Reading Update on the Psalms

I haven’t written a lot on the psalms. Maybe it’s because they’re more meditative, or maybe I just don’t see the things I need to see. Or maybe I’m too lazy. But it’s a good experience. I’m only 20 chapters in, but it’s bringing back a desire to know and serve God as well as reminding me that I can trust him. It’s all about how God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked, so the righteous can always call on him in times of trouble. It’s all about righteousness, God faithfulness and constant cries for help.

Of course, there’s all the talk about God defeating one’s enemies, but I don’t have any enemies – besides that one adversary the Bible keeps talking about, that is. The message is clear: serve God and trust him.

The Sacrifice – Part 2

Chapter 2: A Painful Cost

Chapter 1 is here

“We’re going to help them, right, Papa?”

The little prince looked heartrending. Standing almost to his father’s chest, he had to look up to meet his eyes.

“We’re going to help them, Will”, the king said and pulled his son into his arms.

“I’ll do anything”, said William even as he shared a look with his father that said they knew how high the cost could be.

William remained in the palace that morning while his father rode to negotiate with Maduch. He paced the great hall for hours before returning to his rooms to await his father’s return.

It was long past midday when king Jedidiah returned. There were no advisors to summon because they were in captivity so he went straight to his son’s rooms and found the prince seated on the floor, attending to his lessons.

“Papa!” He called “What did he say? Will they be let go?”

“Yes” replied Jedidiah. But he made no move to go to his son. The boy moved closer slowly, sensing his father’s dismay.

“What does he want in return?”

In response the king did something he’d never before done in front of the prince. He wept. William ran to him then and held him. On his knees, the king clutched his son in response and they remained that way for a long time. When he was finally composed, he looked into his little boy’s eyes and saw the determination there.

“They want me.” William said softly

His father nodded “They’ll return all the captives unharmed if I hand you over, bound and stripped of your powers, by sunset”.

“You know I’ll do it, Papa. And I’ll let them go if that’s what you want.”

The wretchedness of the situation settled about them like a fog. Jedidiah knew that his son loved their people. He loved them too. Neither would subject them to the cruelty they were certain to experience at the hand of such a madman. But Jedidiah loved his son too, and knew only too well that Maduch would not hesitate to do unspeakable things to him. And the prince loved his father with all his being and knew that the king would hurt if he was forced to let his son or his people suffer. Maduch had executed his plan well. They were trapped.

“I’m strong” said William  “Like you, Papa. I can handle anything he throws at me. We’ll do this together. I know you’ll come for me. I can wait a little while. Free them. Then free me.”

Several leagues away Maduch pondered the dilemma he had put Jedidiah in, he didn’t see this coming. He thought that he was forcing the king to choose – between love and duty for his son and love and duty for his people. But both the king and prince were determined to choose both. So, mere minutes before sunset, having prolonged it for as long as he could, king Jedidiah presented Maduch with the prince. He’d bound his hands behind him, then pulled him close and carefully drained him of his powers. The prince could no more break through his bonds than any other mortal child.

“I wasn’t certain of your choice” Maduch called across the field that separated them. Behind him a camp was filled with men, women and children, all chained to each other. “Your love for your son is said to be legendary. I suppose he doesn’t love you all that much, William”.

The prince was pointedly ignoring Maduch’s taunts and searching for his friend among the captives. But it was an impossible task.

“Come closer so your people can watch the exchange”, Maduch called.

Jedidiah took the prince closer, but kept him closeby. “First we agree on the terms”.

“Of course” a smirk lifted Maduch’s face. “I will gave you half of the captives from the capital now, and the rest when I have left your kingdom with the boy.”

“No.” replied Jedidiah “You will do all you wish to do here and I will keep my son’s body”.

“Eager to watch him die? Perhaps I want him alive. I can teach him to be my son.”

“You’re going to kill him. I will not have you prolong it unnecessarily.”

Maduch sighed. “You really are eager to watch him die. In that case, You can have the rest of the captives along with your son’s corpse in seven days”

“One day”

“Three days”

“That will do”. Jedidiah took a deep breath. “Where are the captives you are releasing?”

It took a few hours to round them up and for William to realize that his friend was not among them. Before leaving the palace his father had hugged him tightly and said, “This will hurt a lot – more than anything you’ve ever felt – but I will be with you the entire time. It might not feel that way, but I won’t leave you. If at any point you want me to stop it, I will. I swear it.”

The king had been shaking then, but he was composed now. He watched silently as half of the captives were brought to him and then allowed Maduch’s soldiers to take the prince. A soldier came forward with a bucket of tools but Maduch waved him away.

