Sunday, January 25, 2015

Hacked!

My computers seem ok, but one of my credit card numbers has gotten out.  There is a certain entertainment and educational value to everything, however, and the notable part of this is what was purchased:  It was a gift subscription to "Muslims4Marriage", which is an Islamic dating site.  Any thoughts out there on this?  Since I am the one paying for the introduction, should I try to get an invite if there is a marriage?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

California Supreme Court: Judges can't be members of Boy Scouts

This is the latest ruling, but it seems that I have missed a trend that has been going on for a while.  The article says that 22 states have rulings baring judges from serving if they belong to groups that bar people based on sexual disorders.  I had wondered how that squares with say, Islam, which says that gays should be executed, or Judaism which also says that gays should be executed, but only if they are within the borders of Israel and the government is a Jewish theocracy.  Christianity teaches that those with sex disorders should be admonished to reform their ways and that their access to target populations should be restricted, which is likely where the Boy Scouts got their rules.  The article indicates that there is one remaining exception to the California courts rules, which is for religious organizations.  The "ethics" advisory committee had even gone to the point of banning judges from being part of US military organizations prior to the rulings that sexual disorders were not to be discriminated against in the US military.  My understanding is that this is doing wonders for morale as Christian US soldiers are commanded by lesbian officers.  How does that work if the officer who sends you into combat hates you more than the enemy?

The article quotes the committee as saying this will "promote the integrity of the judiciary" and "enhance public confidence".  No doubt the sex predators will all agree.  I can't really protest any of this, however, since the US is a neo-pagan theocracy, and I am like Abraham before, an "alien and pilgrim" on the Earth.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Yes, Men-toring IS Sexist.

I made the unfortunate mistake of reading this article and found myself face-to-face with my depraved inner self.  Yes, I am a man.  The shame of it.

My previous studies taught me that Mentor was a character from the Odyssey, where he was an old man who served as a teacher sent to guide the son of Odysseus, Telemachus.  Except that Mentor really was the goddess Minerva in disguise.  So I had thought it wise to avoid taking on the role of Mentor lest someone should mistake me for a goddess.  What hadn't crossed my mind was how this was a view brought on by extremist sexism.  Is it really the case that an ordinary male should be ashamed of the more honorable reputation of a woman?  And not just any woman, but rather a goddess?  Clearly my brain was clouded with testosterone.  But then the flip side of it is that both the societies of ancient Greece and modern America are both so patriarchal that they cannot admit even having received critical life counseling from the divine if that divine being happens to be female.  So from now on I shall only refer to Femtor rather than Mentor.  Or perhaps I will start asking young people who your Femtor/Mentor is.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Homo's and Ousia: The Church Council of Nicea (325AD)

This incident has probably been described a few million times on the internet already.  From my readings, the early Christians accepted the teachings of the church and things were going along merrily with the various persecutions being done at just the right intervals to maximize the growth of the church.  Yet they really hadn't spent a lot of time pondering the nature of God the Father and the relationship with Jesus as God's son.  Then Arius came along and tried to insist that God the Father and Jesus were not coequal, but instead that Jesus was less than God, but more than man.  This seems to have been accepted for a time, and was at least compatible with the various classical superstitions that were already in place.  For example, Hercules would have been somewhere between the gods and men, so that Jesus could readily have been viewed in a similar light.
Most of Christianity hadn't given this much consideration, but Athanasius of Alexandria determined that a clear distinction was needed between a classical Pagan Philosophical view of Christ on the one hand, and the Judeo/Christian view on the other.  A council was called by the Roman emperor Constantine to settle the matter.  Going into the council, most seem to have been in favor of some sort of compromise, but as the group of theologians studied and discussed the matter of a period of months with great care, while studying the scriptures, the large majority of them settled against the classical philosophical forms of Arius and chose the Trinitarian formula instead.

Where confusion sets in for our day is that, the manner in which the trinitarians chose to make the distinction employs the language of classical philosophy, in particular the word οὐσία, (ousia).  οὐσία is usually translated as "substance" or "essence" in its philosophical usage, and "property" when used to speak of someone's wealth.  In the Bible, only the latter usage is found.  The former usage of οὐσία is primarily found in Aristotle's works On Categories and Meta-Physics, thus, intimidating the masses and offering a temptation to the mystics.

