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Star Trek’s Prime Directive – A lofty idea with a few wrinkles

Image FET-OPEN call deadline via Twitter

In the fictional world of Star Trek, the Prime Directive is a core regulation of Starfleet. To understand what the Prime Directive means, we have to know how Star Trek depicts its moral universe.

Star Fleet officers usually see themselves as an alliance of “good guys” belonging to the United Federation of Planets, as opposed to the “bad guys” made of up species like the Cardassians and the Borg.

Starfleet is concerned about right ethics, so the Prime Directive stipulates noninterference with other species’ planetary development.

This applies to space exploration through normal time¹ and to time travel. Violating the prime directive results in court-martial, except in extenuating circumstances.

The Prime Directive sounds like a great idea but, we could ask, what exactly does “non-interference” mean?

Extreme causal loop time travel paradox animation

Extreme causal loop time travel paradox animation – Wikipedia

Religious and New Age people, for instance, tend to say that humanity is invisibly guided by advanced beings residing in the universe, astral realms, heavens and throughout time.² If so, a Federation starship crew might have a moral responsibility to help primitive but eligible species develop better ways of living.

Despite its lofty ideal of non-interference, the Prime Directive is often breached. Moral dilemmas are key to dramatic storytelling and, it goes without saying, TV ratings. In real life, St. Paul says that moral dilemmas are best solved by following the spirit instead of the letter of the law.³ So it’s not surprising that the Prime Directive is often messed with.

As any good popcorn popping cultural studies or phony entertainment critic will say, art follows life and life follows art.

A relatively novel mystery arises with The Prime Directive’s treatment of temporal paradoxes. For obvious reasons, Star Trek’s writers never fully answer the tricky question: Could a time traveler going back in time be certain what choice out of many possible choices would be best? Or, for that matter, is there a single, best choice?

English: Capt. Jean-Luc Picard as Borg Locutus...

Capt. Jean-Luc Picard as Borg Locutus – Wikipedia

Possible answers to these conundrums lead to notions of a plethora of potential outcomes and universes (to include parallel universes) and a multiverse (which differs from parallel universes).

Tantalizing cosmological questions have been posed by both mystics and subatomic physicists, but no universally agreed upon answers have been found due to their speculative nature.4

But one thing is certain. The Star Trek mythos is no silly fantasy but, rather, provides us with some of the best imaginative thinking in 20th and 21st century science fiction.

Related » Aliens, Angels, Jane Roberts, UFOs

¹ Technically, Star Trek might be at odds with reality because warp speeds are faster than the speed of light but travelers experience no time dilation. But being good sci-fi, fans are obviously willing to give the benefit of the doubt.  They weren’t as forgiving with Space 1999, which was visually interesting but a bit of a bomb.

² For some, demons try to get us off track.

³ Usually associated with St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:6, the idea has other applications. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letter_and_spirit_of_the_law

4 Sometimes the speculation is forwarded as a hypothesis, which is good, healthy science or mysticism. But other times it is not, as with those claiming to have advanced knowledge that others lack. In religion and the New Age, these mentally unwell characters may be ego-inflated holy men and women or, from my experience, some religious studies professors who do their esoteric “thing” under the cover of academia. In both cases, these half-baked manipulators are blind to their own prejudices and do everything possible to convince you that they know better. Watch out!

 Star Trek Continues, The Trek Show That Fans Wanted (ansionnachfionn.com)

 Star Trek spat: Why did one Starfleet captain block another on Twitter? (mashable.com)

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Predestination – Software is updated… why not theology?

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea.

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea – Wikipedia

The Chairman of the Bored

Not sure if it’s because of the holiday season and all the extra activity – inner and outer – during this time. But I’ve been letting this entry hang, fully aware it’s in need of revision. Which is a nice way of saying… I’m bored of theology!

Actually, I’m not bored of theology per se. If I’m predestined for anything, it’s to think about God and creation, trying to figure out how it all works, realizing I’ll always fall short due to my human limitations.

But that’s just it.

Human limitations.

