Monthly Archives: January 2011

not liking it

I need some help from my fellow Mac geeks (or those familiar with Safari). Last night, I did a basic system update without any real problems. As soon as it was done, I closed up and went to sleep. This morning, when I reopened for ‘business’, I found something strangely (and annoyingly) different about Safari, and I’m not liking it.

Before, when using tab-browsing, I could create a ton of new tabs without any trouble.  Command-T, and that’s it.  (Or, if I’m feeling mousey, double-click in the grey area next to an existing tab, and done). Now, if I create a new one (in either way), the existing tab loses the page and goes straight to my ‘top sites’ page, which looks like this:*

To make things more interesting (=annoying): let’s say I create a new tab and remain unbothered by the loss of the page in the first tab. If I type a website into the newly created tab and hit enter, the tab that lost everything becomes the place where the website typed into the new tab appears. (Still with me?) I’ve looked into Preferences to see if anything was different about my tab-browsing options, and nothing has changed (and nothing was added with the update).

Anyone have any ideas?

* Those of you recognising your own website, don’t try to read anything into the order in which they appear. Even though Jim West‘s page is first.


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While doing some ‘spring cleaning’ of my hard-drive,* I came across this:

And Jesus said unto them, ‘And whom do you say that I am?’ They replied, ‘You are the eschatological manifestation of the ground of our being, the ontological foundation of the context of our very selfhood revealed.’ And Jesus replied, ‘What?’

I honestly cannot remember where I got it originally, so I cannot cite it properly.  All I can say is that it ain’t mine, but I wish it was because it’s awesome. And hilarious. And probably true.

* I realised the other day that I have 51GB available space . . . out of 200GB.  Yeah, some stuff has to go.

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that was close

During my lunch hour tootle around the internet, I found this video of a close call on a snowy motorway. I think if it were me driving the car, I would need to stop at the next services and purchase some new pants. More than anything, I’m thankful to see/hear that Matthew (the driver), his (unnamed) passenger, the lorry driver and anyone else involved were unharmed in the incident.

Near the less significant side of my gratitude, I was pleased to learn that the camera was dashboard-mounted and not in Matthew’s hand, which I admittedly first assumed. (Although, when you consider the plethora of instances where drivers are filming things, my assumption does have a bit of reasonableness to it). I was also relieved by the fact that Matthew is probably one of the few people who used the word, ‘literally’ in the correct way. (I cringe at the misuse of ‘literally’ about as much as I do with the misuse of ‘actually’).

However, where my gratitude starts to fade is with the nearly incessant repetition of the incident. (I felt like I was listening to Christian praise and worship music). Seriously: five replays in the span of about a minute. It’s not like I’m watching the replays thinking that it might turn out differently. Moreover, I was a bit insulted by the fact that the reporters felt the need, on the third replay, to isolate the shot, by greying out everything else, so that I could see the lorry destroying the barrier. Oh, so the lorry destroying the barrier the first two times was not what I was supposed to see? My mistake. Replay it again.

Where I have zero gratitude is with the decision to title the story, ‘Driver films near miss with lorry.’ I’ve ranted about this before, so my comments here will be few. I fully accept that the English dictionary supplies ‘avoided collision’ as a possible definition for ‘near miss’, but I have to fully disagree simply because it just doesn’t make any sense. I have to defer to (and agree with) George Carlin on this one.

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maybe a new contender

for the ‘best piece of processed digital meat ever’ award. I found the following comment in my spam folder this morning and I could not help but share. (This one came from someone called, Andres Middleton). Happy reading:

On November 18 2009 Over the last few weeks I have been going through and updating all my on my website and it still looks to me that present indications are that Jesus will return 2030-2040 AD. I know that late date does not please the 2012-2019 second coming of Jesus crowd but they simply are wrong so that is their problem.



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what to believe (2)

Last week I began to look at a particular statement of faith put forth by a chap called, James L. Melton. Also, I pointed out that simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ responses to the questions asked are not always so simple. (Go here for part 1 of the series). This week, I want to pick up where I left off and consider two more of the questions asked by Mr Melton.

3. Do you believe that God is a Holy Trinity, consisting of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
Yep, I do . . . although, I prefer the term ‘Godhead’ to ‘Trinity'; but that’s a minor issue.