“I’ll just need a knife and a fire. I can work quite well with that”. He smiled, displaying all thirty-two of his teeth. You would be hard pressed to find a stronger expression of happiness on that day.

He began by taunting the king.

“I think I’ll skin him and then roast him over the fire. Or maybe I’ll only roast small pieces at a time.” To test his theory he cut a piece off the prince’s thigh, impaled it on the knife, and threw it into the fire. The scream came right as expected, chilling everyone and everything for miles. Maduch smiled and inhaled.

He kept his promise. For three days the prince’s screams went on. Though his voice grew hoarse and softer until he could barely whimper. There are a lot of things that can be done with a sharp knife and an open fire, none of which you need to imagine. Just believe that he did terrible things. Maduch tried to make the king beg and Jedidiah would have done so if he thought it would do anything but embolden his enemy. Maduch did manage to bring him to his knees and make him weep like a baby in front of the entire kingdom. And he never stopped the taunting.

“What kind of a father are you?” he asked “With all your power, you can’t even protect your son.”

“That’s not true” WIlliam moaned

“You can end this at any time. Beg for mercy and I’ll let you have your son and perhaps even the already freed captives. Of course I’ll torture them for the rest of eternity, but choosing them over your son? Who does that? They’re traitors. The plotted against you. They put you in this place. Yet you turn your back on the one person who has always been loyal. For them.”

Towards the end of the third day, when the prince’s screams were no longer as satisfying, Maduch had a spit made over the fire, tied the boy to it, and made one of the soldiers roast him like a pig. No one knows when he died, but by the time the sun set on the third day, the prince of Dawn was no more.

The entire kingdom must have heard it. While the enemy was still closeby, Jedidiah pulled his still son into his arms and lamented his grief at the top of his longs. All creation felt it. Grass wilted in a circle around the royal duo for miles. All the animals – from tiny earthworms to the boars in the forest stopped their activities to listen. The newly released inhabitants of Dawn fled – all but one. Zima had struggled with his restraints throughout the ordeal and, once freed, ran towards the grieving father. They both sat there long after their tears had run out.

The other citizens returned after a few hours. They might have been freed by Maduch but they had quickly found that an invisible wall kept them prisoners. They king wasn’t letting anyone go till his son was avenged.

When his grief was spent, the king ordered his guards to move all the people into the city and lock the gates. Every city gate in the kingdom was locked. No one would leave, he declared, until he was done with them. Rather than prepare for a funeral, he took the prince back to his chamber, bathed and dressed him, then lay him in his bed. He kissed him, breathing into his lungs, and lay beside him. At dawn the next day, when light from the windows hit the bed, the prince opened his eyes.

Midweek Praise – Psalm 8

O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
(Psalm 8 ESV)

Reading Note – Psalms 3 & 4 – Confidence in God

We can have confidence in our God. He watches over the godly. He hears when they call to him. That’s going to be a recurring message in the psalms. It might seem very obvious, but it’s good to remind ourselves sometimes that God watches out for us.

If you’re like me and hate to even think of yourself as ‘godly’ because you’re scared it’ll sabotage your efforts to become more godly, have courage. By the time we get through all 150 psalms, the word won’t make you cringe any longer. Maybe.

Reading Note – Psalm 2 – The Lord’s Anointed

This is treated by several New Testament writers as a messianic psalm. Part of it is quoted several times in Hebrews 1, Romans 1, and by Paul in Acts 13:

I will tell of the decree:
The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
(Psalm 2:7-9 ESV)

I can’t see a 1st century Rabbi disputing it. It’s full of all the conquering messiah stuff. What’s interesting is that it says the wrath of the son is quickly kindled, despite the fact that God is traditionally slow to anger.

Yet,

“Blessed are all who take refuge in him”. (Psalm 2:12 ESV)

Reading Note – Psalm 1

Blessed: Happy, Fortunate

Psalm 1 is about keeping God’s law and good friends. Good friends give you good advice. Bad friends draw you away from God. Of course, we no longer have to keep all those laws in Deuteronomy, but that just gives us time to meditate on the other laws. How do we love God and out neighbor?

And just how blessed is anyone who does those two things? He’s a very well situated and very productive tree, they say. That’s not necessarily a statement about his financial situation, Job notwithstanding. A productive tree reminds me more of Jesus statement about trees planted in good soil producing great amounts of fruit. The fruit is usually said to be more eternal than money.

The wicked (ungodly, criminal, guilty one, unrighteous – aka those who have bad friends who teach them to scorn God’s law?) are not blessed. They are “like chaff which the wind drives away”. So, they are definitely not productive trees. They don’t even last that long. What’s more, they shall not “stand” (what does that mean) in the day of Judgment. Their way will perish.

