Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Transcendence – the Movie and the Reality

            The 2014 movie Transcendence was a huge disappointment at the box office, criticized mainly for its plot, characters, and dialogue (three rather important elements in most any story). The main character, Will, is transcendent; that is, he has abilities beyond the normal limits of human beings. It is pure fiction – pure, mediocre fiction. Too bad. Transcendence, by its very nature, is not the kind of thing to be portrayed in middle-of-the-road fashion.
            Moving beyond fiction and into reality, Moses (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) addresses and challenges one of the most basic worldview assumptions of reality held by the prominent civilizations in ancient Mesopotamia. And he does so with the very first sentence of written revelation. The God Moses introduces is completely separate from and supreme over all creation. This is in stark contrast to the stories (and their accompanying assumptions) common in the Mesopotamian world. For instance,
When Tiamat sees Marduk ride into battle against her, she goes wild, taking leave of her senses and shaking to her lowest parts – an image not only of a stormy sea, but of chaos itself. Slaying her, Marduk splits her in two like a shellfish and thrusts one half upward to make the sky and the other downward to make the sea, setting guards to ensure that her waters will not escape and threaten the world again. The dome of heaven he makes to correspond to earth as its heavenly counterpart. Then he executes Kingu and creates man from his blood so that the gods will have a servant to maintain the earth when they have withdrawn to the heavens. As their final work of creation the gods build Babylon and at its center as a temple to Marduk the great ziggurat, described as reaching as high as Apsu, as high, that is, as the primordial waters were deep. One thing to notice in this myth is the fact that the gods need mankind in order that they may rest from labor. They are not unlimited in power or radically transcendent, but constitute only a part of the larger system of things that is the cosmos as a whole (Eugene Webb, Mesopotamian Religion, n.d.).

            Ralph Smith (2004) makes explicit what is implicit: “In distinction from all the stories of the ancient world around Israel, in the Bible, God and the creation are never mixed. His transcendence and the dependence of all things upon Him is part of what the Bible means when it speaks of Him as creator.” (Trinity & Reality, p. 54). God is supremely transcendent. He is separate from all Other. He is beyond his creation. Transcendence is the idea of being beyond comprehension, beyond the limits of human experience and knowledge. Apart from his choosing to reveal himself (let alone actually coming to live among us), God is beyond his creation and beyond our human experience and comprehension within that creation. 

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