Now that I have had some Greek, however, it is best just to go to the basics.  οὐσία is simply the participle form of εἰμι, which is the Greek verb, "to be".  In other words, οὐσία simply means "being", and it is the something that constitutes the most significant aspect of its existence.  The prefix "homo" just means "one", thus, ὁμοούσιος, (homoousios) means "one being".  In Greek it comes off as much cleaner in meaning than when we translate this into English as "one substance".
This usage of language, however, resulted in a separate dispute, since the distinguishing of Christian theology from classical philosophical theology was accomplished by adapting classical philosophical terminology.  Perhaps they could have started with a Hebrew framework.  For example, the Hebrew name for God is "I am", YHVH, and Jesus picks up on this at a number of points, such as in John 8:58-59, "Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.' So they picked up stones to throw at him ...".  Thus, the Jews understood that Jesus was claiming that he is the same, "I am" as God, and were trying to kill him for blasphemy.  All the trinitarian formulation is really saying is that Jesus and God the Father are the same "I am", or that their "being" is the same.  This is incomprehensible to classical philosophy, but as they used the terminology of classical philosophy to express it, some have argued that the trinitarian formula is based in classical philosophy.  That is my takeaway from the latest review.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Prediction for 2015: The Jews will ally with the "Far Right" parties against Europe's Establishment Parties

It is about time for me to make a prediction.  Furthermore, it should be a risky prediction, since predicting that the Spring will come is not particularly brave or useful.  Since Netanyahu and Le Pen were both disinvited from the "Je Suis Charlie" event, I will stick my neck out and propose that certain parties that began anti-Semitic will find it in their interest to reverse course, just as those which were not formerly anti-Semitic have already found it convenient to become hostile to the Jews.

This isn't to agree that there are "right wing" or "far right" groups in Europe.  The term "right" in Europe refers to parochial fascism that respects traditions while demanding massive government intervention, as opposed to universalist fascism which seeks a pan-national, lowest, non-common cultural denominator with a similar per capita rate of perpetually increasing government bloat.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Je ne suis pas Charlie

That heading already gets more than half a million hits, so I probably should learn to be more creative.  And before going on, my condolences to the families of those who were murdered.  May God grant you comfort in your mourning and a way to come to terms with the shock that will go with you the rest of your lives.

The favored conservative explanation for my contrarian title is that we live in a censorship crazed West where the number of speech crimes increases constantly so that we almost need to have hour by hour updates to keep from running afoul of the speech gestapo.  And now we suddenly are going to proclaim ourselves in support of Charlie Hedbo?  And would anyone be supporting Charlie Hedbo now if they weren't offering up leftist mockery?  What if they had regularly mocked PETA?  Or Greenpeace?  Or Multi-Culturalists?

I will pick my starting point as the Biblical book of Jude:

"But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively."

Mocking what you don't understand is a bad idea, whether you are conservative or leftist.  Then there is my Christian viewpoint that the worldly conflicts we see are manifestations of spiritual conflicts of a different sort in another dimension.  Humans are like blindfolded vermin in the middle of different battle lines in the spiritual battle, and we are going to hurl insults at all the nearby combatants?

So I am for free speech at least to the level of trying to make some sensible understanding of the world.  But as a mocker myself, I need to take this more as a self-examination exercise.  I regularly mock or am tempted to mock leftists with their pretenses to knowledge and wisdom.  Yet admittedly, all this does is inflame them all the more against me, and it doesn't help them in the least to come to a correct opinion on anything.  On the other hand, my mocking is usually the result of trying to make some sense of things.  Leftists from what I can tell usually mock as a final goal in itself, although some conservatives do this as well.  This sort of mocking is the worst kind, and makes a mockery of free speech laws at the same time.  If the only purpose of free speech is to mock, then free speech is a worthless commodity.

"Not Afraid"

Brave words.  A bit like kicking a rattle snake while blindfolded.  There is no reason to be afraid of what you can't see.  Just ask the ostrich.

And with that, I will admit that I am doing a lot of censoring of what I write on this topic.  Je ne suis pas Charlie.

Friday, January 09, 2015

The Story of Feminanity, Vol. 1, by Justo Gonzalez

Professor Gonzalez has anticipated that some uneducated fundamentalists would take note of his translation of a letter by Pliny the Younger (61AD-113).  This tells of the Roman governor's dilemma as he tortures two Christian slave girls.  The traditional English translations refer to these women as "deaconesses", but Gonzalez uses the term, "ministers".  This immediately caught my eye, even before I found out that the full English translation of this series of Pliny's letters was separately included in our course translations and also used the word, "deaconesses".

