What I read in 2016, the short list

I have always been a big reader, but never anything close to my list for 2016. That’s when I began to use the wonderful online group, Goodreads.com, to log the books that I have read, am reading, and want to read. I am up over 1900 books that I have logged as “read” in my lifetime, so far, but I know there are hundreds I cannot remember; I imagine the number should be more like 2500.

“Do you want that reading list Super-Sized?”

Over Christmas break 2015 I decided to join their Reading Challenge for 2016, and set a (as it turns out, too ambitious!) personal goal of 150 books/plays this year, including the complete works of Shakespeare, the Koran, and others, let alone material for class prep. Typically I am reading eight books at a clip; some short documents, some long tomes, some Audible recorded books from Amazon.

Overall, I read a lot more non-fiction this year than I usually do, although I also read some marvelous fiction.

Here are some of the highlights, in no particular order:

Russian themed. Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Sons (1862) was excellent. I am about a third of the way through the fictionalized biography of Trotsky by Leonardo Padura, The Man who Loved Dogs. Dostoyevsky, The Idiot (1868-69) is a Christ-allegory. All are available on Kindle.

George Orwell beyond 1984 and Animal Farm. I have read 1984 a dozen times since Junior High, and decided I should branch out. Keep the Aspidistra Flying is a novel (more…)

April Fools! No, they have not discovered the Gospel of “Q”!

What an announcement, that they discovered a Hebrew manuscript of Q! So wrote someone on a website from New Zealand (liturgy.co.nz) earlier today, but not everyone took note that it was published on April 1, 2016!

 

image

In fact, the photo of the papyrus is nothing new; it’s the Nash Papyrus, which was discovered over a century ago (click HERE). And the authors left plenty of other clues in the stor, for example, that two of the scholars involved were Justin I. Dea and Ida Claire.

I love a good gag, but the problem is that this is already circulating in Spanish and will have ramifications: it will be used as “evidence” by certain false Messianic rabbis, who teach that the NT was originally written in Hebrew and use that notion to justify their rewriting of the Bible. They remove the deity of Christ, the person of the Spirit, salvation by faith, freedom from the Law, etc, because supposedly they were not in “the original Hebrew.”

For that reason I wrote, asking the site to explain that it was a hoax.

Whether Q existed it or, no, they haven’t discovered it yet, and according to the best available date, it would be written in Greek, not Aramaic or Hebrew.

Jokes are fun, until someone gets hurt!

April Fools! No, they have not discovered the Gospel of “Q”! by Gary S. Shogren, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

 

“I don’t believe it!” Thoughts on truth and social media, Part II

In Part I I began an extended-play rant against internet disinformation. I’m against it for two reasons: I don’t like false information; I don’t like to look foolish when I fall for it.

Here are other areas where we need to show some healthy skepticism:

ECHO CHAMBER EFFECT

In 2015 the social media were packed with people reporting that Pope Francis had announced that Islam and Christianity were equally valid and that the Koran and the Bible were basically the same message: “Jesus Christ, Jehovah, Allah. These are all names employed to describe an entity that is distinctly the same across the world.”

“I’m the pope, but I’m broadminded!”

People were outraged! The Vatican denied it which, for some of us, was evidence that it must have really happened. It appeared on the bogus Washingtonpost.com.co, conservativebyte.com, also civictribune.com (which altered the story, so that the pope supposedly said this at the White House). So, I have seen the same exact story, usually quoted verbatim, on four websites. Does this mean there are four “sources”? No, only one, and that original source (National Report again!) said they were just joking! But the echo effect means that the reader senses that, “It must be so, because everybody is talking about it!” The National Report was also responsible for the spoof that the Pope wants everyone to be micro-chipped by 2017.

For the Christian there is a special sort of news source, the Prophetic Site. If one blogger says he, I don’t know, saw four grim horsemen riding around in the field ‘back of his farm, then the story will spread far and wide within days, if not hours.

