More on the Image and Likeness in Moses Maimonides

Back in September I posted The Difference Between Image and Likeness in Genesis, which discussed both Orthodox and Jewish concepts of Genesis 1:26.  Recently I received a series of Twitter messages from Y Sher as follows:

You understood Maimonides distinction between Image (Tzelem) and Likeness (Dmuth), he seems to equate both to man’s divine capacity for intellectual apprehehension. Any thoughts?

That, of course, is exactly what he does:

As man’s distinction consists in a property which no other creature on earth possesses, viz., intellectual perception, in the exercise of which he does not employ his senses, nor move his hand or his foot, this perception has been compared-though only apparently, not in truth — to the Divine perception, which requires no corporeal organ. On this account, i.e., on account of the Divine intellect with which man has been endowed, he is said to have been made in the form and likeness of the Almighty, but far from it be the notion that the Supreme Being is corporeal, having a material form. (Guide for the Perplexed, I, 1)

Maimonides’ central point, however, was that the relationship between man and God re the image and likeness was of an incorporeal nature.  To argue otherwise would lead one to the conclusion that God had a body.  This discussion may seem abstruse until one considers that the Mormons hold to precisely the opposite, i.e., that the fact that man is made in the image and likeness of God, and that man has a body, leads one to conclude that God does also.  What that does is upend Genesis 1:26 and posit that God is made in man’s image, which in turn makes it easier for Mormons to think that they themselves could become gods.  This is part and parcel with the Mormons’ campaign to debase deity, which I discuss in my piece Half a Million Roubles. Is It Enough?.

Turning to the Orthodox distinction between image and likeness, I think it’s fair to say that the terms image (zelem) and likeness (demut) in Hebrew are complementary to one another in this context, and that the distinction that the Orthodox make in this case is reading more into the text than the Hebrew allows.  That in turn brings up a host of other issues, including the inspiration of the Septuagint and the whole Patristic methodology of scriptural interpretation.  But Patristic Biblical exegesis, in more cases than contemporary interpreters and academics are wont to admit, is like a cat who jumps up on a slick counter or tabletop: the slide across and the falling off of the edge don’t look very graceful, but the cat usually manages to hit the floor on all four feet.  The Orthodox way of getting to this point may not be the swiftest, but it’s a big improvement over the Reformed insistence that a creature created in God’s image and likeness is so incapable of making the return journey that it takes the involuntary choice of God (involuntary for the human being, that is) to turn this voyage into a reality.

Good Help Is So Hard to Find These Days

That should have been the comeback of Palm Beach apartment building owner Robert Roddy as he faces fines of US$250/day for not getting his town-mandated repairs complete on schedule:

It looks as though fines will begin mounting against property owner Robert Roddy as he repairs his vacant 1938 apartment building at 332 S. County Road following a ruling Thursday by the town’s Code Enforcement Board.

Roddy, who has appeared before the board several times this year, was to have all work done inside the three-story building by today.

But on Thursday he said he needed until Feb. 28 to get everything done.

Earlier planned completion dates were Aug. 1, Oct. 31 and Dec. 1.

Part of the problem, of course, if that he started this as a DIY project, which just isn’t the Palm Beach way.

The Town isn’t amused, but from the sound of it they just might cut him some slack once his repairs are done.  Then again, stuff just don’t go unfixed in Palm Beach.

Atheists: The New Roundheads of the Anglophone World

The recent vandalism of Glastonbury’s Holy Thorn Tree at Christmastime has got me thinking about some strange connections which seem to be manifesting themselves.  We always like to think that we know how things work, but that isn’t always the case.  And, as anyone involved in science and technology will tell you, sometimes recognising the counter-intuitive is the first step of knowing the truth.

It’s not clear whether the destruction of the Holy Thorn Tree–which is purported to be the descendant of a tree planted in England by Joseph of Arimathea–was motivated by its religious significance or not.  My guess, however, is that atheists all over the UK are raising their glasses in a toast to this event.  The more the evidence of Christianity is eradicated from the British Isles, they say, the better.

