Friday, March 23, 2018

That evil Bible, again.

Neither do car repair manuals usually mention the
Makah Indians or totem poles.  What could they  
possibly be for?   
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As in most memes, inanity and error battle for supremacy here.

Regions mentioned in the Bible -- North Africa, the broad designation "Ethiopia" (which seemed to mean "Africa, south of the deserts" to Greek historians), Southern Europe, Arabia, Asia Minor, perhaps tribes beyond - certainly constitute more than 1% of the world's land area.  And unlike, say, the Alexandrian Romance, or probably China's Classic of Mountains and Rivers, you can actually match up most biblical name-places to something in the real world. You can learn some geography from the Bible: not that that is what the book is for.

Of course the Bible doesn't cover World History or American History.  Who ever said it did?  Take Stephen Hawking's Brief History of Time as a text for your Civil War class (it at least has the word "history" in its title), and see how you do.  A meaningless point.  Especially since, again, you can learn things about history from the Bible which you can't learn anywhere else, in such detail.  (Hundreds of facts recorded in Acts have been verified in other sources, for instance.

When it comes to biology, the Bible pre-empts modern racists (some very Darwinian) by pointing out that all races are human.  And it pre-empts silly modern radicals by saying God only created two sexes.

Biblical cosmology involves a beginning, and the universe out of nothing.  That's something, or two things, physicists have recently learned, and Christians knew all along.

But King David said, "When I consider the heavens, the work of Thy fingers . . . "  As if it were a good thing to look at Nature and ponder its character and meaning. And Solomon said: "It is the glory of God to hide a matter, and of the king to find it out."  In his influential arguments for reviving or creating empirical science, Francis Bacon quoted Solomon's words at least twice. So the Bible intends not to teach cosmology, but to inspire the study of the stars, as indeed it helped to do.  (As scholars who have studied the history -- Chapman, Landes, Hannam, Stark, etc -- have often pointed out.)

But the parade of inanities proceeds.  The Bible isn't a medical book! Of course not. But it has inspired thousands of hospitals and probably billions of cures (I have met some of the doctors, like Dr. Paul Brand, who with his wife and colleagues helped millions of the disabled, and who wrote books with titles from Psalm 139.).

What about ameliorating the effects of war? Henry Dunant, winner of the first Nobel Peace Prize, whose work led to the Geneva ("Calvin was here!") Conventions, is described on Wikipedia in part as follows:

"Dunant was born in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1828 as the first son of businessman Jean-Jacques Dunant and Antoinette Dunant-Colladon. His family was devoutly Calvinist and had significant influence in Geneva society. His parents stressed the value of social work, and his father was active helping orphans and parolees, while his mother worked with the sick and poor. His father worked in a prison and an orphanage.

"Dunant grew up during the period of religious awakening known as the Réveil, and at age 18 he joined the Geneva Society for Alms giving. In the following year, together with friends, he founded the so-called "Thursday Association", a loose band of young men that met to study the Bible and help the poor, and he spent much of his free time engaged in prison visits and social work."

Well isn't that weird. They studied the Bible, and then went out and helped the poor and imprisoned, just like Jesus said. And then Henry went and tried to save the victims of warfare from dying.

The Bible does once say, "Spare the rod, and spoil the child," true.  Anyone who takes this as a license for child abuse is a fool and it ignoring the tenor of the NT in general.  Anyone who thinks a parent who spanks a miscreant mildly when needed, should be put in prison, is a tyrant and also a threat to society.

The modern conception of Human Rights grew out of a Christianized culture, and the example of Jesus.  In this forum, I have traced the lines of influence from Jesus to some of the world's greatest reforms.  Time prevents me from doing the same with others, but such reforms are going on around us today.

The author of this meme (as of most memes) appears to know little of history or theology, and is intellectually unjust, besides.  He or she is part of that vast modern ignorance, of skeptics flailing against the ground on which they stand, cursing the tree from whose remoter branches they swing.
Could someone cut down this tree, please?  I can't see those cherry blossoms over there.