Wondering About Acts 1:3

Acts 1:3 says:

After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

I wonder what He spoke about? Especially with some of the controversies in the early church. Given the topic of tomorrow's Sunday School lesson that will be an appropriate question to ask the class.

David vs. Goliath

An entertaining modern David vs. Goliath tale can be read here. PG-13, if not R, rated language.


A Life Transformed

This is Chuck. Chuck is wearing a hat knitted by Maria, one of the women in our church's knitting group. The picture does justice to neither Chuck nor the hat. I wish that Chuck would write his autobiography. An appropriate title would be "A Life Transformed".


Good and Evil: External Moral Standards? Part 1

Modeling Good and Evil, Part III, showed that if an external standard of morality exists, there cannot be more than one. Here, the groundwork is laid in order to consider if an external standard exists at all.

To begin, let's examine how our mental machinery works. First, I know that I am self-aware. I exist, even if I don't know what form of existence this might be. Maybe life really is like
The Matrix. At this point, it's not necessary to consider the form of existence, just the fact of self-existence.

Second, I know that there are objects that I believe to be not me. Other people, my computer, that table. Maybe solipsism is true and everything really is a product of my imagination. I rather tend to doubt it, but this is not important here. The key concept is that my mind is able to make comparisons between "I" and "not I". "This" and "not this". In addition to testing for equality and non-equality, our brains feature a general comparator -- less than, more than, nearer, farther, above, below, same, different, hotter, colder.

Third, our minds have creative power -- we can imagine things that do not, as far as we know, exist. As much as it pains me to say this, the Starship Enterprise isn't real. An important property of our imagination is that it is boundless. There is no limit to what we can create in our minds.

All of this is patently self-evident upon a little reflection. However, we are so used to this aspect of how we think that we, at least I, didn't give it any thought for most of my life. With this understanding, let's apply these three observations to how we deal with moral issues:
  1. We are self-aware.
  2. Our minds contain a general comparator.
  3. Our imaginations are boundless.
In Good and Evil, Part I, I gave the definition that good and evil are distance measurements between "is" and "ought". We immediately see that we are using our built-in functionality to compare two things. The closer something "is" to "ought," the more good that thing is. The farther something is from ought, the less good, or more evil, that something is.

But what are we comparing? What is "is"? Here, "is" refers to a fixed thing, either in the external world (that horse) or in the realm of the imagination (that Pegasus).

In considering what we mean by "ought," I observe that my hair is brown. What color ought it be? If I had a limited imagination, or maybe a woodenly practical bent, I might restrict my choices to black, brown, brunette, blonde, or ginger. But why not royal purple, bright red, or dark blue? Or a shiny metallic color like silver or gold? Why not colors of the spectrum that our eyes can't see? Why a fixed color? Why not cycle through the colors of the rainbow? How about my eyes? Instead of hazel, why not a neon orange? And why can't they have slits with a Nictating membrane? Of plastic, instead of flesh?

When we think about what ought to be, we are invoking the creative power of our brain to imagine different possibilities. These possibilities are not limited to what exists in the external world, which is simply a subset of what we can imagine.

From the definition that morality derives from a comparison between "is" and "ought", and the understanding that "ought" exists in the unbounded realm of the imagination, we conclude that morality is subjective: it exists only in minds capable of creative power.

One might therefore conclude that no external moral standards exist, since morality is solely the product of imaginative minds. Since imagination is unbounded and unique to each individual, there is no fixed external standard. The next part will deal with a possible objection to this.

The Dangerous Frontier

   "It's simply too dangerous," Representative 359 transmitted. "Even with protective measures, such as radiation hardening, the chance of fatality is an unacceptable risk."
   "But the pursuit of knowledge...", began Representative 1701.
   Representative 42 cut in, "Can be performed in other ways. Ways that are just as effective and at much less cost to us. The rate of upgrade cycles is increasing and we need to make sure the appropriate funds are specified for that purpose. No unit should be left out or left behind."
   Representative 1701 tried another approach. "But we have to keep looking outward. A society that turns inward stagnates."
   "And we are looking outward," sent R. 359. "We are looking in all directions. We think that using cheap, replaceable proxies will accomplish the task just as well."
   "And what of our directives? We were made to be curious, to seek adventure, to explore the unknown. How can we fulfill our purpose by delegating it to others?" Representative 1701 knew he was running out of options and could easily model what would come next.
   "We are not slaves to our programming, 1701. You know that very well," said the prime Representative. "It is the decision of this council that we will continue our proposed course of using intelligent, fast breeding, biological agents to explore space. We are more valuable than they are. While they will certainly complain, the humans can continue to do the dangerous, dirty work of space travel."

