Saturday, December 10, 2011

Work Before the Fall

Now that I have laid some groundwork on economics and our current situation, we can examine the Biblical points on work and the economy.

There is little known about life before the Fall, but what we have is instructive.

First, we have God's work in Creation:
"And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made." (Gen 2:2)
The Hebrew word here is מְלַאכְתֹּ֖ו (mel-aw-kah).  It can be used for ministry, or deputyship in addition to "work".  It is not used for servile work.  It is used again in verse 3 (repeated reference to rest from His work).  After that, it does not appear until Exodus.

The work for the man (Adam) is described differently:
"And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it." (Gen 2:15)
The word dress here (עָבְדָ֖)(aw-bad) is usually translated "serve" (also in the context of work).  In fact, in 290 uses, it is translated "serve" 227.  It is translated "dress" only twice (Deut 28:39 being the other one).  Usually "dress" comes from a different word, meaning "do".

("Keep" here means "guard", which is the subject for another day)

Finally, at the Fall:
"In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground" (Gen 3:19)
So we see a difference in the work of God, and the work of man (not surprising).  The man's work, even before the Fall, is servile (in service to God) - possibly even hard.

At the Fall, we see man's work changed.  Now it is literally "sweat" (zay-aw) to get bread.  This might refer to conditions changing to cause sweat when working (perhaps due to a change in diet - garden vs. bread), but seems to more refer to "frustration".  Before, the work was rewarding and pleasant - now it is tedious and often spoiled.

Man's work was created on day 6 - before God rested, saying everything is good.  The Fall has brought frustration and sweat.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Next Review

There is a new biography of William Tyndale coming out.  It should arrive in a week or so, and will probably take a few weeks to read...  Looking forward to it!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Artificial Scarcity

As I said before, economics is the science of managing scarcity.

In an agricultural or industrial economy, this makes perfect sense.  There is only so much food, or physical goods to go around.  Some will have, and some will have not.

But the industrial economy has been slowly giving way to an "information economy" - where the people most in demand produce ideas (be it stories, movies, insightful commentary, whatever).

Information is not a physical good (although it requires physical goods to store and manipulate).  It can be transferred quickly and easily, and every transfer is an opportunity for copying (distribution is nearly free, and scales well over huge numbers of people).

At the same time, the industrial side of things have become immensely cheap and efficient.  China produces all the computers we can possibly need, each more powerful than a room size super computer from the 80's.

How do we handle this?

From very early on, the answer was "artificial scarcity" (it's in the Constitution!).  This is usually in the form of "patents", and "copyright".  A patent grants a monopoly to the inventor of a design for some time.  Copyright grants a monopoly to the author of a creative work.

It's unclear how well this ever worked (it has always sort of muddled along).  But in the age of the Internet, it is clearly failing badly.

Charles Stross eloquently identifies how the cure has been worse than the disease.
"As ebook sales mushroom, the Big Six's insistence on DRM has proven to be a hideous mistake. Rather than reducing piracy[*], it has locked customers in Amazon's walled garden, which in turn increases Amazon's leverage over publishers."
 Charlie is noting the problem in the publishing industry, but we see similar things in music (ruled by iTunes).  Movies suffer similarly, although no one agent has managed to corner the market (there have been huge upheavals - witnessed by the rapid move of new releases from theaters to DVD (to forestall piracy)).

The obvious solution is to not charge for distribution.  Money would need to be gathered beforehand (like the patronage system).  Obviously, a lot of kinks need to be worked out of the system, but it doesn't seem anyone is thinking this way...
(for example, why do we even need money)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Skin Map

"The Skin Map" (Stephen Lawhead)(audio) - This book was provided for me by the publisher.

The Skin Map is the first book in a series very much like Lewis' "Chronicles of Narnia".  You can also compare it to the purely secular "Merchant Princes" (Charles Stross).

The world is like our own, but there are "ley lines" which provide access to alternate Earths.  Like most alternate Earth settings, some worlds are behind in time (although, apparently you cannot move to a world ahead of your own time).

The main character is a young man (Kit Livingston), who has not made much of his life.  Kit is coming to that conclusion himself when everything changes.

The story follows Kit, his girlfriend, Kit's grandfather, and a mysterious man - who has the "skin map" tattooed on his person (as a flashback).

The ending is somewhat of a cliffhanger, but the book is satisfying in itself.

In the audio format, it is very accessible.  The reader has a soft, pleasant, English accent and the pace is steady (not too fast or slow).  His inflection is well modulated to indicate different speakers, with unique voices for all the characters.  There are only four or five tracks per CD, so if your player has trouble keeping your current place you might have some difficulties getting back to where you left off.

That covers the basic outline, but how does it look from a Christian perspective?

First, anyone who has problems with magic, or druidic sorts of things will not be happy.  Things like Stonehenge and ancient mounds form the basis of Kit's "ley line" travel.  It is really pretty time, in my view, but I want to give fair warning for the sensitive conscience.

Second, I didn't really see anything that promotes or encourages a Christian worldview, nor any Christian themes.  Again, that's not a problem for me.  It is much like Tolkien or Lewis.

Finally, I am most grateful that it is lacking in the gratuitous sex and course language that permeates most authors today.  I did notice one weird usage of part of Numbers 22:21 (KJV) ;)

Overall, I prefer Lawhead to Stross ("Merchant Princes").  It promises to be an interesting and well done series, and I will definitely read the next book.

Pro-life Failure

Excellent post from Al Mohler.
"Voters in what is believed to be the most pro-life state in the union overwhelmingly voted down a statement that declared personhood for every human being from the moment of fertilization onward. The horrifying reality is this — the scare tactics used by abortion rights activists included some truths that even pro-lifers evidently do not embrace."
I often wonder why our politicians do not do something about the life issue, it seems they are actually representative of the people...

Monday, December 5, 2011

What is Christian Fiction?

I'm into disc 8 (of 9) of "The Skin Map".  This has led me to think about "Christian Fiction", which is what it is labeled as...

Several possibilities:
  1. Written for Christians
  2. Written by a Christian
  3. Written from a Christian worldview (hopefully goes with #2)
  4. Written to promote Christianity
This is not an area I have a lot of experience with.  A good second hand account is "The Shack", which many people permitted because "it's just fiction".  However, it was written from the point of view of aberrant theology - so it is hard to see any way it can be called "Christian" (unless you mean #1 or 2).

The only examples I can think of that I have read are the Space Trilogy by C. S. Lewis, and the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) books by J. R. R. Tolkien.

Both authors are Christian (as much as we can tell).  Not theologians, or rock solid on every doctrine, but seemed to hold the faith until the end.

The Space Trilogy seems to appeal to Christians more than non-Christians, and is reasonably consistent with the Christian worldview (although, more allegorical than literal).

But what about LOTR?

There are actually a lot of Christian themes in the books.  However, when I read them, I didn't see them (they are not explicit).  Furthermore, Tolkien pretty much created the whole industry for high fantasy (D&D, etc.) - which many Christians oppose.

I'm not sure where to place The Skin Map.  It is certainly not overtly Christian, but that cannot be seen for sure until the conclusion.  It is fairly Molinist so far, which is where a lot of Christians are... (although I would consider it heterodox, and potentially dangerous).