Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pervasive Assaults on the Truth of Genesis!

If Christian faith depends on a literal reading of Genesis, then evolution is not the only problem we face. Consider the science of meteorology.

In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights.

--Genesis 7:11-12

The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained;

--Genesis 8:2

From this we know with 100% certainty that rain comes through windows in a solid sky. When the windows are opened, rain falls; when they're closed, rain stops falling. The Humanistic "cloud theory" of rain can only be seen as an attempt to place man on God's throne. How can an impudent TV weatherman possibly know when God is planning to open or close the windows of heaven?

We must also dispose of this nonsense about "telescopes." How could a "Hubble Space Telescope" take pictures of galaxies tens of billions of light years away but be unable to get pictures of the windows of heaven, which must be much closer to the Earth if rain is to reach the ground within a reasonable time period after the windows are opened. Furthermore, even if the solid sky, the windows, and the waters above the heavens are all perfectly transparent, no object more than 6000 or so light-years from Earth can possibly exist, since there would not have been time since Creation for the light to reach us. It might also be wise to stay away from binoculars, as they might be used to look at the so-called "Andromeda galaxy," which is supposedly a collection of as many as a trillion stars that is 2,500,000 light-years away from Earth.

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

--Genesis 3:1

Many Christians interpret this passage as referring to Satan. But that's one of those dodgy non-literal esoteric interpretations of Genesis. The text doesn't say the serpent is a rebellious angel or any sort of spirit being. It compares his intelligence to the "beasts of the field," rather than to angels. The verse wouldn't even make sense using that esoteric interpretation, since any angel (or even the humans, and they're not particularly bright in this story) would obviously be more clever "than any beast of the field." It would go without saying. The passage only makes sense if it's talking about a literal serpent. So now we know that snakes are intelligent, and they can talk with perfect diction.

And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou [art] cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

--Genesis 3:14-15

Once again, the serpent is classed with other animals rather than angels, making it perfectly clear that this is an ordinary snake. We learn here that snakes originally flew, or perhaps hopped about on their tails instead of crawling on their bellies, and that they eat dirt rather than small animals as secular herpetologists and pet-store employees claim. Who are you going to believe, the Bible, or mere men? Verse 15 is often esoterically interpreted as a prophecy of Christ. Since Genesis is literal narrative, this cannot possibly be the case. The serpent's "seed" is paired with the "seed" of the woman. Since Jesus was a descendant of Eve rather than Eve herself, the "seed" of the serpent would have to be a descendant, rather than the serpent himself in order for the parallelism of the passage to make sense. Since Jesus tells us that angels "neither marry nor are given in marriage," a serpent-shaped fallen angel could not have a descendant whose head would be bruised by Jesus. A proper literal reading disposes of this suspicious esoterica. The passage is simply a description of the mutually-antagonistic relationship between humans and snakes. When a snake strikes a human, it can't exactly go for the throat--it strikes the heel. And when a man wants to kill a snake, he attacks the head.

Furthermore, the Bible never says elsewhere that Satan crawls on his belly or eats dirt. He is portrayed as being able to enter Heaven (the Book of Job), and teleport himself and at least one other person from place to place (the temptation of Christ narratives in the Gospels, where Satan transports Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple and challenges him to jump off). To suggest as the esoteric interpretation does, that Satan escaped punishment for causing the debacle in Eden by using an unfortunate snake as a puppet borders on blasphemy. Could God be so easily fooled that he would curse snakes instead of the Satanic puppet-master? Of course not! The esoteric reading has to be false. The clear literal interpretation of the historical record of Genesis tells us that snakes can talk, since God did not deprive the serpent of its power of speech as part of his curse.

And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top [may reach] unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the LORD said, Behold, the people [is] one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

--Genesis 11:4-6, emphasis added

This inerrant historical narrative states quite clearly--from the mouth of God himself!--that the people were capable of building a tower that would reach heaven. The word used for "heaven" here is "shamayim," the same word used in the passages about the windows of heaven. The narrative also tells us the methods the builders used, which should provide us with vital clues as to how high above the Earth the solid sky must be:

And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. [sic]

--Genesis 11:3

According to Wikipedia, the tallest known pre-industrial building (the Lincoln Cathedral) reached a height of 525 feet with the construction of a central spire that has since been destroyed. Like its closest pre-industrial rival, the Great Pyramid of Giza, this is a stone building, as opposed to the weaker brick construction of the Tower of Babel. While the engineers of ancient Babel may have been exceptionally skillful, or simply had access to such a prodigious labor force that they could significantly exceed the height of these structures by widening the base of the structure, the limited structural strength of their materials places an upper limit on the height of the tower. Even if we grant that a completed Tower of Babel would have been twice as tall as the Lincoln Cathedral (1,050 feet), this casts doubt on modern claims to the construction of steel-reinforced "skyscrapers" such as the alleged Burj Dubai tower in Dubai at 2,684 feet tall. Do you want to believe the Bible, or a bunch of Muslims?

