Book Review: The Uncontrolling Love of God by Thomas J Oord


For believers, making sense of [evil events] requires belief in God. But the answers that most give to the question of God’s relation to randomness and evil leave me unconvinced and discontented. They don’t make sense. Believers need better responses than the usual fare.
– Thomas Oord, The Uncontrolling Love of God

Thomas J Oord is understandably unimpressed with the standard answers to the problem of evil. Evil, it is said, is part of God’s plan. Evil is used by God to teach people. Evil is the result of sinful people and God does not interfere in order to preserve freedom. Christians give all sorts of complicated and incomplete answers to the answer of evil, but evil remains a powerful argument from those wishing to reject God. Former Calvinist Bart Ehrman, a popular scholar and critic of Christianity, cites evil as the main reason he left Christianity. If evil can convert hardcore Calvinists into atheism, then what chance do the rest of us have?

In his first chapter, Oord details three such true stories of heartbreak, suffering, and random happenstance. I will add to it my own:

A day after my 31st birthday, we received a call about my six year old son. We had been trying to diagnose a lump on his neck. The doctors were not certain what it was, but on this day they were informing us about the results of a biopsy. It was cancer: T-Cell leukemia. For the next 6 months we spent week after endless week in the hospital. This six year old was poked and prodded. He lost his hair. They installed a port on his chest and in his stomach. They pumped endless toxins into his spinal column. Although he finally was placed in the medium risk category and fell into remission, his newfound friends at the hospital were not as lucky.

One child, struggling to stay alive, is now given a 20% chance of survival. This strong kid fights day and night, braving horrendous radiation treatments. He desperately clings to life against the odds. Although his odds of survival are slipping, he presses to do anything to live. Often these children die in spite of their pleas for life.

I lay awake at night in the children’s ward listening to the cries from adjacent rooms. The sound is maddening. Children are suffering through no fault of their own, day and night. Some are too young to comprehend what is happening. And this is a first world country. In other places and in other times, there was not medicine to dull the pain. There was no surgery to fix a broken body. There was no hope. Child mortality, until the modern world, hovered at about 50%.

Evil is real and critics of Christianity cannot just be easily dismissed with platitudes on this front. Where was God in all of this? Was this some sort of plan by God to teach some lesson?

Oord responds:

Is the “lesson” they learned in death worth the evil they suffered? Can dead people mature?

Some evils are character destroying rather than character building. Many people have lives that are made far worse because of intense pain. They grow bitter, vengeful and tyrannical, making life hellish for others and themselves. The alleged divine strategy of improving personal character is often counterproductive.

Oord spends the first few chapters talking about randomness. He very well understands that events can be random but aggregates can be predictable. He also spends an appropriate amount of time dispelling the myth that any limitations on choice is a violation of free will. He states the most intuitive position on the matter: “The limited-but-genuine-freedom position says we freely choose among a limited number of options.”

This is what human beings experience. We cannot choose to jump to the moon, but most can choose to jump two feet into the air as opposed to one foot into the air. We choose what position to hold our arms during the jump or whether to allow physics to control their placement. Although our jump is limited by the extent of our strength, I would add that humans have available an infinite number of choices within set limitations. Even with limits, human beings have limitless options.

Oord starts with the common sense notion that whatever we experience should be our default understanding as to how the world works. If our daily experience is free choice (e.g. I choose between a Coke or some Lemonade to drink) then this should be our default metaphysical position. Fatalism should only be accepted if there is strong evidence to overcome our intuition (and claiming “intuition” is a result of fatalism is of no help to anyone). Oord acknowledges that the fatalists will always claim that there are underlying formulas influencing everything that happens (despite evidence of randomness on a subatomic level). If someone is devoted to fatalism, they can always claim that fatalism produces an appearance of randomness. How this is more rational than defaulting to randomness creating an appearance of randomness is anyone’s guess.

On top of this basis, Oord presents a model of providence in which God’s natural attributes inherently limit the extent of God’s abilities. This should be a very familiar concept to anyone familiar with the metaphysics proposed by most modern Christians. Proponents of “omniscience and omnipotence” claim that omnipotence does not include the ability for God to limit His knowledge (e.g. forget events or not see events happen). Proponents of “omnipresence and omnipotence” claim that omnipotence does not include the ability for God to limit His location. Proponents of “omnipotence and immutability” claim that omnipotence does not include the ability of God to change. Even schools of Open Theism limit omniscience to what can rationally be known. Because Negative Attributes are inherently contradictory, something has to give. To Oord, what gives is God’s ability to be coercive (God’s benevolence limits God’s omnipotence).

