Re: Burgeson's Bomb (was Re: [asa] Radioactive decay of U-238 is imminent (just wait a few billion years))

From: Merv Bitikofer <>
Date: Sun Jan 25 2009 - 19:45:24 EST

I give a hearty Amen to everything you said here -- in fact I think the
parable of the Lord making a surprise return and the unenviable
consequence for the servant who was not about his Lord's business, but
had rationalized in his mind that his Lord was tarrying... I've taken
this parable to be expressing precisely what you say below.

As to your pedantic quibble --the math teacher in me smarts at your
quite correct chastisement, so I'll put up the defense that the odds of
a 90 second half-life atom remaining undecayed for even 900 seconds
would be (1/2)^10 or less than a tenth of 1%. Let alone remaining
undecayed for years, decades, centuries. But in the end you are still
annoyingly right. But wait a minute! There is only a finite number
of atoms in a little puddle of stuff. So the mathematically pure
asymptote must fail into a disappearing smattering of statistical
popcorn sooner or later. Much more fun to work out convoluted
self-justification like this than to get down to the business of living
as a faithful servant. Pray for me.


Murray Hogg wrote:
> Hi Merv,
> Actually, as a somewhat pedantic quibble, one couldn't actually
> eliminate even the shortest half-life elements as there's no
> statistical impossibility to the idea that an atom of an isotope with
> a half-life in seconds might remain undecayed for thousands, if not
> millions, of years.
> But such observations merely highlight why I thought this a reasonable
> illustration: it's the sense of chronological uncertainty that I'm
> trying to emphasize and this example certainly illustrates
> chronological uncertainty.
> Now, I quite appreciate the point about enthusiasm - and my perception
> is that this is a significant issue for many. That is, they feel that
> UNLESS that one has a sense that the return of Jesus is likely to be
> very soon then one looses motivation for action. My problem with this
> is my entire position is PRECISELY that the 2000 year lapse between
> the resurrection and today has NO bearing on the question. I
> acknowledge that other people think that "the Lord is slack concerning
> his promise" but one really ought to take that up with them, not with
> me. In my view (and how often to I have to repeat it?) the return of
> Jesus is ALWAYS imminent - it could be in the next second, it could be
> in a million years. THIS is how I (and Christian theology
> traditionally) uses the term "imminent" in relation to Christ's
> return. Christians, accordingly, ought ALWAYS to be about the master's
> business. Such obedience, to me, demonstrates a quite acceptable level
> of fervency.
> Further to this, I'm strongly of the view that the degree of ones'
> sense of eschatological urgency should have no bearing upon the
> content of one's ethic. One can live out the Christian life quite
> adequately without giving the timing of Christ's return any
> consideration. Equally, one can be motivated, on the basis of one's
> eschatological expectation, to act in a manner which I would consider
> to be quite inconsistent with a Christian ethic.
> Indeed, I would suggest that one of the observations made earlier in
> the discussion - i.e. that for many heightened eschatological
> expectation mitigates against environmental concern - merely serves to
> demonstrate that eschatological urgency can potentially lead us AWAY
> from Godly behavior. As I see it, either environmental concern is a
> valid Christian concern or it is not. Assuming that it is (and note
> the assumption!), then we ought to be about it BECAUSE we expect the
> master of the house to come at any moment rather than abandoning it on
> that exact basis! But by a rather bizarre logic there are those who
> seem to think that a purported immediate return of the master actually
> absolves them from responsibility to obey his commands.
> Other examples could be multiplied but the basic point is that if
> ones' ethic is primarily of a pragmatic, consequentialist sort where
> outcomes are the primary consideration, then one will hold the view
> that what matters are the outcomes of actions and that, if there isn't
> TIME for actions to have consequences, then this determines whether
> one should engage in those actions or not. I am personally of a
> different view: that one ought to live in obedience to the master's
> commands REGARDLESS of how one understands the time-frame.
> So, yes, being all very motivated on the basis of eschatological
> expectancy is well and good - but unfortunately such motivation often
> seems to lead people to do very bizarre things, even (it seems to me!)
> to the extent of acting inconsistently with the teaching of the very
> Lord whose return is supposedly the grounds of such motivation.
> Blessings,
> Murray.
> Merv Bitikofer wrote:
>> Of course, Burgy's bomb has been armed & we're going on 2000 yrs now,
>> so the "victims" can now eliminate all the shorter half-life
>> possibilities in the table. Since that only leaves the longer
>> half-life options with considerably bigger gaps between them, the
>> victims are now less edgy and more inclined to even forget the
>> original suspense.
>> More seriously, though -- unlike totally unpredictable individual
>> atomic decays, the events in the world don't happen in a vacuum but
>> may be accompanied by signs or prophecy. As a teacher colleague of
>> mine (and my own mother as well) would point out, God is visibly at
>> work in the world today. And I am enthusiastically informed by them
>> of how many in Israel are turning to the Lord. And they see in all
>> these things signs of imminence (in the ordinary time-focused sense
>> of that word) of Jesus' return. I have no problem (I don't think)
>> with such enthusiasm even if I am skeptical about
>> my/theirs/&everybody's claimed knowledge over the specifics. But
>> meanwhile, if they wish to rejoice and hope & pray fervently, I am
>> left wondering what it means to hope in Christ if it doesn't include
>> this very kind of activity. I generally admire their fervency and am
>> left to contemplate my own fervency which is found wanting in
>> comparison.
>> --Merv

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Received on Sun Jan 25 19:40:29 2009

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