Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Foolishness of God

The only real God has a surprising purpose in the way He has arranged the role of human intellectual capacity in knowing Him - to whom we give glory in His presence?

Our Creator knows that men and women of great intellectual strength have a tendency to glorify their own capacity to think and also to figure out an image of God - listen all, I know! 

This is no good.

So how to prevent such a situation - by presenting something quite foolish that is contrary to what natural man would expect from God.

Foolishness of God
For the preaching of the cross is foolishness to those who perish; but unto us who are saved, it is the power of God.

For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent."

Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe.

For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom;

but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness,
but unto those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For ye see in your calling, brethren, how not many wise men according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world and things which are despised hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things which are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.

But because of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who from God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption, that according as it is written:

"He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."

1 Corinthians 1:17-31

Knowing the only real God

Different types of true believers and atheists alike have a tendency to create gods in their own image.   Some adjust reality to fit what they believe God is like. Others argue that since reality is not like it should be if gods existed there are no such gods at all.

Knowing the only real God, the One of Israel, is not an academic pursue. In fact, there are quite a number of highly intelligent men and women who do not know God even they know so much about the Cosmos.

There is a tendency among academics to mock those who believe in the only real God there is and to reject them from the pure Greek temple of science where logic and reasoning rule.

It is simply impossible for human beings to learn to know the only real God.

It goes the other way round. The only real God seeks human beings and establishes contact with them giving them faith in Him. This faith seeks understanding and has its own eyes to look at the world.

People who the only real God has found are somewhat different from people who say they have found God.

On what I base such claims about the only real God, the God of Israel?

On the holy Scriptures written by the Jewish people, the People of God.

For salvation is from the Jews.

Says who?

Says Jesus who is from the royal family line of king David.

Our images of God and real God

There appears to be a particular schema in how our minds work - not our hearts but our minds.

We construct in our brain our own image of God and then react intellectually to the image we have created.

This schema is not just a private individual thing but a social happening; we want to share with others the images of God we have generated and we also adopt ideas from others who have created such images.

There are real physical communities where people with similar ideas about God, religious or anti-religious groups with their regular meetings schedules and liturgies. Nowadays there are many virtual communities that shared man generated ideas about God over the Internet.

An individual and his or her associated group of humans can first create an image of God and then join forces to reject that image. They argue with powerful logic that such a God that God should be according to their construction of Him is not real and does not exist.

For example, Richard Dawkins suggests that the God as God should be would create perfect living things with no unnecessary body parts. So he argues that because living things do have some rather useless body parts there is no such God who makes perfects things.

Long time ago I read in some book where a writer argued in similar vein and was laughing why men have nipples. Such useless body parts show how foolish is the idea that there is a God that creates perfect living things. Reading that I was just wondering does his wife know nothing about man? As they say, a woman touching the nipples of her man can be heaven or it can be hell...

Our construction of God whose works of creation are nicely streamlined and logically perfect does not stand closer examination. That there have been devastating mass destructions of life on Earth followed by new radiations indicate that there is no such God this image requires.

Similarly, others find it even amusing that Bible tells about a God who first creates man and then regrets doing so and wants to destroy His own work in a flood. This does not fit the man made image of God.

An individual with his or her associated group of humans may fully accept in faith the image of God they have created. They argue that such a God exists and reject reality that is not in conformity with the image they have created.

For example, a religious community believed so strongly in the power of God to heal through faith all the sick that they did not provide proper medical care to a lady in their midst who was suffering from cancer. They had strong faith. According to the story I was told they had a radio playing loud music not to hear her screams of pain. Probably some religious music, I do not know.

We may also create an image of God who is good Heavenly Father. When a car accident crushes a dear family or that beloved son falls to accidental death from the mountain path in Peru faith in such human constructed God faces true challenge.

Real God
There is only one real God. The God of Israel.

This God is not the imagination of the Jewish people - in fact, He has made the Jewish people.

This God does not fit to the images we make of Him as good Heavenly Father or perfect creator of world with no blemish or something we can figure out logically using our brains and knowledge of Nature.

We need to let the God of Israel show Himself to us and teach us about Him - that is the only way to learn to know Him.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Stephen King's Desperation (movie)

Desperation is a horror movie made for TV on the basis of the 600+ pages novel with the same name by the author Stephen King.

