Friday, May 29, 2020

Top Ten Smartest Thoughts I've Had

I am fascinated by genius. Every once and a while, I'll have a thought that seems smart to me. It might not really be. Certainly a lot of people don't think my "smart thoughts" are smart.

I'm also quite stupid in some respects. Because of my stupid, I never really felt smart growing up. Looking back, I realize I really was much better at math, science, languages, and certain forms of imagination than a lot of other people. But I've long since been exposed to the world of real genius. I get to read their books slowly. Often I have to read them over and over. It's sure I would never have understood them in person. I've joked with my daughter that my epitaph should read, "Not Quite a Genius."

Nevertheless, I have occasionally had some thoughts I thought were quite clever. They might not be. I'm probably not the first to have them. But I don't remember getting them from someone else.

1. Creation out of nothing was creation out of empty set, not out of zero.
If Einstein's general theory of relativity is correct, then God created the very emptiness of space, not just the stuff in it. It seems to me that this fact has all sorts of implications that many theologians have not taken into account.

2. If God created the universe out of empty set, then God created all the rules of this universe, including the rules of logic. So we cannot say God is bound by logic outside this universe. We cannot speak of what is literal for God outside this creation (a little Barth here, a little Wittgenstein) because we have no point of reference, only analogy. A lot of what theologians say about God's nature and essence is likely "creatiomorphic" without them knowing it.

3. Accordingly, Divine Command Theory is likely true for God in the creation of this universe, from outside it. But since God has bound Godself to a particular set of commands within this universe, morality is consistent within it--morality is not arbitrary, as in Kierkegaard's version. We have no point of reference for moral systems outside this universe. Incidentally, I made this comment in a review of Pojman's ethics textbook, and he was intrigued.

4. The Trinity is a playing out of that which is ineffable across the metaphysics of this creation. Given what I have said above, then we must face the possibility that we have projected human perspectives onto our sense of the essence of the Trinity. We can affirm that the Trinity is real beyond this universe and yet acknowledge that our perspective on the Trinity may have a lot to do with the metaphysical echoes of God within this universe.

5. The idea that Hebrews was written to Gentile believers undergoing a crisis of faith because of the destruction of the Jerusalem temple. When this idea clicked, I wanted to rush to publish it because it seemed so revelatory and groundbreaking. But I don't know anyone who has followed me on it. :-)

6. The idea that the earliest Christians would not yet have understood the efficacy of Jesus' death in absolute terms but that they would have come to this conclusion in stages. Paul offers a sacrifice in the temple in Acts 21. Did even he and Luke yet fully understand the scope of Christ's atonement?

7. The idea that 2 Thessalonians is an "apocalyptic letter" written as a "nudge, nudge, wink, wink" to the church during the Jewish War. One of my most recent ideas. 2 Thessalonians as code. I have other ideas in biblical studies that likely will never see the light of page. I might have published them in a different life.

8. In spring 2009 I taught Hebrews in old College Church in Marion in a hybrid format using AdobeConnect, with some students in the room live, others around the world electronically, and others in their dorm room sleeping, who watched the recording later. There was a discussion forum on Facebook. A lot of colleges are going HyFlex this fall and I have lots of ideas here (e.g., doing chemistry online and doing experiments at a local high school), but I did it over ten years ago.

9. For good or ill, I'm probably the main one to blame for the initial design of integration in Wesley Seminary's curriculum, where you do Bible, theology, and church history as part of your practical courses. These courses initially had five distinct professors (practical, Bible, theology, church history, and integration paper professor), which was impractical. Before Riggs invented the special Honors College curriculum at IWU, I had a vision of a month long, pre-freshman summer course that was philosophy, history, literature, and fine arts all integrated with four different professors. I still have dreams of an integrated science curriculum, with calculus, physics, and chemistry all intertwined. I believe I could create a science/math curriculum that could bring a whole lot more students to mastery than the way they are currently taught. If I could write video games, that would be the context to build it.

