Translation Principles

For those of you who are a little more familiar with the terminology of Bible translation, I’m going to start out with this: I’m trying for a formal equivalence, single source, and non-scholarly translation of the Holy Scriptures.

Formal equivalence is probably the hardest part of this to explain to the uninitiated. The two directions in terms of translation style are formal equivalence and dynamic equivalence. This has to do with how you translate a given phrase from one language to another. I like to think of this in terms of a scale of one to ten, with the smaller numbers being more dynamic, the bigger numbers more formal equivalence. So if you take the Hebrew sentence, “נֹחַ בֶּן־חֲמֵשׁ מֵאֹות שָׁנָה” a 1 might translate it as “Noah was 500.” A 3 might translate as “Noah was 500 years old.” A 5 might translate as “Noah was five hundred years old.” A 7 would translate it as “Noah was a son five hundred years.” A 9 would translate it as “Noah [was] a son five hundred years.” A 10 would be an interlinear along the lines of “Noah (נֹחַ) [was] a son (בֶּן) five (חֲמֵשׁ) hundred (מֵאֹות) years (שָׁנָה).” Using this scale, I aim to be somewhere in the five or six range.

Single source is a little easier to understand. In every place where I make a translation of God’s Holy and Inspired Word from a source language into English, or an interpretation of any sort, I assume one single source to be correct and preserved in absolute and trust it above all others. However, I do not use a single source to the exclusion of other sources input. I assume one source to be correct, but other versions or translations or interpretations which agree with that source can be used to extract nuance or clarity not found in the original. In Book 18 of City of God, Augustine of Hippo discusses some of these same matters in relation to the Hebrew Scriptures compared to the Septuagint.

In selecting a source, I’m going to start by saying I try to select God’s source. To explain this, I need to start out in a way that, even to those who agree with me in believing there is a supernatural realm, might sound superstitious, but trust me, where I land I’ll be pretty concrete and down to earth.

The Holy Word of God is God’s Own Self. It is immortally immutable. It has no beginning, no end, and no alteration. It forms what we know as reality, although it is more real that anything we can experience with taste, touch, hearing, sight, or smell. This immortally immutable word both formed the world, and entered the world. It entered the world in flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. In parallel to this (because to this word, there is neither before nor after nor during) it entered this world through the tongue and hand and ear and eye and nose of those whom God would call to deliver a message. In special cases, God would enter through his word in a special way, which he would through his purpose preserve in his way through his people. In such a case, each transcriber would, in a sense, be freshly inspired to copy what he had before himself. The result is that there are copies that accurately reflect what God says. The power of each new transcription comes from the immortally immutable Word of God which is God’s Own Self, transferred from the previous copy, and so on. I think for some of it, it might be helpful to read Plato’s Ion. His rings are in one aspect a well description, with the single exception that in the case of a transcription each new transcription holds all the power of the previous.

I must be careful when I say this to say what I mean. I do not exclude the possibility of mistakes. However, I do deny the ability of these mistakes to compound over time. Mistakes will be limited in scope, and in the cases of these inspired copies, they will be of a nature akin to a typo. It is not these copies which I seek to understand and connect with. It is the immortally immutable Word of God which is God’s Own Self I hope to connect to.

Now here is where things start to get tricky, so try to follow me. This theory does not exclude the possibility that a translation might be preferred over the original. In some cases, for example, I might choose a Greek translation of an Old Testament book. If I do choose something odd or obscure, I’ll try to say why.

It does mean that the source I use will have to represent a source which has been available through men of God (as opposed to the craft of men.) The source should also represent, for the most part, what people have understood God to have said. If I have a translation that radically alters some tenant of the Christian faith, I’d be concerned about my own salvation, and check it very carefully before choose to an alternate translation, switch to another version, or some more drastic action.

As to the non-scholarly in my translation principles, I’m a layman. I didn’t go to school for this. I’m doing this for one simple reason: I intend to strengthen my own connection to God through a deeper understanding of his Holy Word. For example, I’m not capitalizing pronouns unless other grammar rules require it. (You may already have noticed this, dear reader.) It has been variously explained to me that the reason people capitalize pronouns in relation to deity is because it is what they used to do for kings and such, or because they wish to emphasize the difference between God and others. In the original text, there is no difference between “he” when referred to God and men, so I will not render it differently. I live in the USA, we don’t have a king, and I use a lowercase “he” in relation to the president, so I guess that means I should use a lowercase for God as well.

I am not trying to say I’m “better” than any other. If anything, I’m trying to inspire others to seek original language studies of the scriptures because I believe pretty much anyone can do it. God is a great guy, and the closer you get to his original words, the better off you’ll be in understanding his purpose for your life, in my opinion.

The Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge

This is an excerpt from my new book The Last Sin of Ebenezer Scrooge. The book is now available for order on Amazon.

When Scrooge turned around in his chair, his skin was transparent, but you could see that it was icy blue with snowflakes and icicles sticking to it. Small icicles were growing from his nose, and a few stuck out where his eyebrows should have been. You could see straight through his skin like you can see through clear ice. His eyes were also transparent, but they looked straight at you as if they could see into your soul just as they had done when they were substantial and real nine months before. Although his mouth was closed, you could see through his skin and could make out his teeth and skull, which were similarly icy and transparent. His top hat and coat were also made of ice, but a darker variety. Unlike the man’s skin, if you only caught a glimpse of it you would suspect that it was, in fact, the fabric it was pretending to be. When you looked closer, although it was more opaque, you could still see through it when you looked hard enough.

“Good evening, Timothy,” he said. “Sorry to barge in on you like this.”

Timothy’s smile grew in an instant. He ran forward to embrace his friend and mentor. Scrooge was ice cold, so the embrace didn’t last long. “Scrooge, old friend! You never need to apologize for entering into your own home!”

Scrooge hugged the boy back. “It is nice to feel your embrace again, my lad. I must say, you’re taking this a great deal better than I did when Marley visited me.”

Timothy took a breath. “I know a dream when I’m having one. If the only way I get to see you these days is in a dream, I’ll enjoy it to whatever degree I can, while I can.”

Scrooge turned away. “Would that it was a dream, Dear Boy. Alas, I’m here on business.”

Timothy put his hand on the spectator’s shoulder. “Business can wait. You’ll be happy to hear that I’ve kept up our tradition of kindness and aid. Why, just last week I helped Donald the smith with money for Christmas presents, and I’m just now returning from buying turkeys for all our tenants.”