The point is this: the ungodly are headed towards disaster. Sometimes in this life, definitely in the next.

Is Our World a Simulation?

Quantum Mechanics with its non-intuitive claims has the potential to get us into a lot of trouble and it seems it already has. I was sent the above video by two people and asked to comment on it, so that’s what I’ll do. I’ll begin with a summary of the video, but first, a disclaimer.

The video uses information from three different fields – physics, philosophy, and computer science. I consider myself fairly competent at all three, but my physics only goes as far as Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. So, wherever I disagree on a physics issue with your physics professor, your professor is probably right. If your professor starts going into philosophy (even if it’s philosophy of physics) you’ll have to be the judge. The video gets quite technical although the narrator does his best to break down the issue for us laypeople. I’ll only discuss what I understand.

Secondly, I’m a quantum mechanics skeptic. I believe that whatever experimental results we have on the issue are real, but the interpretations are suspect. If they weren’t suspect, they would make sense. For that reason, I never accept any conclusions that rely on quantum mechanics. I don’t believe things that don’t make sense because scientists say they’re true. When they get the field to make sense, I’ll start listening to them. And this argument relies a lot on quantum mechanics.

So let’s get on with it.

The video is divided into two parts. The first part argues that our world is functionally equivalent to a computer simulation (like The Sims). The second part argues that the simulator/programmer, is a being we can call God. The argument is more or less sound. If our world is a computer simulation, God would be the most sensible explanation. It also has a lot of potential. It’s power comes from the fact that it independently arrives on the idea of a creator and sustainer of the universe without going through any process that I am already familiar with. Despite all this however, the video fails on two counts. It fails, firstly, to establish that our world is a computer simulation and secondly, that it is a computer simulation of the kind that would suggest the existence of the Christian God.

The argument is based on a paper by a college professor Brian Whitworth. He argues that our world is more likely a virtual reality than an objective one. A virtual reality in this case is a reality which depends on information processing outside of that reality. In the same way that the world in a video game only exists because of the processing carried out by the gaming console. An objective reality, on the other hand, does not require a gaming console to control it. It just exists.

God as Creator and Sustainer of the Universe

The first argument comes from the Big Bang. How can a world come from nothing? Despite atheism would require, the Big Bang does imply a beginning of the universe. According to the video, this makes no sense if our reality is objective, but makes perfect sense if it is virtual. From the perspective of characters in your video game, their universe starts from nothing when you load the game. It does not exist before the game begins.

That’s a good explanation as explanations go, but Whitworth’s naturalistic bias is showing. If our reality consists only of everything that came from the big bang, then it would seem that our reality had a beginning. But we human beings are also spiritual beings and so our reality has a spiritual component that did not start with the big bang. Most importantly, God is a part of our reality and he exists eternally. In order for our reality to start from nothing like our video games, God would have to come into existence as well. God is an explanation for our universe coming into being from nothing and this explanation allows our reality to be objective.

The second argument is based on the idea that our universe is made up of tiny individual units – just like a computer image is made up of tiny pixels. So, our universe is like a a computer simulation in that one way. Big deal. The Sims is like our universe in that the characters can take jobs and have children. It’s hardly evidence that our reality is virtual.

The third argument is the one that must absolutely go in the trash. Our universe has a maximum speed (the speed of light) it says, just like computer simulations must have maximums. But the reason computer simulations have limits is that computers have limits. God, our proposed simulator in this scenario can hardly be limited. A speed limit in our universe might be evidence that it is being simulated on a computer, but not if that computer has God’s abilities.

The fourth argument sadly went over my head. It was something about the “Holographic Principle”. All I heard was “the real world is a kind of illusion” and ignoring this evidence would make it impossible to “rectify relativity and quantum mechanics”. our world as an illusion is a different from our world as a simulation. If our world is an illusion, we are real, but the world is not. If our world is a simulation, we are a simulation too. And I don’t care about rectifying quantum mechanics and anything. I think we should put it on the back burner until it makes more sense.

The fifth and final argument in the video has to do with locality. If our world is objective, things would only be able  to interact if they are right next to each other. But that is not true in a video game. two things don’t have to be next to each other on the computer screen in order to interact. They only have to be close to each other as far as the computer’s processor is concerned.

According to quantum mechanics, however, two particles of matter can interact over long distances. This makes sense if our reality is virtual, but not otherwise. I think there’s probably a long string that we can’t see connecting both particles, but we already established that I know too little about physics of this kind.

I’m tired so I’m going to stop here. In conclusion: God can be considered the creator and sustainer of our universe if we are a simulation produced by his mind (like a dream in the human mind, or a game on your Xbox) but the there isn’t enough given in the video to think this is the case. Brian Whitworth might have more in his paper.