Archive for May, 2010

doubting the unicorn

I try to avoid the Answers in Genesis web site. But I recently saw a link to an article there, and confess, gave in to the temptation. I apologize in advance for any pain it may cause, should you choose to click through. The article is about unicorns.

As background, the King James Version of the bible uses the word “unicorn” in several places (blogger Sabio goes into that a bit here).  The article starts out with an assertion that some anti-Christians will use the King James Bible’s references to unicorns to mock Christian beliefs as akin to belief in fairy tales. Fair enough, I haven’t heard that, but I’m sure it happens.

The article then goes on to provide some guesses as to what kind of creatures the biblical authors were referring to, under the assumption that they must have been referring to a real creature. But could it be possible they were referring to a creature that never existed, under the false assumption that a legend was real?

Answers in Genesis says categorically it is NOT acceptable to think the biblical authors referred to a mythical creature. The article ends on a typical Answers in Genesis low note, with polemics against those who would disagree with them, finally concluding, “To think of the biblical unicorn as a fantasy animal is to demean God’s Word, which is true in every detail.”

Such a simple equation; doubt the biblical authors, demean God. It is ultimately a call to submit to authority rather than to exercise critical thought, and it preempts honest study into origins and meanings of the bible. If only we could all hear God’s voice as clearly as Ken Ham does. Or on second thought, maybe not…

May 18, 2010 at 11:45 am 24 comments

an allegory of bitter water

Prelude
“If a man and a woman commit adultery, kill them both.” (Leviticus 20, my paraphrase)

Allegory
A man accused his wife of cheating on him. “How can you say that?” she cried, “you have never had cause to doubt my faithfulness to you!” Despite her pleas of innocence, the husband remained adamant. “Are you calling my honor into question?” he shouted. “I will not be subject to this kind of insubordination!” In jealousy and anger, he dragged her to see the pastor of their church to seek help.

The pastor forced the woman to stand before him, alone, and told her to unpin her hair. The woman did so, her long hair flowing down around her face. The woman felt vulnerable, shamed, and afraid. “Fetch the water from my office,” the pastor whispered to an assistant. The assistant returned with a pitcher of vile, muddy-looking water.

“You will need to drink this water,” the pastor explained. “If you truly are innocent,” he said, “everything will be fine. But if not, you will become violently ill. So ill in fact, you will never be able to have children again. And also know,” he added, “should all this come to pass, your family and your church will shun you, you will live as an outcast, even in your own home.”

The pastor wrote down notes of the proceedings on a piece of cardboard, using a stylus of charcoal. With some water from a cup, he rinsed the words off, into the pitcher of muddy water. “Do you agree to this course of action?” he asked. The wife remained silent, tears streaking her face. The pastor repeated his question, his voice rising. The woman nodded her head softly. “Do you agree?” the pastor almost shouted. “Say it!”

“Yes,” the woman choked out, more a sob than an actual word.

“Drink, now,” commanded the pastor. Seeing no other option, the wife took a gulp of the water directly from the pitcher. She gagged twice before she could swallow. Her shirt was stained by the brown liquid which ran down her chin.

“Go,” said the pastor. The woman took a couple of steps back and rejoined her husband. The pastor intoned, “I hope there are no ill-consequences from this experience. I wish you many happy days together, and many children. I wish you peace. I trust we never need repeat this experience.”

Before the couple left, he pulled the husband aside. “Fear not,” he told him. “As you already know, I will ensure nobody condemns you for coming here today.” At this, the husband breathed a sigh of relief. It had not been easy, but he knew he had done the right thing.

my (amateur) commentary:
If you are not familiar with this story, it follows the outline of chapter 5 of the book of Numbers. Many Old Testament practices which sound terrible to us today are explained by apologists as the bible’s depiction of sinful people, in no way condoning the actions. I am sure that is true in many cases. This one cannot be written off so easily though, it is clearly described as God’s instruction to Israel.

The best apologetic I have read, in support of a beneficial purpose for this passage, explains that contemporary cultures were far worse, so this was a merciful commandment given to Israel by a loving God. For example, you wouldn’t want to undergo the trial of being bound and thrown into the Euphrates River to prove your innocence!

I do not find that answer satisfying though. Even if it was progressive for the time, it still seems unnecessarily harsh. Is that just my culture-bound judgement? It seems more likely to me the passage is a cultural artifact of an ancient tribe, rather than a divine message to a chosen people.

On a more positive note, this practice was not embraced by the Christian tradition. John 7:53-8:11 (the “Pericope Adulterae“) tells the story of Jesus graciously protecting a woman caught in adultery, seemingly in stark contrast to Numbers, chapter 5. “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.