TABLOIDS

Ah, for the days when tabloids were clearly labeled and placed at the supermarket checkout. Then you could give a quick glance and find out when Elvis was spotted with what Venusian or how a Wolf-Boy was loose in the Maine woods.

Here’s one you won’t soon forget:

wtf tabloid headline

Now you just have to click on and find tabloids online, for example, WorldNewsDailyReport.com. Read all about it! “Man who spend 57 Years Counting the Bricks in the Great Wall of China.”

Of course, (more…)

“I don’t believe it!” Thoughts on truth and social media, Part I

Capture

“You must not pass along false rumors.” Exodus 23:1

My friends know what a skeptical soul I am. Whenever I see a post on the social media, my first reaction is to shake my head and say, “Yes, but, how do you know this to be so?”

And they know me as the one who annoyingly responds on Facebook, “Is this true??”

I really, really, don’t like to be “had”. They “got” me badly, once, when I saw an announcement that MTV was going to start putting operas into their mix of music. MTV!! Twenty years ago, and it still burns me. Later I realized that the announcement came out on April 1.

Set aside videos of cute kittens or adolescents cracking up their skateboards. Let’s focus on those other things – political, social, religious, etc. – which get posted on social media and spread like wildfire. They go viral because of a factor in the human mind called “cognitive bias”. Everyone has cognitive bias = that when I hear things from certain sources, or which resonate with what I already “know” to be true, I more easily assume it’s true, at least until someone proves otherwise.

Let’s take an example: ISIS

In December, after the San Bernadino shootings, these two pictures circulated the internet. If someone put them on Facebook, you and I would probably be more likely to accept one as “real” and the other as faked or at least less important information. The first looks like a pro-ISIS rally, the second something else:

Photo 1

Photo 1

Photo 2

Photo 2

Answer: Both were taken in Dearborn, Michigan. Photo 1 was a march on Dec 5, 2015, by Muslims against ISIS. The other picture in front of “City Hall” is, I was able to confirm, Dearborn City Hall, located at 13615 Michigan Avenue; it was a march by Muslims again, against ISIS, in August 25, 2014. And I learned that there have been a number of these marches by Muslims in Dearborn. (more…)

The Emperor Constantine the Great – a villain or a hero, or something in-between?

Download the article as a pdf: Shogren_The Emperor Constantine the Great – a villain or a hero, or something in-between

To many, the Emperor Constantine was a saint: in the Orthodox church he is one of the “Equal-to-Apostles” (isapóstolos) a title given to people (such as Patrick, Cyril the evangelist of Russia and others) who were especially effective in establishing the gospel.

constantine

To others, Constantine is Great was a tool of evil, a corrupter of the church.

The attacks against Constantine come from several quarters. Some Messianic believers imagine that he turned the church into a Gentile movement. Others charge him with introducing pagan practices into the church. Seventh-Day Adventists credit him (or some pope) with changing the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday.[1] Jehovah’s Witnesses think he turned Jesus into God, made the cross a symbol of Christianity, and established Easter and Christmas. All of these parties tend to gang up and use the same materials as the basis for their attacks – for example, many anti-Constantine groups hale back to Babylon Mystery Religion – Ancient and Modern, by Ralph Woodrow (1966). And they and Woodrow borrow much of their “information” from Alexander Hislop’s The Two Babylons (1858), another sketchy attempt to connect Catholicism with Babylonian religion.[2] More on this later.

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Who was Constantine? (more…)

Text criticism in the not too distant future!

CurteaDeArges

I have used Logos for 20 years now. And speaking of futuristic software, I’m a fan of science fiction and occasionally write stories for my own amusement. For those with lots of imagination, enjoy a short story about the future of Bible study! This should be considered “hard” science fiction, since all the texts and technology is present or doable within the near future; and the list of missing books given in the last paragraph are what scholars would hope to find through new research.

Don’t mind the Greek words, everything is translated in some way or another.

