clines on the conclusion of job

David Clines argues that the conclusion of Job is that retributive justice is not a necessary part of God’s creation:

From Deconstructing the Book of Job:

Where then stands the philosophy asserted by the poem of 3.1–42.6, the core of the book as a whole?… This seems open to no doubt… that it is the righteous, not the wicked, who suffers; all it does is to expound it at length, dramatically and unarguably. What the poem does, philosophically speaking, is to prove over and over again that the doctrine of retribution is wrong.

Every time Job’s friends fail to carry us with them in their denunciations of Job, and every time Job excites our admiration for his injured innocence, the poem convinces us again that the doctrine of retribution is naive, dangerous, inhuman and, above all, false. If ever for a minute in the course of the dialogue we are tempted to believe that Job after all must deserve something of what he suffers, or if for a moment we find it hard to believe that anyone can possibly be so blameless as Job is making himself out to be, the affirmations of both the narrator and God in the prologue stride forward in our memory: there is none like him on earth.

From Coming to a Theological Conclusion: The Case of the Book of Job:

…From a more intellectual point of view, we might say that the divine speeches have refused the categories of the dialogues, and in particular the complaints of Job that the world is not being governed with justice. What they have left in their place is the suggestion that God does not put himself forward as world governor, and that his acts toward his creation are not to be judged in the scales of justice.

From Seven Interesting Things about the Epilogue of Job:

The question is: How can what Job has spoken about Yhwh be called “right”? Much of what Job has spoken about Yhwh has been abuse and criticism of the deity, and Yhwh himself has typified Job’s speeches as “darkening”. Yhwh’s “design”, that is, his principles for the structure of the universe, and has criticized Job for speaking “words without knowledge” (38:2). Carol Newsom, for one, speaks of the “impossibility of harmonizing v. 7 with the preceding material in chaps. 3:1–42:6.”

Yhwh, we must accept, cannot be referring to Job’s initial speech of acceptance after his calamities have fallen upon him: “Yhwh has given and Yhwh has taken. May Yhwh’s name be blessed” (1:21). For the deity plainly knows about the friends’ speeches (“you have not spoken the truth about me,” v. 7), and therefore must be aware of Job’s own hostile speeches also, which rather cancel out Job’s docile first speech. Nor is Yhwh likely to be referring to Job’s short responses in 40:4-5 and 42:2-6, since they are surely too insubstantial to outweigh the criticisms Job has earlier made of Yhwh.

The only thing about Job’s speeches that Yhwh can be approving of is Job’s denial that Yhwh governs the world on a principle of retributive justice. For Job, it was a criticism of Yhwh that he did not keep days of assize, judgment days when he would mete out punishment to wrongdoers (24:1). For Yhwh, the whole of his speeches from the tempest (chaps. 38– 41) implicitly deny that retribution for good or bad behaviour is a feature of the design of the world order. Yhwh’s own depiction of his purpose for the universe emphasizes sustenance of its life forms, the non-human creation being a very prominent part of his concerns, rather than a micro-management of human beings. Job’s complaints about God’s failure to manage the universe have paradoxically put their finger upon a fundamental truth about Yhwh, that such is not his interest.

The important point here is that the [Hebrew] is not behaviour attributed to the friends, but behaviour that Yhwh says he may engage in if he is not appeased by Job’s prayer. It is the outrageous behaviour of a person whose anger is out of control. It is noteworthy that v. 7 has said that Yhwh’s anger has burned hot against Eliphaz and the other friends. This is the only place in the book where Yhwh is said to be angry. Though Job has inferred Yhwh’s anger from his experience of him (14:13; 16:9; 19:11), the only time we have seen anger is when Elihu becomes angry with impatience at the inability to refute Job adequately (32:2, 3, 5). Yhwh is angry here for the first and only time.

The anger of Yhwh, his demand for an enormous sacrifice, and his threat of outrageous behaviour all cohere. We are meant to sense that the friends’ imposition of the principle of retributive justice upon Yhwh’s dealings with the world is regarded by him as a terrible affront, and a tragic misunderstanding about the divine design for the world. If Job has been “darkening” the design (42:3), they have been doing worse: their arguments seem to have been bent on destroying it.

In an unguarded moment, Yhwh lets slip that he feels in danger of behaving badly, outrageously in fact, but he knows how he can bring himself under control: a pious person can intercede with him on behalf of those who have aroused his anger. Then he will calm down.

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

The Christian Case for Drug Legalization

breaking breadDisclaimer: I have never been involved in any illegal drug use, as such, any case I am making to legalize drugs should be taken on principle.

In an online drug legalization debate, Pastor Bob Enyart argues that drugs should be illegal for several reasons.

First, drugs are immoral:

It’s wrong to get high. For in doing so you reject the counsel of the God who made you. And by intoxication you lose what should be a full control of your mental and moral faculties. You become a threat to yourself and a risk to those around you.

Second, drugs are dangerous:

Many studies show serious problems, for example, with schizoid psychosis while smoking. And marijuana can act as a cancer-causing carcinogen and damaging DNA for pot smoke contains higher levels of certain toxins than tobacco, which is why pot smokers face rapid lung destruction, with the impact on lungs from one joint equaling up to five cigarettes. Pot also opens the door for the virus that causes Kaposi’s Sarcoma. And for pregnant moms, it can harm their unborn child by impairing growth and by causing long-lasting neurobehavioural problems. (And if you’ve read online that marijuana has never caused a single death, just assume you’re reading a pothead’s website.) For habitual use is strongly associated with car crash injuries and smoking marijuana doubles the risk of fatal accidents.

While Enyart won the Huffington Post debate (determined by reader votes), he seems to have fallen short of his goal: to show that drugs should be illegal. Even if it is granted that drugs are both dangerous and immoral (with which sensible people can disagree), how does that translate into a legitimate function for government action? Where has God given the government the right to regulate or ban behavior just because it is immoral and/or could result in harm? Where does God ban possession of substances? What right does the government have to control which substances are bought and sold by individuals for health or pleasure? And, Biblically, who is authorized to make such a determination if the drug is being used for health or pleasure? Does this have precedent in the Bible?

The Proper Role of Government

In the Bible, there are several data points for understanding God’s concept of the proper role of the state. After the Exodus, God sets up His preferred government. In God’s preferred government, a series of unpaid judges presided over disputes. There were no taxes and justice was crowdsourced. Later, when the people demanded a king, God reluctantly allows Israel to establish one (see 1 Sam 8). Rejection of God’s minarchy was a rejection of God, Himself (this, in itself, should heavily influence a Christian perspective of the role of the state). In the proceeding Kingship, taxes were levied and a salaried federal government was established. In both of these governmental systems, legislative directives seem to remain consistent. The Kings really did not make new legislation, but adopted the law of the Pentateuch (supplementing at times with temporary decrees).

In the Bible, God establishes two types of rules: moral code and legal code. Often the two overlap. In God’s moral code, people are told what they should and should not do. There are no punishments attached to these actions (see Joel Hoffman on the issue). These actions function as a moral guide for daily life. In God’s legal code, punishments are prescribed for various acts. Murder results in death. Stealing results in reparations. The legal code functions as a guide to government action.

What are the legal consequences of sloth, envy, being a drunkard, abstaining from leaving a portion of a field to be gleaned by strangers (Deu 24:19)? There are no legal consequences. These are acts that people “should ” or “should not” do. The activity is frowned upon, but otherwise there is no formal punishment.

When the government of Israel morphs from a government of judges to a government by King, the King yet refrains from creating a system which legislates these activities. The Kings just do not believe it is their role (or think it is feasible) to legislate states of mind, especially something as subjective as drunkness or sloth or gluttony. Sure, proverbs abound in the social realm condemned these things, but legislative code does not follow:

Pro 23:21 For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, And drowsiness will clothe a man with rags.

This proverb is warning people that their gluttony, sloth, and drunkardness will destroy users’ lives due to the cost of those activities. This is a persuasive argument based on attempting to make individuals understand natural consequences of their actions. There is not an idea of government punishment, but one of moral responsibility of the individual. The Israelites used social pressure and logical reasoning to change the behavior of others, not laws imposed by armed enforcers.

Preventative Law v Punitive Law

The entire structure of God’s law is antithetical to drug legislation. God’s legal code is also not overly concerned with preventative legislation. The legal code prescribes punishment after a crime is committed. If a builder builds a dangerous house, he could be guilty for his negligence after anyone dies (Deu 22:8). One can extrapolate that concept in terms the modern world would understand: God would not have a punishment for drunk driving but for any actual manslaughter or property damage that results. If a drunk driver kills someone in negligence, they are punished for the crime of murder (not drunk driving). In God’s government, there was no police state cracking down on dangerous activity. The government’s role was justice, not babysitting. This cannot be emphasized enough.