Even if we do accept the existence of these so-called "skyscrapers" (perhaps they do, in fact, scrape the sky...), the historical narrative of the Tower of Babel certainly rules out such atheistic fictions as "airliners" that fly at 30,000 feet, "satellites," "space probes," "manned spacecraft" and "moon landings."

I could go on, but I think I have demonstrated the pervasiveness of Humanist falsehoods which would lead us to question the literal historical truth of the Book of Genesis, and irreparably damage Christian faith.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Chayatocha: Meet the Paradines II: Mary Sue?

Chayatocha, pp. 22-32

After a little more family small talk, the wagon train stops for the night, and Paradine notices the leader of the wagon train, a cavalry officer named Jeremiah Wills talking in hushed tones with several other men and decides to go find out what's going on.

"Could be real trouble...if his report's half reliable, we--

"As Paradine approached the group, the men went silent."Captain," the schoolteacher said in greeting, the tension around him palpable."Mr. Paradine."Is there a problem?"

"Nothing we can't handle," said a wiry, hatchet-faced man at Wills' side, a measure of derision in his voice. 

He scratched at his long, scraggly beard.  "You just go back to your books, and leave things to us."

There it was again.

"Hello, Mr. Garrett," Paradine said flatly, noting the man's filthy clothes and level of personal hygene--low even for such a journey.  "I want to thank you for doing your best to assure the rest of us an ample supply of water."

The remark, on razor's wings, sailed directly over the man's head.

"There'll be enough," the puzzled man gruffly replied.  "Gonna have to go easy though.  It's a long way to Fort Boise."

Paradine felt the eyes upon him, taking note of his brocade vest and glittering watch fob, the silver rims of his eyeglasses, and his manicured fingernails.  All those things, he knew, were seen by some as alien, even threatening or undeserving of respect.  Perhaps that disrespect also grew out of the way he moved and the vocabulary he used, reflecting his refined upbringing and learned mind.

...It was nothing new--all his life he had felt like something of an outsider, and in his younger days he had suffered as the continual target of bullies...

Paradine, with his gentleman's clothes and manicured fingernails, is contrasted with Asa Garrett, who almost sounds like the man in the Beatles song "Come Together."  Garrett becomes the stand-in for the jocks and bullies who pick on the geeky, preppy Paradine.  In addition to his poor hygene, Garrett isn't too bright (he fails to catch Paradine's subtle dig), and it is implied that he's not very good at his job--finding water for the party.  

This is one of the classic signs of a "Mary Sue" (authorial self-insert) character: the character(s) who don't like the Mary Sue are all unsympathetic, and the Mary Sue shines in comparison to them.  The characters who dislike the Mary Sue are representative of the people who don't like the author, so their portrayal becomes a "Take That!" against the author's real-life enemies.  Unlike Jenkins and LaHaye however, Johnson is not writing a revenge fantasy.  He makes an effort to humanize Garrett instead of just consigning him to the fires of Divine wrath without a backward glance:
"Asa don't mean no harm," the captain said.  "Barely thirteen when his father died...worked on the family farm most of his life, trying to support his mother and sisters.  He never got any formal schooling.  I reckon he's a bit envious of you, in his way."

"I don't mind him." [Paradine said]

"Good man, really...ornery as the day is long, but a good man."
We find more "Mary Sue" clues on the 'about the author' page:
SHANE JOHNSON, a writer, graphic artist and spaceflight historian...also served as producer/director for the video documentary Apollo 13: Flight for Survival, and was a design consultant for the award-winning HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon.  Shane lives in Texas with his wife and son. (bold emphasis added)
Sound familiar?  Judging by his writing credits, Johnson is "a man of education and reason" like his character Daniel Paradine.  I think it would be fair to say that the Paradines do trigger the Mary Sue O' Meter a bit, but Johnson is a good enough writer not to make them the center of the Cosmos.
"We have butter, by the way," Lisabeth said.  "I put some milk in the churn, and the rough ride took care of it as we went along."

"Good thinking," her husband smiled.

"I got the idea from Martha Potter, so I can't take full credit."
Martha Potter is not a major character.  This is the first we ever hear of her.  Her appearance here shows that Johnson does not share Jenkins' urge to make his characters Teh Bestest And Smartest And Most Better Than Everyone Else Characters Evah, Evah, Evah.  Daniel Paradine is not the leader of the wagon train, nor is there any indication in the story that he "should" be.  He respects Captain Wills' judgment and accepts his leadership.  Compare that to these gems from Left Behind:
They cheered when they saw Buck. These people, the ones he had worked with, fought with, irritated and scooped, now seemed genuinely glad to see him. They could have no idea how he felt. ...
 We must be reminded, once again, that Camshaft has "scooped" and fought with irritated his co-workers, i.e., that he's just plain better than them, and he passes up no opportunity to plant his boot prints on their backs.  But they're glad to see him, oh yes!  Like frequently-kicked dogs, they still welcome their master home with wagging tails.  Then there's this scene, where Ray-gun is talking to a nameless Pan-Continental employee on the phone about his flight schedule, and when he will be returning to Chicago:
"Saturday night."


