02 October 2012

God, Evil, and the Childish Fantasy

In Isaiah chapter 45, God is speaking to Cyrus, the king of kings, ruler of the Persian empire. God tells Cyrus that He will prepare the way for Cyrus to conquer the world, remove all obstacles from his path, and provide him with opportunities he could not dream of. In so doing, God is doing what is necessary to create the conditions of a future where everyone will know of God. Then comes the real heart of the message, "I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things."

Eli Rips, the scientist who discovered the Bible code, brings up this verse to Michael Drosnin, self-aggrandising journalist from the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. This encounter covers roughly one whole page of the first Bible code book:

Even within a world created by an all-powerful and benevolent God, there can be a struggle between good and evil, whose outcome is uncertain," says Eli Rips.
The Bible code may be a set of probabilities. The sealed book might hold all our possible futures. Each predicted event appears to be encoded with at least two possible outcomes.
Rips agrees that the Bible code might have a positive and a negative strand, two opposing statements of reality intertwined: "As in court, an Advocate, and an Accuser."
"Possibly there are two opposing statements always encoded to preserve our free will, and it may be that the Bible code is written as a debate," says Rips. "According to the Midrash, the world was created twice – it was first conceived from the point of view of absolute judgment, right and wrong. Then God saw that the world could not exist this way, that there was no room for human imperfection, and he added mercy.
"But it's not like mixing hot and cold water and getting luke-warm, it's like mixing fire and snow and each preserves its separate existence. That may be the two strands in the Bible code."
Rips, however, does not believe that there are two encoders. "The Bible must have been encoded all at once by one mind," he insisted. "But it may encode two different points of view."
He opened the Bible to Isaiah 45:7, and read it to me: "I am the Lord and there is none else, I form the light, and create the darkness; I make peace and create evil; I, the Lord, do all these things."
For Rips, as a mathematician and as a devout Jew, there is no need to ask the question, Who is the encoder?
The answer is obvious. The encoder, the Advocate and the Accuser are all one. It is God.

For me, it was not that simple. I had proof there was a code, but not proof there was a God. If the Bible code came from an all-powerful God, he would not need to tell us the future. He could change it himself.
The code seemed, instead, to be from someone good, but not all-powerful, who wanted to warn us of a terrible danger so we could prevent it ourselves.
The Book of Revelation states that the Final Battle will come by surprise, like a thief in the night. In fact, the words that come right before Armageddon are, "Behold, I come as a thief."
The Bible is a warning of sudden and inevitable doom.
But the real message of the Bible code is just the opposite. A warning is encoded in the Bible so that we can prevent the threatened Apocalypse.
The truth is hidden in the last chapter of Daniel, the verses that describe the "sealed book."
They reveal that the secret book was designed to be found now. This year, 1997, in the ancient Hebrew calender 5757, is encoded with the words, "He sealed the book until the time of the End." Right above that the hidden text states, "for you, the hidden secrets." And crossing "5757," again those same words, which also mean "for you, it was encoded."
But who was the encoder?
[86-7]

Again and again Drosnin returns to his mantra "the code is just probabilities," so he can write off bad predictions and sell more books, or maybe there's something more to it. Absent God (he advocates a computer writing the code in book one and aliens writing the code in book two), Drosnin must find some way to fudge the existence of the code and its foreknowledge. If it is aliens then that explains perfectly why there are missed predictions, because while these aliens may be hyper intelligent they certainly are not omniscient, so they can get stuff wrong occasionally. Of course, he never addresses the question (raised in the documentary I posted here) why would aliens use their ability to see the future to record highly specific events about human history and put these predictions in the holy book of a small nomadic tribe 3000 years ago encoded in such a way that no one would know about it until 3000 years later? If God created the code, then it makes perfect sense why the code would exist in the Bible, but if aliens did it, why should they care? It would be like me seeing the future of an ant colony and giving encoded messages to the ants in a form they couldn't understand. Why should I care what ants do anymore than aliens should care what I do?

The Hebrew word being translated as "computer" in the book (the original encoder, before the alien theory in the sequel) is the word "thought." When the code says "made by computer" it really says "made by thought," which makes perfect sense if God created the code, but that doesn't work if you have to fudge the existence of the code into an atheistic framework, so you need alternate translations.

All this is very interesting, but the heart of the matter is found in the second section: "If the Bible code came from an all-powerful God, he would not need to tell us the future. He could change it himself.
"The code seemed, instead, to be from someone good, but not all-powerful, who wanted to warn us of a terrible danger so we could prevent it ourselves."
That's a pretty powerful theological assumption underpinning Drosnin's desire to write God out of the picture. As I said in a video I made in 2007, the standard argument is something along the lines of "If God exists why doesn't he turn my hangnail into an orgasm? Since my hangnail isn't an orgasm, therefore God doesn't exist." At the time I called it "the non-problem of evil."

Since this is an election year that is a referendum of the welfare state I could just as easily call it "the problem of laziness." "If God exists then He could do things for me, so why should I have to? Since I have to do these things, therefore God doesn't exist." Michael Drosnin basically says the exact same thing "If the Bible code came from an all-powerful God, he would not need to tell us the future. He could change it himself." You can almost hear the author whining "But I don't wanna change the future, why can't God do it for me? Because he's stinky, that's why! I have to change the future myself, so God doesn't exist, aliens did it!"





So, who is the encoder? You might as well ask, "If the teacher already knows the answer why do I have to answer it? It must be because the teacher doesn't exist." Why do we have to do things instead of having God do everything for us? Why do we have to do things instead of having allmighty government do everything for us? For our own protection why don't we let the robots sequester us away where nothing bad can ever happen to us? Who is Keyser Soze?

Michael Drosnin is not the only one with trouble accepting the answer. From the back of the book:
 
The quote Rips read to me from Isaiah 45:7, in which God Himself clearly states He is both good and evil, caused a nation-wide furor when it was quoted by a rabbi in Bill Moyers' 1996 PBS series, "Genesis." It was striking that the statement was such a surprise, and so controversial, because it was not hidden, but openly stated in a 2500-year-old book of the Bible, both in the original Hebrew, and in all standard English translations including the King James Version. If after several millennia most people still did not know, and could not accept, what was plainly stated in the Bible as the words of God, how could they accept a hidden code in the Bible?
[172-3]

If Michael Drosnin cannot get around his childish fantasy of God doing everything, thus freeing Michael Drosnin of all thought and responsibility, what hope does he have of accepting God as the author of the code? What hope do millions of people have if they cannot themselves accept God's message to king Cyrus in Isaiah?

Maybe we should look to Job before we can ask why evil exists. Where we there when God created the world? Can we comprehend things from God's perspective from our vantage point here on Earth in these finite bodies?

Who are we to demand answers from God?

Just as a parent wants their child to grow up one day, God wants us to grow up too. A parent lets go of a child's hands so the child can walk on their own. Sure, the child will fall, several times, before learning to walk, but the child will never learn  to walk if the parent never lets go. Just like a teacher asking a question to a student, God asks us to do things He could easily do for us so that we can learn on our own. It is the most rewarding thing in the world to watch your child grow to become an adult, an experience made all the better because of the hardships faced along the way. If we are made in God's image why should it be any different for Him? The most rewarding thing for God would then be watching us overcome the problems we must face and grow into our full potential. Sure, God could do everything for us, but then what would be the point in creating us?

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