Sunday, May 24, 2009

Review of "Terminator: Salvation"

Last night I went into that den of iniquity that is the movie theatre. I went to see "Terminator: Salvation" and was not dissappointed at all. Terminator III sucked and I'm not sure how it ties in with the most recent movie. In talking with the brother of the Simpson's comic-book guy, apparently the television series takes place after T2 and retcons right past 'The Rise of the machines' into 'Salvation'.

At any rate, the movie was certainly better than the third installment which, in case I forgot to mention, sucked. The new one tied in nicely with the first one as well. There was even a trailor truck/road flare scene remeniscent of the first installment. And when John Conner was asked what his men should be told when they find out he is gone to sky net, he replied, "I'll be back." If only he would have said, "hasta la vista, baby" as he was about to blow it up. Oh well, there is always Terminator 5: It Really Really Is the Final Day of Reconning and There Will Be No More Time Travel to Take Out John Conner's Third Cousin Twice Removed From the Past Or Future" for that gem.

But seriously, the movie was awsome. Lots of action. Good fx. The signature techno drum-beat as a nerkid Ahnold, from the late seventies of the future, steps out of the steam (if you have kiddies, or eyes, there is no need to worry as 'Mr. Universe' is covered in steam and shadow). And a very interesting plot.

For starters, the model of the terminator from the first movie to the second was incredible. From the second to the third-well let's not go there. But for the new movie, a quantum leap was made forward. There was a unique prototype, which may or may not be mass produced in the next movie.

Second of all, such phrases as'judgement day' and salvation' cannot help but bring with them religious connotations. And here is where the real merit of the film comes for me.

We are not bound by past mistakes and present circumstances but have libertarian freedom. Such a concept is essential to at least some branches of Christianity. And we can choose the right over the wrong even when authorities illigitamtely command us to do otherwise.

And we are given a second chance with God. At first, we rebelled against Him. But we all have the oppurtunity to repent and obtain salvation (the subt-title of the film). This theme of second chances, founded upon libertarian freedom, permeates the movie. One of the main characters is, in a sci-fi kinda way, born again. Also, one of the main characters sacrifices his life for his friend, which Jesus said was the greatest love, and, one may say, indirectly for the whole world. But delivering up one's life for the salvation of the world is the gospel itself.

I never tire of finding the Good News hidden in fictional stories, particularly sci-fi or fantasy. In fact, all stories, fictional or otherwise, it seems to me, are an echo of the one story. The cardinal point in all of history was the cross of Christ which split the calender in two. But I hope to do a separate post on this theme so I'll leave it aside for now.

FYI, towards the end of the picture there was a scene very reminiscent of the video game Contra. There were rumors floating around back in the day that Stallone and Ahnold were going to star in a Contra movie. Was the helicopter scence in 'Salvation' a sign of things to come? Like Nick Fury after the credits of "Iron Man" (not to mention the cap's sheild on Tony Stark's work bench)? Probably just a coincidence, in the case of 'Terminator: Salvation', but we can always dream.

At any rate, the movie was just plain good. Definetly better than the third. Probably better than the second. And possibly better than the first. I whole-heartedly recommend it to you all. Now I'm going to have to check out the television show. Don't ya just love robots?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Gospel Was/n't Restored Under Smith: A Debate

