Saturday, January 18, 2014

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Gnostic Gnotes

One of my seminary classes has a requirement to write a short paper on 1st - 2nd century Gnosticism.  This isn't supposed to be a huge effort, but I decided to make it one by going through Irenaeus' Against Heresies one more time.  The Librivox recording is just short of 1,500 minutes long.  There are a lot of other related works, including a "neo-Platonist" work against the Gnostics as well (Enneads, book II).  Recently the Nag Hammadi library of Gnostic writings has gotten some press, so I felt it would be good to take a glance at it.  Much of it follows what Irenaeus wrote.  Then there is the Gospel of Thomas.  Since I have been given a rhetorical, "What about the Gospel of Thomas?" from neo-Gnostics, who usually style themselves as "agnostics", I decided to take a look.  Here is what you get:

"These are the hidden words that the living Jesus spoke.  And Didymos Judas Thomas wrote them down."

Apparently Thomas was the insider, and not Peter, James and John.  So what are the hidden words?

"Jesus says:

   'The one who seeks should not cease seeking until he finds.
    And when he finds, he will be dismayed.
   And when he is dismayed, he will be astonished.
   And he will be king over the All.'"

This is the first example.  The entire collection has 113 sayings that seem to be more or less garbled versions of what is in the gospels, but divorced from their context.  The actions of Jesus are as important as his words.  The above quote is a variant of what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount:

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." - Matthew 7:7

But these in turn appears to be shorthand for Old Testament passages:

"But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul." - Deuteronomy 4:29

And this is one of the key problems:  The New Testament and the Old Testament are bound together by their theology and symbols.  The Gnostic writings are entirely divorced from the Hebrew Old Testament.  The OT and NT together result in a clearer and simpler meaning.  The Gnostic writings simply muddle and take things further from anything that might be sensibly understood.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The California Drought

"Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, 'As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.'" - 1 King 17:1

It is tempting to see this story being repeated in California, but we have had some dew and mist, so it doesn't quite fit.  The Biblical story tells of a kingdom that intentionally embraced total depravity as its object of worship rather than worship the God of Creation.  The king did this because the true worship was in a neighboring kingdom, and he would rather his people knowingly worship what was false than go to the neighboring kingdom with their sacrifices.  The prophets of God were all murdered, and false prophets were employed by the king and queen to tell them what they wanted to hear.

Anyway, we are about to have an official declaration of a drought here in California.  That means choices will need to be made about who gets highest priority for water.  Is it the fish?  Is it the farmers?  Is it the urban areas?  Or is it the golf courses?  Of course California is heavily investing in marijuana agriculture, yet this is one of the most non-green crops you can grow.  It takes up gobs of electricity and water.  Given that America's rumored economic improvement likely is constructed on bringing the narcotics trade into the statistics, this should prove interesting.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Alcatraz 2014 Winter Swim Video

The organizers of the even already put together an amazing video of the Saturday swim.   It is at the following link:

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Alcatraz Result

33:38, was my time if I remember right.  A personal best, but the fast youngsters finished in 22 minutes.  The San Francisco Bay was relatively calm as you can see from the picture below.  No whitecaps.  The water temperature was 51 degrees.  Given my training in 46 degree water, this seemed warm to me.  From the picture below, two were wearing wet suits and one not.  Overall, about 2/3 used wetsuits.  

Usually my breathing rate is the limiting factor on swims, so that I don't feel tired when I am done unless it is a very long swim.  This time, however, my muscles felt like they had a serious workout.  My previous Alcatraz swim times have been from 40 to 50 minutes.  A great way to start the year.

Thanks to everyone for the well wishes. 

Friday, January 03, 2014

New Year Report

Below is a picture of a vulture happily celebrating the New Year while circling above our little hiking group.  The morning started early with a light frost and a few miles in Dry Creek Par.  After the hike, I did the Polar Bear Swim.  Someone said the water temperature was 46 degrees.  The afternoon air was closer to 70 degrees.  This made the transition to swimming a bit more traumatic, but the 3,000 yards went smoothly.  There were some worries that I might have a cramp, since I did a bit of jogging on the hike and the muscles were being used differently now, but it was all uneventful.  Tomorrow is the Winter Alcatraz Swim.  The water temperature should be 5 degrees warmer.   Don't know if I can handle the warm conditions.