“That’s good to hear, boy! You’ve done well. It is so nice to see that you will not be bound by my poor miserable fate.”

Timothy took a seat. “Your fate, Sir? How do you mean?” Timothy looked at the ground and saw the ghostly chains in a pile by the fire. “Ebenezer!” Timothy cried.

Scrooge looked down, perplexed for a moment, then shook his head. “Oh, ignore those. Those chains have been cut.” Sure enough, Timothy looked closer and saw that every link in the chain was cut, bored through, and utterly useless. Scrooge continued. “Those chains stayed in this house when I left it. They can’t hurt me now.” One icicle fell off the old man’s nose, replaced by another that started growing in the same place. Scrooge moved very stiffly as more icicles formed on his elbows and the bottom of his jacket.

Timothy smiled. “Then you’re free to join the saints in Heaven!”

“Not quite,” Scrooge said, turning back to the fire. “I have yet one more thing to atone for. Try as I might, it is the one sin for which I cannot feel sorrow, do not feel remorse, and will not repent, neither in life, nor hereafter.”

Scrooge pulled up his trouser leg and revealed a single link to a chain attached to a shackle around his ankle on one end and a ha’penny on the other. Timothy squinted to make out the obstruction in the dim light. “Is that all that keeps you bound to this Earth?” Timothy asked. “A single ha’penny? Certainly I could pay that debt on your behalf and you’d be free tomorrow! To whom do you owe this mighty debt?”

Scrooge’s face grew firm and he wiped his nose, knocking another icicle to the floor. “It wouldn’t do any good to tell you. He’s dead. Even if he weren’t, this is not the kind of debt that can simply be paid. You say, ‘Is that all’ as if a ha’penny weren’t plenty to weigh down a spirit. It may seem a small thing to you, but without this particular ha’penny I wouldn’t have had my best friend, my protégé, and my heir. This ha’penny bought me you, Dear Boy, and though it damn me to an eternity of Purgatory, I will not let it go.”

Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)

During this Advent Season, I have decided to do my reviews on Christmas movies based on Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. If you’re interested in a sequel to A Christmas Carol, my new book The Last Sin of Ebenezer Scrooge is now available on Amazon in both Paperback and ebook formats.

In 1983, I was five years old. I had never heard of Tiny Tim, Ebenezer Scrooge, or the Spirits of Christmas. I was well aware of Mickey Mouse, though. This animated feature became my first introduction to the story. And I recognized Rat and Mole from Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, all kinds of background characters from Robin Hood, the Three Little Pigs, Jiminy Cricket, the giant from The Brave Little Taylor, and of course Mickey Mouse and Scrooge McDuck in the classic roles of Bob Cratchit and Ebenezer Scrooge.

Trimming the story down to half an hour took a lot out of the story, but somehow even with all the trimming that they had to do, Disney managed to capture the spirit of the story.

As I’ve read through my own sequel to the Dickens classic, I’ve found myself wishing that someday someone will have the inclination to turn it into a movie. If they do, I hope that whomever does it manages to capture the spirit of my story with the same fidelity that Disney managed to capture here.

One thing that Disney and I both seem to agree on is that Dickens rushed the ending. Disney handled that by having Scrooge crash the Cratchit Christmas. For my part, I couldn’t let Scrooge miss out on Fred’s family festivities. So I’m including my own rewrite of the encounter between Scrooge and Cratchit on the day after Christmas with this review.

And Scrooge was early at the office that next morning. Oh, he was early there. If he could only be there first, and catch his clerk Bob Cratchit coming late! Even a minute late would suit his purpose. That was the thing Ol’ Scrooge had set his heart upon. And he did it! He did indeed! The clock struck nine. No Bob. A quarter past. No Bob. He was a full eighteen and a half minutes late. Scrooge sat with his office door wide open, so that he might see Bob come into the Tank, grinning and wringing his hands as if he’d just finished the most delicious meal.

Bob’s hat and comforter were off before he opened the door. He was on his stool in a jiffy, driving away with his pen, as if he were trying to overtake nine o’clock.

“Hallo!” growled Scrooge, in his accustomed voice. Well, as near as he could feign it. Scrooge had to clear his throat to stop himself from laughing. “What do you mean by coming here at this time of day? Are you choosing your own hours now?”

“I am very sorry, Sir,” said Bob. “I am running just a bit late.”

“Are you?” asked Scrooge. “Yes. I think you are. Step this way, Sir, if you please.”

“It’s only once a year, Sir,” pleaded Bob, appearing from the Tank. “It won’t be repeated. I was making rather merry yesterday, Mr. Scrooge.”

“Merry?” Scrooge growled. Then, to keep himself from breaking character he grumbled, “Bah! Humbug!” As Bob crossed the threshold into Scrooge’s office, Scrooge asked, “And do you think I was out ‘making merry’ all evening?”

“No, Sir,” Bob said.

“And why wouldn’t I?” Scrooge asked. The double meaning of his question almost broke the spell. Scrooge had to once again force a “Humph” to keep from breaking into hysterical laughter and ruining his whole plan.

“Mr. Scrooge, it’s only on Christmas. I’ll do better by it and work late tonight.”

“Tonight?” Scrooge growled. “You’ll by no means work late tonight, Bob Cratchit! Not tonight or any other night! Do you hear what I’m saying?”

Scrooge was pushing his finger into Bob Cratchit’s chest as he spoke, and the man stumbled back into the Tank.

“Sir! Please!” Bob begged. “Don’t do this to me!” Scrooge loomed large over his assistant, and Bob found himself reaching for a fireplace poker or ruler or any implement he could use to defend himself if things got any further out of hand.

“Oh?” Scrooge asked, letting his mood lighten. “Don’t you think this is my business? Don’t you think I can set the working hours however I like? Is this your way of telling me that you want to be able to set your own hours? Like you think you should be my partner rather than my clerk?”

Bob was obviously missing things still, and now Scrooge was having a great time with it. “Of course not, Sir! But my family! We need this money!” Bob begged.

Scrooge stomped on the floor. “Oh, and that’s another thing indeed! Your pay has got to change, starting this very day! I’ll do no less than double your wages!” Scrooge threw his hands in the air as if in a rage.

Cratchit’s confusion was obvious. “Sir? How can you change my pay if I’m not working here any longer?”