10. The idea that eternal security and universalism could work if God resurrects us at the point when we were either right with God or had not reached the age of accountability. I don't actually believe this, but if God creates a body for us out of nothing, if there were no detachable soul, then resurrection would be like cloning, and God could clone us at any stage of our lives. I don't think this, but I thought it was a clever idea once upon a time.


Martin LaBar said...

Only 10? THe first three are humdingers. Thanks.

I've probably had one, if that. I'm copying it here -- sorry for the long comment:

New Testament teaching on care of the environment
Most of the usual teaching on what the Bible says about care of the environment is from the Old Testament. However, there are two passages from the New Testament that also argue that we should be caring carefully for the environment. They are indirect, but their urgency is important.
Romans 1:20 tells us that observing and learning about nature are part of God’s revelation to humans. (So does Psalm 19:1-4). If that is so, isn’t that another reason to try to preserve nature as well as we can? The Bible is one of the ways that God reveals Himself to us. For a long time, Christians have believed that the Bible should be translated into the language people are most familiar with, so that that revelation may be as clear as possible. Similarly, it would seem that God's revelation through nature should be as clear as possible. A person is more likely to see God in a pristine stream than in a polluted river. Probably seeing bison herds roam freely in Western North America gave people a glimpse of one aspect of God’s power and majesty that they can’t really get now. Therefore, helping to preserve nature in as good a condition as we can is one way to bring people to a saving knowledge of Christ. Not the most direct way, and probably not the most effective, for many people, but it is still a way to do this.
Colossians 1:15-20 says, of Christ, that “in Him all things hold together.” (ESV -- other versions have similar language.) That passage also says that He is working to reconcile all things to Himself, and working to make peace through the blood of the cross. As Christians, we believe that it is our duty to be His instruments in reconciling sinners to Christ, and to help Him in the ministry of making peace. In fact, 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, tell us that: 18 But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses, and having committed to us the word of reconciliation.
Doesn’t it follow that we should also participate in Christ’s work of sustaining “all things,” including endangered species and ecosystems or biological communities? (I realize that there are other places in the New Testament where reconciliation and peacemaking are mentioned, or implied, and this is probably the only one that mentions Christ's sustaining work. But that doesn't mean that His sustaining work can be dismissed, or that we have no responsibility to be His instruments in doing it.)


Ken Schenck said...

I especially like the first one! Thanks for sharing!

Unknown said...

Genius doesn't matter nearly as much as IQ+EQ, .as you already know. I sometimes feel like "genius" would be like measuring how far a guy can hit a ball off of a tee. That's great and all, but nobody plays the game like that. What's the player's slugging percentage in real games with live pitching? (for the non-baseball fans: Total bases hit/# of at bats...better determinant of production than simple batting average). And the arm chair sports-critics can say all they want about the integration design. You tried something, created something, launched something. I can think of quite a few people who feel they know a better way who never would have got a seminary off the ground. In my've got a great slugging percentage.

Cool insight with empty set. Really fascinating. Nothing...nothing...nothing is impossible for God. Which of course brings me back to Bounds and my minor disagreement years ago. I believe in the peccability of Christ. I can't get to true temptation and full humanity without it. It just might have caused this universe to implode as a result of effective divine suicide...leaving only the empty set? Or would the void post-God remain? But I am probably grasping at the dark here.

I think you're right about Paul and company discovering more of the gospel's implications as they went...because we still are. (your cultural vs. transcultural review comes to mind). Whenever Paul says "according to my gospel" or things such asa this I often wonder how long it took for his gospel to take its fullest and most mature form.

On 2 Thessalonians I have to read it with your thought in mind. But I wonder about the warnings against idleness. What meaning do these warnings take in the context of a jewish war? You will have quick and ready ideas. Truly curious.

More I could write...but I love your thoughts and thought it was time to write not just read. :) Thanks Ken!

Dave Ward said...

Whoops, "unknown" is me. :)

Burton Webb said...

1, 2, 3, and 9 are all fascinating to me. I think you are on to something with 9.

I hope all is well Ken!


Ken Schenck said...

May you enact what is only in other people's heads!