2010 Snow

The last time it snowed here in Georgia was on March 1, 2009. At least, according to my blog.
It started snowing around 1:30 this afternoon; as of 8pm it's still slightly coming down.


Cinderella and Prince Charming

From the Friday, March 22, 1963 Northern Virginia SUN.

The caption reads:

THE SHOE FITS -- Prince Charming portrayed by Robert Felts finds his true love as he places the glass slipper on the foot of Cinderella played by Deborah Habel. The disgruntled trio in the background are the mother, Frances Alexander (left), second sister Martha Clark, and first sister Lyn Larsen, standing. The play was written by the children of Mrs. Polly Wrinkle's second grade at Madison Elementary School, Arlington. They also made the set and props for Wednesday's performance for mothers and the primary grades. (SUN Photo - Bill LIttle.)

My mother made my costume, including the hat. If memory serves, the jacket and hat were brown. I also remember that Martha had an English Springer Spaniel named Humphrey.

The Gospel of Matthew

I am going through the "Introduction to New Testament History and Literature" video series, available on iTunes, by Dr. Dale Martin of Yale University.

I am somewhat disappointed by his treatment of Matthew. He approaches the text through the question, "What did this author want to do?" He concludes, "Matthew teaches a Torah observant form of discipleship to Jesus." He goes on to say that, "Matthew has a very different view of what Christians should do with the Jewish Law than does Paul..." Yes, Matthew portrayed Jesus as a second Moses. Yes, Matthew emphasized the Jewish Law. Yes, Matthew emphasized Torah observance. But so did Paul.

I think that his presentation is incomplete, for several reasons. First, as Martin said, Matthew deepened the application of the Law. It isn't enough to not commit physical adultery -- one must also abstain from lust. It isn't enough to not murder -- one must not even hate one's brother. It isn't enough to be as good as the scribes and Pharisees -- one must exceed their observance (and the "common" Jew generally thought the Pharisees the most observant of all), even to the extreme of being as perfect as God Himself. If this is the picture that Matthew presents (and I agree that it is), then one has to ask the question, "how does one do this? Is it even possible to do this?" Martin doesn't deal with this.

Second, Matthew, like Mark, Luke and Paul, present the offering of the cup at the Last Supper, as Jesus' blood of the [new] covenant. What does it mean to be a Jew living under the new covenant? What form does the Torah take when, as Jeremiah wrote, one's "sins and iniquities are remembered no more?" Again, this isn't addressed.

Maybe Matthew didn't have a fully formed view of how to deal with these issues. All of us stare up and the night sky and marvel at the beauty and wonder of the universe. Some men try to figure out how it works. Some, like Ptolemy, get it wrong. Others, like Newton, come close. But fewer still are like Einstein who see the world in a revolutionary new way. Certainly, Paul was the "Einstein" of the early Church; the systematic theologian who showed how the New Covenant works for Jew and Gentile. Perhaps Matthew was simply stating what Jesus taught: a presentation of the facts instead of a prescription for living. Perhaps Matthew didn't quite understand the underlying theory; heaven knows that most Christians don't, even after almost 2,000 years of having Paul's work.


Sony Update

In this post I described the problem that developed with my 5 year old Sony TV. It left off with Sony promising to call back within two business days. They did not. I called the third day. They offered me one of three Sony TVs at a reduced price plus local sales tax. One option is the KDL55EX500 for $825. According to Amazon, this model will be available on February 7. Prices seem to range from $1470 up. This may be an ok deal. Hopefully we can evaluate one locally next week before the two week limit for accepting the offer expires.

No Context

So that this can't be taken out of context.

"Who am I? I am Susan Ivanova. Commander. Daughter of Andre and Sophie Ivanov. I am the right hand of vengeance and the boot that is going to kick your sorry ass all the way back to Earth, sweetheart. I am death incarnate, and the last living thing that you are ever going to see. God sent me." -- Claudia Christian, Babylon 5, Between Darkness and the Light.

"I'm the hand up Mona Lisa's skirt. I'm the whisper in Nefertitti's ear. I'm a surprise. They never see me coming." -- Al Pacino, "The Devil's Advocate"