There is a general consensus among biblical scholars that the Pericope Adulterae were not part of the original text of the gospel of John. If a later insertion however, it is a relatively early one (c. 4th century CE), and signifies a moderation of the Old Testament theme. And either way, I suppose there is no reason one can’t choose to believe the events actually occurred, regardless of when they were added.

May 7, 2010 at 9:08 pm 23 comments

I am strong if YOU are strong

We all feel it. Life is meant to be more than just personal pursuits. It’s most vibrant when you are taking care of the community around you. Because you know what? When you care for those around you, they in return care for you. It’s a beautiful feeling!

People in Zimbabwe have a saying for this feeling: “I am strong if YOU are strong.” In this small African country racked with poverty and oppression, you find people dedicated to caring for their community. When everything is stripped away, we find that this is the only way to live abundantly.

The song linked below is one of my favorites right now, by a fantastic band, Dispatch (though they are now dis-banded). It communicates a beautiful kind of respect and care for another person in a distant part of the world. Someone who in the eyes of the world might not be considered of equal worth to those better educated, or more affluent, or with occupations of higher status.

The band sponsors the Dispatch Foundation, founded to to “EMPOWER local Zimbabwean communities through strategic partnership and resource allocation. And provide HOPE and OPPORTUNITY to Zimbabwe through the development of a vibrant social sector.” The man, Elias, is both the namesake of the song and the namesake of  the Dispatch Foundation’s Elias Fund.

Dispatch got back together for a fundraiser concert, which includes the song in the video below, though the lyrics (which are  pasted below too) are easier to understand in the studio version.

Elias lyrics
Artist – Dispatch
Album – Silent Steeples
Lyrics – Elias

Dai Jesu achoinekwa, ndaizofara naye.
(If I could meet my Jesus, I would be very happy with Him.)
Dai Jesu achoinekwa, ndaizofara naye.
(If I could meet my Jesus, I would be very happy with Him.)

Taizofara naye.
(We would be happy with Him.)
Taizofara naye.
(We would be happy with Him.)

Dai Jesu achoinekwa, ndaizofara naye.
(If I could meet my Jesus, I would be very happy with Him.)
Dai Jesu achoinekwa, ndaizofara naye.
(If I could meet my Jesus, I would be very happy with Him.)

Taizofara naye.
(We would be happy with Him.)
Taizofara naye.
(We would be happy with Him.)

Kwaziwai.
(Hello.)
Kwaziwai.
(Hello.)

Makasimba here?
(Are you strong?)

Ndakasimba kana makasimbawo.
(I’m strong if you’re strong.)

Ndakasimba.
(I’m strong.)
Ndakasimba.
(I’m strong.)

Ndakasimba kana makasimbawo.
(I’m strong if you’re strong.)

You raise your head, you beat the sun
But your boys they lie so close to you
Do you dare get up and wake the two?

Oh Elias, I see you there, at work in the daytime.
Do you think you could answer
All the questions in the world in just one word?
I think you could.

‘Cause If you die will I get word that you’re gone?
Or will I hear it in passing conversation?
Or will I stop short and fall to the ground?
Distance is short when your hand carries what your eye found.

Hold my hand just one more time,
to see if you’re really gonna meet me.
Hold my hand just one more time,
to see if you’re really gonna meet me.

Honest and Manuel, well you know, they’re at school now
Given the chance that their father’s never seen
To see whats beyond Section 17.
And in ten years, when you look back at your boys,
well you know they’ve grown way taller
than the tallest sugar cane in the field.

If you die will I get word that you’re gone?
Or will I hear it in passing conversation?
Or will I stop short and fall to the ground?
Distance is short when your hand carries what your eye found.

Hold my hand just one more time,
to see if you’re really gonna meet me.
Hold my hand just one more time.
Hold my hand just one more time.
Hold my hand just one more time,
to see if you’re really gonna meet me.

I see your wife. She stands stooped over by the fire outside.
And I see your boys. And when they look up,
you know I think they got their mother’s eyes.
‘Cause she looks so proud. She looks so happy.
She looks so proud. She looks so happy. Yeah…

If you die will I get word that you’re gone?
Or will I hear it in passing conversation?
Or will I stop short and fall to the ground?
Distance is short when your hand carries what your eye found.

Hold my hand just one more time,
to see if you’re really gonna meet me.
Hold my hand just one more time,
to see if you’re really gonna meet me.

Hold my hand just one more time. (Aya, Aya, Ayaahah)
Hold my hand, one more time. (Aya, Aya, Ayaahah)
Dayah ya ya, yah yah yah, yah yah yah (Aya, Aya, Ayaahaha)

Hold my hand just one more time,
to see if you’re really gonna meet me.
Hold my hand just one more time,
to see if you’re really gonna meet me.

May 3, 2010 at 10:18 pm 5 comments


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