Stephen King's Desperation is Stephen King's television movie adaptation of his own novel of the same name, which was filmed in 2004 and broadcast in 2006. The film is directed by frequent King collaborator Mick Garris and stars Ron Perlman as Collie Entragian, Tom Skerritt, Steven Weber and Annabeth Gish. Filming primarily took place in Bisbee, Arizona, in the nearly deserted Lowell borough, with other sequences in Old Bisbee, the outskirts of Bisbee and Tucson, Arizona.

During filming, a set in the Tucson Convention Center (TCC) caught fire. Five people were injured. The fire destroyed everything on the set, including all production gear and equipment, and the TCC was heavily damaged.

Someone down there did not want this movie to be made. But God wanted otherwise and that is what is truly important.


Even the most polite commentator would probably not call this a great movie. The beginning takes the viewer in with a powerful grip. The performance of Ron Perlman as the murderous sheriff Collie Entragan is excellent. Steven Weber is a natural and creates a believable pleasant character as Steve Ames.

But when you get the feeling with the other actors that they are acting you know that the film is in deep trouble. Also, when an actor of such capacity as Tom Skerritt does not seem to be at all motivated with the movie he is acting in the stars are clearly in a wrong constellation.

The film with its ups and downs in no way makes justice to the horrific atmosphere in the novel Desperation. Rather, it makes the viewer feel like a visitor to a rather predictable ghost train in a cheap amusement park with its hanged victims, pierced eyes, detached human hand, disfigured faces of human monsters and piles of rotten human bodies.

But despite of this there are some quite remarkable things that make this a unique horror movie.

Mary (Annabeth Gish) is imprisoned by the evil spirit Tak and wakes up in a shack near the entrance to the old mine. She finds herself locked in a little room filled with big hairy spiders and poisonous snakes.

This is the fundamental fear of a person suffering from arachnophobia and just imagining such a situation may be overwhelming to that person. Seeing it on a film with Mary screaming at the spiders climbing her back and lurking at every corner is a horrible situation as there is no way to escape.

I am not sure if Stephen King wanted this part of the movie Desperation to be therapeutic or if he just followed his imagination letting things flow as they come. However, it is genuinely therapeutic and excellent as such.

As in a good psychological therapy session, Mary gets a grip of her fear, literally, by holding a big hairy spider in her hand and looking at it.

She realizes that this creature cannot in reality bite her - in this case also the poisonous snakes are miraculously unable to harm her like in a good psychiatric session where the therapist directs the phobic person to such a situation... and out from there.

Mary crushes the spider in her hand - a major step forward for a person suffering from the fear of spiders - and throws the disgusting remains of the animal away.


Mary finds a way out

Like in good therapy session she discovers a way out from the shack hidden behind the fridge. For a claustrophobic person such imagining of a way out even in a miraculous way can be highly therapeutic.

Desperatation film is real mental medicine for people suffering from the very real problem of arachnophobia and for this reason I recommend it - but only in good company and with a planned escape route from viewing the movie also (stopping the DVD if it is too hard).

Horror movie and theology 
David prays a lot in the movie

The psychological wisdom of Mary in the spider and snake shack was quite a surprise in the midst of a rather mediocre horror movie. But I was even more taken aback by the powerful way Stephen King mixes horror movie with theology in Desperation.

Not claiming to be an expert I do not recall any other horror movie of this type which has such a touch to reality and which discusses so frankly fundamental matters of faith in God.

Just a few examples beyond the focus on the faith of that little boy, David and his prayers that are not left unanswered.

The evil sheriff Collie Entragian (Ron Perlman) shouts in one point a great truthful question  "Where was God when Jesus Christ was dying on cross with flies in his eyes?"

This did not give the feeling of marketing trick after the success of Mel Gibson. At least I did not feel that Stephen King was trying to win American Christians to his side by including this rather awful moment to the movie. On the contrary, it gave me the impression of a genuine statement. As such it is very rare in Hollywood - to mention Jesus in this way. (Usually His holy name is used in modern English for cursing or expressing awe at something extraordinary).

The Saigon episode 40 years earlier that changed Johnny's (Tom Derritt) decision to leave the city of Desperation is in my mind an element in Christian religion - finding, realizing and accepting the truth of one's actions and motives. Selfishness - for he did not try to save anyone in that bar in Vietnam - or sacrifice for the good of others.

At the end this experience changed Johnny so much that he sacrificed his own life for the good of others.