Click to open. If it doesn’t open the pdf file and goes to a second page, just click title again:

Oracle a Divine Mystery by Shogren

Early Frost: A tale of Christmas in Rhode Island

A special story for the season!

It is a scientific fact: the winters of one’s child years are much colder, darker, snowier and more perilous than the winters served to these same people as adults. Nor is this natural law any respecter of generation. Old-timer, post-war, boomer, post-boomer: each child in every era survives to see winter eventually lose its icy chokehold, become indifferent to the point where the Ice Age rolls back. With added years the terror of wolves prowling the suburbs melts into slush and seeps away. Fellow adults begin to step outside, hatless and scarfless. Those cars that still bobble away the spark of combustion are themselves culpable, their onboard computers stripped of the defense of blaming the environment.

(more…)

What kind of music is “Christian”?

I just read a blog about music in the Latin American church. He noted that there is a strong tendency to emphasize the music over the text of the song; that the lyrics are often shallow and repetitive; that the sound system tends to drown out the congregation; that the worship leaders seem to be putting on a show more than directing worship. With much of this I was in agreement, and I plan to blog on contemporary Christian music. He continued on, and argued that much of the style we hear in the Latin church is by nature carnal. He criticizes salsa, jazz and rock rhythms, and he cites John MacArthur as his authority. And so I responded with the following:

Nevertheless, I must take strong objection to the point made by John MacArthur, which you in turn quoted with approval: “The pulsating rhythms of native African music mimics the restless, superstitious passions of their culture and religion.” [1]

I do not know how many times we’ve heard repeated from the pulpit the “urban legend” about African music: one person reports that, when the children of missionaries played rock music, the Africans exclaimed “Hey, that’s the music that we use to summon up the demons!” Other Africans supposedly say, “We know that kind of music – it’s the kind that homosexuals use!” No-one has ever given me details of who this happened to or where, it’s always something vague like “a friend of a friend said so, and he’s very reliable” or “everyone knows that it really happened.”

John MacArthur might be a famous expositor, but he has no expertise in the area of music (and I less so). And it saddens me to hear that he is repeating pseudo-scientific charges that have circulated in the United States for years and years. They’ve denounced the African is by nature sensual, degenerate, superstitious, full of lust, a fount of cultural and spiritual corruption. One preacher on the web declares that rock music is the equivalent of apostasy, since it comes from the people of Ham, who was supposedly put under God’s curse (see Gen 9:25 for a reminder that Noah never cursed Ham).

May I suggest that it is no coincidence that one fundamental argument against jazz or rock is precisely this connection with Africa? When they speak of the African culture, they are speaking of the African or African-American people. Racism is the original sin of the USA, and it has always manifested itself in the marginalization of the African and his/her music. The question of what kind of music is appropriate in the worship service is indeed one worthy of consideration; nevertheless, we should not exclude one genre or another, simply because of its African roots.

MacArthur cites the story about how plants exposed to rock music withered and died. So far as I can tell, he refers to the experiment from Dorothy Retallack in 1973 (http://www.dovesong.com/positive_music/plant_experiments.asp). Unfortunately for the anti-rock argument, modern classical music also seems to have dismayed the plants, where they most liked Indian music – the very Asian music MacArthur regards as un-Christian.

Update: google “John MacArthur”, “rock music” and “apostasy” and you´ll get an eyeful. Irony of ironies: it turns out that many people are now attacking MacArthur for compromising with Satanic music and other worldly practices.

Note:

[1] This is taken from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Ephesians (Chicago: Moody, 1986), p. 260. In other sources, MacArthur is quote as saying “some African music”; in the commentary he clearly states that all African music is inherently so. He also says that rock music by its nature “creates pride in the musician rather than humility.” I suppose it can, and does, although I’ve known some traditional organists and pianists who rate high on the pride scale, not to mention folk singers.

Related posts:

For the urban legend about the African missionary:

Christian urban legends

Christians and myths

“What kind of music is Christian?” by Gary Shogren, PhD in New Testament, Professor at Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica