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Easter 2005 Edition


As this is a religious holiday this will be a religious page.

It is a good Easter today. The weather outside is cold, but inside I got turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing and corn. Yeah, I know that is not the traditional Easter meal, but I do not like ham at all. And it twists the nose of a Jewish prophet to celebrate his resurrection by eating meat that's not only non-kosher but wormy! (Pigs aren't picky about what they eat, you know.)

Other languages use variations of the world Pesakh (פסח), the Jewish freedom festival where a lamb gets nailed that others will appreciate their freedom for another year. Jesus was executed by the Romans on a Pesakh day before a Sabbath. After a day of rest he rose from the dead on the first day of the week. The story is told in all four gospels: Matthew 26-28, Mark 14-16, Luke 22-24, and John 18-21.

For some reason English and German use the name of an old goddess of the spring. Today you would not know Easter is anything but a spring festival, with the chocolate bunnies and the colored eggs and the sweets in baskets lined with fake grass. The resurrection of Jesus is hardly mentioned anymore outside of feature articles about Catholics or "fundamentalist" Protestants dragging big wooden crosses around.

Good Friday

It would be better to call it Holy Friday, as other tongues do. It is not a "good" Friday: What's so good about being tortured to death by the state at the behest of the local civil religion? And there's nothing at all good about the natural-born evil that is the inheritance of each and every human being, which is why the death by torture ever took place.

Nobody ever thinks about these things, partly because it is unpleasant, partly because the smokey fog of time and tradition has blinded the human race to the true reason for that execution. And yet … the truth pokes out like a crocus through the hard winter soil. A few find that truth and walk the difficult path to live that truth and spread it to others.

It is not that the few will ever become the many. They were never many, despite all the prayer buildings and the good works and the centuries of sects both great and small. But that doesn't mean the few were not without pull in human societies. But that pull was not theirs: It came from the Holy Spirit within them: the same Spirit promised to them by the Man who was tortured and killed and (as he said) came back to life as a guarantee that whoever believes in him will live forever.


Another new translation of the Bible has been published, and by the International Bible Society (IBS), the same group that published in the 1970's the New International Version (NIV) popular with evangelicals. This new version is named Today's New International Version (TNIV). That's not very original, is it? One sort of wonders what would happen when today becomes yesterday, as it inevitably does. And the IBS does not even intend to replace the NIV with the new translation. So why is IBS doing this?

Today's New International Version was produced to meet the ever-growing spiritual needs of today's generation of believers — as well as to help nourish the next generation of believers — by offering a Bible that faithfully communicates the timeless truths of God's Word.

Evidently there is fear that young adults are about to leave the evangelical churches. It is never explained why this is so. It is possible that young adults forsake those churches for the same reason others have left the mainline Protestant churches starting in the 1960's. The evangelical churches became so wedded to the society around them that there is now a loss of faith, a lack of spiritual vigor and pollution from the surrounding culture. Franky Schaeffer during the 1980's complained often about this spiritual torpor in the evangelical churches. Indeed I will quote him:

Evangelicals are a lot like jellyfish. They float with the tides. They do not direct their own course. Sometimes the currents of the sea beach them. Then they melt in the sun on the sand. Later they disappear altogether. The jelly dries and no trace is left. The tide goes out, the wind moans softly, and no one notices. (Bad News for Modern Man (1984), p. 45).

And it now looks like that torpor is bearing wicked fruit. When confronted with this, the evangelicals apparently decided to publish another Bible translation! What was it C.S. Lewis wrote to T.S. Elliot? "Odd, the less the Bible is read the more it is translated."

Anyway, apart from some corrections in the text (Χριστος becomes "Messiah", τεκνον becomes "child" rather than "son"), I decided that it was the group's attempt to fix the problem brought on by the lack of distinction in English between man (the male human) and man (the human race). This is not the fault of the Bible, which was written in languages that do make that distinction; but the group still felt the need to be as gender-neutral as possible.