But atheists weren’t always the ones to raise their glasses either.  Many years ago my father retained an Austrian immigrant to design an experimental pile driver that ran off of liquid propane gas.  I was home from university and was taken to lunch with my father and his consultant.

The consultant looked at me and what I was drinking.  “You believe in God?” he asked me.

“Yes, I do,” I replied.

“I knew you did,” he observed.

“How?” I asked.

“You drink beer,” he said.  “Atheists don’t drink.”

I’ve never shared my faith quite that way before or since.

It seems that everything is topsy-turvy, as I noted recently about civil marriage being the province of the upper reaches of our society after the sexual revolution being started from same upper reaches.  And that brings us to back to the Thorn Tree: although today secularists are happy to see it chopped down, the first time it saw the axe it was under Oliver Cromwell and his “Roundheads,” which lead Britain under an austere regime that is only rivalled by supporters of shari’a law.

Cromwell also abolished the celebration of Christmas, an abolition that survived the Restoration and had to wait until the nineteenth century and Dickens to see a comeback.   Today we have our own secularist roundheads who are looking to abolish it again, as anyone who follows Todd Starnes’ blog knows.  Not only are they out to banish explicitly Christian things such as nativity scenes, but they’re even gunning for Santa Claus and the colours of red and green, as if the latter represented a gang.  (And then, of course, the city of Philadelphia regaled us with this…)

Ever since the Reformation, the Anglophone world has been a tug of war between two groups: the “Roundheads,” or those who want an austere, disciplined way of life, and the “Cavaliers,” who want something a little rowdier.  Both English and American Civil Wars were fought over this; both sets of Roundheads (Cromwell’s people and the North) were religiously motivated, and in both cases the Roundheads won the war.  But in both cases there was a reaction.  In England we had the Restoration, in the U.S. we saw the South rise again, first in the consciousness of the American people (with sympathetic portraits such as Gone With the Wind) and later with the region’s economic resurgence.  It’s only now that there is a semi-systematic campaign to run Old Dixie down again; we’ll see plenty of that starting next Monday, the 150th anniversary of South Carolina’s secession from the Union and the beginning of the War Between the States.

What we are seeing now, in my opinion, is a secular Roundhead movement.  Oh yes, they ostensibly encourage sexual freedom and trash those who don’t, but they’ve never even tried to lower the drinking age (or abolish it altogether,) they’re not as a group behind the legalisation of marijuana, and well-heeled secularists can’t bring themselves to divorce civil marriage, either for themselves or for others.  There’s no particular groundswell amongst non-believers to reduce the gaggle of mindless laws we have in this country.  Bourgeois propriety reigns with the godless; in fact, they spend an enormous amount of time trying to convince the rest of us of their morality and how it is not necessary to believe in God to be moral.

Part of the reason is that atheists are frequently, in this country at least, extracted from religious backgrounds.  As someone raised Episcopalian in Palm Beach, I find this an alien experience.  It’s unfortunate all around: not only do they abandon the faith in their creator, but they bring with them the same censorious moralism they claim to dislike in their backgrounds.  Fundies once, fundies forever, it seems, just a different belief structure.  That’s why, I suppose, we see so many billboards on buses and elsewhere proclaiming there is no God and that science is the best, and yet we fall further and further behind the rest of the world in science and math education where the results really count.

With this new Roundhead movement, the Cavaliers are caught off balance.  In deepest perplexity are the Evangelical Christians.  Theological and ecclesiastical descendants of one or both of the Roundheads in the last two civil wars, they wake up to find themselves in the Cavalier camp, a place they’re not quite prepared to be.

So what will be the result of this?  And what are the Cavaliers to do in the face of it?