4. Do you believe that the Lord Jesus was born of a virgin, without a man being involved, and lived a sinless life for thirty-three years as God manifest in the flesh?
Except for the ‘thirty-three years’ bit, yes I can affirm this. However, before explaining that exception two things need to be said about the nature of this very question. First, while this is a fairly straightforward claim for those with a decent grasp of Christian teaching (or basic theology) it might not be the case for those wanting to begin their journey of faith.[1] To put it differently: if I had little to no knowledge of the Bible and someone asked me if I believed the above statement (i.e. #4), I think I would be prone to ask: what do you mean by ‘Lord Jesus’, ‘lived a sinless life’ and ‘God manifest in the flesh.’ These terms would need a fair amount of explanation before I could commit to believing them. So while this makes sense for a church to believe, it does not make much sense to ask someone if they believe the same thing when in reality they don’t understand the terms.

Second, and slightly less substantial than the first, the qualifier ‘without a man being involved’ is quite superfluous in light of the explicit condition, ‘of a virgin’. I honestly cannot think of why such a qualifier is needed. If Mr Melton is trying to respond to the myth that Mary was impregnated by someone other than Joseph–usually a Roman soldier–that’s fine, but a statement of faith is not the place to have that discussion. (As before, Mr Melton is more than welcome to comment here and/or clarify his meaning).

Now, allow me to return to the ‘thirty-three years’ comment. My first question would be: is this really essential? Does the timeframe really need to be that specific? Why not just say, ‘Jesus lived a sinless life’? I ask this partly because the Bible (including ‘the infallible copy’ of the KJV) never says how old Jesus was when he was crucified. The traditional view of 33 years is based (partly) on two assumption: 1) because Luke 3.23 says that Jesus ‘was about thirty years old when he began his ministry’, he was either just shy of or just barely past 30 years of age; and 2) the Gospels seem to portray Jesus’ ministry as lasting for three years, based on the number of times he visits Jerusalem for specific feasts or Jewish holidays.

However, there are key flaws in both of these assumptions, which individually and collectively affect the traditional view of 33 years. First, and to come at this backwards, the Gospels do not specify precisely how long Jesus’ ministry lasted. Quite honestly, the Gospel writers do not seem to care about the length of time; it’s just not a pressing (let alone, necessary) issue for them. The only Gospel that provides some clues as to how long the ministry possibly endured is Luke. At the start of Luke 3, he refers to a known event in history: the reign of Tiberius Caesar (14/15-37 CE). He even goes as far as to give us a clear(ish) reference point within that known event: ‘in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’ (Lk 3.1).

The general consensus among scholars is that this ‘fifteenth year’ refers to either late 28 CE or early 29 CE. Now, Luke uses this chronological marker not only to situate the ministry of John the Baptiser but also the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry (see, Luke 3.21-23). That’s the start, but what about the end of Jesus’ public ministry. The short answer (as many of you might be please to read) is that the strongest evidence points to 14 Nisan (or, 03-April) 33 CE. This, then, would give us a ministry lasting just over four years–maybe close to five.

We now have to address the second key flaw–i.e. the assumption of Jesus’ age at the start of his public ministry. If we use the 28/29 CE date as the starting point, this would presumably make sense of the ‘about thirty years old’ comment in Luke 3.23. The thing to recognise here is that this obviously assumes that the transition between BCE to CE (or BC to AD) is the point of Jesus’ birth. However, the Bible (including ‘the infallible’ KJV) points to a time of birth several years prior to this transition, a fact that Mr Melton must recognise if he is faithful to the implied claims of 1 and 2 in his statement of faith. Here’s what I mean.

The birth narrative, as told in Matthew, informs us that Herod the Great was in charge of Palestine at the time of Jesus’ birth (see 2.1). Moreover, the Gospel of Matthew goes on to tell us that the holy family fled to Egypt because of Herod’s decision to execute male children under the age of 2, and that the family remained in Egypt until Herod’s death, or shortly thereafter (Mt 2.19-20). Here’s the deal: it is a known fact that Herod’s reign lasted from 37-4 BCE. This means that Jesus’ birth had to take place prior to Herod’s death in 4 BCE, not at the transition between BCE and CE. If we throw in the ‘under 2 years of age’ bit, then we can tentatively offer a birthday of around 6 BCE.