Professor Gonzalez thus gives this topic a suitable delay, and then forcefully establishes his authority in the matter:

" ... Governor Pliny informed Trajan that he had ordered that two Christian female ministers - ministrae - be tortured." - The Story of Christianity, Vol. 1, pg. 114

Ouch.  I stand corrected.  The Church clearly had female Ministers from the earliest times.  Just to be 100% sure, I checked the Latin edition and found that he was correct:

"Quo magis necessarium credidi ex duabus ancillis, quae ministrae dicebantur, quid esset veri, et per tormenta quaerere." Letters of Pliny, Book X, 96

But then just for fun, I put the Latin into Google translate, and miraculously, ministrae in Latin translates to deaconesses in English!  Why not "minister"?  Google translate certainly isn't the final word in translation, so we need to gives this some more looking.  How about the 1910 Encyclopedia Brittanica:

"The word minister as originally used in the Latin Church was a translation of the Greek diakonis, deacon; ..."

OK, so deacon wasn't originally a Latin word, but the Latin Bible, the Vulgate, transliterated the Greek, διάκονος, into the Latin, diaconus".  Pliny couldn't have used diaconus, because this was a church Latin of a later age.  Instead, he used ministrae, because this was the proper translation of διάκονος into Latin.

To finish this off, let's look at an entry from the Maryknoll Catholic Dictionary:

"minister (L. servant) ... 4. There is no Catholic usage of the word to mean an ordained cleric as is the fashion of Protestantism."

Or to put it another way, the modern Protestant usage of the word, minister, is very much different from the Latin, ministrae, of 100AD.  Instead, the modern word, deaconesses, is the appropriate translation.

I am beginning to think that the point of reading The Story of Christianity centers on the errors.  If there weren't glaring errors, I would snooze through reading the book, but since every other page smells of something rotten, I have some motivation to do some research and track things down.  Yeh!

Thursday, January 08, 2015

The Story of Christianity, Vol. 1, by Justo Gonzalez

This is a required book for a class at Western Seminary, which is supposedly the "conservative" seminary in the Bay Area.  The book is by Justo Gonzalez, who is a professor at a United Presbyterian seminary.  We should note that the United Presbyterians are the world's fastest shrinking religion at the moment.  I just have a few remarks since I am just starting this book.  There were a number of things that didn't quite pass the "smell test", but I will select just a few.  In 70AD the city of Jerusalem was completely destroyed, but the Christian community survived because it packed up and moved a few years earlier:

Eusebius, History of the Church, book III, chapter V:

"But the people of the church in Jerusalem had been commanded by a revelation, vouchsafed by approved men there before the war, to leave the city and to dwell in a certain town of Perea called Pella."

Gonzalez pg. 28:

"Soon thereafter, the leaders of the Christian community in Jerusalem decided to move to Pella, a city beyond the Jordan River, the population of which was mostly Gentile.  This move seems to have been prompted, not only by persecution at the hands of the Jews, but also by Roman suspicion regarding the exact nature of the new religious sect."

This is an example of what bugs me with histories.  It would have been a shorter read to include the original source, but instead a longer version is included that contradicts the original based on modernist speculations.  These speculations, however, aren't even defensible, since the church in Jerusalem had already survived several decades of persecution and poverty.  Why make the move?  The end result is a conflicting narrative, not only about this specific move, but involving just about everything associated with Christianity's reaction to the destruction of Jerusalem.  Much of the problem here seems to be an emphasis on an evolutionary meta-narrative regarding Christian consciousness that was probably dreamed up in the 19th century.

Gonzalez pg. 27-28:

"In that early church, authority was vested primarily in the twelve (although some scholars suggest that this emphasis on the authority of the apostles appeared slightly later, as part of an effort to tighten up the system of authority within the church)."

Scholars have speculated every possible permutation of the origin of the Bible, so I don't quite know what this is all about.  Eusebius places a great emphasis on the settling of the Biblical canon, which Gonzalez doesn't really engage with, except to invoke (without credit) the minority position of Eusebius that Revelation couldn't have been written by John the Apostle because the Greek is different from the gospel and letters of John.

Regarding the execution of Christians by Pliny the Younger under the reign of Trajan, Gonzalez offers this:

Gonzalez pg. 50:

"Not quite convinced that this was the whole truth, Pliny put two female Christian ministers to torture."

Compared to what Pliny actually wrote:

"I thought it the more necessary, therefore, to find out what truth there was in this by applying torture to two maidservants, who were called deaconesses."

Other translations refer to two female slaves, but retain the term deaconesses.  My sense is that the Gonzalez variation is reflecting a bit of the modern feminist religion, but can't be quite sure.

And so I will proceed with the usual attitude towards wikipedia:  Don't Trust, But Verify.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Friday, January 02, 2015

Buddhism and Buddhists in China: Corrections

Going a bit further into the book, it is clear that I have a number of errors that will undoubtedly land me into purgatory for cleansing.  The most significant is that the Buddhists have a fairly elaborate system of punishments for the morally challenged, and this is accompanied by a long list of the offenses which lead to punishment.  There is also an affirmative requirement to do good.  The Buddhist purgatory is said to have been imported to China, thus, it dates back to the early stages of the Buddhist system.

