Posts tagged with: Faith

Virtual Reality Introversion

Look ma, no dignity!

I'm pretty sure that in my lifetime virtual reality systems will become commonplace. They may not be at a level that's indistinguishable from reality but they will be good enough that people will spend a lot of time in them.

Seeing how obsessive people get today with MMORPG's like World of Warcraft, or even environments like SecondLife that aren't even based on a "game", it's pretty certain that a significant part of the population will just check out if given halfway convincing virtual reality.

There has always been a contingent of the population ready to check out in various ways. And while some people are naturally prone to some form of addiction I think this will affect vast numbers of people who would otherwise be considered normal as far as their addictive qualities.

I read an interesting article that speculates – theology aside – that the reason we've never encountered alien races is because after reaching a sufficient point in development, technological cultures will delve inward on themselves and focus on entertainment and gratification rather than self-improvement and exploration.

What should be our response as Christians to this eventuality? Will there be missionary groups sent to reach the lost souls trapped in this man-made "Purgatory". Would we be called to spend time in the virtual world to interact with these people. How would we prevent these missionaries from going native and being consumed themselves. (i.e. "in the virtual world but not of the virtual world".) If we refused to participate would we be seen in the same light as the world now views the Mennonite groups who eschew modern-day technology?

I'm not trying to imply that VR is inherently evil or that spending time in it would be much different than other forms of entertainment Christians currently partake in.1 But somehow this seems like something that would be more pervasive in its potential to absorb people rather than just a part-time dalliance. But maybe I'm just being a fundamentalist Luddite who can't accept the inevitable.

  1. That raises a different issue about the amount of time that we already spend on frivolities.

Moses Had Horns?

Horny Moses

It's true. Moses used to have horns. Sort of.

In the early 5th Century, when Jerome translated the Latin Vulgate, he misinterpreted the story of Moses' encounters with God at Mt. Sinai.

Exodus 34:29-35 describes Moses as having a supernatural radiance to his face after each encounter with God. The effect was so striking that it frightened the Israelites and he donned a veil to hide his face from them.1

When Jerome translated this passage into Latin the part about Moses' face being radiant, or emanating rays of light was mistranslated as him having "protruding horns".

"Radiance emanating from his face" became "horns protruding from his head".

Artists of the time seized on this esoteric idea and all depictions of Moses from this period show him sporting little goat-like horns.

Long after this mistake had been accounted for, artists persisted in using the horns to depict Moses because it served as such an iconic device for identifying him. The most famous example being Michaelangelo's sculpture created for the tomb of Pope Julius II.

So for a time, Moses had horns.

  1. It would seem that in our fallen state we are not prepared for even a reflection of God's true glory.

Dennis Jones' See With Me Bible

See With Me Bible

Last month on Easter Sunday we were the sponsors at the baptism of our friends' baby boy, Jacob. As a gift Jennifer picked up a children's picture Bible called the See With Me Bible, illustrated by Dennis Jones. I was blown away by the quality of his work.

Jones' style is lush, whimsical, and filled with humor. The Bible stories are told solely through the illustrations with no accompanying text except for a short one-sentence message at the end of each story.

The most notable feature of the illustration work are the character designs. Each character depiction is unique and easily identifiable, from Adam and Eve, Noah, and Moses through Jesus and the Disciples. They're all painted with exaggerated poses and features, each with their own subtle nuances.

While the exaggerated characters are what make the work so appealing, I found the depiction of Jesus to be a little over-the-top. He looks too much like a comic book super hero.1

Jones paints in gauche and post-processes the illustrations in Photoshop, adding a few digital effects like depth of field blur.

Many of the illustrations from the book are available online as prints. I may have to pick up a few.

  1. I struggle with our Westernized stereotypical image of Jesus. While we can only guess at what Jesus looked like we do know he wasn't a white guy. This is a topic not easily resolved, especially, I imagine, when trying to publish a children's book.

The More You Know

The season of Lent is full of many special days, each with their own designated title, beginning with Ash Wednesday. Holy Week itself is ushered in with Palm Sunday. Then there's Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and finally Easter Sunday.

But what is the name of today, the Saturday that comes between Good Friday and Easter Sunday? Although I've never heard it mentioned, it turns out that Holy Saturday or Black Saturday are the traditional names for this day.

So there you go.

Modest Discovery

I've often wondered what would happen if there was a true discovery of a lost book of the Bible. Rather than something revelatory that would devastate the foundations of the Church it would probably be a modest work that would simply enhance what is already in the Bible.

Last year when The Da Vinci Code movie came out there were a lot of stories about the “Gospel of Judas” and other so called "lost" books of the Bible. Although the media portrays these as sensational events, biblical scholars know that these are not books that were lost, but were widely known about during the time the Bible was canonized. These writings were rejected because they didn’t conform to the true message of Christ. They weren't lost or forgotten about -- they were thrown away.

Even in their own lifetime the original disciples of Jesus had to spend energy combatting heresies that were creeping into the Church. In particular, much of the Apostle John’s writing was in response to the growing problem created by gnostic beliefs disguised as Christianity.

But what if there was a newly discovered work that could conclusively be proven to have been written by an Apostle, such as Paul? If it matched his writing style, and if the work didn't offer any new revelations (or blasphemies) but merely supplemented his other writings, what would be the response of the Church?

Would we accept it into the canon of Scripture or would it forever be a curiosity, a humble footnote. Perhaps we would accept it, believing that "in the fulness of time" God had revealed more of his Word.

Either way, I'm sure that some publishers would be quick to market a "Bible 2.0".

Childhood Misunderstandings

Precious Moments

When I was little, before I could read, I thought that the line in the Lord's Prayer "And lead us not into temptation" was actually "And lead a snot into temptation". By my child logic it stood to reason that because snot is usually undesirable we were asking God to bring a spirit of snottiness unto whatever would try and lead us astray.

I thought it was strange that everyone rattled this line off every week in church, but that I'd be asked to change topics whenever my conversations became preoccupied with this bodily substance.

When you're a kid, you're forced to accept a lot of things that don't make any sense. You think you'll understand better when you grow up. I'm still waiting for that to happen.

Obligatory Comments on "The Da Vinci Code"

Vitruvian Man

I know this issue has already been covered in great detail all over the place, but here's some more fuel for the fire.

We had the pleasure of attending a forum on "The Da Vinci Code" yesterday evening at a local church. One of the speakers was talk show host Michael Medved. He gave a very good presentation on why "The Da Vinci Code" phenomenon presents ideas that are damaging to our culture. Here is a summary of his key points.

Attacks Christianity

By suggesting that the Church devised "the biggest cover-up in human history", and the depiction of Christians as murderous, self-flagellating fanatics, it seems pretty clear that "The Da Vinci Code" openly attacks Christianity. The story's premise is that Jesus was not the Son of God but that the Church created this myth in order to gain power and suppress the populace.

Michael Medved is Jewish but is outspoken in his support for Christianity as a positive force in the world, especially in the US. He says that an attack on Christianity sets a bad precedent for all people of faith.

Promotes Paganism

With its many references to the "sacred feminine" and descriptions of hieros gamos sex acts, "The Da Vinci Code" promotes Neo-Paganism. Medved defines Paganism as a feel-good "spirituality" devoid of moral or ethical behavior. It's a false kind of spirituality based on self-gratification without any obedience or obligation to a higher authority.

Encourages a Conspiracy Theory Mentality

Central to the plot of "The Da Vinci Code" is a massive conspiracy put forth by the early Church and enforced in modern times by an extremist Catholic sect. These kind of wild theories are bad for a society based on democratic principles and the importance of the individual.

When people believe in powerful groups manipulating world affairs from behind the scenes, it creates a sense of hopelessness. Rather than seek to affect positive change in the world, those who indulge in conspiracy theory remain indifferent, blaming invisible superpowers for the ills of society and reveling in their own victimhood.

"But It's Just Fiction!!"

If author Dan Brown hadn't insisted on how factual his novel's underpinnings are, maybe we could dismiss the whole thing as fiction and just enjoy it as an entertaining story. But the book opens with a statement on how accurate his facts are and he's stated in several interviews that he believes the work to be truthful.

Furthermore, even fictional stories have had a powerful impact on shaping public opinion. Initial research has shown that a significant number of people believe in Dan Brown's theories about the origins of Christianity.

My Own Thoughts

If people are being hoodwinked by false teachings, we as Christians are responsible for setting the record straight. It's not enough to dismiss something because it labels itself as innocent fiction or popular entertainment.

As The Message translation of 1 John 4:1-3 states:

My dear friends, don't believe everything you hear. Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you. Not everyone who talks about God comes from God. There are a lot of lying preachers loose in the world.

Here's how you test for the genuine Spirit of God. Everyone who confesses openly his faith in Jesus Christ – the Son of God, who came as an actual flesh-and-blood person – comes from God and belongs to God. And everyone who refuses to confess faith in Jesus has nothing in common with God.

In other words, any teaching that denies the divinity of Christ is either (A) extremely misguided or (B) evil. There doesn't seem to be any middle ground in this regard, nor is there any exception made for works of speculative fiction.