Anyway, I looked through some of the passages from the translation from the TNIV Web site. I know a little Greek from two years of study at Ball State during the 1980's, so I decided to test this translation with my favorite touchstone verse, Acts 16.17:

Ουτοι οι ανθρωποι δουλος του θεου υψιστου εισιν, οιτινες καταγγελλουσιν υμιν οδον σωτηριας.

These people are slaves of God Most High, who announce to you a way of salvation.

That sounds okay, except that this was being shouted out repeatedly by a spirit-possessed girl tagging behind Paul of Tarsus and his companions. The cunning spirit, mixing a little error in a lot of truth, is implying that while what Paul proclaims is a way of salvation, there are other ways. Paul finally had enough of this and expelled the spirit from the girl in Jesus' name.

The problem is that translators don't seem to realize that this is a quote from an evil spirit, and there is no article in the original text modifying "way of salvation". But by tradition translators add the article "the" anyway; even the otherwise-literal New American Standard Bible does this. This is not a good thing when translators habitually add what is not supposed to be there.

The End

This falls under the category "eschatology" (from Greek εσχατος for "last" or "final"), which deals with the end of things: the end of one's life, the end of the universe, and the end of everything else.

This is brought on by an article in Rolling Stone (7 April 2005, p. 45-48) titled "The End of Oil". The article sounds like a rehash of Limits for Growth, a 1972 book issued by the still-extant Club of Rome in its basic points:

We are going to run out of oil and natural gas.
Of course we will. Oil and natural gas are finite and will run out eventually. We just don't want to think about it, being long deluded into believing in progress and that tomorrow will be like today, and even much better!
Before that we will compete so much for what is left that our way of life will decline.
It's bad enough we compete with Europe and Japan. Now we compete with China, too, with its expanding industry and demand for cars.
We made a series of stupid decisions as a people that will make this decline painful.
Forsaking cities and towns for suburbs, railroads for highways, neighborhood stores for Wal-Marts, neighborhood schools for megaschools — our love with bigness is made possible by cheap oil. It will be all gone when the oil runs out.
The suburban middle classes will get hurt the most by this decline.
Apart from the loss of fuel they require to heat their big houses and to get to work, school or play, the middle class folks also work in jobs in management, sales and service — which will disappear when the economy collapses.

The author covers various alternatives to oil and gas, and dismisses them all as unworkable. Most (esp. hydrogen) need oil and gas in some way. Nuclear power is also out, if only because uranium is also finite. And although the author does not mention it, solar/microwave energy from space is not viable, either: You need oil to fuel the rockets to lift the satellite components; and the transmission satellites wear out quickly from micrometeors.

The author does not touch upon another oil-dependent crisis: health. Most of our drugs are based on petroleum, and the rest use it in their preparation. Drugs and vaccines are already expensive due to litigation and corporate chicanery; they will disappear or be unaffordable with the loss of oil. Add to that the miserliness with which we fund our public health services; and the current abuse of antibiotics by both ranchers and consumers; and you will see the return of country-wide epidemics, bringing death to tens of thousands of people.

Most of the author's premises are valid, but the last section on page 48 is a lot of gas.

Finally, where does the author get off with saying [t]he survivors will have to cultivate a religion of hope? What does he mean by hope? It's not the Christian version of hope: The confident expectation that Jesus will return and restore the world. It's more likely that hope — the delusive belief (little more than blind faith) that things will somehow be better than they are — that the ancient Greeks despised and in their mythology assigned as one of the spites that Pandora unleashed on the human race to keep it from killing themselves en masse. Is that what the author is offering for the future?

Perhaps we will be quietly happy in knowing that the rest of the world will suffer even worse than we will when all the oil in the world runs out. But have you ever known an average American to just lie down and accept their fate? It is more likely that there will be terrible wars to seize what oil remains; that the Middle East will become an inferno; and that when it is all over the United States and the rest of the world will descend into the barbarism that is the normal state of humanity throughout its history.

Copyright © 2005 by Andy West. All rights reserved. Written on 27 March 2005.