Overall, God does not make laws peddling some sort of social justice goal. Instead, God’s focus is on punishing crimes and having His people worship Him. God does not spend his time making laws to ward against dangerous activity. In other words, God does not try to save people from themselves. God’s laws are based in objective fact. Either someone has murdered someone or not. Either someone has stolen something or not. There are no laws such as “someone can only drink two glasses of wine per day”, trying to prevent drunkenness. There are no laws such as “no letting your children shepherd in an area with lions and bears”, trying to legislate responsible parenting. God’s laws are not “good ideas” to make society marginally better.

True, there are some prescriptions against certain products. There is a law against the manufacture of certain holy oils, but the reasoning is that the oil is holy (Exo 30:33 ). Interestingly, there is no similar prescription against making, selling, or owning idols, although the worship thereof was a death sentence (Exo 22:20, also see Num 25:4). It is also not a problem to God when righteous Kings purge the land of idols (2Ki 18:3). The focus of these exceptions to God general legislation is about worship of the true God. God really cares about holiness, righteousness, and worship of Him. But after that, people are generally free to do their own thing.

Double Standard for Immorality

Those who want the government to legislate drug use, often do not want the government to legislate other immorality. Should the government legislate sloth, envy, or gluttony? Should the government criminalize drunkenness? How does a government even begin to lay down an objective standard by which to legislate these things? Even in the modern world, alcohol is tested through a secretive formula by which they calculate some sort of blood alcohol level. In other words, the average person has no way of knowing if they are violating the law until after the fact. And the standard is completely arbitrary, ever being lowered by special interest groups. That is an evil law.

God does not legislate wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. God does not legislate drunkenness, or drugs (which have always been readily available). God is not the thought police.

Double Standard for Danger

The National Center for Biotechnology Information reports that the fatality rate on for summit attempts on Mount McKinley is 3 in 1000. One climber described to me watching as a French man desperately grabbed onto his sled as it began slipping down the side of a crevasse. The man plummeted to his death holding onto the equipment he dearly wished to save. Climbing Mount McKinley is dangerous. At those high altitudes, hikers who do not die of exposure or slipping often return with brain damage due to the low oxygen environment.

So the question is: why do Americans allow people to undertake a dangerous activity with almost certain life-altering results? The answer is freedom. People are generally tolerated to engage in dangerous activities if they so wish (from motorcycle driving, to wing suit flying, to base jumping). In a free country, people do not have to justify their activities to some bureaucrat. People are allowed to take risks.

Why the double standard for drugs? Certain drugs do not seem as dangerous as the counterexamples provided. A majority of drug users live very normal lives and are undetectable from non-drug users. An entire 38% of Americans admit to trying marijuana, including the sitting president of the United States. What percent of them are harmed and to what extent? Certainly not 3 in 1000 die due to their actions (the fatality rate for attempting to summit Mount McKinley). Why do the same Christians who wish to legislate drugs based on danger then not wish to legislate mountain climbing based on danger? The double standard is glaring. All their arguments about personal risk should be discarded, and liberty should be the default stance.

Medicine v Drugs

A terrible side effect of the War of Drugs is that now drugs are gated behind bureaucrats with magical pieces of paper that allow them to decide who gets what drug and in what quantity. If I have an ear infection I must first go to a doctor, have them write a prescription, then I must drive to the pharmacy and stand in line for a pharmacist to take my identification, she will then decide if I get the drug that I know will cure my ear infection. Each brigand takes their cut of the spoils. The system is preposterous.

The fear of strangers being allowed to decide what they ingest has led to a system where the government oversees and regulates the distribution of medicine. People cannot fix their illness unless the wish to pay extra money such that the government can then limit their options for treatment. Options are further curtailed for fear that someone might actually enjoy their cure of illness. Two examples:

My wife underwent a C-section. She was in miserable pain, but she used too many pain killers. Although she was crying in extreme pain, the nurses and doctors would not allow any more pain killers because she reached their arbitrary limit. This nonsense is especially terrible for individuals with high natural tolerance to pain killers. Not all human beings are the same. Doctors spend a lot of time figuring out medicines that work and do not work on individual patients. But although every person is different, the government regulates as if everyone’s body operates the same. The government is too incompetent to figure out a system to regulate other than uniform standards.

The second example is my son, who was undergoing chemotherapy for leukemia. During this time, he lost all appetite. The doctors attempted to stimulate appetite with synthetic TCP, basically synthetic marijuana. This absolutely did not work. A feeding tube was forced to be installed into his stomach for direct feeding. Using normal marijuana was not an option due to legal reasons, but possibly could have saved a six year old boy from surgery.

When Enyart claims that marijuana can lead to cancer, this fails to take into account that each human being is unique. Each person has a unique situation. Each person has unique risks. Each person’s body functions differently. Some people already have cancer, so the risk of cancer is not in issue or not of concern. If someone dies during surgery, a future cancer is the least of their problems.

The divide between medicine and drugs is impossible to determine. People are allowed to take pain medication for an injury, but not if some guy with a government license tells them a different amount or timeframe. The guy with the government license is not the one experiencing pain or the one who will be hurt in the case of under-prescription. The same guy taking pain medicine, if he later breaks his leg, will be thrown in jail for taking the same medicine as he took for breaking his arm (using the same prescription). What sense does that make? Instead he must perform his dance, and then he can receive his drugs. Why is this acceptable to do to other human beings?

The Unseen Cost of a War on Drugs

The War on Drugs is feeding the Police State and militant criminal elements. SWAT raids are regular against suspected drug dealers, sometimes resulting in innocents being badly hurt. The police state is using the War on Drugs to confiscate private property without any proof of wrong doing. This has led to widespread governmental theft. Police patrol the streets, accosting those under the mere suspicion of possession of drugs, sometimes killing people who attempt to avoid a confrontation with the Police. A huge pharmaceutical bureaucracy has risen, giving permission slips to use certain drugs. The government tells people which drugs are good and which ones are bad. Strict controls are placed to ward against anyone procuring ingredients that could be used to make illegal drugs. The prison system has ballooned. This is what is necessary to legislate drugs.

Does the Bible authorize this level of governance? Would King David have authorized SWAT raids against drunkards or gluttons? Is the death penalty authorized against those who impair themselves? In what way is legislating drugs either practical or feasible? And add in printing of drugs, which signals the end of traditional drug enforcement.

Conclusion

The government’s role is not to babysit our lives (making sure everyone is respectful and does not act more dangerously than a government agent determines is acceptable). Instead, the government’s role is to enforce basic law: Do not kill, do not steal, do not commit adultery. The government does not have a role in regulating commerce. The government does not have a role in becoming thought police. God does not authorize or wish for a police state, which is the only way to enforce drug or alcohol law. There is no Christian precedence for drug legislation. Drug laws are antithetical to God’s government.

Posted in Goverment, Theonomy | Leave a comment

how the digital revolution undermines feminism

your rights endAn astounding piece of news in itself, Jezebel.com writes a fair minded article on a college “sexism versus free speech” event. Near (and not “on”) the University of Mary Washington there was a social gathering which hosted some members of the college rugby team. Those in attendance chanted some vulgar lyrics involving sex with a dead prostitute. The audio was recorded. Later on, the college Feminists used this audio to get the rugby team suspended. Jezebel insightfully comments:

This wasn’t a victory over the dark forces of misogyny as much as it was a parody-defying collision of 2015 collegiate caricatures: a feminist organization feeling threatened by a song sung at a party to which they were not invited and would have no interest in attending; a party full of co-eds getting drunk and yelling a stupid, obscene song about sexually violating a prostitute’s corpse.

But the feminists in general seem to always take a statist approach to any situation. Their preferred method is the tattle method: find someone with power over those who they find offensive and make those in authority punish the offending parties. If this does not work, often they resort to violence. Instead of acting like adults, removing themselves from a private party or an uncomfortable situation, and going on with their lives, they seek punishment of anyone they find offensive. They often skip the part where they try to have a conversation with the offending parties. This is not adult behavior, and this is not civil behavior.

The college feminists brought their recording to campus administration, who then began disciplinary proceedings against the entire rugby team (although most of the rugby team was out of town on the night in question). The entire student body found out about these actions. This is where technology shines. An app called Yik Yak allows users to anonymously post messages to the app, which are then visible in a 1.5 mile radius to users of the app. Apparently, this app is popular on college campuses. This app gives a platform for all students being bullied by the feminists to post messages without fear of being identified by the feminists. The feminists cannot target anyone for retaliation. Jezebel posts a few of the messages:

yik yak

The frustration in the college feminists are evident in the article.

McKinsey [President of UMW’s Feminists United on Campus (FUC)] says there were “hundreds” of Yaks, all of them of a similar tone… She felt she’d done her part by meeting with the school’s Title IX coordinator and administrators, and in response, she’d found herself demonized on social media.