0. The format

1. Opening speech 1000
2. Rebuttal 300
3. Counter-rebuttal 200

4. Opening speech 1000
5. Rebuttal 300
6. Counter-rebuttal 200

7. Con/pro Conclusion 100
8. Pro/con Conclusion 100

You may open first or second as you wish. If you open first you’ll close second and vice versa. The resolution of the debate shall be “The Gospel has been restored under Joseph Smith.” You’ll take the pro and I the con. The numbers above are the maximum word counts of the respective speeches and must be strictly observed by us both. All eight speeches shall be in both of our possessions (in our email in-box’s) before either one of us post the debate as a whole. We both can do whatever we want with the debates so long as nothing is changed and the eight speeches are in the above order
The Gospel Was Restored Under Joseph Smith:
Joseph Smith is considered to have been a modern day Prophet. Contradictory to what many people think, I've heard everything people have said about the Prophet Joseph. They've all said that he's a fraud, that he made up the Book of Mormon, and that he's made up the entire first vision story. These are some pretty big claims to make to a church that is over 13 Million members strong, and these claims can be put to rest if people would just realize a few things.
The Book of Mormon was translated by Joseph Smith, not written, but translated. It took him about 4 months or so to translate it. If you can show me one popular novel with over 13 million people that have read it that was written in less than 6 months, then I will reconsider some of my choices in this church. I'm very confident that you won't find such a book though. Because it's not possible to make up that much stuff in that little time and then make up an entire church based off of it. Also, people have found that there indeed was an ancient city known as Nahom, which is in the Book of Mormon. This city was over in Yemen, right around where the Book of Mormon said it would be.
There's nothing in the bible that says that God will not talk to his children ever again, so it's possible for Joseph Smith to have had a vision. And Joseph had a vision just like Moses had a vision. They were two different visions of course, but the fact that it happened makes all the difference. If you deny that Joseph Smith had ever had a vision, then you must deny that Moses had a vision too which would make you a non-believer in the bible because God told him where to receive the 10 commandments just as Joseph Smith was told where to find the Golden Plates.
The prophet Isaiah had said in the bible, "11) And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: 12) And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned." This is in Isaiah 29:11 - 12. Joseph Smith History 1:64 - 65 said that Joseph copied a lot of the characters from the plates and was given a certificate of authenticity by Prof. Anthon who later tore it up for whatever reason. The parallel is that it was considered a sealed book at the time. But Prof. Anthon had said that the characters were true characters. And he said that the translation was indeed correct.
In the bible, Isaiah 29:18 - 24 (emphasis added) says:
"18) And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness. 19) The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. 20) For the terrible one is brought to nought, and the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are cut off: 21) That make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of nought. 22) Therefore thus saith the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob, Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale. 23) But when he seeth his children, the work of mine hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel. 24) They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine."
That was from my book in the making called Why Are The Mormons Right? The book of Isaiah in the bible is amazing because it talks about the Book of Mormon all over the place. It has been said that The Book of Mormon contains many little treasures that were either removed from the teachings of Jesus Christ or not recorded.
The argument of Yanez may be summarized under several points.
1. The Book of Mormon is too elegant, and popular.
2. Nahom was found.
3. A linguistic scholar authenticated the translation.
4. Isaiah prophesied about the Book of Mormon.
5. If Moses can have a vision of God, then so could Joseph Smith.
1. In some ways the Book of Mormon is very un-elegant. Foe example, there is a ridiculously large percentage of verses that start, “And it came to pass”. The reason why so many people read/believe/follow the Book of Mormon is because it is a central tenet of their faith. This is a faith which has constantly been promoted by proseltyzers. The missionaries are well trained in the tactics of sophistry. And at the first trip to the temple, members are asked on the spot if they will agree to all the oaths they are about to make (before knowing what the oaths are).
2. As I recall, what was actually found in Yemen was a city called NHM. Apparently the vowels were left out. In that case, the city could be Noohoon or any number of different cities.
3. But that is just scholar on the side of the Book of Mormon. All Egyptologists (including Mormons) who examine the papyrus the Book of Abraham was translated from admit it is the Book of Breathings which has nothing to do with the Book of Abraham.
4. I see no reason to automatically assume that that was what Isaiah had in mind.
5. What happened to Moses is irrelevant to what happened to Smith. Even if Smith did have a vision of God it was totally dissimilar from those of Moses. The ministry of Moses was authenticated by many signs which all Israel, and all Egypt, saw.

It's been stated that the Book of Mormon has a lot of verses that start with "and it came to pass." What's wrong with that? That's being a little nit picky. For Example: Since the Quaran doesn't have book names like the bible does, should that really be a reason as to try to get people not to believe in it? The prophet Joseph had just translated what he read on the plates.
What's wrong with the how the missionaries are trained? They learn how to teach people about the gospel to those who don't know about it. Some missionaries learn how to teach it in another language as well as the language to others. And what's wrong with not knowing the oaths that they are asked to take before going to the temple?
Of course the vowels are left out in Yemen. You must really think. If this is an ancient city, will they write in English if it's far from England? If you think about it, the NHM that is talked about are syllables for each letter, much like in Japanese

The Gospel was not restored under Joseph Smith:

We know this for at least three reasons.