As noted earlier, the Roundheads won both civil wars.  It should also be noted, however, that the Anglophone world has been blessed by being able to fight their seminal internal bloodbaths without serious foreign interference.  (The Germans should have been so fortunate during the Thirty Years’ War.)   Consider the War Between the States: while two halves of this nation engaged in the mass suicide of a generation of its manhood, the worst foreign interference going on was the French putting Maximilian on the throne in Mexico, and when the Americans were done with their exercise, they bared their teeth long enough to take care of that.  In this much smaller world we live in, it’s unlikely that we will have that luxury.  Remember, atheists: it’s the results that count, and your tenacious belief in evolution won’t get you far when you’re left behind economically and militarily.

As far as the Evangelical Cavaliers are concerned–and I’m not talking about a Bible study group at the University of Virginia, although they need to help out–the best first step is to proclaim and live the Christian life as a celebration.  We’ve wasted too much time plugging upward social mobility when the system is increasingly rigged against that.  And we need to proclaim and live that Christianity places real life beyond politics, and that the church’s survival is beyond that of the nation.

When my family moved to Chattanooga fifty years ago, we did so right at the start of the centennial celebration of the War Between the States.  To grow up with that, even for a short time, made an impression, not only of the high costs of civil war, but also of the simple fact that “one nation” isn’t a given.  Now that half a century has passed and we’re re-examining all of that again, it’s time to engage in some serious thought about where we’re going before the Anglophone’s world’s next convulsion becomes its last.

The Ten Weeks: Week One (13-19 December): In the Clutches of Nationalised Health Care

The setting of the novel The Ten Weeks was exactly forty years ago. This is one of a series of excerpts from the novel, one for each week (except for Weeks Two and Three, which were combined).

Click here for more information on the book, including the new e-book version.

The sun was just setting over Verecunda Bay when the ferry pulled into its wharf in front of the customs house. Even before they had a chance to step on the gangway and go ashore, Luke Allen, Pierre’s warehouse manager and a burly man with some Island native blood in him, greeted them in his usual straightforward manner. Luke wasn’t much for a sunny disposition but even before he helped Pierre and Raymond get their luggage off of the boat he delivered news as only he could.

“Madeleine’s in the hospital, Boss,” Luke informed Pierre.

“Hospital? For what? Why wasn’t I called, at least in Alemara?”

“She only went in this afternoon—felt a little woozy yesterday, went out of her head this morning, collapsed just before lunch. ”

“So what is the doctor’s idea of what is wrong with her?” Pierre asked, agitated.

Luke thought for a minute. “You’ll have to ask him, Boss—I’m not really sure. It’s serious, though.”

“Very well,” Pierre sighed. With that they disembarked. Luke did his usual magic getting Pierre, Raymond and their luggage into Pierre’s old Citröen 2CV—another of Pierre’s “trademarks”—and with Luke driving they puttered off to the hospital.

The Verecunda Municipal Hospital was an imposing building between Gerland Street and the university. It’s main virtue was that it was the only facility of its kind on the Island. People came from everywhere to be greeted by inadequate hall lighting shining on the green walls, resplendent in their lead-based enamel paint. While admiring this, doctors, nurses, patients and visitors alike were able to walk on well waxed, beige asbestos floor tile.

The main entrance lobby was decorated to match the rest of the establishment. Pierre and Raymond were only cheered by seeing Yveline des Cieux in the lobby waiting for them. They threw their arms around each other as they had not in a long time.

“So what has happened?” Raymond asked.

“She has encephalitis,” Yveline gravely reported. “It is a serious case. The doctor will be by in about half an hour. Let’s go.”

“Indeed,” Pierre agreed, and they headed to the elevator. As it rose up to Madeleine’s floor, it beeped and flashed as it passed the intermediate ones, echoing Madeleine’s own heartbeat and struggle for life. Pierre hoped that Madeleine’s own inner rhythm was quicker, because the elevator was interminably slow as it crawled upward past each floor. Finally they arrived at her level, burst from the elevator in uncharacteristically rapid fashion and made their way to her room, not far from the nurse’s station.