This is surprisingly deep thinking in a B-class horror movie!

God is love
The biggest surprise waited me at the end of the movie.

I actually said to myself "Is this possible?"

For the big question of the horror movie Desperation gets an answer in the faith of the boy David who has seen a tragic accident of his young friend on a bike, the brutal murder of his dear little sister, the horrors in the town of Desperation, the cruel death of his mother and the disbelief of adults. Quite a load for a young boy. 

The movie ends with a reference to one of my great favourite verses in the Bible .

David remembers it by heart

We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
1 John 4:16

Author Stephen King (1947)

What is going on, Mr King?

I was deeply impressed by the theological depth in this movie of yours.

God and Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein  (1879-1955)

The personal letters in Hebrew University archives and other sources have indicated according to published news that Albert Einstein  apparently did not believe in God. However, such statements about his personal faith may be misleading and inaccurate as he did not believe in a personal God.

Wikipedia summarizes:
Albert Einstein's religious views have been studied due to his sometimes apparently ambiguous statements and writings on the subject. He believed in the God of Baruch Spinoza, but not in a personal God, a belief which he criticized. He also called himself an agnostic, and criticized atheism, preferring he said "an attitude of humility."

In the letters we get the feeling that Albert Einstein despised the observant Judaism of his own religion with its superstitions, obscurantism, strange manners and habits. And possibly his brilliant mind found other religions similarly illogical, irrational, lacking the logical clarity and beauty he found in scientific theory.

In a letter to Eric Gutkind dated 3 January 1954, Einstein wrote in German,
"For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything 'chosen' about them."

As a scientist, theoretical physicist, he did not understand the role of irrational religion, myth and superstition for humanity. It is exactly this heritage of irrational religion with its many confusions and mysteries and inner contradictions that has helped the Jewish people to survive two thousand years of life in diaspora. Einstein himself was invited to become the first president of Israel, an offer he declined. Another scientist, Chaim Weizman, took the job instead.

The birth of the Jewish State is not a vindication of Jewish religion or Jewish people - it is a vindication of the God of Israel!

In my opinion here is a significant difference.

Not understanding the meaning of religion, the significance of ancient spiritual heritage, rabbinical mumblings and ancient interpretations of Mosaic Law in Talmud or the prophets of Israel inspiring modern Judaism is not the same as not believing in God.

In fact, when he said God does not play dice he encapsulated the essence of a significant problem in theoretical physics into a shortest sentence possible!

God and Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking (1942)

January 8, 2012 was the 70th birthday of Stephen Hawking.

His crippled body sitting on that familiar wheel-chair is an image that tells to all humanity about the power of mind over matter. He is a symbol of the victory of human spirit over serious disease and other devastating limitations of our earthly existence. After all, according to the doctors in those days he was not supposed to live over thirty.

This is the spirit that according to the Scriptures our Creator has breathed into us:
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
Genesis 2:7

and the spirit that God desires in us to the point of jealousy!
Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”?
James 4:5

On the occasion of his birthday one Finnish daily had a short news story with the title  "Hawking has unravelled the secrets of the Universe"


After reading that title I was a bit worried - has he said something that even the Greek gods on Mount Olympos would have considered hybris and Promethean blasphemy from the mouth of a mere human?


The article told another story - almost opposite to the proud and misleading newspaper title.

According to the text of the news article Stephen Hawking had mentioned that although he has unravelled many secrets of the Universe there are still great mysteries left that he has not yet figured out.

Greatest among them is woman.

(He has been twice married and divorced in both cases).

When I read that truthful sentence (the quote is not verbatim) my worries went away.

At least in this sense all is well - his sense of humour and proportion exists. He may have retired from his job but there is still some work to the youngsters be done in order to iron out some little details in God's wonderful creation (like the twenty or so enzymes mosquitoes use to prevent our blood from clogging!)

Happy birthday, Stephen Hawking!

Monday, January 9, 2012

God and Richard Feynman


Viewer comments:
You have to be religious to dislike this.
This is the way phisic should be taught. Thanx. Great watch.
So happy to find these lectures, one can't get enough of Feynman :)

My comments:
Judging from the materials online Richard Feynman is a fascinating lecturer capable of taking his audience to very difficult subjects in Physics.

In my own humble writings on science and religion I try to be very careful not to mix nature and grace. In other words, I accept the Biblical view that what can be known about God by every person is obvious. But God has made Himself an object of faith rather than seeing. Faith has its own eyes and not every man or woman believes in God.