I. There was nothing to restore.

The idea of a restoration presupposes the prior loosing of something. In this case many plain and precious parts of the Bible have been, according to Smith, removed. This claim does not stand up to scrutiny. The science of textual criticism has been able to reconstruct the original New Testament with certainty save for three pages. The three pages do not amount to any significant doctrines. Often, the doubt is which spelling is to be preferred. So then, nothing of significance is missing from the New Testament as we have it today.

And it is in the New Testament that we learn of the Gospel as it was preached in New Testament times. The Gospel Smith proclaimed is different from the New Testament Gospel as we have it today which, to repeat, is essentially the same as the autographs.

If the plain and precious parts removed were only removed by misinterpretation, then that, of course, is a different matter. While the Bible is not just a book, it is a book. And any book is interpreted according to the standard rules of interpretation.

Am I arguing, thus far, that sitting on pine trees is comfortable? Of course, I have said nothing about pine trees or comfort-ability. If one really really wanted to read that meaning into the preceding paragraphs, they could do so. But that was not the authorial intent. This is plain based on the ordinary rules of interpretation. The Bible tells us, in Ephesians 2 for example, that we are saved by grace and not by works. There is no way to reconcile this with the article of faith that says we are saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel. No way to reconcile, that is, without doing serious injustice to the text. No matter what certain other texts seem to say about works, this text, and many others, make it plain that salvation is by grace alone.

Bottom line, nothing was removed from the Bible physically or through misinterpretation. Joseph Smith may have corrupted the Gospel, but he did not restore it.

II. Joseph Smith is not very reliable as the Prophet of the Restoration.

A lot could be said here but let’s focus on the Pearl of Great Price. One of the roles Joseph had as the Prophet of the Restoration was that of inspired translator. He translated ancient writings into English under the inspiration of God. At least, that was his claim. Is there any way to test this claim? Yes. For if the original ancient writing is translated by the appropriate language scholar and it bears significant resemblance to what Smith said it said, well and good. If not, not. The manuscript from which the Book of Abraham, in the Pearl of Great Price, was translated has been found to be the book of the dead. Nothing like what Smith claimed. If he got the Book of Abraham totally wrong, why suppose he fared any better with the Book of Moses or the Book of Mormon? Remember, the Book of Abraham was translated under inspiration, according to the claim. Can a prophet under inspiration utter false prophesies? Not according to Deuteronomy. This brings us to our final objection.

III. Joseph Smith is a false prophet.

Even if Smith accurately predicted the future 100% of the time, he would still qualify as a false prophet if he taught the people false doctrine (particularly polytheism). All of the unique doctrines of the LDS faith are considered heretical by all of Christendom. This is not because Mormonism stands in violation of some man-made creed but because it stands in violation of the Bible itself. For example, Mormonism teaches salvation by grace plus works whereas the Bible teaches salvation by grace alone. We already alluded to that contradistinction above.

So then, we see three very clear reasons why Joseph Smith did not restore the Gospel. First, there was nothing to be restored in the first place. Second, Smith is not a reliable translator (and Mormonism stands or falls on the basis of a translated work of scripture, namely, the Book of Mormon). Finally, Joseph Smith is a false prophet for, while it is prima facie unlikely he predicted the future with 100% accuracy, he clearly, in addition, taught doctrines contrary to the Bible.