I’m finding it dull and uninspiring writing about what a bunch of men thought about God over the centuries, some of whom were probably misogynist and racist.

It just seems so stiff and wooden.

So I’m going to boil it down to two main points. Or rather, the two main forms that, historically speaking, the idea of predestination takes.

Predestination in a nutshell

The first type of predestination, articulated by St. Augustine, is that some individuals are divinely predestined to reside in an eternal heaven. Many believe the following New Testament passage supports this belief:

Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father” (Matthew 20:23, NIV).

English: Laszlo Szlavics Jr.: John Calvin memo...

Laszlo Szlavics Jr.: John Calvin memorial medal, 110 mm, bronze, cast, 2008 – Wikipedia

The second type, called “double predestination” (or dual predestination), is the belief that God predestines some for everlasting heaven and others to eternal hell.

Gottschalk of Orbais, an unorthodox 9th-century theologian was imprisoned for advancing the notion of double predestination.

Centuries later, the Protestant reformer John Calvin made double predestination a key feature of his theology, differentiating it from the Catholic take.

Leading questions

Again, this is only the simplest of outlines. The idea of predestination has been debated for centuries among world religions. Some of the leading questions are:

  • Is God good?
  • How could a good God allow some souls to suffer an eternal hell?
  • Does God actively plan or passively allow eternal damnation?
  • Is God all-powerful?
  • Is God all-good?
  • Are we in a position to understand or judge God?
  • How do we envision God, after all?
  • Are we free to make good or bad choices?
  • Are we determined in some grand web of cause and effect?

The questions and answers are, indeed, many.¹

Time for an update?

Plasma Lamp by Luc Viatour via Wikipedia

Historically, it seems that theologians play word games to try to justify their limited outlook on God, space-time and creation.

God knows in advance how we will choose, for instance. Similarly, God permits but does not enforce our evil actions, we often hear.

This doesn’t intellectually satisfy most people because the answer is way beyond our human capacity for understanding.

With our imploding/exploding 21st-century cosmology where matter/energy and space/time are not absolutes, the old ways of looking at the issue come off even more stale and regimented.

Carl Jung picked up on this problem. His solution was to say that God is half unconscious and, really, half bad. For Jung, God learns to be ethically better through God’s own creation.

I think this is rubbish. Jung, despite his best efforts to differentiate the ego from the archetype became a bit egotistical in my opinion. True, I never met him. But from his work and biographical material it seems he occasionally fell into the power trip trap.

This morning I noticed a new article about Near Death Experiences.² It adds an intriguing piece to the puzzle.

solarein – Coma Domine via Flickr

The author says he died but came back.

During his comatose “death” he literally felt all the bad things he had done to other people. And each hell, he says, is custom made for a particular person’s transgressions.

Whoa.

My solution

Rather than speculate too much, I think it’s more practical to just try to do our best at being good. Deep down I believe we all know what that means. Some of us may be so messed up, touchy and unhappy that we do bad things to compensate for our hurt. We try to rationalize our bad behavior.

But in the end, we know.

And so does God, I believe.

* “The Chairman of the Bored” are lyrics from the Iggy Pop tune, I’m Bored.
¹ See Wikipedia entry for more interfaith details.
² My tweet:

 

Related » Book of Job, Determinism

 Western philosophy is racist (aeon.co)


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Prayer – Devotions and distractions?

Prayer can be personal and social, these two expressions often overlapping but not always. Sometimes we just pray alone, other times while gathered together.

Both types of prayer – personal and social – are almost always spiritual, be they couched in traditional religious terms or not.¹

In the social sense, prayer is a gathering where people call out to a higher power for some kind of favor, comfort or remembrance. Sometimes these merge with the state (as in televised, non-denominational ceremonies like Remembrance Day), other times not (as in specific, denominational services).

Prayers often petition or communicate with a deity, higher being or power, to include deceased ancestors (as in ancestor worship).

Ideally offered with humility, prayer can be highly structured or unscripted and spontaneous.

Devotees usually pray through spoken word, thought, writing and song. Prayer is also found in the arts, multi-media or merely as an act of the will.

Bodily posture may or may not be important to prayer. Some pray, for instance, kneeling while others dance, as with the whirling dervishes of Sufism. Others pray while sitting or lying down. Or maybe while holding a yoga posture.

Christians believe that the Our Father prayer is unique because it is the prayer that Jesus, God’s only Son, gave to the world (Matthew 6:9–13 and Luke 11:2–4).

Another important distinction is between vocal and mental prayer. Like all kinds of prayer, these can coincide. But there is a shift in emphasis between them.

Sometimes after weekday Mass parishioners will continue on, reciting many written Catholic prayers from a printed page. Clearly this is important to them but for me it can be distracting.

After receiving Jesus Christ in the Eucharist I would like some quiet time to reflect on that momentous experience. But apparently some Catholics still need to recite additional vocal prayers to feel close to God—even then.

the prayer continued by ☻☺ via Flickr

At times like that I always remember the Biblical verse telling us not to reel off prayers like clanging a bell (my paraphrase of Matthew 6:7).

Sometimes silence speaks louder than words.

¹ Occasionally we hear the phrase “a whim and a prayer,” meaning we’re in a tight spot and only luck will see us through. Technically the word “whim” is wrong. The original phrase is “a wing and a prayer.” Professor Paul Brians explains this common mistake:

whim and a prayer / wing and a prayer

A 1943 hit song depicted a bomber pilot just barely managing to bring his shot-up plane back to base, “comin’ in on a wing and a prayer” (lyrics by Harold Adamson, music by Jimmy McHugh). Some people who don’t get the allusion mangle this expression as “a whim and a prayer.” Whimsicality and fervent prayerfulness don’t go together.

See https://brians.wsu.edu/2016/05/19/whim-and-a-prayer-wing-and-a-prayer/

The beauty of English, however, is that it evolves in different ways. So if “whim and a prayer” works better in a given situation, I say use it!

Related » AUM, Michael Brown, Contemplation, Faith and Action, Fasting, Hail Mary Prayer, Holy Rosary, Intercession, Meditation, Mental Prayer, Saint Michael, Mysticism, Rosary, Serenity Prayer, Vocal Prayer

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Elvis Presley – The King of Rock and Roll

Image – Wikipedia

Yeah they said you was high-classed
well, that was just a lie

– Elvis Presley, “Hound Dog”

Elvis Aaron Presley (1935-77) was an American rock and roll singer and guitarist, born in Tupelo, Mississippi. He is generally seen as the “King” of Rock and Roll.

Elvis got started singing in a church choir and taught himself how to play the guitar. Sun Records in Memphis soon discovered his talent.

By 1956 his unique combination of country/western and rhythm ‘n blues rocketed him to fame.

His provocative stage persona drove teens into a frenzy of screams, tears and fainting, like the Beatles after him.

But Elvis wasn’t just sexy, charismatic and cool. He was the man of the hour, musically and culturally.

His energized interpretations of songs and sexually provocative performance style, combined with a singularly potent mix of influences across color lines that coincided with the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement, made him enormously popular—and controversial.¹

Elvis made 45 rpm records selling in the millions, including “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Love Me Tender,” “It’s Now or Never,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight” and “All Shook Up,” to name a few.

Capri Club 2009 - the army home of Elvis Presley

Capri Club 2009 – the army home of Elvis Presley by jorbasa / Barbara via Flickr

On TV he appeared on the major variety shows, including The Steve Allen Show, The Ed Sullivan Show and The Frank Sinatra Timex Show.

Elvis ventured into films with Love Me Tender (1956), Loving You (1957), King Creole (1958), GI Blues (1960) and Blue Hawaii (1961), among many others.

His movie roles were secondary to his music. Apparently film directors never gave him a chance to try a dramatically significant role. Story has it that Elvis wanted to become a serious actor.

Drafted by the Army in 1958-60, his stardom was intact when he returned to the US.

But it didn’t last long. The Beatles and the “British Invasion” swarmed the continent, and Elvis’ career hit the skids. He recorded his last hit single in 1969.

In the 1970s Elvis became a nightclub performer in Las Vegas and many of his tunes took a turn to gospel. During these years he kept a loyal following, but his fan base was much smaller than in his heyday. When I was a kid (born in 62) I remember watching a Vegas era show on TV with a kind of fascinated pathos, as if I was watching a living tragedy.

Soonafter Elvis got hooked on various prescription drugs, took to unhealthy eating habits and died of an apparent overdose in 1977.

Now a legend, the King of Rock and Roll’s twilight years look much better in retrospect.² His 1968 TV appearance was miles ahead of others who would follow “unplugged” in the 80s an 90s.

Like all the greats, Elvis’ star never really faded. He’s become a global icon and admirers make pilgrimages to his home at Graceland.

Behind Mickey Mouse and Jesus Christ, he’s been cited as the third most popular figure on the planet today.

¹ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elvis_Presley

² As an adult I appreciate and enjoy his gospel tunes but as a kid they seemed lame, signifying a dead career. Funny how one’s perspective changes over time.

 Fats Domino: The quiet rock ‘n’ roll rebel who defied US segregation (scroll.in)

 An American Boy: Remembering Tom Petty (stereogum.com)

 New Elvis Presley Book Reveals Shocking Facts behind The King of Rock and Roll’s Image (prweb.com)

 People can’t stop laughing at the new Lady Gaga wax figure that looks nothing like the singer (businessinsider.com)

 Cridlin: Tom Petty was the scruffy Florida boy who helped us feel (tbo.com)

 Most Famous European Musicians (247wallst.com)

 German police retrieve 100 stolen John Lennon items (triblive.com)


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Pisces – Something fishy here?

pisces

Pisces – Peter Tittenberger via Flickr

Before the internet most newspapers had a horoscope section. It might have been a small weekly column or a full-blown page on weekends.

Every morning my family read the local paper. I always managed to get the entertainment and sports sections. And the index. You always needed the index because that’s how you found out where your horoscope was.

Sort of an extra feature, like the comics, the horoscopes were juggled around to fit any blank space in the daily edition layout.

How times have changed… Or have they?

Horoscopes are still popular. Today people read more than a newspaper blurb. Now you can get a complete online reading if, that is, you know your date and time of birth. Press the button and the machine tells your life story.

Why are horoscopes still around?

Science generally says they’re rubbish. Christian theologians don’t like astrology much either (although Hindus consult astrologers during wedding ceremonies).

It seems there’s a middle ground between science and religion that appeals to the public. Something like myth and fantasy. I guess that’s where horoscopes come in.

Anatomical Man in the Duke Berry's Très Riches...

Anatomical Man in the Duke Berry’s Très Riches Heures (Photo: Wikipedia)

Whenever updating the astrology entries at Earthpages.ca I feel like a bit of a fraud. I’ll be honest. I don’t really believe in astrology any longer. Not sure if I ever did.

I know some people do believe and I respect that. We’re all different with unique paths. But for me, the power of God and the Holy Spirit makes any kind of “cosmic force” look small. It’s not that I don’t believe in cosmic forces. I do. It’s just a question of magnitude and relevance.

Let’s for a moment concede that cosmic forces affect the psyche. But what about God, the creator of those cosmic forces? God is infinitely larger and more powerful than any influence of Jupiter or Neptune.

Some astrology believers just don’t get this. They see God as the sum of the observable cosmos, known to thinkers like me as natural pantheism.

Still don’t see what I’m saying?

Let’s try this. Instead of the cosmos acting on mind and body, how about something more immediate, like nutrition.

Most people agree that nutrition is important. The substances we ingest directly influence our minds and overall health. But that’s not the whole story. Jesus of the New Testament tells us that we don’t live on bread alone. It’s the “alone” part that matters. There’s something more. Christians call it the Holy Spirit.

Likewise with astrology. We are not influenced by creation, alone. There’s more. The Creator of creation. Simple as that.