This proffered metaphysical model, admittedly, is of better fit than most current models although it shares with these other models the reimagining of ancient Jewish theology. In both Reformed metaphysics and in Oord’s metaphysics are God’s thoughts and actions stripped from the Biblical narrative (such as God’s destruction of the Earth to undo His regretted creation, or God’s laments that He has punished Israel continuously in vain). In this respect, Oord is similar to the Calvinist tradition. In other respects, Oord is superior to the Calvinist tradition (by not stripping God of His emotions, relational nature, and love). In both Oord’s metaphysics and Calvinism, God is powerless to stop evil (so there is not a power disparity). For this reason, I would classify Oord as more Theologically Biblical than even a Fundamentalist Calvinist. Both rework the Bible’s picture of God, Oord to a lesser extent.

Oord offers a metaphysics of “essential kenosis”. The idea is that God gives Himself into creation. Because the world is an extension of God’s love, God cannot unilaterally change creation. This would be God changing His own nature, which Oord says is impossible. Evil exists because God cannot stop it. But God can bilaterally change creation (differentiating Oord from Process Theology). This is Oord’s solution to a benevolent God coexisting with an evil world. Oord explains this more thoroughly than a review can do justice.

The book is engaging to read. There are insights on just about every front (from statistics to science to theology). The sources that are cited come from a wide variety of traditions. The flow of the text is, for the most part, smooth. The points are interwoven to make the most of their effect on the audience. Anyone interested in benevolence (or even Christological metaphysics) would do well to pick up this book.

If a reader is looking for a book on Biblical critical scholarship, this is probably not the book for them. If, instead, a reader is interested in a compelling and fair overview of a host of metaphysical models (proffering what it believes is the best metaphysical model which can be then applied to the Bible), this is a book they should not miss.

Book available December 2015.

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

against the modern pharisees

south park cigs
There is a scene in Mark in which the Pharisees accost Jesus for not following ritual law that had been developed from their interpretations of Levitical code:

Mar 7:5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?”
Mar 7:6 He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR FROM ME.
Mar 7:8 For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men— the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.”

The Pharisees approach Jesus and condemn/question him for not purifying his hands before eating. This law was invented by the Pharisees, an interpretation of broader laws found in the code of Moses (possibly Leviticus 11). Jesus responds by condemning them for following the guidance of man and ignoring what God actually said.

In America, Christians have invented their own morality, not unlike the Pharisees. In American culture, it is a sin to drink, smoke, and to do drugs (these Christians often make exception for medical purposes, vaguely defined). This article will focus on smoking, being a particularly weird morality stance taken by the modern Pharisees.

In these circles, one cigarette (or e-cigarette) is a sin. The view that one cigarette is evil is drawn from wild leaps of logic, irrational thinking, and is applied with inconsistency over a wide range of actions and behaviors. There is always just one prooftext for this:

1Co 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?

1 Corinthians 6:19 is found in a fleeting reference in a letter to the Corinthians from Paul. This is the “go-to” verse on this issue. Presumably, if 1 Corinthians 6:19 was to have been lost in history the anti-smoking advocate would not be able to find support in the 31,101 other verses in the Bible. 1 Corinthians 6:19 is the catch-all verse used to condemn any behavior with which the modern Pharisee does not agree (it is the Biblical Commerce Clause).

The verse, itself, is found in the context of sexual immorality. Sexual immorality is a consistent sin that is countered throughout the Bible. There are a lot of prohibitions found on sexual immorality in the Bible and even laws against sexual immorality in the Old Testament. In context of 1 Corinthians 6:19, Paul is countering an often condemned sin. This is not an “exercise and be healthy” verse. The modern Pharisees then take Paul’s words and extend them to a whole host of activities that are not elsewhere covered in the Bible (activities of their own invention which just happen to line up with modern American sensibilities).