The only conclusion we may reasonably reach in light of all the above considerations is that the Gospel was not restored through Joseph Smith. QED



I would like to address the 3 points that were just made.
"There Was Nothing to Restore."
Quite the contrary. After the atonement of Jesus Christ, the Apostles had split up in hopes of keeping the church afloat, with no leader. Eventually, the priesthood authority was lost after the Apostles were killed. So not only was the church Jesus organized gone from the Earth, but so was the priesthood authority. Also, The Book of Mormon contains many precious truths that were taken from the Bible or they just weren't included. For example: We practice baptism for the dead, a practice that the Bible has evidence that shows it was indeed practiced in Corinth.
Also, if you want to whine about being saved by just grace alone, read James 2:14, 16, 17, 20, 22, 24, and 26. These 7 points are ALL about how faith is dead without works. Check out verse 18 in that chapter while you're at it. Or how about John 3:5 that says you must be baptized and confirmed to enter heaven? Or do you have a prophet that told you otherwise? Because I'm very sure that you're part of a Non-Prophet Organization.
"Joseph Smith is not very reliable as the Prophet of the Restoration."
Well, it's funny that you say that because he indeed had a professor in ancient language want to help him out until the prof figured that he wasn't going to get any benefits. Actually, the Book of Mormon was NOT translated "under inspiration," but by the power of God and he had to use the Urim and Thummim (which are mentioned in the Bible) to translate as well. I'm not sure if he used Urim and Thummim during the translation of the papyri, but still, just because a scholar said one thing,-****ran out of words at this point****



1. Merely asserting there was a great apostasy begs the question.
2. Baptism for the dead, on your view, apparently IS in the Bible so THAT was NOT a plain or precious part left out.
3. Faith IS dead without works. This has nothing to do with sola gratia.
4. At most, John 3:5 says baptized people go to Heaven. This is NOT the same as saying baptism saves us.
5. The professer is irrelevant.
6. Translation by the power/guidance of God IS inspiration.

In summation, nothing you have said in your rebuttal refutes my three reasoned points.


Con closing statement:

I made three points, with supporting argumentation, in support of my position. My opponent has not sufficiently refuted these. In contrast, his opening speech was more or less anecdotal and does not stand up to scrutiny. We may conclude, therefore, that the Gospel was most certainly NOT restored under Joseph Smith. I enjoyed the debate and thank Teddy for his participation and congeniality. I welcome comments about the debate. Thank you all for reading.


Pro closing statement:

The problem i have with limited worded debates is that you can't limit words on proving a point in Mormonism. That's the main reason why I'm writing a book.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

An Observation on Sagan's Cosmos

The cosmos is all there ever was, is, or ever will be. Thus begins Carl Sagan's Cosmos. I recently watched the entire series and have much to say in destructive criticism. But that is for another time. For now, I'd like to pick out one very small portion of the series for comment.

It was Sagan's philosophical (I was under the mistaken impression "Cosmos" was a scientific documentary) debunking of the cosmological argument for the existence of God. Russell made the same blunder in "Why I Am Not a Christian" and countless persons, before and since, I understand, have followed suit.

Let's face facts. The cosmological argument has been around for a very long time. Why people can't come up to date with it is beyond excuse. In the past, Dr. Sagan informs us, people answered the question of why there is a cosmos with, God did it. But, these pre-scientific and unenlightened religionists, we are further informed, were apparently not smart enough to ask where God, in turn, came from. If we counter that God is eternal and uncaused then, why not the universe? Contrariwise, if everything needs a cause, then so doesn't God.

Apparently Sagan forgot at this point the major portions of his program he devoted to the big bang at this point. The simple fact is that the cosmos screams contingency no matter where we look. Stars die. Our own star, as Sagan himself describes in the program, is burning out. The rain slowly but surely destroys rocks on the earth. Asteroids and black holes destroy celestial-solid bodies. On and on we could go. We can never step into the same river twice. The cosmos is in continuous flux. Everything, supposing the cosmos really is everything, is manifestly contingent whether considered in part or in whole. Therefore, it must have had a beginning.

On the other hand, to avoid a causal regress, which Carl ironically seems very concerned to avoid, there must be an uncaused first cause. What is more, an eternal causal agent must ever be and cannot thus, lack existence. Such a being, therefore, always (from our temporal point of view) be. Time came into existence at the big bang. So if a creator transcends the cosmos, this being also transcends the time which is so closely knit to the cosmos. And so God, if we choose to call the first causal agent thusly, must be eternal. In other words, God cannot have a prior cause.

