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Friday, August 10, 2007

The Seven Seals

You'll recall from chapter 5 of the revelation that John "saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals." Today I looked at chapter 6. [Note: Just sort of reading a snippet every morning, I'm working my way through without the assistance of scholarly work. Maybe I'll go back after taking advantage of such things.]

In chapter 6, the returning Christ begins opening the seals. Most famous is surely the fourth seal:
When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, "Come!" I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.

I wonder why it is so famous. I guess it has a cool rhythm to it. Sort of like, Oppenheimer's famous, "I am become death, destroyer of worlds," which wikipedia reports to be mistakenly quoted from a verse in the Bhagavad Gita. (I didn't know it was a mistakenly quoted.)

So, lots of this chapter seems to be about Christ unleashing terrible events on the Earth. I suppose that is to be comforting in the sense that it is vengeance for the terrible circumstances of Christians at the time. The closing verses seem to suggest as much:

Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?"

Thursday, August 09, 2007


All from wikipedia, the links are to the full article:

Deism is a religious philosophy and movement that became prominent in Great Britain, France, and the United States in the 17th and 18th centuries and continues to this day. Deism differs from theism in that according to Deism God does not interfere with human life and the laws of the universe.

Atheism, as a philosophical view, is the position that either affirms the nonexistence of gods[1] or rejects theism. When defined more broadly, atheism is the absence of belief in deities, alternatively called nontheism. Although atheists are commonly assumed to be irreligious, some religions, such as Buddhism, have been characterized as atheistic because of their lack of belief in a personal god.

Agnosticism (from the Greek "a," meaning "without," and Gnosticism or "gnosis," meaning knowledge) is the philosophical view that the truth value of certain claims—particularly metaphysical claims regarding theology, afterlife or the existence of God, gods, deities, or even ultimate reality—is unknown or, depending on the form of agnosticism, inherently unknowable due to the nature of subjective experience.

My faith journey has always been about refining my understanding of spiritual ideas, including the idea of God. I feel pretty okay about that. Consider the following very limited survey of different understandings of God recorded by various Jewish writers:

"Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." Gen. 1:2. "Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, 'Where are you?'" Gen. 3:8-9. "Then Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain and said, 'This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: . . .'" Ex. 19:3. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning." John 1:1-2.

Nonetheless, in pushing to come to a rational and relevant understanding of God that is as in line with my life experiences as these various expressions were in line with the experiences of these authors, I also constantly question if I am moving toward one of these -isms.

Anyway, this is a half post. It is a work in progress and pondering post. I'd be interested to hear what others think.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Lion and the Lamb

Here is the Fifth Chapter of Revelation.

I read it as a continuation of the theme of triumph established in the fourth chapter. There is also a hint of the metaphor roller coaster we'll be on. John the Revelator is at first really upset because no one on heaven and earth is worthy to open the seals, but the elders tell him "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals." Judah is the tribe of David and Joseph and therefore the tribe of Jesus. Then the very next verse begins, "Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders." We quickly learn that the Lamb is "worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because [it was] slain, and with [its] blood [it] purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation."

So the Lion is the lamb. Christ is King and Sacrifice. This speaks to me particularly when I think about the metaphorical sanctifying of Abraham, John, Martin and Bobby. [FN1] They were all king and sacrifice. John's revelation seems to attempt to communicate to the listener/reader this aspect of Jesus, complete with the appropriate -- I don't know -- magnitude?

At this point in the book, I am still able to maintain an emotional connection with the author, although I already have lost some of his imagery, such as multi-eyed, six winged beasts.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Spinoza's God

I just finished Spinoza's proof for the existence of God. His definition of substance does all of the work. Here is what substance is:
III. By SUBSTANCE (substantia) I understand that which is in itself and is conceived through itself: that is, that, the conception of which does not depend on the conception of another thing, from which conception it must be formed.
From there, he not only proves that God must exist, he proves that only God must exist, and what is more, only God does exist. So, God is everything. Therefore, God doesn't have intellect or will. And so on.

I found on the web some folks that postulated that Spinoza was the first panentheist. That is not right because penentheism believes that God is everything and more. Also, while panentheism provides some challenges for the notion that God acts in the lives of people in response to prayer (at least it does for me), it suggests a conscious knowing universal God. What that means for beings that are a part of that knowing loving God, is food for thought.

I had heard people suggest that Spinoza's proof is actually tongue in cheek--that it is intended to prove too much and therefore really be a proof against the existence of God. I think that is not an unreasonable reading. I'm anxious to move on to his books regarding mortal ethics. This book seems to delightfully prove God out of relevance if not out of existence. As a student of rhetoric and persuasion, I can't help but admire that.

Monday, August 06, 2007


So, what does the phrase "moral values" mean to people? Have Republicans so won the war of rhetoric that it only means anti-gay & anti-choice? I just don't understand how the people you think will do a worse job with health care, the environment, immigration and even government ethics! could possible do a better job when it comes to moral values. In fact, since we are talking about people who run the government (political parties), isn't government ethics effectively a synonym for moral values?

I seriously blame lazy liberals. Who let these guys talk like they had the monopoly on morality?