The thought pattern is as such:
Premise 1: “Your body is a temple”. Premise 2: “Cigarettes are dangerous”. Conclusion: “Smoking even one cigarette is a sin.” Bonus: “e-cigarettes are also a sin because they kind of look like normal cigarettes.”

Notice the wild leaps of logic. Assumptions are brought onto what it means that “our body is a temple”. Assumptions are brought into the dangers of smoking and these assumptions are pressed past the point of breaking with reductio ad absurdum that is honestly believed by the advocates. Just to be emphasize this important point: the reductio ad absurdum is the position held by the advocates (it is not just a hypothetical to cast doubt on a belief).

But the entire chain of logic is flawed. Starting with the last claim: by what standard can one cigarette be said to be dangerous?

Is one Oreo cookie dangerous? Surely, eating nothing but Oreos is incredibly dangerous. Is it likewise a sin to eat a single Oreo? One Oreo a week? One pack of Oreos a week? One pack of Oreos per day? Some studies suggest Oreos can be more addictive then even cocaine (link).

One cigarette in someone’s lifetime cannot have any discernable effect on the “temple of God”, especially not more effect than one Oreo or one slice of greasy pizza or one day exploring a cave. Plenty of employees currently work in conditions that have air much more toxic than one cigarette per day. Are these immoral jobs? Is living in a polluted city a sin? Why are cigarettes singled out? Where does the advocate draw the line? It is arbitrary and absurd.

All of this challenges the second claim: at what point are cigarettes dangerous? One pack a day? One pack a week? One pack a year? It is hard to know.

Cigarettes are just one input over a lifetime of conflicting inputs into how healthy people are. In Japan, there is a higher consumption rate of cigarettes coupled with some of the lowest rates of lung cancer in the world. In fact, Americans are six times likelier to get lung cancer than their equivalent Japanese counterpart. Japan has the longest life expectance in the world while it ranks number 17 for cigarettes smoked per adult per year. Something else is going on, and it does not look like cigarettes are the entire picture.

Not all people have the same harms induced by cigarettes. In fact, smoking might have some health benefits (like the following). For sake of argument, if occasional smoking had health benefits then is smoking still bad?

As a disclaimer: nothing in this article is calling for people to take up heavy smoking. This should be obvious, but in my conversations with these modern Pharisees, they do not understand temperance and moderation. They just try to assume out a possibility that is very real in my own life: smoking on average about 1 cigarette per year.

The most absurd leap of logic made by these Pharisees is thinking that the apostle Paul had smoking in mind when he was writing about the body being a temple. This is the same Paul that wrote:

Col 2:16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths…
Col 2:20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—
Col 2:21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,”

Paul’s literal claim was that we should not be concerned with what we ingest. The pagans in Colossae were of the opinion that wine and food (the pleasure of consumption) were to be avoided. They were ascetics, trying to deprive their bodies of sensual pleasure. Paul is combating this “humility”. To Paul, nothing we consume can make us unclean. What defines a Christian is our walk with God.

To claim that Paul was writing against cigarette consumption is a complete reversal of Paul’s explicit teachings on the mater. And Paul was merely echoing Jesus’ statement:

Mat 15:11 Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”

When the modern Pharisees claim that something is a sin, there ought to be a little better evidence than tenuous leaps of logic that are formed in their own mind.

Posted in Bible, Morality, Theology | Leave a comment

the name of God

tetragrammatonIn Exodus 3:14, God introduces Himself to Moses. This is a very important event in the Bible as it represents perhaps the first time God’s name was known. In Exodus 6, God recounts to Moses that His name “Yahweh” was not known to previous patriarchs:

Exo 6:3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name LORD I was not known to them.

But Exodus 3:14 is when God finally does make His name known. The narrative is that Yahweh hears the cry of the slaves in Egypt and Yahweh remembers His covenant with them. Yahweh’s covenant spurs Him to action as He appoints Moses to be His spokesman. Moses is a reluctant spokesman. Moses resists in all types of fashions. One such resistance is Moses’ desire for a power name in order to inspire and intimidate his listeners:

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?”
Exo 3:14 And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” [Yahweh asher Yahweh] And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”
Exo 3:15 Moreover God said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The LORD [Yahweh] God [eloheem] of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.’