“Oh, so now are you threatening to quit?” Scrooge asked, knowing full well that he had thrown the man into a confusion. “Doubling your pay and making you my partner isn’t good enough, then? I guess you’ll need triple the pay to keep you happy! Would that make you happy, Bob Cratchit? For me to triple your wages and make you my partner? Will you stay then?”

Bob’s voice hadn’t caught up with his mind. The words coming out of his mouth were still trying to save his job, meanwhile his mind was trying to grasp the real meaning of what was going on. “No, Sir. I mean, Yes, Sir. I mean… Sir?”

Scrooge had the poor man right where he wanted him, now. “Oh, all of a sudden you’re indecisive? You don’t know if triple the wages is good enough for you. And I heard that last night you had a turkey that was larger than your son!”

“Yes, Sir. I mean, No, Sir. We had the turkey, but it was a gift.”

“Oh, a gift, then? From whom?”

Bob shook his head, although something was certainly starting to come clear. “I don’t know, Sir. It was given anonymously… Mr. Scrooge?”

“Fine, then! Four times the wage, and you’ll leave at the regular time. A raise in wages, and you’ll be my partner by June, or my name isn’t Ebenezer Scrooge!” By this time he was half screaming and punctuated the end of the exchange with a rather dramatic thump on the floor with his cane. “And I’ll take a hearty ‘Thank you, Mr. Scrooge,’ for the turkey. If I agree to give you any more for any less you’ll be little more than a highwayman plucking my pockets.” And with that, Scrooge turned around on his heels and stormed back to his desk, keeping the air of a fight going.

Bob stood in the Tank, blinking. Finally, after a few moments, Bob peeked around the corner of the door into Scrooge’s office. “I’m sorry, Sir, I think I may have misunderstood something. Am I fired?”

Scrooge looked up from his desk and smiled. His voice was now calm and comforting. “No, Bob.”

Bob nodded, thinking about the last few minutes. “And thank you very much for the turkey, Mr. Scrooge.”

Scrooge smiled even bigger. “You’re welcome, Bob.”

Bob started counting on his fingers, then counted again. “Mr. Scrooge, did you raise my wages?”

“Indeed, I did, Bob.”

Bob was still shaken. He was afraid that if he started to celebrate, he would end up crying. He was also afraid if he thanked Scrooge again, he’d fall to his knees in obesense. Instead, he slid back into his chair to resume his work. For a few minutes, he stared at his ledger, unable to focus enough to write even a single digit. Then he twisted his back to look at Scrooge again. When his eyes met Scrooge, the old man was leaning back in his chair and smiling, obviously waiting for this last question. “I’m sorry to bother you again, Sir. Did you say that I was to become your partner? And by June? And of this coming year, Sir?”

“Yes, I did, Bob.” Scrooge said.

Conversation Between Timothy Cratchit and the Spirit of Love

This is an excerpt from my new book The Last Sin of Ebenezer Scrooge. The book is now available for order on Amazon.

Timothy looked down into his bucket. “I never knew how he got Dr. Wilkins to fix my leg. I just assumed that it was expensive.”

“Only a ha’penny. After that, the doctor dared not cross the old man. He lived in fear of Scrooge’s judgment the rest of his life,” the Spirit of Love replied.

“I don’t understand,” Timothy said. “I always thought that love was a good thing.”

“I am,” the spirit replied. “To love is the greatest thing! But to love one to the detriment of another can lead to all kinds of evil. That’s not true love, that is obsession. That’s not what I am.”

“Is this why you owed Scrooge? Because you led him into evil?”

“I owe? I lead into evil? What foolishness!” the Spirit of Love scoffed. “Your mentor owed me for corrupting my good gifts into an evil. I owe no one. All owe all to me, whether they acknowledge it or not. That was your mentor’s mistake. He thought that he had earned the right to choose who and how to love, but he was so close to correcting it by the time you took over his business that I was able to fix that last little error in the end.”

“How can I avoid this same mistake, Spirit?”

“Well that’s simple,” the reflection replied…

The Menu (2022)

This movie was a hoot! I mean, for a psychological thriller. This movie answers the question, “What would happen if a chef went homicidal crazy?” Everything is about presentation, order, and organization. But for me, one of the best things about the movie is the portrayal of personality. Every character in the movie has a distinctive personality. That personality directs everything that character does. There’s the trio of bros that work directly for the gangster that owns the restaurant, and they think that they’re too cool for the message of the chef until they realize that they’re not. There’s the old politician that postures and tries to control things until he’s put in his place. There’s the foodie that thinks he’s special until he’s shown he’s not. The list goes on and on.

Then there’s the street smart prostitute that figures out the game and the rules, and is able to manipulate both her place in the game and the rules she’s playing under in order to escape. There’s a relevant question about what free will really means here, though. Each character acts out exactly who they are written to be. So does that mean that they’re acting freely, or not? I’ve always found the determinist/libertarian debate to be tedious. There’s no real way to test it, and whatever the answer is we just have to live in the world we’re born into anyway. That said, there are at least interesting ways to frame the question. Did the characters in this movie act freely? Most of them were held hostage, beaten into submission, and then executed. But were they free before that? Or were they always destined to follow the path set by the authors and screenwriters? Observing from outside we can clearly see that they were always going to end in the same place. We can rewind the movie and run it again. But within their own universe, was that always the case? Might there have ever been a point when their choices were not set?

Announcing The Last Sin of Ebenezer Scrooge

On November 25th, my new short story The Last Sin of Ebenezer Scrooge is going to be available. The e-book is available now for pre-order. This story has ended up containing much more of my personal philosophy and theology than I expected it to when I began.

Christmas is a season every bit as busy in the Kennedy household as it is in any other. I’m working tirelessly trying to finish up the second edition of my Corrected King James Version of Matthew and my Open Source Translation of Matthew, as well as getting ready for the holiday season and participating in celebrations. In the interest of both freeing up time to focus on those projects and promoting what I feel is the most powerful thing I’ve written so far, my Saturday posts from now until the end of the year are going to include snippets from The Last Sin of Ebenezer Scrooge. If you enjoy these, please pre-order the book and enjoy the whole story.

The Spirit of Repentance walked into a shadow and disappeared, and Timothy turned to find that he was alone. The fire calmed and went out, shrinking once again into the fireplace it was supposed to be. There was no sign of the anvil. The ice was all in the bucket. Every link of the chain was gone. Scrooge was gone. 

Timothy had to see what he had made. He went to the bucket, got down on his knees, leaned forward so that his nose was just above the water, and looked into it. The ice had melted. He grabbed a candle and a match, put the flame on, and held the flame over the bucket to see if he could see the piece of iron at the bottom. All he could see was his own reflection.

He brought the candle down lower, angling the light in various ways to try to see to the bottom of the bucket. Then he noticed that his reflection was watching the candle. Timothy started moving the candle more slowly, sure enough the eyes of the reflection followed the light. Then a drop of wax fell into the bucket. The reflection recoiled.

“Careful!” it said. “That wax is hot!”

Timothy fell back on the floor and scrambled to pick up the candle before it caused a fire. Then he peered into the bucket again. His reflection smiled back at him. “Hello, Timothy. Are you ready to continue?”

Timothy reached his hand into the water. It was just water. “Who are you, good spirit?” Timothy asked as he pulled his hand out.

“I’m the Spirit of Love,” the spirit replied.

“Why do you look like me?” Timothy asked.

“Who else would I look like? Are you not supposed to love as you love yourself? What more fitting image could I provide?”

Timothy nodded. “Very well. I’m a bit upset by what I have learned tonight, but I trust you are here to tell me how to make this error right. Lead on, Spirit.”

“You’ll have to carry me,” the spirit said.

“What?” Timothy asked. “You can’t walk like your brother and sister?”

“Timothy, my boy, Love will not go anywhere without a person to carry it.”

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)

This movie was a wild ride! If you are unaware, the actor that played The Black Panther in the first movie, Chadwick Boseman, died in 2020 from colon cancer. The movie gives a fitting tribute to the man that brought the character of King T’Challa to life for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But it doesn’t stop there. The movie also paves the way forward for the Black Panther mythology to continue without him.

The movie deals with a lot of things that I don’t feel qualified to comment on. There’s one point that really hit me right in the intellectuals, though. The Black Panther mythology includes an herb that allows the King of Wakanda to communicate with his ancestors, besides granting superhuman strength, speed, and agility. However, the herb allows this conversation only in a dream state. How could they know if this dream of the ancestors was true?

Shuri is able to replicate the herb that grants this power, and then undergoes the ritual to commune with her ancestors. But she is the scientific one in the group, and is skeptical of the spiritual elements of the ritual. Yet she is still frustrated when she has a vision and the wrong ancestor comes forward.

Sometimes I think that we assign too much confidence to our beliefs. Someone once said, “There are no atheists in foxholes?” All except the most extreme atheists will join hands and bow their heads with their friends when there are bombs falling all around them. Even if they don’t think it will work, sometimes it’s the only option left to try. Princess Shuri falls into this camp, being completely unsure that she’ll reach her brother or her mother by taking the herb, but she has to try. She’s at the end of her rope and needs advice that she feels she can only get from her brother or mother.

I have known a lot of people that came to faith in whatever tradition they’re a part of after a crisis. Things got hard enough to call out to God and await his reply. After that, they responded to these results as evidence. I’m not going to criticize that. Personal experience is evidence, in my opinion. But it’s not how I got there.

Shuri is given the evidence that her dream was real: she gains superpowers. These superpowers confirm both to her and to those who follow her that she had an experience. Not everyone gets something so sharable.

I’ve been asked why I think that God doesn’t do it that way more often. I think he does it often enough to matter, and I hesitate to psychoanalyze God. That said, I can tell two stories that help explain.

When I worked at a paper mill, I had coworkers that were skeptical of my martial arts skills. I offered to show them when we got ahead on our work. I showed them, but there were requests for more moves, more movements, and then all of a sudden, my jeans ripped. Years later, at another job, there were similar calls for a demonstration of my skills. I did one small, short demonstration for a few people. I told everyone else to ask the people who saw that. They would join in a group asking to see it again, and I always said, “No. I’m not here to prove those skills. I have a job to do, and this isn’t part of it.” Those who had seen it knew, but several of those who had not seen it doubted. I think that if God simply wanted us to accept a series of theological or historical facts, that might be a way to go. But that doesn’t seem to be what God wants and isn’t what the Bible says God wants.

Why I Don’t Identify As an Apologist

It takes all kinds to make the world go around. Roger Olson once said, “If strong, five-point Calvinism is true, then God is monstrous and barely distinguishable from the devil.” As an Arminian, he is highly critical of the Calvinist understanding of God. On the other end, R. C. Sproul asserted that “If God is not sovereign, God is not God.” When asked if Arminians are saved, he said, “Yes, but by a happy inconsistency.” As a Reformed Calvinist theologian, he’s dubious of the Arminian understanding of God or any other understanding of God that allows for free will. Leighton Flowers has proposed a system he calls “Provisionism,” which allows for free will but is distinct from Arminianism. Among the Roman Catholics, Baptism and Eucharist are normally required for salvation. (Though they acknowledge that God has the power to do so without them and may do so.) An Evangelical approach to salvation denies that they are necessary at all. Most of the proofs of God that float around are actually definitions in the form of an analytic judgment, and they are subtly different from each other in important ways. For example, the Cosmological Argument defines God as the unmoved first mover. The Teleological Argument defines God as the designer of the cosmos. (Or at least our little corner of it.) While it is possible that these two things are the same, it is also possible that they are not. The unmoved first mover could have been the Big Bang, and the designer might have come in later. Then in the Bible, God is defined often as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. While the author of Genesis obviously connects this to the God of the Teleological Argument, it’s not at all clear that Abraham did. It seems likely that Abraham thought of his god as one in the Canaanite Pantheon. Perhaps the highest in the Canaanite Pantheon. It’s entirely possible that if you could get in your time machine and go back to have a conversation with Abraham, he would give you a genealogy of El Shaddai including both children and parents that was far more similar to the Greek Pantheon than the Uncaused First Cause. It’s also possible that many other Canaanites worshiped El Shaddai under that name, but in a way that was displeasing to God. After all, it seems that Abraham expected that a sacrifice of his first child was expected, and it was revealed later that God hates these child sacrifices. Others take the personal route straight to the person himself, and simply say that Jesus is God, whatever that means. Trinitarian consensus is not an inoculation against this, though. The Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox have divided for centuries over the question of whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father only, or from the Father and the Son. The Nicene-Constantinoplean Creed, definitions of Ephesus, and Definition of Chalcedon tell us that whatever God the Father is, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are as well, but they don’t actually tell us what that is. Even the term “creator of Heaven and Earth” might mean teleologically, materially, or something else entirely. It certainly doesn’t address the question of whether God is the kind of being that determines everything unilaterally or the kind of being that allows free creatures to make decisions for themselves. There is a quote that gets floated around that’s been attributed to various authors: “In essentials, unity. In non essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.” But shouldn’t the fundamental nature of God be an essential? If that’s the case, shouldn’t it be spelled out in the Bible and/or agreed upon by a variety of churches?

Of course, I have my own thoughts on each of these. But I’m going to let you in on a secret: I could be wrong. I’ve actually been wrong before. (That was the worst afternoon ever, but I corrected myself. That is why I work so hard to make sure it happens rarely.) I approach my understanding of God through the moral argument. I believe that Love is the principle that defines morality, and that God as described in the Bible is Love, and that the God who is Love entered into history as a person, was crucified and killed, and then got back up. I believe that Love is self-sacrifice for the benefit of the other. I believe that for Love to be real, there has to actually be another to sacrifice for. I believe that giving up control is part of Love. Naturally, this leads me into being more on the libertarian, protestant, memorial views on free will, church structure, and the sacraments. But I could be wrong.

Even though it’s been about five hundred years since the Protestant Reformation, the Lutheran, Reformed, and Roman Catholic churches remain separate. The leadership of each assert that the things which keep them from folding into the others are essentials, worth separating for. Each of them experience members of their church who were raised from childhood, begin testing the counter-claims of another rival church as an adult, and then convert when they learn that the counter-claims are not as easily dismissed as they were raised to believe. Over and over. Generation upon generation. And so often, when someone converts to their new church, they dive in fully embracing their new faith and condemning their old faith, with every nuance of their childhood faith discarded and forgotten. There are exceptions to this pattern, to be sure, but they are the exception and not the rule.

Within each of these groups, there are apologists. Apologists argue by offering reasons to doubt the varsity of the counter-claims to their faith. If someone were to break away from the church they were raised in saying that the church of their youth had drifted too far from the Bible by allowing women to attend church with their heads uncovered, the church of their youth would immediately raise apologists to explain why that’s legalistic. A generation later, the one leaving this head-covering church would spark the appointment of apologists explaining why it is unscriptural to have women attend church with their heads uncovered.

One of the problems that I have with the way we do theology right now is that we talk like it’s objective, but we treat it as if it’s subjective. From where I sit it looks like we have exactly the opposite problem in mathematics: the professionals often talk like math is subjective, and yet when they apply it they treat it as objective. If fictionalism or nominalism is true, then Pi isn’t a concept that corresponds to objective reality. Vanishingly few mathematicians or engineers actually treat Pi as though it isn’t a concept that corresponds to objective reality.

Quite the opposite thing happens in theology. Enough though some Calvinists could never sit under a Provisionist or Arminian pastor, they’ll call those who do separated brothers in Christ. There’s definitely a sense in which I agree: they are separated and they seem to be brothers in Christ. But that does raise an interesting question: how can they be brothers in Christ if they have different fundamental mental images of what the word ‘God’ connects to? 

Things get really sticky when we try to define “brothers in Christ” as well. We might suggest that just believing in Jesus crucified makes two people brothers in Christ. What about the Mormons, then? They believe that Christ was a Jew living in the first century, crucified under Pontius Pilate, dead for three days, and then seen alive by his followers. They also think that God the Father was a physical person with flesh and bones that populated this planet with a wife and that we will get to do the same on another planet somewhere else when we die. Let’s leave the Mormons out of it, the first centuries of the church had gnostics coming up with mythologies that leave me wishing for the good ol’ days when all I had to try to reconcile was God being a physical being. Or on the other end, how about Jehovah’s Witnesses? They’re not Trinitarian, so does failing to recognize that Christ is God disqualify them from brotherhood? If so, some of our early church fathers weren’t our brothers. What about someone that thinks the Apostles saw a hallucination? Can they be a brother in Christ? Can an open theist? What about someone that has been hurt by their church of origin and is no longer willing to darken the door of a church, but maintains a very orthodox belief about Christ, God, and sacraments?

One of the problems I’ve found, living in the Western World, is that many people who identify as atheists really just mean that they’re skeptical of all the church government systems they’ve seen. Most of the atheists I’ve seen don’t actually have a well developed argument regarding God or gods, but they sure do have a particular set of reasons why they’re skeptical of the churches they’ve seen. I’m kinda not far behind them. That’s one of the reasons why I’ve always identified as non-denominational, even when I’m enrolled with a local church of a particular denomination. I’ve never been in a church where I’m not at least a little skeptical of the governance of the church. Even when I’m participating in that governance. Even (perhaps even especially) if I were given absolute authority over a church, I would still be suspicious of the guy in charge. When someone is identified as a Catholic apologist or a Reformed apologist, from the outside it very often looks like their goal is to join a person with a particular church structure above another. Internally, that doesn’t ever seem to be the goal when you get to know them, and yet there’s always that nagging question, “What would they be doing differently if that were their goal?” And too often the answer is, “Nothing: this is exactly the same behavior we would expect from someone trying to join as many people as possible to the particular church structure they are an apologist for.”

There are ecumenical apologists. One of the reasons that I wish I were a YouTuber instead of a blogger is that the culture of Christianity on YouTube is far more ecumenical than in the blogosphere. The one thing that I don’t like about the culture on YouTube is the tendency towards identifying as apologists rather than theologians. Be that as it may, even the vast majority of ecumenical apologists on YouTube or out in the world would like to see their targets ultimately join up with a church structure. Here they’re upfront about it, though. They will say up front that goal one is to get people to believe in God, goal two is to get them in a church.

I don’t particularly care if someone joins a church structure. I mean, there’s the social benefits and I think believers should be getting together with other believers to make sure they’re not going off the rails and other things like that. I think that joining with a church structure is probably the best thing for the vast majority of us. One way or another, we should make a point of celebrating the Eucharist/communion with other believers as often as is practical and prudent in a way that we are sharing in each other’s life, struggles, success, and prayer. This should include studying God together. One way or another, some kind of hierarchy is going to develop when we do that. Who knows, maybe along the way someone will actually find the one that’s doing it the objectively right way. Or maybe they’ll think they did, but they’ll be objectively wrong. But since I don’t think I’ve found the objectively right way to do that, and I’m even skeptical of the idea that there is an objectively right way to do it, I put joining someone to a group rather down towards the bottom of my priority list. After all, I don’t want to be guilty of the same crime Jesus condemned.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!

Matthew 23:15-16 (KJV)

Most of my content isn’t aimed outside the Church. My thoughts aren’t for unbelievers, as a rule. Periodically, I’ll encounter an argument for a particular atheist position that I find frustrating enough to write on, but generally I start from a place of belief. I think that Matthew was originally inspired and then preserved in Hebrew. If someone starts from a place of saying, “I don’t believe in inspiration,” they’re joining that conversation at a different level than I am. I can defend my understanding and belief in inspiration, but that’s a different conversation at a different level, and frankly my notes on each are extensive enough that I can’t keep them both going in my head at all times. I need to pick one at a time for months or years at a time to go deep on. If I’m actually responding to an atheist position, I consider it low hanging fruit.

More often, I’m responding to the apologetic response to that position. Apologetic answers tend to fall into two categories: either they’re very specific to a particular view of God, or they’re so general as to accommodate any theory of God. There’s benefit to both, if the goal is to get someone connected to a church. However, if a deep, personal connection to God is the goal, shouldn’t you have a sense of what you intend to worship?

I’m more than happy to have a conversation with someone about particular points I agree or disagree with in any particular denomination. But one of the things I find fascinating about modern denominational Christianity is that no matter what your particular complaint about a particular church might be, there’s another church out there somewhere that doesn’t have that thing. Pick a point. Was the church you grew up in too soft on homosexuality? There are churches like Westboro Baptist that have made a brand out of how hard they are on homosexuality. Have you become convinced that marriage should not be restricted to heterosexual couples? The Reconciling Ministries Network has been helping homosexual people find churches that welcome them since the 1980’s. Did you read those Kosher laws in Leviticus and fall in love? There are churches in the Hebrew Roots Movement that will help you with that and teach you when the scriptural holidays are and how to keep them correctly. Think we’ve gone overboard with this holiday thing and that we shouldn’t celebrate quite so much? Jehovah’s Witnesses are out there just waiting for you to join in. Is it painfully obvious to you that God appears in three modes? Oneness Pentecostalism is happy to welcome you. Are you pretty sure that the authors of the first ecumenical councils were speaking God’s truth when they defined the Trinity and church structure? The Orthodox Church of America has been waiting for your call. And so on and so on.

The thing is, I have disagreements with all of these groups. Not always what I’ve listed here, but even some of them listed here. Whether I agree or disagree with a point, I would love to discuss the merits and demerits of all the different ways to look at each of them. But if someone tells me that their problem with Christ is the view of homosexuality that they grew up with (whether too accepting or too harsh) or the view of Kosher they were brought up with (whether too lenient or to strict) or the view of holidays they were brought up with (whether too much or too little celebrating) or the view of theology they were brought up in (whether too simple or too complex) then all they’ve really told me is that they’re not even trying to understand. And there’s a degree to which that’s fine – if they’re willing to admit that this isn’t something they look into and get to know on a deep level.

We all have our interests, and I’m more than happy to sit quietly and patiently and listen to those who speak about their interests in great detail. If I’ve heard something that contradicts what they’re saying among my friends or on the news, I’ll ask them, and then whatever they say I’ll defer to them as the better read and researched on that subject. But mine happens to be theology. If you don’t put twenty hours a week into your bible study, theological study, don’t listen to lectures at universities and read textbooks that define the difference between a monarchical and Arian views of divinity, I’ll be able to tell rather quickly. If you have honest questions, I can answer them or point you to resources. But if you’re a train enthusiast or a politics enthusiast or a science enthusiast that is out to tell me why I’m wrong about an opinion in theology, I’ll meet you where you’re at and tell you why you’re wrong about trains or politics or science in the silliest way possible just to show you how you sound to me. I’m not here to tell you what your interests need to be. I’m not here to tell you about the things you are interested in. (Unless they happen to be theology related.) And I’m not here to show you that I’m right about theology. I’m here to have the conversation and learn.

Very few people that look into the questions of theology at that level are still atheists. I have enjoyed conversations with a few friends that do take it to that level and remained atheists, but they’re very few and very far between. So few and so far between that I’ve never had a point in my life when there were two of them at the same time. One atheist friend helped me to clarify what it was about the canonization process that I agree with. Another helped me to sharpen the way I think about the resurrection. At one point I took a very shotgun approach to proofs for God, and it was an atheist that helped me to see that not every proof of God is proving the same thing and that I should focus on the proof of the God I want to worship. By the time I had fully digested that and settled on The Moral Argument, he had moved away and was no longer a part of my life. Some of these people softened to Christianity while speaking to me and some did not. None of them joined a church. All of them had been hurt by church structures in some particular way.

Later in life, I had a conversation with someone who had been hurt by her church when their family was encouraged to break ties after a sin was discovered. She had no desire to let go of the sin. I was able to help her look up a church that didn’t have problems with that sin. They accepted her and welcomed her and embraced her. They made space in their church for her. Her natural leadership skills were put to use. Although we lost contact about a year later, she was already taking leadership classes and pursuing the possibility of ordination within that body.

I still think the thing she did was a sin. I still think that the better course would have been repentance. But that wasn’t on the table for her. There happened to be a church which celebrated her position, whether I agreed or disagreed. What do I do then? Conversations about the sin were painful for her. I could be wrong, and the small church that celebrates her position could be right. But she’s not moved by the conversation as to whether the cosmological or teleological approach to God is more accurate. She isn’t really a theologian. She’s an ethicist, interested in studying ethics, and is very strongly convinced that her position on one issue is right, even if it’s a minority position. And am I any different with Hebrew Matthew? And strictly speaking, I’m not an ethicist. I mean, my brand of theology and the study of ethics obviously touch and at some point I hope to put together my moral argument in a more complete system. That means that I need to have a basic concept of how deontological, consequentialist, and virtue morality relate to each other. Knowing one or two of the most prominent schools of each will probably be a good idea. But if two well studied people are arguing about merits and demerits of utilitarianism against aristotelian ethics, I’m grabbing the popcorn and watching so I can learn, not joining in to teach.

In the end, we have not found a way to objectively test ethics. As long as the thing that is keeping people out of the church is primarily concerns over ethics, I’m not going to be the one to solve the problem. The best I can do is point them to a church that already agrees with them. But that’s not what an apologist does. An apologist is there to change their minds, and that’s not what I’m there for. And that’s why I’m an amateur theologian and not an amateur apologist.

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile (2022)

I never read the books that this movie is based on. But this movie was adorable! My son loved this movie so much that I even recorded him giving a review for his Facebook page.

One of the themes in this movie that should make Christians stop and think is what it means to be a good neighbor. Lyle and the Primms have a downstairs neighbor named Mr. Grumps. Mr. Grumps is sensitive to noise and changes in routine. He keeps a cat with a delicate stomach. He has fragile decorations. All he wants is to have some peace and quiet.

Josh is a nine year old boy, though. Asking him to just sit quietly and not make any noise and not shake the walls and not sing and dance with his pet crocodile is not good for his development. He needs to be able to run and jump and sing and dance to fully develop as a kid.

Ideally, they would have found a way to work together to make sure everyone gets their needs met. Mr. Grumps meets the Primms at the door with a list of demands, and then the Primms bristle at every point of seemingly minor inconvenience that upsets Mr. Grumps. They make their annoyance and the fact that they don’t share his sense of propriety obvious.

I think we have all been on one side or the other of this kind of conflict before. I wish I had solid advice on how to get out of it. I’ve tried being the bigger man, admitting I’m at fault. But then my needs never get addressed. I’ve tried pointing out that we both have our parts in the problem, but that just leads to more shutting down. I’ve tried mediators, but unless they’re truly neutral and have some authority to enforce their peace after it’s too easy for both sides to feel like the brokered peace is failing them.

Have you ever been in this situation? What did you do to get out of it? Let me know in the comments.

A Meditation on Intellectualism as Politics

There is a colloquial saying: “Physics progresses one gravestone at a time.” This is a paraphrase of something that German Physicist Max Plank said. To paraphrase differently, very few new ideas in physics just get accepted when they are first demonstrated. The most common mechanism for progress is that a new idea comes into play, and then it is found useful by the new generation despite the objections of the older generation. Then, when the older generation dies and the new generation takes over, the new science becomes the standard. This is why the average age for researchers recruited for the fledgling space program was 28. The program needed people who were open to new ideas, not people that were stuck in their ways.

One of the problems with this setup is that the older generation often holds the keys to new research. John Clauser found this out the hard way. The experiment for which he recently won the Nobel Prize was denied funding and ridiculed by those he reported to.

This phenomenon is not limited to physics. From where I sit, it looks like every major field of academic study suffers from this same problem. Relevant to me, this is a problem in theology. But in theology, the problem does run a bit deeper.

Among my closest kit and kin, I’m best known for my interest in Hebrew Matthew. However, I have not pioneered this idea. Dr. George Howard and Dr. Hugh Schonfield studied the idea in more depth than I have. Dr. Howard and Dr. Schonfield took a position that was much more fixated on finding something to change the way we read the Gospel than I do. I mean, I would love to find something new and revolutionary in theology or ethics, but the more I examine this family of Hebrew Matthew, the more convinced I am that the essence of Matthew’s Gospel has been captured in the various translations that exist. Other than marks of originality such as puns, wordplays, and alliteration, there’s nothing interesting about Matthew in Hebrew. It’s just the same Gospel, except in Hebrew.

That isn’t true for every revolution in theology. Dr. Michael Heiser is famous for his Deuteronomy 32 Worldview. In this, he seems to some to skirt the edge between monotheism and henotheism. His stated goal is to make us more aware of the way the Ancient Israelites viewed theology so that we can better understand what their texts mean. At some point, I plan to give a fuller critique of this thought process, but for now let it be enough to say that I’ve found a little sprinkle of Unseen Realm certainly seems to make some things clearer in the Old Testament, and the more of it I read in Hebrew the more unseen theology feels at home.

In more direct textual criticism, James Snapp Jr. has recently been published defending the longer traditional ending of Mark. Until his paper was published, the academic consensus was very much that the traditional ending was not original. Mr. Snapp was able to clear up the concerns about the ending and make headway into demonstrating that the longer ending does belong with the Gospel. He takes a more nuanced position, suggesting that the ending was supplied from a different writing that Mark had put together and marked as separate. For my part, I had always considered the extra ending separately, and the evidence of canonicity was enough to include it regardless, but the idea that it really might come from Mark and have been intended by Mark or his followers to be a finale to the Gospel certainly doesn’t diminish that intuition.

Dr. John Walton has also done a lot of textual and cultural work to demonstrate that the first few chapters of Genesis may have more to do with temple dedication rituals than the category of cosmic creation. He’s quick to point out that this doesn’t solve the creation/evolution debate, but it certainly puts another wrinkle in the way we look at it.

Not everything new has a lasting positive impact, though. When I was in my mid twenties and first coming into the church, short lived movements such as The Bible Code, The Jabez Prayer, and I Kissed Dating Goodbye had recently rocked the church back. People were spiritually hurt from the movements they had been parts of. Before that time, a surge in dispensational thinking had controlled the church. It’s still common to meet atheists around my own age that are upset about how the “Left Behind” series of books impacted their church experience as a child, even though it’s hard to find someone under the age of 25 in many churches that has even heard of it. It came, it did its damage, and it was tossed aside.

Chris Date is leading a charge to bring minority views of damnation to the forefront. Annihilationism and Universalism are views he wants to see taken more seriously in academic and apologetic circles. Listening to him speak passionately on the subject has turned me into a hopeful universalist but practically I’ve still got one foot firmly in the Eternal Conscious Torment camp. Universalism and Annihilationism just don’t fit nicely into my view of eternity.

But that’s not new to our generation. The Great Disappointment, The Protestant Reformation, The Great Schism, and even each of the Seven Ecumenical Councils all represent times when this kind of revolution in thought was embraced by some and opposed by others. To say nothing of the Copernican Revolution, with its parallels in Physics and Chemistry, and the revolution pioneered by John Snow in medicine.

Christian Religion has a unique attribute that makes these revolutions harder, though: damnation. In physics or mathematics or chemistry or economics, if someone young has a new and interesting idea about how things might really work, the older generation can stick their fingers in their ears and deny them research grants, but that’s about it. Once that older generation retires or dies or both, the new generation just slides into their place with the new ideas and takes over. In Christian Religion, the older generation can do something that those in these other fields can’t. They can say, “Anyone who believes that is a heretic, and they will have no part in God’s Kingdom.” They can strike such fear into the hearts of their followers that even after the generation is dead, it continues to hold sway.