Now for the problem that Mr Melton must explain: if we use 4 BCE as the absolute earliest birthday for Jesus (from Matthew’s Gospel), and if we use 28/29 CE as the start of his public ministry (from Luke’s Gospel), then this means that Jesus was either 32 or 33 when he began his ministry. Moreover, even if we accept the traditional view of Jesus’ ministry, this would mean that Jesus was either 35 or 36 when his ministry ended. If we mix things up a bit and allow the 14-Nisan 33 CE date, this would make Jesus either 36 or 37 years old at the time of his crucifixion. (Things get mixed up even further is we use the 6 BCE date as the time of birth). This compels me to ask Mr Melton: why are you asking me if I believe in a 33-year sinless life when the (biblical) evidence says that Jesus’ life was longer than that?

[1] This point ultimately applies to concepts, phrases and/or claims made in statements of faith, especially if they are consulted by a person unfamiliar with such things.

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in you’ve ever wondered (ladies) . . .

A study was finally conducted to see what guys thought of the “latest” women’s fashion trends, which has a summary report here. (I put “latest” in quotes because many of these trends are nothing new; they are simply attempts at resuscitating something from the past . .  . which should have been left to rot in peace).

If you are a woman reading of this blog (there should be about five of you), please consider the responses to the fashion fads; I think there is much truth in what these guys are saying (although, I have a couple of concerns with some of answers). If you are a guy reading this (that would cover the remaining three of my readership), please feel free to chime in if you any further opinions or suggestions.

I do have one main concern with the findings of this study.  While I find myself in agreement with the guys’ responses to sweats (especially Steve and Joey), wordy t-shirts (especially Ed), uggs (all four guys and the jury) and ginormous sunglasses (especially Ed), I am quite troubled by the responses about leggings (with the exception of Joey), which I’m assuming includes the ridiculous jeggings, and miniskirts.

Here’s why I’m troubled: let’s assume for the moment that the opinions given about leggings and miniskirts represent the vast majority of guys. If that is the case, and if these sorts of comments are being made, then the reality, ladies, is that you are being objectified and considered sexually appealing in a ‘one-night-stand’ sort of way. In other words, these sorts of opinions show that the vast majority of guys have very little concern with who you are as a person and are more concerned about whether or not they can score. And this opinion/hope of theirs is formed simply on the basis what you’re wearing. I would bet (and hope) that you are not that superficial and are not wanting to play into this when you choose an outfit. If you are (and only you can know this), then I pray for you–specifically your own understanding of your value and self-worth.

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a little help

Why is WordPress all of a sudden logging me out more frequently? I’ve had to sign in four times . . . just today. I never had this problem before. It used to be that I could sign in and then just let it be, and this would often last for about a month or so (sometimes more). Any one else having similar issues? If so any suggestions?

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what to believe (1)

A while back I came across this website, for reasons I cannot rightly recall, and wanted to do a series that responded to the last major bit: ‘What Should a Church Believe?’ For reasons equally beyond recollection I lost track of my notes that were meant to serve as an outline for my response. This inevitably (and obviously) delayed things for a while. However, I recently found the notes, which then rekindled my desire for this series. So, here we are and here we go.

One more caveat. Since these 20 different questions appear to be the sine qua non for locating a true Bible-believing church, and since my response to each question might require a little more than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no';[1] I will select a group of questions (varying in number) and answer that group in each post throughout this series. Clear as mud? Fine, let’s get on with  it.

First things first
Mr Melton offers an interesting suggestion: ‘Before joining any church, ask for a Statement of Faith and check it carefully.’ Of course, because we all know that Paul and the other apostles carried those things around with them or left them in the churches they established. Joking aside, I can see some value in this suggestion because statements of faith can help someone know if a particular church’s beliefs are consistent with biblical teaching. If a church professes that ‘Jesus drove around Palestine in a Bentley,’ or, more substantially: ‘Jesus did not die for the sins of the world,’ then we might be safe in asking that church, ‘Where in Sheol did you get that idea?’

