Genesis 1-2 and Man as Artist

One of the ideas that emerges from the first two chapters of Genesis is the distinction between creation and cultivation, nature and art, or even chaos and order.

For instance, when God makes the world it is a chaotic emptiness (Genesis 1:1-2), but through the next several verses, he organizes it into a series of useful categories. Then he makes humanity, explaining that not only would they reproduce and eat, like the other creatures, but that they would be blessed, take dominion, and bear the image of God. So man is to subdue (or cultivate in context) the created world.

In Genesis 2, while the timeline is intentionally obscured (man is made before the plants, Genesis 2:4-5), the same distinction is further articulated. There is the wild world, but man is placed in a garden planted by God. And so there is nature (that which is) and art (that which is skillfully designed), creation/culture. The idea of subduing/having dominion over the created world is more fully defined in Genesis 2: name the animals, don’t eat poison fruit, eat fruit that gives life, protect the garden, tend the garden, control your body (it’s made of earth, you know), and so-on. In other words, man is to be an artist who makes culture out of creation or art out of nature.

Aristotle’s used the word techne to describe know-how. Later Latin writers translated the word ars. We now use the word art. For Aristotle, art was a virtue of the mind. And I think our tendency to reduce art to the fine arts has led us to undervalue the fact that any human skill that can be acquired through practice is art: mathematics, grammar, cooking, gardening, shepherding, the scientific method, communication, and so-on.

Aristotle’s understanding of art is helpful for seeing what Genesis is getting at, even though Genesis doesn’t use his terminology. Part of our quest for meaning in a world that sometimes seems repetitive and meaningless is acquiring the skills necessary to cultivate the world around us into something beyond what it is. Trees can become parts of a garden, rocks can become a wall, gold can become food containers, currency, or circuits.

Of course, Scripture warns against wrong ways to cultivate creation  (Gen 11:1-9). If you try to unite heaven to earth yourself, you’ll end up utterly confused (which is bad from a personal experience perspective, but good from a necessary moral lesson perspective). I suspect that you’ll find the wrong ways to cultivate insofar as they do lead to confusion which forces different modes of cooperation and thought.

The Imaginary Amendment

Last election season as morally and emotionally exhausting for many.

I thought it was pretty funny.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the whole thing was that in the space of about one year, the notion of purely open borders or even more to the point, the notion that the whole planet had a right to live within the boundaries of the United States of America became a frequent implication of talking points on the right and left.

I was even more intrigued by Bernie Sanders’ claim that such an idea was ludicrous. Steve Sailer recounts it here:

Bernie Sanders: Open borders? No, that’s a Koch brothers proposal.

Ezra Klein: Really?

Bernie Sanders: Of course. That’s a right-wing proposal, which says essentially there is no United States….

Ezra Klein: But it would make…

Bernie Sanders: Excuse me…

Ezra Klein: It would make a lot of global poor richer, wouldn’t it?

Bernie Sanders: It would make everybody in America poorer—you’re doing away with the concept of a nation-state, and I don’t think there’s any country in the world that believes in that.

The article cited above is pretty good. In it, the idea “that American citizens should get no say in who gets to move to America because huddled masses of non-Americans possess civil rights to immigrate” is called the “zeroth amendment.” It’s a clever name.

I mean, it may turn out that groups who wish to freely associate are wrong to exclude anybody ever, but few college safe space groups wish to be as open to outsiders as members of such groups wish for American borders to be.

Science “Disproves” the Bible Again

In a goofy clickbait article, Ian Johnston claims that (btw, it’s helpful to use webarchive to link articles like this so that they don’t get ad revenue):

Independent Article very bad.PNG

The argument goes:

  1. The Bible reported that the Israelites were supposed to annihilate the Canaanites.
  2.  If true, “the Canaanites could not have directly contributed genetically to present-day populations.”
  3. Canaanite DNA has been in the Lebanese population.
  4. Therefore, the Bible is false.

Hilariously, the author points out that:

While the Bible says they were wiped out by the Israelites under Joshua in the land of Canaan, later passages suggest there were at least a few survivors. Some Biblical scholars have argued the passages are hyperbole, but the genetic research would appear to indicate the slaughter was much less extensive than described.

“The text uses hyperbole…but science says that the text is exaggerating.”

Religious people of all stripes will stop hating scientists or their goofy popularizers in famous online blogs when they stop being disingenuous blobs. I have nothing against disingenuous blobs. It’s an honest living, after all. I’m merely pointing out that others do.

As an aside, the Biblical text explicitly acknowledges that the Canaanites were not destroyed or driven out, implying without scholarly citation, that the Biblical authors engaged in hyperbole:

Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of Acco, or the inhabitants of Sidon or of Ahlab or of Achzib or of Helbah or of Aphik or of Rehob, so the Asherites lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land, for they did not drive them out.
(Judges 1:31-32 ESV)

Concluding Thought

The article has some cool information about the discovery of Phoenician DNA among the Lebanese. What is curious to me is that I’ve been under the impression that the Levant was full of the descendants of the Phoenicians for nearly a decade.

The only word for this: heh

Here is what happens when you believe that ultimate reality is class conflict between men and women:

You have to subvert truth to believe that worldview because it is observably true that cooperation between the sexes makes new humans.

You have to subvert goodness to believe that worldview because one must assume that any apparent good is a tool of oppression.

You have to subvert beauty to believe that worldview because while beauty transcends sexuality, it is utterly inseparable from it. If sexual dimorphism is a good, then beauty supports that good, which is really a non-good, because the truth is that the sexes necessarily in conflict rather than harmony.

In other words, believe in modern egalitarianism long enough and all art will look this way. As Camille Paglia said, “If civilization had been left in female hands we would still be living in grass If civilization had been left in female hands we would still be living in grass huts. (Sexual Personae, 38)” What she’s getting at is that there is some conflict that is part of the relationship between men and women, but civilization is the result of working together. She’s criticizing the unreasonable rejection of the patriarchy by people who stand under the waterfall of benefits it bestows.

It reminds me of the story of Noah and his sons:

Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said,“Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.” (Genesis 9:20-25 ESV)

Ham makes a mockery of his father’s apparent flaw despite having not only his biological origin from him, but also his salvation from the catastrophic evil of fallen humanity and God’s destruction thereof with the waters of chaos. Feminists, it would seem, have so thoroughly done the same that they cannot even discern, let alone create beauty.

A similar pattern has occurred in Baptist church culture.  Baptists have so critiqued the “father” of church tradition that they’ve been rejected as a competent voice within Christianity and they have very little stable culture within which to help people follow Jesus from one town to the next. They frequently exist within the same chaos of Ham’s descendants, except without all the explicit idolatry.