Take another analogy. God made the wind which, although invisible, is a powerful force. I believe in the wind from seeing, hearing, feeling and sometimes smelling its perceptible effects.

However, any good sailor can tack into the wind. We don’t have to be blown around just because the wind exists.

God gave us a mind and the ability to choose.

Well, enough preamable. Rather than rewrite my existing entry on Pisces, I’ll just tweak it.

No need to perpetuate the charade. I don’t believe in astrology. Life is too complex and ambiguous to be boiled down to an arbitrary theory. I’m not saying astrology is totally false. Cosmic forces no doubt exist. And astrology has entertainment, mythic and historical value. But to invest too much in it, I think, falls somewhere between spirituality and superstition.

A juvenile distraction, fine. But for spiritual adults, one hopefully moves on.

Pisces (February 19 – March 21) is the twelfth and a winter sign of the zodiac, symbolized by the fish and associated with the planetary rulers of Neptune and Jupiter. Its element is water.

Astrologers say that from Neptune, Pisces longs for a return to the primal waters; that is, a plunge into the underworld depths of the collective unconscious.

From Jupiter, Pisces is youthful, with all the pros and cons accompanying adolescence.  Astrologers say Pisceans are gentle but with fits of rashness, even cruelty.

Sometimes passive and lazy, Pisceans apparently alternate between lethargy and spells of vigor, enthusiasm and hope.

Prominent Pisces include Johnny Cash, Billy Crystal,  Elizabeth Taylor, Rihanna, Albert Einstein and Justin Bieber.

Pisces – The book of birth of Iskandar – Wikipedia

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Psi Spies – A different kind of dark web?

Preamble (skip)

I always feel a bit apprehensive writing about paranormal phenomena (psi). Earthpages is about dialog and change. And none of that will happen if readers are alienated by fringe topics.

If I simply wanted to mirror today’s trends and forget the call to innovation, my words might be a good fit at HuffPost or some other leading site. But that’s not me nor how I envision Earthpages.

Paranormal phenomena may be fringe but for some it’s very real. I know. I’ve met people like that. Actually, there are differences among psi believers. Some, like myself, don’t have a problem with, say, going to Catholic Mass and accepting that paranormal events may occur.

I walk the line, as the song goes. I don’t want to get too close to the paranormal crowd because, frankly, some of them do seem a bit misguided and flaky.

By the same token, I question whether I’d call myself a “Catholic” or simply a “Christian.” I’m a Catholic in the eternal sense but certainly not in the cultural, card carrying sense. You won’t see me parading around with placards condemning the latest moral issues highlighted by the Vatican (funny how those visible protesters rarely get up in arms about other serious things… like corruption, for instance).

Point is, I straddle different worlds, never really belonging to but participating in many. The same with my regard for psi. I listen to Coast to Coast AM but tune out when the show gets silly. Just as I’d tune out a TV preacher the moment they start delivering that “God loves abundance” sermon with the donation number flashing on the screen.

Psi Spies (back to top)

Psi has become slightly more mainstream over the past few years. I just wrote about psi and so far the piece has 7 likes. Not astronomical but better than none.¹

Most say that psi studies don’t produce reliable results. However, law enforcement agencies still consult with psychics in search of dangerous criminals.

The US government pulled the plug on a Remote Viewing project because, so the story goes, it didn’t produce results. But some of the faithful still practice and write about RV. Researchers say they are honing a technique that will enable anyone to RV.

In this case, seeing really is believing.

Backtracking a bit, an Oxford schooled Indian mystic, Sri Aurobindo, once wrote that humanity is evolving into some kind of uberman.²

If Aurobindo and other gurus are right, a new type of battlefield might arise in the not-too-distant future. After all, information is key. And if certain, gifted individuals could “read” or “see” others at a distance, wouldn’t that be a staggering asset?

Enter psi spies.

Dystopian futurists predict psi spies perceiving the innermost secrets of VIPs. These psychic sneaks would have socially acceptable covers and go unnoticed. Your professor, the charity organizer, the brain surgeon next door.