God’s response almost seems tongue-in-cheek. God’s name is Yahweh, as consistently stated throughout the Bible, so “Yahweh asher Yahweh” might be a snarky way of presenting the name “Yahweh” to Moses. If “Yahweh asher Yahweh” was meant to be God’s full proper name, it is interesting that it is never used again.

The meaning might be “I will be whoever I want to be”. This might be God’s way of frustrating Moses’ question. Yahweh then immediately ties the name “Yahweh” with Israel. So God’s response could be seen as: “I will be whoever I want to be and I chose to be the God of Israel”.

In any case, Moses has no knowledge of this name nor do any of Moses’ hearers. What would they take away from hearing this name? Moses never does get the response for which he is looking. God’s response, translated literally, is “I will be who I will be”. This is an ambiguous and confusing statement of little use to Moses (Moses is never recorded as using it).

But God then takes great care to link His name with Israel. Moses might not have a useful name, but Moses should be reassured in God’s commitment to Israel. Yahweh links His name with Israel in verses 15, 16, and 18. However the name “Yahweh” is taken, it is in relation to Israel. The Talmud backs up this idea:

The only full interpretation of Exodus 3:14 in the Talmud is in Berakoth 9b2, where it is framed in the context of Israel’s servitude in Egypt and Babylon, and is interpreted as an assurance by God that He will be with Israel in all its troubles. The only Talmudic citation of the absolute ehyeh of 3:14b also features in this interpretation, where it is understood simply in terms of God’s compassion towards Israel. Apart from it being the only full interpretation of Exodus 3:14 in the Talmud, Berakoth 9b2 is also highly noteworthy because it is the interpretation subsequently espoused by Rashi, the most respected and influential of all Talmudic commentators and one of the most respected and influential figures in Judaism. The extract from Berakoth 9b2 reads as follows in the Soncino Talmud:

“I am that I am: The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses: Go and say to Israel: I was with you in this servitude, and I shall be with you in the servitude of the (other) kingdoms. He said to Him: Lord of the universe, sufficient is the evil in the time thereof! Thereupon the Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: Go and tell them: I Am has sent me unto you.”

Some individuals, such as Norman Geisler, take Exodus 3:14 as some sort of metaphysical claim by Yahweh to be timeless or immutable. But in the Talmud, God’s name is not linked to immutability or timelessness, but to Israel. The idea that God’s name is linked to Israel is a claim for mutability. God is identifying Himself relationally.

The Septuagint might back up Geisler’s claim. This document, written under the watch of the Hellenized king, Ptolemy II, translates Exodus 3:14 roughly to “I am the Being” or “I am the One”. The Hebrew from which it is translated no longer exists, but the translators seem to have taken some liberty.

In contrast to this, the earliest Hebrew texts of Exodus 3:14 record the ancient Hebrew name found in the earliest Hebrew quotes of the Bible. The Dead Sea Scrolls use the ancient Hebrew script that is also used on the Ketef Hinnom (the earliest known Bible quote dating from 700-650 BC). This is quite interesting as the rest of the Dead Sea Scroll text is in more modern Hebrew. The name Yahweh is left in an ancient script among newer Hebrew script.



Furthermore, two ancient Greek translations also use translations counter to the LXX and closer to what one would expect the Hebrew to mean:

The versions of Aquila and Theodotion have ehyeh asher ehyeh and the ehyeh of 3:14b rendered into Greek as “esomai hos esomai” and “esomai” respectively, which in turn translate as “I will be who I will be” and “I will be”.[3] There could have been several reasons why they chose to translate the words of Exodus 3:14 in this way, but among them would certainly have been a desire to produce a translation that would be more true to the Hebrew original than the Septuagint. For this reason they would have wanted to restore the idem-per-idem form of ehyeh-asher-ehyeh, and so they did. However, had the translators’ only purpose been to restore the idem-per-idem form, then the most obvious revision of ego eimi ho on would have been ego eimi ho ego eimi, which would at least have preserved the only literal translation of ehyeh that does feature in the Septuagint version of the verse (ego eimi). Instead, they chose to replace the words “ego eimi” with “esomai”, which is to replace the words “I am” with “I will be”, and, in keeping with the apparent intention of the Hebrew text, they translated all three occurrences of ehyeh in this way.