So what is the problem? The universe had to have a beginning and God, supposing there is one, had to lack such a beginning. The only candidate for a beginner (or uncaused first cause) would have to be some type of causal agent transcendent to the cosmos. Such a being all men call God.

Now, when I said before that Sagan ought to be up to date on this argument when speaking as an authority on it, that was not quite correct. I'd be happy if he went only as far as the high-middle ages. Aquinas, for example, had quite a lot to say about the cosmological argument. But it seems it was much easier to blow him off with a wave of the hand, at a straw man, than to actually read what he had to say.

Instead of wasting all that time and money-which, by the way, came from tax dollars, I think-looking for little green men to save us (from what?), Dr. Sagan should have been searching for God. If we search for Him with all our heart we will find Him, the Bible promises us.

While Mr. Sagan has left us there remain today many skeptics still living. When confronted with a logically valid (and I would say logically sound as well) argument for the existence of God, I hope that they would take it seriously. More particularly, when exposed to the cosmological argument they have no right, in light of the above words, to give the who-made-God rebuttal. And if that is all they have, why, they are compelled, with irresistible logic, to admit there is some kind of a God.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Review of The Day the Earth Stood Still

I was really looking forward to the remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still". Now I'm really disappointed. The original was one of the best science fiction movies of all time (of the silver era it is second only to "War of the Worlds").

But don't get me wrong. There were some good special effects. Gort morphing into metal-scavenging nanobots was a nice touch. And the whole retiming of standing still of the Earth was interesting. But the new movie came off, to my own mind at least, as mere environmentalist propaganda.

Trees, it appears, are just too hugable to allow man to survive. Good science fiction raises important philosophical questions. The answers it gives to such questions are sometimes quit less than biblical. The Earth certainly is a beautiful place. Nature is truly wonderful. What is more, man has not always treated her 'mother' in the right ways. But are lions, tigers, and bears more important than humankind? Are trees and rocks more important?

I think not. The alien race, which Klaatu (and why no 'Klaatu barrada nictu' in the remake which was the central part of the original-not to mention in the third installment of the Evil Dead trilogy?) belongs to, apparently thinks so.

While it is true the alien race was preparing an ark-or many arks-it is my impression that two, or eight, men would not be aboard. The real message of the movie, of course, is that man isn't quite so bad off as we appear at first blush. And, when the going gets tough, the tough, in this case mankind, gets going, rises to the challenge, and shows how great we really are. But the underlying context is that mankind, heretofore, has been the greatest threat to the planet.

Call me a Ptolemaist, but mankind is the planet. It is the same message repeated ad nauseum on those nature shows. When Sharks Attack! When Crocodiles Attack! When Domesticated Yet Still Wild Exotic Felines Trained for Las Vegas Magic Shows Attack! You know the shows I'm talking about. "The real monster," the narrator tells us at the end, "is man. Man has done more harm to nature than all the poisonous snakes, spiders, etc. than they have done to man." What?!?! Those are just animals. The sanctity of life is the sanctity of human life. It is we alone who bare the imago dei. Where are all the tree huggers when an innocent human child is being butchered at a 'clinic'? Strangely silent.

I know, I know. I am being anal about one side issue within a much larger narrative. The movie itself was entertaining and, again, had good special effects. Apart from its perceived leftist agenda, though, I do think it did not live up to its predecessor. Not by a long shot. With John Cleese as the professor (whose enigmatic equation was solved by Klaatu, in one of the only scenes carried over from the original original) and the to-truly-halk-a-lougie guy (from Revenge of the Nerds II, if memory serves) as a clandestine apologist (for humanity, that is, not for Christianity) the movie was not all bad. There was even a sacrificial death at the end which reminds one of Neo in the Matrix-er, I mean-Jesus in the Bible. Still, I do not feel it was a particularly noteworthy movie. If I were to even consider buying this movie, though, I would get it in the special edition, and then only because it comes with a second disc which has the original version on it. I suppose the remake disc would serve well as a coaster.