Technology is undermining feminism. Fascists like McKinsey cannot sensor apps like Yik Yak. Sure, those apps can be shut down by government, but replacements always will spring to life. There is no filtering acceptable thought and there is no college administration to protect McKinsey’s fragile feelings from the digital community. The college feminists are learning they they are not popular. Their childish behavior, their sexism, their blatant intolerance, and their reckless actions against innocent individuals is widely disdained.

This is not the first time feminism has failed in the digital realm. #womenagainstfeminism was a direct response to whoneedsfeminism.

whoneedsfeminism

Technology undermines censorship. Technology undermines statism. Technology makes obsolete university codes which throttle free speech and a free exchange of ideas. The more that technology progresses, the less that social engineers can control others through threats and coercion. People are then forced to contend in a civil manner to change hearts and minds, through rational discourse. Technology breads civility.

Posted in Human Nature, Leftists, Women | Leave a comment

misquoted verses – alpha and omega

Uppercase_Alpha_and_Omega_in_Times_New_Roman.svgIn Revelation there is an interesting phrase which reoccurs several times. This phrase is not found elsewhere in the Bible (not in this form), but is unique to Revelation. God claims to be the “Alpha and Omega”. Proponents of Negative Theology claim that this phrase is a claim by God to be outside of time. But the author of Revelation does not indicate this as the understanding. Instead, the author seems to use this in a general sense. God is powerful, thus God is the Beginning and the End:

Rev 21:5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
Rev 21:6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.
Rev 21:7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.
Rev 21:8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

The entire book of Revelation is about a future apocalypse wherein God will descend to Earth and judge the wicked. In Revelation 21, God is said to come to Earth and rule, with the Jesus by His side. This was a common Jewish belief, that God would Himself rule Earth with or through a Messiah. This is actually the immediate textual context of the “Alpha and Omega” claims. The Alpha seems to be coupled with the creation of the world (or the beginning of the apocalypse) and the Omega is the coming judgment (or end of the existing world).

In a sense, the idea is not about lifespans or about God’s relation to time. The entire book of Revelation is about God acting in time and doing things. In any case, “Alpha and Omega” has nothing to do with “timelessness”. Instead, this is a phrase about power. In Revelation 1, the phrase “Alpha and Omega” and “beginning and the end” are both coupled with “who is and who was and who is to come”. This is further coupled with God’s attribute of Almightiness:

Rev 1:7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.
Rev 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

What is particularly of interest is this phrase “who is and who was and who is to come”. The layman might claim that this is, in fact, some sort of claim for God’s eternal nature. But a variation of this phrase is used of someone other than God:

Rev 17:8 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition…

And

Rev 17:11 The beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition.

So the Beast was, and is not, and is to come. The best way to understand this is about power. The Beast once had power, the Beast currently does not have power, but when the Beast rises, it will regain power. The Beast is not popping in and out of existence. The Beast is not eternal into the past. Instead, the figure of speech is about past power, current power, and future power. If this is accurate, the Alpha and Omega phrase takes on a whole new meaning:

Rev 1:7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.
Rev 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

All four phrases could easily be variations on the theme of power. God is the Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, “Who is, was, and is to come”, and is Almighty. The quote in Revelation 1 does not have context that suggests either way, but the context of Revelation 21 is all about God’s activity:

Rev 21:4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
Rev 21:5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
Rev 21:6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.
Rev 21:7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

God abolishes evil. God is then said to “make all things new”. God then calls Himself the Alpha and the Omega. God then gives gifts. God then bestows inheritance. What makes more sense, God claiming in the middle of this to last forever or God claiming in the middle of this to be powerful?

In Revelation 22, God also couples “Alpha and Omega” with power statements:

Rev 22:12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.
Rev 22:13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”
Rev 22:14 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.

This theme is actually echoed in the Old Testament in the book of Isaiah. Now Isaiah was written in Hebrew, so one would not expect claims about being the “Alpha and Omega” (Greek letters). Instead, the claims in the Old Testament are about being the “First and the Last”. Revelation borrows many themes from Isaiah, especially concerning the coming Apocalypse (see Rev 21:1 versus Isa 65:17, 66:22). The themes about being the First and the Last come directly from God’s primary power claims in Isaiah (chapters 40-48):

Isa 41:3 Who pursued them, and passed safely By the way that he had not gone with his feet?
Isa 41:4 Who has performed and done it, Calling the generations from the beginning? ‘I, the LORD, am the first; And with the last I am He.’ ”
Isa 41:5 The coastlands saw it and feared, The ends of the earth were afraid; They drew near and came.

Isa 44:3 For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring;

Isa 44:6 “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.
Isa 44:7 And who can proclaim as I do? Then let him declare it and set it in order for Me, Since I appointed the ancient people. And the things that are coming and shall come, Let them show these to them.

Isa 46:9 Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me,
Isa 46:10 Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’

Isa 48:10 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
Isa 48:11 For My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it; For how should My name be profaned? And I will not give My glory to another.
Isa 48:12 “Listen to Me, O Jacob, And Israel, My called: I am He, I am the First, I am also the Last.
Isa 48:13 Indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, And My right hand has stretched out the heavens; When I call to them, They stand up together.

Notice the coupling of activity with “First and Last”. God has performed. God is the First and the Last. God has no equal among other gods. God is the First and the Last. God does everything He wants. God declares the end from the beginning. God created heaven and Earth. God is the First and the Last. These are power claims.

Compare also the idea of water to the thirsty in conjunction (Isa 44:3) with being “the First and the Last”. This parallels Revelation 21:6 (“I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts”) which is also in the context of being the Alpha and Omega. The author of Revelation heavily drew on Isaiah for inspiration throughout the entire book. There is no reason to think the idioms would have morphed into some idea of timelessness.

It is very probable that because people are divorced from the context of Revelation that they are attempting to use phrases out of context to support their individual theologies. The author of Revelation does not seem concerned with Negative Theology, but is very concerned with God’s power to overcome the forces of evil. God is the Alpha and Omega because God is powerful. God is the First and the Last because God is powerful. God is the Beginning and the End because God is powerful. God is Almighty because God is powerful. The phrase is about power, not lifespan or interaction with time.

Posted in Bible, Calvinism, God, Misquoted Verses, Omnipotence, Open Theism, Theology | Leave a comment

why economists are more reliable than doctors on health issues

Russ Roberts and Emily Oster explain exactly why Economists should be the more trusted individuals for health decisions. Roberts also explains why doctors are particularly ill-suited to make health related recommendations. The reason is that doctors generally do not understand statistics and trade-offs. The entire EconTalk is statistics gold.

Russ: Let’s move away. One last thing about pregnancy in your book which fascinates me. I read an article when I was doing my background reading for this interview that–it was an angry screed; you may have seen it–suggesting that your book was awful because you are unqualified. You are the wrong kind of doctor; you are a Ph.D. in economics. You don’t know anything about medicine. And it’s irresponsible for you to go around making health recommendations. And people should ignore your book. What’s your response to that?

Guest: Um, yeah, I’m surprised you just found one like that.

Russ: Well, I stopped looking after that, Emily. I thought one was plenty.

Guest: One is enough. I think that if you read the book, it’s very clear this is a book about data. And this is a book about looking at data and evaluating causality and thinking about what’s a good study, what’s not a good study. That is exactly what my training is in. I’m a health economist; I have a lot of training in statistics. I think all the time about what’s causal, what’s not causal. And so I think in many ways my training is better than a doctor’s training for evaluating these kind of questions. The book is not going to deliver your baby for you, and so I think there’s no question that this is the kind of thing that women will read in conjunction with also going to their doctor. I assume. And so I think it really is complementary. But I also think there’s a very clear reason why someone who has a lot of training in statistics would be the person who writes it, a book which is all about data. So I think that’s the–I think if people actually read the book they will see very clearly why someone with my training will come at it in this angle.

Russ: I would–not only do I believe that your training is particularly well suited to the questions that you deal with, so I second your defense. But I would also say that doctors are particularly ill-suited for these kind of issues. They don’t typically–I think it’s changing, but they don’t typically get trained in data analysis. They are certainly not trained in statistics or decision-making. They don’t have a very good appreciation of uncertainty. And they are prone to say things, as a friend of mine heard when he was a motorcycle rider. He broke his leg and the doctor put his leg in a cast and then said, I hope you learned your lesson. And my friend said, Yeah, well as soon as I get off my cast I’m going to ride my bike again. And the doctor was mystified. The doctor couldn’t understand the idea that there might be a tradeoff. That life is dangerous; some things are dangerous. Sometimes it’s worth it even though it’s dangerous–this idea that economists have, that there is a continuum of risk, rather than safe-unsafe. And if you look at the pregnancy books and the guides and the other things you are reacting to, it’s that people of course want to know: Is it safe? And the answer is: No; and it’s not unsafe. It’s complicated. And people don’t like that. And doctors aren’t trained to think other than that.

Guest: Yeah. And some of what I get, like I get on the radio with doctors, you get: I just really care about the health of the baby. Yeah, well I really care about the health of the baby, too!

Russ: No kidding.

Guest: But I think we should also be making decisions which are correct. We shouldn’t just not be doing things because we enjoy them. We should understand. And by the way: Do you ever allow your patients to take a non-essential car trip? Because that is very dangerous.

Posted in Econ 101, Economics, Statistics | Leave a comment

bad statistics – car seat safety

car helmet while drivingNews reporters are notoriously bad at basic comprehension of statistics. When it comes to child safety in cars, there is no exception.

From CBSnews:

For children, the back remains the safest place to ride. Children 12 and younger account for 56 percent of passengers who sit in the back of vehicles, but only 24 percent of crash fatalities, according to a recent study by the IIHS and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia that reviewed U.S. accidents between 2007 and 2012.

CBS news claims that “For children, the back remains the safest place to ride.” The best way to show this would be some sort of comparison between children killed or injured in the back seat versus the front seat. Even that might be further controlled for driving habits of the parents (maybe more reckless parents allow their children to ride in the front more), age of the child (maybe parents who let their children ride in front do so long after they are out of 5 point harnesses) and safety measures taken for the child (maybe parents who let their children ride in front also tend to be less rigid on safety belts).

But the news article does not claim any such comparison. Instead, the story compares back seat children to back seat adults! This methodology actually provides zero information about the relative safety to children between the various seats. What this does tell the audience is that children sitting in the backseat are less likely to be injured than adults sitting in the backseat. The same might very well be true about front seats. It could easily be the case that children sitting in the front seat are safer than adults sitting in the front seat. We don’t know, but if the reasons that children are safer in the back seat hold true for the front, it is a probable assumption to make.

By the statistics that this article presents, the only possible implication for the adult reader is to grow younger if they want to be safer in the back seat. This is something that is impossible; it is useless information. The article would have been better without these factoids.

In any case, there are plenty of good reasons that might account for the discrepancy in injuries between adults and youth. Youth tend to have 5 point harnesses. People often drive slower and less recklessly if they are driving around their own children. Parents with children often do not drive on long trips in unfamiliar territory. People with children tend to drive bigger vehicles. People with a lot of children tend to live in more rural areas. The list goes on. All else being equal, the natural assumption should be that in the same accident that children are more likely to be hurt due to their more fragile bodies. The fact that the statistics do not represent this tells the reader that children and adults do not have the same car accidents. Again, all useless information to adults. The implication would be “take less trips and drive more carefully” (in other words, common sense).

But the article shows no familiarity with how statistics work or how they are interpreted. Instead it takes a vague claim (how much more unsafe is the front from the back seat?) and supports that claim with totally irrelevant statistics. The result is fear mongering towards parents who let their children ride in the front seats (something perfectly legal in many states). Perhaps one day a reporter might be able to quantify exactly how much more likely a child is to get injured over the long run sitting in the front seat rather than the back. I won’t hold my breath.

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can God be wearied?

power fist

Isa 40:28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary [yaw-gah]. His understanding is unsearchable.

 

 

Isaiah 40 is commonly used as a prooftext by those engaged in negative theology. The phrase “[God] neither faints nor is weary” is taken from its context to advocate some sort of immutability concept. God’s repentance is undermined because repentance often involves some sort of mental anguish. If God does not weary then, it is argued, God cannot show mental anguish. Isaiah 40:28 is often used in response to Jeremiah 15:6:

Jer 15:6 You have forsaken Me,” says the LORD, “You have gone backward. Therefore I will stretch out My hand against you and destroy you; I am weary [law-aw] of relenting!

Although the Hebrew word for “weary” differs, the ideas are equivalent. In Jeremiah 15:6, God has spared Israel too many times. The idea is that God is frustrated because He keeps showing mercy yet the Israelites do not internalize the mercy. Instead, they continue in rebellion. God gives up and resorts to punishment.

Now, this reading is antithetical to both Augustinian and Calvinistic theology. If God foresaw the wickedness, the continual rejections of God’s mercy, then God would not be frustrated and repent in showing mercy. One would only become frustrated if they had some sort of expectation that their actions would lead to results, yet those results never materialized. If God knew the future, this entire verse would not make sense, so the Classical theologian has to find out a way to neuter this verse. They do so my playing a “verse trumping” game.

Isaiah 40:28 is quoted to trump Jeremiah 15:6. The argument is that both verses cannot be true and thus one has to be interpreted in light of the other. It is assumed that Isaiah 40:28 is absolute and Jeremiah 15:6 needs to be subservient. Verse trumping is an illegitimate method of reading the Bible because it is arbitrary, it rejects the text, and it ignores normal reading comprehension standards. Normal reading comprehension would suggest the reverse of this conclusion. Usually the more encompassing statement is a generality and a specific example is an exemption.

The most straightforward method of dealing this with contradiction (and atheists list this as a contradiction) it to use normal reading comprehension and to understand each statement in light of the respective contexts.

God is Almighty; therefor God has a lot of power. No power act is going to tire God. God is not going to have to recharge His power. In the context of Isaiah 40:28, God is said to extend this resistance to fatigue onto those who serve Him.

The context of Jeremiah 15:6 is about mental fatigue. God is weary because God is trying to get a response from Israel. God continually has shown mercy, but that has just resulting in Israel further rejecting God. So God gives up. Mercy does not work, so God will finally just punish. The idea is similar to Isaiah 5:

Isa 5:4 What more could have been done to My vineyard That I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, Did it bring forth wild grapes?
Isa 5:5 And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned; And break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.
Isa 5:6 I will lay it waste; It shall not be pruned or dug, But there shall come up briers and thorns. I will also command the clouds That they rain no rain on it.”

In Isaiah 5, God is frustrated. He has exhausted His ideas on how to reach Israel. God asks Israel, in a rhetorical way, to give Him ideas as to what else He could have tried. The implied response is silence. God tried His best, expected results, and was left in disappointment. As in Jeremiah 15:6, God responds by just giving-in to unmitigated punishment. God’s mental frustration is apparent.

In Isaiah 43, just three chapters after “[God] neither faints nor is weary”, Isaiah explains that God does get weary. Again, the context is mental frustration and not power fatigue. In this illustration, God contrasts Him wearying the people and the people wearying Him:

Isa 43:23 You have not brought Me the sheep for your burnt offerings, Nor have you honored Me with your sacrifices. I have not caused you to serve with grain offerings, Nor wearied [law-aw] you with incense.
Isa 43:24 You have bought Me no sweet cane with money, Nor have you satisfied Me with the fat of your sacrifices; But you have burdened Me with your sins, You have wearied [yaw-gah] Me with your iniquities.
Isa 43:25 “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.

God is saying here that He has not wearied the people with burdensome tasks and contrasts. In contrast, the people sin without penance. As such, they weary God. God’s response is one of utter frustration. God chooses not to judge Israel, not for anything that they do, but because God just wants to be done with the entire ordeal. God’s offer is to give Israel forgiveness, allow the sin to go unpunished, contingent on Israel turning to Him. The other alternative is punishment, in which God promises not to show mercy as He has in the past. The mental fatigue is evident.

“God becoming weary” is another case which shows the danger of divorcing short phrases from the context. God does not tired through power acts, but God can get tired of human sin, rebellion, and even unanswered mercy.

Elsewhere in the Bible

Elsewhere, God is said to not fatigue. Again, the context is about God’s power acts. God asks Ahaz to request a sign that He might do it to prove to Ahaz that God’s prophecy is real. Ahaz responds by saying that he will not test God. God seems to be angry about this and says:

Isa 7:13 Then he said, “Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary [law-aw] my God also?

The affront to God appears to be the extent of God’s power. Perhaps Ahaz’ rejection of a sign was routed in his belief that God was incapable. Or perhaps God is angry that Ahaz is not taking the prophecy seriously. God rhetorically responds by saying that He does not fatigue. No matter how great the sign, God says that He could perform it.

Elsewhere, God is fatigued mentally. In Isaiah 1:14, God is weary of people who undergo symbolic ritual in a perfunctory way with no strong intent behind their actions. God says that He has endured this for too long. The meaningless ritual has wearied Him:

Isa 1:14 Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary [torach] of bearing them.

In Jeremiah 6:11, Jeremiah is pronouncing judgment on Israel. Either God is saying He is weary of holding back His wrath, or Jeremiah is saying he is weary of being filled with the knowledge of God’s wrath and needs to pour it out. The first seems like a more reasonable stance.

Jer 6:11 Therefore I am full of the fury of the LORD. I am weary [law-aw] of holding it in. “I will pour it out on the children outside, And on the assembly of young men together; For even the husband shall be taken with the wife, The aged with him who is full of days.

Posted in Bible, God, Immutablility, Omniscience, Open Theism, Theology | Leave a comment