One further detail related to the ‘Statement of faith’ bit  needs to be addressed. Based on the questions that Mr Melton supplies, it appears as though his criteria for what constitutes a ‘good’ or ‘true’ statement of faith is one that is able to answer affirmatively the 20 questions he supplies. So I am compelled to ask: is a church’s statement of faith true because it corresponds with affirmative answers to the 20 questions, or is it true because it corresponds with teachings drawn from the biblical text? Moreover, are these 20 questions really the only relevant questions to ask? Also, are there not other questions that could be added to the list that are worth considering? And do these question have to be asked in this specific way or is there some flexibility?

1. ‘Do you believe God has preserved an infallible copy of His word for us today?’
Well, it depends on what you mean by the ideas of preservation (and to what end), ‘infallible copy’ and ‘for us today’. To come at this backwards: I’m not comfortable with the first-glance reading ‘for us today’ because the relevance of God’s truth is not something limited to the modern world. I think (and believe) that God’s truth has been and will continue to be relevant throughout history. If this is what Mr Melton really means, then I would suggest dropping the ‘for us today’ part–that is unless something else at work that requires the phrase.

The phrase ‘infallible copy’ is problematic for me on a number of levels. First, which copy? There are thousands of ancient, biblical manuscript-copies to choose from, and there are a significant number of ancient, biblical codices that are (wait for it) copies.[2] And don’t get me started on the number of English translations, which are also copies of the ancient copies. Second, the very term ‘infallible’ means, ‘incapable of making mistakes or being wrong.’ If we are talking about the written biblical documents from history, then I cannot fully accept this phrase for the simple fact that there are ‘mistakes’ in the ancient manuscripts. Some words are misspelled, some are omitted, some are changed all together, and sometimes entire stories are either inserted or left out.[3] I think it better to say that God’s truth is infallible and that the fallible biblical writers (and copyists) did all they could to articulate that truth in the clearest and most accurate way possible, making occasional mistakes along the way.

Finally, the phrase ‘God has preserved’ is slightly less problematic but still a bit difficult for me. To dispel any fears, I will admit up front my belief that God has played a crucial, providential role in the endurance of his truth throughout history. However, I equally believe that God not only used human agents to take record of and copy his truth but also allowed and equipped them to preserve that truth–a responsibility that they most certainly did not take lightly. If, on the other hand, I disallow this responsibility and task of preservation via human copying, and place the full responsibility of disclosure and transmission on God; then an entirely different set of questions emerge. How do we account for the ‘mistakes’ in the ancient manuscripts and codices? And what might that say about God? Why is there not one English translation, presumably based on absolutely perfect manuscripts, instead of so many different English translations? More to the point: why are there translations at all?

2. ‘Do you believe the King James Bible is God’s infallible word for the English speaking people?’
First of all, and quite bluntly: no, I do not (and cannot) believe this. Second, if this question stands behind the first one (which I am quite sure it does), then I must respond with an emphatic ‘no’ to that one also. I do not (and cannot) believe that God has preserved an infallible copy of his word–i.e. the King James Bible–and that this infallible copy is the sole property of English speaking people–i.e. ‘for us today.’ God’s truth is much larger and far more encompassing than those specific (and let’s not forget, ‘insulting’) restraints.

UPDATE (16-Jan-11):
While writing part 2 of this series, I found another version of Mr Melton’s statement-of-faith-via-20-questions, which can be found here. One key differences between the two statements is that the second one includes biblical texts, presumably offered to substantiate the implied beliefs in the questions. Another key difference is the qualification added to question #2, which says: ‘If the answer is “NO,” then ask “What is God’s infallible word? Can I see a copy?” ‘. This qualifier is nothing but a loaded question, one employed primarily for the sake of advancing a particular belief about a particular translation of the Hebrew OT and the Greek NT. In case there are any questions about whether or not Mr Melton is advancing a particular belief, go here, here, here and especially here.

[1] Which means we can pretty much guess the conclusion Mr Melton would have about me.
[2] I am making a distinction here between manuscripts of 1) particular biblical books and/or letters and 2) complete codices which contain many biblical books and/or letters.
[3] I remain committed to the argument that while mistakes do exist in the ancient manuscripts (and codices), none of these mistakes affect essential teachings or doctrines of Christian belief.

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in the words of Charlie Brown

‘Oh, good grief.’  To which I would like to add: ‘Oh, give me a break!’  Why the exasperation?  Simple: this story.

I can sympathise with people like Marie Exley who want to get the word out that this world (and, by extension, this life) is temporary, that Christ will return at some point in the future and that God will ultimately restore all things to how they should be.  That is certainly a message worth proclaiming and I applaud Exley’s sacrificial attitude in spreading that word.  However . . .

I cannot, in good conscience (let alone sanity of mind), agree with the notion that ‘we can know’ the precise timing in which the above-mentioned message will find fulfilment.  We cannot.  Period.  Part of my refusal is based on one of the asinine lines of argument used by those in this doomsday movement: Allison Warden knowingly admits that spreading this ominous message is ‘against the grain.’  But then she goes on to say: ‘We’re hoping people won’t take our word for it, or Harold Camping’s word for it. We’re hoping that people will search the scriptures for themselves.’

Umm, no; you are hoping that people take your word for it–especially Camping’s word for it–because if people searched the Scriptures for themselves, they would not arrive at the conclusions you and Camping hold dear.  How do I know this?  You want your message to succeed, otherwise you would not invest so much time and energy into it.  However, the only way for your movement to succeed is to get people to see the conclusions that you and Camping cling to (i.e. believe to be true), and the only way to get them to arrive at such conclusions is to get them to read the Scriptures in the way you and Camping read them–or, take your and Camping’s word for it.

I especially cannot agree with such things when they come from the ‘studies’ of Camping, who is a known false prophet and recognised for his poor handling of biblical texts.  Not too long ago, Camping made the rather bold claim that the world was going to end in 1994.  (He made this claim in his conveniently titled book, 1994?, published in 1992).  He tried to steer clear of becoming guilty of Matthew 24.36 by saying that the end of the would occur between 05-Sep and 27-Sep (1994).  He believes he avoided Matthew 24.36 because that passage specifically talks about knowing the ‘day or the hour'; so if Camping can place his prediction within a particular month, then presumably no one can accuse him of being a false prophet. Umm, no. We still can.

Now, Camping is asserting that he can know ‘[b]eyond the shadow of a doubt, that May 21 [2011] will be the date of the Rapture and the day of judgment’. (Now he’s guilty).  How can he know this absolutely, and why should we trust him?  Because of his close readings of the Bible and his (poorly-based) theories about how the Bible reckons time.  I would bet that these readings and theories are the same ones he used in 1992 for his 1994 prediction . . . which failed.  What I find interesting this time about Camping’s prediction is that he places his own ‘salvation’ on the line.  He boldly says: ‘If May 21 passes and I’m still here, that means I wasn’t saved.’  (By ‘still here’ he means not being raptured before judgment. . . I’m biting my tongue on that discussion).

Thankfully the article (cited at the start of this post) recognises that Camping is not the only one in history who has made similar predictions about the end of the world.  Among the failed attempt of William Miller (mentioned in the article), here are a few others: the Watchtower Society (i.e. Jehovah’s Witnesses) predicted 1874; Joseph Smith (founder of the Latter Day Saints) believed 1890 to be the year; C.T. Russell (leader of the JWs) predicted 1910 for the rapture and 1914 for the final judgment; since we’re on the JWs, they also projected 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975, 1984 and 1994; the ‘Children of God’ predicted somewhere in the 1970s; Hal Lindsay believed it would be 31-Dec 1981, then revised it to 2000 (for the rapture) and 2007 (for the final curtain); Jack van Impe said 2001; and then of course the Mayan prediction that made a brief appearance in the theatres, 2012.  Guess what?  We’re still here.

So, while I salute Marie Exley in her desire to get the word out about what God is going to do, I simply cannot endorse the specific beliefs to which she (and others like her) adhere–especially in light of the fact that such beliefs originate from Harold Camping, not the Bible.  Camping predictions have failed before, thus making his prophecies false–just like all the others who have attempted similar things.  His teaching and ministry should not be promoted; they should be abandoned.  And I say this will all due respect and Christian love: if Marie does not want to (continue to) feel alienated, mocked or considered insane because of her beliefs, then she needs to take a moment and consider what it is that she is committing herself to and see if it indeed corresponds with the biblical text and not someone’s lamentable exegesis and poorly based theories.  In her own words: ‘if wouldn’t hurt to look into it.’  In fact, I think it would do a lot of good (correcting).

UPDATE: since starting this post, the able-minded Scott over at Scotteriology offered his perspective in his usual, enjoyable and astute form.

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