The hostiles would work up profiles of victims along with their friends and families, using that knowledge to control markets, the government, skim off tax dollars, or some other nefarious scheme. Resistance might not be futile but it would be difficult.

Clandestine psi spies could marginalize and try to stir up conflict among those who cotton on to their creepiness. Like termites chewing away at the foundations of democracy, psi spies would be tough to eradicate. Some might even marry gullible innocents to strengthen their cover.

So it’s all linked in this dark vista—politics, crime, love and the psyche.

Another conspiracy theory best left to sci-fi?

Maybe. But Jim Marrs doesn’t think so. His book, Psi Spies: The True Story of America’s Psychic Warfare Program, notes that paranormal encounters play a principal role in most world religions, to include Native American and Biblical traditions. Marrs adds that several US administrations, both Republican and Democrat, have funded psi studies.³

It’s good to keep an open mind. But maybe not too open. After all, we wouldn’t want to be “hacked” – that is, compromised – by the wrong kind of people!

¹ A mediocre response could be more about my presentation. Working on it… 🙂

² I think Aurobindo was too self-absorbed. He says he helped the Allies in WW-II by virtue of his intense meditation. Interesting, but how could anyone confirm a claim like that?

³ Jim Marrs, Psi Spies: The True Story of America’s Psychic Warfare Program, New Page Books, 2007, p. 16.

Image credit, top – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Spy_FM_Logo.png


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Q – It’s okay to be uncertain

Adam and Eve

Adam and Eve – Wikipedia

The Catholic Monk Thomas Merton once said that the Bible is a difficult, perplexing work. It doesn’t make sense. It has contradictions. And its Old Testament often portrays God as an immature, violent ogre. But with his hallmark Christian optimism, Merton says that’s exactly why he likes the Bible. It’s not fake or flaky. It portrays life as it really is.

Warts Exposed

I admit that some New Age websites telling us that “love is all around” give me the feeling that something not too loving is brewing underneath the surface of all that sugary sweetness. So I tend to agree with Merton. The Bible doesn’t cover up but exposes warts. Its compilers didn’t edit out apparent inconsistencies but left them in. Note the two different accounts of Creation in Genesis, for instance. Or Jesus saying we need to hate our parents, spouse, kids and siblings to follow him (Luke 14:26).

In the New Testament you’d think these difficulties and contentious scenarios would have disappeared. After all, many years had passed since Old Testament times and the relatively modern people around Jesus’ day could have edited everything into a nice, neat package. A package without contradictions.

But it didn’t turn out that way.

What about Q?

Most scholars agree that the New Testament was formed from an oral tradition. Christ lived his life, sometimes solitary, other times with his followers. People told stories about Christ and the Gospel writers collected those tales, probably according to their political and pastoral needs.

Some Gospel writers likely borrowed from existing texts. The words didn’t enter directly into their minds as some fundamentalists would say. At least, that is how it seems from the textual evidence.

10th century CE Byzantine illustration of Luke the Evangelist – Wikipedia

No one can say for sure. It is possible that the Gospel writers were divinely inspired to say the same things the same way. I considered that perspective soon after my conversion to Christianity. But years of study have tempered my thinking… for better or for worse.

One obvious feature of the Gospels is the material common to Matthew and Luke but absent in Mark.

Different theories try to explain this.

A prevailing idea is Q theory. Q sounds hip and cool but I doubt that’s why religious scholars chose it. The theory cropped up in the early 1900s and, as far I know, marketing wasn’t a burning academic issue at that time.

Johannes Weiss was a German Protestant scholar who first coined the name “Q.” He used Q to refer to some of that shared material found in Matthew and Luke but not in Mark. For decades most scholars assumed that Q alluded to the German word quelle, meaning “source.” But recent studies indicate that “Q” might have been chosen on a whim.

So maybe Weiss and his followers were trying to be trendy. Who knows. Before the word Q caught fire, researchers called this material the logia, calling to mind images of stony faced scholars sifting through weighty volumes in dusty old libraries.

