Bible Freedom Science NetworkCopyright © 2008, Charles Johnsen

The Success of a Marriage is its Children

Western Civilization is a Marriage of Greek and Semitic Cults

For the thousand years centered on Julius Caesar (or the other J.C.), the Greco—Roman civilization on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea gave mankind an ordered cosmos. Philosophers in Greece borrowed from their elders in Crete, Egypt, Phoenicia, Babylon, and ultimately Shumer and formed a view of the universe that explained reality and helped people understand themselves. Both reason and superstition formed that reality. Their set of fundamental axioms continues to order the cosmos of Western civilization to this day.

That culture and empire was dualist; a hierarchy and pyramid from many slaves to one emperor that mirrored a hierarchy of many supernatural beings to one Supreme Being. Man and his earth were the center of all things visible just as God was the center of all things invisible. There was an afterlife for an Immortal Soul but the flesh was left for dead. The earth was below and dirty, the sky was above and pure. Man was an animal with a soul, a hybrid between heaven and earth. And God was One, All Powerful, Prime Mover, Creator of All, Pure Spirit, All Knowing. The totalitarianism of the State only reflected the omnipotent will of the Supreme Being. The monarchy on earth was a reflection of the monotheism above, leaving one wondering which came first. While there were events on earth, the fundamental things were eternal and fixed and history was neither progressive nor limited. Men and women knew who they were by how they fit into this fixed and universal order.

Hindered by these superstitions, they still achieved great things. Logic and mathematics were not bettered for more than a thousand years. The natural world was explored and described. Charts of the heavens were calculated that predicted the movements of the heavenly spheres and the pure stars fixed to them. The practical arts of roads, buildings, agriculture, trade, and the military flourshed. Literature and other arts created classics we still admire.

Semitic Cult

And then some fanatics, opposed to these accepted truths and religious decorations of political power, began to die. The Romans had faced nationalism before and, after a bit of blood and terror, had found every people willing to rename their high god Jupiter dash local guy (as in Zeus—Baal). Or the local goddess was given a child by Rome's high god. Religion was politics for these practical and violent men, both Roman and local king. Or, if all else failed, a compromise was forced: the Roman Emperor was a god. No one cared what people believed as long as ritual honor was paid to the god—emperor. But at the Eastern end of the Mediterranean some of the locals tossed the people aside, women and children, whole cities of them, to cling to the national God. These were the Semitic peoples who held to their ancient beliefs against thousands of crosses and hundreds of massacres. Dozens of sects of this religion of scrolls were active: peaceful or warlike, dreamers or plotters, intellectuals or Robin Hoods. Finally Rome took Jerusalem and butchered all of them, leaving the city rubble and renaming the whole region Palestine.

But not all had stayed in Jerusalem. Some gave the nation up entirely and went underground with their precious cargo of scrolls. All over the empire two sorts of them survived out of the dozen or so parties of fanatics in Jerusalem, both carrying their Scriptures wherever they went. One of these surviving groups is rabbinic Judaism and the other Christianity, both of which rapidly evolved in the new environment of the Pax Romana. Later Islam showed that a third strain also survived the destruction of Jerusalem but remained hidden in Roman and Persian Palestine until a prophet found it.

By argument, demographics, compromise, politics, migration and conquest the Semitic world view was mixed into the Greek world view to create a whole new civilization. We call it the West.

Two Concepts of God

The differences between the official religion and the biblical religion flowed from the differences in the two Gods. That is what these pages are about. The Semitic God was as likely to talk to a shepherd as a king, or speak to a young girl as an emperor. He was not a force of nature, not a political decoration, not a distant perfection. This was a strange God, a lively and emotional personality, unruly and unpredictable. He allowed no idol of Himself, only an empty space, and insisted that He be represented by His Word alone. He claimed history with a beginning and an end. He claimed earth and lived here with His people, not far away in heaven. In claiming the earth He pronounced it good and revelled in the ordinary home, garden, and marriage. He was jealous and would not allow His Name to be hyphenated into Jupiter's or Apollo's. He had no consort. He did not fit into the hierarchy so carefully enforced by Rome as a mirror of earthly political reality.

These two great cultures were not pure examples of each other's opposite. The Greek Zeus has his own stories of hijinks and the Hebrew God had plenty of promises about the nation of Israel and the city of Jerusalem. But it is still clear that the Prime Mover of Aristotle was not the One who had haggled with Abraham over Sodom and Gomorrah.

The Nicene Creed United Two Concepts of God

The two cults did merge. Judaism absorbed much of the language of the Supreme Being and found enough in their literature to claim this title for their Lord. Islam accomplished a parallel syncretism between the Greek and Semitic religions. But Islam went much further away from the God of Abraham and much further into the theology and world view of the Roman Empire with a distant and impersonal God and an afterlife without a resurrection.

Christianity generated the Nicene Creed. In this formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity the emperors became Christian and the popes became emperors. Whatever else can be said about those men and their times, and I will have plenty to say, this must stand forever: The culture they cobbled together not only stood for more than a thousand years, perhaps two; it eventually produced science, free people, private property and markets; and the world culture we call the West.