Pierre stopped dead in his tracks at the door—not for Madeleine, but for Pete and Alice Stanley, standing up to greet them. A couple in their early forties who still echoed in looks and demeanour the fact that they were high school—or Upper Division, as the Islanders would put it—sweethearts, they owned the feed and seed store that supplied upper Uranus along with Vidamera, Alemara and sometimes Aloxa. They were also tractor and farm equipment dealers as well, which meant that they purchased tyres from Pierre from time to time.

“It is very kind of you to visit,” Pierre said, not sure what else to say.

“It is her doing,” Pete answered, pointing to his daughter Carla awakening from a nap on her cot. A Sixth Former like Madeleine, Carla was almost the perfect “Aryan” in appearance: bleached wavy blonde hair flowing down her back, blue eyes and fair complexion complemented by broad shoulders and a slender figure. She roused herself and stood up, not well put together in the present situation.

“She insisted on coming and being with Madeleine,” Alice added. “She wouldn’t take no for an answer. Because of the crime that’s about, we came with her. My brother lives in town; we’ve made arrangements to stay with him while she’s here.”

Pierre removed his hat very slowly, as if in respect. “I have had many loyal customers over the years, but you have exceeded all of them.” From that he approached his daughter lying in the bed. Madeleine was wired with IV’s and monitors. She had a very pale look about her as she lay in the bed motionless. Raymond was right behind him; both were visibly shaken at the sight before them.

Pierre finally turned back to the Stanleys and Yveline. “My wife tells me it is encephalitis. But how?”

“We were playing tennis on Wednesday, up in Hallett,” Carla said. “We were both bit by mosquitoes. I guess her’s was the bad one.”

“But this time of year?” Pierre asked.

“Since they outlawed DDT, they’ve gotten worse,” Pete stated. “Even in a dry December like this one. We used to worry about the ones coming over the border. Now we’ve got to deal with our own.”

“So what are they doing about it?” Raymond asked.

“There isn’t much they can do,” Pierre gravely observed. “We must wait and see what happens.” He looked around. “How did she get this private room?”

“Pulled a few strings,” Pete admitted. “Makes it easier on Carla. They moved her out of intensive care because there wasn’t much more they could do there.”

“Surely you’re not going to stay all the time,” Pierre declared.

“I can’t leave her,” Carla said. “It takes forever to get anything around here. She needs me.”

“Since they set up national health care,” Pete came in, “things have gotten slower.”

“They lost quite a few doctors,” Alice added.

Pierre found himself lost in his thoughts at all that suddenly confronted him. He looked around to see the two flower arrangements that were in the room.

“I assume one of those is yours,” Pierre said, looking at Pete and pointing at the flowers.

“The other came from your people at the warehouse,” he replied.

“Has the priest come?” Pierre asked.

“About 16 hours,” Yveline said. “He came in, performed the last rites— or the unction of the sick, as they call it now—and left. That was all.”

Pierre stood in silence again. “The doctor’s supposed to be here shortly, isn’t he?” he finally asked.

“Supposed to,” Carla replied. “But they run slow too. If he’s here by eight, I’d be surprised. It took them three hours to figure out what was wrong with her to start with.”

“Why don’t we take the kids down to eat somewhere while you stay here for the doctor?” Pete asked after a very long silence.

“That’s a good idea,” Pierre agreed, “but I sense that I will be waiting for Godot.” With that the four of them left for the hospital’s cafeteria.

Laying it Out for the "King James Only" People

Nick Park makes an important point for those who think that the KJV was Paul’s version:

Lots of things end up becoming traditional as a result of such historical accidents.  But what is really odd is that many modern day Baptists and Puritans (in a country that long ago rejected the authority of kings, freed churches from State-control and is pretty useless at soccer) are the loudest at arguing how wonderful the KJV is and how it is the only true English Bible.

This is a post I always wanted to do but never got around to it.  And it’s probably a propos for an Irishman, whose compatriots fought English crown and church longer than just about everyone else, to come up with this.

