalem). The detractors of Paul’s argue that Paul’s message of Jewish-Gentile equality is blasphemous. James argues on behalf of Paul that the Gentiles were long ago singled out for inclusion to some extent with the Jews:

Act 15:13 And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me:
Act 15:14 Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name.
Act 15:15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written:
Act 15:16 ‘AFTER THIS I WILL RETURN AND WILL REBUILD THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID, WHICH HAS FALLEN DOWN; I WILL REBUILD ITS RUINS, AND I WILL SET IT UP;
Act 15:17 SO THAT THE REST OF MANKIND MAY SEEK THE LORD, EVEN ALL THE GENTILES WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME, SAYS THE LORD WHO DOES ALL THESE THINGS.’

Verse 14 recalls that God chose through Peter some gentiles to follow God. James points out that the prophets have written as much. Indeed, this theme of the Gentiles turning to God is systematic throughout the Bible. Peter then adds:

Act 15:18 “Known to God from eternity are all His works.

Those wishing to have some sort of view that God has exhaustive omniscience of future events will claim this phrase means that God always knows everything He is going to do. But that does not seem to fit the argument of James:

God has chosen gentiles to serve Him. God has written about this in the prophets. God knows everything He will ever do. Therefor let the gentiles join in fellowship.

This does not flow right. Why add the statement about God’s knowledge. What is it telling the audience that they do not already know? How does it support the argument?

The ESV is translated from the Wescott Hort Greek text. It renders the verses in a more sensible manner:

Act 15:16 “‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it,
Act 15:17 that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things
Act 15:18 known from of old.’

Notice how the ESV translates the same word as “from of old” that other versions translate “from eternity” or “from the foundation of the Earth”. This just helps show that theology dictates translation of texts.

The Alexandrian text does not have the phrase: “to God… are all His works.” Regardless of the Alexandrian text’s accuracy, this meaning can easily be extended to the Byzantine translations.

“Known to God from eternity are all His works.” could be James’ way of saying: “God has let us know that He was going to do this long ago.” There is no reason to extend them meaning to “all things that God will ever do God knows from ancient times”. It makes more sense to be limited to context. In this manner, James’ argument is:

God has chosen gentiles to serve Him. God has written about this in the prophets. God has been planning this for a long time (and has made no secret of it). Therefor let the gentiles join in fellowship.

This is most likely James’ argument.

Posted in Bible, Calvinism, Open Theism, Theology | 1 Comment