What is most important to remember about Q is that it is a purely hypothetical document. Archaeologists have never discovered evidence that it actually exists. Not even a scrap or fragment. Despite this, some scholars carry on as if it were fact.

For and Against

Elaine Pagels is a religion writer who rose to prominence with her 1979 bestseller, The Gnostic Gospels. Pagels believes in Q because, as she points out, Jesus spoke in Aramaic. He, himself, wrote nothing. So Jesus’ actual sayings come to us through translated sources. But not only that. Our earliest existing sources are in Greek

New Testament apocrypha – Wikipedia

Whatever Jesus did say, our version has been translated at least once by somebody else. The fact that Jesus’ sayings are so strikingly similar in Matthew and Luke points to the existence of a textual source from which they were copied—namely, Q.²

Opponents of Q theory say the early Christians would have revered such an immediate record of their savior’s sayings, not allowing it to be misplaced or destroyed.

So where is Q? If Q did exist, how could the early Church have lost a document so important and essential to its formation?

Detractors have a simple answer. The early Christians would not have lost it. Q never existed.

For me it doesn’t really matter if Q existed or not. It is a compelling idea but as Pagels suggests, quite a few links were forged over the centuries from the era of Jesus and the occupying Romans to current, 21st century versions of the Bible. With much uncertainty accrued over two millennia, it would be unwise to fixate on any particular explanation without hard proof. Proof we may never discover.

It’s okay to not know everything

In a way, uncertainty is good. It can help to deflect the kind of fundamentalism that fuses zealous patriotism with a specific, dogmatic take on religion.³

Normally, I wouldn’t care about fundamentalists too much. But the visibility of some sectarians and their facile claims can make it more difficult for the rest of us thoughtful Christians, especially when trying to convey the beauty of Christ. Most caring, sensible people react adversely to fundamentalism. And if they haven’t really explored Christian religious differences, some otherwise good people lump all Christians together into one narrow-minded, authoritarian group.

Trying to explain the difference between the goodness of Christ and religious zealotry isn’t always easy. One has to get the listener past the image of aggressive, finger-wagging individuals.4

Worldly people, on the other hand, sometimes say that Christian religious experience is generated by body chemistry. For them, the Christian cannot discern the difference between an endorphin rush, sugar high or caffeine hit as opposed to the indwelling of spiritual graces.

To me, that only serves to tell me something about the mindset of the spiritually ignorant. Hard-boiled skeptics often don’t realize that while they’re looking at us, we’re looking at them.

At the other end of the spectrum, some fundamentalists say mysticism is nothing more than a devilish deception. There’s no talking to these people. They love to cherry pick Bible verses to support – while ignoring anything that challenges – their particular outlook.5

When folks, be they worldly or religious, are so entrenched in a limiting worldview my proverbial b.s. detector often goes from yellow to red. It may be a pastor. A blogger. A doctor. It doesn’t matter who. At those times I find the best thing is to politely withdraw and later on, when the time is right, redirect my thoughts into action.

¹ Some even believe in an original Aramaic New Testament that has been lost in the sands of time.

² See From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians, online at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion. Most agree that we have no original New Testament documents. So this would make our present version of Jesus’ sayings third-hand, at best. » 1 » Original Aramaic »  2 »  First but now lost transcriptions into Greek »  3 »  Surviving copies.

³ To me this is like the old Roman Empire championing its state gods.

4 We’ve probably all lived through or heard a story about offensive, overbearing Christians.

5 See Religious people have a brain so why don’t some use it?

For more on Q, see my highlights at LINER.

 Who Is Jesus? (3) (vanguardngr.com)

 Ghetts announces Ghetto Gospel: New Testament album, listen to new single “Slumdog Millionaire” (thefader.com)

 The Reformation Rolls On: (brothersjuddblog.com)

 Just listen (takeaminute.net)

 Sean Carvajal Steps in for Victor Rasuk in JESUS HOPPED THE ‘A’ TRAIN at Signature Theatre (broadwayworld.com)

Hug(thedistinctdot.com)

 Is this blasphemous? (quinersdiner.com)