Sunday, December 16, 2007

When Engineers Do Theology...

The results are often wildly entertaining. Brian Mickelthwait mentions the widespread smuggling of Bibles into China--a nation that is beginning to have a very large Christian population, and the likely long-term impact of that on the political system there. He quotes someone else about the results of 50 million "Bible bombs" on the current thuggish government. Mickelthwait is one of those people that doesn't believe, but recognizes the positive impact that Christianity is likely to have:
The more I ponder Christianity, the more (a) I think that most of what it says is barking bonkers, and the more (b) I recognise it to be a profound force in the world, as much because of what it doesn’t do - challenge Caesar on his home turf, basically - as for what it does.
One of the comments over there by a Steve Poling is what the title of this posting refers to:
I really like that “barking bonkers” line, because though I am a Fundamentalist Christian, I think there’s a sense in which it is true.
We should expect some impedance mismatch between the transcendent and the immanent. This will account for a few bonks. And since the Bible was penned by pre-scientific ancient middle-easterners, this will account for more bonks.
But the bonks I want to point out are those that I think deity slips in to make the faithful think “what the heck”..., then pay closer attention to it. I’ve found that puzzling over something that sounds “barking bonkers” yields some insights that are quite valuable.
I’m not saying that these bonks are irrational, but they are counterintuitive. They are things we’d never think to make up.
Impedance mismatch? What the heck is that? Here's an explanation:
The impedance of the load is expressed in ohms, and the relationship between the current and the voltage in the circuit is controlled by the impedances in the circuit. When a signal source, such as our composite video output, sees a very low-impedance circuit, it produces a larger than intended current; when it sees a very high-impedance circuit, it produces a smaller than intended current. These mismatched impedances redistribute the power in the circuit so that less of it is delivered to the load than the circuit was designed for--because the nature of the circuit is that it can't simply readjust the voltage to deliver the same power regardless of the rate of current flow.
I don't think that any theologian or pastor would use the analogy of "impedance mismatch" to describe the gap between the wisdom of God and the wisdom of men.

One gratifying aspect of the comments over there is how civil they are. A few Christians took exception to Mickelthwait's statement about our faith being "barking bonkers," but more typical were thoughtful and friendly discussions of the gap between faith and reason:
Christianity is bonkers by design, if you define bonkers as irrational. Paul noted “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14). But then, I’m a mystic, and view rationalism as one tool, not the only tool we have.
And another commenter's single word response to the description of Christianity as "barking bonkers":
As one commenter observed:
I don’t seem to see anyone in these comments calling for Brian M. to have his head cut off with a dull knife. That is opposed to another prominent religious belief group that thinks anyone insulting their beliefs should be removed from the living.

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