Accordingly, science operates in the sandbox it defines for itself different branches building each its own set of ground rules and chessboard, so to say.

So in my thinking I let science search for the truth freely according to its own rules of game. Faith in the God of Israel is not a shortcut to knowledge and in modern scientific world religious background is not a defining factor for the scientist.

I have the uneasy feeling that professor Richard Feynman is doing the opposite from the other side of the fence of religions.

He is mixing nature and grace in the way he uses scientific argumentation to attack the image of God he has built in his mind. In this his argumentation is somewhat similar to that of another brilliant scientist, Richard Dawkins.

Jordi Savall - Dinastia Borja

Dinastia Borja - Jordi Savall (2010)

The remarkable MEZZO TV did it for me once again.

I came home from work and relax on a couch after having a great dinner with my wife. I switched on our TV and started browsing the 900 or so satellite channels visible in our region - including the Hot Bird. I press the buttons lazily ... next, next, movies, Arabic songs, nature, news, next, next, some people singing and playing in an old church, next, next... back, back... some people singing and playing in an old church.

What is this music??

And there I am - after switching on also the surround sound system to make our neighbours "happy" since the system really brings out the bass and treble in volume. I was hypnotized by the program and stuck with it unable to change the channels for yet another relaxing action movie including a car chase somewhere there in the USA.

The same has happened to me before with MEZZO TV and these total stops have always been educational and unforgettable experiences. The respectable French classical music station shows highest quality performances that I as an amateur have never heard before.

While enjoying listening the performance I used the comfortable iPad to browse for some information about what was going on in front of my eyes. Google searches helped me to understand the background and ramifications of that quite extraordinary performance called Dinastia Borja  - Esglesia i poder al Renaixement ((The Borgia Dynasty - Church and Power in the Renaissance) that was recorded in Abbaye de Fontfroide (Narbonne) on July 31, 2010.

Jordi Savall 
Jordi Savall with viola da gamba
Jordi Savall is honoured by professionals as the musician who more than perhaps anyone else has introduced the wonderful Renaissance viola da gamba to modern audiences after it was superseded by the cello.

Playing the instrument in total peace and harmony he not only simultaneously conducted Dinastia Borja but clearly was the soul of the performance. With only minimal movements he was in total control of the choir and instrumentalists who performed together like a single living musical organ producing both great music and powerful content.

Hesperion XXI
The half-giant percussionists Pedro Estevan looks to me with his white hair like a retired Rubeus Hadrig from Harry Potter - and what rhythms he created! The psalter gave harmonies with the Renaissance harp I have known only from paintings from the period. The trumpet fanfares took me to the royal palaces and castles of Medieval Spain with an intensity and majesty like no other Renaissance brass music I have ever heard. The historically accurate sound of the ensemble was enriched by virtuosi flautist Pierre Hamon playing period flutes.

La Capella Reial de Catalunya
I have no words to describe the impact of the Medieval melodies and harmonies these singers were able to create with such inspiration!

The way the choir praised our Lord Jesus Christ radiated with holiness. While genuinely Catholic some of the songs nevertheless reminded me in their austerity and arrangement Protestant hymns from the same period in late 16th century.

This youTube clip may give you some idea about their enthralling performance.

Expulsion of the Moors
The 1609 royal degree stripping Moors (and Jews) of their property and forcing them out of Spain is read with such aggression and anger that the pillars of the church shook and the audience filling the building felt the horror of those days. The performance developed into a powerful inter-cultural message about humanity.

The reading was followed by very beautiful and sad tunes from al'oud- the oriental string instrument that gave name to lute and is the inspiration of cithara leading to the legendary Spanish guitar. The Arabic tunes from the oriental flute touch the hardest heart and slowly the two walk away from the stage symbolizing the end of the last remains of the Caliphate of Córdoba and the presence of Moors in Spain.

Death song 
I was already completely taken by the performance feeling like Jon who told to his cat "listening to your stories are tiring to my eyebrows!"

But then Montserrat Figueras sang the solo Death of Cesare Borgia accompanied only by a flute. An unforgettable, extremely intensive, strongly felt and touching performance. What a rich and beautiful voice!

I did not understand why her husband did not look so happy while listening to this haunting extraordinary performance.

Now I understand.