The Baptists (not all, obviously) are especially adamant about using the King James Version (or the Authorised Version, to be proper about it).  But Baptists are the most adamant about the church being free from state control as well.  How is it that they turn around and insist on a state-enforced version of the Scriptures?

Somebody is not using their head…

The Strange Course of Marriage vs. Class

Albert Mohler comments on the upending of the whole trend line of class vs. personal morality:

For most of the last century, we have been concerned about the alienation of the cultural and intellectual elites from the institution of marriage. Starting at least as far back as the 1920s, the most highly educated Americans moved away from commitment to marriage. In contrast, the middle class held tenaciously to marriage in both institutional and moral terms. Middle-class Americans and those even lower on the economic scales tended to get married, to stay married, and to have children only within the institution of marriage.

Yet, in a stunning reversal of these commitments, more educated and more wealthy Americans are now more likely to be married, to stay married, and to have children only within marriage. In one of the great tragic and unpredicted developments of our times, less educated Americans are now far less committed to marriage than in the recent past and even less committed to marriage than the educated elites.

As researchers now explain, the “moderately educated” (high school graduates who may have some college but no baccalaureate degree) are now increasingly alienated from marriage. This massive shift in moral and institutional commitment to marriage is a tragedy of epic proportions unfolding before our eyes, yet it is now well underway.

Additionally we have this, from Ross Douthat at the NYT:

Decades of punditry, pop sociology and prejudice have been premised on this neat division — from the religious right’s Reagan-era claim to be a “Moral Majority” oppressed by a secular elite, to Barack Obama’s unfortunate description of heartland America “clinging” to religion. Like any binary, it oversimplified a complicated picture. But as a beginner’s guide to the culture war, the vision of white-collar social liberals and blue-collar cultural conservatives was, for a substantial period, more accurate than not.

That may no longer be the case. This week, the National Marriage Project is releasing a study charting the decline of the two-parent family among what it calls the “moderately educated middle” — the 58 percent of Americans with high school diplomas and often some college education, but no four-year degree.

This decline is depressing, but it isn’t surprising. We’ve known for a while that America has a marriage gap: college graduates divorce infrequently and bear few children out of wedlock, while in the rest of the country unwed parenthood and family breakdown are becoming a new normal. This gap has been one of the paradoxes of the culture war: highly educated Americans live like Ozzie and Harriet despite being cultural liberals, while middle America hews to traditional values but has trouble living up to them.

Having grown up in the upper reaches of this society and ended up being a part of and working for a Pentecostal church, I have seen this from both ends.  The rot in our social mores started at the top, but has trickled down to the bottom.  It’s ironic that liberals whine about “trickle down” economics, but are now faced with trickle down immorality!  And the two are related: the lack of stable family structure at the bottom is a major reason our income inequality is increasing, all of the bawling and squalling about “tax cuts for the rich” notwithstanding.

It’s an elitist snob’s dream come true, in many ways.  Those who are left with stable families run the show.

The prescription for this malady is that we need to “strengthen marriage”, while attempting to defend marriage by heading off same sex civil marriage.  One reason I think why the LGBT community has pushed so hard for same sex civil marriage is because this group is, on the whole, economically well heeled, and it just wants what every other well heeled group has.   For both sides, however, the debate over civil marriage is an “upstairs” game; everyone else has bailed on civil marriage.

Instead of a knee-jerk call for “strengthening marriage”, we need to pause and ask why have Americans with less education and income abandoned civil marriage.  There are two possibilities.

The first is that our culture–what comes out of our media centres–has extolled the virtues of unrestricted sex and trashed people who oppose this idea (just think of the griping we hear every time abstinence education comes up).  Obviously the lower reaches have accepted this proposition.