A curious feature of Chinese Buddhism is the attempt to marry Confucian family ideals with the mental nothingness of Buddhism.  These actually seem to me to be complete opposites.  Seriously, can anyone hope to have a mental state that is completely devoid of any concerns while being married to a Chinese tiger mom?  The Confucians were quite clear on the impossibility of this, thus, one Confucian scholar writes:

"The Buddhists, disliking the excesses to which the evil desires of men lead, would put away, along with them, the actions which are in accordance with the justice of heavenly principles, while we, the orthodox, put away the evil desires of men, whereupon what are called heavenly principles are the more brightly seen." - Buddhism and Buddhists in China, by Lewis Hodous (1872-1949)

I don't know that any system can "put away the evil desires of men".  Just ask a feminist.  But Christianity and Aristotelian ethics seem to be more in accordance with Confucian thinking, while Buddhist morality appears to be more over-the-top.  What is surprising to me is to learn that Buddhism had been suppressed by Confucianism in China.  A separate surprise is that the aggressive Japanese government of the early 20th century was pursuing its expansionist agenda in sync with Japanese Buddhism:

"This Buddhist world has much more of a program than it had twenty-five years ago.  its object is to unite the Mahayana and the Hinayana branches of Buddhism and to spread Buddhist propaganda over the world.  At present the leadership of this movement is in Japan.  It is in part a political movement.  There is no question that Christianity is not at all pleasing to the Japanese militarists.  It is regarded by them as the advance post of western industrialism and political ambition.  Quite naturally such leaders desire to make the Buddhist world a unit."

There are many more remarks in this work that support this from different angles.  The original data of this text is December, 1923.

A final note of interest is on charitable works, which include schools and hospitals.  These are encouraged among the Buddhists, at least as of a century ago.  My main observation on this is that Buddhism is big in Taiwan today, yet the landscape seems to be dotted with Christian hospitals, in this Christian minority land.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Buddhism and Buddhists in China, by Hodous (1872-1949)

This work was published in 1924.  The reading of this work is as a follow on to Giles' works about religion in China, in which he skipped Buddhism for the reason that too much had been written on the subject.  The work was intended for Christian missionaries.  I have been following this up with a reading of the Buddha and Buddhism articles in the 1910 Encyclopedia Brittanica, with my usual suspicion of later scholarship.

My personal interaction with Buddhism is through the Chinese community, which generally leaves me with an impression of some sort of superstition based, prosperity gospel.  Prayer is for health, wealth and successful children.  The Western fascination with Buddhism centers on Japanese Zen, which Giles pointed out was a Japanese refinement to early Chinese Taoist philosophy, and really has nothing at all to do with Buddhism.  So what precisely is Buddhism?  I will give a few tentative thoughts, while retaining the right to revise them.  The following are what I see as the original Buddhist notions and how they compare with Christian views.

1. Buddha's teachings were the product of self-revelation in reaction to other views of his time.  In other words, he made it all up, although to the believers, his making it up was a true revelation.  Of course Atheists will assert that all religious views are just made up, so that is really not saying much from their perspective.  Of course, Atheists arrived at this conclusion through self-revelation.  Christianity has a strong emphasis on the "Word of God", which is the source of truth, whereas the self-revelator is called the "false prophet".

2.  Buddha's teachings were not referenced to God, yet deal with the souls of men and the supernatural.  Whereas Christianity has a view of God as being outside of creation and having a purpose to all that is being done.  Causality is part of the overall scheme of things, but the overall is done according to God's purposes.  Buddhism has causality, but doesn't seem to have any purpose.

3. Buddhism has no concept of salvation.  In Christianity, a sin is a permanent, fatal error, which is why our conscience retains this.  The dealing with sin has to be done at a legal level that Buddhism doesn't have a concept of, thus, salvation is meaningless to Buddhists.  From a Christian perspective, even if Buddha achieved perfection, he still lived a life of indulgence before perfection was acquired, and he is legally responsible to God.  So far I don't see that Buddha had any answer to the guilt that comes with sin.  In this sense Buddhism is similar to Modernanity, which has some sort of moral teaching but denies the reality of sin and the need for salvation.

There does seem to be some sort of a moral component to Buddha's teachings, although I would characterize them more as vague principles than anything concrete.  The original Buddhist teachings developed into something quite different in China as various other notions were grafted onto the original.  There were also distinct forms that developed outside of China, so the question, "What is Buddhism?" is not one that admits to a simple answer.