"Why? Got a date?"

"Not funny."

"Oh, gosh, I'm sorry, Captain. I forgot who I was talking to."

"You know about my family?"

"Everybody here knows, sir."
This vignette takes place in the context of the Rapture, the sudden disappearance of every young child in the world, as well as every Real, True Christian.  Everyone would be missing loved ones.  If not their own children, then nieces or nephews or grandkids.  And not having read the back of the book, they'd have no way to know that it couldn't happen again at any time.  But Rayford's loss of his wife and son is the only loss that matters.  "Everybody here" is talking about the disappearance of Rayford's family, as if they've forgotten all about their own vanished loved ones.  That's just how important and superior Ray-gun is.

What is the ultimate defining line of the towering, self-important assgasket?  "Do you know who you're talking to?!"  Any character who delivers that line in a movie is sure to be a villain, or at best the recipient of a well-deserved lesson in humility as the plot proceeds.  Ray-gun is That Guy.  But in Ellenjay's world, That Guy isn't the villain or the authorial punching bag, he's the Mary Sue.  The Mary Sue O' Meter pegs so hard here that Ray-gun doesn't even have to deliver the line!  The faceless minion does it for him, with a subservience befitting some dopey 1950's private fawning before a general in a military-themed slapstick comedy, or a happy slave from Song of the South.  "Oh gosh!  I'm sorry, Captain, I forgot who I was talking to."  Gosh?!

So, if the Paradines are authorial avatars for Johnson (and his wife and son), they say good things about Shane Johnson as a man, especially when contrasted against the grand-scale sociopathy of Ellenjay's characters in the Left Behind Series.  The Paradines are probably intended to represent Johnson's ideal of what a family ought to be like. 
"How nice it will be to be back in a house again.  I'll never complain about mopping floors or washing windows as long as I live." [Lisabeth said]

"I'm going to hold you to that." [Daniel said]

"Just because I'm not complaining doesn't mean you won't be right there helping me."

"I wouldn't have it any other way."
If anything, Daniel Paradine is too enlightened and progressive for his times.  But then, as a schoolteacher, he won't be working himself to physical exhaustion at manual farm labor, so it's at least plausible that he would help Lisabeth out with the household chores.  Lisabeth shows a degree of self-assertiveness here, and Daniel welcomes it.  He shows no desire to dominate his wife, and he doesn't have the sort of ego that quails at the prospect of doing "women's work."  In a book written by an Evangelical Christian for Evangelical Christians, this portrayal of a progressive and equal partnership in marriage as an ideal is remarkable and praiseworthy.  It shines especially bright against the dark misogynistic shadows of the mega-selling standard-bearer of Evangelical fiction.

Arrival at SkeptiCon

Wow, it took me way too long to start relating my adventures at Skepticon II, but better late than never...

It was a long drive, but well worth it!  Upon reaching the campus of Missouri State University, I tried to park in the Visitors' Parking Lot, only to find that the spaces are metered. Yes, metered.  At 20 minutes for a quarter, the last thing I wanted to do was park there and have to leave an excellent presentation or discussion with fellow skeptics so I could run put quarters in the meter.

And so I went on a quest for a modestly-priced hotel where I could stay and, this being the day of the conference, perhaps most importantly, park my car so I could get out of it.  Driving around, I happened upon this very cool retro-themed Best Western, the Route 66 Rail Haven.

Walking into the office to ask about their rates, who should I see, but Jesus Seminar scholar Robert M. Price and paranormal investigator Joe Nickell having a conversation!  And so, the choice of hotel wasn't hard.  And so, having arranged for a place for me and my car to sleep, I headed off to SkeptiCon II.

At the registration table, I met P.Z. Myers, wearing the suit he wore to the CreoZerg:  Note the Crocoduck tie!  The thing around my neck is a very cool Steampunk Cuttlefish pendant from Noadi Art.

The convention started out with a student debate on the existence of God.  I really wanted to go to that, but I ended up missing it...

...since I couldn't pass up the opportunity to have lunch, and fascinating conversation with Robert M. Price and a couple other attendees.  Price is equally at home discussing the complexities of New Testament scholarship and such things as comic books.  He made an interesting comparison between the four Gospels and a Superman story line in which Superman dies and is replaced by four "Supermen" who each represent his character differently, and inconsistently with the others.  He's very witty, funny, and friendly--and of course, highly knowledgeable in the field of New Testament scholarship.