The second is that civil marriage, as currently configured, doesn’t work for people of lower incomes.  Why enter into civil marriage, for example, when conjugal relations outside of it are legal anyway?  Or why worry whether children are born out of wedlock when their legal status is no different than those born inside?  And, if a relationship doesn’t work out, why line the pockets of a divorce lawyer when you can just split?  Finally, on the whole those on the dole in one form or another can get more from the state if they are unmarried, and that can make the difference between eating and not.

It’s unlikely–especially with the legal trends going they way they are–that these deficiencies are going to be fixed in anyone’s lifetime.  Instead on waiting for the state to get around to fixing these problems, it’s time for the church–or at least churches that are still serious about lower income people, and Pentecostal churches surely need to be–to offer marriage under God as an alternative to the state kind, and to do the hard work of discipleship and spiritual and personal growth necessary to make stable relationships in this life, to say nothing of what is to come.

Palm Beach Does it Right on Coastal Engineering and Management

They have their own “Comprehensive Coastal Management” page.

Part of that is the very nice satellite composite of the entire town, which you can see at the right.

Those of you who follow this blog know that I maintain an extensive collection of coastal and marine engineering materials.  Some of that has spilled over to this blog, including the following:

HT to the Shiny Sheet.

For a New "Sputnik Moment," the '60's Radicals Have Got to Go

President Obama may want one

President Obama called for another “Sputnik moment” on Monday by having the nation invest more in education and science, previewing a theme that is likely to be part of his agenda and his budget for the second half of his term.

Mr. Obama, who made his remarks during a visit to a community college here, was not yet born when the Soviets’ launch of the Sputnik orbiter in 1957 shocked Americans and prompted a national commitment to education, space and science spending. “Fifty years later, our nation’s Sputnik moment is back,“ Mr. Obama said.

His goal, he said, is to increase education and science spending to 3 percent of the size of the economy, a significant increase from current levels. Mr. Obama also acknowledged the need to reduce the long-term debt, just days after his fiscal commission proposed a $4 trillion, 10-year package of spending cuts and tax increases, and he said the two parties would debate the nation’s spending priorities next year and years beyond.

…but he’s going to have to jettison a large part of his party’s “baggage” to get one.

It’s true that the panicked reaction to the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik engendered one of the greatest and most visible advances in science and technology we have ever had.  But it’s also worthwhile to remember that much of the 1960’s was a backlash against same scientific and technological advance, or featured the introduction of a great deal of pseudo-science.  It’s also worth remembering that many presented the space race and fixing our social problems as an “either/or” proposition.  Well, as Jesus promised, the poor we have with us always, but…

The largest burden anti-technological burden that came out of that era was the environmental movement, which is now about to lower the boom on American industry–and the science and technology that go with it–by using our anti-pollution laws to regulate carbon dioxide.  It’s never occurred to anyone that we can’t stop current activity while waiting for this “green ideal” to show up.  And then there’s that great casualty of 1960’s and 1970’s panic mentality: the nuclear power industry…

This administration’s aversion to small businesses is only making the unreasonably complex regulatory environment even worse.  It’s worth remembering that many of the technological spin-offs of the space program were commercialised in the private sector.  As the Soviets found out, the government is great at making theoretical advances, but not so hot at putting shoe leather to them.  We can put the question another way: in a society where being credentialled by a few institutions and moving up in large bureaucracies is becoming de rigeur, where will the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates come from?  And where will the jobs they create be located?

It’s true that our educational system needs to fix the laggard status of science and math education in our state school system.  But we can’t simply upgrade that and leave those who come out of the system “all dressed up and nowhere to go.”  To fix that is going to require a metanoia amongst many of the superannuated hippies and their followers amongst our élites–or perhaps the boot would be quicker.

Pat Robertson Supports the Abolition of Civil Marriage

That’s the way I interpret this (advance to about 6:30 in the video):

Sooner or later there’s going to be a fracas on the right when enough people realise that those of us who support the abolition of civil marriage are at odds with those who are “defending” it, but until then…

Interesting to note that the question was set up by my fellow South Floridian, Lee Webb.