Christianity, Consequences, and Complexity

Considering the intellectual case for Christianity is a difficult question, and one on which your poor correspondent intends per perseverate frequently. When considering the single most appropriate verse from The Holy Bible, this provides an excellent first choice:

John 3:16—For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

This verse is not suggested not only because it is frequently advertised at football games but because it was also focused upon by computer scientist Donald Knuth, who provided a computer-based methodology for the study of the the Bible.

Your correspondent however choses to leverage Knuth’s larger insight by suggesting an alternate parable as well as an alternate methodology. The parable regard “The Tree and its Fruits,” which can be found here:

Matthew 7:15-20 (KJV): “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”

And here:

Luke 6:43-45 (KJV): “For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.”

The key insight here is that goodness should be judged by results rather than intentions, the implications of which are not obvious but are important. First, the relationship between actions and consequences is complex, which means that they are disassociated over both space and time and connected through a complex web of cause and effect. To be clear, the parable of the tree and its fruits implies that social systems are complex. Second, this implies that Christianity acknowledges and accounts for the complexity of social systems. Third, this complexity can be addressed and revealed through computation. How it does so and accounts for this complexity will be addressed by your correspondent in subsequent posts.


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