However, there’s a danger here that seems to go unnoticed: what if your traditions are the wrong ones? (See Matthew 15:1-9) There is an old saying about Christian theology: “In essentials: unity; in non-essentials: liberty; in all things: charity.” There is something to be respected in this statement. But there’s also a problem. Neither essentials nor non-essentials are defined. A Roman Catholic may well put belief in the magisterium in the essentials list, and there’s no way to definitively demonstrate that they are wrong. A Baptist and a Prespraterian could each put their own brand of baptism in the essentials list, and then how are we to decide which is right and which is wrong? And in every case, the one adding the disputed item to the essentials list thinks that they have scriptural justification for it.

There are many people who go through a transition in religion in their teens or early twenties. I did. Many of my friends have. But one of the things I’ve noticed is that it doesn’t really seem to change the religious landscape all that often. There are often just as many people converting from Baptist to Catholic as there are people converting from Catholic to Baptist. A bunch of people that were raised conservative become more liberal, but then a bunch of people that were raised liberal also become more conservative. A bunch of people born into a church get tied up in the latest end-times craze and lose all faith in religion of any sort, but a bunch of atheists find philosophical religion and become Christian and a bunch of people raised in a philosophical church find the arguments of the new latest apocalyptic movement interesting and start moving into that. 

When you break it down, most often the sense of which religion to belong to is ultimately driven by feelings. We go to whichever church feels right. When we feel like our current church can’t answer the questions we raise adequately, we change to a church that can scratch that itch. People don’t do this in other fields. Very few people have a crisis of faith about which economic model is right or germ theory or Newtonian mechanics at age twenty. And that’s without the threat of damnation.

This is one of the reasons why it is increasingly difficult to get people to take religion seriously. I’ve heard apologists say that the reason they work so hard to bring people to faith is the same reason they would work hard to convince someone to stop smoking: the benefits to eternal life in one case and temporal health in the other. Yet the real anti-smoking apologists don’t use the same tactics as religious apologists. Religious apologists don’t turn to verifiable, documented realities. They turn to very esoteric proofs and assign identities to God that the Bible never does. Maybe it’s time that we stopped trying to find proofs that can’t be falsified, and started putting our beliefs to the test. Not just our historical beliefs, our practical beliefs. How does our theology tell us to live? Do that. And if you can’t, then I don’t care about your ontological or cosmological or teleological arguments. No one believes in Maxwell’s equations because of theoretical discussions. We believe in them because we see electrical engineers put them into practice every day and that’s where the lights in our houses come from. Do that with your theology, and that will lead to revival. Adhering to our principles despite the evidence is the realm of politics, not reason.

Prey for the Devil (2022)

One more just as the season slips by.

Last week I did Smile, and I realize that I’m just barely missing the Halloween season for this one, but horror movies are my guilty pleasure and so I’m going to ignore everyone that says I missed Halloween. It’s still the Halloween season. Y’all don’t agree? Go to someone else’s blog.

Friend: “So, I know you have opinions about this kind of movie…”

Me: “It was kind of refreshing after Smile, in a way.”

Friend: “I loved how in the end it was about leaning on Christ’s forgiveness that allowed her to beat the demon.”

Me: “Yeah. That was good. Very scriptural. I mean, I’m pretty sure that any exorcist worth his communication wafers is going to say that taking the thing into you to try to burn it is a bad idea.”

Friend: “It’s not like she had a choice.’

Me: “No, and that whole setup was seen a mile away, but as contrived setups go, they made good use of it.”

Friend: “Do you think demons do that? Chase down the same person for decades?”

Me: “Sure. Sometimes. Rarely. I think if something like that were the regular M. O. of large numbers of demons, there would be less controversy over whether or not demons even exist.”

Friend: “But even if it’s rare, can you see a demon working like that?”

Me: “Oh, for sure! Even the sister that lost her baby, we’re only talking about maybe a 20% budget increase between the special effects for things I’ve seen in person and things in that scene. I mean, swelling belly and all the candles go out is all beyond what I’ve seen. But a little material manipulation and electrical inconsistency, that felt familiar.”

Friend: “Do you think their techniques would work.”

Me: “Yes. I mean, as well as they did in the movie at least. Forgiveness, love, compassion, and unity of spirit are all things that, as a rule, are going to hurt a demon. And demons are usually smart enough to retreat and hide when they’re losing. If you think you’ve gotten rid of the demon, that can mean the real fight has just started and you just haven’t realized it.”

Friend: “So you think the movie was realistic?”

Me: “No. Well… the demon was realistic. The church parts, not so much. I’m sure that if a Roman Catholic Exorcist watched the movie, he’d start the ‘That’s not how we do it,’ with the demon holding cells in the hospital, then move on to critiquing the methods of the exorcists, then the secret storage for ‘terminal cases’ under the building, and so on.”

Friend: “Wait, you think they got the demon stuff pretty close, and the church stuff pretty much wrong?”

Me: “Yeah… Why? I’m kinda used to that. Movies usually get the church stuff wrong.”

Friend: “It just feels like getting the church stuff right could be fixed with a phone call.”

Me: “Maybe the demon stuff is based on experience. I don’t know. Take a story from a cousin’s best friend’s sister, and then set it in a church because that feels right, and stick close to the story you’ve got but make up the church stuff whole cloth because it’s just window dressing anyway.”

Friend: “Was there anything in the demon stuff you felt that they got wrong?”

Me: “Yeah. Little stuff. At one point in the catacombs when they were fighting it, the one priest yelled out, ‘Come and get me!’ Don’t do that. If possible, don’t address the demon at all. In particular, don’t say anything that can be interpreted as an invitation. If you do address it, tell it to go away.”

Friend: “Solid advice. Anything else?”

Me: “Yeah. The speed with which the propagandist went from inviting it in to under its control was not particularly realistic.”

Friend: “Even with a direct surrender like that?”

Me: “Yeah. I mean, that part made it more likely. But you have to remember, demons don’t play by our rules. The physical stuff makes as little sense to them as the metaphysical world makes to us. Think about all the weird stuff I tell you that I hear on Numberphile. That’s their world. That’s their sand and stone.”

Friend: “Oh. I never thought about it like that.”

Me: “Yeah. So, as an example, the demon gets control of the mute and sends him to attack her. And then all of a sudden he turns romantic-ish. Meanwhile, what we don’t see is that demon poking feelings in the poor guy’s head, going, ‘Wait, just a minute ago this got him moving aggressively! What’s going on? Why did he stop attacking?'”

Friend: “Oh. Interesting thought.”

Me: “Overall, I liked the movie. We should see it again so that I can put together a blog post about it.”

Friend: “Yeah, sure… just don’t quote me.”