At the time of the performance Montserrat Figueras was already fighting with cancer and passed away 23 November 2011 at the age of 69. May she rest in peace. (Michael Steward writes about her in Guardian.)

Honours and awards
  • In 2000 Jordi Savall was awarded the Premi d'Honor Lluís Carulla, given for service to Catalan culture or for scientific, cultural or civic works in the Catalan language.
  • He was awarded the Doctor Honoris Causa degree by the University of Barcelona on 27 November 2006.
  • He was twice nominated for a Grammy, and won the 2011 Grammy Award for 'Best Small Ensemble Performance' for Dinastia Borja. Església i poder al Renaixement.
  • In 2008 Savall was appointed a European Union ambassador for intercultural dialogue. In June 2008 he and his wife, Montserrat Figueras, were named "Artists for Peace" by UNESCO.
  • In February, 2009 he received the Handel Music Prize from the city of Halle, Germany, and the National Music Prize from the National Council of Music and Arts of Catalonia.
  • In 2010, he was given the Praetorius Musikpreis Niedersachsen and a MIDEM Classical Award, for his album "Jerusalem –La ville des deux Paix: La paix céleste et la paix terrestre."
  • In 2012 Savall was awarded the Léonie Sonning Music Prize.

After listening and watching through Dinastia Borja I think that  from this impressive listing an especially appropriate title for Jordi Savall is the European Union Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue.

Music can cross cultural borders and bring people together but it takes special skills and spirit to succeed in doing so. Savall does it even in the most deadly bitter conflict that existed between Spanish Christians and the Moors.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

About idols

The Statue of Liberty may give us a kind of inner understanding, some sort of a glimpse how ancient Romans may have considered Janus and the statues depicting him and other divinities of the time.

Janus statue is a picture made by a skilled artist admired for the work. The image he created may have brought to the more or less religious minds many associations from stories of told, cultural heritage, political history, contemporary society and reminded quietly of many powerful ideas from navigation to child birth. A field day for a student of Semiotics!

Yet neither Janus nor Liberte depicted in the Statue of Liberty at New York are true God.

Fear ye not, neither be afraid.

Have not I told thee from that time and have declared it? Ye are even My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Yea, there is no God. I know not any."

They that make a graven image are all of them vanity, and their delectable things shall not profit. And they are their own witnesses; they see not nor know, that they may be ashamed.

Who hath formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing? Behold, all his fellows shall be ashamed; and the workmen, they are of men. Let them all be gathered together; let them stand up; yet they shall fear, and they shall be ashamed together.

The smith with the tongs both worketh in the coals, and fashioneth it with hammers, and worketh it with the strength of his arms. Yea, he is hungry, and his strength faileth; he drinketh no water and is faint.

The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line. He fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man, that it may remain in the house. He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest. He planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it.

Then shall it be for a man to burn, for he will take thereof and warm himself. Yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshipeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto. He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast and is satisfied. Yea, he warmeth himself and saith, "Aha, I am warm; I have seen the fire."

And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image. He falleth down unto it and worshipeth it, and prayeth unto it and saith, "Deliver me, for thou art my god."

They have not known nor understood; for He hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see, and their hearts, that they cannot understand.

And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, "I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh and eaten it. And shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? Shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?"  He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul nor say, "Is there not a lie in my right hand?"

"Remember these, O Jacob and Israel, for thou art My servant. I have formed thee; thou art My servant. O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten by Me.

I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and as a cloud, thy sins; return unto Me, for I have redeemed thee."

Sing, O ye heavens, for the LORD hath done it! Shout, ye lower parts of the earth! Break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest and every tree therein; for the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified Himself in Israel.

"Thus saith the LORD, thy Redeemer, and He that formed thee from the womb:

I am the LORD that maketh all things, that stretcheth forth the heavens alone, that spreadeth abroad the earth by Myself; that frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad, that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish;

that confirmeth the word of His servant, and performeth the counsel of His messengers, that saith to Jerusalem, `Thou shalt be inhabited,' and to the cities of Judah, `Ye shall be built, and I will raise up the decayed places thereof'; that saith to the deep, `Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers'; that saith of Cyrus, `He is My shepherd and shall perform all My pleasure,' even saying to Jerusalem, `Thou shalt be built,' and to the temple, `Thy foundation shall be laid.'
Isaiah 43:6-28 KJ21