The same thing had happened before. In the threads and seams of the writing of the Bible are signs of several cultural mergings initiated by the Personality who dominates the Original Testament. For example, Genesis One and Genesis Two tell the same story (YHWH-Elohim creates the human person) but borrow the philosophy and science of two widely separated foreign cultures to do so. Apparently the people who wrote the literature which was later assembled into the Bible used the best science of their day to express their faith. And they did so time and time again, drawing from the native Canaanite culture first, but also in turn from Egypt's science, then Babylon's science, then Greek science after Alexander conquered them, and finally Roman. That final adaptation to the dominant philosophy and science of the day has endured into the third millennium.

Do not read these documents as compromise or syncretism. The genius of the Semitic half of our culture is the ability to use a foreign vocabulary and symbolism while rejecting the theology behind it. Genesis One has a Great Sea Monster like the myths of Shumer and Babylon, but this monster is now a thing created by Elohim and not a primordial goddess whose slain body becomes the earth. What is mythic in the borrowed becomes ordinary in the Original Testament. What Israel did was not plagerism but parody.

It is the same thing with Christianity. As much as the practical wisdom and knowledge of Greek culture was embraced, the superstition of the Greek philosopher was denegrated. For example, the doctrine of the Immortal Soul, the idea that death freed a bit of spirit stuff from the prison of the body, was dominant in the early centuries of the Common Era. But these words do not occur in the Nicene Creed. Instead there is the very Semitic and biblical expression, the Resurrection of the Dead.

A Galactic Cult

Now a new era will begin as the West becomes a global and then solar and then interstellar culture. China may well present a military and economic problem for the nation-states that make up the political West, but culturally China is absorbing the fundamental ideas of the West faster than Europe did. We will call it something new, this daughter of the West, this global way of seeing the cosmos. But it will be dominated by science and personal freedom, the twins born to the Nicene Creed.

To be true to our parents in the faith we must do what they did, express the faith in the best science of our day. What we must shake off and discard is not the Personality who dominates our literature, but the old Greco—Roman philosophy and science that has been superceded by Newton and Darwin.

I know that another view is common, that the Greeks invented science and democracy and the church suppressed it until the Renaissance, and that progress is measured by the distance between intellectuals and the church. I think that view is nonsense and will have a lot to say about it on these pages. But this is an introduction and I can do no more than declare myself. The emergence of science and freedom required both the Greek and the Semitic, both the logic and the Word, both Aristotle and the Bible. The dualism so hated by modern thinkers is not biblical, it is Platonic. The Church that suppressed Galileo was more Aristotle than Abraham, more Plato than Geshua.

A Divorce of Cult and Culture

Yet in the midst of the success of the children (science and freedom), the marriage of the parents (Greco—Roman and Semitic cultures) is falling apart. The dualism of the ancient world will be rejected by free people and their science. Hierarchies are turning into networks. The ethics of self-discipline will replace political law. Truth and reality will be independent of pope and king, available to any person who can read and write. Society will no longer be a synonym for government. Socialism, the thinly disguised remnant of ancient totalitarianism, will give away to voluntary charity and family loyalties will replace class loyalties. This will be no Eden, the coming world. For the next culture contains the seeds of violence as all other human efforts to order the cosmos contain flaws that lead to war. Ethnic and racial troubles loom large in our future unless the American model of interbreeding prevails world wide. Nation-states will still exist and therefore some tattered socialism with its necessary violence will continue, a corpse on expensive life support. Multinational companies will still attempt to protect themselves from the consumer by monopoly or trade war or tariff. Economic envy will still drive some to violence and terrorism instead of education and work under freedom and opportunity. Democracy will need repair. It is broken but worth fixing by imposing limits on its economic and social powers.

Will the Judeo—Christian God Survive?

But the danger I see, and discuss on these pages, is more subtle than these great challenges. If we discard, as we must by history and logic, the old synthesis between Rome and Jerusalem, what becomes of the Word? There is a Person, known to us by Name, who has lived with us and loved us for at least three thousand years, maybe twice that long. If we no longer have room in our science and art for dualism or a Supreme Being, what is to become of Him who had lunch with Abraham?

This is the question for the church and synagogue: Who is this then, and what is He?

Most will cling to the old arrangements whereby Jacob's Wrestler rented the trappings of Roman power. Most believers will chose the Supreme Being and dualism over the Living Breath of His Word. Or worse, having lost metaphysics they abandon Him there, in the dead dark, with the ghostly gods and the Immortal Souls. I do not expect a massive change of heart or point of view. But my hope and my faith is that some few from each branch of our tree will be boats for Him to sail from the Old Country into the New Country. As He is our ark, now we must become His ark.

To that end I have written these pages and created this electronic book. Here you will find a way for Him to live with us in a world without dualism, in a material universe, utterly physical and real. This is hard. This is hard emotionally and intellectually. I know because for years I have been living with this problem and wrestling with these solutions. You may hate me. I will make my mother cry. I cried. But hear me out, fellow believers. For He wants to enter the future and go with us into the new world, a world He helped us discover.

Science and Religion are Siblings

The enemy of science is not religion free of the State nor is science free of the State the enemy of religion. The enemy of both is the dominant intellectual and political cult: at once statist and academic, artsy and dried up, self-righteous and driven by guilt, rich and bathed in victimhood, antiscience and antireligion, enamored with Europe and hateful of America, media darlings and afraid of technology, sure of astrology and unsure of everything else, excited by celebrity and bored with life.

The Two Promises

To proceed, I make two vows:

Who do these two sentences offend more? Atheists or Christians? Look, if you think an atheist will have a tough time with the Bible Freedom Science Network web site, imagine how upset the Christians will be. You be the judge.