The author of this paragraph rejects the understanding of Aquila and Theodotion because the author absurdly maintains: “in Judaism God is understood to be eternally immutable”. But Aquila and Theodotion appear to be preserving the natural Hebrew reading in which God is not making a metaphysical claim (a claim never developed anywhere in the Bible and is countered by endless texts). But Aquila and Theodotion support the idea that God is saying “I will be who I will be” or “I am who I will be”. Their claim, along with what is probably the original Hebrew text, is that God is dynamic and relational.

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

God and His unilateral suzerainty covenant with abraham

The Bible maintains a strong theme of God’s unilateral promise to Israel. This promise was so strong that Israelites believed they were saved by virtue of being Jewish. Two of the strongest prooftexts for God’s changeability are really in context of this unilateral covenant:

Mal 3:6 “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.

Heb 6:17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath,
Heb 6:18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.

This unilateral covenant is the bedrock of Jewish theology. The striking thing is that it is unilateral.

Christine Hayes writes:

…Ancient Near Eastern parallels to the biblical covenant have been pointed out by historians. In suzerainty covenants, a superior party dictates the terms of a political treaty, and an inferior party obeys them. The arrangement serves primarily the interests of the suzerain, or superior party. In parity covenants, two equal parties agree to observe the provisions of a treaty.

There are four major covenants in the Hebrew Bible initiated by Yahweh, as expressions of divine favor and graciousness. Two of these appear in Genesis: the Noahide covenant and the Abrahamic (or patriarchal) covenant. The Noahide covenant in Gen 9: 1– 17 is universal in scope, encompassing all life on earth. The covenant stresses the sanctity of life, and Yahweh promises never to destroy all life again. By contrast, the Abrahamic covenant is a covenant with a single individual and so resembles an ancient Near Eastern suzerainty covenant. Yahweh appears as a suzerain making a land grant to a favored subject. An ancient ritual ratifies the oath— the parties to the oath pass between the split carcass of a sacrificial animal, symbolically signaling their agreement to suffer a like fate should they violate the covenant. In Gen 15, Abraham cuts several sacrificial animals in two. Yahweh, and only Yahweh, passes between the two halves. Thus, the striking thing about the Abrahamic covenant is its unilateral character. Only Yahweh is obligated by the covenant, obligated to fulfill the promise he has made. Abraham does not appear to have any obligation in return. Thus, it is the subject— Abraham— and not the suzerain— Yahweh— who is benefited by this covenant, a reversal of the reader’s expectations.

Hayes, Christine (2012-10-30). Introduction to the Bible (The Open Yale Courses Series) (Kindle Locations 1474-1486). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.

Posted in Kingdom Theology, Theology | 5 Comments

it is ok to cut down trees

jack handyIt is often used as an example of God’s care for trees that God prohibited Israel from cutting down trees of their enemies. Whenever this is quoted, this seems to be quoted well out of context. Greg Boyd and Paul Eddy both make this mistake:

A couple verses before this, God is commanding total war. God commands Israel to kill everything that breathes:

Deu 20:13 And when the LORD your God gives it into your hand, you shall put all its males to the sword,
Deu 20:14 but the women and the little ones, the livestock, and everything else in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as plunder for yourselves. And you shall enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which the LORD your God has given you.

So is God showing love for the trees and hate for breathing human beings? Not so much. God is telling Israel how Israel will best be served.

Here is the actual context:

Deu 20:19 “When you besiege a city for a long time, making war against it in order to take it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an axe against them. You may eat from them, but you shall not cut them down. Are the trees in the field human, that they should be besieged by you?
Deu 20:20 Only the trees that you know are not trees for food you may destroy and cut down, that you may build siegeworks against the city that makes war with you, until it falls.

Israel is commanded not to cut down trees that produce edibles because they provide food. God is telling Israel not to destroy a source of food. God redirects Israel to cut down trees that do not bear food (like pine trees and oak trees). God tells them to use these trees to convert into siege weaponry to kill people.

These verses are absolutely not a love song for trees. It is not even a love song for people. Instead it is a military directive to help Israel succeed.

Posted in Bible, Misquoted Verses, Theology | Leave a comment

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:


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:


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.


Posted in Statistics, Women | Leave a comment

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.

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